Adrian Peterson is third in the NFL in rushing and hasn’t fumbled, yet Minnesota is 0-2 and has scored the second-fewest points in the NFL. Part of that is Peterson’s fault. According to advancednflstats.com, Peterson ranks 47th among running backs in helping his team win. Peterson’s Win Probability Added score is so low for the same reason Matt Forte is ranked No. 45 — they don’t move the chains.
Adrian Peterson is third in the NFL in rushing and hasn’t fumbled, yet Minnesota is 0-2 and has scored the second-fewest points in the NFL. Part of that is Peterson’s fault.
According to advancednflstats.com, Peterson ranks 47th among running backs in helping his team win. Peterson’s Win Probability Added score is so low for the same reason Matt Forte is ranked No. 45 — they don’t move the chains. WPA rates how each play affects your team’s chances to win, so getting stopped on fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter with your team trailing by six can more than cancel out an 80-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Because he loses so many fumbles, Peterson actually had a negative WPA when he led the NFL in rushing with 1,760 yards in 2008. Only 368 of Peterson’s 4,571 yards his first three seasons came on third and fourth downs. This year, Peterson has touched the ball on five of Minnesota’s 31 plays on third and fourth downs, and been stopped on three of them, including fourth-and-1 at the goal line last week with six offensive linemen in front of him.
Peyton provides WPA proof
Advancednflstats provides graphs of how a team’s chances to win climb or drop after every play. For those who doubt the stat, I offer the 2006 playoffs as proof of its veracity. Rex Grossman defenders love to point out how he had a higher passer rating than Peyton Manning that postseason, but I’ve pointed out frequently that Rex was awful on third down and in the fourth quarter, while Manning excelled in both instances.
If you go by passer rating, Tony Romo was the best QB in the 2006 playoffs (89.6), while Rex ranked ninth and Manning 10th. WPA says Super Bowl champion Manning was first, while Grossman was last and Romo, whose Cowboys lost in the first round, was next-to-last.
Not only were they last, they had the two worst WPA scores (-0.61 and -1.03) of any quarterbacks in the playoffs in the last decade. So if anyone wonders why Grossman’s name keeps getting mentioned, it’s because the Bears blew their one chance to win it all in the last 20 years by sticking with one of the worst quarterbacks in Super Bowl history.
Cutler, Orton both excel
Jay Cutler leads the NFL in both passer rating (121.2) and my favorite stat, yards per pass (10.14). But he’s only sixth in Win Probability Added. What’s more, Kyle Orton is No. 4. That’s not a knock on Cutler, who was No. 3 in Denver two years ago. The Cutler trade, even at the price of Orton and two No. 1 picks, is looking more and more like that rare trade that significantly helps both teams.
Kicking isn’t only choice
The announcers made a big point about the Cowboys “passing up a 55-yard field goal” and gaining only 17 yards when they punted into the end zone trailing 20-17 late in the third quarter. But they would have lost eight yards if they missed, with Chicago taking over at the 45. Why not go for it on fourth-and-8 from the 37? The risk is less than trying such a long field goal, and the reward is far greater than punting. Too many coaches and announcers think you have to kick on fourth down.
Matt Trowbridge’s NFL Quick Shots appear Wednesdays. He can be reached at 815-987-1383 or email@example.com.