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Here's How We'll Handle the Brett Favre Chatter: Interception Returns for Scores

With this ridiculous news that the Eagles may be interested in Brett Favre, I suppose it’s obligatory that I make reference to it. So, in honor of the patron saint of the int return, here’s a post about interception returns for touchdown (plus other types of non-offensive touchdowns and how often teams win when they get one).

This idea (well, without Favre reference) comes courtesy of Carrington Harrison from 610 sports radio, but you don’t have to work in radio, owe me money or be an immediate family member to suggest a topic.

I went back over the last decade, and here are the winning percentages when a team scores each type of non-offensive touchdown:

TOUCHDOWN TYPE W L WIN PCT
INTERCEPTION RETURN 415 103 0.801
MISSED FG RETURN 3 1 0.750
FUMBLE RETURN 168 77 0.686
BLOCKED PUNT RETURN 21 12 0.636
PUNT RETURN 90 53 0.629
BLOCKED FG RETURN 10 7 0.588
KICKOFF RETURN 87 70 0.554

 

Teams that have an interception return touchdown win about 80% of their games, while teams with a kickoff return win about 55%. Does this somehow mean that teams should strive for the former rather than the latter? No. It means that interception return touchdowns tend to occur with a team already in the lead, and they are correlated with victory, while we know that kickoff return touchdowns (with the exception of those starting the half) occur after the other team has just scored.

To illustrate this, here’s a breakdown of the score situation when the non-offensive touchdown occurred, showing the percentage of games when the scoring team already had the lead, when they took the lead with the non-offensive touchdown, and when they were still trailing after the score.

Touchdown Type already leading took lead/tied still trailing
INTERCEPTION RETURN 61.4% 30.5% 8.1%
MISSED FG RETURN 50.0% 50.0% 0.0%
FUMBLE RETURN 50.6% 16.7% 32.7%
BLOCKED PUNT RETURN 24.2% 45.5% 30.3%
PUNT RETURN 42.7% 44.1% 13.3%
BLOCKED FG RETURN 17.6% 47.1% 35.3%
KICKOFF RETURN 24.2% 49.0% 26.8%

 

Only 8.1% of interception return touchdowns over the last decade occur in situations where the intercepting team is down by 8 or more. Teams holding a lead force fewer throws and generate far fewer interception return opportunities. On the other hand, blocked punt returns, blocked field goal returns, and kickoff returns have occurred more often when the team is trailing by more than one score.

[photo via Getty, all data via pro-football-reference's touchdown game finder]

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