The Dallas Cowboys rode into Week 9 with a six-game winning streak and their quarterback, Dak Prescott, returning from an injured calf that held him out the prior week. With a high-powered offense and a defense coming off of their best game of the season, the Cowboys hosted the Denver Broncos in a rare noon kickoff at AT&T Stadium.
The Broncos entered the matchup with a six-game winning streak of their own, winners of six consecutive matchups with the Cowboys going back to the 1995 season. For the season, the Broncos were 4-4 losing four in a row before edging by the Washington Football Team with a 17-10 win.
On paper, this was a game that the Cowboys were favored to win easily. Unfortunately for Dallas, the Broncos were having none of that. A mixture of failed third and fourth-down conversions for the offense and big plays allowed by the defense added up to a bad day for Cowboys fans as the Broncos won, 30-16. Those sixteen points scored by Dallas made the score appear closer than the game actually was. Denver’s defense set the tone early and brought a lot of pressure against Prescott while the Broncos’ offense broke tackles and gashed the Cowboys with big plays. Sometimes you’re the hammer, sometimes you’re the nail.
Here are the five biggest plays of the game using Expected Points Added (EPA) and Win Probability models from rbsdm.com. EPA is a formula that takes historical data and applies it to every play to determine if it increases or decreases a team’s expected points given the outcome of that play. Every down and distance has a level of expected points; the likelihood a team will score on that particular drive based on that situation. Therefore EPA measures the shift in expected points as a result of a specific play.
Play 1: 1st Q- 15:00, Tony Pollard returns the opening kickoff 54 to the DEN 47
Cowboys WP: 80% EPA: +1.7
The Cowboys got off to a great start to the game with Pollard returning the opening kickoff 54 yards to set the…