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.
I calculated the Game Scripts for each game in week one, and like last year, this is something I’ll be doing every week of the season.1 If you watched the early games on Sunday, you won’t be surprised to see that the Eagles — who trailed 17-0 but won 34-17 against Jacksonville — had a Game Script of -7.1, the worse of any victorious team in week one.
|Winner||H/R||Loser||Boxscore||PF||PA||Margin||Game Script||Pass||Run||P/R Ratio||Op_P||Op_R||Opp_P/R Ratio|
- In addition to Philadelphia, Atlanta and Arizona also won with negative Game Scripts. The Falcons trailed 13-0 and 20-7 before winning in overtime, while the Chargers led 17-6 entering the fourth quarter before the Cardinals did what teams are wont to do on opening night against San Diego. The Dolphins won by 13 points, but actually had a slightly negative Game Script number: while the Patriots led 20-10 at halftime, Miami was responsible for the final five scores of the game.
- As a general rule in each game, the team with the positive Game Script will have a lower pass ratio than the team with the negative Game Script. That trend held in up 12 of the 16 games in week one. One of the games that bucked the trend qualifies by only the thinnest of margins: San Diego passed on 61% of plays, while the Cardinals passed on 60% of plays. On the other hand, the other three games are a little more interesting to examine.
- The Jaguars passed on 65% of their plays, while the Eagles passed on just 61% of their plays. Philadelphia is a run-heavy team, and a 61% pass ratio in the context of a -7.1 Game Script reflects that. But Jacksonville? Why were they so pass-heavy? It really comes down to the team’s philosophy in the second half. The Jags passed on 8 out of 15 plays in the 1st quarter, 11 of 20 in the 2nd, and then on 76% and 74% of plays in the third and fourth quarters. The third quarter — which began with the Jaguars up 17-0 and ended with them up 17-14 — was the one that looks like the real outlier. The explanation? Toby Gerhart struggled to get much done. In the first three quarters he gained just 23 yards on 14 carries, and that includes an 11-yard run on his third carry of the day. As a result, the team shifted to a Chad Henne-heavy game plan.
- The Ravens were frequent guests in this space last year, as Baltimore had a habit of getting very pass-heavy for long stretches. Not much has changed for them so far in 2014, as Joe Flacco took a league-high 65 dropbacks against Cincinnati. But Cleveland, another pass-happy AFC North that actually led the league in pass attempts in 2013 — looked decidedly different on Sunday. The Browns threw less frequently than Pittsburgh on Sunday, despite Cleveland having a Game Script of -7.9! Incredibly, the Browns called nearly as many rushing plays (30) as passing (34) despite trailing 27-3 at half time. Yes, a suspended Josh Gordon is part of the reason, and whether it’s Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel, the Browns will probably want to run the ball. But many teams want to run the ball; the difference in week one for Cleveland was that Terrance West (16 carries, 100 yards), Ben Tate (6 carries, 41 yards), and Isaiah Crowell (5 carries, 32 yards, 2 touchdowns) were very successful against a questionable Steelers front seven.
- The final game on our list might be the most interesting. New England had a barely positive Game Script, but the real story is is that in an essentially even game, the Patriots passed on 75% of their plays, while the Dolphins passed on just 47%! Last year, New England never passed so frequently in a single game.2 Meanwhile, Miami called more passing plays than running plays in every single game in 2013. Sure, we don’t think of the Tom Brady Patriots as a run-heavy team, but New England is generally not super pass-happy (last year, they ranked 8th in Pass Identity). Miami, of course, was sup pass-happy last year, courtesy of a struggling running game. So far, at least, things are different in 2013.
As always, the Game Scripts data will be freely available to everyone each week. Let us know your thoughts on the week 1 data in the comments!
- Here’s some fine print. In order for me to run the Game Script numbers on a weekly basis, I have to cut a couple of corners. The downside is it’s possible the Game Scripts scores I present will be inaccurate by a couple of tenths of a point from time to time. And the pass/rushing snaps data might be off by a couple of snaps or two. I don’t consider that a big deal, but I wanted to alert you to that possibility. [↩]
- Although the Patriots did pass 72% of the time in last year’s loss in South Beach (Game Script of +0.4). [↩]