NFL Advanced Analysis: Broncos Botch Final Drives

You could hear Denver fans screaming to go for the win with Peyton Manning from 1,000 miles away. Chief Analyst Keith Goldner occasionally takes a look at some of the big NFL decisions of the week and the advanced numbers behind them. Today, he looks at John Fox's poor decision-making down the stretch during the Broncos/Ravens game.

The Broncos were heavy favorites at home against the Ravens on Saturday. Peyton Manning and company had won 11-straight and were the favorite to take home the Lombardi trophy. Ray Lewis and Mr. Elite himself, Joe Flacco, had other ideas in mind. Despite being up a touchdown with the ball, having Peyton Manning on the field, and the Ravens out of timeouts at the two-minute warning, the Broncos gave the Ravens back the ball. Rahim Moore undercut a floater worse than any NFL safety should and Jacoby Jones walked into the end zone to tie the game.

In a tie game, the Broncos started their final drive on their own 20 with 0:31 seconds remaining and two timeouts in hand. John Fox says, "Let's take it to overtime" and has potentially the greatest quarterback ever kneel down instead of trying for the game-winning field goal. That wasn't the first time the Broncos made this mistake. In fact, they made an eerily similar gaffe at the end of the first half. After missing a field goal and allowing a long Torrey Smith touchdown, the Broncos received the ball at the 20 with 0:36 seconds left and three timeouts. John Fox ran the ball one time and headed to the locker room. The only real explanation is that Fox believes momentum has predictive power. His thought process was probably that after two huge plays from Baltimore, the only thing that could come from an attempted 30-second drive is a game-changing mistake.

Let's look at the facts. The Broncos have Peyton Manning at the helm. They are playing at Mile High which adds about 5-yards to field goal range. The Broncos have 2+ timeouts in both situations. At the end of regulation, if it's tied, you go to overtime where there is a 50% chance of winning the game. According to Brian's win probability calculator, the initial win probability of the final drive was 54% (if you include the fact that it was played at Mile High).

I pulled all the drives that started between 20 and 40 seconds left in the game with 2+ timeouts, in a 3-point to 0-point deficit range (those ranges where a field goal would be the primary goal of the offense) since 2000 where the offense did not just kneel or run the ball into the end of the game. It was also limited to those drives that started inside a team's own 30-yard line. I found 21 such drives, here were the results:

Want to know how the drives break down and more? Check out Keith's full analysis at