GameChangers Week 4 (09/30/13)

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. 
Giants vs. Chiefs

The Giants are 0-4, which leaves a lot of room for second-guessing. Even some of the players are beginning to question Tom Coughlin’s decision making. Victor Cruz thinks the Giants should have gone for it on 4th and 1 from their own 30-yard line with 1:55 left in the 3rd quarter instead of punting. Of course what makes this more interesting is that the Chiefs returned the aforementioned punt for a touchdown all but guaranteeing the Kansas City win.
So should the Giants have gone for it? A successful conversion on 4th down would have increased the Giants chances of winning from 26.5% to 33.2%. Failing to convert on 4th down and turning the ball over to the Chiefs with prime field position would have lowered the Giants odds of winning from 26.5% to 11.1%. The risk of cutting your team's chances of winning in half is not worth the reward of increasing your win percentage by less than 7%. The punt return for a touchdown is merely an unlucky (some would say undisciplined) break for the Giants. 
Like Justin Tuck said, anyone who thinks Coughlin should have gone for it is “an idiot”.
Lions vs. Bears

With 6:09 left in the 2nd, Lions trailing 10-9, Matthew Stafford attempts a quarterback sneak from the Bears’ 1-yard line. As Stafford lurches toward the goal line he fumbles the sneak, the ball pops into the air but Stafford is able to recover it for a touchdown. The resulting score makes Detroit 73.1% likely to win. Two more quick scores for Detroit makes it 30-10 and the Lions become 93.4% likely to win.
Had the Bears recovered the Stafford fumble in the end zone it is Chicago’s ball 1st and 10 from the 20-yard line. Chicago, still projected to lose, at least has a 46.1% chance to win, which is a better spot than they were in after the sneak/fumble/touchdown.
Texans vs. Seahawks

With 2:51 left in the 4th, Texans are leading the Seahawks 20-13. Houston has the ball 3rd and 4 from the Seattle 40-yard line when Matt Schaub throws an ugly pick-six to tie the game. Prior to Schaub’s pick-six, his third in as many games, the Texans were 99.5% likely to win. After Richard Sherman returned the interception for a touchdown the Texans’ odds of winning dropped to 52.2%.
The decision by Schaub and the ensuing pick-six was the only result that turned the outcome of the game into a coin flip. Had Schaub’s pass fallen incomplete, the Texans could have attempted a 57-yard field goal or punted on 4th and 4. A made field goal improves the Texans’ chance of winning to 99.9%. A missed field goal, giving Seattle the ball on the Houston 47-yard line, which would have made the Texans’ 88.7% likely to win. A punt, most likely resulting in a touch back for the Seahawks, makes Houston 96.5% likely to win.