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It has not been a good week for these two

It has not been a good week for these two.

The game of the week 12 was obviously Brady/Manning XIV, and the Patriots comeback victory resulted in the second lowest Game Script by a winning team this year. Due to the big lead, Denver rushed 55% of the time, and Knowshon Moreno set NFL season-highs with 37 carries for 224 rushing yards. In regulation, the Broncos held an average lead of 10.5 points, although that still trails the Andrew Luck-fueled comeback by Indianapolis against Houston in week nine. The other big comeback in week 12 was by Cam Newton and the Panthers.  Carolina trailed 16-3 with one minute left in the second quarter in the 2nd quarter, but scored the final seventeen points of the game to steal the win from Miami.

The biggest blowout of the week was by the Cardinals, who clobbered the Colts, 40-11.  Arizona led 34-3 entering the fourth quarter, and this was the second time this season Indianapolis has held an average deficit of 18+ points. That, in my expert opinion, is not good. Things are even worse for the team that selected after the Colts in the 2012 draft: for the second week in a row, Washington posted a Game Script of less than -9.0. I don’t have any desire to talk about the RG3 drama, but I will point you in the direction of this interesting article written by my former co-blogger.

Below are the Game Scripts data from week 12. I’ve highlighted the Vikings/Packers row in blue, since I know of no other way to shame both teams (you can move your cursor over that row to see it more clearly, not that I know why you would want to).

Win/TH/RLos/TBoxscorePFPAMarginGame ScriptPassRunP/R RatioOp_POp_ROpp_P/R Ratio

This was an unusual week: four teams posted a positive Game Script and threw more frequently than their opponents. We typically see just one or two examples of this, although the usual suspects were involved:

  • Tom Coughlin remains deathly afraid of Eli Manning interceptions and Dallas is the most pass-happy team in the NFL. Coughlin doesn’t need much of a reason to commit to the ground game, but Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs gave him 202 reasons on just 30 carries.  As a result, the Cowboys threw on two-thirds of their plays despite holding an average lead of 6 points, while New York had a near 50/50 split despite trailing by such a large margin.
  • The Carolina/Miami game plays into a similar narrative. Under Newton, the Panthers are generally a run-heavy team; of course, Newton himself provided 8 carries this week. But the real story is Miami: as usual, the Dolphins were extremely pass-happy, throwing on 72% of the team’s offensive snaps. Twelve other teams have had a Game Script of between 4 and 5 this season; those teams, on average, passed on 54% of their plays. In week 13, the Dolphins play the Jets, who have by far the top run defense in the league. Don’t be surprised if Ryan Tannehill ends up with 45-50 pass attempts.
  • The Chargers are a pass-happy team and the Chiefs a run-happy team, right? Well in week 12, the Chargers had a negative Game Script but it was the Chiefs who threw on 70% of their plays. Jamaal Charles only saw 14 carries against San Diego, which can’t be because Andy Reid is pass-obsessed and must be because Charles (115 yard, 2 touchdowns) simply didn’t do enough on those carries.
  • The final game just barely qualifies: the Titans/Raiders game was a dead heat, with Tennessee posting a +0.6 Game Script. The Titans also had a slightly higher pass/run ratio, but there’s nothing to read into those tea leaves.

Pass Identity Updates

Regular readers know what the Pass Identity grades mean. For my new readers…

The best use of Game Scripts is to adjust Pass ratios for teams to understand their true Passing Identity. Here’s how you do it.

1) Calculate how many standard deviations above/below average each team is in Game Scripts. The average Game Script, of course, is zero. The standard deviation through twelve weeks is 3.43, so the Broncos (6.85 Game Script) are 2.00 standard deviations above average in Game Script.

2) Calculate how many standard deviations from average each team is in Pass Ratio (pass attempts plus sacks divided by offensive plays). The average Pass Ratio through twelve weeks is 58.7%, while the standard deviation among the thirty-two teams is 5.3%. Atlanta leads the league in Pass Ratio at 68.7%, which is 1.88 standard deviations above the league-average Pass Ratio. (Note that I used my play-by-play data to generate these numbers, so they may be slightly off from official team totals. I also used an average of the average Pass Ratio from each game, not an average of the year-to-date numbers.)

3) Add how many standard deviations above/below average each team is in both Game Scripts and Pass Ratio. To convert these into an Index (and a more intuitive number for folks), multiply that result by 15 and add it to 100. So a team that has a Pass Identity that is 1 standard deviation above average will be at 115, while a team that is two standard deviations below average will be at 70.

Here are the Pass Identity data through twelve weeks:

RkTeamGame ScriptStDev GSPass RatioStDev PRPass Identity

The Cowboys are absurdly pass-happy, a fact of which anyone who reads this article every week is well aware. The rest of the top five yields no surprises, either: Denver, New Orleans, Miami, and Atlanta are all very pass-happy, something covered in this space quite often.

The Jets? As I’ve noted a few times over the past few months, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had been one full standard deviation above average in terms of Pass Identity throughout his career. I would say he’s been Rex-ified, although one never knows how much of that is due to the ugly numbers that Geno Smith and the passing game have produced.

For all the negativity in Washington, the team actually ranks 7th in rush attempts, 2nd in rushing yards, and 1st in yards per carry (which, perhaps, just shows you the value of a great running game – yes, I’m looking at you, Mr. Grigson). Combined with a poor average Game Script, and Washington has a very strong rush identity, although obviously some of that is due to having a running quarterback.

Seattle ranks fourth in average Game Script, so you probably aren’t surprised that the Seahawks rank 2nd in rush attempts and 31st in pass attempts. But even after adjusting for Game Script, Seattle is a very run-heavy team even though have Russell Wilson has been even better this year than he was in 2012. San Francisco is in a similar boat with Colin Kaepernick, and the team incredibly (at least, to me) ranks 2nd in average Game Script. The 49es rank 32nd in pass attempts and 3rd in rush attempts, but that’s in large part (but, of course, not entirely — they do have a below-average Pass Identity) due to generally playing with leads.

Average field position data

Finally, for those still curious, the average field position data from week twelve.

TeamBoxscore# playsAvg Yardline
  • Fun with PFR Game Finder:

    Going back to 1993, there have been 55 teams that have rushed for 275+ yards in a game (like Denver did this week). Those teams are 51-4. In addition to Denver’s loss, the Jets lost to Buffalo in 2009 with 318 rushing yards; last year Kansas City lost to Indianapolis with 352 rushing yards!! and in 2006 Atlanta lost to New Orleans with 281 rushing yards.

    If I go all the way back to 1973, teams are 144-8 when they rush for 275+.

    Also interesting (to me): of those 55 teams, 40 of them have happened since 2003. Only 15 times did it happen from 1993-2002. My perception is that teams don’t run as much as they used to, but in the 90s it was far less likely for teams to really pile up the rushing yards.

    • Ty

      The 90s were probably the hardest decade to run the ball.

      • James

        And yet the 90s were also the decade of Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, and the workhorse runningback era.

        • Richie

          Maybe the workhorse running back actually decreased team rushing efficiency…?

  • Archer

    This week has two new game scores: the Cardinals 40-11 win over the Colts, and the 26-26 tie (first ever tie in NFL history with both teams scoring; of course we already had a 9-3 OT last year).
    While two such scores on the same week aren’t that uncommon – last happened on week 13 last year, and in 2010 there was even a week with 3 new ones – having two new ones with 40 or less points for all teams is rare and last happened in ’04.
    (Although it’s troublesome to check for scores that were introduced later but repeated since. I echo a request posted here before of adding a “First Game” column alongside the “Last Game” one.)