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Inside the Numbers: Why Teams Won in Week 11

Kirk Cousins vs Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Each week The 33rd Team will review Sunday’s games by looking behind the box score to find the key statistics that affected the outcome of each game. Here, we will look at why these teams won:

Minnesota Vikings 34 – Green Bay Packers 31

Vikings Key Stat: 13.5 Yards per Pass Attempt in the First Half

We wrote last week about the popular strategy when facing a star QB – keep the ball on the ground and eat the clock. With Dalvin Cook and a top-ten rushing attack ready to go against a division rival who sports Aaron Rodgers in the backfield, few would be surprised if Minnesota opted to keep the ball on the ground early. In fact, Green Bay was prepared for it – holding the Vikings to under two yards per rush in the first half and averaging first contact with the runner at the LOS.

However, Kirk Cousins came out firing and built just enough of a lead to hang on against a furious late comeback from the Packers. Cousins only attempted 12 passes in the first half but put up 100 yards through the air and was accurate enough to support another 62 yards after the catch. With an astounding 0.689 EPA/pass, the Vikings gave themselves a six-point lead and the ball going into halftime, just enough to eke out a win.

Washington Football Team 27 – Carolina Panthers 21

Washington Key Stat: 3/12 Allowed on Third and Fourth Down

After star rusher Chase Young joined Montez Sweat on the injury report, the disappointing Washington defense didn’t figure to get any relief when returning dual-threat QB Cam Newton joined Christian McCaffrey on the Panthers. Although Newton made it into the end zone three times, Washington ultimately got the best of Carolina due in large part to a successful outing on third and fourth down. Holding the Panthers to only 2/9 on third down, Washington forced three punts in the first half and got two turnover-on-downs in the second. Don’t count out the remaining cast of Cole Holcomb, William Jackson, Daron Payne, and Jonathan Allen just yet.

Indianapolis Colts 41 – Buffalo Bills 15

Colts Key Stat: 4 Takeaways

Facing a team that had managed the fewest giveaways all season, the Colts broke the Bills on Sunday. Forcing 4 total turnovers, including 3 INTs of an embattled Josh Allen who had only had one other three-pick game in his career (2019 vs New England). Of course, the dominance of Jonathan Taylor certainly played a role, but it’s tough to overstate that teams with 4+ takeaways and 0 giveaways have lost only 33 games in NFL history of 778 attempts – a 95.76% win rate. Taylor was amazing, but so was the defense.

Houston Texans 22 – Tennessee Titans 13

Texans Key Stat: 5 Takeaways

Is it repetitive to talk about turnovers again? Absolutely, but the Texans defense forced a turnover on three of the last four drives of the game and effectively ended this game despite a Texans offense led by a 107-yard passer, 40-yd rusher, and 37-yard receiver. Teams with 5+ takeaways and no giveaways? 11 losses in 300 games, a 96.33% win rate, and the largest stunner this week.

Philadelphia Eagles 40 – New Orleans Saints 29

Eagles Key Stat: 242 Yards Rushing at 4.8 Yards per Attempt

With Miles Sanders back and matched against an intimidating Saints secondary, the Eagles completed a pass on their first offensive snap of the game before going run on the next five. The game plan was set, with Jalen Hurts ably picking up yards with his feet whenever the secondary locked down. Three different Eagles had 10+ carries, consistently picking up yards to keep the chains manageable as the team gained 14 first downs on the ground. The game was all-but over after a Darius Slay pick-six to finish the first half, with the consistency of the Eagles running game keeping the proceedings smooth even after the Saints offense kicked into gear.