The Panthers began the game with a 52 percent chance to win, but after a number of big plays, they increased their win probability to 90 percent after one quarter. Overall, the Panthers had a 89 percent chance to win across all of the plays in the game, one of the most dominant wins in recent postseason history.
Below are the five biggest plays of the game listed chronologically. Because the Panthers’ chance to win never fell below 95 percent in the second half, all five plays occurred in the first 30 minutes.
9:19 First quarter: David Johnson 16-yard reception
Win probability change: From 33 percent to 41 percent (plus-8 WPA)
On third-and-15, Carson Palmer completed a 16-yard pass to Johnson. At this point Arizona was trailing by three on its own 31.
1:03 First quarter: Corey Brown 86-yard touchdown
Win probability change: From 77 percent to 90 percent (plus-13 WPA)
The biggest play of the Panthers’ 49-15 victory was Cam Newton’s 86-yard touchdown pass to Brown. The touchdown gave the Panthers a 17-0 lead and 90 percent chance to win before the end of the first quarter.
4:54 Second quarter: Patrick Peterson muffed punt
Win probability change: From 21 percent to 13 percent (minus-8 WPA)
With the Cardinals within 10, Peterson muffed Brad Nortman’s punt and it was recovered by the Panthers at the Arizona 46. Six plays later the Panthers scored a touchdown to take a 24-7 lead.
1:12 Second quarter: Patrick Peterson interception
Win probability change: From 96 percent to 90 percent (minus-6 WPA)
Trailing by 17 with the Panthers driving for more, Peterson intercepted Newton and returned the ball 72 yards to the Carolina 22.
4:54 Second quarter: Kurt Coleman interception
Win probability change: From 10 percent to 4 percent (minus-6 WPA)
The play following Peterson’s interception, Coleman intercepted Palmer in the end zone to solidify Carolina’s 17-point halftime lead. The Panthers would have a 94 percent chance to win after the interception and it would not fall below that point for the entire second half.
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.