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Previously: Week 1 Game Scripts

The Chargers produced a Game Script of +20.0 in a blowout win over the Jaguars that was worse than the final score indicated; San Diego was up by 21 points before the 21-minute mark of the game! The Cardinals (+15.9 vs. Tampa Bay) and Patriots (+15.6 in a 7-point win over Miami) also had monster Game Scripts in week 2.

Two teams did pull off massive comebacks on Sunday. The first was in Cleveland, where the Ravens came back from a 20-0 deficit to beat the Browns, 25-20. Cleveland became just the 5th team to score 20+ points in the 1st quarter, and then lose while getting shut out for the rest of the game.  The game seemed to turn on a blocked extra point returned by Tavon Young for two points after Cleveland’s final score; that was just the second time an extra point has been returned for two since the rule change was instituted last year.  The other comeback was in Detroit, where the Titans scored 13 4th quarter points to beat Detroit, 16-15, and tank my survivor dreams in the process.

Below are the week 2 Game Scripts: [click to continue…]

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Regular readers know all about Game Scripts, but you can learn more about them here. Essentially, Game Scripts is the term I’ve used to represent the average margin of lead or deficit over the course of every second of a game.

Last year, I detailed the Game Scripts each week, and I’ll do that again this year.  At the top right of every page, you can see the 2015 Game Scripts, and the dropdown arrow will bring up the 2014 and 2013 results, too.

In week 1, six teams won with negative Game Scripts, including a few big comebacks. The Panthers led 17-7 at halftime in Denver, but the Broncos came back behind two C.J. Anderson touchdowns.  Oakland trailed 24-10 with 20 minutes left in New Orleans, but scored 25 points in the final 20 minutes to pull out a last-minute  win over the Saints.

But the big comeback, of course, was in Kansas City.   With 20 minutes left in that game, the Chiefs trailed 24-3.  With 3:57 left, Kansas City faced a 4th-and-5 at the San Diego 25-yard line; at that time, the Chiefs win probability was less than two percent.  Starting then, Alex Smith went 22 for 29 for 208 yards with 2 TDs and 14 1st downs, along with one interception, and ran three times for 14 yards and a touchdown.

The table below shows the week 1 Game Scripts: [click to continue…]

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2015 Playoff Game Scripts Data

With the playoffs over, let’s take one last look at Game Scripts data from the 2015 season. Some high-level notes:

  • In the wild card round, all four road teams won. No road team won another game in the postseason.
  • Just two teams won playoff games this year with negative Game Scripts: the Broncos against the Steelers (-0.5) and the Seahawks against the Vikings (-2.5). The Steelers led 10-6 for much of the 2nd quarter, and 13-9 in the third quarter. In fact, Denver trailed 13-12 until there were three minutes left in the game. The frigid game in Minnesota was a tale of three quarters… and a disastrous fourth. The Vikings entered the 4th quarter up 9-0, but Seattle scored the final points of the game to emerge with a 10-9 win.
  • The most pass-happy game by a winning team in the playoffs? That came by the Patriots in the division round against the Chiefs. Even without adjusting for Game Script, it was pass-happy, but a 76.4% pass ratio with a +8.3 Game Script is incredible. Remember, New England attempted a pass on 24 of its first 26 plays, and the Patriots finished with just 10 non-kneel runs.

Below are the 2015 playoffs Game Scripts data: [click to continue…]

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Week 17 Game Scripts: The Patriots Get Run Heavy

Week 17 often brings about weird results, and this year was no different. Seattle posted a Game Script of +17.6 against Arizona, which is an extreme outlier. Consider that the Cardinals had just one negative Game Script in the team’s first 15 games, a -3.8 score against St. Louis back in week 4.

Oh, and the Patriots do something really crazy (for them), but we’ll get to that in a bit. For now, the week 17 Game Scripts data. Note that this page is now updated to include the Game Scripts data from each of the 256 games this season. [click to continue…]

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Week 16 Game Scripts: Denver Flips The Game Script

In week 14, no team lost with a better Game Script than Denver. The Broncos dominated the Raiders in the first half, although the team only took a 12-0 lead into the locker room. Oakland came back to win, 15-12, despite Denver posting a +3.5 Game Script.

In week 15, no team lost with a better Game Script than Denver. The Broncos held a 27-10 lead over the Steelers in the 2nd quarter, but wound up losing, 34-27, despite a Game Script of +5.0.

In week 16, no team won with a worse Game Script than Denver. The Bengals dominated the game early, jumping out to a 14-0 lead that looked even more impressive than on the scoreboard. But Denver battled back, and won, 20-17, in overtime, despite a Game Script of -5.2.

And yet, despite three straight weeks of crazy comebacks, it was five weeks ago that produced the oddest game of Denver’s season: against New England, the Broncos won with a Game Script of -7.1.

There have been just 18 games this season where the winning team posted a Game Script of -3.5 or worse, and Denver has been involved in four of those games.

Below are the Game Scripts data from week 16. As always, you can view the full season results here. [click to continue…]

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Week 15 Game Scripts: Carolina Goes Pass-Heavy

Let’s get to the Week 15 Game Scripts data! As always, you can view the full season data here.

TeamH/ROppBoxscorePFPAMarginGame ScriptPassRunP/R RatioOp_POp_ROpp_P/R Ratio
WASBUFBoxscore35251013.7292751.8%323150.8%
STLTAMBoxscore3123813.2193336.5%502665.8%
NWETENBoxscore33161713372658.7%392066.1%
SDGMIABoxscore30141612.6373650.7%371966.1%
DET@NORBoxscore3527812.4282354.9%531874.6%
KAN@BALBoxscore34142010.2282850%471971.2%
CIN@SFOBoxscore24141010.1253641%541776.1%
MINCHIBoxscore38172110.1213537.5%422067.7%
ARI@PHIBoxscore4017239.9353947.3%432068.3%
CAR@NYGBoxscore383538.8482863.2%462763%
SEACLEBoxscore3013176.3323547.8%351767.3%
GNB@OAKBoxscore3020105.8412859.4%502566.7%
ATL@JAXBoxscore231764.9363352.2%402066.7%
NYJ@DALBoxscore191630412661.2%352162.5%
HOU@INDBoxscore16106-3.3313745.6%351964.8%
PITDENBoxscore34277-5581777.3%462465.7%

Let’s break teams down into two categories: [click to continue…]

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After ten weeks, I calculated the pass identities of every team in the NFL. At the time, I noted that it was weird how Denver was the 4th most pass-happy team in the NFL despite, you know, Peyton Manning playing like the worst quarterback in football and the Broncos owning the league’s top defense. Of course, there’s one problem: the Broncos rushing attack is pretty bad, too.

Since then, the Broncos have played three games. The first came against the Bears, who have a terrible rush defense. As a result, Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson rushed 33 times for 161 yards, and the Broncos ran on over half of their plays. The next week, against the Patriots, things changed dramatically after Dont’a Hightower went down:

As masslive.com’s Kevin Duffy noted, the Broncos ran the ball 15 times for a total of just 43 yards with Hightower in the lineup. After Hightower left, Denver ran the ball 17 times for a whopping 136 yards, averaging an even 8 yards per carry. Three of Denver’s four touchdowns came on the ground, including a sweep that produced two long scores from short yardage on second-and-1 and third-and-1.

Denver trailed 21-7 at the start of the 4th quarter, but wound up winning the game, in large part thanks to the rushing attack. Of course, with #QBWinz being what they are, Brock Osweiler received a lot of credit for running his record to 3-0. Then, the Raiders game happened.

Denver dominated the Raiders in the first half, as Oakland gained negative 12 yards — that’s NEGATIVE TWELVE YARDS — in the first 30 minutes. But the Broncos only led 12-0, in part because of the team’s struggles on the ground. Hillman and Juwan Thompson finished the game with 17 carries for just 28 yards. Meanwhile, Osweiler recorded 56 pass attempts! In some ways, it is incomprehensible that a team could have a positive Game Script, a 12-0 half time lead, and yet put the ball in the hands of its first-year starting, below-average quarterback 39 more times than in the hands of all of your running backs combined. But when your running backs are averaging 1.6 yards per carry, there may not be much of an alternative.

Osweiler struggled, of course, finishing with 4.92 ANY/A on his 56 pass attempts, and also taking a safety, while Denver went just 4-18 on third downs. The Broncos passed a ton under Manning despite Manning struggling all season; now, with the running game ineffective, the same thing is happening under Osweiler (to be fair, there were a number of drops by the Broncos receivers, making this more of a passing game issue than a pure quarterback issue). The Broncos defense is awesome, but the team may not be able to get very far if the offense is throwing on 70%+ of its plays. Anderson missed the Raiders game with an ankle injury, and while he hasn’t been the star back he was at the end of last year, the Broncos offense sorely needs a healthy Anderson.

Below are the week 14 Game Scripts data:
[click to continue…]

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Last Thursday, the Lions hosted the Packers, and jumped out to a 17-0 lead before the end of the first quarter. A field goal attempt midway through the 3rd made it 20-0, although the Packers then responded with two quick scores. With seven minutes left in the 4th, Detroit made it a 9-point game, and seemed to have this one locked up. In fact, when the clock hit triple zeroes, the Lions were ahead, 23-21.

Of course, a phantom face mask penalty meant the game was not yet over, and Green Bay won on the final play of the game. For the game, Green Bay had a Game Script of -10.1, which represents the average score in the game, from the Packers perspective, across the 3600 seconds of action. That’s the worst Game Script by a winning team since San Diego won in similarly remarkable fashion against the 49ers in week 16 of the 2014 season.

Below are the Game Scripts data for week 13: [click to continue…]

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Week 12 went down as the most pass-happy week of the season. Most weeks this year have fluctuated with a pass ratio in the neighborhood of 59%, but teams attempted passes on over 62% of all plays in week 12. As a result, a number of teams — New England, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Cleveland, New Orleans, Miami, the Giants, and Detroit — all graded as very pass-happy. On the flip side, just two teams (the Eagles and Vikings) were run-heavy.

Brock Osweiler, shockingly, helped the Broncos pull off one of the biggest comebacks of the year. Denver trailed New England 21-7 in the 4th quarter, and you simply don’t expect the Patriots to give up a lead of that size. But the Broncos, powered by both Osweiler and the running game, pulled off the win despite having a -7.1 Game Script, making it the third largest comeback (as measured by Game Script) of 2015.

The other thing that stood out this week: there were a lot of blowouts! Five teams won handily, with 18 point margins of victory and double-digit game scripts. In addition, Washington won with a 9.4 Game Script, although the Giants made a game of it at the end. Below are the week 12 Game Scripts data! [click to continue…]

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Week 11 Game Scripts: Analyzing Patriots/Bills 2

In week 11, there were four large blowouts from a Game Scripts perspective: Carolina over Washington, Seattle over San Francisco, Tampa Bay over Philadelphia, and Kansas City over San Diego. There were also two large comebacks: Baltimore won with a -4.6 Game Script: the Ravens trailed 13-3 entering the 4th quarter, and took the team’s only lead after the clock hit triple zeroes. The Colts trailed 14-0 and 21-7 against the Falcons, and ultimately won with a -5.9 Game Script.

Below are the Game Scripts data from week 11. There were no extreme results this week: every team passed on between 41% and 76% of all plays. So let’s take a different approach this week. After ten weeks, I calculated the pass identities of each of the 32 teams. Well, week 11 brought a fascinating matchup from a Game Script perspective in New England/Buffalo. Let’s take a look: [click to continue…]

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Team Pass Identities Through 10 Weeks (2015)

I’ve published the Game Scripts data from every game this year at the 2015 Game Scripts page, available here. What would it look like if we plotted Game Script score (on the X-Axis) against Pass Ratio (on the Y-Axis) for every game this year? Something like this:

avg game script

(Note that this looks pretty similar to how it was through seven weeks last year, although the constant (i.e., league-average pass ratio) has increased by nearly a full percentage point.)
[click to continue…]

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Week 10 Game Scripts – The Saints Give Up

Reminder: the 2015 Game Scripts page is now updated.

Drew Brees threw just 28 passes last week, and was sacked two more times. For some teams, that’s not unusual, but the Saints have always been very pass-happy under Brees. In fact, since Brees came over in 2006, there have been only 48 games where New Orleans had less than 35 pass attempts (excluding sacks). In only four of those games were the Saints losing after three quarters, and in only one of those games were the Saints trailing by more than 7 points through three quarters.

Until Sunday. New Orleans trailed by 23 points entering the 4th quarter, which would be prime territory for a pass-happy game for most teams. In fact, since 2006, there had been 31 games where New Orleans trailed by double digits entering the 4th quarter; on average, the Saints threw 45 passes (excluding sacks) in those games, with only one game (a 29-attempt game in week 17 against Carolina in 2009 which Brees did not play in) coming in with fewer than 36 attempts!

That makes the Saints game in week 10 all the more remarkable. A 28-pass attempt game by Brees when the Saints get blown out? That’s unheard of. The Saints ran Tim Hightower on the game’s final seven plays. Running out the clock while getting blown out is one strategy, I suppose. Obviously New Orleans wasn’t going to win once they were down by 33 points, but it is pretty rare to see a team just sit on the ball like that. Frankly, they would have been better off from a health perspective having Brees take a knee on each play.

Below are the Game Scripts data from week 10.

TeamH/ROppBoxscorePFPAMarginGame ScriptPassRunP/R RatioOp_POp_ROpp_P/R Ratio
KAN@DENBoxscore29131616.4333250.8%491675.4%
WASNORBoxscore47143313.9283147.5%302554.5%
PITCLEBoxscore3092111.3382164.4%511478.5%
CHI@STLBoxscore3713248.5263741.3%372163.8%
MIN@OAKBoxscore3014167.1263344.1%451970.3%
BUF@NYJBoxscore221755.5313249.2%352459.3%
ARI@SEABoxscore393275.5503360.2%341865.4%
CAR@TENBoxscore2710175.2313447.7%251956.8%
DET@GNBBoxscore181621.8382560.3%641878%
JAX@BALBoxscore222020.8482268.6%462168.7%
HOU@CINBoxscore1064-0.4362559%412166.1%
NWE@NYGBoxscore27261-1.4452366.2%472367.1%
TAMDALBoxscore1064-2.2402660.6%332161.1%
MIA@PHIBoxscore20191-3.7392660%523559.8%

In addition to New Orleans, Chicago was a team that checked out as very run-heavy. The Bears ran 37 times and on 69% of all plays; both numbers were the highest of any team in week ten.

On the other side, the Steelers and Browns were both very pass-happy. Cleveland passed nearly 80% of the time, which is very high even given the -11.3 Game Script. Meanwhile, the Steelers still passed on 64% of all plays. Then again, neither team could get the running game going: the Browns rushed 14 times for 15 yards, while Pittsburgh produced an only-good-by-comparison 21 for 60 stat line.

Green Bay threw on 78% of all plays in a game that was close throughout with the Lions. And Jacksonville and Baltimore both threw on just over two-thirds of their plays in a game that was close throughout. This isn’t too surprising, though, as all three of these teams have exhibited pass-happy tendencies in the past.

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How many interceptions will a team throw in a game?  That’s dependent on a number of things, of course, but I want to focus on three things: how interception prone the team is, how interception prone the opposing defense is, and the Game Script.

Suppose you knew what the Game Script of a game would wind up being; given that you have a general sense of the offense’s and defense’s interception rates, what weight would you put on each variable to predict a team’s interception rate?

The same is true for other statistics.  For example, what about rushing yards?  How many yards would you project Team A to run for against Team B, if you knew the rushing stats for  Team A’s offense, Team B’s defense, and the Game Script?

Or passing yards.  Or completion percentage.  The interplay between offense and defense is always interesting — some research suggests about 60% of the result is due to the offense, with 40% based on the defense — but throwing in Game Scripts adds an interesting element.

Oh, and one final thought: how would you go about trying to answer these questions.  What studies would you run?  What would you like me to do?

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Week 9 (2015) Game Scripts: Buffalo Runs To Victory

Reminder: The 2015 Game Scripts page is now updated for week 9 results.

Last week, I wrote about the Rams heavy commitment to the running game. Well, in week 9, the Buffalo Bills had just 15 pass plays — 12 pass attempts and 3 sacks — while passing on just 29.4% of all plays. Both of those numbers set new team lows for the 2015 season.

Below are the Game Scripts data for each team in week 9. [click to continue…]

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Let’s start with a piece of good news: I have created a 2015 Game Scripts page, where you can access the Game Scripts data from every game this season. That will likely be updated on Tuesday or Wednesday of each week.

The Rams are suddenly interesting to watch on offense. St. Louis traded into the top ten to draft Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin, and both players showed off their talents in week eight. Gurley had a 71-yard run, the highlight of a 20-carry, 133-yard day, while Austin ran for a touchdown and caught a 66-yard touchdown. Together, the duo combined for 265 yards from scrimmage as part of a run-heavy day for St. Louis. The team rushed 41 times compared to just 23 dropbacks, giving St. Louis the most run-happy identity of the week.

In losing efforts, two other teams stood out as run-happy. One, surprisingly, was Green Bay: The Packers were blown out, the sort of environment that usually leads to a 40-pass day. Instead, Aaron Rodgers had just 25 pass attempts, while the Packers finished with 21 carries. That ratio was supported by the efficiency metrics, though, as Green Bay shockingly averaged just 2.0 Net Yards per Attempt (compared to 4.3 yards per carry on the ground.)

The table below shows the week 8 Game Scripts data: [click to continue…]

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The New England Patriots on Sunday provided one of the most incredible pass/run ratios in recent history. Last year, teams were very pass-happy against the Jets, as a result of New York having a great run defense and a terrible pass defense. The Jets pass defense is significantly better this year, but that didn’t stop the Patriots from pretending the run option didn’t exist.

New England finished the day with 54 pass attempts, 3 sacks, and just 9 carries, representing an incredible 86.4% pass ratio. If you consider that Tom Brady had two scrambles and a third “carry” that went down for zero yards but was a sack on a pass play where Brady managed to get back to the line of scrimmage, and the Patriots really meant to pass on 60 plays, while calling runs just six times. A fourth run was a Brady sneak, leaving just five rushing attempts for the rest of the team that totaled exactly one yard. Brady was effective but not stellar in the passing game, but it was pretty clear that passing was the best option for the Patriots offense on nearly every play.

Two other big notes from week 7: Washington fell behind 24-0 against Tampa Bay, but won in the final minute of the game. That gave Washington a remarkable victory in a game where the team posted a -9.3 Game Script, topping the Bears game against the Chiefs for largest comeback as measured by Game Script. And, on the far other end of the spectrum, Miami produced an unreal 25.9 Game Script, the top score of the season. There have been three Game Scripts this year of over 20 points, and two of them have come against the Texans. The third was the previous high of the season, Arizona’s 24.3 Game Script against the 49ers. [click to continue…]

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The Jets have long been one of the most run-happy teams in the NFL, particularly after accounting for Game Script.  That rung true again in week 6, when New York was in control for most of the game against Washington.  The Jets had a solid +6.1 Game Script, but most teams would still pass at least half of the time with that sort of game flow.  But not the Jets, who passed on just 38.8% of pass plays and recorded a league-high 41 runs in week 6.

Four of those runs were from Ryan Fitzpatrick (an 18-yard touchdown, a 15-yard scramble, and two kneels), but Chris Ivory and Zac Stacy rushed 33 times for 192 yards (less impressive: Bilal Powell with four carries for -2 yards). The Jets are always going to run the ball, and when the Game Script goes their way, they will put up some truly impressive rushing totals. There have been just four games this year where a team has rushed more than 40 times, and two of those came in New York’s last four games. With a date in Foxboro this weekend, tracking the Jets pass/run ratio will be very interesting if the Game Script doesn’t go the Jets way. In New York’s only loss, the Jets had 59 passes and just 16 runs.

Without Ben Roethlisberger — and with Le’Veon Bell — the Steelers have become quite the run-happy team. Pittsburgh has now run more than its passed over the last three weeks, including a pass ratio of just under 40% despite posting a negative Game Script against the Cardinals (don’t let the 12-point final margin of victory fool you). The Steelers have completed just 43 passes over the team’s last three games.

Below are the week 6 Game Scripts data. As you can see, the biggest comeback of the week belongs to the Carolina Panthers. [click to continue…]

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In the first four weeks, the biggest “comeback” as measured by Game Script belonged to the Atlanta Falcons, who defeated the Cowboys despite posting a Game Script of -5.4. But Chicago won on Sunday despite a Game Script of -8.9! This game seemed like a Chiefs win from before kickoff — when Kansas City was a 9-point favorite — until the very end.

The Chiefs led 14-3 early in the second quarter, 17-3 at halftime, and 17-6 entering the 4th quarter. With five minutes left, Kansas City led by that same score. With 3:11 to go, Jay Cutler found Marquess Wilson for a 22-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-6, giving the Bears new life. After the failed two point conversion, the Chiefs went 3-and-out, and Cutler took over on his own 33 with 2:04 to go. He drove the Bears down the field again, and found Matt Forte for the game-winning touchdown with 23 seconds remaining. The Bears drive chart reads: Punt, Fumble, Field Goal, Punt, Punt, Punt, End of Half, Field Goal, punt, Downs, followed by an 88-yard touchdown drive and a 67-yard touchdown drive. File this in your memory bank the next time a coach decides to take the conservative approach because his defense had been shutting down the opponent all day.

And while not on the same level, the Browns (-4.9), Bengals (-3.8), Steelers (-3.4), Bills (-2.7), and Falcons (-2.1) all won with negative Game Scripts. That always make the numbers a bit more interesting to look at. So let’s do just that: below are the week 5 Game Scripts data: [click to continue…]

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I’m short on time this week, so I will present the data and leave the commentary to you guys. Here are the Game Scripts data from week 4.

Well, okay, allow me one comment. Under Joe Philbin, the Miami Dolphins have been incredibly pass-happy, despite the fact that the team has often been more effective on the ground than through the air. Well, in Philbin’s last game as head coach, Miami passed on 81% of dropbacks, the highest rate of any team in week four. And, of course, while some of that was due to the team’s poor Game Script, note that Tampa Bay had nearly the same Game Script and passed on only 61% of all plays.

Miami rushed 11 times for 59 yards, so it was not as though the Dolphins rushing attack mandated a pass-happy approach. And Ryan Tannehill averaged 2.49 ANY/A on 47 dropbacks. You can probably figure out why Philbin was fired. [click to continue…]

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In week 3, Arizona picked off two Colin Kaepernick passes and returned them for touchdowns… in the first six minutes of the game. The Cardinals led 28-0 before we were halfway through the second quarter! On average, Arizona led by 24.3 points during every second of game play, the most dominant Game Script so far in 2015 (it would rank 5th last year).

But while the Cardinals provided the biggest blowout of week three, it was hardly the only one. A full half of all 16 games had a double digit Game Script, and only the Jets managed to finish within one score of their opponent. Three other games finished with double-digit margins; there simply weren’t that many nail biters last weekend.

The Falcons, though, did pull off an impressive upset: Atlanta trailed 14-0 midway through the first quarter against the Cowboys, and then 21-7 midway through the second. Atlanta even went into halftime down 11, but scored three second half touchdowns while shutting out the Cowboys to pull away with the victory. In the process, the Falcons became just the 11th team since 1990 to trail by at least 11 at halftime and still win by at least 11 points.

Below are the week 3 game scripts: [click to continue…]

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On Sunday, New England defeated Buffalo by the misleading score of 40-32. The Patriots may have won by only one score, but New England held an 11-point lead at halftime and a 24-point lead after three quarters. The Patriots were in control of the game for most of the contest, and held an average lead of 9.8 points during each second of game play (the “Game Script”).

Teams with large leads don’t pass very often; in general, you’d expect a team with a Game Script of +10.0 to pass around 50% of the time. But New England threw on 80% of all snaps! That even includes three Tom Brady kneels, and one run each by wide receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Excluding those plays, New England passed on 61 of 71 plays, an astonishing 86% pass rate. Much of that number owes to a stout Buffalo run defense, but that’s a remarkable pass-happy performance regardless of Game Script or opponent; given that it came in a game where New England dominated, it was even more noteworthy. By comparison, Minnesota had a Game Script of +10.4 against Detroit, and passed on just 31.7% of plays. In fact, none of the other 31 teams passed as often as New England in week two. [click to continue…]

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It’s a little late, but good news: I have the week 1 Game Scripts!

Regular readers know all about Game Scripts, but you can learn more about them here. Essentially, Game Scripts is the term I’ve used to represent the average margin of lead or deficit over the course of every second of a game.

In week 1, three won in week 1 despite having a negative Game Script: the Dolphins trailed by 1 point, on average, throughout the game against Washington, Dallas had a -2.7 Game Script against the Giants, and the Chargers came back from a 21-3 deficit to win, which produced a -4.8 Game Script.

Below are the results of every game from week 1. [click to continue…]

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2014 Defensive Pass Identity Data

Yesterday, we looked at offensive Pass Identity grades. Today, we are going to use the same process to analyze the data for defenses.  Yesterday’s post is required reading to understand how Pass Identity grades are calculated, but here’s one update.  While we can use the same numbers for Game Script (including the 3.27 number for standard deviation and 0 for average), that’s not the case for defensive Pass Ratio. There, while the average is roughly the same at 58.29%, the standard deviation is much smaller at 2.84% (it was 4.66% for the offenses).

Let’s use the Lions as an example.  Detroit had an average Game Script of +0.4 last year, meaning the Lions were leading by, on average, 0.4 points during every second of every game.  That was 0.11 standard deviations above average. [click to continue…]

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Final 2014 Game Scripts and Pass Identity Data

As we did last year, today I’m going to calculate the final 2014 Game Scripts and Pass Identity data.  Every week during the season, I write 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 from 2014, and you can read the history behind the metric here.

Let’s begin by looking at the 2014 Game Scripts numbers. The Packers held an average lead of 6.9 points during their regular season games, the highest average in all of football. Because Green Bay was so good, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers weren’t very pass-happy; in fact, the Packers ranked just 21st in pass attempts. That’s why Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, as good as their raw numbers were, look even better in some advanced metrics. In some ways, the Packers were the victims of their own success last year, as Green Bay was — by far — the best first half team in the NFL in 2014. That led to the high Game Script number, and a lot of casual dress second halves. [click to continue…]

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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
INDCINBoxscore2610167.8452564.3%382164.4%
CARARIBoxscore2716115.8333945.8%321568.1%
SEACARBoxscore3117145.8242747.1%382956.7%
BAL@PITBoxscore3017134.6302554.5%531973.6%
IND@DENBoxscore2413113.8432860.6%482070.6%
GNBDALBoxscore26215-0.4362955.4%232845.1%
NWEBALBoxscore35314-4.8531380.3%452861.6%
DALDETBoxscore24204-8.1372163.8%452267.2%

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There are lots of bad things one could write about the NFC South. But for the most part, the Atlanta Falcons had been a competitive team this year, and not just by NFC South standards. Entering week 17, Atlanta had posted an average Game Script of +0.7; sure, that’s not very good, but it’s above average! The Falcons had not been embarrassing, and in fact, had outscored opponents by 40 points through three quarters.

Sure, Atlanta had issues maintaining leads in the fourth quarter, but they were rarely soundly beaten from start to finish. The Falcons had (prior to Sunday) four bad Game Scripts this year. Three of them came on the road: -12.8 in Baltimore, -10.6 in Green Bay, and -8.5 in Cincinnati, and all three of those teams are notable for being much stronger at home in recent years. The fourth was a -8 against the Steelers, but even then, Atlanta had the ball down by just seven with 6 minutes remaining.

Then, week 17 came. The Panthers led by 10-0 after the first quarter, the largest deficit Atlanta faced after one quarter all year. Carolina upped that margin to 21 points at halftime, the second largest halftime lead an opponent had against the Falcons this year (Green Bay was up by 24 points). The 31-point margin after three quarters was easily the largest margin, too. It was a start-to-finish beating by the Panthers, who posted a Game Script of 16.4 in the process.

That was the second largest Game Script for Carolina this year, and by quite a large margin. Other than another December blowout over a division rival (New Orleans), the Panthers didn’t have a Game Script of over +7. But are the Panthers peaking at the right time, or just beating up on NFC South opponents? Tune in next week: actually, never mind. The Cardinals are an NFC West team in name only; with Ryan Lindley under center, Arizona is actually the fifth member of the NFC South. [click to continue…]

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With their season on the line, the San Diego Chargers chose to dig deeper. Into a hole, that is.  On Saturday night, the 49ers jumped out to a 21-0 lead just 20 minutes into the game, and San Francisco took a 28-7 record into halftime. Even with six minutes left, San Diego still trailed by two touchdowns.

Down to their final drive, the Chargers needed to convert a 4th-and-8 (on a 17-yard pass to Eddie Royal) and a 4th-and-10 (to Dontrelle Inman), just to set up an 11-yard touchdown from Philip Rivers to Malcom Floyd with 32 seconds remaining.

Through 60 minutes, the Chargers had a Game Script of -11.3, which would tie the Lions/Falcons game for the most negative Game Script by a winning team all season. Because the game went to overtime, that Game Script number ended at -10.5, but that’s still easily the biggest comeback since the Detroit/Atlanta contest.

The other notable comeback of week 16 was in Miami, where the Vikings and Dolphins staged a crazy affair that resulted in a whopping 41 fourth quarter point. But Minnesota jumped out to an early lead and led 17-7 at the break, so the Vikings ended up with a Game Script of +4.3.

On the other end of the spectrum, there was only one large blowout: the Cowboys dominated the Colts by a score of 42-7, producing a Game Script of +23.9 in the process. The table below shows the week 16 Game Scripts data: [click to continue…]

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Week Fifteen Game Scripts: Bengals Dominate Manziel

Entering week 15, one of the biggest storylines was that Johnny Manziel was set to make his first start of the season. Manziel’s opening performance was a flop: his -0.56 Adjusted Yards per Attempt average was the second lowest by a quarterback this season, although not the lowest by a quarterback in a Browns/Bengals game. The Bengals won 30-0 in a game that was never in doubt for much of the second half; Cincinnati’s +16.6 Game Script was the highest of the week.

The Patriots, Chiefs, and Saints all posted double digit Game Script scores as well. In the process, New England clinched the AFC East, Kansas City kept their playoff hopes alive and avenged an uglier loss to Oakland, and the Saints? Well, New Orleans still controls its own destiny for the playoffs despite a 6-8 record.

The comebacks were light this week, as only Detroit (-3.3) and the Jets (-1.5) managed to win with a negative Game Script. The table below shows the Game Scripts data from week 15: [click to continue…]

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Week Fourteen Game Scripts: Comeback Colts Return

Luck had gone 20 consecutive regular season games without a game-winning drive

Luck had gone 20 consecutive regular season games without a game-winning drive

As a rookie in 2012, Andrew Luck led Indianapolis on a league-high seven game-winning drives in the fourth quarter. In 2013, the Colts won games with Game Scripts of -11, -4.6, and -2.8, and Luck recorded four 4th quarter comebacks for the second straight year.

This year? Indianapolis did not have a single victory with a negative Game Script, and Luck did not record a game-winning drive or a 4th quarter comeback, until this past weekend in Cleveland. It’s worth noting that the comeback was in part the result of Luck’s mistakes: the Browns raced out to a 21-7 lead thanks to two Luck turnovers that went for defensive touchdowns. But in the final four minutes, the star quarterback led the Colts on an 11-play, 90-yard drive for the game-winning touchdown.

That was the only big comeback of the week. On the blowout side, the Carolina Panthers — you know, the team that was on a six-game losing streak and had not won a game since October 5th — produced the most dominant performance of the week, finishing with a Game Script of +22.9 in a blowout over New Orleans. The Giants similarly embarrassed the Titans, producing a Game Script of +18.5.

Below are the week 14 Game Scripts data, and three games near the top of the list show the difference between Game Script and points differential.  The Packers had a Game Script of 10.6 but won by only 6 against Atlanta, while St. Louis won by 24 but with a Game Script of only 10.  But the Game Script measures the average points differential throughout the game: Green Bay led Atlanta 31-7 at halftime, while the Rams were up by just six points at the break.  The Broncos led Buffalo 24-3 after three quarters, which led to a Game Script of +9.6, even though Denver wind up winning by only seven points. [click to continue…]

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Over the prior two weeks, we were short on comebacks. Things took a big turn towards exciting in week 13:

  • The Bengals trailed the Bucs 3-0 for most of the first quarter, and then 10-0 for the majority of the second. Cincinnati would ultimately take the lead by the end of the third quarter, but the Bengals still finished with a -3.0 Game Script.
  • On Monday Night Football, the Jets also jumped out to a 10-0 first-half lead before ultimately falling to Miami, 16-13. But more to come on this game later in the post.
  • Another team that fell behind 10-0 early was San Diego. In fact, the Chargers didn’t take their first lead against the Ravens until the final minute, winning 34-33 despite posting a Game Script of -5.9.
  • But the biggest “comeback” of the week was in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars ruined Tom Coughlin’s homecoming. New York stormed out to a 21-0 lead, but imploded in the second half, allowing Jacksonville to steal the win, 25-24. Jacksonville won with a Game Script of -6.8, the fourth largest of the year and the worst Game Script by a victor since the Lions 21-point comeback in London against the Falcons.

Below are the Game Scripts data for each game in week 13: [click to continue…]

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