BIG PLAYS: Cincinnati at Denver


We're again referring to AdvancedNFLStats' game log to analyze the game and come up with the biggest plays 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 0.05 or less, since they're not big plays.


WPA Offense/Defense Play Description Notes
-0.19 Defense 12:53 2-23-CIN 7 CIN 15 DEN 24 LI: 0.5 (Shotgun) 14-A.Dalton pass deep middle to 89-J.Simpson to DEN 9 for 84 yards (41-C.Vaughn). Cincinnati is down to 10% chance of victory when this long catch and run in the 4th quarter gives them some new life. I think it was Goodman and Moore who missed the tackle? Vaughn cleaned it up.
-0.19 Offense 2:25 2-17-DEN 13 CIN 12 DEN 17 LI: 1.9 8-K.Orton sacked at DEN 13 for 0 yards (93-M.Johnson) FUMBLES (93-M.Johnson) RECOVERED by CIN-94-D.Peko at DEN 14 94-D.Peko to DEN 14 for no gain (50-J.Walton). Near the end of the 3rd quarter, deep in Denver territory, a huge sack and fumble by Orton causes a large change in momentum. This essentially made the probability of victory even between the two teams, after Denver had a large advantage.
-0.12 Defense 1:10 3-2-CIN 48 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 2.2 (Shotgun) 14-A.Dalton pass short left to 18-A.Green ran ob at DEN 48 for 4 yards.

1:03 1-10-DEN 48 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 2.4 (Shotgun) 14-A.Dalton pass incomplete deep right to 89-J.Simpson.
Dalton converts another key 3rd down at midfield, drastically raising the stakes of the game. With a fresh set of downs, it's do-or-die for the Denver defense. (The stats site seems a bit confused here; it doesn't award the bonus to Cincinnati until after the incomplete pass, which is why I listed both here.)
-0.10 Defense 7:49 2-7-CIN 43 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 2.7 (Shotgun) 14-A.Dalton pass incomplete deep right to 18-A.Green (41-C.Vaughn). This was actually a 16-yard pass-interference call on Cassius Vaughn in the 4th quarter, and as a result, Cincinnati was actually slightly favored to win after this play.
-0.07 Offense 5:59 3-9-DEN 8 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 2.4 (Shotgun) 8-K.Orton pass incomplete short left to 12-M.Willis. A failed third down conversion by Orton and Willis leads to less than expected success for the Denver offense in the 4th quarter.
-0.07 Defense 1:58 1-10-CIN 18 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 2.5 (Shotgun) 14-A.Dalton pass deep right to 18-A.Green to CIN 40 for 22 yards (26-R.Moore). On Cincinnati's final 4th-quarter drive, this long pass play gets them to midfield.
-0.06 Offense 9:59 3-5-DEN 25 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 2 (Shotgun) 8-K.Orton pass incomplete short left to 87-E.Decker (92-F.Rucker). This failed third-down conversion gave Cincinnati more of an opening.
-0.06 Offense 9:53 1-10-DEN 25 CIN 0 DEN 7 LI: 0.9 Direction Change 8-K.Orton pass deep middle to 87-E.Decker to DEN 44 for 19 yards (20-R.Nelson) FUMBLES (20-R.Nelson) RECOVERED by CIN-29-L.Hall at CIN 49 29-L.Hall to DEN 41 for 10 yards (86-D.Fells). In the 2nd quarter, a good pass and catch concludes with Decker fumbling and turning the ball over to Cincinnati in Denver territory.
-0.06 Defense 2:01 2-6-CIN 9 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 1.1 (Shotgun) 14-A.Dalton pass short left to 18-A.Green to CIN 18 for 9 yards (21-A.Goodman). Dalton converts for a first down late in the 4th quarter to give them some breathing room from being backed up against their end zone.
-0.05 - +0.05 Gameplay (Every other play) We're ignoring all plays that aren't in the "big play" zone.
+0.06 Offense 1:56 3-8-CIN 41 CIN 3 DEN 7 LI: 0.8 (Shotgun) 8-K.Orton pass short left to 86-D.Fells to CIN 32 for 9 yards (53-T.Howard). Late in the 2nd quarter, Orton converts a key third down to Daniel Fells.
+0.06 Defense 7:43 1-10-DEN 41 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 3.1 32-C.Benson left tackle to DEN 39 for 2 yards (91-R.Ayers). This was the play right after Cassius Vaughn's PI call - Ayers shuts down a run to start stalling Cincinnati's momentum.
+0.06 Offense 0:38 3-3-CIN 25 CIN 3 DEN 7 LI: 0.9 (Shotgun) 35-L.Ball left end pushed ob at CIN 8 for 17 yards (27-G.Wilson). Late in the 2nd quarter, on the same drive as the 3rd down conversion to Fells, Lance Ball converts another 3rd down to get the Broncos into the red zone. This drive would end with a field goal.
+0.07 Defense 1:35 1-10-CIN 40 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 3.2 (Shotgun) 14-A.Dalton pass incomplete short left to 87-A.Caldwell. On Cincinnati's final drive, this incomplete pass raises the pressure in Cincinnati.
+0.07 Offense 11:03 1-10-CIN 25 CIN 3 DEN 10 LI: 1 8-K.Orton pass short middle to 87-E.Decker for 25 yards TOUCHDOWN. In the third quarter, the game seemed pretty well in hand so this play didn't score super-highly, but it was still a big play for Decker to catch a touchdown pass from Kyle Orton.
+0.07 Defense 0:33 3-19-CIN 43 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 1.1 (Shotgun) 14-A.Dalton pass incomplete deep middle to 84-J.Gresham (52-W.Woodyard). This was Woodyard's excellent pass defense late in the 3rd quarter. Cincinnati would have only one more play after this, a deep low-percentage effort, and they turned it over on downs for Orton's kneel-down.
+0.08 Defense 4:51 2-6-DEN 41 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 2.8 32-C.Benson up the middle to DEN 41 for no gain (58-V.Miller). Von Miller stuffs a run late in the 4th quarter.
+0.10 Defense 6:54 3-8-DEN 39 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 1.9 (Shotgun) 14-A.Dalton pass incomplete short left to 89-J.Simpson [51-J.Mays]. Three plays after Cassius Vaughn's PI call in the 4th quarter, this incomplete pass defended by Joe Mays shut down the drive and forced Cincinnati to punt.
+0.14 Special Teams 2:39 4-11-DEN 35 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 2.9 4-B.Colquitt punts 55 yards to CIN 10 Center-66-L.Paxton 19-B.Tate to CIN 10 for no gain (25-C.Harris). Late in the game, we have good punt coverage, but it's actually Cincinnati's penalty that knocks them back to the five yard line. Cincinnati's lapse hurts their chances of coming back.
+0.17 Offense 13:40 1-10-DEN 48 CIN 15 DEN 17 LI: 1.8 8-K.Orton pass deep right to 87-E.Decker for 52 yards TOUCHDOWN. A very good pass, some bad safety play, and an excellent adjustment by Eric Decker leads to a big 4th-quarter touchdown for Orton and Decker.
+0.23 Defense 4:09 3-6-DEN 41 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 2.3 (Shotgun) 14-A.Dalton scrambles right end to DEN 36 for 5 yards (51-J.Mays). On a late 4th quarter drive, Dalton scrambles and fakes a slide but still comes down short of the first down, a key 3rd-down stop. This was actually a bigger play on this drive - the next play was Ayers' pressure on the bootleg, which was worth +0.05.
+0.25 Defense 0:57 2-10-DEN 48 CIN 22 DEN 24 LI: 3.5 (Shotgun) 14-A.Dalton sacked at CIN 43 for -9 yards (29-J.Wilhite). This was the play of the game, a huge clutch performance by some guy we signed as a free agent after the final cutdowns. Weird, weird, weird, and major kudos to Mister Wilhite. This put Cincinnati back on their heels - they had two downs left, but this was the dagger.


Other notes: There were only three big plays in the first half.

Drive notes for Offense:


  1. +0.19 for Denver's first touchdown drive.
  2. -0.01 for a three-and-out.
  3. -0.03 for a drive with one first down and a punt.
  4. -0.07 for a one-play drive of Decker fumbling.
  5. +0.08 for a red zone drive that comes away with a field goal after an Orton sack.
  6. +0.12 after the half for a touchdown pass to Decker.
  7. -0.02 for a three-and-out.
  8. -0.22 for a two-play drive of Orton fumbling deep in Denver territory.
  9. +0.24 for four-play drive leading to a touchdown pass to Decker.
  10. -0.08 for a 4th-quarter three-and-out.
  11. -0.15 for a 4th-quarter three-and-out.  Cincinnati actually favored to win at this point.
  12. -0.20 for a 4th-quarter four-and-out (one 1st down).
  13. +0.01 for a kneel-down.

Drive notes for Defense:

  1. -0.01 for allowing Cincinnati to flip field position.
  2. +0.0 when Cincinnati punts at midfield again.
  3. +0.02 for giving up only one first down.
  4. -0.01 when giving up a field goal after the Decker fumble.
  5. +0.05 for a three and out after the half - two of the plays were for a loss.
  6. -0.05 for giving up a field goal.
  7. -0.10 for giving up a touchdown on a 72-yard drive.
  8. +0.12 for only giving up a field goal after Orton's fumble deep in Denver territory.
  9. -0.22 for giving up a touchdown - this drive including the long 84-yard pass.
  10. +0.05 for a 4th-quarter stop.
  11. +0.36 for a four-and-out (failed 4th-down conversion).  In order: Woodyard, Miller, Mays, and Ayers. 
  12. +0.23 for stopping Cincinnati on their final drive.

For the game - Defense +0.44, Offense -0.14 .

Players:  There are some surprises here.  Orton played slightly worse than at the level of an average quarterback (-0.02).  McGahee played much worse than you'd expect an average running back to play in the same situations (-0.14).  Good offensive games by Decker (+0.11), Royal (+0.7), and Larsen (+0.5).  As for defense, don't compare these numbers to the offense since they are scored differently, but the defensive MVP was Mays at +0.39.  He's followed by Wilhite (+0.28), Miller (+0.20), Woodyard (+0.17), and Ayers (+0.11).

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

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