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Rams-Cardinals: Key Stats Analysis - Week 10

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Throughout the 2014 season, I'll be keeping track of four key team statistical measures, and how they affect the outcome of every Rams game: Turnover Differential, Big Play Differential, Points Per Drive Differential, and Team Penalty Yards Differential. In addition, I'll keep track of the score at half-time. Is there a correlation between these statistics and the Rams' win/loss record?

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Christian Petersen

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.

NFL Stats

Turnover Differential

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.

Team Turnover Differential Statistics
Team Takeaways Giveaways Turnover Differential
1 Arizona Cardinals 19 7 12
2 New England Patriots 18 6 12
3 Green Bay Packers 18 8 10
4 Cleveland Browns 17 8 9
5 Houston Texans 21 14 7
6 San Francisco 49ers 16 10 6
7 Miami Dolphins 19 14 5
8 Buffalo Bills 19 14 5
9 Carolina Panthers 16 12 4
10 Denver Broncos 12 8 4
11 Seattle Seahawks 12 9 3
12 Detroit Lions 14 12 2
13 Atlanta Falcons 16 14 2
14 Baltimore Ravens 15 14 1
15 New York Giants 16 16 0
16 Cincinnati Bengals 14 14 0
17 San Diego Chargers 9 9 0
18 Indianapolis Colts 15 15 0
19 Kansas City Chiefs 8 8 0
20 Minnesota Vikings 12 12 0
21 Dallas Cowboys 17 18 -1
22 Tennessee Titans 11 13 -2
23 Pittsburgh Steelers 13 15 -2
24 Chicago Bears 13 18 -5
25 St. Louis Rams 11 16 -5
26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 12 19 -7
27 New Orleans Saints 10 18 -8
28 Washington Redskins 8 17 -9
29 Philadelphia Eagles 11 21 -10
30 Jacksonville Jaguars 11 22 -11
31 Oakland Raiders 8 19 -11
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.

Team Penalty Yards Differential
Rank Team GP Pen Yds Opp. Pen Yds Pen Yds Diff Pen Yds Diff/Game
1 Jacksonville Jaguars 10 331 556 225 14.06
2 Green Bay Packers 9 436 621 185 11.56
3 New Orleans Saints 9 414 570 156 9.75
4 Arizona Cardinals 9 488 643 155 9.69
5 Kansas City Chiefs 9 337 487 150 9.38
6 Philadelphia Eagles 8 502 642 140 8.75
7 Baltimore Ravens 10 513 649 136 8.50
8 New York Giants 9 387 516 129 8.06
9 Miami Dolphins 9 376 494 118 7.38
10 Cincinnati Bengals 9 461 563 102 6.38
11 Oakland Raiders 9 485 577 92 5.75
12 Minnesota Vikings 9 522 589 67 4.19
13 Dallas Cowboys 10 443 506 63 3.94
14 Chicago Bears 9 588 628 40 2.50
15 San Diego Chargers 9 520 559 39 2.44
16 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9 525 548 23 1.44
17 Atlanta Falcons 9 530 530 0 0.00
18 Washington Redskins 9 630 614 -16 -1.00
19 Carolina Panthers 9 511 484 -27 -1.69
20 San Francisco 49ers 9 537 504 -33 -2.06
21 Houston Texans 9 470 427 -43 -2.69
22 Cleveland Browns 9 499 444 -55 -3.44
23 Indianapolis Colts 9 513 454 -59 -3.69
24 Detroit Lions 9 547 483 -64 -4.00
25 Pittsburgh Steelers 10 663 585 -78 -4.88
26 Buffalo Bills 9 620 478 -142 -8.88
27 New York Jets 10 675 512 -163 -10.19
28 Seattle Seahawks 9 546 365 -181 -11.31
29 New England Patriots 9 699 495 -204 -12.75
30 Tennessee Titans 9 647 422 -225 -14.06
31 Denver Broncos 9 649 412 -237 -14.81
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).

Team Big Plays Statistics
Rank Team Plays Big Plays Rush Pass Big Play % BPA +/-
1 Seattle Seahawks 557 56 43 13 10.05% 27 29
5 Denver Broncos 601 51 24 27 8.49% 24 27
10 San Francisco 49ers 591 47 29 18 7.95% 27 20
3 Washington Redskins 566 51 28 23 9.01% 33 18
6 Baltimore Ravens 648 55 38 17 8.49% 40 15
2 Dallas Cowboys 643 58 44 14 9.02% 46 12
29 Detroit Lions 595 35 15 20 5.88% 23 12
17 Miami Dolphins 592 42 32 10 7.09% 32 10
20 New York Jets 674 47 36 11 6.97% 37 10
18 Minnesota Vikings 580 41 29 12 7.07% 36 5
12 Chicago Bears 575 44 27 17 7.65% 41 3
7 Philadelphia Eagles 577 47 29 18 8.15% 45 2
25 Buffalo Bills 574 38 19 19 6.62% 36 2
4 Green Bay Packers 537 47 31 16 8.75% 47 0
9 Cleveland Browns 589 47 27 20 7.98% 47 0
8 Indianapolis Colts 666 54 28 26 8.11% 55 -1
26 Arizona Cardinals 576 38 20 18 6.6% 39 -1
13 Houston Texans 556 42 29 13 7.55% 45 -3
14 New Orleans Saints 639 48 33 15 7.51% 51 -3
11 Pittsburgh Steelers 676 53 24 29 7.84% 59 -6
15 Cincinnati Bengals 561 41 25 16 7.31% 47 -6
24 San Diego Chargers 555 37 19 18 6.67% 44 -7
22 St. Louis Rams 551 38 23 15 6.9% 47 -9
23 Tennessee Titans 514 35 23 12 6.81% 45 -10
16 Kansas City Chiefs 567 41 31 10 7.23% 52 -11
19 Jacksonville Jaguars 627 44 26 18 7.02% 55 -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
28 Atlanta Falcons 564 34 21 13 6.03% 47 -13
30 Carolina Panthers 568 33 21 12 5.81% 47 -14
32 Oakland Raiders 533 26 14 12 4.88% 45 -19
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 Statistics
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
4 Denver Broncos 2.51 1.79 0.72
5 Baltimore Ravens 2.33 1.65 0.68
6 Philadelphia Eagles 2.32 1.64 0.68
7 Indianapolis Colts 2.52 1.9 0.62
8 Arizona Cardinals 2.14 1.57 0.57
9 Miami Dolphins 2.16 1.63 0.53
10 Seattle Seahawks 2.42 1.95 0.48
11 Dallas Cowboys 2.37 1.93 0.45
12 Cleveland Browns 1.95 1.52 0.43
13 Detroit Lions 1.78 1.37 0.42
14 San Diego Chargers 2.16 1.92 0.24
15 Pittsburgh Steelers 2.33 2.13 0.2
16 New Orleans Saints 2.54 2.34 0.19
17 Houston Texans 1.94 1.79 0.15
18 Buffalo Bills 1.65 1.58 0.06
19 San Francisco 49ers 1.93 2 -0.07
20 Cincinnati Bengals 1.79 1.99 -0.2
21 Atlanta Falcons 2.19 2.45 -0.26
22 Minnesota Vikings 1.58 1.9 -0.31
23 New York Giants 1.82 2.25 -0.42
24 Washington Redskins 1.79 2.25 -0.45
25 Carolina Panthers 1.86 2.43 -0.57
26 Tennessee Titans 1.38 2.08 -0.7
27 New York Jets 1.49 2.3 -0.82
28 Chicago Bears 1.92 2.83 -0.91
29 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1.67 2.62 -0.95
30 Oakland Raiders 1.39 2.4 -1.01
31 St. Louis Rams 1.57 2.59 -1.02
32 Jacksonville Jaguars 1.25 2.33 -1.08

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.

Weekly Summary

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
4 - - - - - Bye Week
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.

NFL OFFENSE Play Counts Ratings
Rank Pos. # Name Total Run Pass Run Block Pass Block Overall Pass Rush Pass Block Screen Block Run Block Penalty
36/62 HB 36 Benny Cunningham 26 4 15 2 5 0.7 0.2 0.2 0.3 0 0 0
20/22 FB 46 Cory Harkey 2 0 1 1 0 0.5 0 0 0.5 0 0 0
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
164/196 RWR 13 Chris Givens 30 0 21 9 0 -1.7 -0.8 0 0 0 0 -0.9
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
42/59 TE-L 88 Lance Kendricks 27 0 13 13 1 -2.9 0.1 0 -0.9 0 -0.2 -1.9
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

NFL DEFENSE Play Counts Ratings
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
36/61 DRT 98 Kendall Langford 25 9 16 0 1 0.7 -0.3 0.5 0.1
43/59 MLB 55 James Laurinaitis * 67 21 2 44 0.2 -0.6 -0.2 0.9 0.1
80/108 SCB 20 Lamarcus Joyner 6 1 3 2 0.2 0 0.2 0 0
20/56 DRE 94 Robert Quinn * 51 17 34 0 0.1 0.2 -0.3 0 0.2
66/81 DLT 92 Alex Carrington 25 9 16 0 0 -0.3 0.2 0 0.1
170/203 RCB 22 Trumaine Johnson * 33 10 0 23 -0.3 0.1 0 -0.4 0
87/157 SS 26 Mark Barron 33 9 15 9 -0.4 -0.4 0.9 -0.9 0
60/81 RCB 21 Janoris Jenkins 48 12 0 36 -0.4 0.6 0 -1.1 0.1
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
41/56 DLE 97 Eugene Sims 46 13 33 0 -0.7 -0.2 -0.7 0 0.2
36/36 SLB 58 JoLonn Dunbar * 23 11 4 8 -1.4 -0.3 -0.3 -0.8 0

NFL Ratings Special Teams
Rank Pos. # Name Overall Kickoffs Punts FG/EP Penalty
2/34 P 6 Johnny Hekker 2.3 0 2.3 0 0
88/992 ST 34 Chase Reynolds 1 0.5 0.5 0 0
565/992 ST 38 Cody Davis 0.5 0 0.5 0 0
804/992 ST 51 Marshall McFadden 0.5 0.5 0 0 0
220/992 ST 36 Benny Cunningham 0.3 0.3 0 0 0
352/992 ST 11 Tavon Austin -0.2 0 -0.2 0 0
26/48 K 4 Greg Zuerlein -0.6 -0.1 0 0 -0.5
804/992 ST 21 Janoris Jenkins -1 0 0 0 -1
352/992 ST 22 Trumaine Johnson -1 0 -1 0 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).