Yesterday, The 33rd Team looked at five winners from Week 12 and the key statistics that led to each victory. Today, we are flipping the script, analyzing a few of this week’s losers and where they went wrong.
San Francisco 49ers 34 – Minnesota Vikings 26
Vikings Key Stat: 22:53 Time of Possession
The 49ers dominated the ball in this game, which has been a great way to ensure a win this season, with teams going 22-0 this year in non-OT games when having 37+ minutes of possession. The Vikings were inefficient with their third downs, going just 2/8, as well as 1/3 on fourth down and frequently gave the ball back to the 49ers, who were more effective at keeping it, going 5/12 on their own third-down opportunities. Between that and two key second-half turnovers, the Vikings allowed the 49ers to kill the game off late in the second half and hold on for the victory.
Miami Dolphins 33 – Carolina Panthers 10
Panthers Key Stat: -0.572 EPA per Passing Play
After the injury to Sam Darnold in Week 9, the Panthers added Cam Newton with the hopes that he would help them maintain some semblance of a passing threat. Well… based on this game, that failed miserably. Cam went 5/21 for 92 yards with 2 INTs before being benched for PJ Walker, who only performed slightly better himself. The Dolphins defense they faced has been improving in recent weeks but has been far from the top pass defense that they looked like in this game, which has to be a concern for Matt Rhule, Joe Brady, and the Panthers. With the bye next week and a tough schedule coming out of it, the playoff hopes seem to be slipping away in Carolina.
Baltimore Ravens 16 – Cleveland Browns 10
Browns Key Stat: 40 Rushing Yards
In an extremely ugly Sunday Night Football game, the Browns forced 4 interceptions and still managed to lose. This game also falls into the situation of the first game I discussed, as the Ravens had 37:04 of possession and won, a definite concern for a Browns team that should be aiming to have much more of the ball. A big reason for this was their lack of run game, a huge concern for a team ranked third in the NFL in rushing yards per game. 40 yards is by far their lowest such total this season and put a ton of pressure on Baker Mayfield, who may not be able to handle it when fully healthy, but definitely couldn’t in this one while dealing with his injuries.
Denver Broncos 28 – Los Angeles Chargers 13
Chargers Key Stat: 8/11 Allowed on Third Down
There were multiple reasons for the Chargers losing this game, another big one being their two turnovers that led to 14 Broncos points. Despite this, their defense’s inability to get off the field on third down was the key one, as it allowed the Broncos to sustain drives and succeed despite a lack of explosiveness to their offense. They were able to keep the ball in the hands of both their running backs, with 35 touches split very evenly between them, and allowed Teddy Bridgewater to succeed with an average depth of target of just 6.3 yards. This was a ball-control gameplan executed to perfection with good help from their defense.
Buffalo Bills 31 – New Orleans Saints 6
Saints Key Stat: 3.3 Yards per Play
The Bills defense that was dominating teams just a couple of weeks ago was back for this game, though it helped that the Saints were featuring an offense that didn’t seem to belong on an NFL team. Led by Trevor Siemian, who has been a capable backup for them but nothing more, the Saints didn’t exactly have weapons to get the ball to, as Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II both missed out, so Tony Jones Jr. and Ty Montgomery led the backfield and struggled. In the receiving core, Montgomery was the target leader, followed by Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Tre’Quan Smith. That is not a situation for success for any QB, let alone a backup QB who realistically needs the talent around him to elevate him. The Saints’ offensive struggles are likely just beginning.