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Football Geekery (Week of Nov. 19)

Posted Nov 23, 2012

This week's studies include Doug Martin's ability to gain yards after contact, Tampa Bay's dominance in the third quarter and the advantage of short drives


Coaches don't always care for stats…but we love them!  Each week, we're going to give you a closer look at three or four pieces of statistical analysis, hopefully in a way that is relevant to the Buccaneers' current state of affairs.

 

Let's get started.

 

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1. Bounce Off, Keep Going

 

Doug Martin made a name for himself (and started a renaming frenzy) with his 251-yard rushing game at Oakland in Week Eight.  That game included touchdown runs of 70, 67 and 45 yards, which were mostly Martin breaking into open space and then out-running everyone.

 

Obviously, Martin will take as many of those opportunities as he can get, but on the majority of his carries he's going to come into contact with at least one defender somewhere around the line of scrimmage or a few yards after.  The compactly-built Martin is undeniably a home run threat, but he has also proven quite good at pushing the pile forward for extra yards during the season's many mundane runs.

 

In fact, only Minnesota's Adrian Peterson has gained more yards after contact this season than Martin, either overall or on a per-carry basis.  According to Statspass, of the 1,000 yards that the Buccaneer rookie has picked up on the ground this season, 532 of it has come after he has made contact with a defender.  Peterson's totals: 567 yards after contact out of his 1,128 total.

 

It seems clear that an ability to either break tackles or at least gain extra yardage while going to the ground is an essential talent for the game's best backs.  If you compare the league's overall leading rushers this season to the lists of most yards after contact and most yards per play after contact, you don't see many differences.

 

Here are the top five rushers in the NFL after Week 11 (before the Thanksgiving Day games):

 

Player, Team

Yards

1. Adrian Peterson, MIN

1,128

2. Marshawn Lynch, SEA

1,005

3. Doug Martin, TB

1,000

4. Arian Foster, HOU

949

5. Alfred Morris, WAS

869

 

Here are the top five rushers in the NFL in terms of yards after contact:

 

Player, Team

YAC

1. Adrian Peterson, MIN

567

2. Doug Martin, TB

532

3. Marshawn Lynch, SEA

458

4. Alfred Morris, WAS

422

5. Arian Foster, HOU

403

 

And here are top five rushers in the NFL in terms of yards after contact per carry (minimum 100 carries):

 

Player, Team

YAC/Att.

1. Adrian Peterson, MIN

2.9

2. C.J. Spiller, BUF

2.8

3. Doug Martin, TB

2.7

4. Ryan Matthews, SD

2.3

5. Alfred Morris, WAS

2.3

 

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2. Second-Half Surge

 

Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano believes the idea of sweeping "halftime adjustments" is overblown in the NFL for two reasons: 1) the actual halftime period is so brief that there's little time for in-depth discussions, and; 2) important adjustments are going on all throughout the game, not just at the intermission.

 

So give credit to those ongoing adjustments for what is a pretty impressive trend the Buccaneers have established this year.  Tampa Bay is not only putting up points after halftime with regularity, but it is also slowing down its opponents just as frequently after halftime.  While the Bucs' scoring from the second quarter to third quarter stays almost the same (61 points in the second to 62 in the third), its opponents' totals drop from 79 in the second to just 17 in the third.

 

In fact, the Buccaneers have the best third-quarter scoring differential in the entire NFL, and it's not particularly close.  That's a product of tying for sixth in points scored in that period and ranking at the very top in points allowed.  Here are the top five teams in the NFL in terms of third-quarter scoring differential.

 

Team

Pts. Scored

Pts. Against

Diff.

1. Tampa Bay

62

17

45

2. New England

86

54

32

3. Chicago

56

26

30

4. Baltimore

82

53

29

5. Philadelphia

61

34

27

 

That 45 in the third quarter accounts for the majority of the Bucs' 57 scoring differential overall this season.  It's quite possible that part of that third-quarter success formula is something that takes place before the game even begins.  Schiano believes in deferring the choice after winning the coin toss, which means the Bucs consistently get the ball first to start the second half.  Winning nine out of 10 game-opening flips certainly hasn't hurt in that effort.

 

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3. Making Turnovers Count

 

Earlier this week, Atlanta Head Coach Mike Smith pointed out one of the Bucs' great strengths this season: Converting turnovers into points.  Tampa Bay has scored 11 touchdowns off turnovers this season, either on returns of the actual takeaways or on the drives that immediately followed the change of possession.

 

That proficiency is also reflected in how many more points Tampa Bay has been able to glean off of short-field drives this season, as opposed to their opponents.  The Buccaneers have four times as many touchdowns as their opponents on drives that have to cover less than half of the field.

 

Not all of the drives Tampa Bay has started in opposing territory have been the result of takeaways, but a good number of them have.  Here are the number of possessions the Bucs and their opponents have had this season that have started on the other side of the 50, and what each team has done with them.

 

 

Drives

TDs

FGs

Buccaneers

17

8

3

Opponents

8

2

4

 

As  you can see, not only have the Buccaneers benefitted from nearly twice as many short drives as their opponents, but they've scored far more points off of them.  Amazingly, the Bucs have not allowed a touchdown on a drive that started inside their own territory since the fourth week of the season.  (This does not include turnovers returned directly for scores.)

 

If one expands the study 10 more yards, to drives that start at a spot better than a team's own 40-yard line, it gets even better for Tampa Bay.  The Bucs have had 13 more drives that started 50-59 yards away from the opposing goal line, and they've added two touchdowns and five field goals in that situation.  Their opponents have had just four more drives in that range, and none of them have produced points.

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