There's just something about numbers.
I love stats. All of them. I love them all. I love them complicated and simple, traditional and advanced. I love to rescue them from anonymity, to pluck them from the dank catacombs of a dusty, forgotten box score. I love to trumpet them to a world that may or may not give a damn.
So in this new weekly column (thanks Danny), I'll look at two stats each week, connecting them to the game just played and the one around the bend. I'll consider all flavors of statistic, from wDVOA to total yards, because when deployed properly, any stat, even a deeply flawed one, can tell a story worth relating. Well, except QBR. That kind of shit is what shit calls shit.
To the numbers party!
STAT ONE: Yards Per Completion
Out of the passing family of stats, non-stupid football analysts love Yards Per Attempt. The simple and straightforward Y/A is a great short-cut stat, easy to calculate, easy to handle, and a better gauge of quarterbacking skill than passer rating.
Y/C, on the other hand, has the potential to be misleading in a one-game context. But in the context of a whole season, its leaders are the teams who go for the explosive play. So let's start there: please hop in my pro-football-reference-hot-tub-dot-com-time-machine and look at this table of Super Bowl winners. It's tall, but it's worth it. For context.
|Year||League Y/C average||SB champ, Y/C|
|1981||12.9||Niners, 11.5 (last place)|
|more time passes|
|2007||11.2 (!!!)||Giants 11.2|
(Caveat: I will admit here and now that the 2011 New York Giants season is one giant outlier and for the purposes of the amateur analysis contained herein, it has been scrubbed from the record. Carry on.)
What we're seeing here, in broad strokes, is that the league, and its champions, have long been trending away from the deep passing game and more toward the West Coast offensive tactics of high-percentage, low-risk, low-reward, move-the-chains passing.
So when the 2013 Seattle Seahawks averaged 13.1 yards per completion and also happened to collect the Lombardi trophy, they posted the third-highest Y/C of any champion of the salary-cap era. The only higher performers in that category were the original Greatest Show on Turf, that Kurt Warner-led scoring machine that came within one yard of Super Defeat, and the edition of the Steelers which totally legitimately authentically indisputably won Super Bowl XL.
Anyway, teams won Super Bowls with careful and sometimes anemic offenses in the past 30 years. There were the three straight Super Bowl champions who tallied less than 11 yards per completion: the Ravens, Patriots and Bucs of 2000-2002. Trent Dilfer, Young Tommy Brady, and Brad "Who?" Johnson won titles in three consecutive years.
Now, the new overlords are a horde of ascending Seahawks. Speaking of ascending:
|Year||Hawks' team Y/C||League rank|
And also of non-ascending:
|Years||Rivers' Y/C||Chargers' W-L|
One of these teams is trending in the right direction for wins, titles, and explosiveness. The other is not. The other spends its somewhat successful seasons dinkin-n-dunkin with spectacular statistical surety. But we've seen what Seattle does to those who would "attack" it with a short, methodical, patient passing offense.
|Rodgers||Week 1, 2014||7.3||Hawks win|
|Kaepernick||2013 NFCCG||10.9||Hawks win|
Those guys all are high-percentage passers who rely on tons of small completions to complete long scoring drives. Rivers is in their peer group. Maybe he can expect almost as much success as they "enjoyed." At least the game isn't in Seattle this time?
STAT 2: Penalties
It will come as no surprise to ardent Twelves that the Hawks are among the NFL's most penalized teams.
Well, not just "among."
|NFL rank||7th most||23rd most|
|NFL rank||Mostest||15th most|
CheatHawks gonna cheathawk, amirite?
But back to the non-denial version of reality. The Hawks' flag-collecting trend continued into the 2014 preseason, which could mean nothing. Or it maybe could mean a little teeny tiny something when you're trying to make a larger point.
2014 preseason penalties: Seattle 39-334, opposition 38-268. Although the Seahawks have been avoiding flags in the secondary in 2014, they still have been out-flagging their opponents, as is their habit.
Then, Week 1, 2014, and something kind of clean happened. I'm aware that small sample sizes invite mockery. (I usually like to be the mocker!) But what are ya gonna do -- in a one-game season, the sample size is, um, one. And it reads: Seattle 4-69, opposition 8-65.
That includes a 44-yard penalty for P.I. by middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who probably saved a touchdown by shadowing, then tackling Randall Cobb half a football field away from Aaron Rodgers. Worth it. (Drive ended in a FG instead of six.) Still, including that flag, the Hawks were penalized half as often as the Packers.
Looking back, it makes plenty of sense for Seattle have incurred more penalties than its foes in the past. Pete Carroll preaches competitiveness until the whistle. He embraces the penalty risk that comes with being ultra-aggressive.
But looking forward, Week 1 could could could be the start of a trend in which the Hawks start being called for way fewer penalties than their opponents. If such a trend materializes -- and I'm not saying it will, just that you might consider watching for it -- then there is a giant chuck of hidden yardage another that the Hawks could gain, compared with their 2013 campaign. And again, devoted Twelves will know how much Pete values hidden yards.
Numerically Yours, Fellow Twelves.