How the Titans sacked the passer in 2011, part three

It’s time for the third installment in my little series on how the Titans sacked the passer in 2011.

As I noted in part one, the Titans did not get to the passer either very often or very frequently, ranking 31st in the league in both categories. The Titans did have a few highlights from a pass-rushing perspective, though, but they also had three games where they didn’t record a single quarterback sack.

Part one of this series covered the Titans’ first four games. Part two covered weeks five through nine. This third part covers the third quarter of the Titans’ season and most of their contests against the NFC South. It begins with a win in Carolina, continues on to a loss in Atlanta, then a home win against Tampa Bay, and finally a win in Buffalo. Part four, which will run this week, will cover the Titans’ final four games. Finally, in part five, which should run Monday, I’ll take the details in parts one through four and try to draw some broader themes about the Titans’ pass rush in 2011.

WEEK 10-AT CAROLINA-Cam Newton-40 attempts, 5 sacks, 8 QB hits
Like most of the teams we saw in the previous installment, the Panthers were just a little below-average in terms of getting sacked. They finished 21st overall at 7.2%, ranking just behind the Steelers and ahead of the Texans. This was far from their finest hour, though, as the QB hits total generally indicates the Titans had a lot of sacks because they got a lot of pressure.

1-10-CAR 20 (1Q-5:45) (Shotgun) C.Newton sacked at CAR 14 for -6 yards (W.Witherspoon).
Nothing too complicated here. Pre-snap motion makes it clear the Titans are in a formation with a single defender in the deep middle (cover-1/cover-3). Witherspoon comes unblocked around right end, and is on Newton before he has a chance to throw the ball.

1-10-CAR 40 (2Q-14:53) C.Newton sacked at CAR 30 for -10 yards (J.Jones).
No all-22/end zone angle for this play, sadly, as I’d have liked to see it. This is a T/E stunt, as RDT Marks, lined up in a 1-tech does a good job of shooting the gap, occuping the center and right guard. That creates a a good lane for RDE Jones to shoot through and get on Newton quickly. Worth noting is that LT Gross steps back, preparing for a rush, rather than aggressively playing for the punch. The Titans seem to run a T/E stunt to the other side as well, which the Panthers also don’t do a very good job of picking up.

2-8-CAR 43 (3Q-11:03) (Shotgun) C.Newton sacked at CAR 29 for -14 yards (C.Finnegan).
It’s a zone blitz; the left guard picks up McCarthy, who’s coming but not super-aggressively. With DeAngelo Williams moving out to chip RDE Jones, there’s nobody to pick up the hard-charging Cortland. Having missed his chance to throw, Newton has no chance but to try to run, but can’t get away. One other point is that Finnegan initially lined up outside of Jones, but moved inside of him on his rush.

1-10-TEN 19 (3Q-6:15) C.Newton sacked at TEN 26 for -7 yards (sack split by W.Hayes and S.Marks).
Indecision kills quarterbacks. Newton has time, but nobody comes open downfield. J.J. Cooper timed this sack at 3.7 seconds, but it feels a lot longer than that. Coverage sack.

1-10-TEN 33 (4Q-1:26) (Shotgun) C.Newton sacked at TEN 42 for -9 yards (A.Ayers).
It’s garbage time. The Titans show a 3-man rush but ultimately bring 5. Ayers is one of the two extras, and uses his speed to get around RT Bell and take down Newton.

WEEK 11-AT ATLANTA-Matt Ryan-32 attempts, 0 sacks, 1 QB hit
The Falcons were pretty good at avoiding sacks last year, finishing seventh in Adjusted Sack Rate at 5.1%. They weren’t normally this good, though, but after last week’s excellent game the Titans got hardly a sniff on Ryan.

WEEK 12-VS. TAMPA BAY-Josh Freeman-32 attempts, 2 sacks, 2 QB hits
The Bucs may have mostly given up the last couple weeks of the year and Josh Freeman had a disappointing season, but that didn’t mean he took a ton of sacks. Not as good as the Falcons, but still above-average at 6.2%, ranking 14th. Freeman also scrambled twice, and I manually removed a spike from his attempts total.

2-17-TB 45 (2Q-7:17) J.Freeman sacked at TB 39 for -6 yards (D.Ball). FUMBLES (D.Ball), RECOVERED by TEN-D.Ball at TB 38. D.Ball to TB 38 for no gain (J.Freeman).
The playcall is a quick screen to the left side. RDE Ball is left unblocked, jumps up to obstruct Freeman’s throwing lane, then knocks the ball out of his hands. Nice play.

3-6-TB 27 (2Q-2:58) (Shotgun) J.Freeman sacked at TB 21 for -6 yards (D.Ball).
RDE Ball’s lined up in what looks like a 7-tech, not the wide-9. LT Penn bites on what looks like an inside move, and Ball takes advantage of what I think is his overcommitment to turn the corner and bring down Freeman.

WEEK 13-AT BUFFALO-Ryan Fitzpatrick-45 attempts, 1 sack, 4 QB hits
The Bills were the one team sacked even less frequently than the Titans, coming in at 3.8% ASR to the Titans’ 4.2%. Like Freeman, Fitzpatrick scrambled twice and had one spike I manually removed from his attempts total.

3-5-BUF 25 (3Q-5:39) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick sacked at BUF 19 for -6 yards (K.Klug).
The Bills go empty, and the Titans line up like they are and are indeed in a two-deep shell. RDE Ball and LDE Morgan both converge on Fitzpatrick with good bull rushes, moving the respective OTs back toward the passer. Thus flushed, Klug eventually gets the edge on LG Levitre and brings him down after 4.6 seconds.

Weeks 14-17 will be covered in part four over the weekend, and then it’s time to draw some conclusions. 

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