Smokin’ the grass

(note: I’ve rerun the numbers in light of a mistake)

The Colts and Saints are both classic ‘turf’ teams, which brings to mind Tug McGraw’s famous line.  When asked whether he preferred grass or astroturf, he replied, “I don’t know. I’ve never smoked astroturf.”

Because the Super Bowl will be played on grass, it makes sense to see how the two teams fared on grass fields.

This year, Indy played six five games on grass:  Miami, Arizona, Tennessee, Baltimore, Houston, and Jacksonville.

New Orleans played four meaningful games on grass:  Miami, Philadelphia, Tampa, and Washington.  They also played Carolina, but Drew Brees did not play that game, so I’m not counting it.

Here are the results (excluding all meaningless games for either team), the difference column is calibrated so that plus means the team was better on grass, minus means they were worse:

PF PA Rush Rush A Pass Pass A TO TO Forced
Colts (grass) 31.8 20 84 122.8 303.8 219.6 1.5 2.0
Colts (turf) 26.1 16.4 87.2 106.7 293.6 228.8 1.4 1.8
Difference +5.7 -3.6 -3.2 -16.1 +10.2 +7.2 -0.1 +0.2
Saints (grass) 41.8 21.5 127.3 105.8 289.8 237 1.5 3.8
Saints (turf) 30.5 20.5 135.1 123.1 281.3 238.8 1.7 2.2
Difference +10.3 -1.0 -7.8 +17.3 +8.5 +1.8 +0.2 +1.6


  • As you can see, the Saints are better on grass in almost every category.  Though it is important to note, their grass games were against Chad Henne, Kevin Kolb, Josh Freeman, and Jason Campbell. 
  • The Colts rushed better on turf, but passed better on grass, scoring more on grass overall.  The Colts D also played better against the pass on grass
  • Again, you see the Saints thrive on forcing turnovers.  They forced nearly 4 a game on grass, though note the quarterbacks involved.


I’m not sure you can make much of a comparison between these teams, because the worst team the Colts played on grass finished 7-9, and three were above .500.  The Indy O regresses in terms of rushing yards, but not points on grass, but the Indy D is virtually the same on both, allowing identical yardage, but about a field goal a game more.  The Saints played four horrid QBs on grass, so their stats are obviously improved. Of the 8 categories, the Colts were better in 3, the Saints in 4, and the teams tied in one.

The bottom line is that unless the field is wet or poorly tended, I don’t think the grass/turf factor will hurt either team.