Super Bowl Hog Report: Suggs and Smith Lead Underacheiving Hogs

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 30, 2013



By Shawn Maher (@ShawnBenMaher)
Cold, Hard Football Facts’ Proponent of Pork Power

As is tradition in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, NFL news is currently dominated by irrelevant talk of breaking two-year-old news about Ray Lewis’ antler therapy, Joe Flacco’s thoughts on next season’s “retarded” championship game, and Alex Smith’s mentorship of Colin Kaepernick in order to pave his way out of the city by the bay.

But as is tradition here at the Hog Report, we are going to dig deep into the no-nonsense storylines that truly hold weight in the win column: the trench battles in the New Orleans Superdome.

And while last week we looked at two groups of o-hogs who have found the perfect time to reach their peak performance, this week’s subjects are über-talented groups of d-hogs who have failed to live up to their top billing on the big stage.

San Francisco’s Regular Season Dominance Degenerated into a Paltry Postseason

Aldon Smith and Justin Smith pressure Matt Ryan in the NFC ChampionshipThe 49ers were ranked as the NFC’s top-overall group of d-hogs in the final version of the Defensive Hog Index, Cold, Hard Football Facts’ statistical ranking of the big uglies.

In this postseason, however, San Francisco has given up over a yard more per carry than they did in the regular season, allowing 4.74 YPA compared to the regular season’s 3.70.

When considering the Negative Pass Play Percentage (NPP%), the sacks and interceptions often caused by up-front pressure, the gold-rushers have declined from a respectable 8.60% to a playoff number of 4.82%.

This undoubtedly stems from a five-week drought that Aldon Smith has experienced in sacks, as he has been stuck on 19.5 since Week 14.

But his partner in crime and fellow Mizzou alumni, Justin Smith, has spent those five games hampered by a triceps injury. Will the two-week break help the Smiths regain form as Justin regains the strength to liberally use his hands to free Aldon on stunts?

The Ravens start rookie left guard Kelechi Oseleme and lumbering left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who could struggle with Aldon’s speed, especially if Justin has McKinnie wrangled in his clutches. That certainly has to be what the 49ers are hoping, because their 4.82 NPP% came against an Atlanta team (against which Aldon did have one quarterback hit) that finished 9th in the Offensive Hog Index and a Green Bay o-hog group that finished 21st.

In fact, the Falcons allowed a 6.53 NPP% on the season and the Packers 9.69%, but against those o-hogs the 49ers could only generate 3.70% and 3.93%, respectively. Against the Falcons, the 49ers were able to take advantage of a focus on the Smiths, however, by generating pressure up the middle.

Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga managed to grab a sack and cornerback Chris Culliver grabbed an errant pass for an interception in Atlanta. Aldon’s bookend, Ahmad Brooks, also managed to knock down two passes, despite Matt Ryan completing 71.43% of his throws.

Baltimore has been running the ball well and often this postseason, tallying 4.29 YPA while San Francisco has given up a more generous 4.74 YPA. In the air, the Ravens have passed for 8.90 YPA while San Francisco has given up an only slightly better 8.06 YPA.

But what about the turnover battle? In both playoff games, the 49ers have forced two takeaways compared to only one turnover. Flacco has yet to throw an interception during the postseason, so a change in the trend does not seem likely, but a surprising number of teams have won the Super Bowl with a turnover margin of one or less in this millennium.

Maybe the close turnover margin is indicative of the signature Jim Harbaugh ability to coach his teams into winning close matchups against evenly matched teams. But even with the elite company in the Super Bowl, many of those teams found themselves taking a more dominant path to the top.

In the table below, the first line of each Super-Bowl winning team shows their statistics in the championship game, while the next line shows their playoff statistics for the whole tournament. Oddly enough, the Bountygate Saints, famous for their quarterback-crushing hits, and the last two Super-Bowl-winning New York Giants teams had the only hogs as unproductive overall at getting to the quarterback.

Only the 2009 Saints had a worse NPP%.

 

R/YPA

Pass Att

Sacks

INT

NPP

Takeaways

Turnovers

03 NE

5.75

33

4

1

13.51

1

1

Total

4.09

106

11

6

14.53

7

4

Averaged 3.5 sacks per game before Super Bowl

05 PIT

5.48

49

3

1

7.84

1

2

Total

4.7

158

15

5

7.51

7

4

Averaged 4.0 Sacks per game before Super Bowl

07 NYG

2.81

48

5

0

9.43

1

1

Total

3.48

158

8

5

7.83

7

2

Averaged 1 sack per game before Super Bowl

08 PIT

2.75

43

2

1

6.67

2

1

Total

2.52

108

9

5

11.97

8

2

Averaged 3.5 sacks per game before Super Bowl

09 NO

5.21

45

0

1

2.22

1

0

Total

5.21

127

1

4

3.91

8

1

Averaged 0.33 sacks per game before Super Bowl

11 NYG

4.37

41

2

1

6.98

1

0

Total

4.88

154

11

2

7.88

7

1

Averaged 0.33 sacks per game before Super Bowl

12 SF

4.74

81

2

2

4.82

4

2

Averaged 1.0 sack per game before Super Bowl


Ravens ’ D-Hogs are Good, but Not Great, across the Board

The Ravens defense has shown the ability to be steady throughout the season. The dominant d-hogs of their last Super Bowl-winning team, however, have been replaced by a group that knows how to do enough across the board to put their offense in a position to win.

Baltimore finished exactly in the middle of the pack this regular season with 37 sacks. Their d-hogs finished as the eighth-ranked unit in the final DHI and they found themselves with a very respectable 8.42 NPP% and 3.99 YPA against the run. In the postseason, against the best of the best, their NPP% has dipped to 7.01 while they have tightened up against the run, with their 3.89 YPA coinciding with the return of Ray Ray.

To illustrate their general above-averageness, only seven teams have notched 5 interceptions and 6 sacks while only allowing 3.9 YPA or less on the ground on the way to the Super Bowl since the last Ravens championship. That does also include the 2001 Patriots, who were on pace to reach those marks had they not had a first-round bye.

Over 5 INTs and 6 sacks while allowing less than 3.9 Rushing YPA

 

Pass Att

Sacks

INT

NPP%

Rush Att

Yds

R/YA

12 BAL

151

6

5

7.01

99

385

3.89

10 GB

103

10

6

14.16

59

209

3.54

08 PIT

65

7

4

15.28

36

88

2.44

08 BAL

113

8

5

10.74

77

220

2.86

06 IND

87

7

5

12.77

61

220

3.61

01 NE*

73

4

3

9.09

52

135

2.60

00 BAL

122

10

6

12.12

68

192

2.82

*Only two games due to bye, average over three would be on pace


Still, the 2012 Ravens were less disruptive, as evidenced by their far-lower NPP%, and allowed many more yards on the ground. Is this another case of smoke and mirrors or the grittiness porn that so many broadcasters love?

Lewis’ last run has been abetted by his d-hogs. Nose tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu has been lining up more often in a 2i technique, closing off the strong-side guard in order to prevent the guard from reaching the second level to block Lewis. Against zone-blocking teams in the playoffs, the strategy has proven successful, but what about against a power-blocking team like the 49ers, who overload formations in order to provide numerical advantages in the running game?

Haloti Ngata attempts to sack Tom Brady in the AFC ChampionshipWith a group of thumping group of linebackers, led by the noticeably slower and obviously aged Lewis, the 49ers will undoubtedly utilize the athleticism of Colin Kaepernick and the mathematical advantage of the read-option play.

The only time the Ravens faced a similar attack, against the Redskins, Robert Griffin III ran for 34 yards and a 4.86 YPA, and Alfred Morris pounded out 129 yards and a 5.61 average.

RGIII and company managed that against a Lewis-less defense, but those numbers still speak volumes. To even further that point, teams have used their tight ends to take advantage of the lack of athleticism over the middle.

So far in the playoffs, teams have thrown to their tight ends for 25 receptions and 249 yards. That averages 8 receptions for 83 yards per contest. Undoubtedly Vernon Davis will look to build upon his Georgia-Dome-silencing 5 receptions and 106 yards.

This Super Bowl features two teams that are thought to be defensively oriented, but who actually rely more on their d-hogs to help set up their offense to succeed. How much so remains to be seen, but it is only fitting that the HarBowl includes two so evenly matched teams. The winner is yet to be determined, but the game will ultimately be very delightful to trench-warfare enthusiasts everywhere.


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