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Week 12 Defensive Rankings and Analysis: Colts defense is top 10 in sacks and takeaways

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers 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 opening drive of the game saw the Tampa Bay offense force Indianapolis back 72 yards to their own 1 yard line, before the Colts finally found their resolve. A false start penalty and 3 good defensive plays later and the Bucs had to settle for a field goal.

The next 3 Buccaneer drives netted only 4 yards total and ended with 2 punts and a turnover. However, a Minshew interception led to a Tampa Bay short field TD and 2 later drives were allowed to enter the red zone, giving up 10 more points.

Still, overall the Colts defense did a good job containing the Bucs. They yielded only 17 first downs for a 68% Drive Success rate, which was the 13th best defensive effort in week 12. They also tallied 2 takeaways, which puts them at 8th most per game on the season and 6 additional sacks gives the Colts the 6th most sacks per game on the year.


(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%

The Colts defense gave up 2.0 Points per Drive, which is 18th on the week and brings their season total to 14th place (1.86 PPD).

The Bucs had the 10th best starting field position in week 12, but the Colts still limited their points by giving up the 13th fewest yards per play and the 12th lowest conversion rate. Even though the Bucs had the 2nd shortest yards to gain on 3rd downs, the Colts defense managed the 15th best defensive 3rd down conversion rate.


(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

Baker Mayfield has done pretty well this year. Prior to this game, he had the 11th highest EPA per dropback, but in week 12, he could only manage 23rd best, which puts the Colts as the 10th best passing defense for the week. On the year, that lifts the Colts one spot to 9th best against the pass.

Indy kept Mayfield’s yards per attempt low (20th) and the pressure forced him to abandon a lot of plays. He couldn’t get first downs (26th) and the Colts forced him to turn the ball over (6th highest to%).


(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 Bucs are horrible on the ground, entering the game with a 28% Adjusted Rush Success rate, which ranks 32nd. So, even though the Colts held the Bucs to a 37.9% aRSR, which is 14th lowest on the week, it is still a lot more rushing success than Tampa Bay is used to. It’s a victory, but kind of a hollow one.

On the season the Colts are tied for 22nd against the rush.


This was a good defensive effort and the Colts are quietly becoming one of the better D’s in the league. They are still weak against the run, but if the they can stay strong against the pass and the offense can manage to put up points, then that is a weakness that may not come into play that much.

The next test for the Colts is a Tennessee offense that ranks 20th in Points per Drive and 25th in Drive Success Rate. They don’t turn the ball over much (6th lowest turnovers per game), so limiting yards is going to be the key. Fortunately, the Titans have the 12th lowest yards per play.

Will Levis’ cumulative numbers are not good. He is 27th in EPA efficiency with the 7th highest sack rate. He likes to throw the ball far, but his receivers aren’t getting enough yac (1st adot, 30th yac over expected) and he’s not moving the chains consistently (29th 1st%). This match-up favors the Colts defense.

Despite having King Henry, the Titan run game has had trouble finding success. They rank 17th in adj Rush Success Rate and average less than 100 yards a game. They are still a run-first team and rack up good yards per carry on the early downs (7th overall ypc), but they can’t turn that into conversions (23rd 1st/c). Still, against the Colts poor run defense, the Titans have a major edge here.

This will be an interesting game. If the Colts can get the Titans into a hole and force them to pass, then I see a Colts win. But if the Colts get in a hole, then look for Henry to grind the defense into the ground.