Some Clarification is in Order - 2012 Off-Season Stats: Time of Possession

These past few weeks we've reviewed the Broncos play calling and offensive-mindset, and up until last week, we did it with the idea that we were looking where we could improve our play calling with Tim Tebow at the helm. With Tebow's departure, and Peyton Manning's arrival, we are now looking at what Manning brings to this offense and what area's well see improvement or decline in.

Today we'll be looking at time of possession (TOP) and drives. These are two topics that are talked about on occasion but we'll be diving into them a bit deeper than many usually go. I did this for 2010 as well last off-season. But since then I've refined my tables and included a few new topics that should shed some light on this offense. Now let's into the meat.

Next Time:
-
Flow of the season
- The offense Manning made

Introduction and Method:

Now these tables have a TON of stuff on them but they are pretty easy to understand once they are explained. So at the top we have the QB who lead the team at the time followed by the game. If the game is in bold we won, if not, well we didn't do as well. Next up is some data for each quarter, with the explanation of the stat and the abbreviation in parenthesis:

- Quarter time of possession (1st TOP, 2nd TOP, etc)
- The number drives the Broncos had in that quarter (Drives)
- The average time of possession per drive (Avg. Drive Length)
- The points allowed that quarter (Points Allowed)
- The points scored that quarter (Points Scored)
- The average points per drive the offense scored (Points Per Drive)

So we can look at this two ways:

- If we wanted to see how the Broncos did in the 4th quarter of the New England game in terms of time of possession per drive, we go to the NE column, go down to the 4th TOP column and then go down to the Avg. Drive Length column and we can see the Broncos averaged 1:40 per drive.
- We can also compare game, say the first and second Oakland games.

Now at the end of the table are summaries of each game. From this we can see three things:

- Average time of possession per quarter
- Total drives for the whole game
- Average points per drive in that game.

Now with that out of the way, let’s go to the tables.

Tables:

Table 1


Orton Tebow
Quarter Oak Cin Tenn GB SD Mia Det Oak KC NYJ SD Min Chi NE Buf KC
1st TOP 7:51 9:30 8:08 8:45 7:58 8:11 7:19 6:25 8:55 8:51 7:51 3:07 7:15 11:52 9:39 9:34
Drives 3 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 3 2 4 3 3 3 3
Avg. Drive Length 2:37 4:45 2:42 2:55 2:39 2:43 2:26 2:08 4:27 2:57 3:55 0:46 2:25 3:57 3:13 3:11
Points Allowed 0 0 0 14 6 0 7 3 0 0 3 5 0 7 0 7
Points Scored 3 7 7 3 7 0 3 7 7 3 0 7 0 13 7 0
Points per Drive 1 4 2 1 2 0 1 2 4 1 0 2 0 4 2 0
2nd TOP 6:34 8:34 4:49 7:03 3:17 7:56 4:34 9:21 8:05 4:59 5:04 5:31 9:55 1:45 5:39 3:28
Drives 4 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 2
Avg. Drive Length 1:38 2:51 1:36 2:21 1:05 2:38 1:08 2:20 2:41 1:39 1:41 1:50 3:18 0:35 1:24 1:44
Points Allowed 16 3 10 14 17 6 17 14 0 3 7 10 0 20 17 0
Points Scored 0 3 0 14 3 0 0 0 3 0 7 0 0 3 0 0
Points per Drive 0 1 0 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 1 0 0
3rd TOP 6:31 8:03 10:45 5:11 3:51 5:22 10:34 7:58 9:12 6:57 9:02 5:32 4:18 7:16 6:08 11:31
Drives 2 4 2 2 2 3 5 3 3 4 3 3 3 2 3 3
Avg. Drive Length 3:15 2:00 5:22 2:35 1:55 1:47 2:06 2:39 3:04 1:44 3:00 1:50 1:26 3:38 2:02 3:50
Points Allowed 0 12 0 14 0 0 14 7 7 7 3 7 3 7 6 0
Points Scored 10 7 7 0 0 0 0 17 0 7 3 14 10 0 7 3
Points per Drive 5 2 4 0 0 0 0 6 0 2 1 5 3 0 2 1
4th TOP 7:22 4:51 5:39 5:58 6:04 9:01 7:14 7:23 7:44 6:32 7:53 7:13 8:52 5:01 7:25 4:01
Drives 2 4 2 3 4 4 3 3 4 2 2 4 5 3 5 3
Avg. Drive Length 3:41 1:12 2:49 1:59 1:31 2:15 2:24 2:27 1:56 3:16 3:56 1:48 1:46 1:40 1:29 1:20
Points Allowed 7 7 7 7 6 9 7 0 3 3 0 10 3 7 17 0
Points Scored 7 7 0 6 14 15 7 14 7 7 3 14 10 7 0 0
Points per Drive 4 2 0 2 4 4 2 5 2 4 2 4 2 2 0 0
Average TOP per Q 7:04 7:44 7:20 6:44 5:17 7:37 7:25 7:46 8:29 6:49 7:27 5:20 7:35 6:28 7:12 7:08
Total Drives 11 13 10 11 12 13 15 13 12 12 10 14 14 11 15 11
Average PPD 2 2 1 2 2 1 1 3 2 2 1 2 1 2 1 0

Now that we've covered each game, let's look at it by QB and the season averages.

Table 2

The same outline applies to this table as well, just instead of games it's got the QB's and season average.

Quarter Orton Avg. Tebow Avg. Season Avg.
1st TOP 8:26 8:05 8:11
Drives 2.8 2.9 2.9
Avg. Drive Length 3:07 2:54 2:59
Points Allowed 4 3 3
Points Scored 5 4 5
Points per Drive 2.0 1.5 1.6
2nd TOP 6:03 6:01 6:02
Drives 3.2 3.2 3.2
Avg. Drive Length 1:54 1:55 1:54
Points Allowed 12 9 10
Points Scored 4 1 2
Points per Drive 1.4 0.4 0.6
3rd TOP 6:52 7:37 7:23
Drives 2.4 3.2 2.9
Avg. Drive Length 3:01 2:19 2:38
Points Allowed 5 6 5
Points Scored 5 6 5
Points per Drive 2.1 1.7 1.8
4th TOP 5:58 7:07 6:45
Drives 3.0 3.5 3.3
Avg. Drive Length 2:14 2:18 2:13
Points Allowed 7 5 6
Points Scored 7 8 7
Points per Drive 2.2 2.2 2.2
Average TOP per Q 6:50 7:13 7:05
Total Drives 11.4 12.9 12.3
Average PPD 1.9 1.4 1.6

Notes and Thoughts:

- No Broncos QB was very effective at controlling the clock in the 2nd quarter. Kyle Orton was better in the 1st quarter in terms of TOP while Tebow was better in the 4th quarter in terms of TOP.

- Overall Tebow averaged 23 seconds longer per quarter, and the biggest reason for this is directly tied to the transition to a run-first offense, though it isn't nearly as big as expected from a run-first offense.

- Tied to that though is the average length of each drive. While the Tebow-offense had a higher TOP they also averaged 1.5 more drives than Orton did per game, so that means that each drive was shorter and less successful in terms of scoring. So while Orton had fewer drives, he was more likely to score. Orton averaged 1.9 points per drive compared to 1.4 for Tebow. Over the course of the game, that is a difference of 6.1 points per game. Pretty big.

- The Broncos defense saw major changes as well, going from 2.5 points per drive allowed under Orton to 1.8 points per drive allowed under Tebow. Over the course of the game that is a difference of 8.6 points per game. That's huge.

Now with the table reviewed, I want to make a disclaimer. Time of possession is not tied to winning at all. While it is important to control the clock and maintain drives, "winning" time of possession to not lead to winning. It comes down to causation. When a team is winning, what do they do? They run the ball and try to run the clock out. Prior to the 4th quarter, the team that wins the game actually is losing time of possession on average. So here's how it looks:

- When you control the clock you win (false, no direct connection)
- When you are winning you control the clock (true and is explained by the past three decades worth of games)

That's not to say winning time of possession is bad, not at all, but it doesn't lead to winning, winning leads to higher time of possession. The best example of this actually includes our current quarterback. In 2009 Peyton Manning faced the Miami Dolphins who did what many said they should do, keep Manning off the field. The Dolphins offense was on the field 45:07, over 75% of the game, and they still lost. They doubled the Colts plays, had over 50 more yards than the Colts and had 13 more 1st downs. The difference was Manning and the Colts just did more, quicker. Manning scored more points on fewer drives and in less time. With Manning's arrival here, don't expect the Broncos offense to be on the field more.

Now I plan on discussing this more in a later article, but let me conclude with this thought. The nature of the Peyton Manning offense is to move quickly, using the no-huddle, pass-heavy offense that doesn't require a lot of times to score. We saw this from Orton in 2009, where we ran no-huddle and scored quickly. The difference will be that while Orton was successful in 2009, Manning will be able to execute that offense much more quickly, and more often.

Thanks for your patience and hope this was educational.

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