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Week 4: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Each week during the season, I will be walking through the data from the previous Colts game analyzing the numbers to form a sort of “what happened” narrative as well as comparing the Colts against all other teams in the league. For a glossary of the stats listed, reference Stats for the 2019 Season. Thanks to Pro Football Reference, NFL.com and the nflSCrapR project for being awesome sources of weekly data.


Too much. Too soon. That is what the Indianapolis Colts defense gave up in a week 4 showdown with the Oakland Raiders.

If we only look at the last 7 drives, the Colts defense was incredible. They forced three 3 & Outs and yielded only a field goal on a 62.5% DSR effort, letting Oakland into Colt territory only once. Unfortunately, the first quarter also counts.

21 opponent points in the first 4 drives is a gut punch. During that stretch, the only “stop” the Colts defense got was an unforced Derek Carr fumble as he converted 11 of 12 series (91.6% DSR) for 3 TDs in just a shade over 1 full quarter. But, other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

TEAM TOTALS

Mouseover for definitions: Adj PPD, PPG, Yds, P/R%, DSR, xOPPD, Strt Fld, EPA/ply, wTSR, 1st%, Pen 1st/ Yds, 3DC, 3rd ytg, Expl Plys, TO, TOP%

The bad news is that the defense gave up the 9th most points per drive on the week ranking 22nd, but the good news is that that is an improvement on the season total ranking of 29th. Wait, that sort of sounds like bad news too.

The Colts defense gave up a 75% DSR which ties for 17th place on the week and shows that at the game level they were about average in preventing Oakland from moving the ball. Hidden inside that number though is the 7 explosive plays the defense gave up which is more than league average and dragged EPA/ply down to a 25th ranking. In other words, the Colts stopped an average number of opponent series but when they didn’t get a stop, the plays were often big gainers.

This defense is inconsistent and bad. On the season, they are near the bottom in every important number (Adj PPD against 29th, DSR against 30th, EPA/ply against 31st, wTSR against 30th, 1st% against 31st)


PASS TOTALS

Mouseover definitions: EPA/db, wPSR Cmp, Att, Yds, TD, Int, Sk, Sk Y, Rtng, 1st%, ANY/A, NY/A, YPA, Cmp %, aDOT, aYd, YAC, 20+ #/Yd

The passing defense was a bit of a mixed bag. While nowhere near as bad as last week's defensive thrashing from Matt Ryan, Derek Carr was able to get decent production (6th EPA/ply, 11th wPSR).

The Colts, however, did limit him to a 5.7 yard average depth of target, which was his lowest of the year and a big reason why his overall yardage efficiency (NY/A 5.9) was held to below league average.


RUSH TOTALS

Mouseover definitions: wRSR, Yds, Car, TD, Fum Lost, RSR, 1st%, YPC, 10+ #/Yd, 3rd, 3DC

You won’t often find me writing that one of my stats fail to capture what happened in the game, but this week’s rushing defense is one of those times. My wRSR ranks the run defense at 12th and that is a joke. Giving up 188 yards, 10 first downs, 6 explosive rushes and a TD is a very, very bad defensive day against the run.

I really dislike EPA/carry as a stat for many reasons, but in this case I think it tells the better story, ranking the Colts defense 21st against the run this week. Frankly, I think it should even be lower than that.

The main disconnect here is that my stat is a rate stat measuring the % of plays that were successful and not simply averaging the amount of some metric (e.g. yards, EPA etc.). It’s the difference between mean based stats and median based stats. Usually median stats are a better metric for the run game, but in this case, Oakland had so many good runs that they weren’t simply outliers to be ignored.


CONCLUSION AND NEXT MATCH-UP

Last week, I wrote that because of the defense, this team is in trouble and I didn’t see much this week to sway me off that point. The Indianapolis defense is near the bottom of almost every one of my relevant stats and even Football Outsiders gives them a 31st DVOA ranking.

For those who have pinned their playoff hopes on having a decent game manager at QB, a good run game and a good defense, I’ve got bad news. The last leg of that stool is broken (and another one is creaking).

Of course the best cure for a bad defense is to play the Kansas City Chiefs. In case you have just awoken from a 13 month coma, the Chiefs are re-writing what a good offense is. Tied for most points scored in the NFL, they rank near the top of everything that I care to count (Adj PPD 2nd, DSR 2nd, EPA/ply 3rd, wTSR 2nd, 1st% 2nd).

In the passing game, the greatest weakness of Patrick Mahomes is that the game only lasts 60 minutes limiting the number of no-look touchdowns he can throw. In the big 4 QB stats that I track he ranks 1st in EPA/ply, 3rd in wPSR, 5th in 1st% and 1st in NY/A He rarely gets sacked which is just as well because the Colts defense can rarely sack anyone.

The Chiefs aren't much worse in the run game, ranking 4th in wRSR and 8th in volume of rushing first downs per game. So there’s that.


SEASON TOTALS

Mouseover for definitions: Adj PPD, PPG, Yds, P/R%, DSR, xOPPD, Strt Fld, EPA/ply, wTSR, 1st%, Pen 1st/ Yds, 3DC, 3rd ytg, Expl Plys, TO, TOP%
Mouseover definitions: EPA/db, wPSR Cmp, Att, Yds, TD, Int, Sk, Sk Y, Rtng, 1st%, ANY/A, NY/A, YPA, Cmp %, aDOT, aYd, YAC, 20+ #/Yd
Mouseover definitions: wRSR, Yds, Car, TD, Fum Lost, RSR, 1st%, YPC, 10+ #/Yd, 3rd, 3DC