Coaches spend hours devising game plans, practices and workouts designed to give their team the best chance to win the next game. The offensive coordinator hopes to call the best play at the right time and the defensive coordinator works to have the perfect defense to stop that goal line play. But the truth is that more games are lost on Friday nights than are won. It is difficult to win the game until you stop doing the things that cause you to lose. Many schools that have a losing culture have never conquered this mountain.
The following list is not exhaustive, but if you recognize some of these problems on your team you might want to work to eliminate them. Practice time spent in these areas might just increase your win total by preventing your team from making an error that costs them the game.
Most of the issues on this list also carry a change of momentum with them. Momentum is a huge factor in winning games, particularly if playing at home.
1) Punting Problems- It is possibly the quickest way to get beat. If you can’t protect for the punter, you will have one blocked or the punter will be pressured to shank the ball. This would be a huge momentum swing. If you have snapping problems, you will be turning the ball over more. If your punter is not good, your net punt might be 20 or 25 yards max. Do you have a quality punt returner who will catch the ball? If you don’t, the ball will roll forever or even worse, he might fumble the ball to the other team. Nothing like punting and having your opponent fumble it to you 35 yards downfield. Put practice time into punting and have confidence in your team’s ability to execute it.
2) Turn the Ball Over- The NFL says it is the #1 stat in winning and losing games. How many times have you won the game while losing the turnover battle? Turnovers give the opponent extra possessions. Turnovers give the opponent momentum. Some turnovers are run back for touchdowns in the form of fumble returns or interception returns. If you are running a high risk offense, you will have more turnovers. Does your best running back have a fumbling issue? Has your quarterback been forcing the ball and throwing interceptions? Blocked kicks are turnovers as well. The NFL keeps up with turnovers- the ones you received compared to the ones you gave up. If you have a minus ratio, you need to not only consider what is causing that but also work with your defense on creating more turnovers. Do ball security drills, coach up your QB, etc. No matter how good your personnel is, if you turn the ball over consistently chances are you will lose a lot of close games.
3) Give up Long Runs and Passes- It is one thing for your opponent to drive the ball down the field and score. But a long run or a long touchdown pass carries this huge momentum swing and frustrates your defense. It puts pressure on your offense to return a score quickly. Kick returns, interception returns and fumble returns are frustrating because the other team didn’t even have to run an offensive play in order to light up the scoreboard. Some long plays are not even scoring plays but may turn the field and certainly put your opponent in scoring position. Work on squeeze and sideline tackling with your defensive backs. Get those runners on the ground. Play more Cover 3 and keep deep defenders if necessary. Work hard on your kick coverage. Emphasize pursuit on defense. One thing for sure, if you give up explosive plays, chances are you will lose the game.
We will complete the list in part 2.