May 25, 2022

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DVOA in Rams’ Super Bowl LVI Win May Surprise

8 min read
DVOA in Rams' Super Bowl LVI Win May Surprise


NFL Super Bowl – The Los Angeles Rams came away as the champion of a very closely fought Super Bowl LVI. The Cincinnati Bengals, however, had slightly better underlying play-by-play performance based on Football Outsiders’ DVOA system.

Sort of.

The gap between the teams was bigger with DVOA than with VOA because of the opponent adjustments. The opponent adjustment for playing the Rams is strong, as they were the No. 5 team during the regular season. The opponent adjustment for playing the Bengals is pretty much nonexistent, because the Bengals were perfectly average (0.0%) during the regular season.

DVOA (with opponent adjustments)
TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
LAR 0% -9% -15% -6%
CIN 24% -2% -21% 6%
VOA (no opponent adjustments)
TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
LAR -1% -11% -16% -6%
CIN 7% -11% -12% 6%

If we look at the VOA ratings, the Bengals are still slightly ahead of the Rams, but the difference is entirely special teams. Aborted extra points are bad! Plus, Trent Taylor had a couple of good returns for the Bengals and Johnny Hekker’s punts weren’t too great except for the 55-yarder late in the first quarter. Without special teams, the Rams are at 5% VOA and the Bengals 1%.

How did the Bengals end up with a higher rating despite losing the game? The Bengals actually outgained the Rams on a per-play basis, 5.1 to 4.8 yards, once we omit kneeldowns at the end of each half. Of course, the Bengals also won the turnover battle, 2-0. The Rams did have a higher success rate, 41% to 37%.

Since I know people will ask: Yes, things would be very different without the 75-yard touchdown to Tee Higgins where the officials missed a clear offensive pass interference/face mask. Without that play, the Bengals are at only 3.9 yards per play for the game and their offensive DVOA goes from -2% to -16%. The Bengals were super-dependent on big plays all year long and the Super Bowl was no exception, with 121 yards coming on just two plays (the Higgins touchdown and an early 46-yard catch-and-run by Ja’Marr Chase).

There’s also another way to look at this game, which is the Post-Game Win Expectancy formula we introduced this season. This formula looks at various splits of VOA to estimate how often we would have expected each team to win the game based on their play-by-play performance. The Rams may have ended up with the lower DVOA and VOA, but the Rams had the higher PGWE at 62%. A better passing performance correlates with wins more than a better rushing performance, and the Rams were way, way better passing the ball: 31% DVOA passing compared to -63% rushing.

Anyway, that’s why I wrote “sort of” above. The Bengals had the higher DVOA, but the Rams were the team more likely to win the game based on the VOA splits. This wasn’t a “wrong team wins” type of game.

One other stat that I wanted to point out from this game is just how bad the Bengals were in short-yardage situations. The Bengals kept getting good yardage on first down and then stalling out. Overall, Cincinnati only converted 3 of 10 opportunities with 1-2 yards to go. Leaguewide, there were conversions on 65% of these opportunities during the 2021 season (including the postseason). The Bengals converted on 0 of 3 second-and-shorts, 2 of 4 third-and-shorts, and 1 of 3 fourth-and-shorts.

The Rams were at 50% on short yardage: the stuffed Stafford sneak on first-and-goal from the 1, 2 of 3 on second-and-short, 1 of 3 on third-and-short, and Cooper Kupp’s jet sweep on fourth-and-short.

A reminder that playoff DVOA is now available on FO+. You can go here, for example, to see DVOA from the 2021 playoffs. Use the drop-down menus to pick regular season, playoffs, or both combined.

Thanks again to everyone for a great 19th season at Football Outsiders. We’ll start our offseason coverage soon along with announcing the winners of the Football Outsiders reader awards next week. We’re looking forward to expanded draft coverage from Mike Tanier and Derrik Klassen including the introduction of the FO 40 and Fantasy 40 draft boards. We’re also looking forward to the introduction of DVOA for the 1981 and 1982 seasons, probably sometime closer to June or July.

Now let’s turn it over to Vince Verhei for some Quick Reads.

Quarterbacks

Rk

Player

Team

CP/AT

Yds

TD

INT

Sacks

Total
DYAR

Pass
DYAR

Rush
DYAR

Opp

1.

Matthew Stafford LAR

26/40

283

3

2

2

54

68

-7

CIN

Stafford’s totals include -7 receiving DYAR for his one target, an incomplete pass. He threw his second touchdown in the second quarter and his third in the fourth; in between those two drives, he went 10-of-19 for 99 yards with two interceptions and a sack. The Bengals limited his effectiveness downfield—he threw a half-dozen deep balls, completing one to his own team (a 17-yard touchdown to Odell Beckham) and one to Cincinnati. He was at his best in short- and medium-yardage scenarios; with 6 yards or less to go for a first down, he went 8-of-11 for 78 yards and seven conversions, including three touchdowns, plus a 3-yard DPI.

2.

Joe Burrow CIN

22/33

263

1

0

7

-22

-25

3

LAR

Three plays—a 46-yard bomb to Ja’Marr Chase, a 75-yard touchdown to Tee Higgins, and a 17-yard completion to Michael Thomas on third-and-22—produced over half of Burrow’s yardage on the day. That long touchdown to Higgins was his first pass of the third quarter. It was also his only first down of the third quarter, as his next 10 dropbacks produced one incompletion, four completions for a gain of 32 yards, and five sacks for a loss of 29. He only threw for one first down in L.A. territory, where he went 6-of-12 for 33 yards with a pair of sacks. He had a terrible day on third/fourth downs, going 4-of-10 for 44 yards with more sacks (three) than conversions (two). That includes a pair of incomplete passes on fourth-and-1 from the Rams’ 49-yard line. He also struggled on throws to running backs, going 6-of-9 for 4 yards (not a typo). Speaking of which…

 

Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Total)

Rk

Player

Team

Runs

Rush
Yds

Rush
TD

Rec

Rec
Yds

Rec
TD

Total
DYAR

Rush
DYAR

Rec
DYAR

Opp

1.

Darrell Henderson LAR

4

7

0

3/5

43

0

10

-3

13

CIN

Henderson finishes in first not due to his four runs (a 3-yard loss on third-and-17 and gains of 1, 4, and 5 yards on first-and-10), but for his three catches (3-yard gain on second-and-6, 25-yard gain on first-and-10, 15-yard gain on third-and-8). And because it was an awful day for running backs.

2.

Joe Mixon CIN

15

72

0

5/6

1

0

1

14

-36

LAR

Mixon’s totals include 23 passing DYAR for his 6-yard touchdown pass. He was stuffed just once while running for three first downs on gains of 12, 13, and 14 yards, all of them on first-and-10. But only one of his five catches—a 4-yard gain on second-and-6—gained yardage. Three others went for no gain, while another lost 3 yards on first-and-10.

3.

Cam Akers LAR

13

21

0

3/4

14

0

-27

-26

-1

CIN

Akers only rushed for one first down, an 8-yard gain on second-and-2 on his last carry of the day. Meanwhile, he was stuffed six times. His three catches: 7-yard gain on second-and-6; 4-yard gain on second-and-11; 3-yard gain on first-and-10.

 

Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Rushing)

Rk

Player

Team

Runs

Rush
Yds

Rush
TD

Rec

Rec
Yds

Rec
TD

Total
DYAR

Rush
DYAR

Rec
DYAR

Opp

1.

Joe Mixon CIN

15

72

0

5/6

1

0

1

14

-36

LAR

Since we have some extra space here, let’s discuss the other running backs who played in this game. Samaje Perine had -15 rushing DYAR on two carries, both of which went for no gain on third-and-1. He added -10 DYAR on his one target, an incomplete pass on fourth-and-1. And Chris Evans didn’t get a carry, but he had -1 DYAR receiving on two targets: an incomplete pass on third-and-4 and a 3-yard gain on third-and-2.

2.

Darrell Henderson LAR

4

7

0

3/5

43

0

10

-3

13

CIN

Henderson and Akers were the only L.A. running backs to be targeted in the Super Bowl. Sony Michel had -7 rushing DYAR on two carries: a 3-yard gain on second-and-10 and a 1-yard loss on second-and-3.

3.

Cam Akers LAR

13

21

0

3/4

14

0

-27

-26

-1

CIN

Hmm, more space to fill. This seems like a good place to mention how bad Los Angeles’ numbers were as a team. On first-and-10, they had 12 carries for 26 yards, with four stuffs and a long gain of 6 yards. They failed to pick up a single first down in the first 57 minutes of the game, and the two they got after that came on fourth-and-1 and second-and-2. Their long run gained only 8 yards, and they were hit for no gain or a loss nine times.

 

Worst Running Back by DYAR (Total)

Rk

Player

Team

Runs

Rush
Yds

Rush
TD

Rec

Rec
Yds

Rec
TD

Total
DYAR

Rush
DYAR

Rec
DYAR

Opp

1.

Cam Akers LAR

13

21

0

3/4

14

0

-27

-26

-1

CIN

Akers finishes the postseason with 67 carries for 172 yards, a 2.6-yard average, and two fumbles. That’s -96 rushing DYAR in four games. That matches the -96 rushing DYAR Alvin Kamara had in 13 games in the regular season, and that was the worst total in the league.

 

Worst Running Back by DYAR (Rushing)

Rk

Player

Team

Runs

Rush
Yds

Rush
TD

Rec

Rec
Yds

Rec
TD

Total
DYAR

Rush
DYAR

Rec
DYAR

Opp

1.

Cam Akers LAR

13

21

0

3/4

14

0

-27

-26

-1

CIN

Per Stathead, Akers had the worst average gain for any player ever with at least 50 carries and two fumbles in a single postseason. If anyone tells you that Akers and the ground game were the key to L.A.’s championship, cease all contact with them immediately.

 

Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR

Rk

Player

Team

Rec

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Total
DYAR

Opp

1.

Cooper Kupp LAR

8

10

92

11.5

2

65

CIN

Kupp’s totals include 9 DYAR for his one carry, a 7-yard gain on fourth-and-1, and -7 passing DYAR for his one pass attempt, an incompletion. His two touchdowns came on 11- and 1-yard gains; he had three other first downs on gains of 13, 20, and 22 yards, plus a 3-yard DPI.

2.

Tee Higgins CIN

4

7

100

25.0

2

39

LAR

Higgins’ two touchdowns went for 6 and 75 yards. He added another first down on a 14-yard gain on third-and-6.

3.

Odell Beckham LAR

2

3

52

26.0

1

34

CIN

Beckham’s first two targets resulted in a 17-yard touchdown on third-and-3 and a 35-yard gain on third-and-11. His third was an incomplete pass on second-and-9, on which he suffered a knee injury that knocked him out of the game.

4.

Brycen Hopkins LAR

4

4

47

11.8

0

17

CIN

Three of Hopkins’ receptions produced first downs, including a 16-yard gain on third-and-9 and a 6-yard gain on third-and-2.

5.

Ja’Marr Chase CIN

5

8

89

17.8

0

16

LAR

Chase’s totals include 8 rushing DYAR for his one carry for 4 yards (actually a backwards lateral). He had three first downs through the air: a 46-yard gain on first-and-10, a 10-yard gain on second-and-7, and a 17-yard gain on first-and-10.

 

Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR

Rk

Player

Team

Rec

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Total
DYAR

Opp

1.

Van Jefferson LAR

4

8

23

5.8

0

-35

CIN

Only one of Jefferson’s catches—a 13-yard gain on second-and-4—picked up a first down. The others: a 4-yard gain on third-and-7; a 1-yard loss on first-and-10; and a 7-yard gain on first-and-10.

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/quick-reads/2022/dvoa-rams-super-bowl-lvi-win-may-surprise