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Playcalling Against the Steelers
New York Jets Salary Cap Page

A Look at the Jets Playcalling vs the Steelers

Last week I took a look at how the Jets had run their offense for most of the season I thought it might be a fun little exercise to track how they did it yesterday to see if there were big differences, which is what it seemed to be to the naked eye. Here is the Jets run play selection from the Steelers game compared to their norms that we presented last week:

1st down 2nd 3-5 2nd > 6 3rd < 3 3rd 3-5 3rd > 6
vs Steelers 52.2 84.4 35.7 33.3 33.3 14.3
2010 Season 60.3 50.9 31.9 62.5 7.1 8.2

As we touched on last week there were some tendencies that the Jets looked like they may be better off changing and that was what they did this week. They bumped down to basically a 50/50 run to pass ratio on first down which was a big step in the right direction, especially since the Steelers were well prepared for those runs. The Jets only netted 2 YPA on first down, which is worse than their usual production on 1st downs. The Jets did get more conservative as the game went on with 7 of their last 9 drives opening with a run play.

The really big change came on 2nd and less than 6 yards to go. The Jets normally have an even run/pass split, but on this day they ended up going run heavy and ran on over 80% of these plays. There were 6 such situations in the game and the lone pass came on the drive at the end of the first half with time winding down. All 6 ended up in either a conversion on second or led to an easy conversion on 3rd down.

On third downs the Jets flipped their play calling on 3rd and short by abandoning the run and going with the pass. This was a necessity because of the defensive front presented by the Steelers. They also mixed things up a little bit by running in 3rd and long one time, a play that often works if it's a once in a blue moon call and that worked for the team here. It was the perfect game for those calls as it kept Pittsburgh off balance the entire afternoon.

Now of course a big reason for the success was how much better QB Mark Sanchez looked on the field. But lets dig into his pass stats and look at his YPC to see where the play calling likely had an effect.

1st down 2nd 3-5 2nd > 6 3rd < 3 3rd 3-5 3rd > 6
vs Steelers 7.3 6.0 13.8 7.5 4.0 9.0
2010 Season 12.4 9.1 11.6 11.4 10.8 14.5

The real noticeable differences came on 1st down and 3rd and short. The 1st down passes were all short which is why his completion percentage also spiked from around 55% to almost 73% for the game. They made life easy on him. The same went on 3rd and less than 3 to go as the Jets played everything short and simply cared about moving the chains. He completed both of his passes in this situation for 1st downs. Normally he is just above 50%. Mark had been struggling greatly on those other 3rd down plays and they called things safe to avoid turnover problems, a big issue with him on 3rd and long.

Did the play calling work out? It did the necessary thing of getting the Jets into 3rd and short situations. About 50% of the Jets second down plays worked out to be a 1st down or 3rd and less and 3 situations compared to their usual of 44%. That is enough to gain an extra 3 plays or extra 6 plays in a game. it's a big part of why they were able to run so much clock off and put together big drives even if they did not end in points. It will be interesting to see if this is a model the Jets decide to follow of if this was a specific gameplan for a team with a great run defense and outstanding pass rush.

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