The Scoop on Stats - Super Bowl Edition
In the days leading into January's BCS National Championship, we posted a statistical study to see if any past trends would tell us whether Alabama or Notre Dame would come out on top. Turns out Alabama not only won the game, but every single statistic, along with anything else that could be won on that Monday night.
We're trotting out this exercise again for Sunday's Super Bowl, this time looking back at the last 13 Super Bowls.
Scoring first: 7-6. Like its college counterpart, denting the scoreboard first accounts to nothing better than a coin flip in determining who will have the most points when the final gun sounds.
WHO THIS FAVORS: No one. A stat that's been a toss-up in the past has also been a toss-up throughout these teams' seasons. The 49ers have scored first in 10 of their 18 games, and the Ravens broken the goose egg first in 10 of their 19 games.
Leading at halftime: 9-3-1. A halftime lead was a rock-solid indicator of victory until the Giants (in both wins over the Patriots) and the Saints overcame halftime deficits to win. It is worth noting, though, that all three comebacks featured deficits of four points or fewer.
WHO THIS FAVORS: Push. Each squad has led at the half 11 times this season.
Leading after three quarters: 9-3-1. The same three games as above all featured the winners trailing after three quarters. Once again, the largest deficit overcame was four points.
WHO THIS FAVORS: San Francisco, slightly. The 49ers have taken the lead into the final frame 13 times in 18 games, while Baltimore has done the same 12 times in 19 games.
Non-offensive touchdowns: 6-0. In the six recent Super Bowls where one team has gained an advantage through non-offensive touchdowns, that team has never lost.
WHO THIS FAVORS: Baltimore. Each team has allowed the same number of non-offensive touchdowns, and the Ravens have notched six of their own, compared to San Francisco's four.
Winning the rushing battle: 10-3. This statistic had been on a nine-game winning streak until the Colts (in their loss to the Saints) and the Steelers (in their loss to the Packers) bucked the trend.
WHO THIS FAVORS: San Francisco, huge. The 49ers ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing offense and rushing defense, while Baltimore ranked 11th and 20th, respectively.
Forcing more turnovers: 9-1-3. The Seahawks, in their 2006 loss to the Steelers in Super Bowl XL, are the only team in recent history to win the turnover battle but lose the game.
WHO THIS FAVORS: Push. In the regular season, each team forced 25 takeaways and committed 16 giveaways.
Total yards: 7-6. Also similar to the BCS National Championship, accumulating more gross yardage typically has no bearing on the outcome of the game.
WHO THIS FAVORS: Baltimore. San Francisco ranks ahead of the Ravens in total offense and total defense, so the fact that this statistic has historically been a wash favors Baltimore.
Sacks: 7-3-3. This statistic had traditionally been a perfect indicator of who would win the game, but the last three teams to register the most sacks have actually gone on to lose the game.
WHO THIS FAVORS: Push. The 49ers created 38 sacks in the regular season, one ahead of Baltimore's 37. But 49ers quarterbacks were sacked 41 times, compared to Baltimore's 38. If very recent history is an indicator, this is a stat you don't want to win. The team that has forced the most sacks has actually lost the last three Super Bowls.
First Downs: 6-7. The team with the most first downs has lost five of the last seven Super Bowls.
WHO THIS FAVORS: Baltimore. Each team has proven to be equally proficient at creating first downs, while the 49ers are better at preventing them (17.8 first downs per game allowed, compared to Baltimore's 20.4). But, using the same logic as above, the history of this statistic equating to nothing more than a coin flip helps Baltimore.
Final note: As Hank Stram's Super Bowl System told us earlier in the week, San Francisco rates ahead of Baltimore in almost every metric. However, recent history of the Super Bowl has also taught us that, in a 60-minute setting, what you have done leading up to Super Bowl Sunday may not matter once the game is underway.
In a game like this, a big punt return or a key interception can wipe out any perceived disadvantage. More than anything else, though, the team that can win in three phases: the ground game, creating non-offensive touchdowns and eliminating turnovers while forcing a few of their own, usually ends up mattering the most when the final gun sounds.