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Week 14: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Las Vegas Raiders Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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.

This game was a Rorschach test for judging defenses. Do you see a team that gave up 27 points and 424 yards off of 26 first downs? Or do you see a team that forced a fumble, nabbed an end-zone interception, returned a pick-6 and held a team, who scored 30+ points in 4 of their previous 5 games, in check?


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 boom or bust nature of the Colts defense last week, the numbers are all over the place: 24th in Drive Success rate against, but 12th in EPA per play given up. My instinct tells me that one of those porridges is too hot and the other too cold. I guess that puts a 19th ranked points per drive in the Goldilocks zone of measuring this effort.

Basically, if it weren’t for the turnover plays — which are rare and hard to replicate — Las Vegas likely puts up a lot more points. For the other 96% of plays that weren’t turnovers, the defense didn’t look good.

On the year, the grading effort is simpler: 11th in Drive Success rate against, 6th in EPA per play given up and 9th in net points per drive against. That’s some good porridge.


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

Not to sound like a broken record (kids, records are how people used to listen to Spotify), but without the 2 picks, Carr had 0.39 EPA per dropback, which would have put the Colts as the 28th least effective pass defense . . . but picks actually count so they are 13th.

The defense gave up the 10th highest 1st down conversion rate and the 11th highest passing success rate. They also gave up 7.4 net yards per dropback, which is the 7th highest mark by any QB . . . but picks actually count.

On the year, the defense has held opponents to the 6 smallest EPA per dropback, which is a big reason Football Outsiders ranks the passing defense 6th overall . . . because picks actually count.


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

The Raiders had little success on the ground and game script limited them even trying. They didn’t have good yardage or EPA efficiency (27th lowest ypc, 20th EPA/c) and so the Colts defense rank 13th in opponent Adjusted Rushing Success Rate.

That is about the same as the season total ranking of 12th, which also is the defensive rushing DVOA rank on the year.


Obviously, you want a defense that can get turnovers and the Colts did exactly that, adding to their season takeaway total, which is 3rd highest in the league. However, I would rather see them perform well without having to rely on those rare plays. If getting 0 turnovers means giving up 30+ points, then that is not good.

Up next, the Texans again. The Houston offense has taken a hit the past few weeks. In weeks 5 - 12, they scored 2.66 points per drive, which was 6th highest in the league. Against Indy, they scored 1.6 ppd and against Chicago they scored 0.5.

Without Will Fuller, Deshaun Watson has not looked the same. Prior to week 13, Watson had the 3rd highest EPA per dropback. In the last 2 weeks, he has ranked 20th. On the year, I still have their passing offense ranked high, but I think they are worse than their total numbers. Don’t get me wrong, Watson is still a dangerous QB and he managed 341 yards and the 11th highest yardage efficiency against us. But if we can pressure him like before, I think we can keep a lid on him.

They weren’t good on the ground before and they still aren’t. We shut their run game down before and I expect the same on Sunday.