Tide can’t always rely on turnovers

Tide+cant+always+rely+on+turnovers

Jason Galloway

Alabama’s passing defense is like the kid who gets a double chocolate cone after severely scrapping his knee in the process of chasing down the ice cream truck.

The Crimson Tide’s narrow escape of No. 10 Arkansas on Saturday started with more than a couple Ryan Mallett-induced bruises to Alabama’s secondary and ended with timely interceptions to seal a comeback victory.

Although the Tide’s defensive backfield did stiffen up in the second half after allowing an atrocious 250 passing yards in the first 30 minutes, the forced turnovers are truly what bailed out the unit from being the goat of Alabama’s first regular season loss since 2007.

On Arkansas’ first possession of the second quarter, the Razorbacks moved the ball from their own 20-yard line to the Alabama 6-yard line in just two plays. A Robert Lester interception in the end zone saved what would have likely ended up being an insurmountable 21-point halftime deficit.

In the fourth quarter, the story was again the turnovers. Lester got his second of the game and returned it to the Arkansas 12, leaving the offense an easy drive to take the lead. Dre Kirkpatrick snagged Mallett’s third pick of the game on an awful pass down the sideline when the Razorbacks were driving to try to win the game.

Although the lopsided score made it less noticeable, Alabama’s game against Penn State yielded much of the same behavior from the secondary.

The Tide forced three turnovers inside its own 20 against the Nittany Lions. If those trips into Alabama territory went the other way, Penn State may have been in the game at the end.

Forcing turnovers is obviously not a bad thing. But relying on them could get one into trouble.

Alabama played bad enough to lose Saturday, even considering the second half. The blown coverages, missed assignments and poor tackling would have been enough to close the book on a perfect season, but Arkansas beat itself.

Each pick Mallett threw was more of a bad throw than a good defensive play. What’s going to happen if Alabama can’t cover anyone on a day when its opponent doesn’t keep making mistakes?

One could argue Saturday’s near meltdown was the product of the highly-talented Razorback passing game, but go back and look at the tape. The Hogs’ receivers were so wide open in the first half that anyone could have thrown for 250 yards before halftime. And, Arkansas’ top two receivers – Greg Childs and Joe Adams – each had wide open drops when the game was on the line.

The point is that Alabama has major issues when it comes to defending the pass. Most of those problems are fixable, like wrong guys blitzing or confusion as to what the defense is checking to. Some of it’s not as repairable, like tackling issues or getting beat in man-to-man coverage. And four games in, the Tide is still having difficultly with the former.

If Alabama does not improve against the pass, it will not finish the season undefeated. There is sure to be one game when turnovers are premium, and the Tide will be forced to rely on sound defense to stay in the hunt for another national championship.