BIG PLAYS #15: Denver @ Buffalo

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 lost, we'll start with our best plays and end with our worst. 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
+0.08 Offense 13:23 4-1-BUF 33 DEN 7 BUF 17 LI: 0.4 15-T.Tebow up the middle to BUF 31 for 2 yards (54-A.Davis) QB sneak. Just after halftime, Denver tries to get back in the game on their opening drive. After a bizarre challenge by John Fox, he decides to go for it on 4th down - surprise #1 - and then calls a quarterback sneak - surprise #2. I think this is the first time we've called a quarterback sneak this season. Tim Tebow converts the 4th down, and the drive continues. Beadles got a great push on this play.
+0.08 Defense 6:17 3-3-DEN 5 DEN 7 BUF 0 LI: 1.5 (Shotgun) 14-R.Fitzpatrick pass incomplete short left to 86-D.Nelson Pass tipped in back of end zone receiver crossing from middle. Buffalo had gotten all the way up to the five-yard line after starting at their 31. Usually teams are able to knock it in for a touchdown in that circumstance, so our defense did well to stiffen up in the red zone. Ryan Fitzpatrick gets some happy feet, and then Chris Harris makes a great play to tip it away in the end zone. Note that Buffalo hadn't put any points on the board before now, with 6:10 remaining in the 2nd quarter. Buffalo then kicks a field goal.
+0.07 Special Teams 0:29 4-6-DEN 13 DEN 7 BUF 0 LI: 0.5 3-D.Rayner 31 yard field goal is No Good Wide Left Center-65-G.Sanborn Holder-8-B.Moorman. After a long punt return by Leodis McKelvin, Buffalo's drive had started at the Denver 28 - basically the same as recovering a Denver turnover. Buffalo misses the field goal, which is a gift to Denver. There's not a good reason for this one - Dave Rayner was in the shade and just shanked it.
+0.07 Special Teams 5:08 4-4-DEN 27 DEN 7 BUF 0 LI: 0.5 3-D.Rayner 45 yard field goal is No Good Wide Left Center-65-G.Sanborn Holder-8-B.Moorman. Buffalo answers Denver's first drive and touchdown with a long drive of their own, starting at their own 29, and helped out by a long C.J. Spiller run that was there because of Wesley Woodyard's poor recognition. Rayner then misses the field goal, giving another gift to Denver.
+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 several second-half scores, the turnovers, Royal's nullified touchdown return, and Tebow's 1st-quarter touchdown run.
-0.07 Defense 3:58 2-4-DEN 36 DEN 14 BUF 20 LI: 1 28-C.Spiller right tackle pushed ob at DEN 10 for 26 yards (26-R.Moore). After Denver scores to open the second half, Buffalo answers with this drive and this key play in Denver territory. I think this run was entirely because of Von Miller's cast. He was trying to fight off the blocker with one arm and just couldn't. Spiller beat him to the end, turned the corner, and outran the linebackers. Without the cast, I think Miller fights through and slows Spiller down. Also, like the Woodyard play above, Buffalo does a great job of using a motion receiver to draw a potential tackler - Harris - away from the direction of the play. Woodyard again shows poor recognition.
-0.08 Defense 1:17 2-5-DEN 37 DEN 7 BUF 10 LI: 1.1 (Shotgun) 14-R.Fitzpatrick pass deep right to 86-D.Nelson to DEN 7 for 30 yards (25-C.Harris) Caught near sideline at DEN 15. I think you can send a small amount of criticism to Harris for not following Nelson's break closely, but it's pretty ticky-tack. This was more of an example of a good play by the quarterback and receiver. This hurt because it was inside of two minutes to go in the first half, and it would lead to a Buffalo touchdown.
-0.16 Defense 8:14 3-8-BUF 33 DEN 7 BUF 0 LI: 0.9 (Shotgun) 14-R.Fitzpatrick pass short middle to 13-St.Johnson pushed ob at DEN 12 for 55 yards (24-C.Bailey) Caught at BUF 44 slanting from left. In the second quarter, Buffalo is trying to keep its offense moving after Rayner's two earlier missed field goals. After a long streak of not converting any third downs, Denver helps them convert this third-down with bad defensive play. Woodyard walks away from the side of the field, leaving Champ Bailey alone to cover two receivers. Champ starts gesturing frantically - Woodyard is late to the play, Champ almost succeeded in switching his coverage, Quinton Carter recognizes the play but takes a bad angle and misses the tackle, screening out Bailey in the process, and Bailey makes the tackle 55 yards later. Buffalo would later score their first field goal.
-0.21 Special Teams 4:23 4-1-DEN 30 DEN 7 BUF 3 LI: 0.8 4-B.Colquitt punts 50 yards to BUF 20 Center-66-L.Paxton 21-L.McKelvin for 80 yards TOUCHDOWN Key block: D.Nelson L.McKelvin has 118 PR yds in game 2nd highest in Bills history The Replay Assistant challenged the runner was in bounds ruling and the play was Upheld. To me it looked like we didn't have any gunners on this play - Woodyard looked tentative as the first man down. Colquitt gives a good effort to knock McKelvin out of bounds, but overall this was a lot of poor coverage by our special teams unit, all day.

Here's one interesting observation - did you notice the lack of Tebow in the big play listings? Just as in the Detroit game, all of Tebow's negative plays were when the game was pretty much decided, and thus not scoring in the extremes of WPA. The bigger problems were Denver's defense and special teams. It surprised me how much Woodyard stuck out in a negative sense, too. Anyway, more on this after we examine the drives.

Drive notes for Offense:

  1. +0.18 for an opening touchdown drive.
  2. -0.06 for a four-and-out with a Clady holding penalty and a sack.
  3. -0.02 for a three-and-out, featuring two one-yard Lance Ball runs before a 3rd-and-8. Tebow has to scramble on third-and-long and completes to Fells short of the 1st.
  4. -0.03 for a three-and-out, featuring two one-yard Willis McGahee runs before a 3rd-and-8. Tebow then underthrows Decker.
  5. -0.05 for a three-and-out, featuring two Jeremiah Johnson runs and a McGahee run (on 2nd down).
  6. -0.04 for a three-and-out, featuring two McGahee runs and a Tebow run.
  7. -0.02 for an end-of-half kneel.
  8. +0.14 for a touchdown drive to start the second half.
  9. -0.05 for a three-and-out with two Tebow incompletions.
  10. -0.07 for a drive ending in a Tebow interception.
  11. -0.03 for a drive ending in a punt after one first down. They probably should have gone for it on 4th-and-8 from Buffalo's 41, 4th quarter down two scores. The punt was 24 yards after being downed.
  12. -0.04 for a one-play drive that is a pick-six off of Tebow.
  13. -0.00 for a one-play drive that is a fumble return for a touchdown off of Tebow.
  14. -0.00 for a long drive where Tebow is intercepted in Buffalo's end zone.
  15. -0.00 for a long drive where they can't convert a 4th down as Ball drops passes.

Drive notes for Defense:

  1. +0.07 for a game-opening three-and-out (after a long kickoff return) that loses yardage.
  2. +0.04 for giving up a 44-yard drive that ends in a missed field goal attempt. -0.03 before the miss.
  3. +0.08 for only giving up a field goal attempt after the long punt return. +0.01 before the miss.
  4. +0.01 for forcing a punt after a drive with one first down.
  5. -0.04 for giving up a drive and holding Buffalo to a field goal.
  6. -0.14 for giving up a touchdown drive late in the 2nd quarter.
  7. -0.07 for giving up a field goal drive early in the 3rd quarter.
  8. -0.03 for giving up a field goal drive.
  9. +0.01 for holding Buffalo to a field goal after the first Tebow interception.
  10. -0.01 for giving up some yardage and time before forcing a punt.
  11. +0.00 for forcing a four-and-out (with penalty) as Buffalo burns time.
  12. -0.01 as Buffalo kneels to win.

Remember that each team starts at 0.50 to start the game - equally likely to win. Denver's offense was -0.04 in the first half, and Denver's defense was +0.02. What's wrong with this picture? Those aren't horrible numbers. It should have been a close game at halftime, but Denver was only 16% likely to win the game at halftime. It was all because of field position and special teams - those were eating away at Denver's chances the entire half, and the punt-return TD was a huge bite. Note also that Royal's nullified TD doesn't even score in WPA, but the "lost WPA" there would probably have been huge.

In the second half, Denver's offense was -0.05, and Denver's defense was -0.11. For the game, Denver's offense was -0.09, and Denver's defense was -0.09. Neither side was catastrophically bad, and both were equally underwhelming - Denver's defense through mistakes when it mattered, and Denver's offense through lack of production when it mattered. Denver's four three-and-outs in the first half actually hurt Denver's chances of winning more than the four turnovers did. But the real damage was the special teams - mostly from Buffalo's kick return game, but also from lousy play by our kick return units, with penalties that knocked us back in lousy field position multiple times.

Players: Daniel Fells appears to be the only player that had consistently positive numbers, and even that wasn't by much. Overall this just looked like a lousy game, by both the players and coaches. Execution was generally at a level below that of where we already know they can perform. Hopefully the coaches will design some answers for how teams are defending Tebow now, and hopefully we'll see a rebound against Kansas City.

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

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Mile High Report

You must be a member of Mile High Report to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Mile High Report. You should read them.

Join Mile High Report

You must be a member of Mile High Report to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Mile High Report. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.