Since I've seen a lot of arguments regarding what we do on first downs, and a few people think that Borges still called a bad game re: first downs, I've tried to quantify the play-calls on our first downs through the first half. (Sorry about the table. It's not working for some weird reason?)
As two major individual NFL records were pursued late this season, one broken and the other almost so, lost in the shuffle yesterday was New England shattering the record for first downs in a season at 444. [ESPN]
Yes, a lesser-known record (previously held by the 2011 Saints at 416, before that it was the 2004 Chiefs at 398), but one of the more meaningful statistics on offense, to my mind.
There's been a little chatter on here about Michigan needing to mixup their first down plays a little more (as if this is a new complaint - haven't Michigan fans bitched about this since the dawn of Lloyd?). Anyways, I watched the tape!
I watched every 1st down play all the way through the 3rd quarter. By the end of the 3rd Michigan was down 31-14 and obviously they were getting into hurry up mode, so they were definately moving away from their offensive game plan by then. The last offense play of the 3rd was the Shaw fumble. Someone suggested earlier that that ended the game......you might be onto something there. That particular drive was looking good. At that point Michigan was only down 24-14.
First Down Runs:
- Michigan ran on first down 17 times out of the 23 first downs in the first 3 quarters. They gained 41 yards on those runs which is 2.41 yards per attempt. Ouch. On a good note, McGuffie scored a TD on a first down run, but on a bad note the Shaw fumble was a first down run.
First Down Passes:
- To flip that coin Michigan passed on 6 out of their first 23 first downs with 4 completions. On those plays they gained 64 yards which is 10.67 per attempt. Much nicer. However, two of those plays were to Odoms for 27 yards and 24 yards each. That kind of skews the numbers. The other two were for 7 and 6 yards.
It's hard to give a definite answer on this age-old Michigan fan bitch. The fact that Michigan ran on 74% of those first downs tells you many things:
- Pehaps they were more successful passing those few times BECAUSEof all of the 1st down runs? Illinois defense was ready for the zone-read and were selling out to stop it. Those 6 passes caught them out of position and made it easier to complete a pass.
- Is it better to gain, on average, 2.41 yards on first down than to risk an incompletion, which gives you 2nd and 10 instead of 2nd and 7 or 8?
- Not only that, Threet has been wildly inaccurate thus far (under 50% competion) and at times he likes to throw the ball at A) Tacopants or B) guys wearing the other jersey. What is the risk/reward here? Obviously the coaching staff feels it is more risky to put the ball in Threet's hands on first down then to give it to McGuffie (thou shalt not fumble).
- The O-Line. As we know they are green and it shows. You're risking getting Threet killed the more you drop him back to pass. Not only that, you're looking at fumbles and sacks, too, further handicapping yourself.
- Keep in mind that Stonum and Hemingway were out yesterday. Those are your 2nd and 3rd outside receivers, by a wide margin, I think. When you are trying to stick Savoy (horrible dropped pass in the first half, BTW) and Zion Babb into Stonum and Hemingway's shoes you are asking for trouble. Imagine Chad Henne without Matthews and Arrington last year?? Not good. And he's Chad Henne for F sake!!
- Rodriguez's offense has historically been run-first, so, hey guess what? They are running first! I don't think you can blame him, he's got some good talent in McGuffie, Shaw, Minor and Grady, they just need more help from the O-Line.