DVOA Analysis

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1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

by Aaron Schatz

With Brett Favre retiring this week, it seems like the right time to go back to the year he won his first MVP award -- a year that was added to the Football Outsiders play-by-play database only in recent weeks. Welcome to the wonderful world of 1995.

One of the fun games we can play with these old years of play-by-play is "What if Football Outsiders had existed back then?" The Giants' historic upset of the Patriots in this year's Super Bowl has forced us to constantly explain the difference between probability and certainty, but that's nothing compared to the kind of knots we would have tied ourselves into during 1995. This was right in the middle of the great Cowboys-49ers rivalry of the 90's, so it is no surprise that the Cowboys and 49ers were the top two teams in DVOA. The surprise is which team ranked first.

The dominant team of the 1995 season, according to DVOA, was defending champion San Francisco. The 49ers finished the season with a DVOA rating of 41.0%, which is the third-highest regular-season DVOA ever recorded, just ahead of the 1996 Packers but behind the 2007 Patriots and 1999 Rams. The 49ers were more than 10% DVOA higher than second-place Dallas, yet they only finished 11-5. The only other team to finish worse than 12-4 despite a DVOA rating over 30% was the 2002 Oakland Raiders (11-5, 30.9%). Six of their wins came by at least three touchdowns, and that doesn't count their 38-20 ass-whupping of the Cowboys at Texas Stadium in Week 11. Their five losses, meanwhile, came by 1, 1, 3, 4, and 6 points.

Had Football Outsiders existed back in 1995, we probably would have written numerous articles come playoff time, talking about how the 49ers might be the best 11-5 team of all time, with a great shot to upset the Cowboys and return to the Super Bowl. It seemed pretty clear we would at least get a 49ers-Cowboys rematch in the NFC Championship game, since only three teams had a DVOA over 20%, and the third one was AFC top seed Kansas City.

In the Divisional round, the 49ers faced the Packers, the team they had beaten out by tiebreaker to earn a first-round bye. Green Bay's young MVP quarterback had led his team to an 11-5 record in one of the hardest divisions in NFL history -- spots six through nine in the DVOA ratings were taken up by NFC Central teams, and even Tampa Bay managed to win seven games -- but DVOA said the 49ers were the far superior team. So, of course, the Packers came into San Francisco and won the game 27-17.

This wasn't even the biggest upset of the weekend. According to DVOA, seven of the top nine teams in the NFL that year were NFC teams. Kansas City and Pittsburgh were more dominant in the AFC than San Francisco and Dallas were in the NFC. The day after Green Bay beat San Francisco, the Chiefs hosted wild card Indianapolis. The Colts finished 24th in DVOA but managed to finish 9-7 thanks to the second-easiest schedule in football and five wins by a field goal or less. They somehow upset defending AFC champion San Diego in the first round of the playoffs, even though Marshall Faulk was injured on the first play from scrimmage. The Colts had a bad defense, terrible special teams, and their best player was done for the season. Kansas City ranked first in special teams and second in defense, with an above-average offense. A simple pick, right? Wrong. Chiefs kicker Lin Elliott missed three field goals and Indianapolis upset Kansas City 10-7, the game that more than any other may have cemented Marty Schottenheimer's reputation for postseason failure.

In the conference championship games, statistical dominance re-asserted itself, and the Super Bowl ended up pitting the NFC's second-best team according to DVOA against the AFC's second-best team according to DVOA.

Here are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings for 1995, measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league averaged based on situation and opponent in order to determine value over average.  (Explained further here.)

DVOA represents adjusted statistics.  OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted for opponent quality and to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value.  SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season.  NON-ADJ TOTAL VOA does not include these adjustments.  DVOA is a better indicator of team quality.  VOA is a better indicator of actual wins.  WEIGHTED DVOA gives a stronger consideration to games late in the season.  Remember that, as always, defense is better when it is NEGATIVE.


TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
WEI.
DVOA
RANK W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 SF 41.0% 36.5% 38.4% 1 11-5 18.3% 4 -24.7% 1 -2.0% 23
2 DAL 30.7% 27.7% 27.1% 3 12-4 28.6% 1 1.4% 13 3.6% 5
3 KC 27.2% 29.0% 34.8% 2 13-3 2.7% 12 -17.7% 2 6.9% 1
4 PIT 18.1% 19.9% 21.3% 5 11-5 1.2% 15 -13.2% 4 3.6% 4
5 ATL 16.9% 18.6% 23.7% 4 9-7 19.2% 3 6.7% 19 4.5% 3
6 MIN 15.8% 10.6% 13.2% 8 8-8 5.2% 10 -11.0% 6 -0.4% 16
7 DET 15.7% 14.4% 19.0% 6 10-6 20.8% 2 1.9% 14 -3.2% 27
8 GB 10.5% 8.5% 14.5% 7 11-5 17.5% 6 6.1% 18 -0.8% 18
9 CHI 6.4% 5.3% 4.3% 12 9-7 17.7% 5 7.8% 23 -3.4% 28
10 DEN 6.2% 7.6% 6.9% 9 8-8 17.0% 7 13.3% 28 2.5% 8
11 OAK 5.9% 7.7% -6.6% 18 8-8 -2.3% 17 -8.2% 9 0.0% 13
12 SD 2.2% 0.5% 2.8% 13 9-7 3.9% 11 2.4% 15 0.7% 11
13 NO 1.5% -2.2% 5.3% 10 7-9 9.2% 8 7.0% 20 -0.8% 19
14 MIA -0.8% 2.3% -7.6% 21 9-7 6.3% 9 7.7% 22 0.6% 12
15 BUF -1.8% -0.4% -4.2% 15 10-6 -6.3% 21 -5.1% 10 -0.6% 17
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
WEI.
DVOA
RANK W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
16 HOU -2.9% 0.7% 5.2% 11 7-9 -10.7% 25 -8.8% 7 -1.0% 20
17 PHI -5.8% -2.2% -1.1% 14 10-6 -12.6% 26 -13.4% 3 -6.7% 30
18 WAS -7.5% -6.8% -6.8% 20 6-10 -3.3% 18 7.6% 21 3.5% 6
19 NYG -7.8% -13.5% -6.1% 17 5-11 -6.0% 20 2.7% 16 0.9% 10
20 STL -8.0% -10.5% -17.3% 25 7-9 -8.0% 24 -3.1% 11 -3.1% 26
21 CLE -9.1% -8.9% -18.8% 27 5-11 -3.6% 19 10.5% 25 4.9% 2
22 CAR -9.7% -12.3% -5.0% 16 7-9 -23.8% 29 -11.5% 5 2.6% 7
23 CIN -10.5% -9.2% -14.5% 23 7-9 2.0% 13 14.5% 29 1.9% 9
24 IND -10.9% -6.1% -6.6% 19 9-7 2.0% 14 9.1% 24 -3.7% 29
25 SEA -12.1% -8.8% -8.8% 22 8-8 -0.4% 16 10.6% 26 -1.2% 21
26 TB -17.4% -18.2% -18.3% 26 7-9 -12.6% 27 4.6% 17 -0.2% 15
27 NE -19.5% -21.2% -16.5% 24 6-10 -8.0% 23 11.5% 27 -0.1% 14
28 NYJ -23.1% -16.1% -22.5% 30 3-13 -30.0% 30 -8.7% 8 -1.8% 22
29 ARI -23.1% -26.6% -19.9% 29 4-12 -22.1% 28 -2.0% 12 -3.0% 25
30 JAC -24.3% -22.8% -19.3% 28 4-12 -6.7% 22 14.9% 30 -2.7% 24

As noted earlier, the 1995 NFC Central was one of the strongest divisions in NFL history. On the other hand, the AFC East somehow sent three teams to the playoffs despite being the worst division in football. Every single team in the AFC East finished the season with a DVOA rating below 0%. Buffalo, Miami, and Indianapolis got fat with close wins over expansion Jacksonville  and the mediocre teams of the NFC West. The Jets somehow finished 3-13 despite having the easiest schedule in the NFL according to average DVOA of all 16 opponents. They played only three teams with DVOA ratings above 0% and only one (Atlanta) with a DVOA rating above 6%. The only team in the division with an above-average schedule was New England, which had to go on the road to play (and lose to) four of the top five teams in DVOA. (The only team they didn't play was Dallas.)

Speaking of New England, or at least of head coaches (and quarterbacks) who would eventually end up there...


1995 Cleveland Browns
Before and After Move to Baltimore Announced on November 6
Weeks W-L TOT Rk OFF Rk DEF Rk ST Rk
Weeks 1-10 4-5 -0.3% 14 1.3% 13 8.2% 23 6.6% 2
Weeks 11-17 1-6 -20.5% 26 -10.6% 23 13.5% 24 3.5% 10

On the other hand, these guys had already changed cities, so what's their excuse?


1995 St. Louis Rams Collapse-o-mundo
Weeks W-L TOT Rk OFF Rk DEF Rk ST Rk
Weeks 1-7 5-1 17.5% 5 2.6% 15 -17.9% 5 -2.9% 23
Weeks 8-17 2-8 -22.5% 27 -13.7% 26 5.4% 19 -3.5% 25

From what we can tell, the only reason for this flop is that the Rams' 44-10 loss to San Francisco at home in Week 8 sunk them into a deep psychological depression. What, the Rams front office couldn't afford a sports psychologist? If anyone has another explanation, we would love to hear it.

It was a shock when both Jacksonville and Carolina made it to the 1996 conference championships in just their second year of existence, but it was clear in 1995 that both teams were strongly trending upwards at the end of the season. Carolina is easily the best of the four expansion teams measured by DVOA, making it all the way up to 16th in WEIGHTED DVOA. The 1996 Panthers also took advantage of the third-down rebound trend, although nowhere near as much as another team that made a big leap forward in 1996:


  1st Down Rk 2nd Down Rk 3rd Down Rk 1995 Rk 1996 Rk
1995 Carolina Panthers defense -16.0% 4 -14.3% 7 0.3% 10 -11.5% 5 -15.6% 6
1995 Denver Broncos defense 10.5% 29 5.0% 19 30.9% 28 13.3% 28 -19.9% 2

Some of that 1996 Broncos improvement is third-down defense moving in line with overall defense, but that only explains how they went from bad to average, not how they went from average to excellent.

When we move onto individual stats, what stands out from 1995 are the wide receivers having career years. Four of the top 11 single-season performances in receiving yards came in 1995, including the top two: Jerry Rice with 1,848 yards and Isaac Bruce with 1,781 yards. Rice was second in DPAR and Bruce was third. The wide receiver who led the league in DPAR -- and now holds the all-time record for wide receiver DPAR in a single season -- was Michael Irvin. The difference between Irvin and Rice is small, and it primarily comes down to fumbles (Irvin had one, Rice three) and schedule strength.


Top Single-Season WR DPAR, 1995-2007

Player Team Year Catches Yards TD Catch % DPAR
Michael Irvin DAL 1995 111 1,603 10 67% 52.2
Torry Holt STL 2003 117 1,694 12 64% 51.8
Marvin Harrison IND 2001 109 1,524 17 66% 51.4
Randy Moss NE 2007 98 1,482 23 61% 51.3
Isaac Bruce STL 2000 87 1,471 11 64% 49.7
Randy Moss MIN 2003 112 1,632 17 65% 49.5
Marvin Harrison IND 2002 143 1,722 11 70% 48.4
Jerry Rice SF 1995 122 1,848 15 70% 47.9
Randy Moss MIN 2000 77 1,437 15 60% 47.8
Jimmy Smith JAC 1999 116 1,636 6 66% 47.1
Isaac Bruce STL 1995 119 1,781 13 60% 46.8
Steve Smith CAR 2005 103 1,563 12 69% 46.7

Irvin's record comes with a bit of an asterisk, from a Football Outsiders point of view: I'm in the middle of a big overhaul of the baselines and presentation for individual stats, so the best seasons now may not be the best seasons a few months from now. There's bound to be some shuffling atop the leaderboards. (Also, I've done some fixes on 2003, so those numbers are different from the ones on the 2003 stats page currently posted on the website.)

The fourth receiver whose 1995 season stands among the all-time best in receiving yardage was Herman Moore of Detroit, who finishes fourth with 39.1 DPAR. Moore was the target on 206 passes, the second-highest total in our records behind Rob Moore with the 1997 Cardinals (209).

A lot of people have talked in recent days about how Brett Favre never played with a top-flight receiver, but that doesn't mean he didn't have weapons. The top tight end in 1995 was Mark Chmura (27.8 DPAR) while Edgar Bennett (19.5 DPAR) and Dorsey Levens (17.8 DPAR) finished fifth and sixth among running backs in receiving value. This also may be the year Favre had his best wide receiver: Robert Brooks, who was sixth among wideouts with 32.9 DPAR.

Favre led all quarterbacks in passing DPAR during his MVP season, but just barely. Can you guess who was number two? Hint: He's considered one of the greatest free agent busts in NFL history.

That's right, the answer is Scott Mitchell. Mitchell was horrible in 1994, his first year in Detroit, and he was mediocre in 1996 and 1997. However, for one season, the huge contract was actually worth it, as Mitchell threw for over 4,300 yards and 32 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions. After Favre, Mitchell, and Troy Aikman, in fourth place, is another longtime backup quarterback who had one spectacular year as a starter: Erik Kramer of Chicago. Jeff George finishes fifth, and Jim Everett finishes sixth. Except for Aikman, the guys ranked second through sixth sure don't look as impressive historically as the guys ranked seventh through tenth: John Elway, Steve Young, Warren Moon, and Dan Marino.

Other notes on individual stats:

  • 1995 was Kordell Stewart's rookie year and he was far, far better as "Slash" in 1995 than he was in 1996. Maybe the novelty just wore off.

    Year Passes
    as QB
    DVOA Passes
    as WR
    DVOA Runs DVOA
    1995 8 74.3% 20 28.0% 15 2.9%
    1996 21 -100.7% 42 -25.1% 38 -4.1%

  • One individual stats leader who won't drop out of first place, no matter how many changes I make in this off-season's overhaul of individual stats: Emmitt Smith. Emmitt destroyed the rest of the league's running backs in 1995. He gained 1,760 yards (260 more than anyone else) and set a new single-season record with 25 rushing touchdowns. Emmitt finished first in DPAR (52.4), almost 20 points ahead of second-place Barry Sanders (33.3 DPAR). He was second in DVOA (18.4%) and fourth in Success Rate (53%). The only player with at least 75 runs and a higher DVOA was Charlie Garner ofthe Eagles, who had only 108 carries.
  • Rookie sixth-round pick Terrell Davis finished seventh with 25.5 rushing DPAR and sixth with 10.1% DVOA.
  • Last place in Success Rate for running backs with at least 75 carries: Jerome Bettis of the St. Louis Rams at 39%. Bettis finished the year with 183 carries for 637 yards and -6.1 DPAR, which was 43rd out of 45 running backs with at least 75 carries. Right behind Bettis was...
  • Larry Centers. Centers had 31.5 receiving DPAR, the highest single-season receiving DPAR for a running back not named "Marshall Faulk." However, Centers was worth -8.1 DPAR rushing, which put him second-to-last among running backs with at least 75 carries. In last place was...
  • Garrison Hearst, his teammate, who ended the year with -23.1 rushing DPAR, the third-lowest total ever (behind Eddie George and Lamar Smith, both in 2001). He had 282 carries for 1,067 yards (3.8 yards per carry) while scoring just one touchdown and fumbling a mind-numbing ten times against one of the league's easiest schedules. Man, that 1995 Cardinals offensive line must have been horrendous.
  • When you go through the play-by-play like this, you see some names connected to teams that just make no sense. The big winner for 1995 is Art Monk with the Philadelphia Eagles (12 passes, six catches for 114 yards, 1.6 DPAR and 2.1% DVOA).
  • Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 1995 line for Tommy Maddox with the New York Giants: 23 passes, six completions, 42 net yards, four turnovers, -13.6 DPAR, -174.0% DVOA.

As most of you know, adding 1995 to our play-by-play data was a very difficult process. 1995 was the last year before the NFL placed play-by-play on the Internet, so we had to collect all the gamebooks and enter them into the computer by hand. Luckily, a number of teams were helpful in providing gamebooks, and FO reader Alex Rubin collected the rest on a trip to the research library at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

We have to thank all the readers who participated in the 1995 transcription project by doing at least three games. The biggest contributors were Sergio Becerril Lopez and Jason Strutz (who actually found an OCR program that could handle the clearest of the gamebooks) but we also have to thank Jeremy Billones, Stan Buck, Moishe Dachs, Wesley Darin, Stephen Fontanella, Tom Gower, Christian Herro, Brian Knowles, Mike Kurtz, Joe Putnam, Mike Silverstein, Mark Van Driel, and Darren Zanon.

Next step: 1994. I've already begun e-mailing teams to collect the gamebooks.

Comments

132 comments, Last at 27 Mar 2008, 12:58pm

2 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

The most impressive thing about this is that you ranked the 1995 Giants higher than this years team. I can't believe how biased you are.

For the humor impaired, thats a joke.

3 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Aaron,
Thanks for getting this up, and well sooner than expected. Plus, I don't even have to ask for the Barry Sanders/Terrell Davis comp, since you already included it.

Let me say also I'm very surprised Jerry Rice doesn't have the most DPAR of the DVOA era, or even the most DPAR that year, especially with the very good completion percentage.

4 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I simply cannot fathom that Giants team being #19. The end of the Reeves era was extremely painful. Now (re: Maddox) you know why NY fans have fond memories of Kerry Collins.

6 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

49er fan here - I remember 1995 much more clearly than most of the seasons since then (you can understand why). Some thoughts:

- the 38-20 victory at Dallas is one the great 49er regular season victories ever. Steve Young was hurt, so Elvis Grbac started (even he was questionable going in to the game)and had the game of his life. Dallas was favored; nobody outside SF thought the 9ers had a chance, but they absolutely crushed the Cowboys in what was at that time the most-watched regular season NFL game ever (I seem to recall). So sweet!

- I attended the game where Jerry Rice became the all-time receiving yardage leader (a loss to the lowly Saints, a week or two before the Dallas game). This is remarkable, and should be carefully considered by FO readers: In 1995, Jerry Rice not only set the career receiving yards record, but he also set the the single-season receiving yardage record (I believe). Unbelievable - can you imagine, for example, a running back breaking both the single season and career records for rushing yards in the same season, or a QB breaking the career and single season records for passing yards or TDs in the same year? To be the all-time greatest and still be in your prime? I still don't think that people fully grasp the greatness of Jerry Rice.

- By the way, on a more humbling note, the 9rs also were the only defending SB champs to lose to an expansion team, the Carolina Panthers, at Candlestick!

- Finally, I remember not being that shocked by the upset playoff loss the Packers. There was a sense that Mike Holmgren, coming back home to SF to compete against the team where he had recently been offensive coordinator, would have the perfect game plan - and he did. The Pack went up 21-0 early, made it look easy, and didn't look back. It was the beginning of Favre's domination of SF, which has finally, mercifully come to an end!

7 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Per the DVOA rankings above, the '95 Bears had the #5 Offense, #23 Defense and #28 Special Teams. In other words, a top notch offense, undermined by weak defense and special teams.

A Bizzaro version the '07 Bears if ever I saw one.

9 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Boy Marvin harrison is good..

more catches, better catch percentage, for more yards, & more touchdowns, but yet lower dvoa than irvin...?

10 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

#2.

I know, I can't belive there's no comment about how horrible Eli looked as QB of his youth team that year.

11 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Let's just say that DPAR is not always intuitive. Compare the 1995 numbers for Rice and Irvin. Rice was better than Irvin in every single category you list, and yet Irvin is the one with a higher DPAR.

Who would most fans say had the better season?

12 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

yeah I remember the NFC Central being brutal. That year Warren Moon had maybe his best year as a Viking, Cris Carter caught 122 passes (for the second year in a row) and they didn't even show up in the top performances of the year here...

14 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

"In the conference championship games, statistical dominance re-asserted itself"

Barely in the AFC's case. The game came down to what was possibly the most exciting hail mary pass of the 90's.

15 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re: Comment 7. If you think that's strange, check out the 1996 Baltimore Ravens (click link on my name).

Re: Rice/Irvin. I would not be surprised to see Rice move ahead of Irvin after I finish the overhaul of individual stats.

16 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Have to ask ... was there a reason for the spike in receiving seasons this year? Something akin to the "illegal contact" point of emphasis?

I honestly have no idea. I was 14 at this time and obviously had no idea of the intracacies of the game.

17 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

It's not immediately obvious looking at http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/clt/1995.htm why Indianapolis should have been 24th in DVOA. Their wins were close, but so were their losses; by 3 to Cincy, New Orleans, Carolina and San Diego, and by 6 to Buffalo twice. The seventh loss was to Oakland, by 13; by contrast they won 3 games by 10 or more.

Is there anything else going on in their data (i.e. fumble recoveries) that depresses their rating, or is it just the easy schedule?

18 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

#16: I have always held to the theory -- and I have done no data or research to back this up -- that it was due to expansion. Every team's secondary was suddenly watered down, and the elite receivers feasted. By 1996 it looks like defenses adjusted somehow.

19 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re #17
Easy schedule looks like part of it-#24 in DVOA, #18 in VOA. Also, note the Colts were outgained on the year. They also appear to have benefited from very poor FG kicking by their opponents-the NFL as a whole hit 77.4% of FGAs, and Colts opponents only hit 65.8% despite playing half the games in a dome. When you win 5 games by 1-3 points, an extra 5 missed FGs matters.

21 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Very cool!

1995 was Kordell Stewart’s rookie year and he was far, far better as "Slash" in 1995 than he was in 1996. Maybe the novelty just wore off.

Or maybe it was just the sample size getting larger!

22 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

BrYan Knowles here. I did most of the transcribing of that '95 Niners team.

I can only imagine the DVOA if Young had stayed healthy the entire time. Grbac played well, yes, but even when typing in the play-by-plays, I got the feeling of eminent disaster--it was when Young was in that the offense really rolled.

Oh, and will the individual stats go up once the tinkering has been..uh...tinkered?

23 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

(who actually found an OCR program that could handle the clearest of the gamebooks)

FO could take a page from science publications and spend a bit more time talking about research methodology and potential errors. Obviously, manual data entry creates millions of opportunities for input errors. And I've worked with OCR in the consumer finance context (where getting the data right is critical), and found all OCR programs quite severely lacking.

Anyway, I'd be curious to read a short discussion from FO sometime about how you manage these issues.

Great job.

24 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re:#6

As a Steelers fan, I have to agree that the 1995 season was very memorable.

The season began with Barry Sanders juking Rod Woodson's ACL into pieces. A few weeks later, in the midst of a beatdown by the Vikings, an enraged Bill Cowher jammed a Polaroid picture into the pocket of the referee after the Steelers had gotten flagged for too many men on the field during a field goal attempt.

Shortly after that, the Steelers were stunned in successive games by the expansion Jaguars and the Bengals, the latter game being a blowout. At that point, the Steelers were 3-4, and the playoffs seemed rather distant.

They managed to get revenge on Jacksonville, and then survived a wild, overtime shootout with the Bears. After getting back over .500, they headed into Cincinnati at 6-4. Having already gotten stomped once by the Bengals, it didn't look good when they trailed 31-13 early in the second half, but they wound up ripping off 36 unanswered points to win 49-31.

They kept right on winning after that, including a Saturday game with the Patriots in the second to last game of the year. They lead that game comfortable at 24-12, until the fourth quarter, when the Patriots came storming back to tie the game at 27-27. The Steelers rallied, however, and pulled out a 41-27 victory.

They came into the last game of the year in a tricky spot. One, they were at Lambeau Field in December against a good Packers team - certainly a difficult situation. Second, with a win and a Kansas City loss, I believe they could have captured the number one seed, but both games were late games, so they wouldn't know ahead of time. Thirdly, the good Packers team at home was playing for the Central Division title(a Green Bay loss and a Detroit Lions win would have given Detroit the division, while a Detroit loss would have rendered the game meaningless for Green Bay). Detroit played an early game and stomped Tampa Bay. That meant that Green Bay had to win to win the division.

The Packers led closely, 14-10 at the half. After 3 quarters, it was 21-13. Trailing 24-13 in the fourth quarter, the Steelers scored but missed a 2 point conversion that would have made it a 3 point game. In the waning seconds of the game, trailing 24-19, the Steelers drove deep into Packers territory. But on a 4th down play, Yancy Thigpen dropped a touchdown that would have almost certainly won the game. Packers win. Ultimately, it didn't matter, as Kansas City had won their game to clinch the 1 seed. But it was frustrating to watch the Steelers come up short. As well, it stopped their winning streak at 8 games.

Then, of course, there was the playoffs. In the divisionals, the Steelers raced out to a big lead over Buffalo, and then hung on for the victory.

And then the AFC championship game. After the heartbreak of the previous year, few can imagine the thoughts racing through the heads of Steelers' fans as this game progressed. Through three quarters, the Steelers clung to a tiny lead. And then, just like the year before, the lead vanished on a long touchdown pass to some no-name receiver. In 1994, it was Alfred Pupunu and Tony Martin. In this game, it was Floyd Turner.

It was deja vu all over again.

The Steelers did nothing with the ball and the Colts got it back. Facing a third and one, Willie Williams basically saved the season for the Steelers, completing blowing up a running play to force the Colts to punt. With new life, the Steelers drove down for the go-ahead score.

Naturally, the Colts drove the ball into Steelers territory to set up that Hail Mary, a play in which every Steelers' fan's heart stopped. After the punch to the gut of 1994, the blown lead in this game, the rally to retake the lead, that will be one play that will never be forgotten among Steelers' fans.

And then finally, the Super Bowl. The let down of quickly falling behind to Dallas. The faint hope as they crept back into the game at 13-7. And then the first interception(and ensuing TD).

But then they cut the deficit to 20-10.

And then the onside kick. For everyone who called Bill Cowher conservative, I'll just point this play and say nothing.

And then another touchdown, making it 20-17. The Steelers had momentum! They forced Dallas to punt! They had the ball back down only by a field goal. They were going to win this game!

And then came the second interception(and ensuing touchdown).

And that was that.

25 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re #23
1996-2007 data was all electronically available without any need for scanning. 1995 is the first year that's been an issue.

I know for the dozen or so games I did I was hyper-vigilant about checking for errors. That said, I'm sure I made some. One thing is that any anomalous results would probably stand out when the game was parsed-I'd imagine it wouldn't be hard to automatically compare the number of yards a play was supposed to be from the PBP description and the delta-yards total.

26 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re: 7

What's even weirder is the composition of that 5th ranked offense. The rushing offense was slightly below average (DVOA of -3.8%, ranked 16th) but the passing DVOA was 2nd and 39.0%! To put that in perspective, the 01 Rams managed a passing DVOA of 33.4% with Warner, Faulk, Bruce, Holt, et al. The Bears beat that with Erik Kramer, Rashaan Salaam, Jeff Graham, and Curtis Conway. The mind boggles.

27 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

And finally we begin the years where the 49ers dominate. Too bad I have to live in the past.

28 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

It didn't suprise me at all that the niners were rated as the best team by dvoa despite not winning the superbowl. In this period the niners, cowboys and packers were playing their own private version of rock, paper, scissors. The niners could slow down Emmitt Smith enough to beat the cowboys (largely due to a great DT combo of BY and Stubblefield); the cowboys wre a better all-round team than the Pack and the niners didn't have the corners to stop Favre (and blitzing him did bugger all). Steve Young's injury meant that the niners didn't do as well as they should have in the regular season and so had to play the pack, who they didn't match up well with. C'est la vie en le NFL.

Warning: The following spiel is not strictly relevant
I watched the 94 superbowl the other week in anticipation of arguments about the Pats being the greatest team ever (assuming they had gone unbeaten) and that niners' team was truly incredible. The offense was the best unit I've ever watched after the 89-90 niners and the defense had an amazing secondary (3 pro-bowlers and Eric Davis, who went all-pro the following year (I think)) and a great pair of DTs, so you couldn't throw and it was hard to run. Some of Shanahan's playcalling was pure genius. The niners would huddle up with their base offensive personnel and then line up with Rice and Taylor in the slot with Brent Jones and Ricky Watters outside. How on earth do you cover that? The TD pass from Young to Watters might just be the cleverest offensive play I've ever seen. From a pro set, Young fakes a pitch to Watters on the right, then fakes a handoff to Floyd on a dive inside then pulls up and fires deep over the middle to Watters. It shouldn't have been a TD, the tackling was terrible but it should be a very easy 15-20 yard pick-up. The linebacker in coverage on Watters has to initially play the pitch to Watters then, once he spots that that is a fake he needs to play the FB dive. This requires that he looks away from Watters and moves inside to stop Floyd. Finally he must recognise the playaction and try to find Watters (who is now more than 10 yards downfield). Even if the LB could keep up with Watters, he stands very little chance on this play. What actually happened is that the poor linebacker simply fell over.

29 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re: 26

Ha! Now I'm trying to remember more about that team. Weren't the TEs Chris Gannon and Ryan Wetnight? (What a name.) Was Tom Waddle still hanging around? Kozlowski?

Now I gotta go to Pro Football Reference.

30 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Cool.
.
I'm watching al the old Super Bowls now (I had never seen a game from before 1999).
It's fun to read about older seasons.

31 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re: 28

Ah, Gedney, not Gannon. Waddle and Koz were gone by then.

DT Jim Flanigan caught 2 TD passes! He was the goal line FB. He also had 11 sacks!

32 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

re 24

That's a great recap....i was too young to remember the regular season but i remember the playoff games (and the rod woodson play...he was my favorite player).....and even though the steelers lost, I love watching the NFL Films recap of Super Bowl XXX.

33 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re: #16 and #18

I seem to recall that there was a rules change or re-emphasis around '94 or '95 regarding the "5 yard chuck" rule. Wikipedia isn't backing me up on this, but I swear I remember something along those lines.

34 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

As a die-hard niner fan I actually thought the 95 version of the Niners was actually better than the 94 version but it just didn't turn out that way on in the win loss-column. Part of the issue was Young being injured at least in the regular season.

GB just seemed to have our number sometimes via fluke events. I really can't remember the ebb and flow of that game.

35 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re 23: As the guy who did the OCR-ing (it was actually my wife who pointed me to the program), I'm uniquely situated to address the typo issues.

The program I used was Adobe Acrobat version 7 (the full blown program, not the reader) for Windows XP. I experimented with some Linux based OCR, and never got any viable results, so scrapped that.

I only got usable data from the really clear transcripts. The font made a huge difference. The mimeograph ones always scanned as just an image, no matter how I set the OCR parameters. Aaron tried rescanning them with different settings on the hardware scanner, but nothing made a difference.

The process went like so.
First, scan the PDF using the OCR in Acrobat.
Select the text and copy it to a word processor.
Tab stop some of the data to make it more readable (down and distance, whether it was a first down), and to eliminate line breaks (make sure all plays were on a single line only).
Proofread once; this was easy to do with spell check, I'd find an error, correct it, and in the case of names, tell the word processor to ignore identical spellings.
Copy the results into a spreadsheet.
Make sure tab stops converted to correct columns.
Proofread again, with special emphasis on down / distance.
Compare the spreadsheet with the original PDF line by line to make sure no plays got omitted.

Proofing actually wasn't that difficult, because the OCR would typically make mistakes that were easy to spot, substituting numbers for letters and vice versa. It really liked to turn "m" into just about anything else, though.

Overall, the process took about an hour for each game. I imagine Aaron used additional tests to avoid typos. One pretty easy test, once the spreadsheet was all set up, would be to check if the current down / distance accurately reflects the previous down / distance plus the yardage from the previous play. Since yards and names are the only really important factors (and TDs and turnovers are hard to miss in the PBP), you could combine that check with a quick look at how many plays each individual player made (examining the ones with very few plays, which might be typos) to get a pretty good confidence level in the data.

36 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re: #23

I checked all my stats--I kept a running total of yards and things of that nature, and if the final total differed from the official play-by-play, I went back and fixed it.

I'm sure in the 30-odd games that I did, I made a mistake or two, but every effort was made to ensure accuracy.

37 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

It was the performance of the Bears offense in 1995 that got Turner his job back three years ago. Personally I think it was down to the Bears (for once) having bothered to aquire a quality supporting cast for their quarterback. Graham and Conway may not have been perfect, but they were the best WRs the Bears have had in years (maybe ever, my personal Bear memory can't think of a better pair, and boy is that depressing). When they both left in free agency I was gutted, and then we gave a big contract to Michael Timpson, who was utter rubbish.

Wetnight may have had a stupid name but he was one of the first tweener TE/WRs he only came on for passing downs when he was too big for a safety and too quick for a linebacker. Just thinking about it makes my head swim, a Bears offense that was ahead of its time!!!

Wannstedt should tarred and feathered for the things he did to the Bears roster.

38 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Having read the comments made by some of the people who have been beavering away putting this data together, I have to say I am amazed and grateful that they made the effort.

Cheers.

39 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re #21:

1995 was Kordell Stewart’s rookie year and he was far, far better as “Slash” in 1995 than he was in 1996. Maybe the novelty just wore off.

Or maybe it was just the sample size getting larger!

Or maybe it's the difference between Mike Tomczak and Neil O'Donnell.

40 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re # 33:
I don't remember the '95 9ers being better than the '94 SB champs. They lost both Rickey Watters (to Philly) and Deion Sanders (to Dallas), and the drop-off in their running game and pass coverage was felt throughout the season, never more so than in the playoff loss to GB.

41 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

32 - I remember something similar. One thing that did have an effect was the moving of kickoffs prior to 1994. That was expected to increase scoring, but I don't know why it would have increased passing offense specifically.

Those of us that played fantasy in 1992 and 1993 remember some of those low scoring games however. Favre was 5th in the league in '93 with 19 passing TDs.

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Re: 33

Coming into the game I just remember being really over confident that Green Bay was still a few years away, and still not in the niner/cowboy class. Then the niners fumble in one of their first possessions which a green bay defensive back picks up and runs back. I knew then we were in trouble. I dont remember my remote control working right after that game.

I think the loss or Rickey Watters killed the niners that year. That year reminded me of the bad old days where Harry Sydney was our leading rusher. At least we were an elite team then (sigh).

45 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Bizarro version of the '07 Bears? More like Bizarro planet version of the Bears franchise for most of the years I can remember. I think the roaring Bear logo in 1995 even had a goatee.

46 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

#16/18

League-wide passing wasn't more successful in 1995, there were just more passes attempted for some reason.

In '95 there were 34.8 passing attempts per team per game. The next highest in the history of the NFL was '99 with 33.8.

The other league-wide passing numbers like adjusted yards per attempt, net adjusted yards per attempt, etc. are high, but pretty normal.

47 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

#9: Are you talking about Harrison's 2002 year? His yards/catch are seriously less than Irvin's from 1995, so I don't see the big deal there.

Let’s just say that DPAR is not always intuitive. Compare the 1995 numbers for Rice and Irvin. Rice was better than Irvin in every single category you list, and yet Irvin is the one with a higher DPAR.

Well, DPAR is opponent-adjusted and the normal stats aren't. Did Irvin face a tougher schedule than Rice?

48 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

add me to the list of thankful lurking / nonsense-posting folks.

Great job and thanks to all of you.

49 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

re: #28 -

I agree that the '94 Niners were the team that this year's Pats (before the spell wore off and they became human) reminded me most of. I made a nice little pile of money that year playing chicken with the bookmakers -- every week they would raise the spread on the Niners' game, every week I would lay the points, and every week I would collect, culminating in a 20-point spread (or 21 or 22, depending who you bet with) on the Super Bowl. Which, of course, they covered.

50 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

By the way, I'm always impressed at how well and how quickly this site recovers from thread trauma. That NFC East discussion would have left lesser sites in traction for months.