Quick Reads
The best and worst players of the week according to Football Outsiders stats.

Week 14 Quick Reads

Week 14 Quick Reads
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Bill Barnwell

If there's any critique people can throw at Tom Brady these days, it's that his Patriots are running up the score in blowouts. Over the past two weeks, dominant victories over the Jets and Bears have been marked by the presence of Brady in the lineup late in the game, picking up passing yards while opposing defenders are plotting their disappointed postgame tweets in their heads.

On the other hand, DVOA suggests that Brady hasn't been saving his success for garbage time. Even before the Bears game, he comfortably led the league in DVOA and DYAR, and he still does. For the fourth week out of five and third week in a row, Brady had the best performance of the week by any quarterback. And that was in a driving snowstorm.

DVOA accounts for the game situation passing yards arrive in, but Brady can still get an impressive DVOA by outperforming the way an average quarterback performs in garbage time. Is that what's happening? Does he get a disproportionate amount of his yardage in the latter stages of blowouts, relative to other quarterbacks? Let's take a look at the numbers.

First, let's define blowout. As a simple construct, let's consider "garbage time" to exclusively be situations in the second half. In the third quarter, quarterbacks playing with either an 18-point (three-score) lead or deficit will be considered to be producing in garbage time. In the fourth quarter, we'll cut the figure to 14 points. We took every quarterback's play-by-play performance and captured their attempts and yardage, both inside and outside of these situations, including defensive pass interference penalties.

(Note: This definition looked a lot more reasonable before the Texans-Ravens game on Monday night.)

The answer is somewhere between yes and no. 16.6 percent of Brady's attempts have come in those "garbage time" situations; that's above the league average for starters with 200 attempts or more, 12.4 percent, but there are seven quarterbacks who have a higher percentage of garbage time attempts than Brady. Leading them is Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton, who has seen 23.2 percent of his pass attempts take place in a blowout of some sort. On the flip side, just one of Tony Romo's 213 attempts (0.5 percent) came in such a situation, while Joe Flacco is at just 1.2 percent.

If we use passing yards instead of passing attempts, it's not much different. 17.7 percent of Brady's passing yardage came in these blowouts, as opposed to a league average of 12.2 percent for those qualifying quarterbacks. This places Brady seventh among quarterbacks.

In all fairness, most of the quarterbacks ahead of Brady on this list are guys playing on losing teams; the only two quarterbacks who play on a winning team and sit ahead of Brady on both charts are Eli Manning and Jason Campbell, and Campbell's had a tenuous grasp on his job. So the answer to the question really depends on what the standard is. If you're wondering whether Brady gets a disproportionate amount of blowout yardage relative to other quarterbacks, the answer is not significantly so. If the question is whether he gets more opportunities in blowouts relative to other quarterbacks in the MVP race, though? Considering Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, or Philip Rivers have a below-average percentage of their pass attempts coming in blowouts, the answer is actually yes.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Tom Brady NE
27/40
369
2
0
205
205
0
We might as well continue on with Brady; as mentioned above, this is his fourth week in five with the best game of the week by any quarterback. His most devastating play of the day just barely failed to qualify as garbage time yardage, as Brady hit Deion Branch for a 59-yard touchdown on the final play of the first half. Despite the snowy conditions, Brady converted eight of the 12 third downs he faced against one of the league's toughest pass defenses.
2.
Peyton Manning IND
25/35
319
2
0
202
202
0
Peyton could have finished even higher; only 13 of his 36 attempts came in the second half, with just four passes in the fourth quarter. Although Blair White was possessed by some urge to get a pass defensed in the end zone, Manning ended up having a pretty effective rapport with his wideouts. On throws to his wide receivers, Manning was 17-of-22 for 251 yards, with 10 first downs, two touchdowns, and a seven-yard DPI.
3.
Kerry Collins TEN
28/38
244
3
0
189
189
0
Collins is back just in time to reap the benefits of two great things. One is Kenny Britt, who forced Randy Moss onto the bench upon his return from injury. The other is the upcoming Titans schedule: They get Houston next week, giving Collins his chance to light up the dismal Texans secondary. While Collins wasn't able to pull out the win late, he was 11-of-13 for 86 yards with six first downs and a touchdown on second down, and he converted the only fourth down he faced. Unfortunately, that was a touchdown pass to Bo Scaife with four seconds left.
4.
Jason Campbell OAK
21/30
324
2
0
129
129
0
Campbell was 8-of-12 for 116 yards on first down, picking up six new sets of downs in the process. Considering that the Raiders were able to run the ball effectively (and are generally regarded around the league as a team with a successful running game), I wonder if there's something to the idea that teams with good running games pass the ball more effectively on first down than teams who don't possess an effective rushing attack. Analyzing the question isn't as simple as ranking teams by their first down passing DVOA; I need to go make a list of teams with similar passing performances on second and third down that had wildly divergent success rushing the ball, and then see if one group had a significantly better performance passing the ball on first down than the other did. And the Raiders ranked 28th in the league on first down passes before Sunday (as opposed to 29th on second down and 17th on third down), so if there's a poster boy for this concept, chances are they aren't it. And while Campbell had a good game, it ended with a 16-yard completion to Jacoby Ford in the middle of the field with no timeouts, a seven-point deficit, and 39 yards needed for a touchdown. Some two-minute drills end with a quarterback frantically rushing up to the line, desperately trying to clock the ball before running out of time. This one ended with a shot of Campbell seemingly realizing, "Hey, that's not going to help us at all" as the clock hit zero.
5.
Philip Rivers SD
18/24
226
2
1
107
110
-3
Doesn't Rivers know he's supposed to be trying to set a passing record? Since coming off of the bye in Week 10, Rivers has averaged just 231 yards per game, and at his current average of 297.5 passing yards per game, he'll finish more than 300 yards short of Dan Marino's record total of 5,084. Of course, that's really of little consequence; Rivers' yardage total is mostly down because he's not throwing as frequently. He averaged 36.6 attempts and 9.2 yards per attempt before the bye, and while his yards per attempt have dropped to a merely-fantastic 8.4, Rivers has had to throw just 27.5 times per game during the last four weeks. He picked up seven of the ten third downs he faced on Sunday, and while the MVP is probably Tom Brady's trophy to lose, Rivers deserves to finish in second, regardless of whether the Chargers end up making the playoffs or not.
6.
Donovan McNabb WAS
22/35
228
2
0
96
96
0
That the Redskins offense produced just 16 points has a lot more to do with Graham Gano's dismal day than the way McNabb played. While he was aided by a running game that was dominant during the first half, McNabb didn't throw an interception and took just two sacks over 37 dropbacks. He led touchdown drives late in the second and fourth quarter, and while it ended up getting lost in the wake of the botched extra point and fifth down controversy, the final drive was pretty impressive. The Redskins took over on their own 25-yard line with 3:39 left and McNabb did it the hard way, with four to five first downs along the way, two third-down conversions, and a touchdown pass on fourth down with 13 ticks left.
7.
Josh Freeman TB
15/25
266
1
0
95
114
-19
Freeman was involved in just about the most damaging play you can pull off on offense, the six-point swing that is the fumble on first down at the 1-yard line. (An interception thrown into the end zone and promptly returned for a touchdown would have to be the most damaging context-free play, since it would be a swing of up to 14 points; obviously, a game-clinching interception like Matt Schaub's pass on Monday night or a holding penalty in the end zone in overtime would qualify as the absolute worst.) The official play-by-play lists the play as a Freeman run that resulted in a fumble, but I don't think that's the case; if it had been a sneak, the running back wouldn't have run up and dove over the line as part of play-action. It was likely going to be a pass play, and we should probably switch that to an aborted snap. In either case, Freeman was effective outside of that one disastrous play; he had two long bombs to Arrelious Benn, and he did a great job of identifying his mismatch on the touchdown pass that ended his day. Rocky McIntosh can't cover Kellen Winslow by himself, and Freeman threw the right pass at the right time to take advantage of it.
8.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
21/32
258
0
0
89
78
11
The place where Roethlisberger did his best work, strangely? Second-and-a-mile. He picked up 18 yards on second-and-12, 22 yards on second-and-20, and even 29 yards on second-and-30. In fact, on his last ten passes in second-and-more-than-10, Roethlisberger is 10-of-10 for 155 yards with five first downs. Of course, one of the reasons why he had so many second-and-long situations was his lack of progress on first down. After his first three attempts were successful, Ben's eight subsequent dropbacks on first down produced just one successful play, a 21-yard pass to Hines Ward.
9.
Drew Brees NO
25/40
221
3
2
79
77
2
Brees was 15-of-16 on throws to his running backs and tight ends, with those passes producing 105 yards and four first downs. While he has started a few games this year looking downright devastating with downfield throws, Brees mostly checked down at the beginning of this game. His first 13 passes produced 12 completions, but only one went for as many as 12 yards. His first pass longer than nine yards downfield didn't come until the end of the first quarter, when he hit Marques Colston in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 17-yard line. There was nothing longer than 19 yards until there was seven minutes left in the third quarter, at which point Brees started going deep, with five of his nine remaining attempts going anywhere from 22 to 46 yards in the air. Was this a product of Steve Spagnuolo's scheme, or something about the way the Saints are attacking teams right now?
10.
Matt Schaub HOU
31/61
393
3
2
75
70
4
How did Schaub get the Texans back into the game? Consider that he converted all four of the fourth downs he faced in the second half, which compensated for the mere two third downs he was pick up to get in the second half. Now, how did the Texans get in such a hole to begin with? Consider that Schaub started the game 0-for-6 on first downs, throwing a touchdown pass to Andre Johnson for a 46-yard score at the end of the first half to get off the schneid.
11.
Jon Kitna DAL
24/35
242
2
2
69
51
18
On passes up the middle, Kitna was 6-of-6 for 97 yards, with five first downs and a touchdown pass to Jason Witten. During his time as Tony Romo's fill-in, Kitna has a 55 percent Success Rate on throws listed as up the middle, and a 44 percent Success Rate on throws to either side. Is that something unique to his style of play? Not dramatically so. The rest of the league has a 51 percent Success Rate on throws up the middle, and a 42 percent Success Rate on throws to the outside.
12.
Alex Smith SF
17/27
255
3
0
58
60
-2
Smith basically got to take the second half off thanks to a 26-point lead. He only threw for five first downs on 29 attempts, but he had three touchdowns and five plays for 20 yards or more. Virtually all of those yards came after the catch; Smith didn't throw a single pass further than 13 yards downfield, and his receivers accrued 201 yards after catch. The 49ers seem to inspire solid games out of their quarterbacks each time they change the starter, so maybe this means David Carr will start next week.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
13.
Matt Ryan ATL
20/34
227
1
1
58
60
-2
Matty Ice started the second quarter with a sack, ended it with an interception, and was 6-of-12 for 50 yards with two first downs inbetween. Of course, he was up two touchdowns at the time, so it wasn't really a big deal, but that's pretty bad. 27 of his 35 targets went to Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, or Tony Gonzalez.
14.
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF
14/23
142
1
0
56
35
21
15.
David Garrard JAC
12/22
159
3
1
53
46
8
Garrard didn't throw a single pass in the fourth quarter, as the Jaguars had just two drives. One consisted of two MJD runs and a stuff of Garrard as a runner on third down, and the other was Jones-Drew's 30-yard touchdown run to win it. Tangential, but I mentioned in Audibles that Jones-Drew should have kneeled at the one-yard line to seal the victory. Someone mentioned the Redskins fiasco as a sign that Jones-Drew should have taken the easy score, and there's some sense to that. If the Jaguars take a knee at the 1-yard line, they can burn the Raiders' last timeout on first down, 40 seconds after second down, and 40 seconds after third down. Jones-Drew crossed the plane with 1:36 left, so the Jaguars would have been kicking their field goal with about 16 seconds left, and they have about a 98 percent chance of successfully converting the field goal from two yards out (assuming they lose a yard on kneels). Assuming they would squib the kickoff (as they did in real life), that means the Raiders would have to advance the ball about 20 yards without any timeouts to get in Seabass's range for a 60-yard field goal he might hit about 40 percent of the time. I think scoring the touchdown and playing defense is defensible there. Certainly, though, I don't think the Raiders should have allowed Jones-Drew to score, as some on the Game Rewind page suggest. Stuffing the Jaguars forces them to kick a field goal from 48 yards out, and even preventing them from getting a first down leaves the field goal to be at least a little tricky.
16.
Drew Stanton DET
10/22
117
1
2
16
3
13
Stanton had one successful drive in him, one in the fourth quarter that saw him complete five consecutive passes for three first downs and a touchdown. Fortunately, the Lions only needed one touchdown to win. It was the best defensive performance for Detroit in six years; their last game allowing as few as three points was in 2005, when they held these not-really-the-same Packers to three points in Week 1. Mike Williams made his NFL debut by catching a three-yard touchdown, Kevin Jones ran for 87 yards on 25 carries with a long run of seven, and Brett Favre threw two picks. The Lions' last shutout was in 1996, a 27-0 victory over the Buccaneers.
17.
Eli Manning NYG
22/36
187
1
2
-13
-13
0
I don't put much stock in the whole Vikings-pillage-Eli thing as being meaningful, but it was definitely a bit of a weird game for Manning. Whether it was wanting to protect a returning David Diehl against Jared Allen, the effects of Hakeem Nicks's compartment syndrome, or a reaction to an early interception on a pass to Nicks, the Giants just didn't throw deep in this game. Only five of Manning's 36 passes went the 15 yards or more in the air that we use as the definition of "deep" throws. The first was intercepted, and only one of the other four -- a 17-yard pass to Nicks that produced 13 YAC afterwards -- was completed.
18.
Joe Flacco BAL
22/33
235
2
0
-15
-15
0
Although he was let down by Derrick Mason dropping what should have been a 75-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, Flacco simply wasn't all that effective against the league's friendliest pass defense. He had a 46 percent Success Rate, took five sacks, and fumbled once. His saving grace was converting seven of 14 third downs, including both of his touchdown passes.
19.
Matt Flynn GB
15/26
177
0
1
-16
-7
-9
20.
Aaron Rodgers GB
7/11
46
0
1
-45
-56
11
Even before he left the game with a concussion, Rodgers' 12 dropbacks produced just one first down, a 12-yard catch by Brett Swain. He was sacked twice and threw an interception.
21.
Carson Palmer CIN
20/32
178
1
3
-48
-44
-5
This would actually have been a very nice game if it weren't for the three ugly interceptions Palmer threw. Those picks produced -161 DYAR. The second one came at the beginning of a drive in the fourth quarter that started with the Bengals down six points; if he throws a touchdown to the right team, the fourth quarter could have gone in an entirely different direction.
22.
Brodie Croyle KC
7/17
40
0
0
-55
-55
0
I'm amazed that Croyle is this high. It basically comes down to opponent adjustments and avoiding turnovers, but there was no hope of him moving the ball on the Chargers at any point on Sunday. His 21 dropbacks produced more sacks (four) than first downs (two), although a third first down was brought back by a Barry Richardson holding penalty. He wasn't helped by the running game, either, as his nine third downs came with an average of 11.3 yards to go, including four plays with 15 or more yards needed to convert. Those nine plays produced -1 net yards.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
23.
Michael Vick PHI
16/26
270
2
2
-55
-61
6
Oh, this will go over well. How on earth is Brodie Croyle ahead of Michael Vick? Vick had those four big plays to DeSean Jackson, including passes of 60 and 91 yards. Obviously, those are very good. On the other hand, he threw two interceptions, although DVOA doesn't know about the tipped nature of the picks. He had just one successful pass play in seven chances inside the red zone. He scored on a one-yard plunge, but was stopped short as a runner on two other third downs and did not convert for a first down on either of his other runs. And while he ends up with -22 YAR on the day, opponent adjustments from the dismal Cowboys pass defense push him back into Croyle, while Croyle's -86 YAR get boosted up because he played the Chargers. Do I personally think that they played at roughly similar levels? No, I don't. But DYAR sees their productions as roughly similar.
24.
Tarvaris Jackson MIN
15/30
118
0
1
-70
-71
1
Jackson was knocked out of the game for a brief period of time with a knee injury; before the incident, he was 6-of-9 for 52 yards and three first downs. Afterwards, he was 11-of-26 for 74 yards with four sacks, a bad snap, an interception, and three first downs. I don't know if causation is correlation here, since Giants-Vikings was such a bad game that I started joining the Wilf Field crowd in doing the wave from my living room. But Jackson started off the game looking reasonably effective and ended it looking like the failing parts of an infomercial.
25.
Matt Hasselbeck SEA
27/42
285
2
4
-71
-74
2
Although Carson Palmer and Jake Delhomme get all the attention for being turnover machines these days, any struggling quarterback would admire what Hasselbeck managed to pull off on Sunday. In a 15-dropback stretch, Hasselbeck managed to turn the ball over five times. He threw an interception and, upon getting the ball back, was promptly stripsacked on his next attempt. He threw an interception on his final pass of the first half, shook it off, and then threw a pick-six on his first pass of the second half. After three completions and an incompletion, he finished it off with a red zone interception to Brandon Stokley. It's actually a testament to Pete Carroll's patience that Hasselbeck wasn't benched after that stretch.
26.
John Skelton ARI
15/37
146
0
0
-86
-91
5
27.
Jay Cutler CHI
12/26
156
0
2
-94
-103
9
Cutler's day reminded me a lot of Mark Sanchez's game against the Patriots on the previous Monday. He didn't look all that bad at first, as he was able to overcome the blustery conditions with velocity on his throws. His receivers didn't give him very much help, and once the Patriots got out to a big lead, Cutler was forced into mistakes while trying to catch up. He dropped back just five times before it was a three-touchdown game.
28.
Chad Henne MIA
5/18
55
1
0
-105
-105
0
As bad as Hasselbeck's stretch of futility was, Henne did a wonderful job of keeping the Jets in the game on Sunday. After throwing a touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall, Henne threw an incomplete pass and then had a five-yard completion. He followed that with three consecutive sacks, including one lost fumble. He completed a pass for 28 yards to Anthony Fasano, then lost the ball again on an aborted snap. Obviously frustrated by the whole endeavor, he threw seven straight incompletions, took a sack, had another incompletion, and was sacked again to finish the day. It's not like he was throwing bombs, either; outside of a 36-yard incompletion to Marshall, each of those eight incompletions at the end traveled eight yards or less.
29.
Mark Sanchez NYJ
17/43
216
0
1
-108
-121
13
On one hand, you have Santonio Holmes dropping a perfectly reasonable pass in the end zone in the second quarter. Unlucky. On the other hand, the Jets recovered three of Sanchez's four fumbles on sacks, including both of his fumbles on the final drive. He ended up with just one interception on the day, a testament to the trickiness of catching footballs when you're not paid to do so. Sean Smith could have had three picks alone. Through the first ten weeks of charting, Sanchez had 10 dropped interceptions, more than anyone in the league (the other 31 teams averaged 3.5 dropped picks). If he can play as poorly as he did today and still be lucky, how bad is it going to be if he plays like this and isn't lucky? And it's not that Sanchez is incompetent, because he's perfectly capable of making great throws and does so regularly. It's that his variance is downright incredible; he can look like the best quarterback in the league on one play and look like a college freshman on the very next one.
30.
Jimmy Clausen CAR
14/24
107
0
1
-110
-110
0
At one point, Clausen threw six straight passes to Brandon LaFell, completing four of them for a total of 20 yards. Not that Brandon LaFell lacks promise, but has there ever been a worse receiver thrown six consecutive passes? And to the incompetent-streak ranks, Clausen adds a stretch with four sacks, two completions for a total of 11 yards, and two incompletions that each came on throws behind the line of scrimmage.
31.
Jake Delhomme CLE
12/20
86
0
1
-124
-124
0
32.
Sam Bradford STL
19/32
231
0
2
-135
-144
9
33.
Kyle Orton DEN
19/41
166
0
3
-171
-172
0
A fair amount of Broncos fans undoubtedly want to see what Tim Tebow can do as the Broncos' starting quarterback. Apparently, Kyle Orton is one of them. After finishing 30th last week amongst quarterbacks, Orton currently sits in last place before the Monday night games at 29th. His -170 DYAR game came against Arizona, one of the league's worst pass defenses. To them, he offered up three interceptions; they gave him three defensive pass interference penalties back, but the DPIs only went for a combined 28 yards. One Orton stretch saw him produce seven straight incompletions or interceptions, while another saw him go 4-of-13 for 54 yards. You remember how targeting running backs in the passing game was supposed to be a key tenet of the Josh McDaniels offense? Orton threw 12 passes to his running backs and produced just 29 yards, with just two first downs and a pick-six amongst the throws.
Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Darren McFadden OAK
123
2
86
1
74
32
41
Although the Jaguars aren't exactly the league's toughest defense, McFadden was a one-man show at times on Sunday. As a receiver, he caught each of the three passes thrown to him, including a 67-yard touchdown catch on a dumpoff that required 65 yards after catch to hit paydirt. As a runner, he didn't produce a first down, but he did score two touchdowns on 16 carries; notably, a 36-yard touchdown run just before the two-minute warning that tied the game up for the Raiders. While DVOA doesn't know this, McFadden's run involved two broken tackles and an incredible stiff-arm inside the five-yard line, with McFadden arching back against his body to knock a Jaguars defender down solely with his upper-body strength. Although injuries and a sometimes-awful team have prevented him from showing it regularly, McFadden remains an incredibly talented player.
2.
Darren Sproles SD
53
0
51
0
53
17
36
Four of Sproles's six carries went for at least seven yards, and as a receiver, he had five targets and produced five successful receptions. That included three first downs.
3.
Chris Johnson TEN
111
1
68
0
48
13
35
He had a traditional Chris Johnson day, with a seven-carry stretch that saw his yardage bounce all over the place: 20, -3, 1, 1, 37, -1, -1. That stretch produced exactly 0.1 YAR, with the final carry coming on the goal line. Instead, Johnson's best work as a runner came at the beginning of the game, when his first nine carries produced five successes and two first downs. He also was 8-for-8 as a receiver with six successful targets.
4.
LeSean McCoy PHI
149
0
4
0
45
54
-8
McCoy had a 56-yard run to flip the field position for the Eagles while they were trailing in the third quarter, and once they got the lead back, he was extremely effective in helping close the Cowboys out. His six fourth-quarter carries produced 66 yards, with four gains of 12 yards or more and five first downs.
5.
Michael Turner ATL
112
3
12
0
44
37
7
Turner picked up three touchdowns on four carries inside the five-yard line, and finished with a 50 percent Success Rate on the day. He even got a first down as a receiver with a 12-yard catch-and-run; that's just his second first down of the year on 18 targets.
Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Peyton Hillis CLE
109
0
10
0
-33
-20
-13
It's time to play one of our favorite games again: How do you finish last in our running back rankings despite running for over 100 yards? Well, first, those yards have to be useful. Hillis had 48 yards on his first five carries, including a 25-yard run, but he was stuffed for one yard from second-and-goal from the two and third-and-goal from the one-yard line. The Bills aren't supposed to stuff such a dominant power back. Second, you can fumble, and Hillis put the ball on the grass three times in 21 carries. Although the Browns recovered two of them, it's of no consequence to our measurements, which use history to find that recovering a running back's fumble is pretty close to random. Finally, you produce a big fat zero in the passing game, and Hillis didn't do much: He was thrown five passes, all on first-and-10, and caught four of them. Those plays produced a total of ten yards.
Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Pierre Garcon IND
6
7
93
15.5
2
71
Garcon's attracted some unwanted attention this year as one of the worst wide receivers to play regularly across from Peyton Manning; he's had his fair share of rough games this year, but he was the best wideout of Week 14. He caught six of the seven passes thrown to him, gaining three first downs and adding two touchdowns. One of those first downs was arguably the biggest non-scoring play of the game, a 43-yard catch that saw Garcon break a tackle and scamper for 38 yards after catch with 3:37 left. He also picked up a defensive pass interference penalty for another first down.
2.
Deion Branch NE
8
10
151
18.9
1
70
Branch converted three third downs and had three more first downs on second-and-9 attempts. The big play, obviously, was the 59-yard touchdown catch with no time left at the end of the first half.
3.
Andre Johnson HOU
9
14
140
15.6
2
64
I know that it came after some improvisation -- and that Jacoby Jones did his best to tip the ball away -- but how on earth does Andre Johnson end up wide-open in the back of the end zone with the game on the line and 30 seconds left to go? How do you not draw up a coverage that has someone on him at all times, or tell Ed Reed to go improvise and stay with Johnson no matter where Schaub is? The Ravens sorely needed a defensive timeout on more than one occasion during that two-minute drill, as Jon Gruden noted during the telecast. Their defense looked alternately tired and confused, and could've used a moment to catch up. Every single one of Johnson's catches was a successful one.
4.
Arrelious Benn TB
4
4
122
30.5
0
62
Four targets, four catches, four successful plays, three first downs, and two plays of 40 yards or more. That his final catch went for 43 yards and not 44 almost ended up costing the Buccaneers the game; Benn came down a few inches short of the goal line, and the next play was the aborted snap that gave the ball back to the Redskins. Obviously, that's not his fault, but there's a reason why plays get a bonus for being touchdowns as opposed to plays that come down at the one-foot line.
5.
Josh Morgan SF
3
3
82
27.3
1
52
Morgan's three targets were all third-down conversions; one was a 46-yard catch-and-run, and another was a 15-yard touchdown catch where the Seahawks seemed strangely disinterested in tackling him.
Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Donald Driver GB
2
9
12
6.0
0
-49
It's easy to point to the arrival of Matt Flynn and blame him for the bad numbers produced by Driver, but then again, Driver's spent his whole career with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Sunday's game against the Patriots could be the first time in Driver's entire career that he suits up for a meaningful game without a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback under center. Flynn went 1-of-6 for seven yards with two picks on throws to Driver. And while Driver's advanced statistics treat the interceptions on passes to him as incompletions, 2-of-9 for 12 yards against the Lions isn't a good day.

Comments

181 comments, Last at 25 Oct 2012, 8:45pm

81 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

Bobman is upset because the Pats are 11-2 while the Colts are 7-6. There's nothing more to see here.

128 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

I just want to point out, that not all Pats fans or Brady fans find a well written article discussing the advantages and disadvantages of various strategies "full of shit" just because it doesn't adore #12 enough.

69 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

You found it galling that they wanted to score in the 2nd quarter? That's the quarter before half-time? That is the most insane thing I've ever read.

75 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

It's a classic example of bias, complete with an invented, uncredible assertion that he would be just as pissed at his own team if they did the same thing.

No, the Colts never seek to build a big lead early in the game.

Unbelievable.

84 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

Yeah, Manning has never tried a quick snap to catch a defense napping. Certainly not with a big lead. What a load of horseshit.

Oh yeah, and Manning has never ignored coaches at a crucial point and, say, waived off the punt unit.

It's the nfl, good players at every opportunity and don't spare their poor widdle opponents feelings. Pay me $2 million dollars a year to play CB and Brady is welcome to run up the score on me each and every week. If I don't like it, well somebody paid me $2 million dollars to stop him.

87 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

Bob, come on. If you don't think Manning has changed into a play like that in the past, you're killing any credibility you have here.

I agree about 04 vs 07, and I think it's possible to fall on both sides of the "it's their job to stop us" / "running up the score" fence (to me it seems obvious that that team wanted very much to rub it in whenever possible and set those records, and while I didn't like it, I didn't hate it), but when the defense decides to blow something that obviously in the first half and says "HEY - Free Yards!" you take them, and boy oh boy has Peyton taken some free yards in the past. If anything I'm proud of Brady for catching that and going after it. Good for him. It strikes me as a very Peyton-like thing to do.

The whole garbage time thing seems like a waste of time. I didn't hear anyone making that argument before, so I don't see why it was worth examining. Brady's counting stats are a touch misleading to me simply because I'm seeing some of them inflated by a few big plays here and there that maybe weren't 100% the result of great play/execution. Both his recent long passing TDs to Branch, for instance, were underthrown and due largely to a massive defensive collapse. These inflate his yards, and thus his YPA, and thus his passer rating (had Smith made any of the several tackles he missed, for instance, Brady's "perfect" game goes away, even with a TD pass on the very next play), and that annoys me because it strikes me as inaccurate, but it's really not a very big deal at all. Their offensive greatness is captured more fairly in VOA and DVOA than those stats anyway, and we all know they're imperfect. (Inflating is != padding, btw.) I don't hold that stuff against Brady, because I know he knows what he did right and where he got lucky. I'll never forget his post-2007 finale interview talking about Moss when the reporters were trying to make excuses for him and he interrupted and said "bah - I just underthrew it" and shut everyone up. Of course, correcting the mistake on the very next play helped too...

I suppose it's quite understandable that we as Colts fans could get a bit sick of the Brady adulation, but let's not lie: In the more recent past he has absolutely been playing up to all the hype he got earlier in his career when the QB debates were truly irrational. And whether there's a bit of running up the score or luck or not, he's playing Reeeeeeeally well. And that team scares the shit out of me. For as banged up and non-dominant as our team is, I'm very proud of them for nearly beating those Pats on the road.

91 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

You can pick out plays for every QB where they benefit from great catches or runs after catch.

You can't say Brady's numbers have been inflated by plays like the Branch one, unless you also say they've been deflated by plays like the Brandon Tate drop of a perfect pass that would have been a 67 yard TD.

98 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

I did find that last pass of the first half--when his coaches were saying KNEEL--bush league and galling.

You've just totally destroyed any respect for you that anyone here had left.

Oh, wait. Never mind.

109 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

"
It's probably more accurate to say that the Pats don't necessarily change their style of play unless they see a need to. If their game plan going in is an 8:1 pass ratio and it works and they are up by 21 in the 4th quarter, they don't change. (Correct me if I am wrong, Pats watchers.) That is not exactrly traditional and tends to gall some people
"

They've been much more run heavy in the second half of the blowouts, and significantly less effective because of that.

135 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

Your last paragraph puzzles me, on one of two levels. Did you find it galling because you feel like they were running up the score in the first half? Should they not have thrown to a barely-covered receiver? If so, it's the first suggestion yet that scoring in the 1st half is running up the score.

Or did you find it galling that Brady ignored the coach's play call? Which I find curious because I believe Manning runs more audibles than any QB in the league, which I imagine you find to be the mark of an intelligent quarterback.

65 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

I dunno, Bobman. I have a hard time calling any attempt, no matter the score, to get another td in the first half bush league. Yeah, the coaches called for a kneel, but I'd imagine they did not do so with the expectation that the Bears would decide to not cover a forward pass. I'll concede that it may be possible to run up the score in a pro game, but until a team is running fake kicks with five minutes to go while ahead by 30 points, I'm hesitant to say it happened.

It really isn't all that important, I guess, whether a team tries to score 40, or score 60.

72 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

I find it amazing that we've gone in two weeks from discussing how no lead for the Patriots could be considered safe, considering how mediocre their defense is, to talking about "padding the score", complete with Bobman wheeling out the same pejorative nonsense he was saying three years ago, complete with personal attacks on the character of Bill Belichick.

105 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

I don't recall Bobman specifically ranting about running up the score in 2007. Yeah, he's the most high-profile Colts fan who posts here, but he's usually pretty even-tempered.

In this instance, yeah, he's wrong. The running-up-the-score talk is just as annoying as it was in 2007. I will caution that your repeated attacks of Bobman are inching to that territory, too, though. And I generally have enjoyed your other posts, RickD.

I'm a Bears fan who has zero problem with the Patriots, or any team, "running up the score".

EDIT: I googled for Bobman's comments with regards to the 2007 Patriots and running up the score. I don't claim this is comprehensive, but I didn't see any whining about it then. In fact, this comment suggest otherwise:

2007-10-24: "James, you're right. I'm a Colt fan with minimal excess love for NE, and I thought TMQ had just stepped over the edge. He went from writing amusing pieces peppered with some stats, some appreciation of FO, some claim to being above the fray (while also dropping his moralizations, and various pet peeve rants) to a 100% goofy opinion piece and he assumes everyone else agrees with him." (Comment #108, referring to a TMQ article criticizing the Patriots.)

This comment is a little more negative, though he's mostly just wishing the Patriots would admit they wanted to score as much as possible:

2010-11-21: "It is a moot point. They are the best. Possibly of all time. I'd just like a litle honesty, which we won't see until the memoirs get published in 15 years or so. I'm hoping for a "Scott McClellan moment" since he's in the news today--the first insider book that comes out and trumpets the "of course we were running up the score!" angle will sell like hotcakes, much better than the one that offers up the standard cliches. Then of course we'll have to take that with a grain of salt too, because he's washed up and just trying to sell books." (Comment #104.)

And here, he's again just asking for honesty. And in fact, he appears to encourage scoring as much as you can:

2007-10-22: "Puh-leeze. It's considered shabby to say "we're going for all the records there are while we can," but they are and it's, well, a little tacky, but life is short and these kinds of things don't come around too often (as in never before), so you might as well dive in while you can.
Face it, we'd all like to have these problems. Going 16-0 is cool, 19-0 cooler. Doing it with 60 TD passes, 88 team TDs, 5,500 yds passing, an average pt differential of 21, etc, is even cooler. The only thing they're missing is 150 rushing yards a game and 4 defensive sacks or INTs a game. I guess there's always next year to work on those."
(Comment #24.)

------

OK, I've exhausted even my downtime now. I can't believe I actually went searching.

74 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

I did find that last pass of the first half--when his coaches were saying KNEEL--bush league and galling.

Good lord, why? It's still the first freakin' half! Why in God's name should the Patriots refrain from taking something that the defense is giving them?

As a Colts fan, I would be ashamed if Manning did that, and I would point out to my kids that is NOT how you should play the game.

And again I ask, why?

If they'd been down on the Bears' 10 yard line with 5 seconds left, would you still contend that it was "bush league and galling" to throw for the end zone? If so, why? If not, why is it "bush league and galling" to throw from their own 41? They didn't even run a trick play - no statue of liberty or hook and lateral or double reverse - just a straight pass play. All the Bears had to do was prevent them from going 59 yards on the play. A prevent can be frustrating, but usually prevents 60 yard completions. How is it the Patriots' fault that the Bears didn't run one? What obligation could the Patriots possibly have not run a play there that they thought would work?

78 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads Re: Driver

Flynn only threw one pick in the game, you might want to re-check your stats on Driver.

89 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

What a shockingly bad week for QB play when Kerry Collins can come in third in DYAR, and I, having watched him play poorly, can't find a single QB below him that I'd argue should've ranked higher.

97 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

I'm a little surprised that Ryan Torrain's 24 carries for 172 didn't make the top five, but not seriously. After all, while he was running well the Redskins we're still settling for (missed) field goals, and he pretty much disappeared in the second half.

99 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

They came in huge chunks, and yeah, he vanished in the second half. Add to that opponent adjustments in that Tampa's run D isn't exactly great and that was probably enough to bump him down just enough.

110 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

(An interception thrown into the end zone and promptly returned for a touchdown would have to be the most damaging context-free play, since it would be a swing of up to 14 points; obviously, a game-clinching interception like Matt Schaub's pass on Monday night or a holding penalty in the end zone in overtime would qualify as the absolute worst.)

As far as context-sensitive play evaluation goes (ignoring the DVOAesque theory of treating interception return results as non-predictive events), there is a spectrum of "absolute worst" plays. Even worse than throwing a pick-six from second-and-10 on one's own 9-yard line in overtime was throwing a pick-six from one's own 35-yard line in overtime (click my alias for link). I'm sure there are a few (but only a few) even worse plays out there.

111 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

Trying to define what a blowout is is difficult, as it should probably somehow take into account both the losing team's offense's ability to score often and quickly, and the winning team's defense's penchant for giving up scores often and quickly. The Patriots were ahead of the Colts by 17 points with 8 minutes left in the game, and ended up being lucky to come away with a win. That was a blowout?

And as an earlier commenter wrote, Brady has had an above-average number of pass attempts in so-called blowout situations because the Patriots have gotten big leads early.

To me it's about the eye test. Was Brady accumulating a lot of garbage time stats in 2007? Looked like it to me. This year? Nah.

126 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

I don't think people object to dvoa's estimation of Vick/the Eagles. I think it's one writer's commentary that they find dismissive.

134 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

Blowout or no blowout, the Patriots stay the same. Basically, they have a ball control offense that is predicated on Brady passing 60% of the time. It's skewed toward passing because Brady is incredibly accurate AND doesn't turn the ball over.

If you are up by three scores in the third quarter, are you really going to put Hoyer in? One pick-six and you'd have demoralized your team and put the game back into the balance! One three and out and your young defense might start getting exposed.

All those 'blowout' games that Brady couldn't sustain a drive ended up as three and outs came to bite them in the end. Basically they couldn't sustain a drive BECAUSE they changed their game plan with such a large lead. You can be sure that Belichek learned his lesson and will stick with what's working until the game is WELL out of hand.

141 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

"Blowout or no blowout, the Patriots stay the same. Basically, they have a ball control offense that is predicated on Brady passing 60% of the time. It's skewed toward passing because Brady is incredibly accurate AND doesn't turn the ball over."

Except that they don't. They still pass quite a bit, but they run a whole lot more in the second half of these games then they do in the first.

The big 'problem' is that their 'ball controll kill the clock' offense, while not as effective as the offense in the first half, is still good enough to put points on the board.

148 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

Yeah, they run twice and then throw if it's 3rd and 3 or more to extend the drive. I don't see what the problem is, except for the risk of injury to Brady.

157 Re: Week 14 Quick Reads

You know, I personally had always thought "garbage time yards" referred to instances when the team on the _losing_ end of a blowout started putting up some yards and points on a fourth quarter prevent defense. In other words, it's a way for a bad QB (or a bad offense) to look a little better because during the last 4 minutes of the game, the other team - up by 30 points or so - backed off and let them score once.

You can't really apply the same argument to the team on the _winning_ end of a blowout unless you also specify that the losers - e.g. the Bears vs. the Pats - took out their first team defense and basically started collectively pulling a Haynesworth and taking three-second naps during plays some time during the third quarter. Until that happens, it's first team offense on first team defense, the stats from which match-up should "count" irrespective of whether the point differential is at 7 or at 28. From the standpoint of sound statistics it should count, at any rate, unless someone can come up with an objective measure of when the losing team in a blowout "stops trying" (other than pulling the starters).

Accordingly, I think the entire underlying premise for this article is way, way off. You count Brady's stats against all first team defenses he's played thus far, blowout or not (subject to the "Haynesworth Condition"), and then if you want to do a "strength of schedule" adjustment to the formula to get to some sort of a "weighted" performance rating - ok, but that's a separate statistical calculation which merits its own discussion.

Now - alternatively, you could run a study to see how many teams that won blowouts (e.g. by 20 points or more) continue to score in the fourth quarter, let's say (because that's a more objective way of looking at it than, say, run vs. pass plays - what if your entire gameplan had been run-run-run from the first quarter onwards?), and how much they score relative to Q1-Q3 (e.g. 3 points to 30 points or 15 points to 20 points), and has that varied over time/across different conferences/however you want to break it down. But again, this has not a lot to do with what the article - I think - is attempting to accomplish, and potentially requires a different statistical model as well. Plus I'm not sure what predictive properties such a study would have, since I'm _guessing_ you'd end up with team-specific correlations (e.g. this team in this season will likely put up another X points in the fourth quarter when leading by Y points at halftime) which don't mean much in terms of forecasting next year's season record and playoff chances.

Insofar as the concept of any team running up the score, ever - as long as the opposition keeps the starters in, and those starters aren't sitting on the turf and/or playing touch/flag football, why the hell would you expect the other team to suddenly "back off for the sake of sportsmanship"? [Compare and contrast with line play on kneel-downs - generally, everyone knows that it's the last play of the game and so you don't clobber your guy over the head with your forearm on the snap. That - I get. Changing playcalling from pass to run with 10 minutes left in the game because the other guy is losing by "too many points" - that, I don't get.] _Can_ you back off? Yes, if that's your pleasure. That's like saying some defenses like to go prevent and sit on a lead (and, not infrequently, lose that lead as a result), while others keep blitzing to the very end even with a huge lead - it's the coaching staff's choice. _Should_ you back off (whether on offense or on defense)? Why? Because it's morally right to do so all of a sudden? Did the other team stop tackling your guys all of a sudden? Are they putting fourth string rookies in, making this a de-facto preseason scrimmage? Have there never been games in the NFL where weird stuff happens and someone comes back from a 28 point deficit in the fourth quarter (or score two touchdowns in the last two minutes of the game)?

So the whole discussion of "Brady [or whoever] running up the score" is a bit nonsensical to me. You can talk about playing aggressively or conservatively (Martyball vs. whatever else), but complaining about "going for it on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal" - again, not dissimilar from complaints about "blitzing rather than dropping into quarters coverage and riding the game out" on the defensive side of the ball - is basically on the slippery slope to declaring that "once any team is up by 30 points, the game is called". Ok, that works in boxing - sometimes - when the ref has to choose between stopping the fight and watching a guy literally get killed; but football, starters on starters? Give me a break...

176 Re: Brady passing in blowouts

How about looking at the play clock?
If Team A is fairly ahead in the 2nd half, and there are consistently 25 to 30 secs in between plays, then they may be padding stats somewhat against a weaker opponent. If there are more than 35 secs between plays, then they're trying to burn clock (to some extent, at least). I've got NO problem whatsoever if you're throwing WR screens, TE drags, etc. to keep the chains and clocks moving, and then snapping the ball with 2 or 3 secs. left on the play clock. That's what teams call their 4 minute offense. Let's face it, the Eagles and McCoy gashing the Cowboys D for 10 to 12 yd gains every play doesn't happen that often.

Regarding the Brady to Branch TD at the end of the 1st half: I mentioned in Audibles, and will repeat here: that one is all on the Bears and their coaches, and their total lack of situational awareness. I spent the 1st couple of minutes of halftime teaching my 8 yr old the right thing to do in that situation. As a CB, I made a similar mistake in HS (on a 4th down, not end of half) and I was justifiably chastised. [Thankfully, we were a small HS, I played both ways, and was able to stay away from the coach enough. After a minute, he's calling plays, and refocused on the game. But I never forgot it. My worst play ever, and not even close.]

181 FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS: Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

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