GameChangers Week 11 (11/10/14)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
To highlight the Live ScoreCaster, we will take our in-game technology, Live ScoreCaster, to the next level to review 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.

Broncos vs. Rams


The St. Louis Rams rocked the Denver Broncos Sunday afternoon upending the AFC West leaders 22-7. The Rams as 9.5 point underdogs became the projected winner early in the game.

The Broncos faced a 4th and 5 from the St. Louis 37-yard line late in the first quarter. Denver, in no man's land, decided to go for the first down instead of attempting a 50+ yard field goal or punting. Peyton Manning's pass fell incomplete and the Rams took over on downs.

On the next play, Shaun Hill found Kenny Britt for a 63-yard touchdown that gave St. Louis a 10-0 lead. The Rams' expected win probability increased from 34 percent to 53 percent.

Had Denver picked up the first down instead of turning the ball over, the Broncos would have become 75 percent likely to win with a fresh set of downs and trailing only 3-0.

For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

Seahawks vs. Chiefs


The Kansas City defense stopped Seattle on fourth and short on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter as the Chiefs beat the Seahawks 24-20. Kansas City is now tied with Denver with the best record atop the AFC West.

What if? That is the question Seahawks fans will ask themselves, what if Seattle had kicked field goals instead of going for it on fourth down late in the game, could the defending champions have won?

First, we cannot assume that the game would have played out as it did if Seattle kicks a field goal the first time it faced fourth a short in the final quarter (we cannot assume the Seahawks would have had an opportunity to win the game with a field goal later in the game). Instead let's examine if going for it on fourth down in both situations was the correct call.

Trailing 24-20 with less than eight minutes to play, was going for it on 4th and 2 from the Kansas City 2-yard line the correct call? When Seattle failed to score a touchdown, the Seahawks expected win probability decreased from 43 percent to 28 percent. Had the Seahawks kicked the field goal, Seattle would have still been the projected loser. However, if Seattle scores the touchdown, the Seahawks become 67 percent likely to win leading 27-24.

Failure on fourth down would have decreased Seattle's expected win probability by 15 percent while scoring the touchdown would have increased the Seahawks odds of by winning by nearly 25 percent. Going for it was the correct call.

Trailing 24-20 with less than four minutes to play, was going for it on 4th and 1 from the Kansas City 36-yard line the correct call? I think everyone, even the casual fan, would agree that going for it trailing late in the fourth quarter is the correct call. The numbers agree as well.

Failing to pick up the first down decreased Seattle's expected win probability by less than ten percent. Moving the chains and having four more downs to take the lead would have increased the Seahawks' odds of winning by more than 20 percent.

While the results were not positive for Seattle, going for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter, both times, was the correct call.

For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

Falcons vs. Panthers


The Atlanta Falcons held off the Carolina Panthers to win 19-17 Sunday. The Falcons are 4-6 and are tied for first place in the NFC South, but Atlanta holds the tiebreaker with the Saints after beating New Orleans in Week 1.

The Panthers had opportunities to win the game, especially late but conservative play calling may have cost Carolina a chance at the victory.

Trailing 19-17 with less than two minutes to play, Carolina had a first down on the Falcons 32-yard line. The Panthers became 90 percent likely to win.

Carolina needing only a field goal to win ran the ball three consecutive times up the middle gaining just four yards. The Panthers settled for a 46-yard field goal to take the lead.

Before the field goal attempt, because of predictable play calling, Carolina's expected win probability had decreased from 90 percent to 47 percent. Following Graham Gano's missed 46-yard field goal the Panthers' chance of winning dropped to eight percent.

For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

49ers vs. Giants

The San Francisco 49ers won their second straight road game beating the New York Giants 16-10 thanks to a horrible performance from Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

Manning led the NFL with 27 interceptions in 2013. We projected Manning to lead the league in interceptions thrown for the second straight season coming into this year.

With five interceptions thrown against San Francisco, Manning is making a late season push to make our prediction come true. The five picks cost the Giants 58.9 percent in expected win probability over the course of the game.

For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.