2012 Is the Year of the Comeback, So Far

I did some analysis for Judy Battista's recent New York Times article about the flurry of big comebacks this season. Don't overlook the article's graphic link to see some cool details.

Big, unlikely comebacks, in which teams overcame chances of winning of no better than 1 in 10, have occurred about twice as often so far this season as they did in the previous dozen seasons...Twenty percent of the games in the first seven weeks of the 2012 season had a comeback factor of 10 or more, meaning a team overcame at least a 1-in-10 chance of winning at some point in the game; only 11 percent of the games from 2000 to 2011 featured such turnarounds. Ten percent of the games this season had a comeback factor of 20 or more, meaning a team overcame at least a 1-in-20 chance of winning, but only 5 percent did so from 2000 to 2011.

You can find the biggest comebacks for any team or season using this tool.

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7 Responses to “2012 Is the Year of the Comeback, So Far”

  1. Kos says:

    We're seeing teams suddenly move with ease (even moreso than in the past) during the two-minute drill; scoring in anything more than 75 seconds is almost *expected* at this point. My question is sort of a chicken-or-egg one: is this happening because offenses are incredibly efficient in 4-wideout sets, is it because defenses play too passively vs. them, or is it a combination of both?

    The reason I ask is this: at what point do we see someone exploit this? If the former is true, offenses should be running a Leach/Kelly, two-minute-drill-style passing offense literally 100% of the time. If the latter is true, defenses should never be playing dime prevent and should instead stick in their normal coverage. My gut tells me the former is more correct, as we all know passing is significantly more efficient than running. However, I feel like the latter has to at least be partly true as well, as we're seeing too many easy 15-yard underneath routes during these late drives. Have these situations been thoroughly analyzed by anyone? Any chance we could see something like that discussed in the near future? Are there any teams/coaches who have shut down two-minute-drill drives at a higher/lower rate than others?

  2. Kos says:

    To clarify, I guess I'm asking if defenses are getting torched in these 2MDs because they're so afraid of getting burned deep for the big-play TD. Protecting against bombs means they're giving up too many underneath, medium-range passes that eventually lead to that game-tying/game-winning score anyway. Do we think this is a product of coaches playing to not lose on a big play, or can it merely be explained by what we already know (passing >>>>> running)?

  3. Brian Burke says:

    Agree. Sadly, not enough 2-min drives per team to do any kind of sound statistical analysis.

    I think part of it might be we are in an age of very good QBs.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Have comeback rates changed enough to affect the baseline WP model? At what point do you decide that they have?

  5. Anonymous says:

    > We're seeing teams suddenly move with ease (even moreso than in
    > the past) during the two-minute drill; scoring in anything more
    > than 75 seconds is almost *expected* at this point.

    Maybe you've been watching the Giants and Eli Manning's 4th quarter heroics? It looks like most of the drives involved in these comebacks were more than two minutes long.

    NFL teams do run hurry-up and no-huddle offenses, sometimes to great effect, and statisticians like Brian berate the NFL coaches for not calling enough passing plays so Leach and Kelly may be on to something.

    That said, the clock is your friend as long as you're winning. For most of the game it doesn't matter whether it takes you ten seconds or ten minutes to get those seven points. And, when time does matter, you want to be able to slow things down as well as speed them up.

  6. Dave says:

    Great stuff as always. Any chance of getting a tenths place for those sub 5% WP situations?

  7. Mike M says:

    Your only one year late, last season saw the league tie for the most 17 point come-backs in league history in just 4 weeks or so.

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