GameChangers Wild Card (01/04/15)

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.

Texans vs. Chiefs





Kansas City won its 11th straight game including the team's first playoff victory since 1993-94. The Chiefs rolled the Houston Texans 30-0 forcing five turnovers to advance to the divisional round.

Brian Hoyer had a bad day in the office. The Texans' quarterback did just about everything wrong (15-of-34 for 136 yards and four interceptions – a career high). For all his mistakes, the most egregious was an interception in the end zone late in the first half.

With the Chiefs leading 13-0, the Texans were facing a 2nd-and-goal from the 3-yard line with an opportunity to get back in the game. Hoyer tried to force a pass to running back Alfred Blue and was picked off by Kansas City linebacker Josh Mauga in the end zone. Houston's expected win probability fell to 13 percent after his fourth turnover of the first half.

Had Hoyer's pass been caught for a touchdown instead, the Texans' chance of winning jumps to 30 percent trailing 13-7 (assuming the extra point was good).

For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

Bengals vs. Steelers





The Pittsburgh Steelers won their first playoff game since 2010 in dramatic fashion. A game that appeared well in hand got interesting late in the fourth quarter. After trailing throughout the game, Cincinnati took its first lead, 16-15, with less than two minutes to play. The Bengals, a team that had less than a one percent chance to win at the start of the fourth quarter became 55 percent likely to win kicking off to Pittsburgh with the lead.

On the Steelers next play, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict intercepted Landry Jones, who was filling in for an injured Ben Roethlisberger. Cincinnati's expected win probability leaped from 55 percent to 92 percent. The joy wouldn't last long in the Queen City.

As Cincy tried to run out the clock, Jeremy Hill fumbled on the team's first play following the interception. Pittsburgh's expected win probability increased from 8 percent to 41 percent with the turnover.

Roethlisberger, returning from his shoulder injury, began to move the Steelers steadily down the field. Pittsburgh was in dire straits until a pair of personal fouls, one by Burfict for a hit on Antonio Brown and the other by Adam Jones, gave the Steelers the ball at the Cincinnati 17-yard line with 18 seconds to play. Chris Boswell kicked a 35-yard field goal with 14 seconds left to win the game.


The two penalties increased the Steelers expected win probability from 77 percent to 95 percent. Had only Burfict been penalized, Pittsburgh's expected win probability decreases to 85 percent but more importantly a 35-yard field goal turns into nearly a 50-yard attempt.

The Steelers remained composed, even with Roethlisberger injured, and the Bengals collapsed when it mattered most. Worst of all, the bizarre end to the game overshadows one of the best catches you will ever see. Martavis Bryant made a somersaulting catch for a touchdown in the end zone.


For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

Vikings vs. Seahawks





The Seattle Seahawks needed a missed 27-yard field goal by Blair Walsh with 26 seconds to play to hold on for a 10-9 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.



Russell Wilson rallied the two-time defending NFC Champions from a 9-0 fourth quarter deficit and a 13 percent chance to win. The most memorable moment from this game was a broken play that Wilson turned into magic.


The wild play increased the Seahawks win probability to 40 percent. Had Wilson been sacked, a play that could have cost Seattle at least 15 yards of field position and put the team on the other side of the 50-yard line, Seattle's win probability decreases to ten percent. Wilson's heroics increased the Seahawks chance of winning by four times

For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

Redskins vs. Packers





After a rough start (three punts and a safety on the team's first four drives), the Green Bay Packers thoroughly beat the Washington Redskins 35-18. Washington, which was 29th in defensive rushing efficiency, had no answer for the Packers on the ground. Green Bay rushed for 141 yards as a team. Eddie Lacy and James Starks each ran for a score helping the Cheeseheads pull away in the second half.

Washington looked like the better team early and might have won if only a few plays had gone differently. DeSean Jackson had a touchdown taken off the board in the first quarter after the receiver failed to break the plane of the goal line with what looked like an easy score. Washington had to settle for a field goal. Then later in the first half Washington missed an extra point after a Jordan Reed touchdown. At that point Washington led 11-0 and was 77 percent likely to win. Had the team taken advantage of all of its scoring opportunities, Washington leads 16-0 and is 88 percent likely to win.

In the end, it might not have been enough but time and time again, if you give a team an opportunity to beat you, they will.

For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.