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thshadow

You Called A Run On First Down. You’re Already Screwed.

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This is a kindof long and dense article.  So I'll summarize some of the points.

If you run on first down, you have a 44.0% chance of a first down.
If you pass on first down, you have a 47.4% chance of a first down.  A pretty big improvement!

And despite what we feel, the Jets did run/run/pass only 13% of the time, which was less than the 16% league average.  And they got a first down on that sequence 50% of the time, vs. 40.6% league average.

 

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/you-called-a-run-on-first-down-youre-already-screwed/

 

You Called A Run On First Down. You’re Already Screwed.

By Josh Hermsmeyer

Filed under NFL

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Minnesota Vikings v Seattle Seahawks Pete Carroll, along with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, were criticized for calling too many running plays in Seattle’s wild-card loss.

OTTO GREULE JR. / GETTY IMAGES

Throughout the 2018 regular season, the Seattle Seahawks made a conscious effort to establish the threat of the running game in the minds of their opponents. In the face of record offensive production across the NFL — driven in large part by prolific passing offenses — head coach Pete Carroll doggedly maintained that sticking with running the ball gave the Seahawks the best chance to win. Though they attempted the fewest passes in the NFL, the Seahawks went 10-6 and earned a playoff berth.

But that reliance on the run may have been Seattle’s undoing in its 24-22 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC wild-card game. In the first half the Seahawks’ running backs rushed nine times for an anemic 2.1 yards per carry. Most of those runs came in a particular sequence: rush-rush-pass. All but three of Seattle’s first-half rushing attempts originated from the rush-rush-pass play sequence. And despite the lack of success using that pattern of plays against the Dallas defensive front, Seattle opened its first possession of the second half by calling it again. The result was a punt.

The notion of establishing the run is deeply ingrained in NFL culture. Coaches and play-callers laud the approach for its ability to keep a team “on schedule” and “ahead of the chains,” both of which are football shorthand for picking up enough yards on first and second down that you stand a good chance to extend a drive. True believers think that if you abandon the run too early, you make your team one-dimensional and forfeit an important edge in toughness. You’re no longer imposing your will on a defense, and this will manifest itself in worse results overall. But is this true? Does running help a team convert more first downs and extend drives? And does the order in which you call pass and run plays matter?

 
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To answer these questions, I looked at every play called in the NFL regular season from 2009 to 20181 and compared the result of each of the possible permutations of run and pass play sequencing2 using expected points addedand success rate.3 I calculated EPA and success rate for every first-down play; then I looked at every sequence that did not absorb into a first down and extended to second down and then third down, calculating the EPA and success rate for each call. Only sequences of three plays are included in the final analysis.

Leaguewide, rushing is the preferred play call on first down, after which passing takes over as the dominant play type, especially on third down.

hermsmeyer-plays-1.png

Over the course of the 2018 season, there was no three-play sequence that Seattle favored more than rush-rush-pass. The Seahawks called rush-rush-pass 26 percent of the time, a rate 10 percentage points higher than league average. Yet despite the high frequency with which Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer used the pattern, they were not successful with it. Just 41.2 percent of their rush-rush-pass sequences ended in success. Meanwhile, on three-play sequences where the Seahawks started with a pass and mixed in a run afterward, they were successful 88.9 percent of the time (pass-rush-rush), 71.4 percent of the time (pass-pass-rush) and 50 percent (pass-rush-pass) of the time.

Rush-rush-pass wasn’t effective for Seattle

The Seattle Seahawks’ three-play sequences in 2018 by frequency, expected points added and success rate

SEQUENCE EPA SUCCESS FREQUENCY
Pass-rush-rush +0.56 88.9% 5%
Pass-pass-rush +0.50 71.4 4
Rush-rush-rush +0.31 52.0 13
Pass-rush-pass +0.34 50.0 12
Rush-rush-pass +0.17 41.2 26
Rush-pass-rush -0.15 38.5 7
Rush-pass-pass -0.08 34.0 25
Pass-pass-pass -0.39 21.1 10

Frequencies do not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.

SOURCES: NFL, ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU

These results hold generally across the league as well. Pass-rush-rush is the most successful three-play sequence, followed by pass-pass-rush and rush-pass-rush.

On first down, passing will net you at least 5 yards (enough to make the play a success) 47 percent of the time, while running the ball will get you the same result just 32.8 percent of the time, 14.2 percentage points less often. On second down, the gap closes to about a 7 percentage-point advantage for passing.

hermsmeyer-plays-21.png

Play-calling patterns that end in a pass on third down have a negative expected value across the board. If we look at each sequence in terms of EPA per play, we see that the only positive EPA values on third down are on running plays. This makes sense: If you are passing on third down, it strongly implies that the first two plays in the sequence did not end well, and you likely have a third-and-long situation.

Meanwhile, the opposite outcome is true on first and second down. There are no positive EPA rushing nodes, and all passing plays return positive expected value.

hermsmeyer-plays-3.png

This result is the exact opposite of what we would expect to find if establishing the run via play sequences like rush-rush-pass were winning strategies. Instead of making a team less predictable, establishing the run on first and second down creates a game state that is often quite predictable for the defense. The opposing team is expecting a pass on third down because the first two plays were unsuccessful.

Surprisingly, two of the top three teams in net yards per passing attempt in 2018, the Rams and the Chiefs, actually do have success with the rush-rush-pass play sequence.

How each team uses rush-rush-pass

The frequency — and effectiveness — with which every NFL team called rush-rush-pass in a three-play sequence

TEAM EPA SUCCESS FREQUENCY
Seattle +0.17 41.2% 26%
Tennessee -0.23 41.3 24
Buffalo -0.26 43.9 21
L.A. Chargers -0.13 41.2 20
San Francisco -0.37 33.3 20
Houston -0.32 38.9 18
Miami -0.50 22.6 18
Denver -0.47 32.4 17
L.A. Rams +0.28 60.0 16
N.Y. Giants +0.23 51.5 16
Indianapolis -0.03 45.5 16
Minnesota -0.28 41.9 16
Jacksonville +0.05 40.0 16
Oakland -0.72 33.3 16
Cleveland +0.37 46.7 15
Chicago -0.09 41.4 15
Pittsburgh +0.70 61.5 14
Atlanta +0.37 51.7 14
Detroit +0.00 50.0 14
Tampa Bay +0.44 47.8 14
New Orleans +0.04 41.7 14
Arizona -0.71 33.3 14
N.Y. Jets +0.19 50.0 13
Dallas +0.15 46.4 13
Baltimore +0.32 44.4 12
Carolina -0.14 40.9 12
New England +0.03 39.1 12
Washington -0.32 34.8 12
Cincinnati -0.26 47.4 10
Green Bay -0.10 40.0 10
Kansas City +1.19 53.3 9
Philadelphia +0.66 50.0 9

SOURCES: NFL, ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU

Kansas City, the most dominant passing team in the league, was successful 53.3 percent of the time with rush-rush-pass. But the Chiefs ran the sequence just 15 times all season for a total share of 9 percent of all plays — 7 percentage points below league average — and they were mostly unsuccessful with the first two plays in the chain. When the Chiefs called back-to-back runs on first and second down, the second run was successful just 47.7 percent of the time. This suggests that the success of their third-down passes owes itself more to the strength of the Chiefs passing game and quarterback Patrick Mahomes than to the running plays that led up to them.

The story is similar in Los Angeles. Sixty percent of rush-rush-pass play sequences ended in success, and the Rams used the pattern at exactly the league-average frequency. Again, however, when the Rams called back-to-back runs to begin a sequence, the second run was successful just 46.1 percent of the time, leaving them 5.8 yards left to gain for a first-down conversion on average. The success the Rams enjoyed on third-down passing attempts appears to be independent of the rushing plays that preceded them.

While the precise order in which passes and runs are called may not matter so much — several combinations are roughly equivalent to one another according to success rate — some trends are clear. Passes are more effective when called on early downs, and runs are more effective on third down. Running on first down, while often a mistake, can be salvaged with a pass on second down. And if you’re going to rush on back-to-back plays to open a series, you should do so sparingly because it will leave your team in an obvious passing situation more often than not. Your passing attack — and QB especially — will need to be well above average to consistently convert in those high-leverage spots where all deception is gone and defenders can be confident that they know what’s coming.

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9 minutes ago, Gen X Jet said:

I've had too much to drink to read this. Can some sober aspy distill it for me?

Yeah, teams should pass on first down and run on third down to increase odds of moving the chains. 

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6 minutes ago, Greenseed4 said:

Yeah, teams should pass on first down and run on third down to increase odds of moving the chains. 

If teams successfully pass on either first or second down, and have a short yardage 3rd down situation that has a high probability to convert, then they are successful.

 

Conversely, if your 1st and second down plays net less than a 7 yard gain, its bad. 

 

Its a lot of words and charts for what people already know. Be efficient, don't take yardage losses/ non-gains, stay ahead of the chains. 

 

Jets only did Run-Run-Pass sequence 13% of the time, but the analysis is thrown off because Bates used to call many, many screens/short passes/"cute" plays that resulted in yardage losses on early downs.

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27 minutes ago, thshadow said:

Though they attempted the fewest passes in the NFL, the Seahawks went 10-6 and earned a playoff berth.

Carroll gets a lot of (well-deserved) credit for consistently fielding strong defenses in an offensive era, but holy hell, his handling of the offense has been mind-boggling at times. Attempting the fewest passes in the league when you have Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, and Doug Baldwin on your team is indefensible.

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17 minutes ago, dbatesman said:

Carroll gets a lot of (well-deserved) credit for consistently fielding strong defenses in an offensive era, but holy hell, his handling of the offense has been mind-boggling at times. Attempting the fewest passes in the league when you have Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, and Doug Baldwin on your team is indefensible.

Coaching doesn’t matter at all, ask your homie 

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While I generally agree with the premise of this thread, I think Carroll was dealing with a situation where he had an awful pass blocking Oline, limited receiving weapons and was trying to protect his QB from getting killed to start the year. As the year wore on the running game kept the team afloat and they, despite all predictions to the contrary, made the playoffs. 

I don't think there is one way to play the game. I think you need to play to your teams strengths but obviously evolve as the game evolves. I don't think Seattle's strategy is a championship winning strategy nor will it work long term. But you also can't sling the ball 40 times a game if your QB isn't good or your oline can't block. 

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You know when you watch a baseball game and there is no longer a 3rd basemen? But there is a bigger looking guy at short. And some shortstop looking guy like behind 2nd base. And a smaller 2nd baseman looking dude hanging out in short right field?

Yeah, that's coming to football too.

Big data is everywhere.

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So, if you call the least expected play based on the down, you have a higher success rate. And we needed charts and diagrams to know this?

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10 minutes ago, Maxman said:

You know when you watch a baseball game and there is no longer a 3rd basemen? But there is a bigger looking guy at short. And some shortstop looking guy like behind 2nd base. And a smaller 2nd baseman looking dude hanging out in short right field?

Yeah, that's coming to football too.

Big data is everywhere.

Because analytics guys told the hitters to ignore the shift, don't try to get a BB and swing for the fences even when you have two strikes. One team.bucked the trend, shortened their swings with 2 strikes and just tried to put balls in play. They won the world series.

Analytics stops working when everyone uses them. Then the smart teams develop strategies not based on analytics, but instead based on the advantage of knowing your opponent is using analytics.

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18 minutes ago, Maxman said:

You know when you watch a baseball game and there is no longer a 3rd basemen? But there is a bigger looking guy at short. And some shortstop looking guy like behind 2nd base. And a smaller 2nd baseman looking dude hanging out in short right field?

Yeah, that's coming to football too.

Big data is everywhere.

OT, but I really dont get why 'banning' the shift is even an option people are discussing. Learn to hit the other way. 

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4 hours ago, Jet9 said:

OT, but I really dont get why 'banning' the shift is even an option people are discussing. Learn to hit the other way. 

Totally agree.

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Adam gase has the highest percentage of run plays called on third and long of any active coach

I get why people want to like him
He just isn't very good at coaching football

Sent from my Pixel 2 using JetNation.com mobile app

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11 hours ago, dbatesman said:

Carroll gets a lot of (well-deserved) credit for consistently fielding strong defenses in an offensive era, but holy hell, his handling of the offense has been mind-boggling at times. Attempting the fewest passes in the league when you have Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, and Doug Baldwin on your team is indefensible.

Hes trying to make up for not running Lynch at the goal line in the SB vs the Pats

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8 minutes ago, bitonti said:

Adam gase has the highest percentage of run plays called on third and long of any active coach

I get why people want to like him
He just isn't very good at coaching football

Sent from my Pixel 2 using JetNation.com mobile app
 

But in your opinion, Todd Bowles is, go figure....

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25 minutes ago, bitonti said:

Adam gase has the highest percentage of run plays called on third and long of any active coach

I get why people want to like him
He just isn't very good at coaching football

Sent from my Pixel 2 using JetNation.com mobile app
 

Sounds smart depending on the yards to go. The D is in nickle or dime, CBs may be 6 to 10 yards or more off line of scrimmage.  Their may be only 5 or 6 guys in the box. You get the D spread out and have the benefit of surprise. If you're over the 50 you could be in 4 down territory. And perhaps the most important factor of all, your QB is Ryan Tannehill or Brock osweiler.

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i think this analysis needs to be broken down further to see what the defense alignment is on the same downs.  it seems like most teams are in their base defenses at first down which is kind of set up against more run than pass.  so of course first down passing will work better than a run.  but it is an interesting analysis and we can only hope gase can get the team to execute first down pass plays.

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Fun read and thanks for sharing, but I don’t agree that any particular way of doing things will consistently yield the same results.

The analysis is good, but the conclusion is incomplete. It shouldn’t be that passing on 1st is more successful than running. It should be that doing the opposite of what the defense is prepared for will yield a higher rate of successful

In any case, any analysis which uses third down efficiency as a tool to determine offensive productivity is flawed. Some of the best offenses never even reach third down because they’re moving the chains or scoring on 1st and 2nd downs.

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12 hours ago, dbatesman said:

Carroll gets a lot of (well-deserved) credit for consistently fielding strong defenses in an offensive era, but holy hell, his handling of the offense has been mind-boggling at times. Attempting the fewest passes in the league when you have Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, and Doug Baldwin on your team is indefensible.

Meanwhile, when he actually should have ran the ball with Marshawn Lynch, he inexplicably called for a pass, leading to one of the worst passes in SB history.

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11 hours ago, Sonny Werblin said:

So, if you call the least expected play based on the down, you have a higher success rate. And we needed charts and diagrams to know this?

 

11 hours ago, Sonny Werblin said:

Because analytics guys told the hitters to ignore the shift, don't try to get a BB and swing for the fences even when you have two strikes. One team.bucked the trend, shortened their swings with 2 strikes and just tried to put balls in play. They won the world series.

Analytics stops working when everyone uses them. Then the smart teams develop strategies not based on analytics, but instead based on the advantage of knowing your opponent is using analytics.

 

1 hour ago, Sonny Werblin said:

Sounds smart depending on the yards to go. The D is in nickle or dime, CBs may be 6 to 10 yards or more off line of scrimmage.  Their may be only 5 or 6 guys in the box. You get the D spread out and have the benefit of surprise. If you're over the 50 you could be in 4 down territory. And perhaps the most important factor of all, your QB is Ryan Tannehill or Brock osweiler.

Spot on. Great work here. As with everything else, sports tendencies tied to success are always cyclical. The only surefire keys to success in sports at a managerial level are to stay one play ahead of the opponent and to put your players in the play that have the best chance to execute.

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You can't analyze football like this. This is such a flawed and overly-simplistic way to break down the game. Critical factors this "analysis" doesn't consider:

1. How good is the team at running the ball

2. How good is the defense at stopping the run

3. What formation is the defense lined up in

4. What is the score

5. How much time is left

6. How many yards were gained on 1st down

7. How many yards were gained on 2nd down

 

 

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On 1/12/2019 at 10:30 AM, Sonny Werblin said:

Sounds smart depending on the yards to go. The D is in nickle or dime, CBs may be 6 to 10 yards or more off line of scrimmage.  Their may be only 5 or 6 guys in the box. You get the D spread out and have the benefit of surprise. If you're over the 50 you could be in 4 down territory. And perhaps the most important factor of all, your QB is Ryan Tannehill or Brock osweiler.

blah blah blah 

there's no way people would make these excuses for a Bowles led OC calling run on 3rd and forever 

and side note it happend 8 times, 5 of these runs were with Tannehill. One happened in Dec 2018 was the longest down and distance run called since 1994

Maybe Gase isn't this terrible of a play caller, maybe he just threw a temper tantrum and shot his way out of town

pick your poison

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On ‎1‎/‎12‎/‎2019 at 11:40 AM, nico002 said:

You can't analyze football like this. This is such a flawed and overly-simplistic way to break down the game. Critical factors this "analysis" doesn't consider:

1. How good is the team at running the ball

2. How good is the defense at stopping the run

3. What formation is the defense lined up in

4. What is the score

5. How much time is left

6. How many yards were gained on 1st down

7. How many yards were gained on 2nd down

 

 

Wait...are you saying that context matters?!

LOL...exactly this.  Analytics without context is just mathematical masturbation and leads to bad decisions.  

On the other hand, where context doesn't matter is kneeling on 2nd and 3rd downs.  Hopefully we've seen the last of that.

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Bates ran the, what i called, "Run, Run, 3rd and long" offense.

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