After a manageable 3rd-and-3 on their own 21, Jahri Evans was called for a false start, boosting the probability of a punt to over 70%. On this 3rd-and-8, Brees hits the now-healthy Marques Colston for 13 yards over the middle to convert, dropping the punt probability to 44.6%. 6 plays later, the Saints found themselves in another 3rd-and-long at the Carolina 38. A 25-yard completion to Brees' new favorite target, tight end Jimmy Graham, sets up a 1st-and-10 from the Carolina 13. Punt probability dropped from 31.4% to negligible and touchdown probability jumped from 20.7% to 52.5%. Brees would later convert on his third 3rd down of the drive (to Jimmy Graham again on play 14), all but assuring a touchdown for the Saints. Given that the drive lasted the majority of the 2nd quarter and that the Saints would go ahead by 11, the WPA of +0.20 is one of the highest you will see for a single drive before half time.
Looking at the development of expected points on the drive, the three 3rd down conversions stand out as the major spikes after plays 4, 10, and 14 -- the largest of which was the 3rd-and-7 completion to Graham, adding 2.56 expected points.
Cam Newton, however, led the Panthers all the way back to lead the Saints late, 27-23. Brees went and did his thing, scoring the go-ahead TD after a 13-play, 6+ minute drive. We can see the probabilities evolve in this drive as well, however, the model is not as suitable here, given that the Saints probably would not have taken a field goal, and may have gone for it if confronted with a 4th down decision. This drive resulted in a +0.66 WPA and would be the game clincher for New Orleans.
Other significant drives this week: Kansas City's 2 TD drives late against Indy.
Keith Goldner is the creator of Drive-By Football, and Chief Analyst at numberFire.com - The leading fantasy sports analytics platform.