On a crazy Sunday with upsets out the wazoo, the most surprising win had to be Christian Ponder and his lowly Vikings taking down the San Francisco 49ers. Minnesota outplayed the Niners from the very start of the game; their opening drive lasted 7 minutes and 40 seconds and went 82 yards over 16 plays for the first score of the game.
The Cardinals dominated the Eagles all game long, but after back-to-back field goals to bring the game within 18 points (why do teams still kick field goals down 21 in the third or fourth quarter?), Arizona needed to seal the win. They did so with a 13-play, six-and-a-half minute drive (including two Eagles timeouts), which resulted in a field goal.
Using our Markov model, let's look at these two game-changing drives.
The biggest play of the drive was play 12, an 11-yard completion to tight end Kyle Rudolph (TD probability increases by about 40%). Adrian Peterson ran the ball eight times on the drive, with not a single rush exceeding five yards. The highlight, however, was Minnesota going for it on 4th-and-Goal from the 1-yard line. That is clearly the correct decision, but even more so as a significant underdog. Over the course of that very first drive, the Vikings win probability increased to 72%. It would not fall below 60% for the remainder of the game.
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.