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Most of the headlines covering this weekend's Bills-Chargers game focused on Nathan Peterman and his very bad day. Few realized that at the same time, Keenan Allen was having a career day for Los Angeles.

06 Feb 2017

Super Bowl LI DVOA/Quick Reads

by Aaron Schatz

It's been 15 hours since the end of Super Bowl LI and I think I'm still recovering. It was one of the most incredible games in NFL history. We'll have a Clutch Encounters soon from Scott Kacsmar that runs down just how absurdly rare a 25-point comeback is. In the meantime, we'll break down the DVOA numbers here.

They may not be quite what you expect.

In "Audibles at the Line," Tom Gower guessed that the DVOA ratings would say that Atlanta was fortunate to be in this game at the end. It turns out the ratings say the opposite. The Falcons came out of this game with a much better DVOA rating than the Patriots:

DVOA (with opponent adjustments)
TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
ATL 39% 40% -10% -12%
NE 6% 7% 5% 4%
VOA (no opponent adjustments)
TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
ATL 15% 35% 9% -12%
NE -20% 8% 33% 4%

How can this be? It's because of the rare circumstances of this game. DVOA is a measure of efficiency. It measures value per play. Normally, that's not a problem, because normally the two teams run a roughly similar number of plays. If one team runs more plays than the other team, it's usually because the first team was better for most of the game. They kept the ball, they had success on offense, they ran more plays. Occasionally, you will get a game where the more efficient team runs fewer plays.

You do not often get a game where the less efficient team runs over twice as many plays as the other team.

The Patriots offense ran 93 plays in Super Bowl LI, not counting those cancelled by penalty. The Falcons offense ran 46 plays. Some of that is the Falcons not getting the ball in overtime, but that's only eight plays (plus the DPI penalty). The Falcons gained 7.5 yards per play compared to 5.9 yards per play for the Patriots, and they won the turnover battle. A team that does that will almost always win the game. This is just one of the many ways in which last night's result was exceptional.

So what on earth happened to the Falcons offense? The problem was third down.

  • On first down, the Falcons averaged 11.1 yards per play. Their average play on first down got a new set of downs. The Falcons had 114.0% DVOA on first down.
  • On second down, the Falcons averaged 6.9 yards per play. They had an average of 6.7 yards to go, so their average play on second down also got a new set of downs. Of course, that's easier to do on second down than on first, so the Falcons had a more reasonable 19.5% DVOA on second down.
  • On third down, the Falcons ran nine plays (not including penalties) and averaged a loss of 1.1 yards. Only one of these nine plays gained any yardage whatsoever, a 19-yard completion to Austin Hooper in the second quarter. Matt Ryan was sacked four times on third down and lost a fumble. The Falcons had MINUS-121.1% DVOA on third down.

I can't remember anything like this. In fact, it's possible there has never been anything like this. So far, I've gone looking back 10 seasons in the DVOA data for another game where an offense had a DVOA over 100% on first down but a DVOA under -100% on third down. There isn't one, going back to at least 2007. If we want to look at a lower baseline, there was only one other game this year where an offense had a DVOA over 80% on first down but a DVOA under -80% on third down. You probably don't remember that game because it was between two of the worst teams in the league: Week 14, when the San Francisco 49ers took a 14-0 lead over the New York Jets in the first five minutes but gained only 32 yards in the second half and lost on a Bilal Powell rushing touchdown in overtime. San Francisco had 80.5% DVOA on first down and -81.4% DVOA on third down. The Falcons far surpassed that in both directions.

DVOA isn't necessarily saying that the Falcons were "better" in this game. What it's saying is that normally a team that plays the way the Falcons did in Super Bowl LI would be expected to win, because normally a team this successful on first and second down is not going to suck so bad on third down. This is where I was about to type something along the lines of "this is insane" but I think I've said that on Twitter ten times in the last 15 hours. I've honestly run out of adjectives for this game.

One last table to hammer home how crazy Super Bowl LI's comeback was:

Super Bowl LI DVOA by Quarter
Atlanta Falcons New England Patriots
Qtr Total DVOA Offense Defense Spec Tms x Qtr Total DVOA Offense Defense Spec Tms
1 14% -1% -16% -2% x 1 26% -4% -30% 0%
2 253% 177% -75% 1% x 2 -203% -67% 137% 1%
3 31% 27% -8% -4% x 3 12% 5% -7% 0%
4 -71% -36% 28% -6% x 4 130% 54% -72% 4%
5 -53% 0% 53% 0% x 5 75% 75% 0% 0%

Thanks again to everyone for a great season at Football Outsiders. Please stick around into the offseason. In the next few weeks, among other things, we'll have the 2016 Football Outsiders reader awards results, the 1986 and 1987 DVOA ratings and commentaries, and an update of Scott Kacsmar's historical quarterback postseason drive stats.

Oh, and we'll announce what we're doing about the Playoff Challenge game in Scramble for the Ball's season-closing column on Wednesday because this game has me so scatterbrained that I haven't even run the results yet.

Let's turn it over to Vince for some Quick Reads...

Super Bowl LI Quick Reads

by Vincent Verhei


Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
1.
Tom Brady NE
43/62
466
2
1
5
104
98
6
ATL
Brady's totals are so daunting (he set Super Bowl records for passes, completions, and yardage) that it can be hard to find some meaningful splits, but here we go. First of all, splitting his numbers out from before and after the comeback: Up to the point Atlanta scored to go up 28-3 in the third quarter, Brady had gone 17-of-29 for 182 yard with two sacks and a pick-six. From that point forward, he went 26-of-33 for 284 yards, plus a DPI for 13 more yards, with three more sacks. Moreover, on New England's last two real drives (the tying touchdown in regulation and the winning drive in overtime, and ignoring the wacky fake kneeldown play), he went 11-of-15 for 140 yards, plus that DPI. On third and fourth downs, he went 8-of-10 for 119 yards and seven conversions, plus two sacks and a pick six. If there is a weak spot in the Atlanta defense, it might be on passes that travel 8 to 15 yards downfield. At that range, Brady went 11-of-14, plus a DPI, with every completion gaining 11 to 18 yards and a first down.
2.
Matt Ryan ATL
17/22
284
2
0
5
65
78
-13
NE
As for Ryan, when Atlanta took that 28-3 lead, he had gone 12-of-14 for 193 yards, with two sacks. From that point forward, he went 5-of-8 for 91 yards, plus a 3-yard DPI, but also three more sacks and one really bad fumble. On deep passes, he went 6-of-8 for 146 yards. The real splits for Ryan, though, came by down. First down: 10-of-10 for 171 yards. Second down: 6-of-8 for 94 yards, with one sack. Third downs: 1-of-4 for 19 yards, plus a 3-yard DPI, four sacks, and one really bad fumble.


Running Backs
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Devonta Freeman ATL
10
78
1
2/2
46
0
62
42
20
NE
Freeman's 39-yard reception in the fourth quarter and 37-yard run in the first were the two longest plays of the game for either offense. He only had three first downs on the ground -- in part because eight of his carries came on first-and-10 -- and was hit in the backfield three times.
2.
James White NE
6
29
2
14/16
110
1
61
25
37
ATL
All of White's carries gained at least 1 yard, and four went for first downs. More importantly, he set Super Bowl records for receptions (14, even if only six of them went for first downs) and points scored (20).
3.
Tevin Coleman ATL
7
29
0
1/1
6
1
23
8
15
NE
Coleman didn't run for a single first down. His last carry was a 1-yard gain on second-and-2 that set up a third-and-1 and a really bad fumble.
4.
Dion Lewis NE
6
27
0
1/3
2
0
-22
-4
-18
ATL
Lewis only ran for one first down, and that came on a wacky fake kneeldown on the last play of regulation. And he had no first downs as a receiver.
5.
LeGarrette Blount NE
11
31
0
0/0
0
0
-40
-40
0
ATL
Blount's only first down came on his longest run of the day, a 9-yarder on second-and-6. Otherwise, nine of his 11 runs gained 4 yards or less, three went for no gain, one went for a fumble, and he failed to convert on third-and-1 and second-and-3.


Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Julio Jones ATL
4
4
87
21.8
0
45
NE
Jones' four targets: 19-, 23-, and 18-yard gains on first-and-10, all in the first quarter; and a 27-yard gain on fourth-and-8 in the fourth.
2.
Taylor Gabriel ATL
3
5
76
25.3
0
33
NE
Gabriel's receptions each gained at least 17 yards and a first down, and one of his incompletions came on third-and-33. He also picked up a first down with a 3-yard DPI on third-and-4.
3.
Malcolm Mitchell NE
6
7
70
11.7
0
26
ATL
Four of Mitchell's completions gained 11 or more yards and a first down; the other was a 7-yard gain on second-and-8.
4.
Martellus Bennett NE
5
6
62
12.4
0
18
ATL
Bennett lost 3 yards on on second-and-15, but each of his other receptions gained at least 12 yards and a first down. He also drew a 13-yard DPI in overtime.
5.
Mohamed Sanu ATL
2
2
25
12.5
0
14
NE
A 13-yard gain on second-and-10 in the third quarter, and a 12-yard gain on first-and-10 in the fourth.


"Worst" Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Julian Edelman NE
5
13
87
17.4
0
-17
ATL
Edelman's total includes minus-5 DYAR receiving, minus-3 DYAR rushing for his one carry for 2 yards, and minus-10 DYAR passing for his one incompletion. Four of his catches went for first downs, but from early in the second quarter until late in the fourth, he failed to catch seven straight targets. Of course, DYAR does not grade for difficulty, and one catch Edelman made overwhelmed all the ones he did not.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 06 Feb 2017

100 comments, Last at 09 Feb 2017, 2:51pm by ClavisRa

Comments

1
by wiesengrund :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 3:29pm

I wonder how the DVOA difference cmpares to other games in Super Bowl History? Is this the best team performance relative to opponent to ever lose a super bowl? How does new Englands dvoa rank in term of SB Winners?

2
by nat :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 3:40pm

Yup. That looks about right.

VOA says Atlanta played about as well - per play - as a team that wins by 3 or 4 points is expected to have played. That's what a 15-20% game VOA usually equates to, if I recall correctly.

But the third down stat tells it all. Playing abysmally on third down has a lot of leverage. It kills drives. It puts you out of field goal range. Most of all, it limits your total play count.

The Patriots did not outplay the Falcons play per play. But they outplayed the Falcons when it mattered the most. Consequently, their drives were better overall, enough better to make up for the unpredictable INT return and force overtime.

It was a gutsy win against a worthy opponent. I expect to hear a lot from Atlanta in the coming seasons.

3
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 3:41pm

Very bad call by me.

I overrated how bad Atlanta's fourth quarter performance was relative to their second quarter performance, probably because I didn't give enough credit to Atlanta's good fourth quarter plays. Also, the Patriots ran basically the same number of plays in each half, so 4Q didn't pump them up as much as, say, their 4Q performance against DEN in last year's AFCCG (or am I thinking of 2013?).

The real problem is I didn't think enough about my thought consistency-I noted that on a per-drive basis for the game, NE had a roughly average offensive performance (7% DVOA would more or less qualify) and knew NE a lot of plays in the first half, many more than ATL-but the DVOA claim would require those to be otherwise.

6
by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 4:05pm

The fact that DVOA uses the play as its unit for measure is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It's an advantage because there are so many plays in a game that averaging over a large number of them is more likely to be reflective of total performance than averaging over drives.

But this is a game that shows the weakness of that approach. The Falcons mixed together a small number of explosive drives (only three total) with a large number of sputtering drives that went nowhere. When you average over the plays, the very high values of the plays on the scoring drives gets amplified by the fact that each scoring drive itself had more plays in it. This is how we end up with things like the absurd DVOA for Atlanta's 2nd quarter: with only 2 scoring drives and 1 pick six, the number of 250% is just far beyond any reasonable value. It's not literally six times better a quarter with a value of 41% DVOA.

Averaging over drives would reduce the exaggerated effect of isolated explosive drives. Not that I'm seriously advocating such a change, because this game was a statistical fluke it too many ways. There's no rational reason to expect an offense would be so dominant on 1st and 2nd downs but dreadful on 3rd downs. But again, such a split would be partially explained by the fact that the Falcons' offenses only saw 3rd downs during periods of low production.

9
by PaddyPat :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 4:13pm

The numbers bring to mind the oddity of the big showdown Jets-Pats game of 2011 in which the Pats basically rolled New York out of the stadium, but New York ended up with the higher DVOA since they essentially either went 3-and-out or scored each time they had the ball. Every once in a while, there is a game that exposes this glaring blindspot in DVOA. I don't think it calls the model into question though. Averaged over the course of a season, which is where DVOA's actual power comes in, the counting stat makes a lot of sense.

11
by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 4:17pm

As I said below, I do wonder whether, if players were durable enough, to provide a larger number of drives, if field position-adjusted drive stats might prove to be a better metric than DVOA.

44
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 12:20pm

I think it would be.

I think the quarter-by-quarter DVOA in this specific case explains the game much better than the whole game dvoa.

The Patriots outplayed ATL slightly in the first quarter.
The 2nd quarter was a disaster for NE and fantastic for ATL
The 3rd quarter ATL outplayed NE slightly.
The 4th quarter was a disaster for ATL and fantastic for NE.
The 5th quarter was a disaster for ATL and fantastic for NE.

The full game DVOA is getting swamped by the fact that the 2nd quarter was significantly more ridiculously one-sided than the 4th and 5th, but missing the fact that there's a limit to how usefully effective a drive can actually be.

48
by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 12:45pm

Yep, you can only get 6 point or yield 6 points, no matter how wonderfully or poorly you play on any possession. Now all we need is to have indestructible football players who can play 80 game regular seasons, and best of 7 playoff series, and then we can use drive stats in a much more confident manner.

53
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 1:26pm

I, for one, welcome our robot football overlords?

I think there's an argument to be made here that one of the significant factors in the Patriots winning this game is that the Falcon's combination of drives either stalling immediately, or scoring quickly led to a situation where the Patriots defenders were still relatively fresh at the end of the game, whereas the Patriots more consistent offense (and hugely greater number of overall plays) led to the Falcons defenders being exhausted.

All it takes on those short passing plays is one receiver running a relatively deep route and he's dragging at least two defenders downfield. When you do that 70+ times in a game, even cornerbacks are going to be fatigued - not to mention linebackers.

55
by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 1:37pm

It's why I think the Patriots defense was good throughout the game ((and the Atlanta offense bad), despite yielding two longish (by yardage only) td drives in the 1st half. The other possessions the Falcons had, until their third offensive td, were over pretty quickly. Then, after that 3rd offensive td drive, it was largely 3andoutville. The Patriots defense was terrific.

58
by GlennW :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 2:03pm

I can't go with terrific-- as DVOA would also attest to. Too many big plays allowed by a defense that is designed to not give those up above all else, culminating in virtually uncontested walk-in TDs on the Falcons' offensive scoring plays. Down 21-3 and desperate for a stop to stay in the game, 8 plays, 85 yards, touchdown. And even at 28-20, wide open swing pass for 40 yards to allow Atlanta to crawl out of a big hole (I can't blame the defense for Julio Jones' final catch though, obviously).

What the Patriots' defense did do was come up with the big, game-changing plays-- namely the strip-sack and subsequent drive-stopping sack on the next possession. I re-watched the entire game and, through 50 minutes and up to the point of the strip-sack, overall the Patriots' defense was quite mediocre. Yes, I realize that regulation is 60 minutes long, but it's still pretty easy to see why play-for-play the Patriots' defense did not grade out very well for the entire game.

60
by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 2:32pm

I just disagree with the idea that the following, against the best offense in the league, on the first 5 possessions....

4 plays, 32 yards, punt
5 plays, 24 yards, punt
5 plays, 71 yards, td
5 plays, 62 yards, td
3 plays, 2 yards, punt

is a "quite mediocre" performance. 38 yards, 2.8 points per drive, against an offense that averaged 3.06 points per possesssion, and over 40 yards per possession (which is suppressed by those instances where the Falcons offense had a short field), is better than average. Then we have one bad (from the Pats' perspective), followed by two simply outstanding defensive series. Three and out on a short field, three and strip sack. Then two good ones. 6 plays, 45 yards, punt, 4 plays 16 yards, punt.

That's 2.1 points per possession, 32 yards per possession, against the league's best offense. A terrific performance.

62
by GlennW :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 3:02pm

Okay, "quite mediocre" through the first 6 possessions, almost through 3 quarters (in saying 50 minutes, I didn't give proper credit to the stop after the failed onside kick). Up to that point, it was 46 yards/possession, 3.5 points/possession, three fairly easy TDs, Falcons running the ball well, and Matt Ryan with a perfect passer rating entering the 4th quarter. Almost all or nothing on defense, 50/50 on possessions ending with a TD-- I consider that to be a contributor to the Patriots facing a big deficit at that point in the game. The lesser contributor to be sure, but certainly not a strength, even accounting for the Falcons offense.

I admit that the Patriots defense picked it up significantly in the 4th quarter, raising them above mediocre for the entire game. But one quarter of great football, combined (subjectively here) with some rather strange offensive playcall decisions by the Falcons, and no, I just can't go "terrific". I can understand why DVOA rated the Falcons defense as better for the entire game (and significantly better in VOA) given the specific nature of this game and the large number of plays they were on the field. (Again, for three quarters the Falcons' defense was *flying* around. And looking at it again, they weren't even as bad as I had thought on the Patriots' final 91-yard scoring drive in regulation-- they pressured Brady into three up-for-grabs passes, including on Edelman's great catch, but did not catch a break. Overtime? Forget it, they were done.)

63
by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 3:19pm

You can't fault the Patriots defense for the fact that the Patriots offense only scored 3 points until so late in the game, and yielding 21 points, while forcing 4 punts, through 3 quarters, against the league's best offense, is not a mediocre performance. Yes, if you force a couple field goals, instead of giving up tds, that would be quite good, which would have meant, combined with the 4th quarter, that the Patriots defense was among the best in Super Bowl history. They gave up all tds, which means the overall performance was merely terrific.

This is a game where drive stats illuminates the performance better than DVOA.

64
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 3:35pm

Look at the quarter-by-quarter DVOA.

The Patriots played 3 quarters of elite defense, and one terrible quarter.

The problem with your approach is that you're merging drives together - and that's not really an appropriate approach when a team is playing a really high variance game. When you have two elite offenses in a game, field position becomes less important, and actually putting points on the board becomes more important- and you can't score more than one touchdown on a drive.

Atlanta had 10 meaningful drives, and scored 21 points. They averaged over 3.1 points per possession in the regular season, and scored 540 points - essentially the Patriots defense held them to 10 less points than you'd expect.

If the Patriots defense was merely average, Brady never even has a shot at a comeback, because the Falcons put up 40+

67
by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 4:00pm

An interesting historical perspective is the Patriots Rams Super Bowl. This Falcons offense is better than that Rams offense, and that Patriots defense in February '02 is rightly lauded for playing a great defensive game, in giving up 17 points . I kind of think the defensive performance, in giving up 21 points to the Falcons, is not fully appreciated.

69
by GlennW :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 4:10pm

We're splitting hairs here, but through three quarters (my original contention, adjusted) the Patriots defense played one elite quarter (the 1st quarter), one terrible quarter (the 2nd) and one slightly-above-average quarter (the 3rd). That's per DVOA, opponent-adjusted. Then they turned up the heat again in the 4th quarter, but I wasn't exactly blown away before that.

So, considering that 4th quarter, and accepting the limitations of DVOA (as opposed to drive stats), does that make it a great defensive performance? It's a very good one. But if we're throwing around the possibility of one of the greatest ever had the Patriots held one of those drives to a FG, we're still not talking in the class of last season's defensive performance by Denver, I don't think.

71
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 4:33pm

To nitpick even further, -7% defensive DVOA would have been good for 7th in the NFL for the year. That "Elite" Houston defense we heard about a couple weeks ago? -6.9%. That's not "slightly above average".

Playing defense in the modern NFL is really hard.

77
by GlennW :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 5:16pm

Point taken. That 3rd quarter did effectively include the stop on the Falcons' 7th possession (it was 4th-and-25 after the delay of game penalty), making it 1-for-3 on Falcons' scoring chances for the quarter. That's above average.

I should probably just summarize my initial perception to say, even if you just look at the drive stats, at 3-for-6 (all TDs) the Patriots defense had only been average to that point, and then they finished up with 0-for-4 (or 0-for-3 if you don't want to count that last time-constrained possession). That's a total shutout in the 4th quarter (including forcing a huge turnover in a desperate situation), which would account for that missing 10+ points you were talking about. It also moves the needle on the overall performance to excellent.

17
by ClavisRa :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 5:07pm

Let's put it this way. I don't think Belichick is ever going to be remotely interested in what DVOA says when it comes to evaluating his players or his team. So, in that sense, it's not a useful measure. I think, at best, it's a stat (like many stats) that can pique your interest in exploring a team or player in a more informative way because of 'surprising' things that get highlighted.

Julio Jones was almost perfectly covered on three of his catches. He made great catches, and any stat will say that, but the NE coaches will look at the tape of those catches and know that the defense did what it's supposed to do. Next time those same plays may all be picks, or all defensed.

DVOA is never going to be good as a predictive, or even evaluative stat. It's an historical stat that can be a nice way to traverse football history from a wide-angle view.

22
by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 5:14pm

All individual stats in football are very problematic for actually measuring the quality of the individual's play.

31
by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 10:45pm

Agree completely which is why, although I trust DVOA for team-level stats, I prefer PFF's tape reviews when considering individual players. Though, ultimately, for the best analysis you want to use as much information as you can integrate into one picture.

Aside: There's no way DVOA is going to give Julio Jones enough credit for those sideline catches. Those were insanely good. Having watched Antonio Brown and Julio Jones in consecutive games against the same defense, my judgment would be that, right now, Jones is the superior receiver, and probably the best WR in the NFL right now.

38
by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 7:30am

Unfortunately, I've also seen enough individual quirks in PFF evaluations to take their metrics with a gigantic grain of salt. For some reason, for instance, they have always overrated the play of Vikings centers and guards, sometimes by a very large margin.

Individual football plaer evaluation is really, really, hard.

39
by eagle97a :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 7:54am

Agree completely and it not just about PFF evals. Player eval in football in general is extremely hard IMO and I despair sometimes when if ever we will get that metric/s that will generally be acceptable as an individual metric in the most team-based of all sports.

86
by poplar cove :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 9:22am

Plus until pff takes into account the strength of opposition (team or player), it's hard to take their work serious.

4
by otros :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 3:42pm

While I thought that James White had a reasonably argument for MVP, I would have voted for Brady. Now, a naive reading of the DYAR numbers seems to agree. But, are you supposed to compare the diferent positions? is DYAR designed with that in mind?

19
by ClavisRa :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 5:09pm

As I was watching James White's highlight reel, it confirmed what I remembered: he made the first tackler miss on nearly every single touch he had. He played his role just about perfectly.

5
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 4:01pm

Less than entirely shocked that the numbers appear to be as utterly insane as the game itself was.

I still have no idea how the hell all of that happened.

8
by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 4:13pm

I prefer DVOA because of the larger sample sizes, but if you ever could get indestructable players who could play 82 game seasons, I wonder if drive stats might prove to be a better metric.

7
by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 4:12pm

I feel like dinging Edelman for the fake pass play skews his actual contribution. Can we just give that -10 to McDaniels instead?
This also raises the question of how DVOA treats 3rd down during a part of the game when an offense converts on 4th down. Ordinarily an incomplete pass on 3rd and short is deadly. But if the Pats then proceed to convert on 4th down (as they did yesterday), the negative value of the 3rd down play is irrelevant.

Also, my eyeball test said that Edelman was a more valuable receiver than any of Mitchell, Bennett, Amendola, or Hogan. I don't know why there were so many missed targets there, but I suspect at least some of those were Brady's fault. Edelman is his default receiver, his security blanket. Still, I wish the Pats would give up on the long sideline passes to Edelman. He never catches those, and it seems like they try at least one per game. He's just not fast enough for sideline routes. Mitchell is the best option for that kind of route.

10
by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 4:14pm

If you could ding a running back for being in a fugue state, when he actually had pass blocking responsibilities, I know the ranking for that position would change.

20
by ClavisRa :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 5:11pm

Not sure you've been watching the Pats this year. One of their most dangerous and consistent weapons in the second half of the season was Brady hitting Edelman at the sideline on outs and crossers.

32
by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 10:53pm

I've been watching the Pats all year. And Brady has thrown a good number of missed passes his way. Without going into the numbers too much, about 3/8 of the passes his way have been incompletions. Yesterday was the worst of the season, at 5 receptions in 13 targets. But there were other games, like vs. SF and vs. Bal, where Brady kept going to Edelman without success.

And crossing patterns are very different than deep sideline routes.

Edelman excels at getting open because he changes direction quickly and reads the defense well enough to know where he should go. But he's not great on routes that depend on a receiver's speed to create separation. Mitchell, who is noticeably faster, is better at those. Hogan probably is better at those, too.

54
by GlennW :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 1:32pm

And even beyond missed attempts where Brady might be forcing the issue, Edelman seems to drop one very easy completion about every other game, and has done so for years (granted, he receives a lot of attempts, but I recall one analysis from last season which had Edelman leading the NFL in drops by a wide margin over a three-year period). Edelman had one of these in the AFCCG against the Steelers, and another one in this game on 3rd down that killed a viable scoring drive on the Patriots' first possession of the second half with the Patriots still down 21-3. DVOA may not be able to appropriately account for these drops versus any other unconverted attempt, but they're important.

12
by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 4:23pm

As quick as he is and how tough he is, it seems like Edelman may be the weak link in the NE offense due to so many drops. He's on the same page as Brady, but he has shown up on the "Worst" list a lot this year.Probably could say the same about Blount.
Mitchell is going to be a beast - he's the 1st rookie to catch a pass from Brady in 7 SBs.

13
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 4:33pm

I wonder if Edelman's time is limited with the team.

Given that Quinn has shown success by replicating the Seattle defense, the trend around the league may become for fast, quick defensive players.

In which case I think Belichick will start to look for big receivers who can outmuscle and block small defensive backs and linebackers. Both for playing and economic reasons.

18
by PaddyPat :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 5:07pm

Edelman also has durability issues. Folks here in NE are supremely high on him, I think mostly for his toughness in-game, when he often seems to absorb horrific hits and bounces back up, but I still think that Welker was a much more consistent slot receiver. I imagine Edelman will stay or not depending on his cap impact. Even if his role is reduced, there really isn't a good reason why the team would want to let go of him. The player that befuddles me is Amendola. I imagine he is done in New England based on salary, and the team has been looking to replace him for some time, rarely letting him see the field for long stretches. But he always seems to show up in the clutch at key moments in the playoffs. What gives?

26
by dcl0 :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 6:25pm

Amendola is FRAGILE. I think he is really good and on the same page as Brady, but he can't be used full time as a receiver or he breaks. He is very similar to Edelman in skill set. Sometimes this is good as it's hard to cover two quick twitch guys, but other times not so much as in lack of deep threat.

33
by RickD :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 10:58pm

Amendola had a great game yesterday but I would think he's the most likely WR to be replaced. And his constant injury issues are part of that.

Edelman played a full season this year and I wouldn't worry about him right now. But he is 30, and his speed will start to suffer pretty soon. But I'd expect him to be around for at least two more seasons. Hogan and Mitchell would look to be locks for next year's roster, which would leave Amendola and Floyd (if he sticks around) fighting for the final WR slot.

36
by PirateFreedom :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 12:45am

Floyd is a free agent. Pats banking a comp pick is more likely than the Pats breaking the bank to get him in free agency.

47
by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 12:45pm

I doubt they'd have to break the bank. He was released by the Cardinals and nobody else wanted him.

51
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 1:03pm

He also probably faces a 45-day jail sentence in the not-too-distant future. The timing of that could be significant to other teams, even if it's only camp or offseason work he misses.

57
by PatsFan :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 1:53pm

And a 4-6 game suspension from the league, too.

65
by PirateFreedom :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 3:50pm

nobody else wanted to rent him.
it only takes one team to want him more than the Pats do and the Pats love their comp picks.
The only scenario where I see the Pats keeping him is if he decides he should do a one year, below market, prove it type deal because he thinks the Pats are the best way to restore his reputation and put him in line for bigger money.

As a fan I would love to keep him just because of the Miami game where he just destroyed a guy blocking down field on a TD play and also gronked into the endzone dragging a bevy of Dolphins on another TD play.

66
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 3:57pm

I don't think the Pats pay him anything significant, but I do think the Prove-It type deal is a high probability. I just don't think he's going to get many offers.

80
by PirateFreedom :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 6:35pm

I hope you're right. The Pats have a lot of free agents to pay or replace so they'll need some bargains

100
by ClavisRa :: Thu, 02/09/2017 - 2:51pm

The Pats had Floyd for a good long time at the end of the season to develop and evaluate him. I think there's no way to know how they value them unless you were inside that process. My suspicion is they get a 2-year team-friendly deal done and Floyd adds a physical dimension to receiver the Pats have lacked.

I think Mitchell is going to be a very sure-handed consistent route runner and great possession receiver. Brady will probably lean on Edelman less next year because of that, which will just make it harder for teams to contain Edelman they way they at times did this year.

Amendola is tricky, because he's got great hands, and has been an important part of 3rd-down and TD conversions. But his lack of size and limited quickness means there will only be so many snaps available to him, so he may be the odd man out even regardless of contract.

99
by Digit :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 6:24pm

I think Belichick already started doing this a while ago, what with picking up Gronkowski and Michael Bennett.

Also with Michael Floyd late in the season.

I think the Patriots are just happy to have a combination of both small quick receivers and big burly receivers, really. It's just that these big receivers are much, much more expensive on a salary cap if they're wide receivers, and not so expensive if they're TE's.

I kinda expect the Patriots to be drafting more TE's.

15
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 4:46pm

Blount, easily; he has good games, but has always been a back that doesn't seem to realize he's a power back, and he tends to spend a lot of time dancing around and trying to find a hole rather than just powering forward for two yards. He's got a solid DYAR/DVOA at least this year, but, glancing at the stats, a success rate of 44% seems low for the kind of work I would expect him to get (i.e., shorter yardage). To be fair, I'm a bit of an anti-Blount fanboy from watching him fail to get short yards in Tampa for a few years.

14
by ammek :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 4:38pm

I'm surprised the Atlanta special teams number wasn't worse. They started half of their drives inside their own 15. Trying to return the last two Patriots kickoffs rather than letting them carry into the end zone cost them 29 yards in total. An extra 15 yards might have made a field goal manageable on that Julio's-amazing-catch drive, even with the subsequent sack and holding penalty fiasco.

Gostkowski's two bad kicks didn't seem to ding the Patriots special teams.

16
by mbmxyz :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 4:53pm

Regarding 3rd down defense, on "Inside the NFL" last week, the Jets Brandon Marshall praised DC Matt Patricia for creativity in third down defense. Not much there, just thought of this when I saw the bad 3rd down numbers for the Falcons.

21
by vrao81 :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 5:12pm

I notice some similarities between this game and super bowl xxv, Giants vs. Bills (Belichick was the Giants DC).
1) The team that was more efficient ran fewer plays in both games
2) The team that lost ran few running plays (Bills had 25 rushes, Falcons just 18), despite running very well
3) The team with the lead in the first half failed to burn the clock, allowing the opponent enough time to mount a comeback
4) the team that won mounted sustained drives in the 2nd half/OT that featured multiple third down conversions.
5) meanwhile the teams that lost failed on third down, each team converting just 1 third down. However note that both teams scored on TWO offensive drives each without ever facing a third down.
6) Both losing teams were the #1 scoring offenses in their respective years, but were held to 17 and 21 offensive points

23
by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 5:16pm

For all that, two more feet of accuracy from Norwood, and field goal attempt on 1st down from the 22, likely reverses the outcome of both games, and certainly the outcome of one.

41
by t.d. :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 11:33am

For a team that's in this position as often as they are, it's amazing how often the Pats season plays out like this in the Belicheck era. Obviously four of the five SB wins were classics, but so were both losses, and last year's AFC championship and the one they lost to the Colts. More than any other team I've ever seen, they're able to extend the game just to the point where they have a chance (Manning could do this at his best, too, just not as reliably- throwing every down helps). It's true that Belicheck has benefited from lucky bounces in razor-thin margins to burnish his legacy, but, at the same time, he could easily have two or three more rings with just a little more luck

59
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 2:31pm

The general format to the Patriots under BB has been get out to an early lead and run the clock out.

Against significantly lesser teams, they don't have to worry about the opponent making a comeback. Often lots of turnovers and poor opponent defense led to the Pats scoring 30-40 pts.

Against teams like the Colts with good offenses, there was always a chance of a comeback that meant they'd have to fire up the offense again.

And against teams with good defenses, getting out to the early lead has been a problem.

61
by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 2:49pm

The ridiculous nature of the use of playoff w-l records to evaluate careers, even coaching careers, is revealed by the fact that changing a handful of plays, having nothing to do with coaching acumen, means that Belichik's playoff record could range from anywhere 10-9, with zero championships, to, hell, 30-8, with 9 championships. It's almost a worthless metric.

68
by PaddyPat :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 4:07pm

I have to disagree, with caveats. There are coaches and teams that seem to almost systematically fall apart in the playoffs. Marty Schottenheimer and Marvin Lewis have made some repeated errors in the postseason that have cost them. Likewise Andy Reid at times. Systematic coaching flaws can result in poor playoff records that are not entirely random. Belichick puts his teams in a position to succeed. The teams have caught some bounces and had some go against them. A 4-3 or 3-4 record in Super Bowls could easily have come about for the Patriots, but that would still be a pretty sterling record. The range of variance you are ascribing to strictly random factors seems exaggerated. If we can agree that the Patriots should probably have lost this game against Atlanta and probably have been 1-and-done in the Snowbowl in 2001, well they likewise ought to have won the 2011 Super Bowl (1 first down required) and could easily have won the 2007 Super Bowl. Play-off records do mean something for evaluating coaches and players, they just don't mean anywhere near as much as the media try to make out of them.

70
by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 4:24pm

I don't think you can meaningfully employ the term "systematic" with sample sizes this small, in a one and done format. You are leaving out a victory over the Chargers that occurred when a Chargers db didn't fall down after a late game int, as Schottenheimer coached him to do during the week. Also a victory over the Ravens when a ball gets dropped in the end zone. Balanced, of course, by losses to the Colts and other that could have been victories. Any game decided by 6 or less is hugely influenced by random events, and you need to get past a hundred games, hopefully 150 games, before you start to have confidence that things are evening out. Toss in the problems of the one and done format, where early random events affect the very existence of later events, and it's just pointless, it seems to me.

The best indicator of Belichik's coaching acumen, to me, in terms of playoff w-l record, is that it is plausible that he could have gone 10-9, with zero championships. Over 19 games, in a one and done performance, it's really, really, really, hard to be better than .500, without ever winning a championship, and thus winning 3 straight playoff games in a season. Really super-consistent superior performance.

75
by BJR :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 4:56pm

Schottenheimer, Reid etc. may well have systematic flaws as coaches, but it should be evident from looking at their entire coaching resumes, not from looking at the outcome of a tiny handful of playoff games. It adds nothing insightful to the overall picture.

The only conclusions you can draw from looking at Belichick's record in Super Bowls are that, a) he was obviously a very good coach for taking his team to that many Super Bowls, and b) he was a good enough coach to make sure those games were all kept close. But the W-L record in those games is almost irrelevant in terms of judging his ability as a coach.

73
by t.d. :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 4:47pm

Schotty's three worst losses came down to single play failures, two from nominally 'good' players. Lewis has overcome one of the worst institutional cultures in the NFL to build a consistent winner in the toughest division in football over the last decade. The Chargers screwed up significantly in letting Schottenheimer go, and the Bengals almost made a similar mistake this year

74
by coremill :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 4:54pm

Andy Reid's clock management issues are well documented, but I think Marty just got extremely unlucky. If Ernest Byner holds onto the ball, or Lin Elliott and Nate Kaeding could make field goals, or Marlon Macree doesn't fumble his INT, Marty could very easily have gone to 3-4 Super Bowls.

One irony of the Belichick Patriots is that their five best teams by DVOA are 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012, but only one of those teams actually won the the Super Bowl. FWIW, the same is true of the mid-2000s Colts (the 2006 team that actually won was probably the worst of the Dungy Colts teams). One lesson is that it may be better, in terms of expected championships, to be consistently very good for a long time than to be super-excellent for only a few seasons, which has implications for team-building and cap management.

78
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 5:40pm

If things had gone a little different, yes, Marty goes to some superbowls.

My problem with Marty is that his overly conservative game-calling turns a lot of games that should have been significant wins into close games, which leaves you open to losing on flukes.

The Troy Brown strip of Marlon McCree game is a perfect example though

The Chargers had a 14-3 lead with 2 minutes left in the first half, and the Patriots had a total of 62 yards of offense at that point.(chargers had 20x yds in first half) They switched to a wicked conservative prevent, and the Patriots drove down the field and scored to make it 14-10 right before the half.

From that point of the game, almost every first down play is a LdT run up the middle. A lot of them are successful, but they only score 7 points in the 2nd half.

The Troy Brown 4th down interception-strip-fumble is about as fluky as football can get, but the Chargers should have never been in that situation. That game should have never been close - they outplayed the Patriots all damn day, but just never pulled away.

My opinion is that Marty is as about as good of an outside-of-gameday coach as one can get - fantastic teacher, motivator, etc, and having a huge talent/skill gap against most teams was enough to win him a lot of games, and his tactical issues weren't bad enough to hurt him in most situations - but those sort of things are way more likely to show up when you are playing other good teams.

I think he's a lot like Reid - better than most overall, but has a big glaring flaw that tends to show up most often when the talent/skill get evened out in the playoffs. They both need(ed) a gameday guy to be like "Hey, you're doing it again"

72
by t.d. :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 4:37pm

Yeah, most of their wins/losses in the 'good' years came down to coin flip games. Having a team good enough to be in position to take advantage of being a coin flip game away from a title is to his credit, though (used to drive my best friend crazy that Jimmy Johnson took credit for the Cowboys being 'lucky' while he was there- JJ used to say "luck is the residual of preparation meeting opportunity," but, in a long enough timeline, I gotta figure that it eventually evens out, for the most part- Marty, another genuinely great coach, may beg to differ)

24
by IrishBarrister :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 5:33pm

Isn't this the old FEI vs. S&P+ thing in college football? Drive efficiency versus per play efficiency? I feel like I'm having flashbacks. "Stanford couldn't possibly have won this game! Look at the yards per play!" vs. "Of course Stanford won this game! Look at their drive efficiency!"

New England was more efficient on a per drive basis than Atlanta. The Falcons were more efficient on a per play basis than the Patriots. The combination nearly always results in a close game. I feel like this is a lot less crazy than people are making it out to be.

27
by PaddyPat :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 6:49pm

Well said! It is just a blindspot of the model that doesn't often show up so starkly because the discrepancy is rarely as severe as in this game.

35
by Alternator :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 11:15pm

What's also important is that New England was extremely consistent, during the entire comeback, in putting together pretty-good plays over and over (I tend to credit the Atlanta defense just being exhausted by that point). Sustaining good-enough adds a huge amount of 'value' without really producing an impressive average - certainly not impressive enough to outweigh the poor early play, with Brady under pressure and the running backs unable to accomplish anything.

It's also worth remembering that if the pick-six was just a normal pick with a ten to twenty yard return, the game looks a lot different. Atlanta's offense was not, on the whole, truly dominant; they had some great plays, but still only managed three TDs in ten drives. I'm not checking any numbers, but I'm guessing those three drives were more than a third of their offensive plays, and that really throws things out of whack.

25
by renangms :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 6:08pm

Is there a reason not to post the individuals DVOA, but just the DYAR?

28
by DezBailey :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 7:43pm

Week 17 BES Rankings - http://besreport.com/week-17-bes-rankings-final-issue-of-2016/

They're a month old but 82% predictive in the playoffs and 100% in the Super Bowl. What a game!!! Certainly not the first time the team predicted by the BES to win had to muster a dramatic comeback victory...but on such a grand stage it was impressive.

29
by ChrisLong :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 8:10pm

Julio's 27-yarder in the fourth quarter was on 2nd and 8, not 4th and 8.

30
by MJK :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 8:29pm

So essentially, the Falcons were better, on average, than New England, but New England was better in high leverage situations (e.g. 3rd down).

Another way of thinking of it--a larger percentage of the Falcons' plays were "good" than the Patriots'...but the Patriots ran twice as many plays. So if you randomly turned on the game and watched one play somewhere, you were probably about equally liklely to see a good play from the Patriots than from the Falcons...

34
by dbostedo :: Mon, 02/06/2017 - 11:11pm

"DVOA isn't necessarily saying that the Falcons were "better" in this game. What it's saying is that normally a team that plays the way the Falcons did in Super Bowl LI would be expected to win..."

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm thinking that the team that would be expected to win by DVOA fits a decent definition of "better" in the game.

37
by blan :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 1:35am

Strongly disagree.

DVOA is probably the best advanced football statistic out there right now, but it is far from perfect, and it is probably impossible to build a perfect model for a game like football.

This website provides quite possibly the best sports analysis on internet when the writers express humility and note how DVOA and other statistics are just pieces in a larger picture, as Aaron appears to be doing in that quote

Conversely, when the writers treat DVOA as fully measuring the true quality of a team absent unpredictable random events (e.g. "#nogreatteams" and "DVOA Dynasty"), they are treating the game with the same level of nuance as ESPN talking heads.

40
by nat :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 10:44am

Games are made up of drives, kicks, and returns. Drives are made up of a series of sets of downs. Sets of downs are made up of plays.

Usually, doing well per play cascades up through sets of downs to whole drives and often to games. But not always.

DVOA is designed to investigate per play success. It does this not because that's the only way or best way to judge success. It does this because that's the only way you can analyze splits by play situations (e.g. DVOA on third down, DVOA with more than X to go, etc.) That's great, but ignores the possible importance of sequences of plays designed to get first downs together.

In this game, New England was well ahead in the "Sets of downs" stat (DSR, aka moving the chains) and the main drive stat (Yds/drive). Atlanta did better at the important TOs/Drive and at returns (thanks to the pick-six - they were worse at other returns). Each team was "better" at a couple of things. We usually think of the things NE did better as the indicators of consistently better teams, while Atlanta was better at the more variable things that let a team earn an upset. But in a single game, they all have value.

If you just looked at the drives and didn't think about the narrative in which they happened, you'd probably look at this game and say that a few big plays got Atlanta to OT, but the better, more consistent team won.

Me, I'd call it a toss up, as makes sense for any game that goes to OT. Atlanta needed some big plays to compete and got them. New England needed stops and needed lots of first downs and got them. Atlanta needed a stop in OT, failed, and lost a heart-breaker.

46
by MJK :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 12:43pm

I've long thought that there is a happy medium between play-by-play (DVOA), which gives you lots of data and has useful splits but overlooks the effectiveness of how plays fit together and the higher leverage of certain plays (e.g. 3rd down), versus drive stats (e.g. drive efficiency), which is a good indication of how an offense or defense performed, but smears out the fine details, and is plagued by small sample size.

I think that happy medium would be a series efficiency stat. I.e. each time a team faces 1st down, one of about five things can happen (getting another 1st down, punting, committing a turnover, getting a FG, or getting a TD). By comparing a team's performance to league average for a given context (e.g. starting at your own 10 versus the opponent's 35, for example), you can get something that is probably more resilient to games like this one, and yet still has lots of interesting splits possible and doesn't suffer as much from sample size issues as drive efficiency. I've been meaning to try to work on something like that in the offseason.

My thought is that it is analogous to batting average in baseball--when a batter is at bat, sabermaticians don't look at the success on a per-pitch basis, but a per-at-bat basis. A hitter that always swings (and often strikes) on the first pitch may still be a good hitter if he's good at fouling so he can battle deep into the count, and BA may still like him, whereas a per pitch metric would hate him, just like DVOA won't like a team that throws deep on 1st down every time and fails often, even if they are led by Peyton Manning and can easily convert just about any 3rd down. (Another way of saying that 1st down success matters a lot less to a good offense than to a bad one--DVOA won't pick this up, but a per-series metric will).

But without baselines for comparison, I did a quick analysis just on this game, and it tells quite a different story than DVOA.

The Patriots converted for 1st down 32 times, with 4 punts, 2 turnovers, 2 FG, and 4 TD. That means that they were successful (1st down or TD) on 82% of their offensive series, punting on 9% and committing turnovers on 4%.

The Falcons, on the other hand, had only 14 1st down conversions, with 6 punts, 1 turnover, and 3 TD. So they were successful on only 71% of their series, punted on 25%, and also had turnovers on 4% of their plays.

So both the Patriots and Falcons turned over the ball on 4% of their series, but the Falcons were 2.5X more likely to punt than the Patriots each time they had 1st and 10. They were also 11% less chance of having a positive outcome than the Patriots (and that's neglecting FG's, which are kind of a neutral outcome).

52
by nat :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 1:04pm

I like the analogy to baseball: at bat = set of downs.

To round it out, you'd need some notion of the yards gained beyond the first down marker. Extra yards and and TDs together would figure into an analog to Slugging%.

It's not a perfect match. But I like the concept.

76
by MJK :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 5:13pm

Yes, I've thought of an equivalent to slugging as well, by incorporating yards beyond what was necessary for a first, as you suggested.

The trick is figuring out all the baselines to compare to, and also to figuring out how to boil what are really multi-dimensional mathematical measures into simiple scalars easy for non-math people to understand. Anyway, a project for the offseason.

Ideally, you could use this data to feed some kind of markov model and directly link a series efficiency stat (or set of stats) to a win (or at least a scoring) probability...

79
by nat :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 5:57pm

I'd start simple.

Series Success Rate - that's essentially the DSR in the drive stats.
Yards Per Series - that's the analog to Yards/Drive.
TOs Per Series - that's the analog to TOs/Drive.

Sure, you could have an opponent adjusted version. And, yes, you could work up baselines for field position, time, and score.

But even without those, these stats would give you data that incorporates the different tactics that teams use to move down the field. They're already better (for some purposes) than the drive stats we already get.

81
by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 6:53pm

That's interesting.

85
by sancho.brasil :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 8:30am

The problem is, in baseball, the at-bats always happen in the home plate, so the distance between the starting point and the scoring (end) point is always the same. Although, in football, the end zone could be considered a perfect equivalent to baseball's fourth base (home), the same could not be said about football's "at-bats". The starting point of any drive can happen anywhere on the field.

Best regards.

83
by sancho.brasil :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 7:58am

Shouldn't PUNTS be also considered TURNOVERS? I mean, by punting, a team gives up a play to deliberately TURN the ball OVER to its opponent.

The difference between a punt and a regular turnover (be through fumble, interception, or downs) seems to be based merely in will. In a punt, a team wants to turn the ball over, but would this be substancially different? The common expression "forced to punt" seems to point otherwise.

Best regards.

87
by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 9:39am

The obvious significant difference with a punt is there's in a great majority of cases a significant change of field position. So, no, punts should not be considered turnovers. At all.

94
by rj1 :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 2:59pm

Purely to be pedantic contrarian, neither should interceptions 40 yards downfield.

96
by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 3:29pm

If the int took place on 4th down, or perhaps 3rd (depending on distance to 1st down, field position, score, and time left in game) then such an int would be like a punt. Giving up an opportunity to advance the ball on 2nd, 3rd down, and perhaps even 4th down, however, is a significant cost.

98
by nat :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 5:29pm

I would love it if someone would check or extend my work on this:

I queried at PFR for playoff drives, first downs that were not scores or turnovers, and TDs that were not turnovers. Everything was 1999-2016, since that's the limit of the drive data.

Drives + FDs = Series of Downs
FDs + TDs = successful Series of Downs
(FDs + TDs)/(Drives + FDs) = Series Success Rate (aka SSR or DSR)

I did not try to remove end of half drives or drives where teams were clearly not interested in scoring a TD.

I looked at all playoff teams
I looked at the Patriots in the playoffs (almost all Brady-led series)
I looked at all winning playoff teams
I looked at the Patriots when they won

The average playoff team had a success rate of .669.
The average for winning playoff teams was .705: much higher, as we would expect.
The average for the Patriots (both wins and losses) was .732.
The average for the Patriots wins was .734: not really higher, which is a surprise.

It certainly looks like being good at moving the chains is important to winning. And the Patriots seem consistently very good at moving the chains in the playoffs. That's what they did significantly better than the Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

One counter-strategy is to force a team like the Patriots to get a lot of FDs to get to the end zone, in the hopes that the extra plays will give rise to extra turnovers. That almost worked in this game.

It might be interesting for someone to look at some other teams in the playoffs. Or to put together Yards/Series and TOs/Series data.

42
by t.d. :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 11:44am

While this is the era of classic Super Bowls, it's arguably just as much the era of classic Patriot Super Bowls- they're responsible for an almost half of them (there were really only four great Super Bowls before 2001, and, arguably there have been 4 non-Pats Super Bowls since that were really good games- that means the Pats are responsible for six of the 14 classics)

43
by aces4me :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 12:18pm

Speaking as a Pat's fan I would be completely fine with one or two SuperBowls where the Pats get out to a huge early lead and cruse to the finish. My heart isn't what it used to be.

45
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 12:29pm

I'd be happy to just see them put points on the board in the first quarter.

I'm getting really sick of them looking unprepared in these games, after being so overly prepared in the regular season.

50
by Will Allen :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 12:51pm

The things the first-worlders get sick of are always a source of grim amusement for we mere unwashed slum-dwellers.

49
by RickD :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 12:51pm

They scored first in Super Bowl XX, getting what was at that point the fastest score in SB history. That didn't work out so well...

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by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 02/07/2017 - 1:45pm

I don't think that as long as BB is coach, they'll ever be in a situation where they're that much of an underdog/inferior team.

Still, I'd bet if you go through the DVOA stats for the BB superbowl games, their second halves are generally better than the first. Its something they've largely been able to overcome, but I think its a big part of why their superbowls have all been close.

And it has largely been because their offense, which is usually very good, seems to come out ineffective. I don't know if they're overly conservative, or what.

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by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 5:03am

Yup, I don't think anyone will genuinely consider the Patriots an underdog/inferior until they're in the midst of a 2-10 season and looking awful. Which really isn't going to happen.

Remember going into the opening game of this season against the Cards, the Pats were something like a 14-pt underdog for the first time in years. Primarily because the Cards were in the NFCCG last year and the Patriots didn't have Brady. They showed in that game why you're never going call them as underdogs again.

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by sancho.brasil :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 8:14am

Also, NFC is all about parity. If a team was succesful the previous season, odds are that it will have trouble in the next. They shouldn't have put their chips heavilly on the Cards, either.

Best regards.

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by poplar cove :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 9:40am

Except you conveniently forgot to mention the other 115 games that Belichick was a nfl head coach without Tom Brady as his starting qb, where he went 53-62 overall. There's always that fact too.

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 9:47am

I think an interesting counterfactual is Modell and Cleveland working things out. Up until the disaster unfolded, Belichik appeared to be doing a reasonably good job there. If the Browns stay in Cleveland, who knows what happens?

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by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 10:33am

Cleveland would kill for a run of 53-62.

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by MJK :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 1:26pm

Belichick started 6-10, then improved to 7-9 for two seasons.

Then he controversially cut Bernie Kosar, and the next season went 11-5, won a playoff game (against the Patriots), and lost to a very good Steelers team in the divisional round.

The next season he started 3-1, lost a few to fall to 4-4, and then Modell announced the move, the team collapsed, and Modell fired Belichik.

So it's hard to say. Certainly, the latter half of the last season cannot be held against Belichik, and prior to that he did have the team apparently headed in the right direction. And you can't hold the first year against any head coach who takes over a rebuilding team. On the other hand, the Browns weren't exactly tearing it up before the move was announced, and Belichik had had four years at that point to get things in the right direction. Also, a 6 win and then consecutive 7 win seasons isn't eactly a fast turnaround. If I'm an owner, I would try to be patient, but by Year 3 I better see some improvement.

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by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 1:53pm

I think the difficulty of winning 7 regular season games, especially absent a top-tier qb, is really greatly underestimated.

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by rj1 :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 2:57pm

Well how large is the pool of top tier QBs? If it's 10, then the majority of your games will be against teams without top tier QBs.

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by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 3:50pm

Well . . . 7-9 is slightly under 50%, so, say 18 QBs out of 32 teams? That gives you (rankings by this year's DYAR)
M.Ryan
D.Brees
K.Cousins
D.Prescott
T.Brady
A.Rodgers
D.Carr
B.Roethlisberger
M.Stafford
A.Luck
A.Dalton
A.Smith
M.Mariota
R.Wilson
J.Winston
P.Rivers
S.Bradford
B.Hoyer

Last person on the list aside, that's a reasonable list (Tyrod Taylor, Eli, and Carson Palmer were 19-21). I think "you should win 7 games with at least the first 16 (through Philip Rivers)" isn't too crazy of a proposition.

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by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 02/08/2017 - 3:19pm

It's said that part of Modell's decision for firing Belichick is that Modell was very PR conscious and didn't like how BB handled the media. So in moving to Baltimore, he got in Ted Marchibroda who had coached the Colts when they were there.