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, NFL.com, Football Outsiders and the nflFastR project for being awesome sources of weekly data.
As I watched The Colts offense Sunday, I saw a team who both seemed to move the ball at will and also one that was determined to make plays to keep points off the board. When I crunched the numbers I saw the same thing.
The Colts only had 9 drives and 2 of them ended with interceptions, which is tough to recover from. However, on the other 7 drives, the offense moved the ball into scoring position every time and was within the red zone on 6 of them.
It’s disappointing that the Colts offense put up the 3rd highest total yards of any team and only managed the 19th most points, but that is what happens when you turn the ball over 2 times. . . . well, really 4 times . . . 5 if you count missed field goals.
Hey! We won TOP!
The issue with the passing game wasn’t so much the overall numbers, but rather that it started out strong and then faded.
Passing by QTR
You can see the EPA efficiency drop quarter by quarter, which is also reflected in the yards per attempt (YPA) and the yards per completion (Y/Cmp).
The first half drives were good but the 3rd quarter average air yards before the catch (YBC) was actually negative. In the 4th qtr, even though the completion % over expected (cpoe) was positive, it just wasn’t high enough to overcome the minimal YBC and YAC.
The first pass of the second half came on a 4th & 1, when Rivers threw 14 yards downfield to Jack Doyle for a 28 yard completion. For the next 24 minutes, the Colts completed only 1 pass that was thrown further than 5 yards. That’s just not winning football.
Again, at the game level the numbers were an improvement over last year and there was enough production on Sunday to put up more points than they did, but going forward, Rivers has to reel in the picks and throw farther in the second half.
CONCLUSION AND LOOK AHEAD
Despite the loss and the ugliness of the 2nd half, this was an overall better offensive performance than the average game from 2019. From a glass is half full perspective, I saw a lot of things I liked. If we can fix the mistakes, there is a lot of potential there. Football Outsiders ranked the Colts offense 15th on the week by DVOA. That feels about right to me. Take away a few mistakes and that is easily top 10.
Next week, the Colts host the Minnesota Vikings, who are coming off a loss to the Packers. Aaron Rodgers showed no mercy on the Vikings defense, so take it with a grain of salt when I say that my data ranks Minnesota 28th against the pass.
Similarly, I show their rushing defense dead last in 32nd place giving up 4.9 yards per carry and 11 first downs on 32 rushes. If Frank Reich really wants to be a top 5 rushing team, this might be his chance.
Of course, 1 data point is neither a trend nor an average, so I wouldn’t put too much weight in my rankings right now, but as of this writing the Colts are a 3 point favorite.