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NFC West “Hog Ball” Offenses

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams

They say that the best defense—-is a highly efficient, ball control offense.

In the Wild Wild NFC West, “Hog Ball” offenses are the rage.

First of all, let’s give credit where credit is due—-the NFC West boasts 4 of the most innovative and brilliant offensive play callers in the NFL in Kyle Shanahan (49ers), Sean McVay (Rams), Brian Schottenheimer (Seahawks) and Kliff Kingsbury (Cardinals).

In truth, the offensive philosophies of all 4 teams in the NFC West are, at the core, very similar. All 4 offenses wish to generate a productive rushing attack to compliment their prolific passing games. Basically, the common modus operandi is to deliver a number of long, time consuming scoring drives per game—-as a way to dominate and exhaust the opposing defense.

After three games this season, here are some of the most telling offensive statistics:

Time of Possession:

SF—-33:30 (#3 in NFL)

LA—-33:01 (#4)

SEA—-31:28 (#10)

ARI—-30:47 (#12)

Note: Time of Possession for the Cardinals is one of the more fascinating stats for them, because of Kliff Kingsbury’s penchant for playing at a high tempo. If the Cardinals can play at a high tempo they believe they can run more plays than most teams. Thus, if the Cardinals can run their high tempo offense, run more plays than their opponents and still post a winning time of possession (anything over 30:00), that is very impressive.

Fastest Pace Offense:

ARI—-24.91 secs/play (#6)

SF—-28.16 (#22)

LA—-29.45 (#28)

SEA—-31.28 (#32)

What these numbers show is how committed the 49ers, Rams and Seahawks are to milking the clock, which of course can be a significant factor in winning the time of possession battle.

1st Downs Per Game:

LA—-27.0 (#3)

ARI—-26.3 (#6)

SEA—-22.3 (#18)

SF—-21.3 (#21)

This is impressive territory for the Cardinals after 3 games—-it indicates how well they are sustaining drives.

3rd Down Conversion %:

LA—-56.4% (#2)

SF—-47.2% (#8)

ARI—-43.9% (#15)

SEA—-37.9 (#25)

What is very encouraging for the Cardinals is that if they improve their conversion % here, they could crack the top 3 in 1st downs, where the Rams currently sit.

Total Yards Per Game:

LA—-449.9 (#3)

SEA—-408.0 (#9)

ARI—-406.3 (#10)

SF—-381.7 (#14)

That is a whole lot of good, efficient offense for all 4 teams. The Cardinals are in the top 10 after three games and they have played the #3, #6 and #28 ranked defenses in the NFL thus far in SF, WAS and DET. As Kliff Kingsbury has been telling us, the offense has yet to maximize its efficiency due to penalties, turnovers and missed opportunities—-which shows up to a fair degree in the next category—-points per game:

Points Per Game:

SEA—-37.0 (#2)

LA—-29.7 (#7)

SF—-29.0 (#11)

ARI—-25.7 (#17)

This is the Cardinals’ greatest challenge—-is to climb the ladder on points per game.

Red Zone Scoring %

SEA—-100% (#1)

ARI—-72.73% (#8)

LA—-64.29% (#14)

SF—-61.54% (#16)

This indicates that when the Cardinals have had their chances inside the opponents’ 20 yard line, they have capitalized—-72.73% is quite an improvement already from last season.

Turnover Differential:

SEA—-+4 (#2)

SF—-+3 (#5)

LA—-+1 (#14)

ARI—-/-3 (#25)

This is the category that sticks in the Cardinals’ craw. Kliff Kingsbury said this week that the top priority is to get the turnover differential turned back in their favor.

Passing Yards Per Game:

SEA—-308.3 (#2)

LA—-287.7 (#9)

SF—-268.0 (#14)

ARI—-262.0 (#18)

The Cardinals need a whole lot of catching up to do in this category. Hard to imagine the 49ers have more passing yards after 3 games with the injuries to their WRs, but their RBs are picking up the slack in the passing game.

Rushing Yards Per Game:

LA—-170.3 (#4)

ARI—-149.7 (#7)

SF—-132.7 (#12)

SEA—-131.1 (#16)

Surprising to see the Rams at the top here thus far. Excellent to see the Cardinals in the top 10 ahead of the 49ers and Seahawks.


LA—-4 (#6)

ARI—-6 (#14)

SF—-8 (#19)

SEA—-9 (#22)

Six sacks in 3 games shows significant progress for the Cardinals.

QB PFF Grades:

SEA—-Russell Wilson—-93.6 (#2)

LA—-Jared Goff—-90.4 (#4)

SF—-Nick Mullens—-74.6 (#16)

ARI—-Kyler Murray—-72.7 (#18)

SF—-Jimmy Garoppolo—-69.0 (#23)

These QB efficiency metrics are worth keeping an eye on. There is no question that Russell Wilson and Jared Goff are off to outstanding starts.

Summary: for any defensive coordinator in the NFL the challenge is how to get these NFC West “hog ball” offenses off the field and out of the end zone.

Tomorrow I am going to write an analysis of the styles of offense in the NFC West. What comes to mind for you when you think of the Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams and 49ers; offenses?

Which of the NFC West offenses do you fear the most?