This week at the Post I took a look at how deep vertical passes are a vital part of an offensive scheme. This is another bit of research that applies league-wide, but uses the Redskins win over the Seahawks last Sunday as an example.
Here's an excerpt:
A risk-averse mindset is echoed in an old football saying attributed to Texas coach Darrell Royal and still often repeated: “Three things can happen when you throw the football, and two of them are bad.” Coaches tend to classify outcomes as good things and bad things, and then count them up. I’m sure coaches obviously know that interceptions are a lot worse than an incompletion or a one-yard stuff. But they don’t accurately account for the payoff and frequency of each possible outcome, and this is reflected in how infrequently they call for deep bombs.
There are a few more than three things that can happen when you throw the football deep, and most of them are good. To the obvious three outcomes of complete, incomplete, and interception, we should add pass interference, defensive holding, and illegal contact. Coach Royal wasn’t coaching in the flag-happy NFL of 2011.
Since 2006, deep passes in the NFL (classified as deeper than 15 yards through the air) drew defensive pass interference calls at a 2.8 percent rate. Defensive holding was called on slightly under 1 percent and illegal contact was called on slightly over another 1 percent. One of the three penalties were called almost 5 percent of the time. The NFL doesn’t classify passes any deeper than 15 yds, but I would expect those rates to be even higher for very deep pass attempts.
On the other hand, there’s offensive pass interference. But that’s has been called on only 0.7 percent of deep attempts since 2006. Defensive pass interference is four times more common than its offensive counterpart, and defensive passing penalties are seven times more common. The consequences are asymmetric, as well. Defensive interference is a spot foul, while offensive interference is a 10-yard penalty and a replay of the down.