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Week 3: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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Kansas City Chiefs v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/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 Colts’ defense had early success against the Chiefs, but the Colts offense decided to turn the ball over on downs and then lose a fumble deep in opponent territory. That gave KC two first-half drives that were only 56 yards away from 14 13 points. It wasn’t until their 7th drive that the Chiefs’ offense truly found their footing and after that, the Colts had difficulty stopping Patrick Mahomes.

Overall, KC posted a 74.1% DSR, which is usually pretty good, but in this game it only translated to 19.6 expected points. The reason for that low expected point total is that even though the Colts gave up a lot of first downs, the average yardage on those series was short.

In other words, the defense did not give up big plays, limiting the Chiefs probability of scoring. Add in a KC missed field goal and a failed fake attempt and you get the Chiefs simply under-scoring relative to their effort on the field.

So the Colts’ defensive success was a bit of good work, a bit of luck and a bit of Andy Reid.


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 Colts’ 13th ranked ppd against is far better than their 21st DSR against. Again, that is explained primarily by giving up a lot of first downs (18th 1st% against) on mostly short series (11th yds/srs against).

This isn’t anything new, either. The Colts have given up the 6th shortest series this year and the 3rd fewest explosive plays. Those are important, critical numbers that if sustained, bode well for future games.


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

The Colts limited Mahomes to a bad day for Mahomes, which is a good day for normal QBs. He had the 12th best epa per drop-back and 13th highest passing success rate, which translates to a Colts defensive ranking of 21st and 20th respectively.

The defense also ranked 25th in pass conversion rate, and 23rd in net yardage efficiency (ny/d), which isn’t good. However, they did manage to get a sack and an interception, which, so far this year, is more than any other defense can claim against Mahomes.


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

The strength of this defense continues to be the run game. This week, I have them as 12th best in adj RSR, which is driven by the lowest ypc against of any defense and the 10th least epa/c against.

On the year, I rank the Colts run D as 3rd best, which is one spot behind their 2nd place DVOA ranking.


As I stated earlier, this was a bit of a mixed bag. No big plays given up, but lots of first downs yielded. Without turnovers, that is a dangerous game and fortunately, a timely interception happened.

The Colts limited opponent points, but some of that was the opponent tripping on their own shoelaces. On the other hand, the Colts offense did everything they could to try and give KC points. Overall, it was a decent defensive effort against a good offense. I feel better this week than I did last week.

Next up is the Titans and their 17th ranked DVOA offense. That ranking is far higher then their actual production. I have them 25th in points per drive and 23rd in DSR. They are also below average in 1st down conversions and they turn the ball over a lot (19th 1st%, 7th to%).

Many people have claimed that the Ryan Tannehill renaissance is over. It’s not. So far this year, he has the 12th highest epa/d and 8th highest pass success rate. He throws first downs and gains yards (6th 1st%, 6th ny/d). He may not strike fear in the hearts of Colts fans but don’t be surprised if he does well. Football Outsiders ranks the Titans as the 8th best passing game.

On the ground, “King” Henry has struggled, although he had a promising week 3. By DVOA, the Titans run game comes in at 27th and by my numbers, they are 31st (aRSR). I would normally say this is shaping up to be a pass-heavy game, but the Titans are the 2nd most run-happy team, so maybe they continue to rely on what has so far been a weakness.