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Cardinals defeat Packers with wild win probability swings

Below is a win probability chart for the game between the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals. The numbers here are based on data from ESPN Stats & Information.

Biggest plays in wild Cardinals victory

In a game that even the most imaginative NFL fan could not have envisioned, the Cardinals survived two improbable completions to beat the Packers 26-20 in overtime.

What were the biggest plays of the game?

Below are the five most impactful plays of the game (as measured by ESPN’s win probability model) ordered chronologically. Not surprisingly, all five plays occurred in the fourth quarter or overtime as the Packers mounted one of the most improbable drives in NFL history to send the game to overtime.

It’s worth noting that before the big plays, the Cardinals began the game with a 80 percent chance to win, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, but the Packers slowly increased their chance to win through most of the first half and into the third quarter. Then the following plays occurred:

1. 14:18 4th Quarter: Carson Palmer interception in the end zone

Win probability change: from 63 percent to 37 percent (minus-26 WPA)

With the Cardinals trailing by three, Palmer drove the Cardinals to Green Bay’s 10-yard line. On a pass intended for John Brown, Damarious Randall intercepted the ball in the end zone to maintain the Packers’ lead.

2. 3:50 4th Quarter: Palmer touchdown to Michael Floyd

Win probability change: from 58 percent to 77 percent (plus-19 WPA)

Palmer made up for his game-changing interception by marching the Cardinals 80 yards in 14 plays for a go-ahead touchdown. That drive was capped by Palmer’s 9-yard touchdown pass via a tip to Michael Floyd.

3. 00:05 4th Quarter: Aaron Rodgers' Hail Mary pass to Jeff Janis

Win probability change: from 1 percent to 47 percent (plus-46 WPA)

After completing a 60-yard pass to Janis on fourth-and-20 (plus-eight WPA), Rodgers followed it up with another improbable 41-yard Hail Mary to Janis. The Packers had less than a 0.1 percent chance to win before the fourth-and-20, but ultimately sent the game to overtime.

4. 15:00 OT: Larry Fitzgerald 75-yard completion

Win probability change: from 53 percent to 84 percent (plus-31 WPA)

The Packers’ jubilation would be short lived. On the first play of overtime, Larry Fitzgerald took a 14-yard pass 75 yards down to the Packers’ 5-yard line.

5. 13:55 OT: Fitzgerald game-winning touchdown

Win probability change: from 82 percent to 100 percent (plus-18 WPA)

Fitzgerald capped off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown on a shovel pass to clinch the Cardinals’ first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 2008 season.

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.