New England ran an offensive play every 24.9 seconds, the highest rate in the league. The Saints were second at 26.1, which makes sense: New Orleans also has an MVP quarterback and versatile weapons at tight end (Jimmy Graham) and running back (Darren Sproles). You might be a little surprised to see Joe Flacco’s Ravens come in at #3 in play tempo, but the Ravens finished in the bottom five last year in time of possession. The Eagles will be running a high-octane offense under Chip Kelly in 2013, but Philadelphia already ranked fourth in tempo last year.
Here’s how to read the table below. In 2012, the Patriots ranked 1st in tempo (i.e., seconds per play). New England had an average Time of Possession of 30:56 and ran 1,191 offensive plays, an average of one play every 24.9 seconds. The Patriots Game Script average was 7.7, and New England ran 21.3% of their plays in the 1st quarter, 24.9% in the 2nd quarter, 27% in the 3rd quarter, 25.8% in the 4th quarter, and 0.9% in overtime.
It’s no surprise to see Seattle and San Francisco at the bottom of the table in seconds per play. Both teams had run-heavy offenses last year, were often playing with the lead, and had high-completion percentages when they did pass. Seeing the Chargers at #30 is a bit surprising, however. While San Diego was playing with the lead more often than you might expect, it sure felt like Philip Rivers and the offense was simply going through the motions. New head coach in Mike McCoy might instill a greater sense of urgency in the Chargers in 2013. McCoy’s old team, the Denver Broncos, ranked just 10th in tempo, which is what happens when you mix John Fox with Peyton Manning; it will be interesting to see whether the addition of Wes Welker will increase the Broncos’ offensive tempo in 2013.
I have time of possession data going back to 1991. Where does New England’s average of one play every 24.9 seconds rank over the last 22 years? Fourth, behind two Jim Kelly/K-Gun Buffalo Bills teams and a different Drew Bledsoe/Bill Parcells Patriots squad. The table below shows the tempo for each team going back to 1991.
At the bottom of the list were a couple of Saints teams, highlighted by the ’92 version of the Dome Patrol. That team went 12-4, ranked 1st in points allowed, passing yards allowed, and net yards per pass allowed, and sent four linebackers to the Pro Bowl. But the team’s offensive philosophy was to milk the clock, as the Saints ran just 895 plays that year.