The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Running the Numbers: Cowboys’ 7 Biggest Plays from 2012

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At DallasCowboys.com, I tried to quantify the Cowboys’ biggest 2012 plays.

Last week, I introduced the concept of win probability graphs. Developed by Advanced NFL Stats, the graphs chart increases and decreases in each team’s chances of winning a game in real time. The graphs aren’t just blind guesses; they actually look at historic NFL data to estimate with great accuracy how often each team can be expected to win a particular game given the situation—score, possession, field position, down-and-distance, and time remaining.

Today, I’m going to use the graphs to run through some of the Cowboys’ biggest plays in 2012. The seven plays listed below dramatically enhanced the Cowboys’ probability of winning each contest. We all know that a big turnover or touchdown can alter the course of a game, but it’s unique to see such a change in momentum quantified. I’ve marked the plays with a white star on each graph.

@NYG - DeMarco Murray 48-yard run: 10 percent WP

Up by four points and facing a second-and-three at their own 27-yard line, the Cowboys owned a 70 percent chance to take down the Giants in Week 1. That number jumped to 80 percent when DeMarco Murray made something out of nothing, dancing behind the line on a broken play and taking a toss 48 yards.

 

@BAL – Pass Interference on BAL: 42 percent WP

As you’ll note, the biggest swings in win probability come late in games. That was exactly the case when the Cowboys faced the Ravens in Week 6. After a Dez Bryant touchdown and a failed two-point conversion, Dallas was down two points and possessed a one percent chance of winning. When they recovered a Dan Bailey onside kick, that win probability jumped to 11 percent.

On the first play following the recovery, Tony Romo looked deep to Kevin Ogletree. The pass fell incomplete, but the Ravens were flagged for pass interference. Dallas got the ball at Baltimore’s 35-yard line with 32 seconds remaining, shooting their win probability all the way up to 53 percent.

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