Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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Sidney Rice has retired. Is he the most random single-season DYAR leader ever? One-year wonder? Injury prone? We offer a career retrospective for the second-best wide receiver named Rice in NFL history.

26 Oct 2010

Week 7 Quick Reads

by Bill Barnwell

No one does fourth-and-short quite like the Patriots and Bill Belichick.

When the Patriots showed that they were going to attempt to convert a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter against the Chargers at midfield just as the two-minute warning hit, we all thought the same thing: This didn't work last year. The famous stop of Kevin Faulk's pass by the Colts ended up creating a game-winning opportunity for Peyton Manning and led to infinite second-guessing. We all remember. And when the Patriots were stuffed again on fourth-and-short this time around, Patriots fans who were against the call last year undoubtedly got out a few expletives and cursed their fate for being saddled with one of the game's most aggressive (and successful) coaches.

It ended up being just about irrelevant once Kris Brown put a game-tying field goal attempt onto the goalpost. But was Belichick right to go for it? A look at the numbers and the formation of an decision tree should give us a good idea of whether it was the correct call.

Let's set the stage. The Patriots had the ball on their own 49-yard line with exactly two minutes to go. They had no more timeouts, while a Norv Turner miracle meant that the Chargers had all three of theirs. The Chargers had driven for touchdowns on their previous two drives, leaving the Patriots with a 23-20 lead.

From the beginning of the 2008 season to Sunday, teams have converted on fourth-and-1 68.1 percent of the time (347-of-511). Over that timeframe, the Patriots had been 21-of-26 (80.7 percent) on fourth-and-1, including 3-for-3 this season. The third conversion had been a BenJarvus Green-Ellis carry only a quarter earlier.

While the Patriots ran a pass play on that famous fourth-and-2 try a year ago, they've run the ball on 23 of those 26 fourth-and-1 attempts. Even though the Patriots are clearly better at throwing the ball than they are running it, the numbers clearly sit in favor of handing the ball off on fourth-and-1: Teams convert on 73.4 percent of their carries, while they only pick up the first down 48.5 percent of the time when they throw it. While the pass play picks up more yardage, it doesn't really matter here; the Patriots are playing strictly for the first down.

Since the Chargers had the league's 14th-best run defense heading into the game, we'll be a little generous and say that the Patriots should expect to convert running the ball on fourth-and-1 about 70 percent of the time. It could be 65 percent or 75 percent, but truthfully, it doesn't really matter all that much. If the Patriots pick up the first down, they either force the Chargers to use all their timeouts and punt on fourth-and-long, they convert for another first down and end the game, or something wacky happens (the Patriots turn the ball over or score a touchdown on a long run play). We'll ignore the third option and just consider the first two. The Patriots win just about 100 percent of the time when they pick up the additional first down, and forcing Rivers to go 60 yards for a shot at a game-tying field goal (or 80 for a game-winning touchdown) with no time left, they probably win about 80 percent of the time. Either scenario is very, very good for the Patriots. Let's split the difference and say their expectation of winning if they convert that fourth-and-1 carry is about 90 percent.

Of course, if the Patriots don't make it, the Chargers are in business. They have three timeouts and only need to drive 25 yards for a makeable field goal or 50 for a game-winning touchdown. As the outcome of the game revealed, the field goal isn't a guarantee, but the driving was relatively easy. During the game, the Chargers had ten meaningful possessions before their final drive. That included drives of 36, 39, and 43 yards in the first half (two of which ended in fumbles), and consecutive drives of 60, 64, and 67 yards before the final one. The Patriots had only stopped them without forcing a turnover twice all game, and New England's pass defense has been grotesque all year. If you believe in momentum, the Chargers' offense had it. Perhaps the Chargers successfully kick a field goal 50 percent of the time; in which case, the game goes into overtime and the Patriots still win about 50 percent of the time. 25 percent of the time, the Chargers score a touchdown and win, and the other 25 percent of the time, the Patriots get a stop and the Chargers don't score. Those are figures that are friendly to the Chargers offense, if anything. Throw all these probabilities together, and we estimate that the Patriots win by trying to convert on fourth-and-1 about 78 percent of the time. The margin of error is reasonably high, but it's close enough that we have an idea of what Belichick is thinking by going for it.

The alternative is to punt. Punting gives the Chargers the ball somewhere deep in their own territory with three timeouts and two minutes left; we'll say that they get it on their own 20-yard line. The Chargers need to move the ball about 55 yards for a reasonable shot at a game-tying field goal, and 80 yards would give them a game-winning touchdown. (We won't consider the possibility of the Chargers scoring immediately and the Patriots getting a chance to drive themselves, just to make the probabilities a little easier.) Remember that the Patriots' pass defense has been awful and that the Chargers have just driven the ball 60 or more yards on three consecutive series. We don't have figures for Philip Rivers converting on the two-minute drill, but picking up 30 yards quick isn't going to be a problem for the Chargers here; truthfully, the probabilities aren't all that much different. Our best guess would be that the Chargers kick the game-tying field goal 45 percent of the time (and then win the game in overtime 50 percent of the time), score a game-winning touchdown 10 percent of the time, and either miss the field goal, turn the ball over, or get stopped the other 45 percent of the time.

Plug in those figures, and when Belichick punts, the Patriots win 68 percent of the time. In the long run, using our best estimates of what can be very hypothetical probabilities, the Patriots are better off going for it than they are punting.

Is that definitive proof that Belichick should have gone for it? No. The margin of error is too high on those guesstimates, and it's going to be awful tricky (but necessary) to come up with win probability adjustments that are empirically adjusted for opposition. What probability analysis suggests, though, is that going for it is about as valid an option as punting is in that situation. From there, you have to let the soft factors take over and let Belichick coach the specific situation. If both options give you a relatively equal chance of winning, would you rather put the ball in the hands of Tom Brady against the Chargers defense or rely on your pass defense to stop Philip Rivers? That's a really simple answer.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Carson Palmer CIN
36/49
412
3
0
245
245
0
Palmer had the benefit of playing the Falcons without top cornerback Dunta Robinson or, for part of the game, starting safety Thomas DeCoud. That made things easier, and after an uneven start to the game that helped stake the Falcons out to a 21-point lead, Palmer suddenly morphed into 2006 mode. From the final drive of the first half and on, Palmer was 30-of-36 for 359 yards, with 20 of his passes going for either a first down or a touchdown. It might have started as mopup work, and Palmer never actually touched the football again with a lead (because the touchdown that gave Cincinnati the lead was a defensive one), but Cincinnati got back into the game because Palmer threw them there.
2.
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF
28/42
385
4
2
204
197
7
This is pretty clearly the best game of Fitzpatrick's career, considering quality of performance, opposition, and usage rate. His best game without controlling for opponent is actually his debut in 2005, a game where he went 19-of-30 for 310 yards with three scores and one pick against Houston, the league's third-worst pass defense. Miraculously, he was only sacked once by the Ravens in 43 dropbacks, while nine of his 14 attempts on third down resulted in a first down or a touchdown. He also scrambled for two first downs on third down, while a third run gained 11 yards on third-and-12. He finished with the first 200-DYAR day for a Bills quarterbacks since we moved from DPAR to DYAR before the 2008 season. That leaves 13 teams without a 200-DYAR performance: Baltimore, Carolina, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Oakland, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Tennessee.
3.
Matt Ryan ATL
23/32
294
3
1
178
177
1
Ryan threw seven passes classified as to the middle of the field, ranging from one to 16 yards away from the line of scrimmage. He completed all of them, gaining 104 yards in the process, including the 46-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Roddy White that got his big day started.
4.
Jason Campbell OAK
12/20
204
2
0
138
132
6
Campbell doesn't get credit for handing the ball off, but he did have six plays of 20 yards or more, five of which came on the left side of the field. That's the side struggling rookie corner Perrish Cox plays on; in addition to the humiliating loss, Cox also suffered a concussion on Sunday, which digs an even deeper hole for the Broncos secondary. Four of the six passes Campbell threw to his running backs resulted in first downs.
5.
Matt Moore CAR
28/41
309
2
1
121
122
-1
Steve Smith was back for this one, but he didn't really do very much -- 4-of-8 for 51 yards with a fumble and a penalty. On passes to wideouts that weren't Steve Smith, Moore was 14-of-16 for 216 yards, and he added two DPIs for 19 yards. Tight end Donte Rosario also had a subtly effective game, going 5-of-5 for 28 yards, but picking up four first downs on those throws.
6.
Aaron Rodgers GB
21/34
295
2
2
95
92
2
As you might have seen on Sunday Night Football, Rodgers had a fair amount of throws that fell incomplete due to what our charters would mark as "Miscommunication." What was particularly weird about these throws was that Rodgers was missing out of bounds on a few of them; there's no route Greg Jennings is supposed to run that ends at the Gatorade table. By my count, Rodgers will end up with three passes marked as Miscommunication; by comparison, Rodgers had just four passes in all of 2009 that were marked as Miscommunication. (He was league-average: 0.66 percent of passes were marked as Miscommunication for Rodgers, while the league was at 0.61 percent.)
7.
Chad Henne MIA
22/35
231
0
0
93
93
0
Henne started with four straight incompletions, then completed six in a row, had more four incompletions, and then completed ten consecutive passes. I'm not sure if that's more or less valuable than a guy who just goes 16-of-24 without any notable pattern like that. Notable: Henne threw just four passes "deep" (15 yards or more downfield), and while he completed them all, the Dolphins could only produce a total of 12 YAC on the four throws.
8.
Matt Cassel KC
12/17
187
1
0
90
90
0
Against the league's second-worst pass defense, Matt Cassel dropped back seven times over 25 plays in the first half. I know that the Chiefs are a run-first team, but that's just a poor job of building your gameplan to account for the strengths and weaknesses of the other team. Cassel wasn't helped by a couple of early drops, but once Cassel got on the board -- with seven minutes gone in the second quarter -- he completed nine straight passes for 154 yards. Yes, the running game was working well and helped set up some of Cassel's effectiveness, but the Chiefs were getting 10 YPA through the air and less than six on the ground.
9.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
19/27
302
2
0
87
100
-14
That infamous scramble is marked as a two-yard carry with a fumble that was kept by the offense. It was one of three fumbles Roethlisberger was dinged for on the day, with the other two coming on sacks. Roethlisberger took sacks on three of his 11 third down dropbacks, but when he was able to get the ball off, he converted six of eight.
10.
Philip Rivers SD
34/50
338
1
1
76
78
-3
Rivers absorbs most of the punishment for his swing pass-turned-lateral to Jacob Hester in DYAR; you can decide if he was at fault or not. In addition to the two fumbles (what's with the Chargers tumbling for the Patriots at home?), he was victimized by a fair number of drops and had an aborted snap. Considering the injuries and general malaise in the Patriots secondary, it was surprising that Rivers wasn't able to make more hay on the deep passes that are a trademark of this offense, as he didn't complete a pass further than 21 yards downfield. Then again, that will happen when your top wide receivers are Patrick Crayton and Buster Davis.
11.
Kevin Kolb PHI
25/45
194
1
2
61
79
-19
Probably wasn't expecting to see him this high, but opponent adjustments prop up the bad games, too. This pass also doesn't include the 37-yard pass to Riley Cooper, which is credited to the arm of Jeremy Maclin and needs to be corrected. (Of course, DYAR doesn't know that play was an awful throw that should have been intercepted, either.) He couldn't do anything downfield without DeSean Jackson; with 14 third downs, he converted six, and none of his passes went for more than nine yards. A great game here would have given Andy Reid something to think about heading into the bye, but even after the opponent adjustments, this wasn't a very good game. Not to suggest Michael Vick purposely sat out this game, of course, but it's good for his career viability; after the bye, the Eagles get the Redskins (24th in pass defense) and Colts (15th) before Vick gets his first tough start of the year, the Giants.
12.
Joe Flacco BAL
16/30
250
3
0
60
60
0
Flacco only threw on seven third down attempts, and he picked up just one of them. His biggest play of the game was a 40-yard pass interference penalty drawn by T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who now has three of them for 80 yards in his pocket over just 27 attempts so far this year. He finished with five plays of 20 yards or more, which is nice, but this is the Bills' defense. It's where you make your Pro Bowl case, not where you eke out a victory.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
13.
Alex Smith SF
9/19
129
1
0
53
53
0
14.
Jon Kitna DAL
16/33
187
2
0
52
52
0
I suppose this would be a good space to talk about Tony Romo. In case you really bought the talk about Romo being something short of tough because he decided to use a few days off as a few days off, keep in mind that he had to be physically restrained from re-entering the game with a fractured clavicle. While it's part of our jobs to research injuries to try and improve the accuracy of our projections, there's no joy in actually seeing that play out. The Cowboys should be better off with Jon Kitna in the lineup than Brad Johnson, but a well-aged quarterback behind an offensive line with serious pass-blocking issues doesn't exactly imply a surge in offensive output. It's all done besides the firings in Dallas.
15.
Todd Bouman JAC
17/33
202
2
2
43
38
5
Truthfully, Bouman looked pretty good for a guy who had been limited to three starts during each Bush Jr. term. The Chiefs have had a pretty effective pass defense this season, and Bouman showed some nice touch on the wheel to Maurice Jones-Drew while making some effective throws down the field. The Chiefs contributed two pass interference penalties for 55 yards, but they were able to stop Marcedes Lewis where he does his best work. Four Lewis targets in the red zone, including three in the end zone, all fell incomplete. Eric Berry drew a fair amount of those matchups and is playing better; he was awful in the opener against the Chargers, but he's getting his sea legs.
16.
Tom Brady NE
19/32
159
1
0
35
32
3
What a dreadful start: 4-of-10 for 16 yards (and a touchdown, thanks to a short field) with two sacks. He played much better in the second half, when he went 13-of-16 for 124 yards with five first downs. Including a 29-yard pass interference penalty, Brady was 8-of-15 for 80 yards on throws to Antoine Cason's side of the field, and 6-of-8 for 37 yards on throws to Quentin Jammer's side of the field. That's a decent rebound game for Cason, if not necessarily great work. Of note: Since the Randy Moss trade, Wes Welker's played two tough pass defenses and produced 11 catches for 78 yards. A chance to buy low, a measure of how good the defenses against him have been, or a sign that he will struggle without Moss?
17.
Eli Manning NYG
25/35
306
4
3
29
29
0
You saw the tipped interceptions. I saw the tipped interceptions. DYAR, unfortunately, didn't see the tipped interceptions. Is seven tipped interceptions out of 10 a total fluke, a sign that Manning's not quite as accurate as he should be, or a bit of both? And one quick note I was thinking about last night: You know how announcers will talk about how a certain team's fans love a particular style of football because it's how the team succeeded in the past? The Giants, for one, had fans that supposedly loved running the ball and throwing to the tight end, because the Giants team that most of the announcers remember best was the Parcells-era units that ran with Ottis Anderson and threw to Mark Bavaro. (As someone who grew up a Giants fan in the nineties, I hated the Giants offense, which tried to pull that off without many good players.) Nowadays, the Giants are built around a passing attack that barely involves the tight end -- Kevin Boss has two catches per game. Are there Giants fans out there that are experiencing less joy than they would otherwise because the scheme is different?
18.
Sam Bradford STL
13/26
126
2
0
23
29
-5
19.
Kerry Collins TEN
17/31
276
3
2
19
19
0
Collins had just one first down all day on a pass thrown to someone besides Kenny Britt, a 16-yard completion to Damian Williams. That was also his only pass of more than nine yards to that huddled mass. All in all, he was 10-of-21 for 51 yards on those throws.
20.
Derek Anderson ARI
8/17
96
0
0
13
13
0
21.
Josh Freeman TB
23/40
217
1
0
12
-3
15
22.
Colt McCoy CLE
9/16
74
0
0
-15
-9
-6
McCoy got two nice gifts on Sunday: First, the Saints were out their top three cornerbacks, with Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter, and Randall Gay all unavailable due to injury. Second, the Browns went up early before the Saints knew what hit them, which allowed Cleveland to stick with a heavy dose of the run. Even so, McCoy finished the game off with a pretty nice run -- he completed six of his final eight attempts, and he caught a 13-yard pass from Peyton Hillis for a first down on the team's final attempt of the game. (His receiving DYAR is not included here.)
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
23.
Drew Brees NO
37/56
356
2
4
-38
-38
0
Not only did Brees throw four picks, he made a number of bad decisions that could have made things worse. While he was unlucky to have a pass bounce off of a player and into David Bowens's hands and even more unlucky to see two of his interceptions returned for touchdowns by Bowens, Brees could easily have ended up with six interceptions on the day. Against the league's fifth-worst pass defense, Brees put up a first half that reads like something out of Max Hall's expectations: 12-of-22, 118 yards, six first downs, three sacks, three picks. Most of his yardage came against a prevent defense while the Browns were up several scores. It was only the second four-interception game of Brees's career, and the first came against the Titans in 2007, when Tennessee had the league's best pass defense. This is just an anomaly of a poor game, but the Saints now have 14 turnovers in their past five games. Over the 18 games where Brees played significant time last season, the Saints turned the ball over just 25 times.
24.
Matt Hasselbeck SEA
20/38
192
1
0
-42
-48
6
Losing Russell Okung to another ankle sprain didn't help things, but Hasselbeck shouldn't be taking five sacks in 14 attempts against the Cardinals. Despite the fact that the Cardinals ranked 20th in the league against passes to the tight end, Hasselbeck was 1-of-9 for three yards on throws to his tight ends, and he threw just three passes all day to the middle of the field. The entire passing attack on Sunday was essentially Mike Williams outmuscling Greg Toler and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
25.
David Carr SF
4/11
48
0
1
-42
-42
0
I'm just going to cut and paste from Audibles here. "David Carr has the ball on his own 20-yard line with one timeout and 30 seconds left, down three points. No one's open deep, so what does he do? Throw a two-yard checkdown to Vernon Davis, who's surrounded by defenders." At the time, I said that was one of the dumbest throws of the week, but the more I think about it, that's one of the stupidest decisions I've seen a quarterback make in years. How do you get to any upside there? Vernon Davis turns into the Incredible Hulk? Power-ups are enabled?
26.
Donovan McNabb WAS
17/32
200
1
2
-54
-53
-2
McNabb fumbled twice, threw two interceptions and had a third taken away by a delay of game penalty, and picked up two first downs over the final 44 minutes of the game. Meanwhile, McNabb's now completing 56.5 percent of his passes and has thrown more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six). The biggest difference between this season and last season for the Redskins? They're 4-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less after going 2-7 in those games last year.
27.
Brett Favre MIN
16/29
212
1
3
-56
-56
0
A 33 percent success rate against a Packers defense that was down to three healthy linemen for a fair amount of the game isn't particularly impressive. Four plays of 20 yards or more is nice, but Favre was only 4-of-14 on converting third and fourth down, including two interceptions. Cris Collinsworth tried to pin some of the blame on the wide receivers in some sort of misguided attempt to cause a schism, but none of them were responsible for that duck that was returned for a touchdown. With two fractures in his ankle, Favre's availability for next week is questionable, but he hasn't made it past 22nd in Quick Reads this year. This is pretty clearly the Brett Favre that finished out the season for the Jets in 2008, and that guy wasn't any good.
28.
Kyle Orton DEN
12/29
198
2
1
-58
-52
-6
The Raiders were able to put together enough of a pass rush to limit Orton's effectiveness deep -- he completed just one of the seven passes he threw 20 yards or more downfield, although he also picked up a 24-yard DPI to Brandon Lloyd. He went just 2-of-12 on third and fourth down, giving the ball back to that devastating Raiders offense over and over again. Even Josh McDaniels should know that you have to run and keep that offense on the sidelines.
29.
Max Hall ARI
4/16
36
0
1
-125
-125
0
Hall's serendipity must have ran out during the bye week, because the guy who was fumbling his way into the end zone against New Orleans was missing open receivers by several yards when he wasn't showing a total lack of awareness in the pocket. Not that he was getting great help. A brutal sack from behind by Chris Clemons that yielded a fumble came as part of a three-man rush, with Clemons up against tight end Stephen Spach while left tackle Levi Brown -- standing next to Spach and employed, theoretically, for his ability as a blocker -- looked upfield for a rusher that wasn't coming. He led eight drives that produced a total of zero points, despite starting drives that took over on the Seahawks' 39- and 45-yard lines. Hall was pulled in the third quarter after suffering a concussion, which may very well have been his second concussion in three weeks. Even before the concussion, though, he was awful. Ken Whisenhunt maintained after the game that Hall would be his starting quarterback when healthy, but Hall was shockingly bad on Sunday.
30.
Jay Cutler CHI
25/39
234
1
4
-155
-131
-24
It's not all Jay Cutler's fault. You can squawk at Johnny Knox for giving up on his quick slant and giving DeAngelo Hall a clear path to the ball. You can blame the offensive line for missing rushers and taking holding penalties to bring back big plays. When Cutler tries to throw a quick out off his back foot, though, and Hall gets such an easy break on the ball that he has to make a great catch to avoid overrunning it? That's just dumb quarterback play. It's attempting to make plays that aren't there, and most quarterbacks get those plays out of their system as they mature. Cutler simply hasn't; if anything, his decision-making has badly regressed since he arrived in Chicago. To go along with the four drives that ended in interceptions, Cutler also presided over six different three-and-outs that produced a combined two net yards. He converted two of the nine third downs he faced. Most teams get about 11 true possessions a game to produce points; Cutler had 14 possessions and produced seven points.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Darren McFadden OAK
165
3
31
1
80
47
32
Not all multiple-touchdown games are created equal. The great example of that, of course, is Jerome Bettis's famous five-carry, one-yard, three-touchdown game against the Raiders in 2004. McFadden didn't have one of those games. 10 of his 18 touches were successful plays that pushed the team towards or past a first down; eight of those 10 plays resulted in either a first down or a touchdown. He caught both of the passes thrown to him. While he had four carries for no gain or a loss (and a fumble nullified by a holding penalty on the Broncos), you can get away with that when you're doing Chris Johnson-style work on your other 14 touches. McFadden has the ability to be that sort of player when he's healthy and holding onto the football. Also, give credit to the Raiders offensive line; they dominated the Broncos at the line of scrimmage, giving McFadden, Michael Bush, and even Marcel Reese huge holes to run through.
2.
Adrian Peterson MIN
131
1
41
0
47
27
20
Peterson was extremely efficient despite a poor performance from Brett Favre. He converted his only carries on third and fourth down and had a 54 percent success rate on the ground. He got help from the injuries to the Packers' defensive line, but that's a very good night. As a receiver, he caught two passes for 41 yards, including 26 yards on that screen pass that moved the Vikings deep into Packers territory in the fourth quarter.
3.
Michael Turner ATL
121
2
23
0
43
36
7
Only six first downs (and two touchdowns) on 23 carries, but Turner picked up a fourth-and-1 inside the red zone and was 5-for-5 on successful carries inside the Bengals' 10-yard line. Turner got 23 carries to six for the other Falcons halfbacks; after some concerns earlier in the season that the Falcons were going to go to more of a timeshare, Turner's back carrying the load. Good for fantasy football, if not necessarily for Turner.
4.
LeSean McCoy PHI
48
0
54
0
42
13
29
The benefits of opponent adjustments. He converted both his third downs for first downs, but his other 14 carries didn't produce another one, and he didn't run for more than eight yards. So how did he get here? McCoy caught six of the seven passes thrown to him, and five of those went for first downs. At this point, he's better than Ray Rice as a checkdown receiver -- he does a far better job of making guys miss.
5.
Brandon Jackson GB
58
1
46
0
31
11
19
Another guy quietly re-assuming the bulk of the work, Jackson had 16 touches to John Kuhn's seven. It's hard to do very much against the Vikings on the ground, but Jackson was able to score on the first try at the goal line, and he only had one carry for no gain or negative yardage. He added 36 yards on a screen pass as well.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Chris Johnson TEN
66
0
7
0
-33
-19
-14
The 21st-ranked run defense in the league -- now missing Brodrick Bunkley -- limited Johnson to a long run of just 12 yards. Nine of his 24 carries went for no gain or a loss, and he didn't have a single successful run besides his four carries that went for first downs. He had two first down carries for 21 yards (although one came on first-and-28) ... and ten other first down carries for seven yards. Four passes to him produced seven yards. This is below replacement-level stuff.


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Kenny Britt TEN
7
10
225
32.1
3
126
Britt took the first quarter and a half off as punishment for his involvement in a nightclub brawl. He didn't need it, apparently. Although the Eagles had the league's tenth-best pass defense heading into the game, their undersized secondary lacked the height or bite to challenge the 6-foot-3 Britt on deep balls or while running after the catch. Free safety Nate Allen, a promising rookie, had a particularly awful performance against Britt downfield. In addition to his 225 yards, Britt also picked up a 21-yard pass interference call against Ellis Hobbs. (He did pick up a ten-yard offensive holding penalty, though.) While the Titans have fooled around with Damian Williams and Justin Gage in a starting role, Britt is the team's best offensive weapon aside from Chris Johnson, and he needs to be given a commensurate amount of targets. Just keep him out of clubs. Doesn't he know of the joy of a night spent in with instant Netflix?
2.
Roddy White ATL
10
12
196
19.6
2
106
This was in the cards at around 11:30 ET, when Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph was announced as inactive with an ankle injury. That broke up the Bengals' elite one-two punch of Leon Hall and Joseph, and inserted either retread Adam Jones or overmatched Morgan Trent into the role on the outside, across from Hall. White abused Trent at first, then went after Hall, but spent most of his day beating Jones. Although Jones was able to pick up a White fumble and return it for a touchdown, White went 11-of-13 for 201 yards with two scores, plus a two-point conversion. The rest of the Falcons lineup combined to go 13-of-20 for 98 yards. White was a one-man show, and there just wasn't anything the Bengals could do about it.
3.
Steve Johnson BUF
8
10
158
19.8
1
78
Before the year, while Johnson received an Honorable Mention on our Football Outsiders Top 25 Prospects list, he might have been the most anonymous starting wideout in the league. A seventh-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Johnson had 12 catches before the season. After an eight-catch, 158-yard game against the Ravens, Johnson is on pace for 992 yards, and he has five touchdowns in his last four games. He averaged nearly 16 yards per target, and six of his receptions went for a first down or a touchdown. Despite playing in one of the league's worst passing attacks, Johnson is a legit NFL player, and one of the guys the woeful Bills will try and rebuild around over the next couple of seasons.
4.
Jordan Shipley CIN
6
6
131
21.8
1
75
Only a few weeks removed from that scary collision in the end zone, Shipley terrorized the Falcons out of the slot. He went 6-for-6 with three first downs and a touchdown, and he also added a 26-yard DPI to finish with 157 yards. The 60 YAC he picked up on his touchdown catch is third among wideouts this season, trailing behind Louis Murphy's 67 YAC on a pass against the Cardinals in Week 3. The overall leaderboard has Matt Forte with 89 YAC, thanks to that screen pass against the Lions right before halftime in Week 1.
5.
David Gettis CAR
8
9
125
15.6
2
74
8-of-9 for three first downs and two touchdowns. Not bad for a rookie sixth-round pick. Gettis notably burned Nate Clements -- he of the $80 million contract and the admittedly gimpy ankle -- on a double-move for a touchdown. If Gettis or Brandon LaFell can emerge as a viable wide receiver across from Smith, the Panthers may just have some semblance of a passing attack.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Eddie Royal DEN
2
7
26
13.0
0
-48
If you're going to catch just two of the seven passes to you all day, make sure the 23-yarder you pick up doesn't end with you fumbling. Royal's other catch was a five-yard pass with -2 YAC, which also won't win him any production trophies.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 26 Oct 2010

138 comments, Last at 28 Oct 2010, 4:11pm by commissionerleaf

Comments

1
by RickD :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:13am

"Although Jones was able to pick up a White fumble and return it for a touchdown..."

IIRC, Jones simply took the ball out of White's hands.

2
by Sjt (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:33am

what's with the Chargers tumbling for the Patriots at home?

In their previous meeting in San Diego the Chargers won 30-10.

5
by Sjt (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:36am

By the way, there were 3 San Diego fumbles on Sunday, not 2.

3
by nuk :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:34am

Was the phrase "devastating Raiders offense" just used non-jokingly?

26
by ammek :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:49pm

Yeah, that's a strange one:

Even Josh McDaniels should know that you have to run and keep that offense on the sidelines.

1) Oakland ranked 29th in offensive DVOA prior to the game;

2) It doesn't make a lot of sense to run when you're 21-0 behind in the first quarter, or 38-0 down in the second; and

3) Denver ranked #2 in passing, #32 (by a country mile) in rushing DVOA entering the game. What about 'playing to your strengths'?

[I don't mind these small flaws in FO's usually rational take: you've got 40 or so captions to write, plus a preview. Some weirdnesses are bound to creep in.]

The CBS announcers, including Dan Fouts, agreed with Bill in describing the Oakland offense as a juggernaut, and they were cooing over Jason Campbell from start to finish. I didn't see it that way: I thought the Raiders got one very nice big play on offense to begin with, but it was the defense that won the game while it was still competitive (ie, for about 20 minutes). From then on, the Oakland offense pummelled a dreadful and banged-up Denver defense which had the look of doom about it. But Campbell's flaws haven't gone away — he still doesn't have a feel for the pass rush, and he's painfully un-nimble — and I'm not sure that "go after Perrish Cox" is an offensive strategy that will work against many other opponents.

It's equally hard to evaluate the Raiders' offensive line. It dominated Denver, and Veldheer (sp.?) looked terrific. But the Chargers swarmed all over it a fortnight ago. I expect Oakland's DVOA variance to be high.

28
by Led :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:52pm

I'm pretty sure Bill was being ironic. But tone is notoriously hard to read on the intertubes, so I could be wrong.

4
by chemical burn :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:35am

That Kolb analysis is pretty pathetic - I expect more from the FO writers, but it's seems that they've picked up on the national media idea that he should lose his job because Ellis Hobbs can't cover Kenny Britt...

27
by dbostedo :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:51pm

"...it's [sic] seems that they've picked up on the national media idea that he should lose his job because Ellis Hobbs can't cover Kenny Britt..."

What about the comment above is tied to this statement? I don't see any mention of the Eagles losing in the Kolb commentary. It just says that he didn't have "a great game". And that's based on his play, not whether the Eagles won or lost. The commentary also gave some explanation of his DYAR value. Really, what more do you want from these comments?

36
by chemical burn :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:11pm

But he did have an above average game inrguably - the DVOA/DYAR doesn't include his biggest play of the day, it includes a fumble which really isn't his fault (the blown assignment by Herremans and getting tackled before he can even hand off) and a meaningless interception thrown with 9 seconds left oin the game. Kolb played well - he's at 11th even without mentioning how the system is probably not accurately reflecting how well he played. He also did it against one of the best defenses in the league. He played well, period.

The story for the past 3 weeks has been that Kolb has actually proven himself to be a legit QB and the issue of starting Vick is really complicated. The FO write-up makes it seem like he played bad and that Vick almost certainly deserves the starting job. That's just not the case.

The implication in the write-up is that Kolb getting the start against Titans and playing badly worked to Vick's favor because now Vick is going to come back against easier defenses and look good. But that's unrelated to reality because Kolb DIDN'T PLAY BAD. Not by FO's numbers, not by what happened on the field.

37
by Marcumzilla :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:19pm

"it includes ... a meaningless interception thrown with 9 seconds left in the game."

I thought DVOA/DYAR accounted for situation so that a meaningless interception isn't as costly as a meaningful one, so I don't know that it being included affects the picture of how Kolb played all that much.

(Note: I'm not commenting either way on Kolb's play. I didn't see it.)

38
by chemical burn :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:20pm

And what I want more from these comments is perspective related to what actually happened on the field: everything Barnwell writes is in the negative: the 37 pass to Riley Cooper "should have been intercepted," Kolb "only" converetd 6 of 14 third down opportunities, Kolb had no deep ball.

Again, there's no mention of him converting a long 3rd down by running, no mention that his numbers are hurt by a meaningless inteception and a fumble that is not his fault. Just the hugely debtable idea that Cooper's catch should have been intercepted, a dismissive mention of opponent adjustments (as though playing compentently against the #2 pass defense in DVOA is some bullshit bonus that Kolb didn't earn), no mention of Kolb working behind an o-line that was forced to go down to it's 3rd string left tackle and 2nd string guard during the game. It's just, like... come on, his performance deserves mild praise at worst.

The obvious comment after that game is "I don't see how they can start Vick. Kolb earned the job and he's clearly the QB of the future..."

47
by dbostedo :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:53pm

I read Barnwell's comments as much more evenhanded than you do. He DID point out that the pass to Cooper needs to be added and that Kolb would look better. And that pass was a terrible decision. Sure "should have been intercepted" was maybe a bit much, but if Kolb throws into that kind of coverage, it should be intercepted more often than not.

He also said that a "great" game - not a good game, not an 11th ranked game, but a game that was great - would have given Reid something to think about.

I understand your points, and I can see it your way, but I don't agree that the take-away is so obvious.

80
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:36pm

A few points:

1. Barnwell's comments are well taken, as far as they go. He's got a few sentences, so he described a few points about Kolb's game, basically hitting the high points. Kolb has no deep ball. He isn't great on 3rd down (and one of the six conversions, as you point out, was gained by him scrambling).

2. "Meaningless" interceptions and fumbles that are "not his fault" are always included in DVOA. As they should be, to the extent they are meaningful indicators of performance.

3. Kolb was, at best, adequate against Tennessee, even factoring in opponent adjustments.

4. "None of his passes went more than nine yards." We're talking Trent Edwards/late-model Steve McNair territory here.

5. Michael Vick is, and should be, the starter if he's healthy. Kevin Kolb is an excellent, but overpaid, backup quarterback.

101
by plumpbuck (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:04pm

4. "None of his passes went more than nine yards." We're talking Trent Edwards/late-model Steve McNair territory here.

Except that stat isn't true. Perhaps it's supposed to read, "None of his [completions] went more than nine yards [in the air, before being caught] [except the one we aren't counting that traveled 37 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, before being caught]."

Because, well, he certainly threw some passes that went more than nine yards. Some of those were incomplete, and two were intercepted. I seem to remember a couple of 15 yarders, but I don't have the charting info, obviously. And I could remember it wrong.

102
by plumpbuck (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:06pm

And by "yarders," I mean "completions," obviously.

115
by matt w (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 9:13pm

I'm pretty sure that, in context, Bill is saying that none of Kolb's third-down passes went more than nine yards. The 37-yarder was a first-down pass. (Looking at the play-by-play, Kolb did have a couple of deep incompletions on third down.)

119
by chemical burn :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 9:37pm

1. You think Kolb's lack of a deep ball might be related to the fact that he was missing DeSean Jackson. Also, he was playing against one of the best pass rushes in the league, so there was not a lot of time for deep plays to develop. Additionally, his line consisted of a 2nd string center, a 2nd string OG and a 3rd string left tackle. Throw in that the T and G substitutions happened in the game and, you know, it might not be all Kolb's fault he didn't complete many deep passes. He was good on 3rd down considering the opposition and his down/distance - hence his good DYAR for the game even without many long pass completions.

2. I'm not saying they shouldn't be included in his DVOA/DYAR. Of course they should. But normally the Quick Reads author points out mitigating circumstances. Barnwell only pointed out negatively mitigating circumstances.

3. Adequate? What would rank as more than adequate? Is 11th not high enough to warrant the description "more than adequate?"

4. Re-read what's actually written. It doesn't help your case if you didn't even understand a paragraph long blurb.

5. Really? Kevin Kolb ranks 15th in DYAR with only 4 games started. I would 15-20 teams in the league would be thrilled to have him as their starter. I was as big a Vick supporter as their was (in regards to on-field issues) and Kolb's performance has put down almost every argument in favor of Vick. He's got comparable DVOA, he's taking fewer sacks against stronger opponents, the running game hasn't suffered, he's younger and a better long-term solution, he's working with a weaker supporting cast (worse o-line and no DeSean.) And there's also more reason to believe that Kolb will develop than Vick will continue to improve. It's not exactly "case closed" but this game made it a real, difficult conversation. Barnwell frames it in the opposite.

6
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:37am

"Considering the injuries and general malaise in the Patriots secondary, it was surprising that Rivers wasn't able to make more hay on the deep passes that are a trademark of this offense, as he didn't complete a pass further than 21 yards downfield. Then again, that will happen when your top wide receivers are Patrick Crayton and Buster Davis."

It should also be noted that NE's defense is young and has been playing better of late. SD definitely handed NE a lot of extra chances with stupid plays, but NE pass defense hasn't been quite as bad as it was against the Jets and Bills the past couple weeks.

16
by Formersd (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:05pm

I was at the game and the Patriots spent most of the game and the whole 2nd half with both safeties deep and just allowed the Chargers to throw short all they wanted. That worked out as the Chargers couldn't avoid their own mistake prone tendencies, but Rivers was just shredding them with short passing since that's what the Pats gave them.

8
by Athelas :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:40am

Oh. My. Lord.

I get down to David Carr and think, that was horrible--and he was only 25th?!

Oh yes, Favre was awful--and he's only 27th?!

Ah yes, Jay Cutler. NFL Sunday Ticket allowed me to see some truly terrible QB play last Sunday.

63
by jimbohead :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 3:29pm

Well, in the case of Carr, he only had half the game to rack up negative points (remember, DYAR is counting, not rate). I imagine if he had actually started the game, it would have been far far worse. Though, probably not as bad as Cutler.

7
by ammek :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:39am

That's one of the most unlikely quarterback top fives you'll see.

The Bills' offensive line has been a surprise. It was one of the worst units in the league last year, epitomized by the nine-false-start game against Cleveland; early this year, against the Packers, it was inconsistent; but it held its own against the Ravens, who quickly gave up blitzing Ryan Fitzpatrick except on delays. Chan Gailey is getting a lot of heat for Buffalo's poor start, but he's slowly putting together a competent offense with the modest talent available to him.

21
by Jonadan :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:25pm

I've been saying Fitzpatrick is a starting-caliber NFL QB ever since his stint as Rams backup - I was utterly mystified when Trent Edwards started the season as the starter in Buffalo. Chan Gailey I don't know much about, but given that he's improved Fitzpatrick's accuracy dramatically (so far) I'm definitely inclined to give him (or his OC/QB coach, at least) some of the credit.

Now if Buffalo could just do something about that defense...

58
by Dean :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 3:03pm

If you define "starting caliber QB" as one of the top 32 in the game, then yes, at this point you probably should include Ryan Fitzpatrick. However, he's close enough to the #32 spot that while he might be a starter, he's a liability as a starter. If Fitzpatrick is your starter, you need to upgrade the position.

70
by dbostedo :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:03pm

Well so far this year he's 19th in DYAR and, much more impressively, 12th in DVOA. And that was BEFORE his big week this week - so it should only get better. So far this year, he clearly has not been a liability as a starter. If you want to argue that it's too small a sample and he'll revert, I won't object, but I think a lot of people are buying into his performance level being sustainable.

125
by Jonadan :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 10:26am

At what point is a QB a "liability", though? A lot depends on what else you've got on the team. Buffalo - assuming Fitzpatrick continues to play well, which I obviously am assuming - has far more pressing needs than a better QB. I'm not saying he's a Hall of Famer or anything, just that the Bills at this point (unlike with T. Edwards) clearly have more urgent things on the agenda to fix. Like, say, some way to stop the run.

128
by Dean :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 11:21am

I'll start with your second point first.

There is no such thing as a more pressing need than a QB. If you don't have a franchise QB (or a young guy that you're grooming to be that guy), then that is your biggest need. Everything else is so much pissing in the wind if you don't have a the QB position fixed.

As for what constitutes a "liability," I would say that anybody who isn't a franchise QB or being groomed to be one, yet is still a starter, is a liability. The number will vary depending on who you add on the list, but I would say that there are 10 or so franchise QBs. It's a fluid approximation - there's no rule saying it has to be 10 or anything, but that's a good ballpark figure. There's another handful of teams who have addressed the QB position in the last couple drafts (St. Louis, Tampa - Carolina and Denver count, 'cause even if we think Clausen and/or Tebow sucks, their teams clearly intend for those guys to become franchise QBs).

After that, you have teams with plumbers and various flotsam as their starters. If you find yourself in this third group, then yes, you need a QB. And if you're starting John Kitna for reasons other than injury, then yes, you most certainly fall in this list. If I'm a fan of a team with one of these guys, I'm happy to let him go and take my chances trying to draft/trade/sign a potential upgrade at the position. You can't be below aveage at the most important position on the field unless you're banking on future potential.

If you're Buffalo, and you're worrying about your run defense and not worrying about your quarterback, all you're doing is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

131
by stetzwebs (not verified) :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 5:28pm

Since Week 16 of last year (yes, I know it includes a game against the Colts' backups), Fitzpatrick has the 2nd highest passer rating in the NFL, behind Peyton Manning. He's on track to throw for 3500 yards and 30+ TDs this year, in 14 games. He's thrown 11 TDs so far, and only 4 INTS, two of which to Ed Reed (one of which shouldn't have been an INT). And he's a team leader. The Bills offense are averaging 24.5 points a game with him under center this year.

I'm sorry, what was your point again?

134
by Jonadan :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 7:16pm

Looks like we disagree just about all the way down the board, but since I feel like I have a point, let's roll anyway.

I can take this two ways. The first is to argue that Fitzpatrick is good enough to be a franchise QB, a la Romo or Warner or Schaub or other QBs who sat on a bench (or a checkout counter) for a while before anybody managed to get them to live up to potential. Now obviously this is still somewhat subjective: Fitzpatrick's a fifth-year player and essentially a 2nd-year starter, or maybe 3rd-year, but he's never been "the guy" before now. Just for fun: A certain Aaron Rodgers (6th year player, 3rd year starter):
150/235, 1,841 yds, 12 TD/9INT, 14 sack 127 rush yd 3 rush TD 0 fumble (7 Games)
Fitzpatrick:
81/128, 977 yds, 11 TD/4 INT, 8 sack 116 rush yd 0 rush TD 1 fumble (4 games)

Assuming those numbers hold anything like steady, Fitzpatrick's numbers (at least) look like he has "franchise" potential (if he's not there already), and as a fairly young QB Buffalo should stick with him - the last thing they need is another guy (by draft or trade) to run through the quarterback-roulette wringer when they have a pretty good QB.

Second, I'm not sure you need to equate "star QB" with "franchise QB". You've got two kinds of teams that definitely don't need to look for QBs:

1) The number of real star QBs is probably somewhere around a dozen. Right now we've got Peyton Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Matt Ryan probably, Schaub, Brees, Rivers, and Romo before he got his shoulder taken off. Adding quarterbacks who are stars based largely on their system/team you'd have Rothlisberger, Orton, Flacco, Kolb/Vick and (arguably) Vince Young/Collins, since Fisher seems to just need a warm body to take snaps.

2) Then you've got half a dozen teams who are working on getting somebody up to speed as a starter, for good or bad: right now, those guys are Stafford, Sanchez, Henne, Freeman, Cassel (kind of), Bradford, and I guess Clausen and McCoy.

Then you've got two more categories:

3) A bunch of teams have a clear starting QB, even if he's not quite top-flight: Palmer, McNabb, Cutler, Favre, Eli Manning, Hasselbeck, Garrard when he's not hurt.

and 4) Teams with zero competence (apparently) at QB: Cardinals, 49ers, Jaguars without Garrard, Raiders (unless Campbell stays competent), Panthers (even with Clausen).

And then there's Buffalo. Clearly, with Edwards they looked like a #4 team. But Fitzpatrick - so far - looks like at least a #3, and I would argue they ought to consider him a #2 QB, a project. He's young enough to improve, and has looked good so far - it gives them something to work with, and less money they have to spend in the draft. Is he the best possible quarterback? No. Is he serviceable? Yes. Should Buffalo pick up a great prospect if he fell into their laps, as a future project? Probably.

Buffalo started off this season needing a quarterback. Right now they've got one. Of course this could turn out to be smoke and mirrors - I might be wrong about how good Fitzpatrick is. But if he's a good as he's playing right now, Buffalo's fine at QB.

138
by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 4:11pm

I'm not sure how you get off rating some of the QB's where you do, but reasonable minds can differ. I agree that the Bills should ride Fitzpatrick at least until he crashes.

Of course, they could have had Jimmy Clausen, or Dan Williams, or Brandon Graham. They could have traded down and gotten Jared Odrick AND Terrence Cody. But they decided to use the #9 overall pick on a second-rate Reggie Bush lookalike. I cannot tell you all how much that says about the incompetence of the Buffalo front office.

9
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:40am

"He was league-average: 66 percent of passes were marked as Miscommunication for Rodgers, while the league was at 61 percent."

Either those numbers are wrong, or I'm really misunderstanding something.

11
by nuk :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:51am

Yeah, I was thinking the decimals got lost somewhere.

12
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:55am

4 passes out of 600 = a 0.66% rate. Looks like Bill either misread or mistyped.

13
by zlionsfan :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:55am

Yeah, there's context missing from those percentages, and the only thing I can guess is that it's the percentage of passes they expected would be charted as Miscommunication. If Rodgers was 4 of 6 last year (4 marked as Miscommunication, so 66% - well, 67% - would make it 4 of 6), I'm not sure what else the 6 would be. Those plays aren't marked for us in advance when we chart: it's up to us to determine the cause of an incomplete pass as best we can.

18
by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:19pm

Something got screwed up from Word document to publishing -- it's 0.66 and 0.61 percent. I went and fixed it.

10
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:49am

"Rivers absorbs most of the punishment for his swing pass-turned-lateral to Jacob Hester in DYAR; you can decide if he was at fault or not."

My recollection is that it was a pretty bad pass, so I think it's fair to put the blame the "fumble" on Rivers, at least when it comes to the ball hitting the ground. When it comes to the ball being turned over, that's on Hester for not being aware.

61
by Big Johnson :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 3:23pm

except that play wasnt a fumble. How can you penalize a quarterback for a fumble when it was a forward pass? I dont care how it was ruled in the game, this site is about intelligent analysis and penalizing a guy for something that he didnt do is just absurd.

66
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 3:37pm

If it's a fumble on the official play-by-play, it's a fumble in DYAR. DYAR doesn't watch tape and argue with the officials about the result of the play, it simply takes the play-by-play and crunches the numbers.

68
by Big Johnson :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 3:45pm

I thought that it deciphered between plays. A kneeldown counts as -1 yard rushing yet is not included in DYAR. How come bad calls cant be modified like this? And i didnt think they ran off of play by play, isnt that the point of their game charters?

75
by AudacityOfHoops :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:07pm

Kneeldowns are in the play-by-play. Incorrect calls are not.

78
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:32pm

Game charting is a much longer-term project. I doubt the charting sheets from his weekend's games are even out to the charters yet. It also doesn't really concern itself with refereeing decisions. It's looking more at stuff like:

- Number of rushers/blockers on a pass play.
- Coverage on a pass.
- Zone blitz, blitz, or standard defense.
- Identity of players who forced pressure, and location of pressure.
- Offensive sets and formations.
- Responsibility for success/failure of a play (for example dropped passes, great coverage, poor throws, QBs throwing ball away, blown blocks).

That is, things you can see on tape but aren't recorded in the official play by play.

79
by huston720 :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:34pm

I think it also sets a bad precedent to mess with the numbers to attempt to remove or change incorrect calls, especially when they aren't exactly clear cut. I'm sure you saw a forward pass, but to me as a neutral observer I saw a close play that wasn't so clear cut. I watched that replay a number of times and i couldn't tell if it was forward or backward by a half yard, which is why they were correct to stick with the ruling on the field.

I guess they could go back and change plays where the NFL declares a ruling was wrong but i doubt that happens often enough to be necessary. Though in this case I would be in favor of penalizing Hester for the funble rather than Rivers, but even that is a subjective decision.

82
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:39pm

It wasn't a bad call. Could have gone either way, so on review it had to stay with the ruling on the field. It was insane of Hester not to know to fall on a swing pass, even if he thinks it went forward.

93
by Big Johnson :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 5:14pm

they showed the replay and it clearly went half a yard forward. Everyone knows it was a bad call they just refuse to acknowledge it as such.

129
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 12:09pm

Finally, the conspiracy has been outed.

136
by BigCheese :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 2:13am

I watched that play live and the second it hit the ground I started yelling at the TV "that's a live ball!" Then they showed the replay and I was even more convinced. But memory's a faulty thing so I just went back and checked the video.

Rivers is clearly at the 38 when he throws the pass. I don't think there's much question about that. When the ball fist makes contact with Hester it looks to be right about... the 38!

Now, might it have been a few inches beyond the 38? Sure. Does the real-time look like it was farther downfield because he bats it forward? Yup. Is there enough visual evidence that it could be overturned or so that "everyone knows it was a bad call?" Only if you are a looking at it through pretty tinted Chargers glasses.

Trust me, I wanted the Chargers to win that game for so many reasons. But that call could have gone either way on the field and there was absolutely no way it would have been reversed in either direction.

- Alvaro

14
by mtlgiant (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:56am

I have been a Giants fan forever and in by opinion this is the best O that the team has ever fielded. Saying that last night the first two int. were balls that should have be caught but the int late in the fourth was another case of Eli stupidity. I love Eli but he has got to stop making those throws.

43
by Quincy :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:37pm

The first throw to Smith was high and wide. Eli deserves at least 80% of the blame for that one and probably 50% for the high throw to Nicks, which wasn't as bad. I agree with the general point about the offense. The running game has been better in past years, but the passing game has never been better in my 20 years of watching their games. Of course, best Giants passing offense of the past 20 years isn't exactly a heated competition. This is a franchise that went 41 years without a pro bowl wr.

15
by dedkrikit :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:01pm

I like how CJ's performance is described as below-replacement level and yet the very next player listed (as the top receiver) is his team-mate - who benefited from CJ's presence on the field.

I know the system uses raw numbers to determine success, etc, but shouldn't the commentary cover the intangibles like strategy and scheme?

34
by jw124164 :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:02pm

Good point here, I think. I'll bet the Eagles strategy was to not let CJ beat them - to take their chances with Collin's passing. Whoops.

39
by chemical burn :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:22pm

Uh, CJ stinking had nothing to do with Kenny Britt succeeding. Britt was in bracket coverage on 3 of his biggest catches, they were terribly thrown balls and bad reads - into soft double coverage - and they only worked because Hobbs and Nate Allen made terrible, terrible plays. CJ had nothing to do with it. Britt beat the defense fair and square and deserves ALL of the credit for his success. I wouldn't even give any to Collins.

71
by Dave :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:03pm

I agree with this. To some extent Britt made those guys look bad, of course, but good lord were they bad. My favorite was the one where he beat Allen deep, the ball was way underthrown, so he beat Allen back to it, went up and got it, and then beat Allen again on his way to the end zone.

It's kind of amazing (and frustrating to this Colts fan) how poorly the NFC East has played against the Titans, who have now beaten three of the teams in that division, even in games where they didn't really look all that good.

The Giants and Cowboys each outgained them and shot themselves in the foot, and the Eagles had a bunch of chances to bury them early but just kept screwing up.

121
by chemical burn :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 10:04pm

Yeah, Allen looked bad, but so much of that was Ellis Hobbs playing awful. Allen didn't have to have single coverage on any of Britt's big plays... it only looked that way because Hobbs was playing absurdly shallow, staring down the QB, not coming out of his back-pedal and generally ending up so out of position that Allen was forced into losing positions. And, to be fair, once put in a losing position, Allen got destroyed above and beyond the call of losing.

122
by chemical burn :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 10:04pm

Yeah, Allen looked bad, but so much of that was Ellis Hobbs playing awful. Allen didn't have to have single coverage on any of Britt's big plays... it only looked that way because Hobbs was playing absurdly shallow, staring down the QB, not coming out of his back-pedal and generally ending up so out of position that Allen was forced into losing positions. And, to be fair, once put in a losing position, Allen got destroyed above and beyond the call of losing.

17
by John (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:08pm

Names you don't expect to see below Derek Anderson in the bottom 10:

  • Drew Brees
  • Donovan McNabb
  • Brett Favre
  • Kyle Orton
  • Jay Cutler

Weird week for quarterbacking.

20
by ammek :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:24pm

And receiving. Prior to this week, I couldn't have told you which teams Johnson, Shipley and Gettis played for. I'm sure I wasn't the only one.

59
by TreeRol (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 3:05pm

I expect to see Jay Cutler in the bottom 5 every week. That guy is awful. (Bears fan speaking, so perhaps my disgust is causing me to underrate him. Or perhaps he sucks enormous donkey balls. YMMV.)

62
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 3:25pm

You're just saying bad because of all the other great quarterbacks Chicago has had recently. Anyone would look bad after those guys!!!!

67
by SamWyatt (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 3:43pm

Fellow Bears fan responding; There is a perfect storm leading to full and complete offensive failure. Between a QB who has not/can not/will not mature in his decision making and does not seem to have faith in his offensive system (holding the ball too long), a co-ordinator who believes in passing even more than Andy Reid, and worst of all, a poor, poor, collection of players for an offensive line.

That much having been said, Cutler should definitely be playing far better now than he has been.

69
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 3:46pm

It seemed like he came alive in the 2nd half yesterday, but then at the end of the game when the Bears absolutely needed a drive, he looked horrible again.

The really weird thing was that it wasn't really poor decisions, but he had no accuracy. He was just missing guys.

Like Hall's last interception, Aikman really ripped him for throwing it to Knox on that play, but if he puts it on Knox's back shoulder he has a chance at it. Instead he over throws him by 5 yards and it's an easy pick.

84
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:46pm

I didn't realize they had moved Williams inside until the announcers called him giving up sacks and pressures to DT's. I thought they called the wrong name for a moment. He was supposed to be The Answer at LT for the Bears. If he's gone, they're in trouble. On the other hand, whoever is starting at LT can't be worse than Charlie Johnson, and Manning is doing okay.

So Cutler has to take some of the blame. Hall's 92 yard INT return was on an -awful- throw, late, off the back foot, with a guy all over him. The ball should have been either four feet higher (I.e. - out of bounds) or two full seconds earlier so that it arrived as the receiver came out of his break, rather than while the receiver stood flat footed and hall turned around to make a play.

The receivers are awful though. Knox, in particular, needs to at least pretend he wants the ball.

117
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 9:18pm

When Williams got hurt they moved Omiyale to LT, and when Williams got healthy they just inserted him at LG to keep the tiny amount of continuity they could. I wouldn't expect this arrangement to last past this year.

The line actually played pretty well in the 2nd half. I'm starting to think they should just run every play the first few drives until the offense settles down.

123
by Pass to Set Up ... :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 11:47pm

The biggest difference between this season and last season for the Redskins? They're 4-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less after going 2-7 in those games last year.

McNabb JUST WINS GAMES. Amirite?

19
by lester bangs (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:22pm

Gettis also had a very bad drop in the end zone. It's a shame that stuff can't be incorporated into the equation.

73
by dbostedo :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:05pm

Well, it's not just ignored. It's just factored in the same as any other incompletion targeted at a receiver.

22
by Rick987 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:26pm

Childish number-crunching re the Belichek decision. The only data that matters is, 'facing a fourth-and-short that, if converted, will essentially end the game, how often do defenses succeed in stopping it?' Stop pretending ordinary 'fourth-and-shorts' are relevant. They're just massively different. Tell us almost nothing.

23
by Malene, Copenhagen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:35pm

How, exactly, is "crunch time" 4-and-short different from "ordinary" 4-and-short?

Because they "matter" more?

Are you saying teams try less hard to stop an "ordinary" 4th&short? How much less? Are they playing at 80% strength?

For how much of the game are defenses playing at this reduced level of intensity, in your opinion?

Or are they just trying 110% on "massively different" crunch-time 4th&short?

Or are they just employing more swagger?

Who's trying more harder in crunch time, defense or offense?

29
by Purds :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:53pm

I'm not going to be as strident as Rick, but I was thinking the same thing as I read the 4th-and-1 decision analysis. To me, this is what he means: in a 4th-and-one-game-over situation, the defense has a much easier time of defending, or I should say, the defense likely has a much different percent of success than a 4th-and-1 at midfield in the second quarter, for example. A defense in a stop-or-lose situation doesn't need to care if you throw over the top for a TD, or need to care that if the RB breaks past the LOS, he might go all the way unless you have a safety deep. They care only about stopping the one yard. In many, many situations, in fact in most of the situations that lead to the Pats' 80% success rate, the defense does have to worry about the bigger failure. How many times do you see Brady QB sneak for 3 yards on 4th-and-1 from midfield during the middle of the game because the defense is not willing to create an all-or-nothing, goal-line formation at that point in the game?

So, can the FO guys use their play-by-play stats to figure out the percent of success that teams have in 4th-and-one to "ice" a game, or perhaps 4th-and-one goal-line situations (removing anything from other places in the field where the defense would likely keep a safety back)? Of course, the sample size may be very, very small, but to assume 4th-and-1 from the 40 in the first quarter will be played with the same defensive risk-taking as a play like yesterday (or last year vs. the Colts) is not credible. Heck, do the Colts DB's EVER play as close to backs and receivers as they did in that last play last year? No. It was only because it was a stop-or-lose situation that they pressed.

35
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:07pm

Yeah, that's exactly what I said, just a few moments later. Sigh.

Anyway, if you look at the replay, you can see the idea - if Green-Ellis bounces a little bit more outside, he's off to the races. But the Chargers don't care about that, since if they had spread a corner or safety out, he wouldn't've been able to stop him before the first down anyway. So it was functionally the same outcome. So you risk all of your "worst case damage control" to improve the "regular case" outcomes.

They don't have any of the earlier short-yardage situations on replay, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Chargers were spread out a bit more.

49
by RickD :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 2:10pm

"if Green-Ellis bounces a little bit more outside, he's off to the races".

Yeah, and if he'd bowled through the line a la Adrian Peterson, he could have gained 20 yards! But he didn't. Because he's not Jim Brown or Adrian Peterson, he's BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He's not going to outrun Shaun Phillips. He's not fast enough to be trying to make outside runs in short-yardage situations.

The Patriots had just gone for it on 2rd and short with a running play and lost yardage. They don't have a high-quality short yardage rushing game. Usually BB is very good at knowing which lines his medium-sized O-line can push around and which they cannot. That makes this choice even more baffling.

More context: in the first half of the game the Pats had tried to establish the run and had failed. On the day as a whole, they averaged a massive 2.2 yards/attempt. If you want to do a full analysis of the situation, you have to look at how this offense could pull off this play in this situation. Using high-level probabilities for a variety of similar scenarios isn't exactly relevant.

To make this even plainer: the Yankees have a great hitting team against the typical MLB pitcher, but they couldn't do anything with Cliff Lee in the ALCS.

I thought a punt was a no-brainer. Zoltan has been excellent at burying the opposition and with only 2 minutes on the clock, I didn't think the inept Chargers could march down the entire length of the field fast enough.

57
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 2:36pm

He's not going to outrun Shaun Phillips. He's not fast enough to be trying to make outside runs in short-yardage situations.

That's a limitation of the playcall, not the concept. Outside of this situation, the Chargers absolutely wouldn't've allowed the possibility of the runner bouncing free. Here, they did, because they don't care about that possibility. It's remote, and it doesn't hurt them any more than making the first down would.

Anyway, we're not disagreeing at all. The point is that you can't compare this to average situations. The Chargers were going to be playing tighter run defense than the average team, and the Patriots had struggled to run the ball more than the average team.

74
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:06pm

Yes, but the Pats did actually convert the 4th and 2 last year in a world without either incompetent or corrupt officials, I'll let you choose which is appropriate.

81
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:38pm

...in a world without Kevin Faulk bobbling balls he should catch.

I'm a Patriots fan, but there's no way I'm going to say your dilemma isn't false.

88
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:57pm

The defender didn't make any contact until Faulk had already corraled the catch a half yard over the marker. Beyond that, Faulk had his back to the ref who spotted the ball, so he couldn't see whether it was bobbled, he just chose (erroneously) to spot the ball where Faulk landed.

Forward progress isn't rocked science. The ref was wrong, either due to incompetence or corruption. Simple. As. That.

137
by BigCheese :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 2:37am

Since apparently you haven't actually seen the play in question, here it is: http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2009111512/2009/REG10/patriots@colts/watch

At the 5:24 mark there's a slow motion replay of the play, and here is what happens in order: Ball BOUNCES off Faulk's palms (at no point does he come close to even juggling, let allone corraling it there. It simply bounces right off his hands), defender hits him and he starts falling down. Faulk catches the ball which was, at this point, in the air.

So basically, not a single thing in your stated sequence of events is even remotely true. So please stop whining about the officials and, worse, accusing them of corruption, by bringing up your dream sequence.

- Alvar

89
by Bobman :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:58pm

You're joking, right? This is the first I've heard of this conspiracy theory in nearly 12 months. You did see the replay, right? The bobbled catch? That was it right there--if he caught it cleanly, they convert and win. But as he was being pushed backwards (forward progress not a factor bcause...) he was bobbling. When he finally came down with complete possession... not far enough for a first down.

This is grade-school stuff here....

94
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 5:23pm

"Bobbling" doesn't apply since Faulk had already fully caught the ball before the defender pushed him back.

But you are right about one thing. It is grade school stuff!

32
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:58pm

How, exactly, is "crunch time" 4-and-short different from "ordinary" 4-and-short?

At other points in the game, scoring 7 is worth significantly more than converting a first down. At that point in the game, it's only marginally more.

Changes the defense's point of view a lot. They can afford to ignore possible deep threats and give up the edges of the field in the secondary - if Green-Ellis bounces to the outside, he's gone. It's a touchdown. Earlier in the game, you might want to spread the safeties a little wider to maintain contain better. Here, you don't care.

50
by RickD :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 2:12pm

Green-Ellis didn't get anywhere near making it past the edge of the Chargers defense.

56
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 2:31pm

Green-Ellis was tackled by the corner and a defensive end. It doesn't get much more "edge" than that. If he had slipped the end's tackle, if the corner wasn't playing tight to the line (he was inside the tackles at the snap) he would've gained the first down - however, if he had slipped the end's tackle and the corner had missed the tackle (very unlikely, but certainly possible if he takes a slightly different angle or makes a good jump cut) he's off to the races.

31
by Anonymous 1 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:57pm

"Stop pretending ordinary 'fourth-and-shorts' are relevant. They're just massively different."

Are you suggesting that a defense doesn't try as hard on "ordinary" 'fourth-and-shorts'? You follow up and accusation of "childish number crunching" with this?

40
by DeltaWhiskey :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:25pm

Brian Burke at Advanced NFL stats has a neat little toy to analyze these decisions. He may have even written on this, I just haven't been able to get his site to open.

48
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:55pm

Fundamentally there's no way to analyze this - the sample size difference between the two situations is large enough that you're always going to be able to admit some difference between the two.

Any time people comment on the 4th down decisions, I find it hilarious. And I don't want to criticize Bill here, because he's making the right statements: you can't say one's better than the other. There are too many variables. You can just say they're close, and in that case, hey, the head coach can make whatever choice he wants, since he's got waaay more information than you do.

24
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:44pm

Bill:

It's pretty simplistic to look at 4th down decisions like that. You've got two choices, A and B. You're simplifying things and saying that A has two outcomes, A1 and A2, with probabilities of occurring p(A1), and (1-p(A1)) and win probabilities after the result of wp(A1) and wp(A2), and B has only one outcome with win probability wp(B). It's tempting just to say "well, if p(A1)*wp(A1)+(1-p(A1))*wp(A2) is greater than wp(B), you should go for it."

But it's a bit simplistic, since coaches don't get hundreds of chances for things to average out. By your math (and I'm just using your numbers for simplicity) Belichick had a 68% base chance to win the game (by punting), and going for it risked a 30% chance of going down to 40% for the chance to go up to 90%.

Was that a good gamble? For the Patriots? Probably. They were a 4-1 team, and not that desperate. If they lose the game, it's not the end of the world. This is starting to sound backwards, of course - if you're not desperate, you make more aggressive decisions, but this sort of thinking happens all the time. If I say "want to gamble $20,000 for a 55% chance of winning $40,000?" you're pretty unlikely to take the gamble if you only have $20,000, and pretty likely to take the gamble if you've got $200,000.

This argument really completely depends on the coach's point of view. Really, either decision is 'right'. Both punting *and* going for it and succeeding likely lead to the Patriots being more likely to win the game than before. Which decision you 'should' choose depends entirely on how the coaches view the relative utility of field position (and improved odds on winning the game).

It's also a bit simplistic because Belichick isn't making these decisions unopposed. You can make the argument that Belichick, knowing that the Chargers' special teams are atrocious, knows that if he fails to convert, that Turner and the Chargers, if given the opportunity, will play for the field goal, and so he knows (or is pretty sure) that he can manipulate his opponent into taking a route that still leads to the Patriots being likely to win the game. On the other hand, punting may actually make the Chargers more likely to be aggressive, which could give up a touchdown. Again, a lot of this is the point-of-view of the coach - what does he think of his opponent, what does he think his *opponent* is thinking, etc.

So I do agree that I think the Patriots did the right thing, but I don't think it's necessarily the same decision for each team.

51
by Arkaein :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 2:15pm

I usually enjoy your stats analysis Pat, but I'm a little disappointed by your approach on this critique.

First of all you fall into the unfortunately common error of looking at a teams' overall record and their "desperation" factor. Excepting in cases of not playing players to protect them from injuries this should have no influence on decisions made in game. As long as we view winning and losing as a strictly binary outcome, then the Bayesian analysis is the proper way to go about it.

Second you bring up a gambling analogy that really doesn't fit. A person gambling for money has the choice to gamble or not gamble, which is why expected outcome needs to be tempered by a maximum risk assessment. A coach doesn't have the same choice. A coach HAS to gamble one way or the other, but can make a decision that selects the best odds. Not gambling at all is not an option.

If we assume the input probabilities are reasonable (which could be argued), then I think the rest of Bill's analysis is spot-on. The point of the Chargers being able to play more aggressive is valid, but still unlikely to swing the percentages widely enough to make going for it an unreasonable choice unless other factors are adjusted.

60
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 3:13pm

First of all you fall into the unfortunately common error of looking at a teams' overall record and their "desperation" factor. Excepting in cases of not playing players to protect them from injuries this should have no influence on decisions made in game.

You're missing my point, actually - which may be why you think I'm making a common error. I'm not suggesting that it's *right* to modify things based on that decision, although I could definitely see some argument on the point of Belichick thinking "whatever, screw it, we're 4-1, let's just try to end this and get the heck out of here." I'm suggesting that the team's record plays a role in influencing the coach's thought process. The coach is human, no matter what, and so he's always going to have some influences on his own personal 'win probability utility.'

I also don't think it makes a damn bit of difference, incidentally. A coach maybe sees what, one, maybe two of these decisions a year? The difference in win probability, even by Bill's analysis, is 10%. It would likely take longer than a coach's career before even one game was affected by a decision like this.

A coach HAS to gamble one way or the other, but can make a decision that selects the best odds. Not gambling at all is not an option.

Punting is the 'not gambling' option. Imagine a distribution of win probabilities for each choice - going for it, and punting. Going for it will have a bunch of outcomes up at 90+%, and a bunch of outcomes down below 50%, widely spaced. Punting will have a smooth distribution around 70% or so. That's what I mean when I say you're wagering off of the punt option.

If we assume the input probabilities are reasonable (which could be argued), then I think the rest of Bill's analysis is spot-on.

This isn't even the same as a gambling analogy, because football decisions are *opposed*. You might think the only independent decision here at all is Belichick deciding to go for it or punt, but going for it requires a good play call as well, and while it's easy for us to say "well, *on average*, coaches have been able to come up with play calls that succeed," but, on average, I'm pretty good at tensor calculus, but I wouldn't trust myself to do it on the fly at the end of a talk, and so I wouldn't try - I'd say "I'll have to get back to you on that."

In other words, a perfectly good response to "why did you punt?" (if Belichick had punted) would've been "I didn't like any of my play options in that situation" and a perfectly good response to "why did you go for it?" could've been "I had a play that I felt confident in."

(Incidentally, if it had been *me*, I would've punted, but that's because I believe in avoiding high-leverage situations in football, and I'm naturally very skeptical of myself. But given the way I've seen Belichick *act*, I think it's a reasonable decision for him. He tends to be an arrogant playcaller, and have high confidence in his choices.)

65
by boxxy (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 3:33pm

How unlikely? Do you know that the %s are similar or are you just guessing?

86
by Arkaein :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:52pm

I didn't do the math before now, but using Bill's numbers the Patriots still win about 50% of the time after a failed conversion. Bill also calculated that going for it has a 78% win expectation, vs. 68% win expectation after a punt.

Bill estimated that the Patriots have a 70% chance of converting, which is the factor I believe we are discussing which may be significantly influenced by game situation, in that the Chargers will sell out more to stop this play than in other situations. If the Patriots win 50% of the time after a failed conversion, then even with a 0% chance of converting the Patriots still have a 50% chance of winning.

So a the proportional influence of the conversion percentage is estimated to be (78% - 50%) / 70% = 16 / 70 = 0.228. That is, reducing the Patriots' estimated probability of conversion by 1% reduces the win expectation of going for it by 0.228%. Let's call it a quarter of a percent for simplicity.

Going back to Bill's analysis, and assuming I'm calculating this right, this means that for going for it to be worse than punting would require a 40% worse odds of converting, i.e., 30%. And even at these odds the win expectation for going for it equals the win expectation for punting. Even if the conversion odds are worse, the total odds are close enough to make either decision defensible.

I'm not saying I agree with all of these numbers precisely; there's a lot of guesstimation in there. However, it seems that even if the Chargers are given good odds for both getting the stop and then scoring later that Belichick's decision is very reasonable.

113
by DGL :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 8:02pm

"First of all you fall into the unfortunately common error of looking at a teams' overall record and their "desperation" factor."

As long as he's not going up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

127
by jmaron :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 11:20am

as I recall things didn't work out so well for that Scilian when death was on the line

25
by Julio (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:47pm

What everybody seems to forget is that the Pat's made 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1
already in the game, the only mistake they made was running the same play
they ran earlier on the 3rd and 1, they should have changed up the running play
a bit.

30
by Purds :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 12:57pm

Ah, but please look at my reasoning above. Defenses can play a 4th-and-1 to lose the game very differently. They can stack the box, they can press cover, they do not need to worry about a TD. That has to increase their odds of defensive success.

72
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:04pm

The converted 3rd and 1 was on the GL, so the comparison is appropriate. In fact, the converted with the exact same play, with the exception of BJGE taking the inside route instead of trying to bounce it outside, which he should have done on the 4th down as well.

120
by Purds :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 9:38pm

Good point on the 3rd and 1. I didn't watch the whole game, and I missed that one.

In the end, my point is not to suggest that BB should not have gone for it, mathematically or psychologically, but to suggest that FO's characterization of the percentages involved are probably not as accurate as they could be. If FO could find more moments like the 4th-and-1 at the end of the game to ice it last year, then they would have better stats to use. FO assumes an authority in the numbers here that their methodology doesn't support (and that's from an English teacher!).

Even using numbers for 3rd and 1 on the goal line earlier in games doesn't really match the moment, for in a 3rd and 1 on the goal line earlier in the game, a QB who has no open receiver is going to take a safe sack (failure) and then field goal as opposed to trying to squeeze in a desperation pass (most often failure, but not always), unless he has one name (BrettFarve) in which case he's going to try to squeeze it in there no matter what down.

Personally, I like BB's idea of going for it, to try to win the game with the ball in my team's hands, especially given the field position in Sunday's game. It's a bit like bluffing with a draw in poker: you could win by the opponent folding, or you could catch the card you need. The Pats could have won by getting the first, or they could have one (and did win) by failing but still holding off the opponent.

52
by RickD :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 2:16pm

They were in the same position where they had failed with a running play on 2nd and short. The Chargers defense was much fresher at that junction of the game and they were pumped up for having already stopped a short yardage run.

My general feeling about these things is this: if you have 2nd and short and fail to convert with a short run, and then fail again on 3rd and short, just punt already. Each failure makes the defense that much more dangerous.

91
by Bobman :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 5:04pm

No no no and no. If you fail to convert with a run on 2nd and short, and AGAIN on 3rd and short, the only possible route for success is to PASS on 4th... because they'll never expect it after your two masterful running atempts.

Don't laugh, you know we've all seen it. And although many people at home are saying to their TVs "please try something different" they didn't quite mean "obvious and different."

100
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 5:54pm

Actually, the thing to do is to throw a fade route off play action. From the I-formation.

116
by Judy (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 9:15pm

I don't believe it's been mentioned, but it's possible that one reason they may not have wanted to punt was that the long snapper had been all over the place all game, saved several times by the punter.

33
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:02pm

Against the league's second-worst pass defense, Matt Cassel dropped back seven times over 25 plays in the first half. I know that the Chiefs are a run-first team, but that's just a poor job of building your gameplan to account for the strengths and weaknesses of the other team.

Somebody didn't read my Jags-Titans MNF preview.

110
by jbrown (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:34pm

Ha I was just about to mention the same thing but couldn't remember if it was you or Doug that wrote it. At just a quick glance it looks like an almost identical situation in terms of reliance on the run + shaky QB play

41
by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:28pm

I'm still trying to figure out how the Chiefs made a wrong decision to pass less in that game. They could have scored more than 42 points?

54
by ChaosOnion :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 2:20pm

They obviously made the wrong decision because if Cassel had thrown for 40 more yards and a TD, I would have won my imaginary football game this week.

42
by spenczar :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:31pm

Yikes. So much for ""We want Carr!"

45
by MattR :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:47pm

Am I the only guy who hears about that chant and thinks of Brick Tamlin?

"We want Carr!"

"I love lamp!"

53
by RickD :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 2:19pm

As the saying goes, "Be careful with what you wish for. You might get it."

If Carr hadn't underthrown his targets by 10 yards or more several times in the second half, the 49ers would have won that game easily.

I'm not an Alex Smith fan, but Carr is much, much worse.

Is this a good time to mention that I'm thrilled at the prospect of an 18-game season, with backup QBs starting for half the teams in Week 18-19? Between the inevitable injuries and the benching of starters by teams like the Colts, those extra games will be crapfests.

But at least David Carr will have work.

55
by spenczar :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 2:24pm

Completely agreed, Rick. Carr gave one of the worst showings I've ever seen by a QB. It was especially remarkable because it wasn't spectacularly bad - it wasn't a series of dumb interceptions or anything. He just looked consistently like a high-school level QB, ridiculously inaccurate, entirely incapable of deep throws... And that pass for three yards up the middle of the field with 30 seconds in the game and no timeouts that Bill referenced really was the stupidest complete pass I've ever seen.

76
by Jed York (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:08pm

I'm super pumped that Alex Smith is finally above replacement level on the season for the first time EVER.

He's ranked the same as he was last year, though...

What does all of this mean????

90
by greybeard :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 5:00pm

Had Alex Smith not injured and played the same level in the second half as he did in the first half, he would be 6th best QB of the week ( I multiplied his DYAR by two, maybe that is not correct way to calculate it).
I hope his injury is not so bad that he can come back after the bye and 49ers can find out if we have a decent QB or not.

108
by RickD :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:27pm

Yes, when David Carr is the replacement, being "above replacement level" takes on quite a different meaning. :)

104
by Thok :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:19pm

To be fair, none of the Niners fans here wanted Carr.

The proper comparison for Carr isn't Alex Smith. It's Trent Dilfer, the year he was actually forced to replace Alex Smith.

I sort of want to see Nate Davis play a little. He'll suck, but the Niners might as well figure out how badly he sucks now.

126
by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 10:50am

I have fantasies about Troy Smith, who comes from far, far away, and didn't suck, and so might approximate an average quarterback, in my fantasies.

Or if he did suck, the rumors thereof did not reach this West Coast, which allows me to continue fantasizing....

44
by AudacityOfHoops :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:43pm

"would you rather put the ball in the hands of Tom Brady against the Chargers defense or rely on your pass defense to stop Philip Rivers?"

By "Tom Brady" you meant "BenJarvus Green-Ellis," right? :)

"Rivers absorbs most of the punishment for his swing pass-turned-lateral to Jacob Hester in DYAR; you can decide if he was at fault or not."

It would be nice, in cases like this where you mention one play affecting the numbers, to know how MUCH that play affected them. For example, was the fumble worth -20 DYAR? -40? It changes depending on down/distance/time/score/opponent, right?

64
by Big Johnson :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 3:30pm

Except that wasnt a fumble. Hes getting penalized for a bad call. This website should clean up junk plays like that just like it cleans up plays like kneeling at the end of the game. Rivers throws a forward pass that bounces off his receivers hands, is ruled a fumble, and the guy doesnt even attempt to sniff the ball, then rivers makes the tackle to save a touchdown. New england gets a field goal out of it. He actually made a good play on that play and is getting penalized for it??

77
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:11pm

1) It was a backward pass.

2) It was ovethrown.

Rivers obviously shouldn't get docked as if he had a Favre-esque fumble against the Jets, but he did have some culpability. On top of that, if you disregard the individual impact to the QB and receiver, the team DVOA (IMO the most useful stat on this site) still needs to factor that play in because it was a major reason why they lost.

83
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:41pm

What replay have you seen to assert definitively that it was a backward pass? I haven't seen anything clear cut either way - in fact the replays I have seen suggest it was more likely forward than lateral or backward.

95
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 5:27pm

You're right, I should have said "lateral" not backward pass.

97
by Big Johnson :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 5:41pm

youve got to be kidding me. Replay shows it clearly went half a yard forward. Didnt you guys watch the game when they showed the blue line and where the ball hit the ground? Even with technology not being perfect, half a yard is way more than enough evidence to suggest that it clearly went forward. And now this chump goes on and says it was clearly a lateral. Quit sitting on your eyes anonymous.

98
by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 5:47pm

I warned you about using epithets to refer to other users. You're no longer welcome here.

106
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:26pm

Where the ball hit the ground is irrelevant, as Hester tipped it forward in his attempt to catch it.

I don't know whether it went forward or backward. I haven't seen anything to definitively prove it either way. Neither did the referees, so the call on the field has to stand.

105
by RickD :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:26pm

I agree that the replays were inconclusive. When the ball went to the ground I thought the RB should have had the sense to fall on it, even if he thought it was a forward pass. In no way is it reasonable to say that the "right play" is to ignore the ball. (Replying further up thread than to B-H-A)

109
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:29pm

I agree. That's just good sense. I know it's heat of the moment and everything, but it really ought to be automatic - if you don't catch a swing pass, IMMEDIATELY get yourself on top of the ball in case it went backward.

85
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:49pm

I think he meant Tom Brady -after- BGE converted the 4th down.

46
by Chad (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 1:51pm

Cassel is missing 1 TD, 6 yards, 1 completion/attempt in his stat boxes. It was a TD to bowe that was challenged and upheld that didn't make it in, could the challenge be the culprit behind that?

87
by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 4:53pm

I think we'll see that the Ravens defense isn't as good as we think they are. Much like the situation in San Diego, after their great coach (Rex Ryan) left, the team began on a long slope down toward mediocrity.

96
by Oh Dallas (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 5:28pm

Baltimore had superb defenses under Marvin Lewis and Mike Nolan too. Considering Ozzie Newsome is one of the best general managers in the league, I don't think it's a given that the team is a "on a long slope down toward mediocrity."

Also, who is the coach you're alluding to that was in brobleSan Diego?

92
by bkjsun :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 5:09pm

What are the success rates for teams with 4&1 at the goalline?
That is probably a better approximation of the Patriots odds of converting that 4&1.

I'm pretty sure whatever the numbers are, the better decision is still to go for it but just run it straight up the middle.

99
by Big Johnson :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 5:47pm

"Not all multiple-touchdown games are created equal. The great example of that, of course, is Jerome Bettis's famous five-carry, one-yard, three-touchdown game against the Raiders in 2004"

Bill
So bettis got the most yardage he possibly could have gotten on 3 of his 5 carries. If you are implying he had a bad game you are wrong.

118
by Alex51 :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 9:33pm

I don't think anybody's saying he did badly, considering the opportunities he had. But most of the time, when a RB gets 3 TDs, it's because he's gotten 100+ yards on 20+ carries, with several 1st downs, helping his team move the ball across the field. Bettis did a decent job as a goal line back, but he didn't really do anything to get the team to the goal line in the first place. That's why people bring that game up: in fantasy football, Bettis' performance was incredibly valuable, but in actual football, he just had 3 or 4 good plays and 1 or 2 bad ones. Not all that valuable.

103
by tylerdolphin :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:07pm

Chad Henne threw 1 TD, its marked as 0 TDs.

107
by Anonymous500 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:27pm

Shouldn't Roddy White have another catch and 5 more yards?

111
by RickD :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 6:35pm

I think he had 3 more catches for 71 yards and a TD this morning. And Kenny Britt also had 4 more catches for 60 yards and 2 TDs this morning.

I'm just happy I didn't face either of them in fantasy football this weekend. (And that I decided that the Titans wouldn't keep Britt benched the entire game, and kept him in my starting lineup.)

112
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 7:01pm

As Bouman is the very definition of a replacement QB, shouldn't all the DYARs be recalibrated?

114
by So What (not verified) :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 8:51pm

Bill Barnwell is a shithead, that is all.

124
by tylerdolphin :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 2:32am

sup Big Johnson

130
by justme_cd :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 1:51pm

I have 3 of the top 5 most valuable running backs. The one I started is only up there because of defensive adjustments. I'm sure you're wondering so I'll just add I still won.

132
by stetzwebs (not verified) :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 5:30pm

It's insane to list the Bills passing offenses as "one of the worst in the NFL". Where do you get your stats?

133
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 5:42pm

Has Trent Edwards been removed from time or something?

135
by stetzwebs (not verified) :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 8:50pm

Has he been removed from time? No...but he's been removed from the Bills, which I guess is the next best thing.