BIG PLAYS #8: Denver at Oakland


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
-0.13 Special Teams 12:30 4-11-DEN 15 DEN 7 OAK 3 LI: 0.9 (Punt formation) 4-B.Colquitt pass incomplete deep right.  Penalty on DEN-4-B.Colquitt, Ineligible Downfield Pass, declined. This 2nd-quarter play took us from "likely to win" to "likely to lose".  And yet, was it the right thing for Colquitt to do?  When faced with a choice of throwing an incomplete pass or giving up a safety, let's run through the numbers.  The incomplete pass gave Oakland a 55% chance of winning.  Giving up a safety would have given Oakland two more points, and average field position after a safety is at the the receiving team's (Oakland's) 40-yard line.  Using advancednflstat's WP calculator, that works out to a 47% chance of winning.  Colquitt should have taken the safety - that would have been -0.05, so Colquitt's bad decision was -0.08 of this play.
-0.13 Defense 1:37 2-11-DEN 40 DEN 7 OAK 10 LI: 1.1 3-C.Palmer pass deep middle to 45-M.Reece for 40 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Late in the second quarter, this looked like a backbreaking play and the start of another long second half for Denver.  D.J. Williams was almost able to knock it away, but it was not to be and our defense gave up a long touchdown pass.
-0.10 Defense 11:13 2-8-OAK 29 DEN 0 OAK 0 LI: 1.3 (No Huddle) 3-C.Palmer pass short right to 12-J.Ford to DEN 37 for 34 yards (24-C.Bailey) FUMBLES (24-C.Bailey) recovered by OAK-45-M.Reece at DEN 33 45-M.Reece to DEN 33 for no gain (20-B.Dawkins). Champ actually got beat on this play - I think he stumbled.  He was able to come back and force a fumble, but Oakland recovered for what would be the first big play of the day, early in the first quarter.
-0.10 Offense 11:06 2-9-DEN 38 DEN 24 OAK 24 LI: 2.1 15-T.Tebow sacked at DEN 27 for -11 yards (96-K.Wimbley).  Penalty on DEN-78-R.Clady, Offensive Holding, declined. Penalty on DEN-75-C.Clark, Illegal Formation, declined. Just an all-around ugly play - look at those penalties!  This was in the fourth quarter, after we had tied the game.  It's easy to forget now, but the game was very much in doubt at that point, and could have gone either way, and this put us in a 3rd and 20, and it made us go from being "likely to win" to "likely to lose"  Strangely, we'd be given a gift by Aaron Curry on the next play (see below), but we'd still have to punt the ball after the next set of downs (see next entry).
-0.10 Offense 9:08 3-3-DEN 49 DEN 24 OAK 24 LI: 2.4 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow up the middle to 50 for 1 yard (Team). On the same drive, this failed third down conversion would require us to punt the ball away, giving Oakland the ball in the 4th quarter with a chance to take the lead.
-0.09 Defense 10:48 3-7-DEN 11 DEN 7 OAK 3 LI: 1.3 (Shotgun) 3-C.Palmer pass short right to 29-M.Bush for 11 yards TOUCHDOWN. In the second quarter, Carson Palmer passes to Michael Bush, enabling Oakland to take the lead.
-0.09 Special Teams 0:08 2-20-OAK 25 DEN 7 OAK 17 LI: 0.8 5-M.Prater 43 yard field goal is No Good Wide Left Center-66-L.Paxton Holder-4-B.Colquitt. Yeah, this whole sequence of plays was crazy.  At the end of the 2nd quarter, Prater missed his second field goal, or his third attempt, although this is the only one that counted.  As you'd expect, from a WPA perspective, taking the points off the board was a good move, and missing the field goal was a bad move - but with all of those elements combined, I'm not so sure.
-0.08 Special Teams 0:07 DEN 24 OAK 24 LI: 5-M.Prater kicks 58 yards from DEN 35 to OAK 7 22-T.Jones to OAK 27 for 20 yards (52-W.Woodyard) DEN-17-Q.Cosby was injured during the play. Sometimes little things can have a bigger than expected effect.  Just after tying the game late in the third quarter, Prater kicks the ball off short, enabling Oakland to get a bit of additional field position and start at the 27-yard line.  Since it was getting near the end stages of the game and since the game was tied, the likelihood of winning was getting ping-ponged around a bit.
-0.08 Defense 5:25 2-19-OAK 11 DEN 31 OAK 24 LI: 0.3 3-C.Palmer pass deep middle to 17-D.Moore to OAK 35 for 24 yards (20-B.Dawkins). This was Oakland's last sign of life late in the game - just after an Elvis Dumervil sack, this long conversion gave Oakland a new set of downs after a 2nd and 19.  It bumped us down from a 92% to an 84% chance of winning.
-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 Clady's holding penalties, Goodman's pass interference penalty, Palmer's touchdown pass to Ford, McGahee's final touchdown run, Prater's successful field goal, the VonDoom sack, and both of Champ's interceptions. 
+0.07 Offense 10:57 1-10-OAK 26 DEN 7 OAK 17 LI: 1.1 15-T.Tebow pass deep middle to 19-E.Royal for 26 yards TOUCHDOWN. In the third quarter, a gorgeous first drive gets us back into the game.  This is one side of Tebow's passing game - a deep, moving pocket, a busted play, some added time, an improvised (busted) route - touchdown.  Is this the first time we've seen a touchdown on a busted play?  Very encouraging to see, we should see a lot more of that in the future.
+0.08 Defense 0:14 3-11-DEN 43 DEN 17 OAK 24 LI: 0.9 (Shotgun) 3-C.Palmer pass deep middle intended for 17-D.Moore INTERCEPTED by 25-C.Harris at DEN 25 25-C.Harris to DEN 40 for 15 yards (66-C.Carlisle). Very late in the third quarter, this play somehow started to turn the world upside down.
+0.09 Offense 2:37 2-4-DEN 41 DEN 0 OAK 3 LI: 1.3 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow left end to OAK 27 for 32 yards (24-M.Huff). Was this a zone read play?  Early in the game, on a drive that would end in a touchdown pass, Tebow is able to break out on a long run up the left side.
+0.10 Special Teams 0:22 4-6-OAK 30 DEN 7 OAK 17 LI: 0.4 5-M.Prater 48 yard field goal is GOOD, NULLIFIED by Penalty, Center-66-L.Paxton, Holder-4-B.Colquitt. PENALTY on OAK-22-T.Jones, Running Into the Kicker, 15 yards, enforced at OAK 30. Zoinks.  Prater's second try at the field goal is good, but we get a fresh set of downs and take the points off the board.  From a strictly WPA perspective, this got us a greater likelihood to win, but overall this sequence was bad for us.  Technically it was the right thing to do (0.30 to accept the penalty as opposed to 0.24 to take the points), but it sure looked ugly.
+0.10 Defense 6:58 3-4-OAK 26 DEN 24 OAK 24 LI: 2.6 (Shotgun) 3-C.Palmer scrambles up the middle to OAK 29 for 3 yards (25-C.Harris). Looks like Chris Harris got credited for the tackle here, a third down stuff during a tie game in the 4th quarter.  On the next play, Eddie Royal would house it.  Incidentally, Oakland screwed up here and apparently should have gone for it.  Also, I think something strange is going on with Chris Harris - more below.
+0.13 Offense 1:16 3-10-OAK 27 DEN 0 OAK 3 LI: 1 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass deep middle to 87-E.Decker for 27 yards TOUCHDOWN. Late in the first quarter, Tebow finds Decker for a touchdown.  This is the other side of Tebow's passing game, the hopefully emerging side.  My memory is hazy but I'm pretty sure this was a three-step-drop and a blitz-beating hot read.  Yes, this was definitely good to see, and it might have changed some of Oakland's game plan to see that Tebow could beat them that way.
+0.14 Offense 10:40 3-20-DEN 27 DEN 24 OAK 24 LI: 1.5 15-T.Tebow sacked at DEN 27 for 0 yards (56-D.Blackstock).  PENALTY on OAK-51-A.Curry, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced at DEN 27. Remember that crazy play I mentioned above, with the sack and the two declined offensive penalties leading to a 3rd and 20?  This is the next play, and Aaron Curry's mystifying gift.  I suppose we can give Tebow some credit for drawing it by delaying stepping out of bounds, but, 3rd and 20, late in the game, tie game?  Good grief.  Still, it wouldn't amount to much since we'd punt later in the drive.
+0.27 Special Teams 6:12 4-1-OAK 29 DEN 24 OAK 24 LI: 1.5 9-S.Lechler punts 56 yards to DEN 15 Center-59-J.Condo 19-E.Royal for 85 yards TOUCHDOWN. ED-DIE!  ED-DIE!  ED-DIE!  HE HOUSED IT!  To give us the lead!  And... this happened one play after Chris Harris made a key defensive play.
+0.30 Offense 0:07 1-10-DEN 40 DEN 17 OAK 24 LI: 1 23-W.McGahee up the middle for 60 yards TOUCHDOWN. WIL-LIS!  WIL-LIS! Okay, that doesn't have the same ring.  But what a huge play!  This tied the game - unexpectedly - and gave us all kinds of momentum, and also probably served to frighten several defensive coordinators in the league.  And... this happened one play after Chris Harris made a key defensive play.  Hey, wait a second.

Ok, seriously, what kind of leprechaun good luck charm is Chris Harris?  Can we just make sure to rub the footballs on Chris Harris' belly just before we start every drive?  I hope Eddie and Willis realize what happened there.

Drive notes for Offense:

  1. -0.05 for a three-and-out
  2. -0.06 for a three-and-out damaged by a Clady hold
  3. +0.17 for a Tebow touchdown drive (all yards were by Tebow runs or passes)
  4. -0.05 for a three-and-out damaged by a Clady hold (we converted that 3rd, grr)
  5. -0.04 for a drive with one first down and a delay-of-game penalty.
  6. -0.01 for a drive with one first down (it was actually an incomplete pass with a roughing penalty).
  7. -0.07 for a crazy end-of-half drive that included three field goal attempts.  Prater was 1 of 3 for 0 points.
  8. +0.15 for a gorgeous touchdown drive to start the second half.
  9. +0.02 for a field goal drive.
  10. +0.30 for a one-play Willis McGahee touchdown drive.
  11. -0.04 for a drive ending with a punt in a tie game.
  12. +0.04 for a final Willis McGahee touchdown drive.
  13. +0.01 for kneeling to end the game and win.

Drive notes for Defense:

  1. +0.06 for a three-and-out.
  2. -0.05 for giving up a field goal.
  3. +0.08 for a three-and-out with a VonDoom sack.
  4. +0.02 defending a drive with one first down.
  5. -0.04 for giving up a touchdown on a very short field.
  6. +0.02 for a drive ending in a Champ Bailey interception.
  7. -0.17 for giving up a long touchdown pass late in the first half.
  8. +0.05 for Palmer kneeling at the end of the half.
  9. -0.16 for giving up a touchdown drive right after our touchdown drive.  Ouch.
  10. +0.04 for a drive ending in a Chris Harris interception.
  11. +0.08 for a three-and-out - Chris Harris and Von Miller forced the punt.
  12. +0.11 for a three-and-out - Chris Harris with the 3rd down tackle again.
  13. +0.05 for forcing a punt near the end of the game.
  14. +0.0 for holding serve on Oakland's final drive, ending with a Champ interception.

Man, Chris Harris.  Haha.  For the game: In the first half, offense was -0.11, a smidge better than the first-half offensive performance against Detroit.  The defense was -0.03, not horrible - most of the reason we were down by ten was because our special teams had an uncharacteristic bad half.  In the second half, the offense was +0.48 (!!) and the defense was +0.12.

For once, I think this game was about what it looked like - an offensive explosion in the second half, along with improved quarterback play by Tim Tebow - the first two drives of the second half had some very nice passing plays.

Players: Willis McGahee and Eric Decker showed very well on the offensive side.  Most of Royal's WPA added was on special teams.  Defensively, no question - Chris Harris had the highest scoring game of any defender on either team, almost doubling the score of Von Miller, who was second for Denver.  A great game overall, go Broncos!

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

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