In a Week 11 game that was painful to watch at times, the Rams lost a 16-13 squeaker to the Baltimore Ravens, a game they could have won. Couldn’t is a more appropriate word. The Rams couldn’t move the ball, couldn’t hold on to the ball (4 fumbles lost) and couldn’t hold on to a late 10 point lead. It all adds up to couldn’t win. 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 about the future of this team and wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see them make a late-season run!
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.
Turnovers played a key role in the Rams’ loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The Rams turned over the ball 4 times via fumbles. The first (by Rams QB Case Keenum) in the 3rd quarter led to no score for the Ravens. A Todd Gurley fumble early in the 4th quarter led to a Baltimore touchdown, narrowing the Rams’ lead to 13-10. The 2nd Keenum fumble (at the Rams 46 with a minute left to play) allowed the Ravens to score the game-winning field goal with 3 seconds left on the clock. For the Rams, a Trumaine Johnson interception (one of two Ravens giveaways) led to a touchdown and a 13-3 lead in the 3rd quarter. For the game, the Rams had a minus -2 Turnover Differential.
After 11 weeks, the Rams rank tied for 10th in the league in Turnover Differential (+2). The Rams are 2-2 in games with a positive Turnover Differential and 2-4 in games with an even or negative Turnover Differential.
|1||New York Giants||23||10||13|
|3||Kansas City Chiefs||18||8||10|
|4||Green Bay Packers||14||6||8|
|5||New England Patriots||13||7||6|
|9||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||20||17||3|
|10||St. Louis Rams||18||16||2|
|11||New York Jets||20||18||2|
|19||San Francisco 49ers||8||9||-1|
|23||New Orleans Saints||13||17||-4|
|28||San Diego Chargers||9||16||-7|
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 had a run of games where they were once again committing too many penalties. They were more disciplined against Baltimore, with the Rams committing only 6 infractions totalling 35 yards. The Ravens were flagged 10 times for a total of 137 yards. For the game, the Rams had a plus +102 Penalty Yards Differential.
Through 10 games, the Rams rank 10th in the NFL in Penalty Yards Differential (+78), a dramatic improvement over 2014’s results. The Rams are 3-2 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|
|8||San Francisco 49ers||10||429||509||80||5.00|
|10||St. Louis Rams||10||610||688||78||4.88|
|11||Green Bay Packers||10||556||623||67||4.19|
|12||San Diego Chargers||10||584||642||58||3.63|
|15||Kansas City Chiefs||10||536||576||40||2.50|
|18||New England Patriots||10||653||673||20||1.25|
|20||New York Jets||10||525||536||11||0.69|
|26||New Orleans Saints||10||718||501||-217||-13.56|
|27||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||10||799||568||-231||-14.44|
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 Ravens, the Rams had 1 Rushing Big Plays and 1 Passing Big Play (a 30 yard touchdown pass to Lance Kendricks). The Rams defense allowed Baltimore 4 Big Plays in total. The Rams had a minus -2 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 6th-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 31 of 128 3rd down attempts (a league-worst 24.2%).
After 10 games, the Rams rank tied for 7th in the league in Big Play Differential (+9), 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 0-4 in games with a negative or even Big Play Differential.
|Rank||Team||Plays||Big Plays||Rush||Pass||Big Play %||BPA||+/-|
|6||St. Louis Rams||571||53||37||16||9.28%||44||9|
|13||New England Patriots||667||53||27||26||7.95%||44||9|
|16||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||635||48||32||16||7.56%||39||9|
|8||Kansas City Chiefs||628||54||31||23||8.6%||47||7|
|7||Green Bay Packers||631||56||29||27||8.87%||57||-1|
|17||New York Jets||663||50||32||18||7.54%||52||-2|
|10||San Francisco 49ers||593||49||27||22||8.26%||53||-4|
|20||New Orleans Saints||696||51||27||24||7.33%||66||-15|
|27||New York Giants||651||41||22||19||6.3%||57||-16|
|32||San Diego Chargers||686||36||15||21||5.25%||55||-19|
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 Baltimore, the Rams scored 13 points on 14 drives (0.93 PPD), a poor result for the offense. The Ravens scored 16 points on 16 drives (1.00 PPD), an excellent performance by the Rams defense. For the game, the Rams had a minus -0.07 Points Per Drive Differential.
Heading into Week 12, the Rams rank 17th in the league in Points Per Drive Differential (-0.13). 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 (1.42 PPD). In contrast, the defense is ranked 3rd best in the NFL (1.55 PPD.) The Rams are 4-0 in games with a positive Points Per Drive Differential and 0-6 in games with a negative Points Per Drive Differential.
The top 10 teams in Points Per Drive Differential sport a combined 73-27 record through the first 11 weeks of the regular season.
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 Baltimore, the Rams went into the locker room at half-time winning 7-3. The Rams couldn’t hold on in the second half, ultimately losing 16-13. 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 10 games this season, the Rams have been outscored by their opponents 94-84 in the second half while being outscored 105-95 in the first half. The Rams are 4-2 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 (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|
|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|
Pro Football Focus Player Grades
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Ravens’ 16-13 win over the Rams.
St. Louis Rams
– The Rams defensive line absolutely hammered the Ravens offensive line all game long. They were led by the unblockable DT Aaron Donald (+12.3), who posted his highest grade of the season. He finished with a sack, a hit and five hurries, as well as a +5.5 run defense grade. He was consistently disrupting plays, beating double teams like they were nothing. He wasn’t alone, though, as DE William Hayes (+6.8) also had a season high grade, thanks to his two hits and four hurries rushing the passer, as well as well above-average play against the run. Overall, the Rams defense finished with a sack, five hits and 16 pressures.
– In his first game as starting QB for the Rams, QB Case Keenum (-3.1) struggled in limited attempts. He was average without pressure, completing 58.8% of his passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. But when he saw pressure (10 of 27 dropbacks), Keenum completed just 2 of 9 passes for 23 yards. He especially struggled when looking outside the numbers on the right side of the field, where he attempted just four passes total and missed on all of them (one was dropped). He also had a fumble that cost the Rams the game, though much of the blame for that can be placed on his left tackle.
– The Rams run game struggled mightily against the Ravens defense, as rookie sensation RB Todd Gurley (-2.9) gained a mere 63 yards on 25 carries. Much of his grade came from his two fumbles (one was a missed handoff from Keenum in which Gurley closed his arms too early), but he got no help from his line either. LG Garrett Reynolds (+0.4) was the only offensive lineman or tight end to grade above-average in run blocking. Overall, the offensive line combined for a -13.0 run blocking grade. It is worth noting that RT Andrew Donnal (-0.7) was injured early on, and much of the line was shuffled out of position to compensate, which may explain some of their struggles. Still, this was not a great game for the Rams’ unit.
DT Aaron Donald (+12.3)
DE William Hayes (+6.8)
DT Nick Fairley (+3.9)
CB Janoris Jenkins (+2.5)
DE Matt Longacre (+2.4)
– The Ravens offensive line was completely dominated trying to block this strong Rams’ defensive line all game long. No starter posted a positive grade. In fact their best lineman was, incredibly, LT James Hurst (+1.3) who came on in relief of injured LT Eugene Monroe (-4.2). As a unit, the starting offensive line posted a combined overall grade of -24.6, a terribly low grade. They could not open running lanes or stop the Rams’ pass rush. The Ravens’ coaching staff and QB Joe Flacco (-3.6) seemed to be well aware of this, as Flacco averaged a mere 2.09 seconds from snap to attempt.
– OLB Courtney Upshaw only recorded two stops, and had just one sack and one other QB hurry. But those numbers don’t do him justice for how disruptive he was this game. He was consistently beating blocks and blowing up plays, forcing the Rams’ RBs to change their points of attack. He arguably won them the game, with his strip sack on Keenum putting the Ravens’ in a position to kick a game-winning field goal. His partner on the right side, ILB C.J. Mosley (+1.8) didn’t do much in coverage and had a couple of penalties, but he was a beast against the run, posting a +3.4 grade thanks to a ridiculous seven run stops on 29 rushing plays.
– Flacco dropped back to pass a lot, but he was far from effective in this game. Thanks to a game plan that clearly called for him to get the ball out quickly and avoid the Rams’ pass rush, Flacco attempted just 10 passes more than 10 yards downfield. When he had a clean pocket, he was very average, completing 64% of his passes for 8.2 yards per attempt. But under pressure (44% of his dropbacks), his completion percentage dropped to 57.9% and his YPA to 4.9, as well as his two interceptions. It was a tough end for Flacco, who tore his ACL at the end of this game and will be out for the remainder of the season. His overall grade of -9.6 on the year represents the lowest-graded season of his career.
OLB Courtney Upshaw (+4.7)
NT Brandon J. Williams (+4.1)
FB Kyle Juszczyk (+2.7)
DE Timmy Jernigan (+2.3)
ILB C.J. Mosley (+1.8)