Gregg Williams’ expected departure from New Orleans to become the St. Louis Rams’ defensive coordinator should caution Rams fans.
Williams is well known for coming after opposing quarterbacks without caution. The New Orleans Saints brough five or more pass-rushers 51.1 percent of the time in 2011, leading the NFL. The percentage was also an NFL best in 2010 at 49.5 and in 2009 the Saints defense came in second at 48.2.
According to John McTigue of ESPN Stats & Information the Rams, meanwhile, came with added pressure 32.5 percent of the time during that period, 15th-most in the league.
Fans and players tend to favor aggressive play, but as this chart indicates, NFC West quarterbacks have essentially had their Williams’ New Orleans defenses in the postseason over the past two years. And we’re not exactly looking at Brady and Rodgers here.
*chart courtesy of ESPN
Matt Hasselbeck’s four touchdown passes led Seattle past the Saints in the wild-card round a year ago. Alex Smith’s four total touchdowns (one rushing) were the difference for the 49ers in the divisional round Saturday.
Most schemes will work with the right players, of course. In these cases, veteran quarterbacks made the Saints pay for their aggressive tactics. Hasselbeck and Smith fared well, in general, regardless of how many rushers the Saints sent.
The following is a quote given to Mike Sando who blogs about the NFC West for ESPN.
“A lot of defenses are unsound in how they do things,” Hasselbeck said when I caught up to him following his Tennessee Titans preseason debut, in St. Louis. “These guys (the Rams) are really sound. They might not lead the league in sacks up front, but they do a nice job getting pressure. They play together as a defense. They don’t give up big plays. Even when you get them, it’s for 20 yards instead of for a touchdown.”
Looking closer one can see even more cracks. The high-and-mighty Saints gave up an NFL worst 14 pass plays covering at least 40 yards during the regular season. Our downtrodden Rams gave up 12, but they also lost an astounding 10 of their top cornerbacks to injury.
And one final note. The Rams won only twice in 2011. One of those victories came against New Orleans, with A.J. Feeley at quarterback.