Did you know Cleveland quarterback Luke McCown has a 147.3 passer rating when he is throwing to his left, but a rating of 23.0 when throwing to his right or the middle of the...

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Did you know Cleveland quarterback Luke McCown has a 147.3 passer rating when he is throwing to his left, but a rating of 23.0 when throwing to his right or the middle of the field?

Did you know Atlanta running back T.J. Duckett has by far the league’s best “stuff rate” — meaning he almost never gets tackled behind the line of scrimmage?

Did you know coach Norv Turner’s Oakland Raiders have run a mere 33.3 percent of the time, and that only the run-and-shoot Houston Oilers and Atlanta teams of the early 1990s ran less?

If you knew any of those factoids, you probably learned them from STATS Inc., a sports statistical-analysis company that is based near Chicago and has a 13-person staff in Los Angeles that works directly with its television clients.

STATS crunches league numbers the way San Francisco quarterbacks have been crunched over the past four weeks (21 times, the most over any four-game span in team history). They generate game notes, research support, graphics, editorial content and trivial curiosities the way Philadelphia generates victories on national television (it has won 15 of its last 16 prime-time games).

“Numbers tell a story about sports,” said Don Zminda, vice president and director of research for the company, which analyzes statistics of college football and basketball, and the major pro sports. “But to tell a deeper story, you need deeper numbers.”

The company analyzes statistics for network television. Several NFL teams subscribe to the service, among them the Eagles, Green Bay and Kansas City, although Elias Sports Bureau is the official league statistician.

Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil, a staunch advocate of using statistics to formulate game plans, keeps a three-ring binder of updated league stats within arm’s reach throughout the week. The binder has 400 to 500 pages, and it includes every conceivable football stat and situation — all gleaned from the STATS database. What formation do the Atlanta Falcons use most frequently in third-and-one situations? It’s in Vermeil’s book.

Which cornerback has given up the most long passes in the past three weeks? Ditto.

Although some STATS employees have advanced math degrees, they are also informed sports junkies who need to pass a sports quiz as part of the job-application process.

“You can find the guy who can sit in the bar and answer the trivia questions, and you can find great programmers,” said Steve Vanderpool, STATS director of operations. “But the tough part is finding the person who can do both.”


• Despite a knee injury that ended his season, running back Priest Holmes of the Kansas City Chiefs said he is “definitely 100 percent” planning to be back for 2005.

“In terms of next year, I’m excited because of the fact that it gives me an opportunity to heal up and start preparing for the 2005 season,” said the 31-year-old Holmes, who was leading the league in rushing and scoring when he strained ligaments in his right knee at Tampa Bay on Nov. 7.

• Washington running back Clinton Portis was fined $5,000 by the league for wearing a pair of red socks last week, violating the league’s uniform rules. He wore red socks instead of the team’s usual white in Sunday’s 31-7 victory over the New York Giants.

Portis gained 148 yards on 31 carries. After the game, he predicted he would be fined, but said he had to make the change in socks because “if you’re not looking sweet, you really can’t play too sweet.”

Rookie safety Sean Taylor, Portis’ friend, also wore red socks and also was fined $5,000. Taylor was fined an additional $7,500 for unnecessary roughness during a play that resulted in a roughing-the-passer penalty in the fourth quarter.

• Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair sat out another practice with a bruised sternum, but coach Jeff Fisher said the injury is healing.

Fisher said McNair, listed as questionable on the injury report, will be a “game-time decision” before Monday night’s kickoff with Kansas City.

• Ex-Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe, in commentary on Sirius satellite radio, criticized Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer and said team owner Pat Bowlen should “look deep into” firing coach Mike Shanahan.

“I can’t understand,” Sharpe said. “What does Mike see in Jake? He takes chances with Jake that he never took with John Elway. If that mystic of Mike thinks he’s that good of a coach that he could take a guy that’s mediocre, average at best, and make him into something that he’s never going to be …

“Jake Plummer is what he is. He is who he is. If you take a grizzly out of the wilderness and put him in the zoo, he is still a grizzly. Changing his habitat doesn’t change who or what he is.”