Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Offensive Efficiency, Week Two

Last week, I started to look at Falcon football stats based on the situation, as listed below. I really think it gives a better idea of how effectively a team is moving the ball.

Below is the explanation I provided last week:

This exact problem was tackled in The Hidden Game of Football. They devised a measurement tool for offenses that bases the evaluation on the situation.

For example, on first down, you need to get at least 40% of the yards for a first down, because, logically, if you got that on every play you'd make a first down. That play is one point and a winning play. Losing more than three yards deducts a point, and a turnover is -4. Making more than 80% of what you need is +2, and you get more points for big plays.

On second down, you only have two more plays left, so to get your winning play and +1 you need to get 60% of the yards you need for a first down. Other bonuses are the same as for first down.

On third and fourth down its simple. You need to get the first down to get a winning play and a point, though there are bonuses for bigger plays. An eight yard gain on third and 20 is worth no points, whereas in traditional stats, it helps a player quite a bit.

The best thing is that all you have to do is evaluate each play on these standards, and you come up with some pretty good measurements. (Note, you also leave out plays where one team takes a knee, and you an evaluate a sack as a passing loss, which it is).

So, how about week 2? (Remember, yards per play were almost the same).

Starting with the Falcons, we ran 71 plays. 36 wins and 35 losses. We had 59 points, which was .83 yards per play. Last week, we had 39% winning plays and .57 points per play, so we performed significantly better in Game 2 than we did in Game 1.

Breaking it down further, we averaged 1 point per running play and .74 points per passing play against Minnesota (of the four turnovers that we count--one was on special teams--three were on passes). This compares to .45 on running plays and .657 on passing against Pitt. Long story short, we performed better across the board against the Gophers, and that's encouraging.

The Gophers were much better than Pitt was, as well. They had 57% winning plays, the highest of any of the four teams we have measured. Their 72 points is 1.05 per play, which is all the highest so far this season. Pitt, by comparison, had 45.3% winning plays, and .73 points per play.

One thing about this measure is that it counts turnovers against you in a tangible way, which explains the disparities. If you add the 16 points back into BG's total, you have an extremely close ranking.

For what it is worth, Minnesota also had 1.0 points per play on the run, and .74 yards per play on passing.

Candidly, this whole exercise has been a little disappointing. With that in mind, I'm hoping to see some more interesting results as the numbers start to get a little thicker. On the bye week, I'm going to start looking at downs too.

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