Mark Twain once said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
I don’t peddle the first two, but I’ll make my case for the third, and it comes with a caution. Statistics in sports are a means for understanding a rate of success or validity. They are not the whole the story, and should not be taken in place of the tape that the players and coaches will study. Statistics do not offer suggestions, they just look at trends.
In the case of yesterday’s game, there were numbers that stood in contrast to the success experienced in the first two games.
The things that made the Redskins successful on offense in the first two games: time of possession, total plays, establishing the running game, and third down conversions—didn’t come through last night.
- Time of possession: 28:24 yesterday vs. 35:33 in each of the first two weeks. Averaged 27:55 in 2010.
- Total plays: 62 yesterday vs. 71.5 in each of the first two weeks.
- Rushing yards: 65 yesterday vs. 123 in each of the first two weeks.
- Third down conversion percentage: 25 percent yesterday vs. 34 percent in each of the first two weeks.
The things that made them successful on special teams in the first two games: good returns, clean snaps and holds, and consistent coverage—didn’t come through last night.
- Kick return average: 20 yards yesterday vs. 25.5 in each of the first two weeks.
- Punt return average: 8 yards yesterday vs. 15.75 in each of the first two weeks.
The things that made them successful on defense in the first two games: getting the opposing offense off the field, and getting pressure on the opposing quarterback—didn’t come through last night.
- Sacks per game: one yesterday vs. 3.5 in each of the first two weeks.
The most important reason NOT to obsess over these numbers is the minuscule sample size. Comparing one game to the previous two is bad math, and I only bring these up as an indicator.
Secondly, these stats are all interrelated, and cannot be isolated to give credit or assign blame. Stats like turnovers and time of possession are a two-way street on offense and defense. Special teams coverage and returns are dependent on the defense to provide room for a return, and blocking to open holes.
When those things don’t happen, everyone suffers, and nobody boarded the plane with personal or moral victories last night.
Many players have trickled in on their day off today for conditioning and film study. In a game of adjustments, how the team as a whole prepares for Week 4 will determine their record going into the bye week.