How the Titans were sacked in 2011, part two

It’s now time for part two of my series on how the Titans were sacked in 2011.

As I noted in part one, the best way to describe how the Titans were sacked in 2011 was “not very often.” They finished second in the league in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Sack Rating. Further, not every sack is a negative play; a loss of yardage is generally better than a quarterback trying to force a play that isn’t there and risking a turnover. Still, the Titans were sacked in 2011, and sacks are bad, mmkay?

Part one of this series covers the Titans’ first four games. This part two covers the second quarter of the Titans’ 2011 season, include a road loss in Pittsburgh, a home loss to the Texans, a home win against the Colts, and a home loss against Cincinnati. Part three, which will run on Wednesday, covers the ninth through twelfth games the Titans played, while part four, which will run on Thursday, covers the Titans’ final four games. Finally, this series concludes with part five on Friday, in which I take the detail in parts one through four and try to extract the broader themes.

WEEK 5-AT PITTSBURGH-Hasselbeck 49 pass attempts, 3 sacks, 1 intentional grounding, 7 QB hits
The Steelers were not actually that great a sacking team this year, ending up behind the Jaguars at 14th in the league in ASR, 6.8%. They still did enough, though, to bedevil the Titans once again, in what’s starting to feel like a regular rite. Their 7 QB hits would be a season-higher for the Titans to allow, and 3 sacks would tie for the most times a Titans QB would go down in a single game. Fifty-two is an awful lot of opportunities, though, so even in this game Hasselbeck’s sack rate was less than league-average ASR for the year.

1Q-2-7-PIT 7 (9:39) M.Hasselbeck sacked at PIT 12 for -5 yards (L.Woodley).
When you have two receivers in the end zone, both of them covered, and they’re standing about three yards away from each other, you have issues. Both Graham and Washington cut off their routes, and Hasselbeck has nowhere to throw the ball. That gives Woodley enough time to overpower and shed Hall’s block and take down Hasselbeck. It looks like the Steelers make a very good pre-snap defensive adjustment to flood that side of the field, though maybe it was just they weren’t worried about Lavelle Hawkins winning against single coverage.

2Q-3-8-TEN 43 (3:40) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck sacked at TEN 34 for -9 yards (sack split by L.Woodley and E.Hood).
It’s one of those cool formations where the Steelers have one down lineman with his hand in the dirt, and a bunch of players milling around the line of scrimmage, which means Hasselbeck has no idea who’s coming and who’s in coverage. The Titans have a bunch to the left side, but the Steelers cover all three receivers thanks to Polamalu jetting over from hovering around the line presnap to take away Washington’s otherwise-open curl. Hasselbeck was ready to throw the ball, but pumps and looks to evade to buy time. Hood and Woodley beat Amano and Scott, respectively, though, and he immediately gets to eat the ball.

4Q-(4:40) (No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck sacked at PIT 25 for -8 yards (C.Heyward). FUMBLES (C.Heyward), recovered by TEN-J.Ringer at PIT 25. J.Ringer to PIT 25 for no gain (L.Timmons).
Stupid Steelers, taking away open receivers. They take away the otherwise-open Hawkins with some smart rotation. Hasselbeck is ready to throw the ball, but forced to pump. Before he can find an open Avery on the other side of the formation, though, Heyward has beaten Harris’s block and is on him.

4Q-2-9-PIT 9 (3:47) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete short right to L.Hawkins [C.Heyward]. PENALTY on TEN-M.Hasselbeck, Intentional Grounding, 10 yards, enforced at PIT 9.
The Titans’ only intentional grounding penalty on the season. It’s rare to see the official scorer list an intended receiver when the passer is called for grounding. In this case, from what I can tell, Hasselbeck looked first to the right side, didn’t see anything, then to the left side, and nothing was open there either. He returned to the right side, where Hawkins was, but Heyward had his hands on him before he began to throw the ball. Hasselbeck was perhaps on the edge of the pocket, but hadn’t clearly broken it, nor did the ball make it past the line of scrimmage or close to Hawkins, thus the grounding penalty. The protection was interesting-Heyward lined up at RDT (Steelers were in a 2-man front plus 2 LBs as stand-up DEs), and ran a T/E stunt. To the other side, Polamalu was in the slot, and Jake Scott at least seemed to be expecting an additional rusher from that side, as he let LDT Hood get a mostly unmolested rush. Hood got the gap between Scott and Amano and pressured Hasselbeck, preventing him from stepping into a throw. He also prevented Hasselbeck from stepping up to escape from Heyward’s rush. Whether you place the blame for this play all on Roos or partly on Scott/Amano, another example of the Titans’ occasional issues with stunts and coordination among the experienced trio of interior linemen.

WEEK 7-VS. HOUSTON-Hasselbeck 30 pass attempts, 1 sack; Locker 1 pass attempt, 1 sack; 3 QB hits
The Texans had a lot of near sacks in 2010 despite a lousy secondary and a defensive coordinator fans would’ve liked to see dead. When the secondary got a lot better with the additions of Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning, they started getting a lot more sacks. They ended the season third in the league in Adjusted Sack Rate at 8.4%, just behind the Ravens. Unlike the game against the Ravens, though, Titans quarterbacks went down in this blowout loss.

3Q-3-10-TEN 36 (:10) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck sacked at TEN 24 for -12 yards (J.Watt).
No coaches film for this play (it’s of the incomplete pass two plays earlier), but Hasselbeck doesn’t see anything open. Before he can escape, though, Watt, who walked Scott backwards and then got around him, is shoved into Hasselbeck by Scott. Oh well.

4Q-1-10-TEN 15 (9:23) (Shotgun) J.Locker sacked at TEN 6 for -9 yards (B.Reed).
It looks like Locker’s first read on this play was Stevens, but he’s covered. I think he then tries to look to Hawkins on the left side, who’s sort of open, but Barwin gets a hand up in his face that I think blocks his vision. Seeing nothing available, he looks to escape, then runs into Earl Mitchell, who’d escaped from Jake Scott. Reed, who lined up at LDE and was open on a T/E stunt Amano didn’t pick up properly, gets the cleanup. Scott’s the responsible party here, though.

WEEK 8-VS. INDIANAPOLIS-Hasselbeck 33 pass attempts, 1 sack, 4 QB hits
The Colts may have been a bad team and a bad defense, but they weren’t a bad pass-rushing team. True, they didn’t have that many sacks, only one more than the Titans’ 28, but they also didn’t face as many good pass-rushing opportunities. They ended up just behind the Steelers in ASR, 15th in the league at 6.8%. Only three times did the Titans allow more than the four QB hits they allowed today.

4Q-2-9-TEN 44 (11:08) M.Hasselbeck sacked at TEN 35 for -9 yards (R.Mathews).
Hasselbeck quickly pump-fakes the out-and-up to Williams, I believe, then looks to the other side of the field. Nobody’s open; if that means a missed route adjustment, then this is probably on Cook, who continued up the seam instead of sitting down or making an in-cut. If it’s not, then I’m not sure what Hasselbeck should’ve done. Throw the ball in the stands, perhaps. At 4.4 seconds per J.J. Cooper, this would end up the second-longest sack of the year following only the takedown of Locker at the end of the Saints game.

WEEK 9-VS. CINCINNATI-Hasselbeck 41 pass attempts, 2 sacks, 2 QB hits
The Bengals were yet another above-average pass-rushing team the Titans faced, ranking 11th in ASR at 7.4%, just behind the Redskins and Giants and ahead of the Jets and Jaguars. The slate of opposing pass rushers would get easier the second half of the year, but it wasn’t happening yet.

3Q-3-10-TEN 48 (3:41) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck sacked at TEN 33 for -15 yards (C.Dunlap).
Most of these sacks have had coaches film available on Game Rewind. This is another one of the plays that does not. Hasselbeck doesn’t see anything open-no clue from the broadcast or CBS’s similarly unhelpful replay what that might have been, and I don’t remember the play from being at LP Field. Either way, he looks to get outside the pocket, thanks in part to Geathers in his way after CJ’s chip gave him the inside pathon Roos. Before he could escape, though, Dunlap has beaten Stewart to the outside and brings him down for a big loss. The Bengals would start on their own 25 on the ensuing possession and drive the field for what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown.

4Q-2-15-TEN 45 (:19) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck sacked at TEN 38 for -7 yards (C.Dunlap).
A bad time for a bad play by David Stewart. He retreats and keeps retreating backwards, but Dunlap still beats him to the outside and takes down Hasselbeck before he has a chance to hit the open receiver. There was a play to be made here downfield, but Hasselbeck didn’t have time to make it.

Weeks 10-13 will be covered in part three on Wednesday, followed by Weeks 14-17 in part four on Thursday, and then the concluding part five follows Friday.

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