Sunday, September 19, 2010

End of an Endzoneless Era

In Week 1 vs the Cowboys the Redskins went to a place they hadn't been in sometime. The endzone, on defense.

They'd been close. Last year, D. Hall ran a Carolina pick back to the two and we scored on the next play.

In 2008 Steven Jackson of the Rams fumbled on the two. We recovered and CP ran in in the next play.

But not since Sean Taylor ran a Tampa fumble back in 2007 (or, going back regular season only, week 7 of 2007 when London Fletcher ran a INT back 26 yards to paydirt) has member of the Redskins D put 6 on the board.

Only the Oakland Raiders have a longer streak. The teams with zero defensive TDs in 2008/09 averaged 6.3 wins while the top four defensive scoring teams averaged 9.8 wins.


A lot of it's luck. Take the streak busting D. Hall TD:

Right place. Right time. Dumb luck. And since a stat head confirmed it, it must be true, the Redskins were one of the most unlucky teams in the league in 2009 and 2008.

What is luck in football? Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats describes succinctly:
But special teams plays are the most random events in the sport, save for the coin flip. Luck is a punt that lands on the 5 and skids into the end zone for touchback instead of bouncing into the air and being downed at the 1. A kick or punt return for a touchdown certainly requires skill, but when the kick return (or missed field goal or anything else) occurs means everything.

A missed FG when a team is already ahead by 20 points doesn't mean much, but when a team is behind by 1 in the 4th quarter, it means the game. Teams and players can't control when those events occur, or else they'd save up their successes for when they matter most and their failures for when they don't. So in a very substantial way, they are luck, at least when it comes to deciding game outcomes.

So luck plays a huge part. But, to an extent, defensive TDs are also a product of turnovers generated which are in part a product of pressuring the QB. Things the the Skins have been bad (for the most part, we go to the QB OK last year) at. Sprinkle an extra 6 points over almost any game in 2009 and the Redskins win.

The switch to Hasslet's 3-4 will hopefully result in more plays that lead to TOs which lead to defensive TDs. It will be something I follow eagerly all season. If Laron Landry going berserk for the first 4 quarters of 2010 is any indication, we're off to a good start.

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