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Week 6: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/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.

Houston has a bad offense. Coming into week 6, Football Outsiders ranked them 30th in DVOA. So, anything other than a dominant performance by the Colts defense would have been a disappointment. They did not disappoint.

Ironically, the Texans offense garnered more first downs than the Colts offense did, but they did it at a much lower rate, with a 65.5% drive success rate, which lands at the 18th percentile of all offensive performances this year. . . or rather an 81st percentile performance from the Colts D.

Three turnovers and 2 sacks ended 5 Houston drives as the Colts kept the Texans out of the red zone and all but 1 drive, which was limited to a field goal.

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

With only 0.27 points per drive given up, the defense lands at the #1 spot this week. Game script prevented Houston from attempting field goals on late drives so ppd slightly over-estimates the performance a bit as expected points per drive was only 6th best. That mostly agrees with DSR (6th), EPA per play (5th), yards per play (7th), and conversion rate (4th) .

To me, this was a borderline top 5 performance. On the year, I have the Colts defense at 19th (DSR) and DVOA pretty much concurs (17th).


Mouseover definitions: epa/d, PSR, Cmp, Att, Yds, TD, Int, Sk, Sk Y, 1st/d, ny/d, cmp %, aDOT, cpoe, YBC, YAC, 20+ #/Yd

As expected, Davis Mills did not have a good day. The Colts limited him to the 6th least epa per drop-back. This was driven by an inability to gain yards (9th worst ny/d) and consistently move the chains (5th worst conversion rate).

He had a 67% completion rate, but that was on the 3rd shortest throws of the week and was -3.5% below the expected rate (11th worst cpoe). The Colts sacked him twice and picked him twice, making an already stingy defense even stingier.

This was a much-needed great defensive result for the Colts, as they have given up an average of +0.23 epa/d on the season, ranking 26th of all passing defenses. DVOA has the passing D at 29th, so I’m being kind.


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

The Colts defense put a lid on the ground game, much as they have done most of the year. They gave up 7 first downs, but on 28 carries that equates to only a 16th ranked conversion rate. Yards per carry was a similarly ranked 17th, but when adjusting for situation that changes to the 7th least epa/d given up and a 6th ranked adj success rate.

On the year, I have the Colts rush defense as 6th best (aRSR), but Football Outsiders gives them much more love, calling them the best run defense in the league. That’s right, your Indianapolis Colts are #1 in defensive rushing DVOA.


When you play a bad offense you should easily contain them and the Colts defense did. This wasn’t much of a test, but it was nice to see a dominant performance from a struggling defense even if it comes with an asterisk.

Next up is the 49ers offense led by Trey Lance Jimmy Garoppolo their starting QB. This will be a much harder test for the Colts. FO ranks San Fran 10th by DVOA and I have them 11th in DSR and 12th in expected PPD, so I am not inclined to disagree.

It looks like Garoppolo will be starting, which is bad news for the Colts. When not hurt, Jimmy G has put up the 6th highest epa/d and the 8th highest passing success rate this year. He doesn’t throw far (29th aDOT), but he avoids pressure by getting the ball out quickly (27th TTT) and he relies on his receivers to provide the 2nd most yac over expected in the league to bolster a 10th best yards per attempt. Here’s hoping to Jimmy G being rusty off of his return from injury.

On the ground, the news is better. I have the 49ers as the 12th best rushing unit and FO ranks them 15th by DVOA. This is a favorable rushing match-up for the Colts and San Francisco likes to run a balanced offense . . . so let’s unbalance that.

This will be a tough game, but a very winnable one if our D can step up. SF favored by 4.