There's a bit of Jekyll and Hyde inherent in the Rams' performances from week to week. For all of their promise, the team just can't put together two clean, mistake-free games in a row. Turnovers and penalties have hurt the Rams all season, and ultimately doomed them in the game against the San Diego Chargers.
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 Chargers. Each team committed 3 turnovers, a zero Turnover Differential for the Rams. Unfortunately for the Rams, each of their turnovers was game-changing. The first Rams turnover - an interception by QB Shaun Hill early in the first quarter - led to a Chargers field goal and a 3-0 lead. A Shaun Hill fumble - at 9:38 of the third quarter, deep in Rams territory - was recovered and returned for a touchdown, giving the Chargers a 20-10 lead. With just over a minute to go in the fourth quarter - and the Rams at the San Diego 4-yard line - Hill threw an interception, with the Rams only down 27-24. The interception allowed the Chargers to sneak away with the victory.
The Rams currently are tied for 22'nd in the league in Turnover Differential (-3).
|1||Green Bay Packers||23||8||15|
|2||New England Patriots||20||9||11|
|4||San Francisco 49ers||22||14||8|
|15||San Diego Chargers||13||12||1|
|19||Kansas City Chiefs||9||10||-1|
|24||St. Louis Rams||16||19||-3|
|25||New York Giants||18||22||-4|
|27||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||24||-8|
|29||New Orleans Saints||10||19||-9|
|31||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.
In a sloppy game, the Rams were flagged for 9 penalties - totalling 90 yards - in the contest against San Diego. The Chargers committed 8 penalties for 85 yards. For the Rams, the result was a negative Team Penalty Yards Differential of 5 yards.
Jeff Fisher wasn't pleased with the officiating in Sunday's game:
"Unfortunately, it seems like every week is an adventure with the officiating."
Jim Thomas describes the effect of penalties on Sunday's outcome:
"The Rams had two touchdowns called back by penalties, had a 76-yard punt return by Tavon Austin cut in half by another flag, and also had a 23-yard catch by Stedman Bailey and a 16-yard run by Tre Mason nullified by infractions."
"Put them all together, and it adds up to 132 lost yards — 94 yards of offense and 38 yards of Austin’s punt return. And that’s not counting the actual penalty yards themselves marked off."
As ESPN's Nick Wagoner noted, penalties and miscues once again played an important role in a Rams loss:
"The Rams had a few golden opportunities to jump to a sizable lead in the first half but lost those chances with either penalties or some other mental miscue. The worst was a 49-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Britt that was wiped out by a hands to the face call againstGreg Robinson (the call was actually against Joe Barksdale but was announced as Robinson). That would have made it 17-7 Rams. That came after the Rams failed to block for a 46-yard field goal attempt by Greg Zuerlein. San Diego safety Darrell Stuckey got credit for the blocked kick, keeping it a one-possession game. That missed chance was the difference in the game."
After 11 games, the Rams are tied for 7'th most-penalized team in the NFL, averaging 7.5 penalties per game. The Rams are 3'rd in the league in most penalty yards (791), and are 30'th in the league in Team Penalty Yards Differential (-261). In an interesting twist, the Rams rank 5'th in the NFL in fewest Opponent Penalty Yards (530). Overall, the officials still aren't too keen on penalizing the Rams' opponents.
|Rank||Team||GP||Pen Yds||Opp. Pen Yds||Pen Yds Diff||Pen Yds Diff/Game|
|4||Kansas City Chiefs||11||402||597||195||12.19|
|5||Green Bay Packers||11||563||751||188||11.75|
|6||New Orleans Saints||10||448||603||155||9.69|
|7||New York Giants||11||471||614||143||8.94|
|13||San Diego Chargers||11||645||690||45||2.81|
|19||San Francisco 49ers||11||619||611||-8||-0.50|
|22||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||11||713||660||-53||-3.31|
|26||New York Jets||10||675||512||-163||-10.19|
|29||New England Patriots||11||836||576||-260||-16.25|
|30||St. Louis Rams||11||791||530||-261||-16.31|
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 San Diego, the Rams' offense produced 3 rushing big plays, and 2 passing big plays. The Rams' defense gave up 7 big plays in total, resulting in a minus -2 Big Play Differential for the game. The Rams gave up a pair of big plays that were critical to the result of the game. With 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Ryan Matthews ran up the middle for a 32-yard touchdown, giving the Chargers a 13-10 lead. At the 8:21 mark of the fourth quarter, Keenan Allen caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Phillip Rivers, giving the Chargers a 27-17 lead.
The Rams currently rank tied for 21'st in the league in Big Play Differential (-6).
|Rank||Team||Plays||Big Plays||Rush||Pass||Big Play %||BPA||+/-|
|9||San Francisco 49ers||719||57||34||23||7.93%||37||20|
|18||New York Jets||674||47||36||11||6.97%||37||10|
|2||Green Bay Packers||663||62||41||21||9.35%||54||8|
|27||New England Patriots||757||46||28||18||6.08%||51||-5|
|14||St. Louis Rams||677||49||30||19||7.24%||55||-6|
|20||New Orleans Saints||706||49||34||15||6.94%||57||-8|
|23||San Diego Chargers||683||46||25||21||6.73%||54||-8|
|13||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||657||49||25||24||7.46%||59||-10|
|16||Kansas City Chiefs||675||48||36||12||7.11%||66||-18|
|26||New York Giants||738||47||27||20||6.37%||80||-33|
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 12 drives in total, and scored 17 points on those drives (1.42 points per drive), a poor showing by the offense. The Chargers had 11 drives in total, and scored 20 points on those drives (1.82 points per drive), a mediocre result for the Rams' defense. The Rams' Points Per Drive Differential versus the Chargers: Minus -0.40.
Red-zone ineffectiveness on offense continues to plague the Rams. Once inside an opponents 20-yard line, the Rams are scoring touchdowns only 51.72% of the time (20'th in the NFL).
After 11 games, the Rams rank 28'th in the league in Points Per Drive Differential (- 0.71).
|Team||Points Per Drive||Points Per Drive Against||Point Differential|
|1||New England Patriots||2.83||1.76||1.07|
|2||Green Bay Packers||3.03||2.03||0.99|
|4||Kansas City Chiefs||2.25||1.65||0.6|
|12||San Diego Chargers||2.06||1.79||0.27|
|17||New Orleans Saints||2.46||2.42||0.04|
|18||San Francisco 49ers||1.81||1.8||0.01|
|23||New York Giants||1.79||2.21||-0.42|
|26||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1.67||2.33||-0.66|
|28||St. Louis Rams||1.65||2.36||-0.71|
|30||New York Jets||1.49||2.3||-0.82|
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, Seattle, and Denver this season, they were leading at the half in all three contests. In the win against San Francisco, the Rams were tied 10-10 at half-time.
In the game against San Diego, the Rams went into the locker room with a 10-6 lead at the half. The Rams could not hold on in the second half, losing to the Chargers 27-24. The game against the Chargers marked the fourth time this season the Rams were leading at half-time and still lost the contest.
|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|
|11||Positive||Positive||Positive||Positive||13 7||Won 22-7|
|12||Even||Negative||Negative||Negative||10 6||Lost 27-24|
Look at all the positive results from the Denver game. Then look at the negative results from the San Diego game. Invariably, it's the difference between winning and losing football games.
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 website - 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|
|34/79||RG||69||Davin Joseph *||66||0||0||26||40||4.6||1.6||0||2.8||0.2|
|16/79||RT||72||Joe Barksdale *||66||0||0||26||40||1.5||1.4||0||0.8||-0.7|
|53/112||LWR||81||Kenny Britt *||62||0||37||25||0||0.1||0||0||0||0||0||0.1|
|Not Rated||RT||73||Mike Person||2||0||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Not Rated||TE-R||82||Alex Bayer||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|40/42||C||63||Scott Wells *||66||0||0||26||40||-0.1||0.5||0||-0.7||0.1|
|35/58||HB||27||Tre Mason *||35||16||11||5||3||-0.1||-0.2||-0.1||0.2||0||0||0|
|Not Rated||QB||14||Shaun Hill *||66||0||40||26||0||-0.3||-0.4||0||0||0||0||0.1|
|Not Rated||RWR||13||Chris Givens||15||0||9||6||0||-0.4||-0.4||0||0||0||0||0|
|43/79||LT||76||Rodger Saffold *||66||0||0||26||40||-1||0.4||0||-1.7||0.3|
|88/112||RWR||11||Tavon Austin *||51||3||31||17||0||-1.3||-0.7||0.3||0||0||-1||0.1|
|50/66||TE-L||88||Lance Kendricks *||36||0||11||21||4||-1.5||-0.8||0||0.2||0||-1||0.1|
|12/66||TE-R||89||Jared Cook *||39||0||27||11||1||-2||-0.9||0||0.1||0||-0.3||-0.9|
|70/79||LT||79||Greg Robinson *||66||0||0||26||40||-6||-4.1||0||-0.2||-1.7|
|RANK||Pos.||#||Name||Total||Run||Rush||Cov.||Overall||Run Defense||Pass Rush||Pass Cov.||Penalty|
|2/78||DLT||99||Aaron Donald *||50||20||28||2||3.6||1.9||0.5||1||0.2|
|10/55||DRE||94||Robert Quinn *||48||18||30||0||1.9||-0.8||2.5||0||0.2|
|51/112||LCB||22||Trumaine Johnson *||58||21||1||36||1||0.1||-0.1||0.9||0.1|
|Not Rated||SS||26||Mark Barron||13||2||7||4||0.6||0||0.5||0.1||0|
|87/112||RCB||21||Janoris Jenkins *||65||26||0||39||0.2||-1.4||0||2.5||-0.9|
|38/83||FS||23||Rodney McLeod *||65||26||0||39||0||-0.7||0||0.6||0.1|
|Not Rated||DRE||93||Ethan Westbrooks||17||8||9||0||-0.3||0.3||-0.7||0||0.1|
|15/55||DLE||95||William Hayes *||35||15||20||0||-0.4||-0.3||-0.7||0.5||0.1|
|43/83||SS||25||T.J. McDonald *||65||26||1||38||-1.1||-1.2||-0.1||0.1||0.1|
|61/78||DRT||90||Michael Brockers *||44||19||25||0||-1.3||-0.6||-0.8||0||0.1|
|52/61||MLB||55||James Laurinaitis *||65||26||6||33||-2.2||-0.5||-0.5||-1.3||0.1|
|36/112||SCB||33||E.J. Gaines *||65||26||3||36||-3.2||-0.4||-0.3||-2.6||0.1|
|33/36||WLB||52||Alec Ogletree *||65||26||9||30||-4.5||0||-0.7||-3.9||0.1|
Not a good game for the Rams' linebackers, and it's reflected in this weeks grades. There's little doubt they were at least partly responsible for Phillip Rivers completing 29 of 35 passes, and Ryan Matthews rushing for 105 yards on only 12 carries. The game featured many missed tackles by the Rams.
Aaron Donald continues to impress, and was the highest-graded Rams defender in the game against the Chargers. For the season, Donald is the second-highest graded DT in the NFL.
Stedman Bailey had his best game as a Ram, and Kenny Britt continues to excel. Britt becomes a free agent after the season. I'd like to see the Rams re-sign him at a reasonable cost.
Davin Joseph was the highest-graded Ram on the offensive side of the ball. His play has improved since being re-instated to the starting lineup, after the season-ending injury to Jake Long. After a couple of less-than-stellar performances, Joe Barksdale had a solid game against the Chargers.
Greg Robinson had his worst game as a Ram, and was the Rams' lowest-graded offensive player. Robinson is exhibiting some growing pains, particularly in pass protection, as expected.
For the second consecutive week, Jo-Lonn Dunbar saw very limited action (4 plays). The Rams went with 3 cornerbacks for the vast majority of the game.