Yesterday, The 33rd Team looked at five winners from Week 9 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.
Tennessee Titans 28 – Los Angeles Rams 16
Rams Key Stat: 12 Penalties For 115 Yards
The Rams had a lot go wrong on Sunday night in a game where they looked sloppy and undisciplined. 115 yards is a lot to give away on penalties, especially when the Titans had just 19 penalty yards, and the Rams’ penalties set up three new first downs for the Titans as well as setting themselves back on offense more than once. Between their penalty issues and two extremely costly turnovers from Matt Stafford, the Rams managed to waste a great effort from their defense. It is very rare for a team to lose when allowing fewer than 200 yards and just 3.5 yards per play, but this Rams team managed it.
Kansas City Chiefs 13 – Green Bay Packers 7
Packers Key Stat: 2/12 on Third Downs
Green Bay missed a huge opportunity to win this game, as their defense played exceptionally well against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, but the other two phases let them down. The offense really struggled, with QB Jordan Love posting the worst PFF passing grade of any player with multiple dropbacks this season, and their special teams may have been even worse. With two missed field goals and a muffed punt that led directly to a Kansas City field goal only after a great defensive stand, the Packers’ special teams had a nine-point swing in a game ultimately decided by just six points. Aaron Rodgers’ return should help the offense, but the special teams issues are concerning and need fixing.
Arizona Cardinals 31 – San Francisco 49ers 17
49ers Key Stat: 0.638 EPA per Passing Play Allowed
This was an incredibly disappointing performance from the 49ers defense, as they were completely dominated by a Cardinals offense without QB Kyler Murray and their WR1 & WR2 DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green. Colt McCoy filled in admirably at QB, taking what the defense gave him and playing a very efficient game under center. The Cardinals got exceptionally hot in the middle of the game, scoring on five consecutive drives if you remove the kneel to end the first half, and that was the difference as San Francisco simply couldn’t cope with it. San Francisco’s playoff hopes are quickly slipping away and will continue to do so if they don’t improve significantly in pass coverage.
New England Patriots 24 – Carolina Panthers 6
Panthers Key Stat: -0.792 EPA per Passing Play
By EPA per play, this was the second-worst passing performance of the season, and it sure looked like that. Sam Darnold put in an ugly performance, with a QBR of 3, a passer rating of 26.3 and 3 interceptions. This was the worst performance yet for the Panthers passing game, but far from an anomaly, as they now have 3 of the worst 12 passing games this season by EPA per play. Darnold was added as the potential answer at QB for the future, but that experiment definitely seems to have failed, and he is now actively holding them back. The Panthers should definitely be expected to pursue other options at the position, possibly including giving PJ Walker a run as the starter.
Cleveland Browns 41 – Cincinnati Bengals 16
Bengals Key Stat: 24% Explosive play rate allowed
As we highlighted in our big play differential article before this week, the Browns have been the best team in the NFL in explosive play differential, and they were excellent in this area yet again this week. They ran 24 fewer plays and had over 10 minutes less of possession, but they didn’t need more opportunities because of how efficient and dynamic they were with the time they had the ball for. Since only offensive plays are considered for explosive plays, this doesn’t include the 99-yard pick-six by Denzel Ward on the first drive of the game that was an incredibly dynamic and crucial play. Don’t expect the Browns to shift away from this explosive playstyle as long as it keeps working this well.