In Sunday’s 51-23 blowout loss, Broncos edge rusher Von Miller scored the game’s highest grade at Pro Football Focus.
Here’s what they wrote:
“Miller had five total pressures, including a forced fumble on a sack on 27 pass-rushes, and was one of two Broncos defenders with multiple pressures. He was even better against the run, where he had six run-defense stops, tied for the most in a single game this season among edge defenders.”
National NFL Twitter used the PFF analysis to dispute assertions that right tackle Lane Johnson did a really nice job on the Denver Pro Bowler, but if you watched even five minutes of the game, you know that matchup wasn’t even much of a storyline.
PFF rated Von Miller as best edge rusher this week with 5 pressures and a sack. Some philly pundits talking about how great Johnson played ?
— Joe Banner (@JoeBanner13) November 6, 2017
First of all, Lane Johnson wasn’t even in the game when Miller forced the fumble. Isaac Seumalo was playing right tackle and Carson Wentz had already been pulled. It was 44-16 in the 4th quarter when Miller did this:
— NFL México (@nflmx) November 5, 2017
Miller beat a backup tackle to strip a backup quarterback, and he may have been offside on the play:
— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 6, 2017
In this morning’s post, I mentioned how the Eagles watched the Kansas City game film and had a lot of success emulating some of the things Alex Smith did last week. The Birds used the run/pass option, moved Wentz out of the pocket, and got rid of the ball quickly.
On two touchdowns, they left Miller completely unblocked, instead optioning off of him and making plays elsewhere on the field.
This was the Corey Clement speed option, where Miller correctly takes the quarterback away to force the pitch but doesn’t have any help on the backside, because Seumalo simply ignores him to engage the linebacker and Mack Hollins has Aqib Talib locked up:
It was the same thing on the Alshon Jeffery touchdown pass.
The Eagles go run/pass option and Lane Johnson doesn’t even acknowledge Miller, instead blocking down on Philly native Will Parks to sell the play-action. Wentz rolls out and Jeffery beats Talib before Miller can get in the quarterback’s face:
Similar concept on the Clement screen pass touchdown.
Here Miller thinks he’s clean through on Wentz after shrugging off the lightest of chips, but Wentz releases this ball at the perfect time, again right before Miller can influence the play:
Another @eagles TD!
— NFL (@NFL) November 5, 2017
It’s just really a nice design from the Eagles.
Parks is pulled wide by Trey Burton, who lines up as a fullback and runs a short flat route. That leaves Brandon Marshall in a 1v3 against Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, and Brandon Brooks.
Good luck fighting through this:
So that was a big part of the game plan against Von Miller – just ignore him! Put him on an island. Force his teammates to make plays behind him. The Broncos have 10 other guys on the field who didn’t do much to help their superstar, who was pretty much schemed out of the game.
Looking at it from a Bronco perspective, I think #58 did have some nice moments in this game when the Birds actually bothered to engage him.
We have access to the coaches film now, so here’s a good shot of a bull rush that forces Wentz to spin out of pressure and throw the ball away:
Even then, Miller ends up on his back. Clement may actually save a sack there by putting a shoulder on Shane Ray, who beat Halipoulivaati Vaitai to the inside.
On this play, Miller lines up against Brent Celek on the edge with Johnson getting a late hand on his shoulder, but Wentz is already releasing the ball by the time he’s in his face:
Again, that was part of the game plan. Roll Wentz, throw on the run, early release. It’s the exact same thing Alex Smith did last week with success.
This clip is going around on social media, too, but rag dolling aside, you again see Wentz throw the ball before Miller and Johnson even engage:
Here's that Lane Johnson Von Miller toss one more time. pic.twitter.com/748GfrfJOA
— James Simpson (@JS_Football) November 7, 2017
Go through the film and you’ll find all sorts of intricacies in how the Birds planned for Miller. They chipped him at times, they let Johnson handle him 1v1, and they completely stranded him on a bunch of scores. There was even one sequence where Hollins locked him up on a roll out and another where LeGarrette Blount lined up in the slot to engage him.
Statistically, here’s how Miller finished the game:
- 1 sack
- 5 hurries
- 1 QB hit
- 6 run stops
- 8 tackles (all solo)
- 3 tackles for loss
So the numbers aren’t bad, not at all, but again, the sack took place against a pair of backups in the fourth quarter. Four of his eight tackles happened after the Eagles had already scored 38 points. Two of his TFL took place after the 9:52 mark in the 3rd quarter. And how many QB pressures came from unblocked designs?
If anything, Miller’s presence in run defense was probably more influential than the near-misses he had in pass rush.
Look, PFF puts out some interesting stuff, but you have to add context to every single graphic they publish. That’s the same for any media outlet.
Here’s an example:
Two Jet RBs finished among the top 3 in yards after contact per attempt this week pic.twitter.com/raYJYMWYvu
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 7, 2017
Not a bad graphic, right? Just consider that “contact” can be different on every run. There’s a difference between breaking an Asante Samuel arm tackle and trucking an outside linebacker.
Here’s an image with some basic cornerback numbers:
Lions CB Quandre Diggs was impressive
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 7, 2017
Who was he matched up against? Who was the opposing quarterback? Is that QB good? Does that QB suck? (spoiler, it was Brett Hundley)
Every number comes with context, or a lack thereof. Some are less arbitrary than others. No shit.
Where PFF goes off the rails is with the grading system they use, which somehow judged Von Miller, a guy who wasn’t even involved in most key plays on Sunday, as the highest rated player on both teams. And hey, maybe there’s a science to it, and maybe he was good based on their criteria, but I think we understand why the optics look goofy, considering the fact that his team allowed 44 points to the Birds’ starters and 7 points to Nick Foles and company.
On the other hand, PFF published a good story yesterday evaluating the sophomore seasons of Carson Wentz and Jared Goff:
Wentz has also benefitted (sic) hugely from the scheme being tailored to suit his play. The Eagles run more run-pass option plays than anybody else in the league. They have run almost 100 RPOs (98) over the season, and no other side has more than 65.
There ya go. I learned something.
Some good and some bad from PFF, which is par for the course for pretty much every site that does what they do.