NFL GameChangers: Week 10 Edition (11/14/16)
The Situation: At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Chargers trailed the Dolphins 21-17. At the time, the Chargers had a 63.5% chance to win the game as the ball sat at Miami's two-yard line. Rivers was intercepted and their chances of winning flipped by more than 30%, down to 33%. As the Chargers defense got a stop, Rivers entered Miami's side of the field yet again. With the ball at the 30-yard line and only seven minutes to go, the Chargers yet again held the advantage at 57.1% to win. Byron Maxwell intercepted Rivers and drastically hurt the Chargers' odds which fell to just 16.2%. After all of that, Rivers had yet another chance to win the game. Knowing his resiliency, Rivers got the ball back again down four. Rivers completed a 51-yard catch and run for a touchdown to Tyrell Williams. The Dolphins were able to drive and tie the game with a field goal which gave Rivers some time to win the game. With just over a minute left in the fourth quarter, Rivers drove into the Miami side of the field just needing a field goal to win and about ten yards to get into field goal range. Linebacker Kiko Alonso jumped under a stop route by Tyrell Williams and returned it to the end zone with no one in front of him. The Chargers shockingly went from an 85.8% chance to win to 3.1%.
The Take: Philip Rivers is a great quarterback. Philip Rivers has a good chance to make the Hall-of-Fame. Philip Rivers also cost the Chargers a win this week. Collectively, he wins the Chargers more games than he'll ever cost them. However, Miami had a good game plan, jumped a couple routes, and made Rivers and the Chargers pay.
The Situation: To keep the turnover theme going, let's look at the Panthers fourth-quarter woes. Inside of 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs sent an all-out blitz on Cam Newton on third down. Newton threw a ball off his back foot with pressure in his face to Greg Olsen that floated long enough for Eric Berry to jump in front to intercept it. Berry is a great returner and showed off his skills to return it for a touchdown. The Chiefs had just a 1.3% chance to win down 17-6 late in the game without the ball. After the defensive score, their odds jumped slightly to 21.3%. The Chiefs eventually went on to tie the game at 17-17 before the Panthers got the ball back with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the ball deep in their own end. Mysteriously, the Ron Rivera decided to take a chance to move the ball instead of taking the game to overtime. Newton completed a pass to Kelvin Benjamin when Marcus Peters flat-out stole the ball out of his hands and stepped out of bounds inside the Carolina 25-yard line. In about ten minutes time, the Chiefs went from a 1.3% chance to win to 94.2% due to a couple huge turnovers. Santos would go on to kick the game-winning field goal.
The Take: This game was a microcosm of the Panthers season thus far. Having a little bit of Super Bowl hangover from their loss last year, their offense and defense have taken steps back. The Chiefs are somehow flying under the radar again. They were a bit fortunate this week to come out on top; however, they've now won 17 of their last 19 regular season games going back to last year. They started 2-2 this year and have since rallied off five straight. In a relatively weak AFC, they could make another run into the playoffs while leading the best division in football thus far.
The Situation: The Cowboys trailed 30-29 in Pittsburgh with just 42 seconds left in the game. Dak Prescott would need another improbable drive to give Dan Bailey a shot to win the game in a notoriously tough stadium to kick field goals. As they started the drive, the Cowboys only had a 33.1% chance to win the game. However, Dak completed a few medium passes to Jason Witten and Cole Beasley to swing the odds in their favor. With a timeout and the ball around midfield, Prescott completed yet another pass to Jason Witten in the middle of the field where the Cowboys would need to spend their last timeout. As Witten was stood up at the Steelers 47-yard line, Ross Cockrell locked onto Witten's facemask and cost his team an additional fifteen yards. On that play alone, the Cowboys went from outside of field goal range with 15 seconds left and no timeouts to the Steelers 32-yard line. The Cowboys stood a 68.6% chance to win to 83.2%. In an attempt to run down the clock and get a few yards closer, Ezekiel Elliott got a carry that he ended up breaking into the Steelers' secondary and eventually the end zone to win the game.
The Take: The Steelers and Cowboys played the game of the year in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon. It seemed like the team that had the ball last would stand the best chance to win. This proved to be true but it was aided quite a bit by Cockrell's facemask penalty. The Cowboys are now sitting at 8-1 with their rookie backfield supplying an extremely efficient offense. The Steelers are now on the underside of .500 at a 4-5 record. The AFC North was nearly crowned to the Steelers at the beginning of the year but injuries and a shaky defense has given the Bengals and Ravens an equal chance to win the North.