The advanced statistics WPA (win probability added) and EPA (expected points added) give a rough estimate of how many points a player contributed (or detracted) from his team, as well as the +/- winning percentage that player gave to the team. These statistics can be found on the excellent site Advanced NFL Stats, and they are especially interesting to look at following a big game. Nine times out of ten, quarterbacks will have the highest or lowest WPA and EPA totals after the game, and that’s as it should be given the value of the position on a play-by-play basis.
Although Malcolm Smith was actually a solid MVP pick (as I’ll explain later, but I also had a couple of other defensive players in the discussion), I thought Russell Wilson deserved to have that honor. He is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL when he’s at his best, and he was definitely accurate last night. Two passes that stood out to me were his 19-yard pass to Ricardo Lockette, as well as his pass on the run to Golden Tate on the left sideline.
Wilson knew he just needed to be efficient and run the football when needed, and his average of 8.2 yards per attempt through the air with no picks is a great sign of efficiency. He also added 26 yards on the ground on three scrambles, and he did a nice job of sensing pressure, which is something I’ve been critical of in the pass. But Wilson was at his best when passing in the pocket, and hopefully that’s a sticking point for some of the naysayers. His stats were superb with an ESPN TQBR of 88.1 and a QB Rating of 123.1, and he contributed 15 expected points added to go with a game-high 0.17 WPA. I’d give him the MVP for effectively leading the offense (66.7% success rate), and his ability to get things going on third downs was equally impressive. Wilson is one of the best QBs in the NFL in terms of seeing the field, and he made some smart reads that you don’t usually see from a second-year player in the Super Bowl (except maybe early Tom Brady).
Anyway, Peyton Manning was on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to analytics, as he had the lowest WPA and EPA totals of any player at -0.19 and -15.3 respectively. He averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt and had a paltry 24.4 ESPN TQBR (Manning is usually in the 80-90 range). It’s clear that the Broncos couldn’t get anything going downfield, as the Seahawks defensive backs were simply too good and Manning doesn’t have the elite physical tools necessary to beat the Seahawks downfield. Once the Broncos got into a large enough deficit, it was simply impossible for them to close the gap against a Seahawks team that game-planned perfectly for the Broncos and were totally cool with allowing the opposition to nickel-and-dime them with dink-and-dunk passes. With the speed of the Seahawks LBs and the sure-handed tackling and coverage of the secondary, YAC was pipe dream for the Broncos pass-catchers.
Manning shoulders the brunt of the blame for the blowout loss, and the WPA and EPA totals reflect that sentiment. However, I think it’s unfair to say that Manning was the least valuable member of the Broncos yesterday. He didn’t have a good game, but the Broncos were out-coached and out-played in all facets by a better, deeper team. It’s not fair to put the blame on the QB, even though the negative plays go back to him on the analytics sheet. It was a clear “team loss”, but if I had to pick an LVP, then it would probably be between Tony Carter or Orlando Franklin.