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.
Week 2 for the Indianapolis Colts offense showed continued improvement over 2019. Total yards dropped by 20% week over week, but drive efficiency stayed high as the Colts were able to move the ball, evidenced by a pretty good 77.4% Drive Success Rate (DSR).
Getting to the red zone has not been a problem for the Colts offense, but converting those drives to TDs has and that continued in week 2.
On the year, excluding kneel-down drives, the Colts have been in the red zone on 67% of their drives (6 of 9 this week). That is the 2nd highest mark in the NFL and a vast improvement over last year when that number was 39%.
However, once within 20 yards of the endzone, the 2020 Colts only convert 33% of those drives into TDs, which ranks 32nd in the league. That’s right, dead last. The mostly Jacoby Brissett led offense in 2019 managed a 62% red zone TD rate (18th).
Two games is a small enough sample that a few plays (like a dropped TD pass or tipped interception) can dramatically impact those results. So, if the team can correct their mistakes and get back to finishing drives, the offense will take a major step forward.
2.6 points per drive is an improvement over week one (2.2 ppd) and much better than 2019 (1.9 ppd). That was driven in part by better overall play efficiency of .06 EPA/ply vs .03 last week, but mostly it was the best starting field position of the week thanks to the defense forcing 3 turnovers.
The average Colts drive started just shy of mid-field at the 44.6 yardline. On the year, that number is a 2nd best 36.3. If that regresses, which it is likely to, then drives will become harder and point efficiency will drop. The team will have to make up that gap by scoring TDs instead of field goals.
First down conversion rate (1st/ply) was just about league average (31.3%, 15th). Poor third down conversions (3 for 11) caused by a 6th longest 8 yards to gain, limited the overall conversions.
Net passing yards topped out at 203 which is dangerously low. The only way that converts to wins is with a strong run game and a defense that limits opponent points. Fortunately, that happened against the Vikings.
Passing efficiency dropped to 0.11 EPA per dropback from 0.16, but that isn’t all on Rivers. If I remove the MAC bounce pick, then EPA/dbs jumps to 0.28 and if T.Y. catches the TD, then Rivers would have had some of the best numbers of any QB on the week.
The % of successful dropbacks (PSR) fell from 52.1% to 48.1%, but when adding context by game situation, the weighted passing success rate (wPSR) stayed flat week over week.
Passing distance increased, but it came at the cost of less efficient short passing. Here is a comparison of short and long passes by week.
|Distance||Measure||Week 1||Week 2|
|Distance||Measure||Week 1||Week 2|
On short passes, a reduction in completion rate, passing distance and yards after the catch resulted in 4.6 yards per attempt compared to 7.4 in week 1. The exact opposite occurred with longer passes. An increase in all drivers resulted in almost a doubling of yards per attempt from 8.8 to 15.4.
The bottom line is that in week 1, all of the passing value came from short passes (9 cumulative EPA) but in week 2 that switched to longer passing (8.2 EPA). If Philip Rivers and his receivers can figure out a way to be efficient at both, this offense will be dangerous.
The run game was on point in week 2.
3.8 yards per carry is not all that impressive, but I don’t find ypc to be an impressive stat. In terms of success rate, both standard and weighted by game situation, the Colts run game was near the top of the league (5th RSR, 6th wRSR). Jordan Wilkins and Jonathan Taylor had similar wRSRs (40.0%, 40.8%).
11 first downs on 40 carries is the key driver of the running success. As long as you convert the series and keep the chains moving who cares how many yards a rush averages.
CONCLUSION AND LOOK AHEAD
Overall, the offense showed improvement week over week and the increased depth of passing is a promising sign, especially working with an already depleted receiving corps. This offense has shown that it can drive the field as well as any team in football, but it needs to capitalize better on those drives.
The passing game is still a bit of a wildcard for me. It is clearly better than 2019, but I would hesitate to call it good: it’s above average. I see things I like, but mistakes are preventing translation into actual production.
The run game is promising even after the loss of Mack and all in, my numbers put the Colts offense somewhere around 12th-13th. Intuitively that seems a bit high to me, given the red-zone struggles and the fantastic field position that is probably not repeatable, but I’m not going to argue against my own math.
Next week, Rivers and company face the New York Jets defense. I have them as 25th against the pass, but 8th against the run, limiting teams to a ridiculously low 16.7% first down conversion on rushes. Football outsiders DVOA agrees with me ranking their pass defense 22nd and run defense 3rd.
This match-up looks like it favors a passing plan of attack and for passes thrown over 10 yards, the Jets defense has given up the 4th highest EPA/att. So, they are particularly vulnerable downfield. Maybe we get to see Rivers stretch the field a bit. Maybe T.Y. catches some passes.