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Week 2: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/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.


Teamwork in the NFL is usually thought of as all units working together and doing their part to achieve a win. But sometimes it’s about one unit stepping up and becoming the hero. In week 1, the Colts were lifted by their run game and last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, the Colts were saved by their defense.

As Hank Stram might have said, the Colts defense kept the Titans from “matriculating the ball down the field” as evidenced by their below average 66.7% Drive Success Rate. The Colts defense forced four 3 & Out drives and while they couldn’t capitalize on turnover opportunities, they did collect 4 sacks and ended the game by causing a turnover on downs.


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%
Anytime you limit the opponent to 17 points, that’s a good defensive day, although compared to the rest of the league it seems it was just about average. By points (Adj PPD), the Indianapolis defense ranked 15th on the week and other metrics agree with that assessment, like the ability to prevent first downs (1st% 16th) and keeping the Titans from moving the ball (DSR 15th). Even the per play success (wTSR 17th) was about par for the week.

One outlier though, was third down conversion rate ( 3DC) where the defense held the Titans to only a single conversion out of 10 attempts, ranking #1 in that metric. Since the Titans had the 6th highest average of 9.4 yards to gain on third downs (3rd ytg), it is also a testament to the Colts defense on 1st and 2nd.


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 Colt’s defense made sure Marcus Mariota had a bad day. He managed only 154 passing yards and took 4 sacks causing his average net yards (NY/A) to rank 2nd worst of any QB for the week. His passing first down total was just 22% of attempts (1st%) which is the 5th lowest mark in week 2.

While he did manage to complete 68% of his passes, it was on short throws. His 5.5 yard average depth of target (aDOT) ranked 28th and when adjusting for that his completion rate was right about league average.

The Colts defense relegated Mariota’s production to a participation trophy.


RUSH TOTALS

Mouseover definitions: wRSR, Yds, Car, TD, Fum Lost, RSR, 1st%, YPC, 10+ #/Yd, 3rd, 3DC
Unsurprisingly, Tennessee found much more success on the ground with Derrick Henry . Against the run, the Colts ranked 28th giving up the 5th highest rushing success (wRSR) for the week. Henry, by himself racked up 7 first downs on 15 carries leading to a ridiculous 57% success rate (wRSR).

His 82 yards on those carries translates to 5.5 yards per carry and while YPC is still a horrible stat, I only bring it up because it is more than the 3.7 yards per dropback that Mariota’s passing provided. And given the fact that the Titans only trailed by 2 points in the 4th, I’m not clear why they didn’t try to run it more than 3 times on their last 3 drives, but thankfully for us, they didn’t. I guess they decided to ride the cold hand.

After 2 weeks, the Colts are giving up first downs on 40% of the carries against them. That’s the worst of any team. The takeaway here is that the Colts look really bad against the run. Like, really, really bad. Like totally. I can’t even.


CONCLUSION AND NEXT MATCH-UP

The Atlanta Falcon offense can at best be called dysfunctional. They rank 20th by point efficiency (Adj PPD) yet they have the 9th best DSR suggesting they move the ball well. The apparent gap there is turnovers. Six turnovers with three in the red zone, tend to limit scoring on promising drives.

5 of those 6 turnovers are Matt Ryan interceptions. Add in another 5 sacks, and his per play efficiency numbers are not good (21st EPA/ply, 19th NY/A). The glass half-full Colts fan will see this as a defensive opportunity. My glass is half empty and filled with don’t-ever-sleep-on-Matty-iced-tea, which can be a bitter drink. His TD rate ranks 12th, his 1st down percentage ranks 13th (1st%) and he is putting up higher than league average explosive plays, so he hasn’t completely forgotten how to play football just yet.

I rank the Atlanta rush game 31st in the league (wRSR) which is great news for Matt Eberflus because I rank the Colts run defense 29th. Perhaps, we will finally resolve the paradox of what happens when a stoppable force meets a movable object.

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