powered bybetstamp

NFL Week 9 takeaways: Notes on Leftwich, McDaniels, Vrabel, and more

Josh McDaniels

Scoring Environment 2022: Update

Through nine weeks, NFL games are averaging 43.6 points with a median score of 42.0. It’s the lowest mean score since 2017 (43.9) and the lowest median score over the past 12 seasons compared to the first nine weeks. It hasn’t gotten significantly better over the past four weeks, with a mean score of 43.6 and a median score of 43.0.

Overall, passing efficiency, as measured by EPA/dropback, is still down compared to the past two seasons. In 2020, offenses averaged 0.103 EPA per dropback, 0.062 in 2021. This season, it’s only 0.042.

Byron Leftwich and his lovely running game

Leading up to the matchup against the Rams, Byron Leftwich made headlines with crazy stances on running the ball on first down. He said something along the lines that an offense would waste play-action without running the ball and that the Bucs do need to do a better job running the ball and calling those runs.

Did anything change during the Rams game? No. Despite saying that they need to run the ball to call play-action, Byron Leftwich called 13 runs in the first half and only ONE play-action pass. How does that make any sense?

Furthermore, the Bucs called 22 runs on Sunday for an average of -0.45 EPA/play and a success rate of 14 percent. Those numbers would rank dead last by a mile in any given season. Overall, Leftwich called 20 early down rushes for -0.40 EPA/play and a success rate of 10 percent (lol). On 39 early down passes, the Bucs averaged 0.09 EPA/play. That 20/39 split sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Not so fast, my friend.

We should probably ignore the one drive before halftime inside the two-minute warning when the Bucs had to abandon the run by default. As well as the last two drives at the end of the game when they also needed to throw the ball. The Bucs had 19 early down passes on these three drives and only two runs. So, overall, Leftwich called 18 early down runs, or 47%, on “neutral” drives while averaging a dreadful -0.39 EPA/play and a success rate of less than 10%. Add to it that the Rams defense ranked fourth in rush DVOA going into that matchup. Running the ball with a lousy rushing offense against a stout run defense might not have been the best game plan to begin with. This is horrendous. The cherry on the cake was that the Bucs had their best drives when they abandoned the run when they had to, and Tom Brady came up with the call for the game-winning play.

That approach remains concerning, and the late win might only make Byron Leftwich feel validated.

The Josh McDaniels era might already be over

Come on, Josh. The Las Vegas Raiders were up 17-0 with 10 minutes left in the second quarter and up 20-7 with 45 seconds left in the first half. Davante Adams had ten catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns up to that point. The Raiders didn’t score a single point afterward. Adams didn’t have a single catch after halftime. They lost 20-27. If you read a bitter taste along those lines, I bet on the Raiders and witnessed an epic meltdown.

The most disturbing thing about that meltdown was the situational play-calling. I don’t want to put everything on Josh McDaniels because I have no clue what decisions Derek Carr made. However, the Raiders were driving the ball down the field before halftime. With 1.01 to go, they had a second-and-6 at the Jacksonville 23-yard line. They ran the ball with Josh Jacobs for three yards. Doug Pederson called his first timeout. Now with the third-and-3, their primary goal should be to find a way to get a new first down to milk the clock and not allow the Jaguars to score a quick field goal as a counter. What did the Raiders call? A deep throw into the end zone to backup running back Ameer Abdullah that was incomplete. Adams was unstoppable up to that point, but their best play call to milk that drive was a deep throw to Abdullah. They kicked the field goal and left enough time for the Jags to march down for a field goal themselves.

Late in the game, at 20-24, the Raiders had several chances to orchestrate a game-winning touchdown drive. Among those failures were a run on second-and-12 and two deep passes on second-and-2 and third-and-2. Why would you run the ball on second-and-12 but not when you need two yards and have enough time left? The Raiders offense has all the talent on paper, but the whole construct feels disconnected. Adams is one of the best wide receivers in the game; Hunter Renfrow was a stud last year. Mack Hollins is emerging; Josh Jacobs is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, at least. They perform below expectation and cannot protect big leads, which points towards a coaching issue. How much can we trust their coaching staff to fix those problems?

Mike Vrabel: Oh captain, my captain

There are things in the NFL that are very hard to explain – something that we sometimes cannot accurately quantify. Mike Vrabel consistently gets the most out of his team, no matter the situational spot or the talent discrepancy on the field.

The Titans were 14-point underdogs to the Chiefs at Arrowhead, and during the game, their rookie quarterback completed five passes (which wasn’t entirely his fault). Somehow, Mike Vrabel’s team forced overtime. Their defense played incredibly well, and their offense scored 17 points with only 57 net yards passing. I’ve got no logical explanation other than something wild happening in that locker room. TV pundits always like to talk about the environment or culture. After yesterday, everyone has to accept that the Titans have an exceptional setting or a unique culture. Frame it however you want.

In 2021, the Titans finished 20th in total DVOA. From the eye test, no one could tell that they would be anywhere close to being an elite team. But they were the No. 1 seed. This season, they have been dealing with tons of injuries on the offensive side of the ball: LT Taylor Lewan, rookie first-round WR Treylon Burks, rookie WR Kyle Phillips and starting QB Ryan Tannehill. At 5-3, they have a two-win lead within their division, and took the Chiefs to overtime at Arrowhead. Mike Vrabel – oh captain, my captain.