Down 7-0, just 4 minutes into the game, the Secretary of our Trent Dilfer Club, Andy Dalton, stepped onto the field for the first time. After a 1-yard run, 10-yard holding penalty, and incomplete pass, the Bengals were backed into a 3rd-and-19 on their own 14. Dalton drops back, hits Andrew Hawkins who goes for exactly 19, converting to a new set of downs. Here's a look at how the drive unfolded using our Markov model:
Before the 3rd-and-19, there was an 85.3% chance of a punt and 3.1% chance of scoring a TD or field goal. In fact, the second greatest probability of a drive containing a 3rd-and-19 from one's own 24 is that of a fumble at 4.4% (third is an interception at 3.1%). But, Dalton laughed in the face of probability and converted, raising his chances of scoring to 31.9%.
4th down calculator, we know that Marvin Lewis made the right decision. The break even point both in terms of expected points and win probability is right around 30% (compared to an estimated 68% conversion rate).
After the stop, the Browns were backed up against their own end zone. A quick 3-and-out led to great field position for the Bengals, starting at the Cleveland 47. 3 plays later Cedric Benson ran around the left end for a 16-yard TD to tie the game.
In a game that was ultimately decided by 3 points, a 3rd-and-19 conversion that resulted in a +2.57 EPA was one of the forgotten game-changers. Dalton improves his record to 7-4 despite a mediocre +0.02 WPA for the game, fortifying his Trent Dilfer Club credentials.
Keith Goldner is the creator of Drive-By Football, and Chief Analyst at numberFire.com - The leading fantasy sports analytics platform. Follow him on twitter @drivebyfootball or check out numberFire on Facebook.