NFL Momentum Plays, Week 12

By Brian Umbaugh

Every game was close at one point. Even after an opening drive TD, the game is still only a one-possession game. Although the point spread indicates one team may have a better chance of winning, the Any Given Sunday principle implies either team can win if they play the right game.

This list includes the play that increases the probability of winning above 50% for the last time. In other words, this play led to a sequence of events that settled the game. The touchdown that won the game may have been preceded by an unheralded completed pass that made the drive easier and the odds of winning resolute.

On to the list for Week 12.

Oakland 24, Kansas City 20

3-9-KC 29(2:13, 4Q) (Shotgun) 4-D.Carr pass incomplete short right to 18-A.Holmes. PENALTY on KC-38-R.Parker, Defensive Pass Interference, 9 yards, enforced at KC 29 – No Play.   

Video – Oakland Momentum Play

As the Raiders were trying to take a late lead, they faced an improbable (for them) situation requiring a long 3rd down conversion.  Without it, the Raiders would have tied the game on a FG and left the Chiefs 2:00 to answer with their own game-winner.  With this pass interference penalty, the Raiders were given a fresh set of downs in the red zone and their chances of winning went from 47% to 64%.  Four plays later, Carr to Jones gave the Raiders a TD and the victory.

Cleveland 26, Atlanta 24

1-10-CLE 31(:32, 4Q) (Shotgun) 6-B.Hoyer pass deep middle to 12-J.Gordon to ATL 45 for 24 yards (55-P.Worrilow).

Video – Cleveland Momentum Play

Kudos to the Browns for one underestimated intangible today.  When Atlanta kicked a FG to go up 24-23 with 0:44 left, the announcers claimed the it was poor clock management by the Falcons for leaving too much time left on the clock.  That is a special statement to make regarding the Browns offense.  In addition, was there any doubt Josh Gordon was going to have a serious effect on this game?  When Gordon got open across the middle and Cleveland moved across midfield, the Browns chances went from 22% to 53%. A big win for Cleveland considering the impressive records in their division, and a disappointing loss for Atlanta considering the terrible records in theirs.

Chicago 21, Tampa Bay 13

2-8-TB 37(5:09, 3Q) (Shotgun) 12-J.McCown sacked at TB 25 for -12 yards (91-D.Bass). FUMBLES (91-D.Bass), RECOVERED by CHI-59-C.Jones at TB 15. 59-C.Jones to TB 13 for 2 yards (13-M.Evans).

Video – Chicago Momentum Play

When you’re up 10-7, your best strategy probably doesn’t include fumbling the ball deep in your own territory, bringing your chances from 67% to 40%.  The next six plays from scrimmage included two Bears TD runs sandwiched around another McCown turnover and the game was a historical fact.  This play started the carnage.

Cincinnati 22, Houston 13

3-7-CIN 9(6:56, 1Q) (Shotgun) 14-A.Dalton pass short middle to 12-M.Sanu to CIN 19 for 10 yards (20-J.Rolle).

Those who may have read the Week 11 Momentum Plays know how I feel about 3rd down conversions. Fans talk about touchdowns and field goals, interceptions and fumbles.  However, this short pass changed a possible Bengals punt from their own end zone to what would become a sustained drive, a drive that would lead to a 7-0 lead.  This play brought the Bengals over the 50% threshold, with the TD giving them a 71% advantage they almost never relinquished.

I give an official Golf Clap to the Texans for almost coming back from a terrible first half.  Down 16-10, Houston drove deep into Bengals territory, bring their chances all the way up to 48% before the drive resulted in a disappointing FG.

Indianapolis 23, Jacksonville 3

1-10-JAC 20(3:30, 2Q) (Shotgun) 5-B.Bortles pass incomplete short right to 88-A.Hurns (29-M.Adams) [99-R.Jean Francois].

When the Jaguars got the ball after a punt on their own 1 yard line with 4:00 to go before halftime, they had a 1st down pass to their own 20.  At that point, the game was a 50-50 proposition.  Tied 3-3, they could either drive and take a lead into the locker room, or they could do what a 1-9 team does — a stuffed drive and quick punt.  The 1st down incomplete pass nudged the odds slightly in the Colts’ favor to 48%, leading to a series of events that allowed the Colts to take a 6-3 into the break.  Jacksonville never threatened in the 2nd half as the Colts began to stretch out their lead.

Green Bay 24, Minnesota 21

1-10-MIN 22(7:30, 2Q) 5-T.Bridgewater pass deep left intended for 15-G.Jennings INTERCEPTED by 33-M.Hyde at GB 47. 33-M.Hyde to GB 47 for no gain (15-G.Jennings).

Video – Green Bay Momentum Play

Earlier in the 2nd quarter, the Vikings had tied the game at 7 and forced a Packers punt.  Rodgers looked pedestrian and the Vikings were gaining confidence.  Although the Vikings’ fair catch left them at their own 12 with 8:52 before halftime, Bridgewater looked as if he was going to move Minnesota down the field. Then a terrible floating interception began a new drive for Green Bay, where Aaron did Rodgers-y things and the Packers took a 14-7 lead.  While this was not the end for the Vikings, they could never fully get over the hump.

New England 34, Detroit 9

2-2-NE 2(13:48, 2Q) 9-M.Stafford pass incomplete short left to 81-C.Johnson (24-D.Revis).

Remember, this is not the play that proved the Pats would eventually dominate.  This is the play where the Lions had the advantage, and then all of a sudden they didn’t and never would again.  The pure situation of having a 2nd down play at the opposing 2 yard line should mean a touchdown, and against Tom Brady, you need touchdowns.  The confidence of the Lions before this play and after it were different.  A 3rd down play is more nerve-wracking because you know that if it fails, a FG attempt is a certainty.  Remember, you need touchdowns.  They didn’t get a touchdown.  Now down 7-6, the Patriots decided to stop toying with Detroit. It took a kickoff return and two plays to start the rout.

Philadelphia 43, Tennessee 24

(15:00, 1Q) 8-R.Succop kicks 72 yards from TEN 35 to PHI -7. 11-J.Huff for 107 yards, TOUCHDOWN

Video – Philadelphia Momentum Play

This was the first play of the game. Fans are still figuring out how to eat their Cocoa Puffs after forgetting to buy milk, and the Eagles were up 7-0.  The chances of an Eagle victory immediately rose to 71%…and never went down. That is a momentum play.

San Diego 27, St. Louis 24

2-4-SD 4(1:03, 4Q) 14-S.Hill pass short middle intended for 81-K.Britt INTERCEPTED by 38-M.Gilchrist at SD -1. 38-M.Gilchrist to SD 3 for 4 yards (36-B.Cunningham).

Video – San Diego Momentum Play

Anyone who watched highlights of this game know the Momentum Play for this game.  Mr. Hill, Mr.Hill…not a way to make Sportscenter.  This play actually wins the Brett Favre Award for the most soul crushing play of the day, changing the chances of victory for the Chargers from 24% to 97%!  The Rams had just swung the momentum violently in their favor with a spectacular catch inside the Chargers 10. Down by 3, four yards from taking the lead, at least a chip shot tying FG in the bag, and soon a spectacularly miserable Rams fan base is throwing remotes all over the country.

Seattle 19, Arizona 3

2-10-SEA 33(7:51, 1Q) 38-A.Ellington right tackle to SEA 31 for 2 yards (72-M.Bennett).

There are defensive games, and there are just non-offensive games.  This was one of those games for the Cardinals.  Stanton was out of his league at Century Link. Regardless, at one point (and only one point) of this game, Arizona had a 52% chance of winning. They had just been the beneficiary of a pass interference call and had the ball at the Seattle 33.  The 1st down pass was incomplete.  As mentioned in the Jacksonville piece, as the downs get used, your chances go down.  For this 2nd down play, the odds were 50-50.  After this play, the Cardinals were at 48%, assuming Stanton couldn’t convert 3rd & 8.  He couldn’t, chances went down to 43%, and continued to go down as the Seahawks kept tacking on field goals.  On your best day, you should turn any possessions on the opposing side of the field into points.  On your worst day, it’s an imperative.  This was the Cardinals shot to do something, and they ended up doing nothing.

Denver 39, Miami 36

1-10-MIA 19(6:03, 4Q) (No Huddle, Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass incomplete deep left to 10-E.Sanders. PENALTY on MIA-27-J.Wilson, Illegal Use of Hands, 5 yards, enforced at MIA 19 – No Play.

Denver did Miami a favor on the previous play by committing a personal foul and backing themselves up to the Miami 19.  This penalty on the Dolphins turned a 2nd & 10 from the Miami 19 into a 1st & 10 from the Miami 14.  It’s a simple concept, I think — don’t give Manning extra downs and yards as a rule of thumb. Two plays later, Anderson was in the end zone and the Broncos led for good.

San Francisco 17, Washington 13

1-10-SF 37(4:43, 4Q) (Shotgun) 7-C.Kaepernick pass deep right to 81-A.Boldin to WAS 34 for 29 yards (26-B.Breeland). WAS-25-R.Clark was injured during the play. PENALTY on WAS-25-R.Clark, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced at WAS 34. Caught at WAS 40. 6-yds YAC

Video – San Francisco Momentum Play

At 5:28 in the 4th quarter, the Redskins had an 84% chance to win as the 49ers lined up for a 4th & 1. Two plays later, the Redskins had a 36% chance.  This play broke their back with a 44 yard change in field position. A few plays later, San Francisco had their TD and the lead. The game was ugly, but in the end the Washington defense could not overcome the deficiencies of their QB.

Dallas 31, NY Giants 28

1-10-NYG 21(1:19, 4Q) (Shotgun) 9-T.Romo pass short left to 88-D.Bryant pushed ob at NYG 13 for 8 yards (26-A.Rolle, 35-Q.Demps).

Right before the final Dallas TD, this pass was the last one of many in an impressive drive orchestrated by Romo.  The momentum started to turn toward the Cowboys after they crossed midfield, but once Romo and Bryant moved the team into the red zone, the chances for the required TD moved from 48% to 74%.

Baltimore at New Orleans, Monday night (pending)

Have a good Monday!