Quarterbacks: Home Playoff Losses

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 20, 2012



By Scott Kacsmar
Cold, Hard Football Facts History Major


Earlier this week, we looked at home-field advantage, particularly for the playoffs. The home team has a record of 293-140 (.677). Today, we are going to focus on those 140 losses, with the latest coming by the Green Bay Packers.
 
The New York Giants were up to the task again of ending another team’s dream season in historic fashion. Super Bowl favorites all year long, the Packers fell to the Giants by a stunning 37-20 final at Lambeau Field, where they are now just 2-4 in their last six playoff games.
 
The headlines of the week range from the fallout over Green Bay’s early exit, the prisoner of the moment reaction to which Manning brother is better in the playoffs, and a rematch in New England from the 2009 Wild Card playoffs, when Baltimore won 33-14.
 
We’ll look at various data for each, including some stunning numbers on quarterbacks with multiple home losses. If you were looking for an extra-large pack of playoff nuggets, you’ve come to the right place.
 

Worst Home Playoff Losses

It was just one season ago that the Packers went into top-seeded Atlanta and handed the Falcons a 48-21 thrashing. Since a playoff bye was put into the format in 1978, that 27-point loss by Atlanta is the largest margin of defeat for a team coming off a bye week in the Divisional round (a “one and done” season).
 
Now a year later, the Packers join the top five on that list after their 37-20 loss to the Giants.
 
Largest margin of defeat by a home team with a first-round bye (since 1978):
  • -27, 2010 Atlanta vs. Green Bay
  • -21, 1992 Pittsburgh vs. Buffalo
  • -20, 2008 Carolina vs. Arizona
  • -17, 1978 New England vs. Houston
  • -17, 2011 Green Bay vs. New York Giants
 
Overall, Green Bay’s loss was the 35th time a home team lost in the playoffs by at least 17 points. In terms of the all-time worst playoff home losses, nothing can compare to the biggest loss in NFL history: the 1940 Washington Redskins losing 73-0 to the Chicago Bears in the NFL Championship Game.
 
Largest margin of defeat by a home team (all-time):
  • -73, 1940 Washington vs. Chicago (NFL Championship)
  • -34, 1968 Cleveland vs. Baltimore (NFL Championship)
  • -34, 1987 New Orleans vs. Minnesota (NFC Wild Card)
  • -30, 1975 Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas (NFC Championship)
  • -28, 1943 New York Giants vs. Washington (NFL Divisional)
  • -28, 1978 Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas (NFC Championship)
 
Twice in the 1970’s, the Rams hosted Dallas in the NFC Championship, only to lose by 28 and 30 points. Ouch. Maybe instead of being known for the “Hail Mary” at Minnesota, Roger Staubach’s best playoff game may have been a week later, when he threw 4 touchdown passes to build a 28-0 road lead against the 1975 Rams’ top-ranked scoring defense.
 

Road Warriors: Ravens & Giants

Something Staubach also did was win a record four road starts in the playoffs. He won five road playoff games overall (engineered classic victory off the bench in San Francisco, 1972), but only gets credit for four starts.
 
That number has been matched by several quarterbacks. Len Dawson was the first to do it, and then it’s very recently happened for Jake Delhomme, Mark Sanchez, Eli Manning, and Joe Flacco. Quite an interesting list. The last two will each have a shot to get their record fifth on Sunday.
 
In Flacco’s first three seasons, the Ravens earned some of the more dominant road playoff wins in NFL history, with three victories by 18+ points. In 2008, they defeated Miami 27-9. A year later, Baltimore jumped all over the Patriots with a 24-0 first quarter before winning 33-14. Then last season, they went to Kansas City and won 30-7.
 
The Giants and San Francisco 49ers have a playoff history of seven meetings, with the last being the 49ers’ rally from a 38-14 deficit for a 39-38 win in the 2002 NFC Wild Card. The only other meeting decided by one score was the 1990 NFC Championship when the Giants came back to win 15-13.
 
If you’re dying for a Super Bowl XXXV rematch between the Ravens and Giants – or  if you just woke up from the coma that game put you in and want to see another Super Bowl – keep  in mind that only twice have both home teams lost in the Conference Championship round.
 
Skim down, San Francisco fans. In 1992, Buffalo continued their great playoff run with a 29-10 victory in Miami, while the Cowboys defeated the 49ers in San Francisco 30-20. Five years later, the 1997 Broncos won 24-21 in Pittsburgh, while the 49ers lost another playoff game, 23-10, to the Green Bay Packers.
 
The home team is 8-2 in the Conference Championship since 2006. One of those victories belongs to the 2007 Giants, who won 23-20 in overtime at Green Bay.
 

Manning Up

As the Giants go on another road tour to potential glory, Eli Manning has received a lot of praise for his efforts this season. After two playoff games, this is the best he’s ever played in the postseason as well; setting playoff career highs in passing yards and touchdowns the last two weeks.
 
But for the “right now” analysis of today’s game, some are quick to jump to Eli as the best Manning in the postseason. Archie never made it, so that means putting Eli over brother Peyton, who’s injury saga hit a new (Rob) low(e) this week.
 
This still isn’t the time or place to do such a detailed comparison. Eli has played 9 playoff games to Peyton’s 19. Statistically, some things look close, but for right now, the body of work is still not big enough and does not present the gap necessary to make the argument for Eli.
 
But for this week we did make one comparison between the two, which wasn’t even close.

 
Quarterbacks with Multiple Home Losses

If the home team wins 67.7% of their playoff games, then obviously a loss is a disappointing, unexpected occurrence (in most cases that is). We broke down the 140 home playoff losses to find the group of 28 quarterbacks that have had multiple losses as starters in their career. That includes the Manning brothers, and five other active players (Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Donovan McNabb and Carson Palmer).
 
No one has lost more home playoff games than Peyton Manning (4), but a quick look at the performance and final score of those games says a lot.
 
The table is sorted by smallest margin of defeat (“Per Game”). The “Margins” are the number of points the quarterback lost by, in descending order. The last four columns are their passing stats: completion percentage, yards per attempt, passer rating, and where their passer rating ranks.
 
Quarterbacks with Multiple Home Playoff Losses as Starters
QB Losses Margin Per Game Margins Pct. YPA Rating PR-Rk
Peyton Manning 4 -11 -2.75 4, 3, 3, 1 59.7 7.43 88.2 1
Philip Rivers 2 -6 -3.00 3, 3 56.9 7.33 67.4 10
Terry Bradshaw 2 -7 -3.50 4, 3 67.3 8.27 79.0 4
John Brodie 2 -9 -4.50 7, 2 50.0 6.65 49.9 20
John Elway 2 -10 -5.00 7, 3 58.7 5.47 80.4 3
Dan Fouts 2 -10 -5.00 7, 3 51.1 7.27 50.5 19
Kordell Stewart 2 -10 -5.00 7, 3 53.8 5.85 43.5 22
Y.A. Tittle 2 -13 -6.50 9, 4 50.0 6.18 60.2 14
Joe Montana 2 -14 -7.00 12, 2 57.7 5.75 72.5 7
Roger Staubach 3 -21 -7.00 17, 2, 2 43.0 4.22 20.6 26
Ben Roethlisberger 2 -16 -8.00 14, 2 65.2 8.53 74.2 6
Warren Moon 3 -28 -9.33 17, 8, 3 62.9 6.38 84.0 2
Randall Cunningham 3 -31 -10.33 14, 14,3 58.1 6.06 74.3 5
Steve Young 3 -33 -11.00 13, 10,10 58.0 6.46 64.6 12
Steve McNair 2 -23 -11.50 14, 9 56.0 4.65 51.5 18
Carson Palmer 2 -24 -12.00 14, 10 51.4 5.73 66.5 11
Brett Favre 3 -37 -12.33 20, 14, 3 55.5 6.35 56.6 16
Neil O'Donnell 2 -25 -12.50 21, 4 56.6 6.17 69.0 9
Tom Brady 2 -26 -13.00 19, 7 59.8 5.21 69.8 8
Donovan McNabb 2 -28 -14.00 17, 11 50.7 4.83 41.0 24
Dan Marino 3 -43 -14.33 19, 17, 7 48.3 6.01 60.3 13
Jim McMahon 2 -29 -14.50 25, 4 50.0 5.48 43.6 21
Bert Jones 2 -32 -16.00 26, 6 45.1 6.04 55.0 17
Jack Kemp 3 -49 -16.33 24, 18, 7 48.8 7.65 42.3 23
Eli Manning 2 -35 -17.50 23, 12 53.2 6.00 31.8 25
Pat Haden 2 -35 -17.50 28, 7 41.2 4.04 20.2 27
Bobby Hebert 3 -57 -19.00 34, 16, 7 56.9 6.35 57.1 15
Bill Nelsen 2 -51 -25.50 34, 17 42.6 5.02 18.9 28
 
Manning brothers: Out of 28 quarterbacks, no one had a smaller margin of defeat (-2.75 points/game) or a higher passer rating (88.2) than Peyton Manning. His brother Eli comes in 25th in both margin and passer rating.
 
Peyton, Philip Rivers and Terry Bradshaw are the only quarterbacks on the list to not lose a game by more than 4 points.
 
Amazingly, only six quarterbacks have a smaller total margin of defeat than Manning’s four losses by a combined 11 points. Twenty quarterbacks have at least one home loss by more points than Manning’s four losses combined.
 
Both Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger and Terry Bradshaw, are the only players to complete over 63% of their passes (each over 65%). They’re also the only players to have an YPA over 7.70 (each over 8.25).
 
Notes: *Cleveland’s Bill Nelsen had the misfortunes of playing the 1968 Colts (13-1) and 1971 Colts (10-4) at home. The Colts had a better record than Cleveland each time, but that’s just part of the scheduling quirks from that era. *Carson Palmer was infamously injured after his first pass against the Steelers in the 2005 AFC Wild Card. He was replaced by Jon Kitna.
 
Samples of two to four home playoff games aren’t the end-all, be-all of anything, but the numbers clearly suggest Peyton Manning has been more unlucky than anything else at home in the playoffs. His brother Eli, he was just plain bad in his two home losses (but he’ll be playing on the road this week).
 

Quarterbacks: Road vs. Home Playoff Losses

Lastly, we looked at the split over the decades for the starting quarterback’s stats in road playoff losses (n=293) and home playoff losses (n=140). Some surprising results were found.
 
Remember, the stats are only compiled for the player that started the game. First, here are the games lost on the road.

Passing Statistics - Road Playoff Losses

Years Losses Att. Comp. Pct. Yards YPA TD INT Rating
Pre-1960 23 434 207 47.7% 2774 6.39 13 42 38.9
1960-69 20 597 281 47.1% 3222 5.40 15 37 46.3
1970-79 43 1138 548 48.2% 6522 5.73 33 63 52.7
1980-89 59 1960 991 50.6% 12174 6.21 55 113 55.4
1990-99 73 2477 1318 53.2% 15526 6.27 69 121 61.5
2000-11 75 2772 1595 57.5% 17685 6.38 87 104 71.4
TOTAL 293 9378 4940 52.7% 57903 6.17 272 480 60.0
 
But one would expect it to be harder to pass effectively on the road. Now take a look at the home playoff losses:

Passing Statistics - Home Playoff Losses

Years Losses Att. Comp. Pct. Yards YPA TD INT Rating
Pre-1960 11 217 93 42.9% 1234 5.69 8 28 34.2
1960-69 11 350 154 44.0% 2003 5.72 3 26 34.5
1970-79 21 514 232 45.1% 2854 5.55 9 46 31.4
1980-89 27 855 462 54.0% 5625 6.58 29 46 63.4
1990-99 27 1048 583 55.6% 6418 6.12 25 42 65.2
2000-11 43 1447 833 57.6% 9059 6.26 35 77 62.0
TOTAL 140 4431 2357 53.2% 27193 6.14 109 265 55.3
 
The split between passing prior to the 1980’s and today is well defined here. Before 1980, you had ratings in the low 30’s (albeit on 43 games total). Once it got to the 80’s, that number increased to the low 60’s, though you see it hasn’t changed the last three decades.
 
What’s surprising is that four of the six decade splits seen the quarterbacks that lost on the road have a higher passer rating than the ones that lost at home. You can argue the sample size through 1969 (23 games vs. 11, 20 games vs. 11), but in the 70’s, you had a huge difference with the home quarterbacks tossing 9 TD to 46 INT for a 31.4 rating. The decade of defense was home to many terrible performances by the home quarterback. But on the road, they were up to 52.7.
 
In the 80’s and 90’s, the home team QB played better, but we’re seeing in the past decade the trend reverse back to the old days (71.4 on the road, 62.0 at home).
 
Since it’s hard to lose at home in the playoffs, perhaps a shockingly bad quarterback performance is one common way for it to happen. From 2000-03, 11 quarterbacks lost at home, and only one had a rating over 60.0 (Trent Green – 92.6 in a 38-31 loss to Manning’s Colts where neither team punted). Green and Marc Bulger were the only two to put 20+ points on the board for their team.
 
Maybe, given all the history and their personal experience, it’s not such a bad thing that the Ravens and Giants are on the road this week.
 
Scott Kacsmar is a football researcher/writer 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. He wonders which New England player Bernard Pollard will knock out this time. You can send any questions or comments to Scott at smk_42@yahoo.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.

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