Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

14 Dec 2015

Week 14 Quick Reads

by Vincent Verhei

The subject of this week's essay does not appear in any of the best-of or worst-of lists you see below. In fact, he has appeared only once in Quick Reads all season, in Week 4. He was not one of the best players in Week 14, and he has not been one of the best players in 2015. But he is having one of the most unusual campaigns in NFL history.

Tavon Austin had a big day running the ball in the Rams' 21-14 win over Detroit, with 40 yards on only four carries. In the first quarter alone, he had a 20-yard gain on first-and-10 and ran for a first down on second-and-13. His receiving numbers were more modest, with three catches in five targets for only 19 yards and just one successful play (a 14-yard gain on third-and-5). That kind of dichotomy has been typical for Austin this season, as the Rams have done everything they can in an attempt to exploit his rare athletic gifts:

  • He is second on the team in rushing, with 39 carries for 358 yards and three touchdowns. He has led the team in rushing twice.
  • He leads the Rams with 69 targets, 41 catches, and four receiving touchdowns, and he is third on the team with 386 receiving yards. He has led the team in receiving three times.
  • He is also St. Louis' primary punt returner, with 234 yards and a touchdown on 30 returns.

None of those yardage totals are particularly impressive, and even collectively they are unusual, but hardly unique. He's the only player in the 300/300/200 club right now, but Darren Sproles (275/296/434) and Dexter McCluster (247/260/217) are close, and there have been 37 other such seasons since 1960. (If Sproles does it again this year, it will be his fourth time in the club. Eric Metcalf is the only other player to have done it three times.)

So no, it's not the total production that sets Austin apart from everyone else, it's the extremes of his efficiency. Simply put, Austin is putting together rushing numbers the likes of which we have never seen before. If he gets one more carry this season, and that carry gains at least 2 yards, he will be the first player we have on record in the NFL, AFL, or AAFC to average 9 yards per carry with at least 40 rushes. And most of the players who have come close are quarterbacks, who get something of an unfair edge here because their "bad runs" will usually get marked down as sacks. To find a non-quarterback to average even 8.0 yards per carry on so many rushes, you have to go back to Hugh McElhenny in 1954.

Wide receiver rushing records are dicey, because you run into players like Denard Robinson, Eric Metcalf, and Lenny Moore who played both receiver and running back, sometimes switching positions midseason. Based on our records, though, the single-season record for rushing yards by a wide receiver is 383 by Josh Cribbs in 2009, while the rushing DYAR record of 183 was set by Percy Harvin in 2011. Austin will likely hold both records by the time the season ends.

Austin's rushing numbers are so absurd, they warrant some specific breakdowns:

  • No, he has not been unstoppable. He has been hit for no gain or a loss seven times. That's 18 percent of his total carries, a rate that is barely better than the league average of 20 percent.
  • But that does not mean he hasn't been reliable. His success rate of 62 percent blows away the league average of 41 percent.
  • Nineteen of those carries (49 percent) have gained first downs, compared to a league average rate of 23 percent.
  • Eighteen (46 percent) have gained 10 yards or more. League average rate: 11 percent.
  • Five (13 percent) have gained 20 yards or more. League average rate: 3 percent.
  • Eighteen other players also have five or more 20-plus-yard runs this season. One is a quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, who has 59 carries. The others are all running backs, with carry totals ranging from 89 (Ryan Mathews) to 268 (Adrian Peterson). Austin, we will remind you, has 39 carries. Jonathan Stewart, in 242 carries this year, has only four 20-plus-yard runs. Frank Gore has four in 210.
  • Even in small sample sizes, Austin's production has been remarkably consistent. He had no runs against Pittsburgh, but he has gotten at least one carry in every other game this year -- and he has at least one 10-plus-yard run in each of those games.
  • Austin has three red zone carries this year and scored on all three of them, with touchdowns of 16, 5, and 2 yards.
  • While 27 of his runs (69 percent) have come on first down, Austin has had success in his limited short-yardage work. He has carried the ball five times with 3 yards or less to go for a first down and converted three times, including two goal-line touchdowns and a 60-yard gain on second-and-3.
  • We don't have full data on where Austin has lined up on these carries, but it's not surprising that most of his success has come on runs to the outside. He has run eight times to the left end and 21 times to right end, for an average of 10.7 yards per run. That's 311 yards on runs to either end, a total surpassed by only four players (Doug Martin, Russell Wilson, Darren McFadden, and Devonta Freeman). Meanwhile, he has averaged 5.8 yards per carry on five off-tackle runs, and 3.6 yards per carry on five runs between the tackles.

So, that's all the good news. The bad news? As tremendous as Austin has been rushing the ball, he has been dreadful as a receiver. Among wide receivers with at least 50 targets going into Monday Night Football, he was dead last in both DYAR and DVOA. While his catch rate of 59 percent was in the middle of the pack, his average reception of 9.5 yards was in the bottom three. Austin and Davante Adams are the only wideouts this year with catch rates below 60 percent and average receptions of less than 10 yards. Only 34 wide receivers in our records have managed that feat, and none since 2013.

What seems to be Austin's problem? He's done very well on screens. He has been targeted 23 times behind the line of scrimmage, third among wideouts behind Golden Tate and Jarvis Landry, and his catch rate and yards after catch per reception on those throws have been much better than the average wideout's on similar passes. At any other distance, though, he has been well below average in catch rate, and usually in YAC per catch as well. He has been particularly useless as a deep threat, surprising given his straight-line speed:


Tavon Austin Passes by Distance, 2015
Distance Austin Average WR
Targets Catch Rate YAC/Catch Catch Rate YAC/Catch
Behind LOS 23 96% 11.4 87% 8.1
0-5 yards 17 53% 3.7 69% 4.1
6-15 yards 23 52% 4.3 59% 3.7
16-25 yards* 6 17% -1.0 45% 4.3
26-plus yards 7 14% 4.0 32% 6.7
Austin's only reception in this range was fumbled and recovered by San Francisco.

Austin has been especially dreadful in the past five weeks. Since the Week 10 game against Chicago, he has caught 13 of 23 passes (a catch rate of 57 percent) for 86 yards (6.6 yards per catch) and only two first downs. That's with Nick Foles and Case Keenum rotating at quarterback, so you can't blame one or the other for his recent struggles. (You could certainly blame both, of course, for his overall terrible numbers.)

Put all this together and you're left with this tidbit: Austin could be just the second player in NFL history with 300 yards both rushing and receiving, whose average run actually gained more yards than his average reception. (The other: Kansas City fullback Kimble Anders, who pulled it off in 1995.)

The advanced stats are even more shocking. We usually use a minimum number of plays to eliminate small sample size freaks like Austin, but for the sake of this essay let's put those aside for the moment. With no such restrictions, we find that Austin leads all players this season with 213 rushing DYAR. The second-place rusher? Thomas Rawls, now out for the season with a broken ankle. Third-place rusher Le'veon Bell is also out for the year with torn knee ligaments. That leaves Giovani Bernard, currently in fourth place by a considerable margin, the closest healthy contender to Austin's mythical rushing DYAR crown. And that means Austin is almost certain to finish atop the heap here unless he starts fumbling all over the place.

(Remember that even though Austin will sometimes line up in the backfield, for DVOA/DYAR purposes he is considered a wide receiver, and his numbers are compared to the average baselines at that position. That usually means reverses and end-arounds. The average running back carry this year has gained 4.09 yards, with a 39 percent success rate; for wide receivers, those averages are 6.44 yards and 60 percent. So if we did consider Austin a running back, his DYAR would be even higher. Also, these rushing numbers include plays like backwards passes that we will list as receptions after the season.)

While Austin may be the NFL's best active runner, though, he might also be its worst active receiver. As mentioned, he is last among qualifying wide receivers in DYAR. If we remove all limits based on position or target minimums, we find just one other player with worse DYAR: Austin's teammate, Brian Quick, who has minus-102 DYAR to Austin's minus-101. Quick has only seven catches for 73 yards on 26 targets this season (seriously, just look at this game log and try to keep your lunch down), but he's still an active part of the Rams' offense, with 18 targets in their last five games. In other words, the numbers for Austin and Quick have plenty of room for change in the next three weeks.

(Obviously, the presence of two Rams at the very bottom of the pile is an indictment of the St. Louis offense as a whole as much as an attack on these two men, but the numbers of the team's other key receivers -- wideouts Kenny Britt and Stedman Bailey, plus tight ends Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks -- are much better than those of Austin and Quick.)

The bottom line though, is this: The Rams have a guy who could be the NFL's best runner and also its worst receiver, and yet he is leading the team in targets. The best scenario for all involved here would be to use Austin exclusively on screens and reverses, and never ask him to run a pattern past the line of scrimmage again.

While we're here, we can touch on Austin's punt return numbers quickly. He's averaging 7.8 yards per return, 20th in the league, and that's with his 75-yard touchdown against Seattle in Week 1. Since Week 2, that average has dropped to 5.5 yards per return. He's certainly not afraid to give up ground in search of a big play -- he leads the league with six returns that have actually lost yardage. Over the course of the season, though, the Rams are about average in our punt return rankings. That touchdown does count, after all.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
1.
Eli Manning NYG
27/31
337
4
0
0
203
215
-12
MIA
Manning completed his first eight passes against Miami, gaining 78 yards and four first downs in the process. Then he threw one incompletion, and then his next 17 passes included one incompletion, one DPI, and 15 completions, for 164 more yards and another nine first downs, including three touchdowns. At no point did he throw two incompletions in a row, and only twice did he even have two failed dropbacks in a row.
2.
Russell Wilson SEA
23/32
292
5
0
0
201
198
3
BAL
Wilson is second in Quick Reads for the fourth week in a row, and he was sixth the week before that. Over those five weeks he has 164 more passing DYAR than any other quarterback. He was just average in the eight weeks before that (a little worse than average, actually), but for the past month he has been the NFL's best quarterback. Against Baltimore, Wilson was better throwing to his right (14-of-15, 186 yards, ten first downs) than to his left (4-of-8, 45 yards, one first down), but his best asset was his ability to finish drives. On Baltimore's half of the field, he went 9-of-12 for 157 yards with eight first downs, including all five touchdowns.
3.
Teddy Bridgewater MIN
25/36
335
1
0
3
153
153
1
ARI
Bridgewater did a great job of moving the Vikings into scoring position, but he struggled to put points on the board. Seven of Minnesota's nine drives crossed the Arizona 40-yard line, but from that point on the field forward, he went 7-of-15 for 64 yards with only three first downs (including a touchdown), two sacks, and a lost fumble. He had 14 first downs over the rest of the field. It helped when the Vikings were able to put him in short-yardage situations. With 7 yards or less to go for a first down, he went 11-of-12 for 163 yards, with every completion going for a first down.
4.
Carson Palmer ARI
25/35
310
2
0
2
117
112
5
MIN
Bridgewater's Thursday night counterpart played a similar game. Inside his own 35, Palmer went 9-of-10 for 154 yards and seven first downs, including a touchdown. Inside the Minnesota 35, he went 4-of-6 for zero yards (not a typo) and no first downs, with two sacks.
5.
Cam Newton CAR
15/21
265
3
0
2
113
119
-6
ATL
Go deep, young man. Newton threw four passes that traveled at least 20 yards past the line of scrimmage and completed all four, for 170 total yards and two touchdowns.
6.
Kirk Cousins WAS
24/31
300
1
1
3
108
100
8
CHI
We don't think of Kirk Cousins as a long bomber, but he was tremendous on longer passes against Chicago. On passes that traveled at least 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, he went 8-of-10 for 153 yards with one interception; an 11th pass resulted in a 32-yard DPI.
7.
Drew Brees NO
31/41
312
2
0
2
107
105
2
TB
Brees had a great day on third downs, going 12-of-13 for 149 yards with nine first downs and one sack. That includes conversions with 11, 13, and 21 yards to go.
8.
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ
21/36
263
3
0
1
102
96
6
TEN
9.
Tom Brady NE
22/30
226
2
0
3
81
76
6
HOU
Brady's last pass of the first half was a 1-yard touchdown to Rob Gronkowski that put the Patriots ahead 17-6. And then he basically took the rest of the night off. In the second half, he went 9-of-12 for 101 yards with three sacks and only three first downs.
10.
Tyrod Taylor BUF
19/36
268
1
1
1
81
69
11
PHI
11.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
31/41
284
0
1
2
75
70
6
CIN
A perfect start: Roethlisberger completed each of his nine passes in the first quarter, picking up 103 yards and six first downs in the process. He had only 181 yards and seven first downs in the rest of the game.
12.
Jay Cutler CHI
19/31
315
2
0
3
72
67
5
WAS
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
13.
Aaron Rodgers GB
22/35
218
2
0
2
61
62
-1
DAL
Rodgers had a day similar to Brady: Get your team ahead at halftime, then take it easy. In the second half, he went 5-of-11 for 47 yards and only two first downs, with a sack.
14.
Johnny Manziel CLE
21/31
270
1
1
2
33
33
1
SF
Manziel lit up the 49ers' secondary with deep passes, going 4-of-5 for 111 yards.
15.
Jimmy Clausen BAL
23/40
274
0
1
1
31
31
0
SEA
16.
Blake Bortles JAC
16/30
250
3
0
3
18
12
6
IND
This may have been the biggest second-half turnaround of the year. In the first two quarters, Bortles went 7-of-17 for 104 yards with only four first downs, plus three sacks and three fumbles, once on a botched snap that was returned for a touchdown. By DYAR, the only player worse in the first half than Jacksonville's current quarterback was their old quarterback, Blaine Gabbert. Then, in the second half, Bortles went 9-of-13 for 146 yards with eight first downs, including three touchdowns, plus a 14th throw that resulted in a DPI and 34 more yards. And that made him the best quarterback in the second half this week.
17.
A.J. McCarron CIN
22/32
280
2
2
3
17
13
4
PIT
McCarron had an 18-yard gain on third-and-9, but that was his only third-down conversion of the day. Otherwise, he had three incompletions, one sack, and a 1-yard gain on third-and-3.
18.
Matt Ryan ATL
22/34
224
0
1
3
11
11
0
CAR
Ryan fumbled twice on sacks, and his receivers fumbled on two completions. Those latter two plays have no effect on his DYAR, but they do show how dysfunctional the Falcons' passing game was against Carolina.
19.
Alex Smith KC
15/23
191
1
1
2
0
0
0
SD
What was up with quarterbacks in the second half this week? Smith's first four passes of the second half were all incomplete, and it took him 22 minutes after halftime to get a first down, one of two he had in the fourth quarter. All told, in the second half, he went 7-of-12 for 53 yards with two sacks.
20.
Derek Carr OAK
12/29
135
2
0
3
-5
-5
0
DEN
Oh god, THIS game. In the first half, in four drives, he failed to pick up a single first down, going 2-of-8 for 7 yards with two sacks and a fumble. Then he completed all five his passes on his first drive of the second half, gaining 77 yards and four first downs (one of them a touchdown) in the process. And then for the rest of the game, he went 5-of-16 for 51 yards and only two more first downs (one another touchdown), with a sack.
21.
Sam Bradford PHI
23/38
247
1
1
1
-10
-8
-2
BUF
22.
Ryan Tannehill MIA
25/41
235
1
0
1
-12
-26
14
NYG
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
23.
Philip Rivers SD
24/43
263
0
1
5
-13
-12
-1
KC
24.
Matthew Stafford DET
31/46
245
2
1
4
-16
-21
6
STL
25.
Jameis Winston TB
18/31
182
1
0
1
-42
-44
2
NO
That's 5.7 yards per pass, just one touchdown, and a passer rating of 83.1, all the worst marks of any starting quarterback against the Saints defense this year, and his 56 percent completion rate was worse than anyone against Andrew Luck.
26.
Marcus Mariota TEN
21/39
274
0
1
5
-44
-66
-9
NYJ
On the Jets' half of the field, Mariota went 3-of-8 for 18 yards and only one first down, with with three sacks. That's minus-10 net yards in 11 dropbacks. His total DYAR includes 31 receiving DYAR for his 41-yard reception.
27.
Brock Osweiler DEN
35/51
308
0
0
5
-45
-47
3
OAK
Another second-half disaster. After halftime, Osweiler went 13-of-22 for 109 yards with only two first downs. Meanwhile, he was sacked five times, fumbling once, resulting in an Oakland safety. None of those second-half passes came from any deeper than the Raiders' 34-yard line.
28.
Case Keenum STL
14/22
124
0
1
1
-59
-59
-1
DET
29.
Matt Hasselbeck IND
18/35
252
0
0
3
-75
-80
6
JAC
30.
Charlie Whitehurst IND
2/8
8
0
1
0
-82
-85
3
JAC
Whitehurst made the absolute worst of a bad situation. He threw one pass in the third quarter, an incompletion, then re-entered the game with the Colts down by 21 points in the fourth. He failed to pick up a single first down: his two completions were a 1-yard gain on first-and-10 and a 7-yard gain on second-and-9.
31.
Brian Hoyer HOU
11/22
155
0
0
5
-88
-88
0
NE
Hoyer was sacked on his first dropback, then went 18 dropbacks in a row without getting sacked. Then his last eight dropbacks went like this: sack-fumble, 5-yard gain on second-and-11, sack, sack-fumble, incomplete, 40-yard gain, incomplete, sack. He only threw for four first downs all day.
32.
Blaine Gabbert SF
18/28
194
1
0
9
-113
-117
3
CLE
Really, Gabbert's performance was even worse than the numbers here say, because he did some serious stat-padding at the end of the game. On San Francisco's last drive, he went 5-of-5 for 72 yards, with every completion going for a first down, including his one score. That's five first downs on that drive, and only four the rest of the game. He actually led the league with 59 DYAR in the last three minutes of the game. That drive was also just the second time in the game he managed to go five dropbacks in a row without getting sacked. He was also pretty good on first downs, but his numbers on other downs look like an 8-year-old tried All-Madden mode when they weren't ready. On second, third, and fourth downs, he went 10-of-16 for 102 yards with only two first downs, while getting sacked seven times and fumbling once. No quarterback was worse on second down, and only one was worse on third and fourth downs.
33.
Matt Cassel DAL
13/29
114
0
1
2
-129
-123
-6
GB
Third/fourth downs: 5-of-11 for 41 yards and only one conversion, with one interception and a sack. His first three passes came in the red zone, and the last of those was intercepted; he didn't throw another pass on Green Bay's half of the field. In fact, he didn't throw another pass outside the Dallas 40. With 5 yards or less to go for a first down, he went 1-of-6 for 6 yards with one conversion, one sack, and one interception. He only threw for five first downs all day.


Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Todd Gurley STL
16
140
2
1/2
7
0
67
67
0
DET
Gurley has been a strong second-half runner all year. He has actually been below replacement level in the first half this year, but he leads all players in rushing DYAR in the second half and overtime. It was no different against Detroit. In the first half, he had seven carries for 13 yards and only one first down. In the second half, he had nine carries for 127 yards, including touchdowns of 5 and 15 yards, and gains of 45, 25, and 21 yards.
2.
Lamar Miller MIA
12
89
2
0/0
0
0
42
42
0
NYG
All of Miller's carries gained at least 1 yard, and he had four first downs on the ground, including touchdowns of 14 and 38 yards.
3.
Tim Hightower NO
28
85
1
1/1
10
0
40
32
8
TB
OK, this is one of the best stories of the 2015 NFL season. The former Cardinals starter tore his ACL with Washington in 2011 and spent the next three seasons out of the league dealing with post-surgery infections. The Saints signed him last January, then he was released, re-signed, and released again in a four-day stretch in September. They re-signed him in November after Khiry Robinson went down, and then named him starter after Mark Ingram hurt his shoulder. And in his first NFL start in 50 months, the 29-year-old had a slow and steady day against Tampa Bay. His longest run, a 12-yarder, was his only 10-yard run of the day. He was hit for no gain or a loss six times, but he also had six first downs, and 17 carries of 3 yards or less. No, it wasn't the most explosive day a runner has ever had, but don't forget that it came against Tampa Bay, which came into the weekend second in run defense DVOA.
4.
Bilal Powell NYJ
3
36
0
5/5
46
1
39
14
26
TEN
Powell's three carries included gains of 24 and 11 yards. Four of his targets came on third-and-long, and he converted two of them with a 16-yard touchdown on third-and-11 and a 13-yard gain on third-and-8.
5.
Eddie Lacy GB
24
124
1
1/1
24
0
38
27
11
DAL
Lacy had five runs of 10 yards or more, three of them in the fourth quarter. He was hit for no gain or a loss six times, but made up for it with nine first downs, including a 1-yard touchdown.


Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Todd Gurley STL
16
140
2
1/2
7
0
67
67
0
DET
2.
Lamar Miller MIA
12
89
2
0/0
0
0
42
42
0
NYG
3.
Tim Hightower NO
28
85
1
1/1
10
0
40
32
8
TB
4.
Robert Turbin DAL
7
51
1
0/0
0
0
29
29
0
GB
Six of Turbin's carries gained 5 yards or more, including a 7-yard touchdown and a 22-yard gain.
5.
Doug Martin TB
11
81
1
1/3
5
0
12
27
-15
NO
Martin was hit for no gain just once, while had a 14-yard touchdown run plus gains of 22 and 24 yards.


Worst Running Back by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Ronnie Hillman DEN
12
20
0
7/9
41
0
-55
-31
-24
OAK
Hillman's first carry went for 11 yards and a first down. That was his longest run of the day, and the only time he picked up a first down on the ground. He was hit for no gain or a loss five times, and failed to convert on five carries with 6 yards or less to go for a first down, including stuffs on second- and third-and-1. He did have two first downs as a receiver, but lost 5 yards and fumbled on another catch.


Worst Running Back by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Ronnie Hillman DEN
12
20
0
7/9
41
0
-55
-31
-24
OAK


Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Odell Beckham NYG
7
9
166
23.7
2
73
MIA
Beckham tied the game with a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter, then put the Giants ahead with an 84-yard score in the fourth. He also had five other first downs, including two third-down conversions and a 14-yard DPI. All of his catches counted as successful plays.
2.
Tyler Lockett SEA
6
7
104
17.3
2
62
BAL
Lockett had touchdowns of 8 and 49 yards. He also converted all four of his third-down targets, including a 26-yard gain on third-and-5.
3.
Ted Ginn CAR
2
3
120
60.0
2
61
ATL
Ginn's DYAR totals include 57 DYAR receiving, 4 rushing for his only carry, a 5-yard gain. But mostly he is here because he had touchdowns of 74 and 48 yards, the latter a third-down conversion.
4.
Jordan Reed WAS
9
9
120
13.3
1
60
CHI
Six of Reed's receptions went for first downs, including a 5-yard touchdown and gains of 17, 28, and 32 yards.
5.
Doug Baldwin SEA
6
9
82
13.7
3
50
BAL
All of Baldwin's receptions went for first downs, including three third-down conversions. Not surprisingly, Baldwin and Lockett have benefited from Russell Wilson's recent surge, ranking first and second in receiving DYAR over the past four weeks.


Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Amari Cooper OAK
0
8
0
0.0
0
-41
DEN
No, this was not close to the worst game of the year, because of opponent adjustments, and because if you never catch the ball, then you can never fumble. (The worst game of the year is now Harry Douglas' performance in Week 2, which now works out to -53 DYAR with updated opponent adjustments and baselines.) Half of Cooper's incompletions came on third down.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 14 Dec 2015

46 comments, Last at 16 Dec 2015, 4:32pm by greybeard

Comments

1
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 5:10am

Austin's stats sounds like what Harvin would've had if Seattle hadn't cut him midway through the season. In Seattle, he had 11 carries for 8.4 YPC and 26 targets for 5.1 yards per target and 6.0 yards per reception. Unlike Austin, Harvin did not do well on screens, which given his 84.6% catch rate was practically all he was used for.

16
by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 1:12pm

Can't help but think Austin picked the wrong sport. Dude could be an all-world soccer player, if he was able to apply his athleticism to that game.

32
by nottom :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 3:28pm

I think based on career earnings, he probably picked the right form of football.

34
by TomC :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 3:48pm

Dude, Lionel Messi's salary is $39 million. A year. And those guys can play much, much longer than your typical NFL'er.

2
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 5:19am

I know Bridegwater gets a bigger opponent adjustment from playing the Cards than he does from playing the Seahawks, at least through last week, but it is hard for me to imagine him saying he'd rather face the Seahawks defense.

5
by gomer_rs :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 6:41am

I know splits happen, but Seattle's D has been MUCH better since the Carey Williams experiment ended.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

6
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 7:28am

Your sample size is essentially one game. Seattle's defense wasn't good against Pittsburgh, and it wasn't good against Baltimore. DVOA will rate the last game higher, because it thinks that Seattle was playing against the team that still had Flacco and Forsett, and a lot of other offensive starters at the beginning of the season, but giving up 5.5 yards per play against a Clausen-led team that had no running game is not a good result. The Ravens did have a garbage-time drive to end the game, but they also had 193 yards in the first half on 6.3 yards per play.

23
by jmaron :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 2:18pm

I think Minn might match up better against the Cards defence because they blitz to get pressure forcing Minnesota to get the ball out quicker.

Sea obliterated Minnesota's line with just 4 guys - leaving 7 guys to cover receivers. Viking receivers have trouble getting separation one on one, add some additional coverage and it gets ugly.

Haven't seen any numbers, but my guess is Bridgewater does pretty well against the blitz.

25
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 2:21pm

I posted it in another thread, but I think the Cardinals made defense harder on themselves by blitzing. They got quick pressure no matter how many they sent (including 3!). All they did was take guys out of their secondary.

28
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 2:58pm

Thinking you need to blitz to get pressure on a Vikings qb is like Bill Gates thinking he needs to budget for Christmas presents.

3
by gomer_rs :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 6:39am

What was Thomas Rawls DYAR before he was hurt? He had 40 yards on the first drive and it looked like he was around 8-9 yards per rush.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

4
by gomer_rs :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 6:40am

double post

7
by Jerry :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 8:41am

Proofreading: "Then he completed all five his passes on his first drive" (Derek Carr)

8
by Paul R :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 9:56am

I have a dream where Joe Buck and Troy Aikman call the next Rams game, and Joe Buck mentions that Tavon Austin is "putting up Kimble Anders numbers this year," and Aikman's head explodes trying to think of a reply.

20
by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 1:56pm

ALTHOGUH PLAYED FOR cHIEFS, k. aNDERS WAS GOOD PLAYER.

9
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12
by Paul R :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 11:33am

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10
by andrew :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 11:22am

I am pretty sure this was Bridgewater's best game as a pro, even with the final fumble. It was also the first time he exceeded his yardage from his first start (317 yards vs Falcons in week 4 last year), a game where he had 104 DYAR. That was his only other game over 100 that I can find, even during his supposed excellent play down the stretch last year he mostly hovered around 0.

My main hope for him (bolstered somewhat by the film room analysis of him last week) is that all this will come to fruition if the line stabilizes next year.

I have heard him described as a socialist with the ball. In this game he completed passes to 11 different receivers, but all for 70 yards or less. I don't know if there is any correlation between # of different receivers and DVOA, would be interesting to look at.

42
by Xexyz :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 8:10pm

Was that your own personal film-room analysis or is it posted somewhere that others (me) could view?

44
by andrew :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 10:48pm

It was the football outsiders column called "Film Room" that focused on Teddy Bridgewater last week.

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/film-room/2015/film-room-teddy-bridgewa...

link

"I was corrupt before I had power!" - Random

11
by Led :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 11:29am

The Brady commentary is odd. Not only was the game within 2 scores most of the second half, but Brady dropped back 16 times (12 PA, 3 sacks, 1 scramble) versus only 8 called runs in the second half. How is that taking the rest of the game off? He was not as effective, for sure, but a lot of that is because the Texans played good defense.

13
by aces4me :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 11:49am

I suspect it was a tongue in cheek remark about Brady's production taking the second half off.

14
by PirateFreedom :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 12:43pm

The one thing the Pats might have done in the 'take it easy' approach is avoid any sort of hurry up approach.
They seemed to move at a fairly deliberate pace in the second half, although I was watching on a DVR and jumping back and forth a lot so I might easily be mistaken.

17
by Led :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 1:14pm

For sure, and the way their defense was playing they were not going to be taking any big risks. But I don't think the plan was to have only 93 yards in the second half.

15
by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 12:44pm

Even with that substandard week, Big Ben is averaging a tiny amount better DYAR per pass than last season.

Shame he hasn't been available every week.

--------------------------------------
The standard is the standard!

19
by BJR :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 1:31pm

I got the impression watching Sunday that Ben and the Pitt offence very much 'managed' the game after Dalton went out. His 6.9 YPA was well below his season average. He probably left something out there, but there was no need to press for anymore.

18
by jwmclean :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 1:27pm

Blake Bortles apparently had a 3.8 QBR this week, but his DYAR is positive.

Does that tell us anything new about QBR? At the very least, it seems like QBR discounts the garbage time play (up two TDs in the fourth quarter) to be worth almost nothing.

21
by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 2:10pm

"QBR is an invisible formula that's kind of terrible" is nothing particularly new.

24
by deus01 :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 2:18pm

It's not anymore invisible than DYAR.

27
by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 2:49pm

DYAR makes sense, and, while the entire formula isn't visible, it's regularly explained and it sure seems pretty objective. QBR's best game ever is a game where Charlie Batch had 186 yards and two picks, because there's some arbitrary "clutch" factor thrown in. I'd say DYAR has far more visibility into what makes it work than QBR.

29
by deus01 :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 2:59pm

DYAR is probably more correlated with what we would expect based on an eye-test and FO is very good at explaining the oddities, however, they are both still proprietary stats that are a black box to us. So they are both lacking in visibility, though DYAR has more commentary which maybe helps to infer what it's supposed to be doing.

31
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 3:18pm

People need to stop bringing up that example. With the subjective way that QBR is graded, it's obvious that neither interception in that game was Batch's fault. Things like that are the reason QBR was invented in the first place.

However, a big fault of QBR is the remarkably thin line between a great play and an awful one. Presumably a highly graded pass would be one where the QB zipped it into a tiny window. But make that pass a smidge closer to the defender, who fails to get the interception, and all of a sudden it becomes a horribly-advised pass, like the 80-yard TD Bortles threw on Sunday. And on the flip side, if the defender had turned his head on that first pass, he might have a pass deflection, or even an interception.

33
by theslothook :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 3:42pm

Sure, but that stuff evens out over the season. In the end, I keep repeating this - it takes into account things that people would want advanced stats to take into account.

35
by Mountainhawk :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 4:04pm

The clutch factor has been out of QBR for 3-4 seasons. If you are going to complain about a stat, at least be knowledgeable about it.

36
by ChrisS :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 4:12pm

When QBR first came out I looked at it and was garbage so I have ignored it until recently and the formula has changed and clutch now means low weight to garbage time production. I still don't think it is a great stat but it can tell something somewhat useful about a QB's performance. ESPN has the best QBR as Tom Brady on 10/21/07 with 21 comps/25 atts, 354 yds, 6 TDs, 1 sacks, 0 ints (actually tied with Colin K's game on 10/27/13). I can't find Charlie Batch in the top 200.

37
by ChrisS :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 4:26pm

Charlie Batch's game had a higher QBR (99.9) but it did not have enough "action plays" so it does not show up on the all-time list. So never mind

26
by theslothook :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 2:48pm

The big diff is likely coming from his red zone production, where dvoa sees red zone production as highly predictive of future dvoa and so it rewards it greatly. QBR probably sees just the distance and the general level of difficulty of throwing a td pass and scores that accordingly.

This is probably where its worth noting that DVOA is a predictive stat while QBR attempts to qualify past performance.

As for someone who saw a lot of this game, bortles was absolutely horrible. I agree a 3.4 is worse than I would have expected, but I doubt even Jags fans thought Bortles put together an above average display on Sunday.

41
by Xexyz :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 8:08pm

I didn't see the game so I have only the statline to go by, which on its own looks like a great day. Were the TDs flukey (missed tackles on short gains, blown coverages) and did Bortles have a bunch of should-have-been interceptions that were dropped?

43
by theslothook :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 8:25pm

Honestly - all of his scoring drives felt like short passes that broke free for 12-18 yards, with one going for 80 yards. He showed some terrible pocket awareness and was nearly picked off a few times when he did go longer than 10 yards, but were dropped. Two drives were also extended by ticky tack penalties(Which isn't his fault, but illustrates the tenuous nature of going 3 n out or scoring a td). I mean, he was just awful. I don't mean to pick on Bortles so much, especially when I was ready for Irsay to fire the whole coaching staff after that performance, but just--its an example where the extremity of qbr probably tells a better story than just a cursory glance at the statistics.

45
by Guest789 :: Wed, 12/16/2015 - 12:11pm

But, but, but, Gil Brandt says that Bortles is the best QB "with conviction" from the last 2 drafts. You know, better than Carr, Bridgewater, Mariota, Winston, etc.

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000601379/article/brandt-ranks-bort...

22
by greybeard :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 2:17pm

Surprising that Alex Smith has 5 runs for 40 yards: 6 yards on 3-3, 18 yards on 2-10, 12 yards and 3-2, 1 yard on 2-10, and 3 yards on 1-10 and has 0 DYAR. I guess he also had a fumble where the RB hit him and he picked the ball and ran for 1 yard that might have cloned up all the positive of all the other urns. But seems surprising nonetheless.

30
by Southern Philly :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 3:04pm

Does Sam Bradford's interception that should have been ruled an incompletion count against him here?

38
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 4:33pm

I know splits happen, but Seattle's D has been MUCH better since the Carey Williams experiment ended.

Well, the Minnesota game was their best DVOA of the year, but the Baltimore game was right in line with what they have done most of the year.

The real (and not surprising) revelation about Seattle's defensive DVOA is that their two worst games were Weeks 1 and 2 - when Kam Chancellor was holding out.

What was Thomas Rawls DYAR before he was hurt? He had 40 yards on the first drive and it looked like he was around 8-9 yards per rush.

20 DYAR and 44 yards on six carries.

The Brady commentary is odd. Not only was the game within 2 scores most of the second half, but Brady dropped back 16 times (12 PA, 3 sacks, 1 scramble) versus only 8 called runs in the second half. How is that taking the rest of the game off? He was not as effective, for sure, but a lot of that is because the Texans played good defense.

It was just a note that he didn't accomplish much in the second half. Obviously he was on the field throwing passes.

Surprising that Alex Smith has 5 runs for 40 yards: 6 yards on 3-3, 18 yards on 2-10, 12 yards and 3-2, 1 yard on 2-10, and 3 yards on 1-10 and has 0 DYAR. I guess he also had a fumble where the RB hit him and he picked the ball and ran for 1 yard that might have cloned up all the positive of all the other urns. But seems surprising nonetheless.

Yes, the 1 yard on second-and-10 came after a fumbled snap. It goes down as a running play because, well, Smith grabbed the ball and ran, but that means Smith is also penalized for the fumble.

Does Sam Bradford's interception that should have been ruled an incompletion count against him here?

No. We can only go off the official NFL play-by-play here and don't have time to go over every play in every game in 24 hours and determine what "should" have happened. See our Week 8 commentary for some of the weirdness that can result.

40
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 5:05pm

The real (and not surprising) revelation about Seattle's defensive DVOA is that their two worst games were Weeks 1 and 2 - when Kam Chancellor was holding out.

Given what we know now about the St. Louis offense, the surprising fact is just how bad the defense was. St. Louis set season highs in yards per play and first down percentage, and Gurley wasn't even playing then. Seattle did force three fumbles, but apart from that St. Louis was driving down the field at will.

46
by greybeard :: Wed, 12/16/2015 - 4:32pm

"Yes, the 1 yard on second-and-10 came after a fumbled snap. It goes down as a running play because, well, Smith grabbed the ball and ran, but that means Smith is also penalized for the fumble."

I think it was not a fumbled snap. The RB ran too close to the QB and forced the fumble.

Regardless, I am curious why the fumbled snaps are blamed on QBs. My observation is the majority of the time the fumbled snap is a mistake of center not the QB.

39
by tunesmith :: Tue, 12/15/2015 - 4:39pm

Wow, second week in a row that Ronnie Hillman is worst RB. Has that ever happened before?