This week we'll again be looking at a selection of our Signature Stats and picking out some of the best performers from the 2014 season. While we are confident that PFF player grades give the best picture of overall performance, these unique stats let us look at specific aspects of play in a way that standard statistics cannot.
In this article we identify the quarterbacks who were the most accurate while Passing Under Pressure in 2014. Accuracy percentage considers dropped passes as completions, and factors in throw aways, spikes, batted passes, etc. to gain a more accurate estimate of the percentage of catchable passes thrown by each QB.
Only quarterbacks with at least 150 total drop-backs were considered. The pressure percentage gives us the percentage of those drop-backs on which the quarterback was pressured while the TD, INT, Sack % and Accuracy % stats show us how each quarterback performed when the rush closed in.
The Top Ten
Despite a shaky start as a Minnesota Viking, Teddy Bridgewater rebounded well in the second half of the season, finishing with a terrific 75.2% Accuracy Percentage under pressure; the highest mark recorded by a rookie since the PFF records began in 2007. Bridgewater is only the second rookie to finish the season atop these rankings, and did so despite being pressured on 39.9% of his pass attempts.
The majority of the Top 10 performers in this category are hugely experienced quarterbacks, it's not normally where we expect to find a rookie. Whereas the worst five, Geno Smith (50.0%), Brian Hoyer (50.5%), Nick Foles (51.9%), Mike Glennon (52.4%) and Blake Bortles (53.3%) are united by their inexperience. Bridgewater still has plenty of developing to do, but his poise under pressure helped him avoid some of the usual rookie pitfalls and will serve him well in the future.
Drew Brees has consistently been one of the most accurate passers under pressure, and 2014 was no exception, as he finished the year with a 73.3% accuracy while pressured. However, while his accuracy was above reproach, his decision making under pressure in 2014 certainly was not, throwing nine costly picks to just three touchdowns. That poor ratio left Brees with a lowly 60.5 NFL QB rating when throwing under pressure, a far cry from his 2011 season when he threw for 11 TD's to just three picks and a 90.9 rating.
Much like Brees, Ben Roethlisberger is another who consistently stands out for his passing under pressure, not always for his accuracy, though, but rather for the sheer number of touchdown passes he throws with pass rushers bearing down on him. He was second with 11 touchdowns in 2014, finishing behind only Jay Cutler, but leads all QBs with 38 touchdowns while under pressure over the last four seasons. Throwing 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions helped Roethlisberger to a hugely impressive 112.2 NFL QB rating while passing under pressure, that's significantly better than his 98.4 rating while passing without pressure.
In 2012, Robert Griffin III was the first rookie to finish a season atop these rankings, and he's once again demonstrated the ability to maintain his accuracy under duress. However, as with Brees, his decision making was questionable, throwing just one touchdown to four interceptions. It's a poor ratio for a starter, but is somewhat mitigated by the fact that he was pressured on 45.7% of drop-backs. Only Russell Wilson was pressured more often in 2014, and it's to his great credit that he was still able to finish in the Top 10.
It's one thing to remain composed in the face of a pass rush during the regular season, but it's another altogether to do it when it matters most, the Playoffs.
Playoff Top Five
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Tom Brady excelled under pressure as he led his team to the Super Bowl; his 70.4% accuracy when pressured topped all quarterbacks in the postseason. It wasn't just Brady that stepped up either, it was a team effort. Brady was pressured on just 26.2% of his postseason drop-backs, only Peyton Manning (20.8%) saw less.
We've already discussed his impressive debut season, but the gulf in performance between Bridgewater and the rest of the rookies in the above table serves to illustrate the point. Zach Mettenberger finished second among qualifying rookies with a 59.6% accuracy when pressured, 16.6 percentage points less than Bridgewater. Mettenberger can take plenty of positives from his rookie campaign, he finished 19th in this category, and was the only one of the four qualifying rookies to finish with a positive grade (+1.6) in those situations.
Derek Carr had numerous ups and downs as a rookie, but was particularly erratic when passing under pressure. He tied for sixth with eight touchdowns, but countered that with numerous mistakes on his way to a -15.9 grade when under pressure. At least Carr has the touchdowns to look back on with fondness, Blake Bortles has no such luck, finishing the season with no touchdowns to eight picks and a 22.9 NFL QB rating while pressured.
Bortles certainly wasn't alone in struggling to deal with pressure as a rookie, as a pair of Cleveland Browns, Johnny Manziel (38.5%) and Connor Shaw (40%) found life in the NFL even tougher. Neither threw for a touchdown when pressured, and each had an incompletion to their name; but with just 77 dropbacks between them they lacked the body of work to be included.
Passing Under Pressure can be found along with the rest of our signature stats on the Premium Site, along with the full array of player grades.