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Probably was picked off

Probably was picked off

I still can’t quite comprehend what happened. Leading 19-7 with less than three minutes remaining, Green Bay somehow lost the NFC Championship Game. It was the most remarkable comeback in conference championship game history since at least 2006, when Peyton Manning and the Colts came back from the dead against the Patriots.

But this game had the added element of Russell Wilson looking like he had no idea what he was doing out there. With four minutes remaining, Wilson had one of the ugliest stat lines in playoff history: he was 8/22 for 75 yards with no touchdowns, four interceptions, and four sacks for 24 yards. He was averaging -4.96 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. It was worse than Ryan Lindley against Carolina, a performance that would rival Kerry Collins in the Super Bowl against the Ravens for worst playoff passing performance ever.

Wilson’s stat line was straight out of a 1976 boxscore featuring a rookie quarterback against the Steelers. Yet, somehow, minutes later, the game would be in overtime. Wilson ended regulation with a still miserable stat line of 11/26 for 129 yards, with 0 touchdowns (to be fair, he did run one in), 4 interceptions, and 4 sacks for -24 yards. That translates to an ANY/A average (which gives a 45-yard penalty for interceptions, and a 20-yard bonus for touchdowns, while penalizing for sacks) of -2.50.

If the Seahawks returned the overtime kickoff for a touchdown, the game would have easily gone down as the worst performance by a playoff-winning quarterback in history. But in overtime, Wilson did his best work: first, he found Doug Baldwin for ten yards. Then, after taking a one-yard sack, he hit Baldwin on 3rd-and-7 for 35 yards. The next play, Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard touchdown, and Seattle was headed back to the Super Bowl.

Wilson finished 14/29 for 209 yards, with 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions, and five sacks for -25 yards. That translates to an anemic ANY/A average of +0.71. How does that compare historically? I thought it would be worthwhile to compare the ANY/A average of every winning quarterback in a playoff game to the league average ANY/A that season. So, in 2014, the NFL averaged 6.13 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt per pass. This means Wilson finished 5.42 ANY/A below average. And given that Wilson had 34 dropbacks, it means that Wilson produced -184 Adjusted Net Yards over average. As it turns out, that’s only the … third worst ever by a winning quarterback.

The table below shows Wilson’s NFC Championship Game performance, along with the 49 worst passing games by a quarterback who won a postseason game prior to 2014.1

RkQuarterbackTmYearOppBoxscoreRdCmp/Att: Pyd TD/INT: Sk-Skydany/algavgVALUE
1George BlandaHOU1961SDGBoxscoreC18/40: 160 1/5: 0-0-1.133.85-199
2David WoodleyMIA1982NYJBoxscoreC9/21: 87 0/3: 4-27-34.76-194
3Russell WilsonSEA2014GNBBoxscoreC14/29: 209 1/4: 5-250.716.13-184
4Ron JaworskiPHI1980DALBoxscoreC9/29: 91 0/2: 2-14-0.424.87-164
5Tommy ThompsonPHI1948CRDBoxscoreC2/12: 7 0/2: 0-0-6.924.61-138
6Steve McNairTEN1999BUFBoxscoreW13/24: 76 0/1: 3-210.375.18-130
7Jay FiedlerMIA2000INDBoxscoreW19/34: 185 1/3: 2-91.695.21-126
8Jim KellyBUF1991DENBoxscoreC13/25: 117 0/2: 1-80.735.18-116
9Jim PlunkettOAK1980CLEBoxscoreD14/30: 149 0/2: 2-171.314.87-114
10Boomer EsiasonCIN1988BUFBoxscoreC11/20: 94 1/2: 3-200.175.02-111
11Dieter BrockRAM1985DALBoxscoreD6/22: 50 0/1: 1-30.094.86-110
12Mark BrunellWAS2005TAMBoxscoreW7/15: 41 0/1: 2-15-1.135.34-109
13Bobby LayneDET1952RAMBoxscoreD9/21: 144 0/4: 1-5-1.853.12-109
14Tom BradyNWE2006SDGBoxscoreD27/51: 280 2/3: 2-43.425.38-104
15David GarrardJAX2007PITBoxscoreW9/21: 140 1/2: 4-361.365.52-104
16Pat HadenRAM1976DALBoxscoreD10/21: 152 0/3: 3-22-0.214.07-103
17Paul ChristmanCRD1947PHIBoxscoreC3/14: 54 0/2: 0-0-2.574.74-102
18Craig MortonDAL1970DETBoxscoreD4/18: 38 0/1: 1-16-1.214.16-102
19Peyton ManningIND2006BALBoxscoreD15/30: 170 0/2: 1-92.295.38-96
20Ben RoethlisbergerPIT2005SEABoxscoreS9/21: 123 0/2: 1-81.165.34-92
21Craig MortonDAL1972SFOBoxscoreD8/21: 96 1/2: 3-170.394.28-92
22Don HeinrichNYG1958CLEBoxscoreD1/7: 31 0/2: 0-0-8.434.54-91
23Tom BradyNWE2007SDGBoxscoreC22/33: 209 2/3: 2-112.945.52-90
24Joe FergusonBUF1981NYJBoxscoreW17/34: 268 2/4: 2-382.55-90
25Ben RoethlisbergerPIT2010NYJBoxscoreC10/19: 133 0/2: 2-121.485.73-89
26Frankie AlbertSFO1949NYYBoxscoreD8/17: 96 1/2: 2-220.214.87-89
27Ron JaworskiPHI1980MINBoxscoreD17/38: 190 1/2: 2-112.734.87-86
28Philip RiversSDG2008INDBoxscoreW20/36: 217 0/1: 4-273.635.7-83
29Kordell StewartPIT1997NWEBoxscoreD14/31: 134 0/1: 2-02.75.16-81
30Donovan McNabbPHI2008NYGBoxscoreD22/40: 217 1/2: 0-03.685.7-81
31George BlandaOAK1969HOUBoxscoreD1/5: 33 0/2: 0-2-11.214.23-81
32Jim HarbaughIND1995KANBoxscoreD12/27: 112 1/1: 2-102.665.41-80
33Kurt WarnerSTL1999TAMBoxscoreC26/43: 258 1/3: 0-03.335.18-80
34Terry BradshawPIT1975BALBoxscoreD8/13: 103 0/2: 3-27-0.884.04-79
35Arnie HerberGNB1939NYGBoxscoreC5/8: 62 1/3: 0-0-6.633.01-77
36Steve McNairTEN2003BALBoxscoreW14/23: 159 1/3: 0-01.915.2-76
37Tom BradyNWE2011BALBoxscoreC22/36: 239 0/2: 1-53.895.9-74
38Ben RoethlisbergerPIT2004NYJBoxscoreD17/30: 181 1/2: 1-103.265.63-74
39Eli ManningNYG2011SFOBoxscoreC32/58: 316 2/0: 6-494.85.9-71
40Brad JohnsonWAS1999DETBoxscoreW15/31: 174 1/2: 1-835.18-70
41James HarrisRAM1974WASBoxscoreD8/24: 95 1/2: 0-01.043.91-69
42Mark SanchezNYJ2009SDGBoxscoreD12/23: 100 1/1: 1-72.835.65-68
43Joe FlaccoBAL2009NWEBoxscoreW4/10: 34 0/1: 0-0-1.15.65-67
44Bubby BristerPIT1989HOUBoxscoreW15/33: 127 0/0: 1-153.295.24-66
45Irv CompGNB1944NYGBoxscoreC3/10: 73 1/3: 0-0-4.22.24-64
46Brett FavreGNB1997TAMBoxscoreD15/28: 190 1/2: 4-193.165.16-64
47Drew BledsoeNWE1996JAXBoxscoreC20/33: 178 0/1: 2-173.315.14-64
48Fran TarkentonMIN1976RAMBoxscoreC12/27: 143 0/1: 4-342.064.07-62
49Peyton ManningIND2006KANBoxscoreW30/38: 268 1/3: 1-53.85.38-62
50Shaun KingTAM1999WASBoxscoreD15/32: 157 1/1: 2-153.445.18-59

The worst game ever belongs to George Blanda, who capped off a marvelous 1961 season with a complete stinker in one of the hardest-hitting games in AFL history. As bad as Blanda was that day, Jack Kemp was hardly any better, finishing with -3 Adjusted Net Yards on 38 dropbacks.

A similar story could be told about the second worst game on the list: David Woodley’s horrible game was easily the better of the two quarterback performances that day. Playing on a muddy field, Jets quarterback Richard Todd completed just 15 passes on 41 dropbacks and was intercepted five times in a game that became known as the Mud Bowl.

Aaron Rodgers was not great on Sunday – yet another feather in the cap of the Seahawks pass defense — but he wasn’t exactly Kemp or Todd. Given the era of 1961 and the field conditions in 1982, you certainly won’t get any arguments from me if you say that Wilson’s performance was the worst in the playoffs by a winning quarterback in football history.

  1. In other words, the 50 worst ever, but excluding any other games from 2014, of which I don’t think any would qualify, anyway. []
  • Guru

    Chase, the Super Bowl should be interesting for none other than this reason: if the Patriots win, then Brady gets his 4th ring, and the experts can sock it to you and the Peyton Manning fanboyz who talk about your stupid stats instead of ringz. Because #WINNING.

    If the Seahawks win, then Wilson gets his 2nd ring, and the experts can sock it to Seahawks fans who say that Wilson is a better QB than Andrew Luck. And they’ll use your stupid stats from this game to prove it, because #GAMEMANAGER. Remember that ringz matter…until they don’t.

    This sport confuses me.

  • David

    I’m clicking on boxscores and getting nothing done at work on this Monday morning.

  • Tim Truemper

    Looking at the list, Ron Jaworski appears twice for 1980 for two playoff games in which the Eagles won! The they got bashed in the SB by Raiders. Interesting that someone could appear twice in the same playoff streak with their team still winning.

  • Ty

    The Packers-Seahawks game would have been great for Bill Barnwell’s “Thank you for not Coaching”, if he still did those.

    • Richie

      Yeah, it’s too bad he stopped those.

    • James

      Then Barnwell has quite the present for you today!

      • Ty

        Yeah, I just saw it. I would be very interested to know how many points (and wins) throughout the season that coaches are giving up, due to sub-optimal in-game decision making. I know it is hard to judge coaches based on how they do their practices, as well as how “prepared” a team is to play, but we definitely have the data to determine their sub-optimal decision making, and how many wins they give up on the season.

        • Richie

          There are a few coaches who seem to cost their team a bit in terms of in-game decisions (McCarthy, Reid), but considering their teams are almost always competing for the playoffs, I think they probably make up for it in off-field coaching.

  • This may interest only me, but nonetheless here are all of the guys who are on the list multiple times:
    Ben Roethlisberger (3)
    Craig Morton (2)
    George Blanda (2)
    Peyton Manning (2)
    Ron Jaworski (2)
    Steve McNair (2)
    Tom Brady (3)

    Clearly, it’s far more likely to have such a poor performance at some point if you’re in the playoffs often, so I was also interested in seeing the QBs with the most playoff starts who do not appear on the list:
    Joe Montana (23)
    John Elway (21)
    Dan Marino (18)
    Roger Staubach (17)
    Troy Aikman (15)

    It also surprised me that Marino wasn’t there, because I remembered his last game being a really, really ugly playoff game. It was a very ugly game, but even uglier for Miami’s defense than for Marino: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200001150jax.htm
    Side note: Jimmy Smith!

    • Chase Stuart

      Well, this list is limited to winners, so that game would be ineligible for Marino.

      • Wow. I completely missed that. I should not attempt to read things before noon.

  • Richie

    Playing on a muddy field, Jets quarterback Richard Todd completed just 15 passes on 41 dropbacks and was intercepted five times in a game that became known as the Mud Bowl.

    Ahhhh,….one of the handful of games that turned me into a Dolphins fan. I actually remember when the Dolphins were capable of winning important games.

  • prowrestlingisstrong

    What an impressive performance by the Seattle defense. This is what makes the Seahawks so special as all of the qb centric teams that the media fawns over would have been annihilated with that kind of performance from their QB. Can you imagine if Rodgers threw 4 picks or Manning or Luck? We saw that exact scenario play out in last years super bowl.

    That kind of toughness and the embracing of ugly football still has a place in the world of football despite the attempts of the NFL to legislate it out.

    However if I was a Seahawks fan I would be very concerned about my run defense and o line. That is the second week in a row the Seahawks o line has been manhandled amd the Pats have a tough run defense especially when there is limited threat of the pass. The Seattle offense has looked very poor two weeks in a row and I dont know if they have enough juice to overcome a very balanced Patriots team

    • Stony

      We’ve seen Manning throw 6 picks and almost win the game (only lost because Adam Vinatieri shanked a field goal at the end). This game showed me a lot more about Russel Wilson (also the Packers coaches) than about the Seattle defense.

    • Ian

      You’re wrong about several things here. Seattle’s offense was great last week against a defense that had just shut down New Orleans and Atlanta recently. What’s bad about 6.7 yards per play, no turnovers and a 7-13 conversion rate?

      Second, what was so bad about Seattle’s run defense? They gave up a few third-down conversions, but held Green Bay several times in the red zone.

  • prowrestlingisstrong

    Against Carolina Seattle ran 28 times for 100 yards and their O Line was consistently beat by Carolina’s pedestrian defensive line. Seattle moved the ball at times, but 1/5 of their passing yards came off of a 63 yard bomb and an unsustainable YPA. Raise your hand of you think Wilson will average 12.3 YPA vs the Patriots….

    Against Carolina and Green Bay they have given up an average of 4.5 YPA rushing. This would put them in the mid twenties based on regular season rankings. I would qualify that as not doing well against the run.

    Seattle is tough and I would not count them out by any strecth but I think that they are going to have a tough time against the Pats moving the ball. The pats have several solid corners amd what is to prevent them from jamming the box and shutting down Seattle’s running game while keeping Wilson contained. I would certainly take my chances with Revis and either Ryan or McCourty singled up against with of Seattles average recievers. If you slow down Seattle running that passing game is just not good enough to pick up the slack.

    • Ian

      So… the Seahawks offense looked very poor except when it didn’t for much of the game? And what they’ll do against New England is irrelevant. Either they were good against Carolina or they weren’t, and they were definitely good. Also, the last time Wilson played New England? He averaged 10.9 YPA against them. That included a 51-yard pass, a 46-yard pass, a 50-yard pass and a 40-yard pass interference. But I guess those need to be thrown out as well? If you really want to take out plays, Stewart had a 16-yard run when they were down 21. Take that out and Carolina only averaged 4.0 yards per carry.

  • Michael Terry

    It’s funny because Wilson will never get the sort of analysis that looks for his hidden value that, say, Luck does. Marshawn Lynch’s marginal value[1] is much higher because of the presence of Wilson, but hardly anyone understands it, or upon understanding it, immediately ignores it and pretends that Wilson just had the worst performance in play-off history because they only look at his direct impact on the passing game. The threat (and reality) of Wilson’s rushing tilts the field and is just as attributable an athletic gift as, for example, Shaquille O’Neal’s height was. There’s simply no way Lynch rushes for 150 yards against the Packers with any other QB playing for the Seahawks.

    What was Seattle’s offensive DVOA before Wilson? They already had Lynch. No one of significance has been added to Seattle’s offensive roster, only Wilson. Lynch is running better than ever even though he’s past his physical prime. He started running better midway through Wilson’s rookie season, when the read option was added. This year Seattle’s offensive DVOA was ranked #5. The massive difference between pre-Wilson offensive efficiency and post-Wilson offensive efficiency is Wilson’s real value.

    [1] And marginal value is what wins football games.

    • Ty

      The difference (aside from this season) between Wilson and Luck, was that Wilson was able to put up good passing efficiency in his first two seasons in the league, while Luck was putting up below average to mediocre passing efficiency. That has clearly switched this year, although Wilson definitely brings a huge rushing element that can’t be seen in stats like ANY/A, but definitely show up in DVOA. It is no coincidence that Seattle has one of the greatest rushing attacks of all-time, and a big part of that is Wilson. Wilson’s ability to run efficiently is the equivalent of a passing play, and normally, passing the ball > running the ball, but Wilson isn’t normal.