Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Feb 2008

Quick Reads: Super Bowl XLII

Here is a link to the final Quick Reads of the season.

In Quick Reads, I discuss the final DVOA and VOA (no opponent adjustments) from Super Bowl XLII. I can't believe we missed this in Audibles at the Line, but one of the standard FO precepts ended up being a major factor in the Giants upset: fumble luck. Three fumbles, all three recovered by the Giants.

To help you judge how DVOA treated this game compared to other close Super Bowls of recent years, I present here the ratings for all of the Super Bowls from the past dozen years decided by seven points or fewer -- plus one additional Super Bowl where our ratings say that the loser outplayed the winner. Note that "loser outplayed the winner" and "the wrong team won the game" are two different ideas. This does not represent the belief that the wrong team won any of these games. The team that has more points at the end of 60 minutes is the winner, not the team with the higher VOA rating.

However, the fact is that the Super Bowl is one game, like any other game. Upsets happen all the time in professional football. Over the long haul, Team X is better than Team Y, but for one day, Team Y is clearly better than Team X. (Jets 19, Steelers 16 -- or perhaps Vikings 41, Giants 17.) The fact that this takes place in February rather than October doesn't change the fact that 16 games are far more predictible than one -- not to mention the fact that 82 games are more predictible than 16, and 162 are more predictible than 82.

The numbers here are in three forms. First, DVOA, with opponent adjustments based on the regular season. Second, VOAf, which is VOA (no opponent adjustments) but STILL including all fumbles equal. Third, VOA, with no opponent adjustments and only lost fumbles penalized in the system. (Special teams fumbles are treated as equal in all three, I didn't have time to create separate special teams "fumbles not equal" numbers.)

There are a number of readers who are unhappy about the way our numbers have judged the Giants over the course of this season, and they are not going to be happy now. Sorry, these are the numbers. If you think that I change the numbers to make the Giants look "lucky," you are entitled to that opinion. If you think that I change the numbers to make the 2003 Carolina Panthers look good, you are also entitled to that opinion.

DVOA: Opponent Adjustments,
All Fumbles Equal
TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
NYG 47% 6% -43% -2%
NE 6% 10% 3% -1%
PIT 21% 0% -14% 6%
SEA 37% 23% -18% -5%
NE 64% 21% -31% 12%
PHI 1% -5% -7% 0%
NE -1% 29% 24% -6%
CAR 24% 40% 24% 8%
NE 60% 34% -12% 13%
STL -2% 19% 22% 1%
STL 44% 75% 19% -12%
TEN -7% 16% 14% -9%
DEN 36% 26% 2% 12%
GB 17% 22% 3% -2%
VOAf: No Opponent Adjustments,
All Fumbles Equal
TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
NYG -12% -3% 6% -2%
NE 9% 6% -3% -1%
PIT -10% -7% 10% 6%
SEA 12% 10% -7% -5%
NE 43% 16% -14% 12%
PHI -31% -14% 16% 0%
NE -2% 24% 19% -6%
CAR 4% 19% 24% 8%
NE 7% 14% 20% 13%
STL 7% 20% 14% 1%
STL 10% 47% 26% -12%
TEN -31% 26% 47% -9%
DEN 18% 22% 16% 12%
GB -8% 16% 22% -2%
VOA: No Opponent Adjustments,
Only Lost Fumbles Penalized
TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
NYG 3% 6% 1% -2%
NE -5% 1% 6% -1%
PIT -10% -7% 10% 6%
SEA 12% 10% -7% -5%
NE 41% 11% -18% 12%
PHI -29% -18% 11% 0%
NE 4% 24% 13% -6%
CAR -3% 13% 24% 8%
NE 7% 14% 20% 13%
STL 7% 20% 14% 1%
STL 15% 58% 31% -12%
TEN -36% 31% 58% -9%
DEN 19% 18% 11% 12%
GB -9% 11% 18% -2%

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 05 Feb 2008

206 comments, Last at 08 Feb 2008, 2:28am by Tim

Comments

1
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 12:56am

Doubling down is an interesting approach here.

2
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 12:57am

"There are a number of readers who are unhappy about the way our numbers have judged the Giants over the course of this season, and they are not going to be happy now."

Should have added-- Dude, we won the Super Bowl. I think we are going to be quite happy!

"Sorry, these are the numbers."

And I thought the numbers were 17-14, and 18-1...

3
by doktarr (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:24am

I would argue that VOAf would be the best judge of "who outplayed who on that given day", not adjusting for opponent. Aaron may not be willing to say "should have won", but I'll go ahead and say that.

Anyway, by that measure, three Super Bowls have been won by the team that played more poorly, with one too close to call. The Pittsburgh one doesn't surprise me too much, but NE/NYG and NE/CAR do.

4
by M.C. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:28am

Statistics are only useful for a large sample. To look at one game, it's really not that meaningful.

On the other hand, the numbers do reflect that the game was close - and you don't need to be a genius to know that Patriots almost won the game.

It's the Giants D that sets the tone of the game - you can't learn that from stats.

5
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:28am

"Aaron may not be willing to say"

That is clearly what he said here.

6
by Eddo (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:37am

Bill Belichick, for some inexplicable reason, decided not to challenge the decision to give the recovery to the Giants.
Aaron, you also echo this in Audibles, and I tend to disagree. While it did appear at first that Woods recovered the fumble, subsequent replays showed that, while Woods was indeed first to fall on the ball, Bradshaw did get his arm underneath Woods before Woods could have secured sole possession.
Therefore, while it very well may have been that Woods recovered and was down by contact, there is almost no way I could see Mike Carey overturning the call on the field. Had Belichick challenged, it would have been a classic case of a coach challenging a call he wished had gone his way, not a call he actually believed could get overturned.
------
As to the VOA for the game, I would have figured the Giants would have come out on top (the Patriots had too many three-and-outs, it seemed), but it doesn't really surprise me that the Patriots rated higher. What does surprise me is that the Giants defenses rates below average (above 0%). Understanding that there is no opponent adjustment, they still had five sacks and forced some three-and-outs. I imagine they are hurt by the fact that the Patriots were 2-for-2 in the red zone and had several long third down conversions.
All in all, I think this game may have proved more about the Patriots than about the Giants. It showed the Patriots were not the infallible juggernaut that so many painted them to be. And while I truly believe the Giants are a better team than their regular season DVOA indicates (but they were mediocre during the regular season - something "clicked" for them beginning in week 17), they are clearly not better than the Patriots. New England played either their worst or second worst game of the season, and the Giants still needed a last-minute touchdown to win. That is not the mark of a great team.
However, congratulations to the Giants and to their fans. I was rooting hard for them last night and was very glad to see them win. Hopefully we have more exciting Super Bowls like this one in the coming years.

7
by Sergio (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:42am

I'm sorry, but how on earth do the Giants get a defensive 6% VOAf for Sunday's game?

They limited the Patriots to 17 points, forced a fumble, had 5 sacks, and a pretty decent 3rd down conversion %. And VOA thinks they were below average?

I'm sure they wouldn't get anywhere near the -43% DVOA awards them (which also seems low to me, but whatever), but 6% VOAf?

Something's wrong here.

8
by Sergio (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:56am

re: 6

[T]he Giants [...] are clearly not better than the Patriots. New England played either their worst or second worst game of the season, and the Giants still needed a last-minute touchdown to win. That is not the mark of a great team."

I think that the Patriots played their worst or second worst game of the season *because* the Giants completely disrupted their offense. About the only time the offenses clicked was on their scoring drives; at the beginning, and when the defenses were tired. With the NY offense / NE defense, that's about as expected - they Giants have an above-average unit, but so do the Pats - but on the other side of the ball, it was a huge surprise. I don't think you can (or should) diminish that by saying that the Patriots "played their worst game". I think a more appropriate take would be "the Giants played their best game" - and yeah, there's a difference between them.

I think that, throughout the season, the Patriots were the ridiculously superior team. However, as of now (meaning not only yesterday, but should they play again tomorrow, for instance), the Giants are on par with this NE team.

I don't know. I don't mean to imply any tweaking of the numbers to purposely rate down the Giants, but if the numbers say their defense was below average after *that* defensive performance... It was impressive enough in and out of itself, before you even consider it was the freakin' 2007 Patriots getting stopped cold.

9
by RickD (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:01am

Perhaps in calculating Toomer's stats, the push-in-the-face play should have been subtracted?

Sorry, but if we're going to talk about "luck", we might also want to talk about flags never thrown. I just find it hard to stomach the notion that you are praising Toomer when his biggest catch was bs.

The weakness of DVOA/VOA is seen with the problem with Moss's numbers. Moss would have been wide open on the third down pass if Brady had not underthrown the pass to a point where the defenders could catch up. Given how easily Moss burned the Giants' D Week 17 (two plays in a row!), I was quite disappointed this option was not tested more by "genius" Josh McDaniels.

10
by Sergio (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:02am

Oh, and re:3, I think that's just wrong. Of course you're going to play worse against a particularly great opponent; the whole purpose of DVOA is to take that (among other factors) into consideration, so what would otherwise be a fine, but not by any means astonishing, defensive performance, is taken with the proper perspective.

Anyone can hold the Miami Dolphins to 17 points, get 5 sacks, etc. Not every defense can get the same results against the most prolific offense in NFL history, and that alone is enough to say the Giants outplayed the Patriots yesterday, by a large margin.

11
by admin :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:09am

Regarding the Giants' defensive rating: If you count the Watson DPI, the Patriots converted 8 of 15 third-down opportunities, including two third-and-13s and a third-and-10. During the regular season, no NFL team allowed a third-down conversion rate over 50%. The Giants converted 8 of 17 on third down which is also pretty damn impressive.

12
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:30am

Disclaimer-- if this post appears to be arguing with DVOA over the Giants, I apologize. I really couldn't care less if DVOA says the Pats outplayed the Giants (they didn't) or not.

I can see the rationale for penalizing the Giants offense for the fumbles that they recovered all of. But honestly-- why would you credit the Pats defense with them?

Take the Bradshaw fumble. Did the Pats do anything at all to cause that fumble? No. While fumbling is a characteristic of teams and players, I find it hard to conceptualize that certain teams make it more likely that their opponents will muff handoffs. To my mind, that play should certainly count against the Giants offense because of the risk of turnover. However, somehow giving a bump to the Pats D there seems wrong to me-- they didn't really do anything but watch the Giants screw up, which was totally not in their control. Why would that count in their favor?

The other fumbles, the defense should get credit. They both came on sacks where the defender did something to put the ball at risk.

Same thing goes for the interception. Absolutely that was a bad play by the Giants offense, and should count against it when figuring out how well the Giants offense did. But if Smith holds on to the ball, as he should have, then the Pats don't get that interception. They did have to catch the ball, so at least they did something (unlike with the Bradshaw fumble), but they didn't have to do much.

I guess I am saying I don't think that the whole concept of it being a zero sum game between the offense and defense before opponent adjustments is necessarily the best approach. It just feels like it is missing something. Perhaps it is missing something that could not be applied reasonably within DVOA because the information is not always present, but that would just be a limitation in how DVOA could be calculated.

Same thing for drops and other plays that could/should have been made. Take, for example, the play where Manning avoided a sack and then lofted the ball 3 feet over the head of a wide-open Plaxico. Once Manning avoided the pressure, that was an absolutely wide-open pass. It should have been a huge gain, and wasn't merely because of something Manning did, not because of anything at all that the Pats D did. Similarly, why should a defense get credit for when a receiver flat out drops the ball?

The Pats defense played well yesterday. They did not play as well as the Giants defense. They were helped out by a few things the Giants offense did, things the Pats had no control over, that made the Pats defensive DVOA look better than it should have. In other words, I think the Giants offensive DVOA is probably right, I think the Pats offensive DVOA is probably right, but the Pats defensive DVOA is probably overstated.

And if the same sort of thing happens throughout a season, which was the case with this Giants team that had a penchant for dropped passes and for turnovers in their own end (many times unforced), then that might cause it to appear that their opponents often did better relatively to them by the numbers than in reality. Might even cause a team to be underrated by DVOA, and have their fans saying "I think DVOA is missing something about this team." Because if you take the VOA numbers for the offenses as-is but take the defenses, and don't credit the Pats fully for that interception, don't credit them for anything on the play where Bradshaw and Manning couldn't get the handoff, don't credit them for the dropped passes-- don't credit the Pats for things they really didn't do anything (and vice-versa)-- I bet that the Giants defense would come out pretty far ahead of the Patriots defense.

Which we all saw with our own eyes, anyway.

13
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:37am

Aaron, I really don't much like using DVOA to decide who outplayed whom in a single game.

The thing is that the teams were playing to win, not to rack up DVOA. If you told the Giants they needed to have a higher DVOA, not higher score, than the Patriots, they might have been able to do it. But since that wasn't their goal, you can't really say the Patriots "outplayed" them.

I dislike the Giants trolls that keep hammering on how the Giants didn't get any respect, but I don't think that the VOA comparison is particularly useful or necessary.

14
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:49am

My apologies for saying DVOA instead of VOA in my previous post. So it should read more like this:

"If you told the Giants they needed to have a higher VOA, not higher score, than the Patriots, they might have been able to do it."

I think it also applies to the Steelers. At some point, they had the game won, and they were happy. They didn't know they were behind in VOA, and they didn't care. It's absurd to go back afterwards and claim they were outplayed because they didn't make up that gap in VOA, and instead settled on hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

VOA works in the long run because the situation where the winning team posts a worse VOA is pretty rare, and things tend to average out. But in the short run, you can't use it to assert that a losing team outplayed a winning team.

15
by Marxist (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 3:06am

I don't know how anyone could have watched the game and not seen that the Giants had some good fortune. Bradshaw ripping the ball out from under Woods was a great play. It was also a lucky play. The pass to Tyree was one you'd expect to be completed about one time in ten, and luck was obviously part of it. Doesn't change the fact that Manning and Tyree made a phenomenal play. Underdogs often need luck to pull an upset. Hopefully people can get that saying a team was lucky does not mean saying that team didn't deserve to win. All the luck in the world wouldn't have helped the Giants if their defense hadn't played its best game of the season.

16
by NF (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 3:36am

Not a Giants fan, but just wanted to point out: DVOA can only account for things that are obviously lucky based on the play-by-play. The interception off of the low pass that bounced up off the hands of a reciever to Ellis Hobbs seems pretty lucky to me, but it is not possible to tell that from the play-by-play or quantify how lucky.

17
by Tim (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 3:51am

Anyone who watched both the Patriots and Giants in the playoffs and paid attention would come away with several obvious conclusions.

First, the Giants pass rush was excellent and forced two of the top two quarterbacks in the league, along with Garcia, to make errant throws and be generally less effective then usual.

Two, Eli Manning was not throwing interceptions and was playing at a much higher level than he had earlier in the year.

As for the Patriots, they were not nearly as impressive in the playoffs as they were earlier in the year when they ran up the score on weak teams to earn their premature reputation as the greatest team of all time. The two teams they played in the playoffs were not nearly as tough as the three that the Giants faced. After all, the Chargers not only played with a cripple at quarterback, they were also missing Tomlinson, the best running back in the league and the engine behind their recent success.

Despite all of this, the Patriots still deserved to be favored, however it was foolish to extrapolate data from early in the season and use that as proof as to why the Patriots were the best team of all time and the Giants the worst. Apparently the Giants realized one key fact which seemed to elude many self-appointed experts; the playoffs are a second season where the results of September and October mean very little.

18
by Matt (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 4:06am

Out of curiosity, did you choose to attribute the fumble to Bradshaw out of belief on sight that it was his fault or were you unsure and decided to give Eli the benefit of the doubt?

19
by Tom D (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 4:23am

Eli's DPAR seems low for the first 3 quarters. I thought driving into the redzone, then petering out got a high DVOA ala the Eagles. It seemed like Eli converted a number of 3rd downs that should have got him a higher DPAR.

Re 9:
They can't adjust for non-calls because they use the NFL's official play-by-play. So unless you want that catch officially ruled incomplete, it happened and DVOA\DPAR has to take it into account. Also, I don't see how Aaron and co can account for bad calls and no-calls because it's not random every time. Fumble recovery has been proven to be random every time, so they can say recovering 3 in a game is good luck.

20
by Matt Saracen - QB1 - Dillon Panthers (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 5:50am

Re Tim #17 - While I agree with you to some extent, Aaron showed that the DVOA of the Giants and the Patriots since week 17 was virtually the same - despite the common fan's view that the Giants were playing really well and the Pats were struggling. Couple that with the data from weeks 1-16 and it is hard to argue that the Giants win was one that could have been foreseen (but I give you credit, you still say the Pats should have been favourites, despite the emphasis on the early season DVOA by Aaron et al).

Interesting too, that Brady still beat Eli in DPAR but they are virtually identical in DPAR/pass.

21
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:46am

"Giants Had Luck On Their Side". LMAO!!! I KNEW that's the way Aaron would play it.

And then, to make it even more hilarious, there's a link to one of his recent columns "Here's How The Patriots Will Blow Out The Giants". It simply doesn't get any better than this. I'm enjoying the various lame attempts to explain this away even more than the game itself.

Allow me to point out the obvious here. If the "worst team to ever reach the Super Bowl" is playing evenly with "the greatest team of all time" then it's really NOT an even game is it? The heavy underdog is really outplaying the overwhelming favorite if both sides are even. I personally thought it was a crime that the Giants were somehow behind after the first half because it was obvious even then they were severely outplaying the Pats.

I especially love the way Aaron stays away from the INT that hit Steve Smith in the hands, having 12 men of the field to extend a Pats drive, the illegal bat penalty that canceled what looked like another scoring drive, and the Eli misfire to a WIDE open Plax that was more incredible than any of Brady's incompletions. You want to lament missed opportunities, you need to look at it for both teams, not just the one you're a fan of.

But I can't say I didn''t completely expect it, and instead of being upset this sort of rationalizing actually makes me feel even better :-)

No, I'm not quite ready to let this go just yet. Maybe after a month or six :-) But seriously, this needs to be a lesson to Aaron and everyone else running the site to not be so arrogant and dismissive of *any* team's chances in *any* playoff game after what's transpired not only this season, but in the last three. It's a lesson I hope they put to good use in next year's postseason.

22
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:56am

Oh BTW in 8 quarters this season it was Pats 52, Giants 52. Just trying to destroy this silly notion that the Pats blew the Giants away the first game or were the vastly superior team of the two. And maybe, just maybe, launch a new and supplemental way of thinking that compares the two teams in a vacuum instead of measuring them by how they did against teams they won't be playing. For example, how the Giants did against the Vikings was completely meaningless because they weren't PLAYING the Vikes in the Super Bowl. So why was that info somehow considered more relevant than how they played against the Pats--the team they WERE playing Sunday?

23
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:00am

Okay, *really* sorry to be hijacking the thread a bit here, but what I'm trying to say is that going into the Super Bowl, did it really matter how superior the Pats were to every other team in the league when, based on actual on-field results they weren't that superior to the Giants, if at all? They weren't playing all those other teams, after all.

Based on results purely between the 2007 Pats and 2007 Giants I'd say each team would take 5 games in a ten game series. I could care less how much the Pats would've whipped say, the Bills or how badly the Giants would've lost to, say, the Redskins. Because the last I checked, those teams weren't in the Super Bowl.

24
by nat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:50am

21:
Even when the Patriots lose the superbowl, their opponents whine. Very gracious and classy.

Nevertheless, congratulations to the Giants on a historical upset. A very exciting game, and an excellent game plan, well played.

As VOA (an unbiased statistical measure - there is no room for a "homer" to fake the stats here. Take the whines elsewhere, please!) shows, the Pats slightly outplayed the Giants, if you assume they had recovered the expected number of the fumbles, but were slightly outplayed considering how the fumbles actually turned out. That seems a perfect description of a game that came down to the last three drives, two of which featured desperation heave-ho passes into coverage. It does not get any closer than this.

Fumble recoveries are - in the larger picture of DVOA stats - treated as a non-repeatable skill, and rightly so. But in a particular game you can see the specific actions that lead to recoveries.

In the fumble-recovery-that-wasn't, it was a brilliant play that saved the ball for the Giants. First, Bradshaw had to get in contact with the ball under Woods quickly enough to leave a smidgen of doubt about Wood's control of the ball. Once he did so, the refs could not blow the play dead, but he still had to pull the ball away from Woods.

In another fumble-that-wasn't-recovered, it was a heads-up play to bat the ball forwards to where a Giant could recover it. It turned out to be a penalty - correctly called - but was still much better than the Patriots recovering. Quick thinking.

So, this was an exciting game that came down to which team won when the ball was up for grabs (including fumbles, the "great leap" catch, missed or made interceptions, etc.)

Well played, Giants. In a close game, you played best when it mattered most.

Congratulations.

25
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 9:03am

#24: No "whining", just pointing out all the things that went wrong for the Giants. If Aaron can do that for his team then I should be allowed to do the same for the other team, no?

And I'm not pretending to be classy. Although I am being more civil than a lot of other people who share my point of view regarding the Pats.

Aaron and the boys need to learn a lesson from this and I think they will.

And again I must insist that if an overwhelming favorite is playing even with a heavy underdog, it really means the underdog is outplaying the favorite badly. They'd have to be to even have a chance to win, right?

Don't give me this revisionist "oh the Pats weren't that great the last 7 games" history--before the game, when people should have said this, it was the juggernaut Pats against the puny Giants. And this site took that angle and ran with it as much as anyone.

26
by Sergio (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 9:14am

re: 11

Is a 6% differential in 3rd down percentage worth 9% VOA? If it is, Aaron, I think the formula is giving it WAY too much weight...

re: 12

I think you're on to something here. Aaron, have you given any thought to a tiered weight on turnovers? I'm not sure how much more you could adjust on fumbles (aside from noting 'reason' in charting), but the INT data is already on the game charting files. Perhaps a lower penalty for 'accidental' INTs (not quite the word I'm looking for, but you know what I mean) would improve the formula?

It makes sense: perhaps a team punished harshly by fluke plays suddenly has its luck evened out, to the point where it looks like a miraculous and inexplicable turnaround. The whole "fumble luck evens out" might extend to INTs too, provided you're talking about fluky ones.

Perhaps the problem I'm seeing with VOA is that, since we rarely see it, we can only go by what DVOA points out. I think perhaps the opponent adjustments are doing a very heavy lifting here, effectively compensating for VOA's limitations (which is, after all, their job) but clouding them at the same time.

27
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 9:41am

Thanks, Sergio. I mean, the idea that some things are not zero sum is already in VOA-- for special teams, I believe. Unless I am mistaken, for example, Gostkowski's OOB kickoff counts against the Pats ST but not for the Giants ST. Why should it? The Giants did nothing there.

Well, why should the Pats get a defensive adjustment for a half of a fumble recovery on the Bradshaw fumble? Why should they even get credit for stopping the Giants on that play? They did nothing. It was purely a negative play for the offense, not a play for the defense.

Anyhow, DVOA is a wonderful way of distilling a lot of the distortions from games to getting to team quality, but it isn't perfect. After all, by the DVOA numbers, the team that gained more yards per play in the passing game (and had just 5 points lower in completion percentage) and more yards per play in the running game and who had a better combined third-and-fourth down conversion rate, who in addition to sacking the other quarterback more often also hit him significantly more frequently and more violently, who had the same number of forced fumbles, and despite making quite a few bone-head unforced errors was actually outplayed. And was actually outplayed on defense.

Nope.

Giants fans shouldn't be upset with the VOA (not DVOA-- DVOA showed the Giants significantly outplaying the Pats) numbers. Aaron should be upset with the DVOA numbers because in this case they show that while the system is good, it's still flawed.

28
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 9:47am

"The Giants converted 8 of 17 on third down which is also pretty damn impressive."

The Giants converted 8 of 16, plus 1 of 1 on 4th down.

29
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:04am

Just re-checked the play-by-play. Counting Watson as a conversion, Giants were 8-16 on third and 1-1 on 4th. The Patriots were 8-15 on third and, not counting Blackburn, 0-2 on 4th.

Another VOA oddity-- it is saying that the team that managed to get into the red zone twice (scoring both times) outplayed a team that managed to get into the red zone five times (scoring twice). All while turnovers were even and while the Pats supposedly had slightly better special teams.

That is more than a tad bit counter-intuitive.

30
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:05am

Pardon me-- scoring thrice, two touchdowns and a figgie.

31
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:24am

Bah. "red zone five times" Make that four times. Still twice as often. And it wasn't starting field position that did it. They had one starting on the 40 (thanks to the OOB kick) which pairs up nicely with the Pats' starting near midfield after Maroney's runback.

But the other three times the Giants made it to the Pats' red zone, they started on their own 23, 20, and 17.

The other time the Pats made the red zone, they started from near their own 20.

So two other times more than the Pats, the Giants took the ball from crap field position and move it into the red zone.

Yet the Pats defense outplayed the Giants defense, according to VOA.

32
by Doug Farrar :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:34am

#21 -- First of all, FOX writes the headlines. We don't. The reference is to fumble luck, not luck overall. And that wouldn't be the first example of a cringe-worthy misrepresentation of the article below it. Second, several FO writers called the Pats beatable in the Week 17 Audibles right after the Giants almost beat them. We had said at the time, and at various times during New England's "hanging-on-by-a-string" final few regular season games and through the postseason, that they were vulnerable in certain and specific areas. AND, that if those vulnerabilities were exploited, the Patriots would lose at some point. During Aaron's Super Bowl preview podcast with Simmons, he was asked to make the case for the Giants, and he did so without any hint of dismissal.

The consensus seemed to be that with two weeks to prepare, the Patriots would find ways to right the ship and play as they had in the first half of the season. That was my opinion, and that's why, as I said in Audibles, that I picked the Pats to win by 30. That was not in any way an implication that the Giants wouldn't meet the challenge -- we had all seen them do it before and Aaron specifically mentioned that in the podcast, but that it was difficult to believe that a team could collapse so completely on a stage they were so used to.

As we also said in this week's Audibles, there is no historical precedent for this. There is no historical precedent for one team in a Super Bowl rising to this level over a four-game span and another team falling so far from such a high perch at the same time. Even the '68 Colts beat the holy crap out of the Browns in the NFL Championship game. The consensus was that either the Pats would win a blowout, or the Giants would win a close one. And the FO view on that podcast, per Aaron, was that if both teams played as they had in that week 17 matchup, the Pats would win. Well, they didn't. The Giants played better -- especially when they needed to -- and New England didn't. It's as simple as that. There are things that DVOA does and does not do. And we've never said any differently, as much as we try to improve it over time as an indicator of probability.

Screw it. You're going to pick and choose words, and format them in ways, that allow you to ride this as long as you want to. And I think we all know that this is more about you crowing that any desire for FO to derive any sort of lesson from this. Hey, knock yourself out. But the inference that FO was arrogant and dismissive of the Giants' chances is simply not true. To say that we didn't see this coming is entirely fair. To say that there was some sort of ulterior fanboy motive in missing it, and another one in trying to twist the analysis after the fact, is unbelievably insulting. And absolutely untrue.

33
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:36am

Holy cow, I didn't even realize this before.

Do you realize that the Patriots only got inside the Giants 40 yard line a grand total of three times in the entire game?

34
by BillB (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:39am

What's great about this site is watching Schatz pervert numbers to satisfy his worldview. If he ever admitted being wrong, I probably would lose interest.

Aaron, consider this: Bellichik is never going to consider hiring you ( as Epstein did with Voros McKracken) unless you create value going foward, instead of rationalizing mistakes of the past. Your bias is marginalizing your future.

35
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:42am

"And I think we all know that this is more about you crowing that any desire for FO to derive any sort of lesson from this."

Doug, take a step back and re-read my posts.

I don't think that is a fair interpretation of my posts. At all.

36
by andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:43am

I'd be interested in seeing a breakdown of the numbers by down.... all game long I thought the Patriots were awful on first down, average on second and good on third, but their inability to get a good down and distance on the first downs that wore on them. Yes they converted two third and thirteens, but they got into third and thirteens in the first place.

Regarding fumble luck... there seems several categories of fumbles. There are the ones where the fumble bounces right to someone who grabs it and/or falls on it without much contesting. These seem to be pure luck based on the random bouncing of the ball.

The others are the kind where multiple people are there before anyone can secure the ball, and then it becomes a struggle in the pile-up. I don't know if these are as random, though it certainly does not seem a controlled scenario. I can't buy into the cliche that it is recovered by the team that "wants it more".

37
by Doug Farrar :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:48am

Gerry, that wasn't a response to your posts. That's why I led with the post number (21). I regret that you thought it was, because it wasn't meant to be directed at you in any way.

38
by JasonK (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:50am

#9:

The weakness of DVOA/VOA is seen with the problem with Moss’s numbers. Moss would have been wide open on the third down pass if Brady had not underthrown the pass to a point where the defenders could catch up. Given how easily Moss burned the Giants’ D Week 17 (two plays in a row!), I was quite disappointed this option was not tested more by “genius” Josh McDaniels.

Moss was about 60 yards downfield at that point. Brady didn't underthrow it-- Moss just didn't get any separation until he was outside of his quarterback's range. The Giants' DBs played that pass well. Moss is always going to win a footrace eventually, but Webster and Wilson got enough of a headstart that he couldn't pass them before he was so far downfield that his QB couldn't reach him.

I'm sure that there were more plays called to test the Giants' deep coverage, but they ended with Brady either checking down or going down. The OL didn't hold up its end of the bargain.

39
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:52am

My bad, Doug. Sorry for losing context in your reply.

40
by Just asking (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:55am

Is Dolfan a Giants fan or Dolphin fan?

41
by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 11:04am

#40 - I think he's STEPHEN YANG!

42
by Al (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 11:08am

#21: "the illegal bat penalty that canceled what looked like another scoring drive"

You're joking here, right? The illegal bat penalty prevented a turnover and kept the Giants' drive alive. Without the illegal bat penalty it's, at worst, Patriots' ball at the 30, instead of NY ball at the 39.

43
by nat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 11:10am

Aaron,

It's time you stepped up and stated exactly the difference in the meaning and use of DVOA and VOA. Otherwise, we have to put up with statements like "DVOA showed the Giants significantly outplaying the Pats". It's getting boring to explain again and again that DVOA doesn't mean that. VOA is the stat that compares two teams on the day they played, not DVOA.

Still, here goes.

DVOA is how well your team played, if and only if you assume the other team played at their season-long DVOA level. For example, if you assume the Patriots played at their usual high level, the Giants had a great game. If you assume the Giants were their usual average selves, the Patriots reverted to near-average play. So: both were great or both were average or both were somewhere in between - either way a close game.

VOA is how good your team's play-for-play results were, assuming your opponent was a typical, average opponent. It can also be interpreted as how well your team did compared to that opponent on that day. It makes no statement on how well you had to play to get those results.

The best use of these stats is to use VOA to compare two teams on the day they played, to use a range from VOA to DVOA to describe the overall quality of play in that game, and to use that range or the season-long or weighted DVOA to anticipate future results against other opponents, depending on whether you think your team has fundamentally changed in nature.

As for VOA with and without fumble adjustments, that can be used to show how much of the quality of play on loose balls factored into the VOA comparison. In this superbowl, it's the difference between the Patriots outplaying the Giants by 9 to 12% (not 21%, that would be double counting most plays) in VOA (assuming typical fumble recovery play), versus the Giants outplaying the Patriots by 3 to 5% in VOA.

It is fair and accurate, and a correct interpretation of DVOA and VOA, to say that the Giants made up most of the perceived gap in the teams through improved play in normal situations, and put it over the top by being the better team when the ball was loose.

Congrats to the Giants. It was sooooo close, decided in the final minute. In the end, you had the better game, and deservedly won.

Congrats to the Patriots for a great season. You were less than a minute away from 19-0. No team has come close to that. That's small consolation, but not a small accomplishment.

44
by akachazz (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 11:37am

I love FO; it's my main source for football analysis. That said, I think my opinion on the extent to which it is appropriate to use numbers (traditional or sabermetric) over what we see is a little different from that of Aaron.

I think the world of DVOA and DPAR (I mean, don't you guys have the best record at predicting teams records?). But I think a majority of their value is as a predictive indicator. I just can't make myself care very much which team had better numbers in a given game, if I can't use that info to help me guess who will win the next one.

And I think the idea of "fumble luck" is the epitome of this. In my opinion, there is very little luck in fumbles. Somebody has to strip that ball, or drop that ball. Someone has to see it, and fall on it. I don't think that the Giants were especially "lucky" in their recovery of fumbles on Sunday (I am a patriots fan). I applaud FO for recognizing that fumble recovery is a NON-PREDICTIVE indicator, and that if the Patriots and Giants had a rematch tonight, that I should pick the Patriots. But citing fumble luck in a discussion of the last game of the season just seems kind of a waste of time. Sometimes I feel as though the numbers are treated as the end and not the means. An I just don't see the end citing "fumble luck" serves here.

I've loved quick reads all season. I just guess that when there is nothing left to predict it doesn't seem as useful.

Anyways, thank you guys for all your great work this season. And Aaron I respect you going out there and showing your numbers even when you know you're going to get taunted a lot. I've gone by your numbers pretty steadily all season... just seems like right now is when they carry the least weight.

45
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 11:45am

On further reflection, I also wonder about the VOA special teams numbers.

Take away the drives that started because of a turnover and the last kneel down one. The average Giants starting field position was the 30 yard line (it works out the same if you count the turnover on downs after 4th and 13 or not). Meanwhile the Patriots average starting field position was the 22. That is pretty significant. If the Pats were outplaying the Giants both offensively and defensively and to a near-draw on special teams, how could that be?

There were three fumbles, all recovered by the Giants, but how much did they really help in the grand scheme of things? If the Patriots recovered Brady's fumble, it would have been second and seventeen on the NE 49 with only 22 seconds left and only one timeout. Possibly they could have gotten in position to score-- but I think even with the Patriots awesome offense it is not probable.

Had the Bradshaw-bat fumble been recovered by the Pats, what would the net result have been? Assuming the Pats would have fallen on it rather than running it back (and this is nothing but an assumption) they would have had the ball on their 29. Two plays later they got the ball on their 11-- a net difference of 18 yards. Meaningful, but not overwhelmingly different.

So yeah, the Giants may have had good fortune recovering 3 of 3 fumbles. But the only one that made a huge difference was the fumbled handoff between Manning and Bradshaw. That was huge, lucky and impactful since the Pats would have had a short field. But then, their INT was pretty huge, lucky and impactful.

46
by Ted Max (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 11:47am

One of the things that makes it impossible to know what "should" have happened is the sequentiality of it.

Yes, the Giants got lucky recovering the fumbles. Does that mean if they had not recovered the fumbles, they'd have lost? Of course not.

Perhaps they'd have made OTHER big plays to compensate for the fact that they were losing fumbles. Perhaps the Patriots would have made other BAD plays after getting overexcited about recovering fumbles.

There's just no way to know what SHOULD have happened if in some cosmic statistical plane, the Patriots outplayed the Giants or vice-versa.

What did happen is what happened. This piece, fanboyism or not, says something true about what DID happen: The fumbles recoveries helped the Giants win this game.

What would have happened if they hadn't recovered the fumbles, we'll never know. The statistics can't tell us, either. As the saying goes, that's why they play the games.

Otherwise, it's just a battle of spreadsheets, and who would watch that?

47
by mush (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 11:52am

This game was Manning's season in a nutshell. Through three quarters, he was erratic and unable to sustain drives, completing just 50 percent of his passes with -3.7 DPAR. In the fourth quarter, he was the great quarterback he was throughout the playoffs, completing 65 percent of his passes with no turnovers for a 7.8 DPAR.

That's one way to say it. I'd present it this way: He was very sharp in the first quarter, not good at all for the next 30 minutes, then electric in the final period. And that opening period (albeit it's just one drive) was very critical - lots of third-down conversions, points, kept New England off the field, set a tone. When you're a heavy underdog, the beginning of a game has major importance attached to it.

48
by shocker (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 12:11pm

i think the problem the entire year with the giants ratings is that, in general, they've done a very good job of not letting turnovers hurt them. It results in things like the fumbles dragging down the VOA. Throughout the season, Eli threw a lot of picks where the defense stepped up and didn't let up points. The resulting ugly wins made a bad game for VOA. You can pick points where both teams made mistakes or had a bit of luck, but i think the general idea is the game was razor close (like a SB should be) and the giants just made the plays when they needed to.

Unfortunatly, there is a bit of sentiment where the giants mistakes were forced by the pats, but the pats mistakes were their own. The game was close, and you have to give the giants their due for shutting down such a historically prolific offense and making the plays they needed. I doubt it's bias, the current formula is what it is, but i don't think it's given a wholly accurate description of the giants most of the season. Or, the ugly way they won is just an aberration that's hard to sum up in numbers.

49
by fish shure (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 12:15pm

I'm so glad the Super Bowl is over. Frankly, the incredibly petty level of discourse has really hurt my level of interest in this site. Not from the writers, whom I think are basically the same as always - the commenters have simply been obnoxious jerks. If I never see the word "bias" again in someone's post, I'll be a happy man. A part of me hopes that FO just starts banning people next year.

On the game: Interesting that VOA thinks the Patriots outplayed the Giants (slightly). I agree with some of the others who suspect that it can't accurately measure the degree of non-sack pressure that Brady was receiving. He got sacked a number of times, but was heavily pressured on nearly every throw. That credit should probably go to the Giants defense, but it's impossible to pick up from the play-by-play account.

50
by asg (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 12:31pm

Apropos of nothing, did the NFL Network ever do its "Four months ago" ad shtick this year? And if not, wtf?!

51
by BillB (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 12:33pm

Fumble Luck?

On the muffed handoff, it was not luck that Bradshaw got his arm in there and ripped the ball back either. He's a much tougher man than those he opposed. That's just one reason why the Giants are better than the massaged numbers can describe.

42: The patriots were not going to get that ball either. And that was, again, Bradshaw beating the defenders at controlling a loose ball.

Bradshaw is rookie who has dropped a few. He was a very high risk of doing it the SB. I'm sure he was well coached/prepared to both minimize the risk of fumbling and, if it happened, to act aggressively to prevent the opposition from getting it. Call me crazy.

52
by mush (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 12:55pm

Apropos of nothing, did the NFL Network ever do its “Four months ago” ad shtick this year?

That spot played Sunday. It wasn't as clever as usual. They had a scene dissing Eli (punctuated by the speaker doing a giant nasal snort), a scene dissing Moss (uttered by a chubby speaker who was wearing clothes much too small for him), and a wedding groom talking about the Bears going back to the Super Bowl. The first two scenes were curiously constructed; it's almost as if the league were making fun of its fans.

53
by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:07pm

OK, I haven't really gone and taken anyone to task yet, so now's as good of a time as any.

Anyone who watched both the Patriots and Giants in the playoffs and paid attention would come away with several obvious conclusions.

That's true, we didn't watch any of the games. We were busy massaging DVOA to put out Patriots-positive data. "WHAT?!@? GIANTS BY FOUR?! THIS IS NONSENSE, MAD MACHINE!"

First, the Giants pass rush was excellent and forced two of the top two quarterbacks in the league, along with Garcia, to make errant throws and be generally less effective then usual.

Sure, the Giants pass rush that sacked Garcia once, Romo twice, and Favre exactly zero times. They were better than sheer sacks indicate, but they were by no means the force that they were in the Super Bowl. If by "errant throws", you mean interceptions, I can't get on that meme's back, either. The interception that comes to mind is Favre's in overtime, which was a route miscommunication and had nothing to do with pressure. The Garcia interception I remember off the top of my head is an ill-advised lob into the end zone to try and hit Galloway, which was a coverage interception, not by any means a pressure one. The Tampa Bay game article mentions nothing about pressuring Garcia. Romo's interception was a desperate fourth-down throw on the last play of the game. It had little to do with pressure, although the Giants did have a sack on each of the last two Cowboys drives, in obvious passing situations. The AP story mentions nothing about pressure, instead noting,

"Dallas scored 45 and 31 points in winning the first two meetings with New York by loading up on big plays, usually because Romo did a great job avoiding the blitzers who racked up an NFL-best 53 sacks.

This time, the Giants were content to give up short yardage and the Cowboys accepted the invitation, especially with Marion "The Barbarian" Barber joining the starting lineup for the first time.

The Cowboys stuck to their slow-go game plan to open the second half, but the mistakes began biting them. A dropped pass in the end zone and false start forced Dallas to kick a field goal after a drive that burned the first 8:07 of the third quarter.

While it got more interesting, the caliber of play didn't improve. Dallas made more sloppy mistakes and New York missed chances for clock-killing drives."

Again, nothing about Romo being pressured.

Favre's first interception was a bomb that, again, wasn't pressure-related. Not a single word in the AP story has anything to do with pressuring Favre, which it shouldn't, because the Giants never sacked him. So, in short, your first comment is absolute bullshit. But we'll go on to the next two.

Two, Eli Manning was not throwing interceptions and was playing at a much higher level than he had earlier in the year.

Which, of course, we pointed out in both the NFC Championship Game preview and the Super Bowl preview. But, hey, don't let that get in the way of a good muckrake.

As for the Patriots, they were not nearly as impressive in the playoffs as they were earlier in the year when they ran up the score on weak teams to earn their premature reputation as the greatest team of all time.

This is ironic, because after all, DVOA is a metric which accounts for the strength of an opponent, but hey, remember, BIAS! So we can't take DVOA seriously here. Let's use points scored and points against, which is accepted as a good indicator of future performance. The Patriots were the best team in the first half of the year by subtracting PA from PF by over 100 points. In the second half, they were only the best by five or six points, but they were still the best. Yes, I know, the Giants got affected by weather. So did the Patriots. The conditions against the Jets were worse than any of the Giants games, I assure you, as a Giants fan. But, on the other hand, I'm a self-appointed expert and biased towards New England.

The two teams they played in the playoffs were not nearly as tough as the three that the Giants faced. After all, the Chargers not only played with a cripple at quarterback, they were also missing Tomlinson, the best running back in the league and the engine behind their recent success.

Really? The Jaguars, who I could've sworn I read a dozen "built for the playoffs" and "the team no one wants to play" stories about? Really? And the Buccaneers weren't missing a full-speed Joey Galloway, and both Tony Romo and Terrell Owens weren't knocked up for the Cowboys? Did I imagine all that stuff? Was I in the DVOA cave stroking my Patriots pennant? I gotta start watching the playoffs. I also forgot that the Patriots, who apparently were a different team in the playoffs, beat the #2 and #3 teams by DVOA (granted, a horribly biased and untrue metric) in the regular season, #4 in the playoffs, and #6 in both. Not to take anything away from my Giants, but that's nonsense.

Despite all of this, the Patriots still deserved to be favored, however it was foolish to extrapolate data from early in the season and use that as proof as to why the Patriots were the best team of all time and the Giants the worst.

That's true. Because, after all, the Colts ran their great second half and momentum from the end of the regular season into a huge playoff run last year.

Wa-wh-what? They didn't have a good second half? To predict their playoff success, we would have had to extrapolate data from early in the season and use that as proof to why the Colts might have been the best team in football? Nah, man. Look at the Giants! They are a team that shows all of DVOA's biased, ugly, green flaws!

Apparently the Giants realized one key fact which seemed to elude many self-appointed experts; the playoffs are a second season where the results of September and October mean very little.

If I have any cachet as an expert, it would be because regardless of whether I'm right or wrong, when I make a statement, I actually do have some sort of logic behind it.

I don't have time to break down every comment like this, and I don't discount the possibility that there might be things about the Giants that DVOA doesn't accurately measure, but there's also possibilities about every team that DVOA doesn't measure. It's not a perfect metric because it doesn't have perfect information. We were getting yelled at for the same nonsense about the Rams in the pre-season, and that prediction turned out to be spot-freaking-on. If you're going to point out that DVOA didn't include something, that's fine. If you're going to be smarmy when you're doing, at least make sure your points are right.

54
by John Doe (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:08pm

The Giants outplayed the patriots. The patriots had an 'off' game because brady got hit 23 times, 5 of them sacks. He had the ball ripped out of his hand on one occasion. He was confused and had happy feet after the first quarter. The only drive he looked good on was his final touchdown drive.

The 'Best Offense in the NFL Ever' was held to 14 points. So kind of you to remove the fumble from Eli Aaron, now how about the INT? How do Eli's numbers look without the interception that was entirely Steve Smiths fault? Count it as incomplete, I'm interested if Brady still outplayed Manning.

I could agree the Patriots offense as a whole outplayed the giants offense. However the Giants defense made up for that.

Pats fans will blame this loss on Brady's ankle, 'poor luck', anything but the simple fact that Brady got rattled. He could have won that game with any one of his errant throws. Fortunately, he was listening for Tucks footsteps instead of focusing on the play.

Their first game was decided by three points and so was the second. Seems to me that by the end of the year the Giants, with good Eli, and Pats were equals. Maybe the Pats older LBs and Harrison can't handle an entire season, who can say.

The best thing (for me) is the Giants are a young team with a solid offensive line and a dominant defensive line. Our new GM produced a draft class including Aaron Ross, Steve Smith, Kevin Boss, and Ahmed Bradshaw. We're only going to get better, assuming Manning remains an above average QB.

55
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:11pm

The real luck that mattered in this game came on the Manning-Tyree play. While there was undoubted skill involved, Manning was lucky to break free, lucky that when he spun out he did to where there was a clear area, and Tyree was lucky to hold on to it while falling backwards and losing grip of it with one hand.

Skillful? Sure. But also damned lucky. They redo that play, including having three defensive linemen out of four obliterating four out of five offensive linemen, and having decent coverage on the top wideouts for the Giants, 1000 times they might get the completion once.

And they got it.

56
by Matt (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:15pm

BillB: The concept of fumble luck is that nobody has control over where a fumble goes - the ball bounces in fairly random directions, comes out at fairly random times that determine which mob it's in, etcetera.

Ahmad Bradshaw made great plays really on both fumbles - yanking the ball out from underneath a man nearly twice his size and slapping away the one he couldn't get - but just like a field goal returned for a touchdown, they were great plays with a huge luck aspect attatched by VOA, and rightly so as it isn't predictive of future events.

57
by smashmouth football (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:19pm

Overall I think the VOA/DVOA numbers seem to correspond with my subjective impressions of the game. My question might seem a little arcane, and goes back a few years to 1999-2000. I seem to recall the StL-Tenn Super Bowl as a tightly fought defensive battle with a fairly low score, especially considering how explosive the Rams offense was that season (IMHO those Rams, the 1998 Vikings, the Colts of the last few seasons, and the current version of the Patriots are clearly the best offenses of the 16-game-per-season-don't-let-the-defense-even-breathe-on-the-wide-receivers era.). So I wonder how is it possible that Tennessee's defensive DVOA for that game could possibly be +14%??? For that matter, Tennessee had a pretty effective offense that season too. How could the Rams' defensive DVOA be +19%? I know time fades memories, but those numbers don't at all jibe with how I remember that game.

58
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:27pm

54: For the record, I, as a Pats fan put the blame on the Offensive line which forgot how to block, and on Ashante Samuels for dropping a game-winning Int.

59
by Led (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:35pm

While I will agree that, on average, fumble recoveries are random and interceptions are the result of skill, the actual interception in the game was as lucky and not skill-based as any fumble recovery. This is one reason why I agree with Yaguar in #13. VOA is designed to be very accurate on average over the long term. To do that it relies on adjustments that, while they improve accuracy in the aggregate, may distort the results in any one game.

60
by DanS (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:51pm

Way to stay above the fray, FO. Your stats are obviously not biased. Commentary will always be biased because that is human nature. This is not because of some dark conspiracy by FO, but rather the fact that everyone is biased. Even when we try hard not to be, which I am sure FO does, there will always be some bias in everyone's commentary.

FO's defensive rants about this, while stating the truth, just makes them look bad. You guys are professionals who will undoubtedly get insulted and accused of bias sometimes. I come to this site for the great analysis of football, both by the numbers and the commentators. Seeing this site sink to Aaron and the FO guys having a month long argument with the posters has greatly diminished my opinion of FO.

61
by BillB (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:56pm

Matt,

So nobody has control over which way the ball bounces. But, as you saw, players can impact where it winds up.

To FO editors

You could have mentioned VOAf (or whatever) at any time during the season. But
playing the "luck" card after one of the greatest SB ever is not great judgement. Its like Bellichik leaving before the game is over. Getting defensive isn't going to help. You make editorial decisions. Live up to them.

62
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 1:58pm

Another point on VOA and non-predictive events:

The Randle El to Ward touchdown in XL is not the type of play that's rated highly in VOA because it's not very predictive or repeatable.

But in a one-game sample, you don't care. Do you think the Steelers gave a damn that it's not a very repeatable event? They needed that play to work once, and it did. Maybe winning on a end around deep pass isn't correlated with winning other games, but the Steelers didn't have any more games to play.

You can't fault teams for winning in a non-VOA-friendly way on a single game sample size.

63
by BillB (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:10pm

Aaron,

Thats it! You are really onto something. I briefly reran the VAOf/DVOA numbers through a million iterated 60 minute intervals. I then added the VOAkp (VOA karmic payback) of 0.983 and 1.023 for NE, NYG respectively, and I got:

Giants 17 Pats 14!

64
by Led (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:11pm

Another example why the "luck" adjustment in VOA is not necessarily accurate for any particular game is the fumble recovery before the half. That probably has a significant impact on the VOA but it had little impact on the actual game. Had NE recovered the fumble, it would've had the ball on its own 49 with 10 seconds left and no timeouts. It's possible that NE could've gained 15-20 years on the next play AND stopped the clock, but it's unlikely. On average fumble recoveries at mid-field will tend to have a large impact on the game. Just not in this particular circumstance.

65
by Led (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:12pm

Umm, 15-20 yards, not years.

66
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:23pm

"Patriots fans will blame this loss on..." yadda yadda yadda.

Practically every Patriots fan post I've read (I haven't read them all, but I've read a fair number) has Patriots fans blaming the loss on the Giants "Four Aces" totally destroying the vaunted Patriots O-line. Please don't attribute things to fans that they didn't say.

The only people that seem to be whining are Giants fans. Which I don't get... your team won...

67
by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:26pm

I'm surprised Toomer's dpar is higher than Welker's. For my money, Welker was the best player on the field.

68
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:29pm

Here is the thing. The point of statistics is to have a wide window - to try and draw useful conclusions from an enormous amount of information, more football games than a single person could every watch. But by its very nature, that information is not going to be as detailed as that that can be extracted by a person who looks closely at single games, with a narrow window.
I watched every giants game this year, and not a lot of other games.They were a frustrating team that shot themselves in the foot with untimely penalties, drops, blown coverages, unlucky or stupid turnovers. (In other words, classic giants football.) They weren't physically beaten often (except in the secondary). You got the feeling they could be good, but the longer they kept screwing up, the less likely that seemed.
And Tom Coughlin, mister minimize-the-penalties-and-turnovers, focus-on-execution, turned out to be right. When they did that, and gave the effort of their lives, they won the superbowl.

There is no way the kinds of broad statistics that can be extracted from the play-by-play can tell the difference between a bad team and a team playing badly. I had my doubts as to which the giants were. I am very happy I was wrong.

69
by andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:34pm

Some of these posts are cracking me up.

To make these people happy I propose a new statistic:

BVOA

Bias-Adjusted Value over average.

It adjusts the VOA for each game based on the :roll: obvious bias of the FO staff. It further adjusts on individual play for players known to be FO faves being involved in the play.

70
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:36pm

Note: I'm a Pats fan.

Despite that, I'm giving the Giants all the props in the world. The Patriots were, going into the game, by far the better team, at least up to that point, and yet the Giants had a better gameplan, made better in-game adjustments, played with more intensity, for the most part executed better, and hence leveled the playing field. As Aaron said, the two teams played essentially to a tie--a point where a bounce one way or a break the other would have given either team victory. And both teams got a number of bounces and breaks. The Giants got one more, or got theirs slightly better timed, and won. Congratulations, and I'm happy for all the Giants fans, and the Giants players who deserve a ring. I'm reasonably mellow about the Patriots loss--they had a fantastic run this season, and came within a hair's breadth of winning out despite getting outplayed in the biggest game of the year. Karmic payback for some previous years.

But one thing I don't understand, and will not accept, is the notion that Eli Manning played well in that game and deserves the MVP. Yes, he wasn't horrible. He had some good drives, and put enough points up to win. Yes, the one INT wasn't really his fault.

But he was erratic and unable to score on a defense that has been notoriously soft against the pass all year. Through about 50 minutes, he had led his team to a grand total of 3 points, despite good pass protection, amazing play by his defense, and a near consistent field position advantage from his special teams.

Then, in his final two drives, he led two TD drives. But on the first (I think...memory is a little hazy) he made a horrible decision and tried to force a ball, a ball that went right through Brandon Merriweather's hands of stone--a more sure handed safety catches that and the Giants never take the lead.

Then, in the second, when they were desparate to get down the field but still had plenty of time, he heaves an ill advised pass over the head of his receiver right into the hands of Asante Samuel--who drops it. Manning almost never got a chance for his heroic sack escape and Tyree's heroic throw, because a criminally stupid, or possibly inept, Grossman-like throw almost--even should have--cost the Giants the game right there, despite the teriffic play of almost every other player.

The fact that Asante Samuel couldn't quite hold on there, as Merriweather couldn't earlier, doesn't change the risk that Eli ran right there. Had either of them held on, then we wouldn't be talking about Eli leading a game-winning drive because he was clutch--we'd be talking about how the old, interceptiion-prone Eli cost the Giants the game right at the end. All because of a random bounce of Samuel's usually sure hands.

The MVP should have gone to Tyree, or possibly to the entire Giants D-line (if that's allowed) or to Tuck or Osi if you have to pick one person. But not to Eli. He was a decent QB in that game, but not a great one.

71
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:47pm

MJK-- the problem was that there was no obvious MVP. Tyree had the awesome one catch, but that awesome one catch was only half of a miraculous play; Manning's half of the play was pretty special as well, and he did more the rest of the game than Tyree did.

The Giants defensive line was dominant, but that's several players. Did any one of them really stand out over the others? Tuck had the best first half, but was he really that much better over the course of the game than Osi? Than Strahan? Hell, Alford made plays. Cofield made plays. As a unit they were balls to the wall.

Take the voters and have those who would be inclined to give it to a Giants D-line split their votes among the choices, and the result will be to give it to the Giants offensive player who did the most. Eli probably fit that bill.

(And since the secondary didn't get torched, and the LBers didn't get torched, it is odd to see a neutral metric like VOA come out suggesting the Pats D played better, which is a side issue. I think that it was pretty obvious to most people's eyes that this was not the case, but figuring out how to improve the FO metrics to be more accurate over the course of an entire season using the inputs available (mainly gamebooks) is not easy. I think it is probably sufficient to say this is one case where reality was different than the numbers.)

72
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:50pm

And I should have added...

"The fact that Asante Samuel couldn’t quite hold on there"

That greatly overstates the chance Samuel had on that ball. Even if he had been able to jump high enough from where he was on the field to get his hands on the pass better, it would have been virtually impossible (and I say virtually only because pro athletes sometimes pull things out that seem to be impossible) for him to get his feet down in bounds. Had he managed to make that pick, it would have been one of the best interceptions in Super Bowl history, as impossible as Tyree's catch.

73
by David (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:52pm

Okay, I don't get something.... Giants fans are upset that no one gave their team any respect for being capable of winning the big game. Giants fans are upset that this site's stats didn't back up the superiority of their team.

Huh? Doesn't that make the victory all the sweeter? Does beating the absolute best by your team's playing the game of its life make it incredibly sweet?

It sure did for me when I was a Pats fan in 2001/2. The more people talked about what an upset it was, the better it felt.

Hey, guys, congratulations on winning a magnificent game. Don't use it to spread gall. Use it to spread some cheer and good hope. There's a lot of underdogs out there.

74
by John Doe (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 2:56pm

#66 - You (and the people who frequent this site) are a small sample size of Pats fans. Plenty of articles and fans have said Brady was obviously bothered by his ankle in the article. It wasn't obvious to me, it WAS obvious to me that he played poorly due to a great pass rush, not a minor injury that was overhyped by the media. I also never said 'all' Pats fans will say, are you denying that some will?

#70 - I agree Tuck would have been a good choice, but the Manning pick is defensible. As much as Tuck did, the Giants were losing with less than three minutes left. At the point the game was on Eli's shoulders. He made one very bad throw on that drive. However, he showed resiliency on the amazing Tyree play. He escaped pressure and threw across his body accurately enough to give Tyree a chance to catch the ball. If it'd been Burress or Toomer, it would have been a routine catch. He hit several different receivers on that drive. So, if your talking about who is most directly responsible for the victory, Manning's last drive puts him in easy contention with anyone from the Giants DL. In my opinion he deserves it more than Peyton did last year.

75
by John Doe (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 3:17pm

#73 Trust me we're happy. Ecstatic. I'm also a Mets fan so life is extremely good right now.

I don't have a problem with them being called an underdog, they were underdogs. I do have a problem with people claiming the Patriots lost the game due to anything other than the Giants shredding their Offense like confetti. Just like you'd have a problem if the Rams fans from 2001 claimed that the only reason you won was that Warners thumb injury never healed properly, and you were extremely lucky.

76
by Johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 3:24pm

"and you were extremely lucky." But the 2001 Pats were extremely lucky. Luck in sports in general happens. Sometimes the low probability event occurs. Once in a while even Ozzie Smith hits a home run. If the lower probability events never occurred would fans still watch? Should football outsiders be faulted for not pointing out what was the most likely outcome of the Super bowl during their Super bowl analysis?

77
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 3:34pm

Okay, here is a metaphysical question about the nature of football and betterness(!). I am a giants fan. I think the cowboys are, in some sense, a better team than the giants. But if you watched the playoff game, there was no doubt that the giants beat the cowboys - it was not lucky or anything. I believe the packers are better, but the giants clearly won. I believe the patriots are better, but the giants clearly won.

At what point does a team that keeps beating better teams become the better team?

I think this is the root of all this fuss.

78
by nat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 3:38pm

74:
Manning was hardly defensible as the MVP. He had a distinctly average game, with one truly insane play.

Average, you ask?

Patriots defense gave up an average of 17 points a game. Eli led his team to 17 points.

The Patriots defense gave up an average of 17 first downs a game. Eli led his team to 17 first downs.

The Patriots defense gave up an average of 288 yards a game. Eli led his team to 338 yards - better than average by one insane catch on a broken play and one obviously missed OPI call.

The Patriots averaged 1.2 interceptions per game. Eli threw one interception.

The Patriots defense averaged 3 sacks a game. Eli took 3 sacks.

Other than the one insane catch and the missed OPI, his day was statistically slightly worse than Brady's. He only looked good because we had such low expectations for him. Even counting those plays, his DPAR was lower, and his QB rating was under 90 and only a few points higher than Brady.

Here in New England, we know why the Giants beat the Patriots. It wasn't that Eli Manning played like Tom Brady. It was that the Giants' defensive line and blitzes made Tom Brady play like Eli Manning.

Eli was eerily average. He's only MVP because of his name. His defensive line would be right to be pissed at him for taking the credit, but I suspect they have too much class. And after all, Eli can hardly turn the award down.

Congrats to the Giants' team, especially the defensive line (who kept them in the game), to the Giants' players who went 3-for-3 on fumble recoveries (who made it winnable), and to Tyree, whose leaping, helmet and one hand catch put them over the top.

79
by doktarr (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 3:43pm

RE: 10,

This has been covered in subsequent responses, probably best by nat #43. What I mean is that VOAf differential is proably the best measure (using the FO stats) to answer the question, "who outplayed who on that given day, and by how much". So the Pats lost SB XLII despite a +21% differential, but they won XXXVIII and XXXVI despite a -8% differential and a dead heat, respectively.

Now, if the stats say that New England slightly outplayed New York on Sunday, and we believe the overall DVOA rankings, then this means some combination of two factors: either the Giants played much better than their ratings predicted, and/or the Patriots played much worse than their ratings predicted. I don't think anyone here would disagree with that.

Again, I find both the XLII and XXXVIII results here to be pretty surprising, but I haven't seen many comments in this thread that offers useful or positive suggestions on improvements that could solve the problem. One of the few was Led #64, who notes that VOA considers fumbles equally whether they happen just before halftime or not, but honestly, do you think the players on that play said "screw it, I don't care if I (fumble/force a fumble) on this play, it is very unlikely to affect the outcome of the game." No, of course not. So a measure that is looking to see who played better should consider that play fairly equally with any other. If you want to know who made better plays that leveraged the outcome of the game, we already have a great measure - it's called "the score".

The only exception to this would be especially conservative or aggressive plays late in a half - i.e. kneel-downs or other running out the clock, and risky downfield passes. As far as I know, there are corrections for these things already.

I actually have a few suggestions of my own for DVOA tweaks, but I have no reason to think they would "improve" the ratings noted here.

80
by Sean McCormick :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 3:55pm

Re 57:

If you remember, Warner threw for over four hundred yards in that Super Bowl. The Rams went up and down the field all game, but they consistently bogged down deep in the red zone and settled for field goals. They had three long scoring drives and a few other quality drives that were undone by sloppy play (as I recall they missed a field goal and may also have turned the ball over). Tennessee wasn't nearly as successful at putting the wraps on that offense as Tampa Bay had been the week before, but they held on for dear life in the red zone. Hence, the 14%.

81
by doktarr (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 3:56pm

Eli won the MVP for two main reasons:

- The three Giants D-Linemen didn't drastically stand out from one another. Tuck had the best statistical game, but Strahan and Umenyiora were great as well. They deserved to share the award, but that's not how it works.

- When nobody stands out dramatically, the face of the franchise (i.e. the QB, unless you're the 2001 Ravens) wins the award unless he had a terrible game and/or already has at least one SB MVP award. You can argue with this, but it's not unique to this year.

I thought he was one of the least deserving MVPs we've had, and DPAR backs me up (note that Peyton actually did quite good by DPAR last year, with 9.3). But it's not really surprising, nor is it worth getting worked up about at all. I'm sure Justin Tuck could hardly care less.

82
by John Doe (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 3:57pm

#76 Ozzie Smith hitting a home run is not luck. It is skill on the part of Ozzie Smith. Luck implies that the Player had little to nothing to do with the outcome. Saying the Giants were lucky implies that the Patriots should have won (based on their play in that game) but were cheated by fate. Luck implies the Giants fell into the championship, not that they stepped it up and beat a good team. Lucky is a punt that bounces sideways at the 1 yard line instead of into the end zone. Not multiple D-linemen shredding an offensive line. The Pats second touchdown was lucky because Corey Webster fell down. They may have still scored if he'd been standing, but it was very lucky that Webster slipped (after no contact). The Patriots interception was lucky because Steve Smith knocked the ball 6 feet into the air. The Giants recovering the Bradshaw/Manning fumble was luck. All things that can't be repeated consistently even if all the players on the field played at the exact same level.

#78 MVP does not mean 'had a great game' it means 'Most Valuable Player'. Welker was the best 'had a great game' candidate. Manning won the game on the last drive. Without Manning's excellent play (except for one play) on that drive the Giants won the Superbowl. In my mind that makes him a contender for Most Valuable Player in terms of the giants winning the game. Statistically he was average, but still extremely valuable in terms of winning the game.

83
by JMM (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 3:58pm

RE #77

I think most fans confuse "most talented" with "best." To have the most talented roster is an advantage, but it is not the entire story. Character, strategy, conditioning, desire, injuries, luck all play a role. Even determining talent level is not a straight forward exercise since the strategy can be molded to maximize the talent available.
“Best” is actually a pretty meaningless word.

84
by Eddo (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 4:12pm

Comment 82 is a good example of the biggest problem that FO has: communication with the average reader (the commenter's name is even John Doe!).
When Aaron or another Outsider uses the term "luck," he almost always means "non-predictive." Saying that the Giants had "fumble luck" is not saying that Bradshaw didn't skillfully pry the ball away from Woods; instead, it is saying that, in the long run, you can't take any predictive value from the fact that the Giants recovered all three fumbles.
Likewise for the Ozzie Smith example. It is not "luck" in the common connotation that he hit the home run; he wasn't swinging with his eyes closed, after all. It's just saying that using his home run to formulate a belief that the Cardinals have a good power-hitting shortstop (or even an average one) would be erroneous.
---
I know that it would be cumbersome for FO writers to constantly use "non-predictive" instead of "luck" and redundant to use a disclaimer every time they used the term "luck," but there has to be some kind of happy medium, as a lot of the recent comment unrest is due to new readers misinterpreting this commonly-used terminology.

85
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 4:13pm

"Luck in sports in general happens."

Absolutely. The problem here I think is the definition of luck. The Giants were lucky to win, of this I have no doubt. They weren't lucky to win because of the recovery of Brady's fumble or the bat-forward play. They were lucky to win because they recovered Bradshaw's fumble and because the Great Escape was extremely lucky and skillful and despite the bad luck with the interception. They weren't lucky to win because the defense was outplayed by the Patriots; they were lucky to win because the offense got lucky enough to capitalize on the defense's destruction of the Patriots offense. The Giants D outplayed the Pats D by quite a bit, VOA notwithstanding.

86
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 4:24pm

I would argue that VOAf would be the best judge of “who outplayed who on that given day”, not adjusting for opponent. Aaron may not be willing to say “should have won”, but I’ll go ahead and say that.

I wouldn't agree there. VOA is "who should've won." VOAf treats all fumbles equally, which the game certainly doesn't.

Look at just VOA for both this game and the CAR/NE Super Bowl. In both cases, the winning team is on top, and below in the other ones.

It's not worth even discussing who "outplayed" who when the difference is less than 10% VOA. It was basically a tie, and the difference was a few bounces of the ball and the way the clock actually played out.

It's relatively easy to get outplayed and still win in football - all you have to do is be within one score at the end, with enough time to score and the ball in your hand.

87
by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 4:28pm

Regardless of how a QB plays through the rest of the game, if they lead a drive with heroic plays that ends up being the game-winning scoring drive, they're going to get the MVP. Eli didn't get it because his stats were phenomenal, he got it because he somehow managed to avoid a sack and throw the ball to a receiver in a historically great throw and catch that will be forever remembered.

If you believe that isn't worthy of the MVP, you need to not watch football any more because you just don't love it.

I am curious how VOA shows that the Pats did that much better than the Giants. Especially defense; 5 sacks, a turnover and 14 points with only two reasonably successful drives does not to me indicate a bad defensive performance or even an average one. I'm thinking that the vaguely long but useless drives that the Pats put on really hurt the Giants here; Brady did get to pass at least 53 times (5 sacks + incompletes) and that is a lot of plays, though I don't know how much of that was actual long possession given the passing.

I very much like the idea of having non-zero sum game mechanics for some of these things, but I don't know how you can do that with just the PBP info. You can for example do that when a kick goes out of bounds because that's in the PBP, but how do you say who is at fault when Bradshaw fumbles? How can you look at the PBP and determine that was not caused by the Pats? I do think that there is some value in that, but doing it requires reviewing each fumble and interception to find the cause, and that's game charter territory.

88
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 4:35pm

Look, folks, unless you are talking about the blow-outs, just about every Super Bowl champion has been the beneficiary of luck. That's the nature of a close football game. I think a lot of the people who come to this site (strangely enough) to bitch and moan just can't get it into their heads that every close football game has a substantial element of luck involved.

I'll paraphrase something I posted in the audibles thread. Take way a dropped int, just prior to John Taylor's famous Super Bowl winning catch, that a high school db typically catches, and the ultimate "clutch performer", Joe Montana, becomes the goat instead of hero in his 2nd Super Bowl versus the Bengals. I could go on and on; if Roger Craig doesn't drop the ball against the Giants, George Seifert is probably in the HOF with the highest winning percentage among all coaches. Absent a phantom roughing the passer call against the Vikings early in the 1972 season, and we probably don't have to listen to Mercury Morris jabbering away every time a team goes deep into the season without a loss.

Human beings have a hard time adjusting to the notion that pure, dumb, random luck often plays a huge role in the outcomes we have to deal with, because it can be a disconcerting notion that we so frequently have such little control over those outcomes, but that's really the way it is.

I don't think Aaron has ever pretended that his models perfectly mirror reality. I find them useful because they strip out a lot of subjectivity and a lot of the effects or randomness. If there are people here who actually believe that Aaron fiddles with his models, so the outputs conform to his biases, well, it's a free country, but it is a pretty loony notion.

89
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 4:37pm

"VOAf treats all fumbles equally, which the game certainly doesn’t."

Does VOAf treat them all equally (serious question)?

That's been one of the points I've been trying to make. Aaron said that he can't believe that they missed during audibles that the Giants recovered all three fumbles. But the impressions they were putting forth in Audibles was actually more accurate than the perception that is given by that fact. The recovery of Brady's fumble mattered not much at all in all probability; had the Pats recovered, they were at their own 49 with 10 seconds left and no timeouts. A chance for a hail mary or a DPI call, but that's about it. The recovery of the batted ball saved all of 18 yards of field position in retrospect since the Giants punted right after. The consequences of either of those plays going the other way was small.

The consequences of the fumbled handoff being recovered by the Pats would have been much greater, so the Giants did benefit quite a bit from their good fortune there. The Patriots intercepting the ball Smith couldn't hang on to was a bit of luck for them that they benefitted from quite a bit. Luck there on both sides.

The main bit of unanswered luck was all contained in that miraculous, astounding, inconceivable play. Lots of skill in it, but also a ton of luck. It won the Giants the game.

90
by John Doe (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 4:39pm

#84 Actually I used the same Bradshaw fumble recovery as an example of luck. That was lucky, as in non-predictive of future events and just generally lucky. The Giants overall performance since week 17 however, is certainly predictive. As in we can predict the Giants will continue to win games on the strength of their pass rush, coupled with bursts of good offensive play. I'm pretty sure that losing to the pats by three, beating the pats by three, beating 13-3 GreenBay, and beating 13-3 Cowboys are predictive events. They may not have been predictable, but they certainly can lead to the conclusion that the Giants are a good team who can beat other good teams and will likely continue to be such. Suggesting this win is non-predictive suggests the opposite, that the Giants winning against those good teams was a fluke that they are not likely to repeat.

Also, I'm not bashing the FO staff. I'm discussing the reaction of the fans, many of whom are calling the giants 'lucky' as in meteor strike 'luck'. The only thing I've said regarding FO, is that I'd like to know Mannings DPAR in relation to Brady's if the lucky (non-predictive) pick was removed. I have a feeling he'd be beating Brady which is more like the game I watched. It's hard to say Brady outplayed Manning when you watched the game. Manning was calm and collected, with more touchdowns, and several of his incomplete passes were drops (or poor plays by the receiver). Brady's incompletions were horrible throws that missed the receiver by a mile. Manning looked sharper than Brady.

91
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 4:43pm

Yeah, kal, unless you can get really fast, intensive, charting, which means a lot of labor and good technology, along with superior quality control checks, it is a daunting task. Maybe Aaron should petition Arlen Specter for a government grant; the good Senator apparently has a lot of interest in the NFL.

92
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 4:46pm

Sorry if that last sentence of mine drifted into prohibited territory....

93
by doktarr (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 4:47pm

Pat #86,

Granted. VOAf differential is not "who should have won". It's much closer to "who outplayed who on that day". Those are related things, but as you say, they are not the same.

VOA does give us the "right" winner in all the NE Super Bowls, although not the PIT/SEA game. But again, if all we care about is measuring who made more plays that leveraged the outcome, we don't need VOA differential. We can just use point differential. Giants +3.

I also agree with you that anything within 10% or so in VOAf differential is basically a tossup. For VOA differential, it needs to be closer to be as much of a tossup, because more of the random bounces of the ball are already built into the VOA result.

94
by Eddo (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 4:49pm

90 (John Doe):
Suggesting this win is non-predictive suggests the opposite, that the Giants winning against those good teams was a fluke that they are not likely to repeat.
No one is suggested that, however. The Giants' DVOA was much higher for this game than the Patriots' was.
In general, with my earlier post, I wasn't trying to attack you, just pointing out what I believe to be an aspect of FO's writing that is a cause of a lot of recent comment-related conflict.

95
by nat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 5:09pm

I find it interesting that almost all the mentions of "luck" in this thread are from Giants fans. Are they responding to the Fox headline without having the wit to understand the text of the article? Or are they just insecure?

To recap:

The Giants scored more, so they won.

On average, (by VOA) their plays were a bit more successful. So it is not surprising that they won, or that the game was close.

Without their ability to recover all three fumbles in the game, their plays would have been less successful (on average, by VOAf) than the Patriots' plays. In that case, they could still have won, but it would have been less likely.

Recovering fumbles is not "luck" in the sense that rolling double-sixes is luck. It's a non-predictive skill or event.

Who cares? There's nothing left to predict this season, anyway.

According to DVOA, just playing even with the Patriots was impressive. The Giants did it twice, and won the game that mattered most. And they did it with an impressive defensive line, great play on loose balls, and the second most amazing/memorable catch I can remember.

96
by John Doe (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 5:11pm

#94 I wasn't really taking it as an attack. It's a good point about FOs use of luck that I was misunderstanding.

However, in return I feel I have to point out that a higher DVOA doesn't mean that one team outplayed the other. It means they outplayed the league average in that situation (down, distance, quality of competition). Consider Team A scores on average 44 points a game and allows on average 0 points per game and Team B allows on average 44 points a game and scores an average of 0 points per game. If Team A beats Team B 36 to 7, Team A would have a worse DVOA than team B on both offense and defense. VOA or VOAf are the stats that are used to break down one teams performance against another irrespective of past play by either team.

Ultimately I understand why FOs numbers come out to what they do and I accept it. The VOA doesn't disregard the 'lucky' interception of Eli, it couldn't do so and still be as useful. It's one of the cases where the numbers are as correct as the reasonably can be, but obviously flawed. My only problem is with fans who act like the Giants are a terrible/average team who were somehow blessed by some god to beat 3 great teams in a row.

97
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 5:46pm

I would be very interested to compare the Giants week 1-5 to the Giants week 17-20 EPC style. There seem to a number of important differences.
1. 4 Aces... how did this package develope through the season?
2. similarly, did Strahan gain strength through the season?
3. The emergence of Steve Smith. At first Plax looked unstoppable... but in the last few weeks Smith became an important and effective weapon it seems.
4. Boss over Shockey. Personally I have always thought Shockey was not nearly as good as his reputation. Seems like all he's ever done is truck a couple players in the senior bowl...
5. Playcalling. There seems to have been a decision to simplify the offense and let the players execute.

98
by MikeB (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 6:14pm

53: How can you discount the Giants pass rush in the Cowboys/Packers game s because an AP report didn't mention it. What about Romo yelling at his OL in the 4th quarter because he was constantly pressured? How about Favre having to twist out of the pocket because it collapsed when he chucked up his first INT?

These are clear examples of the pressure getting to the QBs just like it got to Brady on Sunday. The Giants defense clearly helped influence these games. Romo wouldn't have had to heave the ball into the endzone if he had time to get some shorter completions before. Even in the TB game, they got pressure on Garcia and had them playing out of the shotgun to give Garcia more time because of the pressure.

99
by Matt Saracen - QB1 - Dillon Panthers (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 6:20pm

Can anyone tell me how many VOA points are equivalent to 1 'in game' point??

We know the Giants won by 3, but unless the Pats have 3 points worth of VOA advantage over the Giants, it can't be said that the Pats should have won.

That is horribly simplistic, but it means that the game result would be the most important, rather than 'crowning' the loser simply because they have a marginal VOA advantage, implying some type of moral victory.

BTW, I have no problem with Aaron's stats and articles at all. There is no way he fiddles with the numbers - I love this site and will continue coming here as Aaron and the staff continue to tweak DVOA. But I was not impressed with Bill Barnwell's little outburst earlier in the thread, who are you gonna rip on next Bill? Hopefully no one, just let the thread die and roll with the criticism.

100
by Matt (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 6:24pm

All of the "massaging the numbers" is nonsense. The last 4-and-out could have been written up as all Hail Marys (which they basically were) and added back some of the damage, but it wasn't.

I can understand wanting to have a little fun with the staff, because hey, it really was a tad questionable to just pull out nightmares of Tony Eason after the Conference Title game and "going full Kotite" is an amusing concept - but they've made clear what the difference is here and their methods were consistent all through the year. What's to complain about?

The only way I can think of where some "massaging" could be done would be declaring the final four-and-out all Hail Marys, the outcome of which would give a slight bump to the Patriots. This whole thing does leave me with a methodology question, however: Third down conversions are important in VOA; however, they are curiously fairly random occurances from year to year, as was suggested in the article expecting Dallas to fall off their pace a couple months back. How or why does this work?

101
by shocker (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 6:34pm

#97-
Non-expert answers to your questions, if I may:
1) Definitely more prevalent throughout the season, though the idea was there from the start. The whole Kiwanuka to LB move was designed to get these players on the field more, ala Tuck at DT more and more late(not just 3rd and long).
2)Strahan got much better as he worked into game shape. Lack of training camp did slow him early.
3)Smith was hurt much of the season, but was picked to be a ready to contribute player. His return was a huge boos to the O, especially with...
4)Shockey's injury hurt the giants. Boss has been good, but shockey caught more balls, blocked better and drew coverage. No D was very concerned about Boss.
5)It does seem like the playcalling, while not specifically "simplified", was changed. Maybe a bit more conservative, and it seemed like they cut down "option routes", where qb and wr have to make the same read, or you get picks like Eli's early season. He seemed to have more faith that his recievers would be where expected later on.

102
by jd (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 6:49pm

Ha ha it's like the friggin Bush administration around here. Mismatch = WMD. I got news for you guys: if Plax hadn't hurt his knee to go with his ankle the game wouldn't even have been this close. The Giants physically dominated. There's no way you could watch that game and not see the Giants are bigger, faster, younger, and better. I know the writers on this site were confused because they hadn't actually watched a Giant's game yet this year but come on. Once again: the Giants had some tough games this year due to injuries, young players learning, and getting used to new coordinators. The idea that this is the same team that lost to the Vikings (who started at running back in that game? Where was Steve Smith in that game? etc.) is ridiculous. The better, more talented team won and it's lucky for the Pats that Plax was hurt and Kiwanuka was out (and lucky for the Giants that Shockey was out).

103
by Todd S. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 6:55pm

#60 And it has greatly increased my opinion of FO. This is an interactive medium and I'm happy that the writers call out criticism with inaccurate premises.

#87 Oh, come on. I disagree with you about who should get the MVP and that means I don't love football? Can't I just as easily say that Justin Tuck played a marvelous game, consistently dominating the man trying to block him-and if you don't think that's MVP worthy, then you don't love the NFL!?

104
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 6:55pm

Can anyone tell me how many VOA points are equivalent to 1 ‘in game’ point??

A 0% DVOA offense facing a 0% DVOA defense will score 21.5 points in a game (the NFL average over long periods).

A 1% DVOA offense facing a 0% DVOA defense will score 21.715 points.

So it doesn't quite work out as simple as "percentage = points". But the "VOA, lost fumbles only" gives an 8% difference in favor of the Giants, which is roughly 1.75 points.

Keep in mind, though, that the "0% DVOA O vs D = 21.5 points" implies an average-length game, which this wasn't. Neglecting end-of-half drives, the game was only 9 drives long, which is very short. An average game is 11.25 drives long.

So, a VOA of 3% is 22.145 points in an average length game. In a 9 drive game, it's 18.1 points.

Similarly, a VOA of -5% is 16.3 points in a 9 drive game.

So, essentially, VOA (lost fumbles only, exactly like the game) says the game score should be approximately NYG 18.1, NE 16.3.

That's actually remarkably accurate.

105
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 6:56pm

Im not really familiar with the Kiwanuka move... I seem to remember a few times in pass coverage he looked like, well, a lineman a while ago. In general I think that the Giants LBs are pretty big; they were able to take on and shake off blockers well on Sunday. That's why I thought that Wes Welker would be a big factor in the game, none of the LBs can come close to covering him. They were also not having to worry about deep drops or stuffing the run too much since they matched up well (LB size, DL pass rush) allowing them to focus on containing Welker... who was still very productive. On Moss's TD Welker was double covered!

106
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 6:57pm

and totally unrelated... I think that the anti spam words are hilarious, especially "Schatz" because schatzi in german is like "honey" or "dear"

107
by DCD12 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 6:58pm

Shockey’s injury hurt the giants. Boss has been good, but shockey caught more balls, blocked better and drew coverage. No D was very concerned about Boss.

I tend to agree with this point.

I think a few forces are at work in the perceived improvement of the Giants passing game, post-Shockey injury.

1. The emergence of Steve Smith
2. The simplification of the offense (partially b/c of the Shockey injury, maybe?)
3. The competent play of Boss
4. The improved play of Toomer.

So, IMO, the Shockey to Boss dropoff was not that dramatic, and it was more than offset by Smith + Toomer + simplification.

108
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:09pm

I'm with you, Todd S. I don't mind even a little bit when the FO staff stick up for themselves. It's not fair to expect them to sit back and read personal attacks like DolFan's and BillB's and not defend themselves.

Personally, I wouldn't mind if anyone calling the FO staff's ethics into question received an IP ban. If you doubt the methodology, fine. If you don't agree with a contributor's subjective analysis, fine. Even more so if you can bring some kind of sound reasoning with your criticisms. But I'd be overjoyed if the mouth-breathing retards that come in here and start making snide comments about FO massaging the numbers to favor their preferred team were never heard from again.

109
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:10pm

"Ha ha it’s like the friggin Bush administration around here. Mismatch = WMD"

Hmm. What's that helpful hint on the posting page? Oh yeah, here it is:

"Please respect our discussion threads by refraining from the following:

1. comments about politics"

110
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:21pm

Does VOAf treat them all equally (serious question)?

Yeah. VOA (and DVOA by extension) doesn't have adjustments for end-of-half situations.

You're not correct about the first-half fumble, though. NE did have a timeout left. It was also only first down, so that fumble really did kill NE's chances for a first-half field goal.

The batted-ball fumble recovery I don't agree with you on. 18 yards of field position is around 1.2 points. It's about a fifth of the field! Don't dismiss it so easily.

But it's important to realize that you're not evaluating that second fumble properly. You're treating the events after the fumble as given, when of course, they aren't.

111
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:29pm

To clarify #110: the "batted ball" fumble could've easily netted the Giants 3 points or more. The reason it didn't is because the Patriots held them to zero yards on third down. Saying "recovering the fumble only saved them 18 yards" is incorrect - it's "recovering the fumble, plus the 3rd down play, saved them 18 yards." The 3rd down play was a positive play for the Patriots, which is why recovering the fumble doesn't seem like that big a deal.

112
by Waverly (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:30pm

Why not "credit" both the QB and the RB equally for any fumbles?

Competing spreadsheets reminds me of the DSRL: the DVOA Spreadsheet Run-off League.

113
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:32pm

Pat,

"NE did have a timeout left."

Yes, which they would have expended (leaving them with zero) if they had recovered the ball. Which would have given them the ball at their own 49 yard line and no timeouts remaining. Enough time to try a hail mary or hope for a DPI, but that's about it-- which is exactly what I meant. If they had no timeouts when the sack occurred, then they wouldn't have been able to get a play off at all, and had that been what I meant, that is what I would have said. :-)

114
by Purds (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:32pm

On the MVP:

I don't want to question anyone's love of football, but I do think it's a bit harsh to say Eli was a bad choice. Yes, the Giants pass rush was the deciding segment of the game, but Eli had a terrific 4th quarter. Something like 9 of 14 for 2 TD's and 100+ yards. I am not much for the talk of players being "clutch," but MVP trophies are for guys who stand out. In the 4th quarter, Eli stood out. Don't judge him by shoulda-coulda's, judge him by what happened. He led two TD drives in the 4th quarter of a Super Bowl to win the game. Only one other QB has ever done that in a SB, Montana.

And, while the rest of his day was non-descript, he did lead a great first drive to take a huge chuck of the clock away, and he never made any huge mistakes that hurt his team. His one interception came at a bad place, in the red zone, but it wasn't a pick-6 or anything that drastic.

115
by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:32pm

OK, I'm bored with the bias crap. This from the introduction to PFP '07

"Despite our work to gather more information, we still must deal with the fact that not everything on a football field is accurately measured. Some people will argue that if we can't measure everything, there's no point in measuring anything. We disagree. The motto of Football Outsiders has always been that the best is the enemy of the the better. The fact that we cannot develop perfect analysis is no reason to give up on better analysis"

And there you have it. An open admission that DVOA/DPAR and all the other stats here aren't the answer to life, the universe and everything. If you can't accept that, and you agree with the part of the quote that's in bold, why are you here?

116
by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:34pm

#108

Agreed. Perhaps a new Motto:

Football Outsiders: Window-Lickers need not apply.

117
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:34pm

"But it’s important to realize that you’re not evaluating that second fumble properly. You’re treating the events after the fumble as given, when of course, they aren’t."

Of course they aren't a given. But when separated by as few other events as those two (they hypothetical woulda and what actually happened) it is close enough for government work.

118
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:35pm

#113: NE would've had 15-19 seconds, and two downs left. The reason it went to 10 seconds is because they didn't call the timeout and the previous play burnt off 12 seconds due to the change of possession.

15-19 seconds on 2nd down is not Hail Mary time. It's 10+ yard play time. You've got enough time for about 2 more plays in that situation, and you've got about 20 yards to go. That's eminently doable.

119
by Matt Saracen - QB1 - Dillon Panthers (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:38pm

Thanks for the info Pat.

That means (approximately of course), that with all fumbles equal the Pats(+9) outplayed the Giants(-12) by 21 VOA or approx. 4.52pts worth. While with only lost fumbles counted the Giants(3) outplayed the Pats(-5) by 8 VOA or approx. 1.72pts worth.

So that means VOA values those 3 fumble recoveries as being worth 6.24pts, nearly a touchdowns worth.

Sometimes fumble recoveries will easily be worth that much, while you could argue that in this game the recoveries were not worth 6 points. But how does VOA know that?? It is done from play by play and cannot adjust for every in game factor.

120
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:45pm

Of course they aren’t a given. But when separated by as few other events as those two (they hypothetical woulda and what actually happened) it is close enough for government work.

No, it's not. See the next post: the reason why that fumble recovery doesn't seem important is because the Patriots had a positive play on 3rd down. Obviously, a positive play for the Giants plus a positive play for the Patriots equals a less positive play for the Giants.

The fumble recovery was still a positive play for the Giants. It just wasn't that positive because they didn't do anything with it, but that has to do with what came after the fumble recovery, which are events which are separately measured. Part of the reason they didn't do anything with it is because that illegal bat shoved them back 10 yards, too. But that's a negative play for the Giants, and not really part of the fumble itself.

121
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:47pm

#119: That sounds about right. On average a turnover's worth about 4 points, more or less (that's easy to see and is shown in the Hidden Game of Football). Fumble recoveries at 50% means a fumble costs you 2 points on average.

122
by admin :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 7:49pm

Trust me, we've received a lot of e-mail about the decline in civility on the message boards, beginning with Vick, declining with Spygate, and reaching its nadir over the last few weeks. Some have suggested that the enforcement of the discussion rules is Pats bias, but just so people know, the main person responsible for moderating the boards is our resident Giants fan, who lives in San Francisco, and the first reader who was forced to have all his comments go into moderation was a Patriots fan who couldn't resist the urge to constantly bring up Tony Dungy's political beliefs.

Once upon a time, readers asked questions, and we tried to respond with explanation. It was a good relationship built on the idea that we all love football. Many of the best changes to improve the accuracy of our analysis were suggestions from readers. However, things have developed to the point where 95% of critical posts are non-constructive -- they point out flaws without offering ideas as to how to correct those flaws. Readers make accusations rather than ask questions, and even our most innocuous attempts at explanation come off as too defensive. (Some of our attempts at explanation, of course, ARE too defensive; it is a hard line to try to straddle.)

I want to apologize to the readers, both newer readers and those who have been with us since 2003 and 2004. Changes are coming. In the meantime, I want to point out that rule number one is by far the most important rule, and the person who mentioned our current president will now have all his comments moderated. We have to be hardcore about rule number one, especially in an election year. We learned that in 2004, when our readership was 10% of what it is now. I can't imagine what would happen if we let the current readership talk politics.

123
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:03pm

Re #57
I was surprised by the magnitude by which STL outplayed TEN, but not at all by the direction. Check out the PBP: the Rams had 9 drives that game and either reached the Red Zone or scored a TD on 7 of them. The Titans had 9 drives and reached the Red Zone thrice, their two TDs and the game-ending drive. The Rams clearly outplayed the Titans that game, and the Titans were very fortunate to be in a position at the end of the game where they could have tied it up, if not for Mike !#$%!@#!% Jones. Subjectively, I know it'll take me at least one and perhaps three Super Bowl wins to get over Kevin freakin' Dyson being tackled on the 1, especially when six seconds is enough time to run two plays if you really try, but objectively the better team that day won that game and there's no question about that.

124
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:09pm

I dont trust DVOA or DPAR either, but I trust it signficantly more than any other statistic out there, but I still consider it to be a rather rough estimate (whereas I think that VORP in baseball is a more close figure). HOWEVER, I think its because this project is still rather young, and with time it will continue to get better.

You guys are doing a great job, keep it up, and dont let the haters keep you down. (By the way... PATRIOTS SUCK! CHEATERS LOL! Seriously, I freaking hate them...)

125
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:10pm

#118 "NE would’ve had 15-19 seconds, and two downs left. "

No, they would have had 10 seconds or less. The clock stops on a turnover, and that is what the clock stopped at, assuming they emerged from the scrum instead of Osi.

If the Pats had recovered, they would have had 10 seconds left if they called timeout instantaneously. If it took a second or two to get the timeout, they would have had less.

126
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:17pm

"No, it’s not. See the next post: the reason why that fumble recovery doesn’t seem important is because the Patriots had a positive play on 3rd down."

What are you talking about? On the batted play, which was the one that cost the Pats all of 18 yards of field position, here was the play sequence:

3-4 NE 25 Fumble, touched at NE 29, 10 yard penalty for illegal bat.
3-18-NE 39 Manning Incomplete deep left to Smith.
4-18 Feagles punt to the 11.

If the Pats fell on the ball, they would have had 1st and 10 on the NE 29. A Giants incomplete and a punt later, they had the ball on the 11.

It is a pretty good approximation to say that the net result was about 18 yards of field position.

Could things have played out differently had the Pats fallen on it? Sure. The Giants could have been so deflated that they would give up a huge play. Or the Pats could have been overly excited and turned the ball right back over. We don't know. But what we can tell by looking at what happened is say that the difference in situations was 18 yards and 6 seconds.

127
by BillB (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:18pm

The unfavorable connotations of the word "bias" seem to get things going..

DVOA, and its brethren metrics, are periodically "updated" to make them "better". The last update found PITT to be better than SEA in SB '05. Sounds good, but what is the methodology?

We have seen the results. It now suggests the the greatest team ever lost to a wholely mediocre team, primarily due to non-predictive events (the exageration is my bias). They endorse the results, rather than questioning them, via publishing. When findings appear discordant (to some), bias can be considered a likely cause, with either party liable. That, or perhaps worse, the system completely misses the mechanism between cause and effect. Either can be considered, but instead we get defensiveness.

I think the coincidence that Aaron is a Pats fan is unfortunate, and he did not excercise great editorial judgement with his story selection, but that will be less relevant as the years go by. There's alot of data, and alot of opportunity, so lets see what happens.

128
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:20pm

This: "If the Pats fell on the ball" should have been written "If Bradshaw did not bat the ball and the Pats fell on it".

129
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:29pm

What are you talking about? On the batted play, which was the one that cost the Pats all of 18 yards of field position, here was the play sequence:

3-4 NE 25 Fumble, touched at NE 29, 10 yard penalty for illegal bat.
3-18-NE 39 Manning Incomplete deep left to Smith.

See highlighted play.

130
by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:32pm

However, things have developed to the point where 95% of critical posts are non-constructive — they point out flaws without offering ideas as to how to correct those flaws.

I have to say, I don't agree that pointing out flaws is "non-constructive". If nothing else it's a reminder that the numbers in DVOA or whatever can only tell part of the story, which people seem to forget sometimes. Pointing out flaws in DVOA, or arguing that it might be missing something, is not trolling. I'm sure it can be maddening to have to explain the same things over and over again, but that's part of the price of a growing readership.

Along the same lines, it was disappointing to see one of the best posters here tell critics to "**** off" in the audibles thread. I'm sure he was talking about trolls and the types that accuse FO of fudging the nubmers or whatever, but it's another indicator that people are forgetting there's a long way between being a critic and being a hater. I don't mind the haters being moderated or banned, but disagreement on the issues, even heated disagreement, is critical if this site is going to have meaningful discussion. "Giants proved DVOA wrong HAHAHAHA!!! posts are a waste of time, but "why can't you angry Giant fans just shut up and accept the numbers" posts aren't any better.

131
by John Doe (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:41pm

#122 - One thing to keep in mind is that criticism (as it pertains to your advanced statistics) is not necessarily meant to suggest the system needs to be updated. For example, I feel that we'd get a better understanding of Manning's play if we turned the freak interception (it was 1 ft from the ground and only Steve Smith could have caught it before he launched it 6 feet in the air) into an incomplete pass. However, this obviously isn't an adjustment that can be made to the system as a whole. It's just me pointing out something that your statistics 'miss' when charting this game, to other readers.

I may argue that in a specific instance the DVOA or VOA is not indicative of the actual game. This is not a flaw in the system unless the system is considered perfect in all situations.

I never question the validity of your numbers (in terms of following your own formula), I am sure you don't doctor them. I do occasionally find your commentary (FO as a whole) to be biased, but that's understandable you are all fans after all. People can be biased, numbers can not.

The guy who mentioned our current president deserves to be banned for being an idiot. Not just for mentioning politics.

As a Giants fan I felt your "Giants are worst SuperBowl team ever" article to be a sort of retaliation on the ignorant people insulting your ranking of the giants. Perhaps you did not intend it that way, but it sure seemed like you could have wrote something both more interesting and more informative instead. I found that article low on useful content, the kind of article you generally find in a fanblog. And before you say, that's because I'm a Giants fan.. I'd say the worst Superbowl team ever was the Giants team that lost to the Ravens by 30 points. They couldn't beat the current Giants team in 10 tries. I could see the Giants being the worst regular season team to ever make the SuperBowl, but after 3 straight road wins in the playoffs (two against 13-3 teams) I'd have to say they were not as bad of a team as the regular season made them look.

To cap this off, I'd like to thank FO for (usually) providing us with a better kind of analysis than we can get anywhere else.

132
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:48pm

Pat, I do see the highlighted play. The Giants *could* have had a big play there, but they *didn't*.

If the Patriots had recovered the ball where Bradshaw batted it, it would have been first and 10 NE at the NE 29 yard line with a little more than 2 minutes left.

Instead, the Pats ended up with the ball at the 11 six seconds later.

It could have been worse for them, but it wasn't. The net effect of that batting was small.

Now had the Giants had a very big play on third down, then saying that the fumble recovery (due to the batting) was very lucky for the Giants would have been true. But as things played out, it really wasn't that big a deal.

VOAf replaces all of the fumbles with an average result-- an average calculated over all results in all contexts. But we have specific contexts here, and we can tell that on Brady's fumble, the Pats likely did not even have time to try a deep out to get into very long FG range (but if they went that route, their chances, while non-zero, were not great) or they could have tried a hail mary (their chances, while non-zero, were not great). The impact of Osi falling on it rather than some random lineman was much smaller than the value of the average fumble recovery.

And comparing what might have happened if the Pats had fallen on the ball when Bradshaw batted it to what did happen, we can see that it was probably worth about 18 yards of field position-- less than the value of the average fumble recovery.

The only one where there was a big consequence was likely the muffed handoff. But that was just as unlucky for the Pats as the tipped ball interception plus return was for the Giants.

Luck played a role in the game, but not as much of one as you are trying to claim, at least not on the plays you are trying to claim it on.

The luck came in Manning squiggling free, in a direction where he had a throwing lane, and Tyree managing to hold on to the ball one handed against his helmet while being thrown down bent backwards over Harrison's leg and hip. You want to curse your luck-- that's where to do it.

133
by nat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:49pm

114 Purds:
Hey, no problem. I personally think Eli was a terrible choice for MVP, as I've said earlier. I agree that he did have a very good fourth quarter. The other three were below replacement level.

Let me say that again.

Below replacement level.

If Eli's head had fallen off on the first play from scrimmage, we all would have been terribly sad, even Peyton. But DPAR suggests that the game would have been going better for the Giants until some time in the fourth quarter. Not only was Eli not the most valuable player for three quarters, his performance suggests he may have been less valuable than your typical second string QB.

If one amazing play can overcome that, why bother with an MVP award? Why not have a "highlight of the day" award?

And give it to Tyree, who actually earned it.

134
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 8:55pm

"I have to say, I don’t agree that pointing out flaws is “non-constructive”. If nothing else it’s a reminder that the numbers in DVOA or whatever can only tell part of the story, which people seem to forget sometimes. Pointing out flaws in DVOA, or arguing that it might be missing something, is not trolling. I’m sure it can be maddening to have to explain the same things over and over again, but that’s part of the price of a growing readership."

I'll add to Kurt's post here. Sometimes bringing up what one sees as a problem, without a solution, can be very positive.

1) If the person bringing it up is wrong, then there is the opportunity to educate.
2) The the person is right about it being a problem, it can highlight the limitations of a metric or a method, preventing people from reading too much into them.
3) (and probably most importantly) If the person is right about it being a problem but doesn't have the creativity or expertise or time or means to figure out the solution, maybe someone reading the thread *will*. A back and forth, hashing things out amongst your readers just might occasionally result in a good idea, whereas if only criticisms complete with full solutions are considered proper and welcome, that's less likely.

FWIW

135
by bob (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 9:05pm

I'm in #60's camp. It's been such tedious reading of late.

136
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 9:15pm

Pat, I do see the highlighted play. The Giants *could* have had a big play there, but they *didn’t*.

That's the entire point! They didn't have a big play there because the Patriots stopped them. You can easily argue "no, they stopped themselves" but DVOA gives credit to the defense for every offensive play.

So again: fumble, recovered (positive play for Giants) plus a stop (positive play for Patriots) equals a less positive play for the Giants. Since the "net" compared to the Patriots recovering the ball is 18 yards, or about 1.2 points, that means that the fumble recovery was worth strictly more than 1.2 points.

137
by Doughboy (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 9:32pm

I'm pretty sure people are overreacting to/misinterpreting the significance of these numbers with regard to the luckiness of the Giants win... suppose, for example, that Steve Smith had gotten a better read on that Hail Mary at the end of the 1st half and caught it. That surely would have been a lucky play, but VOA would not have counted it as such (I'm assuming there is no downwards adjustment for successful end of half plays...), and the Giants would look a lot better according to these numbers, though it was a product of luck. Similarly, I'm sure there are several plays throughout the game that were similarly lucky (i.e. not the product of repeatable skills), for which there is no downward adjustment... point is, the numbers tell us what we already know--it was a close game.

138
by johnt (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 9:40pm

The statistics don't lie, but that doesn't mean they can't be used to support a misleading argument. You openly admit that VOA/DVOA are designed to be predictors over multiple games. Yet you are attempting to use them to retrospectively rate team performance in a single game. This is not sound statistical methodology.

To give one small example, your VOA rating considers "fumble luck" because over a season it tends to even out and thus improve your predictions. But in a single game, penalizing the Giants for "fumble luck" while not penalizing the Patriots for "interception luck" or "12 men on the field luck" serves only to skew the results in the Patriots favor because your rating selectively includes the "nonpredictable" elements that the Giants did badly on and not the ones the Patriots did badly on. In fact, this game is the perfect type to illustrate the flaws in trying to use VOA for a single game. I'm not outraged or anything, but I do think it is not exactly the site's best work (to put it mildly).

139
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 9:41pm

Pat,

No, the fumble recovery by the Giants there was not worth more than 1.2 points. Any *positive* that happened for the Patriots would be a *negative* if we were to take it away. Any *negative* for the Patriots (like if the Giants had scored on that play) would be a *positive* for the Patriots if we were to take it away.

The difference between the two situations (what happened and the hypothetical wouldacouldashoulda) was 18 yards and 6 seconds. If you want to say that's equivalent to 1.someodd points, that's fine. If you want to say it was worth more than that, not that it could have been worth more than that, well, there's not much I can say to help you out.

140
by Jarrod Bunch (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 9:43pm

Hey, FO! I've learned one thing this football season--I'm never visiting this site again!

The pro-Patriots and anti-Giants bias that was evident all year has lost you at least one long-time fan.

See ya!

2007 NY Giants - Super Bowl Champions!

141
by Quentin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 9:50pm

Re #127:

By just about any metric(including what we call the eye test), the Pats came into this game as the far superior team. Vegas generally knows what it's doing, and they gave the Pats 14 points. I seriously doubt that any version of DVOA would have predicted a Giants victory. It had nothing to do with tweaking the system.

In the same breath, I'll follow that with a contradictory statement. While I can offer no solutions, I can't imagine how in the world the Giants got a mediocre defensive VOA for this game. I read what Aaron posted about conversions, but there's definitely something wrong if what I saw on Sunday is listed as anything other than defensive dominance. Note: I don't think the cause of this problem is bias, only that I do think there is a problem.

One final note, on everyone sick of the "rampant bias" because so much attention was given to the Patriots this year. The fact is that they and their season- from the FA acquisitions, to Spygate, to running up the score, and then the quest for perfection- were the biggest story this year. There were a lot articles written about them because a lot of people were talking about them.

142
by Quentin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 9:56pm

Let's not forget that there was clearly some defensive holding going on in that fumble. The bat should have have been completely unnecessary.

143
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:14pm

Re #142
Holding isn't an infraction when trying to recover a fumbled ball like that. Both teams are free to hold all they want when the ball's on the ground on a non-kick scrimmage play.

144
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:18pm

No, the fumble recovery by the Giants there was not worth more than 1.2 points. Any *positive* that happened for the Patriots would be a *negative* if we were to take it away. Any *negative* for the Patriots (like if the Giants had scored on that play) would be a *positive* for the Patriots if we were to take it away.

I really think you're getting confused here.

There were three plays. The first was the fumble which was recovered. The second was the 3rd and 18. The third was the punt.

Consider the game state only after the fumble has occurred, so losing the fumble is clearly negative, and gaining the fumble is clearly positive. Reference to the Giants losing the fumble, so we're comparing this state to the Patriots next possession state.

In that case, you've got the action of recovering the fumble ("+X" for the Giants), the action of being stopped on 3rd down ("-Y" for the Giants), and the punt, which we'll approximate as being an average play (worth zero). We know that the difference between losing the fumble and the next Patriots possession is 1.2 points, and that difference is equal to recovering the fumble, being stopped on 3rd down, and the punt (or +X-Y). So +X-Y = 1.2 points. So X = 1.2+Y points.

Again, strictly more.

145
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:18pm

re 88: not really of importance, but I will point out that the dropped INT by the Bengals in Superbowl 23 came on the second play of the 4th quarter, a play before Montana threw to Rice for a TD to tie the game at 13 with 14+ minutes left in the game.

So, still a memorable miss by Cincy's Lewis Billup's, but the INT certainly would not have been the game-clincher you suggest. Totally agree with the sentiment of your post, just thought I'd keep with the spirit of the thread and nitpick.

146
by Quentin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:18pm

Didn't know that. Thanks.

147
by peachy (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:25pm

Some friendly advice from a reader who used to enjoy FO a lot more; you were wrong, and this kind of ex post facto justification - "see, see, we were really right after all" - does not serve you at all well. Admit that somewhere a mistake was made and move on. No reasonable person will hold that against you, especially in a case where damn near everyone in the media was wrong with you.

148
by John Doe (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:33pm

#141 - Actually, defensive VOA should have been around average for the giants. When considering the number of yards/points/first downs they allowed. VOA does not adjust for the patriots have an incredible offense. VOA assumes the patriots are an average team which means the defense was not that impressive in a drive per drive basis. If you look at the Defensive DVOA, it's off the charts.

149
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:51pm

Being a long-term poster, it's a bit disappointing to see the level to which people have attempted to drag down discussion about football. Aaron has never hidden his preferences when watching the game, nor has he ever represented DVOA as more than another tool to view the game from a fresh perspective. He and other FO staff have said multiple times in the past that DVOA is a part of the puzzle that should also involve regular statistics and, above all else, personal observation of the game itself.

As for those insisting he wants to get hired by Belichick, you're probably right. I mean, I don't know him from a hole in teh ground, but you probably know him really well, right? Developing deals with FOX, AOL, and other companies on his own terms and becoming known as an up-and-coming analyst in sports media for a website that many long-time readers saw him sacrifice a lot to make popular isn't enough. He really wants to work for Bill Belichick. Good job reading between the lines on that one. I totally missed it.

I used to regularly engage in the discussion boards, enjoying vigorous arguments about players, teams, coaches, the whole bit. Now, I barely even glance at them. I think I just realized why. It's a disappointment to see a vocal few try to drag down a site that many of us have followed for years with personal insults and vitriol. I do hope there is a way to get rid of you, so I can more fully enjoy the site going forward.

150
by Quentin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 11:00pm

148:

The Giants completely demolished that offense. Holding any team to 14 points is a major feat for your defense. The fact that they did it to the Patriots tells us that they're something special, but even if you manage it against the 49ers it should count as an above average showing.

151
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 11:11pm

#150: Holding any team to 14 points is a major feat for your defense.

Not in a 9 possession game. In a 9 possession game, 14 points is just slightly above average. It's within the granularity of a single score of average.

but even if you manage it against the 49ers it should count as an above average showing.

Hell no. The 49ers in a 9 possession game would be expected to produce somewhere around 9.4 points on average by DVOA, and even by simple points/drive, they'd produce only 9.72 points (they averaged 1.08 points/drive).

152
by peachy (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2008 - 11:59pm

So that was a Giants fan that was just "moderated"? Good job! Hate'm. And besides, rules are rules!

153
by Gerry (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 12:25am

"#150: Holding any team to 14 points is a major feat for your defense."

Not in a 9 possession game. In a 9 possession game, 14 points is just slightly above average."

An average team, say the 15th ranked one in the metric, would have scored 16.5 points in 9 drives in 2008 (that would have been the Giants, by the way).

The Patriots scored 15% less than that.

Holding a team to 15% below average is a pretty good job.

The 2008 Patriots would have scored, on average, 30.5 points in 9 drives.

The Patriots scored 54% less than that.

Holding a the top rated offensive team in the NFL to 54% of what they normally score per drive? Thats quite a feat.

That wasn't a meh performance. That was an outstanding defensive performance.

You know what happens when you score 54% less per drive than you usually do, and 15% less per drive than an average team would? You will usually lose.

The Giants defense, playing a great offense, made that offense perform like a slightly below average offense. The Giants offense, playing against a pretty good defense, played like it did against everyone else. On a per drive basis, both.

154
by admin :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 12:34am

153 comments so far, and not one has addressed what I said about the Carolina Panthers and Super Bowl XXXVIII.

You know, we've been accused of being biased against all 32 teams at one time or another. We don't take it seriously anymore. It all comes around in cycles, my friends.

In 2005, the numbers said the Patriots would very likely lose to the Denver Broncos. That's what I wrote, both here and on FOX. Remember when I said that the Patriots didn't have any magic beans? Boy, you should have seen the e-mail I got for that, accusing me of being just another Pats hater. It was pretty funny. I kept some of them.

This one came December 15, 2005:

You truly are an outsider Aaron… Rating the Patriots #19??? In fact, forget 'outsider'… You're completely 'Out'… Of your mind that is.

I'm sure you'll be crying in your beer come January 15th, when the Colts get demolished by the Patriots for the third year in a row. It'll be a big let down for you and Peyton's Perfect Pony's, but you should both be used to it… After all, the Pats have already crushed Manning's Super Bowls dreams so many times already. I'll be waiting for your stupid opinion after that Patriot victory… It should be a hoot.

****
Here's a fun one from January 23, 2006:

Bother?? Are you kidding Andy... ok, first... put the stats down, dop your pants and lets see the jewels. Your photo elludes that you are a man (one struggling with the fact that your actually too inexperiencd to be writing about football so you grew a foo-man-chu to look the part..) Nice try, your now pushing 26. Dude, ten straight playoff win\'s is overhyped??? How is that possible as the Patriots are the only team in histoy to have accomplished such a feat.... Miami 72 overhyped??? You use stats to eate your power rankings. In doing so you use none of yor own \"football knowledge\" to put your \"jewels\" on the line to say who YOU actually think are the best teams in football. Where I\'m from we would call you a (think cat, think the thing we spend 9 months fighting to get out of and the rest of your life trying to get back in)! I\'m trying to be nice here, but you make it difficult! Then you turn around and refer to 2002 and say the Pats would not have beaten Oakland, Tenn, and Tampa Bay...Your memory is questionable. 2001 the Pats beat Oakland, then a win IN Pittsburgh, then as 14 point underdogs came out and stunned the football world with a victory over the \"greatest show on turf\"! Dont want to but feel i must also mention the vicories in the 2003/04 playoff\'s, win\'s against the record setting manning show\'s and return trip in 04 to pittsburgh for another dismantling of the steelers, in steel town! In doing so stringing together 18 straight wins in 03/04. 10 and 0 in the playoffs... overated??? Was their third superbowl victory in four years, this accomplishment, overated?? Son, shave, grow a set of ..... and keep to your stats, cause you really have no business speaking on \"what might have happened\". The Pats will beat Denver. Then (fittingly) host the AFC Championship in foxboro. I wonder where your stats will place this DYNASTY after their 4th superbowl victoy in 5 years.

***
Finally, this one comes from December 27, 2005, accusing me of being biased in favor of -- yes, really -- the New York Giants.

What pharmaceutical or recreational drug are you abusing? You have the Bears slipping DOWN one spot after 2 good showings of the Bears offense and the continued strength of their defense. Nearly all of the other \"so called experts\" consider the Bears to be a significant threat in the playoffs now that their offense can move the ball via the pass. You rank 5 NFC teams ahead of them and they are the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Giants and the Panthers are better? Please!

155
by Gerry (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 12:35am

"Consider the game state only after the fumble has occurred, so losing the fumble is clearly negative, and gaining the fumble is clearly positive. Reference to the Giants losing the fumble, so we’re comparing this state to the Patriots next possession state.

In that case, you’ve got the action of recovering the fumble (”+X” for the Giants), the action of being stopped on 3rd down (”-Y” for the Giants), and the punt, which we’ll approximate as being an average play (worth zero). We know that the difference between losing the fumble and the next Patriots possession is 1.2 points, and that difference is equal to recovering the fumble, being stopped on 3rd down, and the punt (or +X-Y). So +X-Y = 1.2 points. So X = 1.2+Y points.

Again, strictly more."

Pat, you are wrong.

The difference between the hypothetical state (Pats recover on the NE 29) versus what happened after the fumble recovery + penalty followed by the incompletion and punt was exactly this: 18 yards and something like 6 seconds. If you want to say that's approximately 1.2 points, I'll stipulate that for the sake of argument.

That means the 'value' of the Giants recovery of the fumble (X), plus the value of the incompletion (call it Y), plus the value of the punt (call it Z), would equal 1.2 points. But if the fumble batting did not happen, the difference in the game would not have been X, it would have been X-Y-Z because plays Y and Z would not have happened.

We already know what X-Y-Z is equal to-- 18 yards and 6 seconds. You suggested that's about 1.2 points. That is what that fumble recovery's impact was on the game.

156
by Sara B (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 1:20am

"153 comments so far, and not one has addressed what I said about the Carolina Panthers and Super Bowl XXXVIII."

As a 100%-biased Panthers fan, I completely appreciated that. If it's any consolation. ;)

157
by Daniel (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 2:00am

I don't understand why a Giant fan would be offended by the insinuation that 'luck' played a factor in their win. One of my college professors once told me that "luck is when preparation and opportunity cross paths." The Giants seized more of the opportunities that presented themselves, if the numbers don't necessarily reflect that, so what? As a Steeler fan, I wasn't mad when the numbers said that the Seahawks had a better game. I would get upset when it was insinuated that they won strictly because of poor referees. The Steelers won because they made plays when the opportunities presented themselves. I didn't follow the Seahawks that closely that year, but I doubt they gave up many TD runs over 50 yards or allowed many teams to complete long passes on 3rd and 19, but they did in that game. Same holds true for the Giants on Sunday. The Patriots didn't play well, but both teams had opportunities to make plays and the Giants seized theirs. I would like to know more about the play of the Patriots line. I was under the impression that this was a superior unit, especially the left side. It appeared to me that Umenyora (sp?) and Tuck won almost every individual battle. Many times it seemed that the DE would just shove Light out of the way and bum rush Brady. Not only did they struggle with pass protection, but they couldn't run the ball effectively either. What happened? I didn't see this as a problem when they played in week 17, what changed between then and now?

158
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 2:43am

58, 70 (way back): Re, Samuel. I haven't seen it mentioned, and haven't had the heart to look at the tape, but I thought the Harrison drop with 2 and change to go was much worse. Samuel would have had to catch the ball AND stay in bounds; it would have been a great catch for a receiver, let alone a CB.

And 143: Re: holding on a fumble. This came up in the game thread - I thought there couldn't be holding on that play, but there was some disagreement. Do you have a cite? (I'm not doubting you - just for my own edification.)

159
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 3:05am

78: When Ty Law didn't get the MVP for scoring 7 AND helping hold that classic offense to 17 points (and IIRC, Brady won the internet vote), I realized that it was unlikely we would see virtually any defensive SB MVP for the foreseeable future. Both the media and the fan vote are too easily tempted by the status quo - that is, the QB will be MVP unless he's awful (like Big Ben) or another skill player breaks a record (like Deion Branch).

I can't figure out whether Tuck's stock should be hurt because he was out for much of the Pats' key 4th quarter series - or, he should be seen as more "valuable" (in that when he was absent, the defense clearly suffered)?

Oh, well. Congrats again to Gerry and Kurt et al.

160
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 3:05am

Holding a the top rated offensive team in the NFL to 54% of what they normally score per drive? Thats quite a feat.

That wasn’t a meh performance. That was an outstanding defensive performance.

Why, I do believe you're right!

In fact, it might be deserving of, say, a mind-blowingly high DVOA rating. Like, say, -43%! That's incredibly high.

As for this:

The Patriots scored 15% less than that.

Holding a team to 15% below average is a pretty good job.

NFL scores are poorly quantized - the difference between -15% and 6% in a 9-drive game is something like 2-3 points.

The Patriots had a chance for a field goal at the end of the first half that was ended by a fumble that the Giants recovered. The Giants had little control as to whether or not they recovered that. I can buy that being a ~half point or so. The Patriots also eschewed a 50-ish yard field goal for a 4th and 14 attempt which failed. The Giants had no control over whether or not the Patriots chose to kick the FG. That's 1.5 points right there.

That's the difference between defensive DVOA and points. If a team drives from their own 20 to their opponent's 20, and then attempt to convert a 4th and 10 or so, the scoreboard nets them no points (and field position really nets them nothing either) - but DVOA will still credit them for going 60 yards, because the other team had no way of knowing that the team wasn't going to kick a field goal at that point. ("Really, our plan was to have them drive down the field, and then have them attempt a triple reverse with a halfback pass. Our defensive strategy was brilliant!")

Really, keeping someone to 14 points in a 9 drive game is just average.

I mean, hell, you can't easily score ~16 points in a football game. "16 points on average" is probably "a bunch of 14s and a couple of 21s."

But if the fumble batting did not happen, the difference in the game would not have been X, it would have been X-Y-Z because plays Y and Z would not have happened.

Uh, yes? But the question was "what did the fumble recovery net them?" not "what would the Patriots have gotten had the Giants recovered?" That's why I said "reference to the Patriots recovering." The fumble recovery netted them X. That's just a definition. In order to reference it to the Patriots recovering, it's X+Y+Z+18 yards+some small amount of time.

161
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 3:09am

Oh, and Aaron:

Personally, I think you're biased against the Baltimore Ravens. Why else would you leave off the 2000 Super Bowl from the list above?

162
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 3:14am

Re #158
From 12-1-2 of the 06 rulebook (I don't think it was changed for 07, but I don't have an '07 rulebook):
During a loose ball. An offensive player may use his hands/arms legally to block or otherwise
push or pull an opponent out of the way in a personal attempt to recover the ball.

See also 8-4-4-3:
After a backward pass or fumble touches the ground, any player may legally block
or otherwise use his hands or arms to push or pull an opponent out of the way but
only in an actual personal attempt to recover

Subjectively, I think the enforcement of the rule as such is that actively preventing a player of the other team is treated as an act that is beneficial in your own attempt to recover the ball, resulting in this never being flagged. The fact that there are rules suggesting this shouldn't be flagged but might be an infraction at other times is an unnecessary complication to the NFL rulebook at the same time as what is already frequently a difficult judgment call, and the possibility that there can be holding existing during a loose ball after a fumble but before the recovery is something that should be written out of the rulebook, but that's just my personal take.

163
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 4:40am

It's about time someone from the site got angry at me. I actually expected it a lot sooner. And I don't care.

I came here to gloat. I admit it. But I really did also wish to see if the staff learned a lesson on dismissing teams in the playoffs out of hand. Pats by 30??? Are you KIDDING me?! How many playoff games have they EVER won by 30? How many times in the last 2 months did they win by 30?

And BTW the two are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact many lessons have been taught BY gloating.

I didn't like the direction this site was going months ago, so I stayed away from posting and only read occasionally. All the massive incivility occurred without me even being around, and it will continue even if I'm banned. I put up with it, and the Fins going 1-15, and the Pats going 16-0, and the '72 Fins being labeled as the most evil group of people in the universe, but when I read this staff's comments on the Giants that was the last straw. I vowed then and there that if the Giants won, I was going to come back here and let you have it.

If you find it insulting, you should. But it went both ways, because my intelligence was insulted by the "NYG minimizing" and other things said here.

We'll just see if you guys so casually write off a team like that come the next postseason. I'm guessing you won't.

Was I immature? Absolutely. But to say I am or was the only one fitting that description would be the most ridiculous, preposterous and downright ludicrous statement on this site yet.

164
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 4:42am

And if you want to make me the official first person ever banned from here than I'm perfectly willing to fall on that grenade. I just wanted to say that the anger goes both ways before I'm given the boot.

165
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 6:00am

Okay, I think I've finally spewed all my anger out. I wrote Aaron an e-mail to apologize. Not because I think it'll get me out of being banned, but because it was the right thing to do. I've asked him to forward my apology to everyone else, particularly Mr. Farrar, who I originally intended to send the e-mail but whose name I couldn't find on the contact list.

I know full well what the situation is, so even if I'm not banned I won't be posting here for a while. I don't really see how I can.

166
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 11:35am

It seems the point that alot of people are missing (and it's something Aaron's already cleared up) is that Fox is responsible for the title of this article, not anyone from FO. I really think that title is at the root of alot of the defensiveness of the Giants supporters.

Let's just summarize what the numbers are saying:

DVOA - When we take into consideration how each team played throughout the rest of the season, the Giants massively outplayed the Pats (by 41%) especially the Giants' defense against the vaunted greatest offense ever in the history of all time (-43%).

VOA - If we completely ignore how much better the Pats were during the season but give the Giants credit for recovering all of their fumbles, the Giants ever so slightly outplayed the Pats both in aggregate and on both sides of the ball separately.

VOAf - If we completely ignore how much better the Pats were during the rest of the season and we assume that a team usually doesn't have a 100% recovery rate on fumbles, that if New England had been fortunate enough to have average recovery luck they would have slightly outplayed New York.

I just don't understand why that is such a controversial point of view? The indisputable facts of the game are that it was a game between one team that was having a historically great season against an inconsistent team that had some really really good games and some really really bad games (which averages out to mediocre). It was an incredibly close game that saw the lead change three times in the 4th quarter, twice in the final 3 minutes of the game. It was a game where the Giants recovered both of their fumbles and New England's sole fumble.

If we knew nothing about either team coming into this game, we'd ALL be thinking that the two teams played to a virtual draw with the Giants doing just enough to squeak out a victory, but if New England had recovered a fumble or two it would probably have still been an incredibly close game but possibly with the opposite outcome. But considering how much better the Pats had played during the rest of the season, this was a tremendous effort by the Giants and one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport.

What the hell is the problem with that?

167
by Todd S. (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 11:42am

DolFan,

I personally hope you come back for college football season. I enjoy the hate-spewing version of you when it is directed at the Big1T1en, but not when it is directed at certain FO writers. And I say this as a Purdue fan. (Seriously.)

168
by crack (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 11:49am

#16

I thought DVOA and VOA were from the charting done by watching the game. That would allow a play to be factored as fluke.

Its obvious that VOA is biased towards the Pats. Before you all jump down my throat I'm not saying the FO guys made it biased, or any sort of homerism is the reason. Stats are biased towards teams that do things they reward. In this case the Pats driving for non-scoring drives was enough to make the Giants D look below average (Again I'm pointing to VOA). Over the course of a season the FO guys have found that a high VOA corresponds to wins. That definitely worked for the Pats, they got all sorts of VOA and won all sorts of games. However, playing for a high VOA would be stupid. You play for points. The value of a 12 play non-scoring drive that gives your opponent the ball at their own 30 is almost non-existent. There is some value, but really not much. But it can have a decent amount of VOA.

So in sum, VOA is biased towards the Patriots. Not because of some evil nefarious plot by the FO guys (and why would they wanna do that, they (Aaron) want the Pats to win, do you think it really matters to them if the VOA and DVOA were reversed? do you think they would be unhappy if the Pats had gone on an amazing playoff run and upset the Giants despite what DVOA predicted? How does that make any sense?) but because the Pats do well what VOA rewards.

169
by Jeremy Billones (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 11:57am

Re 163, 164, 165

"I won’t be posting here for a while. I don’t really see how I can."

And yet you somehow continue to do so. How odd.

170
by Herm? (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 12:36pm

I really hope the staff and readers don't get discouraged...out of tens of thousands of posts by hundreds of posters, you can probably count on your fingers (and maybe toes) how many people here are subtracting from the overall experience, with another faction of people who don't understand the definition and intent of DVOA and DPAR.

I also disagree that it's Giants fans (although there may be a couple) that are killing the most recent threads. The most inflammatory remarks I've read since Sunday seem to be coming from a Dolphins fan and a Colts fan.

Would you ever believe you would find sports fans happily living vicariously through New Yorkers? Very neat phenomenon.

And I agree with SaraB...the Best Stat mentioned above is the Carolina DVOA in their Superbowl.

171
by bob (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 12:57pm

Re 163, 164, 165: What a manic sequence of posts.

172
by nat (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 1:25pm

166:

A minor correction. DVOA does NOT say that the Giants massively outplayed the Patriots. It says they outplayed our expectations.

DVOA expected them to play like the average team DVOA suggests they are. Instead, they narrowly outplayed a team that DVOA suggests is great.

That is "massively" over expectations. It's only a little bit over the Patriots.

DVOA has always been the wrong stat for comparing two teams in one game. VOA or VOAf are the correct stats for that purpose.

And the score, of course. But you knew that.

173
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 2:18pm

crack, I think you are undervaluing the type of drive you describe. When the other team doesn't possess the ball, their chances of scoring are hugely reduced.

174
by ammek (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 2:25pm

And the stat I find the most curious is that St Louis and the Pats were tied in 2001, but special teams gave New England a slight edge. Did you read that, Mike Martz? Special teams. Can be. Important.

That, like the NE-Carolina game and this year's model, point to another important factor: which team has the ball last. We've seen a lot of 'clutch' offensive drives to win the game the last few years only one matched by a big play on defense (St Louis against Tennessee). I think in the Superbowl defenses tire, and as an underdog your best bet is the (essentially lucky) strategy of "get the ball last".

175
by ammek (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 2:28pm

I think Eli had as much right to the MVP as Tom Brady against the Rams, or Hines Ward against Seattle, or Ray Lewis against New York. It's a fairly pointless award, basically, especially in a defensive game.

176
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 2:32pm

ammek, the Giants didn't get the ball last, of course, but that goes to your point about the importance of special teams. I thought the Patriots best chance to tie the game after the Burress td was via an outstanding kick return, and when that didn't occur, the Giants chances of victory climbed by a gigantic amount.

177
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 2:35pm

The Giants didn't get the ball last, of course, if we ignore the kneel down with hoodie in the locker room.

178
by Gerry (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 2:52pm

Pat,

There's no point in continuing the exchange at this point. I have no burning need to argue with a brick wall, and I am sure you feel the same way. The people who read this deep into the thread can read what each of us wrote and make up their own minds.

179
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 3:26pm

Re #161
From the intro:
I present here the ratings for all of the Super Bowls from the past dozen years decided by seven points or fewer — plus one additional Super Bowl where our ratings say that the loser outplayed the winner
Aaron is also biased in favor of the Falcons because he left out the Falcons' loss to the Broncos in SB33. I hope all those Falcon fans who flooded the site that week in 05 are happy now.

180
by Kurt (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 3:33pm

I think in the Superbowl defenses tire, and as an underdog your best bet is the (essentially lucky) strategy of “get the ball last”.

After all we heard all year about how wonderful the Pats' running game really was, when it was first and goal on the 6, with under 3 minutes to go, the playcalling (pass, pass, pass) was...interesting. There was some luck in getting the ball with 2:39 left and all 3 timeouts left(IIRC), but other factors - good run D during the game, bad playcalling, whatever - also contributed.

181
by crack (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 3:51pm

173 Will

I may be. I however think VOA sometimes over values it. The thing is you could have two separate 12 play drives that give the opponent the ball back at their 30 which vary significantly in time that have the same VOA. Alternatively you could have two 12 play drives with identical time which vary significantly in VOA. So I don't think VOA is a good way to measure the value you find in the drive.

In the SB I wouldn't say the Giants had a bend don't break defense. They allowed scores on only 2 drives. VOA however thought they were less than average. A less than average performance gave up 14 points. Is that really a less than average amount of points for a D to give up? The best D in the league gave up 16.2. And its not like the Giants ended a lot of potential scoring drives with turnovers, they just prevented the Pats from getting in position to actually score.

Look, VOA is what it is. It's a good predictor season long of relative success. But I can't see how looking at the Giants D in this game you could say that if they had produced the same result against a league average offense they would have shown as a below average performance on D. They would have looked good with that performance against any team.

182
by doktarr (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 3:55pm

RE Aaron #154,

I did note surprise at the CAR>NE results in comments #3 and #79. I may have been the only one, though, which sort of proves your point anyway.

183
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 5:02pm

crack, I have no doubt that VOA sometimes overvalues it, but on average, over several hundred drives, it gets is pretty right. Once the quality of the offense is factored, with DVOA, the Giants performance on defense looks positively trmendous. Pat makes a good point, however, that 14 points yielded in a nine possesion game is nothing particularly remarkable, against a generic offense.

184
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 5:57pm

Re: 172

You're right, nat. I probably should have been more clear, but when I said "When we take into consideration how each team played throughout the rest of the season..." I was really attempting to say exactly what you did only not nearly as accurately as you did.

And you're also correct that DVOA isn't the correct stat for comparing two teams in a single game. And that's also why people (myself included) asked Aaron to include the VOA numbers in the Postseason DVOA threads.

185
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 6:18pm

Re: 181
But I can’t see how looking at the Giants D in this game you could say that if they had produced the same result against a league average offense they would have shown as a below average performance on D. They would have looked good with that performance against any team.

I think you're having a difficult time separating DVOA and VOA (and considering how abstract that process is, that's completely understandable.)

DVOA says that the Giants defense was incredible. It says that, considering how great New England's offense was this year, holding them to only 14 points during a 9 possession game was remarkable.

But if we remove all of our expectations from the equation (VOA), and just look at the result in a vacuum blindfolded, we see that in a 9 possession game some nondescript defense allowed some nondescript offense 2 TDs drives and come close to FG range on another drive. Considering the average defense would have allowed ~16 points in the same situation, had basically a completely average performance.

Let me try to put that another way. If the Giants play every team in the league and in each game they allow 14 points and a near FG drive in every single game, their VOA would be hovering around 0% for every game but their DVOA would vary drastically.

If the opponent was NE, their DVOA would be through the roof (well, floor actually) but their VOA would be around 0% since NE's offense is expected to exceed the league average by a huge margin.

If the opponent was San Fran, their DVOA would be atrocious, but their VOA would be around 0% since SF's offense is expected to fair much worse than the league average.

186
by Jim G (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 6:52pm

#166 Let’s just summarize what the numbers are saying:...
VOAf - If ... we assume that a team usually doesn’t have a 100% recovery rate on fumbles, that if New England had been fortunate enough to have average recovery luck they would have slightly outplayed New York. I just don’t understand why that is such a controversial point of view?...
~~~~~~~~~~~
Here's why it doesn't make much sense to me:

1) Formulas like VOA can be predictive of what will happen, or explanatory of what did happen. "Luck" occurs countless times in games and can turn a one-score game many times over. We all know that. OK.

Counting things like "fumble rate" and "expected fumble recoveries" in a predictive formula makes sense because it is one of the few forms of luck that can be projected to make predictions more accurate. You'd also like to project "% of passes bounced off hands for picks" and "%s of made/dropped interception opportunities", and other such things, but you can't.

But counting expected fumble recoveries in an explanatory formula, and only them as a luck item, while disregarding other equally "lucky" events that occurred right before your eyes so you now can count them, is just wrong. It's arbitrarily selective and will arbitrarily boost the "performance rating" of one team or the other.

E.g.: If you are going to boost the Pats performance rating for fumbles they didn't recover but for luck, you should also reduce the Pats rating for the interception they did get on 10 yard line only by the great luck of a bounce. You should also probably reduce Eli's passing rating for the pass he sailed through Samuel's hands, and adjust for maybe 20 other plays too.

Of course, such an explanatory formula that's all-inclusive for luck would be hugely complex and unprovable for lack of predictive power -- but that doesn't mean one that is highly selective about what luck it counts and doesn't count is good for doing so.

IOW, there's nothing inconsistent in saying a superior predictive formula can be a poor explanatory formula.

The Giants rushed for more yards than the Pats, passed for more yards than the Pats, had a higher average yds-per-play than the Pats both rushing and passing, sacked Brady five times and pounded him another 20+, had a higher 3rd+ 4th down conversion rate, etc.

Those stats explain why the Giants should be expected to have won (if nobody showed you the final score) and there was no luck about them. They outplayed the Pats head-to-head, straight up. Not by a lot, but across-the-board. That wasn't luck.

2) Fumbles themselves, not only who recovers them, are largely random, "luck".
Yes, it was a very close game and could have gone either way.

But if after outperforming the Pats by all the stat measures mentioned just above, they still lost due to a couple of fumbles recovered by the Pats, a description of the result as "The Giants nonetheless lost due to bad luck" would have been more accurate than "The Pats actually outplayed the Giants anyhow, due to lucky fumble recoveries".

187
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 6:53pm

The discussion of DVOA/VOA here prompts a question in me, to Aaron, or anyone else. One of the things that I had a tough time getting my mind around this year with regard to the Vikings, was their respective rankings of their offense and defense. In particular, it seemed to me as if their defense was better, relative to the rest of the league, that their offense was, relative to the rest of the league. DVOA, however, had them reversed, with the offense with the higher ranking. Now, it may well be that the peculiarity of the Vikings offense is simply driving me into the deep end, and I can't evaluate it effectively, but I can't get over the notion that if the Vikings defense was paired with a top 5 offense, it's ranking would skyrocket, yet if the Intrepid Tavaris Jackson and Co. were paired with a top 5 defense, we wouldn't see nearly as much change in their offensive ranking. There is something about unit interdependence that isn't being captured in the stats, which is not surprising, I suppose, and I know my views here are king of stupidly vague, but can anyone else get a handle on what I'm trying to say here, and give me what their thoughts are?

188
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 7:06pm

#185: That problem, really, is why single-game VOA is difficult to interpret.

Really, it's important to remember that VOA tracks points per drive. That's what it does. It's a pace-free stat that correlates to points better than yards per play does.

My brain just can't fathom why people are 'shocked' at the Giants VOA/DVOA/etc. The Patriots scored close to the average for a 9-play game. That's going to be close to an average defensive VOA. The Giants scored only slightly more than the average for a 9-play game. That's going to be close to an average offensive VOA.

The entire reason that the Giants performance was impressive was because it came against the Patriots, which is why their DVOA is so mind-blowingly high.

(Interestingly, their DVOA for that game was almost exactly the same as the previous 5 weeks. If we had a week-to-week trend of weighted DVOA, the Giants would be skyrocketing by the end of the year.)

189
by jimm (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 9:52pm

"16 games are far more predictible than one"

Most times that is true. But sometimes a few games, particularly games immediately preceding a game simply tell you more.

The Giants did not pull off a one game upset, they became a very strong team from the NE game on. They didn't slip by TB, Dall, and GB - they beat those teams. Those weren't weak teams they were strong teams.

As well, NE showed clear signs of of decline starting with the Philly and Balt games. Their two playoffs wins were very close games that turned on a few key plays in the red zone.

This is not hindsight. I wrote after the Balt game that NE was no longer dominating the yds per play stat and they were very beatable. Last week I wrote that Schatz was making himself feel good with stats when it was obvious to someone simply watching the teams play that this would be a very close game.

I think this will mark a turning point for the NE run. I think they will be good for another year but then they will fall to the back of the pack just as Pitt, Dall, and SF did.

As for NYG - I see them falling back into fighting for a playoff spot. I still don't buy that Eli is really all that special. This team won because its front 7 was incredible in the playoffs.

190
by jimm (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 10:09pm

Will - I understand your point. My gut tells me if the Vikings had GB offence and instead of TJack, etc that they would have gone 12-4 or so - but if they had say the Tenn defence they would have gone 9-7.

I think the Viking offence ranked highly because at times they were extremely good. Against the Bears in Chic, Det and SD at home - they were dominating. I think those performances effect the overall rating very significantly.

On the other hand the defence consistently gave up lots of yards but got tough in the red zone. They never played any dominating 100 yard allowed type of games.

I think the dominating performances really do provide real value in predicting future performance. I expect the Viking offence to be their strong suit next year based on their DVOA rating and my own observations. But I think they would have been far better off with a consistently decent offence last year as opposed to 3-4 great games a few mediocre ones and and about 4-5 horrible performances.

191
by seth (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 11:16pm

re 187, Will-
i know exactly what you're saying, and i think i might have a bit of an explanation. i'm neutral about the vikings, but i did get to see them several times this year. what makes the vikings offense seem worse than it really is... is, of course, the "not ready for prime time" QB play. i just looked up tarvaris jackson- he started 12 games and somehow threw only 12 interceptions. he had a QB rating of 70- not abysmal, really. i know these are traditional stats, and should be viewed in that context, but the point is that statistics do not express how poor his play often was. it's clearly not the 12 interceptions that are so bad...it's the way he looks when he throws them. the worst looking INT (tarvaris' specialty) is still just one INT on the stat sheet.

on the other hand, the vikings do average 5.6 yards carry with peterson and a 5.4 yards per carry with chester taylor (don't have DVOA numbers in front of me, but i'm sure they're very good, too). it's possible that an excellent rushing attack and a pathetic passing attack combine to give the perception of a weaker overall offense than is really there. does that make any sense?

but getting back to your point about unit interdependence...maybe there's some connection between "bonehead plays" and their impact on the opposite unit's performance, which i think is what you were getting at. in other words, if, say, the defense sees their own QB be completely overmatched (like when the vikes played green bay, for instance), isn't it more difficult for the defense to play at peak performance? i'm not sure this can ever be captured by statistics, but there has to be a "demoralization factor" that enters into the outcome of games. another example might be an extraordiary number of false starts by an offense...the frustration of watching the "alex barron experience" could have the same type of impact on the rams defense.

in any case, as i surmised when trying to explain the giants turnaround, outstanding line play, on both offense and defense, may make taking a step forward to an elite level a reasonable proposition. almost any mistake prone NFL player, such as a QB, can go through a stretch of relatively mistake-free football. but an average NFL lineman has no chance to morph into pat williams or steve hutchison.

192
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 11:27pm

This is not hindsight. I wrote after the Balt game that NE was no longer dominating the yds per play stat and they were very beatable.

Here's a question for you: were they ever not first in the league in yards per play? Over, say, a 6-game stretch?

I'm pretty sure they weren't. Yeah, they looked beatable. Just not easily beatable. Definitely not a team you would've picked against.

Seriously, the story of Super Bowl XLII wasn't the overrating of the Patriots. It was the underrating of the Giants.

I mean, really: three and a half weeks ago, the Patriots versus the Jaguars: the Patriots didn't punt until the fourth quarter. In a playoff game! This was still an extremely good offense. Just perhaps not as ludicrously good as earlier in the year.

193
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2008 - 11:52pm

Thanks for the responses. Yeah, there is something about the awfulness of the Tavaris Jackson Revolution (which, to be fair, is likely more attributable to the Robert Ferguson, Troy Williamson, and Bobby Wade Experience) that even advanced stats can't capture, unless really advanced charting gets integrated into DVOA or DPAR. Like, what does it mean to have no long or even intermediate completions when an opposing defense has nine, or even ten, guys within five yards of the line of scrimmage for a good chunk of the game?

I swear to God, I may have to swear off Vikings games next year, if I am left to witness that sort of thing again with any frequency...

194
by SoulardX (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 12:06am

"We were getting yelled at for the same nonsense about the Rams in the pre-season, and that prediction turned out to be spot-freaking-on."

"yelled at"?

baby

Still, your mean win for the Rams was still off by about 50%.

great site nonetheless!

195
by goathead (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 11:38am

Has this VOAf stat ever been used on this site before? I haven't seen it before, but there have been some stretches where I don't read this site. Just curious.

196
by goathead (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 12:39pm

I want to try to take a rational shot at why so many Giants fans are whining.

First, the Giants & Eli DID have a mediocre year- evidenced by their record, stats, etc. During the year they had an amazing # of dropped balls.

Its easy to explain (to some extent) the change in their performance in the playoffs by the reduction in drops, personel changes late in the year (Bradshaw for Droughns, Smith for Moss, Webster for Mc1/4), and increased experience of the large number of young players getting significant playing time. Instead, Giants fans were treated to a story on how they were the worst superbowl team ever. I suppose a stat on their DVO-D, DVOA assuming all dropped passes were completions might have been a nice addition to the SB story :-)

Then we see them show up in SB 42, and play the game of their lives, and to the eyes of every football fan I know, outplay what was being accepted before the game as the greatest team ever. I'm willing to bet that articles were already written on the reasons the 07 pats were the best team ever were already written, and the Giants show up, with an astonishing game plan, good execution, and yes, some luck, and do the unthinkable.

So, when an article seems to reach the conclusion that they were outplayed, and should credit luck for the SB win, this reaction isn't unexpected.

197
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 1:35pm

Re: 196

Actually, if you go back and reread Aaron's article he says that "... Super Bowl XLII was about as close to a tie as you can get. The winner may have determined simply by random bounces of the ball." And later he said "not counting opponent adjustments — looking purely at how teams played on the field — the Patriots actually come out slightly ahead of the Giants. The difference in the game comes from the three fumble recoveries."

I'm not sure how anyone can argue those points. I already wrote this, but I'll reiterate:

If we knew nothing about either team coming into this game, we’d ALL be thinking that the two teams played to a virtual draw with the Giants doing just enough to squeak out a victory, but if New England had recovered a fumble or two it would probably have still been an incredibly close game but possibly with the opposite outcome. But considering how much better the Pats had played during the rest of the season, this was a tremendous effort by the Giants and one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport.

198
by Cosmos (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 3:06pm

Sounds like everyone needs a hug! It doesn't really matter how you measure it, one of the most dominating teams of all time fell flat on their faces (or were just plain punched in the face). Either way you slice it, Giants had a bead on the Patriots, an intensity and thirst to win it all. Patriots wanted to come out, score and then carry the trophy home. The one thing all these stats and metrics can't measure is heart and guts and the Giants had it in spades on Sunday and the Patriots did not.

You can't say luck or lucky statics meant the difference, down right tough play made the difference and luck helped. The strange thing is how incredibly inept (outside of 2 drives) the Patriots looked. Brady looked miffed before the Giants even took the field because they had elected to receive the opening kick and that rolled down hill from there. He was hit and buzzed all day to the point of frustration. Maroney was completely shut down along with Moss and Stallworth. Gaffeny never showed and neither did Watson.

In the end, and in the biggest game of the year the Giants did it when it counted and the Patriots for all their hype, records and experience did not.

199
by jimm (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 3:12pm

192. Pat - "Here’s a question for you: were they ever not first in the league in yards per play? Over, say, a 6-game stretch?"

I haven't looked but I'm talking about yds/play differential. Yes I'm surprised NE's offence was shut down by the Giants, but what I'm talking about is that the Pats were not very dominant over their last 5-6 games. Here's the yads per play in there last ten games:

NE opp
4 5.4 NYG
5.3 5.2 SD
6.9 6.2 Jack
5.7 6.1 NYG
6.6 3.4 mia
4.2 3.8 NYJ
7.7 5.2 pitt
5 6.3 Balt
5.6 6.2 phil

that is far from dominant. The signs were there.

200
by Matt Saracen - QB1 - Dillon Panthers (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 4:55pm

If anyone wants to point the finger at Aaron for overlooking something - it is this: He ran DVOA from week 17-20 and it showed that the Giants and Patriots were performing virtually equally during that period (with the Patriots a bees dick ahead, much like the VOA in this game amazingly). Instead of running with the average hypemeister Joe in the media slant of 'OMG the Giants are playing well the Pats are slipping, the Giants are a decent chance' etc., Aaron instead went with an 'outsiders' view: that despite the Giants amazing run they were still not outplaying the Pats according to DVOA (albeit barely) and given the data showing that full season DVOA has been more accurate in predicting playoff winners in the past, the large gap between the Pats and Giants in that stat was enough to suggest the Pats should be favourites. Unfortuneately, hindsight suggests that Aaron's reliance on full season DVOA was wrong for this game, weeks 17-20 was amazingly accurate IN THIS CASE.

So the data was definitely there, Aaron just didn't want to be a bandwagoner, especially when past research suggested he shouldn't be.

As for this article, it was a little unfortunate in that it sounded a little sour on the Giants effort (nobody likes to hear there team was lucky). But then he is reporting the numbers as they spit out, not doctoring them or making up stories that aren't there - what was written about the fumbles and VOA was fact.

201
by jimm (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 5:53pm

The Giants did indeed recover 3 of 3 fumbles but certainly the Pats interception in the Red Zone kind of balanced out the luck a fair bit.

There was only one play where NE forced a turnover (sack of manning).

202
by Kal (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 8:27pm

On the love of the game, Eli getting the MVP, etc. It's a reasonable statement to say that someone else was more deserving of the MVP. I can only think of one person - Justin Tuck - but I can at least see arguments for others. That's reasonable.

What is not reasonable to me and shows a fairly myopic view of the game is the idea that Eli was a terrible choice for the MVP. He's only a terrible choice if you look at his performance through the entire game statistically. If you instead look at it as who did the most to make sure the team could win the game, Eli has to be in the top 3 players in that game, and that's entirely because of his heroic performance in the fourth quarter.

The 3rd down, long pass to Tyree shows up as a decent performance in DVOA. Maybe worth .4 points of DPAR. The fact that statistics can't capture its significance does not downplay it, it just speaks to how great it is. If you only base MVP performances on statistics - and if you truly believe that this is the best measure of someone deserving something - then no, I don't think you love football. I think you love football analysis. That's fine, good for you, but it does mean you're missing a lot of other things.

203
by vis (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 9:20pm

196 goathead, an excellent explanation. i was going to write something similar before these 200-some-odd posts beat the will out of me.

204
by Quentin (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 11:54pm

187, Will-

I think it would be interesting to see the Vikings defensive rating broken down by quarter. It could be that they simply get worn out, and their stats as the game goes on drag their overall rating back to the mean.

205
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 12:07am

that is far from dominant. The signs were there.

I was talking about yards/play differential, too. You're right that it's far from what it was. But what other team, exactly, did better than that?

Not the Giants, who averaged 0.03 yards/play better than their opponent in the playoffs (before the Super Bowl, since the question was 'could you see this before the Super Bowl). The Patriots averaged 0.2 yards/play better than their opponent.

For that entire stretch you listed (again, other than the Super Bowl), the Patriots averaged 0.6 yards/play better than their opponent.

Who in the NFL was better than that over that same stretch?

206
by Tim (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2008 - 2:28am

Bill, thank you for choosing my response, no. 17, to "call out". I am honored that my spur of the moment comments got under your skin so much. If they were as stupid and illogical as you claim, why would you get so worked up and waste so much mental energy to respond to my post? I put very little energy into writing it and actually had forgotten that I had written it.

Bill said- ..."that’s true, we didn’t watch any of the games. We were busy massaging DVOA to put out Patriots-positive data. “WHAT?!@? GIANTS BY FOUR?! THIS IS NONSENSE, MAD MACHINE!”..."

This is a juvenile, idiotic response to my very simple point, namely that the Giants were on a roll in the playoffs whereas the Patriots were not quite the same juggernaut they were earlier in the year, when Moss and Brady were at their most impressive. Because of this I felt that the Giants had a better shot than most thought in the SB.

Bill said- "...sure, the Giants pass rush that sacked Garcia once, Romo twice, and Favre exactly zero times. They were better than sheer sacks indicate, but they were by no means the force that they were in the Super Bowl..."

Which of these choices is more logical? That the highly touted QB's of Dallas, Green Bay and the immortal Patriots all happened to get unlucky when they played the Giants in the playoffs, or that the highly physical Giants pass rush wore down teams and didn't give the afforementioned QB's time to pick apart the Giants' makeshift secondary?

Bill said- "...again, nothing about Romo being pressured..."

It's mind boggling to me that you can discount Romo being pressured as a key factor in the Cowboy's loss. I'm sure if you asked Romo himself, or one of the O-line on the Cowboys they would concede that the Giants pass rush did indeed play an integral role. I'm not saying that the Cowboys receivers didn't drop passes, and that the Cowboys didn't commit stupid penalties, but it was the Giant pass rush, along with an epic 47 second drive by Manning at the end of the first half, that spurred the Giants on to their thrilling, unlikely victory.

Bill said- "...which, of course, we pointed out in both the NFC Championship Game preview and the Super Bowl preview. But, hey, don’t let that get in the way of a good muckrake..."

You may have pointed it out but you certainly didn't make a big deal about it. A large reason why the Giants were so awful statistically during the regular season was Eli's interception addiction. He had only one in the postseason, which should have been caught by Steve Smith. Had Eli turned the ball over in the playoffs more the Giants would probably not have won the Superbowl.

Bill said- "...Yes, I know, the Giants got affected by weather..."

Who said that? There are a myriad of intangibles that lead to the Giants late season improvement which have been repeated ad nauseum, such as the new defensive coordinator, a young, emerging quarterback going through growing pains in Eli Manning, and the loss of Shockey which paradoxically appeared to improve Eli's play dramatically.

Bill said- "...The conditions against the Jets were worse than any of the Giants games, I assure you, as a Giants fan. But, on the other hand, I’m a self-appointed expert and biased towards New England..."

A wee bit defensive, no?

Bill said- "...really? The Jaguars, who I could’ve sworn I read a dozen “built for the playoffs” and “the team no one wants to play” stories about?..."

Not from me, I thought they were a very weak postseason team.

Bill said- "...really? And the Buccaneers weren’t missing a full-speed Joey Galloway, and both Tony Romo and Terrell Owens weren’t knocked up for the Cowboys? Did I imagine all that stuff? Was I in the DVOA cave stroking my Patriots pennant?..."

The Buccaneers don't even enter into the discussion, as they were a pretty weak team. Were Romo and TO injured? Perhaps, but Rivers was literally hobbling across the field all night and the best RB in the league did not even play. Under these circumstances, the Patriots should have been lighting up the scoreboard, despite the heroic efforts from the Charger defense and the seriously immobilised Rivers. Obviously they still won, but I personally did not find them to be very impressive in doing so.

Bill said- "...if I have any cachet as an expert..."

Honestly, I don't know who you are. The articles which I took umbrage to were this one and the one about the Giants being the worst team ever to reach the superbowl, which were both written by the legendary Aaron Schatz.

Bill said- "...it would be because regardless of whether I’m right or wrong, when I make a statement, I actually do have some sort of logic behind it."

I fail to see how my statements were illogical. Perhaps I don't have a lot of acronyms to back up my claims, but even if I am an illogical person, my team won an epic superbowl and I was fortunate enough to see the worst collapse in the history of sports, something which I look forward to telling my grandkids about.

"...and I don’t discount the possibility that there might be things about the Giants that DVOA doesn’t accurately measure..."

You think?

Bill said- "...if you’re going to be smarmy when you’re doing, at least make sure your points are right."

I make no guarantees in regards to this.