Context Stats: Bryce Petty vs the Dolphins

Edward Gorelik breaks down Bryce Petty’s performance against Miami with his weekly context stats

Statistics let us remove emotional stimuli and focus on the hard truth of what happens. But we need to place statistics into their environment to gain context and understand what’s really happening. Bryce Petty having 60% accuracy doesn’t tell you any information, but 60% accuracy throwing against man coverage gives you something to work with. That’s the purpose of this season-long project.

Let’s get this out of the way, these numbers aren’t objective. There’s a lot of subjectivity involved with interceptables, drops, single vs full reads, and even what the coverage faced is. This is still a subjective analysis. It’s just adding numbers to that subjective analysis.

Would you believe it if i told you this was Bryce Petty’s best game so far? Well, it was. Traditional statistics aren’t in his favor, but he produced a better context stats than his first two starts. And it was against the best passing defense he’s seen this season (Miami ranks 12th in pass defense DVOA at time of writing). If it weren’t for the Jets getting blown out on primetime and a bad interception, more people might be open to believing that.

Context Stats - Bryce Petty vs Miami Dolphins Week 15 - Reads

Petty improved noticeably from his previous games. In his last two starts, his reads total YPA were at horrible 4.97 and 5.32 rates. Now it’s up to 7.00 YPA. That’s not efficient, but it’s more efficient. It’s progression. That’s important to realize, even if you weren’t a fan of Petty in pre-season (like me) or during the 2015 draft (also like me).

Zooming out of this game, maybe it’s possible that Petty isn’t actually as bad as we’re seeing and could be better. It might be a tired point to read if you’re used to arguing with Petty’s defenders, but these are still real points.

It’s only Petty’s third start. Petty came from a completely different system and speed of the game. Yes, two years on the bench should’ve improved him- but why would three starts prove it hasn’t? It’s reasonable that three starts after not playing in a real game since 1/1/2014 isn’t enough to be acclimated. I don’t count appearances off the bench in that by the way, since you can’t measure how many reps or practice time depth players are getting during the season. I don’t think Bryce is playing himself into a starter spot right now, but he’s not playing out of a starter spot either. He hasn’t been that level of ineffective yet.

Let’s get back into this game. Petty is struggling with not getting intercepted. Most of them haven’t been that egregious, just aggressive quarterbacking. Then this happened:

Dolphins have a cover-1 looking coverage with a blitz shown. It becomes a manned up blitz where the lineman dropping into zone coverage on one side. This is something that regularly tricks young starters but can’t be excused this time. Petty has plenty of time to see this. He has plenty of time to notice there’s a player directly in his throwing lane. He doesn’t notice anything and throws directly at him. This is a genuinely bad play.

It’s “okay” to get intercepted when making aggressive decisions, because the upside is built into the risk. This isn’t that, it’s just bad.

But his interceptions haven’t been the biggest issue. He’s throwing an interceptable once every 18 passes on the season so far and that’s not terrible when considering Ryan Fitzpatrick was throwing one every 15 this year. However, Fitzpatrick was averaging 7.43 YPA on the context stats. It’s also not that efficient, but it’s significantly higher than Petty; even though he was a worse passer. So why is Petty so inefficient?


This is bad blocking. I know. Someone made a mistake, and there’s a man free. But take this into account: Petty knows he’s not blocked too. I’m going to guess he should’ve been blocked, but he wasn’t. Petty should see this from the snap. I know he knows it because he’s drifting away from him. But he never does anything. He keeps waiting. This has been the problem with most of his sacks this year, waiting. Petty was never great at feeling pressure in Baylor and that part of his game has transferred to the NFL.

It’s weird that i started this by telling you this was his best game but then went on a tirade of Petty’s problems. But his problems are still bigger than his strengths, which is why they came first. At least he does look like he’s improving though. Take a look at this for example:

The pre-snap starts with a cover-2 look. The slot corner comes down and it becomes a cover-1 blitz. Petty sees that and calls out something, i’m guessing setting the protection. With everything well blocked, Petty sits back, reads the leverage, and watches Anderson cross the new slot corners face. He knows that’s going to happen because the defensive back is leveraged inside with his hips pointed at the sideline. There’s no way he’ll make that turn in time. Even with an out of stride throw (yes it is, look at Anderson slow down), there’s no chance for this to be stopped.

That’s the kind of thing you want to see from Petty. An in-stride throw could make it even better, and it’s something he may be able to improve upon given more time to acclimate. And he’s been improving with every start so far.

Context Stats - Bryce Petty vs Miami Dolphins Week 15 - Map

It’s easy to throw him away because of team is losing, but try not to do that. Try to see what Petty actually is and how he’s playing. I’ve never been a Petty fan, and if you were reading my evaluations his “good” preseason performances (which weren’t good at all), you know this doesn’t come from an innate bias or a take I want to see proven right. Let’s just see where the improvement stops before we’re certain there’s nothing here to be had. I mean, check this out:

By my count, Petty had

  • 4 Inaccurate passes, 0 coverage beating passes, and 1 in stride pass against the Rams in his first start.
  • 8 inaccurate passes, 2 coverage beating passes, and 2 in stride passes against the 49ers in his second start.
  • 4 inaccurate passes, 3 coverage beating passes, and 4 in stride passes against the Dolphins in his third start.

Let’s just see where this wheel stops before we take a hard pass.


If you can prove something in this section isn’t interceptable, it’ll be removed from all the stats. However, i don’t think that will happen this week. One interception is already explained above, so we’ll just get right to the other one.

Pre-snap shows cover-1 man. Robby Anderson has his man beat but Petty underthrows it badly. Easily picked off. Petty can’t afford to miss plays like this.

Extra Stats

Context Stats - Bryce Petty vs Miami Dolphins Week 15 - Defense
There will be a lot of people blaming the offensive line for Petty’s interceptions. Don’t believe them, he’s thrown all of his interceptables without pressure in his 3 starts.

Petty had the ball dropped 5 times for 38 air yards lost. That’s the second most drops in a single game this season by my count, behind the Kansas City game.

Context Stats - Bryce Petty vs Miami Dolphins Week 15 - Win Probability
Bryce Petty’s win probability shows a potential folly in my analysis. A lot of his YPA is coming from being behind in games; but at least it isn’t mostly in garbage time.
Context Stats - Bryce Petty vs Miami Dolphins Week 15 - Players
It’s obvious who the most efficient target to throw at was. Drops don’t count in YPA here, so all receivers YPA are artificially higher than they should be. Also, Marshall got yardage on a play that was called back on a hold. I count that, because it’s still a play made for my purposes.

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