Monday, October 22, 2012
QBR ranks: Sifting through Week 7 rubble
By Mike Sando
The stat sheet would tell us Arizona's John Skelton was the NFC West's most productive quarterback in Week 7.
Skelton completed 25 of 36 passes for 262 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a season-high 88.0 NFL passer rating during a 21-14 defeat to the Minnesota Vikings.
Those numbers told only a small part of the story in this case.
Skelton took seven sacks. He lost a fumble in the red zone after holding the ball too long. The Vikings' Harrison Smith broke open the game by returning a Skelton interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Skelton was at his best late, when there was less chance the Cardinals would win the game.
Those factors explain why Skelton, despite that respectable passer rating, ranked 23rd out of 25 quarterbacks this week in Total QBR, the metric ESPN developed to evaluate the position more comprehensively.
Skelton's 11.5 QBR score was well below the 50-point mark, which would be average.
"It was the 14th time Arizona had a single-game QBR under 20 since Kurt Warner retired at the end of the 2009 season, tied for most in the NFL over that span (Bears)," ESPN Stats & Information reported.
Arizona took possession in Vikings territory four times in the first half. Two of those possessions resulted in punts. The one resulting in a touchdown required little work from the offense. Arizona took over at the Minnesota 16-yard line. Skelton completed an 8-yard pass before Stephens-Howling ran three times, including for a touchdown.
QBR uses expected points to award credit or blame. Teams taking over possession at the opponent's 16-yard line are expected to score a high percentage of the time. The rewards aren't as great when players accomplish the expected.
The other first-half possession beginning in Vikings territory offered no time for the offense to attempt anything beyond a field goal. Kicker Jay Feely missed that one wide to the right from 47 yards.
With that, let's take a look at how NFC West passers graded out for Week 7 in relation to Total QBR, with NFL passer ratings in parenthesis as a reference point (thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for the charting info):
- Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams (38.6 QBR, 82.4 NFL rating): Bradford completed 21 of 34 passes for 255 yards with one TD, one INT, three sacks, no rushes and no fumbles. Coach Jeff Fisher blamed receiver Brandon Gibson for dropping a critical pass on fourth-and-2. The pass was contested, however, and would have been a difficult one to secure. Bradford did complete a 56-yard pass to rookie receiver Chris Givens, but Givens did most of the work after the catch. As a result, QBR gave Bradford less credit than he would have received if the pass had traveled 56 yards in the air. The third-quarter interception Bradford threw came on a first-down pass he hurried. Green Bay got a field goal out of it for a 20-6 lead.
- Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers (35.3 QBR, 74.5 NFL rating): Smith completed 14 of 23 passes for 140 yards with one TD, one INT, two sacks, no fumbles and five rushes for 11 yards. Smith missed a couple deep passes. The fourth-quarter interception he threw came on third-and-goal from the 7-yard line with the 49ers holding a 10-6 lead. Overall, the 49ers settled for shorter passes. Twelve of Smith's 14 completions traveled no more than five yards past the line of scrimmage. He completed 2 of 8 attempts with an INT on passes traveling more than five yards downfield.
- Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (26.0 QBR, 38.7 NFL rating): Wilson completed 9 of 23 passes for 122 yards with no TDs, one INT, two sacks, no fumbles and three rushes for 10 yards. Wilson threw accurately down the field for tight end Evan Moore and running back Robert Turbin in the first half, but both players dropped the ball. ESPN counted four drops for Seattle overall. I thought there were five, but ESPN uses a stricter standard in the interests of consistency (all games are charted twice, and drops are logged only for passes that should have been caught with ordinary effort). QBR does not dock a quarterback as much for incomplete passes that are dropped, but neither does it award "credit" for gains that should have been made. We covered similar ground regarding the 49ers' Smith last season.
- John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals (11.5 QBR, 88.0 NFL rating): Skelton completed 26 of 35 passes for 262 yards with one TD, one INT, seven sacks, zero rushes and one fumble, which the Vikings recovered. Skelton was working at a disadvantage during the Cardinals' defeat in Minnesota. The team suffers from below-average pass protection. Injuries have diminished the team's options at running back. But with LaRod Stephens-Howling topping 100 yards rushing and the Arizona defense holding the Vikings to 58 yards after halftime, the Cardinals needed more from their offense, including from their quarterback.
The chart below shows how quarterbacks from games involving NFC West teams fared in Total QBR for Week 7, provided they played enough to qualify for inclusion.
The column showing point above average reveals the "number of points contributed by a quarterback over the season, accounting for QBR and how much he plays, above the level of an average quarterback."
Teams with higher QBR scores went 12-0 in Week 7. Teams with higher passer ratings were 7-5. Those winning the turnover battle were 6-4. Since 2008, the percentage is .860 for QBR, .794 for passer rating and .782 for turnover differential.