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San Francisco 49ers At St. Louis Rams: Key Stats Analysis - Week 8

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A stifling defense and strong offensive performances from Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin were all the Rams needed to handily defeat the San Francisco 49ers 27-6 in a Week 8 clash at the Dome.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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".

The Rams put on a fireworks display courtesy of Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin and coupled that with an outstanding defensive performance to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 27-6 at the EJD.

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

2014 Key Stats Analysis

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 seasons unless they were tied or winning at half-time.

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 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 San Francisco, turnovers played virtually zero role in the outcome. The only turnover was a fumble by Rams WR Tavon Austin. It led to no points for the 49ers. For the game, the Rams had a minus (-1) Turnover Differential.

After 7 games, the Rams rank tied for 8th in the league in Turnover Differential (+3). The Rams are 2-1 in games with a positive Turnover Differential and 2-2 in games with an even or negative Turnover Differential.

NFL football is a pretty simple game when it comes right down to it. 11 teams have winning records as of November 3. 9 of the 11 are in the top dozen in the NFL in Turnover Differential.

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

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.

The Rams committed far too many penalties in the game against the 49ers (12 penalties totalling 93 yards). Fortunately for the Rams, the 49ers were just as undisciplined, racking up 13 penalties for 93 yards. For the game, the Rams had an even Penalty Yards Differential.

Through 7 games, the Rams rank 16th in the NFL in Penalty Yards Differential (+9), a dramatic improvement over 2014's results. The Rams are 3-1 in games with a positive or even Penalty Yards Differential and 1-2 in games with a negative Penalty Yards Differential.

Team Penalty Yards Differential
Rank Team GP Pen Yds Opp. Pen Yds Pen Yds Diff Pen Yds Diff/Game
1 Arizona Cardinals 8 378 586 208 13.00
2 Indianapolis Colts 7 459 647 188 11.75
3 Philadelphia Eagles 7 394 577 183 11.44
4 Cincinnati Bengals 7 440 554 114 7.13
5 New England Patriots 7 456 553 97 6.06
6 Tennessee Titans 7 409 505 96 6.00
7 Kansas City Chiefs 8 399 482 83 5.19
8 New York Giants 8 456 532 76 4.75
9 Washington Redskins 7 395 467 72 4.50
10 Miami Dolphins 7 456 528 72 4.50
11 Pittsburgh Steelers 8 448 512 64 4.00
12 San Diego Chargers 8 491 552 61 3.81
13 Green Bay Packers 7 395 433 38 2.38
14 San Francisco 49ers 8 357 395 38 2.38
15 Minnesota Vikings 7 340 373 33 2.06
16 St. Louis Rams 7 431 440 9 0.56
17 Houston Texans 8 506 507 1 0.06
18 New York Jets 7 410 408 -2 -0.13
19 Detroit Lions 8 474 458 -16 -1.00
20 Cleveland Browns 8 527 510 -17 -1.06
21 Dallas Cowboys 7 374 355 -19 -1.19
22 Oakland Raiders 7 508 486 -22 -1.38
23 Carolina Panthers 6 315 292 -23 -1.44
24 Jacksonville Jaguars 7 466 437 -29 -1.81
25 Baltimore Ravens 8 493 443 -50 -3.13
26 Chicago Bears 7 485 402 -83 -5.19
27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7 576 429 -147 -9.19
28 Seattle Seahawks 8 459 290 -169 -10.56
29 New Orleans Saints 8 593 409 -184 -11.50
30 Atlanta Falcons 8 552 343 -209 -13.06
31 Buffalo Bills 7 670 449 -221 -13.81
32 Denver Broncos 7 541 299 -242 -15.13

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 49ers, the Rams had 2 Rushing Big Plays (courtesy of another outstanding performance by Todd Gurley) and 2 Passing Big Plays. The Rams defense allowed Cleveland only 1 Big Play in total. The Rams had a plus +3 Big Play Differential for the game. Two big plays resulted in touchdowns for the Rams: a 71 yard scamper for a TD by Todd Gurley in the 2nd quarter and a 66 yard scoring pass to Tavon Austin in the 4th quarter.

After 7 games, the Rams rank 5th in the league in Big Play Differential (+12), mostly thanks to the efforts of RB Todd Gurley. The Rams are 4-2 in games with a positive Big Play Differential and 0-1 in games with a negative Big Play Differential.

Team Big Plays Statistics
Rank Team Plays Big Plays Rush Pass Big Play % BPA +/-
3 Carolina Panthers 389 38 25 13 9.77% 21 17
8 Seattle Seahawks 510 44 31 13 8.63% 27 17
6 Cincinnati Bengals 446 40 20 20 8.97% 25 15
5 Arizona Cardinals 497 47 28 19 9.46% 34 13
2 St. Louis Rams 386 38 27 11 9.84% 26 12
7 Minnesota Vikings 437 38 25 13 8.7% 27 11
4 Pittsburgh Steelers 469 45 28 17 9.59% 35 10
12 Buffalo Bills 442 36 24 12 8.14% 26 10
13 New York Jets 477 38 27 11 7.97% 29 9
15 Atlanta Falcons 562 43 32 11 7.65% 34 9
14 New England Patriots 461 36 17 19 7.81% 32 4
1 Green Bay Packers 407 44 27 17 10.81% 41 3
16 Dallas Cowboys 436 33 24 9 7.57% 30 3
23 Philadelphia Eagles 477 33 23 10 6.92% 30 3
17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 437 33 23 10 7.55% 32 1
20 Jacksonville Jaguars 462 33 19 14 7.14% 32 1
24 Baltimore Ravens 538 36 20 16 6.69% 35 1
9 Kansas City Chiefs 504 43 25 18 8.53% 43 0
27 Denver Broncos 453 28 16 12 6.18% 29 -1
10 San Francisco 49ers 477 39 23 16 8.18% 43 -4
19 Oakland Raiders 433 31 15 16 7.16% 36 -5
11 Miami Dolphins 430 35 21 14 8.14% 41 -6
22 Chicago Bears 459 32 20 12 6.97% 39 -7
28 Tennessee Titans 434 26 18 8 5.99% 34 -8
21 Indianapolis Colts 454 32 17 15 7.05% 41 -9
18 New Orleans Saints 571 41 23 18 7.18% 52 -11
30 Houston Texans 593 33 16 17 5.56% 44 -11
25 New York Giants 508 34 20 14 6.69% 46 -12
31 San Diego Chargers 565 31 12 19 5.49% 44 -13
26 Cleveland Browns 526 34 16 18 6.46% 48 -14
29 Detroit Lions 511 29 12 17 5.68% 46 -17
32 Washington Redskins 463 22 14 8 4.75% 43 -21

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 San Francisco, the Rams scored 24 points on 15 drives (1.60 PPD), a mediocre result for the offense. The 49ers scored 6 points on 15 drives (0.40 PPD), an outstanding result for the Rams' defense. For the game, the Rams had a plus +1.20 Points Per Drive differential.

Heading into Week 9, the Rams rank 13th in the league in Points Per Drive Differential (+0.14). The main reason for the middle-of-the-road ranking is the performance of the offense, which is tied for 30th in the NFL in Points Per Drive. The defense is ranked 2nd best in the NFL (1.47 PPD.) The Rams are 4-0 in games with a positive Points Per Drive Differential and 0-3 in games with a negative Points Per Drive Differential.

The top 10 teams in Points Per Drive Differential sport a combined 59-14 record through the first 8 weeks of the regular season.

Team Points Per Drive Statistics
Team Points Per Drive Points Per Drive Against Point Differential
1 New England Patriots 3.07 1.64 1.43
2 Arizona Cardinals 2.8 1.61 1.19
3 Cincinnati Bengals 2.44 1.74 0.71
4 Denver Broncos 2 1.33 0.67
5 Carolina Panthers 2.16 1.51 0.65
6 Green Bay Packers 2.35 1.78 0.57
7 Atlanta Falcons 2.37 1.94 0.42
8 New York Jets 2 1.67 0.33
9 Seattle Seahawks 1.9 1.57 0.32
10 Minnesota Vikings 1.91 1.65 0.26
11 Philadelphia Eagles 1.76 1.51 0.25
12 Pittsburgh Steelers 1.85 1.67 0.18
13 St. Louis Rams 1.61 1.47 0.14
14 New York Giants 2.44 2.31 0.13
15 Buffalo Bills 2.12 1.99 0.13
16 Kansas City Chiefs 2.05 1.94 0.12
17 Oakland Raiders 2.2 2.19 0.01
18 Miami Dolphins 1.86 2.01 -0.16
19 Baltimore Ravens 2.13 2.3 -0.17
20 Indianapolis Colts 1.77 2 -0.23
21 New Orleans Saints 2.2 2.49 -0.29
22 Washington Redskins 1.92 2.24 -0.32
23 Houston Texans 1.69 2.01 -0.32
24 San Diego Chargers 2.2 2.55 -0.36
25 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2.04 2.43 -0.39
26 Tennessee Titans 1.52 1.94 -0.41
27 Cleveland Browns 1.74 2.2 -0.46
28 Dallas Cowboys 1.77 2.25 -0.48
29 Jacksonville Jaguars 1.77 2.52 -0.75
30 Detroit Lions 1.64 2.5 -0.86
31 Chicago Bears 1.77 2.77 -1
32 San Francisco 49ers 1.24 2.35 -1.11

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 plus seasons unless they were tied or winning at half-time. In their two earlier victories this season, the Rams were either tied or leading at the half.

The Rams once again held true to form in the game against the 49ers. The Rams went into the locker room with a healthy 20-6 lead. The Rams' stout defense held the 49ers to no points in the second half and Todd Gurley did the rest, in a 27-6 Rams victory. 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 seven games this season, the Rams have outscored their opponents 72-57 in the second half, while being outscored 68-63 in the first half. The Rams are 4-0 this season when leading or tied at the half, and 0-3 when behind starting the 3rd quarter.

Weekly Summary

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
6 Bye Bye Bye Bye Bye Bye
7 Positive Positive Positive Positive 10  3 Won 24-6
8 Negative Positive Positive Even 20  6 Won 27-6

Positive results pretty much across the board equate to a decisive win for the Rams against the San Francisco 49ers. 3rd down conversions (last in the league) and Red Zone scoring (22nd in the league) continue to be problematic for the Rams' offense. In contrast, the Rams' defense is first in the league in fewest Red Zone touchdowns allowed.

Pro Football Focus Player Grades

Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Rams’ 27-6 win over the 49ers.

San Francisco 49ers

– QB Colin Kaepernick (-6.5) continued to showcase his inability to get anything going offensively. His passing grade of -8.1 was the lowest of the week by a long shot. He rarely attempted passes that traveled 10+ yards in the air, and when he did, he struggled, completing only 2-of-11 for 49 yards. Kaepernick was under pressure on 36 percent of his dropbacks, and was a mere 3-for-13 for 12 yards when under pressure. He did finish with a positive rushing grade, but that’s never been an issue for Kaepernick. His throws were all over the place in this game, and at this point, it’s worth questioning if he really gives the 49ers the best chance to win.

– CB Tramaine Brock (+1.0) had a good day in pass coverage, finishing with a coverage grade of +1.7. He was targeted five times, but allowed only two completions for 14 yards. He also had a beautiful pass breakup. S Jaquiski Tartt (+2.9) also had a solid day for the 49ers’ defense, finishing with a team-high grade. He finished with a +1.9 in coverage, thanks to a couple of big stops for minimal gain, and a forced fumble. He also had a positive run defense grade. Overall, the 49ers had solid pass defense on the day, allowing the Rams to complete only 14-of-22 attempts for 206 yards and one touchdown.

– The 49ers’ offensive line looked completely overmatched the entire game against a strong Rams’ defensive line. Only one offensive lineman had a positive grade: T Erik Pears (+0.3). It was a rough day for G Alex Boone (-6.8), who allowed two QB hits and two pressures, and was blown up multiple times in the run game. Same goes for G Jordan Devey (-5.8). The 49ers’ rushing attack finished with a paltry 18 yards on 17 attempts, and much of that was due to the poor offensive line play.

Top Performers:

S Jaquiski Tartt (+2.9)
OLB Corey Lemonier (+1.2)
CB Kenneth Acker (+1.1)
TE Vance McDonald (+1.1)
CB Tramaine Brock (+1.0)

St. Louis Rams

– The Rams’ defensive line stole the show in this one, led by DT Aaron Donald (+6.6) and DE Robert Quinn (+6.1). They were all over the field making plays, especially when it came to rushing the passer. By the end of the game, the two had combined for a sack, four QB hits, and six hurries. But they also were stout against the run, finishing with +2.6 and +1.8 run defense grades, respectively. After a few weeks of below-average (by their standards) play, this game was more what everyone is used to seeing from these two star players.

– RB Todd Gurley (+1.5) showed his speed on his 71-yard touchdown run, where he went untouched thanks to him absolutely exploding through the hole and outrunning the second-level defenders of the 49ers—all the way to the end zone. But take away that run, and the 49ers’ defense held him to only 62 yards on 19 attempts. He didn’t get much help from his offensive line, as they finished with a combined -12.7 grade, including -9.6 when it came to run blocking. Offensively, the Rams were not great, as they struggled to move the ball, aside from their two long-touchdown plays.

– It was a great day in coverage for the Rams’ trio of S Mark Barron (+4.0), LB Akeem Ayers (+2.0), and CB Janoris Jenkins (+3.4). Barron was targeted eight times, but allowed only three receptions for 19 yards. He also had one pass breakup. Ayers only saw four targets, and allowed two of them to be caught, for a mere 4 yards. But it was his three passes defended (he had one when he wasn’t the primary coverage) that gave him his team-high +3.9 coverage grade. Finally, Jenkins was targeted five times, and allowed just one catch for 3 yards, and a pass defended. It was a good day for a unit that allowed only 162 yards on 39 attempts.

Top Performers:

DT Aaron Donald (+6.6)
DE Robert Quinn (+6.1)
S Mark Barron (+4.0)
CB Janoris Jenkins (+3.4)
LB Akeem Ayers (+2.0)