Finding the Most Important Factor for Winning - Part II

In the second part of my 434 Part Series "Better Know a Winning Factor", I'm going to look at another factor that everyone seems to attribute to winning football games: Rushing Attempts. Like before with Turnovers, I'm going to take a look at both gross and net rushing attempts, and see how well teams did.

Rushing Attempt Margin
Rush Att Margin 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 Total
NFL +4 176-29 179-28 186-28 174-41-1 174-31 889-157-1
+8 140-20 145-19 145-16 144-23-1 151-17 725-95-1
+12 106-13 117-13 114-8 108-12 117-10 562-56
+16 67-5 82-10 81-3 84-6 81-6 395-30
Colts -12 2-1 2-3 1-1 1-2 0-3 6-10
-8 2-1 3-3 1-1 1-3 2-3 9-11
-4 4-1 4-4 1-2 5-3 2-3 16-13
(-4,4) 5-2 5-0 2-0 2-0 3-0 17-2
+4 4-0 3-0 11-0 5-1 7-1 30-2
+8 3-0 2-0 6-0 3-1 5-0 19-1
+12 3-0 2-0 4-0 2-1 5-0 16-1

A few additional comments:

  • First, the average rushing attempt margin is 12/game. I would have never thought it was that high, but it makes sense after thinking about it. The second half of a blowout game is one team passing, and the other rushing.
  • Looking at the average of 12 more rushing attempts / game, the winning percentage for those teams is 0.909. That's pretty darn good.
  • Having just 1 more rushing attempt than your opponent has led to a winning percentage of 0.799 (993-250-1), which is a slightly lower winning pct. than winning the turnover battle by at least 1. However, it is much easier to achieve one more rushing attempt than cause one more turnover.
  • The Colts are under .500 when rushing less times than their opponent, but rarely lose when they rush more. Again, this is most likely because of so many leads in the second half, leading to running the ball many more times than their opponent once the game is in hand.
Rushing Attempts
Rush Att 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 Total
NFL 24 232-116 234-119 233-120 225-129-1 235-126 1159-610-1
28 186-60 198-67 205-60 193-64-1 200-66 982-317-1
32 130-23 146-31 160-29 140-26 149-26 725-135
36 72-10 89-14 88-7 94-12 89-12 432-55

Again, I'll break the Colts down into both Offense and Defense. That way we'll get a better sense of how they did under all circumstances.

Opponent Rushing Attempts
Opp Rush Att 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 Total
Colts 24 10-3 11-4 7-2 9-3 7-3 44-15
28 7-2 8-4 3-2 6-2 2-3 26-13
32 5-1 4-4 1-1 1-2 1-3 12-11
36 2-1 3-3 0-1 1-2 0-3 6-10
Rushing Attempts
Rush Att 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 Total
Colts 24 11-2 9-1 13-0 10-1 10-2 53-6
28 7-1 7-1 11-0 6-1 9-1 40-4
32 4-0 4-0 7-0 2-1 5-0 22-1
36 2-0 2-0 3-0 2-1 2-0 11-1

A couple things here as well:

  • The NFL stats seem pretty reasonable, and seem to make sense. As the number of rush attempts goes up, so does the winning percentage. I can agree with that. Also, the average rushing attempts / game is 27.
  • The Colts have a great record, even when their opponent has an above average day rushing the ball. While the league's winning percentage is less than 25% when rushing 28 times, the Colts win 67% of the time.
  • I was thinking before doing this analysis that with how susceptible the Colts have been to the run recently, and the fact that many teams have tried to limit the number of times Peyton has the ball in his hands, that the Colts would have had more opponents with above average rushing attempts. In actuality, they had less opponents than average run the ball more than 27 times.
    • NFL - (982+317+1) / (32*16*5) = 50.8%
    • Colts - (26+13) / (16*5) = 48.8%

While these records show that the more a team runs the ball, the more they win. This makes it seems like a good indicator of winning games. However, I feel like, for the most part, winning a game causes more rushing attempts, rather than the other way around. I can't see any coaching staff looking at these numbers, and concluding "If we run the ball every play, we'll win the game." Rushing attempts sure look like they lead to more wins, but I remain skeptical.

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