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Divisional Round Quick Reads | Football Outsiders

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Just three weeks ago, the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots were ranked one-two in DVOA, and seemed destined to collide in the AFC Championship Game. Instead, neither even made it past the divisional round. Both were undone by the six-seed Tennessee Titans and the breakout star of this postseason, running back Derrick Henry.

Though he was the second running back off the boards, Henry lasted till the middle of the second round of the 2016 draft. He spent his first two seasons as a backup/change-of-pace behind DeMarco Murray, and in his third year he split carries roughly 60-40 with Dion Lewis. In Year 4 Tennessee finally leaned on him heavily, and he led the league in carries and yards, while finishing sixth in rushing DYAR. The Titans were struggling, however, until they benched quarterback Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill. After a 2-4 start under Mariota, the Titans went 7-3 behind Tannehill, clinching a playoff berth with a Week 17 win against Houston. With the spotlight on Tannehill, Henry was something of a forgotten man headed into the postseason.

Two games later, Henry is forgotten no more. He carried the ball 34 times for 182 yards and a touchdown in a wild-card win in New England, then had 30 carries for 195 yards in a divisional win in Baltimore. With at least one game to go, Henry is already in the top ten for most rushing yards in a single postseason. And even if he faceplants against Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game, he has already made history: he is the first player in league history to top 180 rushing yards twice in a single postseason.

If we lower our threshold to 150 yards rushing, that has been done twice in a single postseason five times before:

  • 1982 was an odd year. Due to a strike, each team only played nine regular-season games, and the playoffs were expanded to a 16-team tournament. As such, Washington had to play four playoff games despite finishing with a league-best 8-1 record. For his part, Riggins carried the ball 177 times, tied with Dallas’ Tony Dorsett and Miami’s Andra Franklin for most in the league. However, he averaged only 3.1 yards per carry, and finished 15th in rushing yards. At 33, Riggins might have looked washed up, but he was reborn in the playoffs. He had at least 25 carries and 119 yards in all four of Washington’s wins, including a 38-carry, 166-yard, one-touchdown MVP performance in a 27-17 Super Bowl win over Miami. Riggins’ 610 rushing yards in those four games are still the record for a single postseason. (He was not especially versatile, however; he had 136 carries in the postseason, but just one catch.) Riggins’ resurgence continued; he led the NFL in rushing touchdowns in each of the next two seasons.
  • One year later, Washington was in the Super Bowl again, facing an L.A. Raiders team with a white-hot Marcus Allen. Allen had been quiet in his second NFL season, barely topping a thousand yards rushing and averaging less than 4 yards per carry. But he had gained 121 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries in a divisional win over Pittsburgh, then run 25 times for 154 yards in the AFC Championship Game victory over Seattle. Allen was even better against Washington, gaining 191 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. He was named MVP in L.A.’s 38-9 win.
  • That same 1983 season, the Denver Broncos had a rookie quarterback named John Elway. Fourteen years later, Elway had likely clinched a Hall of Fame spot, with multiple Super Bowl appearances and an MVP award. However, that elusive Lombardi Trophy had still, uh, eluded him. Enter Terrell Davis, a former sixth-round draft pick out of Georgia in his third NFL season. Davis ran for 1,750 yards that year, second only to the 2,053 yards of Barry Sanders. The Broncos went 12-4, but finished second in the AFC West behind the 13-3 Kansas City Chiefs. Denver had to win three playoff games to reach the Super Bowl, and Davis carried them there, with at least 25 carries, 101 yards, and a touchdown in victories over Jacksonville, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh. He saved his best for last, running 30 times for 157 yards and three scores in a 31-24 win over Green Bay, taking home the game’s MVP trophy.
  • Davis was even better the next year, leading the NFL with 2,008 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground, while averaging a league-best 5.1 yards per rush, the first man since Earl Campbell in 1980 to lead the league in all three categories in the same season. In the playoffs, Davis ran for 199 yards and two touchdowns against Miami, then 167 yards and a touchdown against the Jets, both comfortable Denver wins. That gave him four 150-yard games in the playoffs; Henry, who also had one in 2017 in addition to his two this season, is the only other player with more than two. Davis was relatively quiet in the Super Bowl, running for 102 yards and failing to score. Elway, however, threw for 336 yards and a touchdown, winning the MVP award in Denver’s 34-19 win over Atlanta.
  • Finally, in 2016, we have Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers. That was Bell’s fourth NFL season, and he was already a star, having just finished in the top three in yards from scrimmage for the second time. The Steelers went 11-5 and won the AFC North, but still had to play in the wild-card round. There, Bell carried the ball 29 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-12 win over the Miami Dolphins. A week later, Bell ran 30 times for 170 yards in an 18-16 squeaker over the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round. Bell’s good fortune could not continue, however — he was held to just 20 yards on six carries in the AFC Championship Game, and the Steelers fell to the Patriots 36-17.

For all of Henry’s raw yardage, however, he was not very efficient this week against the Ravens. Nearly 60% of his yardage came on just three runs. Thirteen of his 30 carries gained 2 yards or less, many of those in short- or mid-length yardage situations with 5 yards or less to go for a first down.

Quarterbacks

Rk

Player

Team

CP/AT

Yds

TD

INT

Sacks

Total
DYAR

Pass
DYAR

Rush
DYAR

Opp

1.

Patrick Mahomes KC

23/35

321

5

0

0

268

258

10

HOU

Mahomes had something of a slow start (caused in part by a bunch of drops by his receivers) and then went ballistic. From his first pass of the second quarter to his last touchdown of the game — less than 30 minutes of football — he went 17-of-22 for 267 yards and four touchdowns, plus three DPIs for 62 more yards. All four of his rushing plays (each of which gained a first down, for a total of 56 more yards) came during that stretch too. His rushing DYAR would be higher if he hadn’t fumbled the ball out of bounds on one play.

2.

Deshaun Watson HOU

31/51

385

2

0

4

163

147

16

KC

Watson gains 59 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. The Texans should try to upgrade their tight ends for 2020. Throwing to his tight ends in this game, Watson went 4-of-8 for all of 29 yards. None of those completions gained more than 9 yards, and only one — a 4-yard touchdown to Darren Fells — resulted in a first down.

3.

Russell Wilson SEA

21/30

277

1

0

5

142

122

20

GB

Wilson did not convert any of his third-down dropbacks, going 1-of-4 for 3 yards with a sack. He did convert his one fourth-down throw, a 4-yard completion to Tyler Lockett on fourth-and-1, and also ran for three third-down conversions. He was best on throws to his right, going 13-of-17 for 152 yards and a touchdown.

4.

Aaron Rodgers GB

16/27

243

2

0

2

122

116

7

SEA

Third-down passing: 7-of-9 for 121 yards with one sack and six conversions, including a 20-yard touchdown to Davante Adams.

5.

Ryan Tannehill TEN

7/14

88

2

0

1

45

25

20

BAL

Tannehill only threw for four first downs in this game. Three of them came on Baltimore’s half of the field, where he went 3-of-7 for 66 yards with two touchdowns and one sack.

6.

Jimmy Garoppolo SF

11/19

131

1

1

2

8

15

-6

MIN

Garoppolo only threw three deep passes against Minnesota, but he completed all of them, for gains of 16, 21, and 22 yards. Most of his action came in the first quarter, when he went 6-of-9 for 73 yards with one touchdown and two sacks. He only threw six passes in the second half.

7.

Lamar Jackson BAL

31/58

365

1

2

4

-62

-101

40

TEN

With 58 passes, four sacks, and 20 runs, Jackson was busy on Saturday night, can’t argue that. He struggled badly in scoring range, however, Inside the Tennessee 40, he went 6-of-20 for 61 yards with one touchdown, two sacks, and two interceptions. His four runs in that area of the field gained a total of only 5 yards. His 20 runs gained a total of 143 yards, but he lost a total of 13 DYAR on his two fourth-and-1 stuffs.

8.

Kirk Cousins MIN

21/29

172

1

1

6

-74

-74

0

SF

Cousins gains 60 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. From the last two minutes of the second quarter to the sixth minute of the fourth, Cousins went 13 straight dropbacks without picking up a first down. In that stretch, he went 5-of-10 for 5 yards with three sacks and an interception. The Minnesota screen game was useless against San Francisco. Cousins completed seven of eight throws to receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage, but for a total of only 12 yards.

 

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.

Tevin Coleman SF

22

105

2

0/0

0

0

57

57

0

MIN

Thought Coleman’s longest carry gained only 11 yards, eight went for first downs, while only one was stuffed. Only six of his carries went for 2 yards or less, and two of those were touchdowns.

2.

Derrick Henry TEN

30

195

0

2/2

7

0

29

16

-5

BAL

Henry’s totals include 18 passing DYAR for his one pass, a 3-yard touchdown to Corey Davis. He ran for six first downs against Baltimore, while being stuffed three times. Also, while the Ravens had a top pass defense this year, they were only 19th against the run.

3.

Raheem Mostert SF

12

58

0

0/0

0

0

27

27

0

MIN

Mostert’s longest run against Minnesota gained only 10 yards, but all 12 of them gained at least 2 yards, and three went for first downs.

4.

Travis Homer SEA

3

13

0

2/3

27

0

19

3

15

GB

Homer’s three runs: two 5-yard gains on first-and-10 and a 3-yard gain on second-and-1. Both of his receptions picked up first downs.

5.

Mark Ingram BAL

6

22

0

1/2

9

0

0

2

-2

TEN

None of Ingram’s runs gained a first down or more than 7 yards. It was not a great weekend for running backs.

 

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.

Tevin Coleman SF

22

105

2

0/0

0

0

57

57

0

MIN

2.

Raheem Mostert SF

12

58

0

0/0

0

0

27

27

0

MIN

3.

Derrick Henry TEN

30

195

0

2/2

7

0

29

16

-5

BAL

4.

Damien Williams KC

12

47

2

2/6

21

1

-4

9

-13

HOU

Though Williams was stuffed four times, he ran for four first downs, with gains of 11 and 26 yards.

5.

Duke Johnson HOU

1

11

0

5/8

23

0

-13

6

-19

KC

No, I mean it, it was not a great week for running backs.

 

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.

Dalvin Cook MIN

9

18

0

6/8

8

0

-47

-12

-34

SF

Cook gains 22 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. None of his runs gained more than 6 yards or resulted in a first down. None of his catches gained more than 4 yards or resulted in a first down, and one of them was fumbled.

 

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.

Aaron Jones GB

21

62

2

1/2

4

0

-43

-36

-8

SEA

More than a third of Jones’ yardage came on his 23-yard run in the first quarter. He only had four first downs against Seattle, while being stuffed five times, twice on second-and-1.

 

Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR

Rk

Player

Team

Rec

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Total
DYAR

Opp

1.

Davante Adams GB

8

11

160

20.0

2

90

SEA

Each of Adams’ catches gained at least 10 yards and a first down, including a pair of third-down conversions. He also drew an 18-yard DPI.

2.

Travis Kelce KC

10

12

134

13.4

3

88

HOU

Eight of Kelce’s 10 catches produced first downs, and he had two other first downs on DPIs of 15 and 26 yards.

3.

Tyler Lockett SEA

9

10

136

15.1

1

72

GB

Eight of Lockett’s catches produced first downs, including a fourth-down conversion. The other was a 6-yard gain on first-and-10.

4.

Sammy Watkins KC

2

2

76

38.0

0

37

HOU

Watkins’ totals include -13 DYAR passing for his one dropback, which resulted in a sack. His two catches: 48-yard gain on second-and-10 in the third quarter, 28-yard gain on first-and-10 in the fourth.

5.

Will Fuller HOU

5

8

89

17.8

0

30

KC

Each of Fuller’s catches produced a first down, including a pair of third-down conversions. He gained a sixth first down on a 12-yard DPI.

 

Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR

Rk

Player

Team

Rec

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Total
DYAR

Opp

1.

Miles Boykin BAL

3

7

26

8.7

0

-25

TEN

Only one of Boykin’s catches resulted in a first down, a 13-yard gain on third-and-4 that made up half his yardage on the day.

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/quick-reads/2020/divisional-round-quick-reads

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