Seattle's Comeback NFC Championship Victory Completely Defied Logic
The halftime score was 16-0 in favor of the Packers. Their opponent's quarterback, Russell Wilson, had compiled -14.19 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) in the first half, playing nearly 17 expected points below his yearly average through the air. At the time, Green Bay's odds of winning the NFC Championship against Seattle sat at a favorable 80 percent.
The second half continued to go Green Bay's way. Russell Wilson wasn't himself, the Packers' defense was making stops, and the offense was converting enough plays against the top-rated Seahawks' D.
Things peaked for the Packers with a little over five minutes to go in the contest, when Wilson and the Seahawks had the ball on their own 46-yard line. He dropped back to pass, targeted wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, and threw an interception off what appeared to be a dropped pass.
After that pick, our numbers showed that Green Bay's win probability was 98.4 percent.
The Packers' next drive was a three-and-out, and after punting the ball, the Seahawks drove down the field for a touchdown to get the game within five. The touchdown gave Seattle hope, but probability-wise, the Packers still were sitting pretty with over a 90 percent chance to win the game considering how much time was left on the clock.
Then, there was the onside kick that changed everything.
Brandon Bostick bobbled the ball, lost it, and Seattle recovered. That recovery alone was roughly a 20 percent swing in win probability, favoring the Seahawks. Russell Wilson went for a 12-yard run then hit tight end Luke Willson for 8 more, and things kept moving Seattle's way.
With 1:33 left on the clock, the Seahawks were on the Green Bay 24-yard line. Seattle, somehow, had gotten the game to a complete 50-50 win probability split. Marshawn Lynch then went beast mode and scored a touchdown, giving Seattle the lead. The score pulled Seattle's win probability to almost 78 percent.
The football gods weren't done. Because Seattle was only up one, they went for a two-point conversion to make it a field goal game. Russell Wilson was under pressure, scrambled for what seemed like a minute and a half, and just heaved the ball towards the end zone in desperation. Luke Willson did his best Rob Gronkowski impression and caught the ball for the conversion.
The touchdown by Lynch and the conversion to Willson gave Seattle 84.90 percent odds of winning the game. That was 83.50 percent higher than where they sat just four minutes prior.
Though Mason Crosby hit a field goal to go into overtime, the Packers had no answer to two gorgeous Russell Wilson passes in the extra period. Wilson hit Kearse on a 35-yard game-winning score, concluding one of the most insane, unlikely games in NFL history.
The game and its outcome, based on how it happened, wasn't logical. Mathematically, it didn't make any sense. But that's exactly why it was such a classic.