We break down the 10 most important plays — from a win-probability perspective — from last Sunday’s matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Indianapolis Colts.
On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers’ 26-23 loss to the Indianapolis Colts marked the Niners’ second straight overtime loss, and their fourth straight loss by three or fewer points.
Today, we’re going to break down each of the 10 most important plays of the game.
Play importance will be determined by calculating the play’s impact on each team’s probability of ending the game with a victory — a measurement appropriately called “win probability.”
Various organizations and websites have their own algorithms for calculating win probability — today we’ll use the algorithm developed by the analysts at numberFire, which uses a number of variables, including the respective strengths of the teams, the score, the time remaining in the game and the teams’ current location on the field.
The 49ers waited until the fourth quarter — and a 14-point deficit — to finally get the ball into the end zone, ending a seven-quarter touchdown drought. The Niners’ 17-point fourth quarter was enough to force overtime, but not enough to secure the team’s first victory of the season.
After trading field goals with the 49ers in the first and second quarters, the Colts scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter. After a fourth-quarter field goal by 49ers kicker Robbie Gould, Indianapolis added another touchdown.
With under 10 minutes remaining in the game — and a 23-9 lead — the Colts had a 96.9 percent probability of winning the game. The 49ers quickly drove down the field for their first touchdown, but the score only added eight percent to the team’s probability of victory.
When the 49ers received the ball back with five minutes and 29 seconds remaining on the clock, they had a 16 percent chance of winning the game — but that number would quickly change.
Here are the 10 most important plays of the game, in chronological order: