GameChangers, a look at plays that impacted the outcomes of games around the league. If you have a suggestion for a GameChanger please direct all ideas via twitter to @johnewing.
To highlight the Live ScoreCaster, we will take our in-game technology, Live ScoreCaster
, to the next level to review three of the game-changing plays from the NFL and what the game would have looked like if the plays had turned out differently.
Saints vs. 49ers
A sack and a fumble forced by Ahmad Brooks was recovered by Patrick Willis for San Francisco late in the 4th quarter as the 49ers led 20-17. A personal foul was called that negated the fumble recovery for San Francisco as Brooks hit Drew Brees in the head and neck area. The Saints retained possession and the 15-yard penalty was enforced from the spot of the foul.
Before that play the Saints were 42.8% likely to win, after the penalty New Orleans odds of winning increased to 59.1% having the ball 1st and 10 at the 49ers 30-yard line.
Had the personal foul not been called, San Francisco’s ball at the 45-yard line, the 49ers would have become 95.2% likely to win.
Broncos vs. Chiefs
Should the Chiefs have tried an onside kick with 4:56 left in the game after they cut Denver’s lead to 10 points? Yes! After Kansas City scored, Denver was still 99.0% likely to win. The Broncos had been 99% likely to win for most of the 4th quarter. When Kansas City kicked deep the Broncos expected win percentage increased to 99.7%.
Had Kansas City known they were greater than 99% likely to lose they might have attempted an onside kick. There would have been no downside to failing to recover said kick, as Denver was already over 99% likely to win. A successful onside kick would have increased the Chiefs’ odds of winning to 3.2%. That is not great but it is better than the Ravens’ odds (1.4%)
of beating the Broncos before their Hail Mary in last year’s playoffs.
Lions vs. Steelers
The Lions entered the 4th quarter leading 27-23. Detroit had a chance to increase their advantage to a touchdown with a short field goal early in the quarter but the Lions opted to run a fake. A direct snap to Sam Martin failed as the holder fumbled attempting to pick up the needed 5 yards.
Let's ignore the decision to run a fake and analyze whether going for it was the proper decision regardless of the outcome. Prior to the fake Detroit was 83.8% likely to win. After failing to convert their fake field goal the Lions’ expected win percentage dropped to 76.4%.
Had the Lions kicked a field goal their odds of winning would have been 81.5% leading 30-23. Had the Lions picked up the 1st down their odds of winning increase to 90.9% with four more cracks at the end zone. Had the fake produced a touchdown, the Lions’ odds of winning increase to 92.8%.
In a vacuum, kicking a field goal did not help Detroit as they were already leading by four points so the Steelers would need to score a touchdown to win the game. A first down or a touchdown would have significantly improved the Lions’ chances of winning but running a fake field goal seems like a poor decision when you have Megatron at your disposal.