The Cold, Hard Football Facts will eat more crow this week than a starving family of rabid cats, and were deservedly crushed on the Twittersphere for a rather vocal prediction gone wrong. (We'd rather drink some Old Crow. But hey, that's just us.)
File under: when bad things happen to fat people.
We made a rather large amount of noise last week about Jim Harbaugh’s terrible decision to start Colin Kaepernick.
“The 49ers will regret this decision ultimately and they may regret it as soon as this week,” we said on CHFF TV.
“Jim Harbaugh will regret the decision to bench highly efficient quarterback Alex Smith in favor of Colin Kaepernick,” wrote a certain so-called Potentate of Pigskin on SI.com. “And there's a good chance that moment of regret will come Saturday night at Candlestick Park.”
That story got nearly 2,000 "likes" on Facebook, we imagine largely from 49ers fans gleefully dancing on the words today.
Finally, “Kaepernick pick-6 on second pass,” we deliciously Tweeted early in the Packers-49ers game. “Alex Smith 20 of 26, 2 TD, 0 INT, 125.6 rating in Week 1 win at Green Bay.”
You know how it all went down: Kaepernick recovered from the early mistake more than nicely.
He was electric, passing the ball effectively, especially in the downfield game, while dazzling the football world with his feet. Kaepernick, as you know, ran for an NFL-record-for-a-QB 181 yards.
His brilliant performance and our feast of crow provides us an ideal opportunity to highlight the value of Real Quarterback Rating – which is even more important than Passer Rating Differential, the Mother of All Stats, in separating winners from losers.
The reason Real QB Rating is so deadly effective is because it takes into account all aspects of quarterback play, not just passing. As we've often noted, passer rating is NOT a quarterback rating. It measures only passing, and nothing else. It certainly doesn't help us quantify the impact of the new wave of dual-purpose quarterbacks. Real QB Rating does.
You can see an explanation of Real QB Rating here. Here’s a look at the divisional round through the prism of Real QB Rating.
San Francisco (116.4 Real QB Rating) beat Green Bay (90.8), 45-31
Aaron Rodgers actually posted a slightly higher passer rating than Kaepernick (91.5 to 91.2).
But passer rating clearly doesn’t tell the entire story of a quarterback’s performance, especially a guy like Kaepernick.
When we take into account all those rushing yards and Kaepernick’s two rushing scores, his Real QB Rating skyrockets 25.2 points.
We invented Real Quarterback Rating before the 2011 season to measure the impact of rushing by guys like veteran Michael Vick and then-rookie Cam Newton.
The introduction of the indicator could not have been timed better.
That first season of 2011, Real QB Rating provided very valuable insight into why Tim Tebow was actually more effective than people realized when they looked ony at his passing performances.
Little did we know that we'd see an incredible new wave of dual-purpose quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and, of course, the explosive and now record-setting Kaepernick.
Real QB Rating allows us to measure the full impact of this new wave of two-way stars. Remember, RGIII led the NFL this year in Real QB Rating.
Baltimore (100.2) beat Denver (72.3), 38-35
The Real QB Ratings in this game were largely built on performance in the passing game, as neither Joe Flacco nor Peyton Manning are known for being particularly fleet footed.
However, each quarterback lost one fumble – turnovers which don’t show up in passer rating, which tracks only interceptions.
Each team enjoyed non-offensive scores (a pick-six by Baltimore; two returns by Denver), but if we’re looking only at offense, the Ravens outscored the Broncos 31-21, a 10-point margin easily to see in Baltimore’s dominance of Real QB Rating.
Peyton Manning suffered the lowest Real QB Rating of any quarterback this weekend; conversely, his offense also scored the fewest points (21). The three turnovers (2 INT, 1 fumble), most in the divisional round, were critical.
New England (110.8) beat Houston (89.7), 41-28
Kaepernick and Tom Brady posted the two of the three highest Real QB Ratings of the weekend and were also the two quarterbacks who led their teams to more than 40 points this weekend.
Kaepernick did it with his legs; Brady, of course, with his arm.
Brady officially had 1 rush attempt for -1 yards, kneeling to set up Stephen Gostkowski’s final field goal with just over 2 minutes to play.
Brady was also the only quarterback in the divisional round who did not suffer a single turnover.
We’ve talked for years about the importance of turnovers and chronicled it in great detail this season, with an assist from Spreadapedia, our searchable game-stat database at CHFF Insider.
And perhaps Brady’s greatest gift, the reason he’s now won an NFL record 17 postseason games and is playing in the AFC title game for the seventh time in 11 seasons on the field, is that he rarely turns the ball over.
Matt Schaub suffered one turnover, an interception.
Atlanta (94.2) beat Seattle (112.1), 30-28
The Falcons over the Seahawks was the only game this weekend in which the team with the higher Real Quarterback Rating failed to win the game.
In fact, it’s just the fourth game in the last five weeks of NFL play in which the team with the better Real QB Rating lost the game:
- Week 15 – 16-0
- Week 16 – 14-2
- Week 17 – 15-1
- Wildcard – 4-0
- Divisional – 3-1
That’s a combined record of 52-4 (.929) since Week 15 for teams better in Real QB Rating, for those of you keeping score at home.
That’s almost unbelievable, but confirms a simple truth: you win NFL games when your quarterback outplays the other.
In the case of this game, Russell Wilson played extraordinarily well with both his arm (385 yards, 2 TD) and his feet (60 yards, 1 TD, 1 turnover). He largely outplayed Matt Ryan (256 total yards, 3 TDs, 2 turnovers).
But in the end, Seattle simply blew too many opportunities to win the game, from Marshawn Lynch’s fumble at the Atlanta 39 to letting the clock run out on the first half deep in Atlanta territory without so much as a field goal attempt.
And, of course, Matty Ice was ultimately clutch when it mattered most. The Seahawks had stormed from 20 points down to take a 28-27 lead behind an incredible second half by Wilson, and did it with just 31 seconds to play.
In what might certainly go down as one of the all-time great 30-second drives, Ryan zipped the Falcons from their own 28 to the Seattle 31 in two snaps, setting up Matt Bryant’s 49-yard game winner as time expired.
So Ryan, coach Mike Smith and the Falcons have the 0-3 playoff monkey of their backs thanks to one of the all-time great playoff finishes.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts, meanwhile, will live with the weight of one giant Kaepernick prediction gone bad – our wounds soothed only by plenty of Old Crow and the power of Real Quarterback Rating.