Another post at the Slate/Deadspin rountable.
Any of these five plays could easily have gone the other way. In total they represent 0.73 WP—nearly the entire difference between winning and losing. Win probability is obviously an abstract concept, but it helps put a concrete number on what we already intuitively understand. Numbers like this underscore how razor-thin the difference between winning and losing is, especially when the two opponents are evenly matched. This year's Super Bowl was like most other NFL games—it hinged on a handful of critical and unusual events. The conference championship games were no different: The Giants won thanks to two bungled punt returns by the 49ers, and the Patriots won in large part thanks to a missed 32-yard field goal attempt by the Ravens.
If you missed my first one from Sunday night, here's the link. It covered the end-game strategy decisions of allowing the final TD.
The smartest play of all would've been for Belichick to have allowed the touchdown even earlier. The Patriots certainly could have done so on the play prior to Bradshaw's touchdown run, when he was stopped for a one-yard gain, forcing New England to burn its second timeout. In fact, they probably should have allowed a touchdown as early as the two-minute warning. That’s the point at which the Win Probability of receiving a kickoff down by four or six points (0.23) exceeds the Win Probability of trying to stop the Giants from bleeding the clock dry (0.2). The Patriots would have had almost two minutes, two timeouts, and all four downs available to get a touchdown and steal the win.