In a Week 10 game that was painful to watch at times, the Rams were totally dominated by the Chicago Bears, losing 37-13 at the Edward Jones Dome. Compiling and analysing the statistics for this stinker of a game turns out to be equally as painful.
Throughout the 2015 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 five particular metrics selected for tracking throughout the 2015 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.
St. Louis Rams 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.
Score At Half-Time - The Rams were leading or tied at the half in 11 games last season. The Rams' record was 6-5 in those games. The Rams lost all 5 games where they were behind at the half. In fact, the Rams haven't won a game in the past two plus seasons unless they were tied or winning at half-time.
It's a widely held belief that winning the turnover battle is important to a teams success on the field. The Rams finished with 6 wins in 2014. The team had a positive turnover differential in 3 of those wins, and a zero differential in the other 3 victories. Overall, the Rams finished 19'th in Turnover Differential (minus -2) last season.
The Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots finished 3rd in Turnover Differential (plus +12) while the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks finished 4th (plus +10). Over the 2014 NFL season, the average Turnover Differential among NFL teams was zero (0). The top 5 NFL teams averaged a Turnover Differential of 11.2, while the bottom 5 teams averaged a Turnover Differential of minus -12.2.
In the game against Chicago, turnovers played an insignificant role in the outcome (despite each team turning over the ball twice). The two teams traded turnovers in the first quarter, each resulting in a field goal. Both teams turned the ball over once in the 4th quarter during garbage time. For the game, the Rams had an even Turnover Differential.
After 9 games, the Rams rank tied for 8th in the league in Turnover Differential (+4). The Rams are 2-2 in games with a positive Turnover Differential and 2-3 in games with an even or negative Turnover Differential.
|1||New York Giants||23||10||13|
|3||Kansas City Chiefs||16||8||8|
|4||Green Bay Packers||13||6||7|
|5||New England Patriots||13||7||6|
|9||St. Louis Rams||16||12||4|
|10||New York Jets||19||16||3|
|16||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||16||0|
|19||San Francisco 49ers||8||9||-1|
|25||New Orleans Saints||13||17||-4|
|27||San Diego Chargers||9||14||-5|
Team Penalty Yards Differential
In 2014, the Rams were the 3rd most-penalized team in the NFL, averaging 7.7 Team 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).
For a team that would like to keep the ball on the ground, penalties all too often force that team into a passing situation. Penalties kill drives, contribute to bad field position and can change momentum in a game. 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.
After showing much improvement earlier in the season, the Rams are once again committing too many penalties. Against Chicago, the Rams committed 8 infractions totalling 57 yards. The Bears were flagged 4 times for a total of 44 yards. For the game, the Rams had a minus -13 Penalty Yards Differential.
Through 9 games, the Rams rank tied for 20th in the NFL in Penalty Yards Differential (-24), a dramatic improvement over 2014's results. The Rams are 3-1 in games with a positive or even Penalty Yards Differential and 1-4 in games with a negative Penalty Yards Differential.
|Rank||Team||GP||Pen Yds||Opp. Pen Yds||Pen Yds Diff||Pen Yds Diff/Game|
|5||New York Giants||10||554||704||150||9.38|
|12||San Francisco 49ers||9||387||458||71||4.44|
|13||San Diego Chargers||9||545||607||62||3.88|
|14||New England Patriots||9||592||629||37||2.31|
|15||Kansas City Chiefs||9||501||537||36||2.25|
|17||New York Jets||9||471||482||11||0.69|
|20||St. Louis Rams||9||575||551||-24||-1.50|
|21||Green Bay Packers||9||537||513||-24||-1.50|
|27||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||9||717||543||-174||-10.88|
|28||New Orleans Saints||10||718||501||-217||-13.56|
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. The higher the big play +/- the better, as this shows the team more often generates big plays than gives them up.
In the game against the Bears, the Rams had 2 Rushing Big Plays and 3 Passing Big Plays. The Rams defense allowed Chicago 6 Big Plays in total. The Rams had a minus -1 Big Play Differential for the game.
Are the Rams too reliant on big plays? Jeff Fisher doesn't seem to think so:
"No, I don’t think we’ve had enough big plays. We need more big plays. We need big runs. We need chunks. We need to change field position."
Big/Explosive plays aren't the issue though. The Rams - led by Tavon Austin and Todd Gurley - have the 3rd-highest big play percentage in the NFL. The offense can produce huge chunks of yards with the best of teams. It's getting 4-5 yards at a time on a consistent basis that they're struggling with. This leads to a league-low in total plays run and results in too many 3rd and long situations (and the chains getting rust on them).
After 9 games, the Rams rank 7th in the league in Big Play Differential (+11), thanks to the efforts of RB Todd Gurley, WR Tavon Austin and a stingy defense. The Rams are 4-2 in games with a positive Big Play Differential and 0-3 in games with a negative or even Big Play Differential.
|Rank||Team||Plays||Big Plays||Rush||Pass||Big Play %||BPA||+/-|
|3||St. Louis Rams||515||51||36||15||9.9%||40||11|
|12||New England Patriots||605||49||26||23||8.1%||40||9|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||563||41||27||14||7.28%||33||8|
|10||Kansas City Chiefs||569||48||28||20||8.44%||45||3|
|7||Green Bay Packers||561||51||28||23||9.09%||50||1|
|15||New York Jets||600||47||31||16||7.83%||47||0|
|11||San Francisco 49ers||541||44||26||18||8.13%||45||-1|
|18||New Orleans Saints||696||51||27||24||7.33%||66||-15|
|31||San Diego Chargers||628||34||14||20||5.41%||49||-15|
|26||New York Giants||651||41||22||19||6.3%||57||-16|
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 2014. 10 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. The higher the points per drive the better, and in theory the highest this statistic could be is 8, which would occur if a team scored a touchdown AND a two point conversion every time they have the ball.
In the game against Chicago, the Rams scored 13 points on 14 drives (0.93 PPD), a poor result for the offense. The Vikings scored 37 points on 13 drives (2.85 PPD), a surprisingly poor performance by the Rams defense. For the game, the Rams had a minus -1.92 Points Per Drive Differential.
Heading into Week 11, the Rams rank tied for 17th in the league in Points Per Drive Differential (-0.15). The main reason for the middle-of-the-road ranking is the performance of the offense, which is 31st in the NFL in Points Per Drive (1.48 PPD). In contrast, the defense is ranked 6th best in the NFL (1.63 PPD.) The Rams are 4-0 in games with a positive Points Per Drive Differential and 0-5 in games with a negative Points Per Drive Differential.
The top 10 teams in Points Per Drive Differential sport a combined 70-21 record through the first 10 weeks of the regular season.
|Team||Points Per Drive||Points Per Drive Against||Point Differential|
|1||New England Patriots||2.91||1.67||1.24|
|10||Green Bay Packers||2.11||1.85||0.26|
|12||New York Giants||2.48||2.24||0.24|
|13||Kansas City Chiefs||2.06||1.82||0.23|
|14||New York Jets||1.9||1.67||0.23|
|18||St. Louis Rams||1.48||1.63||-0.15|
|23||San Diego Chargers||2.19||2.52||-0.33|
|24||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1.87||2.3||-0.43|
|28||New Orleans Saints||2.13||2.69||-0.57|
|32||San Francisco 49ers||1.26||2.25||-0.99|
Score At Half-Time
There was a semblance of Jekyll (the first half) and Hyde (the second half) in most of the Rams' games last season. The teams' point differential in the first half of games: plus 58. In the second half of games: minus 88. The Rams were leading or tied at the half in 11 games last season. The Rams' record was 6-5 in those games. The Rams lost all 5 games where they were behind at the half. In fact, the Rams haven't won a game in the past two and a half plus seasons unless they were tied or winning at half-time.
In the terribly played game against Chicago, the Rams went into the locker room at half-time losing 24-10. The Rams held true to form in the second half, ultimately losing 37-13. In an interesting reversal of form, the Rams (in contrast to 2014) are playing better football overall in the 2nd half of games when compared to the first half of games. In nine games this season, the Rams have only been outscored by their opponents 81-78 in the second half while being outscored 102-88 in the first half. The Rams are 4-1 when leading or tied at the half, and 0-4 when behind starting the 3rd quarter.
|Week||Turnover Diff.||Big Play Diff.||PPD Diff.||PY Diff.||Half-Time||Game Score|
|1||Negative||Positive||Positive||Positive||10 10||Won 34-31 OT|
|2||Positive||Negative||Negative||Negative||0 17||Lost 24-10|
|3||Even||Positive||Negative||Negative||3 9||Lost 12-6|
|4||Positive||Positive||Positive||Negative||10 9||Won 24-22|
|5||Negative||Positive||Negative||Positive||10 14||Lost 24-10|
|7||Positive||Positive||Positive||Positive||10 3||Won 24-6|
|8||Negative||Positive||Positive||Even||20 6||Won 27-6|
|9||Positive||Even||Negative||Negative||15 10||Lost 21-18|
|10||Even||Negative||Negative||Negative||10 24||Lost 37-13|
Bad games produce bad statistics, and this game was no exception. A poor showing in all facets of the game. The Rams need to put the Bears game behind them and come out swinging against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Rams are still having considerable difficulty converting on third down. I believe Bernie Miklasz nailed the answer right on the money:
"Coordinator Frank Cignetti and the Rams’ offensive have to do a more creative and effective job of getting more production on first and second down to avoid putting the quarterbacks at a significant disadvantage in down and distance. Foles, for example, has the most third-down passing attempts (24) in the NFL this season when the team needs 11+ yards for a first down. It’s imperative for the Rams have to get the QBs in position for higher-percentage conversions. The Rams can’t keep lining up the quarterback in so many third-and-long, third-and-impossible scenarios."
Pro Football Focus Player Grades
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Bears’ 37-13 win over the Rams:
– Jay Cutler (-1.7) had his lowest grade of the season, but was very effective on passes under 10 yards, going 19-for-20 for 258 yards and all three TDs. However, most of these were passes short of the sticks that the receivers did all of the work. Zach Miller going 87 yards for a touchdown was more about the Rams’ defense than anything Cutler did; he threw a short speed out, and Miller made one cut and the Rams defense overran the pursuit angle. Cutler was unable to complete a pass over 10 yards, as 209 yards came after the catch.
– The Bears’ secondary performed at a high level versus the Rams; CB Kyle Fuller (+3.3) came away with the highest grade on the team, as he allowed just one catch on eight targets for 1 yard and had one pass deflection. On the opposite side of him was Tracy Porter (+2.5); while Porter was only targeted three times, he too only allowed one catch for a grand total of 6 yards and had two pass deflections. Both starting safeties, Antrel Rolle (+2.3) and Adrian Amos (+0.5) also held up in coverage, only giving up three catches on six targets for 12 yards combined. The longest play the starting secondary gave up was two 6 yard pass plays.
– With Matt Forte out, neither Jeremy Langford (+1.8) nor Ka’Deem Carey (RB -0.7) did much as a runner versus the Rams; part of the problem was that the Rams’ defensive line gave the Bears’ running backs very little room to work with. Langford was able to escape on a couple of runs, however, these were few and far between. As a receiver out of the backfield, Langford was able to take a screen pass 83 yards for a touchdown.
CB Kyle Fuller (+3.3)
TE Zach Miller (+3.0)
LB Willie Young (+2.8)
CB Tracy Porter (+2.7)
S Antrel Rolle (+2.3)
St. Louis Rams
– Nick Foles (-5.0) struggled against the Bears’ defense, only completing 47 percent of his passes; all of his completions were under 10 yards (there wasn’t a single completed pass over 10 yards in this whole game). When Foles tried to go over 10 yards, he was 0-for-14. With the Rams struggling to move the ball in the run game, St. Louis tried to open the Bears’ defense downfield, but neither Foles nor the receivers had any luck in getting a chunk of yardage on one play.
– Second-year pro Aaron Donald (+11.7) had another one of his monster games. Donald had the second-highest pass rushing productivity of the week for defensive tackles at 18.4, thanks to four total pressures on 19 pass rushing snaps. While Donald only had three run stops on 30 snaps, he caused the Bears’ interior offensive line issues all game long with both his ability to penetrate into the backfield as well as using his strength to stand up the lineman at the point of attack, taking away the holes for the Bears’ runners that way.
– First round pick Todd Gurley (-0.7) struggled to find any room as a runner, as the Bears’ defense committed to stopping Gurley first and forcing the Rams into long passing situations. They did so with great effect, allowing Gurley just 45 yards on 12 carries. The longest run allowed by Gurley all night was just 9 yards. The past two weeks for Gurley have been a realization that the NFL is not the SEC, and those first four starts where he gained 100+ yards each week will not continue with the NFL defenses focusing more and more on the run game.
DL Aaron Donald (+11.7)
OL Garrett Reynolds (+3.7)
DL Nick Fairley (+3.4)
OL Rob Havenstein (+2.4)
CB Janoris Jenkins (+2.1)