The Rams’ offense has plagued them all season. Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers was no exception. I’ve referred to the Rams as a “Jekyll and Hyde” team, one that played great games against teams like Seattle and Arizona, while playing not-so-great games against Pittsburgh and Washington. The term “Jekyll and Hyde” can now be applied to the striking difference between the defense (playoff caliber) and the offense (currently last in the league).
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 5 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 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 -12.2.
Turnovers played the key role in the Rams’ loss to the Packers on Sunday. Nick Foles threw 4 interceptions in the game, while Aaron Rodgers had a pair of interceptions and lost one fumble. For the game, the Rams were minus -1 in Turnover Differential. The Rams’ turnovers hurt them on the scoreboard. Foles’ first interception (at 1:02 of the 1st quarter) was returned for a touchdown and a 14-0 Green Bay lead. The Rams never recovered from the 14-point deficit.
After 5 games, the Rams rank 14th in the league in Turnover Differential (+1).
|4||New York Jets||13||7||6|
|6||New England Patriots||7||2||5|
|7||Green Bay Packers||9||4||5|
|8||New York Giants||8||3||5|
|14||St. Louis Rams||9||8||1|
|18||San Diego Chargers||6||8||-2|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||8||10||-2|
|20||Kansas City Chiefs||4||7||-3|
|27||San Francisco 49ers||3||7||-4|
|28||New Orleans Saints||5||10||-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.
The Rams committed 8 penalties totalling 40 yards in the game against Green Bay. The Packers were flagged 7 times for 67 yards, resulting in a plus +27 Penalty Yards Differential for the Rams.
For the season, the Rams rank 16th in the league in Penalty Yards Differential (-14), a significant improvement over last seasons results.
|Rank||Team||GP||Pen Yds||Opp. Pen Yds||Pen Yds Diff||Pen Yds Diff/Game|
|4||Kansas City Chiefs||5||218||346||128||8.00|
|6||New England Patriots||4||278||381||103||6.44|
|10||San Francisco 49ers||5||206||237||31||1.94|
|11||New York Giants||5||296||321||25||1.56|
|12||San Diego Chargers||4||209||234||25||1.56|
|17||St. Louis Rams||5||263||249||-14||-0.88|
|21||New York Jets||4||336||294||-42||-2.63|
|25||Green Bay Packers||5||330||264||-66||-4.13|
|28||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5||391||285||-106||-6.63|
|29||New Orleans Saints||5||385||273||-112||-7.00|
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 Packers, the Rams had 5 Rushing Big Plays (courtesy of another outstanding performance by Todd Gurley) and 1 Passing Big Play. The Rams defense allowed Green Bay only 3 Big Plays in total, two of which were TD passes to James Jones and Ty Montgomery from Aaron Rodgers. The Rams had a plus +3 Big Play Differential for the game.
After 5 games, the Rams rank 7th in the league in Big Play Differential (+6), mostly thanks to the efforts of RB Todd Gurley.
|Rank||Team||Plays||Big Plays||Rush||Pass||Big Play %||BPA||+/-|
|6||St. Louis Rams||271||27||19||8||9.96%||21||6|
|10||New York Jets||269||23||17||6||8.55%||18||5|
|4||Green Bay Packers||312||32||19||13||10.26%||29||3|
|25||New York Giants||328||20||11||9||6.1%||18||2|
|7||San Francisco 49ers||312||29||21||8||9.29%||29||0|
|8||Kansas City Chiefs||321||28||16||12||8.72%||28||0|
|18||San Diego Chargers||263||19||9||10||7.22%||19||0|
|12||New England Patriots||265||20||11||9||7.55%||23||-3|
|22||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||314||22||16||6||7.01%||25||-3|
|26||New Orleans Saints||340||20||12||8||5.88%||33||-13|
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 Green Bay, the Rams scored 10 points on 13 drives (0.77 PPD), a horrible result for the offense. The Packers scored 17 points on 12 drives (1.42 PPD), a fine result for the Rams’ defense. For the game, the Rams had a minus -0.65 Points Per Drive differential.
Heading into the Week 6 bye, the Rams rank 24th in the league in Points Per Drive Differential (-0.51). The main reason for the low ranking is the performance of the offense, which is tied for 31st in the NFL in Points Per Drive.
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 seasons unless they were tied or winning at half-time.
The Rams held true to form in the game against the Packers. In a closely played first half, the Rams went into the locker room losing 14-10. The Rams were unable to generate any scoring drives in the second half and succumbed 24-10 to the Pack. 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 five games this season, the Rams have only been outscored 54-51 by their opponents in the second half, while being outscored 59-33 in the first half.
|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|
I could easily add another pair of offensive statistics into the mix to show just how much the Rams’ offense is responsible for the teams’ 2-3 record: 3rd Down Conversions and Red Zone Touchdown Percentage. The Rams rank 29th in the NFL in 3rd Down Efficiency (31.3%) and rank 29th in the league in Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (42.86%).
Pro Football Focus Player Grades
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Packers’ 24-10 win over the Rams.
St. Louis Rams
– DT Aaron Donald (+1.3) has definitely cooled off a bit after what was a ridiculously hot start. While this game was still positively-graded for him, thanks to three QB hurries and three solo stops, it wasn’t quite like some of his last few games. The Packers really schemed around him this week, double-teaming him seemingly every play, and running away from him every chance they could. They did a very good job of limiting the damage he could cause, and forcing the rest of the Rams’ defense to try and beat them.
– QB Nick Foles (-8.4) was dreadful this week, posting a -7.0 passing grade along with two delay of game penalties. He struggled under pressure, which is unfortunate since he was under pressure on 61 percent of his dropbacks. There, he went 5-for-17 for 110 yards and two interceptions. On his 13 attempts without pressure, he averaged a miniscule 2.4 yards per attempt, and also threw two interceptions. Even when you take away his throwaways, a spike and a time where he was hit as he threw, he still only completed 45.8% of his passes on the day. On a day where the defense came up big against a strong Packers’ offense, Foles really cost the Rams this game.
– The Rams’ offensive line was not doing Foles or their running game any favors this week. LG Jamon Brown was the worst of the bunch, posting a team-low grade of -8.7. That was thanks in large part to a -5.7 grade against the run. He was constantly beaten by the Packers’ interior defensive line, and rarely won any blocking battles. As a whole, the offensive line allowed three sacks, nine QB hits and nine additional hurries. The lone bright spot was RG Garrett Reynolds, who posted a +2.1 run block grade coming on in relief of injured RG Rodger Saffold (-5.1). Saffold managed to allow a QB hit and three QB hurries despite only being on the field for nine passing plays before being injured.
DE Robert Quinn (+3.1)
S Mark Barron (+2.2)
LB James Laurinaitis (+2.1)
S T.J. McDonald (+1.9)
DE William Hayes (+1.9)
Green Bay Packers
– QB Aaron Rodgers (-3.8) had an incredibly uncharacteristic bad game yesterday, posting his lowest passing grade since Week 12 of 2008. It wasn’t a case of too much pressure, as he only felt pressure on 23 percent of his dropbacks, but rather he just simply seemed off. His second interception was a great play by the defender, but a read and a throw Rodgers would love to have back. There was also a two-play sequence in the third quarter which began with Rodgers throwing the ball directly at the hands of a Rams’ defensive lineman, only to see him drop it. The very next play Rodgers held the ball in a bad spot with one hand, and was stripped. This seemed like an anomaly more than any kind of trend, but it was certainly strange to see Rodgers struggle like he did.
– The Packers defense played well, but RE Mike Daniels (+6.4) was on another level for this team. Almost every play, especially in the run game (+4.5 run defense grade), Daniels was getting involved. He made seven tackles, five of them stops, and also had two QB hits and a hurry. A lot of his work in the run game didn’t show up on the stat sheet. He consistently beat his block so quickly that the Rams’ running backs were forced to cut away from their intended hole, and try another non-designed direction. Daniels was the main reason that the Rams (not counting Gurley’s big 55-yard run) averaged only 3.9 yards per carry.
– The duo of Clay Matthews (+3.9) and Julius Peppers (+3.8) were a two-man wrecking crew when it came to rushing the passer in yesterday’s game. They each had identical grades of +4.2 in pass rushing, and together combined for three sacks, six QB hits and four additional hurries. On almost every third down play they were getting some kind of pressure on Rams QB Nick Foles. The Packers also had a nice contribution from LE Letroy Guion (+1.8), who managed one QB hit and two QB hurries on only eight pass rushes. It was a good day for the Packers pass rush, as they totalled four sacks, 13 QB hits and 10 QB hurries.
RE Mike Daniels (+6.4)
ILB Clay Matthews (+3.9)
OLB Julius Peppers (+3.8)
OLB Nick Perry (+2.6)
OLB Mike Neal (+2.3)