The opener in Jacksonville revealed that the Stillers doctrine, 2001, is little different, on either side of the ball, than that which has guided their efforts in the last several seasons.�� The amazing thing is that what passes for strategy on the offensive side is exactly what the D-side seeks to force on their opponents.
Obviously now, the Mularkey system seeks to control the clock, mixing power running with a steady diet of low risk, no reward hitches and curls.�� In pre-season, we saw a couple of very impressive long TD drives; 17-18 plays, 90 yards, 10 to 11 minutes TOP.� Of course, in pre-season every team plays some kind of match-up so as to evaluate their personnel.� Those games are, more or less, dry runs; they are closer to scrimmages than meaningful games and it a whole lot easier to execute whatever system in that unchallenging environment than is so in the regular season when defenses scheme to disrupt the status quo.
In Jacksonville the Stillers finest drive, 13 plays, 57 yards and 7:10 TOP, resulted in a FG.� Shit happens; it is very tough to string together 12-18 successful plays.� In fact, that observation is the basis of the Cowher/Lewis no-pressure defense.� We�ve heard it all before; keep the play in front of you, wait for the offense to make a mistake.� Leaving aside the question of whether the O-side strategy is correct and the D-side wrong (or vice versa), consider that they are mutually exclusive.� The O-side wants long drives with a lot of plays; the D-side plays to limit their opponents to that scoring option and no other. What the O-side seeks to establish, the D-side believes is impossible, at least on a consistent winning basis.�� If one of these doctrines is viable then the other cannot be; both may be wrong but these cannot both be correct.
Quite possibly, Mike Mularkey has no other opportunities.� The Stillers lack any go-to WR (with game-breaking ability anyway).� Maybe, their QB is unwilling to go downfield; that has been reported but I can�t honestly say.� I watch the games on TV and am so limited to that perspective.� I can�t see the whole field in a box; any guess on what�s going on broadly would be similar to reporting on the wide world as viewed from inside the Squirrel Hill Tunnel. �Whatever, we�ve seen the offensive results.
We�ve seen what happens on defense too and it is not all that great.� Last year, the Stillers defense was, at best, marginally playoff worthy.� Generally, if a defense gives 17 points (or less) it has played winning ball.� In 2000, the Stiller D-side met that number 10/16; all other things being equal, that�s wildcard territory.� That 2000 mark was by no means dominating and, for sure, the Stillers didn�t win any phase in Jaxville.
Consider the defense there against the pass: overall, Brunell was 15/26/0 for 198 yards and 3 TD.� The Mill�s tape scrub revealed that the Stillers brought more than (4) rushers only (6) times.� On those plays, Brunell was 1/6/0 for 34 yards and (1) TD.� Pretty good defense, especially when you consider that the TD came off a broken play as Jimmy Smith read Washington and took his route up.� Anyway, when the Stillers rushed (4) or fewer, Brunell torched them for 14/20/0 for 164 yards and (2) TD.� YPA is the determining figure: overall, Brunell averaged 7.61.� Under a 5-man rush that dropped to 5.67; against the Stillers preferred fractional pressure scheme (3 or 4 on 5), it rose to a hefty 8.20.� Obviously, pressure made a difference but the Stillers tendency to fall back in coverage limited their chances for big plays on defense.
Big plays were required there; not only did the O-side fail to mount much but they coughed it up (4) times.� Turnovers are a factor in any game; IMO, the Stillers needed something like (3) takeaways to get back into their opener.� It is mystery, or it was failure of nerve, that the Stillers remained in their no-pressure mode.� The Jags were working in a monsoon; that�s tough for any offense but perfect conditions for the defense to force the issue.� In the worst case, Jax hits another big play or two and scores.� So what?� W/L is the first tiebreaker and, to reach the playoffs, the Stillers need to get over on the battered, cap-savaged Jags. Finish 4th in division and there will be no playoff.� That so, whether they lose in Florida 21-3 or 35-3 makes no difference.
In the best case, the Stillers get a couple takeaways and score or shorten the field for the offense to do so.� I saw that later watching a little of the Eagles-Rams opener. �Behind 17-3 in the 4th, the Eagles began to exert pressure bringing 5-6 on nearly down.� In short order, they were back in it scoring (2) 4th quarter TD to pull even at 17.� True, the Rams drove down and kicked an OT FG to pull it out but at least Philly made a stand.� We didn�t see that from the Stillers in Jagland and that is a damn shame.� The bottom line is this: the Stillers D/O doctrine is schizoid on the face of it and, in their rigid adherence to that in the opener, the coaching staff demonstrated doom-struck behavior.� So long as this remains SOP, the Stillers will stick, at best, somewhere in the middle of the pack.