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Let’s get to the week 9 Game scripts! Yes, these are a week late: my apologies, as well, other topics wound up being covered last week.

The biggest stories of week 9 were the blowout wins by Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. The Rams and Saints followed that up with another pair of blowout wins in week 10, while the Eagles were on bye. But before turning to week 10, let’s review some of the biggest outliers from week nine.

In week 9, the Jets and Panthers were very run-heavy. Lest you forget, the Jets beat the Bills on Thursday night in week 9, and while quarterback Josh McCown did have 5 carries, the running backs combined for 36 carries, while McCown had just 21 attempts. The Jets blew out Buffalo, but consider that the Lions had a similar Game Script and passes on 50% of plays.

Carolina beat Atlanta in a close game where the Panthers trailed for most of the first half. Still, behind Cam Newton and his 9 carries, Carolina wound up passing just 25 times while running 38 times! That’s really run-heavy.

The full Game Scripts data below: [click to continue…]

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Let’s get to the week 8 Game scripts! The Raiders and Redskins stood out as pass-happy this week, as Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins kept passing in losing efforts. They were the two most pass-happy teams without accounting for Game Scripts in week 8, at 78% (Oakland) and 74% (Washington), respectively. But even after accounting for Game Script, both team’s pass-heavy nature stands out.

The Washington-Dallas game was competitive most of the way, but Cousins had 43 dropbacks while the team had just 15 rushing attempts.  Meanwhile, the Raiders called 49 pass plays against just 15 rushing plays, although that may have been due to Marshawn Lynch being suspended and both backup running backs underwhelming. This was just the second time in the last five years the Raiders passed on 77% of more of their plays. 

The full Game Scripts data from week 8, below: [click to continue…]

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Last week, the Bears and Steelers were two of the most run-heavy teams in the league. That repeated itself in week 7, as Chicago and Pittsburgh finished with the two lowest pass ratios of the week.

The Bears ran just 37 plays on Sunday against the Panthers, the fewest by any NFL team in a game since 2010. So while the headlines may have been that Chicago threw just 7 passes (plus four sacks), to be fair to the Bears, that represented a 30% pass ratio, higher than what the team did last week.  Chicago had two long return touchdowns, which limited the offense to just 9 drives, six of which were three-and-outs.  But the Bears are clearly looking to throw as infrequently as possible, making them the most run-happy team in the NFL.

In Pittsburgh, Le’Veon Bell had over 30 carries for the second straight week. The Steelers had a Game Script of +7.3, but consider that they had a lower run rate than the Cowboys or Jaguars, who both had nearly 20-point Game Scripts! Pittsburgh finished the day with 25 runs and 43 pass attempts. The Steelers defense limited the Bengals to just 18 yards on 6 second-half drives (two of which ended on interceptions); with that dominant a performance, expect Pittsburgh to continue to rely on the ground game.
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Chicago upset Baltimore in week 6, and rookie QB Mitch Trubisky picked up his first career victory in the process.  But if you want to award credit to the Bears for the win, the passing game would be a distant third.

The Bears picked up a first down on just 23.8% of all passing plays, and that includes a halfback pass that went for a touchdown; Trubisky gained 4 first downs on 20 dropbacks.  But the Bears defense was outstanding, limiting the Ravens passing offense to a 20.5% first down rateJoe Flacco had a 48.8 passer rating; for his career, he is 2-16 in the regular season when he has a passer rating below 55.0.

But for Chicago, it was the running game that carried the day.  The Bears passed on just 28% of dropbacks, and Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard combined to run 50 times for 199 yards. They also caught two passes for 23 yards and threw one pass for a 21-yard touchdown.  Given how competitive the game was (Chicago had a Game Script of just +3.3), you could argue it was the most run-heavy game of the season.

The full week 6 Game Scripts data below: [click to continue…]

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The Jaguars used the fourth overall pick on LSU RB Leonard Fournette. The addition of Fournette was supposed to change the team’s identity, and it seems… to have worked? Fournette finished with 28 carries for 181 yards and 2 TDs, although the last of those carries was a 90-yard touchdown run when the game was over. Still, the Jaguars finished with 37 carries against just 16 pass plays: that’s a 30% pass rate, easily the lowest of the week. Jacksonville has a great defense and seems to have figured out its running game, and that may be the formula for success for this team.

Blake Bortles completed just 8 passes on his 16 dropbacks for only 5 first downs, but that was enough given that the Jaguars forced five interceptions and returned two of those for touchdowns. The Raiders and Bears were the other teams that showed up as run-happy this week, which probably isn’t surprising given that both teams were starting new quarterbacks in week five. For Oakland, EJ Manuel had 29 dropbacks but gained just 137 yards, while the running game had 25 carries for 108 yards and a touchdown (Manuel had two carries for 15 yards). For Chicago, Mitch Trubisky picked up just 108 yards on 26 dropbacks, while the running game had 115 yards on 29 attempts (with Trubisky picking up 22 yards on the ground on three carries).

Below are the week 5 Game Scripts data:
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Week 4 Game Scripts: Buffalo Runs To Victory

The Buffalo Bills and their run-heavy ways are at it again. The Bills upset the Falcons in week 4, but it wasn’t because their offense stole the show. Buffalo scored only 23 points, and that included a defensive touchdown, a 55-yard field goal, and a 56-yard field goal. The Bills had just 15 first downs, and four of the team’s 8 drives ended with three or fewer yards. But Buffalo is going to stick with the ground game, even when it isn’t working. And that makes them a unique team in 2017.

The highlight for the offense came on a 19-play, 82-yard drive that took over 11 minutes off the clock. Here’s the full summary: bonus points if you can figure out whether or not this counts as run-heavy:

Full Play-By-Play Table
Quarter Time Down ToGo Location Detail BUF ATL EPB EPA Win%
3 8:20 1 10 BUF 12 LeSean McCoy left tackle for 8 yards (tackle by Keanu Neal) 14 10 -0.350 0.290 44.4
3 7:49 2 2 BUF 20 LeSean McCoy for 2 yards. Penalty on Eric Wood: Offensive Holding, 10 yards 14 10 0.290 -0.780 49.1
3 7:31 2 10 BUF 12 Mike Tolbert right guard for 7 yards (tackle by Dontari Poe) 14 10 -0.780 -0.600 48.1
3 6:51 3 3 BUF 19 Tyrod Taylor right end for 5 yards (tackle by Deion Jones) 14 10 -0.600 0.540 42.1
3 6:17 1 10 BUF 24 LeSean McCoy right end for 7 yards (tackle by Keanu Neal) 14 10 0.540 0.940 39.7
3 5:29 2 3 BUF 31 LeSean McCoy right tackle for 7 yards (tackle by Deion Jones) 14 10 0.940 1.470 36.4
3 4:51 1 10 BUF 38 Mike Tolbert right guard for 3 yards (tackle by Brooks Reed) 14 10 1.470 1.330 36.5
3 4:14 2 7 BUF 41 Mike Tolbert left guard for 6 yards (tackle by De’Vondre Campbell) 14 10 1.330 1.420 35.4
3 3:35 3 1 BUF 47 LeSean McCoy right tackle for 4 yards (tackle by Deion Jones) 14 10 1.420 2.320 30.4
3 3:02 1 10 ATL 49 Tyrod Taylor pass complete deep left to Zay Jones for 18 yards 14 10 2.320 3.510 24.5
3 2:19 1 10 ATL 31 LeSean McCoy right tackle for 4 yards (tackle by Keanu Neal) 14 10 3.510 3.510 23.6
3 1:39 2 6 ATL 27 LeSean McCoy right tackle for 7 yards (tackle by Sharrod Neasman) 14 10 3.510 4.240 19.8
3 1:01 1 10 ATL 20 Mike Tolbert left end for 8 yards (tackle by Damontae Kazee). 14 10 4.240 5.040 16.1
3 0:09 2 2 ATL 12 Patrick DiMarco left guard for -2 yards (tackle by Grady Jarrett) 14 10 5.040 3.890 19.3
4th Quarter
4 15:00 3 4 ATL 14 Penalty on John Miller: False Start, 5 yards (no play) 14 10 3.890 3.100 22.5
4 15:00 3 9 ATL 19 Tyrod Taylor pass complete short middle to Andre Holmes for 10 yards 14 10 3.100 5.140 14.5
4 14:20 1 9 ATL 9 LeSean McCoy left end for 6 yards (tackle by Brooks Reed and Keanu Neal) 14 10 5.140 5.530 12.4
4 13:37 2 3 ATL 3 LeSean McCoy right tackle for 1 yard (tackle by Brooks Reed and Grady Jarrett) 14 10 5.530 4.950 13.3
4 12:59 3 2 ATL 2 Tyrod Taylor pass complete short left to Jordan Matthews for 1 yard 14 10 4.950 3.550 17.7
4 12:09 4 1 ATL 1 Penalty on Tyrod Taylor: Delay of Game, 5 yards (no play) 14 10 3.550 2.990 18.8
4 12:03 4 6 ATL 6 Steven Hauschka 24 yard field goal good 17 10 2.990 3.000 18.6

The drive opened with NINE straight running plays, and 15 of the 18 plays were rushes! A pass on 1st-and-10 following those nine runs was the only non-third down pass of the drive. That’s just crazy. The Bills ended the day passing on just 39% of plays despite this being a back-and-forth game throughout.

Below are the week 4 Game Scripts: [click to continue…]

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Week 3 Game Scripts (2017): Jaguars Ring the Ravens Bell

The Jaguars obliterated the Ravens in London in week 3: Jacksonville led 10-0 after the first quarter, 23-0 at halftime, and 37-0 entering the third quarter. The Jaguars led 44-0 with 3:30 minutes left, before the Ravens scored the final points of the game.

It was the best Game Script of the season, thanks to both an incredible defensive performance Baltimore’s first 11 drives ended with three turnovers, seven punts, and one turnover on downs, and averaged a total of just 10.5 yards per drive! The offense’s first ten drives resulted in five touchdowns, three field goals, and two punts, and averaged 40 yards per drive (which would jump to 48 yards/drive if you eliminated the drives that began in Ravens territory and resulted in a touchdown).

The full week 3 Game Scripts below: [click to continue…]

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I was a little late in getting out the week 1 Game Scripts, but hopefully these will come out every Wednesday or Thursday for the rest of the year.

The Cowboys, Eagles, and Chargers stood out as pass-heavy this week. Dak Prescott finished with 50 passes (plus two sacks), easily a career high and only the second time he’s thrown even 40 passes in a game. Ezekiel Elliott, meanwhile, set career lows with just 9 carries and 8 yards. Dallas was blown out by Denver, but still: a -11.5 Game Script usually yields more like a 68% pass ratio, not 79%.

Philadelphia was even more pass-happy: this game was close throughout, but Carson Wentz had 52 dropbacks (and 4 rushing attempts), while Philadelphia running backs had just 13 carries. LeGarrette Blount, after recording a team-high 14 carries in week 1, was on the field for just six snaps and had zero carries against the Chiefs. Wentz didn’t convert half of his dropbacks into completions, so it’s tough to see the explanation here for abandoning the ground game. Darren Sproles led the team with 10 carries, but it seems unlikely that he will ever get much more than that. So the either the Eagles will either become the most pass-happy team in the NFL or return to Blount or Wendell Smallwood for a larger role.

The Chargers led for much of the second half against Miami, only falling behind in the final minute. But that didn’t stop Philip Rivers from recording 40 dropbacks, compared to just 13 rushes for the Chargers running backs. Melvin Gordon rushed 9 times for 13 yards with a long of 11 yards, so he obviously was not getting much done. And Rivers completed over 75% of his passes and averaged over 10 yards per completion. In that context, it made a lot of sense. But that doesn’t change the fact that for a team with a Game Script of +1.8, passing on over 75% of their plays (excluding Rivers’ final run of the game to center the ball) is extraordinarily pass-happy. [click to continue…]

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Week 1 Game Scripts (2017): Ravens Flip The Script

Two different Ravens running backs had more carries than Flacco had attempts in week one.

Last season, no team was more pass-happy than the Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco and the Ravens led the NFL in pass attempts along with both pass ratio and pass identity. Flacco threw at least 30 passes in every game last year. The Ravens threw 50 passes in a game they won 38-6 in a remarkable display of the team’s pass-only identity.

Well, in week 1 of the 2017 season, the Ravens threw just 18 times and on only 29.5% of all plays, both of which were league-lows. Terrance West and Javorius Allen combined for 40 carries, and while both players were on the team last year, clearly something has changed in Baltimore. The Jaguars and Bills also stood out as very run-heavy in week 1: Jacksonville spent the fourth pick on Leonard Fournette, so that makes a lot of sense, while the Bills are always run-heavy in the Tyrod Taylor/LeSean McCoy era.

On the Game Scripts notes: the Rams led the way with the best Game Script of week 1, courtesy of a blowout win over the Colts. And just two teams won with negative Game Scripts in the opening slate of games: the Chiefs and Lions both won by double digits, but were the only two teams to pull off fourth quarter comebacks. [click to continue…]

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2016 Game Scripts in Review: Pass Identity Ratings

Did you know: the Patriots and 49ers both threw on 54% of their plays last season. Both teams ranked in the bottom five last year in pass ratio, i.e., their percentage of plays that were either pass attempts or sacks. But the teams both passed infrequently for different reasons: New England didn’t want to pass much because they were often playing with the lead and were milking the clock; San Francisco didn’t want to pass much because their passing game was not very good and because both Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert were two of the most run-heavy quarterbacks in football.

San Francisco was undoubtedly a run-heavy team last year, but the Patriots?  Of course not.  No team with Tom Brady is run-happy, but the game scripts incentivized New England to be run-happy.  Regular readers know about Game Scripts, which is simply the average points margin over every second of every game.  New England had a Game Script of +7.7 last year, the highest margin in the NFL.  This means if you were to write down the amount by which New England was leading for every second of every game last year, and calculated the average, you would get a 7.7 point lead.  The graph below shows the Game Script for all 32 teams last year on the Y-Axis, along with their Pass Ratio (pass attempts plus sacks divided by total plays) on the X-Axis. [click to continue…]

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2016 Postseason Game Scripts

With one massive exception, the 2016 playoffs were not very interesting. The home team usually won, the favorite usually won, and usually by a large margin. In 8 of 10 games (ignoring the neutral site Super Bowl), the home team was the favorite and won by 13+ points.

And the Game Scripts weren’t all that exciting, either. Most of the games weren’t Super Bowl, and there was just one comeback. Of course, it wasn’t just any comeback; it was perhaps the comeback. Take a look: [click to continue…]

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The regular season is now over, and it ended with a whimper. Of the 16 games in week 17, 6 featured margins of 17+ points, and a 7th had a Game Script of +15.2. There were two big comebacks, but they came in meaningless games: The Colts overcame a 17-0 deficit to win 24-20, with the final margin coming on a touchdown pass in the final seconds.

The Steelers, with their stars rested, trailed most of the day against the Browns. This game wasn’t meaningless to San Francisco, though: Cleveland led 14-0 early and 14-7 entering the 4th quarter; had the Browns won, the 49ers would have had the number one pick. Instead, Pittsburgh won in overtime, cementing a 1-15 year for the Browns.

Below are the week 17 Game Scripts. [click to continue…]

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Note: the 2016 Game Scripts page is now updated through week 16.

The big win of the week, not surprisingly, came from the Patriots over the Jets. New England was a 17-point favorite over New York, and won by 38 with a Game Script of +20.6. That’s the third best Game Script of the season.

In the world of misleading final scores, the Cowboys beat the Lions by 21 points, but with a Game Script of only +6.6. The Lions actually led in this game, 21-14, late in the 2nd quarter, and trailed by only 7 with 20 minutes left. Dallas then scored two quick touchdowns, and neither team scored in the final ten minutes.

And the comeback of the week belongs to San Francisco. With 5:14 left, the 49ers trailed by 14 points, facing 3rd-and-10 from the Rams 13-yard line. Colin Kaepernick scrambled for a 13-yard touchdown, the 49ers defense forced a three-and-out, and the 49ers put together their second straight touchdown drive of 73+ yards. Then, the 49ers went for two — which is silly, given that the 49ers didn’t go for 2 after the first touchdown — and Kaepernick scrambled for the conversion. That’s how San Francisco won, 22-21, with a -5.5 Game Script.

Below are the week 16 Game Scripts results: [click to continue…]

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Okay, yes, I’m a little late here, but I didn’t want to just forget about week 15. Those expecting week 16 Game Scripts, well, that will be up tomorrow.

Week 15 may feel like a long time ago, so here’s your primer: the Colts destroyed the Vikings, 34-6, and had the best Game Script (+17.8) of the week. Atlanta had a similar margin and Game Script against the 49ers. But the big story were the two upsets of the week.

Houston benched Brock Osweiler and inserted Tom Savage into the lineup after falling behind early against Jacksonville; the Texans trailed 13-0 in the 2nd quarter, and 20-8 late in the third, before ultimately winning 21-20. Houston won with a Game Script of -7.4, the 5th worst Game Script by a winning team all season.

The fourth lowest? That came by Tennessee the same day against the Chiefs. In a game that feels much less relevant now — Tennessee is out of the playoffs, while Kansas City has since clinched — the Chiefs led 14-0 in the first quarter and 17-7 entering the fourth. Kansas City even led 17-16, with the ball, with two minutes to go, but lost on a last-second field goal, 19-17. The final Game Script was -8.0 for the Titans.

Below are the week 15 Game Scripts: [click to continue…]

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The Falcons blew out the Rams in week 14 in one of the most embarrassing games of the season. Atlanta was up 21-0 at halftime, 28-0 early in the third quarter, and then 42-0 entering the fourth quarter. Two late Los Angeles touchdowns muted the final score, but the 22.0 Game Script tells all.

That was the second biggest Game Script of the season, but it was also only the second most notable Game Script of the week. That’s because of the crazy Jets/49ers game. San Francisco scored two early touchdowns, taking a 14-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game! The 49ers led by 11 or 14 points for the next 50 minutes of game action, too. But New York scored a touchdown, a two point conversion, and a field goal in the second half of the fourth quarter, and ultimately won in overtime, 23-17. Even considering the six plus minutes of overtime, the 49ers finished with a Game Script of +11.5. That’s the largest Game Script of any team that lost since at least 2012, and maybe longer.

Below are the full Game Script results from week 14:

TeamH/ROppBoxscorePFPAMarginGame ScriptPassRunP/R RatioOp_POp_ROpp_P/R Ratio
ATL@RAMBoxscore42142822322556.1%442365.7%
GNBSEABoxscore38102815.2263046.4%422661.8%
CIN@CLEBoxscore23101312.9323845.7%312258.5%
CARSDGBoxscore28161211.8293843.3%442068.8%
TENDENBoxscore131038.9234235.4%54985.7%
PIT@BUFBoxscore272078.8314242.5%301862.5%
MIAARIBoxscore262336.7263145.6%362757.1%
NWEBALBoxscore302376.5392660%541479.4%
KANOAKBoxscore211386.3262749.1%423058.3%
TAMNORBoxscore161156.2283544.4%421672.4%
HOU@INDBoxscore221753.3264138.8%461575.4%
MIN@JAXBoxscore251693342954%412463.1%
DETCHIBoxscore201731.5382857.6%331766%
WAS@PHIBoxscore27225-1.2232350%502566.7%
NYGDALBoxscore1073-2.9313348.4%402561.5%
NYJ@SFOBoxscore23176-11.5414050.6%282750.9%

There have been some games that followed a similar pattern to 49ers/Jets, but what makes that game stand out is how San Francisco was up 14-0 with 11 minutes left in the first quarter. In fact, I only see 25 games since 1998 where a team ran an offensive snap down 14 with over 55 minutes left in the game; the Jets were the fifth to win such a game, with the Giants the previous last such team to do so.

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments. And the 2016 Game Scripts page is now updated.

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A number of teams produced blowout wins in week 13, with two of those games coming on national television.  The Colts destroyed the Jets on Monday Night Football, 41-10, with a Game Script of +19.9 in a game that was never close. The Ravens murdered the Dolphins, 38-6, producing a Game Script of +18.1. And the Seahawks had a Game Script of +16.8 in a Sunday Night massacre against Carolina.

Only two teams won with negative Game Scripts: Oakland trailed Buffalo for much of the game, and was down 24-9 halfway through the third quarter. The Raiders ultimately won by two touchdowns, despite a Game Script of -1.1. The biggest comeback belonged to Tampa Bay, who won with a -2.2 Game Script in San Diego. The Chargers led for most of the game, including with a 21-17 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Bucs scored 11 points in the final frame to pull out the victory.

Below are the week 13 game scripts: [click to continue…]

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Week 12 Game Scripts Data

I’m short on time today, so here are the Game Scripts from week 12. I’ll leave the commentary to you.

TeamH/ROppBoxscorePFPAMarginGame ScriptPassRunP/R RatioOp_POp_ROpp_P/R Ratio
PIT@INDBoxscore2872111.9212942%392362.9%
TAMSEABoxscore14599.7283544.4%392263.9%
NORRAMBoxscore4921289.2393254.9%351767.3%
BALCINBoxscore191458.3382956.7%512071.8%
TEN@CHIBoxscore272168.2232944.2%542271.1%
DALWASBoxscore312657.6253045.5%531973.6%
GNB@PHIBoxscore2713146.2392858.2%401869%
NYG@CLEBoxscore2713145.6282750.9%512170.8%
ATLARIBoxscore3819194.1373055.2%471477%
SDG@HOUBoxscore211383.8311863.3%382758.5%
OAKCARBoxscore353233.8413057.7%312555.4%
MIASFOBoxscore312473.2322655.2%482565.8%
KAN@DENBoxscore302731.3502665.8%393850.6%
DETMINBoxscore161330.9421968.9%371669.8%
BUFJAXBoxscore28217-1232944.2%283743.1%
NWE@NYJBoxscore22175-1.4502269.4%332358.9%

Also, as always, the season page is now updated.

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The Dolphins have now won five straight games for the first time since 2008, with Sunday’s win being the most remarkable: Miami won with a Game Script of -6.8, as the offense had a very slow start to the day:

screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-10-22-21-am

In week 11, Miami was the only team to win with a noteworthy negative Game script: technically, the Raiders and Giants won with them, too. Below are the full results from week 11: [click to continue…]

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Week 10, 2016 Game Scripts: Break Up The Titans

The Titans were the big Game Scripts story of week ten, as Tennessee rolled out to a 21-0 lead against the Packers. The Titans have been remarkable over the last few weeks: since the start of week five, the team is averaging 33.7 points per game, the most in the NFL.

Tennessee has scored at least 25 points in six straight games for only the third time in franchise history, and only the second time since the merger. The Titans have crossed the 35-point mark in three straight games, a franchise first.  The team is 2nd in yards per carry and 6th in yards per attempt; this is an offense flying high right now. [click to continue…]

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There was just one 4th quarter comeback in week nine, and it came in the Lions/Vikings game.  Trailing 13-9 with 4:14 left, Minnesota embarked on a 19-play, 79-yard drive for a touchdown to take a 16-13 lead.  That would have been the only 4th quarter comeback of the week, but Matthew Stafford completed two passes for 35 yards to put Detroit in position for a field goal to tie the game.  Matt Prater connected from 58 yards, and the Lions won in overtime.

But the Lions led for most of that game, and finished with a Game Script of +2.3.  Only one other winning team in week nine had a fourth quarter score to take the lead: Miami, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown against the Jets. But Miami led 14-13 at halftime, and 20-13 at the end of the third quarter; the Dolphins finished with a Game Script of +2.3.

So there were no teams that won games in week nine with a negative Game Script.  Below are the full results: [click to continue…]

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Three victorious teams stood out in week eight as pass-heavy:

  • New England blew out the Bills, and led 41-17 until the final minute of the game. But despite a Game Script of +13.0, that didn’t stop the Patriots from throwing on over 60% of all plays. Tom Brady has deservedly received a lot of press this week, but the ratio against Buffalo was also a sign of an emerging problem: the running game hasn’t been very good. LeGarrette Blount had 18 carries for 43 yards, and New England’s running game has been inconsistent all year. Of course, that could just lead to more Brady throws, which may not be such a bad thing.
  • For Oakland, Derek Carr had 59 pass attempts (and just two sacks) in a monster game against the Bucs. The Raiders running backs had some success, but this was a competitive game throughout. That’s a sign, tho, that the Raiders want to put the ball in the hands of Carr and Michael Crabtree (16 targets) and Amari Cooper (15 targets).
  • The Chiefs rolled against the Colts, but even though Alex Smith went down, Kansas City stayed pass happy under Nick Foles. Kansas City passed more than you would expect from a team with a +8.0 Game Script, but that also may be a sign that the Colts pass defense is so bad that teams will pass on it regardless of situation.

Below are the Week 8 Game Scripts numbers. [click to continue…]

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In week 1, the Chargers lost to the Chiefs despite a Game Script of +10.3. San Diego led 21-3 at halftime and 24-3 in the third quarter, but the Chiefs ultimately won in overtime.

It’s pretty unusal to lose with a +10 Game Script, or stated another way, it’s pretty unusual to win with a -10 Game Script. But that’s exactly what San Diego did in week seven, beating Atlanta with a Game Script of -10.2. The Chargers trailed 27-10 in the first half, but won in overtime, 33-30. The Chargers still had an element of balance in the game — Melvin Gordon had 22 carries for 68 yards and two touchdowns — while the Falcons were done in by the team’s last three drives ending on an interception, a missed field goal, and a turnover on downs.

Below are the week seven Game Scripts data. As is customary around these parts, I’ve lowlighted the Seahawks/Cardinals 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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Let’s start with a piece of good news: I’ve created a 2016 Game Scripts page! On the top right of every page, there is a link to the 2016 Game Scripts, along with a dropdown option to view prior seasons.  Here’s a screenshot:

capture

So that’s the good news. The bad news is the Jets. In other news, Houston had the second-biggest comeback of the season as measured by Game Script: the Texans beat the Colts with a Game Script of -6.9. In many ways, this was more shocking than what the Chiefs did to the Chargers in week one (-10.3). That game was a 7-point contest with three minutes left; on Sunday Night Football, the Colts led by 14 with three minutes left, yet still managed to lose the game.

Let’s get to the Week 6 Game Scripts: [click to continue…]

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Today at 538: A look at season long Game Scripts and Pass Identity data, through week 5:

As we enter mid-October, the identity of each NFL team’s offense has begun to emerge. Some teams, like the San Francisco 49ers, want to run the ball no matter the situation. Others, like the Indianapolis Colts, are pass-happy even when most other teams wouldn’t be. How do we know what teams’ preferred style is? It’s not as easy as looking at their basic stats: Those are shaped by factors outside of their control, like being forced to pass more when trailing. So I’ve created a way to adjust for external forces and classify teams based on how they choose to play offense regardless of the numbers on the scoreboard.

You can read the full article, and see the cool chart and table, here.

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Week 5, 2016 Game Scripts: The 49ers Keep On Running

Previously:

There were no big comebacks this week, but a few games where the Game Script exceeded the final margin. The Cowboys blew out the Bengals, and led 28-0 entering the fourth quarter; the game ended, 28-14.

With three minutes to go in the Broncos/Falcons game, Atlanta led 23-6. The Falcons were in control for most of the game, leading 20-3 mid-way through the third quarter. Denver scored ten points in the final three minutes, to give a not-as-close-as-it-looked final score of 23-16.

The Packers led 23-9 with a few minutes left in the game, before the Giants scored a touchdown. New York trailed by 8 points at times later in the game, but last trailed by 7 points with the ball with eight minutes left in the second quarter.

Below are the Week 5 Game Scripts data: [click to continue…]

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Previously:

Back in February, Mike Mularkey declared that his vision for Tennessee offense would be something best described as exotic smashmouth.  Then, the Titans passed on 2 out of every 3 plays in a week 1 loss to the Vikings.

Since then, Tennessee has been more run-heavy each week, culminating in a very run-heavy performance in week four. Against Houston, the Titans finished with 32 runs and 30 passes (tho that includes three Marcus Mariota scrambles), despite trailing for most of the game.  Tennessee had a Game Script of -5.8, yet was the only losing team with 30 rushing attempts this week.

Is it working? That’s tough to say: the Titans had 32 carries for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns, which sounds pretty good; meanwhile, Mariota had 196 net passing yards on 30 dropbacks with an interception and no touchdowns, which represents a league average NY/A gain.   So the running game may be a strength for the team, and the passing game may be a weakness; if that holds up, exotic smashmouth makes sense.

On the other hand, taking a big picture look at the Tennessee offense, and it is not good: The Titans are 31st in scoring, and that’s despite ranking 4th in rushing yards and 3rd in yards per carry.

Below are the week 4 game scripts data: [click to continue…]

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Week 3, 2016 Game Scripts: Tampa Bay Turns To Winston

Previously:

In week 3, only one team won with a negative Game Script. That was early season Game Script favorite Washington, who trailed 21-9 in the first half but came back to win against the Giants, 29-27. In the process, Washington produced its most run-heavy game of the year, with 30 carries (including two kneels) against 37 passes (excluding one spike). Was there a correlation between running more and winning? Washington running backs weren’t very effective — they had 27 carries for 97 yards — but the balance may have helped Kirk Cousins have his best game of the year (9.60 AY/A, 75.1 QBR).

Given that there were no other teams that won with negative Game Scripts, let’s get to the results: [click to continue…]

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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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