Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Oct 2006

Hit Me with Your Best Shot

I thought I would check in again on the NFL's newest official statistic, quarterback hits.

As I noted in this post a few weeks ago, the NFL has added a few things to the official play-by-play this season, and one of the new stats is quarterback hits. These are now counted by looking for the defender's name in brackets after a pass. For example:

2-15-BLT 20(15:00) 9-S.McNair pass short middle to 85-D.Mason to BLT 25 for 5 yards (59-D.Edwards) [56-S.Merriman].

...means that Edwards made the tackle on the complete pass, but Merriman knocked McNair to the ground after he threw it.

One of the things I noted the first time around was that certain official scorers seemed to be a little too free with giving out hits. There were many more in New England and Cleveland than anywhere else. The problem seems to have been fixed somewhat. In fact, it looks like those high hit totals were just two individual games. In Week 3, there were 30 hits recorded in the New England-Denver game, and 27 in the Cleveland-Baltimore game. No other game this year has had more than 16 recorded hits.

Unfortunately, the stat seems to still be a problem for some scorers, and is recorded somewhat haphazardly. Our game charters have found a number of hits not recorded in the PBP. Sometimes, there will be a roughing the passer call, and no hit registered! We've worked with somebody at NFL.com to fix that problem, which is nice.

Anyway, with those issues in mind, and knowing this is an imperfect stat, here are your leaders through Week 7. For hits, we're counting a play with a recorded hit on a pass attempt, plus any sack that is not listed as a sack out of bounds. This includes plays cancelled by penalties, because the quarterback still feels that hit, pass interference or no pass interference.

The individual defensive leaders:

Julius Peppers, CAR, 15
Leonard Little, STL, 14
Aaron Kampman, GB, 14
Jared Allen, KC, 12
Darwin Walker, PHI, 12
Rashean Mathis, IND, 12

Team defensive leaders, hits per game:

NE, 8.0
NO, 7.5
PHI, 7.3
CLE, 7.0
BAL, 7.0
GB, 6.7
CHI, 6.5
DEN, 6.3

Understand that because of those two weird games, the numbers for NE, DEN, CLE, and BAL are all a little inflated.

The defenses with the fewest hits per game:

OAK, 3.0
TEN, 3.2
NYJ, 3.4
PIT, 3.8
HOU, 4.3

Which one doesn't belong? Yes, one scorer who doesn't quite seem to get the hit thing is the one in Pittsburgh. Heinz Field has had only 4 hits recorded, the lowest of any stadium in the league. That includes zero hits in Pittsburgh's 45-7 win over Kansas City. There's no way that Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle made it through that whole game without being hit after a pass attempt, and in general Pittsburgh doesn't seem like the type of defense that should be at the bottom of this stat, so something strange is clearly afoot.

On the offensive side, the quarterbacks hit most often:

Charlie Frye, CLE, 51
Steve McNair, BAL, 44
J.P. Losman, BUF, 44
Jon Kitna, DET, 40
Carson Palmer, CIN, 36
Tom Brady, NE, 35
Andrew Walter, OAK, 35
Jake Delhomme, CAR, 34

If I remember correctly, our game charting last year had Delhomme as the quarterback hit least often, so this is certainly a switch.

That list of top offenses giving up QB hits is much different, because after the two teams involved in that weird CLE-BAL game, you get lots of offenses with two quarterbacks this year:

CLE, 8.5
BAL, 8.2
MIA, 7.6
OAK, 7.3
ARI, 6.7
TB, 6.5
BUF, 6.3
CIN, 6.0

And here are the offenses giving up the fewest hits per game:

IND, 2.7
KC, 3.2
NO, 3.3
NYG, 3.5
CHI, 3.7

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 27 Oct 2006