clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Colts Defense: Does One Half Awesome Plus One Half Horrible Equal Average?

Sort of.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Indianapolis Colts v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/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.

First of all, 18 opponent drives is a ridiculously high number, even when accounting for overtime, and any defense is destined to give up points on that many drives. The Colts offense certainly had a hand in that drive volume by ending their drives quickly, but Minnesota had quick drives as well and this was due to 2 primary factors:

  1. The Colts defense was awesome and forced the Vikings to end their drives quickly.
  2. The Colts defense sucked, allowing the Vikings to score quickly.

On the first 8 drives, the Colts defense seemed like the best to ever play the game. They gave up only 10.4 yards per drive, 3 first downs, 0 points, forced 2 turnovers and another 2 turnovers on downs, and scored 7 points themselves. The Minnesota Drive Success Rate on those drives was a stupid low 27.3%.

And then the rest of the game happened, which included giving up 50.7 yards per drive, 29 first downs (including 5 on penalties), and 39 points. The DSR on those Viking drives was 85.3%, which was on pace to be the 96th percentile of offenses in 2022.


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%

How do you judge a team that did so well and also so badly? Overall, the Colts gave up the 15th-ranked net points per drive. Is that average? It sure doesn’t seem like it.

The Colts gave up the 8th most yards per play, the 10th least EPA per play, and an average ranked 16th DSR. So, that’s all over the place.

Stat-wise it actually makes sense: they gave up a lot of yards, but also stopped a lot of drives with EPA-killing turnovers. However, judgement-wise I don’t know what to call that. If my head is in the oven and my feet are in the freezer, I wouldn’t say that on average I’m just fine.

On the season, the defense remains above average, with a 14th-ranked ppd and 11th-ranked DVOA.


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

I wrote that Kirk Cousins was basically an average QB and in this game, he put up average overall production. The Colts defense posted the 16th-ranked EPA/d against and 15th-ranked PSR against.

However, he had some extremes in his numbers as well. Cousins had 4 TDs, but 2 INTs including a pick-6, so does that net to average? He had the 5th-highest net yardage efficiency but the 9th-worst accuracy to go along with 7 sacks. You know what, I give up. I have no idea how to grade that.

On the year, the Colts’ passing defense ranks 12th in EPA/d given up and 14th by passing DVOA.


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

The run game is a little more straightforward. The Colts held the Vikings to the 14th-lowest YPC and the 5th-lowest conversion rate (1st/c). They gave up a rushing TD but also got a forced fumble takeaway. That’s good enough for the 4th-best rushing defense of the week (aRSR).

On the season, they come in 14th in aRSR and 13th in defensive rushing DVOA.


In this season graph, they are in the correct quadrant with above-average passing and rushing defense. So, that is somewhat at odds with this last game, because against Minnesota they looked just . . . average? No, that’s not right . . . Is it?

Next up, the Colts defense takes on the 24th-ranked Los Angeles Charger offense (DVOA). That ranking is far below their 15th-best PPD but is somewhat in line with the 21st-ranked yards per play and EPA per play. Basically, they have been outscoring their underlying drivers. Call it luck or randomness or whatever, but usually, teams that do that are headed for a regression.

Justin Herbert has had his struggles this year, ranking only 22nd in EPA/d. Football Outsiders ranks their passing offense 23rd in DVOA. On the ground, they aren’t any better coming in 27th by DVOA and 22nd by my custom aRSR stat.

Dare I say this is a favorable match-up for the Colts' defense?