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Checkdowns: Colts offense uniquely successful

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 24, 2010

With the AFC Championship game just an hour away from starting, here's a stat I bet you haven't heard all week: the Colts set the NFL record this season for most passing first downs gained minus rushing first downs gained. Below are all the teams in league history to average eight more passing first downs than rushing first downs per game, along with their regular and post-season records:

tm year             fdp             fdrsh           diff/g win             loss             tie             pw pl
IND 2009 241 69 10.75 14 2 0 1 0
SDG 1985 259 92 10.44 8 8 0 0 0
ARI 2005 224 58 10.38 5 11 0 0 0
MIA 1986 250 84 10.38 8 8 0 0 0
NWE 1994 243 83 10.00 10 6 0 0 1
ARI 2008 231 72 9.94 9 7 0 3 1
DET 2006 208 53 9.69 3 13 0 0 0
ATL 1994 218 63 9.69 7 9 0 0 0
HOU 1990 251 97 9.63 9 7 0 0 1
GNB 1995 235 84 9.44 11 5 0 2 1
IND 2004 238 94 9.00 12 4 0 1 1
ARI 1996 214 70 9.00 7 9 0 0 0
STL 2002 219 76 8.94 7 9 0 0 0
SDG 2009 222 80 8.88 13 3 0 0 1
GNB 2007 210 69 8.81 13 3 0 1 1
MIA 1988 218 77 8.81 6 10 0 0 0
OAK 1964 186 63 8.79 5 7 2 0 0
IND 2008 220 80 8.75 12 4 0 0 1
ARI 2007 210 70 8.75 8 8 0 0 0
DET 1995 230 91 8.69 10 6 0 0 1
HOU 2009 231 93 8.63 9 7 0 0 0
ARI 2009 215 77 8.63 10 6 0 1 1
NOR 2007 232 94 8.63 7 9 0 0 0
CAR 2000 201 63 8.63 7 9 0 0 0
SDG 1980 244 106 8.63 11 5 0 1 1
HOU 1991 236 99 8.56 11 5 0 1 1
STL 2000 247 112 8.44 10 6 0 0 1
ATL 1996 202 67 8.44 3 13 0 0 0
DAL 2007 217 83 8.38 13 3 0 0 1
SDG 1984 240 106 8.38 7 9 0 0 0
CIN 2007 213 81 8.25 7 9 0 0 0
STL 2001 236 104 8.25 14 2 0 2 1
MIN 1995 223 91 8.25 8 8 0 0 0
ATL 1995 216 85 8.19 9 7 0 0 1
DET 2007 203 73 8.13 7 9 0 0 0
GNB 2005 206 76 8.13 4 12 0 0 0
GNB 2004 228 98 8.13 10 6 0 0 1
CAR 1999 208 78 8.13 8 8 0 0 0
SDG 1982 145 72 8.11 6 3 0 1 1
NOR 2008 232 103 8.06 8 8 0 0 0
IND 2006 241 112 8.06 12 4 0 4 0
STL 2007 193 65 8.00 3 13 0 0 0
BUF 2002 218 90 8.00 8 8 0 0 0
MIA 1984 243 115 8.00 14 2 0 2 1
SFO 1982 121 49 8.00 3 6 0 0 0

Few teams have ever used the passing game to move the chains like the Colts under Manning's reign. This year, the Colts took things to a new extreme, becoming the first team to ever gain 170 more first downs through the air than on the ground.

Their opponent in the AFC championship game? The only team in the NFL this season with more rushing first downs than passing first downs.

tm year             fdp             fdrsh           diff/g
IND 2009 241 69 172
SDG 2009 222 80 142
HOU 2009 231 93 138
ARI 2009 215 77 138
MIN 2009 220 99 121
WAS 2009 191 72 119
PIT 2009 210 96 114
NWE 2009 222 114 108
SEA 2009 184 80 104
NOR 2009 215 115 100
CHI 2009 170 71 99
GNB 2009 201 102 99
PHI 2009 182 87 95
DAL 2009 203 110 93
NYG 2009 194 103 91
DEN 2009 186 95 91
ATL 2009 192 105 87
DET 2009 168 82 86
STL 2009 159 79 80
BAL 2009 187 115 72
TAM 2009 148 80 68
SFO 2009 137 77 60
MIA 2009 188 129 59
JAX 2009 170 114 56
CIN 2009 159 109 50
OAK 2009 131 81 50
KAN 2009 139 91 48
BUF 2009 126 81 45
TEN 2009 154 115 39
CAR 2009 152 123 29
CLE 2009 118 102 16
NYJ 2009 131 132 -1

The 2009 Jets are pretty unusual in their own right; in modern times, nearly every team gains more passing first downs than rushing first downs. The table below shows the percentage of teams in the NFL each season that gained more first downs via the pass than via the run:

year perc
2009 97
2008 100
2007 100
2006 97
2005 100
2004 97
2003 100
2002 100
2001 97
2000 97
1999 100
1998 100
1997 100
1996 100
1995 100
1994 100
1993 100
1992 95
1991 100
1990 96
1989 100
1988 89
1987 100
1986 89
1985 89
1984 93
1983 89
1982 89
1981 80
1980 88
1979 75
1978 57
1977 57
1976 54
1975 56
1974 58
1973 42
1972 50
1971 77
1970 77
1969 85
1968 77
1967 76
1966 92
1965 82
1964 82
1963 93
1962 84
1961 95
1960 76
1959 50
1958 67
1957 58
1956 38
1955 25
1954 75
1953 42
1952 58
1951 42
1950 38

This entry was posted on Sunday, January 24th, 2010 at 1:30 pm and is filed under Checkdowns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.