Oct 22, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) is tackled by Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) and cornerback Chris Harris (25) during the second quarter at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Though the run in today’s NFL is less important than it has ever been – passing is king – teams still need to be able to prevent offenses from just running all over them, if just to improve the favorability of the third-down passing situations they face.
At PFF, we track the run concept used on every rushing play and can therefore go even deeper and look at how teams fared when facing specific types of run plays.
When we think of blocking, we tend to break things down into zone-blocking or gap-, man-blocking systems, but within those broad buckets, there are various run plays and run concepts that can be employed.
Zone runs can target a point of attack that is inside or outside in their initial track, and we will focus on how teams defend inside zone and outside zone runs separately. Among the remaining gap-scheme concepts are power, counter and duo plays among others, and though those can be very distinct concepts, we will put them all in one bucket for the purposes of this article to define how teams defend against all gap concepts.
[Editor’s note: success rate against runs will be discussed below. Success rate against run concepts is simple, essentially stating how often on a per-snap basis did the defense record a defensive stop, which gives a percentage. For more on defensive stops, our Signature Stats Glossary explains in more detail.]
Nobody defended inside zone runs better than the Denver Broncos last season, who had a success rate of 56.0 percent, one of just four teams to top the 50-percent barrier. The Broncos allowed an average of just 3.1 yards per attempt on inside zone runs, also the best mark in the league and less than a yard before first contact on average. Denver’s run defense was dramatically improved up the middle in 2017, with an unexpected fine season against the run from Domata Peko at nose tackle, whose overall PFF grade jumped from an average of 46.3 over the previous four seasons to 80.0 with Denver.
Elsewhere in the top five, the surprise team from this list is the Indianapolis Colts, whose success rate…