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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

FACT CHECK: Mike Preston's Post-Cleveland Column

I have decided to periodically do a fact-check post on Mike Preston, a writer for the Baltimore Sun who covers the Ravens, as well as others.  I'll focus on Preston, whose tenor seems to be oppositional at best, bent on finding negativity at worst, when it comes to the Ravens. While I understand that his is a column, which by definition suggests opinion, there seems to be no acknowledgement of the opinionated nature of these thoughts, but rather, they are presented as cold, hard, fact.  Let's see how they hold up.

So, here goes.  I took every statement made as fact from his "Despite win over Browns, Ravens defense has big problems" aritcle from today's Sun and cross-checked them with the official NFL statistics from the game.

Claim #1: The Ravens have had that "bend-but-don't-break" philosophy in the first two games of the season, but the defense got worn out for three quarters against the Browns. 

What IS getting "worn out?"  This is a large determiner of whether this statement-presented-as-fact is indeed, fact.  My best guess is that he means worn out in the sense of excessively fatigued by the end of the game.  This is extrapolated because of the reference to rushing yards.

Comparatively, let's look at a clear example of "wearing out"--The Steelers/Panthers game.  At the half, the Steelers led on 9-3.  But they scored 28 points in the second half and wound up with exorbitant numbers, offensively.  Does this matchup, of the worn-out Panthers D vs. the "worn out" Ravens D, compare?

I do not know which 3 quarters are referred to, but again, because of the simple definition of something being worn out, it means there is a regression over time.

This doesn't look like a comparison.  Carolina gave up more yards, but almost three times as many yards rushing--THAT is getting "worn out."  They surrendered almost eight yards a carry, as opposed to about three for the Ravens.  They allowed 6/10 scoring drives, half of those were TDs.  They were on the field an inordinate amount of time. Allowing under 100 yards rushing, alone, constitutes not getting worn out.  Not with a win and with only 21 points allowed.

MyVerdict: FALSE.  What's yours?

Claim #2.  "The Ravens gave up passing plays of 40, 43 and 23 yards. But the Browns didn't play long ball. In fact, most of Cleveland's passes were 10 to 20 yards. The Ravens cornerbacks, though, couldn't cover those and then couldn't tackle."

First of all, he said "most" of the Browns' passes were 10 to 20.  Is this true? Here is Pro Football Focus' passing chart for Brian Hoyer for this game:

As you see, the passes in the 0-9 range are 10, 11 if we include the incomplete pass.  Out of 23 attempts, or more closely, 17 completions, it's not accurate to say that most went 10-20 when over half were under this number. And two were over the numbers.

The second assertion is that Ravens DBs couldn't cover the 10-20 range passes. 

Notice that his lowest grades -- the boxed number above the stats -- are in the 0-9 range.  Short passes, short yards. In all, 13 completions here.  The 10-20 range had the high grades, but were 4 passes all game long.  And 1 TD among them.  Is this "not covering/not tackling?"  Yes, he had some success, to the tune of 19+ yards per.  But let's take a look at another stat set:

Jake Locker was the worst rated passer for week three, in the NFL.  Here you see that he completed 1 less10-19 yard pass all game, for an average of  17+ yards per.  He had a few more incompletions and no touchdowns.  Does 1 touchdown pass, for 25 more yards, constitute an all-game domination?  Remember, we won.

MyVerdict: FALSE.  While we did give up passes in this range with consistency, 4 catches do not an all-game domination make.  What is yours?

Part B of this assertion is that we couldn't tackle anyone all day.  

Again, according to the Pro Football Focus study, there were 4 missed tackles on our side.  3 of them were by dbacks -- Matt Elam, Asa Jackson, and Jeremy Miles.  (Of those, Jackson also was second on the team in total tackles MADE.)   Elam admitedly had a rough game.  Miles only played 8 snaps and is too small of a sampling size to judge.  Let's look at another metric from that sizes up the tackling efficiency of these players.

The green box means that the tackling is optimum, there are no recorded missed tackles--I coin this 'liquid.'.  All the way to the right is the "Combined Tackling Efficiency" box, which measures the number of tackles per missed tackle.  Preston seems to be indicating tackling after a reception, and if we look at that, Elam is 'liquid' because he did not miss any tackles after a reception.  Not tagging a player down is not counted here; perhaps it should be.  Including runs, Elam attempted 5 tackles for every miss.  To compare, the league best for a safety, besides being 'liquid,' is 13 attempted tackles per miss (K. Lewis, Houston).  Jackson is at 6 attempts per miss and the best number for league corners is 7.0 (4 tied).  So, Asa Jackson is tied for 2nd in the NFL for the best rate of tackling efficiency--under those who are liquid, which is a significant number.  If we only look at pass reception tackling, he is in sole 2nd place in the NFL for week three at combined tackling efficiency.  That is far from missing everything, and also, he blocked a FG that would have won it.  This man had a good game.

FYI, the other missed tackle was by Darryl Smith, but Preston only mentioned the defensive backs.

MyVerdict: FALSE.  Missing these single tackles per player is not the same as not "tackling any(one)".   What do you think?

Claim #3: It was shameful. But Asa Jackson missed tackles and so did fellow cornerback Chykie Brown. Elam had his glaring mistake and weak safety Darian Stewart appeared to be frozen at times.
Point for point:
Asa Jackson only missed one tackle.
Chykie Brown only played 5 snaps and did not miss any tackles.
I do not know how to quantify the claim about Darian Stewart.

MyVerdict: FALSE.  These are impressions and not facts.

Part two is coming soon.  Please feel free to comment below or at the Baltimore Sun Ravens Forum, which I check ferquently.