Last week, six teams won with a negative Game Script. During an unforgettable slate of 1PM games in week 14, four teams during that time slot won with a negative Game Script — and that doesn’t include the insane Ravens/Vikings game. One of the teams to win with a negative Game Script was Miami, so had the Ben Roethlisberger/Antonio Brown miracle lateral play worked, it would have increased the craziness quotient but left us with just three negative Game Script victors.
The big comeback, of course, was in New England. The Patriots were shut out for the first 43 minutes, scored 14 points in the next 15 minutes, and then 13 points in the final two minutes. New England now has two of the biggest comebacks of the year, and joins Seattle as the only teams to win two games with Game Scripts of -6.0 points.
Big news out of Washington yesterday: Robert Griffin III has been benched for Kirk Cousins, in what is being described as collateral damage in the Dan Snyder/Mike Shanahan power struggle. The most interesting part of that sentence is Snyder’s hyperlinked name means yes, in fact, PFR now does have pages for executives. The quarterback change obscures the fact that the team has the worst special teams through thirteen weeks since at least 1989, and a pretty bad defense, too. More relevant for today’s post is that the beat down provided by Kansas City produced a Game Script of 23.8 points, the largest average lead in any game this year.
Below are the Game Scripts data from each game in week 14; you can view the Game Scripts from each game this season at the always up-to-date Game Scripts page here.
Incredibly, seven teams this week had a negative Game Script and passed more frequently than their opponent. Miami is normally very pass-happy, but the Dolphins produced an effective running game while the Steelers did not, leaving Pittsburgh to be more pass-happy in a very tight game.
An Adrian Peterson carve out usually explains why the Vikings run more often than their opponent despite losing, but this week, the reason was because Minnesota played the Ravens. As is usually the case, Baltimore could not run the ball — 27 carries for 97 yards — so Joe Flacco was left to drop back 53 times (including one scramble). The Ravens are averaging just 2.92 yards per carry through 13 weeks; that’s the lowest average since 1994 and the fourth lowest since 1989; over that period, Baltimore’s 2013 season-to-date ranks last in rushing DVOA.
The Packers/Falcons making the list isn’t too surprising. Atlanta is a pass-happy team (through 12 weeks, they ranked 5th in pass identity) and the game was close; without Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay has been more conservative on offense.
Similarly, the Saints/Panthers game is an artifact of each team’s DNA. New Orleans loves to pass, pass, pass, especially at home, even with big leads. This was only the second time this year Carolina passed on over 60% of its plays, and unsurprisingly, the second time it lost by more than two touchdowns.
It’s hard to provide much advanced analysis of the Eagles/Lions game; the weather made it very difficult for either team to pass. Detroit won the first half and as a result the Game Script battle, but the Eagles gave LeSean McCoy 29 carries as part of the team’s rush-first philosophy. The Lions are obviously a pass-heavy team with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson; this was only the second time all year Detroit passed on fewer than half its plays, and the first time was the Thanksgiving obliteration of the Packers.
The other two games to make the cut were a bit more interesting. Tennessee is a running team and the Broncos are a passing team, so we shouldn’t be surprised to see Denver throw more often than Tennessee in a game the Broncos lead. The interesting part of analyzing this game was that the Game Script was really low. There have been 43 games where a team won by 20 or more points this year, and 42 of those times the winning team had a Game Script of at least +4.0. The median was +12.3, coming in a game the Bills beat the Jets by 23. But on Sunday, the Broncos won 51-28 with a Game Script of just +2.1. Denver trailed 21-10 in the 2nd quarter, and led by just six points entering the fourth quarter.
The second lowest Game Script in a blowout this year was by Denver, too, in week eight against Washington. So what’s going on here? As it turns out, when Peyton Manning and the offense get hot, they tend to score touchdowns really quickly, and in bunches. Denver is also a dominant team in the second half, a cold night in Foxboro notwithstanding. The 2013 Broncos have scored 284 points in the second halves of games this year, already the third most in NFL history. The most? 299, by the… 2012 Broncos. With 149 points in the 4th quarter of games, Denver is on pace to break the record for most 4th quarter points, currently held by the 2006 Chargers. By the end of the year, it seems likely that the 2013 Broncos will own the record for points scored, points scored in the second half, and points scored in the fourth quarter. The record for points scored in any quarter is 199, set by the ’07 Patriots in the second quarter.
Through 12 weeks, the Cowboys had the strongest pass identity in the NFL. Then, against the Raiders in week 13, the Cowboys were pretty run-heavy. And against the Bears in week 14, Dallas produced its best game of the season on the ground. But Tony Romo attempted just 20 passes, and the Cowboys had their second lowest pass ratio of the season (behind a blowout win over the Rams). The weather played a factor against the Bears, and the running game was working, but in general, Dallas is at its best when Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten are getting lots of touches. Against the Bears, a run-heavy game plan makes some sense; my guess is we’ll see a more pass-happy performance out of the Cowboys against Green Bay this weekend.
Average Field Position Data
Wow! The Broncos average snap took place at the Tennessee 38-yard line! That’s the high-water mark of the year, just barely topping Denver’s performance against the Cowboys in week five. Average field position is a result of many factors, but the Denver offense was operating at peak efficiency against the Titans. Despite you know, the fact that it was really cold. (Tennessee had the worst average field position of any team in week 14.) Denver picked up 39 first downs on only 11 possessions, and scored on nine of those drives. It’s easy to be immune to Manning dominance, but that was an incredible performance against a defense that’s been pretty tough against the pass.
Week 14 saw a lot of excellent average field positions. Chicago and Kansas City dominated their opponents, so I suppose it’s not too surprising to see them so high on the list. But Dallas? It’s easy to forget that the Cowboys did have four long scoring drives, and started one possession in Chicago territory. The offense wasn’t the real problem: the Cowboys averaged 6.0 yards per play and produced 24 first downs on only eight drives. The defense, on the other hand…