formido wrote:While fear of the big play may be why DC's do it, that doesn't mean they're operating on a cold hearted analysis of the probabilities. If big plays were so easy to generate against standard defense, offenses would throw deep on every play all game long. Fact is, there's basically zero chance we give up a big play on standard defense at the end of every one of those 4 losses. There's a reasonable chance we give up 0, since we had the 3rd rated secondary against receivers in the NFL this year. Ceding 15-20 yard passes to NFL quarterbacks with anything more than 30 seconds on the clock is a fool's game and we paid the price.
To this I would add:
1) We lost 3 games this season by conceding the 15-30 yard play in the 4th quarter, at some point I'd hope the DC would consider that with this personnel the philosophy is busted. Yet when playing defense aggressively (or at least not passively), the results have been much, much better.
2) You can justify the soft zone, IMO, if we're talking about preventing a touchdown. If we're talking about preventing a field goal, basically 2 long completions are enough for the opponent to push into field goal range. A defense designed to give up such long completions is nuts. Okay, so you look like an ass if you play aggressively and somehow you get burned deep, but it's just as likely the opponent expects you to play off, then when they seen tighter coverage on the intermediate routes, panics a little. Or hey, maybe you even surprise them with a punch in the mouth as they come off the line (hard to do against a Julio Jones I realize). Yes, you do have to trust your safeties to do what they've been doing all game long and get there to break up any plays where they get behind your corners.
I do see that it's harder than we fans make it out to be. When you can't generate pressure with the front 4 you're faced with the devil's choice. Because sending an extra defender in blitz AND playing aggressively in the secondary is an awful risk. If they choose to play aggressively and not send a blitz, that's essentially how we played all season long in all but the final minute of games, and it worked out pretty well. So maybe that's what I would have liked to have seen.
For all of the above, for acknowledging the difficult choice faced by the DC, I still come away feeling that look, if your secondary is as good as ours, if your defense kicks ass all year long and okay its one flaw is you can't count on getting there with the front 4, you oughta be able to find a way to wring a success out of one of these close games. But the fact that we pissed it down our legs in MIA, DET, ATL, CHI, and ARI, I mean come on law of averages says you'd be able to close out ONE game if you were worth a shit.
For all the "number one scoring defense" stuff, our defense cost us 5 games (okay we won CHI but not on account of the defense). I'd be happier with a defense that gave up a few more points (because I think RW can handle generating more himself) but was able to close out a game every now and then in the 4th quarter. Here's hoping it's a youth thing or we figure out the pass rush thing.