Biggest plays of the game
The Patriots entered the game with a 64 percent chance to win, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, and they extended their win probability to 79 percent by the half. Although Kansas City cut New England’s lead to seven points in the fourth quarter, the Patriots’ chance to win never fell below 73 percent in the final 30 minutes.
Because the Patriots were in control for most of the second half, the biggest plays occurred while New England was building its lead. Below are the five biggest plays of the game (as measured by ESPN’s win probability model) ordered chronologically:
1. 12:04 1st Quarter: Tom Brady completes 32-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski
Win probability change: From 62 percent to 73 percent (plus-11 WPA)
On 3rd-and-13, Brady completes a pass across the middle to Gronkowski. He rumbles 18 yards after the catch to set the Patriots up at the 11-yard line for their opening score.
2. 4:52 1st Quarter: Alex Smith scrambles for 15 yards
Win probability change: From 24 percent to 31 percent (plus-7 WPA)
On 3rd-and-13, Smith scrambles for 15 yards to set the Chiefs up at the Patriots 32-yard line. Later in that drive, Kansas City would kick a field goal to cut the lead to four.
3. 8:06 2nd Quarter: Brady completes 42-yard pass to Keshawn Martin
Win probability change: From 65 percent to 75 percent (plus-10 WPA)
Backed up inside his own 10-yard line, Brady completes a deep pass to Martin to flip the field. The Patriots would score a touchdown to take a 14-3 lead later in that drive.
4. 2:00 2nd Quarter: Smith completes 26-yard pass to Jason Avant
Win probability change: From 15 percent to 22 percent (plus-7 WPA)
After the two-minute warning, the Chiefs were facing 3rd-and-7 and their chance to win had dropped to 15 percent. Smith’s 26-yard completion to Avant set Kansas City up 20 yards from the end zone with a chance to cut into the lead before the half.
5. 10:44 3rd Quarter: Kniles Davis fumbles and Dont’a Hightower recovers
Win probability change: From 24 percent to 17 percent (minus-7 WPA)
With the Chiefs trailing by eight and driving into New England’s territory, Smith completes a 9-yard pass to Knile Davis, who has the ball ripped out by Chandler Jones. After the Patriots’ recovery, the Chiefs’ chance to win fell to 17 percent and never rose above that point the remainder of the game.
Win probability measures the chance that a team will win a game in progress, given a particular combination of circumstances including score, time remaining, field position, down and to-go distance. Win probability is based on a model built on actual NFL outcomes from recent seasons that featured similar circumstances.