BIG PLAYS #9: Denver at Kansas City


A short week and a trip to Hawaii have conspired to make me fall behind a bit on this series, but we should be caught up soon.  First, Kansas City.  We're again referring to AdvancedNFLStats' game log to analyze the game and come up with the biggest plays of the game.  Our definition of a big play is a play that changes the likelihood of the outcome of the game.  We're looking at WPA to judge them.  At the start of the game, WPA is 0.50, meaning each team has a 50% chance of winning.  After every play, WPA is recalculated compared to every nfl football play that has ever happened, and each team's likelihood of winning is adjusted.  The bigger the play, the bigger the WPA movement.

Since we won, we'll start with our worst plays and end with our best.  I'll also ignore all plays of .06 points or less, since they're not big plays.



WPA Offense/Defense Play Description Notes
-0.06 to +0.06 Gameplay (Every other play) Believe it or not, Denver had no negative big plays in this game.  This collection of smaller plays includes plays such as Prater's missed field goal, a couple of Cassel sacks, and Moreno's long runs.
+0.07 Defense 12:18 3-3-KC 46 DEN 10 KC 7 LI: 1.5 (Shotgun) 7-M.Cassel pass incomplete short middle to 82-D.Bowe. This drive was one of Kansas City's best chances to seize back the game.  Early in the fourth quarter, this failed third down forced KC to punt.
+0.17 Offense 6:52 3-10-DEN 44 DEN 10 KC 7 LI: 2.2 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass deep right to 87-E.Decker for 56 yards TOUCHDOWN. Yes, this is the only other big play of the game, but it completely defined the game.  Tebow finally finds Decker deep to break the game open.  Everything else was pretty much a defensive, technical, defensive battle.

People are starting to catch on to this, but I think this is a remarkable illustration of how much it can help to play mistake-free football.  This game wasn't so much about what did happen, but what didn't happen: turnovers, dumb mistakes, dumb penalties that changed the game.

Drive notes for Offense:

  1. +0.16 for a touchdown on their first drive of the game.
  2. +0.04 for a drive into KC territory ending with a punt.
  3. +0.02 for a drive ending in a field goal.
  4. -0.05 for a three-and-out featuring three Lance Ball runs.
  5. +0.0 for a drive with two first downs and three incomplete passes trying to get something at the end of the half.
  6. -0.03 for a drive with one first down to start the second half.
  7. -0.06 for a three-and-out after the KC touchdown.
  8. -0.02 for a drive with a couple of first downs and then a punt.
  9. +0.26 for a touchdown drive (to Eric Decker).  This also featured a couple of conversions by Ball.
  10. -0.06 for a three-and-out of Lance Ball runs.
  11. -0.03 for a missed field goal after being pushed back five yards.
  12. +0.01 for kneeling down to win the game.

Drive notes for Defense:

  1. +0.07 for giving up a drive that had one first down but ended with a 4th and 22 and a punt.
  2. -0.02 for giving up a drive with two first downs and a punt.
  3. +0.08 for a three-and-out with a DJ Williams sack mixed in.
  4. +0.03 for forcing a punt after one first down.
  5. +0.03 for forcing a punt after two first downs.
  6. +0.01 for an end-of-half kneel down.
  7. -0.13 for giving up a touchdown early in the second half.
  8. +0.04 for a three-and out.
  9. +0.02 for forcing a punt after a couple of first downs.
  10. +0.02 for forcing a failed 4th-down conversion late in the game.
  11. +0.07 for a four-and-out with a sack on 4th down.
  12. +0.03 for holding KC to a field goal too late in the game.

An interesting couple of halves.  In the first half, offense was +0.17, and defense was +0.20 - a very even effort, and each only had one negative drive.  In the second half, the offense was +0.07, but almost entirely from the one touchdown drive - all other drives were negative except for Tebow's kneel-down.  The defense was +0.05, but were positive on every drive except for giving up the long touchdown drive early in the half - almost a complete mirror image of the offense.

I think that what we're seeing is that when the Broncos are ahead, McCoy and Fox are shutting down the game plan and playing conservatively.  They'll open it up when the team is threatened.  I know that people see this game as a defensive victory, but this actually looks more like the offense bailing out the defense, in that the defense gave up a long drive, and then the offense took the momentum back.

I honestly see games like this and think that Tebow might be more of a secret weapon than folks realize.  The coaches are really bridling him back when they don't need him, and Tebow is all too happy to play along - I think they all share a certain conservatism in focusing on mistake-free, low-risk football.  And then once in a while, they open up the game plan a bit.  In this game, it was at the end of the first half - an effort to get some free points through some low-risk but low-percentage downfield passes, and the couple of drives before the final touchdown.  After that they shut it down again.

Players: Eric Decker gets most of the credit stats-wise, for being in on the big play.  Tebow looks all right but also lost yardage on other plays, so he doesn't show up in the stats as much (although he completely outplayed Matt Cassel).  Defensively, Von Miller looks to have had the most positive impact.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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