With their season on the line, the San Diego Chargers chose to dig deeper. Into a hole, that is. On Saturday night, the 49ers jumped out to a 21-0 lead just 20 minutes into the game, and San Francisco took a 28-7 record into halftime. Even with six minutes left, San Diego still trailed by two touchdowns.
Down to their final drive, the Chargers needed to convert a 4th-and-8 (on a 17-yard pass to Eddie Royal) and a 4th-and-10 (to Dontrelle Inman), just to set up an 11-yard touchdown from Philip Rivers to Malcom Floyd with 32 seconds remaining.
Through 60 minutes, the Chargers had a Game Script of -11.3, which would tie the Lions/Falcons game for the most negative Game Script by a winning team all season. Because the game went to overtime, that Game Script number ended at -10.5, but that’s still easily the biggest comeback since the Detroit/Atlanta contest.
The other notable comeback of week 16 was in Miami, where the Vikings and Dolphins staged a crazy affair that resulted in a whopping 41 fourth quarter point. But Minnesota jumped out to an early lead and led 17-7 at the break, so the Vikings ended up with a Game Script of +4.3.
On the other end of the spectrum, there was only one large blowout: the Cowboys dominated the Colts by a score of 42-7, producing a Game Script of +23.9 in the process. The table below shows the week 16 Game Scripts data:
|Team||H/R||Opp||Boxscore||PF||PA||Margin||Game Script||Pass||Run||P/R Ratio||Op_P||Op_R||Opp_P/R Ratio|
- Three teams stood out as particularly run-heavy this week. We begin in Washington, where RG3 wound up throwing 23 times, while Griffin and the underrated Alfred Morris combined for 26 carries. Washington ended the Eagles season with an upset victory, but the game was close throughout. In today’s NFL, calling four more runs than passes in connection with a Game Script of only +1.2 counts as very run-heavy. The curious aspect here was that Washington was much more effective passing (8.2 net yards per attempt) than it was rushing (3.6 yards per attempt, excluding kneels), but the team’s handling of Griffin is a story for another day.
- Carolina, another team with a mobile quarterback, also had a very run-heavy approach. Cam Newton had 32 dropbacks, while Newton, Jonathan Stewart, and the rest of the offense rushed 45 times for 209 yards in a win over the Browns. In some ways, this game felt like the blueprint Carolina always tries to implement: the defense was stingy, holding Cleveland to just six points through three quarters, allowing the offense to stick to the running game even if it wasn’t leading to a lot of points.
- Finally, the Bengals took the ball out of Andy Dalton’s hands against the Broncos on Monday Night. It was raining and Peyton Manning was on the other sidelines, but the run-heavy ratio here probably said a lot about the team’s faith in Dalton, too. Jeremy Hill ran for a remarkable 85-yard touchdown, but he and Giovani Bernard rushed for just 98 yards on the duo’s other 29 carries (3.4 YPC). A.J. Green was injured and held without a catch, leaving Dalton without much of a safety net (as a result, Jermaine Gresham came down with 9 receptions). The Bengals quarterback completed 17 of 26 passes, but those went for just 146 yards. It was not an impressive offensive performance, but it can work the defense records four interceptions (including a pick six).
- Two teams were notably run-happy teams in losses, and neither will surprise you. As always, the Jets eschewed that thing commonly known as passing. The Jets seemed intent on trying to beat the Patriots while also not scoring 20 points, which forms the diagonal on your Rex Ryan bingo card. In Ryan’s home opener with the Jets, the team beat New England 16-9; since that game in week 2 of the 2009 season, New England has lost exactly one game where its opponent failed to hit 20 points. But that did not deter the Jets from implementing a conservative game plan. The high-point of the team’s run-heavy nature came after the defense forced a Tom Brady interception in the middle of the 4th quarter. Trailing by a point and with the ball on the Patriots 30, the Jets called two straight runs (Chris Johnson for four yards, fullback John Conner for two) before a Geno Smith sack led to a missed field goal. The Jets never got the ball back again. The other run-heavy team was San Francisco: the 49ers ran on a whopping 60% of the team’s plays, which is a little easier to understand given Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, and a double-digit Game Script.
- Kansas City was one of the most pass-heavy teams of week 16, always a weird circumstance given the presence of Jamaal Charles on the roster. The Chiefs trailed for much of the second half, but does that mean it made sense to have Alex Smith drop back 51 times and give Charles just 9 carries? Smith averaged just 5.5 net yards per attempt, so it’s not as though the passing offense was dominating.
- New Orleans technically lost by 16, but it was a close game throughout, as evidenced by the -3.3 Game Script. But with the season on the line, the Saints decided to put their fates in the hands of Drew Brees, who dropped back 52 times (compared to just 15 carries to the team’s running backs). Brees has been outstanding this year, but he struggled against the porous Falcons defense. The end result? The Saints will finish the season with a losing record.
- But the most pass-happy team of week 16 was… Buffalo? Credit the Raiders rush defense, I suppose, because Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, and Anthony Dixon combined to rush for just 13 yards on 13 carries. But did the Bills give up on the running game too early? Kyle Orton dropping back 51 times is an interesting recipe for success: he averaged 6.0 NY/A and had a pair of picks. Buffalo’s defense has been fantastic in 2014, but once again, the offense let the team down again. The Bills are officially eliminated from the playoffs now, and with no first round pick, will be at the back of the line in the 2015 edition of quarterback musical chairs.