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Week 6 (2014) Game Scripts: Bucs Blown out Again

It was only back in week 3 when the Falcons posted a Game Script of 32.5 against the Bucs. In week 6, the Ravens nearly duplicated that effort in Tampa Bay!

Joe Flacco threw two touchdowns to Torrey Smith in the first 6 minutes of the game. He would hit Kamar Aiken and Michael Campanaro before the quarter was over, becoming just the second quarterback in NFL history with four first-quarter touchdown passes. The other? Tommy Kramer in 1986 against the Packers.

Baltimore’s Game Script produced the 2nd best Game Script of the year; meanwhile the Eagles’ 27-0 shutout against the Giants came with a Game Script of +17.1, the 7th highest mark this season.

The table below lists the Game Scripts data from each game in week 6. As is customary around these parts, I’ve highlighted the Bengals/Panthers game in blue as a result of their tie (you can move your cursor over that row to see it more clearly, not that I know why you would want to). [click to continue…]

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Brian Football

Brian Football.

Last week in this space, we bemoaned the large number of blowouts and the lack of exciting comebacks. Apparently, bemoaning works.

After falling behind against Atlanta by a score of 20-10, the Giants scored the final 20 points of the game to steal the win. The Saints jumped out to a 13-0 lead against Tampa Bay, but the Bucs responded by going on a 31-7 run. With the season teetering on the edge, New Orleans responded by scoring 17 straight points to pull off the rare come from ahead comeback.

In Detroit, the Lions jumped out to a 14-0 lead. But the Bills scored 17 straight, and won with a Game Script of -6.4. In Carolina, the Bears took an early 21-7 lead, but the Panthers scored 24 of the game’s final 27 points, winning with a -3.8 Game Script. But by far the biggest comeback of the day came in Tennessee, when the 2014 edition of the Kardiac Kids pulled off the largest road comeback in NFL history.

With 2:55 left in the first half, the Titans led the Browns, 28-3. But from that point forward, Brian Hoyer completed 16 of 27 passes for 259 yards and 3 touchdowns, while Ben Tate, Isaiah Crowell, and Terrance West rushed 24 times for 107 yards. By the end of the day, Cleveland had won 29-28 despite a Game Script of -10.5. That checks in as the worst Game Script by a winning team since the Colts won with a -11.0 against the Texans in week 9 of last season.

The table below shows all the Game Scripts data from week 5:

[click to continue…]

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Thursday Night Football. New York and Washington. Can you feel the excitement? Probably not. Despite being 3-point underdogs, the Giants won in a snoozer, 45-14, while posting a Game Script of +12.9.

Okay, what about Sunday Night Football? Dallas and New Orleans. Tony Romo and Drew Brees. Can you feel the excitement? Probably not. Despite being 3-point underdogs, the Cowboys won in a snoozer, 38-17, while posting a Game Script of +14.4.

The week ended with Monday Night Football and Tom Brady! Can you feel the excitement? Probably not. Despite being 3-point underdogs, the Chiefs won in a snoozer, 41-14, while posting a Game Script of +14.5.

In between, two other teams — Miami and Indianapolis — also finished with Game Scripts of 13-14 points. Green Bay and San Diego won by a combined 40 points, although the Game Scripts indicated slightly more competitive action against the Bears and Jaguars than that final score. In fact, just two games were won by teams with negative Game Scripts, and those were the only two real comebacks of the week.1

Team
H/R
Opp
Boxscore
PF
PA
Margin
Game Script
Pass
Run
P/R Ratio
Op_P
Op_R
Opp_P/R Ratio
KANNWEBoxscore41142714.5283842.4%331667.3%
DALNORBoxscore38172114.4303446.9%451278.9%
INDTENBoxscore41172413.8414150%311567.4%
MIA@OAKBoxscore38142413.5313547%461773%
NYG@WASBoxscore45143112.9403851.3%351767.3%
BALCARBoxscore38102811.9313050.8%362559%
GNB@CHIBoxscore3817217.1281959.6%364146.8%
SDGJAXBoxscore3314196.2411968.3%402561.5%
DET@NYJBoxscore241775.9382758.5%352657.4%
MINATLBoxscore4128135.6304440.5%422265.6%
HOUBUFBoxscore231761.5392263.9%462366.7%
TAM@PITBoxscore27243-1.3442068.8%462663.9%
SFOPHIBoxscore26215-3344244.7%441278.6%

The two teams to win with negative Game Scripts were San Francisco and Tampa Bay. The 49ers trailed for most of the first half, and the Eagles extended their lead to 21-10 in the 2nd quarter. That means that in every Philadelphia game this year, the first team to obtain a 10-point lead has wound up losing. And the 49ers, after blowing a 17-point lead to the Bears and an 8-point lead to the Cardinals, finally found themselves on the positive side of a comeback. In Pittsburgh, the Bucs jumped out to a 10-0 lead, Pittsburgh responded with a 24-7 run, and then Tampa Bay scored the final 10 points of the game.

For the Patriots, this was the 3rd worst Game Script of the Tom Brady era. The worst performance came in the 31-0 loss to the Bills on opening day 2003, when the Patriots had a Game Script of -18.0. The only other game with a lower Game Script was a -16.6 in the playoff loss to the 2009 Ravens.

Finally, let’s look at some of the unusual pass/run ratios from week 4:

  • Against the Packers, the Bears became the first team since 1976 to run 40+ times despite losing by at least three touchdowns. To some extent, there was a perfect storm of events to make that happen: the Packers scored the final 24 points of the game, and the 21-point margin was much worse than the -7.1 Game Script number indicates. But Chicago still was very run-happy in this game: consider that the Bears ran more than they passed, while the Packers threw on about 60% of their plays. That stat line is typically associated in a game where the Bears would be posting the +7.1 Game Script, not the other way around. Of course, Chicago rushed for 235 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per carry, which might explain the run-heavy offensive game plan.
  • The Chargers are known as a run-oriented team, but injuries to Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead may change things. Donald Brown and Branden Oliver rushed 19 times for just 42 yards against the Jaguars. As a result, San Diego threw on about twice as many plays as it ran, which is out of character for a team (especially the Chargers) with a +6.2 Game Script. Jacksonville actually ran more frequently, although without much success (to be fair, five of the Jaguars runs were by Blake Bortles). Were the Jaguars trying to protect their rookie quarterback? Probably. But giving Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson, and Jordan Todman 20 carries isn’t worth much if they can only muster 61 yards. Another sign of the team’s conservative attack: Other than a 44-yard bomb to Allen Hurns, Bortles averaged 7.6 yards per completion on his other 28 completions.
  • The Jets and Lions had nearly identical pass/run ratios, with Detroit passing slightly more often. That is only unusual because the Jest trailed by an average of 5.9 points throughout the game on Sunday. As we’ve said just about every week, the Jets like to run the ball, and teams do not like to run the ball against the Jets. By the end of the year, expect New York to rank in the bottom three in both pass identity and in opponent’s pass identity.
  • The Eagles had an incredible 78.6% pass rate against San Francisco. Nick Foles did not have a very good day, completing just under half of his pass attempts.  So why did the Eagles abandon the run? LeSean McCoy couldn’t do much against the 49ers front: he had just 10 carries for 17 yards, with Darren Sproles chipping in with only one rush.  The Eagles offensive line has been decimated, although it’s not clear that the response to that circumstance is a very pass-happy attack. There’s nothing wrong with passing so often, but it’s always worth noting when the team that was the most pass-happy of the week was in one of the more competitive games. The Eagles had been passing on around 60% of their plays through the first three weeks, with a consistent ratio each week.  Perhaps Sunday’s result says more about the opponent than it does the Eagles.
  1. Technically, the Vikings had a 4th quarter comeback against the Falcons, but Minnesota took the lead for good with about 11 minutes left in the game. []
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Ryan posted his 2nd monster game in three weeks on TNF.

Ryan posted his 2nd monster game in three weeks on TNF.

In 2013, the largest Game Script was 23.8, courtesy of the Chiefs 45-10 blowout in Washington. But that game was child’s play compared to the NSFW game that was Atlanta/Tampa Bay on Thursday Night.

The Falcons finished with a Game Script of +32.5, the sixth highest in NFL history. Matt Ryan finished the day 21 of 24 for 286 yards and 3 touchdowns. Incredibly, Atlanta turned it over 4 times, although that didn’t stop the Falcons from finishing +1 in the turnover margin.

In a normal week, Indianapolis would stand out for its thrashing of the Jaguars: the Colts posted a Game Script of 19.8, which is even large by Indianapolis/Jacksonville standards. Last year, the Colts finished with Game Scripts of 15.5 and 17.8 against the Jags. What’s weird, though, is that Indianapolis — which has a tendency to get very conservative at times — has thrown on about 60% of its plays in the team’s last three games against the Jaguars, despite monster leads. Andrew Luck fantasy owners, take note, although I’m not quite sure what this says about the Colts mindset.

The Bengals continued their dominant ways in week 3, holding an average margin of victory of 14.8 points against the Titans. Cincinnati had a Game Script of +8.5 in week 2, while the Titans had -8.5 Game Script in week 2, so I guess 8.5 + -8.5 = 14.8? Leave the math to the professional bloggers, folks.

The table below shows the Game Scripts data from each team in Week 3: [click to continue…]

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Marshall wonders why the Bears Game Script was so poor.

Marshall wonders why the Bears Game Script was so poor.

It was a week for comebacks in the NFL. Chicago trailed San Francisco 17-0 with just 30 seconds left in the first half, but won 28-20. With 20 minutes left, the Eagles trailed the Colts 20-6, but came back to win 30-27. Midway through the 2nd quarter, the Jets led the Packers 21-3, but Green Bay came back to win, 31-24.

All three games produced Game Scripts by the winning team of between -4 and -7 points. Game Scripts, regular readers know, measure the average points differential over the course of the entire game. Week 2 brought a pair of games with very large game scripts, with Oakland (Game Script of -15.9) and Jacksonville (-15.3) failing to look competitive in losses to houston and Washington, respectively. Minnesota (-11.7) wasn’t much better. Not surprisingly, the Raiders, Jaguars, and Vikings all passed significantly more often than their opponents. [click to continue…]

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Regular readers are familiar with the concept of Game Scripts, the term I’ve used to represent the average margin of lead or deficit over the course of every second of a game. Let’s use the Washington/Houston game (since it featured just four scoring plays) to explain how to calculate the Game Script score.

The first score of the game came with 6:11 left in the second quarter, when Darrel Young rushed for a touchdown (the extra point was blocked, of course, by J.J. Watt).  This means for the first 23 minutes and 49 seconds, the score was tied.  On Houston’s ensuing drive, Ryan Fitzpatrick hit DeAndre Hopkins for a 76-yard touchdown with 4:28 left in the half.  That means Washington held a 6 point lead for only one minute and 43 seconds.

After a three-and-out, Washington’s punt was blocked, and Alfred Blue recovered, giving Houston a 14-6 lead with 2:09 left in the half.  This means that Houston held a 1-point lead for two minutes and 19 seconds.

Then, the Texans held that 8-point lead for just over 30 minutes: Houston kicked a field goal right at the two minute warning, and ultimately won, 17-6.

Now, to calculate the Game Script, all you need to do is average the Texans’ margin over the course of the 3600 seconds in the game. As you can see in the table below, that number is 4.3. [click to continue…]

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Are Teams Afraid To Pass Against Seattle?

The Legion of Boom May Be Harmful To Your Offense's Health

The Legion of Boom May Be Harmful To Your Offense's Health.

We know that the Seahawks pass defense is historically good, but the title of this post sounds like it was written by a Seahawks homer, right? I mean, who else besides a green-and-blue fanboy (or maybe Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas) would write something as absurd as “Seattle’s pass defense is so good that teams are afraid to throw on them!!!”

The thing is, it’s kind of true. Seattle faced only 568 pass attempts (including sacks) during the regular season, the sixth fewest in the NFL.  Some of that is due to the Seahawks pace on offense and dominance of a defense that prevented sustained drives; even still, opponents passed on “only” 57.4% of all plays against Seattle.

Seattle ranked below average — 18th — in percentage of pass plays faced, but there’s a reason I put only in quotes. Seattle held an average lead over every second of game play this year of 5.6 points, the third best mark in the NFL. Denver and San Francisco were the only teams to play with larger leads, and they ranked 6th and 7th in percentage of plays faced that were passes. This is hardly a newsflash — teams generally throw often when trailing — but that wasn’t the case with 2013 Seahawks.

When Steve Buzzard used the Game Scripts data to determine defensive pass identities, he found that teams were more hesitant to pass against Seattle (once adjusting for the score and strength of schedule) than against any team in the league. I thought it would be interesting to take another crack at measuring this effect. We can use the score differential after each of the four quarters of the game to determine how many pass attempts (as a percentage of total plays) a team *should* face. [click to continue…]

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Steve Buzzard has agreed to write another guest post for us. And I think it’s a very good one. Steve is a lifelong Colts fan and long time fantasy football aficionado. He spends most of his free time applying advanced statistical techniques to football to better understand the game he loves and improve his prediction models.


Last month, I wrote about how to project pass/run ratios using offensive Pass Identities and the point spread. However, this methodology only considers one side of the ball. Can we actually improve our projections model using both offensive and defensive Pass Identities? As it turns out the answer is yes.

First, I started off by creating defensive Pass Identities using the same methodology found here. The first thing I noticed was the standard deviation of pass ratios for defenses was only 3.0% compared to 5.1% for offenses. This led me to believe that offenses control how much passing goes on in a game more than defenses. I was glad to see this as it confirmed most of my previous research as well. Given this, it wasn’t appropriate to use a standard deviation of 3.0% for defenses in my projection while using a standard deviation of 5.1% for offenses. Instead, I used the combined standard deviation of all 64 offensive and defensive pass ratios, which turned out to be 4.17%. This doesn’t change the order of passer identities much but obviously does increase the deviation from the mean for the offensive side of the ball and decrease it for the defensive side. [Chase note: Determining the best way to handle the differing spreads between offensive and defensive pass ratios is a good off-season project; in the interest of time, I advised Steve to split the difference and move ahead with the analysis.]

Now that we have a Pass Identity grades for both sides of the ball, we can add a strength of schedule adjustment, too. To make the SOS adjustment, I simply took the average of the defensive Pass Identities played by each offensive unit and the average of the offensive Pass Identities played by each defensive unit. As expected the SOS adjustments had a much larger impact on the defensive Pass Identities than the offensive Pass Identities.
[click to continue…]

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Every week this season, I’ve written about the Game Scripts from the previous weekend. For new readers, the term Game Script is just shorthand for the average points differential for a team over every second of each game. You can check out the updated Game Scripts page, which shows the results of all 256 games this year. Week 17 saw some big blowouts and some tight finishes: Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and Drew Brees all led their teams to convincing wins against overmatched opponents, while Green Bay and Philadelphia clinched playoff berths with close wins.

Week 17 was unremarkable from a Game Scripts perspective, although I’ll note that Denver’s win over Oakland produced a Game Script of 21.6, the fifth highest average margin of the year (and the best by the Broncos this year). On the comeback side, only three teams won with negative Game Scripts, and two of those wins (Green Bay, Carolina) were back-and-forth contests. That means we should all take a moment to reflect on the resolve and grit of the San Diego Chargers, who overcame an average deficit of 4.6 points (in regulation) to force overtime and eventually defeat the Chiefs B team.

The full Game Scripts data from week 17: [click to continue…]

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Week 16 Game Scripts

Week 16 saw some very large Game Scripts in some very important games. The Eagles-Bears showdown turned into a laugher, as Philadelphia posted the 3rd best Game Script of the season. The New England/Baltimore rivalry is famous for producing close games, but the Patriots embarrassed the Ravens on their home field. New England scored a couple of late defensive touchdowns to boost the final margin of victory, but the team still held an average lead of 15.2 points. Against Minnesota, Andy Dalton channeled his inner Ken Anderson — which seems to happy every few weeks — and helped the Bengals annihilate the Vikings.

The table below shows the week 16 Game Scripts data. As always, you can view the results from every game this year at this page.

Winner
H/R
Loser
Boxscore
PF
PA
Margin
Game Script
Pass
Run
P/R Ratio
Op_P
Op_R
Opp_P/R Ratio
PHICHIBoxscore54114322.6273642.9%441871%
CINMINBoxscore42142817.4403751.9%311764.6%
NWE@BALBoxscore4173415.2283445.2%462763%
BUFMIABoxscore190198.8265034.2%401276.9%
DEN@HOUBoxscore3713246.8521874.3%402660.6%
IND@KANBoxscore237166383452.8%331963.5%
SDGOAKBoxscore2613133.7303645.5%371768.5%
STLTAMBoxscore2313103.1213935%332358.9%
NYG@DETBoxscore232031.2432068.3%443655%
DAL@WASBoxscore242311292355.8%362856.3%
PIT@GNBBoxscore383170.7292950%403057.1%
ARI@SEABoxscore171070.2274338.6%312060.8%
CARNORBoxscore171340.2261859.1%513063%
NYJCLEBoxscore241311-0.2363948%422166.7%
SFOATLBoxscore342410-1.1243044.4%492071%
TEN@JAXBoxscore20164-1.9294439.7%362163.2%

Five teams posted a negative Game Script and called a more run-heavy game plan than their opponent. One of the most surprising instances came in Detroit, where the Lions held an average lead of 1.2 points. Detroit is famous for their pass-happy ways, but while Matthew Stafford threw 42 passes, the Lions passed on only 55% of their plays. The Giants are wont to keep Eli Manning under wraps (for good reason), but actually passed on 68.3% of their plays. There was a reason for New York’s pass-happy approach: with David Wilson and Brandon Jacobs out for the year, once Andre Brown suffered a concussion, even Tom Coughlin was forced to put the game in Manning’s hands. After all, the alternative was handing off to Bear Pascoe.

Less surprising was seeing Peyton Manning and the Broncos pass on three out of every four plays despite holding an average lead of 6.8 points. The Texans won the all unimportant time of possession battle, but Manning threw for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Also not surprising: the run-heavy Jets running on 48% of their plays against the pass-happy Browns. New York just barely lost the Game Script battle, and Cleveland predictably passed on two out of every three plays. The same can be said for run-heavy San Francisco (44.4%) against pass-happy Atlanta (71%), in a game that the Falcons actually led by, on average, 1.1 points.

In Jacksonville, the game was pretty even — Tennessee won the game but posted a Game Script of -1.2. But the Titans running game was rolling — both Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene rushed for 90 yards, leaving Ryan Fitzpatrick to play the role of caretaker. For the Jaguars, the pass-heavy game plan consisted of a lot of short, safe throws. That’s been the norm for Chad Henne, who ranks last on the season in both air yards per pass attempt (6.55) and average air yards on completions (4.76) according to NFLGSIS.

One team not on the list is Dallas, who held an average lead of 1.0 points against Washington…. and actually ran more frequently than one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL! This was a severe case of overreaction to the pass-happy ways of last week. Dallas has played six games this year where the Game Script was between -1.5 and 1.5 points. In four of those games, Dallas passed on 70% of their plays, including an 86% rate against Minnesota. Having a close to 50/50 split is way out of the norm for Dallas in close games: in addition to the game last week, the only other time where the Cowboys were below 70% came in another run-heavy game plan against Detroit in week 8.

One thing that will be fascinating to watch is how pass-heavy the game plan is with Kyle Orton instead of Tony Romo this week. The Cowboys very pass-heavy on the season, of course, but Dallas also has a tendency for run-heavy games every once in a while (the Lions games, and the Raiders/Bears games right before the Packers meltdown). Without Romo, which way will they go?

Game Scripts Standings

We can also calculate Game Scripts standings for the season. As it turns out, the 49ers have held an average lead of 5.6 points, placing them number one in the Game Script standings. I was pretty shocked to discover that, but San Francisco has outscored opponents by 91 points in the first half of games this year, second to only Kansas City (93). The 49ers also lead the league in scoring margin through three quarters. One reason for that is San Francisco has allowed a league-low 36 points in the third quarter this year, and also leads the NFL in points allowed through three quarters.

The Broncos, on the other hand, have been a bit of a second half team in 2013. It’s not like Denver is bad in the first half, but the Broncos have already set the record (previously held by last year’s team) for points scored in the second halves of games with 315!

After calculating the Game Script scores for each team, I then adjusted the numbers for strength of schedule. The 49ers still come out as number one; here’s how to read the table below. San Francisco has held an average lead of 5.6 points, has faced a schedule that is 0.5 points tougher than average, giving the 49ers a schedule-neutral Game Script of 6.1.

Rk
Team
GS
SOS
Adj. GS
Record
1SFO5.60.56.111-4
2SEA5.10.65.712-3
3CAR4.10.9511-4
4DEN5.4-0.64.812-3
5KAN4.4-0.93.511-4
6NOR1.31.42.710-5
7ARI0.91.32.210-5
8PHI2.8-0.829-6
9CIN2.9-1.41.510-5
10TAM-0.31.71.44-11
11STL0.11.21.37-8
12NWE1.5-0.31.311-4
13DAL1.9-0.71.28-7
14SDG1.7-0.51.28-7
15ATL-1.41.2-0.24-11
16DET0.8-1.1-0.37-8
17BUF-0.3-0.3-0.66-9
18GNB0.3-0.9-0.67-7-1
19MIA-0.80.2-0.78-7
20TEN-10-16-9
21IND-1.70.6-1.210-5
22BAL-0.5-1.1-1.68-7
23PIT-0.8-1.1-1.97-8
24CLE-1.2-1-2.24-11
25OAK-1.7-0.5-2.24-11
26NYG-3.60.8-2.86-9
27CHI-2-0.9-2.98-7
28MIN-3-0.4-3.44-10-1
29NYJ-3.90.1-3.87-8
30HOU-4.50.6-3.92-13
31JAX-5.80.6-5.24-11
32WAS-6.10.6-5.53-12

One name that’s surprising at the bottom of that list is Chicago. After all, the Bears have a winning record and can win the NFC North with a win this weekend. But Jay Cutler has led 3 fourth quarter comebacks, and Josh McCown led one more, and those games account for half of the team’s wins. The Eagles game was obviously a disaster, bringing down the team’s rating, but Chicago also posted a -11.2 against St. Louis, a -10 against the Lions, and a -9.2 in a home loss to the Saints. And the Bears have posted a Game Script of +3.0 or better just three times all season.

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Something just didn’t feel right. Here is what I wrote in last week’s column:

Through 12 weeks, the Cowboys had the strongest pass identity in the NFL. Then, against the Raiders in week 13, the Cowboys were pretty run-heavy. And against the Bears in week 14, Dallas produced its best game of the season on the ground. But Tony Romo attempted just 20 passes, and the Cowboys had their second lowest pass ratio of the season (behind a blowout win over the Rams). The weather played a factor against the Bears, and the running game was working, but in general, Dallas is at its best when Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten are getting lots of touches. Against the Bears, a run-heavy game plan makes some sense; my guess is we’ll see a more pass-happy performance out of the Cowboys against Green Bay this weekend.

Well, at least I nailed one prediction this year. The Cowboys implosion against the Packers provided Nitroglycerin to the fire burning with second-guessers and Romo critics. First, some context: the Packers won with a Game Script of -9.7, the second lowest average by any winning team in 2013. And the Cowboys ran just 18 times, despite DeMarco Murray rushing for 134 yards on those 18 carries.

By my count, the most pass-happy games of the season have been:

  • Atlanta calling 45 pass plays and just 16 runs in a win over the Rams where the Falcons held an average lead of 13.4 points.
  • The Packers, when Aaron Rodgers was healthy but Eddie Lacy was not, calling 46 passes and 24 runs (including three kneel downs!) despite posting a Game Script of 17.9 against Washington.
  • Dallas passing on 85.7% of all plays (54-9 ratio) despite holding an average lead of 1.4 points against the Vikings in week 9.
  • Dallas, by recording a Game Script of 9.7 against Green Bay while passing 51 times and rushing just eighteen.

So when Tony Romo threw two late interceptions, the narrative had already been written: in addition to Romo being a choker, the burning question was why didn’t Dallas call more running plays? The Cowboys led 26-3 at halftime, yet called just seven runs in the second half? How is this even possible?

But as Bill Barnwell points out, this isn’t as much of a black and white issue as you might think. Dallas had five second half drives:

  • Drive #1: Leading 26-10 (the Packers scored on the opening drive of the half), the Cowboys call five runs and five pass plays on a 10-play, 48-yard drive for a field goal. Dallas faced 1st-and-10 five times on this drive, and ran on four of those plays. A holding penalty on a negated running play ruined the drive, forcing Dallas to settle for a field goal.
  • Drive #2: Leading 29-17, the Cowboys go three-and-out. Leading by 12 in the third quarter is hardly clock-killin’ time. A first down incompletion to Murray led to two more pass plays, but only with the benefit of hindsight can you really rip into Garrett for not calling yet another run here on 1st-and-10 (or for not running on 2nd-and-10, or 3rd-and-10). Had Dallas won the game, nobody would remember this series.
  • Drive #3: Leading 29-24 with 12 minutes left in the first quarter, the Cowboys ran Murray on 1st-and-10, the 5th out of 7 opportunities to do so in the second half. After that, the Cowboys did in fact become very pass-happy, as Romo threw on eight of the next nine plays. The only problem with criticizing that approach is that it led to an 80-yard touchdown drive.
  • Drive #4: Leading 36-31, the Cowboys took possession at their own 20-yard line with 4:17 remaining. The Packers had all their timeouts. At this point, a three-and-out gives Green Bay the ball back with 3:53 remaining. Even if the Cowboys get one first down, and get that on third down on the initial set of downs, the Packers will get the ball back with 1:54 remaining.That’s too much time for an offense that had scored four touchdowns on each of its four second half possessions. So on 1st down, the Cowboys called a pass play which was incomplete. On 2nd down, Romo was sacked. But on 3rd down, Romo hit Dez Bryant for the first down.

    You probably didn’t hear too much about that series, since it ended well. On the next 1st down, Dallas ran Murray for four yards. Two more runs wouldn’t have done much unless they gained six yards — the Packers could get the ball back with 1:54 and one timeout. Getting a first down is the priority in this situation, not running the clock.

    Of course, as we all know, Romo threw a pass on a run/pass option, and Sam Shields recorded the interception.

  • Drive #5: Trailing 37-36, the Cowboys called two pass plays, and Romo’s pass for Cole Beasley was picked off when the receiver ran the wrong route.

It’s easy, and maybe a little bit fun, to rip Garrett and Romo and Jerry Jones. But I don’t think the pass-happy play-calling was the problem. Allowing 34 second-half points was the problem, and more runs up the middle wouldn’t have solved that problem, either. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the problems on defense don’t seem to be getting any better.

Below are the Game Scripts data from each game in week 15; you can view the Game Scripts data from each game this season at the always up-to-date Game Scripts page here.
[click to continue…]

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Week 14 Game Scripts

At the last second, Washington realizes it forgot to do something

Washington realizes it forgot to do something.

Last week, six teams won with a negative Game Script. During an unforgettable slate of 1PM games in week 14, four teams during that time slot won with a negative Game Script — and that doesn’t include the insane Ravens/Vikings game.  One of the teams to win with a negative Game Script was Miami, so had the Ben Roethlisberger/Antonio Brown miracle lateral play worked, it would have increased the craziness quotient but left us with just three negative Game Script victors.

The big comeback, of course, was in New England. The Patriots were shut out for the first 43 minutes, scored 14 points in the next 15 minutes, and then 13 points in the final two minutes. New England now has two of the biggest comebacks of the year, and joins Seattle as the only teams to win two games with Game Scripts of -6.0 points.

Big news out of Washington yesterday: Robert Griffin III has been benched for Kirk Cousins, in what is being described as collateral damage in the Dan Snyder/Mike Shanahan power struggle. The most interesting part of that sentence is Snyder’s hyperlinked name means yes, in fact, PFR now does have pages for executives. The quarterback change obscures the fact that the team has the worst special teams through thirteen weeks since at least 1989, and a pretty bad defense, too. More relevant for today’s post is that the beat down provided by Kansas City produced a Game Script of 23.8 points, the largest average lead in any game this year.

Below are the Game Scripts data from each game in week 14; you can view the Game Scripts from each game this season at the always up-to-date Game Scripts page here. [click to continue…]

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Just above these words, it says “posted by Chase.” And it was literally posted by Chase, but the words below the line belong to Steve Buzzard, who has agreed to write this guest post for us. And I thank him for it. Steve is a lifelong Colts fan and long time fantasy football aficionado. He spends most of his free time applying advanced statistical techniques to football to better understand the game he loves and improve his prediction models.


The way to win fantasy football games is to have players that score a lot of points.  Players tend to score more points when they get more touches.  One of the most important factors in determining how many touches each player is going to have is to determine the Game Script ahead of time.  As we all know positive game scripts result in more passing attempts and negative Game Scripts result in more rushing attempts.  But I am going to try to project the pass ratio using two key stats, Pass Identity rating and the Vegas spreads. We can use these projected pass ratios to build our own projections or at least look for outliers and figure out how to adjust players from their year to date averages.

Regular readers know what Pass Identity means. For newer readers, you can read here to see how Pass Identities are calculated.  But the quick summary is that Pass Identity grades allow us to predict the pass ratio of any game where the point spread is zero. This is because Pass Identity tries to eliminate the Game Script from the pass ratios.  For example since the Bears/Cowboys game is a pick’em this week, we can predict the pass ratio of the Bears by using the following formula.  League average pass ratio + (A + B) *C, where

    (A) = number of standard deviations above/below average the Bears are in Game Script (-0.49);

 

    (B) = number of standard deviations above/below average the Bears are in Pass Ratio (+0.53); and

(C) = the standard deviation among the thirty-two teams with respect to Pass Ratio (5.3%)

Of course, the product of (A) and (B) is the Pass Identity grade for each team; once we determine that, we multiply that number by the standard deviation of the pass ratios of all teams to get us a prediction for the pass ratio in a game with a Game Script of 0.0. Since the Bears have a Pass Identity of basically 100, the projected Pass Ratio for Chicago against Dallas is 58.9%.

We can then compare this projection to Chicago’s year-to-date pass ratio of 61.5% and predict that all else equal Jay Cutler and the passing game should score about 4%1 less this week than their average week where as Matt Forte and the run game would score about 4% more.

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  1. Since 58.9% is 96% of 61.5%. []
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Week 13 Game Scripts

For the second straight week, an NFC West team produced a monster game script. This week, it was Seattle dominating New Orleans and taking control of the NFC. The Seahawks can clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs by simply winning the team’s final two home games, and Seattle appears to be (again) getting hot just in time for the postseason. Among passers with at least nine starts, Russell Wilson has the second best ANY/A average behind Peyton Manning, and the team should have a healthy Percy Harvin for the playoffs. In other words, it’s going to take an incredible effort for a team to knock off the Seahawks, who also rank #1 in DVOA.

Six teams in week 13 won with negative Game Scripts, with Matt Ryan leading the biggest comeback of the week. In surprising twists, the Patriots and Cowboys trailed early before toppling the Texans and Raiders, while the Vikings came from behind late to defeat the Bears. The Jaguars won in the final minute in one of the more exciting games of the week, while the Giants won (in somewhat controversial fashion) after falling behind 14-0 early in Washington. Below are the Game Scripts data from each game in week 13: [click to continue…]

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It has not been a good week for these two

It has not been a good week for these two.

The game of the week 12 was obviously Brady/Manning XIV, and the Patriots comeback victory resulted in the second lowest Game Script by a winning team this year. Due to the big lead, Denver rushed 55% of the time, and Knowshon Moreno set NFL season-highs with 37 carries for 224 rushing yards. In regulation, the Broncos held an average lead of 10.5 points, although that still trails the Andrew Luck-fueled comeback by Indianapolis against Houston in week nine. The other big comeback in week 12 was by Cam Newton and the Panthers.  Carolina trailed 16-3 with one minute left in the second quarter in the 2nd quarter, but scored the final seventeen points of the game to steal the win from Miami.

The biggest blowout of the week was by the Cardinals, who clobbered the Colts, 40-11.  Arizona led 34-3 entering the fourth quarter, and this was the second time this season Indianapolis has held an average deficit of 18+ points. That, in my expert opinion, is not good. Things are even worse for the team that selected after the Colts in the 2012 draft: for the second week in a row, Washington posted a Game Script of less than -9.0. I don’t have any desire to talk about the RG3 drama, but I will point you in the direction of this interesting article written by my former co-blogger.

Below are the Game Scripts data from week 12. I’ve highlighted the Vikings/Packers row in blue, since I know of no other way to shame both teams (you can move your cursor over that row to see it more clearly, not that I know why you would want to). [click to continue…]

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Last week brought us the most lopsided game of the year. The games were more competitive this week, with the largest Game Script belonging to Tampa Bay (yes, Tampa Bay) at 14.0. The Philadelphia-Washington game provides a good example of the information conveyed — and not conveyed — by Game Scripts. Philadelphia won by 8 points, but that would be misleading if you thought it was a close game throughout: the Eagles held an average lead of 12.8 points. On the other hand, Game Scripts don’t necessarily tell you how lopsided the game was: Washington had the ball with a chance to tie, at the Eagles’ 27-yard line, with 54 seconds remaining. The Eagles came away with a very low Moral Margin of Victory (5.8) but a high Game Script, with neither bit of information being right or wrong. On one hand, Philadelphia’s Win Probability was over 85% for the final 2.5 quarters, but it was also a game where Washington was not really out of it until the final seconds. I prefer a toolbox with lots of different tools over trying to find one do-it-all device.

Here are the week 11 Game Scripts data:

Winner
H/R
Loser
Boxscore
PF
PA
Margin
Game Script
Pass
Run
P/R Ratio
Op_P
Op_R
Opp_P/R Ratio
TAMATLBoxscore41281314263840.6%462069.7%
PHIWASBoxscore2416812.8293346.8%383750.7%
BUFNYJBoxscore37142312.3293843.3%332260%
SEAMINBoxscore41202110.2222844%363252.9%
DENKANBoxscore2717108.1403553.3%482466.7%
CINCLEBoxscore4120218.1283147.5%601975.9%
NYGGNBBoxscore2713147.4392461.9%341964.2%
OAK@HOUBoxscore282355.5343152.3%512170.8%
CARNWEBoxscore242043.1302455.6%422562.7%
MIASDGBoxscore201641.9382065.5%372658.7%
ARI@JAXBoxscore2714131.6452465.2%441673.3%
PITDETBoxscore3727101.5462763%482466.7%
NORSFOBoxscore23203-0.5442365.7%342260.7%
CHIBALBoxscore23203-3.4332556.9%344145.3%
IND@TENBoxscore30273-4.6373253.6%302455.6%

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Austin and the Rams blew out the Colts

Austin and the Rams blew out the Colts.

We have a new leader in the clubhouse for most lopsided game of the season. The St. Louis Rams pulled off one of the biggest blowouts by a heavy underdog in league history in week ten, defeating the Colts in Indianapolis, 38-8. In the process, the Rams also held an average lead of 23.2 points, the largest Game Script score of the season.

Indianapolis kept it close early, and the only first quarter score came via the St. Louis defense. On that play, Robert Quinn — who with 12 sacks through 10 games, is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate — stripsacked Andrew Luck, and Chris Long picked up the fumble and raced 45 yards for the touchdown. Incredibly, the Colts are lucky this game wasn’t even more one-sided. Late in the first quarter, Kellen Clemens and Zac Stacy botched the exchange on a handoff on the goal line with the Rams looking to go up 14-0, and Indianapolis recovered to end the scoring threat. That didn’t set back the Rams for long, however, as St. Louis scored 21 points in the third quarter to take a 28-0 lead into the locker room. Tavon Austin — who had a day for the ages — scored in the third quarter to give St. Louis a 35-0 lead early in the third quarter, effectively ending any hopes for another Luck comeback.

Three teams lost with positive Game Scripts in week 10, but unlike in week nine, there were no big comebacks, as all three games were back-and-forth affairs.  The Panthers won with the worst Game Script of the week, holding an average deficit of 2.6 points against the 49ers. San Francisco jumped out to a 9-0 early, but Carolina eventually won 10-9 on a late field goal. Since I wrote about how the 3-9 Panthers were about to turn things around, Carolina has gone 9-3. In an unrelated note, I recently injured my hand on my back.

The table below shows the Game Scripts data from week 10:
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Luck leads the league with three fourth-quarter comeback wins

Luck leads the league with three fourth-quarter comeback wins.

Week eight brough us the two biggest blowouts of the season; in week nine, we saw the third most dominant win of the year and the biggest comeback of the season.

The first game involved Chip Kelly’s blitzkrieg offense. Nick Foles threw for seven touchdowns against the Raiders in one of the most lopsided (and surprising) games of the season. The Eagles held a 28-13 lead at halftime and 49-13 at the end of the third quarter; over the course of the game, Philadelphia held an average lead of 21.3 points.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have yet another Andrew Luck comeback victory. The Texans led 14-0 after the first quarter and 21-3 at halftime; on average, Houston held an 11-point lead throughout the game, but a 15-0 edge in the fourth quarter gave Indianapolis the win. That’s the highest Game Script of any team to lose a game in 2012, replacing…. Houston’s victory over the Chargers on opening week, when the Texans had a Game Script of -7.7 points.

In addition to the Colts-Texans game, the crazy comeback in Seattle now gives each of the Seahawks and the Bucs two of the five biggest comebacks/giveaways of the year. In week four, Seattle won in overtime against Houston despite trailing by, on average, 7.7 points in regulation. That was probably an even more crazy game than the win against Tampa Bay, where Seattle came back from a 21-0 deficit but only outscored the Bucs by 10 points in the fourth quarter. As for Tampa Bay, this was the fourth game of the season where the team lost despite having a 95% win probability at some point in the game. This was also the second time the Bucs lost a game with a Game Script of over 6.0 points, joining the come-from-ahead loss to Arizona.

Without further ado, the table below shows the week 9 Game Scripts data:
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The 2013 Game Scripts record was broken not once but twice in week eight. In an unsurprising turn, the 49ers obliterated the Jaguars in London 42-10, holding an average lead of 21.3 points, breaking the largest average margin previously held by… Seattle against Jacksonville. But it was the Bengals demolition of the Jets in Cincinnati that set the new Game Scripts record.

The Bengals took a 14-0 lead with 4:26 left in the first quarter; by halftime, the score was 28-6. The first play from scrimmage in the second half was an interception of a Geno Smith pass that was returned for a touchdown by Chris Crocker, and Marvin Jones’ fourth touchdown reception of the day brought the Bengals lead to 42-9 before the end of the third quarter. The final score of the game was another pick six of Smith, this time by Adam Jones, at the start of the fourth quarter. The game was every bit as ugly as this paragraph makes it sound. For the record, both San Francisco and Cincinnati had Moral Margins of Victory of over 30 points, which puts them in the top five for the season.

Last week, the Patriots were the only team with a positive Game Script to lose; this week, New England is one of just two teams with a negative Game Script to win. That game was a pretty weird one: New England rushed on 37 of the team’s 59 plays from scrimmage against Miami. The Patriots threw just 22 passes, the lowest by New England in a game since a extremely windy week 17 visit to Buffalo in 2008. For Tom Brady, this was the fewest attempts in a game for him — excluding games where he was injured or meaningless games where he was benched — since 2005. And this came in a game where the Patriots had a negative Game Script! Brady and the passing game are really struggling — the Patriots rank 31st(!) in Net Yards per Attempt — but it’s still just weird to see New England be so run heavy. Then again, the Patriots had 100 net passing yards on 25 dropbacks against the Dolphins, while Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount had 125 yards on 25 carries.

Below are the week 8 Game Scripts:
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RG3 led a game-winning drive in week 7

RG3 led a game-winning drive in week 7.

After a week six in which no team won with a negative Game Script, only the Jets won with a negative Game Script in week seven, and that was in overtime. Only two quarterbacks led fourth-quarter comebacks this week: Robert Griffin III and Thaddeus Lewis. Three more quarterbacks — Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger, and Geno Smith — led game-winning drives in tie games, but in general, it was a pretty uneventful week for comebacks. Overall, it’s been a quit few weeks in the NFL when it comes to fourth quarter craziness: the largest deficit entering the 4th quarter by a winning team in weeks 5, 6, and 7 was just five points.

Just like last week, Alex Smith and the Chiefs pulled out a late win in a game with a near-even Game Script. None of the 13 other games this week (excluding Jets/Patriots, Chiefs/Texans, and noting that the Saints and Raiders had byes) had a Game Script of fewer than 2 points.
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Week 6 Game Scripts

I’ve posted the Game Scripts data following every week this season, but week six was the first week that no team won with a negative Game Script. That includes New England: even though Tom Brady led a late comeback, finding Kenbrell Thompkins in the back of the end zone to pull out a last-second win, the Patriots posted a Game Script score of +3.6. New England led 17-7 at halftime and for most of the second half; in fact, the Saints only held the lead for about seven minutes of game time. The third closest Game Script in week six comes courtesy of the Kansas City-Oakland matchup, which might surprise any of you who just saw the final 24-7 score. Of course, quirky games like that one is one of the reasons I came up with concept of Game Scripts.

The first score of the game was Terrelle Pryor’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Denarius Moore, with 8:47 left in the second quarter. This means for the first 21.2 minutes, the game was tied. Kansas City answered with a Jamaal Charles touchdown run with 1:12 left in the half, so the Raiders held a 7-point lead for 7.6 minutes. The Chiefs didn’t take their first lead of the game until Charles scored again with 2:07 left in the third, which means the game was tied for another 14.1 minutes. That score held for nearly 15 full minutes: Ryan Succop hit a short field goal with 2:13 left in the game. Pryor then threw a pick six with 1:45 left and the team down by 10, providing the final points in the 24-7 Kansas City victory.

All told, however, the game was tied for 35.3 minutes and the Raiders had a 7-point lead for 7.6 minutes, while the Chiefs led by 7 for 14.9 minutes, by 10 for 0.5 minutes, and by 17 for 1.7 minutes. That’s why the Game Script was just +1.4 for Kansas City, which is a much better reflection of how the game unfolded than the 24-7 final score. The table below shows the Game Scripts data for each contest in week six:
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Atlanta has been passing like no other team again in 2013

Atlanta has been passing like no other team again in 2013.

I’ve been posting the Game Scripts numbers each week this season, and now have a full page dedicated to the results from every game at the top right of your screen. But the best use of Game Scripts is to adjust Pass ratios for teams to understand their true Passing Identity. Here’s how you do it.

1) Calculate how many standard deviations above/below average each team is in Game Scripts. The average Game Script, of course, is zero. The standard deviation through five weeks is 4.69, so the Broncos (8.43 Game Script) are 1.80 standard deviations above average in Game Script.

2) Calculate how many standard deviations from average each team is in Pass Ratio, defined as pass attempts (including sacks) divided by total plays. The average Pass Ratio through five weeks is 59.8%, while the standard deviation among the thirty-two teams is 6.7%. The Giants (excluding last night’s game) lead the league in Pass Ratio at 71.8%, which is 1.79 standard deviations above the league-average Pass Ratio.

3) Add how many standard deviations above/below average each team is in both Game Scripts and Pass Ratio. To convert these into an Index (and a more intuitive number for folks), multiply that result by 15 and add it to 100. So a team that has a Pass Identity that is 1 standard deviation above average will be at 115, while a team that is 1.6 standard deviations below average will be at 76.

Here are the results:
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The Game Script limited the need for Kaepernick to do much

The Game Script limited the need for Kaepernick to do much.

Every week this season, I’ve posted the Game Scripts and Average Field Position data from the prior week. For new readers, you can read the background and how to calculate Game Scripts here, but the Game Scripts number simply tells us the average points differential for a team throughout a game. There are 3600 seconds in a game that does not go to overtime, and he Game Script is the sum of the score at each of those 3600 seconds, divided by 3600.

This week, the 49ers’ blowout victory against Houston produced the highest Game Script at 18.3, putting it just a hair behind the Seahawks victory over Jacksonville (18.4) on the list of highest Game Scripts in 2013. (We’ll see if Denver/Jacksonville gets the Game Script over 20. The highest Game Script of all time was the Patriots 59-0 blowout in the snow against the Titans, clocking in at 33.7.) Colin Kaepernick completed six passes, but you don’t need to complete many passes when your team is leading by 18 points throughout the game. San Francisco went up 7-0 ninety seconds into the game following a Tramaine Brock pick six of Matt Schaub, and things stayed ugly from there. That reminds me: pick sixes continue to be up this year, an issue I discussed in the dead of March.

Without further ado, the Week 5 Game Scripts:
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One of these guys had a good week

Trading Tapenade recipes.

Every week, I’m posting the Game Scripts and Average Field Position data for each team. In an effort to get these up a bit quicker, I decided to get these numbers crunched before the Monday Night Game in the result – let me know if you like this method better than waiting until the end of the week. For new readers, you can see the results from the first three weeks here.

For the second week in a row, the Jaguars had the worst Game Script score. And for the second week in a row, Peyton Manning’s Broncos held an average lead of over 15 points. These two teams play in Denver in week six, and the early reports suggest that the line will be 27 points, the highest spread in N.F.L. history. The current record was set in 1976, when the expansion (and winless) Bucs traveled to Pittsburgh to face a Steelers team that had won the past two Super Bowls and had allowed just 28 points in their last seven games. That game had a spread of 26 points, and the Steelers won 43-0.

Here’s how to read the table below. The Colts won in Jacksonville (you can click the boxscore to see the full PFR boxscore), 37-3. Indianapolis won by 34, and held an average lead of 15.5 points throughout the game. Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, and the rest of the Colts had 41 passes and 29 runs, giving them a 58.6% pass/run ratio. Meanwhile, the Jaguars threw 35 passes and had just 17 runs, giving them a 67.3% pass/run ratio. With few exceptions, the team with the positive game script has the lower pass/run ratio, and that effect is just magnified when the Game Script is large.
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Week 3 Game Scripts and Average Field Position

The Seahawks look like the class of the NFC.

The Seahawks look like the class of the NFC.

The 2013 season started with two weeks of extremely close games; week three brought on the blowouts. On Monday Night Football, Peyton Manning, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, and Julius Thomas decimated the Oakland Raiders, helping Denver jump out to a 27-7 halftime lead. Yet that comes in as only the fourth most lopsided game of week three, behind the NSFW Jaguars-Seahawks contest, the Panthers 38-0 shutout of the Giants, and the Cowboys lopsided win over St. Louis. The table below shows the week three Game Scripts for each game, along with data on the number of pass attempts, rush attempts, and run/pass ratio for each team. Sacks are included as pass attempts, but all scrambles are included as running plays, something I would like to eliminate when I have more time.

Here’s how to read the Seahawks-Jaguars line. Seattle won at home against the Jaguars, 45-17, a 28-point margin of victory. The average lead for the Seahawks of every second of every game — the Game Script score — was 18.4 points. Seattle had 31 pass attempts against 35 runs, a 47% pass/run ratio. Jacksonville had 42 passes and 23 runs, a 64.6% pass/run ratio.
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So far this season, one thing is obvious: the NFL scheduled Thursday night games every week for the express purpose of screwing with people who do data analysis. Even though week three has started, I’m not ready to close the door on week two, in which nearly every game was competitive into the fourth quarter. But that doesn’t mean the game script for every game was close.

Winner
 
Loser
Boxscore
PF
PA
Margin
Game Script
Green Bay PackersWashington RedskinsBoxscore38201817.9
Atlanta FalconsSt. Louis RamsBoxscore3124713.4
Oakland RaidersJacksonville JaguarsBoxscore199108.2
Seattle SeahawksSan Francisco 49ersBoxscore293267.7
New England PatriotsNew York JetsBoxscore131036.4
Denver Broncos@New York GiantsBoxscore4123185.5
Cincinnati BengalsPittsburgh SteelersBoxscore2010103.9
Miami Dolphins@Indianapolis ColtsBoxscore242043.3
San Diego Chargers@Philadelphia EaglesBoxscore333033.2
New Orleans Saints@Tampa Bay BuccaneersBoxscore161422.2
Houston TexansTennessee TitansBoxscore302461.3
Chicago BearsMinnesota VikingsBoxscore313011
Kansas City ChiefsDallas CowboysBoxscore17161-0.1
Baltimore RavensCleveland BrownsBoxscore1468-0.8
Buffalo BillsCarolina PanthersBoxscore24231-1
Arizona CardinalsDetroit LionsBoxscore25214-1.3

Steven Jackson was injured early in his revenge game against the Rams (and is expected to miss two-to-four weeks), but consider: Atlanta had 45 pass attempts against just 16 running plays in a game in which their average lead was 13.4 points. And that was with a gimpy Roddy White! Last year, I noted that the Falcons were the most pass-happy team in the NFL after adjusting for game script, and it appears that the model hasn’t changed in 2013.

There weren’t any huge comebacks this week, a byproduct of all the competitive games. The Cardinals scored nine points in the fourth quarter to beat the Lions, in a game where Detroit’s offense was shut out in the second half. Matt Stafford and company gained just 90 yards and four first downs on 24 second half plays, enabling the Cardinals to steal a win. Half of the team’s six second half drives were three and outs, one was a fumble on the second play, and the final drive was five plays and ended on downs. The only successful drive of the half was a 51-yard march that put the Lions at the Cardinals 27, but David Akers’ field goal attempt was blocked.

But while the offense had an off day, there’s a hidden factor that explains why Detroit didn’t score more than 14 offensive points (DeAndre Levy intercepted a Carson Palmer pass for 66 yard touchdown, accounting for the other seven points).
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Wilson pulled out a close victory against Carolina

Wilson pulled out a close victory against Carolina.

Regular readers know all about Game Scripts, the term I’ve used to represent the average margin of lead or deficit over the course of every second of a game. Let’s use the Seahawks-Panthers game to explain how to calculate the Game Script score.

Steven Hauschka’s field goal with 9:40 left in the second quarter was the first score of the game; that means for the first 20 minutes and 20 seconds, the score was tied. Cam Newton responded with a touchdown drive, hitting Steve Smith for a three-yard score with 3:20 left in the half. So for six minutes and twenty seconds, the Panthers trailed by three. It wasn’t until 2:26 left in the third quarter that the next score occurred, courtesy of Hauschka’s second field goal of the day. This means the Panthers led by four for fifteen minutes and fifty-four seconds. Russell Wilson threw the game-winning touchdown with 10:21 remaining, the final score of the day. This means for 7:05, the Seahawks trailed by a point, and then for 10:21, Seattle led by five points (following an unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt).

As it turns out, that gives us a Game Script of exactly 0.00. In other words, on average, this game was tied. Here’s how to do the math:

Tm
Margin
Duration
Margin*Duration
Seattle020.330
Seattle36.3319
Seattle-415.90-63.6
Seattle-17.08-7.1
Seattle510.3551.8
Average60.000

By comparison, the Jacksonville-Kansas City game was much more one-sided:

  • With 12:32 left in the first quarter, J.T. Thomas blocked Dustin Colquitt’s punt, which resulted in a Jaguars safety.
  • That lead lasted all of three minutes and twenty-three seconds, which is how long it took for Alex Smith to find Donnie Avery for a five-yard score with 9:09 left in the first.
  • Next, Smith connected with Junior Hemingway for a three-yard touchdown with 1:40 left in the first quarter.
  • With 6:29 left in the second quarter, Jamaal Charles punched it in for a short touchdown, bringing the score to 21-2.
  • The final score of the day was a Tamba Hali pick six of Blaine Gabbert, with 12:51 left in the fourth quarter.

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What can we learn from Game Scripts splits?

Christian Ponder actually played better in the worst Vikings games last year

Christian Ponder actually played better in the worst Vikings games last year.

When I ask a question in the title of a post, I usually have an answer. But not this time. From 2000 to 2012, 163 different quarterbacks started 16 games. I thought it might be interesting to check out their splits based on the Game Script of each game. I grouped each quarterback’s statistics in their team’s 8 highest Game Scripts and 8 worst Game Scripts in the table below. The statistics in blue are from the 8 best games, while the numbers in red are for the 8 worst games (as measured by average points margin in each game).

I don’t know if individual splits will tell us much, but Rex Grossman had the largest split. In 2006, the year the Bears went to the Super Bowl, he averaged 8.54 AY/A in Chicago’s best 8 games but just 3.24 AY/A in their worst games. Splicing out cause and effect is tricky: in games where a quarterback has lots of interceptions, his team is probably going to be losing and will have a negative game script for that game. In Chicago’s 8 best games that year (according to Game Scripts), Grossman threw 16 TDs and 4 INTs; in their 8 worst, he threw 7 TDs and 16 INTs.

Maybe there’s nothing to make of this. But it’s Sunday, so I’ll present the day and open the question to the crowd. What can we make of Game Scripts splits? Check out the table below.
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The Most Pass-Happy Coaches in NFL History

Belichick checks to see where he is on the list.

Belichick checks to see where he is on the list.

Yesterday, I looked at the most pass-happy active head coaches and offensive coordinators in the NFL. If you’ve been a loyal reader of my previous posts on Game Scripts, you understand the methodology I’ve used today to grade each coaches. The quick summary is I’ve come up with the term “Game Scripts” to determine the average points margin over each of the 3600 seconds in each game; from there, I also came up with Game Scripts scores for each season.  If you then take each coach’s pass/run ratio, adjust for the league average pass/run ratio, and then adjust for Game Scripts, then you can determine each coach’s passing identity.  I’ve done this for every season since 1940.

The table below lists the 252 coaches I have in my database who have been either a head coach or an offensive coordinator for at least four seasons. I suggest using the search box to find your favorite coaches, but as always, all columns are sortable, too. In the table below, the number of HC/OC seasons includes all seasons, but the games, wins, losses, ties, winning percentage, and wins over .500 columns all include only the coach’s records as a head coach. The Game Script column shows each coach’s average Game Scripts average over each season, while the “P/R” column does the same for pass/run ratio.  The next three columns are all indexes centered around 100. The “SCRIPT” column is the Game Scripts rating, the “PASS” column is the Pass/Run Ratio rating, and the Pass Identity column is a combination of the two columns. (You can read some of the other Game Scripts articles for more explanation).  Based on his time in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers, Joe Philbin comes in as the most pass-happy coach, but that number seems likely to decline the longer he coaches. George Seifert built his reputation as the defensive coordinator for the 49ers, but having Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice turned him into a pass-friendly coach. As for the next two men on the list, modern NFL fans need no further explanation.
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Which coaches are the most pass happy?

Mike  Smith checks the score, calls for a pass.

Mike Smith checks the score, calls for a pass.

One reason I came up with the concept of Game Scripts was to identify the most pass-happy coaches. Remember, a team’s Game Script score is simply their average scoring differential over each second of every game. Last year, the Falcons were the most pass-happy team in the NFL after adjusting for Game Scripts; Atlanta had the 5th highest Game Script (average lead of 3.6 points) and the 7th highest Pass/Run Ratio (63.0%). To put that in perspective, none of the other top 16 teams in Game Scripts had a Pass/Run Ratio of even sixty percent. The Falcons used to be run-heavy, of course, but as Michael Turner aged while Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Roddy White matured, they’ve become a passing team.

There will be 64 head coaches and offensive coordinators in 2013; I went back and looked at every season those coaches were either head coaches or offensive coordinators in the NFL.1 Two head coaches — Gus Bradley in Jacksonville and Chip Kelly in Philadelphia — have never been a head coach or offensive coordinator at the NFL level. In addition, the following seven offensive coordinators will be entering those roles for the first time, too: Harold Goodwin (Arizona), Nathaniel Hackett (Buffalo), Adam Gase (Denver), Pep Hamilton (Indianapolis), Jedd Fisch (Jacksonville), Doug Pederson (Kansas City), and Dowell Loggains (Tennessee). The table below shows the career Game Scripts averages, Pass/Run Ratios, and Pass Identities for the other 55 head coaches/offensive coordinators entering 2013.

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  1. At least, according to my database. I won’t have missed any head coaching years, but it’s possible I’ve missed some seasons where a coach was also an offensive coordinator. []
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