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Week 11: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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Green Bay Packers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/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 Season Stats. Thanks to Pro Football Reference,, Football Outsiders and the nflFastR project for being awesome sources of weekly data.

Obviously the turnovers were key, but even more so when you look at Green Bay’s other drives. Removing the turnover drives, the packers scored TDs on 4 of 9 drives with a Drive Success Rate of 80%. At a full game level, an offense like that would have been a knockout punch to the Colts.


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

Because of the 3 turnovers on scrimmage plays, the EPA efficiency given up by the Colts defense was good (11th), but by points per drive they only rank 20th. Since turnovers tend to be luck, I trust the point ranking more. By first down conversions, the Colts defense ranked 25th. This was not a good performance.

On the year, the defense ranks 4th in points per drive, 7th in DSR against, 5th in EPA efficiency given up and 8th in first down conversions against. It’s no wonder Football Outsiders ranks the Colts D 5th overall.


Mouseover definitions: EPA/db, PSR, Cmp, Att, Yds, TD, Int, Sk, Sk Y, 1st/db, NY/A, Cmp %, aDOT, cpoe, YBC, YAC, 20+ #/Yd

Again, EPA efficiency gets destroyed with turnovers, so 13th place is probably not the best metric to judge this performance. Passing success rate gives each play equal weight and Aaron Rodgers was highly successful (53.7%), hanging a 20th place ranking on the Colts defense. His yardage efficiency (which ignores turnovers) came in 7th best on the week, which means the Colts defense was 22nd in that measure.

It’s a different story on the year though (4th EPA/db, 10th PSR, 7th 1st/db, 9th NY/db). I’d say the Colts passing defense hovers around 7th best and FO agrees ranking them 6th in DVOA.


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

The rushing game is very hard to measure. One could look at a 3.3 yards per carry and think that is a good performance (8th lowest). And by EPA efficiency the unit looked good as well (6th lowest), but that includes a turnover which is a non-repeatable event. The true measure of the run game is how it impacted the game.

Green Bay only ran 16 times, but that yielded 6 first downs and 1 TD. Sure their efficiency was low but when they decided to run they got the result they wanted more often than not dropping the Colts defense to 24th on the week in adjusted rushing success rate (adj RSR)

On the year the numbers improve with a 9th place adj RSR and 8th place EPA/carry against. FO likes us better giving the Colts a 5th ranked run defense by DVOA.


If you believe that turnovers are the result of a determined, practiced team, then this was a good defensive effort. If however, you believe turnovers are random events that don’t repeat themselves then this was a poor effort and probably the 2nd worst of the year.

The Colts face another match-up with the Titans and their top tier offense ranking: 3rd by DVOA, 3rd by EPA per play, 7th by points per drive and 6th in DSR. The Titans will represent 2 of the 3 toughest offenses the Colts will have faced with Green Bay being the other.

They are ridiculous through the air (3rd EPA/db, 2nd DVOA, 2nd first down conversion rate) as Ryan Tannehill is doing his best to make Miami the jealous ex-girlfriend who dumped him. ESPN has him 8th by QBR and FO has him 6th by DYAR. However, in the last meeting, the Colts shut Tannehill down, giving him some of the lowest numbers he has had on the year.

On the ground, Derrick Henry. Enough said.

The early line has the Colts by 3. My model has TEN at a 51% win probability.