Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Impact of the NFL's Kickoff Rule Change

After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?

25 Jan 2011

Quick Reads: Conf. Championships

by Bill Barnwell

Don't believe everything you hear when people talk about what's caused a team to win football games. Because the actual act of playing successful football is so incredibly complex and linked to so many factors, we're often led to believe that an improvement in a team's performance is linked to some change in that team that occurred around the same time. Sometimes, it's true: Although the effect was overstated, the Bears' offense did get better after their bye week once they ran a more balanced scheme.

Some, however, are fibs. And there's one storyline you're bound to hear about over the next two weeks that simply isn't true: The rushing attack of the Green Bay Packers has not gotten any better with James Starks in the lineup. You can point to his 332 rushing yards and note that he's nearly hit half of Brandon Jackson's seasonal total in three games. Once you get past that cumulative total, the flaws in the argument become very clear.

On a per-play basis, Starks has not been an improvement on the combination of Jackson and Kuhn. Those two backs led a rushing attack that produced a DVOA of 1.1% during the regular season. Starks has those 332 rushing yards, but it's taken him 70 carries to get there. He's been an inefficient back, producing just 11 first downs and one touchdown on those carries, yielding a Success Rate of just 33 percent. That would be the worst rate in the league for a qualifying running back if Starks had produced those figures during the regular season. Combine those figures, and Starks's rushing DVOA during the postseason is at -7.8%. He's produced a total of just 2 DYAR.

The reason why he's getting the hype is simple. His best game was that shocking Wild Card performance against the Eagles, when he had a 27.6% DVOA on 23 carries and actually gave the Packers a semblance of a rushing attack. As a powerful back that pushed the pile, he stood as a stark, exciting contrast to the willowy Jackson. The narrative's stuck around since then, but the performance hasn't.

Look at his performance this Sunday, when he had 74 yards on 22 carries and produced 5 DYAR. He faced a good Bears run defense, but he was still below-average: He had a -3.3% DVOA, but a VOA of -16.9%. (VOA is the same statistic as DVOA, just without any adjustments for the quality of the opposition.) He had a few nice carries against Chicago, like the 16-yard run for a first down early on and the stretch for his four-yard touchdown in the second quarter. But he only had two other first downs on his other 20 rushing attempts. He was stuffed on a second-and-1, a third-and-1, and a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line.

And while the Bears were futzing around on their quarterback carousel in the second half, they were able to stay in the game because the Packers offense scored exactly zero points. Starks's lack of production was one of the biggest reasons why. He got ten carries in the second half and gained a total of 19 yards on the ground. Nine of them came on one carry, his only successful carry of the half. The other nine carries produced a total of 10 yards. That's a recipe for punts, not points.

The other argument is that the mere presence of Starks has forced teams to honor the run, creating holes for Aaron Rodgers in the passing game. Considering how good Rodgers has looked at times, it's a reasonably fair statement to make. Even if Starks has created some doubt amongst opposing defenses, the total package has not improved things dramatically for the Green Bay offense. During the regular season, the Packers offense had an 18.0% DVOA when Rodgers was in the lineup. (That excludes the second half of the game against the Lions and all of the game against the Patriots, when Matt Flynn was the quarterback due to Rodgers' concussion.) With three playoff games in the books, the Packers have put up an offensive DVOA of 25.4%.

Of course, the Steelers have the league's best run defense by DVOA, so the chances of any Packers running back making an impact in the Super Bowl is limited at best. If you read or hear that Starks is going to be a difference-maker because of what he's done over the past three weeks, though, don't believe it. So far, he's been just another Packers running back.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Mark Sanchez NYJ
20/33
233
2
0
112
114
-2
As the Steelers ran his fumble back into the end zone to take a 24-0 lead, Sanchez had produced -32 DYAR on 12 dropbacks. Not pretty. After that, though, he was great. He shook off what looked like a nasty shoulder/neck injury to put up 152 DYAR over the final 31 minutes of the game, including nine first downs and two touchdowns. He was part of the Jets' second nifty bit of improvisation in two weeks, combining with Santonio Holmes for a 45-yard touchdown that got the Jets offense going. He finished his season with six straight completions, including conversions on fourth-and-1 and third-and-4, before throwing a touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery.
2.
Aaron Rodgers GB
17/30
244
0
2
54
30
24
Rodgers had 69 passing DYAR on the opening drive, with four seemingly-easy completions for 76 yards. The Bears' pass defense slowed him down after that, although Rodgers had two short streaks of similar effectiveness. At the end of the first quarter, he completed three straight passes for a total of 52 yards (with a sack mixed in), and at the beginning of the third quarter, he had a stretch with two completions for 41 yards followed by a 23-yard DPI. Unfortunately, after an incompletion, Rodgers threw that ugly red zone interception to Brian Urlacher. He does deserve credit for a nice open-field tackle, but alas, DYAR isn't providing any. He was effective as a runner, with that deep bootleg for a one-yard score on the opening drive and three more first downs on four additional carries, including a scramble for 25 yards and a third-and-1 conversion.
3.
Caleb Hanie CHI
14/20
153
1
2
38
40
-2
If you had Hanie in your playoff fantasy pool, congratulations. Also, it's nice to meet you, member of the Hanie family. Although the standards were not particularly high when Hanie entered the starting lineup, he played about as well as you could have hoped a quarterback with no experience or first-team reps could play in the playoffs against the league's best pass defense. His pick-six to massive defensive lineman B.J. Raji was a product of unfamiliarity; he likely saw Raji's initial push into Olin Kreutz and never dreamt that Raji would then drop back into coverage as a zone blitzer. His later interception was on fourth-and-the-season; about the worst thing you can say is that he didn't give a Packers defender an easy path to a penalty. In 20 dropbacks, he produced six first downs and a touchdown, showing impressive presence in the pocket and a reasonable amount of poise. There is no quarterback controversy in Chicago, but the pick-needy Bears might entertain some interesting offers for Hanie this offseason.
4.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
10/19
133
0
2
-37
-49
12
You remember the two big plays at the end to seal the game, but the reason why the Jets were still in the game was because Roethlisberger struggled to move the ball and made mistakes. Part of it was the absence of Maurkice Pouncey, but Roethlisberger had one five-dropback stretch with four incompletions and an interception. Later on, four dropbacks produced a fumbled snap, another interception, and two sacks. Suggestions that the interceptions were of no consequence are inaccurate. The fourth-and-1 throw was thrown too hard for a screen pass, and the interception allowed the Jets the possibility of a return. His second pick was on a bomb that found Brodney Pool and essentially acted like a punt, but it came on second-and-11 from the Jets' 37-yard line. The Steelers still had a chance of producing points on that drive. Like Rodgers, Roethlisberger was an effective scrambler, though, as his five carries produced three first downs and a touchdown. One of the aborted snaps is included as a running play, which depresses his numbers.
5.
Jay Cutler CHI
6/14
80
0
1
-53
-51
-3
Cutler's presence in the spot has nothing to do with the embarrassing instant diagnoses of his knee injury. Instead, this is strictly for Cutler's performance before exiting the game, which wasn't very good. He produced just four successful plays in 16 dropbacks, taking two sacks, fumbling once, and throwing an interception deep into the second quarter. Although he was playing the league's best pass defense, he had communication issues with Devin Hester at least twice. One of those incompletions should have been a 20-yard completion that put the Bears in field goal range.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Rashard Mendenhall PIT
121
1
32
0
60
42
17
While Ben Roethlisberger struggled with the Jets' pass defense, Mendenhall had a great game against the league's second-best run defense. In fact, it was the 26th-best game by a running back going back through 1993. Like Starks, he had just three first downs and a touchdown on a lot (27) of carries. Unlike Starks, 13 of his 27 carries were successful. His biggest play went for 35 yards, while Starks's went for 16. He wasn't stuffed once in short yardage, and only three of his carries went for no gain or a loss. He added two first downs as a receiver, although he might deserve some of the blame for a fourth-and-1 interception that went off his hands. (It wasn't a great throw, either.)
2.
Matt Forte CHI
70
0
90
0
21
0
21
Forte was thrown the ball on eight of Caleb Hanie's 20 dropbacks, including five times on the potential game-tying drive. He finished with 15 targets on the day, producing five first downs with those throws. As a runner, he got 17 carries and only produced three first downs, each of which came on carries of 11 yards or more. He only had five successful carries, although the Bears didn't give him any of the short-yardage work.
3.
Shonn Greene NYJ
52
0
0
0
20
20
0
Greene broke off a nice 23-yard run against the Steelers' run defense to start the third quarter, giving the Jets offense a bit of hope. He also converted a fourth-and-1 and ran for 16 yards on secnd-and-18 later on. His goals for the offseason need to be improving in pass protection and convincing Brian Schottenheimer that he can be a useful receiver.
4.
James Starks GB
74
1
6
0
11
5
6
Starks also had a rookie mistake late in the game, running out of bounds on a sweep for a two-yard loss with four minutes to go. It's hard to fault a player for not giving up on a play, but Starks was pinned to the sideline and would have needed to go into Beast Mode to turn it into positive yardage. He should have just gone down.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
LaDainian Tomlinson NYJ
16
0
0
0
-17
-17
0
Usually one of Mark Sanchez's favorite targets, Tomlinson wasn't even thrown a single pass on the day. He spent most of his time on the bench, and when he came in, it was to pass block. His nine carries gained just 16 yards and didn't produce a first down. He was stuffed on a third-and-1 as well as that fourth-and-goal carry from the Steelers 1-yard line.


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Greg Jennings GB
8
11
130
16.2
0
32
The Packers started the day with a very simple plan: Get Greg Jennings on (the unrelated) Tim Jennings's side of the field. Throw to Greg Jennings. Walk towards end zone. It played on the Bears' fears of having Greg Jennings beat them deep, which happened twice in the Week 17 matchup. The result was a steady stream of skinny posts and dig patterns, producing five receptions for 20-26 yards.
2.
Jordy Nelson GB
4
5
67
16.8
0
25
Nelson's one incompletion came on a pass thrown 28 yards downfield; his four completions produced three first downs, including completions that took the ball to the Bears' two-yard line and four-yard line. It was surprising to see him play a larger role in the offense than James Jones (two targets, 33 yards). If the Packers do try and emulate the Patriots' success against the Steelers by spreading Pittsburgh with three- and four-wide sets, Nelson could end up having a huge game in the slot against William Gay.
3.
Santonio Holmes NYJ
2
5
61
30.5
1
23
It seems stunning that the Steelers let Holmes go for a fifth-round pick and, yet, were still able to overcome his usual postseason heroics. (In case you're wondering, the Steelers used the pick in a trade to re-acquire cornerback Bryant McFadden; the Cardinals then used the pick to grab quarterback John Skelton.) In addition to his long touchdown catch, Holmes converted a third-and-4 with 16 yards and picked up a defensive pass interference penalty on second-and-9.
4.
Brad Smith NYJ
2
2
25
12.5
0
14
Smith's catches came on consecutive plays, as he grabbed 13 YAC on a 16-yard completion to give the Jets a first down on their (second) two-minute drill, and then followed it with a nine-yard completion on first-and-10. His normally-superb kick returns were mitigated by the Steelers kicking short, but it worked out alright for the Jets: Five of their nine drives started on the 31-yard line or better.
5.
Dustin Keller NYJ
8
10
64
8.0
0
14
Keller only had one catch for double-digit yardage, a 19-yarder on the opening play of the fourth quarter. That was his only target of the day that came further than six yards downfield. He had two other first downs, both of which were converted third-and-4 attempts in Steelers territory.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Devin Hester CHI
0
3
0
0.0
0
-18
Miscommunication led to at least one and likely two failed hookups between Cutler and Hester, and after Cutler departed, Hester's only target was on that questionable intentional grounding penalty called on Caleb Hanie. Like Smith, while these numbers don't include return performance, Bears fans had to expect more out of their game-changing return guy. Both Packers punter Tim Masthay and the Green Bay coverage units had excellent games against Hester, holding him to 22 yards on three attempts.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 25 Jan 2011

90 comments, Last at 26 Jan 2011, 10:41pm by troycapitated polamalizer

Comments

1
by Yaguar :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 1:00pm

I think the blocking for Starks has often been subpar. Given how absurdly awesome the passing game is, they should be OK with having a below-average back and just work on the OL.

5
by B :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 1:38pm

Starks is a perfectly fine player, but Green Bay's run blocking has been terrible all year. Their pass blocking hasn't been much better, actually. It's interesting that the two teams in the Super Bowl both have terrible offensive lines.

6
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 1:42pm

Yeah, it's the reason why I only strongly rooted for the Jets Sunday. I wanted to see good offensive line play rewarded.

7
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 1:45pm

as has been mentioned elsewhere by several, a good portion of starks' "unsuccessful" runs have started with defenders in the backfield. if he wasn't breaking first and second tackles, these are negative yardage plays, not 0-2 yard non-successful plays.

he may not be a "game-changer," but the argument that he is no better than kuhn or jackson appears to be taking place in a vacuum.

i think bill's forgetting the supposed fo mantra to combine advanced stats with traditional visual scouting.

_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

35
by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:43pm

Same is true for Jackson though. He had 2 runs for 5 yards, but that was made of a 10 yard run plus a loss of 5 when Urlacher, unblocked at the line, hit Jackson right after the handoff.

I do think Starks is better at traditional running plays. He accelerates a bit better, leans forward into contact, and makes his cuts a bit more decisively. Jackson does a lot better in space. He seems to run well as a changeup, especially on draw plays, and is reasonably elusive on screen passes and dump-offs where the margins of error are a bit bigger.

38
by Yaguar :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 4:08pm

Starks' decisiveness, acceleration, and toughness are above-average. I think of him as a BenJarvus Green-Ellis equivalent. The difference in production between them is almost entirely situational.

57
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 10:55pm

I was thinking of a poor man's Brandon Jacobs. About useless sideways, but open up a hole between the tackles and watch him run over and through people. Though it seems he's even better than BJ at getting himself injured running that way.

Brandon Jackson, on the other hand, seems perfectly competent as a receiving back, beyond his line, but completely overmatched behind it.

_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

2
by starzero :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 1:14pm

I think in the Devin Hester comment you mean Tim Masthay had an excellent game against Hester, Not Cutler.

--
hail damage

3
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 1:35pm

As Aikman correctly noted, if Cutler just throws the ball to the pylon, when Hester was running a deep crossing route in the first half, instead of throwing the ball 7 yards deep into the end zone, 10 yards from the sideline, the Bears chances of winning the game go up quite a bit. Lost in all the "is Cutler tough enough" nonsense is the fact that the game was to a large degree determined by the huge gap in pass quality between Rodgers and Cutler, in the game's first 20 minutes.

I really think the NFL needs to start considering automatic ejections for a defensive player who lowers his head while using the helmet to deliver a blow to a qb in the pocket. Given how accuracy and decision making by the qb have come to dominate the game, there can't be a defensive coordinator in the game who woukld not be willing to trade 15 yards for a helmet to the jaw or earhole (like Peppers delivered to Rodgers) of the opposing qb who is in the pocket, especially early in the game. The NFL seems to have decided to penalize even the most incidental contact, or hard tackles to a qb who is trying to advance the ball (think of the penalty on Suh), while still leaving a large incentive to take the most dangerous head shots on a qb in the pocket.

10
by MCS :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 2:11pm

I don't remember exactly how that play went. That said, Chicago media is blaming Hester for that incompletion. They are stating that he slowed down in the middle of the route and then sped up again at the end. If he had maintained his spped, it would have been complete.

------

(Warning: Opinion) IMO, replays showed that Peppers had the opportunity to lower is head and not go helmet to helmet. He chose otherwise. I hope they fine him a significant portion of his exhorbitant salary.

17
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 2:55pm

Lowering your head is what you are not supposed to do. That's leading with the helmet.

18
by MCS :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:00pm

Lower your head away from the opponents head.

19
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:01pm

In this one situation that would have been helpful, but it is poor tackling technique which is what the NFL has been going after this year.

21
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:19pm

Yeah, I don't know how that conclusion is made about the pass. It wasn't that Hester couldn't reach it, due to slowing down, it was that where the ball was thrown meant that the defender had an angle to get to it as well. If the ball is thrown to the pylon, the defender would have had to been substantially faster than Hester to get to the ball.

23
by MCS :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:21pm

We may be thinking of different plays. The play I am referring to was a corner route that Hester had body position and the ball was just too far out in front.

27
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:28pm

No, I'm talking about the deep crossing route, where Cutler ended throwing the ball 7 yards deep in the end zone, ten yards from the sideline, which gave the defender an agle to get to it. If he had instead thrown it closer to the sideline, and 7 to 10 yards more shallow, only Hester would have been able to get to the ball.

25
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:24pm

Re: the Hester play

From our seats in the opposite end zone, it sure looked the way you describe it. Hester looked to be running a corner route (or maybe a post-corner), and after he made his cut, he looked back and slowed down. Cutler threw the ball to where he thought Hester would be had he run full speed.

Cutler had a bad game, but that one play looked to be more Hester's fault.

16
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 2:54pm

On the Peppers hit, it looked to me like he tried to lead with his shoulder, and circumstances conspired against him.

24
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:24pm

I can't read his mind, but I can see his head was lowered, eyes pointed at the ground, when the contact was made. I'd make guys understand that if they lower the
crown of their hat, and the hat smacks the qb in the head while he is in the pocket, that means an ejection. Otherwise, there is just too liitle penalty incurred for a dangerous play that win a team a game.

28
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:29pm

Well he didn't make every attempt (maybe even every reasonable attempt) to avoid the contact. He was making sure he was going to hit Rodgers. I just don't think he intended helmet to helmet contact. Seems like a play where a 15 yard flag is appropriate, but he doesn't need to be fined or suspended. Could just be these navy and orange tinted glasses I'm wearing though.

36
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:43pm

Hey, I've got no rooting interest here, I just think the game would be improved if guys trained themselves to never lower their head when tackling the qb in the pocket.

32
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:37pm

Given how accuracy and decision making by the qb have come to dominate the game, there can't be a defensive coordinator in the game who woukld not be willing to trade 15 yards for a helmet to the jaw or earhole (like Peppers delivered to Rodgers) of the opposing qb who is in the pocket, especially early in the game.

Maybe some, or even most would...but would they be willing to risk the suspension that could follow?

34
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:40pm

How many suspensions have we seen? That might be a good penalty as well, but I think ejection might be the best step.

4
by B :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 1:36pm

I'm glad to see Haine rated so high. When he started playing well, I actually started rooting for Chicago just so we could have a QB controversy going into the Super Bowl.

8
by dbt :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 2:00pm

The only controversy would have been whether or not Jay could have played, and the answer that we know now is that he almost certainly could not have played. There would have been no discussion nor should there have been whether Jay would be the starter if he was healthy and able to go.

9
by Duke :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 2:06pm

According to the ESPN Chicago Bears Blog, Caleb Hanie is an unrestricted free agent:

http://espn.go.com/blog/chicago/bears/post/_/id/4669700/how-much-rebuild...

Which is just great. A guy establishes himself as trade bait just when we lose him!

11
by Chase (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 2:12pm

The evaluation of Starks is seriously lacking in the old "eye ball" department. The guy may not be churning out first downs and 10+ yard runs, but he's been an asset in the backfield regardless. He runs hard, eludes tackles and falls forward. The problem is, he's not starting from 0 yards and working from there - the Packers run blocking is spotting the defense a good 3 yards. So while it may seem Starks has an over-abundance of unimpressive runs for 3 yards or less, the truth is he did well just to make those runs generate positive yardage at all. On half his handoffs, it looks like he's going to get immediately tackled for a loss, but almost always manages to get back to the line, and sometimes even churns out 4 yards or so.

Not to say Starks is a world-beater, but if you think he's "just another Packer running back", then you're not very observant - pull your head out of the stats and watch some football.

44
by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 5:57pm

Welcome to Barry Sanders' entire career, James Starks.

Incidentally, isn't pure DVOA the wrong metric for the statement that Starks isn't an improvement? You're not comparing him to every other back in the NFL, you're comparing him to the other backs running behind the GB O-Line. He may have a -3 DVOA, but what DVOA would Kuhn/Jackson have against the same opponent? It's not an argument of "Is Starks good?", it's "Is Starks better?".

63
by Kal :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 2:09am

Incidentally, isn't pure DVOA the wrong metric for the statement that Starks isn't an improvement? You're not comparing him to every other back in the NFL, you're comparing him to the other backs running behind the GB O-Line.

It's actually the perfect metric. It factors away defensive modifiers and simply says 'is this guy better with otherwise the same team'? And the answer is...no. He's not.

Compare this to the results you see for Thomas Jones vs Jamaal Charles, for instance.

73
by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 12:20pm

I would, but Aaron didn't provide playoff DVOAs for Kuhn or Jackson. hence my original point -- DVOA answers the wrong question. We didn't ask if Starks was good; we asked if Starks was better than the alternatives.

79
by tuluse :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 2:05pm

His DVOA is 2% higher than Jackson's season DVOA of -9.9%. It's far lower than Kuhn's 1.2% DVOA, but Kuhn is a very situational player.

This doesn't take into account that it looks like teams respect Stark's ability more which could be opening things up for the passing game.

49
by ammek :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 7:37pm

Well I've watched most snaps of the Packers' last few seasons and I'm ready to say that, very small sample size notwithstanding, so far in his career Starks has been "just another Packer running back". More precisely, outside of the Eagles game, he has not shown he's any better at executing the staple running plays — stretch off tackle, zone cutback — or at picking up first downs in power situations, lumbered as he is with the same offensive line and playbook, than the Jackson/Kuhn tandem. He might be better between the tackles than Jackson: in the Eagles' game, Mike McCarthy called a season-high proportion of runs that were marked 'left/right guard' or 'up the middle' — the previous high had been in the 49ers game, when Starks got the majority of carries. I began to hope that the Packers were falling out of love with runs off-end — every season under McCarthy they've been in the top half-dozen in runs marked 'off-end', and every season they've finished in the bottom half in yards per carry on these runs (this year: dead last).

For the last two games, however, Starks has been asked to run horizontally as much as Jackson and, before him, Ryan Grant ever were. As far as I can tell, there is no single reason why these plays don't work: sometimes it's a messed-up block on the line, sometimes the RB is too slow to see a hole, sometimes the outside blockers (tight ends, WRs) get blown up, or an interior lineman gets washed out at the second level. But the result is rarely a successful play. I'd love for someone like Doug Farrar or Ben Muth to have a look and figure out what the weaknesses are.

51
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 9:55pm

Starks has not been "just another Packer running back." While nobody is going to mistake him for Barry Sanders or even Ahman Green, he is the only back on the roster who has been able to at least competently fill the primary back in the offense since Grant was injured. Jackson is a good third down back, but so was Tony Fisher. Kuhn is at best a Tom Rathman type. I just hope McCarthy burns every end run play in the playbook before the Super Bowl. They don't work, especially with great pursuit teams like the Bears and Steelers.

54
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 10:46pm

I've noticed the same... Seems to run really well through the line, not so much when trying to go around it.
_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

53
by Jay Z (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 10:16pm

Yep. Going into this game I figured GB would rush for about 60 yards. Jackson in the two games against Chicago was 14 carries for 31 yards. Starks was 22 for 74. I'll take it.

12
by Boots Day :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 2:15pm

I'm disappointed that Todd Collins didn't get rated.

13
by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 2:33pm

I'm confused at how 1 good game + 2 poor games = bad player. I don't really see a lot people proclaiming he's the next great thing - he's just an upgrade over Brandon Jackson, who hasn't really done anything in 3 whole years. Watching him make positive yardage out of nothing at times (seriously, that GB line cannot run block, and the playcalling is pretty obvious) is decent. He just has to make the run a threat, which he does better than Kuhn or Jackson.

I'd be willing to wager that if this were an FO Top 25 prospect, we'd get reasons why he'll turn it around or why he hasn't been up to par according to the stats so far. This just seems like over the top criticism for a guy who's started three games and was a sixth round pick.

14
by Jed (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 2:39pm

I don't remember anyone bagging on the Packers' o-line when Brandon Jackson was stinking the joint up?

Lovers gonna love, I guess.

15
by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 2:52pm

Why make a point when you can just call out unnamed and nebulous criticizers of Brandon Jackson? I don't think anyone has lauded the Green bay o-line since 2007. They have not been impressive.

37
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 4:01pm

Really? You must not have read many posts by Packers fans. Anyone who watches them have been bagging on the o-line all year and constantly hoping McCarthy will give up the zone blocking scheme or just get a new o-line coach. It's been mentioned that he's lucky he got Grant who's skill set is making one cut and hitting the hole (or area the hole is supposed to be), this is what the blocking scheme calls for. That's what Starks does too. It's not what Jackson or Kuhn does. Kuhn doesn't make cuts, though he hits the hole. Jackson makes cuts, but he doesn't hit the hole.

20
by Led :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:10pm

I generally don't care much for "intangibles" but there something to be said for leadership at the QB position. Now, a guy can't be a leader without a certain minimum level of skill and performance and the better a QB is, the easier it is to be perceived as a leader. So a lot of leadership talk is sloppy attribution. That said, Sanchez has come a long way in terms of his interaction with the offense in the huddle and interaction with the coaches, in addition to his performance. In the second half, and especially the 4th quarter, he was clearly rallying the team and pushing Schottenheimer (who was maddeningly slow getting the plays in) to keep the pace up. I don't know to what extent that makes the team play better, but it can't hurt. I actually felt like if the offense got the ball back, assuming non-terrible field position, Sanchez was going to win the game or at least go down to the wire. From a fan enjoyment perspective, that's a nice feeling.

I think that's the best explanation of "clutch." It's not really a skill inherent in the player, but it's the way you feel as a fan watching that player. That's not scientific or objectively verifiable, but it's true in the sense that it accurately describes the way fans experience the game. We can't process the game like the DVOA spreadsheet in real time, nor do I think we would want to. It's nice to experience the game as a fan on Sunday and then experience it a different way with DVOA and FO's other analyses during the week. So, from a guy whose team's season is now over, I guess all there is to say is thank you Football Outsiders for adding to my NFL experience.

26
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:27pm

Nice post.

I think there is another factor in "clutchness" that is about being able to filter and process information. The best QBs learn during the game what the defense is trying to do, and they adapt to it, figuring out how to attack in different ways. So all the plays that happen get filed away in the QB's head, and towards the end of the game being able to quickly sort through everything he's seen and apply to the game can cause increased level of play. Coaching probably has a big impact on this too.

33
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:38pm

I ahve a lot more belief in leadership skills than I do in clutch performances; the former is a quality which always exists, whereas the latter just seems to often be nothing more than confirmation bias. I always look back at how people laud Joe Cool Montana's demeanor prior to the famous drive at the end of the 2nd Super Bowl against the Bengals, and how the result, a td pass to John Taylor, is proof of Montana's clutchness. A lot of folks don't remember the awful throw right into the gut of a Bengals' defender (who was polite enough to drop it) a few plays earlier.

64
by Kal :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 2:12am

A more recent example would be that awesome Brady interception against San Diego that got stripped by Troy Brown, which ended up resulting in a first down on a fairly long 3rd down. Brady gets credit for being 'clutch' in that game.

66
by Aaron Brook's Good Twin (not verified) :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 2:50am

Worse -- it was 4th and 5. All Marlon McCree had to do was not catch the ball!

21
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:19pm

"As the Steelers ran his fumble back into the end zone to take a 24-0 lead, Sanchez had produced -32 DYAR on 12 dropbacks. Not pretty. After that, though, he was great. He shook off what looked like a nasty shoulder/neck injury to put up 152 DYAR over the final 31 minutes of the game".

Rex Ryan will probably assign one of his guys to hit Sanchez before each game next year. Byron Scott can't wait.

56
by Jerry :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 10:49pm

While Byron Scott would probably be happy to leave the Cavaliers right now for an NFL career, I think you mean Bart Scott.

58
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 10:58pm

Damn. I was really looking forward to seeing if Byron would use his rings like a set of brass knuckles.

29
by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:31pm

"The fourth-and-1 throw was thrown too hard for a screen pass"

There was a very small window to fit the ball in, and it hit the intended receiver's hands.

FO isnt subjective. Sure.

31
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:35pm

Who said FO writers weren't subjective?

30
by scottybsun (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 3:34pm

When you said Tomlinson was mostly used for pass protection- this may not have been the Jets intent. It is possible that Pittsburg's plan to keep LT out of the passing game was to send a blitzer to his side of the pocket, forcing him to stay in and block. Curious what play-by-play data could show.

39
by tequila (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 4:09pm

Just to note - Antonio Brown, the rookie receiver who has caught two absolutely huge first down passes in two consecutive playoff games now, would also not be a Steeler if not for the Santonio Holmes trade. The Steelers took the fifth-round pick from the Jets for Holmes and traded it off to the Cardinals to get Bryant McFadden back and a sixth-round pick, which they used to select Brown.

40
by nat :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 4:52pm

Sanchez's good numbers came entirely during "desperation time" - down three or more scores in the third or 2 or more in the fourth, when the defense could rightly be expected to trade yards for time. It's one of DVOA's (few) failings that it cannot properly account for that tradeoff, and so tends to overvalue plays that gain field position and even first downs while taking far too much time off the clock. It's use of a comparison to average doesn't help in this case, because the issue is the relative value of time and field position.

Since DVOA isn't going to get a clock-management adjustment any time soon, it's best to look at Sanchez's numbers and append "Clock Management grade: C-" or whatever you think he (and/or the play calling) earned. That may still add up to a good day, just not as good as his DYAR would suggest.

41
by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 5:18pm

DVOA can account for that. I think, in fact, it does, though obviously not particularly well.

I would note though that a 40-yard bomb TD to Holmes is definitely not something the defense wanted to trade.

45
by GlennW :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 6:09pm

True, but the defender (Ike Taylor) fell down on that play and as a result Sanchez had a layup TD that not even Todd Collins could have screwed up (well, maybe). I realize that no statistical system can account for such circumstances, but as observers we can still make some subjective assessment of the play. It's just evidence of why DVOA (or passer rating or any other system) can't be the be-all on an individual game basis, but works much better over a full season. I thought that Sanchez played well in the second half though under the dire circumstances, if not as well as DYAR suggests for the full game.

48
by Led :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 7:09pm

The thing is that no one combs through games played by the "good quarterbacks" looking for reasons to discount their accomplishments. Manning, Brady, et al., all benefit from breakdowns in coverage and plain old screwups by the defense. In fact, they probably benefit more than most because (a) teams run more complicated coverages that are harder to run and (b) those guys are good enough to take advantage of the mistakes. But no one goes through the game and says, sure Brady through 3 TDs, but that one at the end of the 3rd quarter doesn't really count because the CB fell down....

52
by GlennW :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 10:14pm

Good point about earning such respect based on established reputation. My overall contention though was that while straight DYAR would suggest that Sanchez played an epic game in defeat, that just wasn't the case. A very good game and a better game than Roethlisberger, but not a great game. As the previous poster stated, for the most part because of what Sanchez was unable to do before the Steelers' defense intentionally backed off with the big lead. I loved that Sanchez didn't fold under the pressure of the desperate situation though, and his play on the drive to cut the lead to 24-19 (when the Steelers could not afford to concede easy points) was his best work of the night. I think Sanchez needs to be taken seriously at this point as a legitimately good QB, even minus a significant track record.

62
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 1:22am

The best thing Sanchez did was maintain composure. The Steelers' safeties were trying to bait him into turnovers and he didn't bite. On the other hand, by basically only taking the underneath stuff they were giving him, with the exception of the play where Taylor fell down, they were able to force the Jets into burning up too much time to mount their come back. Sanchez reminded me of Roethlisberger without the size advantage. He showed a lot of physical and mental toughness and never checked out of the game. Still, the Jets had 3 first downs (2 off penalties) and something like 12 total yards before the game was 24-0. Everything that happened after that is colored by the big cushion the Steelers possessed.

65
by drobviousso :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 2:47am

"Sanchez reminded me of Roethlisberger without the size advantage. He showed a lot of physical and mental toughness and never checked out of the game."

Huh? Roethlisberger is one of the most ideosyncratic QB I think I've ever seen in the pros, and while there is a 2009 first round QB that reminds me of him, it's not Sanchez. I didn't see the same deep ball, middle accuracy, or completion-at-the-receiver-knees-for-first-down-plus-two-inches.

67
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 3:57am

I almost included mention of the accuracy difference, but, given this game in particular, I wasn't sure how well it would go over to suggest that Roethlisberger is more accurate. As far as the deep ball goes, it's hard to judge because they don't seem to try it that often he did a better job on his one long pass to Holmes than Roethsliberger did on his attempts in this game, but Ben obviously hit the big one on third down against Baltimore.

In any case, I guess what I was trying to get at is the "never blink" attitude with which Roethlisberger was credited during the second half comeback the previous week. Despite being down 24, and taking at least 1 pretty solid hit in the first half, Sanchez came out and played a pretty poised second half.

68
by drobviousso :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 4:09am

Oh, gotcha. Yeah. I think his numbers were down when faced with more pressure early and late, but he never had the Sanchez version of Manning Face.

74
by scottybsun (not verified) :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 12:27pm

Up 24-0, Steelers applied a lot of pressure. Jets very quickly made it 24-10. Steelers backed off and played so as not to give up big plays. Jets move the ball slowly and run out of time for a comeback. (Much like the Jets did to Brady last week).

Sanchez is not a great qb, but remember at the same point in his career, Aaron Rogers wasn't even the starter. QB development takes time, and if the Jets can get to 2 afc championship games while he has his training wheels on, I feel god about the future of this team and qb.

78
by RickD :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 1:47pm

"...wasn't even the starter."

It's not like there's an efficient mechanism sorting QBs so the best 32 QBs all get starting jobs. Aaron Rodgers was behind Brett Favre. If Sanchez had started his career on the Packers, he would have been behind Brett Favre.

46
by nat :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 6:26pm

No, DVOA does not consider how long a play takes or whether the clock stops. All it does is use the time and score differential to form buckets from which it gets the average to compare against. It has no way to adjust the relative value of time and field position, because it puts no value on time taken at all.

The Holmes TD was indeed a high value play. DVOA undervalues it in this situation. It wasn't just a score, it was a score with little time taken off the clock. But to DVOA, it was "just" a score. If Holmes had run in circles for three minutes before scoring, DVOA would have treated it the same. By the same token, a twelve yard pass that keeps the clock running is worth less than a twelve yard pass that stops the clock to a team in desperation mode - but DVOA doesn't know that. So a QB who burns clock by completing passes over the middle can look really good to DVOA while screwing his team's chances of a comeback. Sanchez burned a lot of clock on the drive that led to the safety.

The play calling is mostly on the coaches, but the audibles and decisions of where to throw the ball are all on the QB. Perhaps the thing to do would be to credit the clock management on passing plays to the QB. He's the one who gets the ball to the sidelines or not.

75
by MJK :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 12:53pm

Yes.

I've been beating this drum along with you for a while, but I'll beat it some more. DVOA should include "game clock time expended" in evaluating the success points for a play, and it does not. I'm sure tuning the coefficients would be tricky (how much of a lead does one team have to have, and how much time left in the game, to determine how big the time-effect is), and it would also be dependent on how many timeouts each team had left, so it would require some overhaul of the system, but I would be shocked if it didn't improve the metric.

A great example of this was last weekend...don't remember which game, because I wasn't really rooting for any team, but late in one of the games the leading team was trying to run out the clock. For whatever reason, they called a stretch run right even though the safeties were loading up the box and keying in on the RB, and the RB, when there was absolutely nothing there, rather than cutting back to get tackled for no gain, inexplicably ran out of bounds for no gain. It was probably the Packers, since they were the ones with an inexperienced RB.

Running straight ahead into the line and even losing a yard is actually a "positive play" in that situation, even though DVOA doesn't see it that way. Running out of bounds, even if you gain 3-4 yards, is essentially a negative play.

Similarly, late in the Jets game, the announcers (surprisingly correctly) lauded Roethlisberger for taking a sack rather than throwing the ball away, because it kept the clock running. Yet DVOA would see a sack as more negative than an incompletion.

84
by Jerry :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 5:52pm

To build on what you're saying:

The database is big enough that it should be possible to figure out when leading teams start taking more time per play than trailing teams, possibly looking at different lead sizes, and then comparing how long a play took to average. I'd just treat plays where the clock stops on a time out the same way as any other clock stoppage; teams that use their time outs well will have it reflected in their Clock DVOA.

87
by nat :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 8:21pm

The challenge to all this is that we don't know if clock management uses the same skills as playing well in normal situations does. If it doesn't, then adjusting VOA to better match outcomes would make DVOA less predictive of future success. After all, most plays aren't in desperation mode. If it does, then adjusting VOA would help DVOA's predictive power: being good with the clock when down by two scores would predict good work in all situations.

My personal opinion is that clock management doesn't use the same skills, at least not in the same mix. I'm thinking of a certain Mr. McNabb, but there are other examples for sure. That's why I suggested a separate clock management grade, rather than a straight change to DVOA as the likeliest improvement.

88
by Jerry :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 9:23pm

Clock management is part of the collection of skills a team needs to win. Whether it's having enough time to drive down the field for a go-ahead touchdown, or grinding the last five minutes off the clock while protecting a one-score lead, there's obviously value to playing the clock.

Two plays that DVOA currently ignores are spikes and kneeldowns, both of which are entirely clock management strategies. The three kneeldowns at the end of Sunday night's game were certainly valuable, even if only for keeping the Jet offense off the field.

42
by are-tee :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 5:33pm

Since Schottenheimer was calling the plays (and has been widely criticized for the lack of urgency on the last scoring drive), I'm not sure why the quarterback's DVOA should be adjusted for poor clock management. Now, if you want to start a DVOA stat for coaches, that's another story.

55
by Jerry :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 10:47pm

DVOA is actually a team stat. It can then be assigned to the QB, as well as a running back or receiver who's involved with the play, but the disclaimer about "this player with these teammates in this system" applies.

As far as the clock discussion above goes, I think success is redefined a bit late in the game, but there's no explicit adjustment for how much time a team takes between snaps. So a pass that goes for 8 yards but stays inbounds rates higher than a 6-yard pass where the receiver gets out of bounds. (Aaron is welcome to correct me if I'm wrong.)

43
by ebongreen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 5:49pm

I'd be curious to know what his first- and second-half splits were for his DVOA and DYAR at Chicago.

It strikes me that the Bears were unusually keyed up to stop the run in both halves, but that the Packers were using play-action a little more often in the first half to get them to back off. With a two-touchdown lead that might as well have been four touchdowns until The Hanie, GB may have wanted to run out the clock early and just couldn't because (a) they're not that good at run blocking and (b) Chicago teed off on early downs to stop the run.

47
by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 6:55pm

I don't have DVOA splits for Starks, but here's his play-by-play:

first drive (0 to 0)
1-10: run 6
2-4: catch 6
1-goal (2): run 1

second drive (GB 7 to CHI 0)
1-10: run 16
1-10: run 1

third drive (GB 7 to CHI 0)
1-10: run 2
2-8: run 1

fourth drive (GB 7 to CHI 0)
1-15: run 2
1-10: run 12
1-goal (4): run 4 TD

fifth drive (GB 14 to CHI 0)
1-10: run 10
1-10: run 0
3-1: run 0

sixth drive (GB 14 to CHI 0)
none

seventh drive (GB 14 to CHI 0)
2-10: run 2
1-10: run 9
2-1: run 0
1-goal (8): run 2

eight drive (GB 14 to CHI 0)
1-10: run 2

ninth drive (GB 14 to CHI 0)
none

tenth drive (GB 14 to CHI 7)
1-10: run 1
2-4: run 2

eleventh drive (GB 14 to CHI 7)
none

twelfth drive (GB 21 to CHI 14)
1-10: run 0
2-10: run -2

He was streaky early, and got worse late. It looks like he started with 4 successful plays, followed by 4 unsuccessful, then 3 successful, then 3 unsuccessful, then was mostly unsuccessful the rest of the way. The fifth drive was the last before halftime, and had two runs for no gain, but before that point he was successful on 7 out of 11 plays.

50
by ppabich :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 8:01pm

Starks is a product of the offense. When the offense stopped throwing the ball affectively, the bears defense keyed in on the running game. Just because he wasn't affective for a half really has no baring on his effectiveness as a running

59
by ppabich :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 11:01pm

It seems to me that playoff football is much different than regular season football. Pundits always said this, but I never truly believed it. I felt stats wouldn't mean different things until these playoffs. To say that Roethlisberger negatively affected the game is just asinine. His performance was nothing short of extraordinary Sunday. The plays he made getting out of the pocket were so important to the outcome of the game that I doubt they could be quantified. The same thing goes for Starks. When the Bears defense is focusing on stopping the run at the end of the game, i doubt Adrian Peterson would be able to run with any kind of success. I find it hard to believe that Starks running is at the same level of Jackson/Kuhn when he has had his two poor games against good run defenses. And Finally, just because Sanchez has a good game statistically doesn't mean his game was really any good. The Steelers were giving up the middle of the field and that is about the only thing Sanchez is good at. Before the game was at a 24 point differential the Steelers defense was playing Sanchez much differently. The DYAR in these games was extremely situational, and I don't feel they successfully describe what happened on the field on Sunday.

60
by Matty D (not verified) :: Tue, 01/25/2011 - 11:52pm

Excellent post.

61
by Coltrane (not verified) :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 1:04am

Disagree....Ben made no plays in the passing game and had 2 picks in only 19 attempts. He could have had 2 more picks if the Jets held onto the ball. It is very hard to win with this type performance. It took the Steelers D and a brilliant Mendenhall performance to do it. Ben is such a weird player....he is actually well respected by the stat guys for his overall body of work. His playoff record is a product of a historic D and some favorable officating in the SBs. So overall Ben may be underrated as a pure passer, but highly overrated as a "clutch" playoff guy.

69
by SFC B (not verified) :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 9:39am

Roethlisberger is so clutch in the playoffs he got Harrison to intercept a Warner pass in the end zone, run it 101 yards, and kept the Cardinals from pushing him out of bounds to end the half.

82
by Jerry :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 5:38pm

Wait a minute! Are you trying to say that quarterbacks don't win games all by themselves? And that even on the last touchdown drive of SB XLIII, which was clutch by ANYBODY's definition, Roethlisberger's teammates had an effect on the Steelers' success?

70
by tequila (not verified) :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 9:46am

Hmm. You must have missed the last two pass plays of the game. I suppose you also don't count yards or first downs gained by running the ball.

Ben certainly had an off night. He flat out underthrew Wallace, who beat Revis down the sideline, and missed Sanders on a certain touchdown on the pick he did throw (though this pass was possibly affected by his spinning out of a sack by a Jets defender).

71
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 9:54am

Spinning out of a sack is no excuse for a clutch QB.

72
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 10:48am

I thought that, too, until I watched it again. He was actually able to stop, set his feet, and throw normally. Just didn't locate it properly- though I don't think the receiver made a strong play for the ball or even really came back for it at all.

Still, roughing penalty excluded, every Steeler first down in the second half came off a play made by Roethlisberger: 2 runs and 3 passes.

76
by coltrane (not verified) :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 1:21pm

The threshold for winning a AFC title game is higher than making some first downs with your legs (partially negated by taking multiple sacks and fumbling). As a thought experiment would any other team in the league beat the Jets in that game with equivalent QB play and an impotent passing game? Ben has been carried by the Steelers D in 3 playoff games where he was flat out awful. This is a fact.....his postseason "clutchiness" is for people who believe in the Easter Bunny. He is a very good player on a great team.

80
by BJR :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 2:20pm

Off the top of my head, the Ravens, Dolphins and (shock) Packers have all beaten the Jets this season with utterly impotent passing games.

81
by coltrane (not verified) :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 3:03pm

Yeah....but Sanchez put up even worse numbers in those games than Ben did against the Jets. When QBs are horrific they usually lose.

The bottomline is that teams lose 95% of the time when a QB makes no plays in the passing game and is sloppy with the ball. Ben was putrid......he should have been in no position to fool people with a few "clutch" plays in the running game.

83
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 5:47pm

The second touchdown drive was 58 yards off of passing and 8 yards off of rushing. If Mendenhall doesn't slip and just drives into Cromartie, Roethlisberger probably finishes the game with 1 TD pass instead of 1 TD run.

In the second half 3 of 5 first downs were picked up by passing.

He was sacked twice, both on the same possession in the second half, where it has correctly been pointed out that you'd rather take the sack than force a pass.

85
by BJR :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 6:38pm

Yeah, but the point is that the Jets pass defence is good and can make opponents QBs appear bad. But it needn't be enough for them to lose the game unless they completely screw up, which Roethlisberger clearly didn't on Sunday.

86
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 7:25pm

Clear to some, perhaps, but there are numerous posts here this week describing his play as "awful," "putrid" or otherwise terrible. I suppose you could argue that someone could be "putrid" without completely screwing up, but that seems to be a stretch. I'm not trying to argue that Roethlisberger's performance was stellar, but I am trying to argue against the suggestion that it was awful, or that he made no plays in the passing game.

77
by RickD :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 1:41pm

"Starks has those 332 rushing yards, but it's taken him 70 carries to get there."

I've never seen 4.743 yards/carry derided before.

Sure it's not Jamaal Charles's unworldly 6.4 yards/carry or even Arian Foster's 4.9 yards/carry but it is ahead of Adrian Peterson and a host of other RBs who are considered to be pretty good.

If you want to knock Starks, go ahead and do it. But use the stats that support your argument, don't pretend that his yards/carry is poor.

89
by armchair journe... :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 9:51pm

how bout we say "over 4.5 yards/carry."

excellent point though.

90
by troycapitated p... :: Wed, 01/26/2011 - 10:41pm

nfl.com has Starks with 263 yards on 70 carries for a 3.8 ypc. Still not terrible, but less impressive than 4.7.