Any Given Sunday
The weekend's biggest upset goes under the Football Outsiders lens.

Any Given Sunday: Eagles over Rams

by Rivers McCown

We are a statistics website first, and I think I owe it to you all to get to the statistics of how the Rams have played since Week 13. Because it's quite rare that we get to see such a nosedive minus a major quarterback injury:

Rams Offense In-Season Trends

Weeks Plays Yards per Play 1D/TD TO DVOA Rk
Overall 1-12 722 7.10 267 14 31.5% 2
13-15 201 4.95 59 9 -15.9% 26
Rushing 1-12 357 5.11 105 0 19.1% 1
13-15 58 4.91 19 0 22.6% 3
Passing 1-12 414 8.56 181 14 47.7% 4
13-15 139 4.96 40 9 -28.9% 27

Here are the teams behind the Rams in offensive DVOA since Week 13 started: Cincinnati, Chicago, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Arizona, and Washington. That's three teams on backup quarterbacks, one of the worst teams DVOA has ever measured, and ... somehow, both of the NFC's other main contenders.

While Los Angeles did lose wideout Cooper Kupp for the season, they didn't have him when they happened to participate in Monday Night Football's game of the millennium against the Chiefs, and the offense seemed just fine. And notice that this is purely a matter of the passing offense, not the run game.

I think it's appropriate at this point to go back to how the Rams got bounced out of last year's playoffs: The Falcons got three sacks on Jared Goff, and they forced him into a lot of incompletions and throwaways. The Rams are actually not getting pressured any more than usual -- according to Sports Info Solutions charting, their pressure percentage over the last three weeks is identical to their full-season pressure percentage. I think what you're seeing with Goff is not that he's bad, but that he's still a young quarterback trying to learn what happens when his first couple of reads aren't open. He's not the kind of quarterback who plays better late into the down. He's also not a Deshaun Watson or even a Josh Allen-type weapon when the play is out of structure. This isn't to take anything away from Goff -- what he does well, he does really well. But young quarterbacks are going to have ups and downs as they deal with their limits being tested, and the last few weeks have shown us some of Goff's limits.

We're fortunate enough here that Film Room touched on some issues the Rams had last week. So please go hit that up for an even deeper dive into the tape.

But I have saved one stat for last here: Over the last three weeks, the Rams have the worst DVOA on deep passes of any team in the NFL. The average team over that span has a DVOA of 51.2% on deep passes. The Rams have been at -101.4%. Teams have been keeping Goff from targeting deep balls over their heads on the outside, and have clogged the middle. The Rams have been successful on 14 of 20 passes targeting the deep middle, including one of two in this game. They have been successful on 35 of 85 deep balls to the outside, and only three of their last 21. Here's the one they hit in this game, a post to Josh Reynolds with only two defenders on that side of the ball because the Rams had three receivers running on the right side of the formation.

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A lot of Goff's deep incompletions were throwaways, which is something former FO'er Doug Farrar zeroed in on for USA Today. So we've got reluctance to attack three-deep. Goff was also pressured quite a bit. But I wanted to look at this throw as an example of Goff being a little more reluctant to attack the deep sidelines with a defender over the top:

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Single deep safety, Goff's got his head turned to this corner route to Reynolds. But the ball gets held a little longer than it needed to be, and when it is thrown, A) Goff takes a lick that may have kept him from getting the full mustard on the ball, and B) the ball floats so long that even if it had been on the money, Corey Graham (24) was able to make up enough ground at safety to hit Reynolds.

Defenses have also stopped giving credit to Los Angeles' play-action attack. The touchdown-interception ratio on those balls was 8:0 in Weeks 1 to 12. Weeks 13 to 15: zero touchdowns, two picks. Per Sports Info Solutions, the completion percentage, on-target percentage, and yards per attempt have all massively dropped. The Rams lead the league in play-action pass attempts, but over the last three weeks, have averaged 6.7 yards per attempt on those plays.

So it becomes an adjustment game, and defenses that have been embarrassed by the Rams all year are now asking Goff to make them stop surrendering these types of balls, or to make Sean McVay scheme up something to make them pay. I don't think we need to slam the panic button on Goff's franchise quarterback status or anything, but there are some adjustments to be made.

Where the Game Swung

EdjSports' Game-Winning Chance% sees this game mostly being lost in the third quarter.

Quarter Time Down Spot Play GWC before GWC after GWC swing
2 11:20 1st-and-10 LA 44 (11:20) (No Huddle) 16-J.Goff pass short right intended for 83-J.Reynolds INTERCEPTED by 29-A.Maddox at PHI 42. 29-A.Maddox to PHI 42 for no gain (83-J.Reynolds). 73.5% 61.5% -12.0%
2 9:38 4th-and-1 LA 49 (9:38) (Shotgun) 33-J.Adams up the middle to LA 49 for no gain (58-C.Littleton; 43-J.Johnson). 60.1% 73.9% +13.8%
2 2:09 3rd-and-5 PHI 40 (2:09) (Shotgun) 9-N.Foles pass deep right to 17-A.Jeffery to LA 24 for 36 yards (43-J.Johnson). 72.4% 60.7% -11.7%
3 2:21 3rd-and-1 LA 34 (2:21) 16-J.Goff to LA 29 for -5 yards. FUMBLES, and recovers at LA 29. 16-J.Goff pass INTERCEPTED by 24-C.Graham at LA 28. 24-C.Graham to LA 12 for 16 yards (17-R.Woods). [54-K.Grugier-Hill]. 21.1% 7.7% -13.4%
4 3:03 4th-and-12 PHI 15 (3:03) 1-C.Johnston punts 52 yards to LA 33, Center-45-R.Lovato. 19-J.Natson to LA 36 for 3 yards. FUMBLES, RECOVERED by PHI-57-D.Alexander at LA 36. 57-D.Alexander to LA 36 for no gain (19-J.Natson). 17.3% 0.6% -16.7%
4 0:04 2nd-and-10 PHI 18 (:04) (Shotgun) 16-J.Goff pass incomplete deep right to 83-J.Reynolds. 12.9% 0.0% -12.9%

No surprise in the plays it picks, either. Death by a thousand small GWC cuts in the third quarter until the massive Goff sack/pick that set the Eagles up with a chance to go up three scores. Then, JoJo Natson's adventures in punt returns gave the Rams a much smaller chance to finish their comeback.

By the DVOA

DVOA OFF DEF ST TOT
PHI 3.1% -18.5% 10.3% 31.8%
LAR 0.8% 9.9% -0.7% -9.9%
VOA OFF DEF ST TOT
PHI 5.1% -3.6% 10.3% 19.0%
LAR 0.9% 6.4% -0.7% -6.2%

It's about what you were expecting, yeah? The Eagles get a big defensive boost because of Los Angeles' season-long ratings. The Rams barely budged at all between VOA and DVOA.

How has Philadelphia's Offense Changed Post-Golden Tate?

We've looked at Philadelphia in this column a few times as the team getting upset -- that's not really all that surprising given they were the defending Super Bowl Champions, got their star quarterback healthy, and disappointed as an offense while suffering through a glut of defensive back injuries and seeing their DVOA fall on every level of both offense and defense.

But it's been a bit, and I was curious how things changed for the Eagles since giving up a third-round pick for Golden Tate to try to save their season. Tate has 36 targets in six games:

Eagles Receivers, Pre- and Post-Tate Trade
Weeks 1-8
Weeks 9-15
Player DYAR DVOA Attempts Player DYAR DVOA Attempts
17-A.Jeffery 94 14.3% 46 17-A.Jeffery 94 16.7% 40
86-Z.Ertz 49 1.5% 86 86-Z.Ertz 93 19.0% 51
88-D.Goedert 47 25.8% 22 13-N.Agholor -22 -24.8% 23
28-W.Smallwood 18 0.9% 22 19-G.Tate -58 -34.2% 36
13-N.Agholor -104 -34.9% 61
(Minimum 20 targets)

So the interesting thing is that Tate has a 69 percent catch rate. Normally when a player has a DVOA that low, it's because he's not catching anything at all. But the weirdest part of that is the how the average depth of target has changed for Nelson Agholor when Tate joined. Agholor's ADOT has been 15.9 yards since Week 9, while Tate's has been 7.3. Agholor's ADOT in Weeks 1 to 8 was ... 7.8.

The real problem here has been Philadelphia's offensive play design on screens. Only 13 of 32 balls to Tate and Agholor that were thrown behind the line of scrimmage were successful. In fact, they largely abandoned those screens over the last two weeks. Tate and Agholor were targeted on only two balls behind the line of scrimmage in Weeks 14 and 15. Here's the one from Week 15:

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So you run Jason Kelce from center to try to cut-block someone, but the screen was so obvious to Rams players that Nickell Robey-Coleman nearly ends the play before it even gets out of the backfield. It's only Tate's ability to slither out of the tackle that made the pass successful. Lamarcus Joyner is able to skip around Kelce, but that's an awful lot of unblocked blue on this side of the line.

When you're looking at reasons why this passing game hasn't been quite as good this year despite the parts being there, I think you have to look at little harder at specific plays like this. Teams are getting better at defending screens. What the Eagles have been doing isn't working all that well. What can you do to design a play that doesn't involve slipping a tackle to be worth doing? Is it all blocking, or is the ask of the players impossible?

This is not the only reason the Eagles performed better on offense the last couple of weeks, but I think the lack of screens is an excellent sign that they're starting to figure out that this should not be a staple as an extension of the running game.

Comments

3 comments, Last at 19 Dec 2018, 10:45am

2 Re: Any Given Sunday: Eagles over Rams

Last year, it was revealed that the Rams line up early, so that McVay can read the defense and tell Goff what his read would be.

Lately (and I don't know why it didn't happen sooner), defenses appear to be milling around and not lining up until the play clock reaches :15 and the coach-to-QB headset is turned off, forcing Goff to diagnose the defense.

I don't think he's particularly adept at that yet, and the results have been predictable.