Indianapolis kept it close early, and the only first quarter score came via the St. Louis defense. On that play, Robert Quinn — who with 12 sacks through 10 games, is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate — stripsacked Andrew Luck, and Chris Long picked up the fumble and raced 45 yards for the touchdown. Incredibly, the Colts are lucky this game wasn’t even more one-sided. Late in the first quarter, Kellen Clemens and Zac Stacy botched the exchange on a handoff on the goal line with the Rams looking to go up 14-0, and Indianapolis recovered to end the scoring threat. That didn’t set back the Rams for long, however, as St. Louis scored 21 points in the third quarter to take a 28-0 lead into the locker room. Tavon Austin — who had a day for the ages — scored in the third quarter to give St. Louis a 35-0 lead early in the third quarter, effectively ending any hopes for another Luck comeback.
Three teams lost with positive Game Scripts in week 10, but unlike in week nine, there were no big comebacks, as all three games were back-and-forth affairs. The Panthers won with the worst Game Script of the week, holding an average deficit of 2.6 points against the 49ers. San Francisco jumped out to a 9-0 early, but Carolina eventually won 10-9 on a late field goal. Since I wrote about how the 3-9 Panthers were about to turn things around, Carolina has gone 9-3. In an unrelated note, I recently injured my hand on my back.
The table below shows the Game Scripts data from week 10:
Only two of the teams with positive Game Scripts passed more frequently than their opponents. San Diego is normally one of the most pass-happy teams in the NFL, as Philip Rivers (who still leads the league in completion percentage) executes a high-percentage passing game that takes the place of many runs. But boldness apparently has its limits, and against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, the Chargers called 33 pass plays and 33 runs1 in an attempt to keep the Denver offense off the field. That helped San Diego win the all-important time of possession battle, 38:03 to 12:57, which enabled San Diego to still lose by 8 points.
The other game that went off Script was in New York, where the Giants remain terrified that Eli Manning will throw a pick six at any moment. He threw another one against the Raiders, but the story of the day was Tom Coughlin giving perhaps the most injury prone running back in the NFL, Andre Brown, 30 carries in his first game of the season. For what it’s worth, 16 of New York’s 38 rush attempts came with the team leading in the fourth quarter. Over the last four weeks, New York has passed on just 52% of all pass plays, but actually passed less frequently in the games with negative Game Scripts.
The Ravens had a very high pass/run ratio for a team that held a large lead most of the game, due to the continuing ineffectiveness of the team’s running backs. The passing game has not been good this season — Baltimore ranks 7th in pass attempts but only 17th in yards and 20th in touchdowns — but the running game isn’t getting the team anywhere. Against Cincinnati, Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce combined for just 61 yards on 26 carries.
As always, you can view the Game Scripts from every game this season at this page.
Three things stand out to me:
- The Saints set a record for first downs with 40 against the Cowboys. New Orleans’ nine drives (excluding the end of game drive) began, on average, at the Saints 22 yard line, which I suppose enabled Drew Brees to pick up all those first downs. But the fact that the team’s average snap took place so far down field despite the poor average starting field position is yet another sign of how dominant the offense was on Sunday night.
- San Francisco was entirely ineffective on offense, and I’m not sure you can even blame the team’s average starting field position. The 49ers first possession began at the 20 yard line, and the team picked up 46 yards and kicked a long field goal. But after that, the Panthers defense completely shut down San Francisco. The most yards picked up by Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers on the team’s final 12 drives was just 17 yards. The two other field goals scored by San Francisco both began on drives in Panthers territory.
- I poked fun at them before, but to the extent San Diego’s goal was to win the field position battle, well, they succeeded. It just didn’t seem to matter. Denver had 11 drives, and the best starting field position for the Broncos was the team’s own 27 yard line. The average Denver drive began on the Broncos 19, which kept the average field position data down, and San Diego held Denver to 22 or fewer yards on six of those 11 drives. The problem? Four of the other five went for 70+ yards and a touchdown.