BIG PLAYS: Denver at Tennessee


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 lost, we'll start with our best plays and end with our worst.  I'll also ignore all plays of 0.06 or less, since they're not big plays.


WPA Offense/Defense Play Description Notes
+0.18 Defense (1:17) 8-M.Hasselbeck sacked at TEN 13 for -7 yards (58-V.Miller). FUMBLES (58-V.Miller), RECOVERED by DEN-95-D.Harvey at TEN 13. This is the biggest positive play of the game for us - Von Miller gives us a huge chance to win.  We wouldn't be able to take advantage of it, however.
+0.16 Defense 6:04 1-10-DEN 17 DEN 7 TEN 7 LI: 1.5 8-M.Hasselbeck pass short right to 18-K.Britt to DEN 19 for -2 yards FUMBLES RECOVERED by DEN-91-R.Ayers at DEN 20 91-R.Ayers to DEN 20 for no gain (88-C.Stevens) TEN-18-K.Britt was injured during the play His return is Questionable. A strange twist of the knee and a phantom knee injury probably not caused by Rahim Moore helps Denver recover the ball deep in Denver territory and dodge a scoring threat.
+0.11 Offense 3:08 3-7-DEN 33 DEN 14 TEN 17 LI: 1.6 (Shotgun) 8-K.Orton pass short right to 87-E.Decker to DEN 42 for 9 yards (30-J.McCourty). On Denver's final drive opportunity of the game, Kyle Orton converts a tough, key third down to keep the drive alive.
+0.10 Offense (4:27) 8-K.Orton pass short right to 87-E.Decker to TEN 29 for 5 yards (30-J.McCourty). PENALTY on TEN-93-S.Smith, Face Mask (15 Yards), 15 yards, enforced at TEN 29. In the third quarter, a Tennessee personal foul face mask penalty gives Denver a huge opportunity to pull ahead.
+0.09 Offense 1:22 3-5-TEN 5 DEN 7 TEN 10 LI: 1.9 (Shotgun) 8-K.Orton pass short middle to 23-W.McGahee for 5 yards TOUCHDOWN. Orton throws a key touchdown pass to give Denver the lead.
+0.07 Offense 2:29 1-10-DEN 42 DEN 14 TEN 17 LI: 2.3 8-K.Orton pass deep left to 84-B.Lloyd to TEN 38 for 20 yards (31-C.Finnegan). On Denver's final drive attempt, Orton throws another long completion to get Denver into long field goal range.  This would be Denver's final positive big play.
+0.06 to -0.06 Gameplay (Every other play) We're ignoring all plays that aren't in the "big play" zone.
-0.07 Offense 1:52 2-11-TEN 39 DEN 14 TEN 17 LI: 1.9 8-K.Orton pass incomplete short right to 12-M.Willis. On Denver's final drive, this was the pass attempt before Orton's final interception.  The door was creaking closed on Denver's chances here.
-0.07 Defense 14:32 3-5-TEN 20 DEN 7 TEN 0 LI: 1.2 (Shotgun) 8-M.Hasselbeck pass deep left to 28-C.Johnson ran ob at DEN 46 for 34 yards Denver challenged the pass completion ruling and the play was Upheld (Timeout #1.) Early in the second quarter, this long third down conversion gets Tennessee out of their own territory and starts them on the way to their first touchdown.
-0.08 Defense 4:28 1-4-DEN 4 DEN 14 TEN 10 LI: 1.2 8-M.Hasselbeck pass short right to 86-D.Graham for 4 yards TOUCHDOWN. Matt Hasselbeck and Daniel Graham connect to score a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, on 1st and goal from the 4.
-0.09 Defense 5:11 2-2-DEN 17 DEN 14 TEN 10 LI: 1.7 8-M.Hasselbeck pass short right to 85-N.Washington to DEN 4 for 13 yards (41-C.Vaughn). On the immediately preceding play, Hasselbeck gets Tennessee close to the goal line.  Before this play, chances of victory were essentially even between the two teams, but this is where Tennessee started becoming the more likely victor.
-0.10 Defense 12:25 3-7-DEN 30 DEN 7 TEN 0 LI: 0.7 (Shotgun) 8-M.Hasselbeck pass short right to 85-N.Washington to DEN 14 for 16 yards (20-B.Dawkins). This key third down conversion in the second quarter positions Tennessee for their first touchdown, on the next play.
-0.11 Offense 10:23 2-6-TEN 47 DEN 7 TEN 7 LI: 1.1 8-K.Orton pass deep right intended for 87-E.Decker INTERCEPTED by 30-J.McCourty at TEN 22 30-J.McCourty to TEN 44 for 22 yards (87-E.Decker). This overthrow and interception by Kyle Orton gives Tennessee possession near midfield in the second quarter, when trying to respond to Tennessee's previous touchdown drive.
-0.11 Offense 13:33 4-1-TEN 1 DEN 14 TEN 10 LI: 1.1 23-W.McGahee up the middle to TEN 1 for no gain (90-D.Morgan). This is the failed 4th-down conversion.  McGahee either fails to go over right guard, or, more likely, the offensive line fails to provide room for McGahee to go over right guard, and Denver turns over the ball, failing to take advantage of the opportunity that Von Miller gave them.
-0.12 Special Teams 2:58 4-9-TEN 44 DEN 7 TEN 7 LI: 0.6 (Punt formation) 6-B.Kern Aborted 58-K.Amato FUMBLES at TEN 44 recovered by TEN-6-B.Kern at TEN 30 6-B.Kern to DEN 35 for 35 yards (17-Q.Cosby). Strange play - still, it did expose a certain vulnerability we may have to a fake punt.  Especially when you consider that our new-to-the-team punt returner was apparently who made the tackle.  We have to cover better than this.
-0.13 Offense 2:00 1-10-TEN 38 DEN 14 TEN 17 LI: 3.1 8-K.Orton sacked ob at TEN 39 for -1 yards (92-W.Witherspoon). Really more of a scrambling attempt and only a loss of one yard, but it's flirting with field goal range and inside two minutes at the end of the game.  This was rapidly becoming a likely Tennessee victory.
-0.14 Offense 1:46 3-11-TEN 39 DEN 14 TEN 17 LI: 1.3 (Shotgun) 8-K.Orton pass short middle intended for 84-B.Lloyd INTERCEPTED by 92-W.Witherspoon (91-J.Jones) at TEN 31 92-W.Witherspoon to TEN 38 for 7 yards (87-E.Decker). The tip-drill interception that ended Denver's chances of tying or winning the game.
-0.29 Defense 6:39 1-10-TEN 17 DEN 14 TEN 10 LI: 1.3 8-M.Hasselbeck pass deep right to 88-C.Stevens to DEN 25 for 58 yards (20-B.Dawkins). The biggest play of the game, and more than twice as bad as any of Denver's other bad plays.  A huge defensive breakdown.  Denver had the game well in hand before this play, but this play meant that Tennessee was slightly more likely than Denver to win the game.  Hasselbeck would later claim that Denver had the right coverage, and that it was a busted route that led two receivers to accidentally screen away the defenders, but that still doesn't sound like an excuse.

Tennessee's final play of the game was also worth -0.08 since there were 41 seconds left and that apparently means there is sometimes time left for a possession change and one last chance to win, but we'll ignore it since Denver was out of time outs.

Drive notes for Offense:


  1. -0.05 for a drive with one first down.
  2. +0.14 for the first touchdown drive.
  3. -0.04 for a three-and-out.
  4. -0.07 for a three-play drive ending in an interception.
  5. -0.07 for a three-and-out (they actually had two tries at third down).
  6. -0.02 for a short two-minute drill at the end of the half.
  7. +0.29 for a touchdown drive early in the third quarter.
  8. -0.15 for failing to punch the ball in after Von Miller's forced fumble.
  9. -0.01 for a drive with one first down.
  10. -0.22 for a last-gasp drive ending in an interception.

Drive notes for Defense:

  1. +0.05 for an eight-play Tennessee drive that netted them seven yards thanks to a Wilhite sack.
  2. +0.02 for a three-and-out.
  3. -0.20 for giving up a touchdown drive.
  4. +0.08 for a drive that started with Orton's interception and ended with Britt's fumble.
  5. +0.07 for a three-and-out.  Well it actually ended with Kern's crazy accidental fake punt.
  6. 0.0 for giving up Tennessee's field goal (apparently the field goal was exactly what you'd expect).
  7. +0.02 for Hasselbeck kneeling at the half (this is a little silly, but it's there so we'll count it).
  8. -0.04 for letting Tennessee drive to the Denver 39 to start the half.
  9. +0.18 for a one-play drive of Von Miller sacking Hasselbeck.
  10. +0.05 for holding Tennessee to a short drive after Denver failed to convert 4th-and-goal.
  11. -0.44 for giving up a late touchdown drive.
  12. -0.06 for Tennessee's final kneel-down drive.

For the game: Offense -0.26, Defense -0.27.  If this is a valid way to count, it means that the defense had an ever-so-slightly worse game.  That final touchdown drive was really a huge defensive breakdown.  I think this game was clearly a team loss.

General notes:  We're not going to get it done with only two positive offensive drives per game.  Our defense looks better than last season - we still have bad defensive breakdowns, but we also have some more good disruptive plays mixed in.  You can look here for a glance at Denver's best players.  Any way you look at it, Von Miller was again Denver's best defensive player.  On offense, Orton was best (which isn't saying much) if you don't pay attention to clutch.  But if you do, Orton was only average and it looks like our best offensive players were Decker and the tight ends and fullbacks.  This looks to be Orton's best game of the season, which again isn't saying much, and Willis McGahee stunk for the second week in a row - someone's got to take the shine off this guy, and I'm not convinced this is solely the fault of our offensive line.  On Tennessee's side, Hasselbeck just had a monster game, as did N.Washington, and W.Witherspoon on the defensive side.

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

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