Now, I'm not one to make snap judgements. I personally like to take my time. And this current post is not one that is going to jump down the throats of anybody on our team. Its simply to make a comparison.
I think we've all noticed a serious problem in our first two games, that of the short clock defense going horribly down the tubes. In 4 two minute opportunities, The opposing team has 2 TDs and a FG, 3/4 opportunities have been converted. Needless to say this should be a time of lockdown and shutting out, not a time to yield over half your points allowed this year.
So this got me wondering, why prytell is this the case? My thought went to Troy Polamalu's absence. And to find out, I dug through our 07 and 08 game records. We know Polamalu was there all last year, but not toward the end of 07, nor right now. I've compiled the numbers. The results, shocking. Put your children in another room and have a look.
I decided to take a look back to observe our "short time" defense. I decided that if a drive goes past 3 minute territory on a half, then it counts as a opportunity. Meaning a drive starting in the 4th quarter early, that ends with 2:52 left on the clock will count as an opportunity. The goal is to see how the defense locks down when the clock gets low. I did however choose to make a side note when we have a drive end in a TD that ends say at 3;02 or 3:10, cause thats still bad
I didnt count any hopeless last heaves or any drive that started under 30 seconds to go, unless they were inside our territory. Also, if the opposing team never had the ball at the end of the half, then obviously thats not an opportunity.
If the team gets the ball within the 3 minute mark of regulation, TRIES to advance it, and then the drive sputters and they go into OT, thats a defense. If they just chose to kneel it, say from 1 minute to go, I dont count that as an opportunity because they just were happy to go into OT.
I chose not to count OT because teams run very different schemes, some treat it like Q1 and others like a 2 minute drill.
Author edit: Folks have commented that it would be best to include all 07 contests that HAD troy polamalu as well, as 07 and 08 are different years. While I dont see a definite NEED to do this, I think it can only further inform. So for the sake of a well rounded statistical review, I will expand my search and update results.
Turnovers that killed an opportunity are noted.
Starting with the 07 Season, all games with TP from the start:
Week 1 Against Cleveland, 0/2, Fumble and INT
Week 2 against Bills, 0/1, Punt
Week 3 against 49ers, 1/2, TD, Downs, both in 2nd half.
Week 4 against Cardinals, 0/1, Missed FG, They ran the clock out at the end to seal the win.
Week 5 against Seattle, 0/2, INT, Punt
Week 7 Against Broncos, 1/1, FG,
Week 8 against Cincy, 1/1, FG
Week 9 against Ravens, 1/2, TD and Punt
Week 10 against Cleveland, 0/1, MIssed 52yd FG to tie game.
Week 11 against NYJ, 2/2 FG, they made a FG in OT to win.
Week 12 Against MIami, 0/1, Punt, Mud bowl game.
Looking at the 08 Season,
First game against Houston: 1/2, A TD. It was in garbage time toward the end though.
Week 2 against Cleveland: 0/0,
Week 3 Against Eagles, 2/3, 2 FGs and an INT.
Week 4 against Ravens, 1/2, 1 FG
Week 5 against Jags, 0/1, Fumble recovery
Week 7 against Cinci, 1/2, TD (mind you this was a 38/10 ass beating, yet 7 points were at the end of 1H)
Week 8 against Giants, 0/1, They had a TD with 3:08 to go in the 4th though... still gotta draw the line somewhere.
Week 9 against Redskins, 0/2, Punt Block and a INT. Great game by our short time D.
Week 10 against Colts, 1/2, Punt, TD 1st half, they scored a TD in the second half with 3:10 left. Bad.
Week 11 against Chargers, 0/1, INT.
Week 12 against Cincy, 0/3, Punt (which was muffed, giving them a second chance), Downs, INT.
Week 13 against Pats, 0/2, Missed FG 27 yarder, and downs at end of game. Shoulda had a FG.
Week 14 against Cowboys, 1/3, FG, INT (desheas pick 6), downs.
Week 15 against Ravens, 1/2, FG, INT
Week 16 against Titans, 0/2, Both got into our territory but ended in punts. Good effort by the D.
Week 17 against Browns, 0/2, Punt and Downs
Now, I want to look at our stats, WITHOUT Troy Polamalu, Looking back in 07 and Going into this year:
07, Bengals, 0/1, Downs
07, Against pats, 1/2, FG
07, Against JAX (not playoff), 2/2, Both TDs
07, Rams, 1/2, FG and Downs
07, Ravens, 1/2, FG and Punt
07 Jax Playoff, 1/2, Missed FG, and a GWFG.
Week 1, Titans, 1/3, Blocked FG in the first chance, TD right after, then punted. They ran out clock for OT later.
Week 2, Bears, 2/2, Huge TD drive for the 1st half, and a big GWFG at the end.
First of all, what can we learn from these numbers? Well, in 2008, we allowed 223 points. Tops in the NFL on defense. 36 points were allowed under 3 minutes to go. Thats 16% of the points we give up come in just 10% of the game.
In 2007, we allowed 269 points in total. 2nd in the league. Thats 46 more points than in 08. 145 Points were given up in 12 games with Troy Polamalu. We gave up 26 points, or 16.5% of our points in the final 3 minutes of halves with TP in house. Nearly IDENTICAL to the 16% we gave up last year in 08.
Looking at the points allowed without Troy Polamalu:
In the mentioned 2007 games without TP, including the one playoff, we gave up 155 points, thats a shit ton... Thats more than the rest of 07 in just half the time, 6 games. Plus these two this year makes for 182 points in 8 total games.
Of those 182, we gave up 43 points in the final 3 minutes of halves. Thats 24%.
The math: We gave up 16.5% of our total points in the final 3 minutes of games in 07, and 08, WITH TROY. Without him, that number jumps 50% to 24%.
What we also learn is, without Troy Polamalu, we've allowed 9/16 opportunities to convert to points. Thats 57%, whereas with him, its just 14/46 chances, or 30% (07 data included)
Let that sink in, and let me rephrase it: Without Troy Polamalu, our opponents have a 27% greater chance of scoring inside 3 minutes to go in a half. Without Troy Polamalu we are giving up nearly a quarter of our total points allowed in the most important moments in the game. In addition our points allowed in 07 skyrocketed without Troy Polamalu. Allowing more than your first 12 games worth, in just 6 games, is quite a feat.
Yes without Troy Polamalu our defense is hurting. Quality of our opponents is not the real problem here. We all know the vicious schedule we played last year. It was a brutal one. Yet we handled most all of those without many issues. Even those scores we did give up, several came off of short field situations such as a turnover. This year, we played two quality teams, and looked quite bad in short time without Troy Polamalu.
Folks, we need to pray and hope that we get this man back soon, and that in the meantime we figure out a way to stop that fast paced offense that we are so poorly performing against.
I hope this detailed review has shown us just how valuable our Troy Polamalu is. Harrison may have won the DMVP award, but on this team, its clear who makes the difference.
*Having expanded the research field through the back of 07 only further confirms the analysis. Throughout all of 07 our team played great short time defense, that is, until Troy left. In addition we see that the percentage of points given up inside 3 minutes with Troy is the same from 07 to 08.