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How important is ST play relative to the other two phases?

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by Fencer, Apr 25, 2010.

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  1. Fencer

    Fencer Rookie

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    The ST plays that matter are:

    Kickoffs (receiving or covering)
    Punts (ditto)
    FGs (attempting or defending)

    PATs almost always succeed, so I'm not counting those.

    There's probably an average of a little under once such play per drive. Most drives start with one. (Exceptions = TO, TO on downs.) Few drives have two. (Exceptions = successful FG attempts -- the unsuccessful FG attempt was the start of the next drive ;) )

    FGs and punts are pretty rarely blocked -- indeed, I'm not sure if trying hard to block punts is even a good idea the way the penalties are these days. That said, the Pats have basically won a couple of games in the BB era due to blocked FGs, including one AFC Championship game.

    The difference between being really good or really bad on kickoffs or punts (either side of the ball) is an average of a few yards per play.

    So the "1/3" of the game that is STs -- if you take out the performance of the kicker/holder/longsnapper, just what fraction of the game is it? I'm thinking in the 15% range ...
  2. Brady2Welker

    Brady2Welker Rookie

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    Field Position is gold.
  3. Fencer

    Fencer Rookie

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    Actually, there were studies showing that field position had a surprisingly low effect on the final outcome of a drive. (Unless, of course, you already start w/in scoring range or something.)
  4. Satchboogie3

    Satchboogie3 Rookie

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    Yes, it might be a low effect per drive, but add all the drives up in a game and you are looking at a substantial effect.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2010
  5. Fencer

    Fencer Rookie

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    Add up all the offensive plays per game and you're looking at a much greater effect.

    I'm trying to compare the relative importance of offense and STs (or of defense and STs, since I take it as a given that offense and defense are substantially the same importance).
  6. patsfanboy

    patsfanboy Rookie

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    #80 Jersey

    ST is really important, i mean look at last season the dolphins vs the jets, they won because of 2 touchdown from the KR.
  7. Fencer

    Fencer Rookie

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    Thank you.

    Do you think ST is as important as offense, as in "1/3 of the game"? More? Less? If less, how much less?
  8. BradyFTW!

    BradyFTW! PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #12 Jersey

    Under today's rules, I'd say it's about 50% offense, 40% defense, 10% ST. Maybe even more offense-centric than that.

    That said, even if it is 10%, most games are so closely contested that the difference between bad ST and good ST is enough to potentially swing the outcome.

    It's obviously not as important as offense and defense: if it was, you'd see dedicated ST guys being taken early (or at all) in the draft, rather than the bottom half of the roster being reserved for them. But Belichick clearly thinks that it matters more than most other coaches give it credit for, and with stuff like this he's usually right.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2010
  9. mgteich

    mgteich PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    40-40-20

    Consider the effect of
    a really bad field goal kicker
    a really bad puinter
    a really bad long snapper
    a really bad return game
    a really bad return coverage game

    belichick exagerrates at 33%. However, I think that we greatly underestimate the value of a good punter and a good gunner.
  10. robertweathers

    robertweathers Rookie

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    We all saw those numbers after the 4th and 2 fiasco. But yes- you are correct.

    All in all, I thought the St units were uninspiring last year. Could be due to a drought in talent or just lack of motivation to excel. I look forward to some more energy from the units this year.
  11. Fencer

    Fencer Rookie

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    If you leave FG accuracy out of it, which is mainly on the K/holder/LS, what would your 20% drop to?

    How about if you took the punter and returners out as well?

    What I'm driving at is trying to figure out whether the kick cover guys, or the guys who skillfully block the kick cover guys, are really all that important.
  12. mgteich

    mgteich PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    OK, we're talking about the cover guys. I think that it is important to have two top gunners. After that, I think that position players and backups should be able to carry the load.

    IMHO, we had way too many coverage specialists last year in Aiken, Slater, Arrington, Alexander and Lockett. Perhaps I am being unfair to Aiken, who had a real wide receiver position in 2009.

    My personal hope is to have no more than two such players on the final 53 man roster.

  13. convertedpatsfan

    convertedpatsfan PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    If the difference between a good kick/punt/return and a bad one was only a few yards, I'd agree with you, but that's not the case. If you look at the net average of punters in 2009, you'll find almost a 10-yard difference between first (Lechler, 43.9) and last (NE's Hanson, 34.7). That's significant.

    In terms of kickoff return average, there's over a 10-yard difference between first (Smith, 29.1) and last (Caldwell, 18.6). For punt returns, DeSean Jackson averaged 15.1 yards, well ahead of Reggie Bush at 4.8 yards or Arnaz Battle at 2.9 yards. That doesn't factor in big plays. 14 kickoff returners combined to score 18 TDs in 2009, but 25 registered at least one return for 60 yards or more.

    Field position does have an impact on scoring according to this study on Expected Points. And 10 yards is huge. It's approximately a half point difference in expected points.

    Rick Gosselin also has some of the disparities in special teams in his annual report on ST. This link features the 2008 stats, and you see similar differences. Some interesting numbers include only 7 NFL teams having 0 blocked kicks allowed, while 23 teams blocked at least 1 kick. So it's not as rare as one might think. And while 9 teams gave up 0 points on ST, Minnesota gave up 44 in 2008.

    There are a lot of different ways of looking at it and I'm sure I'm only scratching the surface of it. But I don't think you can separate the kicker/punter/returner from the "special teams" side. How your STers do play a large part in the type of return that is possible, and if you think all STs are equal, ask the Steelers in 2009, who gave up 4 kick return TDs during a streak of 8 straight games allowing some type of return TD which pretty much ended their chances of a title defense.
  14. Fencer

    Fencer Rookie

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    That's kind of where I'm going with this.

    If the LBs aren't geriatric, converted DEs, or Brandon Spikes, they should be able to run downfield and cover kicks. Ditto TEs. And all of the above should be able to block for the punter before doing so.

    The DBs and faster WRs should be able to cover kicks.

    The best CBs and WRs from the press-coverage battles should be able to block gunners at the LOS. (I still remember Ty Law and Troy Brown double-teaming a gunner and just swallowing him up.)

    Etc.
  15. Uncle Rico

    Uncle Rico Rookie

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    No Jersey Selected


    i'll go 35-35-30.
  16. Fencer

    Fencer Rookie

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    OK. Best to worst is 10 yards per drive. That's non-trivial. Without looking it up, I'd guess that the difference between best and worst offense (or defense) is on the order of 20 yards per drive. When adding in the field position value of TOs, it probably gets into the 20s.

    That would support my guess that the field position part of STs is worth 15% or less of the overall game. I was actually guessing in the 5-7% range, which might turn out to be a little low ...
  17. patsfanboy

    patsfanboy Rookie

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    #80 Jersey

    For me all 3 is even as a part of the game, not scoring wise ( i know you win with the bigger score) but each play is important. Sometimes you can't score with the offense, other times you can't figure the defense out, and ST can either save or kill you , regardless, when you have that many variables to deal with, going to game to game, all 3 phases become equally important, and that is what BB is trying to say.

    But scoring wise, which this thread relates, i'll say 35 Offense - 40 Defense - 25 Specials Teams. Defense is the only phase that you can stop the play and also score, so that is the main reason i think it is the most important. Offense is the scoring machine however they always have the most pressure, but they do get most of the glory. ST helps a lot and it rarely backfires, well it mostly really depends on the skills of the kicker/punter.
  18. Fencer

    Fencer Rookie

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    I think it's almost tautological that offense and defense are of equal or almost equal importance. After all, the purpose of one is to make the other unsuccessful, and vice-versa.

    Anything good that one can do, the other can in principle negate and prevent.
  19. spacecrime

    spacecrime Rookie

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    Get outta here. You're making that up, right? What studies?

    You tell me that a fair catch punt on your own 20 and a 30-yard return to midfield does not affect the likelihood of scoring points?

    I'd need links to those studies.
  20. Fencer

    Fencer Rookie

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    Absolutely.

    One of my favorite hobbies is making things up that have no basis in fact, then posting them on message boards. How could you tell?
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