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http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writ...ex.html?eref=T1

Michael Lombardi >

INSIDE THE NFL

Myth busters: Addressing three common misperceptions in the NFL

Story Highlights

* Running the ball early is a good way to get behind

* Shut-down corners have gone the way of the dinosaur

* Beware of misleading turnover-ratio statistics

Nothing drives me crazier than watching an NFL game on television and hearing announcers trot out tired clichés when describing the action. What's worse -- many of these commonly used phrases aren't even true. Here are three NFL misperceptions I'd like to clear up:

You Must Establish The Run Early In The Game

The first comment that makes me hit the mute button is when announcers start talking about establishing the running game and the virtues of how the running game will set up the entire offensive playbook. Hogwash. Is anyone paying attention to what is going on in the NFL today? The running game in the first half does not set up anything other then field goal attempts and potentially low-scoring games. In fact, the team that ran the ball in the first half the most last season, the Minnesota Vikings, failed to make the playoffs. No. 2 was the Oakland Raiders, another non-playoff team. Who is behind this "establish the running game early" myth?

Football is very complicated and complex. It's a chess match each and every week. "They have a very smart coaching staff and we have a very smart coaching staff," New York Jets wide receiver Laveranues Coles said prior to opening last season against the Patriots. "They [the coaches] basically use us as chess pieces. How they position us to play this game, that's the main thing now. Whoever can make the adjustments the best and the fastest will probably have the edge."

Coles clearly understands today's NFL and he's well aware that the chess pieces are moving through the air now. Teams are more proficient throwing the ball and are establishing the pass earlier in the game. And when you throw the ball in the first half, you can score points and build a lead, giving your team an excellent chance to win.

One of the masters of the pro football version of chess was the late Bill Walsh. He built the West Coast offense and many teams in the NFL run a variation of his well-designed attack. But the West Coast offense is really a philosophy, not a system of plays. It's based on throwing the ball early in the game, building a lead, then running the ball to keep the lead. Walsh wanted to take short passes and use the skill and quickness of the wideouts to run with the ball, instead of trying to design running plays that would gain the NFL average of 4.0 yards per attempt.

Teams that build the lead at the half and have the greatest first half point differential are the teams that understand the philosophy of the West Coast. When you make a team play from behind, their margin of error shrinks and a potentially fatal, game-costing mistake will soon occur. That's why all of Walsh's teams had a complementary defense that could rush the passer and force turnovers. He wanted a dynamic pass rusher, not for the sacks, but for the pressure to get the ball out of the quarterback's hand earlier, thus creating turnovers.

The NFL is a passing league and teams that come out and try to find balance with their play-calling in the first half are doomed to fail. You have to throw to score in the NFL. Check out these eye-opening stats of five playoff teams from last season:

Team NFL rank for runs called in first half NFL rank for runs called in second half

Seattle 31st 13th

Green Bay 29th 19th

Indianapolis 28th 7th

Dallas 27th 11th

New England 26th 14th

These statistics are exactly what the West Coast offense is all about.

During game weeks, the Wednesday and Thursday practices throughout the NFL feature a period called 9-on-7. It's a drill that features nine offensive players against seven defensive players to work exclusively on the run aspect of the game. The drill is quickly becoming obsolete. Teams are rarely in two backs in the back field and very few teams will play with a seven-man defensive box. The most compelling runs in the NFL right now are nickel runs, or space runs that create problems for the defense. The 9-on-7 periods of practice in the NFL will only help a team determine and develop toughness; the teams that practice their space runs each week are the successful ones.

So when watching your team play this coming season, look for more passes in the first half, look for more spread runs and hopefully look for more first-half points.

Shut-Down Corners Are The Key To Good Pass Defense

No disrespect to any of the great athletes that play cornerback in the NFL, but if an offensive line provides good pass protection, no one can keep a wide receiver from making a play. Much like no one is going to hit Nolan Ryan when his fastball is measuring over 100 mph, no corner can stop a wideout from getting open if he has to cover him for a long time. No matter how great a corner may play, if the pass rush is not putting pressure on the quarterback, then the defensive back is in trouble.

Now, there are some corners who are clearly better than others, but the term "shut-down" does not apply to the NFL. Because of recent rule changes and the NFL being a pass-friendly league, the corner position is almost impossible to play at a shut-down level.

Every season we hear about how Green Bay defensive backs Al Harris and Charles Woodson are shut-down corners. And trust me, both are very good at their jobs, but when the Giants offensive line dominated the Packers front in the playoffs, Harris and Woodson looked like they were no longer shutting down anyone, allowing the Giants to throw for 243 yards. When the Giants offensive tackles could block the rushers of the Packers, this placed the corners in a perilous position.

San Francisco made a bold financial statement last year, giving Nate Clements an eight-year, $80 million contract and then proceeded to have the 10th worse pass defense in the NFL in 2007. It's not Clements' fault the 49ers pass defense failed. The fact they finished 21st in the NFL with only 31 sacks had more to do with it than the actual play of Clements. But people expect when you give someone $80 million, you are getting a shut-down corner. Problem is they don't exist.

Minnesota clearly did the right thing this offseason. Instead of listening to the cries of many that they needed to improve their pass defense, the Vikings signed defensive end Jared Allen. Allen will singlehandedly improve a porous unit that allowed 4,500 yards in the air last season. Defensive backs are nice to have, but a special pass rusher is what can make a defense shine.

The Turnover Battle Is The Key To Football

"Whoever wins the turnover battle will win the game." How many times have you heard someone -- a player, a coach, a TV broadcaster -- say that? There's no denying that protecting the ball is vital to a team's success. But do you think anyone has told this to the field goal kicker?

In my book, a missed field goal is a turnover. You gave the ball away, you did not score any points and, in fact, the ball is placed seven yards from the original line of scrimmage. That reads like a turnover to me. So the next time you see a team's turnover takeaway ratio on your TV screen, make sure they have added in missed field goals. The ball was definitely "turned over."

The Giants entered the playoffs with a minus-9 ratio in turnover/takeaway. Making the playoffs would be impossible with such a ratio, let alone winning the Super Bowl. But the Giants' opponents missed eight field goals last year, and even though New York missed four of its own, taking account of that stat still reduced their overall total to a minus-5.

Examine each and every turnover that is happening. Someone needs to explain to me why the desperation throws at the end of each half count in the turnover column. I have been around a few quarterbacks in my career who refused to throw the desperation throw at the end of the half because it would impact their passer rating.

What matters most is where the turnovers occur and what a team does with the ball after the turnover. Be careful to quote the turnover/takeaway argument without examining the missed field goal chart.

Mike Lombardi has 22 years of NFL experience, working in player personnel with the Broncos, Raiders, Browns, Eagles and 49ers.

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Good article,Walsh was a genius but that was some time ago.Now the west coast is standard.3 of the 5 teams mentioned arent west coast teams.Im reading a book by walsh now and he says drop back passing is another form of ball control.Play action is for scoreing.So there is a deep need for the run and/or threat of run.

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falconfansince66 (5/15/2008)
Funny how Minnesota was used for 'establishing run game'... Like they had some kind of killer passing game to be afraid of!  If they'd had a passing game (and passing defense), they'd made the playoffs. 

They may have won the nfc with a passing game.

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bigduke633 (5/15/2008)
falconfansince66 (5/15/2008)
Funny how Minnesota was used for 'establishing run game'... Like they had some kind of killer passing game to be afraid of!  If they'd had a passing game (and passing defense), they'd made the playoffs. 

They may have won the nfc with a passing game.

They would have won the Super Bowl with a passing "D".....

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Interesting article.

I would like to point out one of the reasons the Pats lost the Superbowl because they were being pass happy.

If they would have gone more max-protect and ran the ball more they would have had a better shot.  Instead they went up against the one team with a really good pass defense and the best pass wush in the league.

Balanced offense and disrupting defenses win championships.....

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being a passing team has its downsides, being a running team has its downsides.

running is good to control the ball and the clock, but when you are down 14, with a couple of minutes left running most likely wont win you the game.

if you are a passing team and you are ahead at the end of the game and you cant run the ball successfully you cant pick up first downs and if you throw incomplete passes you stop the clock. that would give the other team the ball back.

it goes both ways.

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The teams who ran it the most simply did this because they dont have a good passing game. In another article on NFL.com they talk about how power running games may be the way to go, especially against the increasing number of teams who like speed and players who can adjust to all the different styles of offenses thrown at them which likely leads them to be more undersized and hybrid type players.

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The West coast offense actually uses the short pass as a substitute for the run. It is designed to make an average passer highly productive, and start the run in space.

Perfect offense will always beat perfect defense.

The most effective running plays are when the defense is expecting a pass and is schemed for it. The most effective passing plays are when the defense is expecting a run and is schemed for it. [Duh.] Ex: On third and 20 it is much easier to run for 10 yards than when it is third and 2. This is why we had seen the Falcons for years go run, run, pass, punt. They used to do exactly what the defense expected them to do.

A "shut down corner" is effective when the CB on the other side is weaker. The offense will throw to the weaker side and not bother with the "shut down" side. What has been shut down is plays to the stronger CB. Why not go to the location with the highest probably of success?

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The running game doesn't mean anything without a defense. Oakland has no run defense, Minnesota has no pass defense. Both teams also were almost entirely unable to throw the ball in any capacity, contributing to their failures. The Patriots are known as a passing team, but they have always had a solid, bruising running game in their Superbowl wins. Same with Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New York. The job of the offense is to score points and keep the defense off the field, the teams that win actually play defense and do what is necessary on offense.

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Serge Storms (5/15/2008)
The running game doesn't mean anything without a defense. Oakland has no run defense, Minnesota has no pass defense. Both teams also were almost entirely unable to throw the ball in any capacity, contributing to their failures. The Patriots are known as a passing team, but they have always had a solid, bruising running game in their Superbowl wins. Same with Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New York. The job of the offense is to score points and keep the defense off the field, the teams that win actually play defense and do what is necessary on offense.

That's why we should have gotten a DL in the 1st round and a QB in the 2nd round. But it's water under the bridge now. We will know if 2-3 years if this was a good pick or a bad pick.

We might finally have a halfway decent offense, but no defense to stop anybody.

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chitow2atl_falcon (5/15/2008)
Serge Storms (5/15/2008)
The running game doesn't mean anything without a defense. Oakland has no run defense, Minnesota has no pass defense. Both teams also were almost entirely unable to throw the ball in any capacity, contributing to their failures. The Patriots are known as a passing team, but they have always had a solid, bruising running game in their Superbowl wins. Same with Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New York. The job of the offense is to score points and keep the defense off the field, the teams that win actually play defense and do what is necessary on offense.

That's why we should have gotten a DL in the 1st round and a QB in the 2nd round. But it's water under the bridge now. We will know if 2-3 years if this was a good pick or a bad pick.

We might finally have a halfway decent offense, but no defense to stop anybody.

Agree entirely, which is very unfortunate.:(

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chitow2atl_falcon (5/15/2008)
Serge Storms (5/15/2008)
The running game doesn't mean anything without a defense. Oakland has no run defense, Minnesota has no pass defense. Both teams also were almost entirely unable to throw the ball in any capacity, contributing to their failures. The Patriots are known as a passing team, but they have always had a solid, bruising running game in their Superbowl wins. Same with Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New York. The job of the offense is to score points and keep the defense off the field, the teams that win actually play defense and do what is necessary on offense.

That's why we should have gotten a DL in the 1st round and a QB in the 2nd round. But it's water under the bridge now. We will know if 2-3 years if this was a good pick or a bad pick.

We might finally have a halfway decent offense, but no defense to stop anybody.

I thought we should have gone DL myself but since we've had no offense in like forever it seems, that won't be so bad.  We can still build the defense next season after we find out what kind of scheme we're playing and who fits.  Personally, I was getting tired of the Dunn & Run and kick a FG if you were inside the 30 yard line which was like 2 or 3 times a game.

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Serge Storms (5/15/2008)
David Ethan (5/15/2008)
"Ball Control" and "Wearing down defenses" are two of the most nonsensical cliches in the history of sports

Said the TTU fan.:hehe:

lol.....listen

"Ball Control":  If you hold the ball for 8 mins and score, how is that better than holding the ball for 4 mins and scoring??  I understand the concept, but it only makes sense if you don't have faith in your offense.  If you score in 4 mins or 8 mins, either way, the other team gets the ball back.  If you lose possession in a 3 and out the other team gets the ball back.  The whole object of playing offense is to score.

"Wearing down defenses":  First off, who the **** says that the offense isn't getting just as worn down?  As far as I know, a WR is just as exhauseted after a play than a DB, he has no reason not to be.  People will also say that it keeps the other teams offense off the field.  Who cares?  If you're on the field for a long time, you're not scoring, so how does it impact the game.  Field position?  lol

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Serge Storms (5/15/2008)
David Ethan (5/15/2008)
"Ball Control" and "Wearing down defenses" are two of the most nonsensical cliches in the history of sports

Said the TTU fan.:hehe:

Serge, read this:  http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/04/magazine...agewanted=print

Remember man, people are afraid of change.  Not just in sports, but everything.  People are always afraid to remove themselves from the status quo.  Most people think football should be played a certain way because that's what they've been told and that's the way it's always been, so when they see something else, whether it's effective or not, they are quick to label it as a "system" or "gimmicky".  It's absurd.

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here's a tiny piece of it, an excellenty well written article from the NYTimes

Bad as it was for Texas A.&M., its staff might wonder how much worse it could have been if Leach had the same access to talent as A.&M. or Texas or Alabama or, God forbid, Notre Dame. The chances of that happening can't be great, though. Leach remains on the outside; like all innovators in sports, he finds himself in an uncertain social position. He has committed a faux pas: he has suggested by his methods that there is more going on out there on the (unlevel) field of play than his competitors realize, which reflects badly on them. He steals some glory from the guy who is born with advantages and uses them to become a champion. Gary O'Hagan, Leach's agent, says that he hears a great deal more from other coaches about Mike Leach than about any of his other clients. "He makes them nervous," O'Hagan says. "They don't like coaching against him; they'd rather coach against another version of themselves. It's not that they don't like him. But privately they haven't accepted him. You know how you can tell? Because when you're talking to them Monday morning, and you say, Did you see the play Leach ran on third and 26, they dismiss it immediately. Dismissive is the word. They dismiss him out of hand. And you know why? Because he's not doing things because that's the way they've always been done. It's like he's been given this chessboard, and all the pieces but none of the rules, and he's trying to figure out where all the chess pieces should go. From scratch!"

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David Ethan (5/15/2008)
Serge Storms (5/15/2008)
David Ethan (5/15/2008)
"Ball Control" and "Wearing down defenses" are two of the most nonsensical cliches in the history of sports

Said the TTU fan.:hehe:

Serge, read this: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/04/magazine...agewanted=print

Remember man, people are afraid of change. Not just in sports, but everything. People are always afraid to remove themselves from the status quo. Most people think football should be played a certain way because that's what they've been told and that's the way it's always been, so when they see something else, whether it's effective or not, they are quick to label it as a "system" or "gimmicky". It's absurd.

serge is banned man.

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