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Week 7: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers Stan Szeto-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.

We should play all our games in the rain. 4 turnovers and 6 three-and-outs kept the San Francisco offense in check, allowing them to only convert 57% of their series, which ranks in the 4th percentile of game offenses this year.


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%

The Colts D held the 49ers to the 9th lowest PPD of any team, but even that under-estimates the defensive performance. San Francisco could not move the ball (3rd worst DSR, 5th worst 1st/ply). That ranking is worse than their 12th lowest 5.3 yards per play, which implies the Colts defense made some “key” stops, and that translated to the 3rd lowest EPA per play.

In other words, the Colts defense was good generally, but even better when it mattered most.


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

Across the board, Jimmy G’s numbers were bad. He couldn’t get yardage (9th ny/d) which killed his ability to get first downs (5th lowest 1st/d). His accuracy was bad (4th lowest cpoe) and of course, he threw 2 picks and lost a fumble. This culminated in the 4th worst passing epa efficiency and the 6th worst success rate.

This was in stark contrast to the season totals where the Colts rank 21st in epa/d against. Football Outsiders has the Colts passing D at 22nd by DVOA, so we are in agreement: this passing defense is bad.


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

On the ground, the 9ers were a bit more successful but still not good. They had the 8th highest ypc and 10th highest average epa, but could not translate that into overall success.

They were 14th in standard success rate and 16th in adjusted success rate. That makes the Colts defense, 11th best against the rush in week 7.

For the season, I peg the rushing D at 7th. Football Outsiders, however, still calls them the #1 rush defense by DVOA, so sure, I’ll take that.


The past 2 weeks haven’t been much of a test for the defense, but regardless they have performed well.

It can be tough to grade a defense that is so good in one phase and so bad in the other. DVOA has them 12th overall and at first blush, I rejected that out of hand, but even my own numbers mostly agree. The team has given up the 11th fewest points per drive, the 14th lowest DSR, and the 9th lowest epa per play.

However, they also rank 23rd in yards per play and 19th in conversion rate. So they are relying on key stops as they rank 3rd in takeaways. So, when measuring past games, they may have had overall good numbers, but I’m not sure how sustainable that is going forward.

One of their worst performances this year was against the upcoming Titans. The Colts defense was simply steamrolled in week 3 and Tennessee has arguably gotten better since then. They have scored the 8th most PPD, with the 7th highest DSR.

Ryan Tannehill has dropped off a bit in 2021, but he is still putting up solid production. He is 14th in epa efficiency and has the 9th best conversion rate. However, he has taken a lot of sacks (8th sck%) and has not been careful with the ball (5 ints, 4 lost fumbles).

Derrick Henry is always a threat and by DVOA, TEN ranks as the 7th best rushing team. So, the match-up is strength against strength. Last meeting, Henry accumulated 113 yards rushing and another 31 through the air.

This should be a sobering game for the defense who has yielded only 21 points total the last 2 games to weak/wet offenses. I think Tennessee puts up at least 24. At the time of this writing, the Colts are 1 point favorites.