In Depth: 4th Quarter Defense

Alright, we all knowthe defense has been bad in the fourth quarter. But just how bad has it been? It might be painful, but let's take a look at the Steelers' fourth quarter defense this year. In compiling the following stats, I defined a fourth quarter posession as any posession where our defense was on the field for a first down. So I included any drive that carried over from the 3rd quarter, as long as the other team picked up a first down during the 4th quarter. This also means that the "Scoring %" doesn't count special teams touchdowns (such as Minnesota's return TD). I wanted this to be a look at the defense purely. I also included OT drives in the games that went to OT.

Opponent         (Week)      4th Quarter Possessions               TDs, FGs            Scoring %

Green Bay         (15)                          3                                      3, 0                      100
Cleveland           (14)                          3                                      0, 0                        0
Oakland             (13)                         3                                       3, 0                      100
Baltimore           (12)                         6                                       0, 2                       33
Kansas City       (11)                         4                                       1, 1                       50
Cincinnati          (10)                          2                                       0, 2                      100
*Denver               (9)                          4                                       0, 0                        0
*Minnesota         (7)                           3                                      0, 0                        0
*Cleveland          (6)                           2                                       0, 0                         0
Detroit                (5)                           3                                       1, 0                        33
San Diego           (4)                           3                                       2, 0                        66
Cincinnati           (3)                           2                                        2, 0                      100
Chicago             (2)                            2                                        1, 1                      100
Tennessee         (1)                           3                                         0, 1                        33

A few things stand out right off the bat. There have been an astounding FIVE games this year in which the opposing team scored 100% of the time they touched the ball in the 4th quarter. The only thing that might be more unbeleivable is that we won one of those games (Green Bay).

Another thing that jumps out is Troy's absence. Any game in which #43 played in the fourth quarter is marked with an asteric (I'm about 95% sure on these. Anyone want to double check?). You'll notice that in every single one, the scoring percentage was 0%. I've been reluctant to admit that missing Troy is the difference this year, but it's hard to argue with the facts. I mean, you don't even have to look up what weeks he played, you can just look at the stats its pretty clear when he played and when he didn't. It makes you wonder how many games we would have won last year without Troy. Just think about how many close games we were involved in (AFC Championship anyone?). If Troy really makes such an impact late in the game, he very well could be the difference between a Super Bowl winning team, and a 7-7 team that probably won't make the playoffs.

Also, a couple of things with this year's Steelers help to make this problem even worse. Clearly this is a defensive problem, but some of our offensive weaknesses just make things even worse.The offense plays very inconsistently and leaves a ton of points on the board during the first three quarters, settling for field goals instead of touchdowns way too often. Games end up being much closer than they should be at the end of the thrid quarter, setting things up for a dramatic collopse. Furthermore, the lack of a consistent running game means that the Steelers can't run huge chunks of time off the clock in the fourth quarter even if they do have a big lead. Football is a team sport, and this is just another example of that.



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