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03 Sep 2013

QBs: Game-Winning Drive Study

by Scott Kacsmar

The NFL's game-winning drive statistic has existed for decades, but it has gone through many hurdles before officially being attributed to Dan Marino, who led the Miami Dolphins on 51-game-winning drives (including the playoffs). Peyton Manning continues to close in with 49, so expect to see a tie or new record holder this season.

With a much simpler definition than a fourth-quarter comeback, a game-winning drive is the offensive scoring drive in the fourth quarter or overtime that puts the winning team ahead for the last time. The association with fourth quarter/overtime is simply a matter of making this a crunch-time stat. You can technically have a game-winning drive on the first drive of the game if that team never gets tied or falls behind, but decades ago some people made the respectable decision to save it for games that were late and close.

This is a chicken-and-egg situation for me. I am not sure if my research into game-winning drives triggered my love of drive stats or if drive stats interested me to keep track of game-winning drives. Whichever way it happened, I like to think I have done my part to help advance the use of drive stats, which of course includes fourth-quarter comebacks (4QC) and game-winning drives (GWD).

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At its core, the GWD was really the first mainstream use of drive stats, which are a big feature here at Football Outsiders that we plan on expanding soon. While no one ever brought up yards per drive or points per drive, it has been used as a counting stat, lumping all the GWDs together even though they come in many different ways and levels of difficulty. Then again, the same thing happens with touchdown passes and most other counting stats.

I have turned GWDs into more than just a counting stat, providing the record for opportunities (wins and losses) for dozens of players over the years. However, I have kept much of the drive data confined to my personal database.

So before the 2013 season begins and I write my weekly look at close games on this website, let's unleash some of that advanced drive analysis to quantify the generic number of GWDs you can find here on Pro-Football-Reference. I looked at the 22 "active" quarterbacks with at least eight game-winning drives (playoffs included). Yes, the recently cut David Carr is included, but Vince Young is not. We'll find a way to survive.

Data Disclaimer

Before we get started, please note the title does not mention fourth-quarter comebacks. This is strictly a study of the 416 GWDs these 22 quarterbacks have combined to engineer. Yes, 306 of the 416 games did involve a fourth-quarter comeback as well, but that's a separate (though related) stat. This data will only look at the drive that put the winning team ahead for good.

This is also why I always tell people who frown on a "weak" GWD to acknowledge the events before and after that drive.

Carson Palmer had a "get the ball at the 21 after a fumble and kneel down to set up a game-winning field goal" in overtime against Jacksonville. That's one of the weakest GWDs on record, but look back at the fourth quarter. Palmer had to lead the Raiders on two scoring drives (10 points) just to force overtime in the first place.

If you score early in the quarter, an offense's job is not done. It should continue to add to the lead or at least burn some clock to secure the win. Also, a quarterback can lead multiple go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter, but only the last one gets labeled the GWD.

So while the stat may be credited for one drive in a game, the events of multiple drives (including the defense too) usually factor into it as well. Here we are just crunching numbers on that one drive from each game. In the future, with more time, we can do analysis for more drives. But for the purposes of this article, I too will frown on some of these GWDs in spite of the fact that the quarterback may have played very well before or after that drive.

Nine drives could be the equivalent of one game, or many times just a fraction of one game. Even with Peyton Manning having 49 games, that's maybe five or six full games for his career. The magnitude of these drives deciding who won and lost cannot be ignored, but neither can the sample size issue. So tread lightly on the conclusions even though certain trends certainly show up for different players.

Finally, the usual drive stat disclaimer: any row labeled "Peyton Manning" could and should also include names like Jeff Saturday, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Dallas Clark, Adam Vinatieri and Tony Dungy. You already assumed that though, so onto the data.

General Drive Stats

Our first table includes many of the general drive stats you are used to seeing at Football Outsiders for things like average starting field position (LOS) and yards and points per drive. Also included is the quarterback's average deficit for the GWD and the sum of his passing stats. The "4QC-GWD" is the number of GWDs that occurred with the team trailing by 1-7 points. For example, Peyton Manning has 38 total fourth-quarter comebacks, but only 28 of those came on the same drive as the engineered GWD, so his 4QC-GWD equals 28. The leader in each category is bolded. I will try to keep player comments at a minimum as you can find a summary for each player at the end.

Game-Winning Drives: General Drive Stats
Quarterback GWD 4QC-GWD LOS Deficit Att. Cmp. Pct. Yds YPA TD Yds/Dr Pts/Dr
Peyton Manning 49 28 30.49 (16) 1.86 (15) 224 169 75.4% 2,021 9.02 15 61.02 (8) 5.27 (13)
Tom Brady 37 14 35.86 (8) 1.27 (6) 168 130 77.4% 1,693 10.08 15 56.30 (15) 5.30 (12)
Drew Brees 31 15 30.39 (19) 1.29 (7) 149 121 81.2% 1,503 10.09 12 63.16 (4) 5.35 (10)
Ben Roethlisberger 29 17 30.41 (18) 1.62 (10) 134 96 71.6% 1,336 9.97 8 62.10 (6) 5.14 (16)
Eli Manning 28 17 34.07 (12) 1.82 (14) 113 82 72.6% 1,233 10.91 13 61.25 (7) 5.82 (5)
Matt Hasselbeck 24 12 31.75 (15) 1.67 (12) 91 63 69.2% 829 9.11 10 59.46 (12) 5.17 (15)
Matt Ryan 23 13 29.52 (21) 1.48 (8) 93 67 72.0% 896 9.63 6 60.00 (10) 5.43 (9)
Carson Palmer 20 10 36.90 (5) 1.65 (11) 97 69 71.1% 809 8.34 8 54.65 (19) 5.10 (17)
Tony Romo 19 11 38.58 (3) 1.58 (9) 64 50 78.1% 824 12.88 6 52.37 (20) 4.89 (19)
Jay Cutler 17 10 34.12 (11) 1.88 (17) 80 62 77.5% 799 9.99 11 59.35 (13) 5.65 (7)
Philip Rivers 16 8 36.31 (7) 2.06 (19) 69 55 79.7% 692 10.03 9 59.75 (11) 6.38 (1)
Joe Flacco 15 5 35.67 (9) 0.93 (3) 63 41 65.1% 533 8.46 6 55.07 (17) 4.67 (20)
Michael Vick 14 8 30.36 (20) 1.86 (16) 46 36 78.3% 571 12.41 4 63.29 (3) 5.57 (8)
Alex Smith 12 10 38.25 (4) 2.58 (21) 40 28 70.0% 397 9.93 4 55.42 (16) 5.75 (6)
Mark Sanchez 12 7 46.58 (2) 1.92 (18) 41 29 70.7% 417 10.17 6 46.00 (21) 5.25 (14)
Matt Schaub 12 3 27.67 (22) 0.75 (1) 54 36 66.7% 628 11.63 2 63.50 (2) 4.92 (18)
David Carr 11 5 47.45 (1) 0.91 (2) 22 16 72.7% 234 10.64 1 32.82 (22) 4.09 (22)
Jason Campbell 10 4 34.30 (10) 1.20 (5) 23 18 78.3% 365 15.87 4 58.60 (14) 5.30 (11)
Josh Freeman 10 6 33.40 (14) 2.20 (20) 43 31 72.1% 414 9.63 5 62.40 (5) 6.20 (3)
Aaron Rodgers 9 5 33.78 (13) 1.78 (13) 31 24 77.4% 407 13.13 4 60.56 (9) 5.89 (4)
Matt Cassel 9 3 36.67 (6) 1.00 (4) 44 30 68.2% 396 9.00 2 54.78 (18) 4.44 (21)
Matthew Stafford 9 6 30.44 (17) 2.89 (22) 60 41 68.3% 504 8.40 7 65.00 (1) 6.22 (2)

For starters, David Carr and Mark Sanchez, arguably the two worst quarterbacks in the study, had the best starting field position. That makes sense as you would not expect them to be able to go a long distance with much success. The fact they almost started at midfield when the average was 34.68 looks really bad for them.

The average deficit was 1.65 points, so a field goal usually was sufficient enough. The average points per drive were 5.35 and yards were 57.58. Of the 416 drives, 173 (41.6 percent) ended with a field goal and 243 were touchdowns.

As for the passing stats, go figure everyone's pretty impressive. It would be hard for a team to go on a scoring drive with the quarterback not completing passes.

However, 31 drives included zero completions by the quarterback. Carr and Eli Manning had four each, though you will not believe which quarterback had five. He's Super, by the way. A quarterback did not throw a pass on 19 drives. Of the 31 drives without a completion, only four saw the quarterback have at least one run for a positive gain. That means 27 times he did essentially nothing.

The longest GWD without the quarterback doing anything belongs to Eli Manning against the 2008 Panthers. In overtime, on an 87-yard touchdown march, Manning threw one incomplete pass and handed off five times for big runs by Brandon Jacobs (game-winning touchdown) and Derrick Ward (51-yard run to start the drive and a 14-yard run on a critical third-and-7 to extend the drive).

Of the 416 drives, three actually lost yardage. Against the 2006 Raiders, Houston ran it three times for minus-three yards with Andre Johnson losing 11 yards on a third down that must have been horribly designed. Game-winning drive, David Carr. Then there's last year's Palmer kneel down example against Jacksonville after a fumble by Cecil Shorts. Then weeks later in Dallas, Ben Roethlisberger threw a pass in overtime that was intercepted and returned to the one-yard line. Tony Romo took a knee for a two-yard loss and Dallas made the 21-yard field goal.

An offense with one of these quarterbacks went 90-plus yards to win the game 18 times. Drew Brees and Michael Vick account for three each. Matt Hasselbeck (two) is the only other player to do it multiple times.

How about the most classic comeback situation in football? Down by four-to-six points, 2:00 left and the ball at no better than your own 20, meaning you absolutely have to score a touchdown with a long field ahead of you to win the game.

Well, for this group, it's happened once: down 37-31, an injured Matthew Stafford led Detroit 88 yards against the 2009 Browns, scoring a touchdown on an untimed down after the Browns were penalized 31 yards for defensive pass interference in the end zone.

Ben Roethlisberger misses it by one second against the 2009 Packers. His drive started with 2:01 left, which he needed given the game-winning touchdown to Mike Wallace with no time remaining.

If we expand the time back to 3:00, which I like to do in this situation, then we get nine drives, including what I have called the greatest drive in NFL history: the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. We also see just one quarterback has done it twice, but more on him later. Here's a hint: neither of his drives came against a team with a winning record.

Just one time in this study did a team down by seven points go on a game-winning drive. Do you know which game? Indeed, it was when referee Ed Hochuli blew a call on a Jay Cutler fumble in 2008 against San Diego. Denver converted the fourth down to Eddie Royal, then went to the same play for the two-point gamble to win 39-38.

It is always sweet to get a touchdown, but the two-point conversion to win the game is something we rarely get to see in the NFL.

Drive Results

The next table looks at the results of the GWDs. This breaks them down by how many ended in field goals, touchdown passes and touchdown runs (split up between runs by the quarterback and someone else). The percentages are also displayed with rankings, including the "QBTD%" which is the percentage of GWDs where the quarterback either passed for or ran in the winning touchdown. The last two columns are for the average time in which the GWD started and ended.

Game-Winning Drives: Drive Results
Rk Quarterback GWD FG TD Passes TD Run QB TD Run FG% TD% QBTD% Start End
1 Peyton Manning 49 21 15 10 3 42.9% (10) 57.1% (13) 36.7% (15) 8:36 (16) 5:21 (16)
2 Tom Brady 37 16 15 5 1 43.2% (9) 56.8% (14) 43.2% (9) 8:42 (17) 5:53 (18)
3 Drew Brees 31 13 12 5 1 41.9% (11) 58.1% (12) 41.9% (10) 10:08 (21) 5:59 (19)
4 Ben Roethlisberger 29 13 8 7 0 44.8% (8) 55.2% (15) 27.6% (19) 8:03 (14) 4:10 (4)
5 Eli Manning 28 8 13 7 0 28.6% (19) 71.4% (4) 46.4% (7) 7:24 (10) 4:43 (10)
6 Matt Hasselbeck 24 11 10 3 0 45.8% (7) 54.2% (16) 41.7% (11) 6:34 (3) 3:19 (1)
7 Matt Ryan 23 9 6 7 1 39.1% (14) 60.9% (9) 30.4% (18) 7:17 (6) 4:29 (8)
8 Carson Palmer 20 10 8 2 0 50.0% (5) 50.0% (17) 40.0% (12) 7:32 (11) 5:15 (14)
9 Tony Romo 19 10 6 3 0 52.6% (4) 47.4% (19) 31.6% (17) 7:49 (12) 5:11 (13)
10 Jay Cutler 17 6 11 0 0 35.3% (16) 64.7% (7) 64.7% (2) 7:09 (4) 4:11 (5)
11 Philip Rivers 16 2 9 5 0 12.5% (22) 87.5% (1) 56.3% (3) 8:35 (15) 5:29 (17)
12 Joe Flacco 15 9 6 0 0 60.0% (3) 40.0% (20) 40.0% (12) 7:18 (7) 5:19 (15)
13 Michael Vick 14 5 4 2 3 35.7% (15) 64.3% (8) 50.0% (4) 9:12 (19) 6:31 (20)
14 Alex Smith 12 4 4 4 0 33.3% (17) 66.7% (5) 33.3% (16) 7:23 (9) 4:11 (6)
14 Mark Sanchez 12 5 6 1 0 41.7% (12) 58.3% (11) 50.0% (4) 7:09 (5) 4:55 (12)
14 Matt Schaub 12 6 2 3 1 50.0% (5) 50.0% (17) 25% (21) 6:18 (2) 3:40 (3)
17 David Carr 11 8 1 0 2 72.7% (1) 27.3% (22) 27.3% (20) 7:20 (8) 4:30 (9)
18 Jason Campbell 10 4 4 2 0 40.0% (13) 60.0% (10) 40.0% (12) 11:31 (22) 7:59 (22)
18 Josh Freeman 10 2 5 3 0 20.0% (21) 80.0% (2) 50.0% (4) 7:51 (13) 4:16 (7)
20 Aaron Rodgers 9 3 4 2 0 33.3% (17) 66.7% (5) 44.4% (8) 9:53 (20) 7:13 (21)
20 Matt Cassel 9 6 2 1 0 66.7% (2) 33.3% (21) 22.2% (22) 9:03 (18) 4:44 (11)
20 Matthew Stafford 9 2 7 0 0 22.2% (20) 77.8% (3) 77.8% (1) 5:56 (1) 3:37 (2)

Ben Roethlisberger is the lone case where a running back (Jerome Bettis) actually threw the game-winning touchdown pass for his team. That happened in the regular season against the 2004 Jets. That is why Roethlisberger's row adds up to 28 instead of 29.

Is it not a little odd to see Peyton Manning and Vick lead the way with three game-winning touchdown runs? Vick is understandable, but Manning was a surprise. Two of those plays came in 1999 while the third was against the Jets in 2006. Manning has also handed it off 10 times for the game-winning touchdown run, which leads the list.

The average drive start time was 8:06 and end time was 5:03. That makes sense. With a large sample size, that number should push closer to 7:30, which is of course half a quarter.

A total of 59 drives started inside the two-minute warning. Tom Brady has done it five times, but he's bested by two similar quarterbacks with seven.

A total of 37 drives ended with 0:00 on the clock. No one has done that more than Peyton Manning (five). No one has more drives started in the final 60 seconds to win a game than Matt Ryan and his five one-minute drills.

It is a lot harder to go 50 yards in less than a minute than it is when you have a whole quarter. That's why we need a stat to account for all the variation in situations.

Win Probability

What's going to become one of the best methods to quantify comebacks and GWDs will be win probability. It is something we hope to expand upon at Football Outsiders in the offseason, but for now, I manually entered the drive data (deficit, quarter, time left, line of scrimmage, down and distance) into the win probability calculator at Advanced NFL Stats. I have done this before for Joe Flacco and Eli Manning, but this time we will just focus on the win probability (WP) at the start of the GWD.

In this table, the quarterbacks are ranked by the average WP they had at the start of the drive. Included is the drive with the minimum (MIN) and maximum (MAX) WP. The bigger the number, the more likely the team was to win. The "WP>.50" is the number of GWDs in which there was a better than 50 percent chance of winning the game at the start of the GWD. The "Total WP" is the sum of the WP at the start of each GWD.

Now the "WPA" is "Win Probability Added," but this is not calculated in the same way Brian Burke does at his site. Technically we would want to find what the team's WP was after the GWD, because unless it was the final play of the game, it's probably not 1.00. For example, taking a one-point lead with 14:50 to play will barely put you over 0.50. In this case, since each game was a win, we calculated WPA by subtracting the Total WP from the number of GWDs. That could then be divided by the number of games for WPA per game, which is actually the inverse of the Avg. WP column.

Game-Winning Drives: Win Probability (WP)
Rk QB Avg. WP MIN MAX WP>.50 Total WP GWDs WPA WPA/G
1 Matthew Stafford 0.36 0.11 0.71 3 3.28 9 5.72 0.64
2 Matt Ryan 0.40 0.07 0.72 9 9.12 23 13.88 0.60
3 Josh Freeman 0.44 0.21 0.80 2 4.36 10 5.64 0.56
4 Alex Smith 0.44 0.13 0.87 5 5.29 12 6.71 0.56
5 Ben Roethlisberger 0.44 0.13 0.69 11 12.81 29 16.19 0.56
6 Peyton Manning 0.45 0.17 0.71 19 22.00 49 27.00 0.55
7 Michael Vick 0.46 0.14 0.86 4 6.38 14 7.62 0.54
8 Philip Rivers 0.46 0.14 0.77 8 7.33 16 8.67 0.54
9 Eli Manning 0.46 0.15 0.85 10 13.00 28 15.00 0.54
10 Mark Sanchez 0.47 0.11 0.89 5 5.67 12 6.33 0.53
11 Aaron Rodgers 0.48 0.22 0.70 5 4.31 9 4.69 0.52
12 Jason Campbell 0.49 0.27 0.68 5 4.87 10 5.13 0.51
13 Matt Hasselbeck 0.49 0.23 0.71 13 11.69 24 12.31 0.51
14 Jay Cutler 0.49 0.16 0.77 6 8.29 17 8.71 0.51
15 Tom Brady 0.49 0.18 0.73 17 18.29 37 18.71 0.51
16 Carson Palmer 0.50 0.23 0.87 11 9.91 20 10.09 0.50
17 Drew Brees 0.50 0.22 0.82 16 15.42 31 15.58 0.50
18 Tony Romo 0.51 0.15 0.99 10 9.60 19 9.40 0.49
19 Matt Schaub 0.51 0.18 0.76 6 6.15 12 5.85 0.49
20 Matt Cassel 0.53 0.25 0.72 4 4.76 9 4.24 0.47
21 Joe Flacco 0.54 0.24 0.83 9 8.09 15 6.91 0.46
22 David Carr 0.60 0.40 0.70 8 6.59 11 4.41 0.40

Apparently Carr ranking last is an unavoidable theme here.

Player Comments

Rather than constantly bash or praise the same players in each section, I will summarize the findings for each player in his own space as our conclusion here.

I do want to stress again that magnifying these GWDs without the context of the drives directly before and after them is not fair in most cases to the player. These were just technically the 416 drives that put the winning team ahead for good, but there were many game-defining plays before and after most of these drives. Still, it does draw attention to how these games went down and the quarterback's contribution to the win. A full analysis of late-game performance may turn things around for some, but I think this has given us a decent look at who really has shined in game-winning moments and who has been more reliant on the rest of the team.

As always, the research will continue on my end, but here are the player comments before the 2013 season.

Aaron Rodgers

See how the best quarterbacks in the league largely make up the active leaders in GWDs? That is why Rodgers' 9-24 (.273) record at GWD opportunities continues to baffle me. Yeah, he's had some bad luck, but not significantly more so than the quarterbacks with more wins, which includes most of the league. A common trait with front-runner quarterbacks -- Len Dawson and Kurt Warner are two great examples -- is that even the few close wins they have are not that impressive. Rodgers has great stats on his nine GWDs (No. 4 in points per drive), but two of them came against the 2008 Lions (0-16). Another came against the Saints' awful defense last season.

His last GWD, at home against the 2012 Lions, was 59 yards and included seven running plays (handoffs). The closest thing to a signature drive is the one he had in New York (2011) in the final minute to set up a winning field goal to break a 35-35 tie. Given his career performance, I would like to see more from him in this area. It's a Green Bay problem, but the "best quarterback in the NFL" cannot have just nine GWDs against seven losing teams in five seasons.

Alex Smith

How in the world did Smith rank No. 4 in Avg. WP (0.44)? Well, the 49ers trailed during 10 of his 12 GWDs, which is by far the highest rate (83.3 percent) in the study. That gave him the second-largest average deficit (2.58), which helps lower the WP. Smith had his best drive against the 2011 Saints in the NFC Divisional Round. Facing a 0.13 WP situation, he completed 5-of-7 passes for 85 yards and the game-winning touchdown with 0:09 left. Half of Smith's GWDs came in that 2011 breakout season.

Ben Roethlisberger

Only Roethlisberger (.69) and Jason Campbell (.68) have never started a GWD in which they had at least a 0.70 WP. Roethlisberger has not been his usual self in these situations the last three years, but he had an incredible run over a 53-week span in 2008-09 when he led three signature touchdown drives to win games late:

  • 12/14/2008 at Baltimore (3:36 left, down 9-6, 92 yards to go): With the AFC North on the line, Roethlisberger completes 7-of-11 passes for 87 yards and the game-winning touchdown to Santonio Holmes with 0:43 left.
  • 2/1/2009 vs. Arizona (2:30 left, down 23-20, 78 yards to go): In Super Bowl XLIII, Roethlisberger completes one of the all-time drives with a perfect 6-yard touchdown pass to Holmes with 0:35 left.
  • 12/20/2009 vs. Green Bay (2:01 left, down 36-30, 86 yards to go): To keep playoff hopes alive, Roethlisberger completes a 503-yard passing day with 93 yards on this drive, ending with a 19-yard strike to Mike Wallace in the end zone with 0:00 left.

Most quarterbacks would be satisfied with any one of those moments as a career highlight, but that's three in a little over a year. Since the Green Bay game, none of Roethlisberger's last nine GWDs have covered more than 67 yards and his only game-winning touchdown pass was in Baltimore (2010) after Troy Polamalu forced a Joe Flacco fumble. Roethlisberger only had to go nine yards that time.

Carson Palmer

Palmer has the lowest yards per attempt (8.34) on his GWDs, though that is still a good average in general. What's not good is ranking 19th in points and 17th in yards on the drive stats. He had to settle for field goals half the time. To his credit, he is one of three quarterbacks here (Stafford and Eli Manning) to lead a 98-yard game-winning touchdown drive, which is the longest drive in the study. That came in a tied game against the 2009 Chiefs.

David Carr

Hide the children, because it's David Carr time. In the first game in Houston history, Carr threw a game-winning touchdown pass (65 yards to Corey Bradford) to beat the Cowboys. He would never throw another. Oh, he did rush for two game-winning touchdowns, but he settled for a field goal on eight of his 11 GWDs. That gives him the lowest touchdown rate (27.3 percent). He damn near started his GWDs at the 48-yard line, giving him the best field position. He faced the second-smallest average deficit (0.91). He attempted just 2.0 passes per GWD; the lowest in the study, so he had the least to do with his team's success, which was hardly anything to write home about given his offense ranks dead last in yards (32.82) and points (4.09) per drive. Twice he did not even drop back on the GWD.

Add it all up and you have a quarterback who, on average, took the field expected to win the game 60 percent of the time on his GWDs. All other quarterbacks had at least one GWD with a WP of 0.27 or lower. Carr always had at least a 0.40 WP on all 11 GWDs. Unimpressed would be an understatement right now.

Drew Brees

Brees has completed a study-best 81.2 percent of his passes on his GWDs and as you would expect he ranks well in terms of moving the ball, scoring points and throwing game-winning touchdown passes. What was surprising is that his average drive started with 10:08 left, which was the second-earliest time among the quarterbacks. Brees does have eight overtime GWDs (second behind Tom Brady; nine) so that may be influencing the time numbers a bit. That can also explain why his WP is just 17th as being in overtime is usually a coin-flip scenario.

Eli Manning

Thanks in part to Lawrence Tynes, Brett Favre and Kyle Williams, Manning does have those two GWDs in NFC Championship games (2007 and 2011) where he did not have to complete a pass because of the starting field position. However, he does have 13 game-winning touchdown passes (ranked third) and ranks top seven in yards and points per drive. He's one of the best at driving for a winning touchdown, evident by ranking No. 4 in touchdown rate (71.4 percent). While he has the two GWDs in Super Bowls against New England, it was actually the 2011 comeback win in Foxboro that saw Manning overcome his lowest WP (0.15) for a GWD.

Jason Campbell

For the most part we are seeing the worst quarterbacks have some of the worst GWDs. Campbell faced the fifth-smallest deficit, but did average a study-best 15.87 yards per attempt. Then again, that's just 23 passes. He ranks out of the top 10 in points and yards per drive. He is dead last in average start and end time, meaning he had more time than anyone to go on a GWD while also leaving his defense the most time to protect the lead. Then again, three overtime wins skews the numbers.

Jay Cutler

Cutler has one of the best records in history at GWD opportunities (17-18), so any analysis of his triumphs is important. What really stands out is that he's thrown 11 game-winning touchdown passes on his 17 GWDs. That ranks him second in QBTD%. He's also top five in the time stats, so his drives usually happen late in the game and he has faced one of the largest average deficits.

Joe Flacco

Yes, "Joe Cool" Flacco is the quarterback who has completed zero passes on five of his 15 GWDs. On those drives he was 0-of-4 passing and took one knee. That looks awful, though he did at least throw a game-tying touchdown against Cleveland (2008), forced the Steelers to overtime with a field goal drive (2009) and of course there was the "Jacoby Jones sneaks by Rahim Moore" play in Denver last year to force overtime. So this could have been worse, but there's really no defense for Flacco doing nothing against the Bills and Saints in 2010 and getting cheap GWDs out of it. His best moment remains the 92-yard drive in 2011 to beat the Steelers in the final 2:08.

Overall, Flacco's a lot closer to Carr than the elites here. He faced the third-smallest deficit. He has a study-low 65.1 completion percentage. He's 17th in yards per drive and 20th in points per drive. He's 20th in TD%, only finishing 6-of-15 drives in the end zone. That makes his average WP 0.54, or the second easiest situation on average.

Josh Freeman

Freeman picked up two clutch wins as a rookie in 2009 over playoff teams like the Packers and Saints. He led five GWDs in his breakout season in 2010 over bad teams. Then the GWDs stopped coming, only to be seen against some awful teams like the 2011 Vikings (3-13), 2011 Colts (2-14) and one in Carolina (7-9) last year. Even the Carolina game's not as impressive given Ron Rivera (and Norv Turner) have been operating a black market business for giving away close wins.

While the competition's been lousy, Freeman has been superb in these 10 moments. He's top five in yards and points per drive. He's gone into the end zone on 8-of-10 drives. His situations have been the third toughest. Now if only we can see some consistency and better results against winning teams, then Tampa Bay may have something here.

Mark Sanchez

Even the "Sanchize" cracks 70-percent completions on his GWDs. Though, he's 21st in yards per drive. He does surprisingly have six game-winning touchdown passes, but Santonio Holmes (four in New York) is good at that. Sanchez does crack the top 10 in WP with two extreme games. Against the 2010 Texans, Sanchez had just 0:49 left at his own 28, needing a touchdown. He threw two great passes to Braylon Edwards and Holmes to pull off the comeback. With a WP of 0.11, that's the lowest WP for a game-winning TD in this study. This has not been a pleasant trip down memory lane for Texans fans. Meanwhile, Sanchez had the second-highest WP (0.89) for a GWD when Romo threw that bad interception to Darrelle Revis to start the 2011 season. Sanchez started at the Dallas 34 and threw two incomplete passes as Nick Folk kicked a 50-yard field goal to win the game.

Matt Cassel

Just another bad quarterback with small average deficits, great field position, few points and yards, the second-highest field goal rate and the third-easiest WP situations. None of Cassel's nine GWDs were against playoff teams.

Matt Hasselbeck

Don't you ... forget about me. Well, most NFL fans have, Matt Hasselbeck. The new Indianapolis backup, Hasselbeck actually ranks sixth among actives in GWDs. He's even had five GWDs since 2011 with Tennessee, but I'm not sure many people were watching. Most of his statistics rank in the 12-to-15 range here. What he does have is the third-shortest time (6:34) to start a drive and the shortest time left on the clock when he's done (3:19).

Matt Ryan

Ryan has the best record (23-14) in NFL history at GWD opportunities. He has the most fourth-quarter comebacks (16) and GWDs (23) in the first five years of a player's career. He has another record with five one-minute drills to win games. At some point, the "Matty Ice" stuff begins to make sense. Ryan's had the second-worst starting field position among these quarterbacks, but still ranks top 10 in yards and points per drive.

I harp on his one-minute drills all the time, but he has seven GWDs that started in the final two minutes. That ties Peyton Manning for the most here. Keep in mind Manning has 49 total GWDs compared to 23 for Ryan. Is it any wonder he's No. 2 in WP? Ryan has the two GWDs with the lowest WP. That's 0.07 against 2008 Chicago when he had six seconds to make this 26-yard throw and set up a field goal. Then there's the 0.08 against Carolina last year when he started at his own one-yard line with 0:59 left. Overall, Ryan has four of the eight lowest WP's in this study. His drive to beat Seattle in the playoffs ranks No. 5 in WP out of the 416. It's time to give this guy his credit.

Matt Schaub

Schaub is a tricky one. He's only trailed on three of his 12 GWDs, which is the lowest rate. He has had the worst starting field position (27.67). Though, he's faced the smallest deficit (0.75), so he does not have to go as far. Yet he's No. 2 in yards per drive ... but just did not score many points (No. 18). He's also had the second-latest start time (6:18) to his GWDs and the third-latest finish (3:40). WP (0.51) puts him 19th, suggesting his situations have not been hard, but he's taken on a big burden, averaging 52.3 passing yards per drive; the second-highest average. So Schaub seemingly has been better than his stats suggest.

Matthew Stafford

If you want to see someone carry his team to victory in dramatic fashion against a team with a losing record, make Stafford your quarterback of choice. Yes, we all know Stafford is 1-23 against teams with a winning record, and sure enough he only has one GWD (Seattle last year) over a good team, but man does he make these moments count.

No one faces a bigger deficit (2.89) than Stafford, and no one piles up more passing numbers -- he averages 6.7 attempts and 56 yards on his GWDs -- or yards per drive (65.0). He's also finished his nine drives with seven touchdown passes for the best QBTD%. He has the lowest average time (5:56) to start a drive, so he's doing this under more pressure. It's great stuff, such as the 98-yard drive in Oakland in 2011 or the aforementioned Cleveland drive his rookie year.

How is this for a stat? Most game-winning touchdown passes thrown in the final three minutes: Stafford, Brady and Roethlisberger (six apiece). You can lower that time to two minutes and get the same answer with five touchdowns apiece. So Stafford's been great in these games, but it just has not transferred to when Detroit plays better competition. Not yet anyway.

Michael Vick

Known for his rushing, Vick has completed 78.3 percent of his passes on GWDs. That ranks fourth and he's thrown for at least 34 yards on his six GWDs with the Eagles. Perhaps most impressively is that he ranks third in yards per drive and eighth in points. He's only had four GWDs where the WP was better than 0.50 to start. That's the second-lowest rate behind Freeman, so Vick understandably ranks No. 7 in WP.

Peyton Manning

With 49 GWDs, including many improbable comeback wins, which one do you think saw Manning overcome his lowest WP (0.17)? It was in fact the 2006 AFC Championship against New England. Down 34-31 with 2:17 left at his own 20, Manning moved the Colts 69 yards in 24 seconds before Joseph Addai finished off the drive. That's right, 69 yards in 24 seconds with only using the two-minute warning. That's efficiency.

Interestingly enough, the most yards Manning ever had on a game-winning drive came on his very first against the Jets in 1998. He completed 8-of-13 passes for 93 yards, threw the game-winning touchdown to Marcus Pollard, and even rushed twice for seven yards to convert a pair of third-and-1's, giving him an even 100 yards on the drive.

Manning has plenty of solid stats here, tying Tom Brady for the most game-winning touchdown passes (15). His lowest rankings coming in the drive start times. He does have a few GWDs that came very early in the fourth quarter, but that's to be expected for someone who accumulated the second-most GWDs ever. You are going to pick up some cheap ones along the way. Still, Manning ranks sixth in WP, so he did face tougher situations than most.

Philip Rivers

It's been so long since I have talked about Rivers in close games in a positive light. You can see he was once good enough to put together some solid stats. No one averages more points per drive (6.38). No one finishes his GWDs in the end zone more often, only settling for a field goal twice in 16 games. He also has nine game-winning touchdown passes and ranks No. 8 in WP, so what happened?

Well, since the 2009 playoff loss to the Jets, Rivers is 2-19 (.095) at GWD opportunities. He's turned the ball over 16 times in the fourth quarter or overtime, tied or trailing by 1-8 points in that time. That's unbelievably bad. Romo gets the choker label, yet he's had 10 career turnovers in clutch situations the Cowboys lost. Rivers has 22. He might have lesser stats here with the touchdowns and points per drive had he just made the simple plays to set up some winning field goals the last three seasons. Instead, no quarterback has blown more close games in recent time than Rivers.

Tom Brady

As some of the past guest studies at Football Outsiders on close wins have found, Brady's gaudy record (38-25 at 4QC/GWD opportunities) is not all it's cracked up to be. Before last season, he's never had to worry about his kicker losing a game on a failed field goal in the clutch. The defense used to never allow GWDs until the last few years. If Brady took the lead, it would hold up (unless the Giants were the opponent).

Here, we see more of the same as Brady ranks in the top eight for best field position and smallest deficit. He's 15th in yards and 12th in points per drive. His time stats rank 17th and 18th. Add it all up and he's 15th in WP. Brady's actually improved on these numbers in recent years as the Patriots moved away from being the team who used Adam Vinatieri to beat you by three points to Brady leading the team down the field into the end zone with his arm.

  • On Brady's first 24 GWDs (2001-06), he trailed six times, threw seven touchdowns and led 13 field goal drives.
  • On Brady's last 13 GWDs (2007-present), he trailed eight times, threw eight touchdowns and led three field goal drives.

That Brady dependency should only continue to get stronger in New England, unless the defense magically comes together into a dominant unit.

Tony Romo

Is there anything more I can write about Romo's close wins? Well, there are some bad signs here for him. He's had the third-best field position and ninth-smallest deficit. Passing stats look good, but he's 20th in yards and 19th in points per drive. That's very poor. He's fourth in field goal rate. He's 18th in WP and has the single-easiest GWD of the 416 studied. It was that one against Pittsburgh last year when Roethlisberger's interception started him at the one-yard line and he just took a knee to set up the field goal. The WP was 0.99 there as that was essentially an extra point. The fact that Romo gave the Jets the second-easiest GWD with his interception to Revis also is not a positive for him.

Though if there is a positive here, it would be that Romo led a comeback in 18 of his 19 GWDs, which is abnormally high. So the fact that it was only tied eight times when he led the winning drive, he did tie the game on a previous drive seven times.

Yet for a study of 416 GWDs -- it seemingly felt like we touched base on every one of those games here -- it's easy to see why Romo's 19 have not caught the attention of many NFL fans since 2006. His best rarely match up with the highest Nielsen ratings.

I have the data to create the same stats for legends like Joe Montana, Dan Marino and John Elway, but before we hit 7,000 words, let's take a knee and be thankful Kyle Orton, John Skelton, Bruce Gradkowski, Derek Anderson, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tim Tebow just missed the cut. Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton, we'll add you next year.

Last stat: the Colts averaged 66.71 yards per drive on Luck's seven game-winning drives as a rookie. He's the next in line.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 03 Sep 2013

37 comments, Last at 10 Sep 2013, 2:23pm by SportsMinded

Comments

1
by billharris (not verified) :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 2:42pm

WPA doesn't take into account the strength of the opponent though right? Starting from your own 20 and winning against the Steelers is a lot tougher than starting at your own 20 and winning against the Panthers.

3
by Scott Kacsmar :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 2:48pm

You're right that it's not based on opponent. WP is about averages. But for your specific example of the Steelers, well let's just say I don't agree with that.

Here's why (from last season): http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/49468506/ns/sports-nfl/

9
by billharris (not verified) :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 3:20pm

I appreciate your effort. But for example if 70% of a QB's GWds came against bad teams, all it really proves is they were losing to a team that they probably shouldnt have been losing too and needed to come back (at times in the 4th quarter). Without strength of opponent, how do we know how quality of a comeback was orchestrated?

16
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 3:52pm

"Without strength of opponent, how do we know how quality of a comeback was orchestrated?"

I'm not sure how strength of opponent would tell you that either. For that, you'd have to look at each game at an individual level, in order to understand everything that came before the GWD.

I've seen Peyton Manning play excellently for the entire game, but his defense couldn't get off the field:
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200909210mia.htm

I've seen him play bad for 3 quarters and turn it on in the 4th:
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200809140min.htm

And I've seen him completely bailed out by his defense:
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200309070cle.htm

Strength of opponent won't tell you any of that.

2
by Bobman :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 2:45pm

Scott, fun stuff. Your last line about Luck got me to thinking about Bruce Arians (early P Manning and Roethlisberger)... so what OCs are associated with the most GWDs? Is there a pattern there?

4
by Scott Kacsmar :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 2:52pm

I'd probably link it to head coaches first (viva la Vince Tobin), but that is on the to-do list.

5
by jerreegarcia (not verified) :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 2:56pm

great article as always Captain. I am glad you went to pains to point out the context before and after drives as that is obviously important.

You say Flacco did nothing on the Bills and Saints games. Well that is somewhat true in the Saints game as Ray Rice led the way but for the Bills, 250 yards, 3 TDs in a game that finished 37-34 in which the vaunted Ravens D got destroyed by (of all people) Lee Evans, Fitzpatrick and Co.? He may have done nothing but handoff after the Fumble Rec at the Bills 22 but again, context is important.

Still there's no denying the easier circumstances perhaps of his avg GWD. However, again there, I wonder how much of THAT is a function of having a better than average (and arguably) elite defense giving him the easier situation?

I think often that Flacco is criticized FOR having a great D around him - which is the whole idea of building a great team after all. You shouldn't HAVe to always win with nothing around you just to get any credit in this league. Credit to Manning and Brees still for often doing that nonetheless.

6
by Ryan M (not verified) :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 3:11pm

Maybe Rodgers has so few game winning drives because the Packers usually jump ahead early and don't have to rely on game-winning drives...?

7
by Scott Kacsmar :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 3:16pm

That doesn't explain this: https://twitter.com/FO_ScottKacsmar/status/374617290307678209

Or I should say outside of the historic 19-game winning streak where GB did not trail once in the 4th quarter, they play as many close games as most teams.

8
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 3:19pm

The article mentions Rodgers being 9-24 in GWD situations, and implies that that's bad. This question does bring up a good point though -- did I miss where the total number of opportunities is listed? That's a key piece of information.

13
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 3:44pm

Rodgers has also been the victim of bad luck, from Crosby missing potential game winning FGs to the defense collapsing after he leads the offense to take the lead (e.g., last year's game against Indy). It's like blaming Manning for allowing Flacco to throw that long TD pass to Jones in Denver.

14
by jerreegarcia (not verified) :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 3:51pm

this article debunked the "bad luck" myth pretty effectively

15
by jerreegarcia (not verified) :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 3:51pm

this article debunked the "bad luck" myth pretty effectively

http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/content/the-truth-about-the-front-r...

20
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 6:05pm

I hadn't seen that article. That gives some nice numbers to my feeling that McCarthy has some game day issues. While Favre was better for him than Rodgers in the 4QCB situations he was still not good and he was so used to "going off script" that he really may have overcome some of it. Rodgers stays on script.

But I accepted a few years ago that if the Packers fall behind in the 4th quarter they lose. To the point where I've simply gotten up and left the bar because it would allow me to avoid seeing the loss. I love Rodgers and I really think McCarthy is a great coach at game prep (Capers not so much), but I've wondered about how to measure what I felt where his game day flaws. Rodgers is getting more chances to run the offense that last few years and reports from camp this year are that he will get even more. When they go no huddle he calls the plays, cutting McCarthy/Clement out of the loop. If his numbers go up in this stat then I think more of it is McCarthy than Rodgers, if not, well then yeah, it's Rodgers.

But like that article said it's still generally fun to watch the first 3 quarters because they are always in the game. It's also why the beat down the San Fran and New York Giants put on them last year felt so odd. Because since he was the starter I'm so not used to seeing that happen. Even the playoff beat down last year didn't become a two score lead for San Fran until the 4th quarter. Since the linked article didn't include last year.

23
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 12:33am

This posted before I finished. It's late and I'm tired.

22
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 12:33am

There's a lot of cherry-picking in that article. Here's my own version of cherry-picking with every loss suffered by the Packers over the last five seasons.

2012 season
September 9 - Down by 9 at halftime. Never closer than 8 points in second half. On Rodgers.
September 24 - "Fail Mary" game. Defensive failure lost game.
October 7 - Brought Packers back after defense collapse. Packers were well-ahead at early when McCarthy throttled back offense. Indy scored to go ahead for second time with 35 seconds left in game. On defense.
November 25 - Down by 21 at halftime. Poor game by AR.
December 30 - Down by 10 at halftime. Defense allows 199 yds to Peterson and Ponder has 120.8 passer rating. Leads team back to tie score twice only to watch Packer defense blow it. On defense.
January 12 (playoff game) - Poor overall game by Rodgers.

2011 season
December 18 - Poor game by Rodgers.
January 15 (playoff game) - Poor overall game by Rodgers. Worse game by defense against Giants. I doubt Packers would have won game no matter how well Rodgers played.

2010 season
September 27 - Defense allows two FG to Bears in final 4 minutes. James Jones fumbles as Rodgers is leading team steadily downfield when tied. On Jones and defense.
October 10 - Crosby misses two FGs including one with 1 second on clock which would have won game. BTW, last 100 yard rushing game for a Packers RB. Screwed by K.
October 17 - Tied game twice in 4th quarter. Still had chance to win in OT so counts against him, especially since it was against Miami.
November 28 - Tied game with 56 seconds left which was third time Packers came back to tie game. Defense then allowed Atlanta to score FG with 9 seconds left. Still, Rodgers should have done better in game. On AR.
December 12 - Left game with concussion in 2nd Quarter with game tied at 0-0. Possible TD from AR to Jennings bounced out Jennings hands and intercepted by DB who was otherwise soundly beaten. Should not meet criteria yet author criticizes Rodgers for leaving game with concussion.
December 19 - DNP

2009 season
October 5 - Packers down by 14 after first drive of 3rd quarter. Rodgers sacked 8 times, 4.5 by Allen. Could only get back within 7 with 55 seconds to go. I have a hard time blaming AR for this.
November 1 - Down again by 14 against Minnesota at halftime. Twice rallied team to less than 7 after being down by 21 points. Again, part of Stubbleface's magic season in MN. Partly on AR for not playing that good.
November 8 - Defense blows 11 point lead with in last 13 minutes against Tampa Bay. Packers get ball with 1:35 at 13 yard line. AR throws INT in Favre fashion, but the Packers should have won this game easily.
December 20 - Back-and-forth lead exchanges against Pitt. Rodgers gets Packers 6 point lead with 2 minutes to go. Defense allows Pitt to go 86 yards and Wallace scores TD with no time left on clock. No idea how this could be against AR.
January 10 (playoff game) - Against Arizona. We all know about this one. Yes, we can blame AR.

I haven't had time to go back to 08, but let's just say they're all on AR.

Not surprisingly, Mr Kacsmar is author of both articles. While AR can be counted at fault in several instances, there is ample evidence that he's been victimized by bad team play. AR gets compared to Brady who the author even admits has only been let down by his team twice in Brady's much longer career. Kacsmar sneaks Favre's last year in GB into the stats by first quoting McCarthy's record. His cold hard facts are cold hard bullshit. I think he's going out of his way to criticize Rodgers. I agree AR could be better in the fourth quarter. But when you cherry-pick stats, you can make anyone look worse than they are.

26
by Eddo :: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 10:19am

And when you do what you did, you can make anyone look better than they are.

Perhaps Rodgers has been adversely affected by teammates disproportionately more than other players, but unless you perform a similar breakdown for all the other QBs, you're just doing the same kind of cherry-picking the linked article does (and, like most every Cold Hard Football Facts article, it is pretty poor analysis (Scott's work here has been much more impressive, so I'm assuming CHFF has certain editorial directives)).

31
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 1:54pm

The difference is I admit I was cherry-picking. Scott's methodology is why people like Skip Bayless like Tebow because he's so clutch. He's identified AR as someone who can't lead a comeback and has gone out of his way to manipulate the stats so they look worse than the reality. I agree that AR hasn't been great in the last few minutes of games. I also don't think he's been terrible.

33
by Independent George :: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 6:46pm

He's identified AR as someone who can't lead a comeback and has gone out of his way to manipulate the stats so they look worse than the reality.

No, that's not even close to what he's done in the article; at the very end, he explicitly concludes that the statistical anomaly in Rodgers' record is that he manages to keep his team close even when they lose.


Yet what does the record hide? You can start with the fact that New England has had the best clutch kicking, with their kickers never failing for Brady in any of the losses. The defense, though showing some holes in recent years, once did an incredible job of thwarting the opponent’s comeback attempts. Brady has only two lost comebacks, and both were against the Giants.

No, what the 25-19 record’s really missing is more losses.

The hidden factor is that Brady has an unusually high amount of bad performances in games the Patriots lost in his career. When your quarterback plays poorly, it is hard to stay close for the fourth quarter.

[SNIP]

...If Brady played better, he would likely have a worse record at comebacks. If Rodgers played worse, he would likely have a better record at comebacks.

Funny how that works.

34
by Scott Kacsmar :: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 8:14pm

Thanks for posting that. I really do not have time to waste on people who choose to not read things or make stuff up. To say I criticized Rodgers for having a concussion against the 2010 Lions is a pure fabrication. I never said that and that game does not count against his GWD record. It does however go against Matt Flynn's and Mike McCarthy as a coach.

As for why I didn't post a GWD opportunities table:

1. I've posted the one in the Twitter link here in many articles this offseason. I figured this site would not be as interested in W-L records and was focusing this on quantifying the GWDs the QBs did complete.
2. I have not set up myself for FTP access to the site, which is how we upload pictures, so it would have been an extra hassle at the end of a long working night on this piece. I could have converted the table to HTML too, but that'd take even longer.

18
by Eddo :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 4:03pm

Based off this Tweet from Scott, the median GWD success rate is 0.413 (19/46, Tony Romo). Rodgers's is 0.273 (9/33). That's significantly lower, and a pretty big gap to explain away to luck (although luck certainly has some effect on the overall numbers in some way).

21
by Roch Bear :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 6:29pm

Standard deviation of proportions like these are around 8% so Rodgers seems to be in the 2 sd range. Could be nothing but luck.

37
by SportsMinded (not verified) :: Tue, 09/10/2013 - 2:23pm

Well, actually you can blame Peyton for that play and here's why. Peyton is lauded for being a cerebral QB. His leadership abilities and line of scrimmage talents are unmatched. We've watched him many a times move players around pre-snap to make big plays.

So in that Ravens game, they passed the two-minute warning, the Ravens have no more timeouts, the Broncos are up by a TD and they are in a 3rd and 7 situation. All they need is one more first down and the game is over. With Peyton at the helm this is a no brainer right?

Yet, the 4-time MVP etc. decided to hand the ball off versus taking command of the offense and pass the ball for a first down.

Arm chair QB I know. But we heap so much praise on his wins and then blame the defense or some other aspect of the team for the loss.

17
by Eddo :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 4:00pm

This Tweet, linked in another comment, has a more comprehensive table.

But yes, it would be nice to see the opportunity numbers listed in the article itself.

10
by Travis :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 3:22pm

Thanks in part to Lawrence Tynes, ..., Manning does have those two GWDs in NFC Championship games (2007 ...) where he did not have to complete a pass because of the starting field position.

For what it's worth, Manning did complete passes on two earlier drives to put the Giants in go-ahead/winning position, but Tynes missed the field goals.

Do you have any metrics (other than the percentage of drives that ended on FGs) for determining which quarterbacks were most helped or hurt on potential GWDs by their kickers?

11
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 3:30pm

"Yes, we all know Stafford is 1-23 against teams with a winning record, and sure enough he only has one GWD (Seattle last year) over a good team, but man does he make these moments count."

define "good team."

In 2011, both Oakland and Dallas finished 8-8. Dallas had a positive DVOA.

12
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 3:40pm

The context implies that "winning record" and "good team" are being used more or less interchangably. Probably not the best definition of "good". But I guess I'd flip your question -- is a team with an 8-8 record and a 3.5% DVOA "good"? Only if "average" is not an option.

29
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 12:24pm

Whether an 8-8 team qualifies as "good" or "bad" is very subjective. Like any subjective measure, it's vulnerable to stats cherry-picking and parsing. For example, if you change "Matthew Stafford's record against winning teams" to "Matthew Stafford's record against teams .500 or better", the number goes from 1-23 to 6-24. 6-24 is still not great, but it's much better than 1-23.

That being said, I don't think either number has any relevance whatsoever about whether he will eventually become a top-tier quarterback or not.

30
by Ryan D. :: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 1:53pm

The funny thing is that had he not won against those 8-8 teams, he would have even more losses to would-be 9-7 teams on his record, which would further worsen his record "against winning teams." Being 1-29 would NOT sound good.

35
by LionInAZ :: Thu, 09/05/2013 - 12:12am

The other funny thing is that in two of those losses Stafford is saddled with he didn't finish the game because of injury, and the Lions had the lead when he went out.

Starting pitchers in baseball don't get stuck with a loss if their team is ahead or tied when they leave the game, so why should QBs in the same situation?

19
by VINCENZO GIOVANE (not verified) :: Tue, 09/03/2013 - 4:09pm

Still wish you had included Vince Young, since he's the one QB known specifically for 4th quarter game winning drives.

24
by nat :: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 7:03am

That's a long article about a mostly useless stat, that intentionally hides it's only potentially useful part while focusing on trivia.

The primary thing we might want to know is which QBs and teams are most successful in these situations. But Scott coyly hides that data, bringing it out for just a few teams. What BS. If you have it, put it in the table. Without opportunities and success rates, this is just fluff.

Total GWDs is mostly useless anyway. It's largely about opportunities, which in turn is about failing to get and keep the lead in three quarters of football, a bad thing.

The rest is just survivorship bias, isn't it. And small samples.

25
by iron_greg :: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 9:17am

I dont know how you can say its a useless stat. Football games more often than not come down to one drive or even one play. This is especially true between two good teams, as the playoffs and super bowl show us again and again. One of the hardest things to do is pass when the opponent already knows you HAVE to pass - which is the case when you're down late (or run when you have to run such as in the 4 minute offense).

27
by nat :: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 11:16am

It's useless because without knowing the number of opportunities, total GWDs tells us nothing about the quality of the team or QB. It doesn't even tell us if they are good at making game winning drives.

It's useless because it conflates a bad thing (being behind by 0-7 points late in the game) with a good thing (meaningful scoring in the fourth quarter), making a GWD simultaneously about good and bad play. It's like keeping a stat for "scoring after throwing a pick-six". Sure, it's nice to score, but a stat like this doesn't indicate skill, just inconsistency within a single game.

It has its place as trivia about the narrative of a game or a career. But it's not good for actually thinking about the game or the quality of teams or players.

32
by Intropy :: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 2:32pm

If you want something to give "quality" in some sort of predictive way. Look at WPA/G. But more basically this sort of thing is useful because football is entertaining, and it's entertaining to read about how people have performed in these sorts of high pressure situations. That doesn't mean it's predictive. That doesn't mean it indicates quality in any absolute way. That doesn't mean it's going to help you build your fantasy football team. It's just an entertaining numerical look at a particular facet of the game. That's perfectly fine for football journalism.

28
by Ryan D. :: Wed, 09/04/2013 - 11:22am

Just for giggles, I want to know how Jake Delhomme managed so many 4QC. Doesn't he still hold the record for a single season?

36
by citizenstrange (not verified) :: Thu, 09/05/2013 - 2:57pm

There is a big difference in having a game winning drive to win 13-9 and having a game winning drive to win 35-31. Roethlisberger is the king of the 13-9 wins but he has scored over 30 points maybe five times in his career. Aaron Rodgers is at least 10 times better.