Big Plays #10: NY Jets @ Denver


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.  Here we go!



WPA Offense/Defense Play Description Notes
-0.16 Offense 0:32 2-6-DEN 47 NYJ 0 DEN 3 LI: 1.2 (Shotgun) 23-W.McGahee left tackle to DEN 47 for no gain (97-C.Pace) FUMBLES (97-C.Pace) RECOVERED by NYJ-57-B.Scott at DEN 44 57-B.Scott to DEN 35 for 9 yards (85-V.Green). Denver's worst play of the game was at the end of the first quarter, when Willis McGahee hit a wall and eventually coughed up the ball.  The NY Jets recovered in excellent field position and tie the game on the ensuing drive.
-0.14 Defense 10:55 3-9-DEN 45 NYJ 10 DEN 10 LI: 1.6 (Shotgun) 6-M.Sanchez pass short right to 25-J.McKnight to DEN 31 for 14 yards (98-R.McBean) It seems like for the entire game, there was this invisible force field around midfield that neither team could penetrate.  Here, Sanchez did with a key third-down conversion, and four plays later the NY Jets would kick a field goal to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
-0.10 Defense 0:34 4-19-NYJ 18 NYJ 13 DEN 17 LI: 0.1 (Shotgun) 6-M.Sanchez pass deep middle to 88-P.Turner to NYJ 43 for 25 yards (30-D.Bruton). On the final drive of the day, Sanchez caused a very small amount of fear by converting this fourth down pass with thirty seconds left in the game.  Still, the odds were very firmly in Denver's favor at this point.
-0.09 Offense 3:02 1-10-NYJ 44 NYJ 13 DEN 10 LI: 2.4 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass incomplete short left to 88-D.Thomas. On Denver's late drive, pretty much every impacted the chances of winning significantly, and this miss made things look a little more dire.
-0.08 Offense 9:55 4-1-NYJ 21 NYJ 0 DEN 0 LI: 0.8 23-W.McGahee right guard to NYJ 21 for no gain (52-D.Harris). On Denver's first drive of the game in the first quarter, Willis McGahee had a chance to convert a 4th and 1 deep in NY Jets territory, and failed after being stuffed by D.Harris.
-0.08 Defense 12:31 2-1-DEN 26 NYJ 3 DEN 3 LI: 1.5 6-M.Sanchez pass short left to 17-P.Burress to DEN 13 for 13 yards (21-A.Goodman). This play would take the NY Jets deep into Denver territory, leading to the NY Jets only touchdown of the day.
-0.08 Offense 8:08 3-2-DEN 16 NYJ 13 DEN 10 LI: 1.4 46-S.Larsen up the middle to DEN 16 for no gain (52-D.Harris). Oof.  In the fourth quarter just after the NY Jets went ahead on a field goal, we had a chance to convert a short third down and Spencer Larsen got stuffed.  Again by D.Harris.  This three-and-out made our chances look pretty bad.  After our punt on the next play, we had only a 17% chance of victory.
-0.07 Special Teams 9:19 4-6-DEN 27 NYJ 10 DEN 10 LI: 1.2 2-N.Folk 45 yard field goal is GOOD Center-46-T.Purdum Holder-8-M.Brunell. This is the field goal just before the above series.  This kick midway through the fourth quarter heightened the NY Jets' chances of victory right when it looked like Denver couldn't move the ball at all.
-0.06 to +0.06 Gameplay (Every other play) This encompasses all the other plays of the game that weren't "big plays", and includes Dawkin's unnecessary roughness penalty, J.Johnson's fumbled pitch, the NY Jets' magic touchdown (created by a Von Miller forced fumble), several defensive stuffs by Von Miller and Brodrick Bunkley, Tebow's first long pass to Demaryius Thomas, a VonDoom sack, Polk's missed field goal, and Cassius Vaughn's long kickoff return.
+0.07 Defense 1:16 3-3-DEN 34 NYJ 0 DEN 3 LI: 1.1 6-M.Sanchez pass short right to 10-S.Holmes to DEN 27 for 7 yards (24-C.Bailey) Denver challenged the pass completion ruling and the play was REVERSED 6-M.Sanchez pass incomplete short right to 10-S.Holmes. This was actually a bigger play than it looked, because the +0.07 just sees it as an incomplete pass.  But it was a heads-up play by Champ Bailey to insist on a challenge here, because if Fox hadn't thrown the flag, the play would have been -0.06.  So the reversal was a 0.13-point swing in WPA, making this one of the bigger plays of the game.
+0.07 Defense 9:24 3-6-DEN 27 NYJ 10 DEN 10 LI: 1.9 6-M.Sanchez pass incomplete short middle to 10-S.Holmes. Despite the fact that the next play was the NY Jets kicking a field goal and taking the lead, this was a good play because the alternative - a fresh set of downs late in the game, close to the end zone, clock ticking - was pretty scary.
+0.07 Offense 5:25 2-2-DEN 13 NYJ 13 DEN 10 LI: 1.2 15-T.Tebow right tackle to DEN 28 for 15 yards (33-E.Smith). One of the many plays on Denver's big drive that started forcing the game open again.  This was actually when Tebow kept the option and ran to the left, and was what really started getting the crowd into the drive.
+0.08 Defense 2:35 3-5-NYJ 49 NYJ 3 DEN 3 LI: 1.2 (Shotgun) 6-M.Sanchez Aborted 74-N.Mangold FUMBLES at NYJ 35 recovered by NYJ-6-M.Sanchez at NYJ 27 6-M.Sanchez to NYJ 27 for no gain (58-V.Miller). Really more of an unforced error by the NY Jets, this misguided direct snap in the 2nd quarter led to one of Von Miller's TFL's, and turned a 3rd-and-5 into a 4th-and-22.
+0.09 Special Teams 0:05 2-10-DEN 43 NYJ 3 DEN 3 LI: 1.1 2-N.Folk 61 yard field goal is No Good Wide Left Center-46-T.Purdum Holder-8-M.Brunell. Surprising to me that this field goal miss counts so much, given the distance.  I think this is one of Burke's quirks in the WPA model in that it is paying too much attention to the down rather than the time remaining - this can probably be ignored.
+0.09 Special Teams 1:06 NYJ 13 DEN 17 LI: 5-M.Prater kicks 74 yards from DEN 35 to NYJ -9 31-A.Cromartie to NYJ 14 for 23 yards (56-N.Irving). After Denver's late touchdown, Cromartie gets desperate and returns the kickoff from nine yards deep.  He doesn't get back to the 20, and Nate Irving wraps him up.
+0.12 Defense 0:07 2-10-DEN 44 NYJ 13 DEN 17 LI: 1.1 (Shotgun) 6-M.Sanchez pass incomplete deep right to 17-P.Burress (24-C.Bailey). This is the final play of the game, defensed by Champ Bailey.  The Jets fan I was with was certain that there was pass interference on this play, probably by Bruton, but we learned from the San Diego game that they don't get called.  The scales have balanced and I won't complain about the end of the San Diego game anymore!
+0.13 Special Teams 4:32 NYJ 10 DEN 10 LI: 5-M.Prater kicks 78 yards from DEN 20 to NYJ 2 25-J.McKnight to NYJ 41 for 39 yards (52-W.Woodyard) FUMBLES (52-W.Woodyard) RECOVERED by DEN-41-C.Vaughn at NYJ 42 41-C.Vaughn to NYJ 42 for no gain (25-J.McKnight). Wesley Woodyard makes a tackle!  Wesley Woodyard forces a fumble!  Cassius Vaughn recovers a fumble!  A huge play just after we scored a defensive touchdown.  The resulting drive wouldn't go anywhere, however.
+0.14 Offense 2:57 2-10-NYJ 44 NYJ 13 DEN 10 LI: 1.5 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass deep left to 81-D.Rosario to NYJ 26 for 18 yards (33-E.Smith). A huge pass by Tebow takes Denver from midfield to deep in the NY Jets' territory.  Great effort by Dante Rosario to make the catch and ensure it didn't hit the ground.
+0.24 Defense 4:32 3-6-NYJ 25 NYJ 10 DEN 3 LI: 1.2 (Shotgun) 6-M.Sanchez pass short right intended for 17-P.Burress INTERCEPTED by 21-A.Goodman at NYJ 26 21-A.Goodman for 26 yards TOUCHDOWN. PENALTY on DEN-21-A.Goodman, Taunting, 15 yards, enforced between downs. Andre Goodman notices he's being picked on, sets up Sanchez, jumps the route, and houses the interception.  A great third-quarter play from a guy who needed to give the team a great play.  And he apparently did some taunting too that I didn't see.
+0.32 Offense 1:06 3-4-NYJ 20 NYJ 13 DEN 10 LI: 4.8 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow left end for 20 yards TOUCHDOWN. Was there any doubt this would be the biggest play of the game?  Wow.  This play was actually bigger than any of the plays against Oakland two weeks previous, as well.  Tebow's run would prove to be the game-winner.

The casual watcher would call this another defensive struggle like the Kansas City game, but this was actually a very dramatic game with a ton of big plays.  You'll recall that the KC game had all of two (2) big plays, while this one had nineteen!

Drive notes for Offense:

  1. -0.04 for a long drive that ended with a failed 4th-down conversion.
  2. -0.03 for a drive that started in NYJ territory after a shanked punt, and ended in a field goal.
  3. -0.16 for a two-play drive that ended with a McGahee fumble.
  4. -0.09 for a three-and-out when McGahee and Ball both got stuffed before 3rd-and-long.
  5. -0.08 for a three-and-out when Jeremiah Johnson fumbled a pitch on 2nd down.
  6. -0.06 for a three-and-out when Eddie Royal didn't go past the sticks on his route.
  7. +0.01 for a drive that gained some field position before a punt, after halftime.
  8. -0.07 for a three-and-out with two pass incompletions.
  9. -0.10 for a three-and-out, failing to take advantage of a fumble on the Jets' kickoff return.
  10. -0.08 for a three-and-out with a Decker false start penalty.
  11. -0.10 for a three-and-out with a failed Spencer Larsen third-down conversion.
  12. +0.59 for a late touchdown drive.  (!!!!!)

Drive notes for Defense:

  1. +0.07 for a three-and-out with a VonDoom sack.
  2. +0.05 for a drive ending in missed Polk field goal.
  3. +0.04 for only giving up a field goal after the McGahee fumble.
  4. +0.07 for a three-and-out that included a Bunkley stuff.
  5. +0.06 for a drive where the gave up some yards but got them all back from a long fumbled snap.
  6. +0.05 for a drive that ended with a missed Polk field goal at the end of the half.
  7. -0.22 for giving up a touchdown drive at the start of the second half.
  8. +0.06 for a three-and-out with a Dumervil run stop on 3rd down.
  9. +0.24 for a three-play defensive drive ending in a Goodman pick-six.
  10. +0.04 for a four-play drive and a punt.
  11. -0.10 for giving up a 4th-quarter field goal.
  12. +0.10 for a three-and-out.
  13. +0.07 for sealing the win.

Ok, WOW.  This was illuminating to me.  Denver's offense, aside from a +0.01 punt drive, made the team less likely to win in every single drive of the game, except for the last one, which was a monster.  I know this is generally what the critics have been saying about the Tebow-led offense, but they haven't been right about it until now.  In Kansas City, there was an argument to be made that the offense actually bailed out the defense, but here... that's really an amazing picture.

In the first half, the offense was -0.46.  Given that the teams each start at 0.50, that would have been enough to virtually guarantee the loss, aside from some good defensive play.  The defense was +0.34 in the first half to keep the game close, and the special teams made up the rest of the difference.  Since the game was tied in the second half, both sides basically started at 0.50 again.  In the second half, the offense was -0.34 up until the final drive, but the final drive netted the offense out at an even 0.25.  The defense in the second half had a slightly harder time, giving up a long drive in the third quarter, which seems to have happened multiple times this season.  Overall the defense netted out at +0.19 for the half, with our special teams probably making up the difference.

What does this mean?  While the second half was generally a team win, in the first half, the offense was almost completely carried by the defense and special teams.  I guess after looking at these, I have to agree that this kind of game pattern just can't be sustainable.  Now, I'm not sure that this can entirely be blamed on Tebow - we used different formations on the final drive and I think we're still looking at a learning curve for the entire offense, including Fox and the play callers, and I think that Tebow is already a better passer than people are giving him credit for.  I guess we'll see what happens.

Players: Tim Tebow just killed in WPA given that his good performance was mostly on the last drive.  On defense, Andre Goodman, Von Miller, and Champ Bailey all scored highly.  One crazy game on national television!  I wonder what will happen in San Diego?

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

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