It’s not surprising to see the Patriots #1 in minutes spent with the lead: New England ranked first in Game Scripts score and in points differential. But the #2 team might surprise you. One reason the Vikings were so successful basing their offense around Adrian Peterson was because the team held the lead 59% of the time. You may recall the Vikings week 1 victory against the Jaguars, when Christian Ponder led Minnesota from behind to steal the win; that was an extreme outlier. In the team’s other nine victories, the Vikings held the lead for at least 45 minutes in each game. On the other hand, Minnesota led for less than 25 minutes in all seven of their losses.
The table below shows the percentage of the time each team spent leading, tied, or trailing. I’ve also included their respective ranks in each category.
In January, I wrote about how Jamaal Charles had one of the most inconsistent seasons in running back history last year. I suspect part of his problems were due to the fact that Kansas City ranked 1st in time spent trailing and 32nd in time spent leading. The Chiefs had a positive Game Script score in just three games last year — against Pittsburgh, Carolina, and (surprisingly) at home against the Broncos. In each of those games, Charles hit the 100-yards mark on the ground. His two 225-yard games were also games where, relative to the average Kansas City game, the Chiefs were competitive. This is hardly groundbreaking news, but a better Chiefs team (including Eric Fisher) should make Charles a more consistently productive player this year, which is kind of crazy when you consider that he rushed for 1509 yards on a 2-14 team last year.
It’s easy to bag on Tony Romo, but Dallas was not a very good team last year. The Cowboys were 30th in time spent with the lead and spent 30% of their games tied, the highest rate in the league. Romo led five fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives last year, and was a couple of inches away from pulling off a sixth. Dallas finished 8-8 last year but ranked 25th in Game Scripts. If not for some late-game Romo magic, the team could have had much worse year. And it’s not like Romo was the reason the Cowboys were generally trailing. The Cowboys finished in the bottom five in turnovers forced, 31st in rushing yards, 30th in yards per carry, 25th in Net Yards per Attempt allowed, and 27th in rushing yards per carry allowed. The passing offense was the only positive thing in Dallas last year.
- One note: I’ve noticed I made one minor mistake, which I do not have the energy to spend to fix. If a team scored first in overtime and then stopped the opponent on the ensuing drive, I did not include those extra minutes spent on defense as time spent with the lead. [↩]