Thursday, December 11, 2014

NFL defensive players should lateral more

American football as we know it today is a derivative of rugby, a game which still has no room for Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and the forward pass. And in today’s NFL, there no longer seems to be room for the backwards pass. ...

We found 77 instances from 2002-2013 in which the defense lateraled after a turnover, and the vast majority were successful. For this study, we ignored offensive laterals because most occurred on swing passes, reverses, or flea flickers, which are all in the playbook, and the rest showed up in desperation razzle-dazzle attempts at the end of games. Each lateral play in our sample added an average of 15.6 yards of field position. Nine plays resulted in touchdowns for the defensive team, with the player who received the lateral running, on average, an additional 33 yards into the end zone.

Perhaps most notably, the lateraling team fumbled on seven plays and only lost the ball back to the offense on three of them. ...

Using a model developed by Brian Burke of Advanced Football Analytics that provides the number of points the average team could expect to score, given a unique down, distance, and field position, each lateral in our sample equated to an average gain of 0.92 expected points per play—and that’s including the three lost fumbles.
--Andrew Mooney, WSJ, on reviving a lost weapon