After the home-opening debacle against Minnesota, it was difficult to envision the Rams winning many games this season. The Rams managed to turn things around very quickly, defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - on the road - 19-17 in Week 2. The Rams showed significant improvement in many key areas, and looked like a completely different team this past weekend.
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 Penalties Per Game, 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 strong correlation between Points Per Drive Differential and a teams regular season record. The score at half-time and Team Penalties Per Game 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 committed, 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 last season. In 2013, the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks led the NFL in this key statistic.
The Rams forced their first turnover of the season against Tampa Bay, an interception by Rodney McLeod in the 2'nd quarter. The Buccaneers were inside the Rams' 10-yard line at the time of the interception, and were threatening to score. A fumble by RB Zac Stacy in the 3'rd quarter was the only giveaway by the Rams during the game. Each team finished with one turnover, for an even Turnover Differential.
The Rams are currently tied for 20'th in the league in Team Turnover Differential.
|3||New England Patriots||7||2||5|
|11||San Diego Chargers||3||1||2|
|15||Green Bay Packers||2||2||0|
|16||San Francisco 49ers||4||4||0|
|20||St. Louis Rams||1||3||-2|
|22||New York Jets||1||3||-2|
|25||Kansas City Chiefs||0||3||-3|
|26||New Orleans Saints||1||4||-3|
|29||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1||4||-3|
|32||New York Giants||0||6||-6|
Team Penalties Per Game
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' goal should be to have no more than 6 penalties per game.
After committing 13 penalties in the contest against Minnesota, the Rams played a far more disciplined game in Week 2 versus the Buccaneers. The Rams committed only 5 official penalties - for 65 yards - against Tampa Bay. The team actually had 9 penalties, if the ones that were offset or declined are included.
The Rams are currently tied for 4'th in the league in most Team Penalties Per Game.
|Team||Offensive Penalties Per Game||Defensive Penalties Per Game||Penalties Per Game||Penalties Per Play|
|1||San Francisco 49ers||7.0||6.5||13.5||0.23|
|2||New England Patriots||7.5||4.5||12.0||0.17|
|4||St. Louis Rams||4.0||5.0||9.0||0.15|
|7||New York Jets||4.5||4.5||9.0||0.13|
|17||New York Giants||2.5||4.0||6.5||0.10|
|23||San Diego Chargers||3.5||2.5||6.0||0.09|
|24||Green Bay Packers||2.0||3.5||5.5||0.09|
|26||Kansas City Chiefs||2.5||2.5||5.0||0.08|
|29||New Orleans Saints||2.0||2.0||4.0||0.06|
|30||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1.5||2.0||3.5||0.07|
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 Tampa Bay, the Rams had 1 passing big play, and 4 rushing big plays [compared to zero rushing big plays in Week 1]. The Rams' defense gave up 6 big plays in total, the same number as last week versus the Vikings. The Rams' Big Play Differential for Week 2 was minus -1, an improvement over last weeks minus -3 differential.
The Rams are currently tied for 24'th in the league in Big Play Differential.
|Rank||Team||Plays||Big Plays||Rush||Pass||Big Play %||BPA||+/-|
|10||San Francisco 49ers||119||10||8||2||8.4%||6||4|
|12||New York Jets||136||11||9||2||8.09%||7||4|
|8||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||107||10||8||2||9.35%||8||2|
|18||New Orleans Saints||139||10||8||2||7.19%||11||-1|
|27||New England Patriots||140||7||5||2||5%||8||-1|
|24||Kansas City Chiefs||131||7||5||2||5.34%||10||-3|
|19||St. Louis Rams||123||8||4||4||6.5%||12||-4|
|22||Green Bay Packers||125||7||5||2||5.6%||11||-4|
|20||San Diego Chargers||135||8||6||2||5.93%||13||-5|
|31||New York Giants||125||5||3||2||4%||10||-5|
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 the game against Minnesota, the Rams were dead last in the NFL - for the week - in Points Per Drive Differential. They did show improvement in Week 2 against the Buccaneers, on both sides of the ball. The Rams scored 19 points on 8 drives [2.375 points per drive], while limiting Tampa Bay to 17 points on 9 drives [1.888 points per drive]. The Rams finished the game with a positive differential of 0.487.
After two weeks, the Rams are 30'th in the league in Points Per Drive Differential.
|Team||Points Per Drive||Points Per Drive Against||Point Differential|
|9||New England Patriots||2.08||1.48||0.6|
|12||San Diego Chargers||2.24||1.86||0.38|
|13||San Francisco 49ers||2.4||2.14||0.26|
|20||New York Jets||1.79||1.88||-0.08|
|21||New Orleans Saints||2.9||3.15||-0.25|
|25||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1.55||2.05||-0.5|
|26||Green Bay Packers||2.14||2.73||-0.59|
|29||Kansas City Chiefs||1.35||2.38||-1.03|
|30||St. Louis Rams||1.25||2.55||-1.3|
|31||New York Giants||1.4||2.73||-1.33|
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 game against Tampa Bay, the Rams carried a 10-7 lead into the locker room at half-time. This is in contrast to the game against Minnesota, where the Rams found themselves down 13-0 at the half.
|Week||Turnover Diff.||Big Play Diff.||PPD Diff.||Penalties||Half-Time||Game Score|
|1||Negative||Negative||Negative||13||0 13||Lost 34-6|
|2||Even||Negative||Positive||5||10 7||Won 19-17|