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Per Football Outsiders’ Drive Stats, Sean McVay Has The LA Rams’ Offense Rolling

Football Outsiders has 18 offensive drive stats, and the LA Rams are better in every single one. Way better.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

By now, you’ve probably heard the news. Sean McVay appears to have helped the Los Angeles Rams’ offense make a quick about-face, and they’re putting up points on offense...lots of them.

But just how well does the offense stack up against others in the NFL? And how much better are they compared to last year? Over at Football Outsiders, Jim Armstrong updates NFL Drive Stats on a weekly basis, and it’s fair to say the early results (through Week 3) point to the Rams being a legitimate threat when the offense is on the field.

Let’s take a closer look at each metric for the Rams’ 32 offensive drives, their ranking for each, and if they’ve improved over 2016 averages. Hint: they have.

Yards Per Drive (Yds/Dr): 34.0 (6th)

At first glance, 34 yards certainly doesn’t sound like much. But if the Rams can start their drive at, let’s say, their own 32 yard line, then the average drive would stall at the opponent’s 34 yard line. That’s well within Greg Zuerlein’s range. Three points isn’t the goal of each drive, but being in a position to do so is a good problem to have.

The Atlanta Falcons, go figure, are moving the ball well. They lead the league, averaging 41.43 yards per drive. Sheesh.

Rams Yds/Dr in 2016: 22.36 (32nd)

Points Per Drive (Pts/Dr) - 2.84 (2nd)

The Falcons (2.86 pts/dr) may be moving the ball, but the Rams are right up there with them in terms of scoring. Points are pretty important, so it’s nice to see the Rams at the top of the list, and not, well, you know.

The Patriots, who are also pretty good football, sit right behind the Rams in 3rd (2.75 pts/dr).

2016 Stat for this metric: 1.17 (32nd)

Turnovers Per Drive (TOs/Dr): .062 (10th)

The Rams’ defense has forced some pretty exciting, and very necessary, turnovers to start the 2017 season. But the team’s turnover differential through three games is 0 — meaning they’ve coughed the ball up as often as they’ve taken it away. Jared Goff has thrown only one interception as we near the quarter mark of the 2017 season, but the Rams have put the ball on the ground four times thus far.

It’s hard to harp on them when they’ve scored 107 points in the three games (double any other NFC West team), but they’ve gotta get that cleaned up.

Rams TOs/Dr in 2016: .150 (28th)

Interceptions Per Drive (INT/Dr): .031 (9th)

Jared Goff has thrown one interception in three games (he threw three in his first three games of 2016). That could be the 32nd rank score and it still wouldn’t bother me.

Five teams - the Chiefs, Vikings, Patriots, Saints, and Seahawks - have yet exceed .000 on the year.

Rams INT/Dr in 2016: .107 (29th)

Fumbles Per Drive (FUM/Dr): .031 (17th)

We’ve touched on this a bit already, so I won’t belabor the point. Todd Gurley has had two fumbles on run plays, and two as a receiver. He accounts for all four fumbles on the year. Again, it’s hard to beat the guy up when he appears to have reverted to the player who won the offensive rookie of the year award in 2015, but he’s got to do a better job protecting the ball.

Eight teams - the Falcons, Bills, Cowboys, Chargers, Dolphins, Saints, Giants, and Titans - have yet to fumble the ball on offense through three games.

Rams FUM/Dr in 2016: .043 (16th)

Line of Scrimmage Per Drive (LOS/Dr): 32.12 (5th)

Unless I’m mistaken, this figure takes into account the average starting field position for the Rams on any drive — meaning at the 3 yard line following a Nickell Robey-Coleman INT, or at their own 2 yard line following a weird series of offsetting penalties on a kickoff return against the Redskins.

It also, of course, includes some pretty good returns by Pharoh Cooper and some pretty bad ones by Tavon Austin.

But the 32 yard line isn’t a bad place to be starting drives, considering their ability - at least early on - to move the ball downfield.

Rams LOS/Dr in 2016: 27.01 (26th)

Plays Per Drive (Plays/Dr): 5.59 (23rd)

Of the 18 drive metrics that Armstrong covers for Football Outsiders, this ranking (23rd) is the lowest for the Rams. A team’s ability to sustain drives - the convert those third downs - is extremely important.

But it’s not as bad as it sounds, and the Rams (who rank No. 1 in the NFL in points scored), are clearly not having a problem putting it through the uprights or into the end zone.

If the Rams are able to increase their Plays/Dr number by half a play - or what I’m calling “a Jeff Fisher play” - they move from 23rd to 10th.

For comparisons sake, the New Orleans Saints lead the league in Plays/DR with 6.75.

Rams Plays/Dr in 2016: 5.21 (31st)

Time of Possession Per Drive (TOP/Dr): 2:44 (15th)

Long, sustained drives just clearly aren’t McVay’s thing. The Rams move the ball efficiently on offense, play with intensity, and put up points...lots of points.

It’s hard to be mad at him, ya know?

Rams TOP/DR in 2016: 2:30 (29th)

Drive Success Rate (DSR): .728 (7th)

FO defines DSR as:

DSR represents Drive Success Rate, as introduced in Pro Football Prospectus 2005, which measures the percentage of down series that result in a first down or touchdown. Take-a-knee drives at the end of a half are discarded.

It goes without saying that three-and-outs are bad. Not scoring points is bad. Luckily, the Rams’ offense isn’t, and they stack right up there among the league’s best when it comes to moving the sticks each series.

The Minnesota Vikings (6th) come in just ahead of the Rams at .729, and the Falcons once again lead the league (.759). Shout out to the Colts (.571)!

Rams DSR in 2016: .599 (32nd)

Touchdowns Per Drive (TDs/Dr): .312 (3rd)

If there were a way to insert emojis into this article, this is where I’d placed the elated one with the pearly whites. The Rams aren’t quite there - the Patriots are (.333) - but they’re scoring touchdowns on nearly every third drive.

Touchdowns...the six point plays. The Rams are doing those. They’re averaging 4.0 touchdowns per game through the first three weeks of 2017. They averaged 1.5 touchdowns per game in 2016. That was good for, you guessed it, dead last.

Rams TDs/Dr in 2016: .123 (32nd)

Field Goals Per Drive (FGs/Dr): .219 (5th)

It all adds up. Greg Zuerlein has converted all seven of his field goals (t-3rd) this season. He’s also made all 12 of his extra points (1st).

Again touchdowns are the goal, but when you take into account the LOS/Dr, DSR, and Yds/Dr figures from above, it lends itself to scoring. Teamwork makes the dream work!

Rams FGs/Dr in 2016: .102 (30th)

Punts Per Drive (Punts/Dr): .344 (5th)

As much as I enjoy a Johnny Hekker punt, I’d be perfectly fine with never seeing another one. He’s more than welcome to come out on 4th downs and work on his 100% completion percentage.

This says the Rams, roughly, punt on a third of their drives. That’s not too shabby when you consider that the Seahawks are punting on .618 of theirs (32nd). /insert happy face with jazz hands emoji.

Rams Punts/Dr in 2016: .524 (32nd)

Three and Outs Per Drive (3Outs/Dr): .250 (17th)

One in every four drives results in three plays and the rare sight of Johnny Hekker.

The other LA team, the Chargers, leads the league with a pretty incredible .129 3Outs/Dr on 31 drives. That means they’ve had to punt just four times after three plays thus far.

Rams 3Outs/Dr in 2016: .316 (32nd)

Line of Scrimmage Following Kickoff (LOS/KO): 26.06 (7th)

So this one’s all Pharoh Cooper, who has the 2nd most kick return yards (177) through the first three weeks of 2017.

It’s nothing special, but I’m not sure (as) many fans are feeling the loss of Benny Cunningham the way they’d expected.

The Tennessee Titans (30.47) are the only team consistently getting the ball beyond the 30 yard line.

Rams LOS/KO in 2016: 24.56 (22nd)

TD/FG: 1.43 (11th)

The ratio of touchdowns to field goals (10:7). The Rams probably lean on Greg Zuerlein a little more than they’d prefer, but he’s still perfect on the year and the Rams are still a 2-1 atop the NFC West.

The Chiefs lead the league in this metric, with an impressive 4.00 (12 TD’s to 3 FG’s).

Rams TD/FG in 2016: 1.21 (22nd)

Points Per Red Zone Appearance (Pts/RZ): 5.47 (7th)

The Rams struggled to simply get into the red zone last year, so just seeing them get inside the 20 seems a bit of a morale victory. But not in 2017.

The Rams are no only getting deep into their opponent’s territory this season, but they’re putting up points when they do. Even better, in 15 red zone appearances this season, they’re getting far more than a field goal out of it.

But how often can they punch it in for six?

Rams Pts/RZ in 2016: 4.44 (26th)

Touchdowns Per Red Zone Appearance (TD/RZ): .667 (8th)

Two-thirds of the time (10 out of 15) the Rams get into the red zone and the result is a touchdown.

Rams TD/RZ in 2016: .471 (25th)

Average Lead at Beginning of Drive (Avg. Lead): 7.47 (2nd)

Believe it or not, but the Rams are up by more than a touchdown (on average) when starting each drive this season. If you’re used to them playing from behind, and let’s face it we all are, that’s because they spent the entirety of 2016 (again, on average) down by 6.

Rams Avg. Lead in 2016: -6.01 (32nd)

A few notes:

  • Of the 18 FO drive stats, the Rams were a bottom 5 team in 12 of them in 2016. They ranked 32nd in seven of them.
  • From a statistics standpoint, the Rams are improved in every category thus far in 2017. Only FUM/Dr is “worse” from a rankings standpoint (17th vs. 16th), but the actual number of fumbles per drive is lower.
  • The Rams are currently Top 10 in 13 of the 18 metrics. They are Top 5 in six of them.
  • The biggest jump, in terms of ranking, is in Pts/Dr and Avg. Lead — both of which the Rams are currently ranked 2nd and finished dead last in 2016.