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2015 NFL Week One: Inside The Colts Numbers - Hope Is Not All Lost

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Sunday was ugly for the Colts, losing to the Bills 27-14. But was their some hidden optimistic aspects we can take from it? The Winning Stats lead the way to find them.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

It's now Tuesday morning, a day after National NFL Overreaction Day, so everyone has time to vent their frustration after Sunday's 27-14 whipping of the Colts by the Bills. Which means we all need to think about the following:

It's only one game. Just remember, it doesn't count for any more or any less. and the sample size is so small compared to the entirety of the season, nothing should change (yet) on the outlook of the season. It's just one game.

There's obviously plenty to be concerned about after Sunday, on both sides of the ball, but I want to start with a couple positives. First, I heard the names Sammy Watkins and/or Vontae Davis two times all afternoon. Whether it was the offensive scheme to specifically go away from Davis all day (certainly possible), or Davis just had supreme coverage on Watkins (also certainly possible), but either way Davis was superb. It was also a really good day for Henry Anderson and Kendall Langford, who I thought did more than hold their own along the Defensive front. Lastly, both Offensive Tackles, Anthony Castonzo and Jack Mewhort, played outstanding against a formidably Bills outside pass rush. There was a lot of blitzing, and a lot of pressure on Andrew Luck, but it was almost exclusively right up the gut.

Speaking of that, those middle three Offensive Linemen should watch the tape once and never look at it again. We knew going in that those 3 spots were really the only weak spots on the entire Offense, and it was blatantly obvious Sunday. Reason for Optimism? It's probably the best Defensive front the Colts will see all season, so only way to go is up. The secondary, save Davis, was the black hole for the Defense. Mike Adams missed several tackles, they got burned on crossing patterns. We'll see just how bad it was in the stats, but the pass Defense needs to either get healthy, or get a lot better before the stretch of top-level QBs are on the other side of the ball.

The biggest sequence of events in the game happened just after an 11 play, five-plus minute drive that ended with a missed Adam Vinatieri 52 yard field goal. It was only 10-0 Bills with under 3 minutes to go in the first half. The Colts Offense hadn't played well, but it looked like they had figured something out and just stalled out. The next time Luck took a snap looking to gain yardage, the Colts were down 24-0 and basically out of the game, based on how good that Bills Defense is. It's why you can never count on just one side, let alone one player, to win a game for you.

Because we're only one week into the season we don't have any opponent-adjusted numbers, so we'll look exclusively at the raw numbers, knowing the Offensive numbers will eventually look even better than what they do now (which is pretty average actually). Let's dive in:

Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 1:

Statistic Offense Rank Defense Rank Off/Def Above Off/Def Below Record
DSR 78.1% 10 75.0% 20 N N 7-1
ANPY/A 3.725 26 11.316 30 N Y 10-0
Turnovers 3 27 0 27 N Y 8-2
Yds/Drive 33.78 13 38.00 23 N N 4-1
ToP/Drive 3:13.8 13 3:26.2 22 N N 8-3
Yds/Play 4.471 25 6.218 25 N Y 7-1
Orange Zone Eff 66.7% 12 71.4% 24 N N 8-1
First Downs/Drive 2.56 6 1.67 10 Y N 6-2
3rd/4th Down 52.9% 7 38.5% 13 Y N 6-2
Avg Start Pos 18.6 32 31.5 27 N Y 10-2
3 and Outs 1 2 1 24 N N 3-2
RZ Eff 100.0% 1 100.0% 25 N N 7-2
Plays/Drive 7.556 4 6.111 17 N N 4-2
Penalty Yds / Play 0.721 17 2.055 1 Y N 4-2
RB Success 53.3% 5 46.9% 19 N N 2-7
Yds/Carry 3.76 20 4.08 18 N N 2-5
Ranking - Week (32) 13 28 21
Ranking - Season (32) 13 28 21

Some thoughts:

  • I told you the Offensive numbers weren't all that bad, and they were slightly above average, even when you don't take into consideration the opponent, so this will look better as the year goes on. Glass half full today ladies and gentlemen.
  • The Colts actually did a really good job moving the football Sunday. Only a single Three and Out, 10th in Drive Success Rate, so they were able to get first downs, and almost 53% on 3rd/4th downs, which again is quite good against the best team in the NFL a year ago in that department. This is a very good sign.
  • Where did it go wrong? Start with Field Position, the worst of any team in the NFL this weekend, starting on average at their own 18 yard line. It's really hard to consistently go 80+ yards down the field for points, even for a top-level Offense, and it showed. It just killed the Colts Sunday. Turnovers also killed them, although the 3rd one at the end of the game was pretty meaningless (other than for fantasy purposes). For one game at least, taking care of the football is still a problem, but I'm taking a wait-and-see approach on this. The Bills were also #1 last year in Turnovers, so could be opponent-driven.
  • If you take a look at our passing stat, Adjusted Net Passing Yards per Attempt, you see why passing is so important in the NFL. The Colts were awful on both sides of the ball (any time that number is over 10 on the Defensive side it was an awful performance), and you see teams that were above average both Offensively and Defensively this weekend went a perfect 10-0.
  • When they ran the ball, the Colts were actually pretty good, ranking 5th in RB Success Rate. But they didn't do it enough to curtail the blitzkrieg from the Bills early on, when the game was still close, and it got away from them. You can't center your Offense around running the ball, but the threat needs to be there to keep the Defense honest. Why else spend a bunch of money on one of the oldest RBs in the NFL if you aren't going to use him, even if it's just for play action? I don't like seeing 16 straight pass plays before halftime, unless you're torching the Defense.
  • Running the ball / stopping the run this weekend? A combined 4-12 between our two rushing stats. Yikes.

While the Offense wasn't the finely tuned machine I/we expect it to be by midseason, there was enough from Sunday to make me think it isn't time to blow the whole thing up after a road loss to start the season. Remember, the Colts started 0-2 last year, and everything was fine. Time to pump the brakes, take a deep breath, and expect a much better performance Monday night in the home opener.