Many of the stats in this post are derived from the publicly available and premium database statistics at FootballOutsiders.com, NFL.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com
Vince Young’s Back and Dangerous
I know what LL Cool J would say, but I think last night’s game counts as Vince Young’s comeback. Maybe it’s a breakout or a statement game instead of a comeback. No matter what you call it, he gave every defensive coordinator left on the Titans schedule a serious migraine.
Just watching what the Titans did to the Texans defense last night explains why every year NFL scouts drool over college quarterbacks that can both run and pass. While many turn into slash-type players like Josh Cribbs, Brad Smith, Antwaan Randle-El or Kordell Stewart, the rare few present the complete package like Mike Vick or Vince Young do.
Just so we’re clear, I’m talking about Mike Vick 1.0, the latest edition of Mike Vick isn’t even as good as Brady Quinn.
In the running game, the combination of Young and the NFL’s most dangerous back, Chris Johnson, kept the Texans defense guessing. Using the zone read and the option play forced the Texans edge defenders to hesitate. That hesitation can be the difference between a 3 yard gain or a 10 yard gain when Young and Johnson are involved. Essentially, this is the exact tactical advantage the Dolphins were hoping for with Pat White when they spent a second round pick on him. The difference is that the Titans don’t have to make a substitution, which helps disguise the play. This follows the Sports Opinionated OBP Rules to the letter.
In the passing game, Young frequently had a running lane when the Texans were in man coverage. With the defender’s backs to him, Young could easily pick up the first down with his legs. Eventually the Texans were forced to leave a linebacker as a spy. This is a massive offensive advantage for the Titans given that one defender was taken out of the play, not rushing the passer and not dropped into coverage.
You can bet that the Cards defensive coordinator, Bill Davis, is wracking his brain this week to ensure they have a plan to limit Young’s effectiveness.
How much has the Cardinals running game improved?
Watching the Cardinals offense the last few weeks, it’s easy to notice the improved running game. How much better are they on the ground? Put it this way, they’re pounding the rock better than most drug dealers right now.
In the first seven weeks of the season, the Cardinals were a dismal running team. Since a week 8 match up with the Panthers and a few weeks after giving Beanie Wells a bigger role in the offense, they own a formidable running attack. A rushing DVOA of 21.6% would rank them 2nd in the league if it was indicative of a whole season.
The Story Behind the Colts Win over the Ravens
Say it with me…you MUST score touchdowns in the red zone. The Ravens lost to the Colts this week despite outplaying them for most of the game. They forced Peyton Manning into interceptions and moved the ball well against the Colts defense. Unfortunately for the Ravens, they never got in the end zone and settled for 5 field goals.
The graphic below shows a comparison of both teams in the red zone, both offensively and defensively.
While both teams have quite impressive red zone defenses, the Colts held a significant edge in red zone passing offense. Not coincidentally, the Colts converted 2 of 4 red zone attempts into touchdowns and won the game, largely due to better red zone efficiency.