By now we have all managed to dig our fingernails out of our armrests, having experienced a white-knuckle weekend of great football. Surprises hit us like a trap block left and right, leaving the football watching world even further enamored with the greatest sport on Earth.
Looking back, it is hard to even know where to begin. Reflecting on the last week, we at the Hog Report would love to talk about the Texans’ d-hogs.
Yes, we are floored by the performance of J.J. Watt and company. After brutalizing the Dolphins like Ralphie did to Scott Farkas in A Christmas Story, the Dolphins bounced back to trounce the Raiders.
Even more telling of the Texans complete dominance, Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill went without throwing an interception after Houston forced him into three in the previous week.
But, since we will not spend our fourth straight week gushing over the Bulls on Parade, let’s go whole hog over the rest of the best and worst of Week 2.
3 Prime Cuts
1. The Falcons D-Hogs Bring Out the Manning Face
While it may have been rocking too hard in the Georgia Dome to hear whether or not Peyton Manning gave anyone the Donald Brown treatment, we do know that the Falcons’ pass rush got after Manning enough to bring out that disgusted look that we all missed in 2011.
Even though Manning was able to employ the quickest release this side of Dan Marino while evading the pass rush, he was under too much pressure to properly diagnose Mike Nolan’s amoeba. A constantly shifting front, whose charge was led by the rejuvenated Jon Abraham, was able to pressure Manning into throwing three interceptions in the first 8 minutes.
Although Manning was able to limit his completions to his teammates for the rest of the game, the Falcons’ pass rush brought Manning down three times. That contributed to an astronomical negative pass play percentage (NPP%) of 32.35.
Nearly one-third of Manning’s drop backs ended in a sack or interception.
To put that in perspective, no quarterback in this millennium has thrown three interceptions in the first 8 minutes of the game. The Broncos’ o-hogs saw their NPP% skyrocket after allowing only 7.14% against the Steelers in Week 1.
Last season, however, there were 10 games in which quarterbacks threw two interceptions within the first eight minutes. Unsurprisingly, the majority of their opponents were in the top 11 d-hog units in NPP%.
2011 Def NPP%
Matt Stafford - Detroit
Matt Stafford - Detroit
Philip Rivers - San Diego
Matt Ryan - Atlanta
Cam Newton - Carolina
Kyle Boller - Oakland
Rex Grossman - Washington
New York Giants
Kevin Kolb - Arizona
Christian Ponder - Minnesota
Tavaris Jackson - Seattle
2. Green Bay Defensive Pork Futures Not Sluggish in a Bear Market
For a front-running team like the Packers, scoring early is a necessity. Last season, the Packers’ pass rush was unable to be nearly as disruptive as it was during its Super Bowl run, leading to a late-season decline and an early exit from the playoffs.
In 2011, the Packers’ d-hogs finished with a NPP% of 9.02, good for 20th in the league. Facing a slow-moving Bears’ stable of o-hogs, the Packers continued their return to form by taking down Jay Cutler seven times and causing four interceptions. Even though Cutler chastised left tackle JaMarcus Webb, leaving Webb on an island against Clay Matthews was just not fair.
Green Bay’s 32.35 NPP% trumps even the Falcons’ showing against the Broncos.
Matthews’ speed and textbook hand-technique are vintage 2010, and the Packers’ performance was the most disruptive in a decade.
Two NFC South teams achieved the same Packers plateau of four interceptions and seven sacks in 2002: the Saints, whose offensive coordinator is Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy, and the Falcons, whose defense was coordinated by Wade Phillips, the current maestro of the Texans’ imposing unit.
3. San Diego D-Hogs: Stopping the Run and Getting off the Field
Although San Diego’s group of hogs does not have the impressive NPP% like the previously discussed units, their strength lies in shutting down the run and creating hard-to-convert third-and-long situations.
A 3-4 defensive front produces an unheralded group of block-consuming linemen. Despite the lack of love in the individual stat column, the group including Antonio Garay, Corey Liuget and Aubrayo Franklin have something to hang their hats on.
While the San Diego linebacking corps may receive the credit for the vastly improved defense after two weeks, these unheralded d-hogs provide them the clear path to their stats and glory.
2011 San Diego D-Hogs
3rdDown Conversions – 49.23%
NPP% - 9.61
Rushing YPA – 4.37
2012 San Diego D-Hogs
3rdDown Conversions – 25%
NPP% - 5.06
Rushing YPA – 2.77
1. Kansas City D-Hogs Are Getting Barbecued
The Chiefs received a free pass from many after Atlanta carved them up in Week 1. Pass-rushing terror Tamba Hali was serving a one-game suspension, and the Falcons’ o-hogs can resemble the kind of impenetrable wall that formed Matt Ryan’s improvised dressing room on Monday night.
With Hali returning in Week 2, the Chiefs still managed to allow the Bills’ Ryan Fitzpatrick to feel very comfortable in the pocket, causing a NPP% of, ahem, 0%. The rushing attack also hung up 200 yards on the defense.
Just to add insult to injury.
A unit with so much potential, including athletic freak Dontari Poe at nose tackle, has fallen so far. In fact, they have fallen as far as possible, sitting at the bottom of the d-hog rankings.
After two weeks, this is what is looking back at them in the mirror:
3rdDown Conversions – 45.45%
NPP% - 1.96
Rushing YPA – 4.83
2. Minnesota Vikings’ Jared Allen Continues to be Shut Out
Against the Jaguars in Week 1, Jared Allen set out to improve upon a season in which he was half a sack away from setting the record for sacks in a season. Or, in respect to Deacon Jones, a season in which sacks were recorded.
Allen was blanked against the Jaguars by Eugene Monroe, a former first-round selection at left tackle who had previously underperformed his draft slot. Monroe appeared to have improved his technique in both his foot- and hand-work, but the benefit of the doubt had to be given to Allen.
The formerly mullet-bearing sack maven was surely stymied by a game plan designed to allow Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert to make quick decisions and get rid of the ball.
That surely was not the same Allen, right?
In Week 2, Allen faced the Colts and rookie quarterback, who had been taken to the ground three times by the Bears’ d-hogs.
In a familiar storyline, Allen was set to take on former first-round selection Anthony Castanzo, a left tackle who oozed potential previous to being selected but who had yet to cash in.
Consider Castonzo’s match-up against Allen to be a trip to the draft-evaluation ATM.
For the second week in a row, a young quarterback managed to pull out a late march downfield against the Vikings. And, once again, Allen was blanked. Minnesota did manage to procure two sacks, bumping their overall d-hog rating to a not-so-lofty 21st ranking. Their paltry 5.41 NPP% is good for 25th on the season.
Allen needs to become more of a grizzled veteran and less of a mentor to young left tackles if the Vikings want to put a halt to confidence-building drives for young quarterbacks and reward his own blossoming young signal caller, Christian Ponder.
3. Philadelphia’s O-Hogs Politely Allowing Defenders to Pass
Injuries have decimated the Eagles’ offensive line, and Michael Vick has undoubtedly strapped his Kevlar vest tighter in preparation for the onslaught. Sure, Vick’s last-minute heroics are thrilling, but the other 50-plus minutes are simply excruciating to watch.
With starting center Jason Kelce (knee) and second-string left tackle King Dunlap (hamstring) going down on Sunday, Vick found himself fleeing like an under-performing pit bull at Bad Newz Kennelz. Under such constant duress, Vick finds himself reverting to making ill-advised throws across his body and into coverage, getting picked and pummeled in the process.
Vick has thrown six interceptions and taken four sacks in the first two weeks, leading to a 25th ranked 10.87 NPP%. In the past decade, only Daunte Culpepper of the 2005 Vikings has suffered through a worse opening two weeks at the hands of his o-hogs.
Culpepper was pressured into eight interceptions and five sacks in his first two weeks of that season, and the beatings finally caught up to him. He suffered a shredded knee that all but ended his career in Week 7.
Trench Warfare Battle of the Week: St. Louis Rams at Chicago Bears
During the Week 2 match-up against the Redskins, the Rams’ o-hogs continued to perform unbelievably competently despite losing their starting center, Scott Wells (foot), for the season and subsequently seeing their starting left tackle, Rodger Saffold (knee), leave the game for the second week in a row.
Newly acquired Jets scapegoat Wayne Hunter filled in admirably at left tackle, and the Rams ended Week 2 as the sixth-ranked group of o-hogs.
The group is playing with an aggression (not swag, swag is for defensive backs) that has not been seen since Orlando Pace mowed down any defensive player who had the audacity to cross his path.
Is this simply a mirage or have the Rams found a way to play like an elite unit of o-hogs? That question will be answered swiftly by the top-ranked d-hog unit from Chicago.
The Bears feature a versatile unit, rushing Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije from the inside and outside of formations. They add in the highly underrated former Longhorn running back and current defensive tackle, Henry Melton, for good measure. Rookie defensive end/linebacker hybrid Shea McClellin has also acclimated to the NFL speed more quickly than expected, racking up 1.5 sacks against Green Bay in Week 2.
Will Jeff Fisher and Rams’ offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer be able to scheme to contain such a formidable and versatile opponent? The Chicago d-hogs have terrorized the competition, limiting opponents to 3.93 YPA rushing and a mere 25% conversion rate on third down.
The Bears’ d-hogs’ 13.95 NPP% is far above the 9.23% the Rams o-line has allowed thus far, and St. Louis’ 4.24 YPA and 45.83% success on third down are much greater than those of the Monsters of the Midway.
Considering the far less-intriguing matchup when the Bears have the ball, both sides have underachieved in the first two weeks. The Rams are the 25th-ranked group of d-hogs, while the Bears’ offensive line is sitting at the 30th position.
Will the Rams’ Robert Quinn use his speed to blow past left tackle JaMarcus Quinn and earn him another Jay Cutler reprimand? And will every-down threat Chris Long shut down both phases of the Bears’ offense?
While the Rams can gameplan with the best of them, the Bears’ ability to rush Peppers, Idonije and Melton from the middle will overwhelm a Rams interior unit decimated by injuries. Again, another trench warfare battle will be undecided until the last shot is fired, but the Bears have too much to lose, while the Rams are playing on house money.
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