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Football Geekery, Week 10

Posted Nov 8, 2013

Channeling our inner pigskin nerd, we dive a little deeper into the statistics generated by the Bucs from week to week...This week we look at third-down fluctuations, passer rating by distance of throw, and more

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The difference between the Bucs' first-half and second-half third-down success last Sunday was the largest in 13 years
  • Rookie QB Mike Glennon has fared well in the intermediate range with his passing through five starts
  • LB Lavonte David and S Mark Barron are filling up their entire stat lines like only a few players in the NFL
A wise Buccaneer man once said, "Stats are for losers."  We concede the point, in that the ultimate worth of a football game is found in letters (Ws and Ls) rather than numbers.  Still, if treated right, the numbers can bring us a greater understanding of how wins and losses occur, or at the very least entertain us.  We hope to do that each week with our football geekery, giving you a closer look at a few pieces of statistical analysis, hopefully in a way that is relevant to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' current state of affairs.

Let's get started.

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1. Tale of Two Halves

In discussing the Buccaneers' running game recently, Head Coach Greg Schiano said that the success of Mike James on first and second-down runs in Seattle created a string of "manageable" third-down situations, which helped the Buccaneers sustain drives better than they had for most of the season.  Tampa Bay actually produced its two longest touchdown drives of the season in Seattle, a 90-yarder and an 84-yarder on consecutive possessions.

Note that both of those possessions happened in the first half.  Leading 21-7 at halftime, the Bucs were held to three points in the second half and subsequently lost in overtime, 27-24.  The difference?  The Buccaneers converted those manageable third downs in the first half; they did not in the second half.

In fact, the difference could hardly have been more stark.  QB Mike Glennon led the Bucs to seven conversions in eight third-down tries before the intermission.  After halftime, Tampa Bay was good on just one of seven third-down attempts.  That's an 87.5% success rate in the first half and a 14.3% success rate in the second half.  That difference in conversion rate of 73.2 percentage points is the biggest gap the Buccaneers have seen between a first and second half this year.  Moreover, it's the biggest gap they've seen in more than a decade.

The last time the Buccaneers had a larger contrast between their success in the first and second halves was on October 9, 2000, in Minnesota. In that game, the Bucs were seven of nine in the first half for a success rate of 77.8, and zero of four in the second half for, obviously, a 0.0% conversion rate.  That's a difference of 77.8 percentage points.  Tampa Bay led that game, 23-20, in the fourth quarter before losing, 30-23.

-- QB M. Glennon has a 96.7 passer rating on balls thrown 11-20 yards to the target
Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, this first half/second half disparity has been evident for much of the season, not just in Seattle.  In five of the last six games, in fact, the Bucs have seen their third-down success rate go down after halftime.  Here are the third-down conversion numbers from each of Tampa Bay's eight games this season, broken down by half:

Game

1st Half

2nd Half

Diff.

at NYJ

28.6%

44.4%

+15.8

vs. NO

33.3%

42.9%

+9.6

at NE

50.0%

16.7%

-33.3

vs. AZ

54.5%

14.3%

-40.2

vs. PHI

33.3%

44.4%

+11.1

at ATL

37.5%

22.2%

-15.3

vs. CAR

33.3%

25.0%

-8.3

at SEA

87.5%

14.3%

-73.2


2. Glennon Can Gun It

Rookie QB Mike Glennon has been very impressive in a variety of ways in his first five NFL starts, and he's coming off his best game yet, with a passer rating of 123.1 in Seattle last Sunday.  One area of Glennon's game that hasn't clicked yet – though the Buccaneers are very confident it will – is the deep ball.  Of the seven passes he has thrown that have traveled more than 30 yards in the air, only one has been complete, a 59-yard TD pass to Vincent Jackson in Atlanta.

When Glennon does begin to connect more often downfield, there will be an impressive range to his passing game.  Though the deep ball hasn't emerged yet, he has been far from a dink-and-dunk sort of passer.  In fact, for the most part his results have been better the farther he has been from his target, at least up to 30 yards.

Glennon has thrown 204 passes so far.  Here is how they break down in terms of distance the ball has traveled in the air to its intended target:

Distance

Att

Cmp

Pct.

Yds

TD

INT

Rtg

Behind Line

41

26

63.4%

120

0

0

67.4

1-10 Yards

112

73

65.2%

562

4

2

81.8

11-20 Yards

37

19

51.4%

320

3

1

96.7

21-30 Yards

7

4

57.1%

104

0

0

101.8

31-40 Yards

4

0

0.0%

0

0

0

39.6

41+ Yards

3

1

33.3%

59

1

0

121.5


The numbers climb steadily from the shorter throws to the longer ones, up to a pair of very good marks in the 11-20 and 21-30 ranges.  To some extent, this should be expected – the longer throws are going to have a lesser chance of being complete (as seen in the Pct. column above) but when they do hit they are usually going to provide more yards.  There's also a greater chance of touchdowns on the longer throws.  However, those throws also assume increasing risk of interception.

The sample sizes are pretty small in the top three categories, of course, to the point that Glennon's one completion in the deepest pass category is enough to give him a stellar and somewhat misleading rating.  Perhaps his most impressive line is in the 11-20 yard range, where the completion percentage is lower than optimal but the yards per attempt is nearly nine and the 3-1 touchdown-interception ratio is a good start.

3. Second-Year Stars

In April of 2012, the Buccaneers used a first-round pick to draft Alabama safety Mark Barron, and a second-round pick to nab Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David (with another first-rounder, RB Doug Martin, sandwiched in between).  Both Barron and David had fine rookie seasons, and both are beginning to emerge as true NFL stars, and playmakers all over the field.  In Seattle, Barron and David each had 11 tackles, the first time that two Bucs have topped double digits in that category in the same game this season.  Barron also had an interception and two passes defensed against the Seahawks, as he is following David's lead in filling up his entire stat line.

To be specific, David leads the team with 70 tackles and has added 11 tackles for loss, five sacks, an interception and five passes defensed.  Barron is next with 55 stops and has added one tackle for loss, one sack, two interceptions and four passes defensed.  Those are combined levels of performance that only a handful of players in the NFL have matched so far.  In fact, there are only 11 players in the NFL who already have at least 55 tackles, at least one sack, at least one interception, at least one run "stuff" and at least four passes defensed.

Player

Tm

Tack

Sack

INT

Stuff

PD

Vontaze Burfict

CIN

90

1.0

1

2

4

Kiko Alonso

BUF

89

2.0

4

5

4

Paul Posluszny

JAX

80

1.0

2

2

7

Karlos Dansby

AZ

71

3.0

1

3

10

Daryl Smith

BAL

71

2.5

2

1

9

Lavonte David

TB

70

5.0

1

8

5

James Laurinaitis

STL

67

2.0

1

3

4

T.J. Ward

CLE

64

1.5

2

5

5

Thomas Davis

CAR

61

3.0

1

2

6

Danny Trevathan

DEN

58

1.0

3

3

8

Mark Barron

TB

55

1.0

2

1

4


The stat lines fluctuate quite a bit, with some players (e.g. Thomas Davis) having a more robust sack number and some (e.g. Danny Trevathan) coming in higher on interceptions.  But they all make the cut in every category with these (admittedly somewhat arbitrary) thresholds of production. The most important column, with all the other numbers in mind, is the second one.  Only one team places two players on this list: Tampa Bay.
Game Rewind: Tampa Bay Buccaneers