How quarterbacks fared under pressure

First-year starters filled four of the top five spots in Total QBR while under pressure last season.

Two of them, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, call the NFC West home.

With Pro Football Focus singling out the division's current passers for review in this area, I've put together a chart showing where Wilson, Kaepernick, Carson Palmer, Sam Bradford and NFC West alum Alex Smith ranked in this area using ESPN's game charting. That charting defines pressure as plays when the quarterback was sacked, forced to scramble, hit while throwing or put under duress, which counts plays when the quarterback was forced from the pocket, forced to alter his throwing motion, forced to move within the pocket or faced with an approaching defender clearly in his line of sight.

Note that the QBR scores aren't very good even for the league leaders. That's because pressure creates problems even for the quickest decision-makers. Sure, they'll beat the pressure some of the time, but defenses are going to prevail most of the time.

A few quick takeaways as they relate to the NFC West:

  • Russell Wilson: Wilson held the ball longer than any other quarterback on a per-play basis, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He generally did a good job looking downfield for open receivers. Wilson also made quick decisions against immediate pressure. The quick escape he made throwing across his body to Sidney Rice outside the numbers against the Miami Dolphins was one such example. I thought it was the most impressive play Wilson made all season.

  • Colin Kaepernick: The stats show Kaepernick was so much more aggressive and effective than predecessor Alex Smith in these situations. Smith was looking to bail from bad plays, minimizing mistakes at the expense of the occasional gain. This approach fit the 49ers' mindset. Kaepernick offered more. A play he made against Green Bay in the playoffs stands out in my mind as one example. The Packers pressured Kaepernick on a third-and-10 play with 11:28 left in the first quarter. Kaepernick rolled to his left and then threw across his body to Frank Gore behind the coverage. Gore gained 45 yards on the play.

  • Sam Bradford: This is one area where the Rams need better production from Bradford and the offense. There were a few bright spots last season, including when Bradford stood strong against the Arizona Cardinals' blitz during the early stages of a Week 5 game in the Edward Jones Dome. Bradford threw deep for Danny Amendola against Patrick Peterson for a 44-yard gain, even through linebacker Daryl Washington was about to tag him.

  • Carson Palmer: Note that Palmer had only four rushing attempts in these situations. He also ranked second to the Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck in percentage of plays when opponents hit him while throwing. This will be one area to watch as Arizona emphasizes deeper passes requiring longer time for receivers to get open.

2012 QB Stats Under Pressure: NFL Top Five, Plus NFC West Notables