Unlike last week, I actually found time to get the game tape reviewed earlier than the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, which definitely helps free up the weekend for some increasingly intense lab reports. In today’s edition of Game Stats, I’ll be giving much of the same information as I did last time, but with fewer definitions and more comparisons. Quite a lot of time will be spent looking at the increased performance of the linemen, and the effect Brody Eldridge had on the game.
On the defensive side of the ball I will discuss my observations about the way different combinations of players are being used, and what that may mean for the Colts in the future given possible injuries. I will also provide an update on some important seasonal stats, so we can all be aware of actually how good we are doing this season on average. Finally, there is a poll at the end concerning reader preferences on some of the stats. As always, feel free to e-mail me if you would like the raw data, or even just a specific set.
Things to note on the Offense
* Starting from the top, it is good to see Peyton Manning back in the lower end of his attempt range after the monster game against Houston. Manning, is atop the league in terms of yards, touchdowns, and quarterback rating. While only two games into the season, it is enjoyable see Manning on pace to have over 5,500 yards, close to tying the single-season record number of touchdowns (50), and on track to have his single highest season quarterback rating. It is not realistic to think the trend will be sustained throughout the season, but it is always nice to see a quarterback of Peyton’s caliber continue pushing the upper level of performance at his position year after year.
* The receivers were one of the areas with a much appreciated change in performance. In Week One, Peyton completed over 70% of his passes, but 3 of his receivers caught below 50% of their passes — and there were 13 drops. This week every receiver caught at least 50% of their passes.
* Everyone along the line improved in essentially the same number of snaps. The line’s number of good blocks rose considerably, while the group committed few mental and physical errors. Tight end Brody Eldridge also saw a considerable increase in his role as an in-line blocker, and his numbers say he was just as effective blocking on the edge as the guards were blocking on the inside.
What are the differences in percentages from Week One? Left tackle Charlie Johnson had a 24% increase in his good block percentage, right tackle Ryan Diem was +24.7%, and left guard Jamey Richard was +25.3%. Center Jeff Saturday saw an increase of 18.3%, while right guard Mike Pollak only saw an increase of 5%. In terms of actual numbers, the table below shows the change in production in terms of actual blocks. For reference, in Week One, the offensive line played a total of 70 applicable snaps, and in Week Two they played 68.
* One final statistic on the offensive line. In Week One, the total number of blocking snaps was 359 with 202 good blocks. In Week Two, there were 410 total blocking snaps with 298 good blocks. Percentage-wise, Week One had a line average of 56.3% good blocks, while Week Two saw the average rise to 72.7%. That is a difference of 16.4%.
* For the second week in a row, the most effective formations were the 3-WR, Singleback, and Shotgun sets — both running the ball and passing. Part of this is due to the fact that the 2-TE and 4-WR sets do not have comparable snap counts as the 3-WR sets. Another aspect is the dual threat potential of the 3-WR sets. It is interesting that our formations are less effective at their intended purposes than our base formation.
* The longer the distance from a Colts first down, and on earlier downs, we tend to play out of a Singleback formation. On later downs, and closer to the first down marker, we tend to play out of the shotgun. This may seem odd at first (as we pick up more yards via passing from the shotgun), but it does make some sense.
Out of the shotgun, Manning can throw almost instantly to an open receiver for a short route if we need to gain only a couple of yards. When Manning takes the snap under center he has to drop back, which gives his receivers approximately two seconds to run down-field before he passes, which allows the field to be stretched vertically and the route runners to break their coverage.
Things to note on the Defense
* The Colts operate their defensive line as a rotation, swapping personnel quite regularly. The raw numbers do not show when these swaps occur. For that information there is another table.
* Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are used equally on first, second and third downs. Ends Eric Foster and Keyunta Dawson are primarily utilized for first and second downs. For the defensive tackles, Dawson and Foster are usually on the field for third downs, while Daniel Muir and Fili Moala tend to take first and second downs. Defensive tackles Mitch King and Antonio “Mookie” Johnson handle about one of every three first and second downs in place of Muir and Moala.
* For the linebackers, Gary Brackett played every snap, except for the final defensive play before half time and the final snap before the end of the game. When the Colts played with three linebackers, they always used Brackett, Wheeler, and Conner. When they went to two linebackers, they used Brackett and Humber. On the plays where they used only one linebacker, it was always Brackett.
* The Colts defense was much better in the base 4-3 than it was in Week One. The defense was stouter against the pass and run, allowing three yards less against the run on average and two yards less against the pass in the base formation. For the nickel package (4-2-3-2), the passing defense also improved.
In Week One the nickel allowed over 10.8 yards per attempt on 6 attempts, while this week the nickel only allowed 6.5 yards per attempt on 8 attempts. It is difficult to say that all the credit goes to defensive improvement as the Colts were facing a different team and the Giants were not running three out of every four snaps. Even so, some of the improvement was due to the overall improved quality of the defensive line which put more pressure on the quarterback and benefited from defending more passing attempts than in Week One.
* A tangible change in the performance of the defense, is difficult to locate just by looking at the player stats. In Week One roughly 50% of the solo tackles were made by the secondary, with 75% attributed to the back-seven. In Week Two, almost the exact same percentage of tackles were made by the secondary and back-7. The noticeable difference is found in the assisted tackles.
In Week One, the defensive line had over 30% of the assists in the game. In Week Two, the defensive line had no assists. While this may appear negative, what it actually means is that the defensive line was making tackles stick at the line on the first hit and did not have to move into the secondary to help make tackles. These initial hits made performing much easier on all levels of the defense.
The poll: With the offensive line statistics — would readers like another level of block above “Good,” so that there can be more differentiation between successful blocks and extraordinary blocks (where the linemen basically controls the defender), or is the single category of “good,” sufficient? More information is always useful, but when splitting hairs, results can become more subjective and less absolute.
Would you prefer the stats be kept simple and less prone to bias, or would the more detailed information be worthwhile?