Tuesday, October 11, 2011
2011 Week 5: NFC West game changers
By Mike Sando
The Seattle Seahawks' flair for the dramatic went unmatched around the NFL in Week 5.
Cornerback Brandon Browner's clinching 94-yard interception return for a touchdown against the New York Giants stands atop the list of pivotal plays. The Seahawks' chances for winning went from less than 50 percent to near certainty, as measured by ESPN's win probability calculations reflecting results from thousands of game situations.
I've been breaking out the five most pivotal plays in the NFC West each week. This time, all five came from the Seahawks-Giants game, no shock given how the other games played out. Arizona fell behind Minnesota by a 28-0 score in the first quarter. San Francisco blew out Tampa Bay, 48-3. St. Louis was idle.
Browner's story is an improbable one. He was playing in the CFL before landing in Seattle during the offseason. The Seahawks expected his uncommon height (6-foot-4) would translate well to press coverage. They're not too concerned about Browner drawing occasional penalties, the price for playing receivers so aggressively.
When Seahawks general manager John Schneider mentioned Browner to coach Pete Carroll as a player to check out during the offseason, Carroll initially wasn't sure Browner, 27, was still playing.
"I’d lost track of him," Carroll told reporters Monday. "He’s really a factor. He bothered those guys (Giants receivers). They were pushing and shoving and jawing at him and all that because he wouldn’t let them go, he wouldn’t get off them. That’s a factor you don’t see that often in corners."
Browner weighs about 220 pounds, making him big even by safety standards.
The big play he provided against the Giants set the franchise record for longest interception return. It also stands third on the list of most pivotal plays in the NFL this season, as measured by change in win probability. The top two: New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis' interception off Dallas' Tony Romo in Week 1, and Ryan Fitzpatrick's fourth-down touchdown pass to David Nelson for Buffalo against Oakland in Week 2.
The chart breaks out the five most pivotal plays from the NFC West in Week 5. "WP" stands for win probability as a percentage.