GameChangers Week 1 (09/07/14)

By John Ewing
GameChangers, a look at plays that impacted the outcomes of games around the NFL. 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.

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

Saints vs. Falcons

Atlanta beat New Orleans for just the fourth time in their last 17 meetings. The Falcons needed overtime and a pair of Matt Bryant +50-yard field goals, one as time expired in regulation and one in overtime, to win 37-34.

Atlanta safety William Moore set up the game winning field goal attempt when he stripped Marques Colston from behind on the Saints' second play of overtime. The fumble recovery increased the Falcons expected win probability from 48 percent to 76 percent.

Had Colston not fumbled, New Orleans ball on the Saints 33-yard line, fresh set of downs, Drew Brees and company would have been 59 percent likely to top their NFC South rivals.

Eagles vs. Jaguars

Philadelphia became the first team to win by 17 points after trailing 17-0 at halftime. The Eagles scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the third quarter and the defense, after giving up big plays in the first half, finished the game with a fumble recovery for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a spread (PHI -10.5) covering 34-17 win.

Aggressive play calling on fourth down was the difference in the game. The Jags opted to kick field goals on fourth and short twice in the second quarter, both were missed, while Philadelphia went for it on fourth and one in the third quarter from midfield and Darren Sproles scampered for a 49-yard touchdown.

How much did the conservative play-calling hurt the Jags?

With 11:09 left in the 2nd, the Jaguars kicked and missed a field goal on 4th and 2 from the Philadelphia 32 yard line. Jacksonville's expected win probability decreased from 65 percent to 60 percent after the miss. Had the Jags successfully converted the fourth down, Jacksonville would have been 80 percent likely to win.

On the Jaguars next possession the team sent Josh Scobee back on the field to attempt another field goal, this time on 4th and 4 from the Philadelphia 18 yard line. The chip shot was blocked and Jacksonville's expected win probability decreased to 73 percent. A first down would have made the Jags 88 percent likely to win.

There is risk in going for it on fourth down, but as we just saw there is no guarantee on field goals, even chip shots.

By the way, Sproles 49-yard touchdown run on fourth down was the largest play-to-play swing increasing the Eagles expected win probability from 13 percent to 35 percent trailing 17-7.

Bengals vs. Ravens

The Ravens took a 16-15 lead on an 80 yard catch and run touchdown by Steve Smith with just over five minutes left in the game. After that play, the Bengals were just 33 percent likely to win.

After blowing a 15 point lead, the Bengals needed a 77-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green to get a 23-16 win in Baltimore. The go ahead score came 48 seconds after Steve Smith's touchdown. Cincy's expected win probability increased to 97 percent.

Dolphins vs. Patriots

Trailing New England 20-10 at halftime, Miami only had a 14 percent chance of winning. The Dolphins scored 23 unanswered points in the 2nd half to rally for a 33-20 victory.

The Patriots had not lost a season opener since 2003 and this is the first time since Week 3 of 2012 that New England does not own a share of the AFC East lead.

Bills vs. Bears

Buffalo shocked Chicago in overtime 23-20. The Bills were outgained 427 to 360 in total yards but won the turnover battle. The Bears most critical error came at the hands of the face of the franchise.

Quarterback Jay Cutler threw across his body trying to fit a ball into a tight space late in the fourth, Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams caught Cutler's Brett Favre-like mistake. Williams' first career interception was the largest play-to-play swing increasing Buffalo's odds of winning from 24 percent to 62 percent.