Digging Deeper Into The Magic Number Stat That Browns GM Michael Lombardi Taunts

Joe Fortenbaugh of the National Football Post had an interesting breakdown Tuesday morning of a stat Cleveland Browns general manager Michael Lombardi likes to rely on that encompasses total rushes and total completions by a team over the course of a regular season as it relates to winning percentage and teams making the playoffs. Fortenbaugh\’s conclusion is that the magic number over a course of a season is an average of 50 or more when the total rushes are added to the total completions and divided by the amount of games.

This stat certainly is interesting, but I wanted to look at from several different angles as it relates to not only the Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 season, but by game by game across the league in addition.

In the 512 games played last year, there were 228 instances when a team had a magic number of 50 more in a game, and those teams had a combined record of 153-73-2 (67.1%) in those games. Keep in mind that there were 54 games that both teams had a magic number of 50 or greater, and those games are included in that record. However, when a team had a magic number of 50 or greater, and they held their opposition to less than 50, those teams had a combined record of 127-47 (73%).

Now, let\’s throw out the magic number for a minute and look at straight differential of that stat in the head to head games from 2012. When one team had 9 or more combined rushing attempts and completions than their opposition did the combined records came out to be 113-29-1 (79%).

If you want to look at a real magic number, you can use 42. Last season, when a team held its opponent to 42 or less combined rushing attempts and completions, and they put up more than 42 themselves; the combined record was 102-21 (82.9%). That\’s a better winning percentage than the TOX Stat that I like to track every year.

So what about the Steelers last season? Offensively they averaged 47.9 combined total rushes and completions a game and that is of course 2.1 less than the magic number of 50 that Fortenbaugh points to. However, defensively the Steelers only allowed a 43.1 average in 2012, and that was the best in the league.

While it\’s obvious the loss of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to injury pretty much killed the season, it is even more obvious when you consider that through their first nine games of the season the Steelers offense was averaging 51.3 combined rushes and completions per game. Over the course of the final seven games, the offense averaged 43.4 combined rushes and completions per game and 45.3 in the three games that he missed.

So how important is the magic number of 50 to the Steelers since Roethlisberger was drafted? You might be surprised to know that the Steelers only hit the 50 number once over the course of the last nine seasons and that happened during Roethlisberger\’s rookie season.

I think the real magic in this stat lies in the differential more than it actually does with the number 50, but I do intend on diving deeper into it in 2013 as I feel it will be worth tracking.

2012 Steelers Offensive & Defensive Sum Of Passes Completed & Rushing Attempts By Week

1at DENL, 19 – 312622482719462
2NYJW, 27 – 1028245222103220
3at OAKL, 31 – 3420365621244511
5PHIW, 16 – 143022522320439
6at TENL, 23 – 26222446222547-1
7at CINW, 24 – 1729275621143521
8WASW, 27 – 1227245121163714
9at NYGW, 24 – 2035215622103224
10KCW, 16 – 13291645351146-1
11BALL, 10 – 132718452320432
12at CLEL, 14 – 20202040341751-11
13at BALW, 23 – 2026255121163714
14SDL, 24 – 34172239362157-18
15at DALL, 24 – 27172441213051-10
16CINL, 10 – 133114451624405
17CLEW, 24 – 10281543262248-5

Sortable 2012 NFL Regualr Season Offensive & Defensive Sum Of Passes Completed & Rushing Attempts


Steelers Offensive & Defensive Sum Of Passes Completed & Rushing Attempts (2004-2013)


  • Matt Searls

    I’m confused

  • TJimmy

    Dave, forget the TOX and Lombardi formulas. The winning formula, hands down, is looking up the statistics on which team scored the most points in a given game.

    The team with the most points wins every time, I’ve found.

  • Brendon Glad

    It shouldn’t be taunted, but it does seem somewhat like a “forced-stat”. Because you can’t really address it and improve with it.
    Unlike a stat like, say, turnovers. When you have too many turnovers, and don’t force any…you can pinpoint it and address it. This one seems like it is more of a helpless stat. Because you ALWAYS want more successful plays than the other team…and you can’t win the running plays statistic unless you are somewhat “controlling” the game (at least on one side of the ball).
    So even though all stats are merely facts about the past put into numeric combinations…I kind of think this particular stat will always be correct…but never be something a team could actually use to garner improvement.

  • Brendon Glad

    Sometimes I see coaches get attacked on the more common stat of “X amount of running plays equals a win”. So certain coaches like, say, an Andy Reid would get lambasted in Philly by media and fans by people who would take the simple approach and say “DUDE!!!When you run it 25 times you win…when you don’t you lose!” And I think some of Steelers Nation falls into that too, at times.

    And while I DO think that Andy Reid/Arians/Haley may get a little pass-happy…I also believe that it’s not that simple. Because when you are getting consistently beaten on the OL, it makes everything far more difficult (unless you have a Jerome Bettis, who almost always got you 1 or 2 even with 3 OL losing their individual battle.)
    So, in a nutshell, the greatest coaches DO find a way to somehow stick with the run even in the worst circumstances…in fact coaches like Reid (whom I consider Very good, not great), possibly gets hurt by his vast understanding of OL play. He probably watches that the closest, and so he may lose confidence…as in “well my RG and RT are completely overmatched by their guys at the point of attack…so I’m going to have to protect them all game”.

    I think if I were offered an OC job…my best method of keeping the running game involved while losing the battle up-front would be to incorporate the running game back into the 3rd and 3 through 3rd and 6 game. I think it is a forgotten strategy that would infuriate fans every time it failed…but much like a great poker player usually loses at least 1-2 bluff hands per tournament…the fact that my opponent would always know that I DO run sometimes on 3rd and 3-6 would benefit my offense in the long run.
    Unpredictability is usually good. My chief beef of Arians was that he always ran on first and goal. My favorite thing about Haley was that he didn’t pigeonhole himself into that. I predict the offense will be excellent this year as long as they can cut the “injury time missed” significantly.

  • Madi

    Does anybody else think we should not be listening to Michael Lombardi?

  • steves

    When you run successfully getting 3.5 yards each play which is a 1st down every 3rd play. Controling the clock demorilizes teams. It keeps offenses off the field. Putting in a pass play every so often, keeps teams “Honest” and forses them from putting all their players up and “In the box” in fear of the home run.
    Passing all the time does not work. It takes very little time off the clock and 3 things can happen and 2 of them are bad. (Drop, intercept and catch). “Air Coryell” would score 50 but give up 52. Yes it was exciting to non football folks, but us football people love 13-10 games that are defensive battles.
    Dave the 50 number is a good measure of a teams winning percentage. As Brendon said above, you also have to add turnovers. Steelers won the SB in 2009 and 2006 and both years their numbers were below 50 and in 2004 they had above 50 numbers and were not in the SB.

  • steeltown


  • steeltown


  • Rob

    Gold star for the ultimate metric.

  • Don

    Once again, numbers are SOOOOOO much fun. But there’s only 2 that matter, (unless you’re a player’s agent) : score at end of game, and won-lost record at end of season. Oh yeah, and the final score of the final game of the year. That’s the real biggy.