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.
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.
|1||New England Patriots||18||6||12|
|3||Green Bay Packers||15||7||8|
|8||San Francisco 49ers||13||9||4|
|17||New York Giants||13||13||0|
|18||San Diego Chargers||9||9||0|
|22||Kansas City Chiefs||5||7||-2|
|23||St. Louis Rams||10||13||-3|
|26||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||12||16||-4|
|27||New Orleans Saints||9||15||-6|
|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.
|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|
|5||Kansas City Chiefs||8||318||443||125||7.81|
|6||New York Giants||7||322||436||114||7.13|
|11||Green Bay Packers||8||386||458||72||4.50|
|12||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||8||446||518||72||4.50|
|15||San Diego Chargers||9||520||559||39||2.44|
|24||San Francisco 49ers||8||522||461||-61||-3.81|
|25||New York Jets||9||600||492||-108||-6.75|
|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).
|Rank||Team||Plays||Big Plays||Rush||Pass||Big Play %||BPA||+/-|
|12||San Francisco 49ers||523||41||25||16||7.84%||22||19|
|23||New York Jets||616||42||32||10||6.82%||35||7|
|14||New Orleans Saints||559||43||30||13||7.69%||45||-2|
|8||Green Bay Packers||473||39||27||12||8.25%||44||-5|
|25||San Diego Chargers||555||37||19||18||6.67%||44||-7|
|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|
|18||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||466||34||18||16||7.3%||48||-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||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|
|10||Green Bay Packers||2.64||2.22||0.42|
|14||New Orleans Saints||2.67||2.41||0.26|
|15||San Diego Chargers||2.16||1.92||0.24|
|20||New York Giants||1.9||2.01||-0.11|
|21||San Francisco 49ers||1.93||2.05||-0.11|
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
|17/78||LG||76||Rodger Saffold *||57||0||0||30||27||1||1.1||0||-0.2||0.1|
|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|
|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|
|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||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|
|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|
|2/81||DLT||99||Aaron Donald *||49||10||36||3||0||-0.8||1.1||0.5||-0.8|
|31/83||FS||23||Rodney McLeod *||69||22||3||44||-0.2||0.2||-0.2||-0.3||0.1|
|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|
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.