Sunday, October 27, 2013

Never a Doubt

Posted because I'll never get sick of it. We've been there, man.

Looking over at the win probability for the Detroit Lions against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, it looks like the Lions didn't have much of a chance for most of second half. After Dallas' two long, fourth quarter touchdowns, the Cowboys' win probability grew to 90% and higher. After the Lions failed to convert their fourth down attempt with less than two minutes to go, that percentage peaked at 99%.

But I never had a doubt that the Lions would lose on Sunday. Seriously.

The Lions were absolutely dominant against the Cowboys. They tallied over 600 yards, while the Cowboys couldn't manage 300. The Lions gained 3.3 yards MORE PER PLAY than the Cowboys did. To put that in perspective, the 49ers defeated the Jaguars 42-10 on Sunday. The 49ers only had 80 more yards than Jacksonville, and only gained 2.8 yards more per play. Dallas punted eight times, the Lions twice. By any statistical measure, the Lions were destroying the competition.

...except for turnover margin, of course. The Lions turned the ball over four times. All four turnovers occurred in Cowboy's territory. One happened on first down. Two occurred as the Lions were likely picking up a first down. The Lions would have almost certainly scored on each of these drives. At the very least, that's 12 points taken off the board.

While everyone was panicking and calling for coaches' heads, I remained fairly calm and collective. A team that has committed a turnover in a game is no more likely to commit another one. Research is well-documented that turnovers are basically random. Sure, only one of the past 56 teams had won games with a -4 turnover margin, but how many of those losers outgained their opponent by over 350 yards? I'm willing to bet exactly zero. Turnovers are important because they affect the game so much, but they don't tell much about the future. But if a team has been moving the ball all day with almost no impotence, it stands to reason they'll continue to do so all game.

So when the Lions were faced with a 10 point deficit in a game they had already committed four turnovers in, I had no reason to be worried. The offense had moved the ball all game, and the defense had held Tony Romo to less than 100 passing yards through three quarters.

This was why I wasn't afraid when the Lions had only scored seven point through three quarters. When the Lions' turnover rate regressed to the mean, they would start scoring points. I knew they would.

Maybe you guys don't believe me. Well, thanks to the internet, I have proof.

At halftime:
After the Lions' fourth turnover of the game:

After the Lions turned it over on downs, and the announcers were already giving the Cowboys their fifth win (Mind you, this was before the holding penalty was even called):

But the point of this isn't to show how smart I am (but, seriously guys, I'm pretty smart). The point is that the Lions are a good team. Like, a really good team. They're a team that can make four terrible (but fluky) mistakes on offense and have two horrible breakdowns on defense, and still come out with a win over a division leader. They've got so much talent that they can overcome 99% loss probabilities. They can spit in the face of the past 55 teams who couldn't win after losing the turnover margin by four, and scream, "We are not you! We are not a normal team! WE'RE SPECIAL! WE'RE GOOD!"

Did they need a little luck? Absolutely. But that's the game of football for you.

The pessimists will look to the mistakes and forebode terrible things. Don't listen to them. They're the people that left the stadium with eight minutes left. They are the people who had to be told that the Lions won today, because they shut their televisions off when Dick Stockton told them to. Those people are wrong.

The Lions are good. The offense is lighting the league on fire right now. The defense has problems, but they just shut down a top-five passing offense without even forcing a turnover. The Lions are going to win more games this year. Maybe a lot more. And I'm damn excited.


  1. Never had a doubt they would lose???

    1. I fixed this on my new site:

      You should go there to read my stuff