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Week 5 Defensive Rankings and Analysis: Not great, not terrible

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NFL: Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

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.

While the scoreboard makes it seem like the Colts' defense shut down Tennesse, the fact is that the Titans moved the ball really well getting into scoring position on 5 of 7 drives.

Indy gave up 19 first downs on 23 series for a 76.0% defensive Drive Success Rate, which ranks 18th on the week. The Titans also averaged 54.8 yards per drive, the 3rd highest of any offense.

To be clear, the Colts’ defense was not horrible and they did make a key goal-line stand and followed that with an interception to seal the game. However, they had difficulty stopping the Titans before they got deep into Colts territory and so their overall play was below average.


(Use the right-left arrows to toggle between stats for the week and the season).

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%

Even though the Titans scored just 16 points, that came on only 7 drives for 2.29 Points per Drive. Defensively, that ranks 18th on the week for the Colts and it brings the season total to 16th, down 2 spots from last week.

The Titans managed the 9th-most yards per play and 8th-highest play conversion rate, so it’s fortunate that the Colts could capitalize on the Tennessee mistakes. Had this been a faster-paced game with more drives, the outcome could have easily been very different.


(Use the right-left arrows to toggle between stats for the week and the season).

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 let Ryan Tannehill, a lower-tier QB, have a pretty good passing day. He had the 9th highest EPA per dropback. That drops the Colts' season ranking to 22nd, down 4 spots from last week.

Tannehill faced an average amount of pressure, but that resulted in just 1 sack and it gave him the 3rd lowest abandoned play % of any QB.

He held the ball longer than average to make the 11th longest completions, which helped his overall yardage efficiency (8th ny/d). That efficiency allowed him to easily move the chains (5th highest conversion rate), but the Colts’ defense did prevent any passing TDs.


(Use the right-left arrows to toggle between stats for the week and the season).

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

The real effort came against the run. The Colts' defense earned the 9th-best defensive Adj Rush Success Rate, raising their season ranking from 17th to 14th.

The Colts kept Derrick Henry in check, with only 66 yards. Tennesse could only manage the 21st-ranked rushing conversion rate and 1 explosive carry.

Had the run defense not been as tough as they were, this game could have quickly gotten out of hand.


Despite a very good run defense, a poor pass defense allowed the Titans to move the ball and have an above-average scoring rate. However, because of the limited drives, mistakes were magnified and the defense was able to capitalize when it mattered most.

So, overall, I’m not going to call this a bad effort. I’ll call it a below-avearge effort with fortunate outcomes.

Next up is the Jaguar offense . . . again. In week 1, the Jags hung 31 points on the Colts, but it took them 15 drives to do it, which was only the 13th-ranked PPD. Since then, Jacksonville has accumulated the 22nd-ranked PPD.

On the season, Trevor Lawrence has the 18th-ranked EPA efficiency, but the 10th-highest passing success rate. This suggests he has a lot of successful throws underneath and doesn’t rely on the explosive pass. His O-line is not giving him good protection, but he handles the pressure by getting rid of the ball quickly and using his legs. He will be tough to bring down.

On the ground, the Jacksonville run game ranks 22nd in adj. RSR. They have averaged the 26th ranked Yards per Carry and the 27th-ranked rushing conversion rate. Travis Etienne had a breakout game against Buffalo, but prior to that, he had not been impressive this year.

The Colts run defense should make Jacksonville a 1-dimensional team. But Lawrence is capable of surgically hitting his guys on quick routes, so the Colts will need to find an answer for that.

The line remains Jacksonville by 4.