Sunday, January 03, 2016

Much Ado About Something or What Teddy Needs to Start Seeing

In the latter half of the 2015-2016 NFL season, local analysts have begun identifying a source of frustration in the play of Minnesota Vikings' quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater.  The concern has been expressed based on in-game observations, without concrete statistics to support the concern.  In this case, however, the eyes do not lie.

The particular concern pertains to Bridgewater's response to defensive off-sides.  More to the point, the concern is that Bridgewater either is not recognizing the off-sides or that he is opting for the hand-off.  The first is unlikely, as the flag is flying pre-snap, yet the play is permitted to continue.  The latter is simply inexplicable, but for the fact that Teddy still has some highly risk-averse tendencies to his play.

In addition to the anecdotal evidence that Teddy too often eschews the pass for the run in the face of an off-side play, there are the bare statistics.  On the season, Vikings' opponents have been called for off-sides twelve times.  One of those times, the play was whistled dead on an "unabated to the quarterback" call.  Of the remaining eleven off-sides plays, Bridgewater opted for a pass over a run just one time.  If Bridgewater did not know these plays were off-side, the subsequent play would merely demonstrate a remarkably high percentage of running to passing plays on plays that resulted in off-side penalties.  If he did know that these plays were off-side, that's a stunning, likely unparalleled percentage of running to passing plays on plays that resulted in off-side penalties.

The value of passing in off-side situations is demonstrated by the one pass that Bridgewater made on the eleven off-side plays by Vikings' opponents this year.  On that play, against the Denver Broncos, Teddy completed an 18-yard pass to Mike Wallace.  That's a significant play for any team, but particularly for a team that has a point differential of +3.7, and particularly when, in the play-offs, points are generally at a premium.

If the Vikings hope to compete in this year's play-offs, they need stout play from their defense and smart play from the offense.  Bridgewater has demonstrated a penchant for drawing defenses off-sides.  But that ability is diminished if it is not buttressed by the recognition that the off-sides play is an invitation to strike downfield.  Failing to take advantage of such opportunities tends to be the difference between teams that make the play-offs and teams that advance further toward the Super Bowl.  

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