Every week, I will present a summary of some basic and advanced stats for the Colts performance relative to the league. Thanks to Pro Football Reference, NFL.com and the nflSCrapR project for being awesome sources of weekly data.
Make no mistake, going into week 7, the Buffalo Bills had one of the better defenses in the league.
According to Football Outsider’s DVOA, they ranked 2nd in passing, 7th in rushing and combined for the 3rd overall best defense. In terms of total yards and yards per play they also ranked 3rd. In both points per drive and drive success rate they weren’t quite as good, but still ranked in the top 10.
By just about any measure, the Bills defense was good . . .
. . . was.
On Sunday, The Colts offense had their way with Buffalo. Across the board, Indy made a good defense look bad.
- The 1.9 points per drive the Bills limited their opponents to? The Colts put up 3.4.
- The stingy 4.9 yards per play given up? The Colts collected 6.3.
- Holding teams to 93 rush yards on average? Colts dropped 220.
A 77% Drive Success Rate is by far, the best number Andrew Luck and the offense have put up all year and is the 7th best mark in the league this week.
With only 3 drives absent a first down and three consecutive touchdown drives of 74+ yards, this offense finally showed the world of what they are capable.
Prior to this game, Indy ranked 30th in explosive plays (passes over 20 yards, runs over 10 yards), but this week, their 11 plays for 202 yards was 3rd best.
The Colts continue to kill it on 3rd downs, converting a 6th best 5 yards to go, at a 4th best 53.8% rate. The offense has been very good with 3rd downs all year (tied for first in conversions) and when you combine that with 0 turnovers, you end up with long, sustained, successful drives like we saw on Sunday.
While Luck’s 11.1 ANY/A was the 3rd best mark of any QB in week 7, his yards per attempt was just a so-so 6.8 yards. The driver of the high ANY/A was 4 passing TDs with 0 picks and 0 sacks, while the YPA was depressed by an average depth of target of just 4.9 yards.
In previous weeks, I have railed against an aDOT that low, but in a game where you hold a significant lead for most of the contest, a more conservative, shorter passing game is warranted. Prior to establishing a 14 point lead, Luck’s aDOT was 6.1 yards, while subsequent passes averaged only 3.6 yards through the air.
While I’m OK with that, I would like to see that stretched a little bit going forward. Had the Colts been trailing, an aDOT that low would have been problematic (see weeks 1 and 3).
While the passing game was efficient, the run game was glorious.
There is a yin and yang to football. When teams successfully run the ball, the passing game doesn’t have to press, allowing it to be more efficient. This results in longer drives and more points, giving the opponent fewer drives and making them more aggressive, which gives the defense a better chance of success. All of this was fully on display Sunday.
The Colts were one of only 6 teams this week to have more than half of their runs be successful (TD, first down or chunk yardage). The 42% weighted success rate and the 5.9 YPC were both 5th best in the NFL.
Prior to this game, the Bills had given up 3.2 explosive runs per game. The Colts notched 9 for 144 yards, 4 of them by Marlon Mack. The only runners who weren’t effective were Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett. Everyone else ate.
On a side-note, notice the EPA per carry stat is barely above 0 placing the Colts 12th out of 28 teams. That is just more evidence of why I don’t like that stat to judge the run game. According to EPA, the Colts run game was just meh. What that really means is that according to the Colts rush game, EPA as a basis for measuring runs is just meh.
This is what it looks like when you play mistake-free ball (what safety?). The drops were gone. The turnovers were gone. Luck didn’t have to carry the team, limiting bad decisions/throws.
Additionally, explosive plays which have been missing all season, dramatically improved. If an offense can be efficient underneath AND put up explosive plays, then they become a real force. The Colts certainly aren’t there yet but over the last 3 weeks they have been trending that way and this game was another giant step in that direction.
With a remaining schedule filled with winnable games, we’ll see if this offense truly can breakout.