Stat Analysis
Advanced analytics on player and team performance

Quarterback Postseason Drive Stats

Quarterback Postseason Drive Stats
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Scott Kacsmar

While many of us were swept away by Seattle's crazy comeback after Green Bay wasted incredible field position, the AFC Championship Game quietly produced an even bigger disparity in the distances that each offense had to travel. The Patriots started, on average, at their own 46.1-yard line, while the Colts started at their own 19.8 once we remove a kneeldown drive to end the first half. That always helps to fuel a rout. Stats like field position can add great context to an offense's performance.

The following is my annual update to the playoff drive stats I first introduced four years ago at Pro-Football-Reference. You can read last year's edition here. Each year this study grows, and it now includes 33 quarterbacks (15 active) and 4,562 drives. I have long advocated for the use of drive stats since they adjust for the pace at which games are played. Since they are stats for the whole offensive unit, however, we always need a warning here.

Disclaimer: While passing stats are not truly individual stats either, the drive stats are even more teammate-dependent. There are of course drives where the quarterback never drops back and just hands the ball off every play. The entry "Andrew Luck" is another way of saying "2012-14 Indianapolis Colts," and also an abbreviation for Anthony Castonzo, T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Coby Fleener, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, etc. Drive stats are not adjusted for opponent.

Generally, only games started by the quarterback are included, but there are some significant backup performances included for Steve Young, Troy Aikman, John Elway, Mark Brunell, Dave Krieg, Bernie Kosar, and Randall Cunningham. The only player listed here with fewer than six playoff starts is Matt Ryan (who has five), but hopefully he will fix that soon in Atlanta. Andrew Luck was the only new player added this year.

Most of these stats will be familiar to users of Football Outsiders' drive stats -- my inspiration for collecting this data in the first place. Since we are specifically looking at quarterbacks, there are some differences in calculations. Yards per drive are still net yards that include penalties, but penalties during punt and field goal formations are excluded here. As always, kneeldown drives are excluded, and any kneeldown is removed from the drive stats.

General Drive Stats

Our first table includes general drive stats for things like yards (Yds/Dr), points (Pts/Dr), and starting field position (LOS/Dr). "QBTO/Dr" refers to the turnovers by only the quarterback, which include interceptions and lost fumbles. "PEN +/-" is a per-drive measure of the net difference in penalty yards for the quarterback's offense. So if an offense drew a 5-yard encroachment penalty on the defense and also committed a 10-yard holding penalty on the same drive, the net would be -5.0 for that drive. The "3Outs/Dr" is the percentage of drives ending in a three-and-out. Please note that drives where an offense ran three plays, gained zero first downs, and kicked a field goal because they started in ideal field position count as a three-and-out drive. Active players are in bold, and the average of the sample is included at the bottom.

Quarterback Drives Games Yds/Dr Pts/Dr Punts/Dr QBTO/Dr PEN +/- LOS/Dr Plays/Dr 3Outs/Dr
Colin Kaepernick 60 6 41.48 (1) 2.75 (1) .300 (1) .100 (12) 1.07 (1) 27.20 (30) 6.08 (4) .217 (17)
Drew Brees 130 11 35.54 (2) 2.35 (7) .315 (3) .069 (4) -0.22 (22) 27.51 (29) 5.88 (9) .177 (6)
Peyton Manning 252 24 35.47 (3) 2.02 (14) .325 (5) .111 (16) 0.56 (8) 27.10 (31) 6.23 (3) .202 (14)
Aaron Rodgers 116 11 35.23 (4) 2.42 (4) .388 (18) .095 (10) 0.58 (6) 28.97 (26) 5.97 (8) .198 (11)
Steve Young 141 15 34.63 (5) 2.46 (2) .333 (8) .128 (24) 0.38 (11) 31.44 (16) 6.01 (6) .199 (12)
Andrew Luck 69 6 34.58 (6) 1.90 (18) .333 (8) .188 (32) -0.22 (23) 24.03 (33) 5.87 (10) .217 (18)
Kurt Warner 144 13 33.65 (7) 2.35 (6) .354 (10) .118 (21) -0.69 (31) 32.69 (6) 5.26 (29) .181 (7)
Russell Wilson 74 7 33.15 (8) 2.39 (5) .324 (4) .081 (7) -1.31 (33) 33.91 (1) 5.64 (15) .176 (4)
Troy Aikman 164 16 32.81 (9) 2.44 (3) .329 (7) .116 (20) -0.31 (26) 33.12 (5) 5.82 (12) .152 (1)
Tom Brady 304 28 32.58 (10) 2.23 (8) .405 (22) .089 (9) 0.04 (18) 31.27 (18) 6.04 (5) .247 (27)
Joe Montana 248 23 32.41 (11) 2.15 (10) .395 (19) .089 (8) -0.27 (25) 31.62 (13) 5.53 (18) .214 (16)
Warren Moon 107 10 32.37 (12) 1.87 (20) .308 (2) .168 (31) -0.79 (32) 28.01 (28) 6.35 (2) .187 (8)
John Elway 239 22 32.03 (13) 2.13 (11) .385 (15) .109 (15) 0.63 (4) 31.79 (12) 5.53 (19) .176 (5)
Ben Roethlisberger 164 15 31.19 (14) 2.18 (9) .360 (13) .128 (26) 0.04 (17) 31.46 (15) 5.86 (11) .165 (3)
Tony Romo 62 6 31.10 (15) 1.81 (24) .387 (17) .065 (2) 0.05 (15) 28.40 (27) 5.98 (7) .161 (2)
Neil O'Donnell 78 7 30.92 (16) 1.85 (21) .410 (23) .115 (19) -0.38 (28) 33.33 (2) 6.56 (1) .192 (10)
Quarterback Drives Games Yds/Dr Pts/Dr Punts/Dr QBTO/Dr PEN +/- LOS/Dr Plays/Dr 3Outs/Dr
Jim Kelly 195 17 30.89 (17) 2.08 (12) .328 (6) .159 (30) 0.58 (5) 33.18 (4) 5.57 (16) .200 (13)
Matt Ryan 53 5 30.72 (18) 1.74 (28) .358 (12) .189 (33) 0.96 (3) 25.72 (32) 5.77 (13) .245 (26)
Bernie Kosar 93 8 30.60 (19) 1.98 (15) .387 (16) .108 (14) 0.44 (9) 29.14 (25) 5.27 (28) .237 (24)
Jeff Garcia 64 6 29.98 (20) 1.89 (19) .438 (27) .125 (23) 0.25 (14) 29.92 (24) 5.55 (17) .266 (30)
Brett Favre 274 24 29.97 (21) 2.03 (13) .358 (11) .128 (25) -0.04 (19) 33.22 (3) 5.37 (23) .190 (9)
Eli Manning 119 11 29.88 (22) 1.80 (25) .445 (28) .076 (6) -0.22 (24) 30.12 (23) 5.71 (14) .227 (22)
Mark Sanchez 65 6 29.75 (23) 1.85 (22) .523 (32) .062 (1) -0.32 (27) 32.28 (8) 5.45 (21) .262 (29)
Philip Rivers 96 9 29.74 (24) 1.83 (23) .469 (31) .104 (13) -0.64 (30) 31.25 (19) 5.35 (24) .229 (23)
Jake Delhomme 93 8 29.61 (25) 1.78 (27) .452 (30) .129 (27) -0.15 (21) 30.35 (22) 5.04 (32) .237 (25)
Dan Marino 205 18 28.64 (26) 1.79 (26) .380 (14) .141 (29) 0.04 (16) 30.56 (21) 5.42 (22) .224 (21)
Joe Flacco 173 15 28.56 (27) 1.97 (16) .434 (26) .075 (5) 1.00 (2) 31.32 (17) 5.35 (25) .266 (31)
Matt Hasselbeck 133 11 28.22 (28) 1.95 (17) .451 (29) .068 (3) 0.33 (12) 32.08 (10) 5.32 (27) .271 (32)
Donovan McNabb 187 16 27.48 (29) 1.68 (29) .401 (21) .134 (28) 0.27 (13) 31.99 (11) 5.33 (26) .219 (19)
Steve McNair 117 10 26.97 (30) 1.54 (31) .410 (24) .111 (17) 0.57 (7) 32.34 (7) 5.52 (20) .222 (20)
Mark Brunell 113 11 26.42 (31) 1.56 (30) .398 (20) .124 (22) -0.52 (29) 31.16 (20) 5.26 (30) .257 (28)
Randall Cunningham 125 10 25.64 (32) 1.46 (32) .432 (25) .112 (18) -0.06 (20) 32.09 (9) 5.02 (33) .208 (15)
Dave Krieg 105 11 23.36 (33) 1.31 (33) .543 (33) .095 (11) 0.41 (10) 31.57 (14) 5.11 (31) .305 (33)
AVG 138.2 12.6 31.08 1.99 .390 .112 .06 30.61 5.64 .216

This postseason has yet to have a notably strong offensive performance in terms of yards per drive or points per drive. Sure, we had one of the all-time duds with Ryan Lindley and the Cardinals, but hopefully that's the last time we see a third-string quarterback start a playoff game for a long time.

I hope Colin Kaepernick can make a quick return to the postseason with the 49ers to see if he can sustain his lead in four categories. Seattle has taken over the NFC West, though there's an interesting difference here between the two in regards to penalties. Kaepernick has had the best advantage, but Russell Wilson's offense has repeatedly shot itself in the foot with -1.31 penalty yards per drive. Super Bowl XLVIII was such a blowout that the penalties did not even matter, but Seattle had four offensive holding penalties that night. This may not come as a surprise given that the Seahawks have led the league in penalties in each of the last two seasons.

Tony Romo finally returned to the playoffs this year, and he had a strong run. He ranks second to only Troy Aikman for the lowest rate of three-and-out drives, but there is a far more amusing takeaway here. The quarterbacks with the lowest percentage of drives resulting in a turnover are Mark Sanchez (6.2 percent), Romo (6.5 percent) and Matt Hasselbeck (6.8 percent). Mention Sanchez's name and people will quickly think of the Butt Fumble. Romo in the playoffs conjures up some ancient blunders from his first two appearances, while Hasselbeck's most famous moment is probably "we want the ball and we're going to score" in Lambeau. Yet those are the players that turned the ball over at the lowest rate to end drives in the playoffs.

The more things change, the more they stay the same in Indianapolis. Andrew Luck has a lot of numbers that look similar to Peyton Manning already, though one big difference is turnovers, where Luck ranks 32nd out of 33 quarterbacks. Thirteen of Luck's 69 playoff possessions (18.9 percent) have ended with him turning the ball over, including 12 interceptions.

There seems to be a thick line drawn between where people stand with Luck's playoff turnovers. Either you think they are a huge problem, or you brush them off. I lean towards the latter, because eight of his 12 interceptions have come when trailing by at least 14 points. His first playoff interception was in Baltimore, down 15 points late, and that was a tipped ball on fourth down. He threw another when trailing by nine points in New England, yet that bounced off of Stanley Havili's shoulder. In New England a year ago, he threw one poor pick with the game tied, which led to an early deficit. Luck has two interceptions while leading by 7 to 11 points, which both came on third-and-long in Denver this year, basically serving as punts. On Sunday in New England, he was not intercepted until he trailed by 24 points in the third quarter. He also was picked when trailing by 38 in the fourth quarter, and he had an interception in the final minute of last year's loss when trailing by 21 points. So in my view, most of Luck's interceptions either have not been his fault or just didn't have any impact on the game.

Incredibly, Luck has already thrown five playoff interceptions when trailing by at least 21 points, the most in the NFL since at least 1998 (and possibly since 1984). Two of those five even came in that comeback win against Kansas City. Of the 33 quarterbacks studied here, only John Elway (five) and Dan Marino (seven) had at least as many interceptions as Luck while down 21-plus points. Given the small sample size of the postseason, Luck may already rank in the top three in this category after just six playoff games. Who else could be up there? So until we start seeing Luck make more big mistakes when the game is competitive, I do not see this as a concern going forward.

Here is a handy reference chart that summarizes how each quarterback's drives have ended in the playoffs. There are 11 possibilities. "Miss" is a missed field goal. "BOTFG" is a botched field goal, a bad snap or hold that never allowed the kick to happen. "Clock" is a drive that ended because the clock expired at the end of a half. "FUM-TM" and "FUM-QB" are lost fumbles split up by teammates (TM) and the quarterback himself. "Downs" always means a failed fourth-down conversion.

Playoff Drive Results
Quarterback Drives Punts FG Miss BOTFG Clock INT FUM-TM FUM-QB Safety Downs TD
Tom Brady 304 123 41 6 0 9 24 6 3 2 11 79
Brett Favre 274 98 34 13 0 6 30 9 5 1 13 65
Peyton Manning 252 82 43 7 0 12 24 9 4 2 15 54
Joe Montana 248 98 25 14 0 4 21 12 1 0 7 66
John Elway 239 92 28 12 0 7 21 5 5 2 6 61
Dan Marino 205 78 19 9 0 3 24 11 5 1 11 44
Jim Kelly 195 64 29 8 0 5 28 5 3 0 7 46
Donovan McNabb 187 75 26 5 0 9 17 6 8 1 6 34
Joe Flacco 173 75 23 1 0 5 10 8 3 2 7 39
Troy Aikman 164 54 22 5 0 2 17 5 2 0 9 48
Ben Roethlisberger 164 59 22 2 0 5 19 7 2 2 4 42
Kurt Warner 144 51 15 8 1 3 14 3 3 0 4 42
Steve Young 141 47 14 3 0 7 13 4 5 0 4 44
Matt Hasselbeck 133 60 19 3 0 3 9 2 0 0 8 29
Drew Brees 130 41 17 4 0 9 6 5 3 1 8 36
Randall Cunningham 125 54 16 4 0 8 9 5 5 0 5 19
Quarterback Drives Punts FG Miss BOTFG Clock INT FUM-TM FUM-QB Safety Downs TD
Eli Manning 119 53 18 6 0 4 8 1 1 1 4 23
Steve McNair 117 48 16 8 0 2 11 7 2 0 4 19
Aaron Rodgers 116 45 17 2 0 3 7 4 4 0 1 33
Mark Brunell 113 45 17 2 0 5 11 3 3 1 7 19
Warren Moon 107 33 16 7 1 3 14 4 4 0 3 22
Dave Krieg 105 57 9 3 0 4 9 3 1 0 3 16
Philip Rivers 96 45 10 7 0 2 9 1 1 0 0 21
Bernie Kosar 93 36 10 5 0 4 10 5 0 0 1 22
Jake Delhomme 93 42 15 2 0 1 10 1 2 0 1 19
Neil O'Donnell 78 32 13 1 1 0 8 2 1 0 5 15
Russell Wilson 74 24 12 0 0 4 5 2 1 0 6 20
Andrew Luck 69 23 11 3 0 2 12 2 1 0 1 14
Mark Sanchez 65 34 5 3 0 3 3 0 1 0 1 15
Jeff Garcia 64 28 7 1 0 3 7 0 1 0 3 14
Tony Romo 62 24 7 4 0 3 2 2 2 1 4 13
Colin Kaepernick 60 18 11 1 0 1 5 2 1 0 2 19
Matt Ryan 53 19 5 0 0 2 7 1 3 1 4 11
AVG 138.2 38.5% 13.0% 3.5% 0.1% 3.1% 9.3% 3.1% 1.9% 0.4% 3.8% 23.3%

In his 19 playoff games with Indianapolis, Peyton Manning only lost one fumble, and that was on a handoff to Joseph Addai that the Bears blew up in Super Bowl XLI. But since going to Denver, Manning lost a fumble in all three of the Broncos' playoff losses.

Starting Field Position and Touchdowns

Field position is a crucial element to success over which the offense has no direct control. It's a part of the game that gets overlooked too often, but some quarterbacks have definitely had a bigger advantage than others at how far they have to drive to score points.

The following table shows each quarterback's average starting field position (LOS/Dr). You can see the number of drives where the offense started at exactly the 20, followed by the percentage of drives that started at the 20 or worse; between their own 21 and the 35; their own 36 and the 49; and drives that started in opponent territory. The "Worst GP" is the worst average starting field position the quarterback had in any one playoff game. The top figure in each column is in bold, while the worst figure is in red and bold.

Average Field Position for Playoff Quarterbacks
Quarterback Drives LOS/Dr 1-19 Pct. On 20 Pct. 21-35 Pct. 36-49 Pct. Opp. 50+ Pct. Worst GP
Russell Wilson 74 33.91 (1) 24 32.4% 15 20.3% 20 27.0% 18 24.3% 12 16.2% 26.1
Neil O'Donnell 78 33.33 (2) 15 19.2% 5 6.4% 36 46.2% 20 25.6% 7 9.0% 27.6
Brett Favre 274 33.22 (3) 79 28.8% 23 8.4% 102 37.2% 46 16.8% 47 17.2% 24.1
Jim Kelly 195 33.18 (4) 55 28.2% 26 13.3% 70 35.9% 37 19.0% 33 16.9% 21.5
Troy Aikman 164 33.12 (5) 51 31.1% 25 15.2% 57 34.8% 30 18.3% 26 15.9% 23.1
Kurt Warner 144 32.69 (6) 44 30.6% 19 13.2% 49 34.0% 29 20.1% 22 15.3% 22.9
Steve McNair 117 32.34 (7) 28 23.9% 8 6.8% 49 41.9% 25 21.4% 15 12.8% 26.3
Mark Sanchez 65 32.28 (8) 17 26.2% 6 9.2% 28 43.1% 12 18.5% 8 12.3% 26.6
Randall Cunningham 125 32.09 (9) 41 32.8% 24 19.2% 44 35.2% 25 20.0% 15 12.0% 22.4
Matt Hasselbeck 133 32.08 (10) 28 21.1% 9 6.8% 65 48.9% 25 18.8% 15 11.3% 22.1
Donovan McNabb 187 31.99 (11) 51 27.3% 14 7.5% 68 36.4% 40 21.4% 28 15.0% 20.0
John Elway 239 31.79 (12) 82 34.3% 35 14.6% 82 34.3% 36 15.1% 39 16.3% 19.3
Joe Montana 248 31.62 (13) 85 34.3% 36 14.5% 89 35.9% 36 14.5% 38 15.3% 20.2
Dave Krieg 105 31.57 (14) 33 31.4% 10 9.5% 37 35.2% 19 18.1% 16 15.2% 22.4
Ben Roethlisberger 164 31.46 (15) 53 32.3% 27 16.5% 58 35.4% 31 18.9% 22 13.4% 22.8
Steve Young 141 31.44 (16) 51 36.2% 19 13.5% 43 30.5% 18 12.8% 29 20.6% 16.7
Quarterback Drives LOS/Dr 1-19 Pct. On 20 Pct. 21-35 Pct. 36-49 Pct. Opp. 50+ Pct. Worst GP
Joe Flacco 173 31.32 (17) 67 38.7% 30 17.3% 52 30.1% 26 15.0% 28 16.2% 20.0
Tom Brady 304 31.27 (18) 97 31.9% 39 12.8% 112 36.8% 53 17.4% 42 13.8% 16.1
Philip Rivers 96 31.25 (19) 29 30.2% 13 13.5% 34 35.4% 17 17.7% 16 16.7% 19.0
Mark Brunell 113 31.16 (20) 35 31.0% 8 7.1% 45 39.8% 19 16.8% 14 12.4% 18.0
Dan Marino 205 30.56 (21) 61 29.8% 24 11.7% 86 42.0% 32 15.6% 26 12.7% 19.0
Jake Delhomme 93 30.35 (22) 29 31.2% 9 9.7% 35 37.6% 20 21.5% 9 9.7% 21.5
Eli Manning 119 30.12 (23) 41 34.5% 16 13.4% 44 37.0% 17 14.3% 17 14.3% 24.1
Jeff Garcia 64 29.92 (24) 16 25.0% 6 9.4% 32 50.0% 9 14.1% 7 10.9% 27.1
Bernie Kosar 93 29.14 (25) 34 36.6% 12 12.9% 37 39.8% 13 14.0% 9 9.7% 22.6
Aaron Rodgers 116 28.97 (26) 46 39.7% 26 22.4% 38 32.8% 21 18.1% 11 9.5% 17.6
Tony Romo 62 28.40 (27) 27 43.5% 10 16.1% 16 25.8% 13 21.0% 6 9.7% 23.5
Warren Moon 107 28.01 (28) 50 46.7% 23 21.5% 35 32.7% 6 5.6% 16 15.0% 20.7
Drew Brees 130 27.51 (29) 53 40.8% 18 13.8% 48 36.9% 19 14.6% 10 7.7% 21.6
Colin Kaepernick 60 27.20 (30) 37 61.7% 19 31.7% 10 16.7% 5 8.3% 8 13.3% 22.1
Peyton Manning 252 27.10 (31) 104 41.3% 45 17.9% 95 37.7% 37 14.7% 16 6.3% 15.7
Matt Ryan 53 25.72 (32) 24 45.3% 14 26.4% 18 34.0% 7 13.2% 4 7.5% 21.7
Andrew Luck 69 24.03 (33) 40 58.0% 28 40.6% 19 27.5% 7 10.1% 3 4.3% 19.4
AVG 138.2 30.61 46.3 33.5% 19.4 14.1% 50.1 36.2% 23.3 16.8% 18.6 13.5% 21.6

So the young guy on the great defensive team (Wilson) has the best field position, while the one-man show (Luck) has the worst. These things write themselves sometimes. Seriously, are the Colts going to do the same thing with Luck that they did with Manning all those years? No quarterbacks studied have a lower percentage of drives starting in opponent territory than Manning and Luck. At least we can cite the 2011 kickoff rule change for some of Luck's low average, but that does nothing to explain Wilson ranking at the top. That defense really helps, as does recovering an onside kick at midfield.

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Of the 416 games studied here, Brady's average starting field position of 46.1 in Sunday's AFC Championship Game was the sixth-highest. Luck's average of 19.8 is one of 12 games where the average field position was inside the 20. That includes two games for Luck and two for Peyton. Quarterbacks in those games went just 4-8, including a win by Philip Rivers in Indianapolis after Billy Volek took over for him in the fourth quarter.

Aaron Rodgers is another star quarterback who has not been given much of an advantage in field position in the playoffs. However, the three most favorable drives of his playoff career all came in Sunday's NFC Championship Game in Seattle, starting in opponent territory at the 33, 23 and 19. The Packers only scored a field goal each time.

When breaking down the touchdown drives each quarterback has led in the playoffs, those differences in field position start to show up more. Note that "<50" are touchdown drives starting at the 50 and inside. The "<20" are drives starting in the red zone. "Avg. Lead" is the average scoring margin at the start of the touchdown drive.

Playoff Touchdown Drive Splits
Quarterback Drives TD TD/Dr Avg.
Length
70+ Pct. 80+ Pct. <50 Pct. <20 Pct. Avg. Lead
Andrew Luck 69 14 .203 (26) 72.6 11 78.6% 7 50.0% 2 14.3% 0 0.0% -9.36 (33)
Peyton Manning 252 54 .214 (21) 72.2 37 68.5% 23 42.6% 4 7.4% 1 1.9% 1.17 (8)
Tony Romo 62 13 .210 (22) 71.4 8 61.5% 6 46.2% 1 7.7% 1 7.7% -1.23 (13)
Jeff Garcia 64 14 .219 (17) 71.4 9 64.3% 6 42.9% 1 7.1% 0 0.0% -7.21 (32)
Aaron Rodgers 116 33 .284 (5) 71.0 20 60.6% 16 48.5% 2 6.1% 0 0.0% -2.18 (18)
Philip Rivers 96 21 .219 (18) 70.7 14 66.7% 5 23.8% 3 14.3% 0 0.0% -4.43 (30)
Colin Kaepernick 60 19 .317 (1) 69.4 13 68.4% 11 57.9% 4 21.1% 1 5.3% -4.26 (27)
Warren Moon 107 22 .206 (24) 68.5 14 63.6% 10 45.5% 5 22.7% 1 4.5% -1.55 (17)
Drew Brees 130 36 .277 (6) 68.4 22 61.1% 13 36.1% 6 16.7% 1 2.8% -3.00 (23)
Eli Manning 119 23 .193 (27) 67.3 12 52.2% 8 34.8% 4 17.4% 1 4.3% 0.13 (10)
Bernie Kosar 93 22 .237 (13) 67.0 12 54.5% 9 40.9% 4 18.2% 1 4.5% -3.50 (26)
Jake Delhomme 93 19 .204 (25) 66.2 9 47.4% 5 26.3% 3 15.8% 1 5.3% -2.37 (21)
Matt Ryan 53 11 .208 (23) 65.9 6 54.5% 4 36.4% 2 18.2% 0 0.0% -1.27 (14)
Steve McNair 117 19 .162 (31) 64.8 7 36.8% 1 5.3% 1 5.3% 0 0.0% -3.26 (24)
Brett Favre 274 65 .237 (12) 64.6 36 55.4% 16 24.6% 12 18.5% 4 6.2% -1.22 (12)
John Elway 239 61 .255 (11) 63.7 28 45.9% 21 34.4% 15 24.6% 3 4.9% 0.08 (11)
Dan Marino 205 44 .215 (20) 63.0 20 45.5% 9 20.5% 11 25.0% 2 4.5% -4.41 (29)
Quarterback Drives TD TD/Dr Avg.
Length
70+ Pct. 80+ Pct. <50 Pct. <20 Pct. Avg. Lead
Tom Brady 304 79 .260 (9) 62.4 36 45.6% 15 19.0% 16 20.3% 4 5.1% 1.39 (7)
Kurt Warner 144 42 .292 (4) 61.7 19 45.2% 8 19.0% 9 21.4% 2 4.8% 0.95 (9)
Mark Brunell 113 19 .168 (30) 61.7 9 47.4% 3 15.8% 3 15.8% 2 10.5% -1.53 (16)
Russell Wilson 74 20 .270 (7) 61.7 7 35.0% 3 15.0% 5 25.0% 0 0.0% -1.45 (15)
Dave Krieg 105 16 .152 (32) 61.2 5 31.3% 3 18.8% 3 18.8% 1 6.3% -4.31 (28)
Joe Montana 248 66 .266 (8) 60.8 34 51.5% 16 24.2% 18 27.3% 6 9.1% 4.15 (1)
Donovan McNabb 187 34 .182 (29) 60.2 15 44.1% 7 20.6% 9 26.5% 3 8.8% -2.29 (19)
Randall Cunningham 125 19 .152 (33) 60.1 10 52.6% 5 26.3% 5 26.3% 2 10.5% -6.47 (31)
Mark Sanchez 65 15 .231 (15) 59.8 6 40.0% 3 20.0% 5 33.3% 1 6.7% -2.33 (20)
Ben Roethlisberger 164 42 .256 (10) 59.2 12 28.6% 5 11.9% 12 28.6% 2 4.8% -2.79 (22)
Steve Young 141 44 .312 (2) 58.8 17 38.6% 9 20.5% 18 40.9% 1 2.3% 3.84 (2)
Joe Flacco 173 39 .225 (16) 58.5 18 46.2% 9 23.1% 11 28.2% 5 12.8% 1.54 (5)
Neil O'Donnell 78 15 .192 (28) 58.5 5 33.3% 1 6.7% 2 13.3% 1 6.7% 1.67 (4)
Jim Kelly 195 46 .236 (14) 58.4 13 28.3% 5 10.9% 13 28.3% 2 4.3% 1.48 (6)
Troy Aikman 164 48 .293 (3) 58.3 22 45.8% 10 20.8% 16 33.3% 6 12.5% 3.10 (3)
Matt Hasselbeck 133 29 .218 (19) 57.0 11 37.9% 2 6.9% 9 31.0% 2 6.9% -3.34 (25)
AVG 138.2 32.2 .233 64.1 517 48.6% 274 25.8% 234 22.0% 57 5.4% -1.64

A healthy supply of long fields leads to a lot of long touchdown drives, so the top two come as no surprise at this point. The problem again for Luck is that he is falling behind too quickly in the postseason. His average touchdown drive comes with the Colts trailing by 9.4 points, which is easily the worst in the study.

Joe Flacco still has one of the shortest average lengths for touchdown drives, thanks in part to having the highest rate of touchdowns that started in the red zone (12.8 percent). He just missed another this year with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Crockett Gillmore on a one-play drive to put away the Steelers. Gillmore surely has that ball tucked away with his collection of raccoon pelts and other fine furs.

Average Scoring Margin

This final table focuses on the scoreboard. The Avg. Lead is again the average score margin at the start of each drive (negative for a deficit). Then it's broken down by the number of drives when the offense was behind, tied or ahead. "3SD-" is the number of drives that started with the offense trailing by at least three scores (17-plus points since 1994 or 15-plus prior). "3SL+" is the number of drives that started with the offense holding at least a three-score lead.

Average Score Margin on Playoff Drives
Quarterback Drives Avg. Lead Behind Pct. Tied Pct. Ahead Pct. 3SD- Pct. 3SL+ Pct.
Neil O'Donnell 78 3.26 24 30.8% 10 12.8% 44 56.4% 1 1.3% 8 10.3%
Joe Montana 248 2.64 93 37.5% 38 15.3% 117 47.2% 7 2.8% 29 11.7%
Kurt Warner 144 2.50 47 32.6% 24 16.7% 73 50.7% 7 4.9% 16 11.1%
Aaron Rodgers 116 2.07 44 37.9% 19 16.4% 53 45.7% 7 6.0% 9 7.8%
Joe Flacco 173 1.82 58 33.5% 39 22.5% 76 43.9% 4 2.3% 11 6.4%
Tom Brady 304 1.79 88 28.9% 78 25.7% 138 45.4% 13 4.3% 21 6.9%
Jim Kelly 195 1.73 63 32.3% 48 24.6% 84 43.1% 16 8.2% 25 12.8%
Troy Aikman 164 1.59 59 36.0% 30 18.3% 75 45.7% 19 11.6% 22 13.4%
Steve Young 141 0.66 61 43.3% 23 16.3% 57 40.4% 16 11.3% 19 13.5%
Brett Favre 274 0.18 102 37.2% 60 21.9% 112 40.9% 23 8.4% 15 5.5%
Russell Wilson 74 0.08 38 51.4% 9 12.2% 27 36.5% 3 4.1% 6 8.1%
John Elway 239 -0.10 77 32.2% 67 28.0% 95 39.7% 22 9.2% 16 6.7%
Ben Roethlisberger 164 -0.30 64 39.0% 33 20.1% 67 40.9% 6 3.7% 2 1.2%
Eli Manning 119 -0.57 51 42.9% 35 29.4% 33 27.7% 3 2.5% 2 1.7%
Peyton Manning 252 -0.69 98 38.9% 55 21.8% 99 39.3% 19 7.5% 15 6.0%
Steve McNair 117 -0.88 52 44.4% 32 27.4% 33 28.2% 1 0.9% 1 0.9%
Quarterback Drives Avg. Lead Behind Pct. Tied Pct. Ahead Pct. 3SD- Pct. 3SL+ Pct.
Jake Delhomme 93 -0.96 32 34.4% 22 23.7% 39 41.9% 14 15.1% 4 4.3%
Warren Moon 107 -1.13 42 39.3% 22 20.6% 43 40.2% 7 6.5% 3 2.8%
Donovan McNabb 187 -1.56 89 47.6% 32 17.1% 66 35.3% 15 8.0% 4 2.1%
Bernie Kosar 93 -1.62 42 45.2% 29 31.2% 22 23.7% 7 7.5% 3 3.2%
Matt Hasselbeck 133 -1.77 61 45.9% 30 22.6% 42 31.6% 14 10.5% 6 4.5%
Mark Sanchez 65 -1.86 31 47.7% 13 20.0% 21 32.3% 3 4.6% 0 0.0%
Philip Rivers 96 -1.88 47 49.0% 25 26.0% 24 25.0% 6 6.3% 0 0.0%
Drew Brees 130 -2.26 69 53.1% 33 25.4% 28 21.5% 4 3.1% 5 3.8%
Tony Romo 62 -2.27 32 51.6% 13 21.0% 17 27.4% 4 6.5% 6 9.7%
Colin Kaepernick 60 -2.42 30 50.0% 12 20.0% 18 30.0% 4 6.7% 0 0.0%
Mark Brunell 113 -3.29 62 54.9% 21 18.6% 30 26.5% 11 9.7% 2 1.8%
Matt Ryan 53 -3.74 27 50.9% 9 17.0% 17 32.1% 7 13.2% 0 0.0%
Dave Krieg 105 -5.62 68 64.8% 18 17.1% 19 18.1% 17 16.2% 1 1.0%
Dan Marino 205 -5.62 128 62.4% 32 15.6% 45 22.0% 48 23.4% 12 5.9%
Randall Cunningham 125 -6.58 88 70.4% 14 11.2% 23 18.4% 14 11.2% 2 1.6%
Jeff Garcia 64 -6.97 43 67.2% 13 20.3% 8 12.5% 11 17.2% 0 0.0%
Andrew Luck 69 -7.19 44 63.8% 9 13.0% 16 23.2% 14 20.3% 0 0.0%
AVG 138.2 -1.24 59.2 42.8% 28.7 20.8% 50.3 36.4% 11.1 8.0% 8.0 5.8%

Brady is still the only quarterback with fewer than 30 percent of his drives starting with a deficit. After two bad playoff losses, Peyton Manning no longer has a positive scoring margin per drive. With a 3-4 record as a starter, Neil O'Donnell remains the only quarterback with a positive scoring margin per drive to not have a winning playoff record. O'Donnell is doing it on the back of two easy wins over the 1994 Browns and 1995 Bills in which the Steelers seized control early and never let up.

Mandatory mention: Dan Marino trailed by at least three scores on 23.4 percent of his postseason drives. Suddenly, 8-10 with some less-than-stellar stats makes more sense. Luck is not far behind at 20.3 percent.

Drive Stats for Super Bowl XLIX

For the first time in his playoff career Tom Brady has led New England's offense to at least 30 points in consecutive games. Hitting 30 against Seattle's defense will be a monumental task. Only four offenses have scored 30 points against Seattle in 71 games since 2011, and even three of those games need a caveat. Atlanta scored 30 in 2011 and in the 2012 playoffs thanks to a late drive by Matt Ryan. This year, the Chargers and Cowboys both hit 30 on the dot too, but in each game those teams added a late field goal after the Seattle offense turned the ball over on downs deep in its own end. So that's actually a little misleading for the defense when the drives went five and 10 yards.

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He barely hit the mark on Sunday, but thanks to another big overtime drive, Russell Wilson has led Seattle to at least 2.0 points per drive in all seven of his playoff starts. He has the lowest standard deviation of Pts/Dr in the playoffs (0.34) in this study. The two playoff games where Seattle struggled most were against Atlanta (2012) and the Packers. What do those games have in common? They were the worst starting field position the Seahawks have had in the playoffs under Wilson. The advantage there has been interesting, though not too surprising given Seattle's regular-season success. This offense has ranked fourth, third and ninth in the last three years in starting field position.

In 2014 the Patriots (.201) and Seahawks (.182) actually led all offenses in field goals per drive, but the Patriots are sixth in points per red-zone opportunity (Pts/RZ) compared to 14th for Seattle. Shockingly, Seattle's defense is 30th in points Pts/RZ. The Seahawks (.071) rank first in fewest giveaways per drive, with New England (.075) close behind at third. That's what made the five-turnover performance against Green Bay so unusual for the Seahawks. How often do you see a quarterback throw four interceptions while targeting the same receiver? The two tips by Jermaine Kearse really hurt, but that game felt like an outlier in that department. In his first six playoff games the only interception Wilson threw was a Hail Mary in Atlanta, caught by Julio Jones of all people on defense.

Look for field position to play a big role in Super Bowl XLIX. In their last Super Bowl loss against the Giants, the Patriots had the second-worst field position (16.1) out of the 416 offensive games I have studied here. This season the Seahawks (.491) force the most punts per drive, while the Patriots (.364) are only 28th. No defense has had better starting field position this year than the Seahawks (25.25) and Patriots (25.31), but we just watched Seattle defend the hell out of several short fields against Green Bay. These teams are very good at playing complementary football, so this could be a classic game.

Comments

5 comments, Last at 23 Jan 2015, 10:15am

1 Re: Quarterback Postseason Drive Stats

Nifty data.

You should try to include DSR (drive success rate) the next time you do it. That's a cool stat, and is a good counterpoint to yards/drive. Together with TOs/drive, those are the big three drive stats.

2 Re: Quarterback Postseason Drive Stats

Great stuff, Scott, as always, but it's good to know that the Colts fixed their perpetual bad field position issues by signing Josh Cribbs. That is, if he doesn't get himself killed....

As a four-plus-decade Colts fan the changes in the past ten years are pretty amusing. A decade ago I'd watch a young Manning take his team to a 21-0 first quarter lead and watch the D give it all back in a game that ended up 28-27, while I gnawed through half of my hand. Nowadays, it's quite the opposite as the Colts drop to 0-21 twenty minutes into a game and Luck and the D have to claw their way back--I'm far less nervous these days, mainly because I've gone through all 12 stages of grief by halftime (if "woodworking in the garage" or "mowing the lawn" aren't official stages, I think I invented a 13th stage for halftime). Why do I watch football again? This is supposed to be fun? Sheesh!

3 Re: Quarterback Postseason Drive Stats

BTW, I don't know what game the cover photo from (looks like red team with silver helmets--Washington State? OSU?) But Luck is clearly taking a helmet to the head (while his LT appears to be calmly observing in the background). I hope it was flagged.

5 Re: Quarterback Postseason Drive Stats

Forgetting the Butt Fumble specifically for a moment, the Mark Sanchez turnover data really is outright amazing. This is a guy who was either 1st or 2nd in turnovers in 3 out of 4 full seasons starting, and even this year he was tied for 2nd in turnovers over the final 9 games of the season (From the point he started for Philadelphia).

So to recap, Sanchez who has been 1st, 2nd, 2nd, and 2nd in TOs. Somehow has less turnovers per drive than ANY qb on this list. That is outright remarkable to me.

I'm actually curious if there is a greater split of QBTOs/Drive from regular season to playoffs for a QB with multiple playoff starts, like Sanchez.