Hank Gargiulo of ESPN Stats & Information has come through with a hefty file showing how NFL defenses have fared when sending regular or added pressure against opposing quarterbacks.
I'm only beginning to sift through the numbers.
The charts displaying later in this item focus on first-and-10 situations for each NFC West team. I looked at overall numbers back in late June. Someone -- and I'm not sure who it was -- asked to see the numbers broken down by situation. Hank came through with stats for every down and distance.
There's nothing magical about first-and-10, but it's a situation teams face frequently and one where blitzing seems most optional. I'll check out other situations as well, particularly if anything jumps out.
A few thoughts upon looking at the first-and-10 results:
The Seattle Seahawks held opponents to a division-leading 71.8 passer rating when sending five or more pass-rushers in these situations. Seattle made effective use of strong safety Lawyer Milloy as a pass-rusher last season, but only one of his four sacks came on first-and-10. Other players with first-and-10 sacks for Seattle: Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Chris Clemons (2.5), Colin Cole, Raheem Brock and Jordan Babineaux (half-sack).
San Francisco's sack percentage spiked significantly when sending five or more rushers in these situations, but opposing quarterbacks made the 49ers pay when the pressure did not arrive. Opponents posted a 118.4 passer rating when the 49ers sent five or more on first-and-10, up from 82.8 against four or fewer pass-rushers. Just what 49ers fans need: more evidence the team's secondary wasn't good enough in coverage.
The Arizona Cardinals allowed a division-low 74.1 rating on first-and-10 overall, including a division-best 70.5 rating when sending four or fewer rushers. New coordinator Ray Horton wants the Cardinals to become more aggressive. He has promised to blitz on the first play of the 2011 season, which figures to come on first-and-10. That will be the most analyzed first play of the season for NFC West teams. No pressure to generate pressure, Ray.
The St. Louis Rams challenged the 49ers' division-leading sack percentage when sending at least five pass-rushers. Unlike the 49ers, the Rams' defense held up well when the pressure did not produce sacks. The Rams allowed 54.4 percent completions, no touchdowns and a pedestrian 79.4 rating when sending pressure in these situations. The Rams were considerably less effective when sending fewer rushers on first-and-10. Coach Steve Spagnuolo's blitz schemes give the Rams an edge overall and in these situations specifically. He should have fun incorporating rookie defensive end Robert Quinn into the equation.
The charts break down each team's stats based on the number of pass-rushers deployed and overall, beginning with the 49ers.
2010 San Francisco 49ers: First-and-10 Pass Rush
The Rams allowed a division-worst 9.3 yards per attempt when sending four or fewer rushers on first-and-10. That explains why opposing passers posted a 91.9 rating in these situations despite tossing three picks.
2010 St. Louis Rams: First-and-10 Pass Rush
The Seahawks allowed a division-high five touchdown passes when sending four or fewer rushers on first-and-10. Their defensive production spiked when sending added pressure.
2010 Seattle Seahawks: First-and-10 Pass Rush
The Cardinals collected a division-high seven interceptions when they did not send extra pressure on first-and-10. They collected a division-low three sacks when they did send extra pressure.