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San Diego Chargers vs. Dallas Cowboys: Success & Stop Rates

We take a look at Sunday afternoon's victory through the lens of Football Outsiders' advanced football statistics.

Jeff Gross

For those unfamiliar with Football Outsiders' success and stop rates, we'll begin with a quick refresher course. A successful play is one that gains 45% or more of the needed yards on 1st down, 60% or more of the needed yards on 2nd down, and 100% or more of the needed yards on 3rd/4th down. A stop is preventing the offense from gaining those yards.


The most impressive thing about this week's game by the San Diego Chargers is how many points the offense was able to put up while failing on 3rd downs nearly three out of five times. The low success rate stands in contrast to a better than 60% clip on the first two downs. Typically, over the course of a season those numbers will more closely align. That's a fact that bodes well for the future, while also partially explaining why we should have expected to see a drop in 3rd down performance this week as the team had previously been exceeding expectations in that department.

Everyone has been focusing on the greatness of Philip Rivers and with good reason, but I'd like to point out how well Ryan Mathews played versus the Dallas Cowboys. He was good for a 56.5% success rate when he touched the ball (or was targeted as a receiver). That's partially dragged down by three clock killing runs that were all "unsuccessful." He was sitting at a 65% success rate prior to those essentially meaningless plays.

Game 1st Down 2nd Down 3rd Down 1st Quarter 2nd Quarter 3rd Quarter 4th Quarter
Pass 61.4% 75.0% 53.3% 44.4% 37.5% 61.1% 76.9% 60.0%
Run 51.9% 40.0% 77.8% 33.3% 50.0% 40.0% 62.5% 50.0%
Overall 57.7% 60.0% 62.5% 41.7% 42.9% 56.5% 71.4% 53.8%


The defense started the game off playing relatively poorly, but kicked it into a higher gear of sucking in the 2nd quarter. Somehow they responded to that by dominating the 3rd quarter in a way we had not seen them dominate anyone through the previous three weeks. They then dropped back into mediocre territory in the 4th quarter, but that was largely a result of playing not to give up a big play while leading, so you have to take that into account when judging their actual success. The biggest story of the day for the defense was how they really only showed up on 3rd down, but they showed up in a big way. This is basically the opposite of the entire 2012 season.

On an individual level, Corey Liuget and Eric Weddle tied for the team lead in tackles for stops with three. Four other players notched two.

Game 1st Down 2nd Down 3rd Down 1st Quarter 2nd Quarter 3rd Quarter 4th Quarter
Pass 46.3% 37.5% 41.2% 75.0% 60.0% 28.6% 50.0% 45.0%
Run 33.3% 41.7% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 40.0% 100.0% 0.0%
Overall 42.9% 39.3% 36.8% 66.7% 42.9% 33.3% 71.4% 39.1%