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    GameChangers Week 13 (11/25/13)

    John Ewing, Director of Research and Analytics, @johnewing
    By John Ewing
    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. 

    Panthers vs. Buccaneers
     
    Riverboat Ron strikes again. Facing a 4th and goal from the Tampa Bay 1-yard line with 0:26 left in the first half, Rivera gets aggressive and goes for it once more. The announcer actually said, “Check the analytics, you got to take the points.” Well we checked the numbers and scoring a touchdown is always better than kicking a field goal, even if there is a chance you fail to convert.
     
    Cam Newton executed a quarterback sneak and dove for a touchdown increasing the Panthers odds of winning from 81.3% to 90.3%. A field goal would not have increased Carolina’s odds of winning since our projections take into consideration the high likelihood of the Panthers converting a short field goal.

    Redskins vs. Giants
     
    With less than two minutes remaining in the game, the Redskins trailing the Giants 24-17, a mistaken first down led to controversy. A 2nd-and-5 completion to Pierre Garcon to the Washington 45-yard line was ruled on the field as just short of the first down but the chains were moved indicating that Washington had a fresh set of downs to play with. The Redskins then attempted a deep pass down the middle of the field, which was dropped by tight end Fred Davis. After that play referee Jeff Triplette explained that officials had signaled a third down but that “the stakes were moved incorrectly.” The Redskins then faced a fourth down instead of having it 2nd-and-10.
     
    Prior to the 2nd-and-5 play Washington had a 7.5% chance of winning the game, they were without timeouts and on the wrong side of mid-field needing a touchdown to tie the game. Had that play been ruled a first down the Redskins’ chances of winning actually decrease to 5.1%, again the clock is running. Facing 4th-and-1 with 1:31 left to play Washington’s odds of winning are a minuscule 0.4%.
     
    The Redskins converted the 4th down only for the ball to taken out of the receivers hands for a turnover. A new set of downs would have given the Redskins a 3.3% chance of winning. Instead they lost the game and are now officially eliminated from the playoffs.
     
    Bears vs. Vikings
     
    Missed field goals and a premature celebration were all part of a wild overtime between the Bears and Vikings. It started with Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh who connected on a 39-yard field goal to win in overtime only for a penalty to wipe the score off the board. Prior to the penalty the Vikings were 84.3% likely to win, the penalty decreased Minnesota’s odds to 50.0%. Two plays later Walsh had another opportunity to win the game by kicking a 57-yard field goal. Before this game Walsh was 12 of 13 in his career on field goals of 50+ yards. Of course he missed the 57-yarder, the Bears became 86.0% likely to win after the miss given the good field position.
     
    Chicago’s kicker Robbie Gould then missed a 47-yard field goal of his own turning the ball back over to Minnesota. Chicago Head Coach Mark Trestman decided to kick the field goal on 2nd down instead of trying to gain more yards. Had the Bears picked up five more yards before attempting the kick their odds to win increase by at least 4%. The Vikings had a 13.8% chance of winning before Gould’s missed field goal but then their odds jumped to 73.5%.
     
    The Vikings quickly drove down the field with the help of Adrian Peterson to set up a 34-yard field goal that Walsh easily converted.
     
    Broncos vs. Chiefs
     
    The Chiefs got up early on Denver leading the Broncos 21-7 in the 2nd quarter. Kansas City was never greater than 75% likely to win despite the two-touchdown lead. Denver became the projected winner on Eric Decker’s second touchdown reception with 11:51 left in the 3rd.

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