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NFL Landscape: Why is Passing Prevailing over Running + Defense in 2020/2021?


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This topic is Falcons related as we appear headed toward an emphasis on the running game.

4 teams play this weekend. All 4 are in the top 5 in passing efficiency (DVOA). Tennessee was totally shut down in the running game in the previous round, and either didn't or couldn't make any adjustments. Is the success of passing attacks in the NFL pure coincidence or is this simply a matter of a unique COVID year?  That theory would go: Given a limited off season, no preseason, and ever adjusting game schedules, talent is winning out over scheme over the long haul. 

Personally, I think when you have Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahommes, and the talent of the Bills skill players with Allen finally hitting his stride; the lack of traditional preparation and reps across the league is giving "talent" a leg up on "scheme."  Any thoughts? I know some will tend to think I'm reading too much into it (pure coincidence is the answer). That is fine, but please tell me why you think it is so. The reason this might be relevant going forward is that policy could be influenced by this season. What if non-traditional schedules, limited in-person practices, and the end of preseason play all become the new norm?

The more scary thought as a Falcons fan is that we are potentially headed toward a rebuilding project where we try to reengineer the last generations offense without the unique skill of Derrick Henry.  Anyone feel this way?  I tend to think it is more the COVID factor, but I'd love to hear various ideas on why the passing offenses with unique QBs have risen to the to top over running and defense in this particular season and if you expect this trend to continue. 

I know I'm suppose to be on the happy train and suppress any actual concern at this point. Energy not focused on mocking in wasted effort. I get it...but that has never been my game!

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If your theory that talent will out-win scheme, how come we went 4-12? I would argue we have a top 10 talented roster. Scheme and poor coaching lost us. Talent can't cover up for coaching and scheme shortcomings. Its kinda like a ****ty movie with good actors. You can appreciate the acting but it still leaves a bad taste since the story and direction were dog****.

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I'd also argue we have the horses to go vertical with any team.  Julio, Calvin, Gage, etc are all fast and solid receivers.  We have a good receiving TE with a coach that likes receiving TEs.  More than likely will add several more. Those teams you mention also have balanced offenses with a threat to run.  We dont.

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I would think it reasonable to assume with little to no preseason work, talent would overcome scheme for the beginning half of the season. This covid year did present a far different football season, but it didn't really alter the fundamental fact dynamic pass offenses are going to be the big thing going forward. Once teams settled into the season it was pretty much business as usual, with the best QB's and most innovative offensive schemes garnering the most W's.

Maybe you're an old-school purist who enjoys seeing a football game end 10-7, but most fans today want to see circus catches in the End Zone on long pass plays in games won 42-41.  So mobile, strong-arm QB's are the NFL standard-bearers. Speaking of which, I don't think it's been mentioned but we have a #4 pick making it a great time to get our next franchise QB. 😁

 

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1 hour ago, booty-mane said:

If your theory that talent will out-win scheme, how come we went 4-12? I would argue we have a top 10 talented roster. Scheme and poor coaching lost us. Talent can't cover up for coaching and scheme shortcomings. Its kinda like a ****ty movie with good actors. You can appreciate the acting but it still leaves a bad taste since the story and direction were dog****.

Our talent was vastly overrated by fans. On top of that, Julio missed a good deal of the season and our DBs were in about out. Foye missed time. Many of our losses were in the random luck column. 

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59 minutes ago, FalconFanSince1969 said:

And where was tennessee in this dvoa ranking? I know they had one of the most efficient passing games in the league...

Don't know, but its free to look up.  Check out football outsiders.

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2 minutes ago, falcndave said:

Our talent was vastly overrated by fans. On top of that, Julio missed a good deal of the season and our DBs were in about out. Foye missed time. Many of our losses were in the random luck column. 

The person who won the 700 mill lottery had better odds than us losing 3 games where we had a 98% chance of winning.

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36 minutes ago, PokerSteve said:

I would think it reasonable to assume with little to no preseason work, talent would overcome scheme for the beginning half of the season. This covid year did present a far different football season, but it didn't really alter the fundamental fact dynamic pass offenses are going to be the big thing going forward. Once teams settled into the season it was pretty much business as usual, with the best QB's and most innovative offensive schemes garnering the most W's.

Maybe you're an old-school purist who enjoys seeing a football game end 10-7, but most fans today want to see circus catches in the End Zone on long pass plays in games won 42-41.  So mobile, strong-arm QB's are the NFL standard-bearers. Speaking of which, I don't think it's been mentioned but we have a #4 pick making it a great time to get our next franchise QB. 😁

 

I like strong fundamental football. I'm fine with 30+ points on both sides of the ball if both teams are executing at a high level on offense. What I hate are thing like poor angles, poor tackling, and lack of scheme discipline. I can promise you the Falcons were not alone in screwing those things up.

So, I'm "old school" only to the point that I like to see the basics consistently executed well by professionals.

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4 minutes ago, falcndave said:

I like strong fundamental football. I'm fine with 30+ points on both sides of the ball if both teams are executing at a high level on offense. What I hate are thing like poor angles, poor tackling, and lack of scheme discipline. I can promise you the Falcons were not alone in screwing those things up.

So, I'm "old school" only to the point that I like to see the basics consistently executed well by professionals.

Looks like you may have thought I was calling you an old school purist. I was using "you" as in lots of people, not you in particular! I'm also old-school, just wanting to see good tight football, no matter the final score.

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In today's world of all out pass attacks and the goal of scoring 30+, The running game is used to open up the pass until the two possession lead can be established then the run game is used to shorten the game and keep the opposing offense off the field. It's very difficult to establish a two possession lead using majority run. With the ability to score so easily and quickly, a team could dominate the game on the ground and still lose because they couldn't get a big enough lead to sustain it at the end. It's a different NFL world these days. 

With the use of the QB in the run game, some teams can get enough explosive plays from the run game to keep up with the opponents passing attack but at what cost? The rules were changed to create what we see today. 

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This is all my opinion so take it with a grain of salt. 

Passing is more flexible on how it attacks defenses than running. Running in football has been figured out completely. If there is a innovation in the run game of the NFL i have not seen it additionally NFL is slow to innovate in comparison to college football and high school football. If your defense has a sound gap scheme whether that is 1 gap or 2 gap you can shutdown runs. The field of play is only attacked horizontally and with the speed of modern nfl players you cant rely on winning the 1v1 match up and gaining positive yards. Run game relies heavily on a numbers matchup game where you can shift gaps and balance to gain a extra blocker. This is why in youth football, and high school football you can get away with running Beast formation, single wing, wish bone. The disparity of speed is so high that if you beat the 1 v 1 you win (touchdown) 

Passing game attacks the defense vertically (minimum of 30 yards) and horizontally. Passing plays rely on spacing, timing, and conflict. You can target specific players easily in the pass game and take advantage of their weakness. You also dont need to be 100% on passing as it does not take as much time to score. This adds to the pressure of the team that relies on running because once you get behind you dont have the ability to score quickly at that point the game plan falls apart. 

TLDR: it is easier to dictate and exert pressure on a defense through passing the ball than it is on running the ball. You have more concerns on defense with passing because the nature of defense is you have to give up something you cannot protect everything. The game is made for offense to succeed. 

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1 hour ago, falcndave said:

This topic is Falcons related as we appear headed toward an emphasis on the running game.

4 teams play this weekend. All 4 are in the top 5 in passing efficiency (DVOA). Tennessee was totally shut down in the running game in the previous round, and either didn't or couldn't make any adjustments. Is the success of passing attacks in the NFL pure coincidence or is this simply a matter of a unique COVID year?  That theory would go: Given a limited off season, no preseason, and ever adjusting game schedules, talent is winning out over scheme over the long haul. 

Personally, I think when you have Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahommes, and the talent of the Bills skill players with Allen finally hitting his stride; the lack of traditional preparation and reps across the league is giving "talent" a leg up on "scheme."  Any thoughts? I know some will tend to think I'm reading too much into it (pure coincidence is the answer). That is fine, but please tell me why you think it is so. The reason this might be relevant going forward is that policy could be influenced by this season. What if non-traditional schedules, limited in-person practices, and the end of preseason play all become the new norm?

The more scary thought as a Falcons fan is that we are potentially headed toward a rebuilding project where we try to reengineer the last generations offense without the unique skill of Derrick Henry.  Anyone feel this way?  I tend to think it is more the COVID factor, but I'd love to hear various ideas on why the passing offenses with unique QBs have risen to the to top over running and defense in this particular season and if you expect this trend to continue. 

I know I'm suppose to be on the happy train and suppress any actual concern at this point. Energy not focused on mocking in wasted effort. I get it...but that has never been my game!

If Arthur Smith is really so rigid and inflexible that he can't produce an efficient offense without Henry, then the Falcons frankly hired the wrong guy. 

Secondly, the NFL has been trending towards passing since the late 2000s. 

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While passing has become the norm in the NFL, BALANCE is more important. TB being the lone exception. Titans, Balt, GB, Rams, Saints, Browns were all playoff teams and in the top 10 in rushing yards. Chiefs and Bills were middle of the pack in rushing obviously able to rush but pass preference.. To drive the point home about balance, NE was 4th in rishing but we know they couldnt throw, so the balance was wrong in a different direction. TB was horrific in running the ball yet still made the playoffs.

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2 hours ago, FalconFanSince1969 said:

Also that same site pointed out that we was the highest rated 4-12 team in dvoa since the merger and that we should have won 8-9 games. We was outscored by 18 points for the whole season. For reference, the also 4-12 texans were outscored by 80 points.

 

Boils down to two tackles a game.  One more by us, one less by the opponent.   

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23 minutes ago, runshoot said:

While passing has become the norm in the NFL, BALANCE is more important. TB being the lone exception. Titans, Balt, GB, Rams, Saints, Browns were all playoff teams and in the top 10 in rushing yards. Chiefs and Bills were middle of the pack in rushing obviously able to rush but pass preference.. To drive the point home about balance, NE was 4th in rishing but we know they couldnt throw, so the balance was wrong in a different direction. TB was horrific in running the ball yet still made the playoffs.

I want to challenge the idea of balance saying what if it is more important that all the skill players touch the ball ? What is balance is really about ball distribution more so than pass/run distribution ? What would you say to that ? 

 

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Innovative pass schemes and/or high quality passing attacks generally end up doing well.  I don't think this is a big aberration.  The teams who pass well (by advanced metrics) and defend the pass well tend to win a whole lot of games.

Now complex run schemes can often make it so your passing attack is better.  That's what I'm hoping we accomplished with the hire this year.  But if AS can't scheme open receivers, he was a bad move.

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If you think that Arthur Smith was hired to create the Atlanta Titans you will be disappointed. The mistake the franchise made last time was expecting Seattle east. That never happened. 

The Falcons already have the basis of a very good offense.  A competent blocking scheme mixed with a decent group of running backs and the offense is top ten again. Those two are being addressed with coaching and in the draft.

The coaching staff of the last year left atlanta uninspired. Fresh minds will go a long way with turning this team around. 

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13 minutes ago, SPITFIRE said:

I want to challenge the idea of balance saying what if it is more important that all the skill players touch the ball ? What is balance is really about ball distribution more so than pass/run distribution ? What would you say to that ? 

 

I would say we lost the SB and 4 of 5 games winnable games this year due to balance = run/pass distribution. It's not just about what play is called, sometimes you have to take time off the clock, make teams burn timeouts, give your defense a rest or all of the above.

If all our skill players are WRs, and they are F-you Gurley, that means we have to pass the 65% + that we did do. We are the living proof of the balance requirement. From SB LVII till present.

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4 hours ago, falcndave said:

This topic is Falcons related as we appear headed toward an emphasis on the running game.

4 teams play this weekend. All 4 are in the top 5 in passing efficiency (DVOA). Tennessee was totally shut down in the running game in the previous round, and either didn't or couldn't make any adjustments. Is the success of passing attacks in the NFL pure coincidence or is this simply a matter of a unique COVID year?  That theory would go: Given a limited off season, no preseason, and ever adjusting game schedules, talent is winning out over scheme over the long haul. 

Personally, I think when you have Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahommes, and the talent of the Bills skill players with Allen finally hitting his stride; the lack of traditional preparation and reps across the league is giving "talent" a leg up on "scheme."  Any thoughts? I know some will tend to think I'm reading too much into it (pure coincidence is the answer). That is fine, but please tell me why you think it is so. The reason this might be relevant going forward is that policy could be influenced by this season. What if non-traditional schedules, limited in-person practices, and the end of preseason play all become the new norm?

The more scary thought as a Falcons fan is that we are potentially headed toward a rebuilding project where we try to reengineer the last generations offense without the unique skill of Derrick Henry.  Anyone feel this way?  I tend to think it is more the COVID factor, but I'd love to hear various ideas on why the passing offenses with unique QBs have risen to the to top over running and defense in this particular season and if you expect this trend to continue. 

I know I'm suppose to be on the happy train and suppress any actual concern at this point. Energy not focused on mocking in wasted effort. I get it...but that has never been my game!

Part of it is college ball, emphasizing passing a lot more.   It used to be OL coming out of college being good pass protectors were scarce..... more were good run blockers who had to learn to pass protect.   Now? OL coming out  are better at pass pro, but lack the ability and temperament to run block very well.

There are also more NFL ready QBs coming into the league.   More and more, grade-middle-and high schools are looking for athletes who can also throw the ball.   Stationary pocket passers are, I think, dying out.  Colleges get these kids and find they have an instant passing game.

This leads to more WRs coming into and out of college.   My gosh, we have never seen so many good WRs being drafted before.....good WRs are literally falling out of the sky.

Part of it might have nothing to do with football.  Imagine an owner being asked by his HC and GM, to spend 36 million plus on a QB.... then plunge tons of draft and financial capital into an offense.   -Then- the coach tries to run a balanced offense with 3rd 4th and 5th rnd RBs..... and his team loses because he has no defense (Falcons).   I think an owner might have the right to question if his people know what they are doing.   

In other words....when HC's and GM's ask owners to spend big fortunes on nice toys, they better get used, and used well.

Patrick Mahomes wins without a great D, but then again.....nobody else has a Patrick Mahomes.  I think some teams DO try to emulate the Chiefs, tho......

Edited by egoprime II
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You have to have balance in the sense that your running sets up the pass.  You can certainly have a great pass offense, but you have to be able to assert your dominance in the run game when you are trying to kill the clock or make the other team do something rash such as burn time outs.  

You need a strong passing game which we have.  And if the league is going to dominant passing games, then you need a dominant defense. Which we have lacked.

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4 hours ago, booty-mane said:

If your theory that talent will out-win scheme, how come we went 4-12? I would argue we have a top 10 talented roster. Scheme and poor coaching lost us. Talent can't cover up for coaching and scheme shortcomings. Its kinda like a ****ty movie with good actors. You can appreciate the acting but it still leaves a bad taste since the story and direction were dog****.

At one point the Falcons could easily have been 6-3, even 7-2.    If DQ had led the team to another late-season surge.....

Unfortunately Gurley then scored against Detroit, then his wheels fell off.... and Morriss showed the same stubborn loyalty to Gurley that DQ showed to some of 'his' guys.   Our run game went away, and the losses poured in.

The Falcons have talent, we just don't have enough of it in some very important places, like pass rusher and RB.

Edited by egoprime II
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3 hours ago, falcndave said:

I like strong fundamental football. I'm fine with 30+ points on both sides of the ball if both teams are executing at a high level on offense. What I hate are thing like poor angles, poor tackling, and lack of scheme discipline. I can promise you the Falcons were not alone in screwing those things up.

So, I'm "old school" only to the point that I like to see the basics consistently executed well by professionals.

Well said, I would add for myself that I'm old school in the fact that I sorely miss the days when the rules of the game weren't manipulated in order to produce a certain outcome on the field. More of an 'evener' playing field would be nice. The league went from 3 out of 4 outcomes in the passing game being bad to 3 out of 4 being good. How about trying for 2 and 2?

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4 hours ago, Herr Doktor said:

I'd also argue we have the horses to go vertical with any team.  Julio, Calvin, Gage, etc are all fast and solid receivers.  We have a good receiving TE with a coach that likes receiving TEs.  More than likely will add several more. Those teams you mention also have balanced offenses with a threat to run.  We dont.

Our pass routs took too long to develop....Ryan either didn't have or couldn't find shorter outlet guys.... and Koetter's scheme called for the receivers to beat thier man.   Which is why so many times, our receivers are almost instantly tackled after they catch the ball.

Biggest thing Shanahan did?  He schemed people open.  Tons of space and YAC.  In '16 even lumbering Toilolo averaged 20 YPC on 19 catches.

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