Explosive Plays, Takeaways & Toxic Differential Stats In Super Bowls

We all have heard the phrase, “Make big plays and don\’t turn the ball over.” It sounds cliché, but former Ravens head coach and NFL Network analyst Brian Billick has a stat for it. It is called, “toxic differential.” It has been around and discussed several times. It is it\’s a risk-reward stat and it is made up of two parts. The first part is how many big plays/explosive gains (20-plus yards) teams make minus how many they allow defensively. It also is made up of the basic takeaways versus giveaways stat. In short you take the big play differential and then add the takeaway differential and you get the toxic differential stat. NFL Network analysts Jim Mora Jr. states “Teams that win the explosive-gains differential win 65 percent of their games and teams that have accomplished both a positive turnover and explosive gains differential win over 92 percent of their games.”

I wanted to compare this to Super Bowl games so I dug up all of the stats. I believe these to be accurate, but do let me know if you see any discrepancies or errors. Only 17 times in 44 Super Bowls has a team swept and won both the big play differential and the takeaway differential and all 17 times that team won the Super Bowl. Another stat fact is that only 5 times has the team that won the Super Bowl had a negative toxic number. The last team to accomplish that was the Steelers in Super Bowl XL over the Seahawks. There have been 8 games in which teams battled to a zero push toxic number and in those 8 games; 6 times the winner of the game also won the takeaway differential.

We talked about big plays during the season of both the Steelers and Packers here last week, but 14 times a team has lost the big play differential in the Super Bowl and yet went on to win the game. The record of the winning team in the big play differential stat when there was not a push through 44 Super Bowls is 23-14 (62%), almost to the 65% Mora stated. When a team has been +2 or more though in the big play/explosive gains stat the record in Super Bowls is 15-4 (79%). Meanwhile the record of the winning team in the takeaway differential stat is 31-3 (91%). Finally the record of the winning team in the toxic differential stat is 31-5 (86%).

To wrap this up, the toxic differential stat certainly holds water in Super Bowl history especially if a team sweeps both the big plays/explosive gains and takeaway differential, however if you can only win one, it is advisable to win the takeaway battle.

YearSuper BowlWinnerBig PlaysTakeawaysLoserBig PlaysTakeawaysWinner Toxic +/-Winner Big Plays +/-Winner Takeaways +/-
2009XLIV Saints21Colts300-11
2008XLIII Steelers42Cardinals510-11
2007XLII Giants31Patriots01330
2006XLI Colts32Bears21211
2005XL Steelers41Seahawks42-10-1
2004XXXIX Patriots34Eagles511-23
2003XXXVIII Patriots51Panthers71-2-20
2002XXXVII Buccaneers45Raiders31514
2001XXXVI Patriots33Rams600-33
2000XXXV Ravens25Giants10615
1999XXXIV Rams40Titans40000
1998XXXIII Broncos44Falcons21523
1997XXXII Broncos32Packers42-1-10
1996XXXI Packers44Patriots30514
1995XXX Cowboys43Steelers00743
1994XXIX 49ers53Chargers602-13
1993XXVIII Cowboys33Bills21312
1992XXVII Cowboys69Bills42927
1991XXVI Redskins55Bills21734
1990XXV Giants20Bills40-2-20
1989XXIV 49ers64Broncos30734
1988XXIII 49ers51Bengals21330
1987XXII Redskins73Broncos31642
1986XXI Giants41Broncos500-11
1985XX Bears56Patriots12844
1984XIX 49ers42Dolphins42000
1983XVIII Raiders33Redskins420-11
1982XVII Redskins42Dolphins12330
1981XVI 49ers24Bengals21303
1980XV Raiders44Eagles40404
1979XIV Steelers71Rams5302-2
1978XIII Steelers73Cowboys53220
1977XII Cowboys28Broncos12716
1976XI Raiders53Vikings40413
1975X Steelers43Cowboys30413
1974IX Steelers45Vikings12633
1973VIII Dolphins12Vikings201-12
1972VII Dolphins23Redskins02321
1971VI Cowboys33Dolphins31202
1970V Colts74Cowboys1736-3
1969IV Chiefs35Vikings31404
1968III Jets25Colts313-14
1967II Packers23Raiders401-23
1966I Packers31Chiefs41-1-10

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.