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    GameChangers (01/25/16)

    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.

    Broncos vs. Patriots

    Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are headed to Super Bowl 50. Manning threw for two touchdowns but it was the Broncos defense that won the day.

    Tom Brady took 23 hits, he hadn't taken more than 12 in a game this season (per ESPN Stats & Info). It was also the most any quarterback has taken this season. Denver had four sacks and intercepted Brady twice, plus picked off a two-point try with 12 seconds left to win the game 20-18. New England had a 36 percent chance to win before the two-point attempt.

    Had the Pats tied the game and forced overtime, Denver would have been 60 percent likely to win.

    The Patriots had to go for two because Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point in the first quarter (snapping a string of 523 straight makes).

    At the time, the missed extra point cost New England one percent in expected win probability. In the end it forced the Patriots to go for two and the team wasn't able to convert.

    The Patriots could have won if…

    If you consult Twitter you know that New England could have won the game if they simply kicked a field goal with six minutes to play trailing 20-12 (because the extra three points would have been the difference in a game decided by two). Instead, the Pats went for it on 4th-and-1 and failed to convert.

    Regardless of the outcome, was going for it the smart play?

    New England's expected win probability dropped to two percent after failing to convert on fourth down. Had the attempt been successful, the Patriots then would have had a 17 percent chance to win.

    If the team had kicked a field goal making the score 20-15, the Patriots would have had an eight percent chance to win. The difference between a successful fourth down conversion and a field goal is double the expected win probability for New England.

    Going for it was the right decision, the Denver defense just made another play that helped win the game.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

    Panthers vs. Cardinals

    Carolina rolled in the NFC Championship game whopping the Arizona Cardinals 49-15. Cam Newton threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more. The defense forced six turnovers and the team got another on special teams. The Panthers are headed back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2003-04.

    The Cardinals could have won if…

    Nothing went right for Arizona in this game especially the first half that saw the team give the ball away three times. Collectively, those three first half turnovers (fumble, fumble and interception) cost the team 19.5 percent in expected win probability.

    Of the three, Patrick Peterson's fumble on a punt return might have been the most damning.

    After Arizona cut the lead to 17-7 with over five minutes to play in the second quarter, the Cardinals forced a three-and-out on Carolina's next possession. Unfortunately, Peterson muffed the punt giving the Panthers the ball back in Arizona territory. Carolina scored five plays later and became 88 percent likely to win leading 24-7.

    Had Peterson held onto the ball, the Cardinals become 32 percent likely to win trailing by ten points with the ball near midfield.

    For additional GameChanging notes from this game click here.

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