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All-22 analysis: Buffalo Bills 2018 interceptions

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Are interceptions more often the result of luck, or a skill that can be replicated? Buffalo Rumblings dares to ask the tough questions!

The obsession with turnovers continues! We’ve already looked at the hard data and dove part of the way into the question of whether defensive players can reliably create more forced fumbles. So while we’re at it, let’s peruse the entire catalog of 2018 Buffalo Bills interceptions and see how much skill played a part over luck.


Method

Just like with forced fumbles, we turn to the All-22 video to classify the cause of all 16 interceptions that benefited the Buffalo Bills in 2018. As was the case before, if a play couldn’t be definitively attributed to a skill from a defensive player it was chalked up to luck. For interceptions I went with three types of skills that could be replicated or counted on with some consistency. Tipped passes, pressure interceptions, and interceptions that resulted from play awareness were considered skill-based.

Tipped passes

Tipped passes were considered skill based only if a member of the Buffalo Bills tipped the ball, like Tremaine Edmunds does here. It’s pretty wild how high up he goes in the passing lane with essentially no vertical at the point of contact. When an offensive opponent tipped the ball, it was chalked up to luck.

Pressure

Pressure interceptions resulted from bad passes caused by one or more of the Bills rattling the quarterback. Here Trent Murphy almost has the sack which causes Deshaun Watson to roll right. Lorenzo Alexander brings pressure as well and this pass is way off target.

Awareness

So called “awareness” interceptions generally include a component of luck. Most often it’s a semi-errant pass (errant passes were marked as “luck”). On this play for example the ball is a little further ahead of the receiver than you’d like to see. Since there’s a shot it’s caught if Taron Johnson doesn’t make a play on it we give credit to Johnson for seeing that the ball is off target and cutting off the receiver.

Luck

Most of the lucky breaks were nothing more than a terrible throw or decision from the quarterback. There’s really no reason this throw is that far and even less reason that it may as well have been aimed at Tre’Davious White all along.

The Results

The person ultimately intercepting the ball is not often the person creating the opportunity. This is in contrast to your forced fumble data which was strictly based on who created the opportunity. This led to a difference in the table, where the blue column is the player who caught the ball and the reddish columns indicate who created the opportunity.

Another contrast is that the most common cause of interceptions is luck with seven of the 16 attributed to this factor. Whether it was miscues by Tom Brady and his receivers, the Jaguars tripping over themselves to hand the ball over, or a very lucky bounce after a jarring Tremaine Edmunds hit, there were a lot of interceptions that simply can’t be called skill based.

I was surprised at the lack of interceptions that were tipped by the Bills. It was more common that an opponent’s butterfingers put the ball up for grabs. Buffalo will look to improve their pass rush which could help increase pressure based interceptions. Awareness picks could go up for similar reasons.

A lot more analysis would be needed to really get a handle on interceptions and their correlation to skill and technique. But the preliminary look suggests it’s just as good to be lucky as it is anything else.