Big Plays = big wins, exciting games

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 30, 2010



By Luis DeLoureiro
Cold, Hard Football Facts Father of the Year
 
Chicks dig the long ball. And, while the NFL doesn't have home runs, there are a number of single plays – Big Plays – that often make an immediate impact on the outcome of a game.
 
Now, we hear at the Cold, Hard Football Facts love the nuances of the game more than we love our own offspring. It's the little things we admire, like a good trap black, a well-disguised zone blitz or a perfectly good deep-fried hot dog.
 
But, at the end of the day, it's the Big Plays that make us fake appendicitis so that we can stay home and watch football instead of attend our children's Christenings.
 
A few years ago, we came out with the Big Play Index to chronicle our love. It was our way of tracking those game-changing plays: who's making them, who's giving them up, and how it all correlates to winning. The nine "Big Plays" are:
  1. Fumble recovery
  2. Interception
  3. Defensive or special teams score (return TD, safety)
  4. Pass play of 40 yards or more
  5. Run play of 25 yards or more
  6. Kick return of 60 yards or more
  7. Punt return of 40 yards or more
  8. Blocked kick or punt
  9. 50-yard+ field goal
The Big Play Index is making a cameo this week – with the hopes of permanent reinstatement in the near future. Between you and us, it's just been a real bitch to automate because it involves diving so deeply into gamebooks. So we dabble in the Big Play Index about as often as we bathe our children. You know, like a once or twice a year.
 
The beauty of the Big Play Index, like all of our Quality Stats, is that it has a direct correlation to winning football games. Teams that win the Big Play battle are likely to win the game.
 
Teams that won the Big Play Index in Week 12, for example, went 12-3 (with one Big Play tie). Just look at the impact Big Plays had on Week 12:
 
ONE - The Chargers produced eight Big Plays against the Colts Sunday night, while surrendering zero. The eight play disparity was the largest of Week 12. Not so coincidentally, San Diego's 36-14 win at Indy was the largest blowout of Week 12, too.

San Diego's tally included four interceptions, a fumble recovery, two defensive scores and a 50+ yard field goal.
 
TWO - The Giants (+5), New Orleans (+4), Houston (+4) and Jets (+4) also had large advantages in Big Plays – and all won.
 
THREE - Carolina was not so lucky. Despite two fumble recoveries, two interceptions, two 25+ yard runs and a defensive score – for a +6 in Big Plays – the Panthers still lost to the Browns.
 
A few Big Play Index notes and trends:
 
San Diego's Big Play problems. Despite its Big Play and scoreboard dominance in Week 12, San Diego has struggled with Big Plays all year, giving up 46 through 12 weeks. Only the pathetic Panthers and awful Cardinals have given up more. If you're looking for a reason why the Chargers have struggled this year despite overwhelming dominance in so many other indicators, their inability to stop the Big Play is a Big Reason
 
Philly is fun to watch. Michael Vick and the Eagles are the most explosive Big Play team in football this year, with 50 Big Plays on both sides of the ball. So the Cold, Hard Football Facts in this instance confirm what the eye test tells us: Philly is fun to watch! The Eagles also lead the NFL at +23 in Big Play differential.
 
Minnesota needs help everywhere. The Vikings are the anti-Eagles, a team virtually incapable of making Big Plays. Minnesota fans have enjoyed just 20 Big Plays all year, the fewest in the NFL. And remember, that's the number of Big Plays on both sides of the ball.
 
So not only is BrettFavre's gunslinging arm failing to produce Big Plays, the Vikes are also failing on the ground and on defense to make game-changing Big Plays. Minnesota is -26 in Big Play differential, also the worst in football.
 
The W's all count the same for Kansas City. The Chiefs are the NFL's most boring team, at least as measured by the number of Big Plays when they step on the field. They've produced just 29 Big Plays, among the fewest in football, and have allowed 20 Big Plays, the stingiest rate in the NFL. That's about 4.5 Big Plays per game by both teams. But with an AFC West-leading 7-4 record, suffering Chiefs fans must be thrilled by the non-Big Play style.
 
Big Play Game of the Year. The Giants beat the Panthers, 31-18, in a Week 1 game that featured a season-high 14 Big Plays – eight by the Giants and six by the Panthers. There were six interceptions, three fumbles lost, a blocked punt, a defensive score, two 25+ yard runs and a 50+ yard field goal.
 
Big Play blowout. The Raiders shocked the Chargers, 35-27, in Week 5, thanks largely to 11 Big Plays. It's the high-water mark for a single team in one game this season. Oakland produced two defensive scores, three fumble recoveries, a 40+ yard punt return, a 40+ yard pass completion, a 50+ yard field goal and two blocked punts and a special teams touchdown for good measure. No surprise they won against the statistically superior Chargers, who out-passed the Raiders, 431 to 173, that day.  
 
That game also featured the biggest disparity in Big Plays all year, as San Diego managed only two Big Plays (+9 for Oakland).
 
The anomalous Redskins. Washington is something of an anomaly this year: they're tied with the mighty Patriots for No. 5 on the Big Play Index (+13) and they've produced 49 Big Plays, second only to the Eagles. But the Redskins are 5-6 and unlikely to make the playoffs.
 
Seven of last year's playoff teams – Minnesota, San Diego, Arizona, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Dallas and Indianapolis – are negative on the Big Play Index. Of those seven, only the Colts, Chargers and Saints have a prayer at the playoffs.
 
Like any Quality Stat, you'll notice a lot of very good teams high on the list and a lot of very bad teams low on the list.
 
2010 Big Play Index (through Week 12)

Team

Big Plays

Big Plays Against

NET

Philadelphia

50

27

+23

Pittsburgh

43

22

+21

NY Jets

38

21

+17

Tampa Bay

43

29

+14

New England

34

21

+13

Washington

49

36

+13

Oakland

47

36

+11

Tennessee

45

35

+10

Kansas City

29

20

+9

Atlanta

39

31

+8

Chicago

45

37

+8

Houston

30

23

+7

Green Bay

36

32

+4

Baltimore

27

26

+1

Cleveland

38

38

0

Denver

26

29

-3

New Orleans

33

37

-4

Miami

28

32

-4

Buffalo

29

33

-4

NY Giants

41

46

-5

San Diego

40

46

-6

St. Louis

28

35

-7

Carolina

38

47

-9

San Francisco

28

38

-10

Detroit

33

43

-10

Indianapolis

28

38

-10

Arizona

38

49

-11

Dallas

33

44

-11

Seattle

35

47

-12

Cincinnati

33

47

-14

Jacksonville

22

39

-17

Minnesota

20

46

-26

 

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