Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Interception-Free Streaks in NFL History

Football Geekery: Once again this year we channel our inner pigskin nerd and dive a little deeper into the statistics to help illuminate Buc football…This week: interception-free streaks, 1,000-yard seasons and more.

Photos of Jameis Winston's touchdown run in the 4th quarter against the Giants.

Statistics can help illuminate the game of football…or they can take us down a misleading path.  As Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith said: "I believe in stats, but it's [which] stats."

Smith, for instance, doesn't pay much attention to the NFL's defensive rankings, since they are based on yards, which he considers a meaningless measure.  When he shares defensive stats with his team, he focuses on points allowed, takeaways, scoring on defense and red zone proficiency.

Here on Buccaneers.com, we unabashedly love stats, but we also understand the need to wield them wisely.  Sometimes, we can get a better feel for why the team is performing as it is by going a little deeper into the numbers. Other times, we simply want to point out a few numbers we consider interesting, and hope you will find it interesting as well.

That's our goal with Football Geekery.  Each week, we're going to give you a sampling of statistical and/or historical analysis, hopefully in a way that is relevant to the Buccaneers' current state of affairs.  This week, we open with a closer look at Jameis Winston's run of four straight games without a pick. We also examine Doug Martin at the halfway point, as compared to previous Buc backs who got halfway to 1,000, and note that the 2015 draft class is producing a lot of games started right off the bat. Let's get started.

...

1. Four Games, No Picks

After throwing four interceptions against Carolina in Week Four, giving him seven picks in his first four NFL games, rookie quarterback Jameis Winston put added emphasis on protecting the football in his subsequent preparations. The results have been as good as possible: Winston has not thrown a single interception since. Overall, his streak of consecutive passes without an interception is at 122, including the last nine throws from that Carolina game. In the four games since, he has thrown 113 passes without being picked off.

That's quite an accomplishment for a rookie, but it's actually a relatively rare occurrence for a quarterback of any vintage in franchise history. In fact, Winston's current run is just the 10th streak of at least four games in the same season without an interception by a Buccaneer quarterback (with a minimum of 10 passes thrown in each game of the streak). All 10 of those streaks are listed in the chart below.

Quarterback

Streak

Dates

Att.

Cmp.

Pct.

Yds.

TD

Int

Rating

Josh Freeman

4

12/12/10-1/2/11

109

78

71.6%

1009

9

0

127.8

Josh Freeman

4

10/21-11/11/12

128

75

58.6%

1139

10

0

114.0

Jeff Garcia

7

9/9-10/21/07

189

133

70.4%

1504

7

0

106.2

Vinny Testaverde

4

9/23-10/14/90

91

54

59.3%

829

4

0

104.1

Jeff Garcia

4

11/16-12/8/08

109

69

63.3%

860

5

0

103.0

Trent Dilfer

5

10/26-11/23/97

136

83

61.0%

958

8

0

101.9

Jameis Winston

4

10/11-11/8/15

113

69

61.1%

930

4

0

99.1

Chris Simms

4

11/27-12/17/05

112

72

64.3%

618

1

0

81.6

Doug Williams

4

9/19-12/5/82

112

59

52.7%

730

2

0

79.1

Trent Dilfer

5

9/24-10/22/95

121

66

54.5%

802

1

0

77.9

Totals

1220

758

62.1%

9379

51

0

99.8

Those streaks are ordered not chronologically but by overall passer rating during the streak, in descending order. Winston's passer rating during his run is an excellent 99.1; even though that only ranks seventh out of these 10 lines, it is still almost identical to the combined rating put up by the quarterbacks in all of the streaks. Notably, Winston is the only rookie on that list.

Actually, that last note is not terribly surprising. A stretch like that is fairly uncommon for rookie passers on any of the NFL's 32 teams. In fact, Winston's run is just the fifth time it's happened in the last decade. The other four all ended at four games, so Winston could be the first of that group to put up a five-game interception-free streak. Here are those five instances:

Quarterback

Team

Dates

Att.

Cmp.

Pct.

Yds.

TD

Int

Rating

Russell Wilson

SEA

11/4-12/2/12

107

72

67.3%

878

9

0

120.4

Joe Flacco

BAL

10/19-11/9/08

99

61

61.6%

805

6

0

107.5

Jameis Winston

TB

10/11-11/8/15

113

69

61.1%

930

4

0

99.1

Sam Bradford

STL

10/17-11/14/12

131

86

65.6%

766

6

0

96.4

Ryan Tannehill

MIA

12/2-12/23/12

115

65

56.5%

686

5

0

88.5

Totals

565

353

62.5%

4065

30

0

101.8

No rookie since at least 1960 has started five straight games and thrown at least 10 passes in each one without throwing an interception.

...

2. Halfway to 1,000

At the season's midway point, running back Doug Martin has 643 yards on 143 carries, ranking fifth on the NFL's rushing leaders chart. He's on pace for 1,286 rushing yards, but even if he falls of his pace he will still record his second career 1,000-yard season with 357 yards in the next eight games. Martin, whose 1,454 yards in his 2012 rookie season stands as the second-highest single-season total in franchise history, could join James Wilder, Errict Rhett and Warrick Dunn as the only players in tam annals to have multiple 1,000-yard rushing campaigns.

Martin's performance to date marks the 11th time in Buccaneer history that a running back has hit the season's halfway mark on pace for a 1,000-yard season; in other words, it's the 11th time a Buc rusher has hit 500 yards through the team's first eight games. The good news for Martin is that in seven of the previous 10 seasons on the list, the player to get to 500 after eight also made it over 1,000 by year's end. One of the three who did not, Jerry Eckwood, was on the same team as another back (Ricky Bell) who got to 500 through eight.

Here are those 11 seasons in which a Buccaneer running back was on pace for 1,000 yards after the first eight games:

First Half

Second Half

Season

Year

No.

Yds

Avg.

No.

Yds

Avg.

Yards

Doug Martin

2015

143

643

4.5

?

?

?

?

Doug Martin

2012

154

794

5.2

165

660

4.0

1454

Michael Pittman

2003

123

513

4.2

64

238

3.7

751

Mike Alstott

1999

118

547

4.6

124

402

3.2

949

Warrick Dunn

1998

109

515

4.7

136

511

3.8

1026

Errict Rhett

1995

191

615

3.2

141

592

4.2

1207

Reggie Cobb

1992

153

571

3.7

157

600

3.8

1171

James Wilder

1985

189

735

3.9

176

565

3.2

1300

James Wilder

1984

194

726

3.7

213

818

3.8

1544

Ricky Bell

1979

120

616

5.1

163

647

4.0

1263

Jerry Eckwood

1979

137

528

3.9

57

162

2.8

690

Buc fans may be surprised that Cadillac Williams' 2005 rookie campaign is not on that list, given that his first three weeks were so good that the Hall of Fame called for his cleats. Williams had 434 rushing yards after just three games, but injuries kept him out of two of the next five and limited him to a total of 62 yards in the other three. That left him four yards shy of 500 at the halfway point, but Williams recovered to finish the season with 1,178 yards.

Martin has 11 fewer carries and 151 fewer than he did at the halfway point in 2012, but it will be interesting to see what his workload is in the second half and if he can continue to pick up yards at the same pace. In 2012, Martin actually carried more often in the second half (165 to 154) but his per-carry average dropped from 5.2 to 4.0. This year, Martin hits the halfway mark with a 4.5-yard average.

Martin would buck the trend a bit if he maintained that per-carry average or improved it. In the previous 10 seasons on the list, the running back's per-carry average dropped seven times, and four times it dropped by more than a yard. The only back to significantly improve his yards per carry average in the second half was Errict Rhett, who picked up 3.2 yards per tote in the first half of 1995 but upped that to 4.2 per in the second half. James Wilder also nudged his average up from 3.7 to 3.8 between the two season halves in 1984 when he set the franchise record with 1,544 yards.

Again, Martin doesn't have to keep picking up yards at the same pace to make it to 1,000, so he can weather a slight drop in his per-carry average. Probably more important is that he continues to get roughly the same amount of carries, if not a few more. Of the seven seasons above that did finish north of 1,000 yards, the back in question got more second-half carries than first-half carries in five of them.

...

3. Instant Impact

Starting right guard Ali Marpet has been ruled out for Sunday's game against Dallas due to an ankle injury. That will mark the first time that any of the team's top four draft picks of 2015 have not started a game this year; quarterback Jameis Winston, left tackle Donovan Smith and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander are all expected to start for the ninth time in nine games on Sunday.

Winston, Smith, Marpet and Alexander have already combined for 32 starts. With Marpet to miss this week's game, they have a maximum combined total of 63 by season's end. They don't even have to make that many starts to set a record for Buccaneer draft classes.

Actually, we're only considering draft classes since 1994, when the NFL Draft was shortened to seven rounds. That's 32 draft classes to consider, and none of them has combined for more than 54 starts in a season. Here are the Bucs' top five draft classes since 1994 in terms of combined games started:

Class

Starts

Starting Players

1996

54

Regan Upshaw, Marcus Jones, Mike Alstott, Donnie Abraham, Jason Odom

2010

50

Gerald McCoy, Arrelious Benn, Myron Lewis, Mike Williams, Cody Grimm, Dekoda Watson, Erik Lorig

2012

48

Mark Barron, Doug Martin, Lavonte David

2013

47

Johnthan Banks, Mike Glennon, Akeem Spence, William Gholston, Mike James

2011

46

Adrian Clayborn, Da'Quan Bowers, Mason Foster, Luke Stocker

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