A quarter of the season is now in the books, and already a pattern is forming between the Steelers' Defense performance in the first quarter and their performance in the fourth.
It's not pretty.
We've already seen games where we dominate early in the game, and suddenly things blow apart when we have a lead and suddenly our opponents seem to scream their way down the field against us. Against the Chargers, we allowed 21 points in the fourth quarter alone, but one of those touchdowns was on a punt-return fumble, so I want to scratch that in talking about our defense.
On average, we have allowed 10 points in the fourth quarter, with a total of 41 in four games. In the first quarter? Zero.
That's right. We have shut out opponents completely in the first, and the Tennessee Titans were really the only team that was able to move the ball against us in the first with 102 yards. Against the Bears, Bengals and Chargers we allowed 11 yards, -10 yards and 18 yards respectively.
In the fourth quarter against Cincinnati, however, the Bengals blasted our defense for 191 yards. They also accumulated 12 first downs and racked up 14 points that would win the game. On average, in the fourth we have allowed 108 yards (total of 432). Meanwhile, in all of four first quarters we allowed a TOTAL of 121 yards (30 yards average). That means we allowed an average in the fourth that was almost as much as our total in the first. In other words, teams are quadrupling their attack against us by the time we're trying to close out the game.
The same story is true when it comes to first downs. It's one thing if opponents accumulate yardage on a bunch of drives, and it's another completely if they're moving the chains and converting first downs. In all four first quarters we allowed a total of 6 first down. Teams were simply not moving the ball on us. However, in the fourth we allowed a total of 27 first downs... an average of 6.75, which is more than our total in the first.
Compare that to 2008 when we allowed a complete total of 71 first downs across 16 games... that's an average of 4.4 first downs per GAME, not per FOURTH QUARTER.
So of course with teams moving the ball, they will certainly control the clock. The longest drive allowed to any opponent in the first quarter was 3 minutes and 48 seconds, allowed to the Titans. For the most part we allowed drives that lasted less than 2 minutes in the first.
But in the fourth?
We allowed at least 3 drives that lasted 5 minutes or longer. Plus the Bengals controlled the ball for 11:40 out of 15 minutes in the fourth. On average, teams controlled slightly more than half of the fourth quarter against us. In the first, the Steelers were the ones who held on to the ball for an average of 11 minutes and 40 seconds.
If this pattern continues, we will go on to allow 160 points or more in the fourth quarter by the end of the season.
This, simply, cannot happen.