Here’s the list of things that the Georgia defense was doing competently to well against LSU at that point: defending the run, rushing the passer. Here’s the list of things the defense wasn’t doing competently: everything else. And yet, at the moment when his team needed a crucial stop and had a chance to take control of the game late, Grantham chose to take the play out of the hands of a group that was getting it done and put it in the hands of a group that had struggled all day to handle a textbook pocket passer with an NFL-quality arm and the two best receivers in the conference. The results were predictable, and I mean that literally, as Mettenberger had converted another third down and long situation against a three-man rush earlier in the second half. Basically, he played with matches in that situation and got burned.Later this week we're going to hear from Grantham about how young the defense is and how his defensive backs are getting better. Much like last week and the week before. And that's very true. Langley in particular is looking more and more comfortable I think. And we're not going to have to defend against another quarterback like we saw in Mettenberger for awhile. (Maybe not until we see him again in Atlanta...knocks on wood).
But we knew coming into the LSU game that we had to pressure Mettenberger because the pocket is where he makes his hay. And as the game wore on he made it even more evident that we couldn't just let him set up like that. To his credit, Grantham dialed up the intensity at the right moments, including the last four plays of the game to force four consecutive incompletions. In particular, Leonard Floyd's sack on first down of that last series was a perfectly designed stunt and executed to perfection. It forced Miles to call a timeout to regroup and put Cameron in a difficult hole to start a potential game winning drive. In short, Grantham had the deck stacked against his adversary and was poised to close things out quickly.
Instead he has his troops drop back into prevent and only rushes three on second and 17, even though we'd just witnessed LSU convert a third and 22 quite easily to Beckham the series before. For a unit that was winning the battle in the trenches, why so little faith? Why back off the gas and surrender the pocket to a quarterback that had been ripping us to shreds all night? We've been wondering what this defense's identity was going to be. Just as they are getting pressure on one of the nation's hottest quarterbacks we lose that killer instinct and give up yet another big gainer to Beckham after Mettenberger had plenty of time to set up and deliver the ball.
And for a guy like Grantham that emphasizes pressure and turnovers, that strategy seemed ill-timed. For a guy that seems to thrive on intensity, it seemed out of character. We survived this time. Next time we might not be so lucky.