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Why D’Andre Swift’s Big Game was Bad News for the Lions


NFL Week 10 – A lot of fantasy managers were starting Lions running back D’Andre Swift this weekend, and they were probably quite happy with his 133 yards from scrimmage in Detroit’s tie against Pittsburgh. Our numbers see things differently, however, and while Swift got a lot of touches against the Steelers, he didn’t actually move the ball very efficiently. As a result, despite finishing among the top five running backs in yards from scrimmage this week, he’s in last place at the position in our rankings.

Despite his talents, Swift has spent most of the past several years in committee backfields. He twice ran for over 1,000 yards with the Georgia Bulldogs despite splitting time with Elijah Holyfield. The Lions drafted him in the second round in 2020, but he spent most of his rookie season as change-of-pace back behind Adrian Peterson. He made the most of his limited opportunities, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and finishing in the top 16 in both rushing DYAR and DVOA. Peterson’s contract expired after that season, but the Lions signed veteran Jamaal Williams in free agency, leaving Swift stuck in a timeshare yet again.

Williams started each of Detroit’s first seven games this season, collecting 71 carries over that span. Swift, even without a start, topped Williams with 78 carries, but neither was getting much of a workload in the Lion’s pass-heavy offense. Even when Williams missed the Lions’ Week 8 game against Philadelphia, Swift only got 12 carries in a 44-6 loss.

Swift’s carries were also limited by Detroit’s pass-heavy scheme. Heading into their Week 9 bye, the Lions ranked fourth in pass plays but only 23rd in runs. Maybe it’s because they were in a close game for once, maybe it’s because head coach Dan Campbell took over play-calling duties, but they swung hard the other direction coming out of their bye. Campbell only called 29 passing plays against Pittsburgh (only Philadelphia had fewer in Week 10), but he called for a league-high 39 runs.

That includes 33 carries for Swift, more than double his previous career high and seven more than the running back with the second-heaviest workload this week (his counterpart in this game, the Steelers’ Najee Harris). Twenty-four of those carries, however, failed to meet Football Outsiders’ standards of success, eight more than anyone else. That includes a league-high nine stuffs for no gain or a loss. Only nine of Swift’s carries were considered successful plays. A half-dozen players had more than that; Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook had 15 successful plays in only 24 total carries. Swift only ran for five first downs against Pittsburgh. Five players had more this week; Green Bay’s AJ Dillon was first with nine, and he only carried the ball 21 times. Finally, we’ll note that Swift’s longest carry gained only 21 yards. Eleven players had longer runs that this week, including three in this game alone: Swift’s teammates Godwin Igwebuike and Jermar Jefferson, who had respective 42- and 28-yard touchdown runs, plus Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, who had a 26-yard scramble in the third quarter.

At least Swift didn’t fumble, but then he didn’t score a touchdown either. (He had two carries in the red zone: a 1-yard loss on first-and-goal from the 7 and a 6-yard gain on third-and-goal from the 8.) Add that all up and Swift was our least valuable rusher of the week. He also gained only 3 yards on three catches (those are our numbers—the NFL officially credits him with 2 extra yards on Detroit’s lateral play on the final snap of overtime) and finishes near the bottom in receiving value as well. His totals: -18 rushing DYAR, -21 receiving DYAR, -39 combined DYAR. Those aren’t historically terrible figures—Miami’s Myles Gaskin still has the year’s gold standards of -47 rushing DYAR in Week 9 and -54 combined DYAR in Week 6—but they are very, very bad for someone with Swift’s yardage totals.

Our list of worst running back performances includes 216 games since 1983 (not counting this season) where a running back had -50 combined DYAR or worse. Only three of them—none of which came in the last 20 years—had more yards from scrimmage than Swift: Eric Dickerson against Miami in 1986 (including two fumbles), Vince Workman against Minnesota in 1992 (one fumble), and Moe Williams against Indianapolis in 2001 (one fumble). We also have a list of 82 games where a running back had -50 rushing DYAR or worse; only three of them topped 100 yards on the ground, with the leader being Williams with 111, 19 less than Swift had against Pittsburgh.

We can expand our list of high-volume, low-efficiency games by looking for other players who met some of Swift’s basic figures:

  • 33 carries or more.
  • Fewer than 4.0 yards per carry.
  • No rushing touchdowns.

Per Stathead, this is the 50th time since 1950 that a player has hit all three of those marks. The last to do it was Frank Gore for the Colts against the Bills in 2017. Jerome Bettis did it three times; Terrell Davis, Eddie George, Rodney Hampton, Lydell Mitchell, Jamie Morris, Walter Payton, Heath Sherman, and Ricky Williams did it twice each. Those 50 teams had a combined record of 36-11-3 by an average margin of 19.2 to 13.7. In other words, most of these games were produced by teams whose defenses were playing well, so they were content to kill clock by running for no gain over and over again in the fourth quarter. Three ties in 50 games is also an indication that it’s not always an effective way to finish an opponent in a close contest. Oddly, most of those games happened in the middle of the year, after the sunny days of September but before the harsh weather of winter. More than half (27, to be precise) took place between Week 5 and Week 10.

Swift’s not going to get 33 carries every week, but with Williams’ status still in doubt and Campbell’s game plan earning Detroit’s first non-loss of the season, it’s safe to assume he’ll finally get the opportunity to be a bell-cow back for the rest of 2021. What he does with that opportunity will largely determine the kind of role he gets in 2022.

 

Quarterbacks

Rk

Player

Team

CP/AT

Yds

TD

INT

Sacks

Total
DYAR

Pass
DYAR

Rush
DYAR

Opp

1.

Patrick Mahomes KC

35/50

406

5

0

0

196

196

0

LV

Keys to scoring 41 points: deliver on third/fourth downs (10-of-13 for 165 yards and nine conversions, including two touchdowns) and inside the opponents’ 40-yard line (16-of-24 for 173 yards and five touchdowns).

2.

Dak Prescott DAL

24/31

296

2

0

0

135

130

5

ATL

Mind you, Prescott’s Cowboys scored forty-three points, and he also delivered on third/fourth downs (7-of-9 for 88 yards and five conversions, including two touchdowns) and inside the opponents’ 40-yard line (12-of-17 for 146 yards and two touchdowns). He finishes behind Mahomes in part because he loses 55 DYAR due to opponent adjustments, and because he didn’t throw a single pass in the fourth quarter.

3.

Jimmy Garoppolo SF

15/19

182

2

0

1

131

131

0

LAR

4.

Mac Jones NE

19/23

198

3

0

2

125

125

0

CLE

While we’re at it, Jones’ Patriots scored forty-five points, and he also delivered on third/fourth downs (6-of-7 for 80 yards, plus a DPI for 7 more yards, with seven conversions, one touchdown, and one sack) and inside the opponents’ 40-yard line (10-of-12 for 88 yards with three touchdowns and one sack).

5.

Josh Allen BUF

21/28

366

2

1

2

116

119

-2

NYJ

The good news for Allen is that despite a league-high 12.9-yard average depth of target, he was successful on a league-best 63% of his dropbacks. Combine those two facts and you get the league’s best passer on deep balls (7-of-10 for 244 yards with one interception). The bad news is that he loses 45 DYAR due to opponent adjustments.

6.

Kirk Cousins MIN

26/37

294

2

0

2

100

102

-3

LAC

Cousins’ average pass came with 10.7 yards to go for a first down, most among starters this week. He was the week’s best passer in the third quarter, going 6-of-9 for 66 yards and a touchdown, plus an 11-yard DPI.

7.

Trevor Siemian NO

19/34

298

2

0

4

95

95

0

TEN

Of all people, Trevor Siemian was the NFL’s best passer on throws to the right, going 11-of-17 for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Really! Trevor Siemian!

8.

Taylor Heinicke WAS

26/32

256

1

0

5

78

77

1

TB

Heinike’s average completion gained only 3.4 yards after the catch, least in the league this week. He was the best passer in the red zone, going 4-of-5 for 38 yards and a touchdown, plus a 13-yard DPI.

9.

Derek Carr LV

25/35

261

2

1

2

51

50

2

KC

Though he played well overall, Carr had a bad night on third and fourth downs, going 3-of-8 for 6 yards (yes) with one conversion, one interception, and two sacks. He had one other conversion on a 14-yard DPI.

10.

Ryan Tannehill TEN

19/27

213

1

0

2

46

50

-4

NO

Tannehill only threw three deep passes against New Orleans, completing two of them for 33 yards. His two biggest plays—a 50-yard completion to Marcus Johnson and a 39-yarder to D’Onta Foreman—combined to gain 3 yards through the air and 86 yards after the catch.

11.

Jalen Hurts PHI

16/23

178

2

1

1

35

38

-4

DEN

Hurts was the week’s best passer in the first quarter, going 7-of-8 for 107 yards and a touchdown. His last pass of the game was an interception late in the third quarter that gave Denver the ball near midfield, trailing only 20-13. Fortunately for Hurts, the Eagles defense forced a fumble and returned it for a touchdown, and Philadelphia proceeded to run the ball on each of their 12 offensive plays in the fourth quarter.

12.

Case Keenum CLE

8/12

81

0

0

3

29

29

0

NE

Keenum came into the game with Cleveland down 31-7 late in the third quarter and was promptly sacked on each of his first two dropbacks. He still finished as the NFL’s best passer on throws to receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage, going 4-of-4 for 44 yards. All four of those plays picked up first downs, inluding a third-down conversion.

Rk

Player

Team

CP/AT

Yds

TD

INT

Sacks

Total
DYAR

Pass
DYAR

Rush
DYAR

Opp

13.

P.J. Walker CAR

22/28

167

0

1

0

26

36

-10

ARI

Walker’s average throw traveled an NFL-low 4.2 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. And on the rare occasions when he did throw deep, it didn’t go well—he was the NFL’s worst passer on deep balls, going 0-for-2 with an interception. If you’re curious, Cam Newton finished with 21 DYAR passing (3-of-4 for 8 yards and a touchdown, plus a 33-yard DPI) and 12 DYAR rushing (three carries for 14 yards and a touchdown).

14.

Justin Herbert LAC

20/34

195

1

1

2

23

17

6

MIN

Herbert’s average pass came with a league-low 7.0 yards to go for a first down. His ranking here is a little better than his raw numbers might suggest because two of his three biggest plays by DYAR were a pair of DPIs that gained 19 and 28 yards, both on second-and-10.

15.

Tua Tagovailoa MIA

8/13

158

0

0

1

21

12

9

BAL

Tagovailoa came into the game with Miami up 6-3 in the third quarter. His average completion gained 11.8 yards after the catch, best in the NFL this week. That’s not to say he couldn’t throw deep, however—he completed both of his two deep passes for a total of 99 yards.

16.

Teddy Bridgewater DEN

22/36

226

0

0

1

-10

-10

0

PHI

Bridgewater was virtually tied for the worst DYAR on throws to running backs. He threw six of them to Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, but only completed three of them: a 2-yard loss on third-and-9, a 10-yard gain on third-and-14, and a 9-yard loss on second-and-5.

17.

Aaron Rodgers GB

23/37

292

0

1

1

-22

-11

-11

SEA

Rodgers, on the other hand, was best on throws to running backs, going 6-of-8 for 123 yards. However, he was worst on throws to tight ends (5-of-6 for 23 yards with no first downs and one interception) and in the red zone (2-of-7 for 9 yards with no first downs and one interception).

18.

Jacoby Brissett MIA

11/23

156

0

0

2

-30

-29

0

BAL

Brissett had extreme splits by direction. To his right, he went 9-of-15 for 126 yards. Down the middle, he went 2-of-4 for 30 yards. Finally, he threw four passes to his left, all incomplete.

19.

Chris Streveler ARI

6/9

36

0

0

2

-37

-26

-11

CAR

Streveler’s job was not easy. He entered the game facing a third-and-19 down by 31-3 margin in the third quarter. His average pass came with a league-high 11.4 yards to go for a first down; only one of his dropbacks came with less than 10 yards to go. That’s one reason he only threw for one first down, a 17-yard gain on third-and-15.

20.

Mike White NYJ

24/44

251

0

4

1

-46

-46

0

BUF

White gains 79 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. Russell Wilson (43) is the only player to gain even half as many. White was still the NFL’s worst passer on throws to his left, going 6-of-14 for 84 yards with two interceptions. And it’s worse than even that for the Jets, because while it doesn’t affect White’s DYAR, the longest of those completions was a 28-yard gain that ended in a fumble, recovered by the Bills.

21.

Tom Brady TB

23/34

220

2

2

0

-49

-51

2

WAS

Brady was the NFL’s worst passer in the first quarter, going 2-of-6 for 5 yards and a pair of interceptions. Both of those interceptions came on throws down the middle, where he went 9-of-15 for 95 yards and a touchdown.

22.

Lamar Jackson BAL

26/41

238

1

1

4

-54

-64

10

MIA

Jackson was the worst passer in pro football on third and fourth downs, going 6-of-10 for 41 yards with only two conversions, two sacks, and an interception. One of those completions was also fumbled away, recovered by the Dolphins, and returned for a touchdown.

Rk

Player

Team

CP/AT

Yds

TD

INT

Sacks

Total
DYAR

Pass
DYAR

Rush
DYAR

Opp

23.

Colt McCoy ARI

11/20

107

0

1

2

-61

-55

-6

CAR

McCoy finished last in DYAR on plays from under center, going 4-of-11 for 29 yards with one conversion, one interception, and one sack. He did pick up another first down on a 35-yard DPI. He only converted one third-down dropback, going 2-of-5 for 29 yards with a sack and a fumble.

24.

Carson Wentz IND

22/34

180

0

0

1

-61

-59

-2

JAX

Wentz loses 49 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He was last in DYAR on throws to running backs, going 8-of-12 for only 27 yards.

25.

Matthew Stafford LAR

26/41

243

1

2

2

-64

-62

-2

SF

26.

Mason Rudolph PIT

30/50

242

1

1

0

-88

-104

16

DET

Rudolph loses 63 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He threw a league-high 11 failed completions. In related news, he was the NFL’s worst passer on throws to receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage, going 10-of-13 for 26 yards. Only two of those completions gained first downs while three lost yardage, and another was fumbled and recovered by the Lions.

27.

Jared Goff DET

14/25

114

0

0

4

-95

-95

0

PIT

Goff was successful on an NFL-worst 24% of his dropbacks. He failed to throw for a single first down between his own 45-yard line and the goal line at the other end of the field, going 4-of-10 for 20 yards with two sacks.

28.

Trevor Lawrence JAX

16/35

162

0

0

3

-98

-109

11

IND

Every one of Lawrence’s dropbacks came with Jacksonville trailing, most of them by multiple scores. On the rare occasions he did have a chance to tie the game or take the lead, he went 3-of-7 for 27 yards with a sack and a fumble.

29.

Russell Wilson SEA

20/40

161

0

2

3

-110

-113

3

GB

Wilson was the week’s worst passer in … well, in a lot of splits. But for the sake of brevity, we’ll just limit our commentary to throws to wide receivers (6-of-23 for 45 yards with two interceptions, plus a 24-yard DPI) and inside the opponents’ 40-yard line (3-of-10 for 8 yards with an interception and a sack).

30.

Baker Mayfield CLE

11/21

73

1

1

2

-112

-112

0

NE

Mayfield was the week’s worst passer on throws to the outside, going 7-of-16 for 36 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

31.

Matt Ryan ATL

9/21

117

0

2

2

-122

-122

0

DAL

Surprisingly, for a quarterback who finished in last place, Ryan wasn’t last in many categories. His worst ranking came in the third quarter, when he went 4-of-9 for 51 yards with a pair of interceptions. That includes interceptions on two of his last three throws, and after that Atlanta pulled him for Josh Rosen … who proceeded to throw an interception on his first pass, giving Falcons quarterbacks three interceptions in a span of four throws. Rosen finished 1-of-6 for 14 yards with -49 DYAR himself. If you ignore playing time restrictions, Rosen was the week’s worst passer in the fourth quarter, and on throws to tight ends, even though DYAR is a counting stat.

 

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.

Christian McCaffrey CAR

13

95

0

10/10

66

0

56

33

22

ARI

Usually when a running back averages 7.3 yards per carry, there’s one long run skewing the data, and his median carry is much shorter. It’s actually the opposite for McCaffrey, who gained 10 or more yards on seven of his 13 carries, but has his average turfed because of the two times he was stuffed. Three of his catches also picked up first downs, including a pair of third-down conversions

2.

Darrel Williams KC

11

43

0

9/9

101

1

53

2

52

LV

Williams was stuffed three times while only rushing for two first downs, though that includes a 21-yard gain on second-and-3. However, he added four first downs as a receiver, including 17- and 22-yard gains on first-and-10 and a 38-yard touchdown on third-and-11.

3.

AJ Dillon GB

21

66

2

2/2

62

0

46

22

24

SEA

Dillon’s longest carry gained only 11 yards, but he still picked up nine first downs while being stuffed just three times. His two catches: a 12-yard gain on second-and-10 and a 50-yard gain on second-and-6.

4.

D’Onta Foreman TEN

11

30

0

2/2

48

0

38

10

28

NO

Foreman did not run for a single first down against the Saints and his longest carry gained just 6 yards, but he was stuffed just once, and he gains 22 rushing DYAR due to opponent adjustments. His two catches: a 9-yard gain on second-and-8 and a 39-yard gain on second-and-7.

5.

Boston Scott PHI

11

81

0

2/2

24

0

37

24

13

DEN

Scott was stuffed three times and only ran for four first downs, but that includes gains of 17, 21, and 23 yards. His two catches: a 16-yard gain on second-and-12 and an 8-yard gain on second-and-10.

 

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.

Rhamondre Stevenson NE

20

100

2

4/5

14

0

20

43

-23

CLE

Although the Browns stuffed Stevenson five times, he still picked up seven first downs on the ground, including four runs of 10-plus yards, the longest a gain of 18.

2.

James Robinson JAX

12

57

1

4/5

27

0

35

39

-4

IND

Robinson ran for five first downs against Buffalo, including gains of 10, 14, and 18 yards, while being stuffed just twice. He also gains 16 rushing DYAR due to opponent adjustments.

3.

Jonathan Taylor IND

21

116

1

6/8

10

0

3

37

-34

JAX

While Taylor only gained five first downs and was stuffed five times, 11 of his 21 carries gained 4 yards or more, including gains of 20 and 34 yards. We should mention that his longest catch was a 6-yard gain on third-and-8, and none of his catches picked up first downs or counted as successful plays.

4.

Christian McCaffrey CAR

13

95

0

10/10

66

0

56

33

22

ARI

5.

Boston Scott PHI

11

81

0

2/2

24

0

37

24

13

DEN

 

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.

D’Andre Swift DET

33

130

0

3/6

3

0

-39

-18

-21

PIT

Swift’s last first down on the ground came on a 12-yard gain on third-and-9 early in the third quarter. From that point to the end of the game, he carried the ball 17 times for 28 yards, a 1.7-yard average, getting stuffed six times. Oh, and his three receptions: a 3-yard loss on second-and-1; a 5-yard gain on third-and-20; and a 1-yard gain on third-and-1.

 

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.

Elijah Mitchell SF

27

91

0

0/0

0

0

-28

-28

0

LAR

The Rams stuffed Mitchell eight times on Monday night, while he ran for only four first downs.

 

Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR

Rk

Player

Team

Rec

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Total
DYAR

Opp

1.

Deebo Samuel SF

5

5

97

19.4

1

103

LAR

Samuel’s totals include 46 rushing DYAR for his five carries for 36 yards. All five of those carries gained at least 4 yards; three gained first downs. Three of his catches also gained first downs, all of which were third-down conversions.

2.

Kendrick Bourne NE

4

4

98

24.5

1

91

CLE

Bourne’s totals include 31 DYAR rushing for his three carries for 43 yards, all of which gained at least 11 yards. All four of his catches gained at least 12 yards and a first down; the longest of those was a 48-yarder thrown by Brian Hoyer, not Mac Jones. He also picked up a 7-yard DPI to convert a third-and-5.

3.

Justin Jefferson MIN

9

11

143

15.9

0

64

LAC

Jefferson’s totals include -10 rushing DYAR for his one carry, a 4-yard loss. Remove everyone’s rushing data and he was the top receiver of the week. Six of his catches produced first downs, including three third-down conversions. Four of them gained 20-plus yards. He also converted another third down with an 11-yard DPI on third-and-10.

4.

Bryan Edwards LV

3

4

88

29.3

1

52

KC

Edwards’ five targets: 27-yard gain on first-and-10; 14-yard DPI on third-and-6; 37-yard gain on first-and-10; 24-yard gain on second-and-9; incompletion on third-and-5.

5.

CeeDee Lamb DAL

6

7

94

15.7

2

52

ATL

Lamb’s totals include 6 rushing DYAR for his one carry, a 12-yard gain on first-and-15. Five of his catches produced first downs. Both of his touchdowns were third-down conversions. He also had a 21-yard catch on fourth-and-5 and a 37-yard catch on second-and-7.

 

Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR

Rk

Player

Team

Rec

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

Total
DYAR

Opp

1.

Marquise Brown BAL

6

13

37

6.2

0

-71

MIA

Only one of Brown’s catches (an 11-yard gain on first-and-10) picked up a first down, though he did add another conversion with a 17-yard DPI on first-and-10. He also fumbled on a third-down catch, and though the Ravens recovered, it was still a 7-yard gain on third-and-10, forcing a punt. By the way, though he wasn’t the worst receiver of this week, we wanted to mention Mike Gesicki, who failed to catch any of the seven targets thrown his way (four by Jacoby Brissett, three by Tua Tagovailoa) this week. That’s the most targets in a game without a catch this year.



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