The Hog Report: Best & Worst D-Hogs of 2011

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jul 12, 2011



(Ed. note: this is the debut of what will be a new Cold, Hard Football Facts feature in which we'll chornicle the most dominant performances in the trenches each week of the 2011 season, along with the worst performances, too. We introduce The Hog Report with a look back at the dominant Defensive Hogs of 2011 and then those units that led their team to the slaughterhouse of early postseason defeat.)

By Erik Frenz
Cold, Hard Football Facts Butcher of Data
 
Welcome to the butcher shop, where no Hogs are safe from our sharp knives of analysis.
 
Justice, as usual, will be served cold, just like the football facts we bring you every day.
 
The old adage goes, "Defense wins championships." The 2010 Defensive Hog Index went to great lengths to disprove that theory. The DHI has traditionally been an incredible indicator of postseason success. But only two of the top five Defensive Hogs of 2010 even made the playoffs.
 
Squealing like a stuck pig yet?
 
Teams with better Defensive Hogs than their opponent went just 130-126 (50.8%) in 2010. And the inability of dominant Defensive Hogs to make the playoffs begs the question of whether that adage truly applies, or is simply applied by analysts trying to pretend like they have a clue.
 
Fire up the turn spit and let's get down to the nitty gritty with the best Defensive Hogs of 2010.
 
Dominant D-Hogs of 2010
Pittsburgh almost proves it right (again) – The Steelers have been the D-Hog dynasty, and proved it in 2008 when their D-Hogs were the most vicious in the league and went on to win the Super Bowl. 
 
In 2010, Pittsburgh ranked in the top 10 in all three Defensive Hog indicators, including first in yards per rush attempt (3.01) and third in third-down conversion percentage allowed (33.49).
 
Perhaps Pittsburgh's continued defensive dominance is proof positive that a dynastic defense is the key to continued success in the NFL.
 
San Diego almost proves otherwise – San Diego's Defensive Hogs should have been one of the big stories of 2010: they climbed all the way from No. 26 on the Defensive Hog Index in 2009 to a tie with Pittsburgh's vaunted D-Hogs for the top spot in 2010.
 
The Chargers were No. 2 in Negative Pass Plays (11.78%) and No. 4 in third-down conversions (33.49%) last season. You'd assume that the field position generated by those plays would result in wins at some point, right? 
 
Well, it didn't. The pathetically underachieving Chargers dug a 2-5 hole to start the season and couldn't climb out of it.
 
Expect a step back in 2011, after defensive coordinator and D-Hog builder Ron Rivera bolted for a low-expectations head coaching gig in Carolina.
 
New York Jets D-Hogs do head pig Rex Ryan proud – Since the arrival of the rotund Rex Ryan, New York has hung their hats on their defense. The Jets ranked fourth on the DHI in both of Ryan's first two seasons as head coach.  
 
He'll be happy to know that his defense has ranked in the top five in rush yards per attempt two years running, holding opponents under 3.76 YPA both times.
 
Surprisingly, though, their dominance wasn't predicated on negative pass plays in either 2009 or 2010. They ranked just 16th in Negative Pass Play percentage in 2009 (9.19%), but jumped to 12th in the league in 2010 despite dipping slightly to 9.11%. Not bad stats, but not the "best in the league" stats that Rex Ryan would probably like to brag about.
 
The Gang Green may want to re-evaluate their third down defense, which dipped dramatically from tops in the league 2009 (31.51%) to 10th in 2010 (36.99%).
 
If Rex Ryan finds these stats, expect him to go on a swearing tirade that might make Tony Dungy's holy-moly martian head explode.
 
Packers prove a point with pass defense – No, Green Bay didn't boast the best Defensive Hogs in 2010. They ranked just 10th overall and an astonishing 28th in rush defense, allowing opponents to run hog wild for 4.64 YPA. 
 
But Cold, Hard Football Facts readers already know that NFL games are not won and lost on the ground, but in the air.
 
And where the Packers excelled was in creating havoc for opposing passers. Green Bay ranked second in the league with 47 sacks (tied with Oakland and San Diego), second with 24 INT (behind only 14-2 New England) and No. 1 overall in forcing Negative Pass Plays (12.22%).
 
In fact, it was a Negative Pass Play that proved to be the difference in Super Bowl XLV. Nick Collins intercepted an errant Ben Roethlisberger pass (after a heavy pass rush by Howard Green) and returned it for a touchdown in what eventually proved the biggest play in a 31-25 Green Bay victory.
 
Ah, there's the rub. Slather that rub all over Green Bay's Defensive Hogs, and you end up with a delicious roast beast that's good on just about any occasion.
 
D-Hogs led to the slaughter in 2010
Playoff favorites – Yes, the teams that featured the best records in 2010 in both the AFC and NFC were both teams that featured some of the worst Defensive Hogs in the league.  
 
Despite the foregone conclusion of playoff famine for Green Bay and the New York Jets, they might have been licking their chops at the smell of fresh bacon in the former of docile Defensive Hogs from Atlanta and New England. The Falcons went 13-3 despite the league's 25th-ranked D Hogs. The Patriots were 14-2 despite the 22nd-ranked D Hogs.
 
Green Bay's offense left the Falcons with slop on their face after ripping Atlanta for 442 yards and five touchdowns on 69 offensive plays for an average of 6.41 yards per play. Atlanta created just two Negative Pass Plays (2.90%) and allowed Green Bay to convert two-thirds of their third downs.
 
We can smell the salty pork slow-cooking over an open flame as we speak.
 
Erm...okay, now.
 
The Jets offense feasted on New England's Defensive Hogs by exploiting their biggest weakness: third-down defense. The Patriots allowed opponents to convert an astonishing 47.14 percent of third downs last year.
 
The New York Jets also took advantage of a mediocre New England run defense that allowed 4.23 yards per carry. Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson ran hog wild for 4.41 yards per carry.
 
New England benefited from their opponent's mistakes all year long: they boasted a historically good +28 turnover differential, thanks largely to the league's best interception numbers on both offense (5) and on defense (25). But in the bitter end to their surprise season, it was a rare costly INT by Tom Brady early in the game, and New England's inability to create Negative Pass Plays on defense, that helped decide the outcome of the game.
 
Many may have looked at the first-round losses of both Atlanta and New England as a huge surprise, but the story of the stats is that neither of these games were that big of an upset, after all. Dirtier D-Hogs simply get the job done.
 
Opinions are trumped every day, and always give way to the Cold, Hard Football Facts.

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