The Truth About John Chavis and the LSU Defense: The Tigers Are Not Clutch

Carter Bryant@carterthepowerContributor ISeptember 30, 2013

Sep 28, 2013; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Michael Bennett (82) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley (86) in the second half against the LSU Tigers at Sanford Stadium. Georgia won 44-41. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Even Walter White thought the LSU defense broke bad against Georgia.

Defensive coordinator John Chavis was given the lead, and his defense needed to close the game. The Tigers win a crucial SEC battle packed with BCS implications if they do not allow the Bulldogs to score another touchdown to regain the lead.

But the LSU defense was, yet again, porous in a critical situation. LSU blew a late lead. The offense was not able to recover, thus losing in backbreaking fashion.

Unfortunately, LSU fans have witnessed this plenty of times. The Georgia loss was a lower-scoring version of LSU's loss to Alabama last season. 

LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger was in perfect chemistry with his receivers throughout the game. The Tigers took a 41-37 lead after a Jeremy Hill 8-yard touchdown run with less than four minutes remaining.

Make a stop. Win the game.  

But the Bayou Bengals defense was out of their element against Georgia all game, which continued into the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs cruised 75 yards down the field for the game-winning touchdown, which was an easy 25-yard Aaron Murray bullet to Justin Scott-Wesley. The Bulldogs would snatch a 44-41 lead and never look back.

The defense offered little resistance. Murray was never touched. It only took six plays for the Bulldogs to score, five of which resulted in a first down or touchdown. 


But coming up short in critical moments is nothing new to Chavis. 

The Georgia loss marked the 14th time the LSU defense under Chavis has failed to play great defense in the fourth quarter. Thanks to big leads and late offensive magic, LSU was able to survive most of those games.  

No season was worse than last year. LSU allowed 30 points in the final three minutes of the game against Texas A&M, South Carolina, Alabama and Clemson combined.

Defensive Coordinator John Chavis has yet to find an answer in late game situations.
Defensive Coordinator John Chavis has yet to find an answer in late game situations.Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday looked like a continuation from 2012. And that does not bode well for the Tigers going forward.

Chavis has been an excellent defensive coordinator at LSU. His defense routinely ranks amongst the SEC's best. The innovative 3-2-6 "Mustang" package has been nearly unstoppable for opposing quarterbacks. 

Chavis went to his Mustang formation to start Georgia's game-winning drive, which specializes in defending the pass. But his formula is ineffective in a 2-minute drill.

The formation specializes in blitzing from all directions and pre-snap movement from linebackers and defensive backs to confuse quarterbacks. But in a hurry-up situation, the pre-snap time becomes shorter, thus becoming more predictable. 

The onus is on the defensive line to create pressure up front to close games. But LSU in recent years has gotten little pass rush with only four rushers, thus resulting in Chavis using exotic blitzes and formations to win games. 

What kills late-game drives are sacks. It forces offenses in long second and third down situations, burns timeouts and kills the momentum and flow of the drive. 

The Tigers pass rush never got close to badgering Murray, finishing with no sacks on the day. 

The above photo was shot at the release point of Murray's game-winning touchdown pass to Scott-Wesley. Chavis reinserted another defensive lineman to help with the rush. Notice the LSU defensive line is nowhere close to Murray. He did not panic as his pocket was clean. 

Chavis played soft pass defense on the drive. His linebackers dropped back 15 yards into coverage just for Murray to dump off two passes to tight end Arthur Lynch for huge chunks of yardage. 

Personnel was also a question mark. Kwon Alexander is LSU's most versatile defender who batted down a pass in the end zone earlier in the fourth quarter. Why not have him on the field in place of the slower DJ Welter or Lamin Barrow in the game's crucial moments? 

The secondary jumped up and down in frustration as Murray continued to pick them apart. Adjustments were not successfully made during the course of the game. 

Overall, Georgia would have received more trouble from a drill in practice...with tackling dummies as pass rushers. 

Sure, the defense had not stopped Georgia all game long. The Bulldogs accumulated 494 yards of total offense and only committed one turnover. But Georgia had not stopped LSU Quarterback Zach Mettenberger either, who accumulated three touchdowns and a career-high 372 passing yards. 

Murray celebrates with fans after the victory against LSU.
Murray celebrates with fans after the victory against LSU.Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia answered the call defensively in the clutch. 

The Tigers got the ball back with just under two minutes remaining, needing a field goal to send the game to overtime. The Bulldogs started with a sack to start the drive. The Tigers would eventually turn it over on downs thanks to great pass rush from the Georgia front and tightened coverage in the Bulldogs secondary. 

Championships defenses are not necessarily defined by how many stops they make, but if they make them if they matter the most. 

People expected the LSU defense to struggle. They lost an ample amount of talent to last year's draft in a season the SEC is loaded with great quarterbacks. Growing pains will happen.  

A stifling defense is not necessary to make clutch stops. 

Auburn's 2010 national championship team is a perfect example. They surrendered massive amounts of points and kept opponents in games. But they often forced turnovers and made stops in the fourth quarter of big games.

The defense will need to get better in all phases of the game. Murray threw for 298 yards and four touchdowns. The Bulldogs also pounded LSU on the ground with 196 yards rushing, most of it coming after Todd Gurley left the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter. 

But Saturday showed LSU did not fix their biggest problem from last season. If LSU could have held off Alabama, they would have been in poll position to play their way into the BCS National Championship Game.

The LSU offense is good enough to outscore the rest of their opponents. The defense needs to step up and make plays in key situations.

It won't be easy. Chavis should not tread lightly when the game is on the line. Call aggressively and find some playmakers to fix this complex situation or else another season will go down the drain for the Tigers.

If not, Les Miles better call Saul Goodman if things do not change. Because Goodman would have put out a better defense than Chavis did on Saturday.  


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