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Week 10 Defensive Rankings and Analysis: Sackfest

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Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots Photo by Ralf Ibing - firo sportphoto/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 held the Pats to 3 points in the first half thanks to 5 consecutive drives stopped by sacks, 3 of which came courtesy of Dayo Odeyingbo.

Indy held the Pats to 21 first downs on 30 series for a 70.0% Drive Success Rate, which ranks the Colts’ defense 14th-best on the week. That probably sounds like a ridiculously low rank for a defense that held their opponent to 6 points and it is. Here’s why:

When that DSR is combined with starting field position and average yards per series, it translates to 11.6 expected points. In other words, the numbers say that New England left 5.6 points on the field, which makes sense when you account for 4 red zone trips that only earned 6 points. The missed field goal is certainly part of that math, but a red zone sack and the 2 interceptions are much bigger drivers of New England’s “under scoring”.

This could be called a “bend-don’t-break” effort, but even so, the Colts didn’t do much bending.


(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%

By Points per Drive, this was the 3rd-best defensive effort of the week and it boosts their season ranking 7 spots to 14th. The 11th through 20th spots are all pretty tightly packed together, though, so it wouldn’t take much to fall significantly.

The Colts gave up the 12th-lowest yards per play and the 17th-ranked defensive conversion rate. Those numbers are much more in line with DSR than with the scoreboard and I will attribute that discrepancy to the turnovers. On the year, the Colts are tied for 11th in takeaway volume, so that was no fluke.


(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 Pats' passing was held to the 7th-lowest EPA efficiency of the week, which puts the Colts' defense at 12th-best against the pass on the year. By Passing Success Rate, they rank 10th.

The Colts limited the Pats to the 12th-lowest passing yardage efficiency and the 14th-lowest conversion rate, thanks in part to those 5 sacks. Those rankings are much lower than the 7th EPA/d and that is a direct result of the interceptions, which have a big EPA impact, but very little impact on the other measures.


(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,

Against the run, the defense continued to struggle. The Pats earned the 8th-highest adj Rush Success Rate, which was driven by the 7th-best conversion rate. New England’s 11 rushing first downs and 144 yards were a huge threat to win the game.

On the year, the Colts stay at 24th against the run by adj Rush Success Rate.


It was the pass defense that made the difference this week, which aligns with the season totals. If the Colts’ offense continues to be weak, the poor rush defense is going to play a much bigger role in future game outcomes.

After the bye week, the Colts will face the Tampa Bay offense, which ranks 14th in Points per Drive, but only 21st by Drive Success Rate. A big reason for that difference is penalties. The Tampa Bay offense is awarded the 4th-most first downs and the 6th-most yards per game via penalty. I haven’t pulled the data, but I am guessing that is primarily defensive PI and holding.

Baker Mayfield is doing pretty well in that offense. He has the 10th-best EPA efficiency and the 11th-highest net yards per dropback of any QB. He’s not great at getting first downs, but he has a high TD rate and a low turnover rate (221st 1st%, 11th td%, 28th to%). He likes to throw deep and his accuracy has been pretty good (5th adot, 15th cpoe).

On the ground, Tampa Bay is really, really bad. They are dead last in Adj Rush Success Rate, Yards per Carry, Conversion Rate, and 31st in EPA per Carry. Of course, the Colts' run defense is pretty bad too, so this might not be a huge match-up win.