Expected Points for Super Bowl LI (02/06/17)

By Frank Brank @realfrankbrank


Super Bowl LI featured possibly the greatest quarterback and coach orchestrating the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick won their fifth Super Bowl together and continue to show dominance amongst the league. This game was not much different. We'll use our new metric, Expected Points, to evaluate the game.

Tom Brady and the Patriots were getting run out of the building following a pick six to make the game 21-0. They only stood a 9.2% chance to win at that point. After the Falcons opened the second half scoring with another touchdown, they found themselves leading by 25 points. That's all New England's defense would allow.

As Atlanta fell into prevent defense and was not able to move the ball or run clock into the second half, Brady and the Patriots offense made their move. A number of drops in the first half by the New England receivers really cost their offense some yardage. However, they were off and running in the second half, as one would have expected from the start.

Per Expected Points, we would have anticipated the Patriots win the game 72.4% of the time. The reasoning behind the difficulties for the Patriots were their turnovers that gave the Falcons short and nonexistent fields to score points.

LeGarrette Blount fumbled early, which was enough to phase him out of the game for Belichick. Brady followed with a pick six in the first half. The uncharacteristic mistakes by the Patriots put them in the unlikely hole before being dug out by the most accomplished quarterback of all time.

Atlanta was out-gained by more than two hundred yards (!!!) while the Patriots only committed 23 yards in penalties. The final score, per Expected Points, was anticipated to be 37.4 to 24.9 in favor of the Patriots. The margin was similar at 34 to 28, but it was a bit more difficult than the usual method.

The biggest swing on the Falcons' side of the ball was with only three minutes left in the game. At 2nd-and-long, leading by eight points, Matt Ryan was sacked. This created a 3rd-and-long that didn't necessarily need to be converted to put the game on ice. Ryan completed a pass to Mohammed Sanu short of the marker that was well within field goal range. However, a holding penalty brought the ball back. An incomplete pass and punt would follow. A few minutes later, the game was headed to overtime.

In all, the Patriots deserved to win the game, but they just made it a bit more difficult on themselves this time.