- Mant Te’o played a hell of a game, and he’s credited with 21 tackles from Saturday’s game because he went and made 21 tackles. It’s an absurd number of tackles. He’s inordinately talented.
- Notre Dame “contained” Stanford’s rushing game pretty well, holding the Cardinal to 166 yards on the ground – 78 yards below their average. And that should, generally, be a positive thing for the Irish.
Weird things come out of numbers. Manti Te’o recorded 21 tackles against Stanford on Saturday, and after everyone was done talking about how poorly ND played and how Stanford has magically become a “premier” football team, they all taked about Te’o. And rightfully so, but one thing kept nagging at me after I learned of his tackle tally: Why did he have to tackle the ball carrier that many times?
I mean, one thing is for sure: If you’re sentient, and you’re calling plays, and one defender keeps making defensive stops that stone-wall your offense, you sure as hell don’t call plays that attack that defender directly.
So why did Manti Te’o get to make so many tackles?
Let’s look at the when and how of each tackle:
Notre Dame’s defense had a very hard time getting off the field against Stanford’s offense. They just did not have a lot of success putting the opposition in tough 3rd down situations and then keeping the opponent from converting. After Saturday, the Irish rank 62nd in 3rd down conversion defense, giving up 37.88% of the opportunities to conversion. That’s 25 out of 66 opportunities to get off the field that the Irish defense has failed to utilize to their advantage. Surprisingly (or not) much of that is due to this last game against Stanford. Stanford accumulated 11 successful 3rd down conversions out of 16 tries (69%). Before that, the Irish had allowed 3rd down conversions about 28% of the time.
Anyway, notice how many 3rd down plays resulted in a tackle by Te’o? One. Just one of Te’o’s 21 tackles happened on 3rd down. My guess: even with as much ground as Manti can cover, Stanford ran away from him, or, really, attacked elsewhere. On 1st and 2nd downs, however, either Stanford allowed themselves to go in towards Te’o, or, at least, Te’o was able to move around on the field well enough to make a lot of tackles. Unfortunately for the Irish, when Te’o was making a tackle, it was often after the Irish had already yielded a lot of ground.
5 of Te’o’s tackles ended plays that still resulted in 1st downs. And another one of Te’o’s tackles resulted in a first down due to a face-mask penalty. But even more worrisome: 14 of Te’o’s 21 tackles ended plays that resulted in a “lost down” for Notre Dame. For our purposes here, we defined a “lost down” for a defense as 1) On 1st down, any play resulting in more than 33% of available yards between the LOS and the 1st down marker, 2) on 2nd down, any play resulting in over 50% of available yards being gained, 3) on 3rd down and 4th down, any play resulting in a first down.
Also worrisome: On average, if Manti made the tackle on a rush, that rush had already gained 4.5 yards. You can glance over the spreadsheet to glean some other averages too. None of them are terribly encouraging. And most of them make me wonder further, “why did he have to make all of those tackles,” and “why were they usually for pretty good gains for the opposition?” I have a feeling I know the answer: Big chunks of the rest of the defense aren’t doing their jobs, and Manti is cleaning up their mistakes/failures, but it would take further analysis to verify that. And I’ve not got that time.
Still, in order to end on a positive note, note this: Manti did record 7 tackles that, all by themselves, would have resulted in “wins” for the defense. Meaning at least 7 times on Saturday, you and your buddies were probably cheering him on with “Manti!” or “Te’o!” or “Hawaiian Punch!” And that number by itself is pretty damned incredible. 7 very positive plays by one defender is a really strong day of work. Shame it couldn’t glow by itself a little more, what with those other 14 “clean up” tackles he had to make.