Saturday, January 07, 2006

Redskins v Bucs: By the Numbers

The 1985 New England Patriots are the only team to get into the playoffs via the wildcard and then win three playoff games on the road to reach the Super Bowl. This is the twentieth anniversary of that feat. Twenty, that’s a nice round number.

One-in-twenty makes the Redskins’ Super Bowl dream seem nearly insurmountable. But, when teams truly take their task one game at a time, it reduces one-in-twenty to one-in-one. Win one, and move on to the next one. That simplifies a lot of things. That makes an insurmountable task surmountable. That makes this a one-game matchup between two 53-player teams. So let’s look at some Redskins-Bucs numbers and see how they match up. As everyone knows by now, the Bucs beat the Redskins on November 13 by a score of 36 – 35 on a last minute two-point conversion. Replays showed that the Bucs’ running back, Alstott, never made it into the end zone.

The number of minutes Cornelius Griffin and Sean Taylor played in the first game against the Bucs.

Cornelius Griffin is the Redskins MVP on defense. I say that because when he is healthy and plays the team is immensely better than when he isn’t and doesn’t. No other Redskins player has the kind of impact that he does on defense, although Taylor comes close. In fact, most knowledgeable Skins fans would probably list the Redskins’ top-three defenders in this order: Griffin, Marcus Washington, Taylor—one player on each unit.

In the Redskins first eleven games, Griffin was either out or hurting. He sat out the four games beginning with the first game against the Giants and the Redskins went 1 -3. During the eleven-game stretch in which he was either out or hurt, the Redskins defense totaled eleven sacks (one per game) and eighteen take aways (1.6 per game). Griffin came back during week eleven. Since their eleventh game, the Skins defense totaled seventeen sacks (3.4 per game) and 17 take aways (3.4 PG). Griffin makes the entire defensive line better. Since Griffin came back, Philip Daniels has five of his eight sacks.

Zero is also the number of times the Redskins sacked Chris Simms in their first meeting. Most quarterbacks perform worse when they are getting hit, but Simms is an absolute mess when he gets hit. Simms has started ten games. When he gets sacked less than two times per game, Chris Simms has a record of 5 – 0. Sack him two or more times in a game and Simms is 1 – 4. When Simms gets sacked three or more times, the Bucs are 0 – 4. In fact, Comcast SportsNet posted that Simms has by far the lowest quarterback rating of the twelve playoff quarterbacks when he gets hit in a game—he has a 65 rating when he gets hit.

Recap of the number zero: Cornelius Griffin and Taylor are superstars that sat out the first Bucs game. Griffin makes the whole defensive line better and they average 3.4 sacks per game when Griffin is healthy. Chris Simms is 0 – 4 when he is sacked three or more times in a game. Healthy players Griffin and Taylor are the biggest difference between tomorrow’s playoff game and the first meeting between the Redskins and Bucs.

0 – 2 vs. 2 – 0
Apart from their head-to-head game, Tampa Bay and the Redskins had two common opponents this year: The 11-5 Bears and the 4-12 Forty-Niners. The Bucs lost both games by a combined score of 28-20. The Skins won both by a combined score of 62-26. Not much more needs to be said, especially when one considers the New York Times strength of schedule graph on the left.

16 - 5 and 7 – 1:
The first is Joe Gibbs’ record in the playoffs including the Super Bowl and the second is Gibbs’ record in the first round of the playoffs; the one loss was a four-point loss to the Bears in 1984. Not much more needs to be said.

148 and 144:
The first is the number of rushing yards that Clinton Portis got against the Bucs last year. The second is the number of rushing yards that Portis put on the Bucs in their stadium this year. Not much more needs to be said.

So that is enough of the numbers. The only other thing I want to address is this notion that the Redskins somehow spent their load on their five-game winning streak and are too banged up in the secondary—especially Shawn Springs—to stay with the Bucs’ receivers. First of all, that is not a murderer’s row of receivers over there. Galloway is good, but he’s not the best receiver that the Redskins faced this year—that title would belong to any one of the Cardinals or Rams’ receivers. Second, when the Redskins’ defense is in Simms’ face all day, they could cover Galloway with box springs and it wouldn’t hurt them. Third, there is a first-round draft pick at cornerback on the Skins named Carlos Rogers who got two of his first three starts against a true murderer’s row of receivers on the Cards and Rams. The Cards had the best passing offense in the NFL and the Rams were fourth. Rogers helped to shut down Fitzgerald, Boldin, Holt, and Bruce and kept them out of the end zone. Rogers had two picks in those three starts. I don’t think Gregg Williams is worried about the Bucs passing game, especially when the Bucs number two receiver, Clayton, is out for this game.

Finally, the NFL knows that they screwed the Redskins in the first game. From Galloway's way-out-of-bounds catch that put the ball on the four and led to seven points for the Bucs, to the Bucs' cornerback's manhandling of Moss on a screen on which Simeon rice got an interception and took at least a field goal off the board for the Redskins, to the Alstott no-point conversion, they screwed the Skins. There is no conspiracy against the Redskins, so the league must have talked about being especially diligent in this game. The Bucs will not get a refereeing advantage in this game.

Prediction: Redskins win in a blow out thanks in part to a pass rush from the defensive line that forces Simms into multiple mistakes.


At January 08, 2006 8:36 PM, Blogger TigerHawk said...

Not far off.

At January 09, 2006 10:22 AM, Blogger Charlottesvillain said...

Well, the "blow-out" didn't come to pass, but no reason to split hairs.

At January 09, 2006 10:39 AM, Blogger Counter Trey said...

Griffin and Taylor had the impact that I expected. The Skins did get three sacks of Simms, so the Bucs record when Simms is sacked 3+ times is now 0-5. I forgot to mention that Joe Salave'a, another defensive tackle, missed a lot of that first game with an injury in addition to Griffin being inactivated. Griffin and Salave'a each tipped a ball that resulted in an interception.

No, it wasn't a blow out, but it probably would have been if Portis and Taylor weren't out of the game for most of the second half. Each, scored a touchdown in the first half.


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