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The Game Script limited the need for Kaepernick to do much

The Game Script limited the need for Kaepernick to do much.

Every week this season, I’ve posted the Game Scripts and Average Field Position data from the prior week. For new readers, you can read the background and how to calculate Game Scripts here, but the Game Scripts number simply tells us the average points differential for a team throughout a game. There are 3600 seconds in a game that does not go to overtime, and he Game Script is the sum of the score at each of those 3600 seconds, divided by 3600.

This week, the 49ers’ blowout victory against Houston produced the highest Game Script at 18.3, putting it just a hair behind the Seahawks victory over Jacksonville (18.4) on the list of highest Game Scripts in 2013. (We’ll see if Denver/Jacksonville gets the Game Script over 20. The highest Game Script of all time was the Patriots 59-0 blowout in the snow against the Titans, clocking in at 33.7.) Colin Kaepernick completed six passes, but you don’t need to complete many passes when your team is leading by 18 points throughout the game. San Francisco went up 7-0 ninety seconds into the game following a Tramaine Brock pick six of Matt Schaub, and things stayed ugly from there. That reminds me: pick sixes continue to be up this year, an issue I discussed in the dead of March.

Without further ado, the Week 5 Game Scripts:

WinnerH/RLoserBoxscorePFPAMarginGame ScriptPassRunP/R RatioOp_POp_ROpp_P/R Ratio

The Cowboys-Broncos shootout had a Game Script of 0.0, which is one of the reasons it was so exciting from start to finish. Only two teams this week won with a negative Game Script: the Browns and the Colts. On Thursday Night, the Bills dominated the 1st and 3rd quarters (24-7) but were crushed in the 2nd and 4th quarters (30-0). The Indianapolis game represented the biggest comeback of the week, as the Colts started off down 12-0, but outscored the Seahawks 11-0 in the 4th quarter to pull out the win.

Only one game this week saw the team with the negative Game Script pass more frequently than its opponent: the weird Thursday Night game where both starting quarterbacks were injured. Cleveland traded Trent Richardson, but the Brian Hoyer injury forced them to become a more run-heavy team (Willis McGahee had 26 carries). Meanwhile, Buffalo — with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller — attempted 40 passes, evenly split between EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel. And even though the Game Script was in Buffalo’s favor, 22 of the Bills’ pass attempts came while trailing, compared to just 14 when Buffalo was in the lead (and none of those came from Tuel). An injured Spiller played a part, but it was a little odd that the Bills passed so often against Cleveland (although many of the pass attempts were of the short and safe variety).

The fact that nearly every team with the positive Game Script threw more often than its opponent is the precise reason why you need to always keep the Game Scripts in mind when reviewing data from a game. To that end, I’ve created a nifty new page that lists the Game Scripts data from each game this year.

Miami’s offensive game plan really sticks out, even with the negative Game Script. A -1.2 score isn’t much, but the Dolphins had Ryan Tannehill throw 40 passes and take six sacks, while Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were limited to just nine total carries. Miami’s offensive line has been a disaster this season — Miami leads the league in both sacks allowed (24) and sack rate (11.7%) — but throwing 82% of the time is outrageous. True, Miller and Thomas rushed for just 17 yards on those nine carries, but Tannehill is nowhere near ready to be a pass-it-every-play quarterback, and neither is the Miami offensive line. In May, I ran a study to determine which coaches were the most pass-happy in the history of the NFL; Joe Philbin wound up as #1, but at the time, I noted:

Philbin’s high score comes from his years as the offensive coordinator in Green Bay, but I’m not sure how much credit he really deserves for that (he was not the playcaller and coached under an offensive head coach). Last year, the Dolphins had the 27th highest Pass Identity.

Well, this year, Philbin is back to his pass-happy ways. It works with Aaron Rodgers, but Tannehill is not yet an MVP-caliber player. One crazy way to limit exposing the young quarterback to constant hits from defenses geared up to stop the pass is to run the ball. The Dolphins currently rank last in rush attempts per game by running backs.1

Finally, let’s look at some average yardline data. The table below shows the average yardline where each snap by each offense occurred in week three;2 remember, having the ball on your opponent’s one-yard line gets recorded as a “99” while having the ball at your own one is simply a “1.”

Team# playsAvg Yardline

Horrible field position has been the one constant for the Giants. The defense continues to struggle, the offense takes over deep in Giants territory, and then Eli Manning and the offense fail to pick up first downs. New York ranks 32nd in third down conversion rate (26.2%), 31st in third down conversion rate allowed (49.4%), and last in turnover margin (-13). That equates to not just an 0-5 record, but some terrible average field position.

I’m not too sure what else to do with the average field position data, but I’m happy to put it out there and see if someone can figure out what to do with it.

  1. Also of note: perhaps I was too harsh on the Bills, who lead the league in rush attempts by running backs. []
  2. Subject to the same caveats described in this post []
  • Danish

    Interesting that Broncos had the best field position. That wasn’t because of turnovers en three-and-outs from Dallas – all Dallas did on sunday was kicking off. Strange…

    • Kibbles

      That’s not average starting field position, that’s average field position for all snaps. Teams with good offenses will have a higher average field position than teams with bad offenses, and teams with methodical offenses will have a higher average field position than teams with quick-strike offenses (for example, a team that starts at the 20 and throws an 80 yard TD will have an average field position of 20, while a team that starts at the 20 and throws 8 consecutive 10-yard passes will have an average field position of 55). Since Denver is probably both the best AND the most methodical offense in the league, its high average field position makes a lot of sense.

      • Danish

        Ah right. I misunderstood how it was calculated.

    • Chase Stuart

      Here is Denver’s drive chart, including the number of plays, the starting field position, and the average field position:

      Drive #   # Plays   Start FP    Avg
      1          3         10         15.3
      2          3         20         51.7
      3          7         20         58.1
      4          6         59         73.7
      5          7         36         81.6
      6         13         33         65.9
      7          7         20         45.4
      8          1         20         20.0
      9         10         17         42.0
      10         9         27         60.6
      11         7         76         91.6
      Avg        6.6       30.7   

      The end-of-game “drive” obviously helped, but basically, Kibbles is right. The Broncos have these long, methodical drives and end up running a bunch of plays in opposition territory.

      • Nate

        When I look at that chart, I really want to turn it into a ‘drive length per play’ average by subtracting the drive start from each snap position, taking a new average, and multiplying by two. In theory, that should be a pretty good indicator of offensive performance.

        Of course, it’s a bit of a chore to do that when you can just take the square root of the average of the squares of the drive lengths, which should (mostly) be very close.