GameChangers SB50 (02/07/16)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
Gamechanging plays from Super Bowl 50.



To highlight the Live ScoreCaster, we took our in-game technology, Live ScoreCaster, to the next level to review the game-changing plays from the Super Bowl and what the game would have looked like if the plays had turned out differently.

Click the header for each game to view the Game Breakdown for each matchup.

Broncos vs. Panthers

Peyton Manning won his second Super Bowl and Denver captured its third championship with a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers. The Broncos' defense dominated Cam Newton and the Panthers to win Super Bowl 50.

The NFL's No. 1 defense continually harassed Newton sacking the leagues' most valuable player six times forcing four turnovers and holding Carolina, the highest scoring offense, to just ten points – its' lowest total all year. Von Miller was named game MVP but the entire unit (+43.8 percent in net win probability) could have shared the award.

Here are the ten biggest plays the Denver defense made.

Qtr. Time Down Play Change Win%
1 6:28 3rd & 10 Newton sacked, fumbles, Denver recovers for a touchdown 15.5
3 10:48 4th & 11 G. Gano misses 44-yard field goal 11.8
3 5:51 2nd & 10 Newton pass intended for T. Ginn intercepted. Denver ball 1st & 10 at Broncos 7 11.5
2 6:34 1st & 10 M. Tolbert fumbles, Denver recovers at own 40-yard line 8.3
4 4:09 3rd & 9 Newton sacked, fumbles, Denver recovers at Carolina 4-yard line 8.2
3 5:57 1st & 10 Newton pass intended for Tolbert incomplete 4.8
1 1:12 1st & 10 J. Stewart rush for no gain 4.0
3 15:00 2nd & 10 Newton sacked at Carolina 45-yard line for ten yard loss 3.8
1 4:48 3rd & 8 Newton sacked at Carolina 30-yard line for eight yard loss 3.6
3 13:35 1st & 10 Newton pass incomplete, forced to throw the ball away to avoid sack 3.4

The Panthers could have won if…

…Mike Carey had been right about the first challenge of the game. The former NFL referee thought that a Newton pass to Jerricho Cotchery midway through the first quarter, which was bobbled, appeared to be caught. Ron Rivera, the Coach of the Year, agreed and quickly challenged the ruling on the field. The officials however upheld the initial call of the pass being incomplete even though it appeared the receiver maintained control of the ball.



Two plays later, Newton was strip sacked by Miller and the fumble was recovered by Malik Jackson for a touchdown in the end zone.


The fumble recovery for a touchdown was the biggest play of the game (+15.5 percent in expected win probability). Denver took a 10-0 lead and became 67.4 percent likely to win.

Had Rivera's challenge been good and Cotchery's catch stands, Carolina moves out of the shadow of its own end zone. Trailing 3-0 the Panthers would have become 51.1 percent likely to win.

Why didn't Newton dive for the ball?

Late in the fourth quarter Newton fumbled giving the Broncos the ball on the four yard line in what was still a one-score game. Denver would score the game-sealing touchdown four plays later. Many questioned why Newton, once the ball was fumbled, did not dive to recover the loose ball. There is no clear answer but what we do know is that even if the Panthers were able to retain possession, Carolina would have been greater than 90 percent likely to lose. The turnover hurt but the game was nearly decided before the play occurred.

For more GameChanging notes from this game click here.