The Rams completed their season in a disappointing fashion, losing their last three games, and finishing with a 6-10 record. Each of the statistics I've been tracking this season clearly exhibit strong correlations with the Rams' win/loss record. An inefficient offense, penalties, turnovers, and big plays plagued the Rams all season, and all played critical roles in the Rams' 10 losses.
Throughout the 2014 season, I've been 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.
In the game against Seattle, the Rams once again lost the turnover battle. The Rams gave the ball away 3 times, while only forcing a pair of takeaways. A minus -1 turnover differential for the game. Each of the Rams' turnovers occurred in the 4'th quarter, and each was costly. The first - an interception thrown by Shaun Hill - led to a Seahawks scoring drive and a 13-6 lead. The second interception was returned for a 49-yard touchdown by Bruce Irvin, giving the Seahawks a 20-6 lead with 10 minutes remaining in the game. Benny Cunningham's fumble inside the Seattle 5-yard line with 6 minutes left to play sealed the Rams' fate.
For the season, the Rams ranked tied for 19'th in the league in Turnover Differential (-2), a dramatic regression relative to last years results. The primary reason for the decline? Rams QB's accounted for 20 of the Rams' 27 giveaways this season.
Clearly, it's not a coincidence that the Rams' edge in turnover margin vanishes simultaneously along with their chances of a win.— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) December 28, 2014
Another classic way to lose game in fourth quarter. That's 10th return TD against Rams this season; 8th on defense.— Howard Balzer (@HBalzer721) December 28, 2014
|1||Green Bay Packers||27||13||14|
|2||New England Patriots||25||13||12|
|8||San Francisco 49ers||29||22||7|
|19||New York Giants||26||28||-2|
|20||St. Louis Rams||25||27||-2|
|21||Kansas City Chiefs||14||17||-3|
|23||San Diego Chargers||18||23||-5|
|27||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||25||33||-8|
|29||New York Jets||13||24||-11|
|31||New Orleans Saints||17||30||-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.
The Rams were flagged for 6 penalties - totalling 45 yards - in the contest against Seattle. The Seahawks committed 2 penalties for 20 yards. For the Rams, the result was a negative Team Penalty Yards Differential of 25 yards.
In the 2014 16-game regular season, the Rams were the 3'rd most-penalized team in the NFL, averaging 7.7 penalties per game (the same average as 2013). The Rams led the league in most penalty yards (1139), and were 30'th in the league in Team Penalty Yards Differential (-257).
|Rank||Team||GP||Pen Yds||Opp. Pen Yds||Pen Yds Diff||Pen Yds Diff/Game|
|4||New Orleans Saints||16||670||889||219||13.69|
|5||Green Bay Packers||16||775||945||170||10.63|
|6||Kansas City Chiefs||16||681||851||170||10.63|
|9||San Diego Chargers||16||967||1,067||100||6.25|
|12||New York Giants||16||896||948||52||3.25|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||939||935||-4||-0.25|
|21||San Francisco 49ers||16||937||909||-28||-1.75|
|25||New York Jets||16||932||780||-152||-9.50|
|30||St. Louis Rams||16||1,139||882||-257||-16.06|
|31||New England Patriots||16||1,080||752||-328||-20.50|
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 Seattle, the Rams' offense produced 1 rushing big play, and zero passing big plays, their worst result of the season. The Rams' defense gave up 8 big plays in total, resulting in a minus -7 Big Play Differential for the game. The Rams' offense proved to be quite inept in the game against the Seahawks, mustering only 245 yards and 6 points.
The Rams finished the regular season ranked 16'th in the NFL in Big Play Differential (minus -2).
|Rank||Team||Plays||Big Plays||Rush||Pass||Big Play %||BPA||+/-|
|4||San Francisco 49ers||1,009||88||62||26||8.72%||63||25|
|7||New York Jets||1,052||88||61||27||8.37%||64||24|
|2||Green Bay Packers||1,001||101||67||34||10.09%||78||23|
|10||St. Louis Rams||957||75||47||28||7.84%||77||-2|
|25||New England Patriots||1,073||68||41||27||6.34%||80||-12|
|20||New Orleans Saints||1,095||76||47||29||6.94%||92||-16|
|27||San Diego Chargers||1,009||63||35||28||6.24%||82||-19|
|22||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||936||63||34||29||6.73%||83||-20|
|21||Kansas City Chiefs||962||65||45||20||6.76%||90||-25|
|29||New York Giants||1,086||67||35||32||6.17%||108||-41|
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 11 drives in total, and scored 6 points on those drives (0.54 points per drive), a poor result for the Rams' offense. The Seahawks also had 11 drives in total, and scored 13 points on those drives (1.18 points per drive), an excellent result for the Rams' defense. The Rams' Points Per Drive Differential versus the Seahawks: Minus -0.64.
For the regular season, the Rams ranked 23'rd in the league in Points Per Drive Differential (- 0.20).
|Team||Points Per Drive||Points Per Drive Against||Point Differential|
|1||Green Bay Packers||2.88||1.99||0.89|
|2||New England Patriots||2.59||1.72||0.87|
|7||Kansas City Chiefs||2.04||1.58||0.46|
|16||San Diego Chargers||2||1.94||0.06|
|19||New York Giants||1.97||2.05||-0.08|
|21||New Orleans Saints||2.3||2.48||-0.17|
|23||St. Louis Rams||1.74||1.95||-0.20|
|24||San Francisco 49ers||1.72||1.94||-0.22|
|26||New York Jets||1.52||2.19||-0.67|
|27||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1.54||2.22||-0.68|
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, Oakland, Washington, and Denver this season, they were leading at the half in all five contests. In the win against San Francisco, the Rams were tied 10-10 at half-time. In the last two seasons, the Rams have not won a game unless they were leading/tied at half-time.
In the game against Seattle, the Rams went into the locker room winning 6-0 at half-time. The Rams went on to lose the game 20-6. In 11 out of 16 games this season, the Rams either led or were tied at half-time.
The scoring by quarters for the entire season are quite revealing, and explain why the Rams could not win games with their play in the second half of games. The Rams played good football in the first quarter of many games, yet played poorly in the third quarter in most of their games. It's evident that opposing teams made better half-time adjustments than the Rams did.
Rams score by quarters this season: 1st: 95-42; 2nd: 98-93; 3rd: 48-106; 4th: 83-113.— Howard Balzer (@HBalzer721) December 29, 2014
|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|
|13||Positive||Positive||Positive||Positive||38 0||Won 52-0|
|14||Positive||Positive||Positive||Negative||6 0||Won 24-0|
|15||Negative||Negative||Negative||Negative||3 6||Lost 12-6|
|16||Negative||Positive||Negative||Positive||13 20||Lost 37-27|
|17||Negative||Negative||Negative||Negative||6 0||Lost 20-6|
Look at all the positive results in the three wins between Week 11 and Week 14. Then look at the negative results in the losses to San Diego, Arizona, New York, and Seattle between Week 12 and Week 17. Therein lies the difference between winning and losing football games.
2014 Statistical Records
Points per Drive Differential: 6 games positive - Record 5-1. 10 games negative - Record 1-9.
Turnover Differential: 3 games positive - Record 3-0. 6 games negative - Record 0-6. 7 games even - Record 3-4. 4 games without a turnover - Record 4-0.
Big Play Differential: 6 games positive - Record 3-3. 10 games negative - Record 3-7.
Penalty Yards Differential: 4 games positive - Record 3-1. 12 games negative - Record 3-9.
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|
|122/148||HB||27||Tre Mason *||28||11||15||1||1||0.7||1.2||-0.6||0.1||0||0||0|
|37/137||FB||46||Cory Harkey *||21||0||9||12||0||-0.2||-0.1||0||0||0||-0.1||0|
|39/218||RWR||81||Kenny Britt *||58||0||38||20||0||-0.4||-0.5||0||0||0||0||0.1|
|103/137||TE-R||88||Lance Kendricks *||38||0||20||15||3||-0.5||-0.6||0||0.2||0||-0.2||0.1|
|136/142||LT||79||Greg Robinson *||58||0||0||18||40||-0.7||-2.6||0||1.7||0.2|
|60/75||QB||14||Shaun Hill *||65||0||44||21||0||-1||-0.6||0||0||0||0||-0.4|
|92/142||RT||72||Joe Barksdale *||61||0||0||20||41||-1.6||-0.5||0||-0.3||-0.8|
|143/146||RG||69||Davin Joseph *||65||0||0||21||44||-1.8||-0.7||0||-1.3||0.2|
|195/218||SRWR||11||Tavon Austin *||52||2||37||13||0||-1.9||-1.5||-0.5||0||0||0||0.1|
|70/70||C||63||Scott Wells *||65||0||0||21||44||-2.2||-1.9||-0.5||0.1||0.1|
|86/146||LG||76||Rodger Saffold *||63||0||0||21||42||-3.4||-0.3||-0.5||-0.8||-1.8|
|RANK||Pos.||#||Name||Total||Run||Rush||Cov.||Overall||Run Defense||Pass Rush||Pass Cov.||Penalty|
|1/131||DLT||99||Aaron Donald *||44||19||25||0||4.7||0.4||4.2||0||0.1|
|66/131||DRT||90||Michael Brockers *||37||26||11||0||2.2||2.2||-0.1||0||0.1|
|168/230||SCB||20||Lamarcus Joyner *||30||10||4||16||0.7||0.1||0.2||0.4||0|
|85/98||WLB||52||Alec Ogletree *||63||34||9||20||0.4||0.1||-0.2||0.4||0.1|
|64/180||FS||23||Rodney McLeod *||63||34||1||28||0.3||0.9||-0.1||-0.6||0.1|
|10/98||DRE||94||Robert Quinn *||41||25||16||0||-0.2||0||-0.3||0||0.1|
|142/230||LCB||22||Trumaine Johnson *||26||11||0||15||-0.5||0.1||0||-0.6||0|
|109/125||MLB||55||James Laurinaitis *||63||34||5||24||-0.7||0.1||-0.4||-0.5||0.1|
|47/180||SS||25||T.J. McDonald *||63||34||1||28||-2.2||-1.1||-0.1||-1.1||0.1|
|113/230||RCB||21||Janoris Jenkins *||63||34||0||29||-3.5||-1.3||0||-2.3||0.1|
|86/98||DLE||91||Chris Long *||43||22||21||0||-4.9||-2.4||-1.7||0||-0.8|
The Rams' offense played poorly against the Seahawks, and it's reflected in the individual player grades. The defense and special teams played well enough to win the game.
DT Aaron Donald and P John Hekker finished the season as the highest-graded players at their positions in the entire NFL.
E.J. Gaines, Robert Quinn, William Hayes, and T.J. McDonald also deserve mention for their high quality play over the course of the season.
The overall regular season grades for the players on the offensive side of the football clearly reveal the deficiencies in QB and OL play. Jared Cook and Stedman Bailey deserve mention for their quality play this season. Cody Davis and Will Herring were the highest-graded special teams players for the Rams this season.
I'll be looking more deeply into the Rams' statistical results in the coming weeks.