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    GameChangers Week 12 (11/24/14)

    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.

    Patriots vs. Lions


    The New England Patriots rolled the Detroit Lions 34-9 Sunday. Tom Brady threw for 349 yards and two touchdowns against one of the stingiest defenses in the league. The AFC East leading Patriots have now overpowered a division leader for the third straight week, beat Denver and Indianapolis in Weeks 10 and 11 respectively.

    The game-changing possession in this game occurred at the beginning of the second quarter. The Lions went conservative in a 7-3 game and kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line. The safe play, taking the points, actually lowered Detroit's expected win probability.

    One might argue that with an elite defense the Lions were justified in kicking the field goal. However, at that moment Detroit's offense had not scored a touchdown in five quarters (has now went two games without scoring an offensive touchdown) and they were facing one of the highest scoring teams in the NFL, the Lion's were going to need all the points they could get.

    Had Detroit went for it on fourth down and scored a touchdown, the Lions would have led 10-7 and it would have increased Detroit's expected win probability from 40 percent to 50 percent. Even if the Lions fail to score the touchdown, Detroit's expected win probability is slightly higher than kicking the field goal because it's still a one possession game and the Patriots have to drive 98 yards to score.

    Following the Detroit field goal, New England closed the first half with 17 unanswered points. The Patriots were 95 percent likely to win leading 24-6 after two quarters.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

    Broncos vs. Dolphins


    The Denver Broncos scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to rally for a 39-36 win over the Miami Dolphins Sunday afternoon. Peyton Manning threw four touchdowns and C.J. Anderson rushed for 167 yards and the go-ahead score.

    Miami controlled the first half and looked on the verge to add to its 21-10 lead when Denver faced a 3rd and 20 with less than a minute remaining in the half. Manning found Emmanuel Sanders for a 35-yard gain, giving the Broncos a first down deep in Dolphin territory. Three plays later Denver scored to cut Miami's lead to 21-17.

    Denver's expected win probability increased from 27 percent to 47 percent.

    Had Miami forced Denver to punt, the Dolphins would have been 75 percent likely to win with the ball and leading 21-10.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.



    Browns vs. Falcons


    Cleveland Highlights: Josh Gordon looked good in his return from suspension, Brian Hoyer overcame throwing three interceptions to lead a game winning drive in the final minute and Billy Cundiff connected on a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give the Browns a 26-24 victory. Cleveland's playoff hopes are still alive in a tough NFC North.

    Atlanta Lowlights: Poor clock management. Once again Mike Smith's late game decision making cost the Falcons a game. After blowing a game against Detroit by not running off enough time in the closing minutes it was déjà vu all over again.

    On Atlanta's final possession, with the ball on the Cleveland 35-yard line, inside kicker Matt Bryant's range, the Falcons needed to start thinking about running the clock. However, with less than a minute remaining Mike Smith called a timeout.

    The poor choice stopped the clock for Cleveland and saved the Browns a valuable timeout. On the next play, 3rd and 2, the Falcons compounded the mistake by trying to throw the ball. The incomplete pass once again saved the Browns a timeout.

    Atlanta took the lead on Bryant's 53-yard field goal but the inexplicable decisions by Mike Smith left Cleveland with 44 seconds and all three timeouts.

    When the Browns got the ball back, again with all three timeouts remaining, Cleveland had a 47 percent chance of winning. Had Cleveland spent two timeouts on Atlanta's previous possession, the Browns expected win probability would have decreased to 37 percent.

    10 percent might not seem like much but in a game of inches, or timeouts, every second matters.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.


    Chargers vs. Rams


    The San Diego Chargers picked off Shaun Hill in the end zone with a minute left to preserve a 27-24 victory. The Rams were 76 percent likely to win after getting a first-and-goal from the San Diego 6-yard line.

    With the Rams mere yards from another upset, had St. Louis not turned the ball over and instead tied the game with a field goal, would the Rams have won in overtime?

    Possibly. It all depends on which team gets possession first in the extra session. If the Chargers get the ball first then San Diego is 60 percent likely to win. The Rams would have been 55 percent likely to win in overtime if they got the first crack on offense.

    When a game is decided in the final minute with a turnover in the end zone, it is likely the outcome in overtime would be equally dramatic.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

    Cowboys vs. Giants


    If you haven't seen it yet, Odell Beckham Jr.'s catch was awesome!

    Unfortunately, that catch alone was not enough for the Giants to win the game. Tony Romo rallied Dallas from a 21-10 halftime deficit to lead a game-winning drive in the final minutes. Romo found Dez Bryant with 1:01 remaining to give Dallas a 31-28 victory.

    The New York Giants had an opportunity to tie or win the game with a minute of game time and three timeouts remaining. On the Giants final possession, facing a 4th and 2 from their own 28-yard line, Eli Manning connected with Rashad Jennings for a 2-yard gain picking up the first down. Replay officials challenged the first down ruling and the play was reversed.

    Had the call been upheld, the Giants would have had a 32 percent chance of winning the game with 40 seconds and two timeouts remaining.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.


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