Everybody is always saying how the Saints love to pass the football, so I decided to see if the stats bear that out.  How does the Saints’ play selection compare with the rest of the league?  That’s the question this study attempts to answer.

Game situations do dictate play selection.  If you’re down on the scoreboard you need to pass to try to catch up.  If you’re up on the scoreboard you need to run to try to drain the clock.  But if you’re still passing more than average even when you’re up on the scoreboard, you’ve got a pass happy offense.

The following table is based on stats pulled from pfref.com for the 2016 season.  I filtered out all plays that were punts or field goals or kickoffs.  I only wanted plays that were run on 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th down and that were either runs or passes.  I didn’t care about down and distance, only thing I cared about was the scoring margin at the time the play was executed.  I looked at even scores, down by 3, up by 3, down by 7, up by 7, down by 10, up by 10, down by 14 or more, and up by 14 or more.  In all but one case, the Saints had a higher percentage of passing plays.

score margin NFL pass % Saints pass %
even score 56.40% 61.79%
down by 3 62.20% 65.15%
up by 3 54.40% 64.71%
down by 7 60.00% 62.58%
up by 7 53.80% 61.25%
down by 10 65.50% 67.90%
up by 10 52.10% 60.00%
down by 14 or more 72.90% 68.97%
up by 14 or more 44.20% 46.37%

And, a picture being worth a thousand words, here’s a handy dandy chart:


Data based on research done at pfref.com.