Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Kiffin Report - Week 4 - San Diego Chargers

If there is one thing that makes football special, it is the individual components that add together to create team results.  It is a team game - maybe the best team game ever created - but, it relies on each member of the team to carry out his assignment in his particular area of expertise to assist in the greater goal.  When there is a weak link, a smart opponent will continue to attack and attack that weakness until you either concede or remove that weak link and attempt to replace it with someone who might fare a bit better.

And you might not see a better example of that than you saw Sunday, when the Cowboys had 2 of their most highly-touted pieces on defense treated as if they were an insult to the opponent.  Philip Rivers and his offense, which is good, but never confused with great, made Sunday a day to forget for the Cowboys 2nd round pick in 2011, Bruce Carter, and their 1st Round pick in 2012, Morris Claiborne.

In a way, it shows you that resumes and reputations mean very little in this sport.  If they look at the film and think you are the easiest target, it certainly does not matter if you get a huge paycheck or required a massive trade-up on your draft day.  The best scout who gives the best information of your talent is your opponent.  They look for that opportunity to create a spot to expose you, and when the game is over, you know where you need improvement.   Because, somewhere, in a dark room, your future opponents, including Peyton Manning (gulp) is watching and taking careful notes.

The following is 3 plays (in a 4 play sequence) - all early in the 3rd Quarter and all seeming to include Carter.  This is important because after this sequence, he hardly played again except in clear running situations.  Also, please note the throw chart below for Rivers and notice all of the repeated attempts to his left which seem to target Claiborne on the edge.  So many blue lines, and almost no red lines.

 1/10/49 - 11:22 3Q

On this play, the Cowboys are dedicating Barry Church to help Claiborne on what they are guessing is going to be a shallow route.  Well, when it is unfolding, we see vertical routes from pretty much all involved and Woodhead stays in to protect.  Now, Wilcox, the only deep safety is worried about the double WRs to his left and is counting on Lee/Carter to handle Gates.

So, with no safety protection, we have backpedaling LBs trying to stay with Antonio Gates.  How do we like those apples?

The frame above tells Rivers all he needs to see.  Church has his back to the TE and Gates is now level with 50/54 with nothing but grass in front of him.  Notice how deep Wilcox is playing.  He is a full 20 yards deep and is playing a true deep safety.  This is not something that concerns a veteran QB.

Look at what Rivers has to work with as he simply has to loft a pass to Gates.  It will never get easier than this on NFL fields.

Who busted on this play?  That is open for debate, and you might start with the coaching staff dedicating Church to that shallow route.  Regardless, Rivers is looking for chances to ask Carter or Lee to run with Gates and he found one here for a pitch and catch for 26 yards.

1/10/25 - 10:43 3Q

Here is the next snap.  An inside give to Woodhead.

The video below shows Carter right in the hole as he sheds Gates and is on top of Woodhead.  However, the over-step costs him to a point where he had the RB for a yard or two, and instead, he blocks off Lee and Woodhead gets 9.  In position to make the play, but gets beat again.

The Chargers move the chains on a short run and now here is the 4th play of this sequence.

1/10/13 - 9:39 3Q

This, again, is Rivers looking for opportunities to go after the Carter/Claiborne/Church trio with Gates/Woodhead/Brown.

On this play, Brown will run a deeper cross with Gates that looks like a normal zone buster where you intersect and hope for either a loss in coverage or a "unintentional pick" play that frees them up for that moment over the goal-line.  Meanwhile, Woodhead is off on a wheel route behind the two and Carter will be in chase mode with the speedy RB who has already beaten him once for a TD.

It would be interesting to see how this is supposed to be played, because it looks like Church is trying to hand off Gates to a very unsuspecting Claiborne.  24 has no plans of switching from Brown to Gates and by the end of this play, it is clear that the only player who has a chance to break up the wheel route to Woodhead is Antonio Gates.  Carter is a full 5 yards behind the RB, and Gates is open, too - except that he and Woodhead are almost on top of each-other.

This targeting of 24 and 54 went on all day long and we saw Rivers spend much of the day just ignoring the other side of the field.  Zones or man concepts did not matter.

After this sequence, Carter was replaced with Ernie Sims.  The Cowboys said it was not a benching, but I believe they are just being nice to a player they have big plans for.  But, it is pretty clear that opponents do not see Carter as a Lance Briggs/Derrick Brooks level threat at this point - by a long shot.

Claiborne is another issue altogether.  He just doesn't seem to have a whole lot of comfort in this scheme and it shows.  He appears to be a bystander in many situations and is playing a very passive style.  I think the concern many are showing about a player that they paid a king's bounty to acquire is a growing issue for this defense.

WEEK 4 at San Diego Chargers

First, a reminder of what a splash play is: 

What is a splash play? Well, for purposes of this blog I believe a splash play will include the following: A sack, a pressure that forces a bad throw, and big hit on the QB, and a batted ball that may lead to an interception opportunity. Again, you can see how this leads to subjectivity, but a subjective breakdown is better than no breakdown at all, I have decided. In addition, a splash play will include tackles for loss, a big hit for a short gain, or a stop which is an open field tackle where a player is pulled down on 3rd down short of the marker because of an exceptional effort from a defender. An interception is clearly a splash play, but so is a defended pass that required a great effort. A major hit in the secondary could be a splash play, but I believe that the outcome of the play will determine that. Sorry, defensive backs, but standing over a guy who just caught a 15 yard pass because you think you hit him hard will not generally pass the test on this blog. So, stop doing it. 
I am trying to be careful about handing out too many splash plays per game. I am trying to be picky, but too extreme in either direction. When I log a splash play, I will put time of the game on the chart so that if you want to review the same game and challenge my ruling, you are welcome to do so. Also, if multiple players deserve recognition on a single play, we will try to see that as well. 
Basically, we are trying to assign a value to making plays on the defense. We don't want to just see sacks and interceptions. We want to see broader definitions of splash plays to assign credit to those who help the Cowboys get off the field in important situations. These rankings will not deduct for negative plays at this point. There are simply too many occasions where we are guessing, and for now, I want to avoid that for this particular idea.  
A splash play is a play that makes a major difference in the game. And by keeping it all season long, we will see which defenders are play makers and which are simply warm bodies. We already have our thoughts on both categories, but let's see if we can dig a bit deeper and actually have numbers to back up our claims.

Here are the final results for 2011 and here are the final results for 2012.

 Here they are for the San Diego Game 14 splashes, but 11 of the 14 were issued before halftime:

1-13:201/10/D41CarrPass Broken Up
1-12:293/5/D46Lee3rd Down Stop
1-3:032/9/O49ChurchPass Stop
1-2:213/9/O49Hayden3rd Down Pressure
2-11:261/10/O42Hatcher/AllenTackle For Loss
2-10:232/19/O33LeeTackle For Loss
2-6:332/5/D21CarterRun Stuff
2-1:322/3/O49HatcherPass Deflected
2-1:322/3/O49Lee (2)Interception and Touchdown
3-1:131/10/D11SelviePass Stop
4-14:543/G/D5Selvie3rd Down Pressure
4-2:301/10/O33Lee Run Stuff


Lee       9
E. Jones 3
Claiborne     2
Team Totals 64


Pass Rush/Blitzing REPORT

This segment of the defensive study is simply to find out how well the Cowboys are doing at getting pressure on the opposing QB.  We have spent a good part of the offseason talking about Monte Kiffin's philosophy that, like so many of the great 4-3 schemes, is based on using blitz as a weapon, not a necessity.  If you use the blitz as an ambush weapon that is always threatened but only used at the perfect times, you can often get free runs at the QB.  If, on the other hand, you must use the blitz because your normal pressure is not getting it done, then the offense usually is waiting for you and prepared - so even 6 rushers don't accomplish much.

Here, we look at the big plays for (Explosives are plays 20 yards and longer) and the big plays against each week (Sacks and Interceptions) and see what role (if any) was played by the defensive coordinator.


1-8:233/8/D32Rivers to Allen, +315
1-7:122/4/D26Rivers to Woodhead, +264
2-0:49  1/10/O27Rivers to Royal, +28        4        
3-11:221/10/O49Rivers to Gates, +26         4        
4-7:021/10/O44Rivers to Gates, +564

2-2:191/10/O30Selvie Sack 4
2-1:192/3/O49Lee Interception 4


Here is one of the more revealing passing charts I have ever seen from our study.  You almost never see a QB repeatedly target (with success) one small quadrant of the field.  But, here we go.  The repeated throws to his left are easy to see and clear to compute.  Right now, the Cowboys are playing their young safety (Wilcox) with veteran corners (Carr and Scandrick).  Then, on the other side, they want the veteran safety (Church) with (Claiborne) and this seems to be what Rives fancied.  Over and over.

Pass Rushers Against San Diego Chargers - 43 pass rush/blitz situations:

You certainly have to at least admire the stubbornness of Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli.  It is clear that their game-plan was to play coverage and to hope that Rivers could be occasionally troubled with 4.  When that seemed to be dying a slow death, the coaches decided to stick with it and believe in the game plan, rather than make any alterations as the game went along.  It was clearly the lesser of two evils, and with Rivers getting rid of the ball so quickly, there is reason to believe that blitzing was going to simply make the Chargers' job easier.

They stuck with their idea and only brought pressure on 4 of 43 occasions, but it is quite difficult to call it anything less than failure when your defense cannot make any impact in the 2nd half that could be considered positive.

Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0000
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)21710
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0000

Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0500
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0701
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0200

Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)1300
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0211
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0000


And, here are the full season numbers to date:

Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 RushTotal
1st Down5 - 6%62 - 79%8 - 10%3 - 3%78 - 40%
2nd Down1 - 1%56 - 87%4 - 6%3 - 4%64 - 33%
3rd Down3 - 6%28 - 62%8 - 17%6 - 13%45 - 23%
4th Down1 - 20% 4 - 80%005 - 2% 
Totals10 - 5%150 - 78%20 - 10%12 - 6%

The game by game pressure numbers:

Wk 1 - NYG: 7/49 - 14%
Wk 2 - KC:   10/43 - 23%
Wk 3 - STL: 11/57 - 19%
Wk 4 - SD:  4/43 - 9%

2013 Totals:  32/192 - 16.6%

2012 Totals:  134/551 - 24.3%

SUMMARY:  Clearly, the summary is that "getting there with 4" was fun against St Louis, but that doesn't mean that it will then work each week.  San Diego had a beat up offensive line filled with reserves and rookies and still kept the Cowboys from doing any pass rush damage - partly because they got the ball out quickly.  Then, it is up to the coverage arm of the defense to handle their business and close those windows.  And that seems to be where it all went horribly wrong.

Woodhead and Gates have always been two difficult match ups, which demonstrates what we know on draft day as both were undrafted out of college.  Nevertheless, if you can isolate those players in coverage, a QB can find the weakest link quickly.

Let's just say that from Xs and Os perspective, the Cowboys look like they are the perfect target for the Broncos offense.  Now, it is up to the game planning coaching staff to figure this one out in short order.  Good luck.  

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