Today, ESPN AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky wrote a post examining dropped interceptions., and wondering how many of the actual interceptions were the result of bad luck, in the sense of tipped balls, route-running errors, and acrobatic defensive catches. Since looking at the interceptions the Titans threw in 2010 was already on my list of potential offseason topics to write about, I thought I’d take up his challenge.
Basic disclaimers: PK’s dropped interceptions data comes from the Football Outsiders Game Charting Project, and I was again this year, for the fifth straight season, the primary Titans game charter, so I am the main source of data for the Titans (of the 32 halfs, I charted 16 this year). This is the fourth straight season the Game Charting Project has kept track of dropped interceptions. One thing I’ve noticed in doing the charting is dropped interceptions don’t happen as frequently as you think they do, or at least as frequently as I thought they did before having to go and keep track of them, at least in the sense of “should have been” interceptions (the number of potential, even if unlikely interceptions is larger).
I also have to insert my normal tape disclaimer. While for most of the interceptions, NFL.com’s Game Rewind service made all-22 film available, it wasn’t available for all plays, so sometimes I have to guess exactly what happened. I also don’t know the offensive playcall or the defensive playcall, and don’t necessarily know either team’s tendencies well enough to know how exactly each play is supposed to work.
Disclaimers out of the way, on with the interceptions.
WEEK 2, VS PITTSBURGH
1-10-PIT 16 (1Q 5:53) V.Young pass deep middle intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by T.Polamalu at PIT -5. Touchback.
How it happened: Troy Polamalu came off his coverage of underneath receiver Bo Scaife.
Result of: Excellent defensive play. Also mediocre play design or execution-compare the separation between Washington and Scaife here to the separation on Britt’s TD the next week against the Giants.
Bad Luck?: No.
3-6-PIT 42 (2Q 8:35) (Shotgun) V.Young pass short middle intended for J.Gage INTERCEPTED by L.Woodley at PIT 37. L.Woodley to PIT 45 for 8 yards (C.Johnson).
How it happened: VY threw the ball right to Woodley, who’d dropped off after his initial rush motion.
Result of: VY had his eyes locked on James Harrison, who was coming from the outside, and never saw that Woodley had dropped off. CJ was blocking Harrison, but VY threw the ball before he got there. I can’t blame VY for not trusting CJ, but this was also reportedly a play where VY called a nonexistent protection.
Bad Luck?: No.
3-20-TEN 29 (4Q 13:05) (Shotgun) K.Collins pass deep right intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by B.McFadden at PIT 46. B.McFadden to PIT 46 for no gain (N.Washington).
How it happened: Collins’ pass on the deep out is ahead of Washington and goes right to McFadden.
Result of: Pretty simple-Washington doesn’t seem to make a really quick break, and can’t catch up to the ball, which goes right to McFadden. Collins also can’t step into his pass, and it may have sailed a little on him.
Bad Luck?: No.
WEEK 7, VS PHILADELPHIA
2-10-TEN 22 (1Q 8:09) K.Collins pass deep left intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by Q.Mikell at PHI 49. Q.Mikell to PHI 49 for no gain (N.Washington).
How it happened: Collins gets hit by Trent Cole while throwing downfield for a streaking Damian Williams.
Result of: Bo Scaife and Jake Scott’s inability to block Trent Cole, with an assist to Collins for pumping instead of continuing to throw when Cole first starts bearing down on him.
Bad Luck?: No.
3-7-TEN 23 (3Q 10:28) (Shotgun) K.Collins pass intended for K.Britt INTERCEPTED by A.Samuel at TEN 41. A.Samuel to TEN 41 for no gain (K.Britt).
How it happened: Asante Samuel is playing inside technique and undercuts Kenny Britt’s in route.
Result of: Excellent defensive play, and probably not a great read by Collins. Britt was effectively double-covered between Samuel and Mikell over the top, and Samuel didn’t bite on slot receiver Williams’ route.
Bad Luck?: No.
WEEK 10, AT MIAMI
4-20-MIA 39 (4Q 3:28) (Shotgun) V.Young pass deep middle intended for J.Gage INTERCEPTED by R.Jones at MIA -8. Touchback.
How it happened: VY chucks the ball up into a crowd and Jones comes down with it.
Result of: Desperation. It was 4th and 20 and the Titans were down 2 scores with less than 4 minutes to play. This is effectively a hail mary play. VY does chuck the ball a little too far for Gage.
Bad Luck?: Somewhat. Jones should’ve just knocked the ball down.
WEEK 13, VS JACKSONVILLE
1-10-TEN 20 (2Q 13:19) K.Collins pass deep middle intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by D.Cox at JAX 43. D.Cox to JAX 43 for no gain (N.Washington).
How it happened: Derek Cox jumps in front of Nate Washington and hauls the ball in.
Result of: Collins underthrows the ball, plus a good defensive play by Cox.
Bad Luck?: Not really.
3-16-TEN 48 (4Q 2:55) (Shotgun) K.Collins pass deep middle intended for J.Cook INTERCEPTED by W.Middleton (Da.Smith) at JAX 32. W.Middleton to JAX 34 for 2 yards (J.Cook).
How it happened: Daryl Smith tips the ball and it falls where Middleton can grab it.
Result of: Collins tries to find Cook in the middle of a group of Jaguars defenders, but can’t get it over Smith.
Bad Luck?: Yes. There were several Jaguars around, but many times tips like this fall harmlessly to the ground. This one didn’t.
WEEK 15, VS HOUSTON
3-10-HST 21 (3Q 7:07) (Shotgun) K.Collins pass short right INTERCEPTED by J.Allen at HST 15. J.Allen ran ob at HST 16 for 1 yard.
How it happened: CB Jason Allen undercuts Kenny Britt’s out route.
Result of: The Texans blitz, so Collins is looking to get rid of the ball quickly. Britt seems like a good option, but loses the hand-fighting and Allen runs the route better than he does.
Bad Luck?: In a sense, yes, because Collins throws the route anticipating his wideout will be there. That said, plays like this one will happen and Allen didn’t have to make a particularly good catch to make the pick.
WEEK 16, AT KANSAS CITY
1-10-50 (2Q :37) (Shotgun) K.Collins pass short right intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by E.Berry at KC 46. E.Berry for 54 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
How it happened: Tamba Hali’s pressure causes Collins’ pass to go short, and Berry (covering intended receiver Cook) adjusts to the pass.
Result of: Hali beats RT David Stewart to get the pressure. Cook fails to adjust his route to the errant pass, while Berry does go after the ball. Collins after the game said it was a bad decision and a terrible throw on his part. That’s more blame than I think he deserves, but it’s not a smart play.
Bad Luck?: Similar to the previous play, it’s as much a result of the actions of others, but I don’t think this really counts as bad luck.
1-10-KC 42 (4Q 9:16) K.Collins pass deep left intended for K.Britt INTERCEPTED by B.Carr at KC 9. B.Carr pushed ob at KC 9 for no gain (K.Britt).
How it happened: Carr and Britt go up for a jump ball, and Carr comes down with the ball.
Result of: Britt has Carr beat, but Collins underthrows the deep pass, allowing Carr time to recover. Collins just chucks this one up with his arm, and doesn’t step into the throw at all.
Bad Luck?: A little bit-I’d expect Britt to catch the ball or it to be incomplete at least 75% of the time. That said, a better throw is a sure completion (or drop), so it’s tough to me to feel too bad for Collins.
I don’t have much to say beyond the basic conclusions for each interception. My sense is that the Titans were not particularly unfortunate when it came to being intercepted in 2010. Their interceptions were primarily the result of poor offensive execution or very good defensive execution, which is how interceptions normally happen (unless you’re Eli Manning).
I’d also emphasize these plays are a relatively small snapshot of all the Titans’ pass plays in 2010, and aren’t even all the plays that could have been intercepted. William Middleton’s interception after Daryl Smith’s tip of Collins’ throw against the Jaguars was unlucky, but over the course of a year NFL quarterbacks will throw a certain number of balls that get tipped, and a certain number of those tipped balls will be intercepted. The “right” number of interceptions off tipped balls like that one is not zero, but it’s the only one that I write about in this post.
If you want another takeaway point, let this post be another reminder Kerry Collins threw a pretty bad deep ball in 2010, and he’s not likely to get better at it in 2011.