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Week 18: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Each week during the season, I will be walking through the data from the previous Colts game and 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.

Giving up 26 points is never good. Doing that against an offense that averaged 12.9 points a game is a particular kind of “not good”.

The Colts defense gave up 231 yards and 13 points on the first 4 drives, which unfortunately was all the Jaguars needed to win. After those drives, the defense stiffened, but great field position set the Jags up for another 13 points.

A 73.1% Drive Success rate is about league average and is about par for the Colts defense as they have given up a higher DSR in 8 other games.


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%

By points per drive, this defense ranked 22nd in week 18, but by DSR they were 14th and by yards per play they were 13th. The gap in those rankings is basically field position as 2 Colts turnovers and another 3 turnovers on downs gave the Jags the 2nd best field position that week. A shorter field = more points, so I’m not going to pin that all on the defense.

On the year the Colts ppd came in at a meh 16th. DVOA ranks them 8th but I have strong disagreements with that. That is primarily driven by takeaways, which as we bitterly learned cannot be relied upon.

By EPA per drive the Colts defense ranked 12th, but if I rank teams solely on drives without turnovers, then the Colts fall to 22nd. Basically, without take-aways, the defense could not stop opponents.


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

In terms of epa efficiency (10th), this was Trevor Lawrence’s best week. He also had the 2nd best passing success rate of any QB. His first down conversion rate ranked 13th and net yards per drop-back was 14th, so he was better than average at moving the ball, but not dramatically so.

On the year the Colts finished 20th against the pass (epa/d), which is where they hovered for most of the year. DVOA says 17th. Yeah sure, I guess.


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

The Colts weren’t bad against the run. The Jaguars did not have a lot of rushing yards and they weren’t efficient overall (6th lowest ypc, 8th lowest 1st%).

However, my adjusted RSR gives bonuses for successful runs when trying to bleed the clock in garbage time and the Jags did that, so they end up with a mid-range aRSR.

On the year, the Colts finished 5th in aRSR and 3rd in defensive rushing DVOA.


Despite the scoreboard, the defense wasn’t really that bad. Don’t misunderstand, they weren’t good, but my rage isn’t directed towards them for this game.

As I demonstrated, this was a defense that relied on takeaways to be good, but that is like having an offense that relies on hail marys. OK, I am exaggerating, but you get the point. Takeaways tend to be random and there is a huge regression to the mean, so they are nice when they happen, but you can’t plan around them.

This defense was great at stopping the run and poor at stopping the pass. As this is a passing league, that’s problematic. If they are to take a step forward next year, they have to solve that.