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Week 4 Quick Reads | Football Outsiders

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The first three games of the season were not kind to George Kittle. In 2019, the San Francisco tight end averaged more than six catches and 75 yards per game, but he managed only four catches for 44 yards in the 2020 opener against Arizona. Worse, he suffered a sprained knee against the Cardinals and missed the next two weeks entirely.

Things turned around in Week 4, however, in a very big way. The 49ers went to Kittle early and often on Sunday night. He finished the game against the Eagles with 15 receptions (most for any player in a game this year), a 100% catch rate, 183 yards, and one touchdown.

Not all of Kittle’s catches were successful. He opened with a 9-yard gain on third-and-10 to set up a Mitch Wishnowsky punt. He had two other failed completions in the game, a 5-yard gain on second-and-10 and a 2-yard gain on second-and-7. In the last 24 minutes, however, he was unstoppable; each of his seven catches in that timeframe produced a first down. That began with a 5-yard touchdown on third-and-goal from Nick Mullens. He caught one more pass from Mullens, a 20-yard gain on second-and-9, before the quarterback threw a pick-six and was benched for C.J. Beathard. If anything, Beathard leaned even harder on Kittle than Mullens had. In just two drives at the end of the game, Beathard completed five passes to Kittle for 55 yards.

So where does Kittle’s game rank in the tight end record books? Very highly indeed. He’s the first tight end to gain 180-plus yards and a touchdown since … George Kittle, who did it against Denver in 2018. Only one other tight end has ever done it twice: Vernon Davis, Kittle’s predecessor in San Francisco. The other five men to pull it off — Dallas Clark, Shannon Sharpe, Rich Caster, Jackie Smith, and Mike Ditka — were all Super Bowl champions and/or Hall of Famers.

The advanced numbers were also impressed. Without opponent adjustments, Kittle is credited with 81 total YAR (75 receiving, 6 rushing for his one carry for 8 yards). That’s just the ninth tight end game in the DVOA database (going back to 1985) with 80-plus YAR.

You don’t have to go back too far to find a tight end performance better than Kittle’s — our system favors Travis Kelce’s 134-yard, three-touchdown game against Houston in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs. Before that, however, you have to go all the way back to 2014 when Rob Gronkowski was at his peak to find a tight end who was this successful moving the ball downfield.

The key phrase in all of this, unfortunately, is “without opponent adjustments.” It’s Week 4, which is the first week we start to incorporate opponent adjustments into our numbers. So far those opponent adjustments are not nearly as radical as they were in 2019. This is great news for me, your humble Quick Reads scribe, because it means I won’t have to explain a half-dozen different seemingly bizarre results week-in and week-out. For Kittle, however, the news is not as kind, because his big game came against the Eagles, who have been the worst defense in football in covering tight ends in 2020. Consider what tight ends have done against Philadelphia this season:

Week 1: Washington’s Logan Thomas only catches four of eight targets for 37 yards, but three of those catches produce first downs, including a touchdown.

Week 2: All five of the passes thrown to Tyler Higbee are completed, for a total of 54 yards. Three of those completions result in touchdowns; the others were 6- and 13-yard gains, both on first-and-10.

Week 3: The Bengals haven’t used their tight ends very much this season, and that was especially true against Philadelphia. Joe Burrow threw 44 passes against the Eagles, but he only targeted his tight ends twice, resulting in a pair of 1-yard completions — one for Drew Sample, one for Cethan Carter — both of which came on first down. That’s very limited production, but remember that DVOA is calculated target-by-target, not game-by-game. Therefore, this outing had very little impact on Philadelphia’s defensive stats against tight ends.

Add in Kittle’s production, and the Eagles have allowed opposing tight ends to produce 18 first downs and 276 total yards, both fifth-most in the league. They are also in the bottom four of the league’s 32 teams in each of the following categories:

  • Yards per target: 9.2 (28th)
  • Touchdowns: five (tied for next to last)
  • Catch rate: 87% (last)
  • First downs/target: 60% (last)

All in all, that’s a DVOA of 57.7% against tight ends. That’s much worse than anyone else — Washington is in 31st place at 44.4%. (Remember, higher DVOA means worse defense.)

We introduce opponent adjustments gradually throughout the year; right now, they are only at 40% strength. Even with that limitation, however, Kittle loses 17 DYAR for playing the Eagles. With that penalty, his game falls to 64 DYAR, knocking him out of the top 10 in our tight end game tables all the way down to 36th place. (Kelce’s playoff game against Houston actually goes up in DYAR after opponent adjustments and is the all-time leader with 88 DYAR.)

We’re still only a quarter of the way through the season, so these opponent adjustments are going to fluctuate a lot between now and Week 17 (assuming, of course, there is a Week 17). The Eagles are scheduled to play the Steelers and Ravens the next two weeks, and it would only take a couple of fumbles by Eric Ebron or Mark Andrews to make their defense — and transitively, Kittle’s performance against that defense — look much better. Even getting 10 DYAR back would have him in the verge of the top 10, so this is a situation that certainly bears watching.

Quarterbacks

Rk

Player

Team

CP/AT

Yds

TD

INT

Sacks

Total
DYAR

Pass
DYAR

Rush
DYAR

Opp

1.

Aaron Rodgers GB

27/33

327

4

0

1

185

183

2

ATL

Red zone passing: 4-of-5 for 35 yards with three touchdowns. He also had a fourth touchdown from the 21-yard line.

2.

Josh Allen BUF

24/34

288

2

0

1

139

132

7

LV

Allen led all players in passing DYAR over the middle, going 8-of-12 for 146 yards and a touchdown.

3.

Tom Brady TB

30/46

369

5

1

0

136

136

0

LAC

Brady led all players in passing DYAR this week (well, before Monday night). He closed the first half with only two first downs in his last 18 dropbacks. In the second half, however, he had 14 first downs in 18 dropbacks, going 16-of-18 for 269 yards and four touchdowns. He was first in DYAR on deep throws, going 7-of-11 for 209 yards and two touchdowns. 

4.

Dak Prescott DAL

41/58

502

4

1

3

123

118

5

CLE

In a reversal from last week, when Prescott was last in DYAR on passes to running backs, this week he was first in DYAR on throws to that position. He completed nine of 10 passes to Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, picking up 87 yards and four first downs.

5.

Derek Carr LV

32/43

311

2

0

2

104

97

7

BUF

Carr was the league’s best quarterback without a huddle. His 10 no-huddle throws resulted in seven completions for 104 yards, plus a DPI for 46 more yards.

6.

Justin Herbert LAC

20/25

290

3

1

2

103

95

8

TB

We mentioned Tom Brady’s success in the second half. His counterpart Justin Herbert was the league’s best passer in the first half, completing 11 of 14 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. A 15th pass picked up 20 more yards and a DPI. Throughout the game, he got a lot of help from his receivers — his average completion gained a league-high 8.1 yards after the catch.

7.

Teddy Bridgewater CAR

26/37

276

2

1

0

98

78

20

ARI

Bridgewater led all passers in DYAR on throws from under center, going 11-of-14 for 133 yards and a touchdown, plus a 13-yard DPI. Bridgewater also ran three times for 35 yards and a touchdown.

8.

Gardner Minshew JAX

27/39

351

2

1

3

96

101

-4

CIN

Minshew led all quarterbacks in DYAR on throws to wide receivers. His 25 passes to wideouts resulted in 20 completions for 271 yards and two touchdowns, plus a 17-yard DPI.

9.

Patrick Mahomes KC

19/29

236

2

0

1

93

97

-3

NE

Mahomes was at his best when digging the Chiefs out of trouble. He completed all five passes he threw inside his own 20, picking up four first downs and 66 total yards.

10.

Russell Wilson SEA

24/34

360

2

1

2

81

77

4

MIA

Wilson’s jersey number is 3, but that was an unlucky number for him this week. He was last in DYAR in the third quarter (2-of-6 for 32 yards with one interception and one sack) and on third/fourth downs (2-of-6 for 15 yards with two conversions, one interception, and one sack). (In the middle of the Venn diagram of those two categories is an interception that cost him nearly 60 DYAR and will probably be his most memorable goal-line turnover against an AFC East team.) However, he was first in DYAR on first downs, completing 15 of 16 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown.

11.

Kirk Cousins MIN

16/22

260

1

0

3

71

73

-1

HOU

The Texans kicked a field goal in the third quarter to pull within one point at 17-16. Cousins never let them get any closer — from that point forward, he completed six of seven passes for 108 yards, throwing one touchdown and taking one sack.

12.

Philip Rivers IND

16/29

190

1

0

1

65

65

0

CHI

Rivers led all passers in third-/fourth-down DYAR, completing nine of 14 passes for 144 yards with seven conversions (including a touchdown) and one sack.

Rk

Player

Team

CP/AT

Yds

TD

INT

Sacks

Total
DYAR

Pass
DYAR

Rush
DYAR

Opp

13.

Drew Brees NO

19/25

246

2

1

2

55

55

0

DET

Early in the second quarter, Brees hit Alvin Kamara for a 29-yard gain on fourth-and-4. That started a stretch where Brees picked up nine first downs in 10 dropbacks, going 9-of-10 for 140 yards and two touchdowns.

14.

Deshaun Watson HOU

20/33

300

2

0

3

52

89

-37

MIN

Watson had five running plays for 5 yards — four scrambles, one aborted snap on third-and-1. He also got off to a very poor start, failing to throw for a first down until the Texans were down 10-0 in the second quarter. Up to that point, he had completed three of seven passes for 24 yards with one sack.

15.

Lamar Jackson BAL

14/21

193

2

1

1

45

48

-4

WAS

Jackson led all passers in DYAR within the opponents’ 40-yard line, going 5-of-6 for 93 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t have any runs or passes in the red zone because he was so good at scoring long touchdowns — he also ran for a 50-yard score. (If you’re wondering why his rushing DYAR isn’t higher, that was his only first down in seven rushes; he had a run for an 11-yard loss on second-and-1.) His average pass attempt traveled 15.2 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, deepest of any qualifier this week.

16.

C.J. Beathard SF

14/18

138

0

0

1

42

42

0

PHI

Beathard came into the game with San Francisco down by 11 points with about five and a half minutes to go. He was very effective at moving the 49ers past the 50, but not at finishing drives — inside the Philadelphia 40, he went 4-of-8 for 34 yards with a sack.

17.

Baker Mayfield CLE

19/29

165

2

0

2

33

29

4

DAL

Mayfield’s first pass of the second half was a 14-yard completion to Harrison Bryant on second-and-4. That was his last first down of the day; after that, he went 4-of-6 for 19 yards with a sack. Mayfield’s average completion gained a league-low 2.3 yards after the catch.

18.

Kyler Murray ARI

24/31

133

3

0

1

30

8

22

CAR

Murray was the league’s best passer in the red zone. His eight passes inside the Carolina 20 resulted in seven completions and one DPI, for a total of 37 yards and three touchdowns. Murray also ran six times for 78 yards.

19.

Matt Ryan ATL

28/39

285

0

0

4

15

18

-3

GB

Typically we focus on the red zone — the last 20 yards of the field — but if we extend that out to the Green Bay 26-yard line we see why Atlanta failed to score more points. In that range, Ryan went 3-for-7 for 14 yards with no first downs and one sack.

20.

Matthew Stafford DET

17/31

206

3

1

3

14

6

8

NO

All three of Stafford’s touchdowns came in the red zone, where he went 4-of-7 for 32 yards. Unfortunately, one of those seven passes was also intercepted.

21.

Joe Burrow CIN

25/36

300

1

1

1

6

7

0

JAX

Four games into his career, Burrow has been much better on throws to his right (4.0% DVOA) than on throws to his left (-22.7% DVOA). Last week, he had the league’s best DYAR on throws to his right; this week, he had the worst DYAR on throws to his left, going 6-of-10 for 51 yards with one first down and one interception. Burrow lost 31 DYAR due to opponent adjustments, twice as many as any other quarterback this week.

22.

Nick Foles CHI

26/42

249

1

1

1

4

11

-7

IND

Foles gained 28 DYAR due to opponent adjustments, most of any quarterback this week. A lot of his production came in garbage time. The Colts went up 19-3 with less than four minutes to go; from that point to the end of the game, Foles completed each of the eight passes he threw for 90 total yards and a touchdown.

Rk

Player

Team

CP/AT

Yds

TD

INT

Sacks

Total
DYAR

Pass
DYAR

Rush
DYAR

Opp

23.

Jared Goff LAR

25/32

200

1

0

2

-4

-4

0

NYG

Goff only threw for one first down inside the Giants’ 40-yard line, going 7-of-9 for 31 yards with one sack.

24.

Dwayne Haskins WAS

32/45

314

0

0

3

-4

-7

3

BAL

Haskins threw 13 failed completions this weekend, four more than anyone else. In a related note, his average pass attempt traveled a league-low 4.4 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

25.

Ryan Fitzpatrick MIA

29/45

315

0

2

1

-24

-48

24

SEA

Fitzpatrick had the league’s worst DYAR on deep throws, going 3-of-7 for 55 yards with an interception. He also ran six times for 47 yards and a touchdown.

26.

Carson Wentz PHI

18/28

193

1

1

3

-32

-41

9

SF

This was Wentz’s best game of the year, but he was still the league’s worst passer on throws down the middle. He completed four of his five throws in that direction, but only gained 28 yards and two first downs, and that fifth pass was intercepted. He was also worst on no-huddle plays, going 0-for-4 with an interception.

27.

Sam Darnold NYJ

23/42

230

0

0

6

-58

-98

40

DEN

Darnold led all quarterbacks in rushing DYAR this week thanks to his six carries for 84 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, he had the worst passing DYAR on third/fourth downs, going 5-of-12 for 42 yards with as many conversions (four) as sacks.

28.

Brett Rypien DEN

20/31

242

2

3

0

-66

-66

0

NYJ

Rypien was last in DYAR on throws to tight ends. He threw nine passes to Noah Fant, Nick Vannett, and Jake Butt, completing six of them for 42 yards, with as many first downs (one) as interceptions.

29.

Jarrett Stidham NE

5/13

60

1

2

0

-70

-62

-8

KC

All of Stidham’s throws came with New England down by at least 10 points in the fourth quarter. On first downs, he went 1-of-5 for 30 yards and both interceptions, including a pick-six.

30.

Brian Hoyer NE

15/24

130

0

1

2

-77

-80

3

KC

Hoyer’s three red zone plays, in chronological order: completion for a loss of 4 yards on second-and-5; sack for a loss of 13 on the ensuing third down when New England was in field goal range but out of timeouts; sack-fumble in the third quarter that led to his benching.

31.

Nick Mullens SF

18/26

200

1

2

4

-118

-118

0

PHI

Mullens only threw eight passes on first down (10 players threw twice as many; two players tripled him), yet still finished last in DYAR on that down: 3-of-7 for 37 yards with a sack and a pick-six. As you may have guessed, he led all players in DYAR on throws to tight ends. (C.J. Beathard was seventh.) However, he was last in DYAR on throws to wide receivers: He threw eight passes to Kendrick Bourne, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and Trent Taylor, completing two to his teammates and two to Eagles defenders.

32.

Daniel Jones NYG

23/36

190

0

1

5

-125

-126

1

LAR

Jones was the league’s worst passer … well, everywhere, but especially in the red zone. He threw seven passes inside the L.A. 20, and not one of them converted a first down, let alone a touchdown. Three were completed; one of those was a loss of 2. One was intercepted. Remember, the Giants only lost this game by eight points.

 

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.

Antonio Gibson WAS

13

46

1

4/5

82

0

75

35

40

BAL

Gibson, a third-round rookie out of Memphis, started in Weeks 1 and 2, but has been more productive after coming off the bench in Weeks 3 and 4. Against Baltimore, Gibson’s longest run gained only 10 yards, but four of them picked up first downs while only two were stuffs. Each of his four receptions resulted in a first down, the best of them a 40-yard gain on third-and-11. He gains 16 total DYAR for facing the Ravens.

2.

Joe Mixon CIN

25

151

2

6/6

30

1

45

35

10

JAX

Mixon was very quiet in the first half, with only two first downs and no run longer than 7 yards. But he exploded with six first downs in the second half. That includes touchdowns of 23 and 34 yards, plus two other runs that gained 10 or more yards. He added two first downs as a receiver: a 9-yard touchdown and a 14-yard gain on second-and-6.

3.

Dalvin Cook MIN

27

130

2

2/2

16

0

45

39

6

HOU

Only one of Cook’s 27 carries failed to gain positive yardage. Ten of them resulted in first downs, including three gains of 10-plus yards. He had one first down through the air, an 11-yard gain on second-and-9. He loses 20 total DYAR for facing the Texans.

4.

Kareem Hunt CLE

11

71

2

0/0

0

0

35

35

0

DAL

Only one of Hunt’s 11 carries failed to gain positive yardage. Five of them gained first downs, incluing four runs of 10-plus yards.

5.

Melvin Gordon DEN

23

107

2

2/3

11

0

34

37

-3

NYJ

Gordon only ran for four first downs on Thursday night, while being hit for no gain or a loss eight times. However, those four first downs included 15- and 19-yard gains, plus 19- and 43-yard touchdowns. He gains 18 total DYAR for facing the Jets.

 

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.

Dalvin Cook MIN

27

130

2

2/2

16

0

45

39

6

HOU

2.

Melvin Gordon DEN

23

107

2

2/3

11

0

34

37

-3

NYJ

3.

Kareem Hunt CLE

11

71

2

0/0

0

0

35

35

0

DAL

4.

Joe Mixon CIN

25

151

2

6/6

30

1

45

35

10

JAX

5.

Antonio Gibson WAS

13

46

1

4/5

82

0

75

35

40

BAL

 

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.

Devin Singletary BUF

18

55

1

5/6

21

0

-36

-30

-6

LV

None of Singletary’s receptions produced a first down. Only three were successful plays. The longest was a 7-yard gain on first-and-10.

 

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.

Devin Singletary BUF

18

55

1

5/6

21

0

-36

-30

-6

LV

Singletary loses 22 total DYAR for facing the Raiders. He only ran for three first downs against Las Vegas, the longest a gain of 11, while being stuffed for no gain or a loss four times.

 

Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR

Rk

Player

Team

Rec

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Total
DYAR

Opp

1.

Odell Beckham CLE

5

8

81

16.2

2

76

DAL

Beckham’s totals include 32 DYAR receiving, 44 DYAR rushing for his two carries for 73 yards and a touchdown. Each of his catches produced a first down, including touchdowns of 4 and 37 yards.

2.

George Kittle SF

15

15

183

12.2

1

64

PHI

3.

Robert Tonyan GB

6

6

98

16.3

3

61

ATL

When Tonyan caught his third touchdown of the game, I was certain I would have to add him to the essay that opened this article, but he had only one more catch after that and in the end just didn’t have the volume. That said, five of his catches produced first downs, including four gains of 19 yards or more and three third-down conversions, one of them on third-and-14.

4.

Mike Evans TB

7

8

122

17.4

1

57

LAC

Six of Evans’ catches produced first downs, including a 24-yard gain on first-and-10 and a 48-yard gain on second-and-20.

5.

Nelson Agholor LV

4

4

44

11.0

1

54

BUF

Each of Agholor’s catches produced a first down, including two third-down conversions and a 7-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1. His biggest play, however, was a 46-yard DPI in the fourth quarter.

 

Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR

Rk

Player

Team

Rec

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Total
DYAR

Opp

1.

Calvin Ridley ATL

0

5

0

0.0

0

-40

GB

This was not one of Ridley’s five incomplete targets, but it is an indication of how Atlanta’s night went.


https://www.footballoutsiders.com/quick-reads/2020/week-4-quick-reads

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