A month ago I thought this offense was good enough to get into a shootout with anybody in this conference and come out on top. Jeff Tuel was connecting on a high percentage of his passes, the receivers were making BIG plays look easy and the protection was passable, though just barely. We had no running game, but we were getting points on the board and could score from anywhere on the field.
The last four games, the offense has really struggled. What happened? I see two important injuries in Solomon and Gonzales. Our offensive line was never good, and we lost one of our steadier blockers in Gonzales. This does not fully account for the horrendous play of our O line the last couple games, but it certainly didn't help. Solomon had been sure handed before his injury, and I think we may have a few less drops from our receivers if he had stayed healthy. Simone, Monty and a couple other guys have been dinged up and missed games here and there, though Mitz as been the better back and had a good game Saturday, and Simone has pulled a Huddini this year and disappeared due to various injuries. Neither had been a serious factor in our offensive successes this year.
I think the real factor is that teams have figured out our team. We are one dimensional offensively, and the one thing we are good at, passing the ball, is very susceptible to pressure with just four rushers. The down lineman that we face simply do not worry about the run. They look to penetrate every play, and if the running back gets behind them there is no threat for them to take it the distance, or really past 5 yards. The linebackers can drop into their zone, knowing that the backs are slow enough that they can easily recover and tackle for a moderate gain at best. This is crippling. 7 players in coverage and pressure arriving quickly on the QB is a perfect defense.
I think this problem is one that can get better next year. Getting two explosive backs in the lineup with Galvin and Sankey should be enough to keep defenses from completely disregarding the run and shutting down the pass. The O line should also improve, but I am not convinced that the improvement will be significant. Hopefully Mitz, Sankey and a healthy Galvin will be able to punish teams for selling out on the pass with some zone reads, some draws, screens and getting into the flat as an outlet. Hopefully our O line can handle four pass rushers, and at the very least make a defense commit 5 to rushing to get pressure, or give Tuel time to pick the zone apart.