Breakdown: Defense vs Saints

Formation Things:

Blackmon got tagged with playing the Nickel Corner:


We stayed in Nickel and Dime more than usual as the Saints were in 1RB, 1TE, 3WR personnel for most of the game.  When they brought in CJ Spiller we usually subbed out a DL or LB for an extra defensive back.  Lesson learned Dion Lewis, lesson learned.


Kerrigan stayed in All Pass Rush Everything mode for most of the game and it got him a few pressures but against the run it also got him this:


That’s a liiitle bit bigger of a cutback lane than there should be.  No worries in a game like this, but it’s been a issue worth noting.  Murphy was ok.  Again.  He’s not doing anything stupid, occasionally he will get lost in zone coverage but he played smart football overall.  He got half a sack in this game so hooray.  Murphy will be perfect as a backup next year until then it is what it is.  Anyways, OLB has never been an Achilles heel of the defense so lets move on to something that has: inside backin’.  Riley scored higher in this game and had a ton less negative plays.  First drive, second play:


The saints were trying to stretch Riley’s zone responsibility hoping that he would bite on the underneath route and leave Colston open over top.  He kinda bit but it didn’t matter, he still makes a really athletic play on the ball:

Next to him Compton was collecting a lot of +0.5’s by doing his assignment and not making bonehead plays.  Versus a 2nd and 19 in Dime formation Compton had no help in his immediate area, and was “protected” by a front four that was stunting to the QB.  This left the middle of the field wide open.  Despite all that, Compton was able to meet a 305 pound center 1-on-1, funnel the RB inside, disengage with the center and pursue the ball carrier.  All of that gets you +1.5 in my book even if it was a 7 yard gain:

Even on the 60 yard run, I found no fault with anything Compton did.  The blame rested on the secondary who failed to learn there lesson from last week with crack blocks.


Kerrigan gets crack-blocked by the TE, who is Jarrett’s man in coverage.  Jarrett needs to immediately attack the line of scrimmage when this happens.  His guy is blocking.  Not going out for a route.  Instead he just sits and watches.


If you want to steer your eyes away from the horror, you can focus on the 2 guys I highlighted: Compton and Hatcher.  Compton sheds the center block and hustles all the way to the pulling Tackle and takes him on with this inside shoulder and funnels the RB upfield to where defensive help SHOULD be.  Meanwhile Hatcher has shed his block and is hustling upfield to make the tackle.

It all goes to crap when Jarrett gets blocked and stops Hatcher’s pursuit.  There was no excuse for Jarrett to get blocked like that.  The tight end Jarret was covering crack-blocked Kerrigan and Jarrett just stood there and watched.  As soon as his pass responsibility voided he should have been screaming downhill and making a play to at least slow down the RB.  Also it didn’t help that Bashaud was blocked into the ether by a WR.  The secondary did not grade out well in this game because of their run defense.

Defensive Backs

Like I showed in the beginning of this post Blackmon was moved inside to Nickel CB.  He oscillated with his play at that position.  In man coverage he was pretty solid.  The following clip shows him in man coverage in 2 plays, Play 1: Carrying a “wheel” route perfectly and then Play 2:  Carrying a vertical stem by the inside WR.  When the WR breaks outside, Blackmon stays right in his hip pocket.  Brees is forced to make a high throw and the ball gets tipped for a pick 6.

But in zone coverage he was just ok.  Here he gets caught up with a crossing route that he should pass off to Compton.  This left a void underneath and the WR has an easy first down:

But Brees was off target.  The secondary got bailed out by a few different things at different times: a good pass rush, Brees being off target, tipped balls and dropped balls.

On the 60 yard TD pass I thought Culliver could have gotten over top of the post route and it looked like Jeron Johnson was guilty of not getting underneath it.  After that play Culliver showed some signs of PTSD and played super conservatively, giving the WRs a lot of cushion for the rest of the game.  Even then Brees only ended up with 209 yards, so hats off to the secondary overall.  (I can’t really see much of what they do off screen so the individual grades will not reflect all the coverage aspect of their play.  I could add in a “coverage” metric to better reflect this.  Perhaps starting next week.)

Defensive Line

Drive 5, 1st play:  In the following frame Baker is facing up the center like he is about to take on a block and push back.  This causes the center to come at Baker full force:

But then Baker just NOPEs him and turns his shoulders upfield toward the RB.
This causes the center (60) to completely miss Baker and fall down to a knee. Both inside backers are filling on either side of Baker and the middle of the field is closed. The RB can’t go up the middle where the run was designed to go and has to bounce outside which gives time for the rest of the defense to rally and tackle:


That was Smart Baker.  The next video shows 2 plays of Angry Baker.  In the first one Baker is to the bottom of the screen.  He will shed the tight end block followed by a BAKER RAGE tackle on the running back.  In the second play he single handedly stops a 4th down and inches.  He slants hard inside past his blocker, shoves the center right back into the full back (a blocking tight end) and then comes off of that to make the tackle in the backfield.  +3 good sir.  Keep them coming:


What does it all mean:

Last week Jean-Francois was the star, this week it’s Baker.  Even Paea has had 2 solid to good weeks.  The defensive line feels set.  Knighton looks like he can stand up to double teams as long as we limit his snap count.   Throw in solid play from Golston and Hatcher and that is 6 guys we can work with.  Behind that it gets a lot thinner.  Compton can put in work but if he goes down things get real dicey.  The other inside backer is a vastly improved Perry Riley that will hopefully continue his trajectory upward forever and ever.  Or at least maintain this level of play.

Concern about quality of the opponent applies here.  There were some simple protection assignment busts from the offensive line that we can’t count on having every week.  That being said, I would love to have a do-over with this front 7 versus the Jets and the Bucs.

The secondary is…improving.  We got some guys back this week and hopefully we can maybe eventually possibly PLEASE fix our crack and replace strategy.  Every week teams are taking advantage of it.  Coverage wise we seem pretty damn good.  Lucky or not Brees could only muster 209 yards and Brady eeked out his 3rd worst passer rating the week prior.

For next week I really like how our secondary matches up with their receivers but in the run game we are going to have some big pass catchers that could hypothetically crack block us into oblivion.  Our front 7 will need plenty of Baker Rage against a tough option run game or else it could be a return of the 4-4 defense and Olsen & co. can do some mean things to us once we fall into that strategy.

Drive 1
Ln Dn Ds Personnel Off Formation Def Formation R/P Play Call Yards
S17 1 10 2RB 1TE I Form H 3-4 Over Pass PA Flat 8
Someone between Kerrigan and Riley loses their curl-flat responsibility.  It looks like Kerrigan (+0.5) had any back coming to the flat and Riley (-1) was supposed to cover the TE.  Kerrigan kept rollout contain and applied pressure.
S25 2 2 1RB 1TE Shotgun 3×1 Nickel Over Pass Cross Inc
Saints tried to get the underneath coverage to bite on Watson’s spot route but Riley (+2) does a great job keeping his depth and makes an athletic PBU.  Compton (-0.5) doesn’t attack Watson’s route after the deep cross left his zone.
S25 3 2 1RB 1TE Ace 2×2 Dime Split Run Toss Sweep 60
Preston Smith (-1) clears the bootleg and then watches Goldson miss his tackle instead of hustling to the ball.  Hatcher (+1) disengages from his backside block nicely but his pursuit angle gets blocked by Jarrett.  Baker recognizes a reach block being applied and just shoots upfield.  Would have been great versus a slow developing outside zone but the back has already passed him and Baker takes himself out of the play.  Kerrigan (-1) and Jarrett (-4) fail to recognize that the TE is in prime crack-block positioning.  After last week you would think this would have been addressed.  Kerrigan gets cracked and fails to cross the face of the TE, Jarrett is completely surprised by this and is slow to replace the crack block.  Slow enough that the WR working on Bashaud (-2) has enough time to disengage off of a crushing block and seal out Jarrett and drive him into a pile.   Compton (+1.5) disengages from the center and gets his inside shoulder on the pulling tackle to set the edge.  Goldson (-2) barely slows down the RB as he fills the alley.  The RB even slipped on his cut and nobody had enough hustle to get to him.
R5 1 G 1RB 1TE Shotgun 3×1 Bunch 4-3 Nickel Run Split Zone 1
Wow, Knighton (+2) handles his double, keeps his feet driving and doesn’t move an inch.  This allows Jarret, whose playing at LB depth, and Compton (+0.5) to fill on either side of him.  Baker (+0.5) gets moved off the line by his double but he fights back and constricts the gap where Compton is waiting for the RB.  RB probably could have cut this one back behind Baker because Murphy (-0.5) can’t fill his gap on his exchange with Riley.  I’m not a fan of this Murphy-Riley gap exchange we do on split zone runs.
R4 2 G 1RB 1TE Ace 3×1 Nickel DE split Pass Slant 4
Riley reacts to the inside zone run action and Bashaud (-2) won’t be having any inside help.  It looks like Bashaud is lined up with inside leverage to take away any slants.  He lets the WR cross his face anyways.
TD.  5:52 remains in the 1st qtr.  7-7.
Drive 2
Ln Dn Ds Personnel Off Formation Def Formation R/P Play Call Yards
S20 1 10 1RB 2TE Ace 3×1 Twin TE 3-4 Under Run Off Tackle -1
RB tries to bounce this outside but Kerrigan (+1) cuts under the TE block and stops the RB in the backfield.  Riley (+2) hits the hole fast, forces the bounce and rocks his TE block back.  Paea (-1) gets pancaked and that allows the OL to work up to and seal out Compton’s pursuit.
S19 2 11 1RB 1TE Shotgun 3×2 Empty 3-3-5 Okie Pass Out 3
Saints sub in Spiller and we sub out a LB for a DB.  They try to out formation us like the Pats did with Lewis vs Riley.  Kerrigan is there to run the RB out of bounds.
S22 3 8 ?? Shotgun 2×2 Dime Pass Sack -8
We bring 5.  Paea (+1) and Hatcher (+2) run a stunt that confuses the LG.  Guard is so focused on Hatcher that he does’t pick up Paea after the C switches off.
Punt.  14:19 remains 2nd qtr.  14-7.
Drive 3
Ln Dn Ds Personnel Off Formation Def Formation R/P Play Call Yards
S17 1 10 1RB 3TE Ace Twin H 3-4 over Run Split Zone 12
Golson (-1) gets blown off the  line by a double and Jean-Francois (-2) gets manhandled out his gap, goodness.  This leaves Riley (-1) with a huge hole to account for.  I still think he should take on the blocker with his inside shoulder/outside arm free and funnel to compton.  He does the opposite and gets way too far upfield.
S29 1 10 1RB 1TE Ace 2×2 H 3-4 over Run End-around 11
They catch us on a slant.  Perfect timing with this playcall.  Murphy (-2) isn’t aware of the end-around.  The TE arcs around him and his new key, the tackle, down blocks, so Murphy should’ve stepped down and had contain behind the line.  Riley is left with an impossible task of trying to contain a full speed Brandin Cooks.  He doesn’t do the worst job in the world.
S40 1 10 2RB 1TE Offset I H 3-4 even Pass PA Post 60
Whoever had middle third, it looks like Johnson (-3) blew his coverage.  Culliver (-3) needs to get over top of that Post route, there was no deep threat to his outside third.
TD. 10:44 remains 2nd qtr.  14-14
Drive 4
Ln Dn Ds Personnel Off Formation Def Formation R/P Play Call Yards
S20 1 10 2RB 1TE I Form H 3-4 Under Pen False Start -5
S15 1 15 2RB 1TE I Form H 3-4 Under Pass PA Comeback 15
PA causes the LBs to bite pretty hard, Compton (+0.5) does an admirable job of hustling back to the WR that got in behind him.  Culliver (-1) is playing a little too soft, but I kinda understand with a WR that has Cook’s speed.
S30 1 10 1RB 2TE Ace Twin Twin TE 3-4 Over Pass Sack -9
Kerrigan (+1) sucks in the RT and allows Baker (+0.5) to wrap around him.  Baker meets Murphy (+2), who beat a blocky TE, at the QB for the sack
S21 2 19 1RB 1TE Shotgun 2×2 Dime Run Draw 7
Spiller in again and we sub out a LB for a DB.  Lesson learned Deion Lewis, lesson learned.  Saints catch us on a stunt with Hatcher and Kerrigan.  Compton (+1.5) is able to take on the center, disengage and funnel to Goldson (+0.5) who makes the tackle.  We got out playcalled there and did the best we could
S28 3 12 1RB 1TE Shotgun 3×1 Dime Pass WR Screen 7
Baker (+1) with hustle to the ball.  Blackmon (-1) could be a little more aggressive on this screen.  As it is, he shuffles back and half-asses contain on the screen and Goldson (+1.5) fills his alley reponsibility and makes the open field tackle.
Punt.  7:12 remains 2nd qtr.  21-14
Drive 5
Ln Dn Ds Personnel Off Formation Def Formation R/P Play Call Yards
S20 1 10 1RB 1TE Ace 3×1 Nickel over Run inside zone 2
Baker (+2) makes this whole play work.  First he faces the center like he’s taking on a base block and then okie-dokes him by turning his shoulders upfield and sliding past the guard.   This causes the center to fall forward and the RB has to bounce this outside away from Compton and Riley who are clean and waiting on either side of Baker’s block.   Hatcher (+0.5) holds his double team long enough for Compton and Riley to give pursuit.  The alley is set with Kerrigan inside and Blackmon on the outside.  I would normally neg Blackmon for his half hearted tackle/strip attempt but at this point I’m just happy any of our DBs can have minimal impact vs the run.  Blackmon funnels the RB inside, Kerrigan keeps the RB outside of him, Bashaud (+1) fills the alley and makes the tackle
S22 2 8 1RB 1TE Shotgun 3×1 Nickel over Pass OPI -10
Watson tried to pick Riley who was working the curl-flat.  Baushaud comes up and plays it too after the catch: Big contrast to Culliver.
S12 2 18 1RB 1TE Shotgun 3×1 Dime wide Pass Screen 8
we bring 5 with Compton blitzing.  Baker (+1) and Hatcher with backside pursuit, Baker is really hustling hard.  Bashaud sets the edge and Dhall (+1) makes the open field stop
S20 3 10 1RB 1TE Shotgun 3×1 Dime even Pass
Kerrigan runs inside on a stunt with Hatcher and Paea wrapping around.  No pressure.  I need to figure out how to neg this.  Anyways, Brees has all day and cooks finds a hole in the zone inbetween of Blackmon (-0.5) and Compton and in front of Culliver (-0.5) who is once again playing way off.  Blackmon also widened his zone way too wide.  Cooks drops it.  Hooray.
Punt.  1:53 remains 2nd qtr.  24-14
Drive 6
Ln Dn Ds Personnel Off Formation Def Formation R/P Play Call Yards
S20 1 10 1RB 1TE Shotgun 3×1 Nickel DE split Run Split Zone 6
Kerrigan with a huge split from Baker.  I’m not sure who is accountable for the gaps inbetween, it looks like maybe Goldson.   Kerrigan (-1) gets way too far upfield and a huge cutback lane opens up.  On the other side Preston Smith (-1) doesn’t diagnose that its a split zone and Riley is taking over contain so Smith is late to getting upfield and disruptig this play.  Compton (-0.5) gets caught up inside a beat too long after the RB has chosen to bounce it outside.  Goldson comes down to fill and is cracked.  And of course, nobody is there to replace him.  Bashaud (-1) is late in doing so.
S26 2 4 1RB 1TE Shotgun 2-Back 3-4 even Pass Spot 7
Riley gets a little too deep on his Hook drop.  Murphy (-1) is covering dirt with his curl-flat drop.  He has 0 threat coming to him and should be working to help with this RB spot route.
S33 1 10 1RB 3TE Offset I Twin TE 3-4 over Run Power O 0
Baker (+2) throws his TE block down like a ragdoll, right into the pulling G, who Compton (+1) takes on behind the LOS with his inside shoulder.  Johnson and Bashaud timidly fill behind Baker who makes the tackle by himself.
S33 2 10 1RB 2TE Shotgun Empty 3×2 3-4 over  Pass Spot 8
Riley (+1) comes up from his drop and makes a stick tackle.  That being said, both Riley and Compton are dropping way too deep.
S41 3 2 1RB 1TE Shotgun 2×2 3-3-5 ? Pass Arrow 4
Smith at DT.  We have 3 OLBs out there and 5 guys at the line.  We send 6, Brees hits a quick out.
S45 1 10 1RB 1TE Ace 2×2 Nickel over Run zone stretch 1
You can’t run this against us, we rep it all day in practice.  Kerrigan (+1) is getting scooped but doesn’t let the TE release into the second level which allows Jarrett to set the edge.  Hatcher (+1) feels a reach block, fights off of it and forces the RB to cut back where Riley (+1) is taking on a block with his inside shoulder and has his outside arm free.  Behind Riley is Paea (+1) who fought off his reach block and disengaged to handle any cutback.
S46 2 9 1RB 1TE Shotgun 3×1 Nickel Over Pass Out 14
Blackmon (-1) gets caught looking inside at the late releasing TE.  Jarrett had that covered, Blackmon should be working hard to his Curl zone to cover this out route.
R40 1 10 1RB 2TE Ace tight 3-4 Over Run Dive 6
Kerrigan (-1) gets upfield and leaves a huge cut back that Riley has to account for.  Jean-Francois (+0.5) and Golston (+0.5) fight off reach blocks and flatten out there blockers.  Playside, Paea (-1) gets sealed out and this forces Golston to work hard down the line to close the gap but that leaves a cutback lane behind him for the RB to sqeeze out some yards.  Smart running by Hightower.
R34 2 4 1RB 1TE Shotgun 3×1 Nickel Over Pass Out 4
Kerrigan (-1) has no contain on the rollout and gets 0 pressure.  Bashaud (-0.5) is giving a cushion to Colston.  Its not like he will burn you deep, luckily he has to come back enough for the ball to be inches short.  If Brees held the ball longer he had a deep crossing route coming open.
R30 3 inches 1RB 1TE Ace 2×2 Nickel Over Run Dive 0
Jean-Francois (-1) gets blown back by the guard and Golston (+3) does too by a double team.  This play looks like an easy first down but Golston with a second effort surges forward and knocks the center right back into the RB stopping this run cold.  Compton (+1) filled the open hole quickly enough to force the cutback by the RB.  Compton was kept clean by Golston.
R30 4 inches 2RB 2TE I Form Heavy 3-4 under Run Off Tackle -1
Jean-Francois (+1) gets inside his blocker and cuts off any hope of a cutback, Baker (+3) does the same and rocks the center into the FB, creates a pile AND makes the tackle.  Golston (+1) is able to hold his ground and then get in the backfield after Baker assisted.  Riley (+2) plugged the hole and funneled the RB to Baker.
Turnover on Downs.  8:53 remians 3rd qtr.  27-14
Drive 7
Ln Dn Ds Personnel Off Formation Def Formation R/P Play Call Yards
S20 1 10 1RB 2TE Ace 3×1 Twin TE Bunch 3-4 under Pass Go Inc
Jeron Johnson (+0.5) times his blitz well drawing the attention of the RB and causing the RT to slide out and leave Jean-Francois with a free path to the QB.  Murphy wraps around Francois and Knighton.  Kerrigan (+0.5) jams the underneath crossing route on his way to covering the curl-flat.  Compton is being stretched by that underneath crosser and a dig route behind him.  That dig is open but Brees only has eyes for the WR running a go route on Culliver (+1) who has deep third responsibility and makes a play on the ball.  If no pressure was sent Brees probably comes off that go and finds the dig.
S20 2 10 1RB 1TE Shotgun 2×2 H Nickel over Pass Pen -10
No pressure from the front four.  Blackmon and Riley have curl-flat, cover 3 behind them leaving Goldson playing either Hook or Robber coverage.  Either way, Compton (-1) doesn’t recognize Goldson’s help and plays too far up on the spot route in front of him when he could have widened out and played underneath this hook route that gets completed.  Culliver also continues to play super conservative, which I mean…he’s not getting beat deep so OK.   Ah, holding is why there was no pressure: Kerrigan (+1)
S10 2 20 1RB 1TE Shotgun 3×1 Nickel DE split Pass Spot 8
Similar coverage with Goldson (+0.5) and Compton (+0.5) closing down to make the tackle, Paea (+0.5) with hustle to converge as well.
S18 3 12 1RB 2TE Shotgun 2×2 Twin TE Dime ?? Pass Hook Inc
Baker (-0.5) late to get set, Murphy peels off his rush and takes the RB in the flat.  Blackmon (-2) looks to have the curl area behind Murphy.  Instead of working out to it he sticks to a underneath crosser and gets pulled out of his zone.  Blackmon and Compton are now covering the same area.  It’s only a 2 man route, Compton had plenty of help already.   Culliver playing over top the WR almost gets a lucky bounce but can’t hold onto the ball.  We got lucky with a bad throw
Turnover on Downs.  3:31 remians 3rd qtr.  30-14
Drive 8
Ln Dn Ds Personnel Off Formation Def Formation R/P Play Call Yards
S10 1 10 1RB 1TE Shotgun 3×1 Nickel Pass Screen 12
Riley (-0.5) is a couple steps slow in reacting to the screen set up.  On his angle he takes a misstep but at least funnels the RB back inside.  Bashaud (-0.5) had 0 deep threat to his third and could have reacted downhill faster.  Defense rallies to make the tackle
S22 1 10 1RB 1TE Shotgun 3×1 Bunch Nickel Over Pass Throwaway 0
Riley has the RB who stays inside the protection.  Culliver is essentialy 1-on-1 with the TE and stays over top of him.  Out of the Bunch set, 2 WRs run deep and Colston is left to run a wheel.  Blackmon (+0.5) carries the wheel and is step for step with Colston.  Hatcher (+1.5) gets to the QB so we don’t have to worry about Culliver 1 on 1 with a 255 lb TE and we don’t need to worry about how we handled that bunch set with a wheel route thrown in.  Brees escapes the sack and throws it away.
S22 2 10 1RB 1TE Pistol 3×1 Nickel over Pass Screen 1
Screen all the way with the OL releasing downfield.  Baker (+0.5) gets a free shot at Brees and takes him to the ground.  Hatcher (+1) hustles from the middle of the field to run the RB out of bounds along with Compton (+0.5) and secondary help.  Either Compton or Kerrigan doesn’t abondon pass rush to cover the RB, not sure which one.  Or it’s possible Hatcher had the flat.
S23 3 9 1RB 1TE Shotgun 2×2 Nickel Over Pass Out INT
Dual stunts up front with Hatcher (+2) and Smith (+1) getting to the QB.  Hatcher beats his man so quickly that he has to delay his upfield rush so Smith can push inside.  Hatcher pushes Smith upfield to the QB AND absorbs the block from the sliding center so Smith can stay free.  Blackmon (+1) carries the vertical stem from the WR and Brees puts it up high and away from him.  The WR can’t hold on, tipped and right into the hands of Goldson (+2) for the pick 6.
Touchdown.  14:48 remains 4th qtr.  44-14.
Drive 9
Ln Dn Ds Personnel Off Formation Def Formation R/P Play Call Yards
S16 1 10 1RB 1TE Shotgun 2×2 Nickel Over Pass Spot 9
Not much we can do here.  Compton is playing a deep hook with cover 2 behind him.  Corners have the flats and Riley/Blackmon have Hook curl.  Both Riley and Compton are worried about any deep dig routes behind them and Colston has easy work by just finding a spot in front of those two.  Compton may have been a bit too conservative with his drop but given the score, I can allow for that.
S25 2 1 1RB 1TE Shotgun 2×2 Nickel Split Run Draw -3
Jean-Francois (+2) with a false step outside and then a sick swim move back inside gets right past the guard and in the backfield.  Paea (+1) and Murphy (+1) contain the RB right into Jean-Francois.
S22 3 4 1RB 1TE Shotgun 2×2 Nickel Split Pass Hook inc
Murphy (+0.5) with good push.  Brees tests Culliver’s (-0.5) soft coverage and Cooks is open for the first.  He drops it.
S22 4 4 1RB 1TE Shotgun 2×2 Dime Split Pass Dumpoff inc
Baker (+1) splits a double and applies pressure up the middle.  Paea (+0.5) isn’t far behind.  Compton (+2) drops into Brees’ passing lane to Colston whose on a Slant.  Compton puts a body in the way of that and has eyes undereath to the RB on the dump off and stops that cold.  Uh, that’s a definte PI on Compton (-1).  He could have let the RB catch it and tackle him after.  That would’ve been a drive saving penalty.  Refs +1.
Turnover on Downs.  13:22 remains 4th qtr.  With that desperate defiance by Brees overriding the coach to stay on the field I think its’ time to cease charting.  We aren’t even defending a real offense anymore.

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