Hog Report: 49ers Have Become the Best in the Trenches
By Shawn Maher
Goodell’s Personal Hog Handler (@ShawnBenMaher)
As the Hog Report settled in for the greatest day of the year, Thanksgiving, we opened our belt a notch after a feast that would make our hog brethren proud and settled in to watch Houston’s o-line, now ranked sixth in the Offensive Hog Index, take on a Detroit front four that had risen six spots in the Defensive Hog Index entering the holiest of holy hog holidays.
The Texans managed to fend off the Lions’ charge, holding them to 6.00 NPP%, but Ndamukong Suh at least gave us his yearly Thanksgiving meat tenderizer. Evan Dietrich-Smith, you can take solace that Suh takes it easy on a fellow hog, comparatively. Ask Matt Schaub.
Prime Cut: 49ers Hogs Playing at a Super-Bowl Level
The 49ers have been a solid team in the trenches this season, but nothing that said they were ready to make a championship run. As of late, energized by a quarterback that can get them on Sports Center, the 49ers trench combatants have been dominating.
Playing the Saints in the Superdome, New Orleans’ 3rd-ranked o-hogs in NPP% looked in a good position to shut down Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and the 49ers’ d-hogs, fresh off a six-sack, 28.57 NPP% day against the Bears’ laughable offensive line. A whopping 5.5 of those sacks went to Aldon, who, with 1.5 sacks against the Saints, became the fastest ever to 30 sacks.
The Smiths symbiotically work together to make life impossible for opposing quarterbacks. Justin is perhaps the best in the league at soaking up blocks, some might say by any means possible, and Aldon swoops in with his fearsome closing speed.
Even better than Smith’s seven sacks in two weeks, the 49ers’ o-hogs have been keeping Colin Kaepernick clean and able to play like a human highlight reel. So far in Kaepernick era, the 49ers’ NPP% differential has been above and beyond a championship level.
Although the season totals are still underwhelming, keep in mind that just two weeks ago the 49ers’ offensive NPP% was 12.50. And the defensive NPP% was a 26th-ranked 7.01. In that span they have jumped from the seventh-ranked unit on the DHI to second-overall on this week’s DHI.
NPP% Differential Tracker
The gold-standard of NPP% differential between the defensive and offensive hogs on a Super Bowl champion is 3.5. The Hog Report has been tracking some of this year’s contenders, and it is looking like hog heaven for the brothers Manning.
New England improved to 4.29 from 4.06 and, more importantly, have risen from the basement of the rankings to 25th in defensive passer rating. Might it be possible to see Brady vs. Peyton and Manning vs. Manning all in the same postseason?
Roasted Pork Butt: The Packers’ O-Hogs Are Becoming Beyond Repair
Green Bay has shelved offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga for the season, and, with second-year tackle Derrick Sherrod unlikely to be activated from the PUP list, the Packers’ o-hogs have been taken out to slaughter one too many times.
Their depleted hogs allowed Aaron Rodgers to be sacked for the 37th time so far this season, which is one more time than he hit the deck all of last year. While the Pack has always been lauded for their next-hog-up strategy, the well is only so deep. The Giants sacked Rodgers five times compared to 27 pass attempts and hung an 18.75 NPP% on Green Bay’s offensive line.
Although Green Bay did rush for 116 yards on 26 carries, those yards have to be considered alongside the 31-10 deficit that the Packers faced at halftime. The Giants were pinning back their ears on the pass rush, going in for the kill.
Not surprisingly, the Packers have not done well as of late when they pass fewer than 30 times, have no more than one passing touchdown and rush more than 25 attempts. It has been since their 2009 Super-Bowl-winning team that they were able to win a game like that, and their d-hogs were dominant enough to allow a less frenetic offense. They finished first that year overall in the DHI and in NPP%.
Patriots' O-Hog Watch
The Hog Report detailed last week why the Patriots’ o-hogs are historically dominating the trenches lately. After another game in which they did not allow a sack or force an interception, the Patriots, led by their edge-sealing, second-year tackle Nate Solder, have taken a step further towards o-hog glory.
Past 5 Weeks
And, although the defense only generated a 7.89 NPP% against the Jets last week, the Patriots still recovered four fumbles to their only interception. Granted, it is hard to take credit for Mark Sanchez fumbling with a face full of own hog’s flanks.
The Best Terrible State of the Week: The Eagles Waste a Surprising O-Hog Performance
While the Panthers are in the bottom half of the DHI, it would have been considered foolhardy to expect the Eagles to expect a crumbling offensive line to hold up well enough to win the game. That was exactly what happened, however, with the Eagles’ three turnovers all on lost fumbles.
With only one sack allowed, the Eagles’ offensive line ended the day with only a 4.55 NPP%. For perspective, the Patriots lead the league with 4.10 NPP% on the season. They also opened up some cavernous running lanes for Bryce Brown, with the offense as a whole rushing for 204 yards on an eye-popping 7.85 YPA.
Only twice in history has a team ran for greater than 200 yards at over 7.85 YPA, given up no more than one interception without throwing an interception and still lost the game.
The only other team is the 1975 Bills. The early ‘70s Bills seem to make it on the Best Terrible stat list frequently due to their O.J.-and-nothing-else offense. The Eagles, however, perhaps are still acclimating themselves to running the ball on a regular basis. The biggest difference is that Nick Foles completed over 76% of his attempts, while the Bills’ Joe Ferguson was more like 50%.
Trench Warfare of Week 13: 49ers at Rams
This is a rematch of the two teams that appeared so evenly matched last contest that they drew a tie. Will the Rams bookends, Chris Long and Robert Quinn, throw a wrench into the 49ers’ newfound pass-blocking mastery? Can they rattle the Kaepernick into submission? The Rams are ranked fifth with a 10.34 NPP%, just a shade down from the 49ers’ offensive total of 11.45.
The truth is, the 49ers are a new team since they kissed their sister against the Rams in San Francisco, and home field advantage is not enough to overcome the 49ers’ huge statistical advantage.
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