In 2012, the Raiders' defense was not a good unit. They were 30th in the League in defensive points allowed, ahead of only Tennessee and New Orleans. Previously, we've looked at how field position given up by the Raiders' offense and special teams compromised the defense's ability to perform. This gave us some indication that perhaps the defense was not quite as bad as the raw numbers indicated.
But a single NFL season is dynamic and fluid so that a team's defense in the early part of the year may be very different to the defense in the latter part of the year. Some teams get worse and some teams peak. By looking at, and comparing, these difference, we might gain a bit of insight into how the defense was progressing.
8 Game Splits
We'll start this look with 8 game splits. In other words, let's cut the season in half and see how the 1st half compared to the 2nd half.
In the 2012 Season, the Raiders' defense surrendered a total of 408 points.
In the first 8 Games, the Raiders' defense surrendered 215 points. This scales to 430 points for a 16 Game schedule (we scale to 16G to give a standard value that is easy to compare).
In the last 8 Games, the Raiders' defense surrendered 189 points. This scales to 386 points for a 16 Game schedule.
At first inspection, it would seem that not only did the Raiders' defense improve over the latter half of the season, but that it improved substantially. The 44 point difference is nearly 11%, so we may say that the Raiders' defense's production was 11% better in the last 8 games than the first 8 games.
4 Game Splits
NFL Head Coaches like to break the season into quarters, 1st 4 games, 2nd 4 games, 3rd 4 games, and last 4 games. By doing so, it provides smaller, more digestible goals. By looking at the 4 game splits, we might get better insight into what the values provided in the 8G Splits mean.
Here's a look at the 4 Game splits for Points Allowed:
|Split||Points||16 G Scaled Points|
|1st 4 Games||118||472|
|2nd 4 Games||97||388|
|3rd 4 Games||133||532|
|4th 4 Games||60||240|
The "Points" column is how many points were surrendered in those 4 games. If we scale it for 16 Games (multiply by 4), we get a sense of what that "pace" is. We can use this number to compare against other full-year scoring statistics, if need be.
What is absolutely stunning about these raw numbers is that in the last 4 games of the season, the Raiders' defense performed tremendously. Perhaps just as stunning is how terribly they were performing in the 1st 4 games and the 3rd 4 games.
The general pattern for the 8 game splits was that there was a noticeable improvement in the production over the last 8 games. What the 4 Game splits shows is that while the overall total did indeed drop over the final 8 games, that dropoff was non-uniform. By far the worst production was in the 3rd 4 games. This defies the trend that we hoped.
In fact, the pattern that seems to have emerged is that the Raiders performed poorly in the 1st 4 games of each 8 Games split and then substantially better in the latter 4 games of each 8 game split.
The Raiders' gave up 408 points for the entire season. If we exclude the last 4 games, the Raiders' defense was surrendering points at a 464 point-pace (for 16 Games). If the defense had not had a huge production increase over those last 4 games, they would led the league in points surrendered, by far (New Orleans led the leagu with 424 points allowed).
Perhaps the following table will put this in perspective.
|Split||Points||Scaled Points||% From Average|
|1st 4 Games||118||472||16%|
|2nd 4 Games||97||388||-5%|
|3rd 4 Games||133||532||30%|
|4th 4 Games||60||240||-41%|
The 4th column is "% from average". The average is 408 points and so this value is how much the scaled Points varies from the average as a percentage of the average. . So this indicates that in the 1st 4 games, the defense was performing about 16% worse than their overall yearlong average. The last row is the impressive one. The final 4 games were fantastic.
Let's put that 240 points-pace into context. The Seattle Seahawks led the NFL in defensive points allowed with 230 points. Second was the Bears with 242 points. That means that IF the Raiders' defense had performed this well over the course of the entire season, they would have been 2nd in the NFL in defensive points allowed (and probably have won more than 4 games). 240 points allowed is not just good, but it is elite level; though the absolutely critical part of this is that Seattle did it for the course of 16 games while the Raiders did it for only 4 games.
But these 4 games may give the Raiders fans hope. The Defense is continuing to evolve. The uninterested bystanders have been swept aside. The installation and implementation continues. The players grow into their roles and understand their job duties. And new players, more of a scheme match, are being brought in. This is all what we may consider as reasons why Raiders' fans can be optimistic for the progress and for the continued progress. This is what the Raider's can build on.
Opponent Scoring Totals
There are so many factors that go into scoring that judging the team strictly by raw points may not be very useful. It is indicative that there very likely was some overall growth and development in the team, but we need more information to feel safe with that type of assessment. One of the major factors that may affect scoring totals is the quality of the opposition.
We'll start by looking at the opposing offenses' scoring totals and compare that to how they performed against the Raiders' defense. In this assessment, we will establish a baseline scoring value for each opposing team. We can do this by taking all the scores by the offense (and field goals) excluding those against the Raiders defense. This isolates the opposition's scoring which we can then compare to the games against the Raiders.
Here's a table of the Relative Scoring by 4Games Splits :
|Scoring Avg||v Raiders||Delta (pts)||Delta (%)|
|1st 4 Games||19.5||29.5||10.0||51%|
|2nd 4 Games||19.0||24.3||5.2||28%|
|3rd 4 Games||21.7||33.3||11.6||53%|
|4th 4 Games||19.4||15.0||-4.4||-23%|
The "Scoring Avg" column tells us what the Opposing offense is averaging against all other opponents over the course of their year. The "v Raiders" column shows how they did against the Raiders. The "Delta (Pts)" is the difference in scoring between their average game and the game against the Raiders. The "Delta (%)" gives the Delta (Pts) value as a percentage of the scoring average.
There are three items that jump off that table :
(1) Of the 4 different 4-Game splits, the 1st, 2nd, and 4th are very close in scoring average. This indicates that the "strength" of the opposing offenses in those splits are approximately the same. The 3rd Split is significantly higher and indicates a noticeable increase in schedule strength (in terms of offenses).
(2) The Delta % was positive for the 1st three 4-Game splits and negative for the 4th. This indicates that the Raiders' were performing much worse than the average defense when facing the teams during the first 12 games. However, in the final four games, the Raiders' defense held the opposition to about 23% below their season scoring average.
(3) In the 1st three 4-Game splits, the Raiders' defense performed much worse than you might expect and in fact, in the 1st and 3rd splits, they were giving up points at more than 50% above the scoring average.
Scoring Details Games 1-4
In Games 1 through 4, the Raiders played San Diego, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Denver.
Here are some additional details :
|Offense||Scoring Avg||v Raiders||Delta (pts)||Delta (%)|
The Raiders started off against 3 teams that would end the year with below 20 points per game scoring and still the Raiders managed to surrender above-average number of points to them.
The San Diego game in Week 1 sticks out for a couple of reason. First of all, it was the "best" performance in terms of relative scoring for the 1st 4 games. The Raiders gave up only 4.4 points more than the Chargers would average for the season (25%), which is substantially below what they did for the next 3 games. In fact, the next 3 games look fairly similar in the Delta (pts) column.
Second of all, the San Diego game was marred by Jon Condo being concussed early on and for Travis Goethel to take over long snapping duties in the 2nd half to disastrous results. There were 3 punting situation that resulted in plus position for the Chargers. It is possible that the Raiders may have given up even fewer points to the Chargers had that not happened.
Note that the SD game also appears like it may be a statistical outlier. So if we look at the excluding the SD game, we find that the numbers jump up drastically. In the other three games, the Raiders were surrendering points at a 512 points per 16G season-pace, which is about 60% higher than the 323 points average for the three offenses.
This just reinforces what we basically knew : the Raiders' defense started out OK in the first game, but then performed absolutely miserably in the next 3.
Scoring Details Games 5-8
|Offense||Scoring Avg||v Raiders||Delta (pts)||Delta (%)|
In the 2nd 4 Games stretch, the Raiders had two "easy" games and two tough games.
Atlanta and Tampa Bay both were 20+ per game scoring teams while Jacksonville and KC were both below 16 points per game.
The results were that the Raiders significantly outperformed against Atlanta (nearly winning that game) and holding the Falcons to over 10 points below their yearly average (39%). They would underperform against Jacksonville and underperform only slightly against KC. Then against Tampa Bay, the Raiders' defense would get absolutely torchedby Doug Martin, who almost singlehandedly beat the Raiders' defense into submission. To the Raiders credit, though, at the end, the defense did get a critical turnover and Carson Palmer was in position to pull out a comeback win near the end of the game.
Note that the Raiders had a Bye in Week 8, just prior to facing the Falcons. Not coincidentally, they had their best defensive performance (both in raw terms and in relative scoring terms) of the first 8 games against the Falcons. If we look at the scoring rates excluding the Falcons game, it jumps substantially, total scoring going from 388 points (per 16G) to 432 points. And the delta % jumping from 28% to 62%. This then puts the 2nd Split on par with the 1st and 3rd.
The 1st Split was 51%, the 3rd Split was 53%. So a 42% split seems to fit in. And the 28% that is shown is mostly attributable to the extreme overperformance against the Falcons following a Bye.
In general, then, we would think that the Raiders' defense did not show an appreciable improvement in the 2nd split.
Scoring Details Games 9-12
|Offense||Scoring Avg||v Raiders||Delta (pts)||Delta (%)|
The 3rd 4 games was a difficult stretch, where the Raiders' defense faced some of the better offenses they would face all year. They would face 3 teams average above 21 points per game and then team above 17 points per game.
The cream of the crop would be New Orleans and the Raiders' would do surprisingly well, holding them to only 4.7 points above their average. They would also hold Cleveland to only 2.5pts above their yearly scoring average.
But on the flip side was Baltimore, which would more than double their scoring average against the Raiders with a delta of 129%.
If we exclude the Baltimore game from this set, we see that the scoring totals drop substantially. The 16G scoring pace drops from 532 (53% above average) to 453 points (29% above). That's a striking difference and indicates that perhaps the Raiders' defense did not perform quite as poorly in this 4Game set as the raw totals show.
Scoring Details Games 13-16
|Offense||Scoring Avg||v Raiders||Delta (pts)||Delta (%)|
The final four games was the best defensive performance stretch in both raw points allowed and relative points allowed. While the Raiders benefited from facing below average offense in KC and off-and-on offense in SD, the Denver and Carolina offenses were both 21+ ppg offenses. The worst performance was against the strongest offense (Denver), but even here, the Raiders allowed about the average the Broncos had been scoring for the season. For such a poor defense as the Raiders were over the course of the season, this is surprising.
It is also impressive that the Raiders' defense held the 21.2 ppg Carolina Panthers to 20% below their yearly scoring average. This, despite losing Carson Palmer on the 2nd offensive series and relying on Matt Leinart for the rest of the game.
If we exclude the Chiefs game as a statistical outlier, we have an opposition that averaged 21.4 ppg and the Raiders defense allowed 320 points at -7%. While this is not as impressive as the 240 points and -23% when we include the Chiefs, it is still solid and a tremendous improvement over the course of the year.
If we look at the trend, by using the Delta %, and accounting for some of the outlier performances, we can say that the defensive performance looked something like this :
1st 4 : +51%
2nd 4 : +42%
3rd 4 : +29%
4th 4 : -7%
Overall, the TREND of the defensive points allowed is down. As the year wore on, the Raiders' defense tended to allow opposing offenses to score fewer points above their normal average.
Recall that earlier we noticed that the Raiders' defense allowed a miniscule 240 points over the last four games. That was Top-2 type production, however, as we notice here, the fact is that the Raiders' defense was not functioning as a top-2 caliber defense, but was benefiting from lower scoring opponents as well as performing above average. This combined to show a raw scoring total that was more impressive that it ought to be.
When we looked at the 8 Game splits, we found that the First 8 and Last 8 had a difference of 44 points. Now let's look at it with the relative scoring information included :
|First 8||Last 8|
|Total Points (16G)||430.0||386.0|
There was that noticeable decrease in points allowed, but note also that the quality of offense diminishes and the relative scoring rate is better but still quite poor. The Raiders' in the last 8 games were still surrendering 17% more points than a team would average. This would indicate that in the second half, opposing offenses were feasting against the Raiders.
But from our detailed assessment, this doesn't seem quite true. We can possibly account for this with the outlier game against the Ravens (Game 9). If we shift the 8 Game split one game and make it a First 9 Game v Last 7 Game split, we find the following :
|First 9||Last 7|
|Points Allowed (16G)||467.6||331.4|
The first thing that jumps out is that the 1st 9 games were on a 467 points allowed pace (for 16 games) while the last 7 were on a 331.7 points pace. That's a 136 point difference. 136 points is 8.5 points per game, which is more than a TD per game! In raw scoring, we can say that the Raiders defense in the last 7 games was allowing almost 9 fewer points per game.
We see that the Last 7 games show a marked improvement in overall performance when compared to the first 9. Not only was the quality of opposition better (327.8 points v 311.4 points), but the Raiders' defense basically held them to their yearly average. Meanwhile in the first 9 games, the Raiders' defense was giving up points at a 50% above average rate, which is not just bad, but ridiculously bad.
So what are the conclusions?
It appears that the Raiders defense was improving over the course of the year. The team started at historically bad levels but by the end of the season, this unit was functioning as an average defense. The Raiders' motto is "Commitment to Excellence" not "Aspiring to Mediocrity" so the fact that the Raiders' defense was an average defense should be no great comfort. However, the fact that the roster has been torn asunder and that the team is beginning a major rebuilding project AND considering how awful the first few games were, few Raider fans would dare to call the team's defense "average."
How and why was this occurring? Was it that the installation and implementations of the defense was starting to work? Was it the removal of some low effort players? Was it that players were starting to understand the concepts and working as a unit?
Any of this should give us fans some measure of hope for the upcoming season and perhaps some confidence in both Tarver and Allen. The Raiders had very few legitimate playmakers on the defensive side of the ball in 2012. Lamar Houston once in a while, Desmond Bryant here and there, and sometimes Wheeler or Burris or Pat Lee. On a consistent, down-in and down-out basis, there was really no one on the defense 11 that was a threat to make something happen at any time. Even with that, the team apparently performed at a decent functioning level by the end of the year. We'll look at these details in a later post.
As a primer, here's a look at some notable personnel milestones from 2012 :
|4 Game Split #||Game||Milestone|
|1||1||LS Jon Condo Injured|
|1||1||CB Ron Bartell Injured|
|1||2||LS Jon Condo returns|
|1||2||CB Pat Lee becomes starter|
|1||2||CB Shawntae Spencer Injured|
|1||2||RT Khalif Barnes injured|
|1||3||FS Michael Huff becomes starting CB|
|1||3||FS Matt Giordano becomes Starter|
|1||3||RT Willie Smith becomes Starter|
|2||8||RB Darren McFadden injured|
|2||8||RB Mike Goodson injured|
|3||9||FB Marcel Reece becomes starting RB|
|3||9||DT Richard Seymour injured|
|3||9||DT Desmond Bryant becomes starter|
|3||9||CB Ron Bartell returns|
|3||9||CB Pat Lee released|
|3||10||RT Khalif Barnes returns|
|3||12||MLB Rolando McClain benched|
|3||12||MLB Omar Gaither becomes starter|
|4||13||RB Darren McFadden returns|
|4||14||CB Ron Bartell Released|
|4||14||CB Philip Adams becomes starter|
|4||15||QB Carson Palmer Injured|
|4||16||QB Terrelle Pryor becomes starter|
Notice that the Raiders were at close to full-strength over the last 4 Game stretch. Bryant had replaced Seymour, Gaither had replaced McClain, Bartell was released and replaced by Philip Adams (and others), and on the offensive side, Khalif Barnes was back at RT and McFadden had returned from his injury.
The loss of Bryant, Wheeler, Huff, and Kelly will likely set the Raiders' defense back a step, if only because of the continuity and the learning and cohesion that had already taken place. The new faces will step in and we should expect that the defense should be ahead of the where it was at the beginning of 2012.
There are some preliminary indications that the performance increase that occurred in the last 7 games was also due in part to increased efficiency in the offense/special teams, but that's an analysis that will be left for a future post. If Greg Olsen's offensive implementation is solid and if McFadden and Flynn can be efficient, there could be noticeable improvements in the coming year. If either Flynn or McFadden can be above average or great (eg., DMC in 2011), then that should ease the burden on the defense substantially.