Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Prevent Offense

Just finished watching the Steelers/Jaguars game. Which was eerily like the Seahawks/Redskins game at the crucial point of the game.

Remember the prevent defense? The alignment where, to prevent a team from throwing the ball downfield, the defense goes with something like 3 down lineman and 8 drop back into coverage? Usually the quarterback, given lots of time to survey the field, picks the defense apart and moves his team to a score.

Many times this prevent defense is 180 degrees out from the defense the team played to get them the lead (4 linemen rushing, blitz packages, etc).

Well tonight we saw a classic example of the prevent offense.

Let's start with the Redskins. Couldn't do a thing offensively for most of the game. Then late in the third quarter they figure out how to move the ball through the air. 85 yard drive for a touchdown. The defense picks off a Hasselback pass. Collins hits Moss for a touchdown. Suddenly it's 14-13 Washington. The ensuing kickoff takes a crazy hop, and Washington recovers it on the 15 yard line.

Now, Gibbs has his foot on Seattle's throat. Punch this ball in and the game may be over; Hasselback could make more bad decisions, no more running game, etc. Instead, he gets all conservative - tries to run the ball. Can't get a first down. Missed field goal. Momentum swung.

True, they did pick off a pass, forestalling their doom, but again, couldn't get a first down. Seattle takes the ball (following the punt) and scores a touchdown. Collins, forced to throw deeper than he'd like (due to their being less than 7 min to play), has two picked off and returned for a touchdown.

Done in by the prevent offense.

Pittsburgh does the same thing. They're getting killed, although not because Jacksonville's offensive is that good - kickoff return to the 4 and 2 picks returned for touchdowns have given J'ville a 28-10 lead. Pittsburgh can't run the ball at all. So, Big Ben starts throwing to Miller and Hines. A lot.

Next thing you know, they're up 29-28, and have the ball in their own territory with under 3 minutes to play. Two first downs and the game is over. Remember, the passing game is what got them back into the lead. What do they do? Run the ball 3 times. No first down.

They punt, Jacksonville calls a great play on 4th and 2, and kicks the winning field goal. See you next season. Pittsburgh done in by the prevent offense.

Coaches constantly do this. Why go away from something that's working just because now you've got the lead? The something got you the lead, and the other team has no answer for it. To me, you keep doing it. Why change it? They all do it, and they all lose close games, and they all wonder why. The only coach in recent memory who didn't go into a shell with the game on the line was Ron Zook and the Illini against Ohio State this season. He went for the critical first down, won the game as a result. These guys are more concerned with taking time off the clock and trying to outlast the other team instead of grabbing the win outright.

Gibbs is a HOF coach who was undermanned and whose team played its guts out. Better playcalling would have helped them advance to Dallas. Pittsburgh's coach had the presence of mind to scrap the running game down by 18 in the third quarter. Why he went back to the run at the end is a decision he can ponder between now and mini-camp.

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