Friday, January 10, 2014

NFL First Down First Quarter Play Tendencies

Nothing new here. I am sure the stat nerds of the NFL look at this type of stuff all the time. But hey I just do this as a side hobby. I downloaded the NFL play data for the date range 2002 - 2012 from this guy: The 2012 Season Data was a little out of wack. So I used the descriptions from this guy's 2012 season:

After the data was cleaned up I was able to run some queries. Focusing on First Down Play call  tendencies in the First Quarter. Here is what I came up with. For total play counts I did the following.

  • Only count pass and run plays
  • Remove all plays with a penalty
  • Remove all plays with a sack
Total Plays in sample: 33,530
Pass Plays: 14,470 / 41.15%
Run Plays: 20,688 / 58.84%

59% of the time teams are calling a run play on 1st down from the plays in my sample. Here are the yearly stats.

The percentages have remained pretty consistent over the past 10 years. 

I need to investigate the Total Play count drop in 2011. Not sure if that is a data issue or there really was a drop in total plays that year. Perhaps there were more penalties, sacks or something that was removed in my filter. Using the links above you could download the play data and start running your own queries and analysis.

Looking at the other Quarters

2nd Quarter First Down
Total Plays in sample: 40,693
Pass Plays: 19,969 / 49.07%
Run Plays: 20,724 / 50.9%

3rd Quarter First Down
Total Plays in sample: 35445
Pass Plays: 15,005 / 42.33%
Run Plays: 20,440 / 57.66%

4th Quarter First Down
Total Plays in sample: 39,922
Pass Plays: 19,057 / 47.73%
Run Plays: 20,865 / 52.26%

  • The 2nd Quarter contained the best balanced attack of all the quarters. 2002 and 2011 showed teams called slightly more pass plays than run plays on first down. Every other year run plays were called more frequently on first down. 2006 had the biggest gap between Pass and Run play calls with 46.21% Pass vs. 53.79% Run.
  • In 2002 Pass Percentage on First Down in the 4th Quarter was higher than run percentage. Every other year in the sample Run Percentage was higher.
  • The 2011 total play count decrease is consistent throughout all quarters. So need to research the play counts for 2011 to see what is up.


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