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St. Louis Rams At Cincinnati Bengals: Key Stats Analysis - Week 12

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Throughout the 2015 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. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

In a Week 12 game that was painful to watch at times, the Rams were beaten decisively by the Cincinnati Bengals, 31-7. Compiling and analysing the statistics for this stinker of a game turned out to be equally as painful, mostly when they were related to the offense. Notwithstanding all of that, I'm still pretty hopeful and optimistic about the future of this team. It wouldn't surprise me if the Rams turned it around and finished .500 or better on the season.

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

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 plus 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 course of 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.

Turnovers played a key role in the Rams' loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, with Nick Foles throwing throwing three interceptions. The first interception, with under a minute to go in the first half and the Rams threatening to score, quelled a drive that could have narrowed the 17-7 deficit before half-time. A pick-six at 5:29 of the 3rd quarter put the game completely of reach (31-7). For the game, the Rams had a minus -2 Turnover Differential.

After Week 12, the Rams rank tied for 14th in the league in Turnover Differential (0). The Rams are 2-2 in games with a positive Turnover Differential and 2-5 in games with an even or negative Turnover Differential.

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

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 have had a run of games where they are once again committing too many penalties. In the game against Cincinnati, the Rams committed 7 infractions totalling 45 yards. The Bengals were flagged 3 times for a total of 35 yards. For the game, the Rams had a minus -10 Penalty Yards Differential.

Through 11 games, the Rams rank 11th in the NFL in Penalty Yards Differential (+68), a dramatic improvement over 2014's results. The Rams are 3-2 in games with a positive or even Penalty Yards Differential and 1-5 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 11 531 906 375 23.44
2 Indianapolis Colts 11 591 922 331 20.69
3 Philadelphia Eagles 11 573 830 257 16.06
4 Tennessee Titans 11 589 807 218 13.63
5 New York Giants 11 589 784 195 12.19
6 Pittsburgh Steelers 11 605 797 192 12.00
7 Green Bay Packers 11 594 718 124 7.75
8 Jacksonville Jaguars 11 649 728 79 4.94
9 Miami Dolphins 11 721 795 74 4.63
10 Kansas City Chiefs 11 594 667 73 4.56
11 St. Louis Rams 11 655 723 68 4.25
12 Washington Redskins 11 596 661 65 4.06
13 Houston Texans 11 654 713 59 3.69
14 Minnesota Vikings 11 585 639 54 3.38
15 Cincinnati Bengals 11 673 721 48 3.00
16 San Francisco 49ers 11 510 556 46 2.88
17 San Diego Chargers 11 654 677 23 1.44
18 New England Patriots 11 700 719 19 1.19
19 New York Jets 11 565 581 16 1.00
20 Dallas Cowboys 11 616 614 -2 -0.13
21 Chicago Bears 11 679 669 -10 -0.63
22 Detroit Lions 11 593 574 -19 -1.19
23 Carolina Panthers 11 579 532 -47 -2.94
24 Oakland Raiders 11 736 623 -113 -7.06
25 Cleveland Browns 11 758 630 -128 -8.00
26 Seattle Seahawks 11 717 463 -254 -15.88
27 New Orleans Saints 11 800 541 -259 -16.19
28 Baltimore Ravens 11 801 523 -278 -17.38
29 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11 894 613 -281 -17.56
30 Buffalo Bills 11 943 650 -293 -18.31
31 Atlanta Falcons 11 762 468 -294 -18.38
32 Denver Broncos 11 816 478 -338 -21.13

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 Bengals, the Rams had 1 Rushing Big Play (a 60 yard scamper by Tavon Austin that led to the Rams' only TD of the game) and 1 Passing Big Play. The Rams defense allowed Cincinnati 5 Big Plays in total. The Rams had a minus -3 Big Play Differential for the game.

Are the Rams too reliant on big plays? Jeff Fisher didn't seem to think so 3 weeks ago:

"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 8th-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 has lead to a league-low in total plays run and results in too many 3rd and long situations (and the chains getting rust on them). The Rams have converted only 37 of 143 3rd down attempts (a league-worst 25.9%).

After 11 games, the Rams rank tied for 11th in the league in Big Play Differential (+6), mostly 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 0-5 in games with a negative or even Big Play Differential.

Team Big Plays Statistics
Rank Team Plays Big Plays Rush Pass Big Play % BPA +/-
6 Carolina Panthers 732 66 43 23 9.02% 34 32
4 Seattle Seahawks 696 68 46 22 9.77% 40 28
1 Minnesota Vikings 688 70 52 18 10.17% 47 23
9 Cincinnati Bengals 704 60 33 27 8.52% 38 22
2 Buffalo Bills 692 68 47 21 9.83% 50 18
3 Pittsburgh Steelers 684 67 36 31 9.8% 49 18
11 Jacksonville Jaguars 725 59 33 26 8.14% 49 10
5 Kansas City Chiefs 686 63 36 27 9.18% 55 8
19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 697 50 34 16 7.17% 42 8
20 Baltimore Ravens 735 52 29 23 7.07% 44 8
8 St. Louis Rams 642 55 38 17 8.57% 49 6
13 Philadelphia Eagles 767 59 37 22 7.69% 53 6
7 Green Bay Packers 704 63 34 29 8.95% 59 4
16 New England Patriots 728 54 27 27 7.42% 50 4
12 Arizona Cardinals 708 56 31 25 7.91% 54 2
14 New York Jets 735 56 37 19 7.62% 54 2
22 Atlanta Falcons 751 52 36 16 6.92% 50 2
24 Denver Broncos 714 48 29 19 6.72% 47 1
10 San Francisco 49ers 648 54 30 24 8.33% 57 -3
23 Dallas Cowboys 684 47 35 12 6.87% 51 -4
27 Houston Texans 793 49 27 22 6.18% 53 -4
18 Oakland Raiders 682 49 24 25 7.18% 60 -11
21 Chicago Bears 714 50 29 21 7% 61 -11
25 Indianapolis Colts 747 49 25 24 6.56% 61 -12
31 Detroit Lions 715 38 17 21 5.31% 52 -14
26 New York Giants 718 45 22 23 6.27% 61 -16
29 Tennessee Titans 669 39 26 13 5.83% 55 -16
17 New Orleans Saints 752 54 29 25 7.18% 73 -19
15 Miami Dolphins 669 51 28 23 7.62% 71 -20
32 San Diego Chargers 757 40 17 23 5.28% 62 -22
28 Cleveland Browns 712 44 21 23 6.18% 69 -25
30 Washington Redskins 691 39 22 17 5.64% 64 -25

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 (offense) 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. Conversely, the lower the points per drive allowed by the defense, the better.

In the game against Cincinnati, the Rams scored 7 points on 12 drives (0.58 PPD), a poor, dismal result for the offense. The Bengals scored 24 points on 11 drives (2.18 PPD), a below-average performance by the Rams defense. For the game, the Rams had a minus -1.60 Points Per Drive Differential.

Heading into Week 13, the Rams rank tied for 22nd in the league in Points Per Drive Differential (-0.31). The main reason for the lower-than-average ranking is the performance of the offense, which is 31st in the NFL in Points Per Drive (1.35 PPD). In contrast, the defense is ranked 7th best in the NFL (1.65 PPD.) The Rams are 4-0 in games with a positive Points Per Drive Differential and 0-7 in games with a negative Points Per Drive Differential.

The top 10 teams in Points Per Drive Differential sport a combined 80-30 record through the first 12 weeks of the regular season.

Team Points Per Drive Statistics
Team Points Per Drive Points Per Drive Against Point Differential
1 New England Patriots 2.63 1.64 0.99
2 Arizona Cardinals 2.73 1.79 0.94
3 Carolina Panthers 2.41 1.49 0.92
4 Cincinnati Bengals 2.38 1.6 0.78
5 Kansas City Chiefs 2.21 1.72 0.49
6 Seattle Seahawks 2.15 1.76 0.39
7 Denver Broncos 1.88 1.53 0.35
8 Green Bay Packers 2.05 1.73 0.31
9 New York Jets 1.93 1.65 0.28
10 Minnesota Vikings 1.89 1.62 0.28
11 Pittsburgh Steelers 2.05 1.81 0.24
12 Atlanta Falcons 2.11 1.92 0.2
13 New York Giants 2.33 2.17 0.17
14 Buffalo Bills 2.06 1.93 0.13
15 Indianapolis Colts 1.87 1.91 -0.04
16 Houston Texans 1.66 1.71 -0.05
17 Baltimore Ravens 2.02 2.09 -0.07
18 Oakland Raiders 2.06 2.22 -0.16
19 Washington Redskins 1.99 2.17 -0.18
20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2 2.21 -0.21
21 Philadelphia Eagles 1.72 1.99 -0.26
22 St. Louis Rams 1.35 1.65 -0.31
23 Detroit Lions 1.85 2.17 -0.31
24 Chicago Bears 1.85 2.2 -0.35
25 Dallas Cowboys 1.77 2.21 -0.44
26 Tennessee Titans 1.57 2.02 -0.45
27 Miami Dolphins 1.72 2.17 -0.46
28 Jacksonville Jaguars 1.77 2.23 -0.46
29 San Diego Chargers 2.05 2.54 -0.49
30 New Orleans Saints 2.01 2.65 -0.64
31 Cleveland Browns 1.68 2.4 -0.73
32 San Francisco 49ers 1.28 2.26 -0.98

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 Cincinnati, the Rams went into the locker room at half-time losing 17-7. The Rams were held scoreless in the 2nd half, losing 31-7. In an interesting reversal of form, the Rams (in contrast to 2014) are playing better football in the 2nd half of games than they did last year. In 11 games this season, the Rams have been outscored by their opponents 108-84 in the second half while being outscored 122-102 in the first half. The Rams are 4-2 when leading or tied at the half, and 0-5 when behind starting the 3rd quarter.

Weekly Summary

Week Turnover Diff. Big Play Diff. PPD Diff. PY Diff. Half-Time Game Score
1 (Sea) Negative Positive Positive Positive 10  10 Won 34-31 OT
2 (Was) Positive Negative Negative Negative 0  17 Lost 24-10
3 (Pit) Even Positive Negative Negative 3  9 Lost 12-6
4 (Ari) Positive Positive Positive Negative 10  9 Won 24-22
5 (GB) Negative Positive Negative Positive 10  14 Lost 24-10
6 (Bye) Bye Bye Bye Bye Bye Bye
7 (Cle) Positive Positive Positive Positive 10  3 Won 24-6
8 (SF) Negative Positive Positive Even 20  6 Won 27-6
9 (Min) Positive Even Negative Negative 15  10 Lost 21-18
10 (Chi) Even Negative Negative Negative 10  24 Lost 37-13
11 (Bal) Negative Negative Negative Positive 7  3 Lost 16-13
12 (Cin) Negative Negative Negative Negative 7  17 Lost 31-7

Negatives across the board can only mean one thing: a big loss. And that it was.

Pro Football Focus Player Grades

Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Bengals’ 31-7 win over the Rams.

St. Louis Rams

– Another game and another pair of nightmarish throws from Nick Foles (-2.9). There are so many problems in his game right now that it’s difficult to see him ever regaining the form he had in Philadelphia a couple of years ago. His pick-six was one of the worst throws I’ve seen all season, as it combined two huge no-nos for a quarterback: throwing late over the middle and throwing across his body.

– If there is one consistent bright spot for this offense, it’s Tavon Austin (+2.1). He once again broke another big play on Sunday, a 60-yard run on a jet sweep that set up the Rams’ only touchdown on yet another jet sweep from Austin. Both plays were made possible by nothing other than Austin’s pure speed to the corner. The third-year receiver broke a ridiculous six tackles on six receptions, and had 42 of his 33 yards come after the catch on the day.

– Is it too soon to trash the Greg Robinson (-3.3) pick? Even if the No. 2 overall pick from 2014 does somehow turn it around, they’ve still wasted two years out of a possible five-year rookie deal with truly dreadful play from the left tackle. He’s now had six straight games of -2.0 play or lower after allowing six pressures on Sunday.

Top performers:

DT Aaron Donald (+2.7)
DE William Hayes (+2.4)
WR Tavon Austin (+2.1)
LB Akeem Ayers (+2.1)
RB Tre Mason (+0.9)

Cincinnati Bengals

– After a fantastic start to the year, Andy Dalton (+0.1) has returned to approximately the same player he’s been his entire career, with a +1.5 overall grade since Week 5. He’ll make absolutely gorgeous throws over the middle of the field, like the touchdowns to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, but then panic when plays break down, and force it into small windows like the Janoris Jenkins interception and the near pick from Darren Bates in the back of the end zone. Both were late throws, and both windows were shrinking quickly.

– Facing one of the best defensive lines in the entire NFL, the Bengals’ offensive line acquitted themselves nicely. No player graded higher than +1.0, but only Russell Bodine (-2.5) and Andre Smith (-1.3) graded negatively. That’s usually considered a success against a front four that, just last week, handed our top-graded guard, Marshal Yanda, his lowest-graded game in two seasons. They combined to allow only five pressures on the day.

– Quite the eventful day for Dre Kirkpatrick (+2.0), who had by far his best game of the season. The cornerback was targeted 11 times and allowed six catches, but for only 34 yards. He also had three pass breakups, and he actually led the Bengals in stops with five. Even on some of the first downs he did concede, Kirkpatrick was in solid position to secure the tackle. It was only his second positively graded game all season.

Top performers:

DT Geno Atkins (+6.3)
CB Leon Hall (+3.6)
DE Carlos Dunlap (+3.2)
DE Wallace Gilberry (+2.4)
WR A.J. Green (+2.1)