Stats & Info: Alex Smith

Colts 2nd-half adjustments spark comeback

January, 4, 2014

AP Photo/AJ MastT.Y. Hilton set Colts playoff records for receptions and receiving yards Saturday
The Indianapolis Colts staged the second-largest comeback in NFL playoff history Saturday, overcoming a 28-point deficit to edge the Kansas City Chiefs 45-44. The largest comeback came in the 1992 season when the Bills overcame a 32-point margin to beat the Oilers in overtime.

Defying the odds
The Chiefs had a 31-10 lead at halftime. At that point, ESPN’s Win Probability model (which is based on over 10 years of play-by-play data) calculated their chances to win the game at 96.4 percent.

Entering today’s game, teams that scored 30-or-more points in the first half of a playoff game were 21-0 in the playoffs.

Kansas City then received the second-half kickoff and scored a touchdown on that drive. Their win probability peaked at 99.1 percent with 13:20 left in the third quarter.

Records fall
The two teams combined for 1,049 yards to set an NFL playoff record. Their 89 combined points were the third-highest in playoff history – seven points shy of the record set by the Packers and Cardinals in a 2009 Wild Card game).

Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton had 224 receiving yards, the third-most in a game in playoff history (he set Colts franchise playoff records for receiving yards and receptions with 13).

There were also several other “firsts” accomplished Saturday:
…The Colts became the first team in NFL history to win a playoff game when allowing 40 points and committing four turnovers. In a related note, Andrew Luck became the first quarterback to throw four touchdowns and three interceptions in a playoff game in the Super Bowl Era.

Alex Smith became the first quarterback in playoff history with at least four touchdown passes and no interceptions in a loss according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

…Luck also became the first player with a fumble recovery touchdown and a passing touchdown in a playoff game according to Elias.

Second-half adjustments
The Colts went with a more aggressive game plan after the break. Luck completed eight of nine passes that traveled more than 10 yards downfield in the second half, connecting on all four attempts to Hilton, including the eventual game-winning touchdown. Luck was only 3-of-7 on such passes in the first half, going 1-of-3 to Hilton.

After stretching their lead to 28 points early in the third quarter, the Chiefs dropped back to pass on 23 of 33 plays (70 percent). Kansas City’s defense was only able to pressure Andrew Luck on two out of 25 dropbacks after that point.

The Chiefs managed just two field goals from that point on, as they punted twice, fumbled and turned it over on downs to help fuel the Colts epic comeback.

Charles in charge after the catch

December, 15, 2013
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsJamaal Charles set personal and franchise records against the Raiders on Sunday.
The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Oakland Raiders 56-31 on Sunday, and Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles did a number on both the franchise and NFL record books, and did so while only playing three quarters.

Charles’ final line – 195 receiving yards, four touchdowns catches, 20 rush yards, one rushing touchdown – was remarkable for a number of reasons. Charles became the first player in NFL history to have four touchdown receptions and a touchdown run in a single game, and also became the first running back in NFL history with four touchdown receptions in a game.

Charles became the fifth player in the last 50 seasons with five touchdowns and 200 yards from scrimmage in a game, joining Gale Sayers (1965), Jerry Rice (1990), Shaun Alexander (2002) and Clinton Portis (2003). He is also the second player in Chiefs franchise history to score five touchdowns in a game against the Raiders, joining Abner Haynes in 1961, when the franchise was known as the Texans.

Charles set a career-high for receiving yards with 195, the most by a running back in a game since Week 16 of 1999, when Marshall Faulk tallied 204. That mark was achieved thanks in large part to his work after the catch. His 172 yards are the most since the start of 2006, and 48 more than any other player in a game this season.

Charles is the first player this season with three touchdowns of at least 35 yards. He joins Doug Martin, Darren McFadden, Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson as players with three rushing or receiving touchdowns at that length since the start of 2001. From a fantasy perspective, Charles’ 51 points in ESPN standard leagues is tied for the sixth-most in a game since 1960 according to Tristan H. Cockcroft, tying Doug Martin from last season and Corey Dillon in 1997.

It wasn’t all Charles, though. Alex Smith set a career-high with five touchdown passes, the third quarterback in Chiefs history with a five-touchdown, zero-interception game, joining Len Dawson (1967) and Trent Green (2002).

Smith also became third quarterback since 2000 to complete 85 percent of his passes while also throwing for five touchdowns in a game, joining Tom Brady and Drew Brees, the latter of whom did so twice. Smith is also the only quarterback to throw three 35-yard touchdown passes in a game this season. Not surprisingly, Charles caught the ball all eight times he was targeted by his quarterback.

Bigger picture; The Chiefs as a team clinched a playoff spot, and became the third team in NFL history to win 11 games a season after winning two or fewer. The 56 points scored is tied for the second-most in Chiefs franchise history, while the 56 points allowed is a new franchise record for the Raiders.

Keys to victory: Broncos 27, Chiefs 17

November, 18, 2013
What were the keys to the Denver Broncos win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night?

As is often the case with the Broncos, the difference was in the quarterback performance.

Chiefs defense can’t stymie Manning
Peyton Manning had plenty of time to throw and his receivers had plenty of room to work.

Manning was not sacked and was put under duress only five times.

Manning was 21-for-34 for 290 yards and a TD against four or fewer pass rushers. The Chiefs had held opponents to a 30.8 total QBR when sending standard pressure, best in the league.

The Broncos receivers gained 187 yards after the catch, including 43 by Demaryius Thomas on his 70-yard reception. That much yardage is nothing new for them. The Broncos entered the week with 51 pass plays with at least 10 yards after the catch this season, most of any team in the league.

It was new for the Chiefs' defense. That was the most allowed by that unit in any game this season.

Alex Smith struggled under pressure
When the Broncos put pressure on Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, he couldn’t do much against it.

Smith was 4-for-16 for 55 yards when the Broncos sent at least five pass rushers. Smith entered the day having completed 58 percent of his passes against such pressure, including 13 of 14 in last week’s win over the Buffalo Bills.

Smith also was unable to find Dwayne Bowe when he needed him most, going 4-for-14 when targeting Bowe in this game.

Bowe had been successfully targeted on 33 of 57 pass attempts entering the day (58 percent).

The Broncos extended their home winning streak to 12 straight games, tied with the 1983-84 Broncos for the third-longest streak in team history. The team record is 24 straight home wins from 1996 to 1998.

Manning has now won 13 consecutive divisional games. That was the second longest streak since the AFL-NFL merger. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the only quarterback to top it is a 19-game winning streak in divisional games by Jim McMahon.

The Chiefs had two streaks end: The nine-game winning streak to start the season, which tied the 2003 squad for the longest in team history, and a streak of nine straight games allowing 17 points or fewer.

It was the longest such streak to start a season since the 1946 Pittsburgh Steelers went 11 straight games allowing 17 points or fewer to start their season.

Tom Brady gets back on track

November, 4, 2013

Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY SportsTom Brady played his best game of the season on Sunday, posting a Total QBR of 97.7.
As a reminder, Total QBR is a quarterback rating that takes into account all of a QB’s significant contributions (passing, rushing, sacks, fumbles, penalties) to his team’s scoring and winning and summarizes them into one number on a 0-100 scale, where 50 is average. Since 2008, the team with the higher QBR has won about 84 percent of the time. Complete QBR statistics for all quarterbacks can be found here.

Brady dominates
Tom Brady posted season-highs Sunday with a 97.7 Total QBR, four touchdown passes and 432 yards passing. He had a huge day after throwing for only two touchdowns in his previous four games.

Brady completed 8-of-12 (66.7 percent) passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns on throws more than 15 yards downfield. He completed 30.3 percent of such throws this season entering Sunday, ranked 29th in the NFL, with two touchdowns in eight games.

Where QBR and passer rating differ
Andrew Luck had a 99.3 Total QBR in the fourth quarter Sunday night(6-8 passing, 119 yards, 2 TD), raising his fourth-quarter Total QBR to 83.8 this season, the fifth best in the NFL. His fourth-quarter Passer Rating is 73.0 this season, tied for 21st in the NFL.

Foles picks apart Raiders
Nick Foles had a 99.1 Total QBR, a mark only surpassed by one performance this season: Colin Kaepernick. Foles became the third quarterback to throw seven touchdown passes in a game without throwing an interception, joining Y.A. Tittle (1962 New York Giants) and Peyton Manning (Week 1, 2013). Click here for more on Foles' great day.

Newton solid again
Cam Newton posted a 70.5 Total QBR Sunday, his fourth straight game with a Total QBR over 70 (65 to 70 over a season is a Pro Bowl-level rating). Newton has an 83.5 Total QBR since Week 6, the second-best in the NFL behind Colin Kaepernick.

Smith shaky, but a winner
Geno Smith finished with a 14.8 Total QBR in the Jets' win on Sunday. That's the second-lowest Total QBR by a winning QB this season (minimum 15 action plays). The only one lower was a 9.8 by E.J. Manuel of the Bills against the Ravens in Week 4.

Win probability on Cowboys comeback
Sunday, Tony Romo went from goat to hero in one quarter. His fourth quarter interception with 4:35 left dropped the Cowboys’ win probability to just 21.4 percent. But he got a second chance and engineered a nine play, 90-yard drive to put the Cowboys ahead of the Vikings with 0:42 seconds left.

The Cowboys' win probability was at 32.6 percent with 2:44 left when their final drive started, but rose by 20.3 percentage points after a 34-yard pass to Dez Bryant, and 38.3 percentage points to 97.5 after his go-ahead touchdown pass.

Quick hitters
Case Keenum had a Total QBR of 96.6, the highest Total QBR by a Texans quarterback since 2006. The previous single-game high for a Texans quarterback this season was 63.5 (Matt Schaub - Week 6). It was also the highest Total QBR in a loss over the last five seasons.

Jason Campbell posted a 76.5 Total QBR Sunday and his 60.1 Total QBR this season ranks 13th in the NFL (min. 75 action plays). Brian Hoyer and Brandon Weeden rank 22nd and 38th respectively in Total QBR this season.

Alex Smith had a 30.5 Total QBR against the Bills, his fourth win this season with a Total QBR of less than 40 (most in the NFL).

Smith-to-Avery connection keys Reid return

September, 20, 2013
Andy Reid’s return to Philadelphia was a triumphant one.

The Kansas City Chiefs improved to 3-0 by beating the Eagles 26-16. The Chiefs became the first team to start a season 3-0 after winning two or fewer games the previous season (in a non-labor-shortened season) since the 2002 Panthers.

Mr. Smith goes to Kansas City … and wins
Alex Smith became the first Chiefs quarterback to win his first three starts with the team since Joe Montana won his first four starts with the Chiefs in 1993.

Smith won with the short passing game, going 21-for-31 for 258 yards on throws of 10 yards or fewer.

Smith was 7-for-7 when throwing to Donnie Avery, and was 4-for-4 (for 107 yards) when throwing to Avery on third down.

Avery had 80 yards after the catch on four third-down receptions.

Justin Houston dominates on ‘D

Justin Houston had 3.5 sacks for the Chiefs, giving him 6.5 through three games this season. He’s the third Chiefs player to have at least 3.5 sacks in a game, joining Derrick Thomas (who did so twice, including the single-game record of seven) and Neil Smith.

Houston may actually have had 4.5 sacks in the game (one was initially ruled a sack, then changed).

If the NFL were to rescore the play and rule that a sack, Elias tells us that Houston would be the first NFL player with at least 7.5 sacks through three games since Mark Gastineau had eight for the New York Jets in 1984.

Eagles offense working fast

Chip Kelly’s offense has been operating faster and faster in each game this season.

The Eagles’ average time of possession in between plays against the Chiefs was 19.9 seconds, half-a-second faster than in Week 2.

The person for whom the offense is working best is running back LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 158 yards, the third-best single-game total in his career. Two of his top three rushing performances have come this season.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that McCoy’s 395 rushing yards through his first three games are the most through the first three games of the season in Eagles history (Wilbert Montgomery held the previous record of 346 in 1981).

Michael Vick also had a 61-yard run, the longest of his career. But Vick struggled against standard pass pressure, going 10-for-23 for 158 yards and an interception (along with three sacks) when the Chiefs sent four or fewer rushers at him.

Vick was 26-for-39 for 219 yards, with three touchdowns, no interceptions and one sack against standard pressure in the first two weeks of the season.

Elias Sports Bureau Note of the Night
Reid is the fourth head coach in NFL history to start a season 3-0 after missing the playoffs the prior season with a different team (Marty Schottenheimer, Dan Reeves, George Allen).

Top things to know: Chiefs at Eagles

September, 19, 2013

Rob Foldy/USA TODAY SportsAndy Reid, who spent 14 seasons as the Eagles' head coach, returns to his old stomping grounds.
Week 3 of the NFL kicks off tonight as the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs travel to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Philadelphia Eagles.

Here are five stats to keep in mind entering this game.

1. Andy Reid takes his 2-0 Chiefs into Philadelphia, where he coached the Eagles for 14 seasons (1999-2012). Reid has more wins than any coach in Eagles history (130) and won six division titles and reached five NFC Championship Games (winning one).

Reid will be the third coach in NFL history to face a team he coached for at least 14 seasons, joining Curly Lambeau (Packers) and Hank Stram (Chiefs).

2. QB Alex Smith has been an instant upgrade for the Chiefs. Smith hasn’t turned the ball over yet this year and has finished drives effectively, two problem areas for Kansas City’s offense last year.

Smith has passed for four touchdowns and, as mentioned above, has not thrown an interception. The Chiefs threw for eight touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 2012.

In addition, the Chiefs have scored a touchdown on all five trips into the red zone this season after doing so only 10 times in 37 trips in 2012.

3. The Eagles had the ball for 19:43 in Week 2, their lowest time of possession since Week 17 in 2009. Philadelphia still managed to run 58 plays, or one for every 20.4 seconds of possession.

Only the Bills (21.8) and Broncos (23.2) have fewer seconds of possession per play this season than Philadelphia.

4. QB Michael Vick has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes to WR DeSean Jackson this season despite targeting him 15 yards downfield on average. Vick has improved his completion percentage to Jackson each season with the Eagles.

Going further, Jackson has gained 140 yards after the catch this season, an average of 8.8 YAC per reception. Jackson averaged 5.4 yards after the catch his first five seasons in the NFL.

Misc. Notes
•  The Chiefs are 2-0 after going 2-14 last season. Since the merger (1970), Kansas City is the seventh team to open a season 2-0 after winning two or fewer games the previous season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. None of the previous six teams, however, made the playoffs.

•  Kansas City is looking to start 3-0 for the third time in the last 15 years (2010 and 2003).

•  The Eagles have lost seven straight home games, the longest active home losing streak in the NFL and their longest home losing streak since 1983 (seven games). The Eagles have lost eight straight home games only once, from 1936-37.

•  RB LeSean McCoy leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage (356), 59 yards ahead of teammate DeSean Jackson, who is second. They have combined for the third-most yards from scrimmage ever by teammates through two games of a season.

Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed gained 693 yards in the first two games of the 1991 season for the Bills; Billy Sims and Dexter Bussey went for 675 yards for the 1980 Detroit Lions.

Stat your case: Chiefs/Dolphins, playoffs?

September, 19, 2013
Each week, the Stats & Information Group will look at a noteworthy discussion topic and debate the possibilities that come from it, using data to back up their points.

This week’s topic is “Which surprise 2-0 AFC team is more likely to make the playoffs: The Chiefs or Dolphins?”

The case for the Chiefs
The last time the Chiefs started a season 2-0, they finished with a 10-6 record and playoff berth.

That was in 2010 and through two weeks that season the Chiefs scored 37 points and allowed 29. So far this season, the Chiefs have fared better. They’ve scored 45 and allowed 18.

Their 27-point scoring margin is currently the third-highest in the league (trailing only the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks) and is the team’s highest through the first two weeks of a season since 2003, the last time they made it as far as the AFC Divisional playoffs.

The Chiefs defense has been a big part of that. Through two games, they've contributed the most Expected Points Added of any defense in the NFL. They ranked second-to-last in that stat last season.

In addition, Kansas City is holding opponents to 248.0 yards per game this season, the third-fewest in the league.

They are also holding opposing quarterbacks to a league-best 20.7 QBR through two games.

Last season, opposing quarterbacks had a 68.9 QBR against the Chiefs, which ranked them 30th in the league.

On the other side of the ball, quarterback Alex Smith has been a valuable addition.

Kansas City is one of two teams, along with Houston, that has a perfect red zone efficiency through two games.

Smith has helped the Chiefs score a touchdown on all five of their red zone drives this season. Last season, the Chiefs scored a touchdown on a league-worst 27 percent of their red zone drives.

Also of note on Smith is that he currently has more rushing yards (82) than the Dolphins’ leading rusher, Lamar Miller (72).
--John Carr

The case for the Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins are showing signs of a squad that knows how to win. The offense, led by second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, is scoring touchdowns rather than settling for field goals, and the defense has been getting after opposing quarterbacks, forcing turnovers and making timely stops.

Tannehill has outdueled fellow 2012 first-round picks Brandon Weeden and Andrew Luck in the first two games. He’s made good decisions and distributed the ball efficiently (three players with 10-plus receptions).

Tannehill has completed 71 percent of his throws against standard pressure so far this season, something he did at a 58 percent rate in 2012.

His 63.5 Total QBR since the start of Week 15 last season rates second-best in the NFL in that span, trailing only Russell Wilson.

New additions Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson have teamed with Brian Hartline to form a formidable receiving corp. Wallace had a career-high nine catches against the Colts, Gibson has converted third downs on six of his eight grabs and Hartline already has as many touchdowns (one) as he did all of last season.

The defense has accounted for nine sacks (22 quarterback hits) and four interceptions, and has not allowed a touchdown to a wide receiver through two games.

Miami stymied Luck’s late-game comeback attempt with an interception in the end zone and a game-ending fourth-down sack. Miami, which has not allowed a second-half touchdown, limited Luck to 79 yards in the second half.

Both the Chiefs and Dolphins could claim Wild Card berths; however, Miami is better poised to take the AFC East from the weakened New England Patriots, while the Chiefs must contend with Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos.
--Jeff Yusem

What challenges await new AFC coaches?

July, 25, 2013
Eight NFL teams welcome new head coaches to the sideline this season. We take a closer look at some of the challenges those coaches will face. Here’s a look at the AFC (the NFC can be found here.

Buffalo Bills: Doug Marrone
2012 record: 6-10

Big addition: Kevin Kolb and E.J. Manuel were brought in to compete at quarterback, and either should add a vertical element to the Bills offense. Since Ryan Fitzpatrick joined the Bills in 2009, his 25.4 completion percentage on throws deeper than 20 yards downfield is worst in the league.

One headache: Are two rookies (Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin) enough to improve the Bills receiving corps? Despite using more three-plus wide receiver sets than any other team last season, Bills wide receivers recorded the sixth-fewest receiving yards (2,152).

Key stat: The Bills allowed 3.5 yards per rush before first contact on rushes between the tackles last season, worst in the NFL. The Bills haven’t finished a season better than 26th in that category since the start of 2009.

Cleveland Browns: Rob Chudzinski
2012 record: 5-11

Big addition: From Week 10 to the Super Bowl, no player had more sacks than Paul Kruger (12). He and first-round pick Barkevious Mingo will help the Browns transition to a 3-4 defense.

One headache: Is Brandon Weeden the right quarterback to run a Norv Turner offense? Weeden overthrew or underthrew receivers on 45 percent of his throws at least 15 yards downfield last year, third highest in the league.

Key stat: The Browns' defense allowed a 28.7 Total QBR last year, third best in the league. However, the offense ranked 30th in third-down conversion percentage (30.7 percent).

Jacksonville Jaguars: Gus Bradley
2012 record: 2-14

Big addition: Luke Joeckel will immediately bolster a Jaguars offensive line that allowed 50 sacks last season, third most in the league.

One headache: Now that they can protect quarterbacks better, they need to find one. Jaguars quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne combined for a 34.8 Total QBR, one of only five teams worse than 40.0.

Key stat: The Jaguars used four or fewer pass rushers on 80 percent of opponent dropbacks last season, fifth-highest in the NFL. Although the Jags depended on standard pressure, they averaged a sack once every 32.9 dropbacks, worst in the NFL.

Kansas City Chiefs: Andy Reid
2012 record: 2-14

Big addition: Alex Smith posted career highs in completion percentage (70.2 percent) and yards per attempt (8.0) last year. Smith’s completion percentage was best among 36 quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts.

One headache: Jonathan Baldwin caught 42 percent of his targets last season, the worst catch percentage among 162 players with at least 40 targets. Free-agent signee Donnie Avery wasn’t much better, with the fifth-lowest catch percentage among 44 players with at least 100 targets.

Key stat: The Chiefs' defense allowed 893 rush yards after contact last year, the most of any team in the league. Only the Colts allowed more 20-yard rushes (21) than the Chiefs' defense (19).

San Diego Chargers: Mike McCoy
2012 record: 7-9

Big addition: Free-agent tackle Max Starks and first-round pick D.J. Fluker will help create holes in the running game. The Chargers averaged 1.9 yards before contact per rush last year, one of two offenses to average fewer than 2.0.

One headache: Robert Meachem will carry a cap hit of $6.9 million this year, 11th-highest among wide receivers. Six Chargers were targeted more than Meachem (32) last year, and he tied for 181st in targets among all players.

Key stat: Philip Rivers has to control the ball better. Rivers fumbled 15 times last year, most in a season since Jon Kitna had 17 in 2007.

Chiefs drawn to Smith's efficiency

February, 27, 2013

Ralph Freso/Getty ImagesAlex Smith is reportedly heading to Kansas City after spending eight seasons with the 49ers.
The San Francisco 49ers have reportedly traded 2005 first-overall pick Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs. In return, the 49ers would receive the Chiefs’ second-round pick in 2013 (No. 34 overall) and a conditional midround pick in the 2014 draft.

Smith would be the latest in a line of former 49ers quarterbacks who have moved to Kansas City:

• Joe Montana was traded from San Francisco to Kansas City in April of 1993. He led the Chiefs to a pair of playoff appearances in two seasons and advanced all the way to the AFC Championship Game in 1993.

• Steve Bono was a highly regarded backup in San Francisco when he was traded to the Chiefs in 1994. Bono became the Chiefs' starter in 1995 and led the team to a 13-3 record.

• Elvis Grbac spent his first four seasons with the 49ers before signing with the Chiefs as a free agent in 1997. Grbac spent four seasons as the Chiefs' starter before moving on to Baltimore.

• And now it's Alex Smith's turn. Drafted first overall by the 49ers in 2005, Smith led San Francisco to the NFC Championship Game in 2011 before Colin Kaepernick took over as starter in Week 11 of this season.

In terms of Total QBR, the trade makes a lot of sense from the Chiefs’ perspective. Smith was the seventh-most efficient quarterback in 2012 with a rating of 70.1.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, ranked 29th in QBR at 31.9. Only the Browns, Jets and Cardinals were worse last season.

One reason that Smith posted such a high QBR in 2012 is that he was an accurate passer who took care of the ball.

Smith led the NFL with a 70.2 completion percentage last season and, since 2011, has thrown an interception on just 1.5 percent of his pass attempts. Among qualified passers over that span, only Aaron Rodgers (1.3) has thrown interceptions at a lower rate.

In Kansas City, quarterbacks have not been nearly as secure with the ball. Chiefs quarterbacks committed 29 turnovers in 2012, including 20 interceptions. The 29 turnovers trailed only the Jets (33) for most in the NFL and the 20 interceptions were one shy of the league-leading Cardinals (21).

Kansas City also threw a league-low eight touchdown passes in 2012, the fewest in a single season by any team since the 2007 Oakland Raiders (seven).

Alex Smith threw 13 touchdown passes in just nine games last season and his 30 touchdowns since 2011 are nine more than Chiefs passers have thrown over the same span.

Will the move pay immediate dividends? AccuScore seems to think so. According to 10,000 computer simulations, Alex Smith is worth approximately 2.2 wins for the Chiefs in 2013 and improves their chances of reaching the playoffs from 0.2 percent to 8.8 percent.

All that said, Smith will be forced to start from scratch in 2013. Doug Pederson will be the eighth offensive coordinator that Smith has played under in just his ninth season in the league. The past two seasons marked just the second time in his career that he had the same coordinator to begin consecutive NFL seasons.

Analyzing the relationship of NFL couples

February, 14, 2013
Today is Valentine’s Day, when the thoughts of young football fans turn to ... well ... more football.

Stats & Information looks at some NFL couples and lets you know who should stay together, who needs to rebuild their relationship and who might want to spend some time apart.

• Tom Brady and Wes Welker: Free-agent-to-be Welker has 672 receptions since joining the Patriots in 2007, the most for a player over any six-year span in NFL history.

• Eli Manning and Victor Cruz: Cruz, who is slated to become a restricted free agent, has 168 receptions and 19 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Along with Hakeem Nicks, he gives Manning one of the game’s best deep threats in the league.

• Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson: Johnson set an NFL single-season record with 1,964 receiving yards in 2012, while Stafford set an NFL record with 727 pass attempts. These two need to stay together if only to torture statisticians everywhere.

• Tony Romo and Dez Bryant: Early in the season, they didn't appear to be on the same page, but Bryant caught a league-high 10 TD passes from Week 10 until the end of the season.

• Aaron Rodgers and Jermichael Finley: Finley caught a career-high 61 balls in 2012, but just two went for touchdowns. At times it appeared that Rodgers had lost confidence in his tight end and reports have appeared that the Packers might release Finley.

• Cam Newton and Steve Smith: Smith was critical of Newton's sideline demeanor last season, and he could have a point. When trailing in the fourth quarter over the last two seasons, Newton’s QBR of 35.9 is 35th among 45 qualifying quarterbacks.

• Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan: After going to a pair of AFC Championship games in their first two seasons together, the relationship hasn't worked recently. Sanchez regressed even further in 2012, and has an NFL-high 52 turnovers over the last two seasons.

• Alex Smith and Jim Harbaugh: Harbaugh has turned to the younger Colin Kaepernick. Since Kaepernick took over as the starter in Week 11, his 81.2 Total QBR is second to only Russell Wilson. Smith’s QBR of 54.1 since the start of 2011 is 19th among quarterbacks with at least 500 action plays.

• Matt Cassel and Andy Reid: The Chiefs and Reid’s Eagles were tied with the Jets for the most turnovers in the NFL last season with 37. Cassel struggled with 19 turnovers in just nine games.

From backup to Super Bowl starter

January, 22, 2013

Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee/MCT
Colin Kaepernick isn’t the first quarterback to lead his team to the Super Bowl after starting the season as a backup.

Colin Kaepernick took over as the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback in Week 11 after Alex Smith was sidelined with a concussion in the previous week. Since stepping in, Kaepernick has led the Niners to a 7-2 record and their first Super Bowl appearance in nearly 20 years.

He's not the first backup quarterback to lead his team to the Super Bowl after riding the pine early in the season. In fact, Kaepernick will be the sixth quarterback to start a Super Bowl after not starting any of his team's first five games of the same season. The others:

• Terry Bradshaw, 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers:
Bradshaw attempted a pass in just one of Pittsburgh's first six games of the 1974 season, playing behind Joe Gilliam. Bradshaw took over as the starter in Week 7 and went on to lead Pittsburgh to a win in Super Bowl IX, the first of four Super Bowls the Steelers would win in a six-year span.

• Vince Ferragamo, 1979 Los Angeles Rams
Ferragamo made his first start of the season in Week 12 for the Rams after Pat Haden was injured and Jeff Rutledge was benched. Ferragamo led the Rams to six wins in seven games on the way to Super Bowl XIV, where they fell to the Steelers.

• Jim Plunkett, 1980 Oakland Raiders
Plunkett took over after starter Dan Pastorini broke his leg during Week 5. Though Oakland was just 2-3 when Plunkett made his debut, the former Heisman Trophy winner took the Raiders to Super Bowl XV on the strength of nine wins in their final 11 regular-season games. Plunkett took home Super Bowl MVP honors after a 27-10 win over the Eagles.

• Jeff Hostetler, 1990 New York Giants
Hostetler replaced Phil Simms after the Giants star quarterback broke his foot in Week 15. Hostetler, a career backup, had started just two games in four prior NFL seasons. But that didn’t stop him from leading New York to five straight wins overall, including a 20-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV.

• Trent Dilfer, 2000 Baltimore Ravens
Dilfer stepped in for Tony Banks in Week 9 after the Ravens' offense was held without a touchdown for four straight weeks. After losing in his first start, Dilfer's Ravens won their final seven regular-season contests and went on to win each of their four postseason games by double digits, including a 34-7 drubbing of the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.

Kaepernick adds more than rushing upgrade

January, 16, 2013

Harry How/Getty Images
No one has benefitted more from Colin Kaepernick taking shots downfield than Michael Crabtree.
By many accounts, Alex Smith had a pretty good year.

Smith was the only qualified quarterback in the league to complete more than 70 percent of his passes this season, throwing 13 touchdowns and five interceptions in his nine games as a starting quarterback. Smith’s 70.1 Total QBR was the sixth-best mark in the league, ranking higher than 27 of the league’s most current 32 starters.

So why will Smith be watching the NFC Championship from the sideline? One of those five starters ahead of Smith is teammate Colin Kaepernick, whose 81.5 Total QBR is the second-best in the league.

Kaepernick’s impact on San Francisco’s rushing game has been well documented, with zone-read option rushes added to the 49ers’ playbook since Kaepernick took over. As a pure passer he still presents an upgrade over his predecessor.

At first glance Kaepernick and Smith have similar passing numbers -- they both completed 153 passes and posted TD-Int differentials of +8.

However, Kaepernick has completed the same amount of passes as Smith in one fewer start despite an average pass length of 9.7 yards downfield, the fourth-highest average in the league. Smith’s 7.4 average throw distance ranks sixth-lowest among qualified quarterbacks.

Kaepernick has also connected on 15 plays of at least 30 yards this season, more than twice as many as Smith (six).

His willingness to stretch the field has made the 49ers a more dangerous and balanced offense. He's averaged more than twice as many throws more than 20 yards downfield as Smith did, but has protected the ball well. Kaepernick and Smith each have one interception on deep throws this season.

No one has benefitted more from Kaepernick’s willingness to take shots downfield than Michael Crabtree. Smith never relied on wide receivers heavily, a tendency highlighted in last year’s NFC Championship -- San Francisco wideouts finished with just one catch for three yards.

In his first nine games this season with Smith as starter, Crabtree tied for 41st in the league with 59 targets, was 39th with 510 receiving yards, and his average target depth was 6.4 yards downfield, the third-lowest of 76 qualified wide receivers.

Since Kaepernick became the starter in Week 11, Crabtree is fifth in catches (50), fourth in receiving yards (714) and tied for second with seven touchdowns.

One other difference between Kaepernick and Smith is highlighted when the play breaks down. Smith took a sack every 10.6 dropbacks, the worst mark in the league. Kaepernick is sacked every 17.4 dropbacks, which is 13th among 36 qualified quarterbacks.

Instead of taking sacks, Kaepernick extended plays with his legs. Kaepernick’s Total QBR under duress or when being hit while throwing this season was 53.3, fifth-best in the league, and an improvement on Smith’s 15.7 mark.

Wilson tops the charts with his versatility

December, 17, 2012
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh Russell Wilson ran for three touchdowns and threw for another against the Bills to post the highest single-game QBR this season.
As a reminder, Total QBR is a quarterback rating that takes into account all of a QB’s significant contributions (passing, rushing, sacks, fumbles, penalties) to his team’s scoring and winning and summarizes them into one number on a 0-100 scale, where 50 is average. Since the start of 2008, the team with the higher QBR has won 86 percent of the time.

Russell Wilson posted a 99.3 Total QBR in Sunday's win over the Buffalo Bills, the highest single-game QBR this season.

Wilson did much of his damage with his legs, rushing for career-highs in both yards (92) and touchdowns (3).

His QBR followed suit because he added 9.5 points above average (PAA) on his running plays, the highest single-game total by any quarterback over the past five seasons. Even more remarkably, he did it on just nine carries.

The big game Sunday was just another in a string of strong performances -- since the start of Week 8, no player has a higher Total QBR than Wilson (87.9). That's due to his performance on deep throws and his ability to avoid turnovers.

Since Week 8, only Robert Griffin III (1) has fewer turnovers than Wilson (3) among qualified QBs and Wilson is in the top four in the league in completion percentage (54.8) and TD percentage (9.7) on throws of 10 or more yards.

• Colin Kaepernick posted an 87.1 Total QBR in Sunday night’s win over the New England Patriots, his fifth straight game with a QBR of at least 60 since becoming the 49ers' starter in Week 11. Kaepernick is second in the NFL in Total QBR this season (79.5) and 49ers backup Alex Smith (70.1) is seventh.

• Aaron Rodgers had an 83.0 Total QBR in Sunday's win over the Chicago Bears, his third straight game with a QBR of at least 80. Rodgers entered Week 15 tied with Drew Brees for most games with a QBR of 80 or higher over the past two seasons.

• Matt Schaub posted a season-high 90.4 Total QBR against the Indianapolis Colts, his highest since Week 10 of last season against the Buccaneers (92.0). With the win, the Houston Texans improve to 17-2 in games in which Schaub has a QBR of 85 or better over the past five seasons.

• Matt Ryan had a 96.2 Total QBR in Sunday's win over the New York Giants, his third game with a QBR of at least 95.0 in 2012. That's tied with Tom Brady for the most such games in the NFL this season.

Total QBR can be used to quantify just how important the quarterback position has become to winning in the NFL. Looking back to previous years, the team with the higher Total QBR has won 86 percent of regular season games since 2008 (as far back as Total QBR goes). That is higher than the comparable mark for teams with the advantage in total yardage, turnover differential, and NFL passer rating.

How the Rams contained Colin Kaepernick

December, 7, 2012
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesColin Kaepernick was kept in check against the Rams.
Colin Kaepernick was conservative and at times overwhelmed by pressure in Week 13.

His average pass length was 5.8 yards downfield against the St. Louis Rams, a substantial decrease from how he aired it out in his first two starts.

Kaepernick had one pass gain more than 30 yards in the game after five such plays in his first two starts.

A deeper dive into the game using coaches’ film (which shows all 22 players on the field) reveals how the Rams’ defensive strategy dictated the 49ers’ conservative passing attack.

How the Rams took away Kaepernick’s arm

Kaepernick faced at least five pass rushers on 24 of 40 (60 percent) dropbacks against the Rams. That is the highest percentage of pressure the Rams have sent in a game over the last two seasons.

With fewer defenders in coverage because of additional pass rushers, the Rams provided the 49ers with plenty of cushion to sacrifice underneath throws rather than big plays. Specifically, their cornerbacks gave 49ers wide receivers at least five yards of space with no jam coverage on 33 of Kaepernick’s 40 dropbacks.

The 49ers adjusted to the Rams’ strategy by getting the ball out of Kaepernick’s hands quicker and keeping their routes short to avoid pressure and take what was open.

In the first quarter, the 49ers ran multiple routes further than 15 yards downfield on five of seven passing plays. After realizing they would not find the same downfield success as in Kaepernicks’ previous two starts, the 49ers had multiple receivers running such deep routes on six of 27 passing plays the rest of the game (excludes passing plays inside 10 yard line).

On average, Kaepernick released his pass 3.2 seconds after the snap, compared with 4.2 seconds in Week 12 against the Saints.

The Rams also bottled Kaepernick up when he escaped pressure and left the pocket (excluding his 50-yard scramble in the fourth quarter).

When outside the pocket, Kaepernick failed to complete any of his three passes, was sacked twice and was flagged for intentional grounding that resulted in a safety.

How will the Dolphins fare on Sunday in containing Kaepernick?

The Dolphins have allowed the second-highest completion percentage and Total QBR to quarterbacks on plays outside of the pocket this season.

Russell Wilson exposed the Dolphins’ problems against athletic quarterbacks in Week 12, completing 8-of-9 passes outside the pocket with a touchdown. Earlier this season, Andrew Luck completed all six of this passes outside the pocket for 89 yards against Miami.

While the Dolphins may struggle containing Kaepernick, he will have to make adjustments as defenses continue to adapt to his strengths.

The pressure isn’t going away, as no quarterback has seen a higher percentage of dropbacks against at least five pass rushers this season. Kaepernick hasn’t handled the pressure as well as Alex Smith, who has completed a league-best 72.2 percent of his passes against such pressure.

Kaepernick succeeds again in multiple ways

November, 25, 2012
Derick E. Hingle/U.S. Presswire Colin Kaepernick was solid and on-target in Sunday's win.

The San Francisco 49ers didn’t miss a beat by having Colin Kaepernick start against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Kaepernick completed 64 percent of his throws in Sunday’s win. Coincidentally, that was a match for Smith’s completion percentage over the last two seasons.

Also of note from Kaepernick’s performance.

1-Outside-the-pocket success: Kaepernick was 5-for-7 for 54 yards and a touchdown on throws made outside the pocket.

For the season, Kaepernick is 11-for-18 with three touchdowns and no interceptions on his outside-the-pocket throws. Smith is 9-for-19 on such throws with one touchdown and one interception.

Kaepernick has converted first downs nine times on his 18 outside-the-pocket throws. Smith has converted only four of 19.

2-Comfortable with play action: Kaepernick was 7-for-10 for 125 yards and a touchdown on his play-action pass attempts, converting first downs on all seven of those completions.

He was 9-for-15 for 107 yards on his other throws, converting three first downs. The play-action was aided by the 49ers averaging nearly five yards per rush.

3-Outplayed Drew Brees: Though Brees threw for three touchdowns, he had a rough game, with two interceptions returned for scores the other way (the first time the 49ers had multiple interception returns for touchdowns in a game since 1995).

Brees finished the day 2-of-9 for 76 yards and an interception on throws deeper than 10 yards downfield, his worst completion percentage on those throws in the last five seasons.

Sunday was the first time this season Brees had more overthrown passes (three) than completions (two) on those throws.

Though Kaepernick had an interception of his own, he was 4-for-8 for 98 yards on throws of that length. That included a pair of third down completions to Delanie Walker, extending drives that resulted in a touchdown and a field goal.

Kaepernick finished the day with a Total QBR of 72.3 Kaepernick's Total QBR of 85.0 the last two weeks is the second-best total by any quarterback in his first two career starts within the last five seasons. The only quarterback better-- Aaron Rodgers (86.1)