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It's All About The Passing Games

Watching the Colts surrender over 200 rushing yards last Sunday, one could make the conclusion that they may not have a championship caliber defense this year. The Texans ran for 257 yards, with the former Tennessee Volunteer running back Arian Foster living up to the pre-season hype in week one, rushing for 231 yards on 33 carries, essentially running the Texans to victory against their AFC South rivals.

No team can continually give up of 7 yards a carry and win a title, but as I stated in my first post, teams that are able to continually contain "elite" quarterbacks each season, put themselves in position to contend for a Super Bowl each year.

In my first post, I discussed how the upgraded safeties the Giants imported this season would help their red zone defense, while improving their ability to contain the elite quarterbacks in the league. Over the past few seasons, the Colts have always been maligned with a weak rush defense. Since 2006, they have ranked 31st, 6th, 17th and 19th in yards per carry allowed. What goes unnoticed is that in those same years they have finished 7th, 2nd, 10th and 3rd in yards per pass attempt allowed.

By limiting the big play opportunities through their pass rushing talent and schemes, the Colts excellent pass defense has allowed them to not only contain "elite" quarterbacks, but make those quarterbacks seem average.

I examined how the Colts defense had fared against "elite" quarterbacks, which I defined earlier as finishing in the top 12 in yards per pass attempt during the regular season. Here are results:

2006
Week/Quarterback/Game YPA/Season YPA

Week 10/Losman/6.9/7.11
Week 11/Romo/9.8/ 8.61
Week 14/Garrard/5.6/7.20
Week 15/Palmer/6.3/7.7

2007
Week/Quarterback/Game YPA/Season YPA

Week 3/Schaub/7.2/7.75
Week 4/Cutler/6.2/7.49
Week 5/Jeff Garcia/6.2/7.46
Week 7/Garrard/6.0/7.72
Week 9/Brady/8.0/8.32
Week 12/Garrard/8.9/7.72

2008
Week/Quarterback/Game YPA/Season YPA

Week 7/Rogers/6.6/7.53
Week 12/Rivers/9.3/8.39
Wild Card/Rivers/6.0/8.39

2009
Week/Quarterback/Game YPA/Season YPA

Week 3/Warner/6.4/7.32
Week 9/Schaub/7.2/8.18
Week 10/Brady/8.9/7.78
Week 12/Schuab/6.8/8.18
Super Bowl/Brees/7.4/8.54

Overall, the average YPA the Colts faced in all four seasons was 7.85, and they held those quarterbacks to 7.20 YPA, an impressive difference of .65 YPA. Building a small, quick, defense around two dominant pass rushers in Freeney and Mathis, the Colts have established a blue print for defense in the NFL. To better understand how important it is to prioritize stopping the pass over stopping the run, I compiled the win/loss totals for teams that finished in the top 12 in yards per pass attempt allowed and yards per carry allowed since 2006.

2006
Top 12 Defensive YPA
106-86
Top 12 Defensive YPC

98-94

2007
Top 12 Defensive YPA
131-61
Top 12 Defensive YPC

105-87

2008
Top 12 Defensive YPA
117-74
Top 12 Defensive YPC

113-77

2009
Top 12 Defensive YPA
117-74
Top 12 Defensive YPC

110-82

Culmative Standings
Top 12 Defensive YPA
471-295
Top 12 Defensive YPC

426-340

Teams that contain passing games will have continued success in the NFL. It has become a "big play" league, and the teams that are able to keep up and contain these high flying offenses, put themselves in the best position to eventually host the Lombardi trophy.

So how does this apply to the Giants? Perry Fewell's new "read and react" system is predicated on conceding the short pass while limiting the deep throws. With a plethora of pass rushers, and a new trio of safeties, the Giants should be schematically constructed to contain potent passing games. Last year, under Bill Sheridan's predomiant man-to-man defense, the Giants gave up 8.6 yards per pass attempt to Matt Moore, an undrafted quarterback averaging only 7.6 YPA in his five starts that season. Fast forward to last Sunday, and the "read and react" defense limited that that same thrower to 5.52 YPA while collecting four sacks.

This new defense will get its first real test of the season Sunday night in Indianapolis. Facing one the best passing attacks in the league, their discipline will be tested by Peyton Manning. If they are able to contain Manning, and keep his explosive receivers from making plays down field, they'll have a chance to start 2-0, and possibly begin thinking about making a run at their fourth championship.

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-MattBNYG

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