Tag Archives: interceptions

Sammy Baugh’s game of games

You can argue into triple overtime how good the NFL’s early players were. But it’s hard not to be impressed with the day the Redskins’ Sammy Baugh had against the Lions on Nov. 14, 1943: four touchdown passes and — as a defensive back — four interceptions in a 42-20 Washington win.

Nobody else in league history has had a game quite like it. Indeed, the four picks are still a record (tied many times). And get this: two other Detroit passes were just out of his reach. That’s right, Baugh could have had six INTs.

You can see most of these plays in the living-color(!) game footage I came across on YouTube. A couple of his scoring throws are snipped out — probably so someone could assemble a compilation reel of TDs — but almost everything else is in there. Why don’t I walk you through it with a series of clips?

Remember: This was the era of two-way players, and during the war years Sammy logged even more minutes because rosters were so much thinner. In fact, he rarely came out of the game. He was so tremendously versatile that he did just about everything but kick (though he did serve as a holder).

Three of his interceptions — he had 11 that season to lead the NFL — came in the second quarter and the other early in the third. So he accomplished the feat in barely more than 15 minutes of clock time. Amazing. How it unfolded:

Interception No. 1: Baugh swoops in to pick off a duck.

Interception No. 2: How’s this for a sideline grab?

Interception No. 3: Not only did Sammy stop the Lions’ scoring threat at the 1-yard line, he picked himself up after getting knocked down and ran to the 10 to give the Washington offense more room to operate. (You could do that back then, even if you were “down by contact.”)

Interception No. 4: More opportunism. (He fumbled at the end of the return, but the Redskins recovered.)

Baugh might not have been the fastest player on the field, but at 6-foot-2 he had unusual wingspan for a safety, which made him hard to throw over. The guy was just An Athlete — one with terrific (and conveniently large) hands. If he could reach a ball, he usually caught it.

Now let’s look at how close he came to two other picks.

Near miss No. 1:

Near miss No. 2:

As you’ve no doubt gathered, games could be pretty wild back then, with turnovers galore. The Redskins and Lions both worked out of the single or double wing, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t room for imagination — and improvisation. How about a fake jump pass?

As for Baugh’s other duties, here he is returning a punt:

And here is blocking on a kickoff (he’s the No. 33 on the right side of the wedge):

And here he is holding for an extra point:

And here he is punting (which he did about as well as anybody in those days):

(That one looks like a quick kick because he’s only about 6 or 7 yards behind the center. Anyway, it was downed on the Detroit 8.)

Whoops, almost forgot about Sammy’s TD tosses. Here’s No. 3, a 10-yarder to Bob Masterson:

And here’s No. 4, a 4-yard flip to Joe Aguirre (who, by the way, was blind in one eye):

(Again, his first two scoring passes are missing.)

What a player. What a performance. Too bad he had to share the newspaper billing the next day with the Bears’ Sid Luckman, who threw for a record seven touchdowns in a 56-7 wipeout of the Giants:

Luckman Baugh Newspaper Head

Note: If you want to read more about Baugh’s remarkable 1943 season, check out the piece I wrote about it for Peter King’s site, MMQB.

(Sorry for the advertising on some of the clips. It was the only way I could pull this off.)

One Easy Pick

You’ve gotta love the interception Terrell Suggs made in the fourth quarter Saturday night to help the Ravens beat the Steelers, 30-17.Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 2.34.24 AM

How did he do it, you ask? I’m guessing he got a pep talk at halftime from Jack Nicholson:

FYI: That’s part of a classic scene from the 1970 movie, Five Easy Pieces (in case you’ve never seen it).

Richard Sherman: Pick of the litter

Richard Sherman, the Seahawks’ ballhawk/cornerback, intercepted another pass in Sunday night’s 35-6 win over the Cardinals. That gives him 24 in his first four seasons (with a game to go), tying him for third most since the 1970 merger. Here’s where he falls on the list:

MOST INTERCEPTIONS, FIRST FOUR SEASONS (SINCE 1970)

Years Defensive back, Team Int
1977-80 Lester Hayes, Raiders 25
1981-84 Everson Walls, Cowboys 25
1981-84 Kenny Easley, Seahawks 24
2011-14 Richard Sherman, Seahawks 24
1978-81 John Harris, Seahawks 22
1976-79 Mike Haynes, Patriots 22
1994-97 Keith Lyle, Rams 22
1988-91 Erik McMillan, Jets 22
2002-05 Ed Reed, Ravens 22

Sherman’s total is even more impressive when you consider how much lower interception rates are now (largely because of all the “adjustments” the NFL has made in the rules). In Lester Hayes’ first four seasons, 5.03 percent of all passes were picked off. In Sherman’s first four, 2.71 percent have been. Big difference.

When you look at it that way, Sherman has had the best first four seasons, interception-wise, of any defensive back in the last 45 years. His 24 INTs represent 1.26 percent of all picks from 2011 to 2014:

BEST INTERCEPTION PERCENTAGE, FIRST FOUR SEASONS (SINCE 1970)

Years Defensive back, Team Int League INT %
2011-14 Richard Sherman, Seahawks 24       1,899 1.26
1981-84 Everson Walls, Cowboys 25       2,162 1.16
1981-84 Kenny Easley, Seahawks 24       2,162 1.11
1994-97 Keith Lyle, Rams 22       2,007 1.10
1992-95 Darren Perry, Steelers 21       1,974 1.06
1988-91 Erik McMillan, Jets 22       2,080 1.06
2002-05 Ed Reed, Ravens 22       2,096 1.05
1977-80 Lester Hayes, Raiders 25       2,425 1.03
1991-94 Aeneas Williams, Cardinals 20       1,950 1.03
1988-91 Eric Allen, Eagles 21       2,080 1.01
1997-00 Sam Madison, Dolphins 21       2,081 1.01

It might seem like we’re splitting hairs here, but note the gap between first (Sherman) and second (Walls) — 0.1 percent — is the biggest of all. (Next biggest: .05 percent between second and third.) The gap between top and bottom, meanwhile, is .25 percent. That’s a pretty sizable separation.

In other words, receivers may not be able to separate themselves from Sherman, but Sherman sure can separate himself from other DBs.

Source: pro-football-reference.com

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman does this to opposing receivers, too.

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman does this to opposing receivers, too.

The statistical phenomenon that is DeAngelo Hall

Statistics were invented for a player like DeAngelo Hall. He isn’t that rare Shutdown Corner everybody lusts for — a Darrelle Revis or a Richard Sherman — and at going-on-31 his Pro Bowl years are probably behind him. The Redskins, strapped for cap dollars, deemed him expendable enough to release him during the 2013 offseason, though he eventually re-signed with them and played well enough to earn a four-year extension.

But Hall does have value, even if it’s declining. He may not be a great cover man, but he’s durable and — here’s where the stats come in — opportunistic. In fact, he’s the football equivalent of that guy at the beach with the metal detector. He’s always finding “loose change” by hanging around the ball. And he’s especially good at doing something with said ball once he latches onto it.

Stat No. 1: Because Hall came out of Virginia Tech early and was 20 when he played in his first NFL game, he played 143 games in his 20s. That gave him an unusual amount of time to make his statistical mark, and he took advantage of it. Consider: Since the big rule changes in 1978, the ones that turned the league into a Picnic for Passers, only one pure corner has had more picks in his 20s than DeAngelo did. The Top 10 looks like this:

MOST INTERCEPTIONS BY A CORNERBACK IN HIS 20S SINCE 1978

Seasons Cornerback Teams(s) Ints
1981-88 Everson Walls Cowboys 44
2004-13 DeAngelo Hall Falcons, Raiders, Redskins 42
1999-07 Champ Bailey Redskins, Broncos 42
2003-10 Asante Samuel Patriots, Eagles 42
1992-00 Terrell Buckley Packers, Dolphins, Broncos 38
1991-97 Aeneas Williams Cardinals 38
1996-03 Donnie Abraham Bucs, Jets 36
1988-95 Eric Allen Eagles, Saints 35
1995-03 Ty Law Patriots 35
1989-96 Deion Sanders Falcons, 49ers, Cowboys 34

Note: Ronnie Lott (43) and Ray Buchanan (38) aren’t included because they got some of their interceptions at the safety spot (enough, at least, to take them below the cutoff of 34).

Granted, Hall has a tendency to gamble, but 42 picks are 42 picks, particularly in an era with low interception rates and a ton of one-possession games. Often, One More Takeaway can be the difference between victory and defeat. That’s what Hall, for all his flaws, gives you.

Stat No. 2: Last season Hall ran back two interceptions and one fumble for touchdowns. That brought his career totals in those categories to five and four. Only one other player in NFL history has returned at least four INTs and four fumbles for scores. Here are the 11 with 3 or more of each:

PLAYERS WITH 3 INTERCEPTION TDS AND 3 FUMBLE TDS, CAREER

Seasons Player Team (s) Int TD Fum TD
1997-12 Ronde Barber Bucs 8 4
2004-14 DeAngelo Hall Falcons, Raiders, Redskins 5 4
1997-11 Jason Taylor Dolphins, Redskins, Jets 3 6
2000-09 Mike Brown Bears, Chiefs 4 3
2000-09 Adalius Thomas Ravens, Patriots 3 3
1991-04 Aeneas Williams Cardinals, Rams 9 3
1988-00 Cris Dishman Oilers, Redskins, 2 others 3 3
1989-98 Anthony Parker Vikings, 4 others 4 3
1969-81 Bill Thompson Broncos 3 4
1970-82 Lemar Parrish Bengals, Redskins, Bills 4 3
1964-79 Paul Krause Redskins, Vikings 3 3

Not a bad bunch. Williams and Krause are in the Hall of Fame, Taylor is surely headed there and I’ve never quite understood why Parrish’s eight Pro Bowls and excellence as a returner don’t merit him serious consideration. Also, did you notice that five of the 11 played at one time or another for the Redskins (for whatever that’s worth)?

Anyway, like I said, DeAngelo Hall was made for stats.

Source: pro-football-reference.com