Big Play Woes: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words (and a Couple of Losses)

One of the main descriptive statistics that we have used here to evaluate performance on the field is that of the Big Play. A Big Play is defined very simply: any play from scrimmage that gains 20 or more yards.

Obviously, a touchdown pass on a 4th & goal at the opponent’s 9 yard line could be considered as a “big play”, but the objective here is to look at the long gains because those are the plays that (1) are a measure of the difference in player speed; and (2) have the biggest tendency to break down the will of the opponent, especially if accomplished multiple times.

In the first five games of 2012, the Vols defense has given up a total of 28 big plays.

How important have they been in defining Tennessee’s season so far? Have a look at this chart…

This is a simple bar chart that I constructed showing the 28 Big Plays from scrimmage given up by Tennessee in the first five games. Each of these plays is shown in order of their occurrence, from left to right, as a bar. The height of each bar is the number of yards gained on each of the Big Plays. The color of each play is correlated to the opponent making the Big Plays.

And, each of these plays that ended with a touchdown is shown with a star at the top of the bar.

Tennessee’s two losses, to Florida (38-20) and Georgia (51-44), can be characterized largely by the Big Plays given up to the Gators and the Bulldogs. They were back-breakers against Florida. They were the reason that Saturday’s game in Athens was the first time that a Tennessee football team has ever scored more than 40 points and lost the game. And the 70-yard TD run by Akron nearly derailed Tennessee’s ability to win by what was in the end a comfortable margin.

If Sal Sunseri’s defense can eradicate this cancerous metric from its future performances, the Vols can have a very good season, considering the power of our offense including the continued improvement of our run game.

But if the trend continues (it’s getting worse), Tennessee is in trouble.

It may be the single reason why Tennessee is not going into this bye week undefeated.

It certainly is the Vols’ biggest challenge going forward.

Please discuss…

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7 responses to “Big Play Woes: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words (and a Couple of Losses)”

  1. Jan Evett says :

    I think you’re right on target. Defense is the key right now. “Tackle” – that’s what I was screaming at the TV last Saturday. Why can’t they tackle? It’s like touch football out there sometimes!!

    I’m really enjoying the posts this season. The charts really illustrate the points so well.

  2. Greg says :

    Let me get this straight. On one hand, it was just a few fluke big plays that allowed UF and UGA to score so much, but UT’s points were all legit. UGA offense scored almost as many points for UT as UT’s offense did. 23 points scored by UT and 21 given by UGA on a pick 6 and 2 fumbles inside the 10. If not for one 5 minute stretch where UGA completely imploded, this was a 4 or 5 TD blowout for Georgia.

    Tennessee is a 5 or 6 win team. If Georgia keeps playing as careless as they did against UT, they’ll lose at least 3 games going
    forward.

  3. surroundedbyimbeciles says :

    This is on point. Big plays are killing the season.

  4. TK says :

    fred i watch football for FUN. these charts make me think im back in knoxville and having to go to class on monday morning…….you know, i think ill skip class and stay home just in case a professor or someone calls the apartment.

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