Data analysis in football is unique. Early in the season, the sample sizes are too volatile to be considered representative. Late in the season, adjustments and attrition have a smoothing effect on uneven data – which is also known as regressing to the mean, every sports podcaster’s favorite phrase. Then, in the postseason, over 1,000 snaps of data are poured right back into single-game samples.
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Defensively, it's easy to lean back on familiar coaching adages – and for good reason. It’s hard to go wrong with “stopping the run and affecting the quarterback,” as every defense aspires to accomplish both when a trip to the Super Bowl is on the line.
Today, we’re looking at the playoff defenses through the lens of “havoc.” At its heart, havoc represents the negative plays a defense creates. For the purpose of this conversation, havoc combines runs that are stopped for a loss or no gain in addition to passes that are broken up or intercepted.
Havoc is only as valuable as what it's being weighed against – explosive gains for an offense. Think of havoc and explosive gains in terms of margins and ratios — similar to a “plus-minus” statistic in basketball. These two metrics operate independently of each other, but both are reflective of the most important thing in football: big plays.
To add, we measured the havoc ratio against pressure rate and success rate on plays/drives. The conventional thinking is that pressure protects against poor matchups in coverage while defenses need negative plays to succeed possession-to-possession.
|AFC Teams||TFL/NG vs. Explosive Run||PBU/INT vs. Explosive Pass||Pressure Rate||Knockdown Rate|
|Kansas City Chiefs||75:45||56:102||33%||13%|
|Las Vegas Raiders||74:50||55:72||35%||15%|
|New England Patriots||59:50||76:70||34%||13%|
|NFC Teams||TFL/NG vs. Explosive Run||PBU/INT vs. Explosive Pass||Pressure Rate||Knockdown Rate|
|Green Bay Packers||44:54||69:76||37%||12%|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||78:52||65:92||36%||15%|
|Los Angeles Rams||75:45||68:94||34%||12%|
|San Francisco 49ers||80:44||46:83||34%||16%|