If you’d have told me at the beginning of the season that it would be Georgia’s defense needing to regain its footing at season’s end, I would have thought you were being unduly pessimistic, but here we are.
The last time UGA football defensive coordinator Dan Lanning held court with the media things were so bullish around the Bulldogs defense that he felt the need to mention that his guys weren’t anywhere near the level of the 1985 Chicago Bears.
A lot has transpired with Lanning’s defense since that August preseason Zoom session and the one he held Monday ahead of Friday’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl with Cincinnati.
The Bulldogs still rank high in stats, but showings against Alabama and Florida were humbling and are part of the body of work of a team that dealt with key players injured in the second half of the season.
“I know ultimately offenses are ahead of the curve right now,” Lanning said. “You could say it’s related to COVID, but I know within our walls we have a standard of defense here we take a lot of pride in. That doesn’t change based on situation. We take a lot of pride in our mental agility and our ability to adapt.”
As Kirby Smart notes, they’ve gotten the havoc they wanted, but at a cost of giving up the big play, especially to talented offenses.
“One of the key ingredients is can you give people lost yardage plays, tackles for loss, get sacks?” Smart said. “We’ve done that at a higher clip than we have in the past. We have to improve in not giving up as many explosives, then you have a recipe for what you want.”
The stats bear that out.
Georgia is 44th in the nation in plays given up of 30 or more yards with 15 compared to No. 2 in 2019 with 11 (albeit not against an SEC-only schedule), according to CFBstats.com.
“You have to adapt and change as the offenses adapt and change,” Lanning said.
The Bulldogs are tied for 34th in the nation in sacks with 24 and 71st in tackles for loss with 49 after ranking 46th and 60th last season.
(In case you’re wondering, in 2019 conference-only play, Georgia finished fourth nationally in defending plays of 30+ yards.)
Despite giving up more big plays this season, Georgia still wound up being the SEC’s only team to finish with a defensive yards per play number under 5. Cincinnati is 11th nationally in offensive yards per play, at 6.87. The Bearcats have been held under five yards per play only twice this season. In the abstract, at least, it’s the best offense Georgia has faced since the Cocktail Party.
Let’s hope they adapt and change enough by Friday.
8 responses to ““You have to adapt and change as the offenses adapt and change.””
“If you’d have told me at the beginning of the season that it would be Georgia’s defense needing to regain its footing at season’s end, I would have thought you were….” CRAZY. Going into the season on paper, this was one of the most talented and deepest defenses in UGA history. For a variety of reasons, the unit did not perform consistently well.
My greater fear is that the modern game is rendering defenses helpless. The new measuring stick may be the ability to stop opposing offenses some of the time as opposed to most the time.
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It used to be that going over the middle was like picking a fight in hockey. You might regret it and never do it again. That’s not to say that eliminating Greg Blue type hits aren’t overall better if it helps reduce debilitating health consequences (and increases the longevity of the game), but now the middle of the field is occupied by defenders in a damn-if-you-do/don’t decision making process.
Plus O-linemen blocking those players downfield because the 3-yard downfield blocking rule is both generous and non-enforced.
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That slight bump in sacks certainly is not worth the huge increase in 30+ yard plays.
Some how you have to keep doing everything you are doing and then fix the problems and that has proven to be extremely difficult.
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Turn and face the strange
There’s gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time”
Best defense is a good offense. Cincy will score, but we’ll have a few stops, likely control the clock (unless we have huge explosive plays) and simply outscore them by 20.
Sounds simple enough!
Even the best defenses are going to struggle for a quarter or a half against the elite offenses. You have to keep pace on the scoreboard to account for those breakdowns. Against Oklahoma in ’17, we kept scoring and the defense eventually caught up. Against Alabama and Florida this year, we held them for a half, but didn’t score enough to make up for the breakdowns. I think our defense would have played well enough to win both those games if our QB situation hadn’t been so bad.