Monday, January 2, 2012
2011 NFC West game-changers: Week 17
By Mike Sando
The Arizona Cardinals matched an NFL record with four overtime victories this season.
Their latest overtime success story, a 23-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, featured more of the game-changing plays that typified Arizona's up-and-down season.
The 61-yard touchdown reception Arizona allowed to Seattle's Ricardo Lockette narrowly beat out Larry Fitzgerald's 26-yard grab in overtime for the top spot on our weekly list of most pivotal plays from NFC West games.
The chart breaks them out, ranked by how much each play influenced win probability, according to Alok Pattani of ESPN's analytics team. All five plays came from the Seattle-Arizona game even though the St. Louis Rams rallied to make the San Francisco 49ers work for a 34-27 victory at the Edward Jones Dome.
Win probability reflects how similar plays in similar situations have affected a team's chances. Some of the nine catches Fitzgerald made seemed to swing momentum beyond what a mathematical model can quantify. The way Fitzgerald kept coming back from big hits, including one that left him with a bruised lung, had to provide inspiration.
Lockette, signed before the season as an undrafted rookie free agent, has one catch in each of his first two games. Those receptions covered 44 and 61 yards. Fitzgerald's 26-yard grab was his 25th of the season covering at least 20 yards, his highest total since he had 27 in 2005. He averaged 17.6 yards per attempt, a career high by 2.7 yards.