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Week Ten Game Scripts: Primetime Blowouts

Don't bet against Rodgers in Movember

Don't bet against Rodgers in Movember.

It was another week of blowouts in the NFL, particularly in prime time. On Thursday night, the Browns shocked the Browns with a 24-3 blowout, as Andy Dalton produced a historically bad performance. Cleveland had a Game Script of +12.8, which turned out to be the third largest of the week.

On Monday Night Football, the Eagles dominated the Panthers. Darren Sproles scored two first quarter touchdowns, Jordan Matthews chipped in with two touchdown catches from Mark Sanchez later in the game, and Philadelphia won, 45-21. That score is a bit misleading, as Kelvin Benjamin caught two late touchdowns: the Eagles had a Game Script of +20.0, which is more in line with about a 40-point win.

But the biggest Game Script of the week came in the other primetime game, Bears at Packers on Sunday Night Football. Aaron Rodgers was an insane 18/24 for 315 yards and 6 touchdowns… in the first half! Green Bay produced a Game Script of +28.7. The Packers took a 42-0 halftime, lead, and finished with the second best Game Script of 2014.

The table below shows the Game Scripts from every game in week 10:

TeamH/ROppBoxscorePFPAMarginGame ScriptPassRunP/R RatioOp_POp_ROpp_P/R Ratio

Five teams stuck out as very pass-heavy this week:

  • Green Bay passed on 50% of its plays despite that insane Game Script of +28.7. Meanwhile, the Eagles passed on 64% of plays despite a Game Script of +20.0! One takeaway could be that in today’s NFL, teams just don’t stop passing, but that’s not necessarily true. Green Bay passed on 46% of plays in Game Scripts of +23.6 and +22.8 against Minnesota and Carolina, so the Packers were more pass-happy on Sunday night than they were in those other blowouts. 1 And in similar blowouts, the Ravens and Falcons ran more than they passed. As for Philadelphia, a 64% pass rate with a Game Script of +20 is really insane. In fact, that checks in as the highest pass ratio of any team this year with a Game Script greater than thirteen.
  • The Broncos passed on 64.5% of plays despite a Game Script of +12.0. The takeaway here: Peyton Manning’s presence causes teams to pass the ball. It might have flown under the radar a bit, but Manning managed to thrown for five touchdowns in a blowout over Oakland. Denver also lost Ronnie Hillman in the game, and was down to third-string runner C.J. Anderson, which might explain the ratio. Still, 49 pass attempts (between Manning and Brock Osweiler) in a 41-17 blowout is something only a pass-happy team would do. Of course, there’s nothing wrong (or unexpected) about Denver being prone to passing.
  • The Lions passed on 69.4% of plays despite a Game Script of +4.2. Are we about to see a reversion to the Detroit pass-heavy tendencies of old? With Arizona’s tough run defense on deck in week 11, it will be interesting to see what happens. But Detroit posted its second highest pass ratio of the season in week 10, so it was certainly out of character for the team. One good explanation would be that the return of Calvin Johnson caused a change in strategy. Johnson had an incredible 15 targets, while Golden Tate also saw 13 passes thrown his way. Matthew Stafford had one passed marked as “thrown away,” which means an incredible 72% of his passes went to Johnson or Tate! Just as incredibly, only 3 of his 39 passes went to a tight end or wide receiver other than Johnson or Tate. In other words, just about every pass was to one of his big two receivers or to a back (including the game-winner to Theo Riddick).
  • Finally, the Giants are a team that we always call run-heavy in this space; against Seattle, the Game Script was very close (-1.6) but New York passed on 73% of plays. To be fair, in the 4th quarter, New York had 14 pass plays and just two runs, while playing in hurry-up mode. But Andre Williams and the backs combined for just 43 yards on 16 carries, which led to a pass-happy game for Eli Manning. Of course, regular readers know that the Seahawks run defense is pretty good.

What about the run-heavy teams?

  • Both Chicago and Carolina checked in as run-heavy in their blowouts, as neither team passed on even two-thirds of its plays. In these cases, I think we can conclude there was an element of “let’s just get this game over with” from both squads. When you give Fozzy Whittaker seven carries in the final 16:02 of the game when trailing big, odds are your main interest is not coming back to win.
  • The Browns had been a very run-heavy team this year, but seemed to drift away from that tendency (due to decreased effectiveness) after the Alex Mack injury. Well, playing amidst the Andy Dalton implosion of doom, Cleveland set an NFL high for the 2014 season with 52 carries. Three different Browns backs recorded 10 carries, which had not happened in a game since 2012.
  • The Jets were run-heavy against Pittsburgh, which makes a lot of sense. This was easily the team’s most favorable Game Script of the year, and the Jets showed their true colors by executing a run-heavy game plan. New York ended the day with 150 rushing yards against just 125 passing yards.
  • The Ravens were pretty run-heavy. That’s because in 2014, calling more runs than passes in a close game2 constitutes as run-heavy. Justin Forsett rushed for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 carries, so the running game was working for Baltimore.
  • But the most run-heavy team, by far, in week 10? The Seattle Seahawks, of course. We knew going into the weekend that the team’s rushing attack was pretty good, but the offense took things to an even higher level against the Giants. Russell Wilson rushed 12 times for 109 yards and a touchdown (excluding kneels), while Marshawn Lynch gained 140 yards and FOUR touchdowns on 21 carries. Oh, and Christine Michael gained 71 yards on 4 carries. And, uh, another oh: Robert Turbin chipped in with 32 yards on 6 carries. Excluding kneels, that’s 352 yards on 43 carries, which is an 8.2 YPC average. And the five touchdowns. So you can see why the team was pretty run-heavy against the Giants.

There was only one real comeback of the week: Kansas City managed to beat Buffalo despite having a Game Script of -4.0. That game turned on essentially three plays, as described by Jason Lisk in his Monday Read Option article. Of course, you can read my thoughts about the Chiefs generally in the New York Times today.

  1. Also: Wow! The Packers have three of the top five Game Scripts this season. []
  2. While Baltimore won, 21-7, the Ravens trailed at the end of the first quarter, the game was tied at halftime, and Baltimore was up by just 7 at the end of the third quarter. []
  • Kevin

    “In other words, just about every pass was to one of his big two receivers or to a back (including the game-winner to Joique Bell).”

    GW was to Theo Riddick.

    Thanks as always for providing these.

    • Chase Stuart

      Good catch, Kevin, thanks!

  • Katy Parry

    At this point the panthers coaching staff and front office don’t give a shit about winning, they just want to get all of the starters injured so that they don’t have to pay them. That way, they can cover their asses when the team underachieves and the players sign lucrative contracts with actual contenders.

  • Bryan

    “the Browns shocked the Browns”….or possibly the Bengals?
    This is the first time I’ve come across your website. I love stats and analysis and I enjoy all the analysis on your site.
    I was surprised…though probably shouldn’t be…to see that GB has 3 of the top 5 game scripts of the season.