BIG PLAYS #13: Chicago @ 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
-0.18 Offense 0:23 1-10-CHI 41 CHI 10 DEN 7 LI: 2.6 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass incomplete short right to 88-D.Thomas. On Denver's final drive of regulation when they're trying to tie the game, the drive starts to stall out here. The announcers were thinking that Jennings might have actually committed pass interference here.
-0.16 Defense 15:00 1-10-CHI 20 CHI 10 DEN 10 LI: 3.5 12-C.Hanie pass short left to 13-J.Knox to CHI 38 for 18 yards (28-Q.Carter). On the first play of overtime, Denver lines up with eight in the box. Hanie comes out aggressive and throw between Quinton Carter and Champ Bailey. Looks like this was just a good quarterback play - Carter looked like he had good instincts, but his lack of experience put him out of position a bit. DJ Williams looked slow.
-0.12 Special Teams 7:27 4-6-CHI 11 CHI 0 DEN 0 LI: 1 5-M.Prater 28 yard field goal is BLOCKED (90-J.Peppers) Center-66-L.Paxton Holder-4-B.Colquitt. Prater's field goal is blocked. Interestingly, John Fox wasn't happy that Chris Kuper called a time out before the play to guard against delay of game. That time out would have been helpful given how the end of the half played out.
-0.11 Defense 13:59 2-5-CHI 43 CHI 10 DEN 10 LI: 4 12-C.Hanie pass short right to 24-M.Barber to DEN 41 for 16 yards (51-J.Mays). Fluky, fluky play here as Marion Barber first arguably commits offensive pass interference against Joe Mays, and then traps the ball against the ground. The relevant replay angle didn't show until after Chicago called their next play. A Denver timeout might have been advisable here, but instead, the catch put Chicago in field goal range in overtime.
-0.09 Offense 9:02 2-12-CHI 38 CHI 10 DEN 0 LI: 0.8 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow sacked at CHI 45 for -7 yards (20-C.Steltz) FUMBLES (20-C.Steltz) RECOVERED by CHI-71-I.Idonije at CHI 45 71-I.Idonije to CHI 45 for no gain (78-R.Clady). Strange play. Some good stunting by Chicago's DL left their spy free to come in and sack Tebow while leaving both Ryan Clady and Zane Beadles with no one to block. At the same time, Tebow's outside receivers basically ran their routes and stopped with nothing further to do. Tebow was probably reluctant to scramble on 2nd and 12, but he should have. Chicago was actually 96% likely to win after this play.
-0.09 Offense 0:00 1-10-DEN 47 CHI 0 DEN 0 LI: 1.3 15-T.Tebow spiked the ball to stop the clock. Denver's at midfield trying to spike the ball after a nifty run by Jeremiah Johnson. Tebow actually spiked it before 0:00 but the whistle came too late. Just too close of a play, and it reset the win probability to 50%.
-0.08 Offense 0:14 3-10-CHI 41 CHI 10 DEN 7 LI: 0.8 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow scrambles left end ran ob at CHI 41 for no gain. Tebow is not able to get any additional yardage on this play, which sets up Prater for an unlikely 59-yard attempt, down three. After this play, Denver had only a 1% chance of victory, their lowest likelihood of the game.
-0.07 Offense 2:38 3-6-CHI 39 CHI 0 DEN 0 LI: 1 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass short left intended for 12-M.Willis INTERCEPTED by 33-C.Tillman at CHI 24 33-C.Tillman ran ob at CHI 24 for no gain. What's funny about this first-quarter play is that in the coaches film (which you can see on GameRewind), you can see that Tillman absolutely wallops Matt Willis and knocks him over just as Tebow is throwing the ball. Credit Tillman for being quick enough to jump up and get the ball right afterward, but he got away with one there.
-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 a couple of DJ Williams sacks, Tebow's touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas, sacks by VonDoom, Chicago's 57-yard field goal, some Tebow sacks, the Marion Barber touchdown, and Marion Barber's run out of bounds near the end of regulation.
+0.07 Offense 0:30 2-10-DEN 40 CHI 10 DEN 7 LI: 0.4 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass short right to 12-M.Willis ran ob at CHI 41 for 19 yards. This is the play where Mike McCoy said, "Tell Matt Willis he needs to go right now!" It didn't seem like it at the time, but this was the play that got Matt Prater in his (59-yard!) field goal range, at the end of regulation. Big time play, partially enabled by Chicago giving him much too big of a coverage cushion.
+0.07 Offense 13:32 3-15-DEN 24 CHI 0 DEN 0 LI: 1.1 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow scrambles up the middle to DEN 40 for 16 yards (54-B.Urlacher; 20-C.Steltz) CHI-91-A.Okoye was injured during the play. Early in the second quarter, Tebow is facing third and long and scrambles. What I love about this is that it was actually Orlando Franklin that got Tebow the first down - he just plowed through the pile and pushed half of them over, and I believe he injured Amobi Okoye on the play. This was the beginning of an extremely physical, ugly drive - penalties, a roughing penalty, zero completed passes, and finally the blocked field goal.
+0.09 Offense 4:42 3-16-DEN 16 CHI 0 DEN 0 LI: 1.2 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass deep left to 12-M.Willis to DEN 39 for 23 yards (54-B.Urlacher). Tebow converts a 3rd-and-16 by scrambling to his left and improvising a long pass to Matt Willis. This was looking like a good start, but the drive would later end with Tebow's interception, again intended for Matt Willis.
+0.12 Offense 11:15 2-12-DEN 44 CHI 10 DEN 10 LI: 3.8 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass deep right to 88-D.Thomas to CHI 40 for 16 yards (35-Z.Bowman). A beautiful catch by Demaryius Thomas in overtime, to get Denver in field goal range on Tebow's final pass attempt of the game.
+0.12 Offense 12:12 3-8-DEN 36 CHI 10 DEN 10 LI: 3.4 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass short right to 88-D.Thomas to DEN 46 for 10 yards (26-T.Jennings). Two plays earlier, Tebow converts a third-and-long to Demaryius Thomas, who blocked out very well and pulled in the catch after having the presence of mind to run past the sticks on his route.
+0.12 Offense 0:47 2-1-DEN 29 CHI 10 DEN 7 LI: 0.7 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass short left to 35-L.Ball to DEN 40 for 11 yards (33-C.Tillman). A deceptively big play. It looked like Chicago was willing to give up these "short" plays here, but I think this was actually a defensive mistake. They had Okoye spying and he didn't pick up Ball on the release, and the linebackers played too deep. Ball did a reliable job on a very important play.
+0.29 Special Teams 8:40 4-3-CHI 33 CHI 10 DEN 10 LI: 3 5-M.Prater 51 yard field goal is GOOD Center-66-L.Paxton Holder-4-B.Colquitt. Now we're getting to crazy land. This play is the game-winner. 51 yards is no gimme, as you can see by Denver only having a 71% chance of winning before the kick.
+0.30 Defense 12:53 3-7-DEN 38 CHI 10 DEN 10 LI: 3.3 24-M.Barber left tackle to DEN 33 for 5 yards (52-W.Woodyard) FUMBLES (52-W.Woodyard) RECOVERED by DEN-92-E.Dumervil at DEN 33 92-E.Dumervil to DEN 33 for no gain (71-I.Idonije). Before the play, Chicago was 70% likely to win. After the play, Denver was 60% likely to win. I think Wesley Woodyard basically won this game - if not for his hand on Barber's wrist, this game was likely over.
+0.47 Special Teams 0:08 4-10-CHI 41 CHI 10 DEN 7 LI: 0.1 5-M.Prater 59 yard field goal is GOOD Center-66-L.Paxton Holder-4-B.Colquitt. What can you say about this kick? Before the kick, Chicago had a 99% chance of victory. Afterward, it was at 52%. A highly unlikely kick for a highly unlikely victory.

Hard to know what else to write about this game since it's been written about so much this week. On the surface, we stole the game, but underneath, there were a lot of very good Denver plays, some unlucky bounces, and Chicago getting away with some good fortune of their own.

Drive notes for Offense:

  1. -0.07 for a three-and-out.
  2. -0.06 for a three-and-out.
  3. -0.02 for a longer drive that gained field position but ended with a Tebow interception.
  4. -0.05 for a long drive that ended with a blocked 28-yard field goal.
  5. -0.06 for a three-and-out.
  6. -0.02 for a drive that ran out the clock at the half.
  7. -0.08 for a three-and-out after halftime that included the failed bomb to Demaryius Thomas.
  8. -0.05 for a three-and-out with a 9-yard run and two no-gain stuffs on Tebow and McGahee.
  9. -0.02 for a three-and-out after Chicago's touchdown.
  10. -0.04 for a three-and-out after Chicago's field goal.
  11. -0.09 for a drive with a couple of first downs but ending with Tebow's fumble.
  12. +0.01 for gaining a bit of field position before punting again.
  13. +0.02 for a late-game touchdown drive - victory still highly unlikely.
  14. +0.31 for a drive ending in Prater's tying field goal.
  15. +0.40 for a drive ending in Prater's winning field goal in overtime.

Drive notes for Defense:

  1. +0.06 for forcing a three-and-out (four-and-out with penalty).
  2. +0.05 for a drive with one first down and a DJ Williams sack.
  3. +0.05 for a drive with one first down. Brian Dawkins was knocked out of the game in this drive.
  4. +0.08 for forcing a four-and-out with a penalty and a DJ Williams sack.
  5. +0.01 for forcing a punt after a drive to midfield.
  6. +0.08 for forcing a four-and-out to start the half.
  7. +0.04 for forcing a punt after one first down and a Von Miller sack.
  8. -0.17 for giving up a TD drive after a long Hester punt return. Every play on this drive was negative.
  9. -0.05 for giving up a 57-yard field goal after giving up a 16-yard play on 3rd and 27.
  10. +0.04 for a three-and-out after a Von Miller five-yard run stuff.
  11. +0.02 for a three-and-out after three Marion Barber runs when Chicago tries to run the clock.
  12. +0.04 for a three-and-out after three K.Bell runs.
  13. -0.03 for a three-and-out when the clock is working against Denver, despite Barber's OB mistake.
  14. +0.07 for forcing a fumble after giving up field position in overtime.

So many patterns continued in this game. Denver's offense didn't have a positive drive in the first half, at -0.28 for the half. Denver's defense carried the team in the first half at +0.25. In the second half, Denver's defense stumbled, which we've also seen before, but otherwise played well enough to finish at -0.03 for the half. Denver's offense played the second half at +0.06, almost entirely on the strength of their final drive. Finally, in over time, Denver's defense treaded water at +0.07 while the offense won the game at +0.40 .

So what's the real storyline of the game? Denver's offense is tiring out Denver's defense! The staff needs to open up the offensive playbook to keep the defense off the field for longer periods of time.

Players: Matt Willis seemed to have the best game WPA-wise, with some good clutch play. Meanwhile, Willis McGahee appeared to have the worst game. Defensively, Elvis Dumervil appears to be the clear impact player of the game, from recovering a fumble to several key tackles.

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

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