GameChangers Week 15 (12/16/13)

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. 
 
Packers vs. Cowboys
 
The Cowboys blew a 23-point halftime lead as the Packers rallied to match the biggest comeback in franchise history. Green Bay was aided by two Tony Romo interceptions in the final three minutes. The first of which gave the Packers the opportunity to take their first lead of the game.
 
Dez Bryant made a diving effort to pick up a first down just before the two minute warning that looked to seal the game for the Cowboys. With Dallas leading 36-31, Romo threw an interception that lowered the Cowboy’s odds of winning from 90.1% to 67.2%.
 
Let's assume that Romo doesn’t throw the interception and that the Cowboys run the ball on 3rd down to burn the clock but do not pick up a first down. Under that scenario Dallas punts the ball back to Green Bay with approximately two minutes remaining. The Cowboys net 39.5 yards on an average punt so the Packers would start with the ball at their own 25-yard line (give or take). Had this sequence of events played out, the Packers odds of winning decrease from 32.8% to 21.5%.
 
Stats that hurt:
  • Leading by 23 points at halftime, Dallas was 94.4% likely to win.
  • Dallas had a 46.3% chance of winning before Romo's last INT with Dallas trailing 37-36. 
Dolphins vs. Patriots
 
Will the Patriots trail at any point in the second half vs. the Dolphins and come back to win the game? Prop courtesy of Bovada.lv.
Yes:  EVEN  
No:  -140    
 
New England had mounted second-half comebacks to win their last three games and had a chance again with less than two minutes against Miami trailing 24-20. After the Dolphins kicked off New England had a 14.5% chance of winning and actually became 50.7% likely to win when they got a first down on the Miami 19-yard line before their rally stalled.
 
The real GameChanger occurred after the Patriots took a 20-17 lead with four minutes left in the 4th. Stephen Gostkowski’s ensuing kickoff went out of bounds allowing Miami to start at the 40-yard line. Miami became 38.2% likely to win after the Patriots’ penalty. Had Gostkowski kicked it out of the back of the end zone, Miami’s odds of winning would have decreased to 27.1%.
 
Rams vs. Saints
 
The Rams jumped on the Saints early and before the 1st quarter was over St. Louis was up 14-0. With a below average offense, a two touchdown lead against the Saints is not an insurmountable lead. As such, it was wise for St. Louis to attempt to gain an extra possession. Surprise onside kicks work about 55% of the time. The Rams successful onside kick recovery increased their odds of winning to 74.5%. Had the Rams kicked off their odds of winning would have been 65.1%.
 
Bears vs. Browns
 
With 10:59 left in the 4th quarter, Bears facing 3rd and 11 from the Browns 45-yard line, Cleveland was 83.6% likely to win leading Chicago 24-17. Jay Cutler threw what looked to be his third interception into double coverage only to have Alshon Jeffery save him with a fantastic catch for a 45-yard touchdown. Chicago’s odds of winning increased to 48.4%. Had Cleveland intercepted Cutler’s pass (Cleveland lost Joe Haden to injury earlier in the 3rd quarter) the Browns would have been 90.2% likely to win.

Cardinals vs. Titans
 
How quickly can one game change?
  • With 1:34 left in 4th, Arizona leading 34-24 and Tennessee facing a 3rd and 10, the Cardinals were 99.8% likely to win.
  • With 0:47 left in 4th, the Titans kicked a field goal to make it 34-27, they needed a successful onside kick and then to drive at least 50 yards to tie the game. Tennessee had a 2.6% chance of winning.
  • In overtime, the Titans have it 1st and 10 at the Arizona 43 yard line, Tennessee is 75.6% likely to win.
  • On the next play Ryan Fitzpatrick is intercepted and the Cardinals become 70.8% likely to win.