QBs in Focus: Play Action

Performance with and without the use of play action is the next topic Steve Palazzolo breaks down as the QBs in Focus series continues.

| 3 years ago

QBs in Focus: Play Action

qb-month-play-actionThough we certainly miss football during the offseason, it’s always a good time to take a step back and analyze our plethora of data.

We’re often so busy grading and collecting data during the season that we’re unable to put a lot of the information to good use. With that said, we’ve decided to declare June as “QB Month” as we break down NFL quarterbacks every which way.

We’re going to examine quarterbacks from a number of situations before looking at each of them individually. The grades and numbers should reveal each quarterback’s strengths and weaknesses from the 2013 season.

As we go through this series, it’s important to understand the relationship between QB Rating (NFL’s version) and PFF Grade.

While QB Rating is obviously supposed to be a QB statistic, it’s actually a better gauge of what the entire offense did in a given situation. This is the type of information that is actually extremely valuable to our NFL team customers as their game planning efforts must go towards stopping an entire passing offense, not just the quarterback.

 If the quarterback throws an easy dump off pass to the RB who then weaves through the defense for the touchdown, it’s certainly not a great indicator of quarterbacking skill as it is the running back and defense accounting for the majority of the work on the play. Of course the QB Rating will look quite shiny in that situation.

On the other hand, PFF Grade is a good indicator of how well the quarterback actually performed in a given situation. Whether they throw an accurate pass that was dropped, or perhaps an inaccurate one that should have been intercepted and the defense dropped, the PFF grade will account for those situations with a positive and a negative grade respectively while QB Rating will simply reflect the 0-for-1 passing.

It’s important to distinguish between QB Rating and PFF grade, though there’s a good chance they’ll match up in most situations.


With Play Action

Play Action

Play Action (2)

•  Philip Rivers led the league in Accuracy Percentage (86.2%), completion percentage (73.0%), and success rate (55.8%) when using play action.

•  Drew Brees led the league with 176 play action dropbacks, but his usage on 25.2% of his dropbacks only ranked 12th. Russell Wilson had the highest percentage of play action dropbacks with 34.1%. A league-high 40% of Wilson’s play actions were designed rollouts

•  Ben Roethlisberger used play action only 11.6% of his snaps, the lowest percentage in the league.


No Play Action

No Play Action

No Play Action (2)

•  Passer rating with play action is 97.2 compared to 83.0 without, though the numbers are obviously situational and skewed by goal line work.

•  Joe Flacco ranked second with 587 non-play action drop-backs, but his -17.2 grade ranked second to last.

•  Nick Foles’ average depth of target with play action: 14.6. Without play action: 7.5


First Down Play Action

1st Down Play Action

1st Down Play Action (2)

•  We added in first down play actions as an extra comparison. Colin Kaepernick used play action on 46.2% of his first-down drop-backs, highest percentage in the league.

•  Foles took a number of those deep shots on first down as his 19.3 average yards per target led the league. Tom Brady ranked second with an aDOT of 18.3.

•  Robert Griffin III ranked last with a -9.0 grade on first down play actions, including a QB Rating of 46.5.


For the entire set of “QBs in Focus” posts, click here.


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| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • http://www.picturethisifyouwill.wordpress.com musicmansf

    I still think it’s hilarious that people thought Rivers was done before the season started.

    • Chris

      Insta-regression on the way with Whisenhunt gone.

    • Shawn Blake

      Let us not forget the Defenses that he was going up against though. AFC West and NFC East. Not exactly the strongest defenses in 2013. Not to mention he got 8 home games in great weather conditions. These things matter. I don’t know if PFF takes weather/dome v outdoor into consideration.

      • [email protected]

        Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

      • bobrulz

        Football Outsiders DOES take into account strength of schedule, and had him as the 2nd best by DYAR (cumulative stat) and 3rd best by DVOA (the rate state). No surprise that Peyton Manning was #1 in both, and he was just barely behind Nick Foles in DVOA.

        Hopefully talking about Football Outsiders isn’t taboo here lol.

        • Shawn Blake

          I pondered, do they take into account venue and weather conditions. Please read carefully.

    • Adrian Brody’s O face

      Why was it hilarious? He had two consecutive bad years and had been trending in the wrong direction before then. He was on the wrong side of 30 which is when Quarterbacks have to begin mentally evolving their game to compensate for physical decline and he had shown no ability to do so under Norv Turner. So yeah, getting Mike McCoy as his head coach probably saved Rivers career.