The New England Patriots’ 34-33 defeat against the Miami Dolphins saw big plays made in all three phases of the game — and by both teams, which allowed the contest to stay close until the home team decided it on the very last play. But which plays were the biggest from the Patriots’ perspective? Let’s take a look at the changes in win probability to find out (percentages via NumberFire).
5 best Patriots plays
Q4: 3-1-MIA 44 (11:16) R.Tannehill sacked at MIA 36 for -8 yards.
Win probability: +14.54%
The Patriots defense had a very good day on third down, allowing just one conversion on seven Miami attempts. The biggest stop came early in the fourth period: facing a 3rd and 1, New England defensive edge John Simon was able to get to quarterback Ryan Tannehill and take him down for a loss of eight yards. The Patriots turned the subsequent possession into a field goal to take a 30-28 lead.
Q4: 1-10-NE 27 (4:26) PENALTY on MIA, Defensive Too Many Men on Field, 5 yards, enforced at NE 27.
Win probability: +11.24%
From a win probability perspective — which is largely dependent on game situations (e.g. fourth quarter plays in close games have a bigger impact) —, a Dolphins penalty on a first down play late in the fourth quarter was New England’s biggest offensive moment. While the team gained only five yards, the drive-starting penalty that turned a 1st and 10 into a 1st and 5 increased the Patriots’ odds of winning from 63.0% to 74.24%.
Q4: 2-10-MIA 48 (1:56) T.Brady pass incomplete deep left to J.Gordon. PENALTY on MIA, Defensive Pass Interference, 41 yards, enforced at MIA 48.
Win probability: +10.16%
Another penalty later on the same drive had a similar impact on win probability: the Patriots were already 76.10% favorites when wide receiver Josh Gordon was interfered with on a deep pass attempt from Tom Brady. The play set up 1st and goal from the 7-yard line and allowed New England to a) score a field goal to increase the lead to 33-28, and b) run the clock down to until only 16 seconds remained.
Q4: 1-10-MIA 43 (9:24) T.Brady pass short left to J.White to MIA 34 for 9 yards.
Win probability: +9.55%
Another one of those plays that only added to the Patriots’ already existing odds of victory in the fourth quarter came on a 9-yard pass from Tom Brady to running back James White. The play set New England up in a favorable 2nd and 1 situation while increasing the team’s chances of leaving Miami victoriously from 60.54% to 69.91%.
Q4: 1-10-NE 31 (10:28) T.Brady pass short left to J.Gordon to MIA 48 for 21 yards.
Win probability: +8.33%
The first offensive play after the aforementioned sack by John Simon saw Tom Brady connect with Josh Gordon for a 21-yard gain. The play — which moved New England’s offense from its own 31 yard line all the close to midfield — added 8.33% to the an already very good looking win probability of 49.25%.
5 worst Patriots plays
Q4. 1-10-MIA 31 (:07) R.Tannehill pass short right to K.Stills to MIA 45 for 14 yards. Lateral to D.Parker to MIA 48 for 3 yards. Lateral to K.Drake for 52 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Win probability: -93.2%
Who would have thought that the worst play of the day for the Patriots was the game-deciding 69-yard pass-lateral-lateral-touchdown combination that left no time on the clock? Nobody, exactly. According to NumberFire’s calculations, Miami actually had a 6.80% chance of winning after the Patriots kicked off following their late fourth quarter field goal — as opposed to the 99.9% ESPN used. Since the Dolphins ended up winning the game, its final play naturally added 93.2% to its win probability. Quite the swing.
Q4: 4-4-MIA 40 (4:34) M.Haack punts 33 yards to NE 27.
Win probability: -12.75%
The worst non-game deciding play of the day was a Miami punt that put the Patriots back at their own 27-yard line — and might have helped the Dolphins in the long run had the defense gotten a quick stop (it did not, the Patriots went on to score a field goal). From the home team’s perspective, however, it was little else but boosting a number that already was non-favorable: the play added 12.75% to the 24.23% win percentage the team had at that point.
Q3: 1-10-NE 23 (4:04) R.Tannehill pass deep middle to B.Butler for 23 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Win probability: -9.64%
After the teams exchanged a punt and a missed field goal (more on that later) to open the second half, the Dolphins took the lead late in the third period on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to wide receiver Brice Butler. The first-year Dolphin beat cornerback Stephon Gilmore and put his team up 28-27 — all while adding 9.64% to Miami’s win probability.
Q3: 4-8-MIA 24 (6:26) S.Gostkowski 42 yard field goal is No Good.
Win probability: -9.36%
The drive before Butler’s touchdown reception nearly ended with the Patriots increasing their lead from six to nine points. However, kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s attempt sailed wide right and set up Miami with solid field position. It was Gostkowski’s second missed kick of the day after he already shanked an extra point on the first series of the day.
Q2: 1-10-MIA 46 (13:36) B.Bolden right tackle for 54 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Win probability: -8.92%
Just two plays after New England went up 13-7, the Dolphins struck back via an ex-Patriot: Brandon Bolden, who earned two Super Bowl rings during his tenure with the club, rushed for a 54-yard touchdown that put his new team in front again and added 8.92% to Miami’s win probability. The run was one of many big plays the Patriots defense gave up on the day.