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The myth of San Diego's run game

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by RaiderRay, Jan 14, 2010.

  1. RaiderRay

    RaiderRay RIP SD Chargers...Go Padres, Gulls, Ducks, Raiders Staff Member Administrator Podcaster

    Jun 20, 2005

    Think the Bolts can't run on Gang Green? They can -- and will

    For the 2009 NFL playoffs, Football Scientist K.C. Joyner offers "Contrarian Thoughts" on various games; essentially, he tells you the things that you'll keep hearing which aren't necessarily true. This edition focuses on everyone's favorite "He's in decline!" punching bag, Mr. LaDainian Tomlinson.

    LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers will be able to run the ball with frequent success against the Jets. This would seem highly unlikely, since New York ranked eighth in rush yards allowed during the regular season and San Diego was next to last in ground yards gained.

    I wouldn't have believed it myself, but then I broke it down more: That No. 8 rush defense ranking isn't all it's cracked up to be -- and the Jets, despite beating the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend at their place, are coming off one of the worst run-defense performances of the season. Oh, and San Diego and LT? Not quite over that hill just yet.

    Point 1: The Jets' overall run-defense numbers are not anywhere near as good as the No. 8 ranking indicates.

    The Jets' high overall ranking in rush yards allowed is more than offset by the fact that they gave up over 100 yards on the ground eight times during the regular season. It was actually a bit worse than the sheer volume of triple-digit games; the Jets allowed an average of 133 rushing yards in those contests. Prorate that total over a 16-game stretch and it equals 2,128 yards, a mark that would rank 27th in the league. To put it another way: In half of their games this year, the Jets had a run defense that was a significant liability.

    Point 2: New York put up one of its worst run-defense performances of the entire year last weekend.

    The 171 yards gained by the Bengals in Saturday's wild-card game was easily the highest total allowed by New York this year. As bad of an omen as that is, the individual point of attack (POA) run-blocking metrics in that contest also provide reason for concern.

    My game-tracking system had New York defenders being beaten on 52 of the 64 POA blocks made by the Bengals. That equates to an 18.8 percent POA win rate, which is actually a fairly solid total, but almost all of the 12 wins were generated by Calvin Pace (four POA wins), Bart Scott (two POA wins) and Sean Ellis (two POA wins). The Jets' defensive linemen won only two of the 22 POA blocks, and the cornerbacks/safeties won zero of their six POA blocks. The 3-4 defense is designed to funnel a lot of activity to specific players, but it cannot be a good sign when the front three and back four defensive players have a combined POA win rate of 7.1 percent.

    Point 3: San Diego is much closer to having a solid running attack than we generally think.

    There is no doubt that LaDainian Tomlinson is not an elite back anymore. His 3.3 yards-per-rush-attempt mark was the lowest among running backs with 200 or more carries this season -- and his 730-yard total was easily the lowest of his career (it was the first time in nine seasons that he hasn't topped 1,000 yards).

    That's the glass half-empty viewpoint. Now let's go glass half-full.

    LT had 56 carries of more than 5 yards between Weeks 6 and 16; he gained 459 yards on those runs, or 8.2 yards per attempt. If LT can duplicate the frequency and YPA average of this stretch against the Jets, it will put San Diego nearly halfway toward triple digits in rush yardage.

    Another optimistic metric can be found in the late-season improvement in POA win rate shown by the Chargers' blockers. San Diego's offensive line struggled mightily early on; the Chargers had at least one POA blocking loss on 40.1 percent of their runs in Weeks 1-9.

    The big problem with that metric is this: Leaguewide, YPA average on runs with one or more POA losses is usually between 1-2 yards. Consistent production cannot be achieved without consistent blocking, and that is a key reason Chargers ballcarriers gained only 4.4 yards per attempt on those plays.

    The good news for the Bolts is that both of those metrics saw something of a turnaround in Weeks 10-16. San Diego blockers lowered their POA loss rate to 34.3 percent during that time frame. A decrease of nearly 6 percent might not sound like much -- but consider that the Chargers had 213 POA runs in those contests. That improvement meant San Diego runners had 12 all-win POA carries down the stretch that they may not have had earlier on; those POA wins were the key reason why Chargers running backs also improved their YPA on all-win POA runs to a 5.1 total, which is nearly a yard better than their earlier mark.
  2. Zeus

    Zeus BoltTalker

    Nov 21, 2006
    Great post.

    What also needs to be considered is Hardwick is back and Runyan and Dombrowski will be playing the run better. Dombrowski because he has much more run experience than early on and is better at creating a seam then Clary and Runyan being a better overall run blocker.

    Furthermore a defense can only key into select areas. If they want to stop the big and medium passing game they have to send guys back and blitz differently. This allows running games to improve along with a good short passing game and yards gained from passes to the running back. This has been shown throughout the season however I will point out the Bengals game where they gave up big runs and allowed a lot of short passes.

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