Continuing with the past few months’ theme of NFL EPA statistics, this weeks post is all about how players perform when their team is down, specifically by two or more touchdowns.
All graphics in this post will be looking at EPA statistics from the 2019 NFL regular season when the team is down by 14 or more points.
The first graphic will look at how players did when rushing the ball by down 14 or more points and with at least 15 carries. The black line indicates a 0 average EPA per attempt, the area to the left of the line is negative average EPA per rush attempt while the area to the rights of the line is positive.
Highly successful teams from last season are notably absent from the above graphic, although there are some playoff teams making appearances in the top spots. It would stand to reason that if a team is able to successfully run the ball when down 14 or more points they would be able to comeback and win games. Or, perhaps, successful teams do not go down by two touchdowns in the first place.
Carlos Hyde and Dalvin Cook are certainly notable running backs, some of the best in the NFL, and it is not surprising to see them at one and two in this measure. These two also made the playoffs last season.
Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell are certainly notable names with negative EPA per rush attempt measures. It’s clear these are also some of the best running backs in the NFL, so my bet would be these poor numbers speak more to the teams around them last season rather than personal talents.
The second graphic looks at receivers’ average EPA per target when down by 14 or more points last season, with at least 20 targets.
Calvin Ridley takes the top spot, followed by two Dallas Cowboys – Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Having two players from the same teams speaks a lot to Dallas’ team last season. Not only were they down enough to have two wide receivers on the list, but they also clearly thought throwing the ball was their best bet to shrink the deficit, which is curious considering they have one of the best running backs in the league.
Jarvis Landry is an exceptional talent that clearly did not perform well last season when the Brows were down. This certainly could have to do with the Browns team in general though last season, which took a step back from the 2018 season even though they were able to add multiple offensive weapons in the off season.
The third graphic looks at a quarterback’s average EPA per pass attempt when down by 14 or more points, with at least 70 attempts.
It’s no surprise to me to see last season’s touchdown record holder, Jameis Winston in the top spot. While he certainly had his problems with interceptions, there’s no question that Jameis could throw the ball. He was still able to make plays when his team was down.
Deshaun Watson was surprising to see so far down. Although he is a great NFL quarterback, he struggles when his team is down and needs him the most.
Please note: I did not filter out when teams actually comeback to win the game after being down by 14 or more points – this article simply looks at how players perform when they are down 14 or more points and have the opportunity to comeback.