NFL GameChangers: Week 2 Edition (09/17/17)

By Ryan Fowler

Cardinals at Colts: Indy's 4th/OT meltdown

The Situation

After Indianapolis blew a 13-3 fourth-quarter lead, the Colts and Cardinals were tied at 13 with three seconds on the clock and ball on Indy's 21-yard line. Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson missed a game-winning 42-yard attempt as time expired. On the first play of overtime, Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett tossed his first interception of the game inside his own 20.

The Take

A week after the Rams dropped 46 points on them, the Colts locked down the Cardinals depleted offense and possessed an 86.3%-win expectancy leading 13-3 with 7:48 remaining in the fourth quarter.

On the next play, Carson Palmer connected with J.J. Nelson whose 45-yard touchdown improved Arizona's odds of winning by 20 percent.

Fast-forward, game tied at 13 with three seconds remaining, and the Cardinals' win expectancy flipped to 89.4%. Dawson - who was 7-of-9 on field goals between 41-49 yards last season – pushed his kick right and Indy's win expectancy immediately flipped back to 62%.

On the first play of overtime, Brissett – who game managed the hell out of this contest – made his first mistake, tossing an interception to Tyrann Mathieu who was tackled inside the red zone. By spoon-feeding Arizona a turnover, the Cardinals win expectancy shot up to 99.3 percent four plays before Dawson connected on the game-winning field goal.

Arizona rallies to win 16-13 (OT).

Bills WR Andre Holmes OPI late-4th Quarter

The Situation

Trailing 9-3 and driving, Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor hit Andre Holmes for a 10-yard gain down to the Panthers 22-yard line with less than a minute to go. Holmes was flagged for offensive pass interference. Instead of 1st-and-10 from the CAR 22, it was 1st-and-20 from the CAR 42.

The Take

When you consider the Buffalo Bills finished with 176 total yards against the Panthers, a 10-yard gain by Holmes negated by an OPI is a huge deal.

Before that play, with Buffalo on Carolina's 32-yard-line, the Panthers had a win expectancy of 86.8 percent. If Holmes made the catch and reached the Carolina 22-yard-line without interfering, the Bills win expectancy would have improved to 51.6 percent. Four plays later, Tyrod Taylor overthrew Zay Jones who was open at the Panthers' five-yard-line and may have been able to crawl into the end zone for the game-tying score.

Carolina survives, 9-3.

Los Angeles Rams Fake Punt early-4th Quarter

The Situation

With the Redskins leading 20-17 early in the fourth quarter and the ball just over midfield on the Washington 45, the Rams faked a punt on 4th-and-6 and converted.

The Take

Although the Redskins ultimately ended up beating the Rams, this sequence is worth a closer look.

When Los Angeles faced 4th-and-6 from the Washington 45-yard-line with 10:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Redskins win expectancy was 67.1%. After punter Johnny Hekker floated a pass to rookie receiver Josh Reynolds for a 28-yard gain down to the Redskins' 17-yard-line, the game flipped and Rams win expectancy became 67.3%. By the time Greg Zuerlein booted a 40-yard field goal to tie the game at 20 with 7:16 remaining, the Rams win expectancy was 52.3%.

One simulation storyline tangent from that drive was the Rams were called for holding on 3rd-and-15 from the Washington 22-yard-line. The Redskins declined and the Rams kicked the field goal on fourth down. According to our simulation engine, had the Redskins accepted the holding and forced the Rams into 3rd-and-25 from the Washington 32-yard-line, the Redskins win expectancy improved 17 percent.

Whether or not they should have accepted the penalty turned out to be moot as the Redskins scored a touchdown on an ensuing 10-play drive.

Washington wins 27-20.