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Things I Learned From the New PFR Play Finder: Which Teams Chewed Up the Most Rushing Yards by Half?

Posted by Neil on September 4, 2012

One old football aphorism was always that teams needed to "establish the run" -- running early, as the theory went, would set up the pass later in the game. Often it was cited that "Team X is 10-1 when they run 30 or more times in a game," or some such number that failed to see the difference between correlation and causation.

Later, researchers like Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz would point out that teams have such great records when they rush so frequently because the running game is used to run out the clock late in games by the team in the lead. Teams run when they win, not win when they run.

Using our new Play Finder tool, you can illustrate this by looking at rushing yards by half. Here were the teams who had the most rushing success in the first halves of games a year ago:

Team G Plays Yds Avg
CAR 16 218 1369 6.28
DEN 16 271 1325 4.89
MIN 16 249 1260 5.06
OAK 16 247 1225 4.96
HOU 16 262 1200 4.58
PHI 16 228 1145 5.02
CHI 16 230 1125 4.89
ATL 16 237 1064 4.49
BAL 16 223 1064 4.77
PIT 16 193 1029 5.33
SFO 16 227 1026 4.52
JAX 16 222 1015 4.57
MIA 16 237 988 4.17
NOR 16 180 979 5.44
KAN 16 246 969 3.94
DAL 16 206 960 4.66
STL 16 224 952 4.25
BUF 16 191 938 4.91
WAS 16 220 913 4.15
SDG 16 207 896 4.33
NYJ 16 225 896 3.98
IND 16 220 865 3.93
SEA 16 225 857 3.81
CIN 16 217 801 3.69
NWE 16 193 789 4.09
CLE 16 221 782 3.54
GNB 16 161 721 4.48
NYG 16 184 707 3.84
DET 16 165 696 4.22
ARI 16 176 695 3.95
TAM 16 176 671 3.81
TEN 16 170 592 3.48

And here were the most successful rushing teams in the 2nd half:

Team G Plays Yds Avg
HOU 16 284 1247 4.39
DEN 16 258 1233 4.78
NOR 16 248 1138 4.59
PHI 16 221 1129 5.11
MIN 16 199 1057 5.31
CAR 16 227 1033 4.55
SFO 16 269 1006 3.74
MIA 16 230 987 4.29
BUF 16 200 984 4.92
CIN 16 238 978 4.11
NWE 16 245 975 3.98
JAX 16 267 956 3.58
BAL 16 236 932 3.95
SDG 16 220 915 4.16
KAN 16 234 906 3.87
ARI 16 201 900 4.48
SEA 16 218 900 4.13
CHI 16 224 883 3.94
OAK 16 217 879 4.05
PIT 16 241 875 3.63
TEN 16 206 847 4.11
DAL 16 198 842 4.25
GNB 16 234 838 3.58
DET 16 191 825 4.32
NYJ 16 218 796 3.65
TAM 16 172 784 4.56
ATL 16 215 772 3.59
CLE 16 192 732 3.81
IND 16 162 731 4.51
NYG 16 227 722 3.18
WAS 16 178 698 3.92
STL 16 184 696 3.78

If you look at how those numbers correlate to winning percentage, total 1st-half rushing yards have a Pearson coefficient of -0.090 (meaning there's practically no relationship -- and whatever relationship there is is negative!), while yards per rush in the 1st half have a 0.179 correlation with winning. 2nd-half total rushing yards have a correlation of 0.289 with winning percentage, and yards per carry in the 2nd half has a correlation of -0.303.

These are small correlations, but the point is that total 2nd-half rushing success is much more correlated with winning than 1st-half rushing (which has practically no relationship with winning whatsoever). In other words, so much for "establishing the run."

More interestingly, per-play rushing success in the 2nd half has the strongest correlation of any of the variables I looked at above... and it's negative! This makes sense, because teams running out the clock are often calling safe, straight-ahead plunge plays, while defenses with the lead are willing to concede effective runs to the trailing offense.

Because of those factors, the most telling numbers of all are simply that 1st-half rushing attempts had a -0.312 correlation with winning, while 2nd-half rushing attempts had a correlation of 0.612.

Which basically proves once again that teams need to establish the pass early, not the run, and use rushing to run out the clock once they have the lead.

2 Comments | Posted in Advanced Stats, Announcement, Features, Play Index, Pro-Football-Reference.com

Things I Learned From the New PFR Play Finder: Clutch Receivers

Posted by Neil on August 30, 2012

For the few week or two, I'll be looking at a different example search from the new PFR Play Finder tool. Today's topic: Clutch Receivers...

Who was the best clutch receiver in the game last season? Obviously any definition of "clutch" is going to be pretty arbitrary, but let's use the Play Finder to look at this from a couple of different angles.

First, who were the best receivers in the 4th quarter or OT? Here's who had the most yards:

Player T C Pct Yds TD
Victor Cruz 59 39 0.661 692 6
Larry Fitzgerald 62 32 0.516 682 5
Steve Smith 35 22 0.629 457 0
Calvin Johnson 43 29 0.674 452 5
Wes Welker 43 31 0.721 418 2
Reggie Wayne 47 29 0.617 411 3
Dwayne Bowe 49 27 0.551 393 2
Rob Gronkowski 32 26 0.813 392 4
Jimmy Graham 36 26 0.722 380 2
Pierre Garcon 56 30 0.536 370 2

1 Comment | Posted in Announcement, Features, Play Index, Pro-Football-Reference.com

Introducing the PFR Play Finder!

Posted by Neil on August 29, 2012

Thanks to a lot of hard work by our programmer Mike Kania, Pro-Football-Reference is proud to introduce the PI Play Finder, which allows you to query play-by-play data from every NFL game since 2000. Here are a few of the things you can use this tool for:

...You get the idea. With this feature, you can find events and calculate splits where the only limit is your imagination.

So enjoy the new Play Finder, and as always, let us know via email if you find any bugs or have any suggestions.

6 Comments | Posted in Announcement, Play Index, Pro-Football-Reference.com

New Injury Information at PFR

Posted by Neil on August 20, 2012

We're happy to announce that we've added new injury information to Pro-Football-Reference:

  • Current-Season Injuries - The 2012 team pages now have "Current Injuries" tables that pull from the NFL's most recent injury report.
  • Team Injury Grids - Dating back to 2009, we have team injury grids that display the injury-report status for every player on the roster for each week of the season.

Hopefully these will help you in your research and with your fantasy teams!

3 Comments | Posted in Announcement, Features, Pro-Football-Reference.com

Pro Football Hall of Fame Pages

Posted by Neil on August 6, 2012

With the inductions of Curtis Martin, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Willie Roaf, and Jack Butler last Saturday, now's a good time to check out PFR's Hall of Fame Page to look at where the newly-enshrined players fit in with the rest of the HoF legends.

Also, we list the 2012 Ballot here; you can compare that to the HoF list and see who got snubbed (Aeneas Williams! Tim Brown! Cris Carter!) and who's next.

1 Comment | Posted in Announcement, Hall of Fame, Pro-Football-Reference.com

Olympics at Sports-Reference

Posted by Neil on July 31, 2012

Just a friendly reminder to check out our Olympics site, which is being updated daily throughout the London games.

Comments Off | Posted in Announcement, Baseball-Reference.com, Basketball-Reference.com, CBB at Sports Reference, CFB at Sports Reference, expire21d, Features, Hockey-Reference.com, Olympics at S-R, Pro-Football-Reference.com

CFB – Forfeits and Vacated Games

Posted by Neil on July 25, 2012

It's always unfortunate when tragedy intrudes upon the world of sports, like we've seen in college football since the Penn State child abuse scandal broke last fall. Our thoughts are mainly with the victims and their families, but there is also administrative work to be done in the wake of the NCAA's major sanctions against Penn State.

As a matter of policy, Sports Reference primarily reports the results of games as played on the field, which means you will still see Joe Paterno's name atop the career coaching leaderboard. It's a difficult situation, but as a data company we first and foremost record the actual events as they happened at the time. However, we also have a list of forfeited and vacated games that provides details of records that have been adjusted by the NCAA. Further, we have notes about vacated results on the affected pages for individual coaches and team-seasons, and the affected leaderboards also contain notes about decisions made by the NCAA.

As was the case with violations by Ohio State, USC, and others, we feel that it is important to provide information about what actually happened on the field at the time, as well as what the NCAA considers official in their records. Hopefully this blog post will clear up any future confusion regarding vacated/forfeited wins and how they related to our stats or leaderboards.

1 Comment | Posted in Announcement, CFB at Sports Reference, Data, Pro-Football-Reference.com

Reminder: P-F-R Needs Your Help!

Posted by Neil on July 20, 2012

Another reminder for users in the Philly area -- we need people like you to come in and help us improve our sites!

If you're in the vicinity -- our HQ is located in the Mt. Airy section of northwest Philadelphia -- and can spare an hour next week to help us test out some PFR Play Index features (we'll even pay you $50 for your time), please email me with your name and a contact phone number.

Please remember testing will be done in Philadelphia only. Thanks in advance for your help!

Comments Off | Posted in Announcement, Play Index, Pro-Football-Reference.com

Wanted: Pro-Football-Reference Usability Testers

Posted by Neil on July 17, 2012

Attention readers in the Philly area -- we need users like you to come in and help us improve our sites!

If you're in the vicinity -- our HQ is located in the Mt. Airy section of northwest Philadelphia -- and can spare an hour next week to help us test out some PFR Play Index features (we'll even pay you $50 for your time), please email me your name and a contact phone number.

We are looking for 3 testers, so we may not be able to use everyone. Please remember testing will be done in Philadelphia only.

Thanks in advance for your help!

4 Comments | Posted in Announcement, expire21d, Play Index, Pro-Football-Reference.com

Season Leaderboards

Posted by Neil on June 27, 2012

Want to know who led the league in various categories last season? Check out the 2011 leaderboard page.

1 Comment | Posted in Announcement, Features, Pro-Football-Reference.com

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