the winning touchdown in the 4th quarter didn't convince you that football and stats don't always actually represent reality, and that the Patriots employ percentages and statistics when they play the game, then here's something else that you probably will continue to see being repeated over and over and assume it's some sort of killer blow to your team.
This write up refers to AdvancedNFLstats.com's awesome live winning probability game analysis charts:
Advanced NFL Stats Win Probability - Current Games
They track winning percentages live during games. You can go back and review the costliest mistakes or gains in each game as the game unfolded, as well as the highest swings in momentum. Very useful stuff if you wanna know "what play really cost you the game".
The 50 yard interception.
Baltimore Ravens AFC Championship.
In the Baltimore Ravens game, Tom Brady threw an interception with a 1st and 10 from the 50 yard line following a turnover by Joe Flacco. As seen in the chart at the link above, the Patriots were 87% favorites to win the game prior to the play. Following Tom Brady's interception they were still the favorites to win the game even though they turned over the ball, but they did drop down to 61% favorites. Most people see this as a mistake, and pin it mostly on the quarterback, because it affects his NFL passer rating significantly, but it's not quite that simple.
Most people would probably expect the Patriots to complete just about every pass, including this one. While you certainly do want to complete every pass if possible, this particular pass is a low % attempt. Coaches, and anyone that understands football percentages expect
an incompletion. What they don't
expect is a completion or an interception. But they do prepare for either. It's the complete opposite of what you, the fan, thinks when watching. The chances of either happening are almost 50/50 with the offense having only an edge over the defenders. They're both less likely to happen compared to an incompletion. Most times, it's missed or batted down.
The reason they keep trying this is because of percentages, field position and the fact they were still up in score. If the Patriots make the completion, they basically go up two scores, and while 87% favorites sounds good prior to this pass, it's actually a long way away from the 100% you need to win the football game. A lot can still happen in 2-3 minutes. Completing this pass pretty much locks you down as the winners.
While there's no real preparation for the completion if it happens(they leave it up to the receiver to find his own TD celebration) the interception is
something they do prepare for. To correctly execute this play completely
, the biggest part is that you have to be prepared for the interception prior to attempting the pass. The interception is only half
The Patriots didn't execute this play well because they allowed it to be returned to the Baltimore 39 yard line after being intercepted in the endzone. The correct execution should have been a tackle, not in the endzone, but just outside of it.
You really would rather not tackle the player in the endzone because they automatically allow their offense to start at the 20 yard line(which might be why Tom Brady sometimes throws it short even though we've seen Brady drive a ball 70 yards before). What you want to do is attempt to complete it just outside the endzone
, and if it goes bad, you tackle them right there.
Pinning a team back within their own 10 yard line still gives you the same chances to score next. You can throw 100 interceptions but as long as you tackle your opponent within their own 10 yard line, and you are leading by 1 point, you are STILL likely to win the football game. Make it 1000. It won't make a difference. Your chances of winning will only improve as the clock runs down.
Giants and the Super Bowl
Evidence of the importance of field position couldn't have been emphasized more by the domination the Giants had over the Patriots in the field position battle beginning with them pinning the Patriots back within their own 6 yard line which resulted in a safety. They were still just as likely to score first despite the Patriots having the ball. And they did. Twice. Once on the safety, and once on the following possession.
When the Patriots had the ball with the score 0-0 at their own 6 yard line, the Giants were 50% to win the game even though they had just given up the ball.
As it turns out, the 50 yard interception also found its way into the Super Bowl. Same situation. Same "mistake". We are at midfield, up in score, and Brady takes a long shot downfield that gets intercepted. This time we had a 1st and 10 at our own 43 yard line. Unlike the Ravens game, we were only 67% favorites to win prior to the interception, so even though we weren't sitting quite as pretty as 87%, the offensive coordinator still views it as a positive play. We were only risking 43 yards of gained field position this time.
However, unlike the Ravens game where the execution of the play cost us roughly 26% in winning percentage because of what happened after
the interception, this time around the Patriots executed this play much better.
Giants vs Patriots game analysis: Advanced NFL Stats Win Probability - Current Games
Because the defender was immediately tackled after the interception, and we backed up the Giants at their 8 yard line, it still left us as 60% favorites to win the game. This interception only cost us 7% compared to 26% in the Baltimore game. Once again, it could have almost guarantee us victory if it was completed.
Compare to the Ravens game, it's not even close. We executed much better. On the immediate possession we actually still had the Giants on the ropes when our defense had them in a 3rd and 7 situation backed up into their own endzone, but a very costly penalty, set them free.
So while in most cases, turnovers are very costly, there are some that don't always mean the end. The "50 yard interception" from midfield is one of them. I expect Tom Brady and the Patriots to continue attempting this same pass when faced with the same situation. Most people will still view it as a "mistake", and chances are good that the "mistake" will happen more often than completing the winning TD pass. Despite what people perception of it remains, it is still a sound play to make.
However, one should note, that in addition to it being a low % pass, it's probably not a good idea to attempt it when the player that's supposed to make the completion suffers from a high ankle sprain. But it also means, the last thing you wanna do after throwing a pick, is get down or deflated, but rather be on alert for winning the field position battle
A 50 yard interception from midfield, when you are up in score, that results in pinning the opponent back within their 10 yard line does not change momentum and barely hurts your chances of winning a football game. You are still the favorite to win. A completion of this pass, pretty much guarantees a win late in the game.
Game costing mistake.
Well it was neither the safety nor Wes Welker.
-The safety cost us 8% because it took place early in the game.
-Tom Brady's interception was worth only 7% despite it coming late in the game.
-Wes Welker's dropped pass was only 6%.
-The incompletion afterwards, the pass to Branch was more costly: 11%.
But even at that point we were 63% favorites to win the game, and following a great punt that pinned the Giants back at their own 12 yard line, grew to 67% percent!
The costliest play
was the 2nd Mario Maningham catch:
-the first catch, 38 yards, cost us 15%, but still left us as 52% favorites.
-the second catch, 16 yards, was the killer which cost 22% completely swung momentum, and made the Giants 67% favorites to win the game.
You can view it as mistakes, but in reality it looks more like 2 great plays by the Giants.
The winning touchdown?
our chances by 4%! The Giants were 89% favorites to win prior to scoring, but scoring a touchdown rather than chewing the clock dropped them back to 85%.
The costliest of mistake? The clock.
When we got the ball back on our final possession, the touchback gave us only a 10% chance to win. Despite traveling 30 yards to the 50 yard line, this 30 yard gain, resulted in a -8% swing. We had a 2% chance to win the game at this point because there were only 9 seconds left on the clock. The same 30 yards gained by Manning on the previous drive, improved their chances by 15%. The clock not only wiped out what should have been about a 15% gain, but further added a -8% on top of it, for a combined total of -23%
swing just because of the clock.
Bill's challene did nothing to slow them down, but it did put us in a situation where the clock killed our team. Perhaps next time, a better strategy to slow down momentum is to teach the Patriots how to fall down and pretend being hurt. It still slows down their momentum, gets you a free time out, while preserving a challenge flag. Couple this with the 12 man defensive penalty Tom Coughlin allowed, to squeeze the final seconds of the clock, and simply put: We got outcoached by a coach who wasn't afraid to use tactics that may be seen as "cheating". While ours, scarred by our past, played too damn fair! Bill, it's time to get serious again this year. You were right. Nobody plays fair, so why should you?