NFL Quarterbacks: Career Playoff Drive Stats (2013 Edition)

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Feb 01, 2013



By Scott Kacsmar
Cold Hard Football Facts’ Comeback King (@CaptainComeback)

 

It is the Friday before the Super Bowl, so just like Groundhog Day, here we go again with this year’s update to the Career Playoff Drive Stats first compiled two years ago on Pro-Football-Reference.com.

Last year we looked at 25 different quarterbacks from 1980-present with at least four playoff starts, and this time we have added Matt Ryan to the mix, making a list with 11 active players and 15 retired. Five active quarterbacks made the playoffs this season, thus changes to their statistics. The total number of drives analyzed is 3,844.

Disclaimer: The stats presented here are in the quarterback's name, but even more than usual this is really about the team's offensive performance as a whole rather than the individual quarterback. There are certain parts, like turnovers, which are mostly about the quarterback, but overall drive stats are very much a team stat. There are of course drives where a quarterback does nothing but hand the ball off every play. The entry "Joe Montana" is another way of saying "1981-90 49ers, 1993-94 Chiefs.”

Also of note is the attempt to include every drive a QB played in during the playoffs; whether or not they started the game did not matter. Steve Young only has his 14 starts and game against the 1987 Vikings when he replaced Montana in the third quarter included. Troy Aikman, John Elway, Mark Brunell, Dave Krieg, and Randall Cunningham also participated in at least one game they did not start.  Kneel-down drives at the end of either half are excluded, as are any kneel-down stats.

 

Overall drive stats

The first table includes the most general of drive stats, while also noting the number of games played (GP). Yds/Dr represents the net yards per drive (penalty yardage included). The turnovers are all the interceptions and lost fumbles by the quarterback, and that total is divided by the number of drives to get TOs/Dr. The LOS/Dr is the average starting field position. Table is sorted by descending Pts/Dr. Active players are in bold, and the best value in each category is also in bold.

Overall Quarterback Postseason Drive Stats

QB

GP

Drives

Yds/Dr

Pts/Dr

TD/Dr

Punts/Dr

TOs/Dr

LOS/Dr

Aaron Rodgers

8

85

36.47

2.51

0.318

0.388

0.094

27.41

Drew Brees

9

106

36.10

2.49

0.302

0.321

0.066

27.39

Steve Young

15

141

34.63

2.46

0.312

0.333

0.128

31.44

Troy Aikman

16

164

32.81

2.44

0.293

0.329

0.116

33.12

Kurt Warner

13

144

33.65

2.35

0.292

0.354

0.118

32.69

Ben Roethlisberger

14

154

30.82

2.23

0.266

0.364

0.123

31.82

Joe Montana

23

248

32.41

2.15

0.266

0.395

0.089

31.62

John Elway

22

239

32.03

2.13

0.255

0.385

0.109

31.79

Jim Kelly

17

195

30.89

2.08

0.236

0.328

0.159

33.18

Tom Brady

24

261

31.83

2.07

0.230

0.406

0.096

31.02

Peyton Manning

20

213

34.92

2.06

0.221

0.343

0.108

27.21

Brett Favre

24

274

29.97

2.03

0.237

0.358

0.128

33.22

Matt Hasselbeck

11

133

28.22

1.95

0.218

0.451

0.068

32.08

Warren Moon

10

107

32.37

1.87

0.206

0.308

0.168

28.01

Eli Manning

11

119

29.88

1.80

0.193

0.445

0.076

30.12

Joe Flacco

12

141

26.56

1.79

0.206

0.475

0.078

32.19

Dan Marino

18

205

28.64

1.79

0.215

0.380

0.141

30.56

Jake Delhomme

8

93

29.61

1.78

0.204

0.452

0.129

30.35

Matt Ryan

5

53

30.72

1.74

0.208

0.358

0.1887

25.72

Philip Rivers

7

77

29.69

1.71

0.208

0.455

0.130

31.19

Donovan McNabb

16

187

27.48

1.68

0.182

0.401

0.134

31.99

Mark Brunell

11

113

26.42

1.56

0.168

0.398

0.124

31.16

Steve McNair

10

117

26.97

1.54

0.162

0.410

0.111

32.34

Tony Romo

4

45

28.09

1.49

0.156

0.400

0.089

28.64

Randall Cunningham

10

125

25.64

1.46

0.152

0.432

0.112

32.09

Dave Krieg

11

105

23.36

1.31

0.152

0.543

0.095

31.57

AVERAGE

13.4

147.8

30.62

1.98

0.230

0.388

0.114

31.15

Two games later and Aaron Rodgers has again fallen – it is only eight games after all – but still maintains the lead in most of the key categories. Drew Brees remains close behind, but you cannot hurt or help your playoff stats when you do not make the tournament. Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning concur.

Tom Brady has just edged out Peyton Manning in points per drive, mostly thanks to the Houston Texans this season. The Patriots scored 41 points on 12 drives against Houston, but only 13 points 12 drives (1.08 Pts/Dr) against Baltimore. The Broncos scored 21 points on their 13 drives against Baltimore (1.62 Pts/Dr).

As for new entry Matt Ryan, everyone knew about his 0-3 playoff record coming into this season, and now everyone will remember the 17-point lead the Falcons blew to San Francisco in the NFC Championship. As for Ryan leading this offense, here is where he ranks among these 26 quarterbacks:

Matt Ryan Drive Stat Ranks

Stat

Value

Rank

Yards per drive

30.72

13

Points per drive

1.74

19

Touchdowns per drive

0.208

16

Punts per drive

0.358

9

Turnovers per drive

0.189

26

Not very good, and the standout number is having the most turnovers per drive of any quarterback. Ryan has turned it over on 10 of Atlanta’s 53 drives in the postseason. It is only five games and we saw definite improvement from Ryan this season, so he still has plenty of time to ascend the list and improve on that 1-4 record in the playoffs.

Finally there’s the guy still playing this season, Joe Flacco. We noted last year that through his first nine playoff games, Flacco had the best field position (34.47), but was just 20th in Pts/Dr, last in Yds/Dr, and only Dave Krieg led his offense to a higher rate of punts.

Well that has certainly changed in these playoffs. Not only does Flacco have eight touchdowns and no interceptions, but he has the drive stats to back it up.

Joe Flacco Drive Stats

Stat

2008-11 (5-4)

2012 (3-0)

Yards per drive

23.20

36.00

Points per drive

1.63

2.24

Touchdowns per drive

0.173

0.297

Punts per drive

0.462

0.514

Turnovers per drive

0.096

0.027

Average starting field position

34.47

25.78

Everything but punts look much better, and maybe most impressively is the huge drop in field position from what Flacco is used to in the postseason. That is nearly a nine-yard difference.

Flacco and the Ravens are no longer the most frequent offense to go three and out, dropping from 31.7 percent last year to 28.4 percent. In the three playoff games this season the Ravens have gone three and out on seven out of 37 drives (18.9 percent).

That is roughly the same percentage Rodgers is now at for his career (18.8 percent), which is a good jump from the best percentage of 12.5 a year ago. The Packers went three and out on five straight drives against the Vikings in the Wild Card game after taking a 24-3 lead.

Highest rate of three-and-out drives

Rank

QB

GP

Drives

3OUT%

1

Dave Krieg

11

105

30.5

2

Joe Flacco

12

141

28.4

3

Matt Hasselbeck

11

133

27.1

4

Mark Brunell

11

113

25.7

5

Matt Ryan

5

53

24.5

6

Tom Brady

24

261

23.8

7

Jake Delhomme

8

93

23.7

8

Eli Manning

11

119

22.7

9

Dan Marino

18

205

22.4

10

Steve McNair

10

117

22.2

11

Donovan McNabb

16

187

21.9

12

Peyton Manning

20

213

21.6

13

Joe Montana

23

248

21.4

14

Philip Rivers

7

77

20.8

15

Randall Cunningham

10

125

20.8

16

Jim Kelly

17

195

20.0

17

Steve Young

15

141

19.9

18

Brett Favre

24

274

19.0

19

Drew Brees

9

106

18.9

20

Aaron Rodgers

8

85

18.8

21

Warren Moon

10

107

18.7

22

Kurt Warner

13

144

18.1

23

John Elway

22

239

17.6

24

Ben Roethlisberger

14

154

17.5

25

Tony Romo

4

45

15.6

26

Troy Aikman

16

164

15.2

You can see Matt Ryan cracks the top five with the Falcons. The lower the better here.

 

Average starting field position

Here is a breakdown of the average starting field position (LOS/Dr). You can see the number of drives where the offense started at exactly the 20, followed by the percentage of drives that started at the 20 or worse (<20%). Then it’s starting at your own 21-35 and 36-49, finally followed by drives started in opponent territory (Opp. 50+). The Worst GP is the worst average starting field position the quarterback had in any one game. 

QB

Drives

LOS/Dr

20 (exact)

%

<20%

21-35

%

36-49

%

Opp. 50+

%

Worst GP

Matt Ryan

53

25.72

14

26.42

45.28

18

33.96

7

13.21

4

7.55

21.73

Peyton Manning

213

27.21

34

15.96

39.44

84

39.44

30

14.08

15

7.04

15.67

Drew Brees

106

27.39

12

11.32

41.51

39

36.79

14

13.21

9

8.49

21.64

Aaron Rodgers

85

27.41

20

23.53

42.35

28

32.94

14

16.47

7

8.24

17.56

Warren Moon

107

28.01

23

21.50

46.73

35

32.71

6

5.61

16

14.95

20.67

Tony Romo

45

28.64

4

8.89

40.00

12

26.67

10

22.22

5

11.11

23.50

Eli Manning

119

30.12

16

13.45

34.45

44

36.97

17

14.29

17

14.29

24.09

Jake Delhomme

93

30.35

9

9.68

31.18

35

37.63

20

21.51

9

9.68

21.54

Dan Marino

205

30.56

24

11.71

29.76

86

41.95

32

15.61

26

12.68

19.00

Tom Brady

261

31.02

26

9.96

31.03

96

36.78

49

18.77

35

13.41

16.11

Mark Brunell

113

31.16

8

7.08

30.97

45

39.82

19

16.81

14

12.39

18.00

Philip Rivers

77

31.19

6

7.79

24.68

33

42.86

12

15.58

13

16.88

19.00

Steve Young

141

31.44

19

13.48

36.17

43

30.50

18

12.77

29

20.57

16.70

Dave Krieg

105

31.57

10

9.52

31.43

37

35.24

19

18.10

16

15.24

22.40

Joe Montana

248

31.62

36

14.52

34.27

89

35.89

36

14.52

38

15.32

20.20

John Elway

239

31.79

35

14.64

34.31

82

34.31

36

15.06

39

16.32

19.25

Ben Roethlisberger

154

31.82

23

14.94

30.52

56

36.36

30

19.48

21

13.64

22.78

Donovan McNabb

187

31.99

14

7.49

27.27

68

36.36

40

21.39

28

14.97

20.00

Matt Hasselbeck

133

32.08

9

6.77

21.05

65

48.87

25

18.80

15

11.28

22.10

Randall Cunningham

125

32.09

24

19.20

32.80

44

35.20

25

20.00

15

12.00

22.38

Joe Flacco

141

32.19

24

17.02

38.30

40

28.37

21

14.89

26

18.44

20.00

Steve McNair

117

32.34

8

6.84

23.93

49

41.88

25

21.37

15

12.82

26.33

Kurt Warner

144

32.69

19

13.19

30.56

49

34.03

29

20.14

22

15.28

22.89

Troy Aikman

164

33.12

25

15.24

31.10

57

34.76

30

18.29

26

15.85

23.10

Jim Kelly

195

33.18

26

13.33

28.21

70

35.90

37

18.97

33

16.92

21.50

Brett Favre

274

33.22

23

8.39

28.83

102

37.23

46

16.79

47

17.15

24.11

AVERAGE

147.8

31.15

18.9

12.77

32.54

54.1

36.58

24.9

16.83

20.8

14.05

20.86

Ryan has often been compared to Peyton Manning, and now here’s something they have in common: the worst field position in the playoffs.

Virtually out of the control of any quarterback, this is another one of those hidden factors into why a certain quarterback may have a losing record in the playoffs. Active quarterbacks will start to look even worse here just because of the kickoff rule change in 2011, but Manning’s field position numbers in particular have always been bad.

On average these quarterbacks started about 14 percent of their drives in opponent territory, but that number is more like 7-7.5 percent for Ryan and Manning.

Flacco no longer has the best field position as Lord Favre (33.22) now takes that crown. This year’s AFC Championship was the worst starting field position (20.00) Flacco has had in his dozen playoff games.

 

Touchdown drives

The next table looks at the touchdown drives the quarterbacks led. It is sorted by the Avg. Yds, or average length of the drive. ScoMg is the average scoring margin when the touchdown drive started. Then the distances are broken down by 70+, 80+ and 90+ for long drives, then <50 and <20 are in the opponent’s territory and red zone.

QB

TD

Avg. Yds

ScoMg

70+

%

80+

%

90+

%

<50

%

<20

%

Tony Romo

7

72.7

2.86

5

71.4

4

57.1

2

28.6

1

14.3

1

14.3

Peyton Manning

47

71.4

1.47

32

68.1

18

38.3

2

4.3

3

6.4

1

2.1

Aaron Rodgers

27

70.7

-2.22

16

59.3

13

48.1

1

3.7

1

3.7

0

0.0

Philip Rivers

16

69.8

-4.13

11

68.8

2

12.5

0

0.0

3

18.8

0

0.0

Warren Moon

22

68.5

-1.55

14

63.6

10

45.5

1

4.5

5

22.7

1

4.5

Drew Brees

32

68.4

-2.56

20

62.5

12

37.5

2

6.3

6

18.8

1

3.1

Eli Manning

23

67.3

0.13

12

52.2

8

34.8

1

4.3

3

13.0

1

4.3

Jake Delhomme

19

66.2

-2.37

9

47.4

5

26.3

2

10.5

2

10.5

1

5.3

Matt Ryan

11

65.9

-1.27

6

54.5

4

36.4

0

0.0

2

18.2

0

0.0

Steve McNair

19

64.8

-3.26

7

36.8

1

5.3

0

0.0

1

5.3

0

0.0

Brett Favre

65

64.6

-1.22

36

55.4

16

24.6

3

4.6

12

18.5

4

6.2

John Elway

61

63.7

0.08

28

45.9

21

34.4

4

6.6

14

23.0

3

4.9

Tom Brady

60

63.1

1.02

25

41.7

10

16.7

2

3.3

11

18.3

1

1.7

Dan Marino

44

63.0

-4.41

20

45.5

9

20.5

1

2.3

10

22.7

2

4.5

Mark Brunell

19

61.7

-1.53

9

47.4

3

15.8

1

5.3

3

15.8

2

10.5

Kurt Warner

42

61.7

0.95

19

45.2

8

19.0

0

0.0

9

21.4

2

4.8

Dave Krieg

16

61.2

-4.31

5

31.3

3

18.8

2

12.5

3

18.8

1

6.3

Joe Montana

66

60.8

4.15

34

51.5

16

24.2

2

3.0

18

27.3

6

9.1

Donovan McNabb

34

60.2

-2.29

15

44.1

7

20.6

2

5.9

9

26.5

3

8.8

Randall Cunningham

19

60.1

-6.47

10

52.6

5

26.3

0

0.0

5

26.3

2

10.5

Ben Roethlisberger

41

59.6

-2.59

12

29.3

5

12.2

0

0.0

9

22.0

2

4.9

Steve Young

44

58.8

3.84

17

38.6

9

20.5

3

6.8

17

38.6

1

2.3

Jim Kelly

46

58.4

1.48

13

28.3

5

10.9

0

0.0

12

26.1

2

4.3

Troy Aikman

48

58.3

3.10

22

45.8

10

20.8

3

6.3

16

33.3

6

12.5

Matt Hasselbeck

29

57.0

-3.34

11

37.9

2

6.9

0

0.0

8

27.6

2

6.9

Joe Flacco

29

57.0

0.76

13

44.8

8

27.6

2

6.9

10

34.5

5

17.2

Last year we were hard on Flacco here with his average touchdown drive being just 49.5 yards. But this strong playoff run has pushed him up to 57.0, albeit still tied with Matt Hasselbeck for the lowest.

Flacco’s 29 touchdown drives have gone for 1,652 yards compared to Hasselbeck’s 29 touchdown drives going for 1,653 yards. Interesting.

Flacco had seven touchdown drives of 70+ yards in his first nine playoff games. He has had six such scoring drives in the three games this postseason alone, including two that have gone over 90 yards. It’s been a much different Baltimore offense this postseason.

Peyton Manning added on to his collection of long touchdown drives with three more against Baltimore (74, 86 and 88 yards). His 18 touchdown drives of 80+ yards trail only John Elway (21) for the most.

Ryan checks in with the ninth-highest average distance for his touchdown drives (65.9 yards). All four of his 80+ touchdown drives came against Seattle and San Francisco this season.

 

Average scoring margin

This table looks at the drives related to the scoreboard when they started. The ScoMg is again the average score margin at the start of the drive. Then it’s broken down by the number of drives when the team was behind, tied or ahead. 3SD- is the number of drives that started with the team trailing by at least three scores (17+ points since 1994 or 15+ prior). The 3SL+ is the number of drives that started with the team holding at least a three score lead.

QB

Drives

ScoMg

Behind

%

Tied

%

Ahead

%

3SD-

%

3SL+

%

Joe Montana

248

2.64

93

37.50

38

15.32

117

47.18

7

2.82

29

11.69

Kurt Warner

144

2.50

47

32.64

24

16.67

73

50.69

7

4.86

16

11.11

Aaron Rodgers

85

2.24

29

34.12

14

16.47

42

49.41

7

8.24

9

10.59

Jim Kelly

195

1.73

63

32.31

48

24.62

84

43.08

16

8.21

25

12.82

Troy Aikman

164

1.59

59

35.98

30

18.29

75

45.73

19

11.59

22

13.41

Tom Brady

261

1.48

74

28.35

71

27.20

116

44.44

11

4.21

15

5.75

Joe Flacco

141

1.12

55

39.01

32

22.70

54

38.30

4

2.84

10

7.09

Steve Young

141

0.66

61

43.26

23

16.31

57

40.43

16

11.35

19

13.48

Brett Favre

274

0.18

102

37.23

60

21.90

112

40.88

23

8.39

15

5.47

Ben Roethlisberger

154

0.14

56

36.36

31

20.13

67

43.51

6

3.90

2

1.30

Peyton Manning

213

0.05

79

37.09

49

23.00

85

39.91

12

5.63

13

6.10

John Elway

239

-0.11

77

32.22

67

28.03

95

39.75

22

9.21

16

6.69

Eli Manning

119

-0.57

51

42.86

35

29.41

33

27.73

3

2.52

2

1.68

Steve McNair

117

-0.88

52

44.44

32

27.35

33

28.21

1

0.85

1

0.85

Jake Delhomme

93

-0.96

32

34.41

22

23.66

39

41.94

14

15.05

4

4.30

Warren Moon

107

-1.13

42

39.25

22

20.56

43

40.19

7

6.54

3

2.80

Tony Romo

45

-1.36

22

48.89

10

22.22

13

28.89

4

8.89

6

13.33

Donovan McNabb

187

-1.56

89

47.59

32

17.11

66

35.29

15

8.02

4

2.14

Drew Brees

106

-1.59

54

50.94

28

26.42

24

22.64

4

3.77

5

4.72

Matt Hasselbeck

133

-1.77

61

45.86

30

22.56

42

31.58

14

10.53

6

4.51

Philip Rivers

77

-1.77

39

50.65

20

25.97

18

23.38

3

3.90

0

0.00

Mark Brunell

113

-3.29

62

54.87

21

18.58

30

26.55

11

9.73

2

1.77

Matt Ryan

53

-3.74

27

50.94

9

16.98

17

32.08

7

13.21

0

0.00

Dan Marino

205

-5.62

128

62.44

32

15.61

45

21.95

48

23.41

12

5.85

Dave Krieg

105

-5.62

68

64.76

18

17.14

19

18.10

17

16.19

1

0.95

Randall Cunningham

125

-6.58

88

70.40

14

11.20

23

18.40

14

11.20

2

1.60

Quite the contrast for the two quarterbacks from the 2008 draft. Flacco (+1.12) is one of seven quarterbacks to average a lead of at least one point per drive while Ryan (-3.74) is near the bottom in scoring margin, and has played from behind more often than not.

Brady (28.35 percent) still retains the lowest percentage of drives for playing from behind, and Kurt Warner (50.69 percent) is now the only quarterback to play with the lead more than half the time.

 

Drive stats to consider for Super Bowl XLVII

We still have one more game to play this season, and Super Bowl XLVII could be another classic.

Colin Kaepernick is only making his third playoff start (and 10th start of any kind in the NFL) for the San Francisco 49ers, so we may have to wait until next year to add him to the list at the earliest.

He has led San Francisco’s offense to a blistering 3.48 points per drive in the playoffs against Green Bay and Atlanta. That’s even with David Akers missing a 38-yard field goal, Michael Crabtree fumbling at the 1-yard line, and a one-play drive before halftime in the NFC Championship factored in.

Already looked at a lot of the Ravens and Flacco, who has just one turnover on 37 drives this postseason, and that was a fumbled snap in Denver. Flacco has been compared a lot to Eli Manning this season, and they have a lot of similar playoff drive stats, including two of the lowest turnover rates per drive (0.076 for Manning; 0.078 for Flacco).

The Ravens are playing at a high level on offense under coordinator Jim Caldwell the last four games Flacco has started and finished, and there’s no reason not to expect that to continue this week.

Super Bowl XLVII prediction: Ravens 23, 49ers 20 (Joe Flacco wins MVP).

 

Scott Kacsmar is a football writer/researcher who has contributed large quantities of data to Pro-Football-Reference.com, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. You can visit his blog for a complete writing archive. Please send any questions or comments to Scott at smk_42@yahoo.com, or you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.


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