BIG PLAYS #16: Kansas City @ 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 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
+0.14 Special Teams 9:50 4-16-DEN 46 KC 7 DEN 0 LI: 0.5 4-B.Colquitt punts 37 yards to KC 17 Center-66-L.Paxton 21-J.Arenas MUFFS catch RECOVERED by DEN-12-M.Willis at KC 20 12-M.Willis to KC 20 for no gain (21-J.Arenas). Not much to say about this one - it looks like the Javier Arenas' helmet just got in the way of him catching the ball. According to the announcers, this was the first drive we started in opponents territory in 48 drives! in the coaches film you can see that Matt Willis was driven waaaaay out of bounds - he made a good play to get back in position to recover the fumble. Also interesting to me is that the teams clear out a lot of space on the sidelines for these returns, they're 5-10 yards away - the sideline hijinks must happen frequently.
+0.09 Special Teams 7:35 4-6-DEN 26 KC 0 DEN 0 LI: 0.8 6-R.Succop 44 yard field goal is No Good Wide Left Center-43-T.Gafford Holder-2-D.Colquitt. Scoreless in the first quarter, Succop kicks from the left hashmark, and is slightly wide left. We definitely had some breaks in this game. Just couldn't capitalize.
+0.09 Offense 0:45 3-10-DEN 16 KC 7 DEN 3 LI: 0.2 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass short right to 88-D.Thomas to DEN 25 for 9 yards (24-B.Flowers). PENALTY on KC-92-W.Gilberry, Roughing the Passer, 15 yards, enforced at DEN 25. Very late in the fourth quarter, Tebow completes a pass to Demaryius Thomas and takes a roughing penalty. It's the combination of the penalty and the completion that slightly changed the odds of winning here - this took Denver from the 16 to the 40 yard line. Big play that led to a possible re-emergence of Tebow Time.
+0.08 Defense 2:26 1-10-KC 37 KC 7 DEN 3 LI: 3.8 20-T.Jones right end to KC 35 for -2 yards (51-J.Mays). Kansas City is in pretty good field position here, but Denver plays very well on a sweep right - DJ Williams and Joe Mays lock it up well and stuff it for a loss. This is very late in the game, and Denver did an excellent job forcing a three-and-out for one final possession.
+0.07 Defense 10:23 1-11-KC 2 KC 7 DEN 3 LI: 2.3 20-T.Jones right guard to KC 3 for 1 yard (57-M.Haggan; 96-M.Unrein). Earlier in the fourth quarter, Denver is able to keep Kansas City bottled up against their own end zone, limiting KC's play-calling options by stuffing them after a one-yard gain.
+0.06 to -0.06 Gameplay (Every other play) This encompasses all the other plays of the game that weren't "big plays".
-0.07 Offense 3:14 2-6-DEN 29 KC 7 DEN 3 LI: 1.4 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow sacked at DEN 28 for -1 yards (50-J.Houston). Jim Nantz said Tebow had a man open down field. Tebow held the ball and was sacked, setting up a third-and-long as time is getting short in the fourth quarter. Simms said it was good coverage by Kansas City, but it also looked like Tebow could have hit Eddie Royal.
-0.08 Defense 0:58 3-7-DEN 37 KC 0 DEN 0 LI: 1 22-D.McCluster left tackle to DEN 21 for 16 yards (55-D.Williams). What hurt with this one is that it was 3rd and 7 - we could have easily held them to a field goal attempt here. It looks like we were in nickel here, and KC suckered Jason Hunter and ran past him with a mess of blockers. It looks like Joe Mays was out of position, and Von Miller could have taken a better angle as well.
-0.08 Defense 0:20 1-10-DEN 21 KC 0 DEN 0 LI: 1.5 22-D.McCluster right end for 21 yards TOUCHDOWN. This was the very next play. What is so maddening about this play is that it is a carbon copy of a play that Buffalo used on us the previous week. Phil Simms called it out, and he's right - Von Miller is against isolated against the right end, as the running back counters against the line's movement, and Von can't fight the blocker off because of his cast. It's easy for the McCluster to get around the edge and score a touchdown. Denver should burn this alignment.
-0.08 Offense 8:24 3-5-KC 15 KC 7 DEN 0 LI: 1.3 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass incomplete short left to 19-E.Royal.' This play sucked - an obvious face mask committed on Tebow is missed by the referee, leading Tebow to throw the ball away. A major touchdown opportunity is missed here.
-0.08 Offense 0:35 1-10-DEN 40 KC 7 DEN 3 LI: 1.1 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass incomplete deep right to 81-D.Rosario (27-Do.Washington). Right after the throw to Demaryius Thomas and personal foul penalty, this play gives most of the win likelihood right back by Dante Rosario being unable to pull the pass in. Simms said that the corner made a good play on Rosario, but it also looked catchable to me.
-0.09 Offense 11:05 3-6-KC 36 KC 7 DEN 3 LI: 1.3 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow sacked at KC 45 for -9 yards (sack split by 92-W.Gilberry and 50-J.Houston). Really awful sack. The problem is it took Denver out of field goal range. This would have been their second missed chance for a field goal, after being in position for a long attempt at the end of the first half (although - see below for what the right decision at that time would have been). That said, the receivers didn't do Tebow any favors here - Fells and Decker got their routes confused. Still, Tebow should have thrown the ball away to protect the field goal attempt, no question.
-0.09 Defense 5:06 1-15-KC 22 KC 7 DEN 3 LI: 2.8 (Shotgun) 8-K.Orton pass short middle to 10-T.Copper to KC 36 for 14 yards (30-D.Bruton). PENALTY on DEN-28-Q.Carter, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced at KC 36. This play is easy to forget about, but here's why it was so lousy - it gave KC valuable field position. Denver would start their final drives deep in their own territory which impacted the lack of success on the two drives. It looks like Bruton took the wrong assignment by momentarily double-covering a tight end while a running back came free, and then Quinton Carter hits him late as Bruton tackles him a yard short of the first down. This put KC on Denver's side of the field. Denver would make KC move backwards until a punt two plays later, but the damage was done.
-0.11 Offense 7:11 3-5-KC 44 KC 7 DEN 3 LI: 1.9 (Shotgun) 37-J.Johnson right end ran ob at KC 43 for 1 yard (24-B.Flowers). It looks to me like Jeremiah Johnson overran his blockers here on a sweep to the right. Rookie mistake, I think, unfortunately in a key situation. This leads to another three-and-out as time is running short in the 4th quarter. This is another situation where Denver should have arguably gone for it on 4th down. Generally, there's a 53% conversion success rate in that situation, not factoring in any context having to do with Denver's offense or KC's defense. However, the benefits of converting are strong enough that Denver's break-even was 28%. Meaning, if Denver had only a 28% chance of converting, it still would have been worth it to go for it.
-0.11 Defense 5:53 3-9-KC 12 KC 7 DEN 3 LI: 2.6 (Shotgun) 8-K.Orton pass short left to 89-J.Baldwin ran ob at KC 27 for 15 yards. On the very next drive, Orton converts a key third down. 3rd and nine with just under six minutes left, deep in their territory - this was a key play against the blitz. KC's receiver was much more wide open than any of Denver's receivers were all day as Baldwin cuts to the sideline against Goodman and gets separation. Good timing by Baldwin and Orton, too. The Quinton Carter roughness penalty would be two plays later, giving back all the yardage that Denver gained by punting.
-0.11 Offense 2:44 3-7-DEN 28 KC 7 DEN 3 LI: 1.2 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass incomplete deep left to 87-E.Decker (21-J.Arenas) KC-21-J.Arenas was injured during the play. To Tebow's credit, he did throw this pass to the right spot as Decker went into his break, without waiting for him to get wide open first - it was just well-covered. These are the types of incompletions we should expect to see if he "pulls the trigger" consistently in the next game. Hopefully we'd see completions, too.
-0.14 Offense 8:47 3-4-KC 15 KC 7 DEN 0 LI: 1.4 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow left end to KC 13 for 2 yards (23-K.Lewis) FUMBLES (23-K.Lewis) RECOVERED by KC-50-J.Houston at KC 14 50-J.Houston to KC 14 for no gain (86-D.Fells). Tough play. 3rd and five, with a key scoring opportunity just outside the fifteen. Russ Hochstein is owned on this play. It was the penetration by his guy that basically knocked Russ in Tebow's way and forced Tebow to abort the pitch option to Royal. We really missed Kuper here. Tebow makes a good read to bail out - he could tell that KC had committed to the movement to the right, and moving back to the left was pretty savvy, especially since you could tell the touchdowns would be at a premium in this game. He outran #91, but a good play by the safety forced the fumble.

One interesting observation. Tebow's fumble and KC's muffed punt had exactly the same WPA difference, and similar field position. They basically cancel out. Since Tebow's final interception was when the game was basically out of reach with too little time remaining, it didn't have any impact on WPA. In other words, the turnovers basically canceled out to not impact the game. Also, the missed field goal and Tebow's phantom face mask also roughly canceled out.

Another note. According to ANFLS's 4th down calculator, Denver should have gone for it in the following cases:

  1. 4th and 2 from DEN 19, 9:26 remaining in 1st quarter. (.01 WPA)
  2. 4th and 2 from DEN 37, 4:30 remaining in 2nd quarter. (.02 WPA)
  3. 4th and 9 from KC 39, 0:31 remaining in 2nd quarter. (.02 WPA). It turns out punting and attempting a field goal were equally worthwhile in this case, but going for it would have been slightly more valuable.
  4. 4th and 4 from KC 43, 6:46 remaining in 4th quarter. (.07 WPA). This is the case I highlighted above.
  5. 4th and 7 from DEN 28, 2:37 remaining in 4th quarter. (.09 WPA).

Overall, this is a 21% win likelihood lost, just from conservative punt decisions. Now, I realize that some of these strain credulity, particularly in the first half. And, some of this needs to be adjusted by context - faith in defense, lack of faith in offense, etc. But the decisions still probably add up to one of the bigger negative-impact plays in the game.

Drive notes for Offense:

  1. -0.05 for a three-and-out.
  2. -0.07 for a four-and-out with penalty.
  3. -0.01 for a long drive that ends with a Tebow fumble deep in KC territory.
  4. -0.02 for a punt after one first down.
  5. -0.03 for a drive with a couple of first downs that ends in a punt, shortly before the half.
  6. -0.02 for an opening-half drive that had first downs, a Clady holding penalty, and a punt.
  7. -0.09 for only getting a field goal in a drive that started deep in KC territory.
  8. -0.00 for gaining some field position before punting.
  9. -0.04 for a drive with three first downs, only for Tebow to get sacked and fall out of field goal range.
  10. -0.19 for a three-and-out after getting the ball on the KC 49. This was the drive with Jeremiah's sweep, highlighted above.
  11. -0.20 for punting after one (penalty-driven) first down.
  12. -0.08 for a last-gasp drive that ends with a Tebow interception.

Drive notes for Defense:

  1. +0.03 for forcing a punt after a couple of first downs.
  2. +0.09 for a drive that gives up yardage but ends in a missed field goal attempt.
  3. -0.18 for giving up a touchdown drive.
  4. +0.0 for forcing a punt after one first down.
  5. +0.05 for forcing a three-and-out.
  6. +0.03 for successfully running out the half.
  7. +0.02 for forcing a punt after one first down in the second half.
  8. +0.05 for forcing a three-and-out.
  9. +0.16 for forcing a great three-and-out with zero yardage when KC is backed up against the goal line.
  10. +0.00 for forcing a KC punt after giving up a couple of longer first downs.
  11. +0.10 for forcing a last-gasp three-and-out.
  12. -0.01 as Kyle Orton kneels to win.

Yep, that's true - Denver's offense didn't have one drive the entire game where they amassed positive WPA. Denver's offense was -0.18 for the first half, and -0.62 for the second half, or -0.80 for the game, more than enough to lose the game by themselves. Denver's defense was +0.02 for the first half, and played an excellent second half at +0.32, only losing WPA at Orton's final kneel-down. At +0.34 overall, this was a strong outing by the defense, and they were trying to give Tebow Time every chance to exist.

Players: Willis McGahee and Joe Mays appeared to have the strongest games for the offense and defense, respectively. On the negative side, Tim Tebow had about as bad a game WPA-wise as you'll see, while the rest of the running backs and wide receivers had pretty bad games, as well.

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.