In the NFC South, where Carolina and Atlanta are perceived as run-first teams and New Orleans does so many different things with its running backs, conventional wisdom would be that play-action passing would have a big impact.
It hasn’t turned out that way. In fact, if there’s one offensive category where the entire NFC South hasn’t fared well, it’s play-action passing. Not a single NFC South quarterback ranks in the top half of the league in passer rating off play-action, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has the best passer rating (94.3) in the division, but that ranks him No. 18 in the league. Ryan has completed 17 of 29 play-action passes with one touchdown. Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman is next at No. 20 with an 87.1 rating. Off play-action, Freeman has completed 15 of 22 passes without a touchdown.
New Orleans’ Drew Brees has used play-action more than any NFC South quarterback, but has not thrived in that situation. Brees ranks No. 27 with a 75.0 rating. He has completed 34 of 53 play-action passes. That includes two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Even with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in the backfield, Carolina quarterbacks Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen have been dismal when using play-action. They are a combined 13 for 39 out of play-action. Clausen is No. 30 with a 63.2 rating and Moore is No. 35 with a 26.3 rating.