Saturday, November 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Charting Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, Week 13

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What a Sunday. You catch your breath yet?

You've seen the tweets, Vines and SportsCenter highlights countless times, and it still hasn't gotten old.

Jameis Winston, on third-and-19 from the Atlanta 43-yard line, drops back, briefly looks down the field and takes off. He gets to the 33 and braces himself for contact. Several nearby Buccaneers and Falcons stop as though he has been tackled.

You start working through the scenarios.

Okay. 33-yard line. Add 17 yards for a field goal attempt. 50 yards. It's deep, but Connor Barth can make it. 19-19. Uh oh. The Falcons get the ball with about two minutes left, and they have all three of their timeouts. Too much time. If only Winston hadn't been sacked on second down ...

But then Winston emerges from the pile, spins and runs some more.

"Loose ball! Loose ball!" Fox announcer Dick Stockton declares. "And it is picked up by the Falcons! No! It is picked up after the loss by Winston himself! Falcons had it. Winston picks it up and gets a first down inside the 25."

Wait. What?

As it turns out, Winston didn't fumble. You can't blame Stockton for thinking he had. The play looked as though it was over.

The word "unbelievable" gets thrown around a lot on broadcasts and in columns, but it was hard to make sense of Winston's run, at least for a moment. How did the ball not come loose? How did a knee or an elbow not touch the ground? How did Keanu Reeves bend the spoon just by looking at it?

Four plays later, Winston threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Mike Evans. The 23-19 victory over the Falcons not only improved the Bucs' record to 6-6 but also kept them within a game of the Seattle Seahawks for an NFC wild-card spot.

In Tennessee against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Marcus Mariota also used his legs to pull off some late-game heroics. On the possession after he lost a fumble inside the Tennessee 10-yard line, Mariota escaped pressure on third-and-7 and ran 87 yards toward redemption and a touchdown. It's the longest touchdown run this season and second-longest go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown run in NFL history.

Shades of Tecmo Super Bowl's QB Eagles.

Speaking of the Eagles, Mariota became the third quarterback since 1960 to throw three touchdown passes, run for 100 yards and score one rushing touchdown. The other two used to play in Philadelphia: Randall Cunningham (aka QB Eagles) in 1990 and Michael Vick in 2010.

The Titans went on to win 42-39, snapping their 11-game home losing streak, and for the first time in their pro careers, Winston and Mariota won on the same day.

How did the rookies do through the air? And whose body of work is better three-quarters of the way through the season? Below, we've charted the quarterbacks' Week 13 passes and also plotted their performances as measured by conventional quarterback rating, ESPN's Total Quarterback Rating and Football Outsiders' Defense-adjusted Value Over Average.

Passing charts

Winston and Mariota both had a pass bounce off a receiver's hands and into the arms of an opportunistic defender.

Winston's interception came late in the second quarter as the Bucs tried to get in position for points before halftime. His throw to Mike Evans on a hitch route was a touch high, and cornerback Desmond Trufant caught the deflection just before stepping out of bounds at the Atlanta 49-yard line. The Falcons went 17 yards in about 30 seconds to set up Shayne Graham's 52-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

Winston was much more effective Sunday on intermediate and deep passes than he was against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 12. Against the Falcons, he completed 69.2 percent (nine of 13) of his passes targeted 10 or more yards down the field. Against the Colts, he completed 41.7 percent (10 of 24).

While one of Mariota's passes to Dorial Green-Beckham slipped through his hands and was picked off by cornerback Davon House, the receiver caught his five other targets for 119 yards and a touchdown.

Tight end Delanie Walker continues to be Mariota's favorite target. He saw a team-high and season-high 12 targets against the Jaguars and now has 86 on the season, 28 more than Kendall Wright, the second-most targeted receiver. He caught eight passes Sunday, including three for 52 yards and a touchdown on third down.

Walker made all eight of his catches between the numbers, where Mariota was at his best. In that zone, he completed 16 of 20 passes for 224 yards, three touchdowns and one (tipped) interception.

Here's how Winston and Mariota compare in their past four games.

Quarterback rating

Mariota posted a 118.2 rating this week, his third-best of the season and highest since Week 9 against the Saints, and increased his overall rating from 92.8 to 95.1. Winston's 89.6 was more in line with his overall rating, which now stands at 85.6.

Through 13 weeks, Mariota ranks fourth among quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 1980, trailing Robert Griffin III (104.4), Ben Roethlisberger (103.3) and Dan Marino (97.1); Winston ranks sixth, behind Matt Ryan (91.2).

Total Quarterback Rating (QBR)

ESPN's QBR rates quarterbacks on a 0-100 scale. Unlike quarterback rating, QBR considers a player's contributions as a runner.

This week, Mariota led all quarterbacks with a 96.6 QBR, while Winston finished 10th with a 79.5 QBR. Though separated by just 4.4 points overall, Mariota and Winston have been up-and-down throughout the season and rarely "up" in the same week. Both have finished in the top 10 in the same week twice; they've finished 21st or worse in the same week three times. Only one of them has posted top 10 finishes in consecutive weeks (Winston, Week 7 and 8).

By QBR, Mariota has had two of the 10 best games in the NFL this season and three of the top 14 (97.3 vs. the Bucs in Week 1 and 94.8 vs. the Saints in Week 9). Winston's five-touchdown performance against the Eagles is 15th-best (94.7).

Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA)

Neither Winston nor Mariota saw much change this week in his passing DVOA, a Football Outsiders metric that measures a quarterback's value on a per play basis relative to the league average. The formula factors in down, distance, situation and strength of opponent (QBR is not adjusted for strength of opponent). A positive percentage indicates an above-average player and a negative percentage indicates a below-average player.

Mariota's DVOA increased modestly, from minus-8.6 to minus-8.1 percent. Winston's DVOA actually fell slightly, from minus-0.5 percent to minus-1.3 percent. Winston still ranks 18th, behind Cam Newton (minus-0.3), and Mariota still ranks 23rd.

Blake Bortles, Mariota's counterpart on Sunday, did see a substantial change in his DVOA, which jumped from minus-9.2 percent to minus-5.4 percent. Thanks to his 322 passing yards and five touchdown passes, Bortles leapfrogged over the Titans rookie and into the No. 19 position.

Thomas Bassinger can be reached at [email protected] Follow @tometrics.

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