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Friday, January 7, 2011
D-Gaps: Gameplans for Jets and Packers

By Jason Starrett, Dan Riccio & Marty Callinan

Our weekly look at stats and notes from the "other" side of the ball.

The New York Jets allowed a league-low eight passing touchdowns last season, thanks to an aggressive defense that blitzed more often than any other team.

That season, the Jets rushed five or more defenders on 52.4 percent of opponents’ dropbacks, the highest percentage in the league and the only instance since 2008 in which a defense had a single-season percentage over 50. Opposing quarterbacks threw only two touchdown passes in 265 attempts when the Jets brought added pass pressure.

This season, the Jets allowed 24 passing touchdowns, including 16 to targets guarded by a single defender, and Peyton Manning may look somewhere specific when he needs a score. Antonio Cromartie was the defender on seven pass touchdowns this season, the highest of any Jets defender, and six of the seven were against single man-coverage.

To combat those perimeter struggles, the Jets slowed their rate of pressure as the season progressed, rushing five or more defenders 47.9 percent of the time in their first eight games (41.1 percent over their final eight games).

Peyton Manning
Manning
Despite the aforementioned inconsistency, the Jets will need to dial things up this weekend against the Indianapolis Colts. Facing four or fewer pass rushers this season, Peyton Manning recorded a higher passer rating (93.2 to 87.6) and completion percentage (68.3 to 59.5), and was sacked at a lower rate (88.0 dropbacks per sack to 16.8 dropbacks per sack) than when opponents pressured him with five or more.

Let's see if the Jets dial up a gameplan similar to the one used in last year’s dramatic playoff run. The Jets sent five or more defenders on 63.4 percent of opponents’ dropbacks during the 2009 postseason, the highest rate among any playoff participant since 2008.

PACKERS PICK THEIR POISON
Regardless of how many pass rushers the Green Bay Packers send, they‘ve had success blitzing with defensive backs this season. Green Bay allowed the second-lowest opponents’ passer rating in the league when blitzing a member of the secondary this season.

Michael Vick
Vick
When facing pass pressure this season from defensive backs, Michael Vick completed less than half of his passes, averaging 7.3 yards per attempt. When the pass rush didn’t include the secondary, Vick completed almost 66 percent of his passes for 8.3 yards per attempt.

However, the Packers are likely aware that pursuing Vick this way is a risky position. Vick was sacked 13 times for -75 yards when facing secondary pressure (5.8 yards per sack) but scrambled 16 times for 254 yards (15.9 yards per scramble).

That equates to a positive gain of 9.4 yards per dropback that does not result in a pass attempt.