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Week 13: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/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.

Against the Texans, the defense put up another Jekyll and Hyde performance, giving up 20 points in the first half and then blanking Houston the rest of the game while grabbing 2 points of their own.

A 69% drive success rate is the 3rd lowest that Deshaun Watson has managed this year, but he started the day with 76.4% in the first 2 quarters.


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%

20 points less 2 for a safety, is 18 net points and 1.64 net points per drive. That is the 10th best defensive mark on the week (9th DSR, 11th EPA/ply).

On the year, the Colts defense has limited opponents to 1.83 points per drive ranking 5th best. That’s slightly better than the supporting numbers of DSR against (8th) and EPA/ply against (8th). The numbers really haven’t moved much with tougher competition and Football Outsiders agrees given them an unadjusted DVOA rank of 6th which does not change when adjusting for opponent.


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

The passing defense slipped a bit against Deshaun Watson, but it was Deshaun Watson. Anytime you can hold one of the hottest QBs in the league to below average EPA per dropback then that is a win. 14th is just fine with me.

Watson’s first down conversion rate was 12th lowest and the Colts sacked him 5 times which accounts for the stalled drives.

On the year, the defense has held opposing QB EPA efficiency to 0, which is the 7th lowest mark of any team and is the same rank as 1st downs per dropback. FO gives the passing defense a 5th ranked DVOA.


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

It’s tough to measure a run game when the opponent barely runs and the stats are all over the place. 20th by yards per carry given up, but 5th by EPA per carry against. #1 in rushing success rate against, but 24th when adjusting that for game script and situation.

Houston had 14 carries that resulted in 2 TDs, another 2 first downs and 4.5 yards per run. Those are good per run numbers and is why my adjusted ranking for the Colts run defense is so low. On the other hand, the Texans run game was ineffective overall, so who cares.

On the season, the rushing defense numbers are much more aligned for the Colts: 10th adj RSR, 7th ypc, 13th EPA/c. Football Outsiders ranks the run defense 11th and I’ve got no reason to disagree.


Over the last 4 games, the Colts defense has given up an 86.3% DSR in the first half which is the 2nd highest of any defense (CHI 88.6%). Play like that won’t win many games, but then they cap that off by holding opponents to a 61.7% DSR in the 2nd half, which is the 5th lowest of any team.

This defense is like the statistician with his head in the oven and his feet in the freezer, who is just fine on average. Overall, this was a good defensive effort from a team that made key plays and capitalized on opponent mistakes (bad luck) to win the game.

OK, Raiders, let’s see what you got:

  • 7th highest points per drive
  • 9th highest DSR
  • 12th most EPA per play

That’s pretty good, but FO says Las Vegas has had easy defensive opponents, so they downgrade then to the 14th overall offense by DVOA. Compared to Houston (9th) and Green Bay (2nd), this should be easier.

Like the Texans, the Raider passing game (13th DVOA) is better than their run game (21st DVOA). I show a similar ranking for the pass game (14th EPA/db) but I rank their run game a bit higher (15th adj RSR).

As of this writing the Colts are 2.5 point favorites.