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.
The Colts defense opened the game against New England by shutting down the Patriot offense on 6 consecutive drives that resulted in 2 picks, a turnover on downs, and a blocked punt returned for a TD. Then with less than 20 minutes left, the defense lost its footing and gave up 17 points on the following 3 drives.
The Patriots' offense managed more first downs than the Colts' offense did, but they logged an identical Drive Success rate of 71.4%, which is about league average.
By points per drive, the Colts D ranks 18th on the week and all of the supporting stats hover around that rank as well: 20th DSR against, 15th epa per play against, 16th 1st per play against.
On the year, the numbers aren’t dramatically different: 17th ppd, 14th DSR, 15th epa per play. This is an average defense that excels at take-aways (#1 TO). Football Outsiders values turnovers a lot (too much IMO) and so by DVOA, this defense ranks 8th best. As long as the turnovers continue, I wouldn’t argue much with that, but if those dry up (as they often do) then the stopping power of this defense is just meh.
The Colts held Mac Jones to an 18th ranked epa efficiency of 0.0, which is lower than his season average (+0.12). Jones was able to get decent yardage (6.3 ny/d, 10th highest) and was able to move the ball well (34% 1st/d, 13th highest), but he made mistakes against a defense that you can’t make mistakes against and the Colts made him pay with 2 interceptions.
For the season, I have the pass defense right in the middle of the pack (17th epa/d). DVOA agrees giving them a 16th rank.
The Colts’ run defense continues to be about as good as the offense and this game was no exception. The game script prevented the Patriots from running often and when they did, they didn’t get much.
The Colts held the Pats’ run game to the 12th least ypc, the 5th worst epa per carry, and the 3rd smallest conversion rate. Adjust that for situation and that comes out to be the best run defense of the week (#1 arsr).
On the year, I have the Colts 3rd in rush defense, which is exactly their DVOA rank as well.
CONCLUSION & LOOK AHEAD
The Colts stopped the Patriots' offense at about the same level that the Pats stopped the Colts. The difference was turnovers.
I am ecstatic with the defense’s success at ball-hawking but wary that it can continue at such a high level. Historically, takeaways regress to the mean quickly. However, this defense has slowly been improving outside of take-aways.
For week 16, the Cardinal offense has put up the 7th most points per drive of any team this year. They have the 5th best DSR and 7th best epa per play. So, I scratch my head a bit when DVOA ranks them only 17th. They have had an easier-than-average schedule, but nothing that would make me drop them that much.
Through the air, they rank 8th in DVOA, which makes much more sense to me, as I have them 4th in epa per drop-back, 2nd in passing success rate, 3rd in net yards per drop-back, and 6th in 1st down conversion rate. Kyler Murray is dangerous with his arm and his legs, but he is not immune to turnovers (18th to%).
On the ground, DVOA calls them the 24th best running team. I call shenanigans. I have them at 12th best in adjusted RSR and 15th in epa per carry. They have 0 rushing fumbles on the year, so let’s see if the Maniac can ruin that streak.
Vegas likes ARI by 1.