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Rams-49ers: Key Stats Analysis - Week 9

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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?

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

One thing is for certain: The Rams sure do like playing on the razors edge. A fake punt deep in their own territory ensures a win against the Seahawks. A goal-line stand - and subsequent fumble by Colin Kaepernick, recovered by the Rams - allows St. Louis to sneak away with a 13-10 victory over the 49ers. 3 wins in 2014, by a combined total of 7 points. Hang on for the ride!

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' victory over the 49ers. Austin Davis threw a pair of first-half interceptions. The first - at 13:28 of the 2'nd quarter - gave the 49ers the ball at the Rams 35-yard line. San Francisco subsequently marched in for the touchdown, giving them a 10-3 lead.

A pair of Colin Kaepernick fumbles turned out to be the difference in the game. With two minutes remaining in the first half, Robert Quinn sacked Kaepernick at mid-field, and forced a fumble (recovered by Eugene Sims at the SF 36-yard line). The Rams scored a TD on the ensuing drive, allowing the Rams to tie the game at 10-10. The other fumble occurred with 9 seconds left in the game, and SF on the Rams' 1-yard line, facing 3'rd and 1. The James Laurinaitis fumble recovery sealed the Rams victory. Each team committed two turnovers in the game, resulting in a zero/even Turnover Differential for the Rams. In each of their 3 wins this season, the Rams have had a zero/even Turnover Differential.

For the season, the Rams rank tied for 23'rd in the NFL in Turnover Differential (minus -3). It's significant to note, of the Rams' 13 giveaways this season, QB Austin Davis is responsible for 9 of them - 7 interceptions and 2 fumbles lost.

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

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 9 penalties - totalling 83 yards - in the game against San Francisco. In turn, the 49ers committed 9 penalties for 44 yards. For the Rams, the result was a negative Team Penalty Yards Differential of 39 yards.

After 8 games, the Rams are tied for 7'th most-penalized team in the NFL, averaging 7.9 penalties per game. The Rams are 5'th in the league in most penalty yards (596), and are worst in the league in Team Penalty Yards Differential (-248). In an interesting twist, the Rams rank 2'nd in the NFL in fewest Opponent Penalty Yards (348). Apparently 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 New Orleans Saints 8 371 555 184 11.50
2 Jacksonville Jaguars 9 312 491 179 11.19
3 Chicago Bears 8 425 578 153 9.56
4 Philadelphia Eagles 8 502 642 140 8.75
5 Kansas City Chiefs 8 318 443 125 7.81
6 New York Giants 7 322 436 114 7.13
7 Arizona Cardinals 8 453 563 110 6.88
8 Baltimore Ravens 9 473 582 109 6.81
9 Dallas Cowboys 9 378 487 109 6.81
10 Cincinnati Bengals 8 406 501 95 5.94
11 Green Bay Packers 8 386 458 72 4.50
12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8 446 518 72 4.50
13 Minnesota Vikings 9 522 589 67 4.19
14 Miami Dolphins 8 332 396 64 4.00
15 San Diego Chargers 9 520 559 39 2.44
16 Oakland Raiders 8 448 482 34 2.13
17 Detroit Lions 8 449 439 -10 -0.63
18 Washington Redskins 9 630 614 -16 -1.00
19 Carolina Panthers 9 511 484 -27 -1.69
20 Houston Texans 9 470 427 -43 -2.69
21 Cleveland Browns 8 437 389 -48 -3.00
22 Atlanta Falcons 8 500 451 -49 -3.06
23 Indianapolis Colts 8 483 424 -59 -3.69
24 San Francisco 49ers 8 522 461 -61 -3.81
25 New York Jets 9 600 492 -108 -6.75
26 Buffalo Bills 8 576 459 -117 -7.31
27 Pittsburgh Steelers 9 643 510 -133 -8.31
28 Seattle Seahawks 8 496 330 -166 -10.38
29 Denver Broncos 8 554 375 -179 -11.19
30 Tennessee Titans 8 580 382 -198 -12.38
31 New England Patriots 9 699 495 -204 -12.75
32 St. Louis Rams 8 596 348 -248 -15.50

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 Francisco, the Rams' offense produced 2 rushing big plays, and zero passing big plays. The offense was out of sync throughout the game, in its worst performance of the year. The Rams' defense gave up just 4 big plays in total, a minus -2 Big Play Differential for the game. The only big play to have a significant impact on the outcome of the game was a 27-yard touchdown pass from Colin Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin early in the second quarter, giving the 49ers a 10-3 lead. The game was dominated by the defenses of both teams.

The Rams currently rank 27'th in the league in Big Play Differential (-12).

Team Big Plays Statistics
Rank Team Plays Big Plays Rush Pass Big Play % BPA +/-
5 Denver Broncos 525 44 20 24 8.38% 22 22
12 San Francisco 49ers 523 41 25 16 7.84% 22 19
1 Washington Redskins 566 51 28 23 9.01% 33 18
6 Seattle Seahawks 493 41 30 11 8.32% 23 18
13 Miami Dolphins 532 41 31 10 7.71% 28 13
4 Baltimore Ravens 586 50 34 16 8.53% 39 11
2 Dallas Cowboys 584 52 40 12 8.9% 42 10
29 Detroit Lions 531 31 14 17 5.84% 22 9
10 Chicago Bears 507 41 26 15 8.09% 33 8
23 New York Jets 616 42 32 10 6.82% 35 7
21 Minnesota Vikings 580 41 29 12 7.07% 36 5
9 Philadelphia Eagles 577 47 29 18 8.15% 45 2
22 Arizona Cardinals 510 36 20 16 7.06% 34 2
3 Cleveland Browns 514 45 26 19 8.75% 44 1
28 Buffalo Bills 503 31 13 18 6.16% 31 0
11 Indianapolis Colts 595 47 26 21 7.9% 49 -2
14 New Orleans Saints 559 43 30 13 7.69% 45 -2
7 Pittsburgh Steelers 614 51 24 27 8.31% 54 -3
16 Houston Texans 556 42 29 13 7.55% 45 -3
8 Green Bay Packers 473 39 27 12 8.25% 44 -5
17 Tennessee Titans 460 34 22 12 7.39% 40 -6
15 Cincinnati Bengals 498 38 22 16 7.63% 45 -7
25 San Diego Chargers 555 37 19 18 6.67% 44 -7
19 Jacksonville Jaguars 562 40 25 15 7.12% 49 -9
20 Kansas City Chiefs 508 36 27 9 7.09% 45 -9
31 New England Patriots 610 35 20 15 5.74% 46 -11
24 St. Louis Rams 493 33 20 13 6.69% 45 -12
26 Atlanta Falcons 504 32 20 12 6.35% 44 -12
18 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 466 34 18 16 7.3% 48 -14
30 Carolina Panthers 568 33 21 12 5.81% 47 -14
32 Oakland Raiders 471 24 14 10 5.1% 38 -14
27 New York Giants 458 29 19 10 6.33% 44 -15

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 13 points on those drives (1.08 points per drive), a poor showing by the offense. The 49ers had 12 drives in total, and scored 10 points on those drives (0.83 points per drive). The opponents' points per drive ratio represents the best result by the Rams' defense this season. The Rams' Points Per Drive Differential versus the 49ers: Plus +0.25.

After 8 games, the Rams rank 29'th in the league in Points Per Drive Differential (-0.93).

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 Kansas City Chiefs 2.44 1.62 0.82
3 Philadelphia Eagles 2.32 1.64 0.68
4 Baltimore Ravens 2.4 1.76 0.64
5 Miami Dolphins 2.24 1.61 0.64
6 Denver Broncos 2.47 1.89 0.59
7 Indianapolis Colts 2.5 1.95 0.55
8 Arizona Cardinals 2.09 1.66 0.43
9 Detroit Lions 1.78 1.35 0.43
10 Green Bay Packers 2.64 2.22 0.42
11 Dallas Cowboys 2.4 2.01 0.39
12 Seattle Seahawks 2.3 2 0.3
13 Pittsburgh Steelers 2.43 2.17 0.26
14 New Orleans Saints 2.67 2.41 0.26
15 San Diego Chargers 2.16 1.92 0.24
16 Cleveland Browns 1.95 1.71 0.24
17 Houston Texans 1.94 1.79 0.15
18 Buffalo Bills 1.71 1.62 0.09
19 Cincinnati Bengals 2.02 1.99 0.03
20 New York Giants 1.9 2.01 -0.11
21 San Francisco 49ers 1.93 2.05 -0.11
22 Minnesota Vikings 1.58 1.9 -0.31
23 Atlanta Falcons 2.13 2.51 -0.38
24 Washington Redskins 1.79 2.25 -0.45
25 Chicago Bears 2.05 2.61 -0.57
26 Carolina Panthers 1.86 2.43 -0.57
27 Tennessee Titans 1.47 2.13 -0.65
28 Oakland Raiders 1.43 2.34 -0.91
29 St. Louis Rams 1.66 2.59 -0.93
30 New York Jets 1.45 2.4 -0.95
31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1.65 2.61 -0.96
32 Jacksonville Jaguars 1.25 2.35 -1.1

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 game against San Francisco, the Rams went into the locker room at half-time tied 10-10. In a tight second half, the Rams managed to score the only points in 30 minutes of play, holding on for a 13-10 victory.

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

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, and are a valuable tool for analyzing individual player performance, especially when used in conjunction with other statistics.

NFL OFFENSE Play Counts Run Pass Ratings Pass Screen Run
Rank Pos. # Name Total Run Pass Block Block Overall Pass Rush Block Block Block Penalty
17/78 LG 76 Rodger Saffold * 57 0 0 30 27 1 1.1 0 -0.2 0.1
13/62 TE 89 Jared Cook 41 0 18 20 3 0.6 -0.1 0 0.2 0 0.4 0.1
N/R HB 42 Trey Watts 1 0 1 0 0 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
84/109 SLWR 11 Tavon Austin * 34 2 19 13 0 0.3 0.2 0 0 0 0 0.1
47/109 LWR 81 Kenny Britt * 53 0 26 27 0 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0.1
42/61 HB 36 Benny Cunningham 18 4 10 2 2 0.1 0.8 -0.8 0.1 0 0 0
19/20 TE-L 46 Cory Harkey * 20 0 3 16 1 0 -0.1 0 0.1 0 -0.1 0.1
66/78 RG 69 Davin Joseph * 57 0 0 30 27 0 0.1 0.5 -0.7 0.1
N/R QB 14 Shaun Hill 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
N/R LWR 13 Chris Givens 14 0 8 6 0 -0.3 -0.3 0 0 0 0 0
37/62 TE-R 88 Lance Kendricks * 29 0 6 22 1 -0.5 -0.2 0 0.1 0 -0.5 0.1
N/R LWR 12 Stedman Bailey 37 0 23 14 0 -0.8 -0.9 0 0 0 0 0.1
N/R HB 27 Tre Mason * 38 21 12 3 2 -1.2 -0.2 -1.1 0.1 0 0 0
30/78 LT 79 Greg Robinson * 57 0 0 30 27 -1.8 0.6 0 -2.6 0.2
36/36 C 63 Scott Wells * 57 0 0 30 27 -1.9 -0.4 0 -1.6 0.1
31/36 QB 9 Austin Davis * 56 1 27 28 0 -3.5 -3.5 -0.1 0 0 0 0.1
11/74 RT 72 Joe Barksdale * 57 0 0 30 27 -4.8 -1.9 0 -2.6 -0.3

NFL DEFENSE Play Counts Ratings Run Pass Pass
Rank Pos. # Name Total Run Rush Cov. Overall Defense Rush Coverage Penalty
35/35 WLB 52 Alec Ogletree * 71 23 11 37 5.3 2.9 0.6 1.7 0.1
16/53 DRE 94 Robert Quinn * 61 18 43 0 3.8 1.7 0.9 1 0.2
79/83 SS 25 T.J. McDonald * 71 23 6 42 2.6 0.8 0.5 1.2 0.1
52/81 DRT 90 Michael Brockers * 39 14 24 1 1.3 0.5 0.7 0 0.1
20/108 LCB 33 E.J. Gaines * 66 22 1 43 1.2 0.1 -0.1 1.1 0.1
40/81 DLT 98 Kendall Langford 24 14 10 0 1.1 1.5 -0.5 0 0.1
2/81 DLT 99 Aaron Donald * 49 10 36 3 0 -0.8 1.1 0.5 -0.8
N/R SLB 53 Daren Bates 2 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
31/83 FS 23 Rodney McLeod * 69 22 3 44 -0.2 0.2 -0.2 -0.3 0.1
70/81 DRT 92 Alex Carrington 22 10 12 0 -0.3 0.2 -0.6 0 0.1
33/53 DRE 97 Eugene Sims 55 17 38 0 -0.3 -0.3 0.3 0.5 -0.8
17/53 DLE 95 William Hayes * 33 11 22 0 -0.4 -1.2 0.7 0 0.1
N/R RCB 47 Marcus Roberson * 17 4 0 13 -0.7 0 0 -0.7 0
30/35 SLB 58 JoLonn Dunbar * 36 17 5 14 -1.3 -1.7 -0.4 0.8 0
43/56 MLB 55 James Laurinaitis * 71 23 12 36 -2.3 -1.1 -0.5 -0.8 0.1
85/108 SCB 20 Lamarcus Joyner 40 6 6 28 -2.3 0 -0.5 -1.8 0
N/R RCB 22 Trumaine Johnson 55 18 0 37 -2.9 0.1 0 -3.1 0.1

NFL SPECIAL TEAMS Ratings #
Rank Pos. # Name Overall Kickoffs Punts FG/EP Penalty of Pen
2/34 P 6 Johnny Hekker 4.5 0 4.5 0 0
202/963 ST 34 Chase Reynolds 1 0.5 0.5 0 0
332/963 ST 11 Tavon Austin 0.7 0 0.7 0 0
202/963 ST 26 Mark Barron 0.5 0.5 0 0 0
202/963 ST 54 Will Herring 0.5 0.5 0 0 0
25/47 K 4 Greg Zuerlein 0.5 0.1 0 0.4 0
332/963 ST 36 Benny Cunningham 0.1 0.1 0 0 0
547/963 ST 51 Marshall McFadden 0 0 0 0 0
332/963 ST 12 Stedman Bailey -0.5 0 -0.5 0 0
682/963 ST 61 Tim Barnes -0.5 -0.5 0 0 0
202/963 ST 20 Lamarcus Joyner -0.5 0 -0.5 0 0
937/963 ST 53 Daren Bates -2 0 0 0 -2 2

The Rams' offense had a terrible time of it against the 49ers 2nd ranked defense, and it showed in this weeks PFF individual player grades.

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 11'th overall for the season. Irrespective of the grades, I believe the Rams' offensive line played better than expected, given the adversity it had faced in the preceding week.

Alec Ogletree - after struggling for much of the year - delivered his best performance of the season; hopefully, a sign of things to come. He was the highest-graded Rams player in the game against San Francisco.

The Rams' defensive line merits special consideration for their overall performance against the 49ers. Robert Quinn is suddenly on fire, with 5 sacks in his last three games. Aaron Donald continues to impress, and is ranked 2'nd overall among DT's through Week 9. E.J. Gaines keeps proving why he was a steal in the 6'th round of the 2014 NFL Draft.