Colts Win On Minnesota's Miscues

Andrew Luck got his first of what will likely be many career wins on Sunday, with the Colts taking down the Minnesota Vikings on a game-clinching field goal with eight seconds to play. Luck played extremely well throwing for 224 yards on 31 attempts and adding two scores; he notched a formidable +12.9 EPA and +0.67 WPA. What killed the Vikings, however, was not just Luck's play, but penalties. They were penalized 11 times for 105 yards, which may not sound terrible, but they continuously allowed the Colts to continue drives. The biggest of these follies came on the Colts first drive of the second half.

Up 17-6, the Colts took the ball from their own 20 and would ultimately kick a 45-yard field goal. Below we can see the development of the drive using our Markov model.


The Colts started the drive with about a 25% of scoring, but after one 15-yard completion for a first down, they were backed into a 4th-and-5 from their own 55-yard line. At that point, drives end in a punt 94.3% of the time and only end in field goals 0.8% of the time. This makes sense intuitively as if a team is not punting, they are likely in a situation where they are down by a lot of points, in which case a field goal does not do much to help their cause (side note: you would be surprised how many teams kick a field goal down 21 in the third quarter *cough* Kansas City *cough*).

One 15-yard roughing-the-kicker penalty on Andrew Sendejo and the Colts have new life. Sendejo's blunder increased the Colts' chances of winning by 8%.  Three plays later (play 9), the Colts had already backed themselves into another hole. Facing 3rd-and-16, Luck scrambles around the edge and is pushed out of bounds by Jared Allen, who is called for a 15-yard personal foul -- extending the drive yet again (and increasing the Colts chances of winning by 7%). On 3rd-and-16 from the opponent's 46, drives end in a punt 60% of the time and a field goal 13% of the time -- usually on a short completion setting up a manageable field goal. But the second penalty of the drive allowed the Colts to work their way down to the Minnesota 27 before Adam Vinatieri banged home the 45-yarder. Three points was the final margin as the Colts won 23-20.

The 16-play drive lasted just shy of 8-minutes, consuming the majority of the third quarter and keeping the Vikings offense on the sideline. 

Keith Goldner is the creator of Drive-By Football, and Chief Analyst at numberFire.com - The leading fantasy sports analytics platform.  Follow him on twitter @drivebyfootball or check out numberFire on Facebook

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2 Responses to “Colts Win On Minnesota's Miscues”

  1. Mike Weisel says:

    Bill Parcels had something like this with how often, by percent, defensive penalties ended in points for the other team. I remember seeing it on tv once, PI's were huge about 71% ended TDs or soemthing like that.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Is it possible to show the -WP for penalties for each team? It seems to me to be a much more useful metric than the total number yards and quantity of penalties. 1 penalty can cause a team to lose the game if defense comes up with a stop on a Fourth and goal, but causes a penalty that gives the other team 4 more plays.

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