Tuesday trends: Efficiency in passing

The success rate of quarterbacks, measured by rating and completion percentage, is trending toward an all-time best. Plus, DeMarco Murray’s pace just short of the record, who’s the best at winning divisional games, winning after the bye, and plenty of deep stats to ponder.

Sure, the Cincinnati Bengals were shut out, the Cleveland Browns scored only six points and the Atlanta Falcons scored only seven points last weekend. Sure, there were two games – the Tennessee Titans at the Washington Redskins and the Minnesota Vikings at the Buffalo Bills – in which none of the teams scored even 20 points. But make no mistake, the NFL is a passing league.

Just ask the hype machine itself.

Through seven weeks of twists and turns, the quarterbacks of the NFL are slinging it like never before, combining for a league-wide passer rating of 91.3 and a completion percentage of 63.3. Both of those numbers are on pace for the highest of any season in NFL history. And, of course, the record to break was set just last year as the league bends rules to favor passing, despite what some of last weekend’s scores might indicate. Last year, the composite passer rating of quarterbacks was 86.0 with a completion percentage of 61.2.

But this might be the surprise of the statistical bunch. Despite efficiency being up, so is the average yards per attempt. That is currently at 7.27, the highest in the Super Bowl era.

Like the passer rating and completion percentage, some of the best marks to be beat were compiled in recent years. The record is 7.20 yards per attempt in 2011 (last year it was a fourth-place 7.12).

Peyton Manning leads with a 118.2 passer rating among qualifiers, Tony Romo leads with a 69.2 completion percentage and Philip Rivers leads with 8.53 yards per attempt.


DIVISION DOMINANT

The New England Patriots are following two tenants for success – winning at home and winning division games. They have won an incredible 16 consecutive home games against AFC East opponents after last Thursday’s 27-25 win over the New York Jets, putting New England in a third-place tie with the Dallas Cowboys (199-95) and Miami Dolphins (1971-75) for the longest streak of home divisional wins.

The historical leader is the Green Bay Packers, who won 18 straight home divisional games from 1994-98, followed by the Buffalo Bills’ 17 straight from 1988-92.

NOT THERE YET

DeMarco Murray is on a torrid rushing pace, but it’s not quite on pace to break the single-season rushing record and isn’t even the best start through seven games. The Dallas Cowboys running back is averaging just over 130 yards rushing per game, which puts him on a pace for 2,086. The league record is 2,105 by Eric Dickerson in 1984, and Adrian Peterson came eight yards short of that in 2012. Murray’s current pace would put him in third place there.

He’s also in third place when it comes to most yards through seven games since 1980. That record is held by Terrell Davis, who had 1,001 yards through seven games with the 1998 Denver Broncos but finished with 2,008 after falling off the pace when he got less than 90 yards three times during a four-game stretch from Week 13 to Week 16.

Jamal Lewis had 977 yards through seven games for the Baltimore Ravens in 2003, but he finished with 2,066 yards. For him, it was a midseason stretch from Week 9 to Week 13 in which he had less than 95 yards in three of five games. Sure, it was still a good stretch of running, but it was the dip in the season that kept him from the record.

While Peterson had one other season with more than 1,700 yards and Davis had two other seasons with 1,500 yards or more, Lewis’ 2,066-yard season was the only time in his career that he broke the 1,500-yard mark.

GOOD BYES

Andy Reid has the most wins (14) following a bye, but he doesn’t have the highest winning percentage among coaches with at least eight games following a bye. Reid is 14-2 for an .875 winning percentage following a bye, tied percentage-wise by the Packers’ Mike McCarthy (7-1).

Dennis Green was 11-3 (.786) with the Vikings and Arizona Cardinals following a bye, and John Fox is 10-3 (.769) with the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos following a bye.

But they all trail former Chiefs and Bills coach Marv Levy, whose .889 winning percentage (with an 8-1 record) is tops following a bye.

MISC. LEADERBOARD CHECK

Some deep and random stats to ponder from the NFL, STATS and Pro Football Focus:

  • Ben Roethlisberger leads all quarterbacks with 19 pass plays of 25 yards or more.

  • Nobody has been better converting third-and-long passes than Alex Smith, converting 12 of 20 such instances.

  • DeMarco Murray has been stuffed for no gain or a loss 16 times, but LeSean McCoy has him beat. McCoy has been stuffed 21 times.

  • Murray is easily the leader in carries of 10 yards or more, with 28 of those – 10 more than second-place Justin Forsett.

  • Matt Forte leads the league with 440 yards after the catch.

  • Bills rookie Sammy Watkins has already been targeted 61 times, catching 35 of them for 433 yards. Carolina receiver Kelvin Benjamin leads all rookies with 477 receiving yards and five touchdown receptions.

  • The New York Jets’ Jace Amaro leads all rookie tight ends with 27 catches for 234 yards and a touchdown.




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