Sunday, November 22, 2009

Who Done It?

If there is one thing that I hate almost as much as the Bucs losing this season, its the chattering of sports pundits and some fans who really don't know a lot about football. Every single week these pundits say and those fans repeat some of the most erroneous reasoning you can imagine about why we didn't play well on offense or defense. Today is yet another example of this phenomenon.

The Saints ran the ball down our throats in the second half today but diagnosing WHY they ran the ball down our throats is always harder than just saying this group or that group got their ass kicked. Unfortunately nowadays people LOVE to blame one group or another whether its really their fault or not. Hell I even saw a play today where the Saints got a big run against the defense and the announcers showed the replay and totally missed who was actually responsible for the run breaking because they were too busy trying to give credit to a Saints offensive lineman who in reality didn't even make all that great of a block.

So I have decided to go through and break down the big runs that happened in the second half and tell you who was at fault. At least then after you have read this post you can speak more intelligently about what our problems are on defense at least for this game.

1. 3rd Quarter 6:55

The Saints were in a one back set. They had a tight end and two wide receivers to the defense's right and one wide receiver to the defense's left. The tight end backed off of the line and then motioned to the left and then motioned back out to the right so that he was just outside of our right defensive end, Tim Crowder, on the snap.

Defensively our defensive line was in a strong right call which meant that our right end, Crowder, was in a head up position initially on the tight end. The right defensive tackle, Chris Hovan, was in the B gap outside of the left guard, the weak tackle, Ryan Sims was head up on the right guard, and Jimmy Wilkerson was lined up outside of the right tackle. The defensive call told both Crowder and Hovan to slant inside. We were in nickel defense with Ronde Barber on the inside receiver on the defensive right side of the formation and Torrie Cox lined up at corner to that side. And we were in some form of cover 2 with both safeties deep.

On the snap of the football the receivers on the right side of the formation both blocked the Cox and Barber. The tight end blocked down on the slanting Crowder. The left tackle pulled outside of the tight end. The left guard and center double teamed the slanting Hovan, the right guard blocked inside on Sims and the right tackle went up to the safety.

Now on this play when the tackle pulls Barrett Ruud has to spill that block which he did a good job of. But then Geno Hayes has to be fast over the top of that block in order to make the tackle. He took a bad angle and missed the tackle so instead of holding the running back, Pierre Thomas to about a 3 or 4 yard gain it ended up being an 18 yard gain.

Culprit: Geno Hayes.

2. The very next play.

The Saints come out with another one back set initially. There is a tight end in a two point stance on the line to the defense's left and one wide receiver on that side. And there is a tight end lined up off the ball to the defense's right side and one wide receiver to that side as well.

The Bucs called the strength to the defense's left. That meant Wilkerson was lined up outside of the tight end on the defense's left, Sims was lined up in the B gap on the right guard, Roy Miller in for Hovan was head up on the left guard and Crowder was lined up on the outside shoulder of the left tackle. We had base defense in so Quincy Black was back in at Sam linebacker to the left. The coverage was once again some form of cover 2 with both safeties deep.

Before the snap the tight end off the ball motioned back into the backfield creating an I set. On the snap the tight end to the defense's left base blocked Wilkerson to the outside in the D gap. The right tackle and right guard double teamed Sims. The center and left guard double teamed Miller. The left tackle attempted to base block Crowder but he made a pretty good move to defeat the block and slide off inside. The tight end now playing fullback led up on Ruud who took it on with his left shoulder. Black filled the frontside A gap because of the fullback's block. And Hayes filled the backside B gap.

There was just one problem, nobody was in the C gap inside of Wilkerson. And because of that the running back, Mike Bell, cut back in said C gap and took off for 28 yards.

Now there are two choices here as to who is at fault. Either Wilkerson was supposed to be head up on the tight end in which case he would have C gap and he would be at fault, OR the defense was set up for him to be outside the tight end in which case the design of the defense was faulty and the defensive coordinator at fault. Now there is some evidence from the rest of the game that has me leaning in a certain direction on this one but I will split the difference and blame them both and let you figure it out.

Culprit: Jimmy Wilkerson or Jim Bates.

3. 5:17 still in the 3rd quarter 2nd down and 2 at our 16 yard line.

This was the same exact play literally as play number 2 however this time we had Kyle Moore in at right defensive end and Michael Bennett in as left defensive end. And just like Wilkerson Bennett played the tight end block to the outside and just like on the earlier play Bell cut back to the C gap and nobody was there. He ended up with 13 yard on that carry. Again I will let you decide who was ultimately guilty here.

Culprit: Michael Bennett or Jim Bates.

4. Very next play.

The Saints come out in an I back set with the tight end to the defense's left. There is one wide receiver to the left and one wide receiver to the right.

We had a strong left call on. Bennett at left end lines up outside the tight end. Sims was in the B gap outside the right guard. Miller was head up on the left guard. Moore was lined up outside the left tackle. We were still in base defense with Black in the game.

On the snap the tight end goes up to block Black who takes him on and sheds the block. The right tackle and right guard double team Sims. The center blocked back on Miller. The left guard pulled to the defense's left and went up on Ruud who correctly spilled the block. The left tackle hinge blocked on Moore. Hayes didn't read the pulling guard on his side and instead went up into the line and ended up getting caught up in the wash. He was the guy who Ruud thought he was spilling the play to. Once again Hayes wasn't there over the top and so Black along with Sabby Piscitelli and Tanard Jackson all tried to make the tackle but Bell ended up spinning off of them into the endzone.

Culprits: Primary Geno Hayes, Secondarily because of missed tackles Sabby Piscitelli, Quincy Black, and Tanard Jackson.

5. 3rd quarter 00:42 left 1st and 10

The Saints come out with an I backfield set. They have two tight ends to the defense's left with one on the ball and the other outside of him off the ball. They have a wide receiver to the defense's right. Before the snap the tight end off the ball motions to the defense's right until they are in front of our right defensive end.

The defense is in a strong left call. The left end is Bennett who lines up outside of the tight end. Sims lines up in the B gap outside of the right guard. Miller is lined up head up on the left guard. Moore was lined up outside of the left tackle. We were in base defense with Black lined up on the left side. The coverage looks to be some form of cover 3 with Sabby Piscitelli down in the box to the left side.

On the snap of the ball the tight end base blocked Bennett. The right tackle went up and blocked Black. The right guard base blocked Sims. The center went up to block Ruud. The left guard blocked down on Miller. The left tackle went up and blocked Hayes inside. The tight end who came over in motion cuts Moore at his inside leg and gets him on the ground keeping him from staying in the C gap. Ronde who came over with the motion ends up blitzing behind the tight end's block. The fullback led up on Piscitelli. Thomas starts behind his fullback then cuts back into the C gap where Moore is supposed to be. He ends up picking up 24 yards on that run.

Culprit: Kyle Moore

6. 4th quarter 12:15 3rd and 7

The Saints came out in an I back field with two wide receivers to the defense's left and one wide receiver to the defense's right.

We were in our 3rd down package with Bennett at left end, Wilkerson at left defensive tackle, Hovan at right defensive tackle, and Greg (Stylez) White at right end. In our 3rd down package both defensive tackles line up in the B gap outside the guards. Ruud and Hayes were both still in at linebacker.

Now in this case Bates dialed up a blitz. In this blitz Hovan takes an outside rush in his B gap. Ruud blitzed through the right side A gap. And White looped inside to the opposite A gap. Wilkerson rushes upfield in the B gap and Bennett rushes outside the offensive tackle.

The Saints had their offensive line take a pass set. And then the fullback led up on Hayes. He took the block on with his right shoulder and turned it back to the right side of the defense. White had chance to make the tackle in the backfield but I am not sure he saw Thomas carrying the ball till the last minute. So he missed the tackle. Then Corey Lynch had an opportunity to tackle Thomas for maybe a one yard gain. Instead Thomas ran straight through his tackle attempt. And finally at the end of the run Piscitelli had a chance to hold Thomas to about 10 yards on the carry but instead Thomas made a spin move and Piscitelli also missed the tackle. In the end he gained 18 yards all told.

Culprits: Greg (Stylez) White, Corey Lynch, and Sabby Piscitelli.

Well there you have it folks. Those 6 plays accounted for 104 rushing yards and a touchdown in yesterday's game against the Saints. Now I am sure it would be hard to condense all that information into a nice and neat soundbite for TV or radio but it is what it is. Just remember the next time you hear somebody saying X group was THE reason why we didn't perform on defense, more than likely they don't know what the hell they are talking about.

It is what it is.


  1. Steve, excellent job thanks.

  2. You're welcome and thanks for the compliment!

  3. That is all well and good but the thing that stands out is the fact that very few times did a lineman or linebacker beat the blocker and make a play. Too many times the current players get blocked and stay blocked. The scheme isn't great and neither are the players. Culprit FO and Coaching Staff.

  4. Steve, thanks for the defensive lesson. it's certainly enlightening to have a guy who's been in the trenches explain exactly what's going wrong in there.

    Would it be safe to say Geno Hayes and Sabby are the main culprits in our run defense? Their names seemed to be mentioned the most by you in this article.

  5. Yo Steve, is there any way you could throw some pics up of the plays right before the snap so its easier to visualize where players are lining up. Great article, really quenched the thirst to know what really is happening, i hate those message boards cuz no one breaks things, down. Actually there are only a few places where people break down the intricacies of gap integrity and blocking. that dude at and that fifth down blog on nyt do some x's o's, however it's clear that what you bring to the field as an ex-player in terms of writing is just better. Some pics or even game footage would be nice. Also one more thing. Could you write more? i scour the web daily to find articles like your bull rush or this one, but rarely do I find them. Some people think your articles are too long, i wan't them longer and more comprehensive. great read.

    Actually would it be possible if you wrote like everyday? if you did this site might overtake profootballtalk for me.

  6. would it be fair to say as La Torre posted above, that geno hayes hasn't well uh done what he "supposed" to do on run downs? on the message boards people are starting to rip ruud, saying general things like "he always making tackles on players after theyve ran 7 yards downfield." has the perception of his play as suffering be caused by the lackluster play of geno and quincy?

  7. @JohnM

    Actually thats the one thing that DIDN'T stand out as I replayed the game. Guys got off blocks but again sometimes guys were in the wrong gaps and sometimes they just missed the tackle. Don't know what game you watched yesterday but it certainly wasn't the one I reviewed.

  8. @JC

    Geno and Sabby certainly made their share of mistakes but I think you should set aside some scorn for Bates too as its his scheme and it still isn't working.

  9. @Ravi

    This blog basically started as a hobby for me. I am actually surprised and honored that so many people actually read and like what I write. I guess I eventually may invest more time in writing here and using graphics and such if people continue to ask for that sort of thing. Just hadn't really thought about it much until now. Thanks everyone for coming by and commenting here by the way!

  10. Great read Steve, thanks for the in-depth look. If it's possible to get picks of each formation that would be terrific.

  11. Keep up the good work Steve! I think it's pretty obvious we need a DC who will scheme to the personnel, NOT the other way are we STILL not calling for any rush games on obvious passing downs? I actually like our personnel defensively, we just dont utilize their strenghts. Hopefully we are investing some serious time into scouting for next years draft...I pray we get Suh, or at least McCoy. Thanks again Steve!

  12. Just read your post on Suh...very interesting...have you watched any tape on Gerald McCoy? How about Carlos Dunlap? I think Dunlap is overrated. Do you see any playmakers worthy of a top 5 pick? I feel when you pick that high you go for the surest bet you can find, regardless of position.


  13. Is our biggest need in the draft DE or DT? If I had my way, we would go 1. DL 2a. MLB 2b. DL - In other words, we've spent previous good picks on OL, isn't time to spend them on the Defense?
    OK, I understand we invested a 1st rounder on Gaines but that didn't work out too good.
    I like your blog quite a bit and the suggestions above about diagrams, pictures and more frequent posts are really dynamite. Who knows, maybe this gig can turn into a job with one of the big websites. You certainly explain things in such a way that even us novices can understand.

  14. @anonymous

    I have seen McCoy but not a lot of him. I think he is actually a better fit for what we are trying to do here. But what I plan on doing is watching the Big 12 championship game to get a better look at both Suh and McCoy and then posting about them.

    As for Dunlap I was a big fan of his last year but this year he just doesn't look like he has progressed at all. He doesn't really do any pass rush moves instead just trying to win off athletic ability and speed. Thats all fine and good in college but if he doesn't figure out how to use moves he won't have much success in the pros.

  15. @larryed

    I just did a post for you and others who have been asking what I think about the draft. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.

  16. Steve, I very much appreciate the analytical breakdown of these key plays. I have a bit different request... do you feel that these mistakes are due to the less-experienced players' decisions, or is it that they aren't executing on Bate's scheme?

  17. Thank you for the break down Steve, it's so much better coming from someone who has been in the trenches and knows what they're talking about vs the guys who just wished they'd played and talk out of their a**. Like the other people said, would love to see more in depth articles like these from you.