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Rams-Chargers: Key Stats Analysis - Week 12

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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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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.

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 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).

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

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.

Team Penalty Yards Differential
Rank Team GP Pen Yds Opp. Pen Yds Pen Yds Diff Pen Yds Diff/Game
1 Arizona Cardinals 11 548 797 249 15.56
2 Jacksonville Jaguars 11 374 610 236 14.75
3 Miami Dolphins 11 456 662 206 12.88
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
8 Baltimore Ravens 10 513 649 136 8.50
9 Minnesota Vikings 11 617 724 107 6.69
10 Philadelphia Eagles 11 674 780 106 6.63
11 Oakland Raiders 11 586 676 90 5.63
12 Cincinnati Bengals 11 554 612 58 3.63
13 San Diego Chargers 11 645 690 45 2.81
14 Chicago Bears 11 693 733 40 2.50
15 Carolina Panthers 11 556 592 36 2.25
16 Dallas Cowboys 11 506 536 30 1.88
17 Houston Texans 11 540 554 14 0.88
18 Washington Redskins 11 750 762 12 0.75
19 San Francisco 49ers 11 619 611 -8 -0.50
20 Indianapolis Colts 11 594 550 -44 -2.75
21 Atlanta Falcons 11 628 575 -53 -3.31
22 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11 713 660 -53 -3.31
23 Cleveland Browns 11 596 539 -57 -3.56
24 Detroit Lions 11 681 602 -79 -4.94
25 Pittsburgh Steelers 11 702 595 -107 -6.69
26 New York Jets 10 675 512 -163 -10.19
27 Buffalo Bills 10 690 508 -182 -11.38
28 Tennessee Titans 11 713 530 -183 -11.44
29 New England Patriots 11 836 576 -260 -16.25
30 St. Louis Rams 11 791 530 -261 -16.31
31 Seattle Seahawks 11 670 396 -274 -17.13
32 Denver Broncos 11 809 487 -322 -20.13

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).

Team Big Plays Statistics
Rank Team Plays Big Plays Rush Pass Big Play % BPA +/-
1 Seattle Seahawks 686 72 57 15 10.5% 33 39
8 Denver Broncos 738 59 30 29 7.99% 33 26
4 Washington Redskins 687 63 38 25 9.17% 42 21
9 San Francisco 49ers 719 57 34 23 7.93% 37 20
3 Dallas Cowboys 696 65 47 18 9.34% 50 15
5 Baltimore Ravens 648 55 38 17 8.49% 40 15
29 Detroit Lions 721 43 21 22 5.96% 30 13
18 New York Jets 674 47 36 11 6.97% 37 10
22 Miami Dolphins 713 49 37 12 6.87% 39 10
2 Green Bay Packers 663 62 41 21 9.35% 54 8
10 Chicago Bears 705 54 32 22 7.66% 49 5
15 Cincinnati Bengals 698 50 33 17 7.16% 48 2
11 Cleveland Browns 736 56 32 24 7.61% 55 1
7 Pittsburgh Steelers 749 61 32 29 8.14% 61 0
6 Indianapolis Colts 794 65 35 30 8.19% 67 -2
28 Buffalo Bills 634 38 19 19 5.99% 40 -2
12 Philadelphia Eagles 800 60 36 24 7.5% 63 -3
19 Houston Texans 705 49 35 14 6.95% 52 -3
24 Arizona Cardinals 683 45 22 23 6.59% 49 -4
27 New England Patriots 757 46 28 18 6.08% 51 -5
14 St. Louis Rams 677 49 30 19 7.24% 55 -6
25 Minnesota Vikings 690 45 33 12 6.52% 51 -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
30 Carolina Panthers 713 41 25 16 5.75% 51 -10
17 Tennessee Titans 616 43 24 19 6.98% 58 -15
31 Oakland Raiders 654 34 18 16 5.2% 50 -16
21 Jacksonville Jaguars 681 47 28 19 6.9% 64 -17
16 Kansas City Chiefs 675 48 36 12 7.11% 66 -18
32 Atlanta Falcons 707 36 22 14 5.09% 55 -19
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 Statistics
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
3 Baltimore Ravens 2.33 1.65 0.68
4 Kansas City Chiefs 2.25 1.65 0.6
5 Philadelphia Eagles 2.39 1.83 0.56
6 Miami Dolphins 2.3 1.77 0.53
7 Indianapolis Colts 2.43 1.91 0.52
8 Denver Broncos 2.44 1.93 0.52
9 Seattle Seahawks 2.34 1.86 0.48
10 Dallas Cowboys 2.41 1.98 0.43
11 Arizona Cardinals 1.92 1.51 0.41
12 San Diego Chargers 2.06 1.79 0.27
13 Cleveland Browns 1.85 1.61 0.24
14 Pittsburgh Steelers 2.38 2.17 0.21
15 Houston Texans 1.88 1.69 0.19
16 Detroit Lions 1.59 1.5 0.09
17 New Orleans Saints 2.46 2.42 0.04
18 San Francisco 49ers 1.81 1.8 0.01
19 Cincinnati Bengals 1.91 1.9 0
20 Buffalo Bills 1.59 1.65 -0.06
21 Atlanta Falcons 2.13 2.32 -0.19
22 Minnesota Vikings 1.62 1.95 -0.34
23 New York Giants 1.79 2.21 -0.42
24 Washington Redskins 1.63 2.2 -0.57
25 Chicago Bears 1.89 2.46 -0.58
26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1.67 2.33 -0.66
27 Carolina Panthers 1.73 2.4 -0.67
28 St. Louis Rams 1.65 2.36 -0.71
29 Tennessee Titans 1.49 2.25 -0.77
30 New York Jets 1.49 2.3 -0.82
31 Oakland Raiders 1.35 2.19 -0.84
32 Jacksonville Jaguars 1.17 2.29 -1.13

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.

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
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.

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
34/79 RG 69 Davin Joseph * 66 0 0 26 40 4.6 1.6 0 2.8 0.2
23/112 LWR 12 Stedman Bailey 44 0 36 8 0 3.7 2.1 0 1.5 0 0 0.1
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
22/58 HB 30 Zac Stacy 2 0 2 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
30/58 HB 36 Benny Cunningham 29 4 12 1 12 -0.2 0.3 -0.8 0.3 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
22/22 FB 46 Cory Harkey 14 0 1 11 2 -1.5 0 0 0.1 0 -1.6 0
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

NFL DEFENSE Play Counts Ratings
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
35/36 SLB 58 JoLonn Dunbar 4 3 0 1 0.1 0.1 0 0 0
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
36/78 DRT 98 Kendall Langford 26 13 13 0 -0.5 0.6 -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
42/55 DLE 97 Eugene Sims 30 11 19 0 -1.7 0.8 -1.6 -1 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

NFL SPECIAL TEAMS Ratings
RANK Pos. # Name Overall Kickoffs Punts FG/EP Penalty
370/1046 ST 11 Tavon Austin 1.8 0 1.8 0 0
3/34 P 6 Johnny Hekker 1.3 0 1.3 0 0
56/1046 ST 34 Chase Reynolds 1 0.5 0.5 0 0
104/1046 ST 26 Mark Barron 0.5 0.5 0 0 0
370/1046 ST 82 Alex Bayer 0.5 0 0.5 0 0
16/49 K 4 Greg Zuerlein 0.4 0.6 0 -0.2 0
370/1046 LS 44 Jake McQuaide 0 0 0 0 0
370/1046 ST 79 Greg Robinson 0 0 0 0 0
370/1046 ST 36 Benny Cunningham -0.1 -0.1 0 0 0
585/1046 ST 31 Maurice Alexander -0.5 -1 0.5 0 0
962/1046 ST 51 Marshall McFadden -0.5 0 -0.5 0 0
728/1046 ST 72 Joe Barksdale -1 0 0 0 -1
1035/1046 ST 53 Daren Bates -1 0 -1 0 0
728/1046 ST 88 Lance Kendricks -1 0 0 -1 0

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.