Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

24 Nov 2014

Week 12 Quick Reads

by Vincent Verhei

The tables in Quick Reads show you where each quarterback ranks in a given week, and the individual comments help tell you why. Sometimes quarterbacks played especially well (or poorly) in the red zone, or on third downs, or in the fourth quarter, and those radical results can drastically alter the overall rankings in a given week. In the grand scheme of things, though, these comments are somewhat meaningless. If it's foolish to evaluate any player on the results of a single game, then it's just about nonsensical to judge them on a subset of that game. When you're looking at 10 or 12 passes, one big play or two can skew results pretty drastically.

What if we looked at some of these splits over the course of the season -- or, more specifically, over the two-thirds of the season that has been played so far? Here are the best and worst passers, runners, and receivers by individual DYAR in a variety of scenarios this season. You'll notice a handful of names popping up repeatedly -- which isn't always good news.

Red Zone

It's great to pile up massive yardage totals, but if you don't finish drives, you're going to have trouble winning games. Here are the best and worst players inside the opponents' 20-yard line this year:

Certainly no surprises in the top two quarterbacks. As for Alex Smith, you may have heard that no Chiefs wide receiver has caught a touchdown pass this season, but that doesn't mean they have been a bad passing team in the red zone. It just means that Smith has been relying on Travis Kelce (four red-zone touchdowns), Anthony Fasano (three), and Jamaal Charles and Joe McKnight (two each). (On a surprising note, Kirk Cousins is fourth in red-zone passing DYAR, and Derek Carr is sixth.) On the other end of the stick, Nick Foles had 220 red-zone passing DYAR in 2013, fifth-best in the league. Things change. Josh McCown's presence on the worst passers list is most notable because he only has 18 red-zone plays, 11 less than Blake Bortles and 21 less than Foles. McCown has four red-zone touchdowns this year, with two interceptions, four sacks (including three against Chicago this week), and one fumble.

You're all familiar with Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles, I'm sure. Isaiah Crowell's success has been a bit of small sample size run amok. He has only 11 red-zone carries this year (Lynch, for comparison, has 47), but he has scored six times, three of them from outside the 10.

Julius Thomas leads the league in receiving touchdowns, so it's no surprise to see him in this category, but only seven of his 12 touchdowns have come inside the 20. Still, seven touchdowns and three other first downs on only 13 targets is remarkable. It is interesting that the Dolphins have one of the best receivers in the end zone in Mike Wallace, and one of the worst in Charles Clay. They have been targeted 16 times apiece inside the 20. Wallace has turned seven of those targets into scores, but Clay has only done so twice. Rueben Randle also has but two red-zone scores, in 18 targets. Brent Celek's decline is no doubt related to that of his quarterback.

And then there is the strange case of Ahmad Bradshaw. He has 19 runs inside the 20, with more fumbles (three) than touchdowns (two). But he has caught six touchdowns in 14 targets, three of them on third or fourth down.

Third/Fourth Downs

Who have been the best players at keeping drives alive, and who have been responsible for bringing the punter onto the field?

The next best passers after Matt Stafford: Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger. In other words, the league's best quarterbacks are often at their best on third downs. Cam Newton, though, has been trapped behind an offensive line that can't protect him in obvious passing situations, getting sacked 14 times (with four fumbles) in 112 third-down dropbacks. Brian Hoyer leads the league in yards per completion, so he and the Browns have produced quite the boom-and-bust offense.

The best third-down rushers have a pretty obvious connection, don't they? This is a little gimmicky, because it's probably not fair to compare running backs to quarterbacks to whatever the hell Percy Harvin is these days, and also because Harvin has only four third-down carries this year (one with Seattle, a 51-yard touchdown; and three with the Jets, gains of 6, 7, and 9 yards on third-and-2 or less). Russell Wilson is in the middle of one of the best rushing seasons a quarterback has ever had. He has 10 conversions on 14 third-down runs; those 10 conversions have come with an average of 6.3 yards to go, including three conversions on third-and-10 or more. Lynch has been nearly automatic in short-yardage, converting 11-of-14 runs in on third or fourth down with less than 3 yards to go. If you want to eliminate Harvin because he's a receiver, than Cam Newton makes the list; if you want to limit this list to running backs, then Lynch is followed by Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte.

Jonathan Stewart, playing behind the same line that is getting Cam Newton killed routinely, has two third-down conversions on the season, while getting stuffed for no gain or a loss five times. Andrew Luck's third down conversion rate is improving; he went 0-for-5 in the first five weeks of the year, but 5-of-8 (with a fumble) since then. Hyde's third-down numbers this year: six carries, 5 yards, no conversions. If you want to limit this list to running backs, you could remove Luck and add Ben Tate, formerly of Cleveland, now with Minnesota.

Randall Cobb and Rob Gronkowski are two of the best players in football, so we'd expect to see them here. Golden Tate has 19 third-down conversions this year; the Seahawks' wide receivers have a total of 24, including four by the now-departed Percy Harvin. Think Tate is missed in Seattle? Mychal Rivera and Jordan Cameron are saddled with inefficient quarterbacks. Rueben Randle doesn't really have that excuse, and he's showing up in this essary for the wrong reasons all too often. He has six third-down conversions all season, in a whopping (take a drink!) 25 targets.

Game-Winning Situations (Tied or Trailing by 8 Points or Less, Fourth Quarter/Overtime)

These are the players who have done the best and worst job of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

It was an up-and-down half-season for Nick Foles, but he did get credit for three game-winning drives (against Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Washington) in eight starts. Most of Mike Glennon's production came in the win over Pittsburgh, but he also threw a late go-ahead touchdown against Minnesota. (Someone please explain to us why Tampa bay is starting Josh McCown, again?) Andy Dalton hasn't had a ton of comeback opportunities, but he has been explosive in those situations, going 18-of-24 for 323 yards (13.5 yards per pass!) (!!!) with two touchdowns, one interception, and one sack. Austin Davis, meanwhile, has had 31 "comeback" plays, and has thrown three touchdowns -- all to the wrong team. No offensive touchdowns and five picks? That's bad. Kirk Cousins has been woefully inept, going 4-of-13 for 70 yards with no touchdowns and two picks. So Davis and Cousins have been benched for good reason, but what's up with Colin Kaepernick? He has not thrown a game-tying or go-ahead score in the fourth quarter or overtime this year, going 25-of-44 for 302 yards with one interception and seven sacks in comeback/game-winning opportunities.

A look at the lead runners shows again that this year's Seahawks, though flawed, are a pretty special team. Wilson has averaged 11.8 yards on 13 "comeback" carries, while Lynch has averaged 4.7 yards on 25 runs. Mark Ingram is averaging 4.5 yards on 17 runs. The next running back is Miami's Lamar Miller, who has averaged 6.3 yards on nine "comeback" carries. Most of the "worst" runners are victims of small sample sizes. Bell is averaging 2.3 yards on 13 carries; Kaepernick, 5.0 yards on four (with a fumble); Williams, 0.8 on nine. In fact, 32 the 35 runners who have accumulated -5 DYAR or worse in "comeback" situations have done so in less than ten carries.

Jeremy Maclin scored touchdowns on all three of Nick Foles' game-winning drives. John Brown has scored go-ahead fourth-quarter scores against San Diego, Philadelphia, and St. Louis this season, and those three touchdowns have averaged 45.3 yards apiece. Steve Smith would probably be first in this category if his 80-yard touchdown against Cincinnati had not been negated by his own pass interference penalty. Each of Jeremy Kerley's 15 "comeback" targets was thrown by Geno Smith. They produced exactly one touchdown, and that was scored by Denver on a pick-six. Jermaine Kearse has been thrown 10 "comeback" passes, catching four of them for 23 yards (none longer than 7 yards) with zero first downs. Megatron's presence here is a shocker, but he has caught only four of his 12 "comeback" targets, for 54 yards and no touchdowns.

Protecting A Late Lead (Ahead by 1 to 8 points, Fourth Quarter)

Think of this as the "all-four-minute-drill team." These players have been best at hanging on to the ball and preventing comeback attempts by the other team, or adding insurance scores to secure leads.

The list of best passers isn't too surprising, but my goodness, that list of worst passers. First of all, what on earth is going on with Colin Kaepernick late in close games this year? He has been lousy trying to rally his team, and lousy trying to protect leads as well. And yes, he's having a down season overall, but he's still in the top 20 for overall DYAR. Foles only had six passes protecting a late-and-close lead this year, completing two of them, one to his own receivers, one to the opponents. And Romo, for all his good qualities, has once again struggled to close out wins.

The lists of runners and receivers here are mostly meaningless. Only 16 players have double-digit carries late with a close lead, and only four have double-digit targets. Ellington, though, has a league-high 34 carries late with a close lead, so his struggles there are something to worry about for Arizona going forward.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Peyton Manning DEN
28/35
257
4
0
210
210
0
On third downs, Manning went 9-of-11 for 99 yards with one sack and eight conversions, including two touchdowns.
2.
Drew Brees NO
35/44
420
3
1
153
151
2
3.
Tony Romo DAL
18/25
275
4
0
153
153
0
Romo was about as close to perfect as you can get on first down, completing all ten of his passes for 135 yards. Nine of those completions were successful, including six first downs. His only "failed" first-down play was a 4-yard completion on first-and-10.
4.
Tom Brady NE
38/53
349
2
1
132
132
0
Brady was the best passer in the first half this week. On New England's first two drives, he went just 3-of-5 for 12 yards. From that point to the end of the second quarter, though, he went 18-of-22 for 221 yards with 15 first downs, including two touchdowns.
5.
Ryan Tannehill MIA
26/36
228
3
1
127
116
11
Tannehill had a big day in the red zone, going 5-of-7 for 29 yards with three touchdowns and another first down.
6.
Aaron Rodgers GB
19/29
209
2
0
121
105
16
Rodgers struggled to move the ball on his own side of the 50, going 11-of-20 for 109 yards with four first downs and one sack.
7.
Joe Flacco BAL
18/24
243
1
0
96
95
2
8.
Kyle Orton BUF
24/32
230
2
0
80
76
4
9.
Eli Manning NYG
30/40
338
3
1
71
71
0
Manning fared best on midrange and deeper passes. Throwing to receivers at least 7 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, he went 10-of-13 for 172 yards, with every catch going for a first down or touchdown.
10.
Andy Dalton CIN
24/35
233
1
1
69
93
-25
Dalton's first 11 passes were all thrown to receivers within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. He only threw two deep passes (16-plus yards downfield) all day, both incomplete, both in the fourth quarter.
11.
Russell Wilson SEA
17/22
211
1
0
62
43
19
The Cardinals sacked Wilson seven times. In one stretch over the second and third quarters, he was sacked six times in ten dropbacks. He also gained 75 yards and four first downs on eight non-kneeldown runs, so it wasn't all bad when he scrambled.
12.
Mark Sanchez PHI
30/43
307
1
2
59
60
-2
The Eagles could have scored even more points if Sanchez had played better in the red zone. He went 4-of-8 for 38 yards with two sacks and only one touchdown.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
13.
Philip Rivers SD
29/34
291
1
1
52
52
0
Things were either very bad for Rivers and the Chargers on third down, or very good, with very little in-between. He threw a pick-six and was sacked twice, and on one play he hit Keenan Allen for a 35-yard gain, but then Allen fumbled the ball away. Otherwise, though, Rivers went 5-of-5 for 53 yards and four first downs.
14.
Matt Ryan ATL
27/43
273
2
1
41
42
-1
Ryan tore apart the middle of the Cleveland defense, going 10-of-10 for 129 yards with two touchdowns and five other first downs.
15.
Colin Kaepernick SF
20/29
256
1
1
34
48
-14
Less than 10 yards to go for a first down: 11-of-13 for 153 yards with nine first downs, including a touchdown. 10 or more yards to go: 9-of-16 for 103 yards with only one first down, one interception, and two sacks.
16.
Derek Carr OAK
18/35
174
1
0
15
6
9
Throwing to his left, Carr went 5-of-10 for 17 yards (not a typo) and only one first down.
17.
Geno Smith NYJ
10/12
89
0
0
-8
-2
-6
18.
Teddy Bridgewater MIN
22/37
210
2
1
-9
-11
3
Bridgewater spent a decent chunk of time trying to dig himself and the Vikings out of deep holes. On plays with at least 18 yards to go for a first down, he went 4-of-4 for 44 yards, and though he didn't pick up any first downs, three of those completions were successful plays that led to makeable third downs.
19.
Alex Smith KC
20/36
234
2
0
-20
-16
-4
The Chiefs were down by 14 in the third quarter until Smith threw a pair of touchdowns to take the lead. After his second score, though, he finished up going 4-of-9 for 39 yards and a sack, with no first downs in his last nine dropbacks.
20.
Ryan Mallett HOU
21/43
189
0
1
-32
-35
3
On Cincinnati's side of the field, Mallett went 7-of-17 for 63 yards with only three first downs, and no touchdowns.
21.
Zach Mettenberger TEN
20/39
345
2
1
-36
-36
0
On third downs, Mettenberger went 4-of-8 for 62 yards with only two first downs, with three sacks and a fumble.
22.
Drew Stanton ARI
14/26
151
0
1
-40
-45
5
On third downs, Stanton went 2-of-8 for 4 yards (not a typo) with just one first down and two sacks. Counting the sacks, that works out to -0.4 net yards per play.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
23.
Matthew Stafford DET
18/46
264
0
1
-58
-59
1
Inside the New England 40-yard line, Stafford went 1-of-14 for 13 yards. That one completion came with the Lions down by 18 points in the fourth quarter.
24.
Andrew Luck IND
21/32
254
1
0
-59
-81
22
Inside the Jacksonville 40-yard line, Luck went 5-of-7 for 48 yards with one first down, one sack-fumble, and one botched snap.
25.
Robert Griffin WAS
11/19
106
0
0
-80
-67
-13
Griffin only threw for four first downs, and they all came in an eight-play stretch over the second and third quarters. Otherwise, he went 6-of-12 for 27 yards with four sacks and a fumble.
26.
Brian Hoyer CLE
23/39
322
0
3
-82
-85
2
In case you thought the Browns might try to ease Josh Gordon back into the offense -- yeah, no. Gordon was the target on 16 passes, only the 12th time this year one receiver has seen so many passes in a game. Two of those passes were intercepted in the fourth quarter, but Hoyer came back to Gordon for a 24-yard gain to set up the winning field goal.
27.
Jay Cutler CHI
17/27
130
1
0
-100
-100
0
Cutler did not throw a single deep ball against Green Bay. You'll recall that Cutler plays with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, who have won a jump ball or two in their day. And of the four passes Cutler did throw that traveled at least 10 yards downfield, two were completed for 41 yards and a pair of first downs.
28.
Michael Vick NYJ
7/19
76
0
1
-130
-123
-7
29.
Shaun Hill STL
18/35
198
1
2
-135
-118
-16
On first downs, Hill went 3-of-9 for 20 yards and no first downs.
30.
Blake Bortles JAC
15/27
146
0
1
-149
-159
11
Bortles only threw for five first downs, and four of them came with Jacksonville down by 20 points in the fourth quarter. Before Indianapolis took that lead, Bortles had gone 6-of-15 for 39 yards with an interception, two sacks, and a fumble.
31.
Josh McCown TB
25/48
341
1
2
-155
-149
-6
Five sacks and two fumbles on top of a pair of interceptions will do this to a guy. So will opponent adjustments -- only Eli Manning took a bigger hit this week. McCown had 21 plays with a lead against Chicago. He went 6-of-18 for 108 yards with three sacks and two fumbles.


Five most valuable running backs (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
C.J. Anderson DEN
27
167
1
4/4
28
0
92
76
15
C.J. who? Anderson averaged 5.7 yards per rush in two years at Cal, but was never the leading rusher on the Golden Bears. He went undrafted in 2013 and played sparingly for Denver over the next year and a half. Then came Sunday, when Anderson produced the most valuable game for any running back thus far in 2014. He had three 20-yard runs against Miami, two other runs of 10 yards or more, and three shorter first downs, and he was stuffed for no gain or a loss just twice. Each of his four receptions gained between 5 and 9 yards, including a conversion on third-and-6.
2.
Eddie Lacy GB
25
125
1
2/2
13
1
55
41
14
Lacy had four 10-yard runs and nine total first downs on the day, with only two runs for a loss.
3.
Justin Forsett BAL
22
182
2
2/2
8
0
51
53
-2
4.
Alfred Morris WAS
21
125
1
1/1
5
0
49
47
3
A 30-yard run, a 22-yard run, three other 10-yard runs, and seven first downs on the ground.
5.
Ryan Mathews SD
12
105
1
2/2
8
0
42
42
-1
Mathews had four 10-yard runs, capped off by a 32-yard go-ahead touchdown. He failed to gain positive yardage just once.


Five most valuable running backs (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
C.J. Anderson DEN
27
167
1
4/4
28
0
92
76
15
2.
Justin Forsett BAL
22
182
2
2/2
8
0
51
53
-2
3.
Alfred Morris WAS
21
125
1
1/1
5
0
49
47
3
4.
Ryan Mathews SD
12
105
1
2/2
8
0
42
42
-1
5.
Eddie Lacy GB
25
125
1
2/2
13
1
55
41
14


Least valuable running back (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Denard Robinson JAC
14
26
0
4/5
47
0
-44
-51
7
Robinson's only first down was a 2-yard gain on third-and-1, and he had no 10-yard carries. He was stuffed for no gain or a loss a half-dozen times, and also fumbled once.


Least valuable running back (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Denard Robinson JAC
14
26
0
4/5
47
0
-44
-51
7


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Odell Beckham NYG
10
11
146
14.6
2
70
In addition to his two scores, Beckham picked up a half-dozen other first downs. He had six targets on third downs. Five were conversions, including a 3-yard touchdown. The sixth was a 9-yard gain on third-and-11.
2.
Anquan Boldin SF
9
12
137
15.2
1
50
Boldin had seven first downs, including a 3-for-4 success rate on third downs.
3.
Marques Colston NO
4
4
82
20.5
1
50
4.
Demaryius Thomas DEN
10
13
87
8.7
3
47
Thomas didn't have a lot of "chunk" plays -- his longest catch gained just 21 yards -- but he picked up a half-dozen first downs, including a trio of red-zone scores.
5.
Dez Bryant DAL
7
9
86
12.3
2
47
Bryant only had four first downs, but he had two other successful completions. His only failed completion was a 4-yard gain on first down.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Reggie Wayne IND
3
9
10
3.3
0
-50
Wayne's only successful completion was a 3-yard gain on second-and-2. His other catches were an 8-yard gain on first-and-20, and a 1-yard loss on first-and-10. Meanwhile, he had incompletions on second-and-2, second-and-8, third-and-8, and third-and-9.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 24 Nov 2014

38 comments, Last at 26 Nov 2014, 1:29pm by Jason_PackerBacker

Comments

1
by Bobman :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 4:22am

How DARE you malign the venerable Reggie Wayne! Next thing you know you'll accuse Pagano of padding Wayne's stats with those two final, meaningless throws (2 yards total) to keep his silly and somewhat arbitrary NFL "record" streak of 3-catch games alive. What, Pagano admitted to that? Okay, nevermind.... Every time I think the guy has no tread left on his tires (like Sunday) he goes and proves me wrong the next week or two. Fingers crossed.

11
by Paul R :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:05am

Reggie certainly seemed out of it on Sunday. Wide open in the end zone on one goal-to-go play, and Luck's pass took him completely by surprise.
The only defense I can think of for his poor play is that it's probably really hard to stay focused when you're up by 20 points against Jacksonville.
"I'd better clean the gutters this afternoon, and did I pay the electric bill?--Whoops! Probably should have caught that one. Oh, well..."

14
by Bernie :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:25am

It's hard to tell how much the elbow is affecting him, but Reggie is definitely not the old Reggie. THe first few games of the season he looked okay, but over the last 6 weeks, he's looked pretty ordinary. He really only makes a couple of plays a game now, and they're rarely big impacts.
If Wayne does come back to the team next year, they'd be better served giving his snaps to Moncrief, and giving Reggie a 3rd down role.

21
by Ryan :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 2:15pm

I also wonder if the elbow is having a trickle-down effect to the rest of his play. It doesn't help that Luck missed him wide open down the left sideline at one point--his numbers might look a bit better.

The two screens with under 2 minutes left sure did feel icky.

2
by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 6:33am

This might belong in the DVOA ratings thread more than quick reads, but if you want to know why success rate is important and how cruel a mistress third down conversions can be, look at this week's Arizona Cardinals.

Football Outsiders (and Advanced NFL Stats) have been saying all year long that the Cardinals are mediocre and that part of the reason for that was a terrible offensive success rate of around 36%. They'd been getting extremely lucky with sequencing luck, in that they had a knack of making up for failures on first and second down with a success on third down in a way that wasn't sustainable. An offense that fails two thirds of the time is not a long term bet for success, and yet before this week the Cardinals offense was above average in terms of points scored and had not been held below 14 points all season.

Then on Sunday, the sequencing luck ran out. Their success rate, by my calculation, was exactly the same as it has been all season long: 36%. But instead of a disproportionate number of those successes coming on third down, they were instead terrible on third down. End result: 3 points, and suddenly the no 23 offensive DVOA ranking they held last week doesn't look so stupid. This despite playing a game that was very similar to the game they've played all season.

5
by Otis Taylor89 :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 7:51am

Well I'm sure it didn't help that Larry Fitzgerald was out for the 1st time this year.
Stats are great and all, but for sport where injuries play such a huge role they don't tell the whole story. You think Manning would be at the top of the list for QBs this week if Miami didn't lose 2 of their top 3 CBs?

22
by osoviejo :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 2:21pm

When was the last time Fitzgerald made an impact in a game against Seattle?

25
by Perfundle :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 3:16pm

That's not the correct way to look at it. Had Fitzgerald been healthy each Seattle DB would've been covering someone better, and that makes a difference. If he had been injured last year at Seattle for instance, it might have been Sherman covering Floyd instead of Maxwell, and perhaps Sherman prevents the TD with his length.

23
by Perfundle :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 3:12pm

You think Manning would be at the top of the list for QBs this week if Miami didn't lose 2 of their top 3 CBs?

He's Peyton Manning, so yes, he very well could still have been.

33
by Tim F. :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 5:39pm

I would say most definitely. Lowell Rose is certainly no Jamar Taylor, but before his injury, it looked like Taylor had turned the corner and was playing pretty well, possibly better than Finnegan (as a pure CB, but probably not IQ). Miami lost the game on the ground. If injuries are to be blamed, I would say when Odrick and Misi both went out with injuries for a spell was more critical than playing a CB who's barely had any snaps in practice never mind in a game (of course, losing James at LT was even more significant but the offense did everything they had to to win with Jason Fox who's also had few practice snaps and no game time this year) but... Miami's issues aren't injuries and having the next man step up. They failed to stop Denver's offense because of poor coaching (game plan and ability to adjust) and the front not showing up. Randy Starks and the lineman got eat up by the run, the rushers didn't get pressure or contain the run game, and everyone in general on the defense was flat.

Injuries affect game performance, sure, but they're going to happen, and you still need to win.

3
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 7:26am

I don't know if Kaepernick is entirely to blame for the niners' struggles towards the end of games because the entire offense starts well and then trends downwards from then on. By DVOA they're, 6th in the first quarter, tenth in the second, twenty fourth in the third and dead last in the fourth and overtime.

I really don't know what to make of it; there's talent on the unit, it's there to see in the first quarter but nearly every week the second half is just awful. It could be the play calling becoming too conservative, the line play breaking down, fatigue, poor quarterbacking or a general sense of ennui that drains their spirits.

If you only took the offensive DVOA for the first half niners and added it to the defense and special teams they'd be round about third in total but the second half offense niners would be around the 22nd worst team. It's a bit of a conundrum that the niners need to get solved before their season comes to a grinding halt because of it.

4
by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 7:41am

I highly suspect that all these quarter by quarter, down by down splits are just "splits happen". I don't have the premium database, but what were the 49ers quarterly splits like last year?

6
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 8:04am

Their rankings by quarter were 8,9,12,12 in 2013 and 5,6,4,16 in 2012 so they did have a tendency to become less efficient by DVOA over the previous two years but this year it's become much, much more pronounced.

17
by coremill :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 1:11pm

Their lower 4th quarter offense ranking in the past likely reflects the coaching staff's notoriously conservative play calling with large leads. Every team gets more conservative with a lead, but the Niners did more than most. That hasn't been an issue this year, because they haven't had a large 4th quarter lead against anyone since Week 1.

34
by beargoggles :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 10:26pm

right, and when they have to pass to come from behind, some combination of poor pass protection and bad Kaepernick field vision does them in. Early in games when they can be balanced that suits them better.

Honestly I was expecting an 8-8 type season which could still happen, but I suspect they sneak into the playoffs. The defense has way exceeded my expectations. The offense has underachieved.

7
by mitch :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 9:52am

Interesting. Last year San Fran played GB even in the 2cd half 10-10.
And beat Panthers 10-0 before losing 20-7 to Seahawks in the super bowl.

In 2012 they beat GB 14-7 in the 4th quarter, beat Falcons 7-0 in the 4th, and beat Ravens 8-6 in the 4th, won every 4th quarter in the playoffs and SB even though they were ranked just 16th in 4th quarters.

Evidence does not support that being very meaningful.

I suspect that is far more coincidence than anything else. In 2012, 2013, they lost just 1 of 6 times in the worst areas, which were 2cd half in 2013 and 4th in 2012.

8
by BJR :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 10:06am

Good read, although for many of the data splits the samples are clearly too small to form any meaningful conclusion (as Vince acknowledges). In particular the 'Game Winning Situation' subtype seems misleading as ranking by DYAR rewards QBs who frequently find themselves in 'comeback' situations over QBs who play well through the entire game so that these situations are not required. Surely it would be better to look at DVOA there?

One other small nitpick: "In other words, the league's best quarterbacks are often at their best on third downs." That's not what the numbers suggest; they simply suggest that the league's best QBs overall are also likely to be the best on third down.

Still, some fun and interesting stuff there.

9
by Lyford :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 10:56am

DYAR is a counting stat, right? I'm a little surprised to see Brady on this list:
"Protecting A Late Lead (Ahead by 1 to 8 points, Fourth Quarter) - Best Passers: Peyton Manning, DEN, 113 DYAR; Tom Brady, NE, 103 DYAR; Philip Rivers, SD, 81 DYAR"

I'm surprised, because they've spent so little time with a 1-8 point 4th quarter lead. They led by 8 for one drive in Indianapolis, and by 1-8 during the entire 4th quarter against Oakland in week 2 (playing poorly) and against the Jets in week 7 (playing poorly). In their two losses, they never led in the 4th, and in the rest of their wins, they've led by 9+ for the entire 4th quarter. It doesn't seem as if he would have had enough opportunities in that situation to make that list...

13
by Scott Kacsmar :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:21am

Brady leads the league in that situation with 17 completions on 30 passes for 289 yards. While 14 were against Oakland, you forgot the Buffalo game (4/5 for 101 yards, TD) and he did have that 19-yd TD pass to Amendola on third-and-19 against the Jets.

10
by Charles Jake :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:05am

The Bears didn't play Green Bay this week (thank goodness).

An object at rest cannot be stopped.

12
by nottom :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:16am

Seems like Odell Beckham should have had even more DYAR after accounting for degree of difficulty on his 2nd TD.

30
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 4:17pm

Only because there was a dwarf on the sideline yelling "That still only counts as one!!".

15
by Mugsy :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 12:22pm

wow, Jeremy Kerley & Calvin Johnson in the same sentence . . .

16
by LeonH :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 1:01pm

How much of Kaepernick's 4th quarter suck is down to that one fumble vs STL? Even if he'd just fallen over backwards they couldve tied with a fg and won in OT. It's rare that an entire game comes down to one play but the team can still go on to win if it doesn't convert. A fumble or a pick was the only way to lose that game right there.

How would his numbers look without that play? The miners as a whole have been poor in Q4. There are dropped passes and stuffed runs all over. If anything based on watching the games it feels like Kaepernick should take the least blame, outside of the QB sneak...

19
by Perfundle :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 1:43pm

Not really that much. It certainly has nothing to do with his worst DYAR ranking as a passer when protecting a lead, and since his fumble appears to have gone down as a run in the play-by-play it has nothing to do with his third-worst DYAR ranking as a passer in a game-winning situation either.

27
by jasonlhahn :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 3:24pm

While the passing numbers would be the same, I do wonder how much Kaepernick's rushing numbers would change if that QB sneak had (correctly) been ruled a touchdown.
Given that he only had 4 carries, there's a big difference between 5 yards on 4 carries with a fumble and 5 yards on 4 carries with a touchdown.

18
by intel_chris :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 1:40pm

This is a wonderful article. Some of the best work that FO does is charting not only the overall team performance, but because of the play-by-play data, the situation specific and player specific performance. While some of the data may flounder on the small sample size issue, you nicely point out which ones are most suspect.

Again, I loved it. Thank you.

20
by jfsh :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 1:53pm

"Austin Davis, meanwhile, has had 31 "comeback" plays, and has thrown three touchdowns -- all to the wrong team. No offensive touchdowns and five picks? That's bad."

But he comes with a free frogurt!

36
by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:00pm

The interceptions contain potassium benzoate.

37
by beargoggles :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:49pm

But they come with a free frogurt!

Unfortunately, the position "Rams QB" is also cursed.

24
by jtr :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 3:14pm

I'd be curious to see the special teams numbers for Percy Harvin this week. All those kick-off returns and none even made it to the 20, that's gotta be some serious negative DYAR.

26
by Perfundle :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 3:20pm

I saw that too. What happened to the player who averaged 36 yards per return in his last year in Minnesota, and who seemed to carry that over in his two returns in Seattle the next year?

28
by jtr :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 3:29pm

I would just say "the Jets happened" but Harvin already seemed to be a bit less than himself (or at least less than his reputation) earlier this year in Seattle.

29
by TomC :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 3:45pm

Cutler did not throw a single deep ball against Green Bay. You'll recall that Cutler plays with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, who have won a jump ball or two in their day.

Cutler gets slammed for NOT throwing into coverage, in a game his team won. Tough crowd.

(And Charles Jake already pointed out the GB/TB typo.)

31
by Steve in WI :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 4:30pm

I suspected that this would be a particularly bad DYAR week for Cutler. To hear the average fan and sports talk radio host, you'd think that turning the ball over is the only bad thing a QB can do. I think Sunday's game was a prime example of how playing too conservatively can be just as bad or worse depending on the situation.

Honestly, I have already checked out of this season to the point that I wasn't paying close attention to the game, but I find it hard to believe that Marshall and Jeffery were never open against Tampa Bay's defense. It seems like Trestman thinks the solution to his team's offensive woes is to handcuff Cutler and forbid him from making the kinds of throws that you pay a QB $18M a year to make. (Which, to be fair, too often result in interceptions...but for the Bears offense to succeed the way it's built, they need to take risks).

32
by TomC :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 5:19pm

I disagree (about Trestman handcuffing Cutler). All three TDs last week against the Vikings were thrown to a receiver (either Marshall or Jeffery) with one or more DBs right on top of him, and all three times the receiver won the battle. Two of them were long throws on the run after the pocket broke down, which doesn't sound like a handcuffed QB. My guess is that this week the throws really, really weren't there in the first half. Then in the second half, the offense scored three quick TDs on three short fields (where you didn't need long passes), after which they really did go into turtle mode, but sometimes that's actually the right thing to do (like when Josh McCown is playing like he was, and when the D line is getting fairly constant pressure).

I personally think Marshall and Jeffery are still nursing quite significant injuries (they both keep showing up on the injured list---with the same ankle or hamstring from game 1---but always still playing) and are not getting anywhere near as open as they regularly did last year.

35
by beargoggles :: Tue, 11/25/2014 - 10:27pm

If only Cal could have gotten running like CJ Anderson or Justin Forsett vs. Stanford. Of course, they still have needed somebody, anybody to play defense.

38
by Jason_PackerBacker :: Wed, 11/26/2014 - 1:29pm

Possible correction -- Do you mean that Cutler did not throw any deep passes against Tampa Bay? That's like a throwback to the old divisions!

Who knew that so much would ride on one collarbone?