Leafing Through Pages: Analysis of Sports and Other Topics

12/06/2009

The Big Play Ability of the Run-and-Shoot

Filed under: Pro Football — David Hunter @ 12:25 PM
Tags: , , ,

The run-and-shoot offense is often described as basketball on turf or more commonly, an offense that can score at any given moment (usually meaning a big play). Just how true was that? The criteria used will be based on TD plays, whether they be passes or runs, over 20 yards (essentially at the opponent’s red zone minimum). A big play offense should result in bigger plays scoring as opposed to “methodical” offenses that drive down the field, chew up clock, and score from within the red zone. I’ll compare the 20+ scores to scores inside the 20.

1989 Detroit Lions: Out of 34 TDs scored, only 7 (21%) came outside of 20 yards.
1990 Detroit Lions: Out of 43 TDs scored, only 14 (33%) came outside of 20 yards.
1991 Detroit Lions: Out of 35 TDs scored, only 10 (29%) came outside of 20 yards.

So in 3 years, Detroit scored 112 offensive TDs and 28% (31) came outside of 20 yards.

Let’s see how the Houston Oilers, with a better QB in Warren Moon, did.

1989 Houston Oilers: Out of 39 TDs scored, only 10 (26%) came outside of 20 yards.
1990 Houston Oilers: Out of 47 TDs scored, only 15 (32%) came outside of 20 yards.
1991 Houston Oilers: Out of 40 TDs scored, only 11 (28%) came outside of 20 yards.
1992 Houston Oilers: Out of 37 TDs scored, only 4 (11%) came outside of 20 yards.
1993 Houston Oilers: Out of 34 TDs scored, only 7 (21%) came outside of 20 yards.

So in 5 years, Houston scored 197 offensive TDs and 24% (47) came outside of 20 yards.

That covered the Detroit Lions and Houston Oilers but there was a third team using the run-and-shoot offense during this period, the Atlanta Falcons. Mouse Davis once described them as using the “purest” form of the offense so maybe they scored more on bigger plays?

1990 Atlanta Falcons: Out of 32 TDs scored, only 8 (25%) came outside of 20 yards.
1991 Atlanta Falcons: Out of 36 TDs scored, only 16 (44%) came outside of 20 yards.
1992 Atlanta Falcons: Out of 38 TDs scored, only 14 (37%) came outside of 20 yards.
1993 Atlanta Falcons: Out of 29 TDs scored, only 9 (31%) came outside of 20 yards.
1994 Atlanta Falcons: Out of 31 TDs scored, only 8 (26%) came outside of 20 yards.
1995 Atlanta Falcons: Out of 32 TDs scored, only 12 (38%) came outside of 20 yards.
1996 Atlanta Falcons: Out of 35 TDs scored, only 5 (14%) came outside of 20 yards.

So in 7 years, Atlanta scored 233 offensive TDs and 31% (72) came outside of 20 yards.

So over three teams, the run-and-shoot often accounted for roughly 25 to 30% of their offensive TDs coming from 20 or more yards. Let’s compare that to “great” offenses such as the 1998 Minnesota Vikings, 2000 St. Louis Rams, 2004 Indianapolis Colts, and 2007 New England Patriots to see if the run-and-shoot was more big play or less big play than the all-time greatest offenses ever.

1998 Minnesota Vikings: Out of 58 TDs scored, only 25 (43%) came outside of 20 yards.
2000 St. Louis Rams: Out of 62 TDs scored, only 13 (21%) came outside of 20 yards.
2004 Indianapolis Colts: Out of 61 TDs scored, only 20 (33%) came outside of 20 yards.
2007 New England Patriots: Out of 67 TDs scored, only 17 (25%) came outside of 20 yards.

It’s interesting to note that the greatest offenses scored a ton of TDs but also were in the same range as the run-and-shoot offense in terms of the percentage of big plays over 20 yards. The difference was the sheer volume of TDs scored. Also interesting to note that the Atlanta Falcons, the “purest” form of the run-and-shoot in Mouse Davis’ eyes was also the team employing the offense that had the best definition of being a big play offense. Also the Oilers, the most successful of the run-and-shoot teams, was also the least prone to scoring on the big play.

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