What will we see when the St. Louis Rams play the New York Giants on "Monday Night Football" this week? Well, for one thing, we'll see a lot of pass pressure. The Giants have been known as one of the top pressure defenses in the NFL since Steve Spagnuolo was their defensive coordinator. Then Spagnuolo went to St. Louis as head coach and developed a strong pass rush there.
St. Louis defensive end Chris Long is the star of the Rams' defense, coming off a breakout season last year. In fact, he was one of the top 10 pass-rushers in the NFL. That might sound odd, since he tied for 26th with 8.0 sacks, but there's more to a pass rush than just sacking the quarterback.
Sacks are the best result of a pass rush, of course, but you also can affect the quarterback by hitting him as he throws or just plain getting in his face. The NFL started tracking quarterback hits a few years ago, defined as any play where the quarterback was knocked to the ground after the pass. We started counting quarterback hurries on our own as part of the Football Outsiders game-charting project in 2006. This year, in our book -- "Football Outsiders Almanac 2011" -- we looked at how much a hit or a hurry affected the quarterback and the offense's field position, when compared to a sack. We looked not only at hits and hurries but also at plays where a defender had both a hit and a hurry. The result: We discovered that a hit or a hurry is worth about 25 percent of a sack, while a hit with a hurry is worth about 40 percent of a sack.
That allowed us to put together a "total pressure" rating of how much defenders harassed quarterbacks in 2010. Long ended up sixth in that rating, because he led the NFL with 42.5 quarterback hurries in 2010.