Investors have a very good picture of how companies' profits shaped up during the third quarter. It's just that some were much prettier than others.

There are 15 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index, including real-estate firm Prologis (PLD), offshore driller Ensco (ESV) and memory card maker SanDisk (SNDK) that beat analysts' earnings expectations by a whopping 30% or more during the third quarter, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ.

Seeing such definitive earnings beats has been critical to keeping the bull market alive. More than half the companies in the S&P 500 have reported quarterly results, and they're much improved from what investors were fearing.