Stats & Info: Super Bowl

Seahawks' Super Bowl win a slam dunk

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3

Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports
Malcolm Smith recovered a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown in Seattle's victory.
Their first defensive snap resulted in a safety. Their first offensive drive produced points. Their kickoff return to start the second half was a touchdown.

In all phases of the game, the Seattle Seahawks dominated the Denver Broncos in winning Super Bowl XLVIII, 43-8.

Seahawks’ defense locks down Broncos
The Seahawks forced the Broncos into their worst offensive-efficiency performance of the season. The Broncos’ offense contributed minus-21.6 points to their net scoring margin, their first game this season with a negative offensive efficiency. They entered the Super Bowl as the only team without such a game this season.

The first-snap safety was only part of the Broncos’ offensive difficulties. Peyton Manning averaged 8.2 yards per completion (league average in 2013: 11.6 yards). Malcolm Smith returned one of Manning's two interceptions for a touchdown. It added up to the Seahawks’ second-best game in terms of defensive efficiency this season, behind their shutout win against Eli Manning and the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in Week 15 (plus-24.3 points).

The performance in the Super Bowl crowned the Seahawks’ season-long stretch of defensive supremacy. They finished the season with the league’s best defensive efficiency, contributing 7.2 points per game to their net scoring margin (the next closest team: Cincinnati Bengals, 4.7). Of those 7.2 points, an NFL-high 6.3 per game were on pass plays. The Seahawks’ defensive efficiency on pass plays Sunday equaled 14.3 points toward their scoring margin.

The Seahawks' defensive efficiency in the Super Bowl was the best in a postseason game since the 2009 wild-card round (the Baltimore Ravens contributed 23.1 points against the New England Patriots).

But the Seahawks dominated in every phase, not just defense. Their offense had zero turnovers, allowed zero sacks and limited negative plays to three. The Seahawks converted 7 of 12 third-down plays.

And their special teams added a touchdown on Percy Harvin’s return of the second-half kickoff for a touchdown.

Manning struggles, Wilson reverses field
Manning's 24.4 Total QBR in the Super Bowl was his lowest in a game this season and the worst in a Super Bowl since the Chicago Bears' Rex Grossman in 2006 (7.1).

Russell Wilson posted a 88.1 Total QBR, the second-highest in a Super Bowl since 2006 (Joe Flacco had a 93.4 last year), and it snapped Wilson's streak of six games with a Total QBR of less than 50.0. Wilson's Total QBR in his first two postseason games this season was 34.3.

Wilson completed 7 of 8 passes for 82 yards and six first-downs on third-down plays.

Game was out of hand early
The Broncos' first play from scrimmage, a safety, resulted in a 4.7-point hit to the team's offensive efficiency.

After Manning's interception that Smith returned for a touchdown with 3:36 left in the first half, the Broncos' win probability dropped to 3.5 percent. It never rose to more than 5 percent.

The Broncos ran 41 offensive plays with a win probability below 5.0 percent. They ran 19 such plays the rest of the season.

D-II Washburn steals Super Bowl show

February, 1, 2013
A total of 106 players are on the active rosters of the Ravens and 49ers, and examining the alma maters of Super Bowl teams always produces interesting quirks. Here are three things to know…

Who’s number one?
Miami (FL) leads the way with five players on Super Bowl rosters, followed by Oregon, Ohio State, Texas, Marshall and Utah with four apiece. The Hurricanes shouldn’t be a surprising presence, as Miami was second among all schools with 37 players on NFL opening-day rosters.

The lone college with more players on opening-day squads was USC with 44, but the Trojans don’t have a single player in the Super Bowl for just the fifth time in 47 games.

Ichabod craze
The most unexpected find is Division II Washburn University, which features two players on Super Bowl rosters: Ravens starting cornerback Cary Williams and 49ers special-teams captain Michael Wilhoite, who played together for the Ichabods in 2006 and 2007. Located in Topeka, Kansas, Washburn sports an enrollment of 7,204 and has never had an alumnus play in the Super Bowl.

This season, Washburn has the same number of Super Bowl players as traditional powers LSU (1), Notre Dame (1), Oklahoma (0) and USC combined. The Ichabods also match the total of recent BCS champions Alabama, Auburn and Florida.

This marks the fifth time in the last 20 years that two players from the same non-Division I program played in the Super Bowl.

The most recent occurrence was 11 years ago, when South Dakota State was still Division II and featured alumni Adam Vinatieri (Patriots) and Adam Timmerman (Rams) in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Blue Hen group
Neither starting quarterback, Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick or Delaware’s Joe Flacco, attended a college in one of the BCS AQ conferences, which isn’t as rare as you might think. It last happened four years ago when Northern Iowa’s Kurt Warner faced Ben Roethlisberger from Miami (OH).

Flacco will join Rich Gannon as the second Blue Hen quarterback to start a Super Bowl, while notable schools like USC, Texas and Ohio State still haven’t produced one.
Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesRedskins quarterback Doug Williams is one of several players whose Super Bowl performance was viewed as surprising, given his statistical history.
We invited those who have friended us on the Stats & Information Facebook page to send us some statistically-oriented questions related to the Super Bowl.

Here are a few that we were able to answer:

Christopher Gachko asks: “Statistically, who had the most surprising performance in Super Bowl history (ie: reg season/career average stats vs. performance in Super Bowl).”

The most statistically-surprising Super Bowl performance may belong to Timmy Smith of the 1987 Washington Redskins.

Smith rushed for a Super Bowl record 204 yards and two touchdowns in Super Bowl XXII against the Denver Broncos. Smith played just 17 regular season games in his career, amassing 602 yards and just three touchdowns. The Super Bowl was only the seventh game of his NFL career.

At the wide receiver position, the biggest statistical surprise may have been in Super Bowl I, when Max McGee of the 1966 Green Bay Packers had seven catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

McGee had only four catches that season, not posting more than one in any game. He hadn’t had a game with that many receiving yards since November 1964.

Also of note in one regard is New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch, who had 10 catches in Super Bowl XXXVII and 11 his MVP winning performance in Super Bowl XXXIX. Though Branch has had many fine games in his NFL career, he’s only had one other game with at least 10 catches.

The quarterback whose Super Bowl performance was the furthest out of line with everything else he did in his postseason career is Doug Williams, also of the 1987 Redskins. Williams completed 18-of-29 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns.

In his six other playoff appearances, Williams completed just 36 percent of his passes, with five touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

On the negative side, Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon threw a record five interceptions in Super Bowl XXXVII against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers despite doing so just once in his career. The games came over 12 years apart.

Wade Fuller asks: “Is there any relationship between the distance a team's home stadium is from the location of the Super Bowl and the winner of the game?”

The last six champions have traveled shorter distances to the Super Bowl than the teams they beat.

Historically, there has been a slight edge for the teams who travel a shorter distance, with those teams going 25-20 in the 45 Super Bowls.

The New York Giants traveled roughly 150 fewer miles to Indianapolis than the New England Patriots.

Mike Cook asks: “A post on which regular season stats correlate most strongly with Super Bowl outcome would be interesting. In other words, which is the most useful predictive stat to use for comparing the two teams: total yards, points allowed, yards per passing attempt, turnover margin, etc.”

Defense wins championships and for the most part that has been true. From 1966 to 2005, only two Super Bowl champions (1976 Oakland Raiders, 1983 Los Angeles Raiders) finished outside of the 10 in points allowed.

However, three of the last five champions finished outside the top 10 (2006 Colts, 2007 Giants and 2009 Saints), and this year’s champion will too. The Patriots ranked 15th while the Giants ranked 25th.

John McTigue contributed research to this post