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Interior Run Defenders Matter: Why players like Quinnen Williams and Daron Payne add more value to a defense than previously thought | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics


#We all have seminal moments in our understanding of the great game of football. #While I’ve been a fan of the game since the mid-90s, it took until I drove through multiple states to watch the #Kansas #City #Chiefs play against the #Pittsburgh #Steelers in the divisional round of the 2016 playoffs to start to understand a defensive phenomenon that was manifesting itself around the league.

#As two-point favorites against #Pittsburgh, the #Chiefs fell 18-16, giving up 170 yards to future #Chief #Le’#Veon #Bell along with six field goals to #Chris #Boswell. The two-seeded #Chiefs lost a home playoff game for the fifth straight time in a game that would be their last without future NFL MVP #Patrick #Mahomes as a member of the team.

The #Chiefs appeared to make a concerted effort to entice the #Steelers to run the football in that game, playing strong safety #Daniel #Sorensen in the box next to second-year linebacker #Ramik #Wilson in their 2-3-6 dime defense (a defense that I had a great view of from my end-zone seats). Their average of 5.5 men in the box on early-down plays was the lowest number they used all season, even though #Bell was second in the league in rushing yards per game, averaging over 105 per stanza.

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The #Chiefs knew fewer passes in the air meant fewer opportunities for star wide receiver #Antonio #Brown — who ranked second in the league in receptions (105) and fifth in yards (1,284) at the time — against guys like #Terrance #Mitchell, whom they had acquired midseason to start at cornerback.

#This tactic “worked” in many ways, as a #Steelers team that had averaged 25 points per game in the regular season was held to a touchdown below that total, while their 0.01 expected points added (EPA) represented a significant drop-off from the 0.05 EPA per play they generated during the regular season.

#It wasn’t the 170 yards from #Bell that hurt the #Chiefs; it was their ineptitude on offense (they generated -0.10 EPA per play) and a holding call on #Eric #Fisher on a 2-point conversion attempt that led to their early exit.

The #Steelers were generating 0.13 EPA on passing plays during the 2016 regular season versus -0.08 on the ground. #But in that game against the #Chiefs, they were able to generate -0.16 on both passes and runs against a defense that had allowed -0.02 and -0.09, respectively, during the regular season.

#Anecdotally, it appears as though more teams are attacking great offenses this way. #Against #Kansas #City on a rainy, makeshift #Monday night in #Buffalo, the #Bills used the second-fewest men in the box they’ve used all year (5.64 men in the box versus a league average of 5.94). #On early downs, the #Bills used only 5.86 men in the box versus a league average of over six men in the box.

The #Chiefs promptly ran for 245 yards on the #Bills in a 26-17 win, in a game where many pondered whether that was the #Bills’ preferred outcome.

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The amount of sub-package snaps teams play has only increased over the past few seasons to the point where we’re long past nickel being the base defense used in the league (59% of defensive snaps are in nickel; #Buffalo leads the league with 90%). The trend toward early-down passing has been slow but steady, up about a percentage point and a half since 2014 and almost a full percentage point from 2019.

These trends have me converging on a very interesting finding, one for which I did not have an explanation until recently.

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##Interior ##Run ##Defenders ##Matter #players ##Quinnen ##Williams ##Daron ##Payne #add #defense #previously #thought #NFL ##News ##Rankings ##Statistics

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