The most valuable play on offense for either team came from a trademark Tom Brady quarterback sneak- but instead of behind mainstay guard Logan Mankins, he crept behind new captain Dan Connolly. The result was the same as ever: a first down.
But what made this play so valuable?
Within line from Sunday's performance, the play never should have happened in the first place. It was the 9th overall play of the game (special teams included), on the Patriots first drive. James Develin had picked up a first down on 3rd and 1 and given the Patriots a fresh set of downs inside the Bengals five yard line.
For whatever reason, the refs game the worst spot I've ever seen. Instead of giving the Patriots the ball on the three and a half line, where Develin was stopped, they moved the ball back to the four and a half line, forcing the Patriots back into a fourth and one situation. Bill Belichick would have undoubtedly won any challenge, but instead the team opted for the QB sneak.
On fourth and one in that situation, the average team is expected to score three points, or a chip shot field goal. Brady's sneak picked up four yards, gave the Patriots the ball on the one yard line, and increased their expected points to 6.97. That one play basically increased the Patriots drive from three points to seven points.
The four point increase was the largest of the day on offense or defense. Additionally, it improved the Patriots chances of winning 11.3%, the largest increase on a singular play for the day.
Overall, the biggest expected point swing came on special teams, where Brandon Bolden nudged the ball free from returnman Brandon Tate and Kyle Arrington returned it for a touchdown. The expected points were zero, the result was seven. That's an insane swing.
The best play on defense came on Darrelle Revis' forced fumble on A.J. Green prior to halfrime. Jamie Collins returned the ball to the 25 yard line. This play swung the expected points for the Patriots by 3.8 points, almost an equal and opposite play to Tom Brady's sneak. This is the type of play we want from Revis, the only player on defense that can come close Brady's name in league discussions.
Understated play of the game? The Bengals missed 52 yard field goal. The -2.79 change in expected points for the Bengals is the 3rd best play for the Patriots defense, while the miss boosted the Patriots winning chances by 7.5%, the second biggest play of the day. This play pushed the Patriots' chance of winning over 75% and they never looked back.
On the negative side, the worst play by the Patriots was, unfairly, the poor spot on the Develin run, which was worth -1.93 expected points and -5.6% on the chance of winning. Beyond that play, Andy Dalton's 37 yard touchdown strike over Alfonzo Dennard to Mohamed Sanu was the worst play by the defense, costing 3.88 expected points and reducing the chance of victory by 4.8%.
The worst play on offense was the intentional grounding call on Tom Brady that came roughly three years after the play was over. While I'd defend that Brandon LaFell was in the area at the time of the target, I don't really mind that it was flagged. The most obnoxious aspects were how late after the play the flag was thrown and the fact that the Bengals lobbied for it. But only Patriots and Eric Decker call for flags.
Pacman Jones' 47 yard punt return was worth 2.27 expected points and was followed by the 37 yard touchdown pass to Sanu.
The average penalty on offense was worth -0.8 expected points per drive. The average penalty on the defense increased the expected points on the drive bye +1.2. Something to monitor; every penalty basically costs the team 1 expected point.
Touchbacks are actually worth -0.28 points. The best kicks are those that are high, but still entice the returnman to bring the ball out. If the returnman only makes it back to the 19 yard line, the kicking team has earned +0.15 points. A kick that yields a +0.28 point return only goes to the 14 yard line. It's still much safer to take the touchback.
The Patriots achieved 100% winning rate at 12:58 left in the 4th quarter on the sack by Chris Jones and Chandler Jones.
Jimmy Garoppolo kneeling three times is worth -2.58 points, if you were wondering. What a scrub.