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.
The Denver Broncos had 3 very good offensive drives on the day amassing 13 points, 16 first downs and 234 yards. However, on their 8 other drives, the Indianapolis Colts defense limited them to an average of 10.5 yards per drive and a total of 0 points and only 3 first downs.
This mix of performances resulted in an about league average 70.0% Drive Success Rate. However the ability of the Colts defense to force 2 Denver field goals instead of touchdowns, made it an above average day by points (7th ranked Adj PPD)
Limiting points (Adj PPD against 7th) was the critical factor in the win, but the other stats suggest the defense may not have performed as well as the scoreboard showed. DSR against ranked 14th, while wTSR against fell to 18th. EPA/ply against was actually 11th which isn’t bad.
Two other interesting stats are:
- % of plays that were first downs ranks 3rd (1st % against)
- Penalties for first downs ranks 30th (dead last)
The defense prevented Denver from getting first downs on scrimmage plays but then gave them away for free with penalties.
For this game, points are all that matter and the top 10 ranking is well deserved. But for future games, I would be wary of the lower performing stats.
Against the pass, the defense was stout (or Joe Flacco was not). The 6th ranked EPA/db against is in line with the other big 4 passing stats (wPSR against 4th, 1st % against 3rd, NY/A against 6th). Other than the occasional pass interference penalty, the pass defense did a very good job.
All year the rush defense has been problematic. By DVOA, they rank 29th and this game was part of the reason why. Giving up a 42% wRSR is just plain bad. 1 of every 4 carries yielded a first down which ranks 25th on the week.
This rush defense is limiting the overall success of the team.
CONCLUSION AND NEXT MATCH-UP
This was a good effort by the defense but don’t let the 13 points against fool you. They weren’t that good. If the Colts can’t figure out a way to stop the run game then the first team that manages a significant lead against us will have a pretty easy time riding it out.
Next up, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense. Looking at season totals, the Steelers offense doesn’t look threatening (DVOA 23rd). But as Mason Rudolph has gotten familiar with the playbook, their production has been improving.
Over the last 4 games, the Pittsburgh offense ranks 8th in Adj PPD and 10th in EPA/ply.
In that same time frame, their passing game is 7th in EPA/db but have stuck with short passes ranking 23rd in aDOT and dead last in air yards per completed throw (4.1 yards). The key will be to limit their YAC which on the season ranks 3rd of all teams. The Indy defense ranks 13th in season YAC given up.
In their first 5 games, the Steelers rushed for 67 yards per game and averaged only 4 first downs. But in the last 2 games, those averages jumped to 141 yards and 8 first downs. So, which version will the Colts see? It’s tough to tell and as I write this, it’s not clear if James Conner will even play. However, with a Colts run defense that is near the bottom of the league, I’m not sure it matters. I don’t like this match up at all.