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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.

WinnerH/RLoserBoxscorePFPAMarginGame ScriptPassRunP/R RatioOp_POp_ROpp_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!

    1. 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. []
    2. Although the Patriots did pass 72% of the time in last year’s loss in South Beach (Game Script of +0.4). []
  • The Bills-Bears script is almost as interesting as the Pats-Dolphins one. Basically an even game and an even bigger disparity in run-pass numbers. The Bills gap makes a ton of sense given the probably still bad Bears run defense (5.8 YPC on Sunday). The Bears only running 18 times in an even game is weirder. They also averaged 4.8 YPC. Maybe that was about the injuries to Garza and Slauson, though.

    • Chase Stuart

      That’s a good point. At the end of the 3rd quarter, the game was tied. In the 4th quarter and overtime, Chicago called 18 passes and just 7 runs. I’m rarely one to argue that a team should have run more, but the Bears averaged 5.2 Y/A with a bad INT on those passes, and 4.4 YPC. Forte also caught all 3 of his targets for 30 yards during that stretch.

  • Chase Stuart

    Last year, I also included data on average field position, i.e., the average yardline where the team took each snap. In week 1, it was Miami that led in this category, with their average snap taking place at the Patriots 41 yard line:

    mia	70	59.4
    det	63	55.8
    nyj	65	53.3
    nor	70	53.0
    sea	66	52.4
    car	67	51.2
    oti	75	50.8
    clt	70	50.2
    cin	64	50.1
    atl	69	48.7
    buf	56	48.3
    dal	63	48.0
    nyg	57	47.9
    den	68	46.9
    sfo	54	46.9
    rav	85	46.8
    cle	64	46.5
    nwe	80	46.3
    phi	82	45.5
    gnb	57	45.5
    tam	55	44.2
    crd	65	44.0
    kan	56	43.6
    sdg	59	43.5
    chi	69	43.3
    pit	66	42.8
    min	55	42.3
    ram	62	38.5
    was	60	38.2
    jax	71	36.6
    rai	49	36.4
    htx	56	35.0

    Miami had a blocked punt, which helped, and two Cameron Wake fumbles gave the team the ball deep in NE territory. But the Dolphins also just managed to sustain drives, scoring on 7 of 12 drives.

    Houston, meanwhile, had some really ugly field position. The Texans had only 9 drives, and their best starting field position was their own 34. Of course, they did have a punt block, but since it turned into a touchdown, there was no ensuring drive. And while Washington had two fumbles, both came at the end of nearly 80 yard drives.

  • Evan

    I have a feeling you’re being a little tongue-in-cheek when you say “South Beach” referring to Miami (thanks, LeBron). But whereas the Heat play only a short drive away from South Beach, the Dolphins play up in Miami Gardens, a good 15-20 miles away. Sorry, I’m attempting to rid the internet of this “South Beach” ubiquity. Otherwise, I’m a fan and enjoy reading these.

  • Ty

    Comparing Week 1 GameScripts to Week 1 DVOA (Doesn’t adjust for SOS until Week 4):

    1	SFO	17.6		1	SEA	61.00%
    2	DET	11.4		2	MIN	56.80%
    3	DEN	11.1		3	DET	55.30%
    4	MIN	10.3		4	TEN	54.00%
    5	CIN	8.1		5	SF	53.70%
    6	PIT	7.9		6	CAR	35.10%
    7	SEA	7.3		7	ATL	33.60%
    8	JAX	7.1		8	NYJ	29.80%
    9	TEN	6.8		9	DEN	29.00%
    10	CAR	6.6		10	BUF	27.20%
    11	HOU	4.3		11	CIN	26.50%
    12	NO	4.3		12	PIT	25.40%
    13	NYJ	2.3		13	MIA	20.60%
    14	SD	2.2		14	PHI	4.80%
    15	BUF	2.1		15	ARI	3.00%
    16	NE	0.7		16	CHI	1.60%
    17	MIA	-0.7		17	CLE	-1.60%
    18	CHI	-2.1		18	JAC	-7.10%
    19	ARI	-2.2		19	HOU	-19.70%
    20	OAK	-2.3		20	NE	-23.50%
    21	ATL	-4.3		21	BAL	-25.50%
    22	WAS	-4.3		22	WAS	-25.80%
    23	TB	-6.6		23	NO	-27.20%
    24	KC	-6.8		24	IND	-30.90%
    25	PHI	-7.1		25	OAK	-34.40%
    26	GB	-7.3		26	SD	-37.60%
    27	CLE	-7.9		27	GB	-37.70%
    28	BAL	-8.1		28	TB	-43.50%
    29	STL	-10.3		29	KC	-50.60%
    30	IND	-11.1		30	DAL	-68.70%
    31	NYG	-11.4		31	NYG	-78.30%
    32	DAL	-17.6		32	STL	-92.80%

    I apologize for the formatting, I did a copy-paste job from Excel.

    • Pretty good correlation, I think (.77ish). Huge difference for Atlanta there, ranking 7 in DVOA and 21 in Game Scripts.

    • Nick Bradley

      I adjusted DVOAs for Week 1 DAVE and the correlation drops to .515. I don’t see any methodological issues adjusting for DAVE in week 1 vs week 4, unless projections are way, way off (which they’re usually not).

      DAVE-Adj DVOA/ Expected DAVE-adj DVOA
      SFO 69.10% 55%
      ATL 44.80% -19%
      SEA 38.80% 20%
      MIN 38.60% 30%
      BUF 37.60% 2%
      TEN 36.00% 18%
      DET 35.30% 34%
      MIA 32.90% -7%
      CAR 28.10% 17%
      DEN 23.20% 33%
      CIN 16.60% 23%
      PIT 9.90% 22%
      ARI 9.00% -12%
      NYJ 4.00% 3%
      CLE 3.80% -32%
      CHI 2.50% -12%
      JAX -2.70% 19%
      PHI -9.00% -29%
      IND -14.00% -42%
      BAL -20.60% -32%
      GB -24.70% -29%
      NE -25.90% -2%
      HOU -26.20% 10%
      NO -27.40% 10%
      WAS -33.40% -19%
      OAK -34.30% -13%
      SD -39.80% 3%
      TB -40.80% -27%
      KC -50.50% -28%
      DAL -64.10% -64%
      NYG -78.50% -43%
      STL -92.50% -40%