I’m going to start by saying something that most of you reading this already know. I’m not an objective jounralist as it comes to the Green Bay Packers. I am a Packers fan. I write for a Packers site. I co-host and produce a Packers Podcast. I’ve been a Packers fan since I forsook my father’s Minnesota Vikings in 1994 (I was 6) for a southern quarterback in familiar colors (North Dakota [where I’m from] State University wears Green and Gold) wearing #4.
These past 20+ years have been a fun ride and my love for the team and my network of Packers people, my Packers family has grown. I’m probably not objective about the Dez Bryant call. My stance on it, though, is the same as most of the people that don’t have a horse in the race: it was the correct interpretation of bad rule that no one likes. I’m not going to go any further debating how many steps he took (or was taking as he stumbled to the turf), whether he made a football move, or why the ground can cause an incompletion, but not a fumble. That said, it didn’t decide the game.
Cowboys fans won’t listen to that. Fans of the Bears and Vikings won’t listen to that (Lions fans will, they hate the Cowboys and have a pretty good grasp on the “Calvin Johnson Rule”). Shock Jocks and TV trolls won’t listen to that, but it’s reality. Yesterday I tweeted out a fantastic statistic (credit to Paul Noonan) that said everything I had to say about the game: according to the Advanced Football Analytics Win Probability calculator, Dallas had a 45% chance to win the game if the Bryant call stood, and a 13% chance to win the game if it didn’t. That’s only a difference of 32%. Not 100. There was no great crime committed here.
It’s likely that the Cowboys score a touchdown after that play. Even that isn’t a certainty but given how the Packers red zone defense had played on Sunday and the quality of the Cowboys offensive line let’s concede a touchdown. A touchdown puts the Cowboys up 1. Over the course of the last 40 years, the two point conversion is something that gets converted about 47% of the time. It is more than likely not successful. Statistically the most likely scenario is that Dallas converts a touchdown but fails to convert the two point conversion.
Given this information it’s likely that Aaron Rodgers gets the ball back somewhere between his 20 and 30 yard line with between 3:20 and 3:45 left on the clock and 1 timeout remaining plus the two minute warning. With that amount of time remaining and that many timeouts time wouldn’t realistically have been a factor. The Packers run no huddle most of the time and with 2 time stoppages remaining the only end of that drive was going to be a turnover (almost impossible) or a turnover on downs (slightly more likely).
I did a little research on this and despite the fact that Dallas has a below average defense they fall right in the middle of the defenses that Green Bay has faced at Lambeau Field. At home the Packers’ starting offense advanced the ball into realistic field goal range (past the 35 yard line) on a staggering 109 of their 131 drives that didn’t end a half or a game. That’s 83.2%.
What I’m telling you is that if the Cowboys don’t get the two point conversion there’s an 83.2% (probably a little more because of their 22nd ranked defense) that Rodgers puts Mason Crosby in position to win the game (career 79% FG kicker) or just wins the game with a TD. If the two point conversion is successful then there is an 83.2% chance that Crosby is given a chance to tie or that Rodgers just wins the game with a TD.
Those numbers aren’t biased at all. In fact, they’re probably a little conservative. If you consider those were just regular drives in which Green Bay would punt on 4th down in normal situations the numbers are conservative. If you consider that the Cowboys have a below average defense that was playing about as vanilla of a 4-2-5 nickel as you could the numbers are a little conservative. If you consider that the Packers quarterback was this year’s MVP and hadn’t lost a game at home all season long those numbers are a little conservative.
The Cowboys were a step or two behind the Green Bay Packers in every measure you could think of all season long. I don’t care if you want to use regular statistics, advanced statistics, Las Vegas power rankings, subjective media power rankings, the betting line, whatever. Dallas finished behind Green Bay both offensively and defensively by traditional statistics (yards gained yards allowed) and by DVOA (Football Outsiders).
They were a better home team statistically than Dallas was a road team, even though both clubs were 8-0 in those situations. The Packers were the better team all season long and haven’t lost to the Dallas Cowboys since 2008 (Rodgers’ 1st year as a starter). Not even with Matt Flynn. The best team won and it wasn’t decided on questionable call, it was only helped along.