Rush defenses could get nickeled, dimed
December, 13, 2012
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com
NFC West teams face in Week 15 the two NFL teams with the most rushing attempts and rushing yards against nickel and dime defenses.
That provides an opportunity to show how these teams have fared against the run when using these sub packages.
The first chart shows the New England Patriots with a league-high 291 carries for a league-high 1,361 yards and six touchdowns against these lighter defensive personnel packages featuring additional defensive backs. It also shows the San Francisco 49ers holding opponents to 3.9 yards per attempt with no rushing touchdowns from their own nickel an dime units.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee takes a closer look at this aspect of the 49ers-Patriots matchup set for Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
I have excluded quarterback scrambles from the breakdowns.
The second chart shows the corresponding numbers for the Buffalo Bills' offense and Seattle Seahawks' defense. The teams play in Toronto.
Buffalo ranks second to New England with 1,306 yards rushing against nickel and dime defenses. That is because the Bills, like the Patriots, spend most of their time in pass-oriented personnel groupings, even when they want to run the ball. More traditional teams such as Minnesota, which faces the St. Louis Rams in Week 15, do more of their running against base defenses.
The Seahawks' nickel and dime defenses have allowed 4.6 yards per carry this season overall. Frank Gore's 37-yard run against Seattle pumped up that average.
As noted, the charts exclude yards gained by quarterback scrambles. That is one area to watch in Week 15.
The Bills rank eighth in scramble yards with 147 on 23 carries, with six first downs. Seattle has allowed 72 yards on seven scrambles. Aaron Rodgers had a 16-yard scramble against Seattle. Ryan Tannehill and Cam Newton had 15-yarders. Note that scrambles differ from designed rushes.
Also in Week 15, Arizona faces a Detroit Lions offense that ranks fourth with 920 non-scrambling rush yards against nickel and dime defenses. Detroit ranks second to New England in total non-scramble plays against these defenses. The Lions, like Buffalo and New England, predominantly use pass-oriented personnel groupings.
The Cardinals gave up 33-yard runs to Seattle's Marshawn Lynch and Buffalo's C.J. Spiller on these plays. Lynch had additinal runs for 20, 15 and 11 yards on them. Spiller also had a 17-yarder.
The Lions' Joique Bell had a 67-yard run in Week 13 against Indianapolis' lighter defensive personnel. He had corresponding runs for 26 and 23 yards against Houston a week earlier.