The 2013 Game Scripts record was broken not once but twice in week eight. In an unsurprising turn, the 49ers obliterated the Jaguars in London 42-10, holding an average lead of 21.3 points, breaking the largest average margin previously held by… Seattle against Jacksonville. But it was the Bengals demolition of the Jets in Cincinnati that set the new Game Scripts record.
The Bengals took a 14-0 lead with 4:26 left in the first quarter; by halftime, the score was 28-6. The first play from scrimmage in the second half was an interception of a Geno Smith pass that was returned for a touchdown by Chris Crocker, and Marvin Jones’ fourth touchdown reception of the day brought the Bengals lead to 42-9 before the end of the third quarter. The final score of the game was another pick six of Smith, this time by Adam Jones, at the start of the fourth quarter. The game was every bit as ugly as this paragraph makes it sound. For the record, both San Francisco and Cincinnati had Moral Margins of Victory of over 30 points, which puts them in the top five for the season.
Last week, the Patriots were the only team with a positive Game Script to lose; this week, New England is one of just two teams with a negative Game Script to win. That game was a pretty weird one: New England rushed on 37 of the team’s 59 plays from scrimmage against Miami. The Patriots threw just 22 passes, the lowest by New England in a game since a extremely windy week 17 visit to Buffalo in 2008. For Tom Brady, this was the fewest attempts in a game for him — excluding games where he was injured or meaningless games where he was benched — since 2005. And this came in a game where the Patriots had a negative Game Script! Brady and the passing game are really struggling — the Patriots rank 31st(!) in Net Yards per Attempt — but it’s still just weird to see New England be so run heavy. Then again, the Patriots had 100 net passing yards on 25 dropbacks against the Dolphins, while Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount had 125 yards on 25 carries.
Below are the week 8 Game Scripts:
Only one other game saw the team with the positive Game Script pass more frequently than their opponent, and that was the odd Seattle/St. Louis game. The Rams, playing without Sam Bradford, understandably executed a run-heavy game plan. Backup quarterback Kellen Clemens had 34 dropbacks, matching the number of runs for Zac Stacy and Daryl Richardson. Seattle ran just 40 plays, with most of them going badly. For some reason, Marshawn Lynch was limited to 8 carries, and Russell Wilson had an uneven day. He completed an 80-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate, but produced only 11 yards on his other 24 dropbacks. That’s not a misprint: I watched the game and still don’t understand how that is possible (and that Lynch didn’t get more carries as a result).
Denver won by 24 points while the Raiders won by only 3 points, producing some good examples of when margin of victory doesn’t tell the story. The Broncos trailed 21-14 entering the 4th quarter, and ended the day with a Game Script of +4.4; Oakland, meanwhile, scored on a 93-yard run by Terrelle Pryor on the opening play from scrimmage, and the game was almost never in doubt. The Raiders held an average lead of 13 points, the third highest of the week. The run/pass ratios for the four teams in those games make a lot more sense when looking at the Game Scripts, and not the margins of victory.
Average Field Position
|Green Bay Packers||Boxscore||73||56|
|San Francisco 49ers||Boxscore||55||53.4|
|New Orleans Saints||Boxscore||64||51.8|
|St. Louis Rams||Boxscore||71||51.6|
|New England Patriots||Boxscore||62||49.7|
|New York Giants||Boxscore||70||49.6|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Boxscore||71||46.9|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Boxscore||66||42.8|
|New York Jets||Boxscore||65||40.2|
The Packers scored on every single drive (excluding end-of-half kneeldowns) last week, which tends to bump up your average field position. The Seahawks couldn’t do anything on offense, so it’s not surprising to see them at the bottom of the list. So how did the Browns finish below them? Because as we continue to learn, the Chiefs dominate the field position battle like no other team.
On offense, the Chiefs’ average drive begins at the 34.4 yard line, while on defense, Kansas City opponents begin at the 22.2 yard line. Both marks are the best in the league, and it’s hard to overstate the value of an extra 12.2 yards per drive.
The Chiefs defense forced three-and-outs on Cleveland’s first three drives. The fourth drive begin at the Cleveland 42 following a missed 52-yard field goal by Ryan Succop; Cleveland responded with a 19-yard pass from Jason Campbell to Jordan Cameron and a 39-yard touchdown to Josh Gordon on a flea flicker.
Cleveland scored on the team’s next two drives two, which ended the first half and started the second half. The Browns began both drives at the 20, but gained 134 yards and scored 10 points. After that, though, Cleveland’s final four drives (excluding a one-play drive at the end of the game) began at the team’s 24-, 10-, 27-, and 16-yard lines.
On the day, Cleveland ran just eleven plays in Kansas City territory. With 25 minutes left in the game, Cleveland scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 20-17. From that point forward, the Browns were shut out, and ran just two plays in Chiefs territory. Again, I don’t think it’s worthwhile to try to splice out causation from correlation, or which way the arrow points when it comes to the team’s offense, defense, and special teams as it relates to the great field position always enjoyed by the team. I think we all have our suspicions about what will happen when Kansas City finally loses the field position battle, but for now, the Chiefs formula is very clear, and very successful.