by Justin Henry
Cold Hard Football Facts' Dr. Death (@jrhwriting)
The NFC herd is thinning rather fast
Ball started roll when Falcons passed
Two join Atlanta in cold hard demise
Schiano's soldiers cursed by slow start
Redskins made bad headlines their art
Trip to Metlife crumbles before their eyes
The rolling stone is gathering its moss. Once the Falcons were expelled down the NFL hillside, the spectre of death collected two more wayward teams.
Just as a creamsicle-colored cadaver arrived in my work quarters late Sunday eve, a call came in to inform me of a lifeless lummox out of Landover being shipped my way.
My work continues....
TAMPA BAY TIME OF DEATH: 3:54 PM EST, Sunday, December 1, 2013 (by loss to Carolina)
Greg Schiano draws far more derision than regard, so it was a mirthful time had by his detractors in 2013's early going. Tampa Bay would lose their first eight games of the season, with four defeats occurring on late-game meltdowns.
Compounding the futility streak were other ugly stories, namely an alleged falling out between Schiano and grand trade-prize Darrelle Revis. All of this, however, paled to the sticky situation involving Josh Freeman's exit, in which it was alleged that Schiano improperly disclosed Freeman's
private medical information.
After nearly besting Seattle in a shocker (what wound up as Tampa's eighth defeat), the Buccaneers would go on a three-game winning streak, dramatically toppling playoff contenders in the Dolphins and Lions. However, the weight of the eight losses was tough enough to bear, without the Carolina defense bursting the dam with their powerful punch.
1. A September to Forget for the Buccaneers
The Denver Broncos this season have scored 44+ points four times. Pity for Tampa Bay, as 44 points was all they scored in the month of September.
In two of the four losses, the Buccaneers led by scores of 17-15 and 14-13 over the Jets and Saints, before each foe prevailed with a last-second field goal. Tampa led 10-0 over the Cardinals before Arizona finally got on the board on a field goal with 11:21 left in the game. That was Mike Glennon's first start, and all further attempts to preserve the lead failed.
For Freeman's part, over the first three games (which ended with a 23-3 beating from New England), he completed less than half of his passes (43 of 94), posted a 59.31 passer rating, and chucked three picks against only two touchdowns.
Squandered in these games were great defensive efforts (eight takeaways, held three opponents under 100 rushing yards) that gave Tampa a chance to win. Of course, the loss to the Jets wouldn't have taken place had LaVonte David not cheapshotted Geno Smith, gifting the Jets 15 yards to set up the winning kick.
It's even more damning that Tampa's turned the ball over 14 times this season, with eight of those blunders isolated in the first four games. The Buccaneers had improved to where they only turned the ball over once during a four game stretch (3-1, almost 4-0 had Seattle not come back) before the Panther pouncing.
If Tampa Bay holds those three late leads, they're 6-6 and very much alive in a bunched-up NFC. Alas.
2. Tampa's Run Defense Isn't What it Was Last Season
I know the Buccaneers stood tall against the inconsistent Dolphins, holding their muddled brother-in-state to two yards rushing on 14 carries. This seems to imply that Tampa is somehow the run crushers they were a year ago. They're not.
The 2012 Buccaneers set a high standard for themselves by holding foes to 3.50 yards a carry, the best average in the NFL. It was to their credit that only four opponents broke 100 yards rushing as a team, while four opponents couldn't even reach 50 yards.
Downgrading to 4.17 yards (only 18th best in the league) isn't the most drastic dropoff, but it robs the Bucs of their hallmark. Revis and Dashon Goldson were brought in to fix the awful pass defense, and they have to some degrees, but the run defense has become far more spotty.
After 12 games, seven opponents have already broken 100 yards rushing on Tampa; the Bucs are 2-5 in those games. Four of those seven broke 150 yards.
Of the two games of those seven that they won, Mike Glennon ripped apart a godawful Falcons pass defense (Atlanta did score 28), and Matthew Stafford handed over too many interceptions in a nailbiter.
Only three opponents this year have been held below 75 yards: Arizona (56, the close September loss), Atlanta part one (18, Matt Ryan won through the air), and the Dolphin debacle (two yards).
WASHINGTON TIME OF DEATH: 11:24 PM EST, Sunday, December 1, 2013 (by loss to New York Giants)
Fitting that the Redskins 2013 campaign ends with a controversial call on something simple such as, 'what down is it?' The Redskins have been embroiled in something or other since Robert Griffin III sunk to the turf with a wrecked knee back on January 6.
Whether it was the handling of Griffin's injury, protests over the team's nickname, Kyle Shanahan's role as playcaller, Brandon Meriweather's headhunting, or the string of costly losses, as the late Gilda Radner would say, it was 'always something.'
Griffin himself was a big part of the downfall. A little less mobile post-surgery, the breakaway speed, and perhaps self-assuredness, weren't there, and he's already thrown six more picks than he did in his Rookie of the Year-winning season. Taking what made RG3 special and removing it leaves him ordinary, and thus unable to bail out his apparently stunted teammates.
1. Pass Defense Shows No Resistance
One of the first things you notice about the Redskins is their pass defense, and the ways in which its a liability. For starters, after 12 games, it possesses the third-worst defensive passer rating in the NFL at 101.50. Only San Diego (101.64) and Atlanta (105.06) are worse.
The 11 interceptions are a decent counterweight (more than 13 other teams), but they balance that by giving up 23 touchdowns, tied for fourth most. Another damaging statistic is completion percentage; Redskin foes complete 67.01% of their passes, third highest average.
But here's a stat that Washington sits alone at the top (er, bottom) of: they give up the most passing yards per attempt, at 8.58 yards a throw.
Even when you factor in Washington's 30 sacks and the yards lost (198), the Redskins still give up the most Real Passing Yards Per Attempt (net yards considered). Subtract the yards lost to sacks from yards given up on passes, and Washington still gives up 7.51 yards a throw, also the most in the league. There are 12 teams with less sacks than Washington, so this stat tells quite a story.
Opponents don't even need to overpower, either. Only four times this season have the Redskins surrendered more than 300 net passing yards (1-3 in those games), but the confidence in throwing against them shows no respect. Opponents don't need to.
2. Defense as a Whole Lacks Bendability
There's a handy statistic at Cold Hard Football Facts that measures how much a team stands up to pressure. It's called "Bendability." Quite simply, take the amount of yards a team gives up, and divide it by the points allowed. The number you get is how many yards are given up by a team, per point allowed. Multiply that number by seven, and that's how many yards are needed on average for a team to surrender a touchdown.
The higher the number, the more resistant a team is to the oppositional thrust.
No surprise that the Redskins fare poorly in the category. Washington is third worst in Bendability, allowing 12.40 yards per point scored. That's a touchdown every 86.80 yards given up.
According to FootballOutsiders.com, at least through Week 11, the Redskins defense was 'gifted' with the second-worst starting field position in the NFL. The average opponent begins their drive on their own 31 yard line. The fact that punter Sav Rocca owns the third worst yards-per-punt average in the NFL (41.6) contributes to this.
Shorter fields and less settling for field goals (opponents have scored 45 touchdowns and kicked just 15 field goals on 17 attempts) harm the Bendability score greatly.
It's not just the defense and bad punting that are culpable here. Griffin and Kirk Cousins damaged the rating by each throwing a pick-six. That's 14 points alone where yards don't even come into play.
Even then, without the defensive scores, Washington's Bendability rating would be 12.89. That's still third worst in the league.