Indiana game wrap, and Defending the Defense (with pics!)

Submitted by SFBayAreaBlue on October 7th, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Question; can a game that unfolds almost exactly the way you thought it would unfold be considered "weird?"

Chappell looked like a great pocket passer. Willis did his damage in limited oportunities. Denard was Denard (except when he wasn't).

But here's the weird thing. That game made me feel a whole lot better about the years to come, but it also made me feel a whole lot worse about the rest of this season. That is to say that I've come back down from the ND high of WOOOOOO dENARD!!!! WHOOOOHHHOOOO! Back down to 7-5 or 8-4 reasonable expectations. (Yes it is entirely possible we go 2-5 from here on out, and I'm steeling myself against that scenario. Still hoping for 12-0 of course!)

I know the mathlete just put up some good predictions that has us at 9 or so wins. Unfortunately our defense has a couple of things that just aren't going to be fixable for this season. Those two things are named 'inexperience' and 'James Rodgers'.  It's never nice to get on a kid's case and call him out by name, but...yeah. 

HOWEVAH! In the near ironic board meltdown following the close win, I had to take a stand against some of the negativity and offer up some silver lining for the maligned defense. After breaking down the tape, I'm even more convinced that Robinson knows what he's doing, and that we've got brighter days ahead next season and beyond. 

We are soooo close to having a good defense. I mean it is litterally just a matter of inches, a few fractions of a second. A defense needs to be consistent to force punts and end drives.  We actually managed quite a few of these in the second half. The 2nd half drives read Punt, TD, TO on downs, TO on downs, Punt, TD, Game. That's not that bad.

Right now we're getting a mediocre play, a good play, and then a breakdown that extends a drive or gives up a TD. If we could just get to mediocre, mediocre, mediocre, good,  we'd be stopping teams left and right. But like a chain, we're only as good as our weakest link, and right now we've got lots of young babby links out there that need to get battle hardened.

The good thing is that it looks like some of them have very high ceilings. Talbott, for one, looked half decent in man coverage. Floyd is impressive, even though he still makes lots of mistakes. At least he's making them at full speed. To be as good as he is, as young as he is, is a very good sign. (Of course if JT is reading this, just know that you're no Chuck Woodson, sorry can't let you get a big head)

No it wasn't perfect, no it wasn't good, no it wasn't even satisfactory in any way other than that we got the W. But if you're looking for positive signs, there are plenty to be had.  Against 90-some odd plays, the defense only really had 3-4 really bad schematic clusterf*CKs. And it's only fair, (and in fact constructive) to point these out. 

Constructive criticism is specifically pointing out mistakes in particular situations. It's not being a chicken little crying for someone to be fired and whining "WHY DID WE ONLY RUSH THR3333??!" If you want to be like that, please do us all a favor and take it somewhere else *cough*mlive*cough*.

When I look at this defense, I'm reminded of watching our offense from 2 years ago. You can see how the scheme is supposed to work. But we've just got too many mental errors or people that can't quite get to where they need to be fast enough. As they get more reps and things become reflexive, this defense will get better. (A few stud bluechips at DB and LB would help a lot too).

So Let's do this.

THE GOOD

Wooooo! Denard!

The 2nd play from scrimmage!

The line gets good movement (as they should against the Hoosiers)

Dilithium

There's an unblocked safety.

Dilithium2

But Denard makes him miss.

Dilithium3

AND! He gets downfield blocks that send him on his way.

Every week he provides more evidence that he's the real deal. Have you ever seen a cooler customer on the final drive?  It's 2nd and 2 with :47 seconds to go.

mouthpiece

The clock is running, he just picked up 8 yards on a rush.  TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK. Get the damn play called!  But Denard is completely zen.  He even drops his mouth piece after calling the play, scoops it up,

mouthpiece2

and calmly rushes the ball to midfield.  

Receivers are MAKING PLAYS!

(for reference)

Roundtree, Stonum, and Hemingway are all threats with the ball in their hands. The national media is of course focusing on Denard! (WOOO!) But when receivers are catching the ball, making people miss, and then running 70 yards to the house, they deserve some major props.

This is a base zone read bubble pass:

roundtreeplaymaker

Both defenders on the end get taken in by the fake. 

roundtreeplaymaker2

The hoosiers are actually in great position to either blow up this play or stop it for a moderate gain. There's only one blocker for two defenders.  

roundtreeplaymaker3

But because the ball is put perfectly in front of Roundtree, he's got upfield momentum and gets past the first man who had beaten his block.

roundtreeplaymaker4

Then he just runs around the unblocked safety to take it to the distance.  Even tho' it is only Indiana, this is still awesome. 

Hemingway had his best performance that I can remember. 

HemingwayTD

This is a play Brian gave RPS +4 on, I might argue for more. BOTH safeties and both linebackers are selling out to stop the run.

HemingwayTD2

The man covering the slot is concerned with the bubble pass, leaving an empty mid-zone, i.e. no one between Hemingway and the ball.

HemingwayTD3

And then he displays a nice stiff arm to free him on his jog to the endzone.

And I will never get tired of this play.

Denard takes one step towards the line and the defense craps its pants. 

ohwideopen

It's just wide open. Make that "Oh, WIDE OPEN."

ohwideopen2

Griese to Tuman or some other TE on a rollout was my favorite play for a long time, but this has replaced it.

Combo Coverage

When you're facing 4 or 5 WR, a 3-man rush is not a bad idea because it allows you to run combo coverage behind it.

combocov

2-Deep, looks like man coverage underneath, but really it's zone.  The man on the slot has good position for run support. The near cornerback is in bump 'n run with the tall and dangerous, but not necessarily quick, Belcher.

combocov2

Everyone is covered. Rodgers even manages to stay close enough to his man to dissuade a throw against the confusing look, and the 3-man rush gets pressure because Martin beats a double team. Plus we've got 4 extra men in coverage that are just waiting for Chappell to misread it as man coverage and try to force a ball in, so they can get an interception.

combocov3

Chappell cooly throws it away.

How the D is supposed to work.

Everyone hates the "Bend but don't break" philosophy especially when you end up being broken on half the drives.  But in some situations, it is the right call.

Bendnotbreak

It's 3rd and 10 near midfield.  If you get a stop, they probably have to punt. Both corners are playing soft. Rogers is playing a bit more soft to compensate for his lack of speed (and reflexes, and acceleration...)

Bendnotbreak2

This 2-deep coverage is meant to give the impression of man-to-man (and it would have if Rodgers was in the same time zone as his receiver...)

Bendnotbreak3

We've got 4 guys along the first down marker, the only man open is the short crossing route, which we gladly give up because we've got two men in position to make the tackle.  Result is a punt.

Mike Martin continues his path of destruction

Sometimes it's nice to have a good scheme. 

martinscreensniff

Sometimes it's nice just to have a player who's been around the block and is a man beast that can lift small cars with one hand.

martinscreensniff2

This is a really well-executed screen by Indiana's linemen. 

martinscreensniff3

They get 4 (FOUR!) linemen out in front of the play.  But something clicks in Martin's head and he diagnoses what's up. 

martinscreensniff4

How many nosetackles can run down a running back from behind? WOW. Mike Martin; Killing ragdolls and savin' our bacon. This would have been an easy TD for them.

THE BAD

Going to the Chappell

In retrospect, we gave this guy way too much time to pick us apart, and he delivered. His decision making was excellent, and he was very quick with most of his reads. The interception was both a bad throw and a bad read, but when a guy throws for 480 on you, there's not much to criticize.

Chapps

Quit Dossing around

I was impressed with how many ways Indiana was trying to get the ball to Doss. They did an excellent job of taking what we were giving, and taking it all day long. But they had a lot of wrinkles prepared.

On the 1st drive they put him in motion to get an unexpected bubble screen.

dossmotionwideopen

Floyd rolls back into a deep cover responsibility. The problem is Rodgers who is probably supposed to move up into more of a run support role. Of course, he's so untalented that the coaches are probably not trusting him to play close to the line, so he stays back.

dossmotionwideopen2

It looks like a run to the right, and our end man is completely sucked in and roh doesn't go with Doss, leaving him wide open for the bubble screen.

dossmotionwideopen3

With Rodgers playing so far off his receiver we have what looks like a three deep.

dossmotionwideopenhold

This play picked up huge yards as both of their blockers are holding, which wasn't called.

Later when we faced this motion, we made good adjustments to it schematically.

Darius Willis

Because of his offensive line, I think he's going to be an underrated back all year long. He reminds me of a slower version of Evan Royster.

willisarmtackle

willisarmtackle2

On this play he's got enough burst to split the partially blocked linebackers.

willisarmtackle3

willisarmtackle4

And he nearly runs through Floyd's arm tackle to go the distance, but looks like Floyd put some stickum on and he gets dragged for a lot of yards before finally bringing Willis down.

Here he is releasing to the flat:

Willisflat

We've got the bunch formation well covered, but the OLB to the bunch side is showing a blitz.

Willisflat2

It's a disguised coverage meant to get Roh an interception.

Willisflat3

Unfortunately, Kovacs is too far beyond the sticks. Chappell sees this and takes advantage. 

Willisflat4

We're so close to stopping this drive. But the walkon safety doesn't have the speed, so he's playing too far back, and can't come up quick enough.

But we adjusted to it later.

willisflatadjust

On this play, Floyd reacts to Willis going into the flat.

Willisflatadjust2

T-Gord on the other side has the bubblescreen covered.  And since it's zone, Floyd is free to pass his man to the LB.

Willisflatadjust3

What blows up this play for a TFL is Floyd's aggressiveness coming up and a nice job by the D-linemen to track down the ball.

Belcher's TD

Talbott had a pretty quiet day, which is a good thing for a DB. He spent most of his day locked onto Belcher in man to man. This is one of the reasons Doss got so many balls thrown to him.  

BelcherTD

Here they are at the bottom of the screen.

BelcherTD2

Belcher is bigger and phsyical, but Talbott is fighting nicely.  

BelcherTD3

The combo slant and outcut was just too finely executed on this play to stop.  But if you can force the receiver to make a great diving catch to beat you, that's not something to be too broken up about. It's way better than the automatic 7 yards that was being given up wherever Rodgers lines up.

Denard

Wait what?  Yeah, this is here just to be nitpicky coaching pursuit of perfection stuff. After Denard tweeked his knee, we had a bunch of bad drives in a row. He missed a wide open Hemingway on a pump-and-go:

wideopenmiss

Had three overthrows in total. 

wideopenmiss2

This should have been 6 pts.

And he needs to throw the damn bubble screen more!

Not every play needs to be a 70 yard TD.  (MWAHAHAHA, I love that I can even type that sentence). There's 3 defenders for two blockers, but the OLB is flat-footed. Denard needs to read that and take the 5-yard minimum gain. When you've got WRs like ours that can MAKE PLAYS!! you need to give them the ball and not take unnecessary hits to your bruised knee.

throwthedamnball

Here's another one,  This time it's 2 defenders for 1 blocker.  But with the corner that far off, it's an automatic 5 yards. Denard, your mission from now until OSU is to win games and DON'T GET HURT!

throwthedamnball2

FWIW, Tate's only pass of the day was a bad screen flare where he put the ball on the wrong shoulder and that killed his only drive.

Inexperience on D

It's really difficult for young players who are seeing funky formations and plays for the first time.

bunchmotion4WR

Indiana has 5WR and puts one in motion all the way to the far sideline. We've got 4 deep, (IN THE REDZONE!!?!?) And there's mass confusion.

bunchmotion4WR2

Nobody goes with the motion man, and we're so far off the ball, we're inviting a 7 yard hitch on either side. 

bunchmotion4WR3

Both OLB's blitz leaving Avery? to cover three men in space. Lucky for us that Chappell decided to take the easy seven yards. Had he thrown to either short man on the right, this would have been an easy TD for them. You have to say this was a bad scheme on this play.

But Indiana tried to come right back to it.

bunch4WRmanadj

This time, we're locked into tighter man coverage.  Maybe that's only because we're on the goaline, but at least this alignment doesn't look completely insane like the previous one did.

bunch4WRmanadj2

I'm a big advocate for this kind of combo package coverage where you've got some men in zone coverage, but the others 'look' like they're in man. The whole point is to make it difficult on the opposing QB. And only rushing 3 allows us to do that.

bunch4WRmanadj3

And when Mike Martin is busting through the line, it makes you think you can get away with a 3-man rush.

bunch4WRmanadj4

But Chappell is a cool customer and sidesteps the rush just enough to buy some time and find the open man, who gets behind a flat-footed Mouton.

bunch4WRmanadj5

A lesser QB could not have made this play against this D. We've got good coverage all over the field and a man about to run him over. But he still finds the right receiver and delivers a good ball under pressure.

Good call: Mouton is just a step slow to react. Chappell makes a great read and throw under pressure.

So Close...

Sometimes, we've got guys in position, but they're just not quite aware of the sticks or reacting quick enough to what's in front of them.

knowwherethesticksare

On this play, #5 is in position to make the tackle, he's just too far behind the sticks. 

knowwherethesticksare2

So Doss muscles forward for the 1st down. It would have helped if Roh had taken a better angle.

Does the "J" in J.T. stand for Journeyman?

Floyd spent his second week in a row being moved all over the place. I can understand why they're doing this (he's probably our best DB and we need to get our best athletes on the field.) But with all this moving around, you expect him to get confused occassionally.

floydLBzone

On this play he gets caught looking at the underneath crossing route when what he needs to be doing is getting depth in his zone to squeeze off the seam route. The cross will be picked up by Mouton, so his false step here was not going to help anyone.  And of course Rodgers was in his usual position.

floydLBzone2

Floyd leaps for the ball, but between his mistake, and the safety playing way too soft, there's a ton of room for Chappell to lob the ball into. If only Floyd could jump as high as the linebackers in NCAA05, it would have been an automatic interception...

floydLBzone3

C-Gord does lay a nice lick on the TE who does a good job of holding onto the ball. Gordon had lots of good hits, he just needs to not be giving up so much room underneath.

Here's another play where the safety is back way too far against the bunch formation. 

gordonbunchcorner

I mean, he's not even in the picture. Literally.

gordonbunchcorner2

We've got 2 out of 4 receivers decently covered.

gordonbunchcorner3

But Gordon is way too far off to make a play on this deep out.

Roh in space

So the big controversy on defense this week centers around whether Roh is better utilized as a pass rusher or can he be a true OLB? I tend to lean towards the camp that says he should rush more often than drop, but his athleticism makes it tempting to try more things with him.

Here he is in pass coverage:

rohpassdropzone

He takes one false step going wide instead of getting depth.

rohpassdropzone2

And that gives Chappell just enough room to hit the slant.

rohpassdropzone3

Schematically he's in the right position.  But he's just slow to recognize the play.  You need lightning-quick reactions on defense and that comes from experience, film study, and repetitions. Like Alvin Mack, you need to know who to kill and where to go against a huge number of plays.

 

But for anyone who wants to pick on GERG, just look at this later play when Roh gets it right:

rohpassdropzoneadjust

Against the bunch formation, Roh gets depthin because Rodgers (who again isn't in the same area code as his receiver) has outside flat responsibilities.

rohpassdropzoneadjust2

This was one of the few poor decisions Chappell made (the other was the interception). He has the flat for the 1st down, but gets greedy and goes back to the seam route. This time, Roh is in position to make it a more difficult throw. 

rohpassdropzoneadjust3

Chappell has to get it over his tall reach and overthrows the receiver.

On this play Roh is in a more traditional stack look.

LBsmissmotion

But he doesn't see Doss coming in motion.

LBsmissmotion2

And because he doesn't go with Doss, it makes for an easy blocking assignment for the bubble screen.

LBsmissmotion3

You can tell that it's a mistake by Roh because the DE is already upfield making Roh's instinctive rush redundant.

But later in the game, he sees it and makes the play:

rohmotionadjust

From virtually the same alignment, this time he picks up Doss and slides outside of the DE.

rohmotionadjust2

Kovacs (who is by far our smartest player, if I could put his mind and heart into Mouton's body, and then clone them, we'd be just fine on Defense) is not letting the TE get a free release,  something I think we should do more of. One of the LBs is going with Willis.

rohmotionadjust3

Everyone is in pretty good coverage, except the comeback route is open for a 1 yard gain.  I don't mind giving that up.

The Gordons and Talbot look fairly talented and will get better with more PT; they just need to tighten up to the receivers and react a hair quicker, but they look like they'll be solid next year.

THE UGLY

Denard's fumbled snap. 

He also put it on the ground on another run. This needs to be fixed. When WVU was really clicking, the only time they lost was when they had oodles of turnovers. With our defense we cannot afford to not score on drives.

James "Serta" Rodgers.

I've probably covered this enough already, but just to summarize, he is the weakest link. No, that's not surprising given what's happened to the depth chart at corner.

It's so bad that it's hard to tell who he's covering and whether he's supposed to be in zone or man. He's just kind of over there on one side. By the 2nd half, Indiana was actively targeting him on a large percentage of plays. He's giving up the 7-yard out:

rodgersugh

ALL THE FREAKING TIME. 

rodgersugh2

It's like he has no idea what the down and distance are. Either that, or he's just not capable of doing anything about it.

rodgersugh3

This was a 3rd and very long, and he gives up an easy first down.

At this point he needs to be taken off the field on some plays. With opposing offenses looking for him, maybe his absence will cause them a moment of confusion. There's a great story about how QBs were so focused on finding Lawrence Taylor before the snap that one time when he was on the bench, the QB was so confused he had to take a time out.

Seriously, if Cullen Christian or any converted WR can pull a Talbott and just give the impression of being able to cover someone, it'll be a step up from what we've got now. It certainly can't be any worse. 

Clusterf*ck against the unbalanced line.

This was probably the single worst defensive play from a schematic standpoint. Give credit to Indiana for coming up with a good play, but we were completely out of position on this and we played it bad on top of that:

unbalancedcf

Indiana comes out in an unbalanced line. Unfortunately NO ONE sees it. Or at least no one adjusts to it. Doss goes in motion and Floyd floats back as if that was a short corner with no WR over there.

unbalancedcf2

Patterson? is in the wrong gap. It's up to one of the safeties or Ezeh to see the formation and get the nose tackle to slide over. Instead, we've got 4 guys covering two linemen. Just days after I ripped Indiana for doing the same thing against one of their cupcakes, -- guess what -- we did the same thing:

unbalancedcf3

C-Gordon reacts to Doss's end-around fake, and the O-line takes a hard first step to their right. So now, not only are we not lined up right against the unbalanced, they've put us essentially two men down on that side by their at-the-snap movement.

unbalancedcf4

Mouton and Ezeh get sucked in by the fullback heading to the left, and we've got three guys covering air. Meanwhile, since the center has no one to block, he's free to release onto Ezeh.

unbalancedcf5

Floyd takes himself out of the play by following Doss (which is not a terrible thing if he gets the end-around, but it's entirely unnecessary against this unbalanced look. Roh has got it in his mind that he's pass rushing, and that makes for an easy kickout block. Carvin Johnson (#13) is about to be destroyed by someone who weighs about 150 lbs more than him. And C-Gord is so far out of position that there's nothing he can do. But hey, we've got 4 guys who could stop the end-around...

unbalancedcf6

And so Willis gets to run through a hole you could drive a truck through, and laughed his way to the endzone completely untouched.

Donkey Unsportsmanlike

Not sure what happened with Taylor on the last TD because the cameras cut away. But it might have had something to do with the awesome DOUBLE pancake block he got after Denard had leapt through the hole.

leywanfoul

Pam Ward. 

'nuff said.

In conclusion:

Denard is still TEH AWESOEM! But he has things he needs to work on.

WR, major props.

GERG is not the problem. (Rodgers is)

And Roh has the capability to get better as a LB in space. 

Go Blue!

Comments

Blue in Seattle

October 7th, 2010 at 4:54 PM ^

Dude, I no words have.

but this makes me feel like things will get better when facing a more run balanced offense, with Herron returning and Jibreel coming into his own.

for the amount of experience we got against 5 WR's I just can't believe that doesn't prepare us for 2WR's and a TE.

I mean won't that allow us to rush 5 when we need to?

this was awesome, hilarious, and completely uplifting, please keep it coming.

You've earned a spot on the front page IMHO

JD_UofM_90

October 7th, 2010 at 8:31 PM ^

never puts WR in motion to "confuse" the defense or force and last second changes/decision.  So, our defense probably never has much of chance to practices against situations like that.  The WR in motion faking a handoff is something our offense does.  Can't believe they are not more prepared to handle that situation better.   

I agree.  This post was very good.  Keep them coming.  The blue lines / comments are the best....

UMGooch

October 7th, 2010 at 5:01 PM ^

This is awesome. Can't wait to save this for my Friday.

When I grow up, I want to be able to understand football like you (and Brian and all the others). Right now, I just cheer wildly when offense is on the field and cross my fingers and curl my toes hoping we prevent those first downs.

Michigan4Life

October 7th, 2010 at 5:06 PM ^

this should be on the main post on the front page.  GERG is dealt with a bad hand and tries to do with what he has at his disposal.  Too bad that Michigan defense simply either lacks talent and/or depth to make the defense at least respectable.  The UMass game was simply a result of laziness of gameplan IMO.

Pea-Tear Gryphon

October 7th, 2010 at 5:21 PM ^

I love the ad libs to the pics and you put in a ton of effort. But dude, it's Rogers not RoDgers. If you're going to kill the kid, at least get his name right. Woolfork and Kovacks agree with me.

steelymax

October 7th, 2010 at 5:48 PM ^

Inexperience on D ... It's really difficult for young players who are seeing funky formations and plays for the first time.

Unfortunately, this is what Sparty will be doing on Saturday.

awolfinwater

October 7th, 2010 at 6:07 PM ^

Thanks for the writeup. I really enjoyed the read and your conclusions concerning our defense. Interested to see how the defense fares this week against a more balanced attack.

WolverBean

October 7th, 2010 at 7:57 PM ^

When I look at this defense, I'm reminded of watching our offense from 2 years ago.  You can see how the scheme is supposed to work.  But we've just got too many mental errors or people that can't quite get to where they need to be fast enough.

Quoted for truth.

dwinning

October 8th, 2010 at 12:37 AM ^

Listen boys, I don't have the points since I've only ever been a stalker here for four years, but I really think someone needs to start a NOTHING BUT OPTIMISM THREAD on here.  Seriously, just a huge circle jerk of us telling each other why we're going to dominate those brokedick bitches saturday, get some of our swagger back.   We're Michigan for fucksake, let's discuss how we're gonna sparty home sobbing in their natty ice. 

Wado

October 8th, 2010 at 5:45 PM ^

This brought back some unpleasant moments back to mind like the secondary looking at each other in confusion, but it those good points you brought up that most of us won't notice are great to hear, thanks for doing it.