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Another Good Performance, Another Loss: The Story of the Colts Defense.

The defense has held opponents to 20 or fewer points 8 times this year. They have won 3 of those games.

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Philadelphia Eagles v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/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.

The defense, once again, did an admirable job as they held one of the best offenses in the league to only 16 points.

The Eagles came into the game with the 4th-ranked offense by DVOA, but had trouble moving the ball. They had a total of 26 series, of which, they converted 18 for a 69.2% Drive Success Rate. That ranks in the 38th percentile of offensive efforts this year.


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 Eagles barely eclipsed 300 yards (12th lowest) with the 13th lowest points per drive. That is perfectly in line with the 12th-ranked DSR against and 12th-ranked EPA per play against.

The defense, who has been poor at getting takeaways, forced 2 fumbles, but also gave up 45 yards on penalties, which, unfortunately, directly led to an Eagle’s game-winning TD.


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

Through the air, they shut down one of the better passers in the league. The Colts limited Jalen Hurts to the 5th-lowest EPA per dropback and the 5th lowest success rate. Hurts had some success with deep throws, amassing 75 yards off of 3 explosive passes. But his other 22 attempts averaged only 5.2 yards and he finished with the 4th worst conversion rate.

On the year, the defense has now improved to 10th best against the pass by EPA efficiency, but partially due to strength of opponent, DVOA ranks them a bit lower at 14th.


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

Ironically, the usually stout defense against the run, softened a bit against the Eagles. While 3.4 ypc is the 12th lowest on the week, it resulted in a lot of first downs and the 23rd-ranked conversion rate against. Thus, because EPA cares about the value of the play and not the yards, the Colts' epa per carry against ranks 22nd on the week. That all culminated in a 21st aRSR ranking.

On the year, the Colts are still 10th in aRSR and 6th best by DVOA.


There are those that will pin this loss on the defense for “folding” when it mattered and to those people I say, it always matters. A defense’s job is to limit points and the Colts defense did that, not only in this game but all year, giving up the 11th fewest points per drive this season.

They are good against the pass and good against the run.

The next visitors to Lucas Oil stadium are the Pittsburgh Steelers, who bring the 22nd-ranked offensive DVOA. They are 28th in ppd, so it should be easier to keep them out of the end zone than recent opponents.

The Steelers are equally poor in the air (21st DVOA, 27th epa/d) and on the ground (23rd DVOA, 26th aRSR). So, in either phase, the Colts defense matches up well.