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Week 12: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers 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.

While the Colts' offense started poorly and got better as the game went on, the defense was the exact opposite of that. On the first 6 drives, they held the Bucs to a meager 7 points, but then on the following 6 drives, they surrendered 31 more.

28 first downs on 35 series is an 80% success rate, which puts the Bucs DSR in the 78th percentile for 2021, or rather the Colts defense was in the 22nd percentile. After a rough start, Tampa Bay had no trouble moving the ball and was only stopped once in the second half.


Mouseover for definitions: Adj PPD, Team PPG, Off 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%

The 28th ranked points per drive is well deserved as the defense could not stop Tampa Bay from getting first downs (28th DSR, 30th 1st%). Ironically, the length of their converted series was not long (10.3 yards, 6th shortest), but they strung them together for high per play value (4th highest epa per play). The Colts' defense bled out from a thousand tiny cuts.

On the season, the defense ranks 19th on points per drive, 16th in DSR given up, and 19th in epa per play against. That all describes a defense that is slightly below average. Football Outsiders, on the other hand, thinks this defense is 12th best (DVOA). At one time, FO had this as the 5th best defense, but each week that rank has slipped closer and closer to what my numbers show. I’m not saying that I’m right, but I’m right.


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

Brady did not have an overly efficient day (15th epa/d, 19th ny/d), but he racked up the 4th best success rate in the league. He did it how he often does, with lots of short (19th aDOT) accurate (7th cpoe) passes that kept the chains moving (12th 1st/d).

This defense did a lot better than I expected against Brady. I wouldn’t say they were good, but relative to how the pass defense normally plays, this was a huge step up.

On the season, the pass defense has given up the 8th highest epa per drop-back. They rank 30th in opponent passer success rating. They rank 23rd in net yardage efficiency and 27th in preventing first down conversions. In other words, they give up a lot of yards that lead to first downs and other high-value plays. Not good. Not good at all.

DVOA says 20th. I say, I wish.


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

One of the best rush defenses in the league cratered against Leonard Fournette Et al. The Colts yielded:

  • 4 rushing TDs
  • the highest rushing conversion rate
  • the 4th highest ypc
  • the highest rush epa per carry

That all combines to the worst adjusted rush success rate against for the week. Just terrible.

On the year, the run defense drops to 9th in my book (aRSR) but only 3rd by DVOA. I actually kind of side with Football Outsiders on this one. We’ve faced some hard-running teams and usually have done well. If I were to adjust for the opponent, I would bump my ranking up.


This defense seems to only work when we stop the run and get turnovers. They did manage 2 turnovers but got steam-rolled on the ground. Brady was held mostly in check (sort of) but clearly, this was a poor performance overall.

Let us cleanse our palate in week 13 with the Houston Texans and their 32nd ranked offensive DVOA and 32nd ranked points per drive. I could list all of the numerous offensive stats that they are worst in, but suffice it to say it’s all the ones I care about.

Isolating the passing game doesn’t much help their cause. They rank 30th in DVOA, 29th in epa per drop-back, 28th in passer success rating, 31st in first down conversion rate, and 29th in net yards per drop-back. They also give up the 6th most INTs per game of any team, so let’s get some take-aways.

Their run game ranks dead last in DVOA and I wholeheartedly agree as they are 32nd in adj RSR.

The match-ups in this game ridiculously favor the Colts' defense. Colts favored by 9 (and I think that is low).