NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 9 Coverage Update: Los Angeles Chargers keep climbing

Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. (26) celebrates after an interception in the end zone in the third quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

• In Week 9, 7/13 winning teams also had the higher perfectly covered play percentage. The most impressive wins belonged to the Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who both overcame 25% deficits in perfectly covered play rate.

• After being at the bottom of the league in perfectly covered plays to start the season, the Chargers had the most in their Week 9 win over the Falcons (nearly 55%), also making the fewest coverage mistakes.

• Green Bay and Washington faced the smallest percent of perfectly covered plays. However, with Aaron Rodgers throwing three interceptions and Taylor Heinicke also throwing a costly one, their offenses couldn’t capitalize.

Last updated: Nov. 8, 3:00 p.m.

Estimated reading time: 7 mins

Following our extensive research on coverage in football, and the creation of Perfectly Covered Plays and Adjusted Coverage Rate, we now have recent data to analyze from the ninth week of the NFL season.

To note again, we made a slight change in the Perfectly Covered Plays calculation last week to improve the metric. The contents of this change included removing plays with screen passes, and it lowered the perfectly covered play rate 6.6%. Read more about the updated calculation in last week’s coverage update.

Let's evaluate how each team and defender performed in coverage in Week 9.

Perfectly Covered Plays

 A “Perfectly Covered Play” is where every coverage player on the field earns a coverage grade of zero or better on a single play. Here are the defenses that created the most Perfectly Covered Plays in Week 9, compared to how often their offense faced Perfectly Covered Plays. The league average in Week 9 was 34.9%, up from last week’s average of 34%.

The Los Angeles Chargers had a great defensive showing against the Atlanta Falcons and perfectly covered the highest percent of plays this week (nearly 55%). The Chargers have come a long way after being at the bottom the first couple of weeks. The Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, and Los Angeles Rams also all had perfectly covered play rates above 50%.

On the other hand, the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions created the lowest percent of perfectly covered plays, each at only about 15%. However, they both overcame their lack of defensive chemistry to grab wins this week.

In Week 9, 7/13 winning teams also had the higher perfectly covered play percentage. The most impressive wins belonged to the Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who both overcame 25% deficits in perfectly covered play percentages en route to victories.

Perfectly Covered Plays is not just a defensive stat; preventing such plays is relevant for offenses, too. The Falcons’ offense faced the highest percent of perfectly covered plays in Week 9, when Marcus Mariota was held to only 129 passing yards as Atlanta relied heavily on the run game. The Green Bay Packers and Washington Commanders offenses faced the least percent of perfectly covered plays this week. However, with Aaron Rodgers throwing three interceptions and Taylor Heinicke also throwing a costly one, their offenses couldn’t capitalize.

Individual True Coverage Rates

Keying in on individual players, we can see who performed the best in coverage this week in terms of their True Coverage Rate, the percentage of the snaps for which they earn a coverage grade of zero or better.

Note: The True Coverage Rate league average (from 2019-2021) was 80% for cornerbacks, 87.5% for linebackers and 91% for safeties.

New Orleans Saints vet Demario Davis and Buffalo Bills rookie Terrel Bernard were the only linebackers to be perfect in coverage in Week 9. Davis has been stellar all season, while Bernard had a great day after playing limited snaps in previous weeks. CJ Mosley and Foyesade Oluokun tied for second place after great showings in the Jets' and Jaguars' respective victories.

The Rams and Chargers each had two cornerbacks make the top 5 this week, all locking down pass catchers over 90% of the time. Troy Hill had numerous positive coverage grades for the Rams against Chris Godwin, and Michael Davis did the same against Drake London.

Bills safety Damar Hamlin has been super impressive lately, with his third perfect coverage game in four weeks. Lonnie Johnson kept Travis Kelce in check when lined up against him, and Jessie Bates didn’t let D.J. Moore get open.

Noteworthy Statistics and Injuries

There were two plays in Week 9 where the coverage defender earned a coverage grade of -2, which is the lowest possible grade on a play, and they both happened in the Rams-Buccaneers game. Buccaneers safety Keanu Neal was the nearest defender who left Cooper Kupp get wide open downfield (which resulted in a touchdown), while Rams safety Nick Scott failed to cover Chris Godwin.

The Packers just lost Rashan Gary for the entire season, and they also might be without cornerback Eric Stokes. He has been slightly above average this season with a cumulative true coverage rate of 82.8%, but Stokes was much better at covering receivers in the beginning of the season. Keisean Nixon filled in for him and played well this week, but losing Stokes wouldn’t be great for this defense.

Rookies of the Week 

We can also check in on some 2022 draft picks based on how they performed in coverage. The rookies with the highest True Coverage Rates in Week 9 were:

New England Patriots cornerback Jack Jones has been great all season, but he finally gets his first coverage Rookie of the Week honor after locking down Alec Pierce. Chicago Bears safety Jaquan Brisker continues to impress, earning the title, even with a slightly-below-average true coverage rate for safeties. Finally, Bills linebacker Terrel Bernard was perfect in coverage, which is amazing for a rookie.

However, some rookies struggled a little, with safety Jalen Pitre (71.4%), cornerback Derek Stingley (72.4%), and linebacker Christian Harris (75%) having the lowest true coverage rates. It just so happens that these players all play for the Houston Texans, whose coverage unit had a rough game against the Eagles. This is not what you want to see from your first-, second- and third-round draft picks, so hopefully the Texans can clean up their defensive play.

Team-Specific True Coverage Rates (Coverage Mistakes)

Let's take true coverage rates and calculate which teams made the fewest coverage mistakes (having the highest true coverage rate) and the most coverage mistakes (having the lowest true coverage rate) in Week 9.

In addition to perfectly covering the highest percent of plays in Week 9, the Chargers made the fewest coverage mistakes. They and the Rams only had 1 player each with a below-average true coverage rate, but everyone else was stellar. In their come-from-behind victory, the Jacksonville Jaguars were able to minimize coverage mistakes as the game went on, which allowed their offense to get on the field and win the game.

The Texans had the most coverage mistakes in Week 9, highly affected by their rookies’ rough outings. The Lions’ coverage players continued to let receivers get open too often, but they were able to hold the Packers to just 9 points after winning the turnover battle in the red zone.

Cumulative Statistics

So far this season, the cumulative Perfectly Covered Play rate is 34.7%. Now that we’re halfway through the regular season, we have a good idea of which teams are most successful at creating Perfectly Covered Plays, so here are the top and bottom 3 teams in terms of their Perfectly Covered Play Rate this season:

Top 3 in Perfectly Covered Play Rate

49ers (43.9%)

Bengals (43%)

Dolphins (39.5%)

Bottom 3 in Perfectly Covered Play Rate

Browns (22.7%)

Seahawks (25.7%)

Lions (27.1%)

The San Francisco 49ers stayed put at the top while they were on bye, as no team was able to leapfrog them. The Miami Dolphins played well enough against the Bears this week to move into third place, while the Las Vegas Raiders had a below-average game, blowing their third 17-point lead of the season.

The Browns also stayed put at the bottom while they were on bye, but the Lions entered the bottom 3 for the first time this season. Their poor ability at creating perfectly covered plays against the Packers moved their average down a good amount.

Evolving Man and Zone Rates

Some teams’ man and zone rates will vary by opponent, while some will stay steady throughout the season. This week, the league as a whole ran man coverage 25.6% of the time, which brings the cumulative average to 28.9%, therefore running zone on 71.1% of plays. We can see how each team’s percentage of running man and zone coverage evolves each week. Here are the teams that ran the most man and zone so far this season:

Most Man Coverage this season

Giants (51%)

Patriots (47.3%)

Lions (45.2%)

Most Zone Coverage this season

Rams (90.2%)

Vikings (87.4%)

Seahawks (84.1%)

No changes this week in terms of the teams that run the most man and zone, but the league as a whole ran zone coverage the most often in Week 9. In fact, the Seahawks only ran one play in man coverage against the Cardinals. Although this change isn’t reflected above, the Bills ran the most man coverage of their season in Week 9 at 65%. They were a heavy zone-style defense in the beginning of the season, but the Bills recently are opting for more man schemes.

Also check out weekly Man and Zone Analysis articles coming out soon for more in-depth analyses on this and predictions based on Week 10 matchups.


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