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# Finding the Winning Factors - RB Success Rate

This week in the Finding the Winning Factors series, let's take a look at another non-conventional stat:  RB Success RateThis stat was created by Football Outsiders, and it attempts to judge how well a running play works.  Here's how they explain it:

• In general, a play counts as a "hit" if it gains 40% of yards on first down, 60% of yards on second down, and 100% of yards on third down.
• If the team is behind by more than a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the benchmarks switch to 50%/65%/100%.
• If the team is ahead by any amount in the fourth quarter, the benchmarks switch to 30%/50%/100%.

Since this involves searching through the play-by-play data, I can only go back to 2001 to see how teams do.  That means I'll be looking at 4,080 games over the past 8 years.  I did this calculation for every game, then found the overall average for a game.  I then went back and compared every game to this average, and found wins/losses based on being above or below average.  A couple things I should explain on how I calculated this, since I'm looking at the team as a whole, not individually:

• I used the percentages above for each play.  No need to change that.
• When a QB rushes the ball, I included that in the stats.  When the QB scrambles (which NFL.com usually indicates), I did not include it.  I wanted to focus on running plays, not every play there is a run.  I have to trust the Play By Play data in this respect.
• I did not include any kneel down play.  This is self explanatory.
• I included how teams did on 4th down as well.  I used 100% for that, just like for 3rd down.  In the numbers, I combined 3rd and 4th down stats, as they both are trying for the same outcome.

There has been much discussion here about the relative importance of the run game vs. the Pass game, and I stated in this article how I was slowly turning to Pass > Run, thanks to Adjusted Net Passing Yards / Attempt having such a high Win Percentage.  Let's see if the running game can live up to those lofty standards:

• The Overall Average for the past 8 seasons is 45.4%.  I could have won many bets with this stat, as it is much lower than I was expecting.  Not even half of all running plays are "successful".
• While it was really easy to predict the Colts would lead the league in the passing categories, could anyone have predicted the Colts led this category as well?  At 50.9%, they are one of only two teams that were actually over 50% (Chiefs).
• Defensively, the Colts rank 30th at 48.9%.  This is completely expected, and painfully obvious for anyone who has watched the Colts over the past decade.  The best defense? The Ravens at 39.9%.
• How often do teams win when they are Above Average on Offense?  1072-884-3, which is 54.8%.  That's not much above .500.  I'm not liking it so far.  Having an Above Average defense produces a record of 1155-965-1, which is 54.5%, pretty much the same as the offense.
• When both the Offense and Defense are Above Average, their record is 614-426-1, or 59.0%.  I'm not buying this as a stat that conclusively leads to victories.  Everything else has been higher than this.
• The best game since 2001?  Week 7 in 2002, where the Chiefs had a success rate of 87.1% (27/31) against the Broncos.  The 2nd best game was one we all thought the Colts should have won, Week 3 of 2008 against the Jaguars.  The Colts were successful 83.3% of the time (15/18).  The Colts have had 4 of the top 15 games since 2001.
• The worst game since 2001?  Week 2 in 2005, where the Ravens went 0 for 13 against the Titans.  The worst Colts game over this stretch was the 31-3 blowout of the Ravens from 2008 (6/30).  Didn't really need the running game, huh?
• I took a look at the numbers for just 4th quarter runs, to see if that told us anything different.  What did I find?  Being Above Average on both sides of the ball loses more games than it wins (467-560-1).  Talk about being counter-intuitive.  This is not to suggest teams should purposely not run the ball well in the 4th quarter.  That's obviously dumb.

So let's see:  Running the Ball and Stopping the run leads to wins 59% of the time, and Passing the Ball and Stopping the Pass leads to wins 89% of the time.  Again I say, the numbers don't lie.  I'm now firmly implanted on the "Pass is more important than the Run" side.

After the jump you'll see the offensive and defensive numbers for each team, as well as Win/Loss records when going above/below the league average.  Click on the headers to sort.  Here's a link to the last 5 years worth of data.  There's not much of a difference, especially since it only took out 3 years worth of data.

Here are the Offensive Numbers...

Team First Down Second Down Third/Fourth Down Total
Succ Atts Pct Succ Atts Pct Succ Atts Pct Succ Atts Pct
Colts 951 1926 0.494 581 1117 0.520 223 403 0.553 1755 3446 0.509
Chiefs 948 1888 0.502 606 1230 0.493 231 432 0.535 1785 3550 0.503
Broncos 972 1989 0.489 613 1265 0.485 267 524 0.510 1852 3778 0.490
Patriots 874 1773 0.493 565 1247 0.453 289 538 0.537 1728 3558 0.486
Vikings 875 1835 0.477 535 1168 0.458 242 444 0.545 1652 3447 0.479
Eagles 770 1609 0.479 527 1133 0.465 212 435 0.487 1509 3177 0.475
Giants 905 1897 0.477 557 1247 0.447 201 389 0.517 1663 3533 0.471
Jets 891 1849 0.482 519 1167 0.445 205 421 0.487 1615 3437 0.470
Redskins 900 1914 0.470 592 1323 0.447 239 465 0.514 1731 3702 0.468
Chargers 931 2030 0.459 539 1169 0.461 244 481 0.507 1714 3680 0.466
Seahawks 839 1855 0.452 592 1228 0.482 244 515 0.474 1675 3598 0.466
Raiders 767 1677 0.457 517 1130 0.458 222 436 0.509 1506 3243 0.464
Jaguars 883 1881 0.469 525 1244 0.422 247 470 0.526 1655 3595 0.460
Rams 758 1679 0.451 479 1067 0.449 198 385 0.514 1435 3131 0.458
Falcons 898 2010 0.447 584 1294 0.451 265 517 0.513 1747 3821 0.457
Bengals 833 1790 0.465 539 1275 0.423 193 373 0.517 1565 3438 0.455
Saints 780 1711 0.456 493 1156 0.426 230 441 0.522 1503 3308 0.454
Bills 818 1761 0.465 488 1145 0.426 201 423 0.475 1507 3329 0.453
Steelers 967 2155 0.449 620 1396 0.444 252 503 0.501 1839 4054 0.454
Buccaneers 782 1806 0.433 499 1069 0.467 190 401 0.474 1471 3276 0.449
Dolphins 794 1860 0.427 540 1192 0.453 223 430 0.519 1557 3482 0.447
49ers 760 1716 0.443 553 1260 0.439 215 445 0.483 1528 3421 0.447
Packers 831 1853 0.448 483 1141 0.423 196 390 0.503 1510 3384 0.446
Bears 783 1821 0.430 516 1216 0.424 235 473 0.497 1534 3510 0.437
Ravens 900 2047 0.440 560 1342 0.417 207 429 0.483 1667 3818 0.437
Browns 729 1690 0.431 504 1182 0.426 168 341 0.493 1401 3213 0.436
Titans 829 1929 0.430 556 1288 0.432 196 436 0.450 1581 3653 0.433
Texans 601 1473 0.408 457 1049 0.436 212 418 0.507 1270 2940 0.432
Cowboys 780 1883 0.414 542 1247 0.435 228 480 0.475 1550 3610 0.429
Cardinals 713 1732 0.412 431 1022 0.422 184 381 0.483 1328 3135 0.424
Panthers 768 1780 0.431 510 1296 0.394 214 479 0.447 1492 3555 0.420
Lions 622 1479 0.421 396 1030 0.384 146 301 0.485 1164 2810 0.414
Total 26452 58298 0.454 17018 38335 0.444 7019 13999 0.501 50489 110632 0.456

Here are the Defensive Numbers...

Team First Down Second Down Third/Fourth Down Total
Succ Atts Pct Succ Atts Pct Succ Atts Pct Succ Atts Pct
Ravens 697 1758 0.396 442 1152 0.384 191 425 0.449 1330 3335 0.399
Steelers 615 1565 0.393 408 1054 0.387 181 363 0.499 1204 2982 0.404
Bears 773 1818 0.425 501 1228 0.408 198 460 0.430 1472 3506 0.420
Giants 735 1778 0.413 469 1131 0.415 200 414 0.483 1404 3323 0.423
Buccaneers 763 1789 0.426 487 1219 0.400 228 481 0.474 1478 3489 0.424
Panthers 789 1838 0.429 513 1207 0.425 219 481 0.455 1521 3526 0.431
Vikings 751 1710 0.439 438 1078 0.406 175 373 0.469 1364 3161 0.432
Dolphins 822 1900 0.433 520 1239 0.420 224 460 0.487 1566 3599 0.435
Redskins 788 1791 0.440 511 1229 0.416 204 419 0.487 1503 3439 0.437
Titans 753 1711 0.440 460 1091 0.422 183 386 0.474 1396 3188 0.438
Eagles 782 1787 0.438 519 1217 0.426 222 459 0.484 1523 3463 0.440
Cowboys 783 1728 0.453 498 1169 0.426 206 419 0.492 1487 3316 0.448
49ers 825 1893 0.436 544 1183 0.460 246 466 0.528 1615 3542 0.456
Seahawks 845 1853 0.456 525 1207 0.435 223 427 0.522 1593 3487 0.457
Jaguars 817 1757 0.465 550 1234 0.446 199 416 0.478 1566 3407 0.460
Rams 847 1834 0.462 553 1220 0.453 228 460 0.496 1628 3514 0.463
Broncos 798 1711 0.466 477 1095 0.436 221 420 0.526 1496 3226 0.464
Saints 870 1877 0.464 519 1207 0.430 240 417 0.576 1629 3501 0.465
Patriots 782 1688 0.463 504 1123 0.449 214 403 0.531 1500 3214 0.467
Bills 882 1916 0.460 580 1232 0.471 240 485 0.495 1702 3633 0.468
Lions 916 2041 0.449 611 1275 0.479 248 464 0.534 1775 3780 0.470
Cardinals 865 1863 0.464 571 1226 0.466 231 452 0.511 1667 3541 0.471
Bengals 920 1969 0.467 590 1253 0.471 189 381 0.496 1699 3603 0.472
Chargers 806 1712 0.471 495 1100 0.450 239 433 0.552 1540 3245 0.475
Packers 827 1787 0.463 584 1207 0.484 202 401 0.504 1613 3395 0.475
Raiders 985 2055 0.479 626 1334 0.469 239 485 0.493 1850 3874 0.478
Browns 967 2043 0.473 661 1373 0.481 250 516 0.484 1878 3932 0.478
Chiefs 919 1875 0.490 520 1185 0.439 239 451 0.530 1678 3511 0.478
Falcons 897 1854 0.484 553 1156 0.478 223 456 0.489 1673 3466 0.483
Colts 861 1792 0.480 613 1269 0.483 254 470 0.540 1728 3531 0.489
Texans 819 1694 0.483 535 1103 0.485 204 380 0.537 1558 3177 0.490
Jets 953 1911 0.499 641 1339 0.479 259 476 0.544 1853 3726 0.497
Total 26452 58298 0.454 17018 38335 0.444 7019 13999 0.501 50489 110632 0.456

Here are the Win/Loss records of teams when they go above/below average:

Team Offense Defense
Above Average Below Average Above Average Below Average
Win Loss Tie Pct Win Loss Tie Pct Win Loss Tie Pct Win Loss Tie Pct
Patriots 61 17 0 0.782 36 14 0 0.720 53 9 0 0.855 44 22 0 0.667
Steelers 43 13 1 0.763 42 29 0 0.592 58 31 0 0.652 27 11 1 0.705
Seahawks 40 18 0 0.690 31 39 0 0.443 46 26 0 0.639 25 31 0 0.446
Colts 57 26 0 0.687 34 11 0 0.756 36 15 0 0.706 55 22 0 0.714
Eagles 42 21 1 0.664 39 25 0 0.609 46 29 1 0.612 35 17 0 0.673
Falcons 38 21 1 0.642 24 44 0 0.353 30 27 0 0.526 32 38 1 0.458
Chargers 44 26 0 0.629 27 31 0 0.466 31 26 0 0.544 40 31 0 0.563
Packers 37 23 0 0.617 38 30 0 0.559 30 21 0 0.588 45 32 0 0.584
Panthers 26 18 0 0.591 38 46 0 0.452 43 37 0 0.538 21 27 0 0.438
Rams 30 23 0 0.566 30 45 0 0.400 32 37 0 0.464 28 31 0 0.475
Broncos 43 33 0 0.566 31 21 0 0.596 41 25 0 0.621 33 29 0 0.532
Titans 26 20 0 0.565 44 38 0 0.537 44 28 0 0.611 26 30 0 0.464
Bears 31 24 0 0.564 38 35 0 0.521 43 38 0 0.531 27 20 0 0.574
Buccaneers 36 28 0 0.563 30 34 0 0.469 49 33 0 0.598 17 29 0 0.370
Cowboys 29 23 0 0.558 37 39 0 0.487 39 32 0 0.549 27 30 0 0.474
Ravens 31 25 0 0.554 40 32 0 0.556 50 39 0 0.562 21 18 0 0.538
Giants 40 33 0 0.548 28 27 0 0.509 47 38 0 0.553 21 22 0 0.488
49ers 29 24 0 0.547 24 51 0 0.320 31 32 0 0.492 23 42 0 0.354
Jets 36 31 0 0.537 26 35 0 0.426 27 19 0 0.587 35 47 0 0.427
Chiefs 44 38 0 0.537 15 31 0 0.326 28 28 0 0.500 31 41 0 0.431
Dolphins 31 29 0 0.517 30 38 0 0.441 39 41 0 0.488 22 26 0 0.458
Saints 32 30 0 0.516 28 38 0 0.424 29 25 0 0.537 31 43 0 0.419
Jaguars 32 34 0 0.485 30 32 0 0.484 42 31 0 0.575 20 35 0 0.364
Redskins 31 34 0 0.477 27 36 0 0.429 38 33 0 0.535 20 37 0 0.351
Bengals 28 31 0 0.475 26 42 1 0.384 31 28 0 0.525 23 45 1 0.341
Vikings 35 39 0 0.473 26 28 0 0.481 37 39 0 0.487 24 28 0 0.462
Raiders 27 41 0 0.397 18 42 0 0.300 24 29 0 0.453 21 54 0 0.280
Texans 20 31 0 0.392 20 41 0 0.328 17 29 0 0.370 23 43 0 0.348
Browns 21 35 0 0.375 28 44 0 0.389 20 33 0 0.377 29 46 0 0.387
Cardinals 18 30 0 0.375 31 49 0 0.388 28 37 0 0.431 21 42 0 0.333
Bills 19 36 0 0.345 33 40 0 0.452 28 32 0 0.467 24 44 0 0.353
Lions 15 29 0 0.341 16 68 0 0.190 18 38 0 0.321 13 59 0 0.181
Total 1072 884 3 0.548 965 1155 1 0.455 1155 965 1 0.545 884 1072 3 0.452

And finally, Win/Loss records when the offense is above average, and the defense holds the other team below average (you'll have to click the link to see it, as I've hit my limit of characters).