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2016 NFL Week 6: Inside the Colts Numbers - The Anti-Colts Game

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The Colts played a really nice game for about 54 minutes Sunday, before they allowed the Texans to do what we've seen the Colts do over and over over the past four and a half seasons. Did we really witness the anti-Colts game?

Tim Warner/Getty Images

After the initial shock and realization that the Colts completely blew a very winnable game in Houston, 26-23 in Overtime, I thought a little more about what we saw Sunday night, and then it hit me:

We've seen this game many times before. Just not from this perspective.

The Colts have lived on the edge so many times, falling behind early, making a furious comeback when it looked like they had absolutely no business winning, and pulled a win out of nowhere. And I'll tell you: it stings. There have been so many games over the past four-plus years that we should have seen this coming from a mile away, but it'd been so long since the Colts beat a team handily from start to finish that we all got caught up in the game and didn't see what was happening in front of us.

Just how big of a collapse was it? Avert your eyes if you must, as Elias gives us the ugly news:

Texans stun Colts with late comeback

The Texans trailed the Colts, 23-9, until they scored one touchdown with 2:37 remaining in the fourth quarter and another with 49 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime, where they won it, 26-23, on Nick Novak's field goal. The last NFL team to win a game after it had trailed by 14-or-more points so late in the fourth quarter was the Colts, who executed one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history at Tampa on Oct. 6, 2003. In that game, the Colts trailed, 35-14, before scoring three touchdowns in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter to tie the game, and they won it in overtime. During that comeback, Indianapolis trailed, 35-21, before scoring the second of those three late touchdowns with 2:29 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Texans' victory on Sunday night ended a couple of remarkable streaks for the Colts. Indianapolis had won the last 41 regular-season road games in which it held a lead of any size in the fourth quarter, the longest such streak in NFL history. The Colts' last such loss came on Dec. 3, 2006, in Nashville. (They did lose a postseason game in that manner, at San Diego, following the 2008 season.)

But this wasn't just any lead. It was a lead of 14 points. The Colts had won the last 87 games in which they led by 14-or-more points in the fourth quarter, last losing a game of that type in 1999, at New England. The winning points in the Patriots' comeback came on a late fourth-quarter field goal - by none other than current Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri!

There was a lot of talk today about the decision Chuck Pagano made on 4th and inches from the Texans 8 yard line with under a minute to go in the third quarter. Pagano could have taken the 3 points, go up by seven, and really get no criticism no matter what happened at the end of the game. Here's the thing: by the numbers he made the correct decision to maximize the Colts win percentage.

Now, the robot is not the end-all-be-all, and I believe the creator of the robot said the two decisions were quite similar, so really it's just a personal preference decision. If I were deciding, I would have gone for it. Others, obviously, would have taken the 3 points, and I wouldn't have had too much heartburn if Pagano had done that.

But of course Pagano can't make a "simple" decision without doing something that really hurt the Colts later in the game. Instead of deciding what he would potentially do on a 4th and inches (remember, they had a stoppage before the 3rd and inches play), he did one of the dumbest things a coach can do in that situation: call a timeout. You can get away with that in the first half, as the plays aren't a high leverage as they are in the 4th quarter, but the Colts absolutely could have used that third timeout on the final drive, keeping many more options open in the 3rd down play that ultimately forced them to punt (you can debate this one too) and go to Overtime. There was no reason to take a timeout there. Somebody needs to get in his ear "Hey Chuck, what are you going to do on 4th here if we don't get it?" Please don't wait, waffle, then waste a timeout.

That stats look eerily similar to several other games this season. Let's find out how this epic collapse came to be.

Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 6:

Statistic Offense Rank Defense Rank Off/Def Above Off/Def Below Record
DSR 67.7% 24 76.3% 18 N Y 8-0
ANPY/A 5.886 23 6.275 13 N N 5-0
Turnovers 1 12 1 13 N N 5-3
Yds/Drive 32.67 17 34.50 16 N N 4-1
ToP/Drive 3:02.7 12 2:31.4 12 Y N 7-3
Yds/Play 5.851 13 6.088 20 N N 5-1
Orange Zone Eff 46.9% 22 77.1% 21 N Y 8-1
First Downs/Drive 1.58 23 2.17 19 N Y 7-1
3rd/4th Down 33.3% 18 45.5% 19 N Y 9-1
Avg Start Pos 32.5 9 22.4 10 Y N 7-3
3 and Outs 4 20 2 18 N Y 4-3
RZ Eff 54.8% 21 71.4% 16 N Y 7-1
Plays/Drive 5.583 19 5.667 13 N Y 7-3
Penalty Yds / Play 0.627 6 0.868 21 Y N 2-4
RB Success 48.0% 15 50.0% 18 N N 2-6
Yds/Carry 5.03 8 5.64 25 N N 4-1
Ranking - Week (30) 18 17 18
Ranking - Season (184) 103 119 128

Adjusted Stats for Week 6:

Statistic Offense Rank Defense Rank Off/Def Above Off/Def Below Record
DSR 76.4% 13 79.4% 21 N Y 8-0
ANPY/A 7.075 14 7.554 20 N N 5-0
Turnovers 1.1 18 0.9 18 N N 5-3
Yds/Drive 39.77 8 38.04 22 N N 4-1
ToP/Drive 3:20.7 4 2:34.9 11 Y N 7-3
Yds/Play 6.312 9 6.676 23 N N 5-1
Orange Zone Eff 44.8% 22 86.9% 27 N Y 8-1
First Downs/Drive 2.08 11 2.32 24 N Y 7-1
3rd/4th Down 40.2% 14 48.2% 22 N Y 9-1
Avg Start Pos 29.6 11 22.2 4 Y N 7-3
3 and Outs 2.1 7 2.1 18 N Y 4-3
RZ Eff 55.6% 20 85.3% 25 N Y 7-1
Plays/Drive 6.469 7 5.654 12 N Y 7-3
Penalty Yds / Play 0.640 6 1.078 15 Y N 2-4
RB Success 40.6% 22 49.7% 21 N N 2-6
Yds/Carry 4.62 10 5.51 26 N N 4-1
Ranking - Week (30) 13 24 19
Ranking - Season (184) 42 160 114

Some thoughts:

  • The Texans are a great team to show why adjusting for opponents tells you a much clearer story of what happened, since they're a top 5 Defense and a bottom 5 Offense. In the non-adjusted stats it shows the Colts Offense was slightly behind the Defense in Overall Ranking. But when you take into consideration the relative strength of their opponent on each side of the ball, the Offense improves considerably, while the Defense tumbles towards the bottom of the league.
  • The best thing the Colts had done in the first five weeks was scoring touchdowns when they got in the Red Zone, but they scored just barely over 50% of their possible points Sunday night, which obviously plays a large part in an Overtime game. Six possessions, only two TDs, three FGs, and the empty possession we talked about above.
  • Combine the above with the fact the Texans actually did score touchdowns when they got close, and you get a seemingly lopsided game (which in actuality wasn't all that lopsided) tied at the end, and a significant part of it being tied was due to a missed extra point by the Texans. The final drive may have been a little different for the Colts down 1, but I'm not sure how much other than going for it on 4th down rather than punt.
  • A big improvement over the rest of the season was in getting excellent field position, which is something the Defense should get a large part of the credit for. The Colts then moved the ball pretty well against the #1 Drive Success Rate Defense in the NFL (above the Texans season average), but couldn't cash in points.
  • The Colts had a 100 yard rusher. Really helped them on that last drive up by 7, trying to ice the game away. Maybe it's the fact the Colts are rarely in a situation where they need to finish a game off while leading that caused an awful series, but losing 11 yards trying to run clock is abysmal.

Season Stats through Week 6 (Adjusted):

Statistic Offense Rank Best Defense Rank Best Record Win %
DSR 72.9% 7 Cowboys 74.2% 27 Texans 34-5 0.872
ANPY/A 5.739 16 Falcons 7.327 28 Vikings 36-1 0.973
Turnovers 1.44 10 Bills 1.14 28 Cardinals 39-12 0.765
Yds/Drive 31.80 7 Falcons 38.24 32 Ravens 26-6 0.813
ToP/Drive 2:42.0 14 Lions 2:44.0 17 Texans 36-16 0.692
Yds/Play 5.440 12 Falcons 6.424 31 Broncos 22-7 0.759
Orange Zone Eff 58.5% 12 49ers 61.3% 24 Rams 29-11 0.725
First Downs/Drive 1.85 7 Cowboys 2.14 31 Ravens 32-10 0.762
3rd/4th Down 39.4% 16 Lions 40.5% 20 Vikings 31-7 0.816
Avg Start Pos 27.8 26 Chargers 26.6 3 Patriots 40-17 0.702
3 and Outs 3.28 9 Redskins 3.08 24 Texans 25-14 0.641
RZ Eff 76.3% 8 Raiders 70.6% 23 Bills 30-14 0.682
Plays/Drive 5.873 8 Lions 5.847 20 Texans 33-16 0.673
Penalty Yds / Play 0.844 16 Cowboys 1.196 3 Redskins 27-18 0.600
RB Success 47.2% 9 Cowboys 49.1% 27 Ravens 16-27 0.372
Yds/Carry 4.25 15 Bills 5.02 30 Ravens 18-21 0.462
Overall 8 Cowboys 31 Cardinals

A few things:

  • Passing the ball and defending the pass above league average in the same game has won 36 of 37 games this season, or 97%. It's a staggering statistic, especially when you consider this: add the two rushing stats winning percentages together, and you'll get 83.4%, still well below our passing stat.
  • The only Defense worse than the Colts is the Lions, and the Colts couldn't get a win against them either. It's bad.
  • On the Offense, our passing stat, Adjusted Net Passing Yards per Attempt, is actually the worst thing the Colts do, and I tend to agree. Andrew Luck has continued to make some bonehead decisions and has struggled at times throwing the ball, so being right at league average is pretty fair. Definitely needs some improvement, even though the Offense, as a whole, ranks in the top 10.
  • Six Turnovers in six games on both sides of the ball. I can live with that on Offense, need more on Defense.

Week-to-Week Comparison:

Colts Opponent Non-Adjusted Adjusted
Week Offense Defense Total Offense Defense Total
1 Lions 7 179 97 50 159 127
2 Broncos 123 145 156 84 165 154
3 Chargers 72 63 43 49 76 40
4 Jaguars 89 85 77 119 131 147
5 Bears 68 136 112 37 168 121
6 Texans 103 119 128 42 160 114

The Colts have been incredibly consistent in four of their six games this year, with the Offense playing fairly well, while the Defense just shits the bed. Look at the Lions, Broncos, Bears, and Texans games: they're all virtually identical. We'll continue to hear about all the sacks Andrew Luck takes and how his one or two mistakes always cost the Colts; meanwhile the Defense is the 2nd worst in the league and have shown no signs of improvement, even after getting some injured players back in the fold.

Other than the stinker in London, the Offense has been above league-average in every game. Being just league-average isn't going to win you many games in a vacuum (obviously hasn't for the Colts this year), but I'd say they are holding up their end of the bargain here.