RealGM Football
Explaining The Trench Counter
Authored by Christopher Reina - 10th September, 2008 - 8:45 pm

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The scoreboard is where games are officially won and lost, but they are largely decided by the team that wins the battles of yards per pass, yards per carry, penalty yards lost, first downs and turnovers. For this reason, I created the following formula called the Trench Counter to look at which team truly controls the game:

(2x Yards per pass)
+ (2x Yards per carry)
+ (.5 First downs)
- (Penalty yards/10)
- (2.5 Turnovers)
- (Opposing Team's Trench Counter)

The Trench Counter is not designed to be an end all, be all measurement. Special teams, average field position, red zone conversion, interception returns for touchdowns and many other crucial stats are purposely left out. This measurement looks at the basic X's and O's of how well teams perform in these areas on both sides of the ball and ultimately who 'should' have won the game. The team that wins the game will have a positive Trench Counter the vast majority of the time, but there are exceptions and like clockwork you can almost always point to big plays made on special teams, scores by the defense or some sort of other very obvious anomaly.

Why average yards per pass and per carry instead of total yards? Because teams can be unfairly rewarded or punished based off field position. There really are few places for an offense to hide when looking at their average in these two areas and same goes for a defensive unit when looking at their opponent's numbers.

I am using the average Trench Counter per game for our NFL team rankings this season and below are the final numbers from the 2007 season.

In no uncertain terms was I shocked that the Colts were narrowly better than the Patriots according to this statistic. But there a few telling signs here that we may not have seen when just looking at the points on the board at the end of the Patriots' 16-0 season.

The Patriots defeated Indianapolis 24-20 in Week 9 on the road, but the Colts were +13.9 in the Trench Counter. It truly was an improbable win for New England as they were down 20-10 after Peyton Manning scored with 9:42 left in the fourth, but the Patriots scored a Wes Welker touchdown less than two minutes later and then Kevin Faulk caught the game-winner with 3:15 left. But the difference in the TC was in penalties as the Patriots lost 146 yards.

The Colts lost again the following week in San Diego despite having a +7.4. This was the game in which Darren Sproles returned the opening kick 89 yards for a touchdown and then ran back a 45-yard punt to help spot the Chargers a 16-0 lead. The Colts held the Chargers to just 11 first downs, 3.6 yards per pass and 3.8 yards per carry, which offset Peyton Manning's six interceptions (the Chargers had three turnovers of their own). San Diego also had 78 yards in penalties and Indianapolis rallied and were a 23-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri away from actually winning the game.

Returning to New England, they finished the regular season in weeks 12-17 with an average TC of 4.3, which puts them as 11th best team in the NFL during that time frame, which lowered their score just enough to finish behind the Colts.

Christopher Reina is the executive editor of RealGM and may be reached at Chris.Reina@RealGM.com