New Orleans Succeeds On Offense

Mark Ingram's reaction to Colts' defenders Sunday night.
If anybody rues the loss of Peyton Manning to a brutal neck injury then the Indianapolis Colts, it's NBC. Week Eight marked the second appearance of the Colts on Sunday Night Football, with the NFL unable to flex out of poor matchups until Week 11. The first Colts appearance saw Indianapolis take on the Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium, a surprising matchup and Curtis Painter's coming out party as "surprisingly decent quarterback." The second time around was not so smooth for Painter or anybody else unfortunate enough to occupy the Colts roster Sunday night, as Indianapolis fell hard, dropping to 0-7 via a 62-7 thumping from the Saints at the Superdome.

The Saints took a 21-0 lead through the first quarter and a 34-7 thumping into the halftime break, with NBC losing many of those precious viewers in can typically count on with primetime NFL action. And it became increasingly difficult to watch for those who enjoy competitive football -- the Colts couldn't make a stop to save their lives, allowing scores to the Saints on nine of ten drives and managing only 11 first downs the entire game. But if you enjoy watching an offense utterly steamroll the opposing defense, the output from Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Marques Colston and company was about as dominant as we can see, and it goes well beyond the 62 points they hung on Indianapolis when all was said and done.
Rarely are such elephantine point totals achieved without the help of some defensive work, and this one was no exception -- the final seven points came on a Leigh Torrence interception return. But outside of that, it was 55 points of pure, straight New Orleans domination. In their 38 minutes of possession, the Saints picked up an incredible 36 first downs, notched 7.6 yards per play, and saw five players with at least five expected points added.

In order to sustain both the volume and length of the drives the Saints did Sunday night, an offense needs incredible sustained success to do so. The Saints finished the game with an overall offensive success rate of 68.4% in 76 plays, by a wide margin the highest in the league. Mark Ingram led the charge with a phenomenal 86.7% rate and Drew Brees held up his end in the passing game, equaling the overall team rate at 68.4%. All five wide receivers with at least two targets (Colston, Jimmy Graham, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson) finished about 50%, as did the other two primary running backs, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles (who combined to reel in 11 catches along with their running contributions).

Observe, the Saints compared to the rest of the league:

 On the above graph, we see the success rates of each team to play in Week Eight. No matter how great the start -- Green Bay opened with eight straight successful plays -- or how poor -- Baltimore and Jacksonville produced five and six successful plays respectively in Monday night's utter stinker -- every team regresses at least within shouting distance of the league's mean success rate of 43%. 

But not New Orleans, marked by their distinctive gold. The Saints put together an 81% success rate through their first 16 plays -- quite similar to the Packers' first 16 plays against Minnesota -- and managed to sustain a 70% rate through much of the game, only falling below that threshold thanks to three unsuccessful plays runs to end the game.
The final 68.4% mark ranks as the fourth best total for an offense dating back to 2000, the breadth of our dataset here at Advanced NFL stats. The top two totals, ironically enough, came from Peyton Manning's Colts -- first in 2006 in a 45-21 victory (71.9% successes) over the Eagles and then in 2007 as the Colts took down the Broncos by a 38-20 score (69.5% successes), although it was Joseph Addai (a combined 307 yards on 43 carries) who shouldered much of the load in those games. The third comes from one of Tom Brady's finest games, a 59-0 decimation of Tennessee in 2009 which saw a 71.1% success rate from the quarterback and a 68.6% rating from his team.

Although any transcendent offensive performance requires at least some amount of cooperation from the defense -- and this Sunday's game certainly saw some cooperation from Indianapolis as it entered it's most brutal final stages -- the Saints offense deserves credit for bringing a completely unstoppable balanced attack. From Mark Ingram to Darren Sproles to Drew Brees to Marques Colston and beyond, essentially every single player on the Saints offense brought their best to the Superdome, and the result was beatdown of epic proportions only elite offenses are capable of.

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3 Responses to “New Orleans Succeeds On Offense”

  1. Keith Goldner says:

    I love the graph, Jack. Reminds me of a random walk and stochastic process. Would be interesting to model success rates through the game based on team efficiencies.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Brownie in Motion.

    (please someone tell me they get that).

  3. Reid says:

    Sorry to be a nit, but that's Cam Jordan and not Ingram in the photo above.

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