GameChangers Week 1 (09/09/13)

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. 

Officiating Error: 49ers vs. Packers
The 49ers were beneficiaries of an extra 3rd down play in the second quarter due to an officiating error. With 9:02 left in the 2nd, Colin Kaepernick was hit out of bounds by Clay Matthews resulting in a personal foul. A scrum ensued and 49ers tackle Joe Staley received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The two fouls should have been offsetting resulting in a 4th down but San Francisco was mistakenly given another opportunity to convert 3rd and 6, which the 49ers did. Kaepernick’s touchdown pass put the 49ers up 14-7, making them 71.1% likely to win.
Had the correct call been made, 49ers ball 4th and 2 from the Packers 6-yard line and San Francisco converts the short field goal attempt, the 49ers become 64.5% likely to win.
Turnovers: Cowboys vs. Giants
Pump the breaks on Monte Kiffin and the new Dallas turnover machine. The Cowboys are not going to force six turnovers a game, they had just 16 in 16 games last year. They also are not going to recover every fumble in a game; fumble recoveries are nearly random and the Cowboys managed to recover all five in this game.
However, the Cowboys did take advantage of the Giants’ mistakes and none were more damning then the pick-six late in the 4th quarter. With 1:50 remaining in the 4th, Eli Manning is intercepted by Brandon Carr who returns it 49 yards for a touchdown putting the Cowboys up 36-24 and making Dallas 99.9% likely to win. Had Manning’s pass fallen incomplete the Cowboys are only 79.2% likely to win.
Had the Giants recovered the onside kick at the end of the game, New York would have had a 29.0% chance of winning. Not bad given that since 1990 teams with six turnovers in a game are 9-111.
The Cover: Panthers vs. Seahawks

With 5:25 left in the 4th, Carolina trailing Seattle 12-7, the Panthers are driving to take the lead when Earl Thomas forces a DeAngelo Williams fumble at the Seattle 8 yard line. The Seahawks take over possession and become 89.7% favorites to win. Had the Panthers recovered the fumble, 1st and goal from the 8-yard line, Carolina becomes 55.4% likely to win with a projected score of 15-12. Not only a cover, but an outright winner.
At the very least the Panthers settle for a gimme field goal making it 12-10. Seattle would be a 76.5% favorite to win but the Panthers would cover the 3.5 point spread.