Pats defense: Ongoing discussion

Over Guapo Grande

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Judon is just so gosh darn likable:

Last week’s game against the Tennessee Titans was a prime example for that. On Judon’s first-quarter sack against Ryan Tannehill, he had a one-on-one opportunity while Barmore was drawing three linemen.

For Judon, however, that is not enough.

“I suggest blocking Barmore with more people,” he joked. “I think you should take the tackle and the guard and block Barmore all the time and leave the back to me. I think it would be more productive for offenses. But if they don’t listen to me, they don’t listen to me.
Source


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Mystic Merlin

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True, and that does matter. "Useless" still seems extreme to me.
Unreliable/should not be relied on?

I mean, it’s telling that folks who watch a lot of Pats film are puzzled by grades like Judon/Wise. And I have no idea how they are grading players across schemes/teams, so the inter team player to player comps generate a big shrug from me, too.
 

BigJimEd

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No. Batting average has all sorts of limitations and problems. Is it 'useless?' Of course not.
Sorry, not seeing any correlation with BA. You know exactly what BA is measuring and it is very specific. PFF is attempting to grade who is the best overall at their position.

If, as you say, they don't know what Judon assignment is then why should we pay attention to the grade? Are you saying the grading in general can be useful but not for certain players like Judon? In that case, I don't really think Judon is that unique but open to listening why that is the case as I certainly don't watch all edge guys with detail.

Or is the theory that there are only a limited number of play where PFF is "guessing" on the responsibility that generally evens out and for the most part their grades are pretty accurate?

Sorry if this is coming of argumentative, I'm just trying to get a better understanding of PFF. As I said, I sort of dismissed them several years ago but they seem to get referenced more and more every year. Maybe "useless" is a little harsh but if certain grades are way off that seems somewhat counterproductive and much more subjective.
Similar to a ranking from a random analysis which is not how it seems to be portrayed but maybe I am overestimating how often they are guessing.
 

Devizier

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I like what PFF is doing in theory — they’re trying to isolate performance from outcome — but I think it’s an impossible task without at least understanding the context of each play. The question should be: “does this player effectively do what is asked from them on this play?” That takes the kind of time and resources that a scouting team/coaching staff has, not a third party analytics company.
 

DJnVa

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I like what PFF is doing in theory — they’re trying to isolate performance from outcome — but I think it’s an impossible task without at least understanding the context of each play. The question should be: “does this player effectively do what is asked from them on this play?” That takes the kind of time and resources that a scouting team/coaching staff has, not a third party analytics company.
Yes. Say, for instance, Barmore's responsibility on a play is to simply engage 2 blockers. PFF may see that play and see he was pushed out of the lane or something. Does he get graded down for that? Even if it allowed Hightower a lane to the runner? We don't know. And that's the issue.
 

SMU_Sox

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Judson’s knock is on his run defense and that has shown up sadly on tape too. He also has a 17.9% missed tackle rate which is high. He has the third most sacks and fourth most total pressures as a pass rusher but yet ranks 22nd in their pass rush metric so I’m guessing his pass rush rate is lower than sub rushers and that’s why he’s only 22nd. Most years they graded his run defense higher and he’s talked about how it is an adjustment learning new responsibilities. I think he will settle down there.
Like FO they are a black box but they also talk a lot about what goes into their methodology. My biggest issue with them is that they have to guess the responsibilities and assign blame to people. They don’t adjust for level of opponent or factor in the difficulties of certain play calls and responsibilities.
 
May 9, 2018
26
I'm not really an advanced stats guy, but it seems like PFF, is, at bottom, someone deciding "Player 1 should have done XYZ there, but instead did ABC." So, rather, maybe the better baseball analogy is errors. Perhaps some sort of "adjusted errors," with corrections and adjustments for park, weather, and whatever else. That would look quite descriptive, but the basic input would still be someone up in a booth saying "Ehh, he probably should have had that." If the basic input is not useful, it doesn't matter so much what sophisticated things you do to it.
 

SMU_Sox

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When I started getting into the draft one of my biggest questions was why did Belichick like his ILBs so big. While the league was shifting to smaller more athletic LBs why was Belichick a fan of the 240 pound plus dinosaurs?

This is behind PFF's paywall. As an aside... their football analysts are really sharp guys. Not the guys like PFF Steve but to name two Seth Galina and Diante Lee are brilliant minds. Follow them on Twitter and listen to their "Two High" podcast if you really want to up your understanding of schemes. That is one thing I do love about PFF is their articles going over schemes and teams is incredibly well done. Here is one about the Patriots offense and here is one about the Patriots defense + offense.

The key is something @SteveF mentioned upthread - with their okie and other fronts they have their LBs taking on OL. If they used 220-230 pound guys they couldn’t do that. When you pick when they do you don’t get the ability to take elite edges or the best DTs. If you go bigger you can bully them on defense and you also make it easier for the edges in okie fronts to rush the passer. The burden falls on the ILBs to help out between the tackles and that’s what Hightower and Bentley have done. It also explains why Uche isn’t getting more reps as an early down ILB because taking on OL directly in the run game is not at all his forte… yet (hopefully yet).
 

chilidawg

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Like most advanced stats I think the most useful way to use them is not to make conclusions from them (Judon is overrated, Hightower rocks!) but to question your own thinking, i.e. maybe JJW is better than we thought, might want to pay more attention there.
 

patinorange

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I'm not sure why opposing offensive coordinators don't exploit the big linebackers in the short passing game. They really aren't very good in pass coverage.
I'm sure there is more to it than that, but it sure looks like that is the biggest weakness on defense.
 

Soxy

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I like what PFF is doing in theory — they’re trying to isolate performance from outcome — but I think it’s an impossible task without at least understanding the context of each play. The question should be: “does this player effectively do what is asked from them on this play?” That takes the kind of time and resources that a scouting team/coaching staff has, not a third party analytics company.
I have a lot of issues with PFF grades, almost all of them foundational/structural, and this is a big one. Their system only works if it's in a closed circuit. When the person doing the grading is also doing the teaching, coaching, correcting, etc., then it all comes together and makes sense to me. I would imagine that every single NFL team is already doing their own version of that.

To have a bunch of people basically just guess doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. "It's as close as we're gonna get," doesn't mean it's any good. Unless you know what the players are being asked/coached to do, it's extremely difficult to grade them accurately, objectively, and fairly. Even the GOAT Bill Belichick has acknowledged that it's not always clear who is responsible for what when he's watching other team's game films. If even he can't figure it out, why should I trust PFFJimmy, or whomever?

PFF grades are just someone slapping a number on their opinion, then acting like it's factual because they "quantified" it. They're basically just Metacritic scores for NFL players, and they should be treated with the same degree of seriousness. At least with Metacritic, you can read the actual review and draw your own conclusions. We don't usually get that luxury with PFF.

(Though, as SMU notes, it's not like they don't have a talented staff; I follow a bunch of them on twitter and some are great when it comes to breaking down plays, explaining their thoughts/opinions, etc. But nuance and long breakdowns don't generate clicks like numbered lists do, so here we are. Shoehorn it into a 100 point scale, reverse engineer some forward looking correlations, and you've got yourself a business model!)
 
Apr 24, 2019
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Judon middle of the pack. JoeJuan Williams the league's 32nd best-rated CB. I appreciate that there may be some nuances I'm missing in terms of the value and methods of their grading system, but that comes across as just not remotely useful, and practically pointless.
 

Jake Peavy's Demons

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I did some research -- since BB took over as HC of the Pats in 2000, Judon tied Mike Vrabel (2007) & Chandler Jones (2015) with his sack last night as having most sacks in a regular season. Just a half-sack more this season and he has it.

Since 2000 (some of these names I had completely forgot):

2000​
Willie McGinest & Greg Spires​
6.0​
2001​
Bobby Hamilton​
7.0​
2002​
Willie McGinest & Richard Seymour​
5.5​
2003​
Mike Vrabel​
9.5​
2004​
Willie McGinest​
9.5​
2005​
Rosevelt Colvin​
7.0​
2006​
Rosevelt Colvin​
8.5​
2007​
Mike Vrabel​
12.5​
2008​
Richard Seymour​
8.0​
2009​
Tully Banta-Cain​
10.0​
2010​
Mike Wright​
5.5​
2011​
Andre Carter & Mark Anderson​
10.0​
2012​
Rob Ninkovich​
8.0​
2013​
Chandler Jones​
11.5​
2014​
Rob Ninkovich​
8.0​
2015​
Chandler Jones​
12.5​
2016​
Trey Flowers III​
7.0​
2017​
Trey Flowers III​
6.5​
2018​
Trey Flowers III​
7.5​
2019​
Jamie Collins Sr.​
7.0​
2020​
Chase Winovich​
5.5​
2021
Matt Judon
12.5
 

StupendousMan

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Judon is having a great season, and I love watching him play.

That said, he loses contain more frequently than he should. Last night, for example, he allowed Allen to make one long run, and possibly another short one. I suspect that this is just the price one must pay for his frequent successes, but I can't be sure. I'd love to know what the coaching staff tells him: "Go ahead and do whatever you need to reach the QB," or "prevent the QB from getting free outside at all costs," or "you have the green light to rush until we tell you to stop -- then you do NOT allow him to run outside."
 

DJnVa

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Judon is having a great season, and I love watching him play.

That said, he loses contain more frequently than he should. Last night, for example, he allowed Allen to make one long run, and possibly another short one. I suspect that this is just the price one must pay for his frequent successes, but I can't be sure. I'd love to know what the coaching staff tells him: "Go ahead and do whatever you need to reach the QB," or "prevent the QB from getting free outside at all costs," or "you have the green light to rush until we tell you to stop -- then you do NOT allow him to run outside."
Yeah...if he did EVERYTHING great, then he's not Judon, he's an all-timer.
 

BigSoxFan

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I did some research -- since BB took over as HC of the Pats in 2000, Judon tied Mike Vrabel (2007) & Chandler Jones (2015) with his sack last night as having most sacks in a regular season. Just a half-sack more this season and he has it.

Since 2000 (some of these names I had completely forgot):

2000​
Willie McGinest & Greg Spires
6.0​
2001​
Bobby Hamilton
7.0​
2002​
Willie McGinest & Richard Seymour
5.5​
2003​
Mike Vrabel
9.5​
2004​
Willie McGinest
9.5​
2005​
Rosevelt Colvin
7.0​
2006​
Rosevelt Colvin
8.5​
2007​
Mike Vrabel
12.5​
2008​
Richard Seymour
8.0​
2009​
Tully Banta-Cain
10.0​
2010​
Mike Wright
5.5​
2011​
Andre Carter & Mark Anderson
10.0​
2012​
Rob Ninkovich
8.0​
2013​
Chandler Jones
11.5​
2014​
Rob Ninkovich
8.0​
2015​
Chandler Jones
12.5​
2016​
Trey Flowers III
7.0​
2017​
Trey Flowers III
6.5​
2018​
Trey Flowers III
7.5​
2019​
Jamie Collins Sr.
7.0​
2020​
Chase Winovich
5.5​
2021
Matt Judon
12.5
Nice work. I feel like Colvin would have really challenged for the title were it not for that hip injury.
 

SMU_Sox

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I was noting this while watching and haven’t checked the all-22 but the Pats defensive line got blown up last night and they were blown up the most in their okie front.
For most of the season the pats have lined up 5 0 5, which is over tackle, over center, and over tackle. That’s a very standard old school 3-4 alignment. When they’ve done that to Atlanta, the Jets, the Panthers, etc. they’ve had no issues. The Pats defensive front can dominate smaller less effective lines. The problem is when they go against lines like the Titans and the Colts that isn’t happening. In fact the opposite is happening. The thing with teams that like to run inside zone and duo is that when you are against an okie front you can pretty easily double team the nose and one of the defensive ends playing 5 tech. Your DTs have to be able to not get washed against double teams. Against the Titans and the Colts Godchaux didn’t hold up. Going into this game I specifically mentioned runs up the gut as something they would have to defend well against because that’s the Colts bread and butter. It didn’t happen.
What adjustments can they make? Well they did make some adjustments in the game but they didn’t consistently stick with them. They moved their DTs from 5 tech to the 4i tighter front. 4i is, and this is from Inside the Pylon, “In some defensive schemes, the 4 technique will align slightly over the inside shoulder of an offensive tackle and play the B Gap – in more of a penetrating role.” They saw a lot of success doing that but it wasn’t permanent. I’d have to rewatch to see why they didn’t stick to it.
I am curious why Wise didn’t get more looks. Perhaps they see him as a pass rusher against better OLs?

Last thing. Going forward into the off-season I think if they want to keep this kind of strategy going they need to invest in a war daddy like Jordan Davis or Stevenson or someone 330-340 pounds who can anchor against lines like the Colts and Titans. At the same time you can get away with Godchaux against the lesser teams so it almost feels like an overreaction. Still, a 4th or 5th rounder or even worse pick on a run stuffing massive NT would definitely not be an overreaction and that guy might get a lot of reps on this particular defense if they keep it together.
 

Mystic Merlin

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I was noting this while watching and haven’t checked the all-22 but the Pats defensive line got blown up last night and they were blown up the most in their okie front.
For most of the season the pats have lined up 5 0 5, which is over tackle, over center, and over tackle. That’s a very standard old school 3-4 alignment. When they’ve done that to Atlanta, the Jets, the Panthers, etc. they’ve had no issues. The Pats defensive front can dominate smaller less effective lines. The problem is when they go against lines like the Titans and the Colts that isn’t happening. In fact the opposite is happening. The thing with teams that like to run inside zone and duo is that when you are against an okie front you can pretty easily double team the nose and one of the defensive ends playing 5 tech. Your DTs have to be able to not get washed against double teams. Against the Titans and the Colts Godchaux didn’t hold up. Going into this game I specifically mentioned runs up the gut as something they would have to defend well against because that’s the Colts bread and butter. It didn’t happen.
What adjustments can they make? Well they did make some adjustments in the game but they didn’t consistently stick with them. They moved their DTs from 5 tech to the 4i tighter front. 4i is, and this is from Inside the Pylon, “In some defensive schemes, the 4 technique will align slightly over the inside shoulder of an offensive tackle and play the B Gap – in more of a penetrating role.” They saw a lot of success doing that but it wasn’t permanent. I’d have to rewatch to see why they didn’t stick to it.
I am curious why Wise didn’t get more looks. Perhaps they see him as a pass rusher against better OLs?

Last thing. Going forward into the off-season I think if they want to keep this kind of strategy going they need to invest in a war daddy like Jordan Davis or Stevenson or someone 330-340 pounds who can anchor against lines like the Colts and Titans. At the same time you can get away with Godchaux against the lesser teams so it almost feels like an overreaction. Still, a 4th or 5th rounder or even worse pick on a run stuffing massive NT would definitely not be an overreaction and that guy might get a lot of reps on this particular defense if they keep it together.
Your final paragraph is where I am at. You can get a behemoth NT these days in later rounds because teams are so enamored with pass rush ability, which generally translates to lighter, more athletic DT. Take advantage of that market reality.
 

SMU_Sox

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Your final paragraph is where I am at. You can get a behemoth NT these days in later rounds because teams are so enamored with pass rush ability, which generally translates to lighter, more athletic DT. Take advantage of that market reality.
Yeah I think with the way NTs have been devalued that they can, draft strategy wise, attack other positions of value first. The defense needs another infusion of youth anyway so take guys like Daxton Hill (FS/Versatile DB) out of Michigan or McCreary (scheme versatile corner) out of Auburn early, Darrian Beavers (Huge but athletic ILB/OLB) out of Cincinnati in the 2nd round, and then an NT 3 round+. Jordan Davis is your premium guy but it’s unclear how much he can rush the passer. I do think Bill would salivate over his tape though…
 

SMU_Sox

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The good news this year with DBs is that there are so many more day 2 to early day 3 guys who fit vs last year where the depth of both those positions dried up considerably past the top 50 or so picks. A lot depends on what they do with JCJ and DMC. Personally I’d sign them both but for JCJ try and backload his contract anticipating huge cap increases in 2023-2024 but that might not be feasible.
 

chilidawg

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I was noting this while watching and haven’t checked the all-22 but the Pats defensive line got blown up last night and they were blown up the most in their okie front.
For most of the season the pats have lined up 5 0 5, which is over tackle, over center, and over tackle. That’s a very standard old school 3-4 alignment. When they’ve done that to Atlanta, the Jets, the Panthers, etc. they’ve had no issues. The Pats defensive front can dominate smaller less effective lines. The problem is when they go against lines like the Titans and the Colts that isn’t happening. In fact the opposite is happening. The thing with teams that like to run inside zone and duo is that when you are against an okie front you can pretty easily double team the nose and one of the defensive ends playing 5 tech. Your DTs have to be able to not get washed against double teams. Against the Titans and the Colts Godchaux didn’t hold up. Going into this game I specifically mentioned runs up the gut as something they would have to defend well against because that’s the Colts bread and butter. It didn’t happen.
What adjustments can they make? Well they did make some adjustments in the game but they didn’t consistently stick with them. They moved their DTs from 5 tech to the 4i tighter front. 4i is, and this is from Inside the Pylon, “In some defensive schemes, the 4 technique will align slightly over the inside shoulder of an offensive tackle and play the B Gap – in more of a penetrating role.” They saw a lot of success doing that but it wasn’t permanent. I’d have to rewatch to see why they didn’t stick to it.
Thanks for that great analysis. Any thoughts on how Barmore fared against a tough line?
 

BaseballJones

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Oct 1, 2015
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Current rankings for the defense:

DVOA: #3
Pts allowed: #1
Yds allowed: #3
Passing yds allowed: #4
Rushing yds allowed: #22
Opp passer rating: #2
Takeaways: #3
3rd down conversions: #4
1st downs allowed: #3
% of drives against that result in scores: #1
Avg points per drive allowed: #1
% of drives resulting in opp turnover: #2
Avg yds per drive allowed: #9
Opp red zone TD%: #2

So this defense has been really really good this year. Obviously. Another way to look at it is how have the Pats done against their opponents, compared to how their opponents have fared against everyone else. So here's a look through their schedule (I'm not sifting out points scored by the opponents' defenses, which I know skews things a little but oh well):

vs Mia - 17 pts - 19.3 avg - Pats +2.3
at NYJ - 6 pts - 18.8 avg - Pats +12.8
vs NO - 28 pts - 20.9 avg - Pats -7.1
vs TB - 19 pts - 29.4 avg - Pats +10.4
at Hou - 22 pts - 15.9 avg - Pats -6.1
vs Dal - 35 pts - 29.9 avg - Pats -5.1
vs NYJ - 13 pts - 18.8 avg - Pats +5.3
at LAC - 24 pts - 27.6 avg - Pats +3.6
at Car - 6 pts - 17.9 avg - Pats +11.9
vs Cle - 7 pts - 20.5 avg - Pats +13.5
at Atl - 0 pts - 18.3 avg - Pats +18.3
vs Ten - 13 pts - 24.4 avg - Pats +11.4
at Buf - 10 pts - 28.5 avg - Pats +18.5
at Ind - 27 pts - 27.5 avg - Pats +0.5
vs Buf - 33 pts - 28.5 avg - Pats -4.5
vs Jax - 10 pts - 14.2 avg - Pats +4.2


So in 12 of their 16 games, they've held their opponents to fewer points than that team averages over the course of the year. They had more games (7) where they held their opponent to more than 10 points below their average than they had games (4) where they gave up more points than their average.
 

Phil Plantier

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Can someone explain why Ekuale is only a fringe player? I keep seeing him make plays. I don't understand why another team hasn't signed him.
 

tims4wins

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Last edited:

Saints Rest

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If another team offered a full time contract he wouldn't have to take it. Maybe he thinks the best place for him to grow is in NE. And it looks like he is earning himself a permanent spot sometime soon.

Edit do you have ESP

View: https://twitter.com/mikereiss/status/1478491795822628868?s=21
I wonder if that protection can be issued after a claim is made or if it has to be pro-active. IOW, are the Pats only protecting now because no one that they wanted to hold onto had been claimed all season and today saw a bunch of claims made?
 

Over Guapo Grande

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I wonder if that protection can be issued after a claim is made or if it has to be pro-active. IOW, are the Pats only protecting now because no one that they wanted to hold onto had been claimed all season and today saw a bunch of claims made?
Riffing off of that... is there a cost to the team to protect the players? E.G. - do they need to bump salary, et cetera?


Edit- answering my own question... no. There doesn't seem to be anything -- there are no limits to how many times a team can protect a player, and there doesn't seem to be any sort of compensation for it.
 

Super Nomario

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I wonder if that protection can be issued after a claim is made or if it has to be pro-active. IOW, are the Pats only protecting now because no one that they wanted to hold onto had been claimed all season and today saw a bunch of claims made?
I think it's pro-active. We're at a point in the year where teams will be looking to get a jump on their rosters for next year, which they can easily do by IRing a guy with a minor injury (since he'll be "out for the season" at this point) and signing a PS guy to a two-year deal. The Pats did this late last year with Marcus Martin and Dee Virgin, for instance.
 

Eddie Jurak

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The Pats defense has been terrible in the clutch this year. I count 7 games when either of the following 2 scenarios happened: 1) Pats defense needs one stop to protect a late lead, 2) Pats defense needs one stop to get the ball back in a one score game. How many times did they succeed? Once. And even that one comes with a rather large asterisk.
  • Game 1, vs Miami: Pats driving for the win, Damien Harris fumbles and Miami takes over on the 11. Miami takes over on their 9, 3:31 left. A stop gives the Pats a shot to win. Miami successfully runs out the clock.
  • Game 4, vs Tampa: Pats kick a go ahead field goal with 4:34 left. A stop wins the game. Pats allow Tampa to drive for the game winning FG.
  • Game 6 vs Dallas: Mac bounces back from a pick six to hit Kendrick Bourn for go ahead TD with 2:11 left. After Meyers catches a 2 point conversion, Pats lead 29-26. Dallas drives for a tying FG. After Pats receive the ball and fail to score, defense gives up the TD.
  • Game 13 at Buffalo: This is the bad weather game, and it is the one time all year the D can be said to have made the stop. Buffalo takes over on its 20 with 5:47 left down by 4 in the 4th quarter. Buffalo drives to the Patriots 13, takes a false start, and then facing 3rd and 4th and 14 from the Pats 18, throws 2 incompletions, turning the ball over on downs with 2 minutes left. I'll reluctantly give them a win here, since their defense got a big assist from the gale.
  • Game 14 at Indianapolis: Pats score with 2:21 left to cut the Indy lead to three. Defense gives up a 67-yeard TD run to seal the win for Indy.
  • Game 15 vs Buffalo: With 7:37 to go in the 4th, Damien Harris scores a TD to cut Buffalo's lead to 5. A stop gives the Pats a chance to win. Instead, the Pats give up a 5 minute, 75 yard TD drive.
  • Game 17 at Miami: Pats score to cut the Miami lead to 3 with 2:57 left. Miami gets 2 first downs and runs the clock down to 14 seconds, pinning the Pats deep in their own end for good measure.
I mark that as the defense getting the needed stop just once in 7 opportunities. There are two other somewhat close situations that I did not count:
  • Game 5 at Houston: Pats score a tying FG with 9:31 left. Pats D forces Houston to go 3 and out. Pats take over with 7:15 left and go on a 7 minute drive for a go ahead FG. Houston takes over in a Haly Mary situation and blows it.
  • Game 8 at Chargers: Pats kick a FG to extend their lead to 10 with 2:19 left. SD scores a TD to cut the Pats lead to 3. Pats recover onside kick and run the clock out.
In the Houston game, the D got a 3 and out in a time game with over 9 minutes left, then the Pats offense ran out almost the entirety of the reamining time on the clock with a 7 minute drive. I don't think this counts as a close and late success.

In the SD game, the Pats D gave up a late score but they were protecting a 10 point lead so it did not affect the outcome. So I don;t count this as a close and late fail.

Also, in the Dallas game, the D caved in OT. I did not count this because most OT games end with a defnesive failure. I did give the Pats D a fail in regulation in Dallas because they has a chance to make a game ending stop.

The overall defensive numbers are pretty good for this Patriot team. But this defense also has a strong track record for failing in the clutch. If they get stops on half of the chances they blew, it probably means a win or two.
 

Zososoxfan

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Not sure where to put this, but starting here and mods can move as necessary.

Something I thought about while reading the Pats-Bills pregame discussion, is how different the pro game is from college and what that means in terms of gameplanning/scheming. Someone in the pregame thread mentioned that they think BB will come up with a better defensive gameplan for Josh Allen this third time around. And drawing on what I know about the college game, I'm wondering what that actually means.

I follow Michigan football closely, and I've learned a lot about Xs and Os in the past 5-10 years from MGoBlog. One thing that's become clearer to me about scheme and gameplanning this year is how time restraints play such a big factor in the college game. IOW, college defenses are typically man OR zone, although the better units have the ability to play some of both. And similarly, college offenses are typically power OR zone running teams, but again the best units do a bit of both. Michigan this year had an explosive offense because their strong run game forced just about every opponent to bring down a safety, and when that safety crept down Michigan would swing big for a pass downfield. UGA blew that up by just having incredible talent--they kept the safeties back all game and allowed Nakobe Dean Georgia's incredible front 7 to deal with everything else.

My assumption is that NFL teams with their more experienced players, larger coaching staffs, and essentially unlimited practice time can be more balanced on offensive and defensive concepts (i.e. man vs. zone pass D, power vs. zone running O), and that the gameplanning is necessarily broader as a result. For example, a gameplan at some level might be: "We prefer the opponents' D to be in zone, so we have to do X (e.g. use a certain personnel grouping more often)".

So more specifically, my question is how much NFL gameplanning is built around distilling the opponents' assignment rules and playing off those? In the college game, that's a huge part. But in the NFL it seems much more personnel-specific because most of the players just won't blow an assignment as often.

I don't feel like I'm communicating my question all that clearly, but in essence I'm trying to understand how BB might try to scheme for Buffalo a bit better this third time around. From there, I'm curious to know how different that is from the college version of UGA vs. Bama tonight (another tiebreaker matchup incidentally), or even UGA vs. Michigan in the semis (a case of teams playing each other for the first and only time). But I'll hit pause for now and just hope y'all smarter folks can make some sense of my gibberish.
 

Super Nomario

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The Pats defense has been terrible in the clutch this year. I count 7 games when either of the following 2 scenarios happened: 1) Pats defense needs one stop to protect a late lead, 2) Pats defense needs one stop to get the ball back in a one score game. How many times did they succeed? Once. And even that one comes with a rather large asterisk.
  • Game 1, vs Miami: Pats driving for the win, Damien Harris fumbles and Miami takes over on the 11. Miami takes over on their 9, 3:31 left. A stop gives the Pats a shot to win. Miami successfully runs out the clock.
  • Game 4, vs Tampa: Pats kick a go ahead field goal with 4:34 left. A stop wins the game. Pats allow Tampa to drive for the game winning FG.
  • Game 6 vs Dallas: Mac bounces back from a pick six to hit Kendrick Bourn for go ahead TD with 2:11 left. After Meyers catches a 2 point conversion, Pats lead 29-26. Dallas drives for a tying FG. After Pats receive the ball and fail to score, defense gives up the TD.
  • Game 13 at Buffalo: This is the bad weather game, and it is the one time all year the D can be said to have made the stop. Buffalo takes over on its 20 with 5:47 left down by 4 in the 4th quarter. Buffalo drives to the Patriots 13, takes a false start, and then facing 3rd and 4th and 14 from the Pats 18, throws 2 incompletions, turning the ball over on downs with 2 minutes left. I'll reluctantly give them a win here, since their defense got a big assist from the gale.
  • Game 14 at Indianapolis: Pats score with 2:21 left to cut the Indy lead to three. Defense gives up a 67-yeard TD run to seal the win for Indy.
  • Game 15 vs Buffalo: With 7:37 to go in the 4th, Damien Harris scores a TD to cut Buffalo's lead to 5. A stop gives the Pats a chance to win. Instead, the Pats give up a 5 minute, 75 yard TD drive.
  • Game 17 at Miami: Pats score to cut the Miami lead to 3 with 2:57 left. Miami gets 2 first downs and runs the clock down to 14 seconds, pinning the Pats deep in their own end for good measure.
I mark that as the defense getting the needed stop just once in 7 opportunities. There are two other somewhat close situations that I did not count:
  • Game 5 at Houston: Pats score a tying FG with 9:31 left. Pats D forces Houston to go 3 and out. Pats take over with 7:15 left and go on a 7 minute drive for a go ahead FG. Houston takes over in a Haly Mary situation and blows it.
  • Game 8 at Chargers: Pats kick a FG to extend their lead to 10 with 2:19 left. SD scores a TD to cut the Pats lead to 3. Pats recover onside kick and run the clock out.
In the Houston game, the D got a 3 and out in a time game with over 9 minutes left, then the Pats offense ran out almost the entirety of the reamining time on the clock with a 7 minute drive. I don't think this counts as a close and late success.

In the SD game, the Pats D gave up a late score but they were protecting a 10 point lead so it did not affect the outcome. So I don;t count this as a close and late fail.

Also, in the Dallas game, the D caved in OT. I did not count this because most OT games end with a defnesive failure. I did give the Pats D a fail in regulation in Dallas because they has a chance to make a game ending stop.

The overall defensive numbers are pretty good for this Patriot team. But this defense also has a strong track record for failing in the clutch. If they get stops on half of the chances they blew, it probably means a win or two.
I think this is partially fair and partially not. I would add for additional context:

  • In both Miami games and in the Indianapolis game, the defense made multiple second half stops to give the O the opportunity to close the lead / get within striking distance / whatever, but they failed on a last attempt. They were not asked to make one stop; they were asked to make 3 or 4 because they were down and / or the O was struggling.
  • In the Dallas game, the Pats took the lead with 6:23 remaining. The D let Dallas drive, but held them to a long field goal attempt which they missed. So that's a stop. At this point, with the ball and the lead and a chance to close things out, the offense blew it with a pick-six. They ultimately answered with a long TD, but that left the D having to defend the FG and failing (and again failing in OT after the O failed).
  • The Chargers had the ball and the lead in the fourth quarter and the Patriots D not only stopped them, but took the lead with a pick-six. Then with the opportunity to hold the lead, they forced a three-and-out and then the O scored to go up 10. So that's two big stops, including the game-winning score. After that the Pats scored again to make it an onside kick game, and the Chargers did score again late.
I think it's also important noting that the Cowboys (#1 in scoring O), Bucs (#2), Bills (#3), and Chargers (#5) have really good offenses. So a lot of Ds would fail in these situations. But I think that does point to the reality that the defense has been pretty front-running. They dominated crappy teams like Atlanta, the Jets (twice), Carolina, and Jacksonville. They played well vs the Titans but Tennessee was missing Henry, Brown, and Jones, and they held Buffalo to 10 points but that was in a blizzard. Statistically they're maybe the best defense in the league but in reality they're probably more like a 5-10 D that got lucky with some matchups at the right times.

It's also the nature of the beast, I think, that in close games you can always point to a stop the D didn't make or an play the O screwed up, a ST miscue or whatever. Close games turn on a handful of plays.
 

Eddie Jurak

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It's also the nature of the beast, I think, that in close games you can always point to a stop the D didn't make or an play the O screwed up, a ST miscue or whatever. Close games turn on a handful of plays.
I looked at every game, though, and ignored those that didn't come down to a late stop. BB had several opportunities this year to try an onside kick, and he always chose to put the game in the hands of his defense, and they always blew it.

I realize that they did get stops earlier in games but those are by definition lower leverage situations.
 

BaseballJones

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NE finished #2 in the NFL in points allowed, #4 in yards allowed, #2 in defensive DVOA.

Weird, because at times, they seem like they can't get a stop to save their lives, but taken as a whole, the defense had a very good year.
 

rodderick

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NE finished #2 in the NFL in points allowed, #4 in yards allowed, #2 in defensive DVOA.

Weird, because at times, they seem like they can't get a stop to save their lives, but taken as a whole, the defense had a very good year.
I think a lot of that is a function of what good defense means in today's NFL. There simply aren't many dominant units in this league because everything is so geared towards offense and QB play has arguably never been better. People tried to turn the 2020 Bucs into this fearsome, loaded D and they were incredibly sporadic and had their fair share of clunkers (gave up 20+ in three playoff games even). You just hope you're good situationally.
 

Super Nomario

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I looked at every game, though, and ignored those that didn't come down to a late stop. BB had several opportunities this year to try an onside kick, and he always chose to put the game in the hands of his defense, and they always blew it.

I realize that they did get stops earlier in games but those are by definition lower leverage situations.
Well, they didn't always blow it. As you note, they got the stop in Buffalo, and I think you should absolutely count the Houston (even though the D, overall, played shitty that day) and Chargers games. They held the Texans scoreless on their final five drives as they came back from down 22-9. Versus the Chargers, the highest-leverage situations were earlier in the fourth, and they got the stops there, including the go-ahead score. The final TD they gave up was in a lower-leverage spot with the lead pushed to 10.

And really, the clutch failures exist on both sides of the ball. Take the first Miami game, after it was 17-13, the D forced a 3-and-out. The O drove but couldn't get the go-ahead TD, settling for a FG. At 17-16, the D got an INT, leaving the O in great position to take the lead at the 50. Then Harris fumbled the ball away. Then, as you note, the D failed and let the Dolphins run out the clock. That's one defensive clutch failure but also at least a couple offensive ones. I think in a lot of these cases, the D was being asked to do something more difficult than you're giving them credit for.
 

Cellar-Door

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NE finished #2 in the NFL in points allowed, #4 in yards allowed, #2 in defensive DVOA.

Weird, because at times, they seem like they can't get a stop to save their lives, but taken as a whole, the defense had a very good year.
I think it's two things..
1. Offense is dominant, most teams struggle to get stops if the opponent doesn't hurt themselves
2. We are really good against the pass (particularly from pocket passers), and while on a single drive having people run you over kills you, over a season, making teams run it is good, as any mistake usually kills the drive dead.
 

Saints Rest

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Not sure where to put this, but starting here and mods can move as necessary.

Something I thought about while reading the Pats-Bills pregame discussion, is how different the pro game is from college and what that means in terms of gameplanning/scheming. Someone in the pregame thread mentioned that they think BB will come up with a better defensive gameplan for Josh Allen this third time around. And drawing on what I know about the college game, I'm wondering what that actually means.

I follow Michigan football closely, and I've learned a lot about Xs and Os in the past 5-10 years from MGoBlog. One thing that's become clearer to me about scheme and gameplanning this year is how time restraints play such a big factor in the college game. IOW, college defenses are typically man OR zone, although the better units have the ability to play some of both. And similarly, college offenses are typically power OR zone running teams, but again the best units do a bit of both. Michigan this year had an explosive offense because their strong run game forced just about every opponent to bring down a safety, and when that safety crept down Michigan would swing big for a pass downfield. UGA blew that up by just having incredible talent--they kept the safeties back all game and allowed Nakobe Dean Georgia's incredible front 7 to deal with everything else.

My assumption is that NFL teams with their more experienced players, larger coaching staffs, and essentially unlimited practice time can be more balanced on offensive and defensive concepts (i.e. man vs. zone pass D, power vs. zone running O), and that the gameplanning is necessarily broader as a result. For example, a gameplan at some level might be: "We prefer the opponents' D to be in zone, so we have to do X (e.g. use a certain personnel grouping more often)".

So more specifically, my question is how much NFL gameplanning is built around distilling the opponents' assignment rules and playing off those? In the college game, that's a huge part. But in the NFL it seems much more personnel-specific because most of the players just won't blow an assignment as often.

I don't feel like I'm communicating my question all that clearly, but in essence I'm trying to understand how BB might try to scheme for Buffalo a bit better this third time around. From there, I'm curious to know how different that is from the college version of UGA vs. Bama tonight (another tiebreaker matchup incidentally), or even UGA vs. Michigan in the semis (a case of teams playing each other for the first and only time). But I'll hit pause for now and just hope y'all smarter folks can make some sense of my gibberish.
I'm no X's and O's expert either, but I think over the last 20+ years with the Patriots, and going back even longer than that as a DC, Belichick's philosophy on Defense has come down to one basic tenet in big games: take away the opponent's strength. Oftentimes that means taking away one player; sometimes it means stopping one element. Usually, but not always, it goes hand in hand with "bend, don't break" as the real underlying principle in that theory is "force an offense to succeed more times rather than less."

There are some underlying principles that apply across all these approaches: emphasis on tackling in the open field -- thereby making sure that a 5 yard pass doesn't turn into a 30 yard catch-and-run (I think this is why so many of his DB finds have come via UDFA route as those guys make their initial bones showing they can tackle in the open field on STs); two-gap techniques -- focus on preventing the big-gash run, even if it means giving up 3 yard runs; contain the QB (in the case of running/scrambling types) even if it means no sacks; and my favorite, "Do Your Job" which places the emphasis on TEAM over individual. There's a lot of overlap in these principles, but I think BB then uses these as his tools to implement game-specific gameplans designed to stop individual teams.

For the Bills, IMO, the Pats have to stop Allen from beating them in two ways: with his legs and with long HR passes to Diggs. I think we won't see many sacks as there will be an emphasis on keeping contain on Allen, with all rushers, but especially those coming from Allen's right, maintaining their lanes. I think we might see more Van Noy on that side as I think he's more disciplined than Judon, while letting Judon be a bit more aggressive from Allen's blind side. I think we may see a reverse of what we've seen lately, with Mills and safety help bracketing Diggs, while JCJ shuts down whoever is on the other side, whether that is Sanders, McKenzie or Davis.
 

BaseballJones

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I think it's two things..
1. Offense is dominant, most teams struggle to get stops if the opponent doesn't hurt themselves
2. We are really good against the pass (particularly from pocket passers), and while on a single drive having people run you over kills you, over a season, making teams run it is good, as any mistake usually kills the drive dead.
Good points. In the NFL this year, the average adjusted net yards per pass attempt (which takes INTs and sacks into consideration) was 6.1. The average yards per rush attempt was 4.3. So you'd almost always rather the other team choose to run the ball rather than pass it, as it generates 1.8 fewer yards on average per play for the offense.

The Pats' defense allowed an ANY/A of just 4.5 yards (#2 in the NFL, behind Buffalo's 3.8). That's 1.6 yards better per play than the league average. The Pats allow 4.5 rush yards per play, which is 0.2 worse than the league average. But still...you'd happily allow 0.2 yards more per rush while allowing 1.8 fewer yards per pass than the league average.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Good points. In the NFL this year, the average adjusted net yards per pass attempt (which takes INTs and sacks into consideration) was 6.1. The average yards per rush attempt was 4.3. So you'd almost always rather the other team choose to run the ball rather than pass it, as it generates 1.8 fewer yards on average per play for the offense.

The Pats' defense allowed an ANY/A of just 4.5 yards (#2 in the NFL, behind Buffalo's 3.8). That's 1.6 yards better per play than the league average. The Pats allow 4.5 rush yards per play, which is 0.2 worse than the league average. But still...you'd happily allow 0.2 yards more per rush while allowing 1.8 fewer yards per pass than the league average.
The league ANY/A (which accounts for TDs as well as INTs) was 5.64. The NY/A (which is just yardage and sack yardage) was 6.2. So the Pats' pass D was still really good but it was only about 1.15 yards better than average, not 1.6.
 

BaseballJones

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From pro-football-reference.com. The league average per team, in the ANY/A column, says 6.1. That's the number I'm using.
 

Rudy's Curve

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From pro-football-reference.com. The league average per team, in the ANY/A column, says 6.1. That's the number I'm using.
I didn’t see that before so I did the math and it comes out to 5.64.

124203 yards + 16800 TD yards - 19800 INT yards - 8597 sack yards = 112606 adjusted net yards/19956 dropbacks = 5.64.

I guess they’re just using the average of each team but that’s quite the difference.
 

BaseballJones

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Stefon Diggs is incredibly difficult to cover, and I expect JC Jackson to have a hard time with that assignment. But Jackson is having one hell of a season.

Everyone loves Trevon Diggs (who got the most votes for all-pro at CB), but compare the two this year:

Diggs: 54-103 (52.4%), 907 yds, 8.8 yds/tgt, 16.8 yds/rec, 4 td, 11 int, 21 passes defended, 55.8 rating, 52 tackles, 16.1% missed tackles
Jackson: 52-106 (49.1%), 658 yds, 6.2 yds/tgt, 12.7 yds/rec, 3 td, 8 int, 23 passes defended, 46.8 rating, 58 tackles, 15.9% missed tackles

Other than the three extra picks, Jackson has been better in every way compared to Diggs.
 

rodderick

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Stefon Diggs is incredibly difficult to cover, and I expect JC Jackson to have a hard time with that assignment. But Jackson is having one hell of a season.

Everyone loves Trevon Diggs (who got the most votes for all-pro at CB), but compare the two this year:

Diggs: 54-103 (52.4%), 907 yds, 8.8 yds/tgt, 16.8 yds/rec, 4 td, 11 int, 21 passes defended, 55.8 rating, 52 tackles, 16.1% missed tackles
Jackson: 52-106 (49.1%), 658 yds, 6.2 yds/tgt, 12.7 yds/rec, 3 td, 8 int, 23 passes defended, 46.8 rating, 58 tackles, 15.9% missed tackles

Other than the three extra picks, Jackson has been better in every way compared to Diggs.
JC has completely settled in as one of the league's top corners and the Pats should do as much as they possibly can to retain him. He's played at a higher level than Gilmore had before the Pats gave him a big deal. He's a beast.
 

SMU_Sox

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I don't want to be reactionary but I think Hightower is toast. He had 5 or 6 games that were above average to good. The rest of his games were average or a lot worse. He was never much in coverage but that skill has completely gone. The worst part is he doesn't have the same power he used to. He can't stack and shed and blow up OL. We complain about their bigger LBs but when Hightower played well it wasn't an issue. His strength was basically being as strong as an OLB or rotational DT taking on the run as an ILB. That happened a handful of times this year but the majority of the year he wasn't that guy. Bentley was better coming downhill. They need another ILB. I like Cam McGrone a lot but his coverage skills are raw and not inspiring. ILB is a hard position to play year 1 but they need to make an investment there in FA or the draft or both.