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Week 13: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Thomas Shea-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.

Houston, you had a problem.

A goose egg on the scoreboard says a lot, but the drive chart shows how ridiculously good the Colts defense was in week 13. The Texans entered Colts territory only twice on 11 drives. They managed only 116 net yards of offense all day (including penalties). They converted only 9 first downs, which is the 5th fewest of any team this year (Of course 2 of those other bottom 5 spots are held by Houston as well, so there’s that).

A 45% DSR is the 5th lowest of any offense, this year, which is a 98th percentile performance by the Colts D.


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%

A shutout earns the #1 defensive points per drive spot for the week. It was also the #1 DSR, EPA per play, success rate, 1st down conversion rate, yards per play . . . just assume everything was the best.

There’s not much to say. Houston could not gain yards or get first downs or hold on to the ball and ultimately, that led to no points.

On the year, the Colts defense ranks 13th in ppd against which is similar to their DVOA ranking of 11th.


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

Continuing the list of #1 spots for defensive performances, let’s add epa per drop-back, passing success rate, and net yards per drop-back. However, the Colts defense only ranked #2 in passing 1st down conversion rate . . . slackers.

Tyrod Taylor went 5 for 13 before being replaced by Davis Mills who didn’t do much better. Together, they accumulated only 57 net passing yards. Ooph.

On the year, this defense has given up the 16th ranked epa per drop-back, which is one spot behind their DVOA ranking. Basically, they are a “meh” passing defense, which is actually a big improvement from earlier in the year. They are trending the right way.


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

Even though the Texans managed a decent 4.1 yards per play, it was in low-value situations and so resulted in the 5th worst epa per carry on the week and the 2nd lowest adjusted rush success rate.

For the season, the Colts have given up the 6th lowest adj. RSR to go along with the 4th ranked DVOA. This is a slight drop-off from earlier in the year when they were #1 or #2 for many weeks, but this is still a stout run defense.


The Texans' offense was completely dominated by the Colts' defense. Some might hand-wave that away because the Texans' offense is terrible, but it would have been difficult for the defense to actually perform any better.

In two weeks, this defense will face a Patriots offense that is currently ranked 11th in DVOA and scores the 8th most points per drive. They only rank 14th in DSR, but that is helped out by the 2nd best starting field position of any team (likely driven by the defense).

Through the air, Football Outsiders gives them a #10 DVOA ranking. That’s similar to my #12 ranking in epa per drop-back. That is driven by the 10th best success rate, 11th best 1st down conversion rate, and 9th longest net yards per drop-back. So, all of those numbers pretty much agree that this is a top 10 passing game.

On the ground, they are even better placing 8th in DVOA and 6th in adj RSR. This will be a strength against strength scenario on the ground.