Thursday, April 01, 2010

Falcon Defense Review......

There's a dilemma in our defensive statistics.  Based on our yardage totals, we were 11th in the conference.  However, we were 7th in points allowed.  Let's see if we can figure out why....

Note:  conference only stats.

Let's look at the yardage stats first.  We were 11th in yards per game allowed, and 12th in yards per play allowed (6).  Our main weakness was against the run.  BG was 11th in running yards per game, but 12th again in yards per rush.  Teams ran on us 296 times, which is less than Akron (336), Miami (321), and EMU (358), the other teams in the bottom of the rushing table with us.  I can only conclude that our strong passing game and occasional lead curtailed the running just a little bit.

For what it is worth, we were 5th in yards per game against the pass and 4th in pass defense efficiency.  While that does not tell the full story, it is safe to say that by MAC standards we were an above average defense against.

There were only 238 passes attempted against us, which was fourth lowest in the MAC (Why pass when it is easy to run?).  On a yard per attempt basis, we were 7th.  Completion percentage allowed was 2nd in the MAC.  Again, with an experienced secondary, our pass defense was above average.

We only picked up 14 turnovers, which was in the middle of the pack of the conference.  (We were +5 overall).

One way a team could have good scoring stats but poor yardage stats would be to be very good in the red zone--kind of the inverse of what we saw for the offense.  Sadly, this was not the case.  In fact, we were as bad or worse in the red zone as you would expect. We did allow a league low 25 red zone trips, but had only three stops and gave up 17 TDs and only 5 FGs.  That's 4.68 points per trip, a conference low.

Another contributing factor to our mystery could be to perform well on 3rd down.  This is a real trick, and I believe (without any evidence) that to play lousy on first and second down but well on third down has to be at least some element of luck.  That is, in fact, the exact scenario you see here.  You would just figure, intuitively, that if you gave up a lot of yards, like we did, that you would a) have generally short yardage on 3rd down and b) give up conversions.

BG was, in fact, really good on third down, with the 4th best rate in the conference.  Which means that we got teams off the field very well, and that has to be a factor in our over-achieving on scoring defense.

My intuition is that it probably is not the only factor, however.  Other possibilities:

  • A strong offense gave us the lead and kept pressure on teams, which forced them to pass more than makes sense on paper.
  • Our offense made very few turnovers, creating longer fields and more stops.
  • Our poor red zone offense resulted in our opponents getting the ball deep in their own territory (as in off missed FGs, turnovers and on downs), creating longer fields and more stops.

I took a run at one other number, just for the fun of it.  I wondered about how many touchdowns teams allowed that were NOT redzone touchdowns.  This would include big plays, defensive touchdowns and special teams touchdowns.  I mean it to be a measure of how many big play TDs a team gave up.  EMU was the worst on this, giving up a shocking 22 in 8 games.  This is almost 3 TDs per game on big plays.  BG gave up 10, which was 10th.  CMU led allowing only 4 TDs of this variety.

Next up, special teams.....

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