2012 NFL Week Nine: Inside The Colts Numbers

Gregory Shamus

Even though the stats gave the Colts little hope, they came through in a big way Sunday, beating the Dolphins 23-20 and improving to 5-3 on the season.

This is now the fourth season I've done a statistical review of each game here at Stampede Blue, and I've rarely had issues relating what I'm seeing on the field to our stats. It was pretty clear why the Colts were winning games, and it showed each and every week in the stats. You could point to this stat or that stat, and be confident that it accurately told you what was happening on the field.

The 2012 Colts, however, clearly have something else willing them to victories.

There's no way that you can look at the stats of this Colts team and tell me they are a 5-3 team. On Sunday afternoon, like they have done four of the last five weekends, they got the job done, beating the Dolphins 23-20, and really cementing themselves in the playoff mix in the AFC. The Colts are playing inspired football, fighting for their leader Chuck Pagano, as he fights to get healthy once again. Usually, I'm one to discount these things, but it's virtually impossible to do it with this team.

Now, there were definitely a few stats that helped tell the story on Sunday, and of course most of the media types are picking up on the mostly meaningless one. Andrew Luck set the rookie record for most passing yards in a game with 433, one better than what Cam Newton did last year. Sure that's nice, and will get play in the media because they are all dinosaurs and still consider counting stats to mean something, but just throwing for a lot of yards doesn't win games. You'll see what won the game shortly. When you add in Dolphins rookie QB Ryan Tannehill and his 290 yards passing, the two of them obliterated the old record of most passing yards by a pair of rookies in the same game (old record was 592, set by two scabs during the players' strike of 1987).

I have to give Bruce Arians a bit of credit on the play-calling once the Colts needed to go into their four minute offense, even though it didn't work out. Instead of just running into the line 3 times and punting, which the Colts had done several times this season, he let Luck throw the ball on third down, and it just didn't work out. With the day Luck was having it made total sense, but I hope the semi-aggressiveness continues. I'm fairly confident we won't see that same aggressiveness inside the 10 yard line any time soon, but I'm good with just little wins here and there. The last play of the game was a thing of beauty though. More of that please.

How did the stats look Sunday? Let's dive in and check it out:

Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 9:

Statistic Offense Rank Defense Rank Off/Def Above Off/Def Below Record
DSR 78.4% 7 75.9% 17 N N 6-0
ANPY/A 9.367 5 7.525 16 N N 10-0
Turnovers 0 1 0 19 N N 6-2
Yds/Drive 51.60 3 40.56 20 N N 4-0
ToP/Drive 3:29.4 7 2:47.3 14 Y N 4-0
Yds/Play 6.880 5 6.293 20 N N 5-0
Orange Zone Eff 32.7% 26 71.4% 22 N Y 3-2
First Downs/Drive 2.70 5 2.22 19 N N 3-1
3rd/4th Down 68.4% 1 33.3% 9 Y N 9-0
Avg Start Pos 20.8 24 24.6 11 N N 7-0
3 and Outs 2 8 1 22 N N 4-0
RZ Eff 71.4% 11 61.9% 12 Y N 5-3
Plays/Drive 7.500 4 6.444 16 N N 3-2
Penalty Yds / Play 1.213 22 1.362 3 N N 4-2
RB Success 36.0% 24 55.6% 22 N Y 3-5
Yds/Carry 3.73 19 4.67 18 N Y 6-3
Ranking - Week (28) 3 20 14
Ranking - Season (264) 24 213 103

Adjusted Stats for Week 9:

Statistic Offense Rank Defense Rank Off/Def Above Off/Def Below Record
DSR 80.2% 6 80.2% 22 N N 6-0
ANPY/A 9.227 4 7.390 16 N N 10-0
Turnovers 0.2 6 -0.2 28 N N 6-2
Yds/Drive 48.87 3 43.67 24 N N 4-0
ToP/Drive 3:32.9 4 3:01.1 18 Y N 4-0
Yds/Play 6.703 4 6.626 24 N N 5-0
Orange Zone Eff 41.1% 23 74.4% 24 N Y 3-2
First Downs/Drive 2.66 4 2.49 23 N N 3-1
3rd/4th Down 71.9% 1 35.0% 6 Y N 9-0
Avg Start Pos 21.7 25 24.9 11 N N 7-0
3 and Outs 2.4 13 0.9 24 N N 4-0
RZ Eff 74.4% 12 61.8% 13 Y N 5-3
Plays/Drive 7.310 4 6.680 20 N N 3-2
Penalty Yds / Play 1.150 22 1.520 2 N N 4-2
RB Success 42.6% 18 53.9% 20 N Y 3-5
Yds/Carry 4.14 18 5.47 23 N Y 6-3
Ranking - Week (28) 3 22 11
Ranking - Season (264) 19 246 123

Some thoughts:

  • This game was won on Third Down, as Luck was phenomenal against one of the best Third/Fourth Down defenses in the NFL. These weren't just your garden variety 3rd and short/mediums either. He had conversions of 10,11, 12, 14, 16, and 20 yards, each one looking easier than the last. I was going to go in-depth into the Orange Zone for Thursday, but I think I'll do Third Downs instead, as I'd hazard a guess there are some teams that haven't converted that many 8+ yard third downs the whole year, let alone in a single game. Just masterful.
  • Sunday was also Luck's best performance throwing the ball of the season, throwing for over nine Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, 4th best on the weekend. You also see in the record column that throwing the ball, and stopping the pass, led to a 10-0 record this weekend.
  • Drive stats were superb, but they have been all season. Glad to see the Colts do it against a defense who was also good at getting teams off the field.
  • Orange Zone is still a major concern, ranking 23rd on the weekend at just 41.1%. The good news is once they got it inside the 20 they were much better (74.4%), but that is still a big concern.
  • I'll start with the one positive for the Defense, which was on 3rd/4th Down, where they held the Dolphins to 33.3% (35% adjusted), a major step up for them. When they needed to make a stop, especially late, they were able to do it.
  • For the fourth straight game, the Colts could not force a turnover, but it seemingly doesn't matter. When was the last time a team won three straight games without forcing a turnover? The 1992 49ers, who just happen to be the only other team to do so. Still very concerning, but it's past the point of worrying now.
  • Colts were good in the Red Zone, holding the Dolphins to just 61.8% of the total points possible. Any signs of improvement there should be commended.
  • In comparison to the rest of the league in Week 9 it wasn't a terrible overall defensive performance (22nd), but as you'll see shortly, right in line with how they've been playing the last month of the season.

Season Stats through Week 9 (Adjusted):

Statistic Offense Rank Best Defense Rank Best Record Win %
DSR 72.0% 9 Patriots 76.2% 31 Bears 46-8 0.852
ANPY/A 5.788 16 Patriots 7.507 29 Bears 66-5 0.930
Turnovers 1.66 17 Steelers 0.43 32 Bears 52-12 0.813
Yds/Drive 33.44 8 Broncos 34.94 30 Texans 44-12 0.786
ToP/Drive 2:52.0 10 Steelers 2:55.0 26 Texans 50-15 0.769
Yds/Play 5.296 17 49ers 5.968 29 49ers 41-15 0.732
Orange Zone Eff 45.8% 28 Saints 67.8% 31 Bears 50-13 0.794
First Downs/Drive 2.02 5 Patriots 1.99 30 Cardinals 40-17 0.702
3rd/4th Down 43.9% 7 Steelers 41.7% 23 Texans 43-19 0.694
Avg Start Pos 26.6 32 Giants 28.8 10 Lions 47-14 0.770
3 and Outs 2.54 3 Patriots 3.13 27 Bears 41-17 0.707
RZ Eff 61.3% 18 Packers 78.1% 30 Bears 46-21 0.687
Plays/Drive 6.301 4 Patriots 5.902 25 Bears 38-20 0.655
Penalty Yds / Play 0.830 16 Falcons 1.290 1 Colts 39-21 0.650
RB Success 41.9% 23 Bills 48.3% 28 49ers 35-44 0.443
Yds/Carry 3.83 20 Vikings 4.70 29 49ers 37-32 0.536
Overall 10 Patriots 31 Bears

A couple things:

  • The Offense has creeped its way back into the top 10, thanks in large part to some really good drive stats. The Colts are just missing adding points at the end of drives. I know I harp on it continually, but if they could just score when they get close, they'll be a top 5 offense.
  • The Defense took a stop back overall, letting the Saints pass them, and now only being better than the Bills, despite playing by far the easiest schedule of any other defense in the league. They can still get penalties called against their opponent, and their starting to show some life on 3rd/4th down, but other than that it's just really bad statistically.

Week-to-Week Comparisons:

Colts Opponent Non-Adjusted Adjusted
Week Offense Defense Total Offense Defense Total
1 Bears 198 165 219 91 186 141
2 Vikings 137 183 171 165 201 214
3 Jaguars 110 92 74 153 193 199
5 Packers 127 90 85 90 57 46
6 Jets 210 229 254 216 260 262
7 Browns 67 180 120 58 253 191
8 Titans 31 224 125 57 248 174
9 Dolphins 24 213 103 19 246 123

Best game of the year, by far, for the Offense, but we could see that on the field. The Defense has been stuck at the same level the last four weeks, and I can't help but wonder if this is where we're seeing the loss of Pagano the most. That first game out was more emotional than anything, but now they are game-planning without their defensive minded Head Coach, and I think that it's showing. It only took four games all in the bottom 10% of games played this season.

Again, this team doesn't look like a 5-3 team, and they've certainly had the good fortune of having one of the easiest schedules in the NFL so far, but they are surrounded in the rankings by the Saints and Bengals, who only have one more combined win than the Colts have. This team is finding ways to win games even when it looks like they shouldn't, which makes you feel good, as once they do figure it out, it can only get better from here. That should put a smile on your face.

For a numbers guy, it's hard to look past the numbers on the field, but they've certainly stated their case. This three game winning streak has also shown that the Colts are in very good hands with #12 under center.

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