Washington Redskins: Defensive Success and Defensive Failure – a Statistical Review
In an attempt to delve a little deeper into the issues with this defense, there was one statistic that caught my eye above all else:
Closing Out the Half Defensively
- In the 1st and 3rd quarters of games, the Washington Redskins are allowing a combined average of 8.0 points per two quarters.
- In the 2nd and 4th quarters of games, the Washington Redskins are allowing a combined average of 20.6 points per two quarters.
These are striking statistics for a few reasons. First of all, the first and third quarters of games differ from the second and fourth quarters of games in their very nature. The first quarter of a game is when a team should be the most prepared for what they see. The team spends all week coming up with a gameplan, and that gameplan would be the most evident in the first couple of series of the game. Adjustments typically aren’t made in the first quarter (particularly for a heavily scripted offense), so this is a great barometer for how prepared a team is, initially, for what they are going to face.
The third quarter success reflects adjustments that are made at halftime. This is usually based on what the defense saw in the first half (and what the defense is expecting to see in the second half). The first and third quarters, in essence, reflect how a defense does in its initial preparation against an opponent’s base offensive sets and typical game-management style (when given time to prepare).
The second and fourth quarters, conversely, reflect on a team’s quick-witted and circumstantial adjustments. These are the quarters when teams are managing the clock. These are the quarters when teams play catch-up. Typically speaking, this is when teams go into a no-huddle, hurry-up, 2-minute, or 4-minute offense. This tests a defense’s ability to adjust on the fly.
Barry Cofield was recently quoted as saying that this team needs to learn how to close out games. This is an understatement. If we look at the 4th quarter alone, the Redskins are dead last in the league by allowing 13.0 points per quarter. Let that sink in for a little bit. If this team was to allow 13.0 points per quarter for an entire game, they would average 52.0 points allowed per game. That’s legendary. That’s how poor this defense is at closing things out.
For your reference, here is the breakdown of ppg allowed by quarter:
Washington Redskins Points Allowed per Quarter
- 1st quarter: 5.1 points per quarter
- 2nd quarter: 7.6 points per quarter
- 3rd quarter: 2.9 points per quarter
- 4th quarter: 13.0 points per quarter
You’ll notice a difference between the first quarter and third quarter above, but that difference is easily explainable: in every game this year, the Redskins have kicked off to start the game and received the ball to start the second half. Inevitably, the opponent has the ball more often in the first quarter than the third quarter against the Redskins defense.
Now some people may rightly argue that the league average will be higher in the 2nd and 4th quarters as compared to the 1st and 3rd quarters. I don’t disagree. Let’s look at the averages here:
League Average in Points Allowed
- 1st quarter: 4.6 points per quarter
- 2nd quarter: 6.4 points per quarter
- 3rd quarter: 4.9 points per quarter
- 4th quarter: 7.2 points per quarter
As you can see, scores increase in the second and fourth quarters for the entire league; however, I think it’s apparent that the increase for the league average is much less drastic than the increase for the Redskins. If we compare the Redskins to the league average, we can actually see a clear distinction as to where the Redskins struggle:
- 1st and 3rdquarters combined:
- The league average is 9.5 points per two quarters
- The Redskins average 8.0 points per two quarters
- 2nd and 4thquarters combined:
- The league average is 13.6 points per two quarters
- The Redskins average 20.6 points per two quarters
The Redskins are actually better than a majority of the league when it comes to opening up the first and second halves. Conversely, they are much, much worse in closing them out. In particular, the Redskins give up approximately 81% more points than the league average in the 4th quarter. I know that many people have felt this has been an issue for a long time, but now we have the documented evidence.
However, this does provide some hope. These statistics suggest that not everything is an abject failure on the defensive side of the ball. Perhaps Haslett’s initial gameplanning is successful, and perhaps his halftime adjustments are too. Maybe the issues with this defense are primarily situational (vs. no huddle, vs. hurry-up, vs. 2-minute drill), which negates the need for a systemic overhaul. I’m interested in hearing some other opinions or theories with regards to these statistics in the comments section.
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