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.
Let me be clear right up front; a shutout is a great performance. Period. I mean what more can you expect?
Well, it depends.
The gray bars in the above graphic mean there were no scores and again that is awesome. But take a closer look at the manner in which that was achieved. Every Dallas drive ended up in Colts territory. Every one.
There were no 3 & Outs deep in Cowboy territory giving the Colts offense better field position. The defense gave up 19 first downs, which puts the Drive Success Rate against at 73%. That is actually one of the poorer efforts on the week.
Again they delivered in the absolutely most important aspect of a defense: 0 points. So, A++ work, guys. But the way they did it is suspect, in that if they bend that much going forward, the results will likely not be so great.
For example, on the Cowboys second drive, the ‘Boys were 3 yards and a wide open Jamize Olawale away from tying the game. Dak Prescott threw it short and Olawale alligator-armed it. That’s not bend-don’t-break as much as it is mis-throw-can’t-catch.
The table is ranked by DSR, which again shows the defense in a far worse light than Adjusted Points per Drive against, which obviously was the best mark in the league (tied),
Dallas faced an average of 6.3 yards to go on thirds which was the 7th shortest distance of all teams. In other words the Indy defense ranked 26th in that measure, so the fact that defensive third down conversions ranked 14th and the overall defended first down conversions ranked 18th is maybe good news (not really).
On the bright side, the Colts defense only gave away one first down on penalties and they limited explosive plays, both of which were critical to the shutout. They also added 2 turnovers, which happened on 4th down . . . so, even if they weren’t turnovers they would have been turnovers. Savvy?
Here is where the results are unequivocal; the Colts shut down the Cowboy passing game. Coming into the week, I had Dallas ranked 19th in passing and the Colts pass D ranked similarly at 15th. So, I didn’t expect a dominant performance by either side.
However, Dak had to settle for shorter passes most of the day with 3.8 air yards on completions: a full 2 yards shorter than his season average. There were no explosive pass plays and the Yards After the Catch were limited resulting in a poor 5.3 Yards per Attempt for Dak (6th worst last week). Add to that, a pick and 3 sacks (Tyquan!) and you get an Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt of 3.2 (that’s really bad).
The Cowboys went no where through the air.
On the ground, they fared a bit better. Over half of the Cowboy runs were successful (first down or chunk yardage). While Ezekiel Elliott had the bulk of the carries, their 3 explosive rushes for 45 yards came by committee (Elliott, Amari Cooper, Rod Smith)
The normally stout Colts run defense (4th in season wRSR) could not stop the ‘Boys on the ground. Thankfully, game script caused Dallas to abandon the run with only 5 carries in the second half after 17 in the first 2 quarters.
CONCLUSIONS & NEXT MATCH-UP
What works, works. Kudos to Tyquan Lewis, Darius Leonard, Denico Autry, George Odum and the rest of the band. I won’t complain about a shutout (although I guess I kinda just did).
The Giants head to Indy on Sunday and they bring with them an 18th ranked passing game, but that ranking includes all the weeks when they had a chance and cared. Compared to a surging Colts defense who is 7th against the pass over the last 5 weeks, this looks to be a mismatch similar to Dallas.
On the ground, I have the Giants at a not quite last 30th place. Wait. How can that be?! Isn’t pro-bowler Saquon Barkley re-defining the rushing game? In a word, no. He’s a great athlete and runs a lot but only about a third of his rushes either move the chains or puts the team in a position to do so. Football Outsiders ranks him 13th in DYAR and 21st in DVOA (behind Marlon Mack’s 4th place in both).
Simply put, their run game does not translate to points (19th in PPD). So, if the Colts, who are 4th best at stopping rush success can limit the Giants in the same way as almost all other teams have done, then we should be OK*.
*author not responsible for Barkley having the game of his life in the near future.