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2016 NFL Week 3: Inside the Colts Numbers - Crisis Averted

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The Colts avoid catastrophe against the Chargers, finding a way to pull out a 26-22 victory thanks to both the Offense and the Defense? Is this a turning point in the season for the Colts?

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Things were looking rather bleak. Josh Ferguson dropped a wide open throw that would have easily converted a first down on a 3rd and 7, and the Colts faced a fourth down after the two minute warning with just a 15% chance of winning. They didn't need a miracle by any means, but the season was hanging on rolling a specific number on a die. They rolled that dice (and I would have fired Chuck Pagano on the spot if he would have punted there), nailed what they chose, and we saw Luck-to-T.Y. Hilton two times, the second a 63 yard touchdown pass with 1:28 to go, giving the Colts a 26-22 lead.

We had already seen the Defense squander one game-winning drive by the Colts Offense this year, and if you were like me, you were expecting the worst. We've (sadly) grown accustomed to the Defense folding and letting their opponent march down the field and win a game. But the Defense stepped up big time, forcing a fumble which almost ended the game.

Almost.

I'm in the rule-making business for my real job, so my understanding of a rule book is most likely better than most NFL fans. I know our rulebook forwards and backwards, and I would expect every competitor, no matter the sport, to know the same. The error the Colts made at the end of the game Sunday is so easily avoided by knowing the rules, I'm puzzled why and how they could make such an error. Personally, I did not know that specific rule existed, but I do know that when you punt, the ball can move around willingly until it comes to rest, letting precious seconds go off the clock. Even without the rule that awarded the Chargers a free play, there was no reason to touch the ball. I'm glad it ultimately worked out, but the coaching staff, especially the Special Teams coach, needs to make sure they read the rulebook this week.

The long game-winning touchdown doesn't happen every day either. Here's what Elias had to say:

NFL - Luck throws late game-winning TD pass

Andrew Luck hit T.Y. Hilton with a 63-yard touchdown pass with 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Colts a 26-22 victory over the Chargers. It was the longest game-winning TD pass that late in the fourth quarter since October 2012, when Eli Manning threw a 77-yarder to Victor Cruz with 1:13 remaining on the fourth-quarter clock to beat the Redskins.

How do the stats look after the Colts first win of 2016? Let's jump in a take a gander.

Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 3:

Statistic Offense Rank Defense Rank Off/Def Above Off/Def Below Record
DSR 77.1% 10 66.7% 12 Y N 5-0
ANPY/A 7.487 10 7.780 24 N N 6-0
Turnovers 2 15 3 3 N N 10-2
Yds/Drive 37.27 10 35.60 22 N N 2-2
ToP/Drive 2:58.5 10 2:43.7 17 N N 4-6
Yds/Play 6.308 8 6.138 22 N N 3-0
Orange Zone Eff 57.1% 17 45.7% 9 Y N 10-0
First Downs/Drive 2.18 8 1.70 14 N N 1-4
3rd/4th Down 30.0% 25 36.4% 15 N N 4-0
Avg Start Pos 28.1 19 28.6 18 N N 6-2
3 and Outs 3 13 4 10 Y N 2-4
RZ Eff 81.0% 7 46.4% 6 Y N 9-1
Plays/Drive 5.909 14 5.800 17 N N 2-6
Penalty Yds / Play 1.015 19 1.379 3 N N 3-2
RB Success 38.5% 19 37.5% 9 N N 3-5
Yds/Carry 3.58 24 2.18 2 N N 3-4
Ranking - Week (32) 10 15 7
Ranking - Season (96) 36 32 19

Adjusted Stats for Week 3:

Statistic Offense Rank Defense Rank Off/Def Above Off/Def Below Record
DSR 76.9% 9 66.6% 10 Y N 5-0
ANPY/A 7.354 9 6.849 18 N N 6-0
Turnovers 1.9 17 3.2 3 N N 10-2
Yds/Drive 36.09 10 34.97 21 N N 2-2
ToP/Drive 3:03.7 9 2:39.4 17 N N 4-6
Yds/Play 6.005 11 6.038 22 N N 3-0
Orange Zone Eff 54.0% 15 44.7% 10 Y N 10-0
First Downs/Drive 2.13 8 1.63 13 N N 1-4
3rd/4th Down 34.5% 21 36.1% 14 N N 4-0
Avg Start Pos 28.8 14 26.6 8 N N 6-2
3 and Outs 3.1 16 4.2 11 Y N 2-4
RZ Eff 78.2% 9 48.5% 8 Y N 9-1
Plays/Drive 6.025 14 5.817 18 N N 2-6
Penalty Yds / Play 0.995 20 1.445 3 N N 3-2
RB Success 38.9% 22 38.4% 11 N N 3-5
Yds/Carry 3.26 25 2.31 3 N N 3-4
Ranking - Week (32) 10 12 5
Ranking - Season (96) 42 27 14

Some thoughts:

  • These overall numbers don't change all that much if the Colts fail to convert that 4th and 7, which means it would have been a catastrophic loss since they played quite well on both sides of the ball. Glad that wasn't the case.
  • What would have been their undoing if they had lost? Turnovers. Again. That's how important they are, as they played extremely well otherwise on Offense and almost lost. The Defensive Turnovers really helped things though, ranking 3rd this week, forcing 3 Turnovers of their own.
  • We saw the Colts settle for a field goal in the Red Zone for the first time this year, and we also saw the first time the Colts failed to score points inside the 35 yard line.
  • The Colts did a nice job running the ball in the first half, which the Chargers adjusted to in the 2nd, but then proceeded to get torched by Luck and the passing game. I'm not sure that strategy worked out so well. But overall I thought the running game should have been a bit better than it was for the Colts.
  • We've hammered the Defense with how bad they've played so far this season, but Sunday, with the return of a couple starters, really played well against a team that scored 38 points the previous week. We talked about the Turnovers already, but they shut down drives early (4 Three and Outs), and didn't let them extend drives too often.
  • Rush Defense was excellent, which was unexpected.

Season Stats through Week 3 (Adjusted):

Statistic Offense Rank Best Defense Rank Best Record Win %
DSR 68.6% 22 Saints 73.3% 26 Texans 13-0 1.000
ANPY/A 5.775 15 Falcons 6.228 24 Cardinals 17-0 1.000
Turnovers 1.61 13 Eagles 1.67 14 Chiefs 19-6 0.760
Yds/Drive 30.33 12 Falcons 32.67 28 Texans 11-2 0.846
ToP/Drive 2:40.0 18 Cowboys 2:46.0 23 Texans 14-10 0.583
Yds/Play 5.224 21 Falcons 5.606 26 Ravens 10-2 0.833
Orange Zone Eff 56.4% 17 Seahawks 58.4% 22 Patriots 15-6 0.714
First Downs/Drive 1.75 11 Lions 1.87 29 Texans 11-5 0.688
3rd/4th Down 37.3% 23 Lions 42.2% 27 Texans 14-2 0.875
Avg Start Pos 28.6 23 Eagles 28.5 9 Patriots 15-12 0.556
3 and Outs 3.73 19 Jets 3.55 17 Texans 11-7 0.611
RZ Eff 72.0% 7 Saints 68.8% 18 Seahawks 20-8 0.714
Plays/Drive 5.720 11 Cowboys 5.828 26 Texans 14-8 0.636
Penalty Yds / Play 0.819 15 49ers 0.929 5 Packers 16-9 0.640
RB Success 42.9% 20 Saints 48.6% 28 Packers 8-13 0.381
Yds/Carry 3.96 28 Browns 4.06 12 Packers 7-11 0.389
Overall 19 Lions 28 Texans

A few things here:

  • While not listed here, the Colts Offense has faced the 5th easiest Defensive schedule so far, while the Defense has faced the toughest Offensive schedule in the NFL. That explains a little bit why the Offensive Overall number is lower than it probably is, and why the raw numbers on Defense look bad, even with a strong performance Sunday. Give it a few more weeks to even out, as the schedule lightens up significantly for the Defense going forward.
  • Our top two stats, Drive Success Rate and Adjusted Net Pass Yards per Attempt, are a combined 30-0 when both the Offense and Defense are above average. If that isn't a recipe for winning I don't know what else is. As it is every year, if you can pass the ball/ stop the pass, you'll win. Period.

Week-to-Week Comparison:

Colts Opponent Non-Adjusted Adjusted
Week Offense Defense Total Offense Defense Total
1 Lions 4 94 52 12 90 63
2 Broncos 64 77 86 58 77 85
3 Chargers 36 32 19 42 27 14

As you can see, it would have been a shame for the Colts to lose this game, having thoroughly outplaying the Chargers. Hopefully just getting back healthy is the ticket to more success.

The Colts make the journey across the pond this week, and that long trip will be much more enjoyable after a win this week, and they have two very winnable games coming up, the Colts could see themselves sitting 3-2 and back in control of the AFC South.