BIG PLAYS #18: Denver @ New England

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
+0.06 to -0.06 Gameplay (Every other play) This encompasses all the other plays of the game that weren't "big plays". That's right, believe it or not, there were actually no plays in this game that counted as good "big plays" for Denver. :-(
-0.08 Defense 3:26 1-10-NE 13 DEN 0 NE 14 LI: 0.3 12-T.Brady pass incomplete short middle to 81-A.Hernandez. Actually, I strongly suspect this is a bug in's system - it's supposed to have smoothed out the data, but this one looks like a blip. Apparently in NFL history, teams in this situation on 2nd down have won more frequently than teams in this situation on first down. You can pretty much ignore this entry.
-0.11 Offense 10:14 2-9-NE 37 DEN 0 NE 7 LI: 1 (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow sacked at NE 41 for -4 yards (50-R.Ninkovich) FUMBLES (50-R.Ninkovich) [50-R.Ninkovich] RECOVERED by NE-55-B.Spikes at NE 41 55-B.Spikes to NE 41 for no gain (74-O.Franklin). Things are looking hopeful for Denver early in the game, as they are driving down the field to answer New England's first touchdown drive. But then Ninkovich badly beats Orlando Franklin with a solid sack/fumble against Tebow, giving New England good field position.
-0.11 Defense 13:50 1-10-50 DEN 0 NE 0 LI: 1.4 (No Huddle) 81-A.Hernandez left end to DEN 7 for 43 yards (25-C.Harris; 28-Q.Carter). Really good blocking by New England's line, plus they probably got us in a bad personnel set. And it didn't help that David Bruton missed the tackle.

Yeah... hardly any big plays in this game. Just overall, a painful game to watch (and re-watch).

After a week in which the secondary appeared to be making big improvement, this game was a big setback.

Since there wasn't much detail in the big play listing, I'm going to try and include some more detail in the drive notes, below.

Drive notes for Offense:

  1. -0.06 for a drive that gained yardage but ended with a Tebow sack/fumble. Ninkovich made a huge play here. This play is on Orlando Franklin more than Tebow.
  2. +0.11 for gaining field position before punting at midfield. In a closer game, it might have made sense to go for it here, but 4th-and-5 is a tough call.
  3. +0.09 for a drive on a short field ending in a touchdown. I don't know why people were criticizing Beadles here. It looks like Mayo was shoving Walton, and Beadles stepped in (by stepping OVER a Patriot, not stepping/stomping on anyone) to break it up, and Beadles got flagged. At any rate, the penalty by itself was worth -0.05 WPA, given the 20 yards field position New England gained.
  4. -0.06 for a three-and-out with three called runs. Crap play-calling on this drive. Denver has to punt from within their twenty, giving New England a short field.
  5. -0.00 for a three-and-out. Denver's already so unlikely to win that it doesn't really damage their chances. Bad drive. Tebow reads-and-reacts to attempt a throw that should really only be a timing throw. Then Tebow pitches when he shouldn't and Royal makes a bad cut. Finally, Tebow has to scramble and throw it away. Simms is criticizing him for not finding the underneath route to the running back, but even if Ball had managed to not drop the pass, he would have been short of the first down. Denver really needed to score on this drive to keep the game within one score, and failed badly.
  6. -0.00 for a drive with two first downs - Royal actually made an intelligent play around the sticks - after which they are forced backwards. On this drive, they try to milk the clock a bit at the end rather than going for a first down, but New England is able to get the ball back.
  7. +0.01 for a three-and-out. It's random statistical movement at this point. Lance Ball has a bad drop on this drive. Denver is apparently trying to drive for points now, when they were trying to run out the clock on the previous drive. We need to have a better running back crew next season.
  8. +0.00 for Tebow kneeling to end the half.
  9. +0.02 for a three-and-out to start the second half.
  10. -0.00 for a three-and-out.
  11. +0.01 for a drive ending in a field goal.
  12. +0.00 for a long drive ending with a turnover on downs in the red zone.
  13. -0.01 for a drive ending the game.

Drive notes for Defense:

  1. -0.19 for giving up a touchdown drive. Victimized here - the no-huddle trapped Joe Mays on Gronkowski for a 16-yard gain, and then Bruton badly missed a tackle that sprung Hernandez free for his long run. Bruton also misplayed the touchdown, choosing to double Edelman (??) who was already covered by Champ (?!).
  2. -0.13 for giving up another touchdown drive. New England deservedly picks on Bruton early here, but he makes a couple of good tackles. Picks on the off-playing Goodman with a bubble screen. No clear bad defensive plays here, this is more of a good New England team on a short field.
  3. -0.06 for short drive ending in a Quinton Carter interception. Basically, it was already really unlikely that we'd be coming back to win, and it was late enough in the 1st quarter that it was looking unlikely that we'd score a lot of points.
  4. +0.04 for forcing a punt after a first down, when Bruton missed a tackle on Gronkowski. Unfortunately, Denver was on the wrong side of the field position game here. Mays almost had a pick-six.
  5. -0.11 for giving up a touchdown drive on a short field. Quinton Carter is out of the game by now, so Rafael Bush, Rahim Moore, and David Bruton are the safeties. New England's no-huddle is giving Denver problems - we don't have enough three-down defenders.
  6. +0.00 for forcing a three-and-out, but New England gets to punt from midfield again.
  7. -0.05 for giving up a touchdown drive on a short field. Branch just beats Goodman. It looked like a little bit of OPI against Branch, but great throw by Brady. Bruton looks bad again here, too. Harris motions Bruton in Goodman's direction, Bruton runs the other direction.
  8. -0.00 for giving up another touchdown drive before halftime. It's pretty meaningless at this point, so I'll just summarize from here on out. They have Hernandez on Rafael Bush and it's just a mismatch.
  9. -0.00 for giving up a touchdown drive in the 3rd quarter.
  10. -0.02 for a drive ending in a fumble recovery by Denver.
  11. -0.02 for giving up a field goal drive.
  12. -0.00 for a drive ending in a third-down quick kick by Tom Brady.

In the first half, the offense was +0.09 - they had some good drive movement. The defense was -0.50, bad enough to lose the game all by themselves. I think there's an illusion here, though - if the game had been closer, the offense's lack of movement probably would have scored worse. Denver didn't really have a prayer, though - I was hoping in the week beforehand that Dawkins would be healed up, but when that didn't happen, Denver's safety presence is so thin from youth and inexperience that there was just no helping things. Denver's offense was +0.02 in the second half, while Denver's defense was -0.04 - pretty meaningless since the game was so far out of reach by that point.

Players: Willis McGahee had a pretty decent game, and Demaryius Thomas had a noticeable score, but that's about it. No one scored very highly.

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