Analytics Recap: Kansas City Chiefs Defeat New Orleans Saints 32-29

What do the advanced metrics have to say about the Kansas City Chiefs' 32-29 win over the New Orleans Saints?
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The Kansas City Chiefs are now 13-1 after going on the road and defeating the New Orleans Saints 32-29. Patrick Mahomes made some big highlight plays in this one, as he dealt with plenty of pressure from a banged-up offensive line. It was also a pretty good showing from the defense, despite the four touchdowns they allowed.

The Chiefs' next game will be back in Arrowhead next Sunday to face the Atlanta Falcons, who are on a three-game losing streak, despite seeming to have improved since the start of the season.

Here are the advanced numbers from the Chiefs' win over the Saints and the season so far from Ben Baldwin's rbsdm.com. 

EPA = Expected Points Added, SR = Success Rate, 1st% = First Down Rate

EPA = Expected Points Added, SR = Success Rate, 1st% = First Down Rate

The Chiefs' offense was okay, getting 0.08 EPA per play, which would rank around 10th in the NFL this season, but their numbers were still well below their season average of 0.19 EPA per play or 0.27 EPA per play when the win probability is changed from 0-100% to 10-90%. 

The Chiefs' defense, on the other hand, was pretty high level. -0.11 EPA per play and the -9.5 late-down total EPA for the Saints' offense, even without Michael Thomas, is a huge win for the Chiefs' defense. 

Chiefs 2020 W15 Saints Players EPA

Sammy Watkins was fantastic in this one, one of his best games of the season. Watkins got 0.83 EPA per play over seven plays for a total of 5.8 EPA, the best for an offensive weapon and the second-best for all offensive players in the game. 

Travis Kelce also had another big game with a 4.7 EPA over his 13 targets. Demarcus Robinson made an impact on offense with his 3.2 EPA over three targets, though he also lost the Chiefs 2.1 expected points on his baffling punt return that he fumbled and turned into a safety.

For the Saints, Emmanuel Sanders was their top player with 5.1 EPA and an 80% success rate over five targets. For Sanders, 4.9 of his total EPA was gained on one play when Sanders beat Tyrann Mathieu on a third-and-10 in the second quarter for 51 yards to help get the Saints their first points of the game.

CPOE = Completion Percentage Over Expectation (Completion Percentage minus Expected Completion Percentage), QBR = ESPN's Quarterback Rating metric

CPOE = Completion Percentage Over Expectation (Completion Percentage minus Expected Completion Percentage), QBR = ESPN's Quarterback Rating metric

Patrick Mahomes got the upper hand on Drew Brees when it comes to the quarterback play in this one, though Mahomes also put up some mediocre advanced numbers as well. 

Mahomes' -6.2 CPOE and 57.3 QBR is less than ideal, though he played better than those numbers would suggest. The 8.3 EPA, however, feels about right for his performance. Brees was terrible in this game, getting a -2.9 EPA, -22.6 CPOE, 32.3 QBR and a 45.6 grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF).

Chiefs 2020 W15 Saints Biggest Plays

The previously mentioned deep pass from Brees to Sanders was the top play of the game, adding 4.9 expected points for the Saints. The second-biggest play was also in the Saints' favor, being the Mahomes sack-fumble caused by Trey Hendrickson after he beat Eric Fisher — which happened a few times on Sunday. The Chiefs, thankfully, had six of the next eight biggest plays go in their favor, including a L'Jarius Sneed interception for -4.2 EPA and three passes to Tyreek Hill that combined for 7.8 EPA.

Chiefs 2020 W15 Saints Win Probability

The win probability was in the Chiefs' favor for the entire game, starting at 58.9%, going to 51.8% at its lowest point, then jumping to 87.1% after the Chiefs got a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. At halftime, it hit 82.5%, and it got to 98.5% after the Chiefs got a touchdown and a two-point conversion to make it a 31-13 game with 13:44 remaining. The win probability was above 90% for the entire duration of the fourth quarter.

NFL Team Tiers 2020 Week 15 10-90 WP

You can now confidently put the four best teams in the NFL in order at this moment with the Chiefs in first, the Green Bay Packers in second, the Buffalo Bills in third and the Cleveland Browns in fourth. What a wonderful timeline we are in where the Bills and Browns are both top four teams in the NFL. 

Chiefs 2020 W15 Early Down Pass Rate Chart

The Chiefs remain in second behind the Houston Texans for the league lead in early-down passing rate, passing the ball on 62% of their first and second down opportunities. This week alone, they passed on 60.5% of early downs, which ranked eighth in the league.

On an enlightening note, the New York Jets, who had passed on just 46.4% of their early downs heading into this week, passed on 75% of their early downs (second-highest mark of the week) as they won their first game of the season over the Los Angeles Rams, who went the different side of the trend. The Rams passed on 55.6% of early downs heading into this week, the ninth-highest mark in the league, but just 50.0% this week, which ranked 18th.

NFL QB Chart 2020 Week 15 10-90 WP

Finally, we have quarterback rankings by EPA and CPOE. Aaron Rodgers increased his lead for first in the EPA+CPOE composite score rankings over Mahomes, but Mahomes likely increased his odds of winning the NFL MVP race. 

Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns was able to jump the Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen this week for third in the EPA+CPOE composite score rankings, while Ryan Tannehill of the Tennessee Titans remained in fifth. However, Tannehill has a lead on Mayfield and Allen in EPA and is starting to get close to Mahomes there as well.

NFL QB Chart 2020 Week 15 Only 10-90 WP

For just Week 15, it looks even rougher for Drew Brees in graph form. For the Chiefs, Mahomes was pretty middle-of-the-pack in terms of EPA while towards the bottom in CPOE. 

Meanwhile, the quarterbacks who performed really well this week were Justin Herbert of the Chargers, Ryan Tannehill of the Titans, Baker Mayfield of the Browns, Josh Allen of the Bills, Matthew Stafford of the Lions and Marcus Mariota of the Raiders.

For more Kansas City Chiefs analytics and analysis, follow @SIChiefs and @WichitaChiefSam on Twitter.