Last Sunday, the Giants had an unexpected and impressive win over arch rival Philadelphia. Key factors in their 29 to 16 win included:
1) no turnovers committed by the Giants
2) Giants' defense did not give up big plays
3) outstanding red zone defense
4) good special teams play
But if you look at the final statistics, the Eagles had the edge in many areas.
1) The Eagles held onto the ball longer. Their time of possession was 36:51. While the Giants had the ball for only 23 minutes and nine seconds.
2) The Eagles had 25 first downs versus the Giants 14.
3) In total net yards, the Eagles out gained the Giants 376 yards to 334 yards.
4) Even in total net rushing yards, surprisingly, the Eagles outrushed the Giants, 177 yards to 102 yards. Although the Eagles dominated in most categories, the Giants had more passing yards. Eli Manning threw for 254 yards. While Eagles' quarterbacks passed for 211 yards.
On the surface, these statistics are deceiving. Without looking at the final score, if one looked at the statistics, one can deduce that the Eagles might have won this game. Thankfully, this was not the case. By reading between the numbers, can we examine hidden clues within the stats?
Last year, I wrote an article titled: Hidden yardage-Lawrence Tynes and touchbacks. In this article, hidden yardage was discussed. Well, what is hidden yardage? Hidden yardage can be defined simply as yards which do not show up on a statistics page. Bill Parcells' belief about hidden yardage is every 100 yards in hidden yardage -- through penalties, interceptions, punt and kickoff returns and field position following kickoffs -- is worth 7 points. He contends that fewer than 100 yards in hidden yardage can be equal to a pro-rated percentage of 7 points. Thus, if you have, say, 50 yards more than the opponent by the end of the game in this phase, you should have an extra 3 to 4 points. Was hidden yardage a reason the Giants defeated the Eagles? Let us take a look.
If we factor in penalties, interceptions, punt and kickoff returns and field position following kickoffs, here is the Giants and Eagles breakdown.
Interceptions: The Giants had three interceptions which totaled 32 yards in returns. Due to Good Eli's decision making, he did not throw a pick. Giants plus 32 and Eagles Zero.
Punt returns: Giants had zero yards. Eagles had 13 yards. Eagles plus 13.
Kickoff returns: Giants gained 33 yards. Eagles amassed 45 yards. The Eagles are a plus 12.
Average field position following kickoffs: Giants average start was their own 21. And the Eagles average start their own 19. Giants plus two.
Penalties: Giants had a low number here. Only 21 yards in penalties. The Eagles accumulated 36 yards in penalties. The Giants are a plus 15 in this category.
Subsequently, when totaling up the numbers, the Giants had a plus 49 in hidden yards. And the Eagles had a plus 25. Subtracting the difference, the Giants had 24 more hidden yards than their opponent. Based on Parcells' theory, this would equate to about ~2 extra points for the Giants. Even though the Giants had more hidden yards, unfortunately, this hidden yardage theory does not give us a clear indicator on why the Giants were victorious. Let us delve a little deeper.
On Peter King's podcast, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was interviewed. At one time in his coaching career, Schwartz worked under Bill Belichick. Since Schwartz has a degree in economics, Belichick asked him to conduct a study. In this study, Belichick wanted to know- what statistics are important? What statistics correlate to winning teams?
After crunching the numbers, Schwartz concluded the following:
1. Over the course of a 16 game season, there is an equal distribution of fumbles among winning and losing teams. Belichick thought this was preposterous. Because teams which hold onto the football in a game, for the most part, will win. This is true. But what Schwartz pointed out, over an entire season, fumbles do not play a major factor.
2. On the contrary, interceptions are a different story. Interceptions correlate to winning teams. After Schwartz did his analysis, he found out a team which had accumulated more interceptions had winning records.
Then Schwartz went on to elaborate on important statistics which determine outcomes of games:
1. This is a given. Points scored and points allowed.
2. Red zone touchdown percentage. In the red zone, teams which score touchdowns instead of field goals are going to come out on top.
3. Third down conversion percentage. Teams which convert on third down more often, keep drives alive.
5. Sacks- According to Schwartz, highest percentage of a turnover on any other play is a sack. A strip sack is a game changer because it can give a team better field position.
Using Schwartz's analysis, this game boiled down to the interceptions. The Giants defense picked off three passes while the Eagles defense did not have any. So we can conclude, based on Schwartz's theory, the team with more interceptions will most likely correlate to winning a football game.
Summary- the real aid in the victory by the Giants was the net +3 Interceptions. While the team also had an advantage in hidden yardage, it was not significant.
Point #2 was huge as well. The sheagles traveled 5 times in the redzone : INT (which is #2 + #3 in one very huge play), FG, TD, FG, FG.
It's the second week in a row we show very solid red zone D and it's encouraging.
Give me 3rd down conversions on offense and I'll start feeling optimistic about this team.
The Giants seem to be willing to go back to a very tough and physical football and it seems to me like it's not a very popular trend in the NFL today.
I can think of a few team doing the same in the AFC (Raiders, Jets, Ravens ...) but in the NFC ? Maybe the Lions ?
I may be way off with this and Gilbride could very well go 4 wide sunday and call 60% of passes.