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Week 3, 2016 Game Scripts: Tampa Bay Turns To Winston


In week 3, only one team won with a negative Game Script. That was early season Game Script favorite Washington, who trailed 21-9 in the first half but came back to win against the Giants, 29-27. In the process, Washington produced its most run-heavy game of the year, with 30 carries (including two kneels) against 37 passes (excluding one spike). Was there a correlation between running more and winning? Washington running backs weren’t very effective — they had 27 carries for 97 yards — but the balance may have helped Kirk Cousins have his best game of the year (9.60 AY/A, 75.1 QBR).

Given that there were no other teams that won with negative Game Scripts, let’s get to the results:

TeamH/ROppBoxscorePFPAMarginGame ScriptPassRunP/R RatioOp_POp_ROpp_P/R Ratio

San Francisco rushed on 55% of its plays, which sounds kind of crazy given that the 49ers were blown out. It’s not unheard of for teams to just give up and run the ball in blowouts, but its not something you’d ever see the Saints do. San Francisco was the only team all week to lose and pass on under 50% of its plays, which is insane given that the 49ers had the worst Game Script of the week.

In wins, the Rams and Cowboys also came across as very run-heavy, which isn’t surprising given that the teams boast two of the game’s best young running back talents. Dallas controlled the game against Chicago, and gave Ezekiel Elliott 30 carries. The Cowboys passed on just 37% of plays, super run heavy even with a +12.9 Game Script. The Rams were in a much tighter game (+0.6), and still only passed on 45% of plays. Todd Gurley had 27 carries, which seems like the Rams script every week; this time, it actually played out.

Baltimore and Seattle (!) came across as pass-happy in wins: the Seahawks actually passed more than they run, making that game super weird. How often do you see the team in a blowout with a heavier pass ratio than the opponent? It happens, but it’s rare. The Ravens passed on nearly two-thirds of plays, the most of any victor in week three. The issue for the Ravens? Justin Forsett and Terrance West rushed 17 times but for only 65 yards; on the other hand, Joe Flacco was one of the worst quarterbacks of the week based on ANY/A (2.60).

In losing efforts, Tampa Bay, San Diego, and Pittsburgh came across as very pass-heavy. The Steelers were blown out by the Eagles, but an 82% pass ratio will always stick out: the team will surely welcome Le’Veon Bell back next week.

San Diego was involved in a back-and-forth battle with the Colts, and simply chose to put the ball in the hands of Philip Rivers (7.78 ANY/A) rather than Melvin Gordon (16/35/1). In Tampa Bay, Jameis Winston threw a whopping 58 passes against the Rams and took two sacks; with Doug Martin gone, the running game was in the hands of Charles Sims (13/55/1) and Jacquizz Rodgers (5/15). Just 18 running back runs vs. over 60 plays from your quarterback is a super-QB dependent game plan; we’ll have to see if that trend continues for the Bucs. Winston has now thrown 110 passes over the last two weeks; a pass-happy approach made sense in last week’s blowout loss to Arizona, but it may signal a change in identity based on the Game Script against Los Angeles.

  • I watched the entire SF-SEA game, and it looked like the 49ers game plan was just to concede victory to the Seahawks from the get-go. Their offense was so uninspired, and their play calling was totally gutless.

    At one point Gabbert had completed something like 7 of 9 passes and the 49ers were like 0 for 7 on third downs. Here is how seemingly every drive ended: “3rd and 7, SFO 28, Blaine Gabbert pass complete short middle to Jeremy Kerley for 4 yards.”

    Then they had 4th and reasonable several times and kicked, including — 4th and 4 from midfield down 14-0 in the second quarter (punt); 4th and 2 from Seahawks’ 4 down 14-0 in the second quarter (FG); and 4th and 4 from Seahawks’ 35 down 21-3 early in the third quarter (missed FG). They finally went for it down 37-3 midway through the 4th quarter (and got it).

    I’ve read several articles about how Chip Kelly has gone from creative offensive innovator to being one of the most predictable, lackluster coaches in the game. I don’t know the x’s and o’s well enough to know if this is really true or not. But based on watching the 49ers on Sunday, it certainly *seems* true.

    • Adam

      I think Kelly is hamstrung by Gabbert to the point that he knows he can’t win by passing, so his game plans look more conservative than they would be with a decent QB. I mean, Gabbert is basically a homeless man’s Alex Smith. It was quite odd to see the 49ers score two garbage drive TD’s with mostly runs; usually even the most ground heavy teams will pass in that situation.

      • I’m sure Gabbert has a lot to do with it, but he was kinda frisky last year in Seattle. And even if you have a bad quarterback, when you are down double-digits, you still have to try to run plays that can bring you back right?

        • Tom

          What I find interesting is that after all the hullabaloo about 4th downs, etc., coaches still seem very conservative, even the ones that are supposed to be forward-thinking (Kelly). I hate second-guessing these guys, ’cause I’ve never coached, but I just don’t get not going for it (in the appropriate situations) when it’s obvious you’re playing a superior opponent and you’re already down two scores.

    • Tom

      Well, this is a pretty heavy article as far as X’s-and-O’s go, but if you want to know what’s going on with Chip, it’s a good place to start:

    • Anders

      As an Eagles fan, this is 100% true. Its like he hasnt moved 1 inch since the first game with the Eagles.

  • Richie

    “Given that there were no other teams that won with negative Game Scripts”

    Miami really tried to let Cleveland do it.

    • Tom

      Man, no kidding. I picked Cleveland to cover the spread (Pigsking Pick’em) just ’cause I knew everyone else was picking Miami…I didn’t think they’d actually (almost) win!