I cannot imagine a worse week for the Stanford defense not to be in sync.
But that’s what’s going on right now, according to safety Michael Thomas, who said following Saturday’s 38-13 win over Oregon State that the defense hasn’t been coming together the past few weeks.
“Right now everyone is not playing well together,” he said. “Guys are playing well, but we’re not playing well together. We’re not jelling like we need to be. That’s the key.”
We’ve seen what can happen when Stanford's three defensive position groups -- the defensive line, the linebackers and the secondary -- all work in harmonious unison. The end result is devastating for opposing running backs and/or quarterbacks.
On the occasions when they did come together Saturday night, the outcome was Sean Mannion face down in wet turf. The secondary, at times, played good and tight coverage. That play allowed the front seven to get some pressure.
But then there were times when the pass rush couldn’t get penetration, or the secondary would get beat underneath.
“It’s a bunch of different things contributing,” Thomas said. “It’s hard to defend those plays and maybe some guys are trying to do too much. If we’re in zone, maybe they are playing too deep or not deep enough. Maybe we just need more film study. I know I personally didn’t have my best game [against Oregon State].
“We’ve had some injuries and some guys have been nicked up. I’m not making excuses, but guys coming back and talking and getting that continuity back together will help.”
If there was ever a week when the Cardinal need to be on their game defensively, this is it with Oregon and its high-powered offense coming to town. The Ducks enter the game with the No. 5 rushing attack in the country (298.4 yards) and are also fifth nationally in scoring offense with an average of 46 points per game. That's second in the conference, behind Stanford, which averages 48.2 points per game.
But that is a problem for the Oregon defense to worry about. Right now, Thomas is more concerned about his own defense getting back on track.
“Nobody is panicking,” he said. “We’re still coming away with victories and we’re still making plays when we have to. We’re standing up when we have to. But to play the type of ball we want to play, it has to get better. And it will get better.
“This is a big one coming up. It’s the only thing that is on our mind. We’re going to keep fighting and we’re going to keep playing hard.”