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Brady was happy to have the game put in his arm on Saturday

Brady was happy to have the game put in his arm on Saturday

Every week during the season, I compile Game Scripts data, which measures the average points margin during every second of every game. Since most people don’t have a chance to watch every game, it’s helpful to have this information.

During the playoffs, most of us are watching each game, so we know what’s going on. But after two weeks, I thought it was still worthwhile to check in on the numbers. There have been two big comebacks during the playoffs: the Cowboys against the Lions during the wildcard round, and the Patriots against the Ravens last weekend.

The Dallas comeback against Detroit would rank as the 4th biggest comeback of 2014, or the 4th worst Game Script produced by a winning team. Those with longer memories may recall that in 2011, the Lions beat the Cowboys despite having a Game Script of -9.4, and last year, the two teams scored 41 combined fourth quarter points. In other words, don’t turn off the game early when the Lions and Cowboys are playing.

The Patriots also pulled off a big comeback. New England trailed 14-0 and for most of the first half, and entered the locker room down seven. The Patriots are no strangers to these sorts of comebacks, though: since 2001, New England has the third best winning percentage when trailing at halftime by between 7 and 14 points.

Here are the full numbers from the first two rounds of the playoffs:

TeamH/ROppBoxscorePFPAMarginGame ScriptPassRunP/R RatioOp_POp_ROpp_P/R Ratio

So far, three teams have stood out as very pass-happy, while one had a very run-heavy approach. Let’s take a look:

  • Detroit was very pass-happy against the Cowboys: consider that the Lions passed on two-thirds of their plays despite playing with an average lead of 8.1 points! Joique Bell and Reggie Bush combined for 80 yards on 20 carries, and it’s reasonable to wonder why they didn’t get more carries. Matthew Stafford was pretty effective, but in retrospect, the Lions may have been better off trying to exploit a weak Dallas run defense. In the same game, DeMarco Murray had 19 carries; if you’re new here, just understand that it’s pretty insane to think that Dallas actually was more run-heavy in a game where the Cowboys had a -8.1 Game Script!
  • In the Colts/Bengals game, Indianapolis dominated, finishing with a Game Script of +7.8. The Colts wisely used a pass-heavy approach — in fact, the Colts nearly threw more frequently than the Bengals in this one. Given the composition of the Indianapolis roster — i.e., Andrew Luck — it makes sense for Indianapolis to be so pass-heavy. But it’s still worth pointing out that Luck had 45 dropbacks and Indianapolis running backs had 23 carries in a game in which Indianapolis dominated. Good for Chuck Pagano and Pep Hamilton, who finally have learned to play to their strengths.
  • The Patriots pass/run ratio against Baltimore was really out there. Tom Brady had four kneels in the game; exclude those, and New England passed on 53 of 62 plays (85.5%). A Game Script of -4.8 doesn’t lend itself to such an imbalance — frankly, no Game Script does — so this was a conscious effort by New England to attack the weakened Baltimore secondary. And it worked, as Brady averaged a strong 7.15 ANY/A over his 52 dropbacks. Another factor: when the Patriots did try to run, they weren’t getting much: Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, and LeGarrette Blount combined for 14 yards on 7 carries.  In New England’s last two games against the Colts, the Patriots have run 44 times and 46 times; so we can be pretty sure that New England will either be super pass-heavy or super run-heavy or somewhere in between (or possibly a 4th option not yet known to the broader human race) on Sunday.  I think.
  • Only one team had a really run-heavy approach in a playoff game this year, at least so far. And you won’t be surprised to learn that it was Dallas, who ran on 55% of its plays in the loss to Green Bay. That is pretty rare for this era: in fact it was just the fourth time in the last 20 years that a team lost a playoff game and ran on at least 55% of its plays. The first three: a Tim Tebow-led game against the Patriots, the run-heavy ’04 Steelers against the Patriots, and the Packers in the 4th-and-26 game against the Eagles.