A Deeper Look at the Offensive Playcalling

What you're about to read is a futile attempt to gain some further understanding of our offensive game plan/play calling by breaking down the play by play. I'm a numbers guy so I get some sick enjoyment out of dumping data into spreadsheet and then trying to make sense of it, lets see if anyone else likes this.......

Offensive 3rd Downs: We had 19 third down plays with an average "to go" distance of 7.4 yards and converted 11 of them. For comparison purposes, 19 third down attempts is tied for the most in week one so far with the Eagles (league average so far is 12.6 and 11 of the 28 teams to play so far had 10 or less). As you could imagine with a "to go" distance a bit higher than you'd like, most of the third down play calls were passes, 17 of 19 in fact, and 15 of 19 were from the shotgun formation. To Ben's credit, he did a masterful job of completing 11 of 15 passes on third down (including both TDs), which led to the 57% conversion rate for the game. Ben also did a pretty good job of spreading his third down targets around with Wallace, Sanders, Brown and Miller all having between three and five targets. There is no way there are sustainable numbers though so the offense will have to do a much better job on first and second downs.

Running Game (or lack thereof): You don't have to look any further than the standard box score to see that the running game struggled (2.9 ypc), but can we learn anything from going a bit deeper?

  • It was second down runs that resulted in the poorest results, 10 attempts for 24 yards and three of the four runs that didn't even get back to the line of scrimmage. To make things even worse, the first five second down runs were proceeded by first down runs and the net result of those ten rushing attempts was 19 yards.
  • If directional running is what you're into, the ground game had its best results going to the left side (41 yards on 13 carries - 3.2 ypc) and posted almost identical numbers going to the right or up the middle six rushes in both directions netted 16 and 15 yards, respectively.
  • There were five rushes that produced zero or less yards and all but one of these carries came on a second down play. Other than that, they were split fairly evenly between backs and directionally. Redman had three and Batch and Rainey both had one. Two of these rushes went to the right, two to the left and one up the middle.
  • If you're looking for a silver lining, it might be that the running game was at least slightly improved in the second half, going from an average of 2.1 in the first half to 3.9 in the second. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider that included in these numbers is a 4th down QB sneak and a goal line carry that resulted in the loss of a yard. So what changed in the second half that might have led to the improvement, and more importantly what could we hope carries over into future weeks? Well for starters, they spent most of the second half in the shotgun and were much more successful running the ball out of that formation for the whole game (averaged 3.5 ypc for the game as a whole and 4.5 in the second half). You could also certainly make a case that the Broncos defense simply wore down from being on the field for so long (added ammo if you like this argument, first quarter rushing resulted in six carries for one yard and everything after that was 74 yards on 20 carries).

Redzone Playcalling: First the facts, we ran 13 red zone plays with four rushes and 9 passes (I am not counting a spike to stop the clock at the end of the first half). The four rushes resulted in 11 yards, although nine of them came on Dwyer's almost TD. Ben was four of nine for 20 yards and both TDs. One thing that I think is fairly unique about our red zone opportunities is that a seemingly high number of the plays came from very deep in the red zone (seven of 13 plays were from the four yard line or closer). I'm still trying to wrap my head around what exactly that means and what if any effect it had on play calling or the results of said red zone opportunities, but moving on. Of the four red zone rushes, three were to the left and the only successful carry (Dwyer's almost TD) was to the right. Looking at who Ben targeted in the red zone will probably excite some folks as his nine passes results in four targets for Heath, three for Brown and two for Wallace (you'll remember he also had a completed pass for 6 yards to Heath that wiped out by a Denver penalty).

Personal Theory: This is purely my own personal opinion with flimsy (at best) stats to back it up, but I think something in the game plan, play calling or perhaps overall demeanor of the team changed drastically after the 71 yard TD to Thomas. My only real basis for this theory is the play calling prior to the TD and the play calling afterwards. In the entire game leading up to the TD, we'd run the ball about 45% of the time but after the TD we ran the ball just 25% of the time. And on the drive immediately following the TD, we opened with six straight passes. Maybe they hit the panic button a bit or maybe we're just looking at a really small sample size but I remember thinking that during the game and was surprised to see the numbers change so drastically once I looked at the play by play.

That's all I've got right now, hopefully as the season progresses we can learn more from the numbers. Worthwhile exercise?

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