Can we all take a moment, objectively and without debate, to recognize Dak Prescott’s absolutely ridiculous game on Sunday night in Dallas? The Cowboys quarterback put on a show of pinpoint passing against the Vikings, producing the kind of game that would have reverberated for days and maybe weeks had his team won.
But here at ESPN QB Award headquarters, of course, we’re under no obligation to subordinate Prescott’s performance to concerns over the Cowboys’ 28-24 loss. The sheer number of breathtaking completions, and Prescott’s corresponding accuracy, should be recorded for posterity.
So let’s start at AT&T Stadium for our Tuesday assessment of NFL quarterbacking highs and lows, culled weekly from unique data via ESPN Stats & Information and NFL Next Gen Stats.
Prescott’s raw numbers were impressive enough. He completed 28 of 46 passes for 397 yards and three touchdowns against a Vikings defense that entered the game ranked No. 9 in defensive DVOA, and his one interception came on a final-play Hail Mary. But the degree of difficulty of those completions merits further inspection.
Five of them — three to receiver Amari Cooper, and one apiece to Randall Cobb and Michael Gallup — carried completion probabilities of less than 30%, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That’s the most by a quarterback in one game in the past two seasons. Using this metric (which takes into account the proximity of pass rush and distance between the target and the closest defender, among other data points), Prescott recorded five of the 17 most-difficult completions in Week 10.
Cobb’s 22-yard touchdown reception might have been the most notable of the bunch. There were 0.2 yards between him and Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander, the lowest separation on a scoring pass this season.
Dak Prescott & Randall Cobb’s 22-yard TD had a 23.7% Completion Probability, Prescott’s 3rd completion of the game under 30%.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 11, 2019
Prescott was especially effective on third downs on Sunday night, completing 10 of 14 passes, including nine for first-down conversions. On third-and-7 or greater, he completed all six of his passes and converted five first downs.
All of this came while pushing the ball downfield at an exceptional pace. Prescott’s average pass traveled 12.3 yards past the line of scrimmage, the second-longest average target depth for a game in his career. He completed 15 passes that traveled more than 10 yards downfield, a career high.
It’s only fair to note that Prescott benefited from superior foot (and hand) work from his receivers. Cooper was especially successful keeping his feet in bounds on sideline catches. His pass protection was strong, as well. He was pressured on only 23.5% of his dropbacks even though he held the ball for an average of 3.24 seconds, the longest time in the league for Week 10.
But one of the most difficult jobs for a quarterback is to put the ball in a place where only his receivers can catch it, and Prescott did that Sunday as well as any quarterback has done all season.
The namesake for this award had a great game himself; Mahomes threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns while recording a success rate of 55.8%, which NFL Next Gen Stats defines as the percentage of pass plays resulting in a successful play based on the yards to go by down. But Jackson better fit the spirit of category, which points out instances when quarterbacks do something we’ve never seen before.
In the Ravens’ 49-13 victory over the Bengals, Jackson became the first player in NFL history to finish a game with a perfect passer rating (158.3) while also running for at least 50 yards and scoring a rushing touchdown. He is also just the second player in NFL history to compile a perfect passer rating in two games of the same season.
The enduring memory of this game will be Jackson’s twisting, spinning career-high 47-yard run in the third quarter. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Jackson ran 59.2 yards to get to the end zone, reaching a top speed of 18.6 miles per hour.
That’s it. That’s the tweet. @lj_era8
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Watch free on mobile: https://t.co/414bcK9I5b pic.twitter.com/bcKITPODez
— NFL (@NFL) November 10, 2019
There will be some who correctly note that the Bengals are the NFL’s worst team. They might also add the Jackson’s other perfect passer rating came in Week 1 against the nearly-as-hapless Dolphins. But Jackson hasn’t just defeated those two weak teams. He destroyed them in ways no other quarterback has. If it weren’t for the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, Jackson would be the NFL’s leading MVP contender.
Backup and replacement starters entered Week 10 with 24 wins (in 48 starts), the most over a similar time period since 1999. But Hoyer reminded us what has historically happened, more often than not, when a team loses its starter.
You have to play pretty badly to lose at home to a tanking team like the Dolphins, and Hoyer was up to the challenge. He managed to complete only six of the 22 passes that traveled more than 5 yards past the line of scrimmage. The Dolphins intercepted three of them, and Hoyer was 0-for-3 on such throws into the end zone on the Colts’ final possession.
This outcome wasn’t simply a matter of the Dolphins defense. Hoyer overthrew 10 passes that traveled past that 5-yard marker, tied for the second-most by a quarterback in a game this season. Overall, he was off-target on 30.8% of his throws, the worst rate in Week 10, per ESPN Stats & Information video analysis.
In seven quarters since replacing injured starter Jacoby Brissett, Hoyer has committed an NFL-high five turnovers. The Colts have lost both games and have fallen to No. 8 in the race for six AFC playoff spots. Brissett can’t get back soon enough.
Many of us were shocked when Rams coach Sean McVay replaced Goff with backup Bortles for a third-down play during Sunday’s 17-12 loss to the Steelers. McVay said later the move was not health-related but actually part of the game plan, a revelation that intensified the necessary inferences.
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In essence, the Rams had a play they thought would work better with Bortles, who has been somewhat mobile but rarely effective in his NFL career, than with Goff — whom they signed to a $134 million contract extension two months ago.
Goff does not appear close to losing his starting job, but the decision brought national attention to what many close observers of the Rams already knew: Goff has slumped badly in his fourth NFL season. After throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble against the Steelers, he ranks third in the NFL with 15 turnovers. Only the Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston and the Giants’ Daniel Jones have committed more.
Goff’s Total Quarterback Rating of 39.4, meanwhile, is worse than every qualified quarterback except the Bengals’ Andy Dalton, the Bills’ Josh Allen, the Bears’ Mitchell Trubisky and the Titans’ Marcus Mariota. Two from that group have already lost their starting jobs. Goff’s job is safe for the foreseeable future, but he is having a bench-worthy season.
The Titans have gone 3-1 since Tannehill replaced Mariota as their starter, most recently winning a wild 35-32 matchup with the Chiefs. The Titans have credited Tannehill with adding a level of ever-elusive energy to their offense after four years behind the steady but laconic Mariota.
What does “energy” look like from a quantitative perspective? In short, Tannehill is pushing the ball downfield more often and to a greater degree than Mariota did, all while completing his passes at a much higher rate.
Since the start of Week 7, Tannehill ranks No. 7 in the NFL in average air yards per throw (9.1) and No. 6 in completion percentage (70%). He has thrown 68.3% of his passes more than 5 yards past the line of scrimmage, second-most in the NFL over that period, and has been accurate despite the aggressiveness. His off-target percentage is 12.8%, eighth in the NFL. Prior to being benched, Mariota was completing 59.1% of his throws even though he was averaging 6.9 air yards per throw, No. 26 in the NFL.