Yates Leads The Comeback Charge For Houston

As has already been covered here, Week 14 was the week of the comeback for 2011. Although Matt Prater's Denver Broncos will get much of the spotlight among the AFC comeback teams, it was the Houston Texans' last-drive comeback victory against the Cincinnati Bengals which had arguably the biggest impact on the playoff picture in the junior conference. With the loss, the Bengals' playoff odds sink to 20% as they will need to gain a game on the Jets against a schedule still including a game against Baltimore, and they also must stave off Oakland and Tennessee, who are both tied with Cincinnati at 7-6. Meanwhile, the Texans clinched a playoff bid and still own a chance at a first-round bye or even home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

The Texans looked like a legitimate Super Bowl contender with Matt Schaub. Given the high quality of the Texans' defense (ranked 2nd overall) and running game (42% run success rate), the Texans still looked like an above average team. However, the situation presented to T.J. Yates with 2:33 to go at Cincinatti was precisely the one which is supposed to sink Houston under Yates down the stretch and into the playoffs: down by six points with 80 yards to go on the road.





Yates was actually having a solid game entering the final drive, completing 20-of-32 passes with a touchdown and an interception, a solid +0.36 WPA and +7.0 EPA. He turned it into overdrive in the final drive and particularly the final minute:


With the Texans out of timeouts, Yates was forced to throw the ball 11 times on the final drive. The rookie completed 6-of-10 passes for 68 yards and also drew a critical (and somewhat controversial) pass interference call against Adam Jones on a third-and-10 from the 23 with just 12 seconds left. Two plays later, Yates found Kevin Walter completely wide open on the center of the goal line for what would turn out to be the game winning score. Overall, Yates compiled 4.5 expected points added and a whopping 0.62 WPA on the drive -- 0.70 in the game's final minute.

Although nobody believes that Yates is a better quarterback than Schaub -- nor should they -- based on two games, the Texans' rookie has stepped up big time in his new role. He now owns a +0.33 WPA per game and a +0.23 EPA per play, both numbers which surpass Schaub's full-season numbers and would rank in the top-four quarterbacks in the league. If Yates can maintain even a fraction of this performance going forward, the Texans will remain a force to be reckoned with as December turns to January and the playoffs begin.

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12 Responses to “Yates Leads The Comeback Charge For Houston”

  1. TTP says:

    Can't wait for the hourly "Yates Time!" updates on TSPN. TJ Yates is now 2-0 with two 4th quarter game winning drives and one 4th quarter come back win! He just wins football games.

    I also look forward to "Skelton Time!" John Skelton is 3-1 this year with 3 4th quarter come back wins! John Skelton must be a winner.

    All kidding aside, it looks like Yates has some talent and could develop into a pretty good player. And, it's amazing what the Texans are doing this year with all of their injuries. I keep waiting for them to fade but it doesn't look like it will happen.

  2. Michael Beuoy says:

    Are the widths of the bars proportional to the length of the drive?

    If so, that's a great use of data visualization. It makes sense that the negative WPA's are skinny since those probably represent 3 and outs.

  3. Jim Glass says:

    As Karl in Germany and I have often said, the rest of the team creates the QB's numbers to a much greater extent than most fans appreciate.

    (Though PFR.com did agree when it allocated only 28% of passing performance to the QB.)

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi Jim, everybody,

    while i failed miserable on Painter (you might remember ;-) it´s still true that all 11 players on offense must be in sync to have any kind of success. I stand by my words that a "Superstar"-Starting-QB is worth max. 1 more win over (ALL) his replacement QB´s. The longer the replacement plays, the more reps he gets, etc....

    OTOH it might be true that a backup QB has a advantage in the 1st game if the opp. Def couldn´t prepare for him.

    I am just doing a little stats on SB-QB´s. So far i can say that opening day starters (respectively true No.-1-QB´s) won 79% (916-246-7 W-L-T)of their regular season games started. The replacements won 78% (161-46 W-L). That´s a dramatic difference of .01 in Wng.-Pct.!

    Jokes aside, i admit that the replacements include those players who didn´t fill in for injured starters, but also for those who were benched (most recently Rodney Peete in 2003 after just one game).

    Anyway, there is no doubt in my mind that Yates can lead the Oilers (... err... Texans) to their first Superbowl ever.

    As i always said, and still do after the Painter-Disaster: Starting/"Superstar"-QB´s are wayyy overrated. No way that Peyton Manning is the MVP of the Colts this year (as many guys seriously think). We all don´t know if he would have failed too since the team moral went down after a winless September.

    And one bold prediction: Luck will be a sure bust. Not b/c i think he´s bad, but since he´s crowned already by the media. So he only can fail. Everything short of pro bowls (very likely) will be considered a bust. When Luck starts for a miserable team, possesing a "weak" arm (See Simms) won´t help either.

    Karl, Germany.

  5. Bob M. says:

    @Karl - Do you really think the Packers would be at 11-2 or so with Matt Flynn at qb? Starting qb's are not overrated. The last quarterback that was on a SB winning team without a consistently high WPA was Brad Johnson, and the Bucs won in large part due to having one of the 4 best defenses against the pass ever. You could have put curtis painter on that bucs team and finished 9-7/10-6 due to the defensive dominance.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Bob M. if you have read Jim´s post, it says it all. Passing-Numbers by QB´s are TEAM-PERFORMANCE.

    You just can´t read EPA/WPA/Y-PP etc. the same way you read head to head battles (like Batting-Avg. in baseball).

    So yes, i´d guess Flynn would be around 11-2. Just look at the numbers. There´s no big drop off between Starting-QB´s and replacements. I´d go as far as saying that IF back ups get the same amount of 1st team reps in practice as Starting-QB´s there would be no difference at all. Because for every back up bust (like Hanie, Palko, etc.) there is some true talent waiting on the bench (like Brady, Young, Schaub etc.).

    Karl, Germany

  7. Dan says:

    Karl - Shouldn't the total winning percentage be closer to 50%? Also 78-79% is very high. In each of the last 5 years, only 4 or 5 teams get to 75%+ (at least 12 wins)

  8. Anonymous says:

    As i wrote, i just looked at SB-Teams, thus the high Wng.-Pct´s. Looking at regular season games was done already (back in, AFIR, 2003 by the "DVOA-Guys"). They came to the conclusion that replacement QB´s win around 1 game more than back ups...

    Karl, Germany

  9. Anonymous says:

    "Looking at regular season games"

    should be "Looking at regular season games of all teams (not only SB-Teams)"

    Karl, Germany

  10. Bob M. says:

    if the Packers could do that well with Flynn - 11-2, possibly 13-3/14-2 for a season, they might as well trade Aaron Rodgers for 3 firsts to a team desperate for qb help and draft a qb in the 4th rd as Flynn's backup since that type of start would be that of a viable Super Bowl contender. Yes, the falloff of Cutler's stats from Denver to Chicago, and the mild uptick of Orton's stats in 2009 points to a team having a great effect than the QB, but it's still imperative to have a franchise QB this day in age unless you have a legendary defense as was the case in 2000 and 2002. I guess we'd never know with Flynn unless the circumstance plays out. I'd venture a guess GB would be 8-8/9-7 with him this season under the assumption of significant 1st team reps due to a Rodgers injury.

    A quarterback cannot carry an offense alone, but a QB + a competent offensive line is a starting point. There's good reason that QBs, offensive tackles, and defensive ends tend to have the highest average draft position in the NFL. One could argue, as the Patriots proved in the early 2000s that the need for a dynamic #1 WR is overrated if you have an effective short to intermediate passing game.

  11. Bob M. says:

    I should say a team having a *greater effect than the qb alone. That I can buy as legitimate. But I'd be shocked if Matt Flynn could lead GB to this year's Super Bowl just because Matt Cassel went 11-5 in New England in 2008. I guess it's all hypothetical but I think there are plenty of quarterbacks who might be competent backups that could never lead a team to a championship without an incredible defense and Flynn falls into that category.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Ok, since we never know how Flynn´s record would be if he played this season instead of Rodgers, we have to look back.

    Delhomme leads CAR to SB as career back up & NFL-Europe-QB.

    Brady only comes in because of injury to Bledsoe. He might have never seen the field if this did not happen.

    Warner comes from arena football to NFL-MVP only b/c Green injured his knee. Warner might still work in supermarkets.

    Hostetler, a career back up fills in for injured Simms. Only b/c of that he would later become a Starting-QB for the Raiders.

    Doug Williams replaces Jay Schroeder. W/o that happening there was no "How long have you been a black quarterback" and no record setting offense fireworks in SB XXII.

    Plunkett a (believed) washed up guy comes of the bench to replace an injured Pastorini. W/o that, no "biggest" comeback story ever.

    Ferragamo leads the Rams to the SB only b/c Haden went down. W/o that, no "1st ever WC-SB-Team".

    And so on, and so on. That´s only some stories of back ups on SB-Teams. There are plenty more.

    So no doubt, the numbers don´t lie: Starting-QB´s are very much overrated.

    Yates can lead the Texans to the SB, even Tebow can...

    Karl, Germany

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