In their 31-14 road loss on Sunday, the Rams played the Cardinals tough for 3 1/2 quarters. Penalties, turnovers, and big plays ultimately sealed the Rams' fate in this game. The Rams lost this game in the second half, as has been the case throughout the season.
Throughout the 2014 season, I'll be tracking five key team statistical measures, and their affect on the outcome of every Rams game: Turnover Differential, Big Play Differential, Points Per Drive Differential, Team Penalty Yards Differential, and the score of the game at half-time. When combined, Turnover Differential and Big Play Differential creates a statistic commonly referred to as "Toxic Differential".
Why were these 5 particular metrics selected for tracking throughout the 2014 season? Turnovers and Big Plays have proven to be influential in determining the outcome of a game. There's a historically strong correlation between Points Per Drive Differential and a teams regular season record. The score at half-time and Team Penalty Yards Differential were selected specifically with the Rams in mind. There appears to be a strong correlation between the score at half-time and the Rams' win/loss record. The Rams - under Jeff Fisher - have been among the league leaders in penalties, to their detriment.
It's a widely held belief that winning the turnover battle is important to a teams success on the field. The Rams finished with 7 wins in 2013. The team had a positive turnover differential in 6 of those wins, and a zero differential in the other victory. Overall, the Rams finished 9'th in Turnover Differential (plus +8) last season. In 2013, the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks led the NFL in this key statistic.
Turnovers played a critical role in the Rams' loss to the Cardinals. QB Austin Davis was involved in all three of the Rams turnovers, each of which occurred in the last 7 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter, and the Rams down by a field goal. At the 5:26 mark, Davis threw an interception - on a pass intended for Kenny Britt - which was returned for a 30-yard TD by Patrick Peterson, making the score 24-14. With just over 4 minutes remaining in the game, Davis was sacked by Kareem Martin, who forced a fumble at the Rams 22-yard line. Antonio Cromartie recovered the ball for the Cards, and returned the fumble for a touchdown. The final touchdown sealed the 31-14 victory for Arizona. Arizona had one turnover in the game versus the Rams, resulting in a minus -2 Turnover Differential for St. Louis.
For the season, the Rams rank tied for 24'th in the NFL in Turnover Differential (minus -5). It's significant to note, of the Rams' 16 giveaways this season, QB Austin Davis shares responsibility for 12 of them - 9 interceptions and 3 fumbles lost. In an article for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bernie Miklasz notes the impact of the Rams' offensive turnovers.
|2||New England Patriots||18||6||12|
|3||Green Bay Packers||18||8||10|
|6||San Francisco 49ers||16||10||6|
|15||New York Giants||16||16||0|
|17||San Diego Chargers||9||9||0|
|19||Kansas City Chiefs||8||8||0|
|25||St. Louis Rams||11||16||-5|
|26||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||12||19||-7|
|27||New Orleans Saints||10||18||-8|
|32||New York Jets||7||18||-11|
Team Penalty Yards Differential
In 2013, the Rams were the 2'nd most penalized team in the NFL, averaging 7.7 Team Penalties Per Game. An excessive number of penalties can stall drives, and can keep opponents' drives alive. In an average NFL game, the officials will call between 12-14 penalties per game (both teams combined). The Rams' goals should be to have no more than 6 penalties per game, plus a positive Team Penalty Yards Differential.
The Rams were flagged for 8 penalties - totalling 80 yards - in the game against Arizona. In turn, the Cardinals committed 5 penalties for 35 yards. For the Rams, the result was a negative Team Penalty Yards Differential of 45 yards.
After 9 games, the Rams are tied for 7'th most-penalized team in the NFL, averaging 7.9 penalties per game. The Rams are 2'nd in the league in most penalty yards (676), and are worst in the league in Team Penalty Yards Differential (-293). In an interesting twist, the Rams rank 2'nd in the NFL in fewest Opponent Penalty Yards (383). Apparently the officials still aren't too keen on penalizing the Rams' opponents.
The key penalty in the game against Arizona was a controversial blindside block thrown by Lance Kendricks, after a 41-yard pass to Jared Cook put the ball on the Cardinal's 4-yard line late in the third quarter. The resulting 15-yard penalty pushed the Rams back to the Cardinals 45-yard line, and subsequently out of field goal range.
After reviewing game tape of Lance Kendricks' blindside hit on Tony Jefferson, Fisher says it was the right call.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) November 10, 2014
|Rank||Team||GP||Pen Yds||Opp. Pen Yds||Pen Yds Diff||Pen Yds Diff/Game|
|2||Green Bay Packers||9||436||621||185||11.56|
|3||New Orleans Saints||9||414||570||156||9.75|
|5||Kansas City Chiefs||9||337||487||150||9.38|
|8||New York Giants||9||387||516||129||8.06|
|15||San Diego Chargers||9||520||559||39||2.44|
|16||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||9||525||548||23||1.44|
|20||San Francisco 49ers||9||537||504||-33||-2.06|
|27||New York Jets||10||675||512||-163||-10.19|
|29||New England Patriots||9||699||495||-204||-12.75|
|32||St. Louis Rams||9||676||383||-293||-18.31|
Big Play Differential
Big Play Differential is the difference between the number of big plays - running plays of 10+ yards plus passing plays of 25+ yards - an offense creates, and the number of big plays a defense allows. How important are big plays to a teams offense/defense? Last season, NFL teams averaged 0.8 points per drive without a big play, and 3.9 points per drive with at least one of them.
In the game against Arizona, the Rams' offense produced 3 rushing big plays, and 2 passing big plays. The Rams' defense gave up just 2 big plays in total, a plus +3 Big Play Differential for the game. Each team had a passing big play that influenced the outcome of the game. Austin Davis threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cook with under two minutes left in the first half, giving the Rams a 14-10 lead. Midway through the fourth quarter, Drew Stanton connected with John Brown on a 48-yard touchdown pass, giving the Cardinals a 17-14 lead.
The Rams currently rank 23'rd in the league in Big Play Differential (-9).
|Rank||Team||Plays||Big Plays||Rush||Pass||Big Play %||BPA||+/-|
|10||San Francisco 49ers||591||47||29||18||7.95%||27||20|
|20||New York Jets||674||47||36||11||6.97%||37||10|
|4||Green Bay Packers||537||47||31||16||8.75%||47||0|
|14||New Orleans Saints||639||48||33||15||7.51%||51||-3|
|24||San Diego Chargers||555||37||19||18||6.67%||44||-7|
|22||St. Louis Rams||551||38||23||15||6.9%||47||-9|
|16||Kansas City Chiefs||567||41||31||10||7.23%||52||-11|
|31||New England Patriots||610||35||20||15||5.74%||46||-11|
|21||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||536||37||20||17||6.9%||50||-13|
|27||New York Giants||596||39||24||15||6.54%||66||-27|
Points Per Drive Differential
Points Per Drive Differential is a derivative of Points Scored/Allowed. It measures the number of points generated/allowed on an average drive. 13 teams reached the playoffs/won 10 games in 2013. 12 of them finished in the top dozen in Points Per Drive Differential. Successful teams with winning records are normally the most efficient - both offensively and defensively - and consistently generate positive PPD Differentials.
In Sunday's game, the Rams had 14 drives in total, and scored 14 points on those drives (1.0 points per drive), a poor showing by the offense. The Cardinals had 12 drives in total, and scored 17 points on those drives (1.42 points per drive), a fine result for the Rams defense. The Rams' Points Per Drive Differential versus the Cardinals: Minus -0.42.
After 9 games, the Rams rank 31'st in the league in Points Per Drive Differential (-1.08).
|Team||Points Per Drive||Points Per Drive Against||Point Differential|
|1||New England Patriots||2.73||1.85||0.88|
|2||Green Bay Packers||2.86||2.07||0.79|
|3||Kansas City Chiefs||2.28||1.56||0.73|
|14||San Diego Chargers||2.16||1.92||0.24|
|16||New Orleans Saints||2.54||2.34||0.19|
|19||San Francisco 49ers||1.93||2||-0.07|
|23||New York Giants||1.82||2.25||-0.42|
|27||New York Jets||1.49||2.3||-0.82|
|29||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1.67||2.62||-0.95|
|31||St. Louis Rams||1.57||2.59||-1.02|
Score At Half-Time
In 2013, the Rams finished with a 7-9 record. In all 7 victories, the Rams were either tied or leading at half-time. In the Rams' wins against Tampa Bay and Seattle this season, they were leading at the half in both contests. In the win against San Francisco, the Rams were tied 10-10 at half-time.
In the game against Arizona, the Rams went into the locker room at half-time leading 14-10. The Rams subsequently fell apart in the fourth quarter, losing 31-14, as the Cardinals scored 21 unanswered points.
Over their last five games, Rams have been outscored 86-13 in the second half. It's a wonder the Rams are 2-3 in those five games.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) November 10, 2014
|Week||Turnover Diff.||Big Play Diff.||PPD Diff.||PY Diff.||Half-Time||Game Score|
|1||Negative||Negative||Negative||Negative||0 13||Lost 34-6|
|2||Even||Negative||Positive||Negative||10 7||Won 19-17|
|3||Negative||Negative||Negative||Negative||21 10||Lost 34-31|
|5||Even||Positive||Positive||Negative||7 20||Lost 34-28|
|6||Even||Negative||Negative||Negative||14 10||Lost 31-17|
|7||Even||Negative||Negative||Positive||21 6||Won 28-26|
|8||Even||Negative||Negative||Negative||7 10||Lost 34-7|
|9||Even||Negative||Positive||Negative||10 10||Won 13-10|
|10||Negative||Positive||Negative||Negative||14 10||Lost 31-14|
Pro Football Focus Grades
As an added feature, OakCityRam is generously contributing his weekly compilation of Pro Football Focus grades for each Rams player. Although PFF grades have their shortcomings and are quite subjective, they do offer a unique perspective. The grades can be a valuable tool for analyzing individual player performance, especially when used in conjunction with other statistics. PFF provides - on their site - a detailed description of how players are graded.
|Rank||Pos.||#||Name||Total||Run||Pass||Run Block||Pass Block||Overall||Pass||Rush||Pass Block||Screen Block||Run Block||Penalty|
|80/109||LWR||11||Tavon Austin *||43||1||30||12||0||0.2||-0.2||0.3||0||0||0||0.1|
|12/59||TE-R||89||Jared Cook *||48||0||25||20||3||-0.1||0.2||0||0.2||0||-0.6||0.1|
|125/196||SLWR||12||Stedman Bailey *||46||0||31||15||0||-0.6||-0.7||0||0||0||0||0.1|
|96/130||HB||27||Tre Mason *||39||14||17||3||5||-0.7||-1.3||0.3||0.3||0||0||0|
|36/78||LG||76||Rodger Saffold *||64||0||0||23||41||-0.8||0.2||0||-1.2||0.2|
|41/41||C||63||Scott Wells *||64||0||0||23||41||-1.2||0||-0.5||-0.8||0.1|
|65/109||RWR||81||Kenny Britt *||59||0||38||21||0||-1.4||-1.5||0||0||0||0||0.1|
|67/78||RG||69||Davin Joseph *||64||0||0||23||41||-1.8||0.2||0||-2.2||0.2|
|28/78||LT||79||Greg Robinson *||64||0||0||23||41||-2.5||-1||0||-1.7||0.2|
|33/37||QB||9||Austin Davis *||64||2||41||21||0||-3.6||-3.4||-0.3||0||0||0||0.1|
|14/74||RT||72||Joe Barksdale *||64||0||0||23||41||-4.5||-1||0||-2.7||-0.8|
|Rank||Pos.||#||Name||Total||Run||Rush||Cov.||Overall||Run Defense||Pass Rush||Pass Cov.||Penalty|
|67/85||SS||25||T.J. McDonald *||67||21||2||44||4.8||3.7||0.8||0.2||0.1|
|3/81||DLT||99||Aaron Donald *||42||12||29||1||4.2||2.1||2||0||0.1|
|32/36||WLB||52||Alec Ogletree *||67||21||7||39||3.7||0.9||0.4||2.3||0.1|
|11/108||LCB||33||E.J. Gaines *||65||20||2||43||2.6||0.1||-0.2||2.6||0.1|
|13/56||DLE||95||William Hayes *||43||13||30||0||2||2.3||-0.5||0||0.2|
|43/59||MLB||55||James Laurinaitis *||67||21||2||44||0.2||-0.6||-0.2||0.9||0.1|
|20/56||DRE||94||Robert Quinn *||51||17||34||0||0.1||0.2||-0.3||0||0.2|
|170/203||RCB||22||Trumaine Johnson *||33||10||0||23||-0.3||0.1||0||-0.4||0|
|36/85||FS||23||Rodney McLeod *||67||21||0||46||-0.5||0.2||0||-0.8||0.1|
|58/81||DRT||90||Michael Brockers *||29||11||17||1||-0.7||-0.9||0.1||0||0.1|
|36/36||SLB||58||JoLonn Dunbar *||23||11||4||8||-1.4||-0.3||-0.3||-0.8||0|
The Rams' offense continues to struggle, and it showed in this weeks PFF individual player grades, particularly Austin Davis'.
The offensive line continues its inconsistency. Scott Wells is the lowest-graded center in the NFL, while guard Davin Joseph ranks near the bottom of the league. Joe Barksdale is coming off another below-average performance. Barksdale had been the number 1 graded RT through the first 6 weeks of the regular season. His play has since fallen off, and Barksdale is now ranked 14'th overall for the season.
Alec Ogletree - after struggling for much of the year - delivered his second consecutive strong performance.
The Rams' defensive line merits special consideration for their overall performance against the Cardinals. Robert Quinn is suddenly on fire, with 7 sacks in his last four games. Aaron Donald continues to impress, and is ranked 3'rd overall among DT's through Week 10. E.J. Gaines keeps proving why he was a steal in the 6'th round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
T.J. McDonald had his best game as a Ram, and finished the game as the highest-graded Rams player (on either side of the ball).