Quick Reads

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

Divisional Round Quick Reads

by Vincent Verhei

Forgive me, if you will, for plagiarizing myself, but this week's Quick Reads column is going to look an awful lot like last week's Quick Reads column. But that's really not my fault. Last week, after Marlon Mack's big day in the wild-card round, we updated our list of the best playoff games by running backs we had found. And then, since we had the numbers ready, we went ahead and listed the worst playoff games by running backs. The piece went up on Monday; by Saturday night, both lists were obsolete.

Our story begins with the L.A. Rams' most effective running back this year -- no, not Todd Gurley, C.J. Anderson. Anderson, a quietly solid player for half a decade in Denver, has had one bizarre season in 2018. He signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract with Carolina in May, but was cut in November as the Panthers leaned more heavily than expected on second-year back Christian McCaffrey. He then signed with the Raiders on December 4, but they cut him on December 11. On December 18, he signed with the Los Angeles Rams, who were moved to sign a back so they could give Todd Gurley and his bad knee some rest. Five days later, Anderson ran for 167 yards against Arizona, and he followed that with 123 yards in the regular season finale against San Francisco. Anderson only ran for 120-plus yards three times in five seasons with the Broncos; he did it twice in 12 days with the Rams.

But then came the playoffs, with Gurley returning to the lineup after a full month of rest. That left us with two questions concerning Anderson: 1) How much would he play? 2) When he did play, how would he fare against the stout Dallas defense?

And the answers turned out to be: 1) Gurley and Anderson split time pretty evenly -- Gurley had more snaps, 45 to 35, but Anderson had more carries, 23 to 16. 2) He kicked their ass.

Anderson's 23 carries produced 123 yards. Only one player ran for more yards in a game against Dallas all season. (In a rather nutty coincidence, that one player was Marlon Mack.) And there was no long run skewing those numbers; Anderson's longest run gained only 15 yards. Though he hit no home runs, however, he had remarkably steady success. The average running back this season gained a first down on 22 percent of his carries while getting stuffed 19 percent of the time; Anderson had 11 first downs and only two stuffs on Saturday night. That's the most first downs Dallas surrendered to a single runner all year. Mack had ten, and then Saquon Barkley had nine -- in two games.

With that kind of consistency against a defense of that caliber, Anderson had a teeny bit more rushing DYAR than Mack did last week -- when Mack had the most rushing DYAR of any back in a playoff game since 1998.

Anderson was not the only back this weekend with an historically great day. Sony Michel's path to this weekend was much more direct than Anderson's: the Patriots drafted him in the first round last April, and he gained more than 900 yards as part of their running back committee About 14 hours after Anderson's Rams beat the Cowboys, Michel's New England Patriots kicked off to the Los Angeles Chargers. Michel proceeded to lay waste to the Chargers' defense, which finished 10th in run defense in the regular season. Michel ran for 129 yards, most by anyone in a game this year against the Chargers. Just last week, L.A. held the league's runningest team, the Ravens, to less than 90 rushing yards as a team. Michel's numbers were not as good as Anderson's -- his totals were skewed by one 40-yarder, and he finished with seven first downs and five stuffs -- but they still put him on our list of great playoff games for running backs.

All Running Back Playoff Games, 60 Total DYAR or Better (1995-2018)
Player Tm Yr Wk Run Run
Yds
Run
TD
Rec Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
Shane Vereen NE 2012 Div 7 41 1 5/6 83 2 95 34 61 HOU
Terrell Davis DEN 1998 Div 21 199 2 1/2 7 0 92 91 1 MIA
Thurman Thomas BUF 1995 WC 25 158 1 3/3 42 0 91 60 30 MIA
Deuce McAllister NO 2006 Div 21 143 1 4/4 20 1 89 73 16 PHI
Lamar Smith MIA 2000 WC 40 209 2 3/3 18 0 82 77 5 IND
Curtis Martin NE 1996 Div 19 166 3 2/3 9 0 80 82 -2 PIT
Dorsey Levens GB 1996 CCG 10 88 0 5/5 117 1 78 32 46 CAR
Terrell Davis DEN 1997 WC 31 184 2 4/4 11 0 77 81 -4 JAX
Arian Foster HOU 2011 WC 24 153 2 3/3 29 0 76 62 14 CIN
Marlon Mack IND 2018 WC 24 148 1 2/3 6 0 75 81 -6 HOU
C.J. Anderson LAR 2018 Div 23 123 1 0/1 0 0 75 82 -7 DAL
L.Tomlinson SD 2006 Div 23 123 2 2/4 64 0 75 60 15 NE
Eddie George TEN 2000 Div 27 91 1 8/10 52 0 74 53 21 BAL
LaMont Jordan NYJ 2002 WC 20 102 2 1/1 9 0 74 66 8 IND
Emmitt Smith DAL 1995 Div 21 99 1 3/3 40 0 72 45 27 PHI
Natrone Means JAX 1996 Div 21 140 1 4/4 46 0 71 47 24 DEN
Priest Holmes KC 2003 Div 24 176 2 5/5 32 0 70 56 13 IND
Tiki Barber NYG 2002 WC 26 115 1 5/5 62 0 69 32 37 SF
Robert Smith MIN 1999 WC 28 140 0 3/3 58 1 67 26 41 DAL
Cedric Benson CIN 2009 WC 21 169 1 3/3 12 0 67 62 5 NYJ
Jerick McKinnon MIN 2017 CCG 10 40 0 11/12 86 0 66 27 40 PHI
Justin Forsett BAL 2014 Div 24 129 0 2/2 17 1 66 54 12 NE
Terry Kirby SF 1997 Div 25 120 2 3/4 24 0 65 58 7 MIN
Emmitt Smith DAL 1996 WC 17 116 2 4/4 26 0 64 56 8 MIN
Sony Michel NE 2018 Div 24 129 3 1/1 9 0 64 60 4 LAC
Pierre Thomas NO 2009 CCG 14 61 1 3/3 38 1 63 42 21 MIN
Devonta Freeman ATL 2016 SB 10 78 1 2/2 46 0 62 42 20 NE
Marshall Faulk STL 2001 CCG 31 159 2 4/7 13 0 62 72 -11 PHI
LeGarrette Blount NE 2014 CCG 30 148 3 0/0 0 0 62 62 0 IND
James White NE 2016 SB 6 29 2 14/16 110 1 61 25 37 ATL
Charlie Garner OAK 2001 WC 15 158 1 3/3 27 0 61 47 14 NYJ
Ronnie Harmon SD 1995 WC 1 -1 0 10/17 133 0 61 -4 65 IND
LeGarrette Blount NE 2013 Div 24 166 4 0/0 0 0 61 61 0 IND
Willie Parker PIT 2008 Div 27 146 2 0/1 0 0 61 65 -4 SD
Ray Rice BAL 2009 WC 22 159 2 0/1 0 0 60 63 -3 NE
Reggie Bush NO 2009 Div 5 84 1 5/5 24 0 60 52 8 ARI
Devonta Freeman ATL 2016 Div 14 45 1 4/5 80 0 60 30 29 SEA

While Anderson was charging through the Cowboys like, uh, a ram, his teammates were shutting down Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott's 20 carries against L.A. gained only 47 yards and four first downs, while he was stuffed six times. This against a defense that allowed a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry. He had a bad day as a receiver too, including incomplete passes on two third-down targets. All told, Elliott comfortably made our list of worst playoff games for running backs.

All Running Back Playoff Games, -40 Total DYAR or Worse (1995-2018)
Player Tm Yr Wk Run Run
Yds
Run
TD
Rec Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
Willie Green CLE 2002 WC 25 30 1 2/2 8 0 -69 -69 0 PIT
Tiki Barber NYG 1997 WC 17 35 0 3/10 31 0 -65 -52 -12 MIN
Leonard Fournette JAX 2017 WC 21 57 0 3/5 21 0 -54 -46 -9 BUF
Lamar Miller HOU 2016 WC 31 73 1 0/1 0 0 -53 -47 -6 OAK
Autry Denson MIA 1999 Div 6 10 0 1/1 -9 0 -52 -24 -29 JAX
Warrick Dunn TB 1997 WC 18 72 0 3/6 0 0 -51 -8 -43 DET
Dion Lewis NE 2017 CCG 9 34 0 7/8 32 0 -51 -3 -48 JAX
Edgar Bennett GB 1995 Div 23 51 0 0/2 0 0 -49 -38 -11 SF
Edgerrin James IND 1999 Div 20 56 0 1/5 8 0 -49 -35 -14 TEN
Willie Parker PIT 2008 CCG 24 47 0 2/2 -2 0 -46 -34 -12 BAL
Ezekiel Elliott DAL 2018 Div 20 47 1 2/5 19 0 -46 -45 0 LAR
Lamar Smith MIA 2000 Div 8 5 0 1/1 4 0 -45 -43 -2 OAK
Eddie George TEN 2002 Div 15 34 1 0/1 0 0 -45 -42 -3 PIT
Brian Westbrook PHI 2008 Div 18 36 0 5/5 10 0 -42 -28 -14 NYG
J.J.Johnson MIA 1999 Div 8 9 0 2/3 11 0 -42 -19 -23 JAX
Justin Forsett BAL 2014 WC 16 36 0 1/2 7 0 -41 -35 -6 PIT
Richie Anderson DAL 2003 WC 6 18 0 7/10 20 0 -41 -20 -21 CAR
LeGarrette Blount NE 2016 SB 11 31 0 0/0 0 0 -40 -40 0 ATL

With only three games left in the season, it's hard to believe either of these lists will need to be updated any time soon. The way things are going, though, you can't be sure -- Anderson and Michel are still playing, as are stars such as Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara, who finished first and second in touchdowns scored this year.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
1.
Tom Brady NE
34/44
343
1
0
0
177
177
0
LAC
Brady threw approximately one million short routes against L.A. -- the median depth of target on his 44 throws was only 3 yards. When he did throw deeper than that, he was most effective. On passes that traveled 4 yards or more beyond the line of scrimmage, he went 17-of-21 for 232 yards, plus an 8-yard DPI, for a total of 15 first downs. Throwing to the middle of the field, he went 9-of-11 for 126 yards and seven first downs.
2.
Dak Prescott DAL
20/32
266
1
0
1
102
96
6
LAR
Third-down passing: 5-of-9 for 40 yards with as many conversions (one) as sacks. He also had one fourth-down dropback, resulting in a 16-yard DPI to Amari Cooper.
3.
Drew Brees NO
28/37
301
2
1
2
50
46
4
PHI
Brees had a horrendous first quarter: 2-of-6 for 30 yards with one first down, one sack, one aborted snap, and two fumbles. Obviously, things improved after that. On his one third-quarter drive he went 8-of-10 for 80 yards with six first downs, including a touchdown. His first pass down the middle was intercepted, but after that he went 11-of-12 for 161 yards and six first downs to that area of the field.
4.
Philip Rivers LAC
25/51
331
3
1
2
41
41
0
NE
Rivers' average depth of target was 12.2 yards, most of any quarterback this week. He was better, however, on shorter throws. On passes that traveled 1 to 9 yards downfield, he went 13-of-16 for 135 yards and nine first downs.
5.
Jared Goff LAR
15/27
186
0
0
0
13
11
2
DAL
Inside the Dallas 30, Goff went 2-of-7 for 16 yards with no first downs and one aborted snap. On third downs, he went 3-of-6 for 35 yards with two conversions and one fumbled snap.
6.
Nick Foles PHI
18/31
201
1
2
0
-19
-27
8
NO
Foles did not throw a single pass in New Orleans' red zone. Throwing to his left, he went 6-of-12 for 76 yards with one touchdown, two other first downs, and two interceptions. In the second half, he went 6-of-14 for 45 yards, plus a DPI for 4 yards, for a total of three first downs with one interception.
7.
Andrew Luck IND
19/36
203
1
0
3
-28
-33
5
KC
Luck did not throw for a first down until the Colts were down 24-7. He did not convert a single third down, going 3-of-7 for 12 yards with two sacks. He did convert a fourth-and-9; it came with Indianapolis trailing by 17 points with barely six minutes left in the game.
8.
Patrick Mahomes KC
27/41
277
0
0
4
-32
-38
6
IND
The bad news is, this was the first negative-DYAR game of Mahomes' season; the good news is, the Chiefs won by 18 points anyway. On third and fourth downs, he went 5-of-9 for 29 yards with three conversions (all in the first half) and three sacks. He threw seven passes that traveled 19 yards or more beyond the line of scrimmage; all were incomplete.


Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
C.J. Anderson LAR
23
123
2
0/1
0
0
75
82
-7
DAL
2.
Sony Michel NE
24
129
3
1/1
9
0
64
60
4
LAC
3.
Todd Gurley LAR
16
115
1
2/2
3
0
45
51
-5
DAL
This is the third-most rushing yards anyone has had against Dallas all year. All 16 of Gurley's carries against the Cowboys gained at least 1 yard. Only four went for first downs, but that includes a 35-yard touchdown and a gain of 18.
4.
Damien Williams KC
25
129
1
5/6
25
0
37
46
-9
IND
Williams ran for 10 first downs against Indianapolis, with six gains of 10 yards or more. He was only stuffed four times.
5.
Wendell Smallwood PHI
10
33
0
1/1
6
0
20
15
5
NO
None of Smallwood's carries resuled in a first down, but each one gained 1 to 8 yards. His one catch was a 6-yard gain on second-and-5.


Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
C.J. Anderson LAR
23
123
2
0/1
0
0
75
82
-7
DAL
2.
Sony Michel NE
24
129
3
1/1
9
0
64
60
4
LAC
3.
Todd Gurley LAR
16
115
1
2/2
3
0
45
51
-5
DAL
4.
Damien Williams KC
25
129
1
5/6
25
0
37
46
-9
IND
5.
Wendell Smallwood PHI
10
33
0
1/1
6
0
20
15
5
NO


Worst Running Back by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Ezekiel Elliott DAL
20
47
1
2/5
19
0
-46
-45
0
LAR


Worst Running Back by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Ezekiel Elliott DAL
20
47
1
2/5
19
0
-46
-45
0
LAR


Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Michael Thomas NO
12
16
171
14.2
1
53
PHI
Only seven of Thomas' 12 catches produced first downs, but five of them gained 20 yards or more, the longest a 42-yarder. He converted three of his five third-down targets, including conversions with 10, 13, and 16 yards to go.
2.
Julian Edelman NE
9
13
151
16.8
0
50
LAC
Edelman's totals include 45 DYAR receiving, 5 DYAR rushing for his one carry for 7 yards. Eight of his catches produced first downs; the other was a 9-yard gain on first-and-10.
3.
Tyrell Williams LAC
5
7
94
18.8
0
43
NE
Four of Williams' catches gained at least 17 yards and a first down. He also drew a DPI for 12 more yards and another first down.
4.
Dontrelle Inman IND
4
4
55
13.8
0
31
KC
All four of Inman's catches gained at least 10 yards and a first down.
5.
Phillip Dorsett NE
4
5
41
10.2
1
30
LAC
Each of Dorsett's catches gained at least 6 yards and a first down; two were third-down conversions.


Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Eric Ebron IND
5
9
51
10.2
0
-34
KC
Ebron had catches for 21 and 17 yards, but those were his only first downs on the day. Meanwhile, he had a 5-yard catch on third-and-6, an incompletion on third-and-3, and three incompletions on first-and-10.

Comments

15 comments, Last at 15 Jan 2019, 12:25pm

1 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Jan 14, 2019 - 2:08pm

There's the Eric Ebron I came to know and not love!

Missed you, man.

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8 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by LionInAZ // Jan 14, 2019 - 9:01pm

He's been there all season, but 12 TD catches can mask a lot of faults.

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2 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by sbond101 // Jan 14, 2019 - 2:35pm

Really surprised James White doesn't make the top 5 RB's by DYAR (total). Am I missing some key detail of his day?

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3 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by duh // Jan 14, 2019 - 2:40pm

Guessing that he was boom / bust. There a LOT of failed completions to him I think.

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4 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by aces4me // Jan 14, 2019 - 2:43pm

Never mind I read completions as attempts.

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5 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by Vincent Verhei // Jan 14, 2019 - 4:18pm

He was next to last with -23 DYAR (all receiving; he didn't get a single carry). That's mostly due to opponent adjustments -- he was only -4 DYAR without them, but the Chargers were 23rd in coverage against running backs this year. Also, though he had 97 yards, but it took him 17 targets to get there. That's 5.7 yards per target; average for running backs this year was 6.1. So that's a lot of targets at a bad rate, which is one way to rack up negative DYAR. Only five of those targets produced first downs; only two others were successful plays. Eight were failed completions (that's a fairly high total for a quarterback, let alone a receiver); four of those gained zero yards or went backwards.

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6 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by RickD // Jan 14, 2019 - 7:14pm

I didn't expect to see Mahomes in last while Rivers was in 4th among QBs this weekend. Rivers had more yards, but on ten more attempts, and he still had fewer completions. Mahomes has higher yards per attempt. Rivers threw a pick but Mahomes did not. Rivers did have two TDs and I'm guessing the PI helped him, too.

Doubtless part of my impression is driven by the fact that the Chiefs didn't have trouble moving the ball, while the Chargers had major issues. So the existence of an effective running game made Mahomes look a lot more effective than Rivers.

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7 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by Vincent Verhei // Jan 14, 2019 - 8:57pm

Sacks were part of it, but Rivers also hit more big plays. Mahomes also had a loss of 7 and a fumble that went down as an aborted snap.

Rivers: 6.07 yards per drobpack, 37 percent success rate
Mahomes: 5.33 yards per dropback, 43 percent success rate

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13 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by SandyRiver // Jan 15, 2019 - 10:22am

Also, much of Mahomes' value came while the Chiefs were building a nice lead while Rivers' came mainly when it no longer mattered, but I don't think the formulas care.

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14 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by sbond101 // Jan 15, 2019 - 10:40am

The formula doesn't care - they've tried for years to figure out "garbage time" and haven't come up with a formula that is more predictive of future outcome by dropping it. Rivers had a nice second half and it comes out here - not nearly a good enough half to make it close though.

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15 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by BJR // Jan 15, 2019 - 12:25pm

I don't think it pays to look too deeply here. Mahomes played in a game which began in sleet, where the field proceeded to cut up pretty badly. Both he and Luck have had hyper-efficient seasons, but put up negative DYAR in this game. I'd put it mostly down to conditions.

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9 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by UWashington // Jan 14, 2019 - 10:58pm

What were Melvin Gordon's numbers? He had 2 eight yard carries and his other 7 gained -1 yards. I guessing his low number of touches and/or opponent adjustments kept him out of the bottom 2.

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11 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by Vincent Verhei // Jan 15, 2019 - 1:10am

13 DYAR rushing (9 carries, 15 yards, one TD)
0 DYAR receiving (1-2, 11 yards, 0 TD)

By DYAR, his 1-yard TD was his best run of the day. Then he had the two 8-yarders, one on first-and-10, one on second-and-7. His other six carries:

* 1-yard gain on first-and-10.
* Four, count 'em, FOUR runs for no gain.
* 3-yard loss on first-and-10.

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10 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by MC2 // Jan 14, 2019 - 11:40pm

What was Marlon Mack's DYAR?

He had a decent YPC (9 carries for 46 yards), but 20 yards came on one run, which DYAR hates. He also was a non-factor in the passing game (1 target, 0 catches), and of course, he was playing the worst run defense in the league (by far).

I'm guessing that, of all the guys listed in your "Best Playoff Game" table, he probably had the worst follow-up.

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12 Re: Divisional Round Quick Reads

by Vincent Verhei // Jan 15, 2019 - 1:15am

-6 DYAR rushing (9 carries, 46 yards, 0 TD)
-7 DYAR receiving (0-1, 0, 0)

He was actually fairly steady -- seven of his runs gained 2 yards or more, and he had gains of 10, 11, and 20 yards (though the last two came with Indianapolis down by 17 with less than ten minutes left in the game). His yardage totals suffer because his two negative-yardage runs were BIG losses -- 3-yard loss and 6-yard loss, both on first-and-10.

I don't know if he had the biggest dropoff, but there are several names who made the best and worst all-time playoff game list. I covered them last week.

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