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Controlling the clock...

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by Sicilian, Jan 13, 2011.

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  1. Sicilian

    Sicilian On the Roster

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    This is a phrase I've been hearing all week, and I wanted to discuss it in detail because I think it's one of the most misunderstood theories in modern football:

    "To win on Sunday, the Jets need to establish the run so they can control the clock and limit Brady's possessions."

    Sounds great in theory, and plays into the Jets' offensive strengths, the running game. But let's break down the reasons for this strategy and see what they really mean:

    1) Running the ball is how you control the clock. Not entirely. The key to controlling the clock is getting first downs. That's what extends drives and leads to more plays. Running the ball has a greater chance of the clock still moving, but against any decent run defense you'll need the pass to chew up some clock by converting 3rd downs.

    2) Controlling the clock means running a lot of game time down. Again, not necessarily. If you're looking to keep your defense rested with extended drives, it doesn't really matter how much clock is run... it matters how many PLAYS you run. Whether the game clock is moving or not, there is roughly 30-40 seconds between each play that the defense is resting. They don't magically stay tired if the drive only ate up two minutes, if there were seven or eight incompletions (admittedly that would take some epic 3rd down conversions), that's still about four more real life minutes of rest for your D (plus timeouts).

    3) Controlling the clock means less possessions for X This part is true, but it also means you have fewer possessions for YOU. Holding Tom Brady to four possessions because all of the drives took seven or eight minutes for each team only helps if your guy has MORE SUCCESSFUL drives than Tom Brady. The theory is that the sample size is smaller, so that's more likely (whereas over the course of more possessions, eventually the better QB will win), but as we saw with Peyton vs. the Dolphins last year, all the ToP in the world didn't help because Peyton simply took advantage of every drive he had.

    Conclusion drawn from these, the only way to truely limit Tom Brady's possessions in a meaningful way is to create turnovers, be they on defense or special teams. That instantly takes any more chances on that drive away from him, and gives them to you. That's how you get more "real" drives than the other team. The idea that simply running the ball means you're effectively limiting Brady is far too simplistic.

    Any thoughts? It's just one of those football cliches that has never sat well with me.
  2. MustaphaM0nd

    MustaphaM0nd Rookie

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    Amen. Both losses this year, turning over the ball gave the other team extra possessions and killed the gameplan. Lets hope Brady is his sterling self this weekend.
  3. Boston Boxer

    Boston Boxer U.S. Air Force Retired PatsFans.com Supporter

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    it only works if the Jets are winning the game...if they fall behind by a couple of TD, then they cant stick with the run at all.
  4. jmt57

    jmt57 Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I think this is one of those football clichés that made sense forty years ago, but has stuck around despite no longer being as meaningful due to changes in the way football in the NFL is played.

    Back then quarterbacks were completing 45-50% of their passes with a higher percentage of passes intercepted, so passing the ball was much more riskier than it is today. If you were dependent on passing the ball there was a much bigger chance of an incompletion leading to a three and out, or turning the ball over with an interception. So at that time it was more important to be able to run the ball effectively - even when the opponent was expecting you to run.

    There have been multiple rule changes that have opened up the passing game in the NFL and that in turn has lessened the importance of the running game - and controlling the clock. I won't go so far to say that it is a meaningless stat, but I do believe "controlling the clock" is a cliché that is over stated by many in its importance to winning a game.


    Another thing to consider with time of possession (i.e., controlling the clock) and the correlation to winning is the question of which is the cause and which is the effect? The presumption is that controlling the clock (TOP) results in winning, but is that always the case? What that premise ignores is that when a team has a lead one thing they are trying to achieve late in the game is to work the clock - so they run the ball, stay inbounds, snap the ball with one second left, etcetera in an effort to take as much time as possible off the clock; this results in a higher time of possession. On the other hand the team that is behind is doing the opposite, which will result in a lower TOP in their final stats. Then somebody will hold up the TOP differential as proof of the defining factor leading to the win, when in actuality that probably had nothing to do with it.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2011
  5. Kid~Brady

    Kid~Brady Rookie

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    Lol, they did last game against us. They were down by alot and continued to run the ball. I couldnt believe my eyes, Rexy was hoping for that lucky TD run from their own 19 hahahah
  6. cstjohn17

    cstjohn17 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    It could work out in reverse too, often when offenses are on the bench for a long time they seem to press or can't find their rhythm. If the Patriots can have a few long drives (even better if they score), Sanchez will have a lot of time on the bench to think about what a tool he is. I could see him coming out and wetting his pants in that situation.

    An LT fumble on the 1 yard line would be even better.
  7. lamafist

    lamafist Rookie

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    Actually, reducing the total number of possessions in the game for both teams is a solid strategy for an underdog. It's simple probability and game theory.

    Think of each possession as a mini-game, with the Patriots scoring a TD on 35% of their drives and the Jets on 17.5%. The more times this game is iterated, the more likely it is that the results will resemble their expected averages. The fewer times, the smaller the sample size, the more likely that one aberrant iteration - one pair of possessions where the Jets score a TD and the Patriots don't - will skew the overall results.

    Thus, all other factors being equal, the fewer possessions in the game, the more likely the upset.
  8. Titanium Coate Hanger

    Titanium Coate Hanger Rookie

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    I agree with the "rhythm" comment and don't think it's a cliche.

    Over time, the way to consistently win NFL playoff football is with a tough hard hitting defense and a power rushing attack. Teams that are pass happy ( no huddle/run and shoot or spread) tend to falter in the post season. There are a lot of factors. One is you are facing better defenses. As your QB ages, you want to ask him to do more with fewer opportunities, to pick his spots, not have the weight of an offense on his back. That's the real problem with the Eagles. They were a pass happy offense, gunning it 70 percent of the time, with a QB, McNabb, who wasn't super accurate, didn't have the highest possible football IQ out there and who had a skill set that might not have been the best fit in the West Coast Offense. To be fair to McNabb, he did have success in the system, but often I considered it a round peg in a square hole.

    When McNabb got hurt, you saw a much more balanced Eagles offense with more emphasis on running the ball.

    Running the ball lets you form offensive rhythm, pounds the other sides defense, keeps your defense fresh, chews clock and saves your energy in the late game situations. When Arizona, relatively pass happy, lost the Superbowl, their defense was gassed in the 4th quarter.

    Mankins and Vollmer are nasty road grader type of linemen. Let them get going, get their juices flowing and let them steamroll some people. Passing attack is like calling in the Air Force to do some carpet bombing. The ground attack is like calling in the Marines to gut someone in the trenches. I think there are just too many benefits, including morale and offensive rhythm, to pass up the chance to punch someone in the mouth and keep punching them.
  9. lamafist

    lamafist Rookie

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    One problem is that pundits and commentators don't really understand that it only makes sense for a team to try to control the clock and reduce the number of possessions is if they think that they are, overall, the weaker team.

    When two relatively evenly matched teams like the Colts and Pats play, however, there's no real reason for either team to control the game clock and reduce the number of possessions. If you're equally confident of your team's ability to score on a given possession, all you'd be accomplishing is slowing down your own offense to keep theirs off the field.

    In these cases, real time does become more relevant than game-clock time, in terms of an offense's ability to tire out the opposing defense and keep the opposing offense playing 'cold,' if there is such a thing.
  10. Ice_Ice_Brady

    Ice_Ice_Brady Rookie

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    I've never bought into the idea that a solid running game is how to derail a high-powered offense. Yes, it helps, but it's about moving the ball and scoring. You can beat a great team if you score a lot of points; inevitably the drives will consume the clock, neutralize their points, and make them play from behind or tied.

    A good running game is usually setup by a competent, efficient passing game. If you look at the two Patriot losses this year, it was the passing game that killed us- yes, Peyton Hillis ran wild, but the Pats were completely confused with McCoy and couldn't confidently commit to stopping the run.

    Lots of teams have gone into the postseason and failed with the power approach. If you look at the most successful teams of the last decade, you see a lot of prolific quarterbacks.

    I think red-zone offense is really the most important factor. If you move the ball for 10 minutes and end up with three points, that's where you've really failed against a tough opponent.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2011
  11. Timbo717

    Timbo717 Rookie

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    They have to establish the run, but part of that is to get more people to commit to stopping the run, thus leaving less people back to take advantage of any bad passes that Sanchez makes. If your d-line is more or less stopping the run, your LB's are going to be in coverage more often and thus be more guys that you have to throw the ball by. When you have a young QB with questionable accuracy and questionable decision-making, that is extremely key. Sanchez has not proved that he can thread the needle with his passes yet.
  12. JustinTuckRule

    JustinTuckRule Banned

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    Ok and with you beat up D Line besides wilfork, Running the ball for first downs is easier than if you were healthy

    Its going to be a good game but that will be the Jets game plan and I'm sure they'll have the run set for either side and in Sanchez's cadence he will call which direction (to run from Wilfork if he is lined up at the end). If he is in the middle they will run outside. We've had great success with the O Power. The guard pulling through.

    Good luck.
  13. lamafist

    lamafist Rookie

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    At this point in the NFL, with all but a few teams able to complete passes at better than a 60% clip, we've reached a point where on 1st and 2nd down, the primary use of the running game is to prevent diminishing returns from the passing game.

    In the NFL, passes have netted a greater number of yards per attempt than runs for decades, but rushing remained the more efficient means of getting first downs, sustaining drives and putting yourself in the best position to score points. When the average QB was still completing only ~50% of his passes, passing was more of a boom/bust proposition -- the big gains were nice, but with half of all passing attempts gaining no yards, throwing on early downs was best done sparingly, for risk of putting yourself in 3rd and long, and ending the drive.

    The increase in completion percentage in the modern era of the NFL has changed the distribution of yardage gained so that the passing play not only nets more yards on average, but is also more consistent at getting you closer to a first down. In other words, passing is more efficient at "ball control" (though still not clock control.)

    Running the ball, and running the ball successfully, is still important in the NFL, though. If teams abandoned the run completely, their passing attempts would suffer from diminishing returns, as opposing defenses focused entirely on rushing the passer and coverage. It turns out you need to run the ball about 1/3 of the time in order to make it worth it to defenses to respect the run. So since you need to run that often to keep the passing game working, if you're not successful when you run the ball, you're going to put yourself in 3rd and long situations, which can kill drives.

    The other way in which running the ball remains crucial is in short-yardage situations. On 3rd and 4th and less than 3 yards to go, the ideal ratio reverses -- running the ball has a better success rate for picking up the first down, but you need to pass the ball (often w/ play action) in short yardage situations or else defenses can stop honoring the pass as much.
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