What the Colts winning on Monday night despite a 3-to-1 time of possession disadvantage tells us:

Something I’ve figured for a while, and never 100% gotten about NFL conventional wisdom: Time of possession doesn’t mean as much as you think it does.

Having a low time of possession could mean that you’re not moving the ball and getting first downs as much as the other team… or it could mean you’re moving it faster and scoring in less time, while the other team has to plod slowly down the field. The Colts won because they could go bang-bang-bang-end zone while the Dolphins played the way most average teams play, working methodically and slowly but surely moving towards the end zone.

At some point, low time of possession becomes a sign of an efficient offense, not a bad one. And you could argue that other stats, like first downs, have a similar problem. The Colts won because they didn’t hold the ball for very long, not in spite of it.

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