Ravens 2015 Season in Review – Analytics and Visualizations (Part 1)
In this piece, I take a detailed look back at the first half of 2015 Ravens season through the lenses of analytics and drive performance. Understanding why the first 8 games went 2-6 and how a macro-level drive analysis helps unearth the why and when games were decided. The season ended with a 5-11 record – their worst since 5-11 in 2007. From 2008-2014, the team went 69-43 (.616) – a great run from almost any perspective. What is the margin between winning and losing in the NFL? The marker of points scored versus points allowed per game for the Ravens over the past 5 seasons gives you a look. The 8-8 2013 team had a slightly worse point differential than the 2015 team.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Points clearly only tell one piece of the story. Drive data created from each possession of the 2015 season was run through a drive performance algorithm. The results are presented in a visual fashion for digestion in a qualitative manner showing the performance and the time history flow of each game. To this end, momentum changing events and trends are revealed. The strong visual nature of the GameMaps allows for important insights to be understood and remembered without staring at tables of numbers. This is the area I refer to as reflective analytics. The numbers have been moved to the background and a success scale has been implemented in reference to the Ravens performance on offense, defense and team analyzed separately but in exact sequential order.
When did the season playoff hopes actually end? When the Ravens lost to Arizona in week 7 to fall to 1-6, the season was not exactly over. The Steelers made the playoffs with 6 losses and the Ravens would have held the tiebreak with a 2-0 record against the Steelers. It was the 22-20 loss to Jacksonville in week 10 that actually ended the playoff chances. From other practical measures, it was the 15-13 loss to the Dolphins in week 13 that delivered the final blow. After that loss to Miami, the team ended the last quarter of the season 1-3.
How did this season breakdown by drive analytics? Learn more about the metrics used by visiting www.theQ5.com. A video tutorial takes you through the building of the GameMap from Super Bowl 49.
A quick look at Game-Q scores from the past five seasons and the Ravens record in each season. These calculations are based on drive performance for both scoring drives and non-scoring drives – a measure of unit and team strength for each game and the values accumulated in each season.
Let’s get to a 2015 recap using GameMaps:
Who knew they would have been playing the eventual Super Bowl champions. The Broncos won this game in much the same fashion they would win several throughout the season.
Gary Kubiak said “Might be the greatest defensive football game I’ve ever been a part of as a coach.” Neither team scored an offensive TD and both scored a defensive TD. The offense starts the year with what would be their second worst game of the year by offensive Q-score. The Broncos defense would treat many opponents in similar fashion throughout the year. The Ravens had an early second half pick six by Jimmy Smith to take the lead. A FG on the following drive increased the lead and maybe the Ravens were on their way to a week 1 win. Then at the end of the third quarter, Aqib Talib returns a interception 51 yards for Denver to take back the lead and never relinquish. Outside of the first drive of the 3rd quarter, the BAL offense was in a tailspin. The offense had a long field all day except for the two drives where they scored FGs. This is shown with the green Field-Q boxes in the successful side of the Trend-Q plot. This 19-13 result was nothing to be ashamed of with what the Broncos went on to do. Defensively, Suggs out for season with Achilles injury – definitely a huge loss for the team and the beginning of many injuries that effected the season.
The offense responds with its best Q-score of the season in week 2. The offense rarely starts drives with field position on the success scale but this week the offense successfully drives the ball for 7 scoring drives – 3 TD and 4 FG. A great team effort in the 4th quarter as seen on the GameMap falls apart when Derek Carr hits Seth Roberts on a 12 yard TD pass with 0:26 left on the clock. The play ended a 9 play, 80 yard drive. Equally disappointing was the 9 play 84 yard drive giving up a TD near the end of the 3rd quarter. The offense uncorks an 11 play, 93 yard TD drive in the 4th quarter to tie the game at 30. It was just not meant to be after a FG put the Ravens ahead just in front of the 2 minute warning. For the second week in a row, a game that could be won, ends in defeat with the opponent scoring the last points of the game to win. Is it the offense or defense? Week 1 it was the offense with an underwhelming performance and this week it is the defense.
A first half to forget becomes a 24 point second half for the Ravens. A defensive TD by C. Mosley picking up a Dalton fumble forced by Dumervil puts the Ravens ahead in the 4th quarter. The Bengals come back with an 80 yard answer when Dalton hits A.J. Green on their first play in the next drive. The teams exchange TDs – a 16 yard TD catch by Steve Smith with just over 4:00 left and a 6 play 80 yard drive by the Bengals answers back. AJ Green ended his 10 catch 227 yard day with his second TD catch to put CIN back on top. BAL turns it over on downs with 1:35 left and CIN runs out the clock. The loss left the Ravens at 0-3 for the first time in franchise history. Two weeks in a row, a forgettable forth quarter for the defense. A 7 play span covers 160 yards for the Bengals in the 4th quarter.
Even with 23 points scored, the Ravens post their worst offensive Q-Score of the year. This is a rare occurrence when only scoring drives score are in the successful region of the Trend-Q plot. Note the green circles in the upper plot of the GameMap on non-scoring drives. However, the offense does enough of the good stuff at the right time to bring the Ravens their first win of the year on a Thursday night national telecast. They needed the help of Josh Scobee missing two field goals before Justin Tucker hits from 42 to force overtime and then hit a 52 yarder to win. On a day when the offense has two turnovers and three turnovers on downs, 150 yards rushing by Justin Forsett helped over come five sacks of Flacco by the Steelers. With Big Ben watching from the sideline due to an injury the previous week, the Steelers turned it over on downs twice in overtime on questionable play calls before Tucker ended the game from long distance. The Ravens avoid a 0-4 start but the first quarter of the season shows that the year must turn around quickly.
The Browns get their second win of the season and first on the road as they come to Baltimore and win on an OT field goal. It took a 26 yard Tucker FG to force OT after the offense took 11 plays and 75 yards to get within sight of the game winning TD but instead settled for a FG. This is how the Ravens drive unfolded: 2nd and 7 at CLE 42 Flacco hits Forsett t on a short pass that he takes to the 10 yard line. On 1st and Goal they give it to Allen over left guard for 6 yards to the 4. 2nd and Goal Allen over left tackle for 1 yard loss and an incomplete pass from Flacco to Aiken brings the field goal team on for the tie.
Highlighting the defensive shortcomings, Josh McCown throws for a Browns-record 457 yards. Look closer at the missed FG by BAL in the first half. They get the ball at the CLE 44 and do not capitalize. CLE scores TDs on 3 of 4 drives from the middle of the 3rd on and kick a 32 yards FG after moving it 51 yards in OT.
Colin Kapernick throws two TDs as the Niners snap a four game losing streak and beat the Ravens in San Francisco. Two second half TDs are not enough to catch the 49ers who led all day. Two turnovers each turn into FGs for the Niners as seen in the GameMap. For the second week in a row, the Ravens waste good field position at their own 44 and Tucker hits the upright from 45 yards out. A missed opportunity where a TD would have given the Ravens the lead. The NIners answer with a TD on their next possession in the 4th quarter to essentially put the game out of reach.
Defense started poorly and never got the game going in their direction. The Ravens appeared a step behind all day. Their problems came in pairs, too: Steve Smith’s two end-zone drops, two drops by the defense on would-be interceptions and Flacco’s two picks.
“I don’t have the frustration gauge out. I don’t get frustrated. I don’t get down, just disappointed,” Harbaugh said. “I get determined is what I get. We have a bunch of guys that feel the same way. We have to get it done, and it starts with me.”
At corner for the Ravens is Sharice Wright who was cut by the Niners two weeks earlier without playing a game. Wright is signed by Baltimore only a week before this game. The Niners knew the weaknesses and attacked him.
The season now sits at 1-5. Things are not looking good at all but leadership is strong from the top. Great quote from the head coach.
Having helped coach and recruit Asa Jackson while at Cal Poly in 2008, this game was exciting with the blocked punt in the 4th quarter but Jeremy Ross’s fumble on the punt return turned the game toward ARI and BAL was never quite able to recover. That fumble near the end of the 2nd quarter led to an ARI TD with just over a 1:00 before halftime. Jackson gets loose inside to block a punt in the 4th quarter and BAL scores in the next play from 1 yard out. Too little too late for the Ravens. An INT in the end zone ends the Ravens home game on Monday Night Football in a Cardinal win. The defense has its worst Q-score of the year. The Q-score combines drive result with starting field position and yards allowed – for each drive graded individually. They end up yielding an average of 7 yards per play. However, the Cardinals ended the season with the second ranked offense by Q-score.
The Ravens end the first half of the season with a win at home against the Chargers. The season is on life-support going into the bye week at 2-6. It takes outscoring the Chargers 13-3 at the end of the game to win on a walk-off FG. The Chargers jump ahead 23-16 with just over 3:00 left in the 3rd quarter but the Ravens immediately respond with a FG on the next drive. Two drives later, the Ravens create great field position by forcing the Chargers to punt from their own end zone, creating a short field for a 6 play 38 yard TD drive capped with a Flacco 1 yard TD run. The offense turns in their second best Q-score of the year in this game. A clean, no turnover game by both teams ends with a 39 yard Tucker FG as time expires for the win heading into the bye week for the Ravens.
In the next installment, I’ll recap the second half of the Ravens 2015 season.
Dr. Guyader is the Owner / Founder of The Q5.com, which specializes in Football Visualizations and Drive Analytics. Additionally, Guyader has 10 years of Division I football experience coaching top-tier and historic programs. From guiding third round NFL draft pick Ramses Barden for four seasons at Cal Poly to converting 6-foot 10-inch lineman Ali Villanueva to wide receiver at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Andy knows how to coach on the field and how to game-plan in a meeting.