Sometimes the final turning point of an NFL game, in terms of which team is most likely to win at any given moment, isn't so obviously critical at the time. For instance, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won at Atlanta and Jacksonville in Weeks 12 and 13, and in each case the play that turned the tide one last time was a Breshad Perriman sideline catch near midfield, both of which drew challenge flags. In Atlanta, the play happened in the second quarter; in Jacksonville, the game was only 11 minutes old when Perriman made his critical grab.
Tampa Bay's third win in a row, a twisty comeback-filled game in which Perriman scored the game-winning points with four minutes to play, was not such a contest. In this one, the final turning point was very much a moment that felt important at the time. In fact, had this play not gone the Buccaneers way, there's a high probability the final outcome wouldn't have, either.
The play in question was snapped with 4:38 left in regulation and Tampa Bay trailing by four points. It came exactly one play before the aforementioned game-winning touchdown. It might be the most important moment in Dare Ogunbowale's career so far. More on that below.
This season, we're looking for that final Turning Point in every game. After each Buccaneers contest we're going to find the moment when things swung in favor of the eventual winner and never swung back. We're going to do so using the "win probability" charts on ESPN.com. At any given point in the game, that chart displays the percentage that each team could be expected to win, based on data from similar situations in thousands of historical games. Unless one team gets above 50% at the very beginning of the game and never dips below that mark, there is going to be a single point where the team that eventually wins goes from underdog to favorite for the final time.
Week 14 Turning Point: Dare Ogunbowale's Four-Yard Catch Converts a Critical Fourth Down
Outcome: Tampa Bay 38, Indianapolis 35
· Colts score a touchdown (Marcus Johnson reception) at 12:45 of the first quarter for a 7-0 lead
· Buccaneers score a touchdown (Mike Evans reception) at 1:06 of the first quarter for a 14-10 lead
· Colts score a touchdown (Marlon Mack run) at 7:42 of the second quarter for a 17-14 lead
· Buccaneers score a touchdown (Brett Perriman reception) at 3:51 of the fourth quarter for a 38-35 win
The swings of the ESPN win probability chart for this one very much follow the obvious path of the game. The Buccaneers came in as slight favorites and were given a 61.3% chance to win when the game started but that evaporated quickly when each of their first two drives ended in turnovers and the visitors took a quick 10-0 lead. The Colts quickly got their odds up to 71.1% before four game minutes had elapsed, and it peaked at 71.9% when Jacoby Brissett converted a third-and-five in Bucs territory with a nine-yard pass to Jack Doyle. Indy kicked a field goal a few plays later.
But the Bucs rallied for a quick touchdown, and the line on the chart sank to 53.5% in the Colts' favor after Jameis Winston's one-yard touchdown sneak. When Brissett's first drive on the next pass was incomplete the Bucs' regained the chart's favor, and when his next two passes also missed the mark the home team had a 57.5% chance of winning. Thanks to a 61-yard touchdown pass from Winston to Mike Evans on the Bucs' very next offensive play, the home team had a lead before the first quarter was over and had teased the win probability line all the way to 71.1% in their favor.
That didn't last long, either. The Colts got it back midway through the second quarter at the point that Brissett's fourth-and-one scramble got nine yards to the Bucs' two, setting up Marlon Mack's go-ahead touchdown run. Indianapolis didn't give the lead back until late in the fourth quarter but the win probability fluctuated around 50% for the rest of the second period, switching sides several times. The next critical moment was obvious: Darius Leonard intercepted a Winston pass and rumbled 80 yards for a touchdown and another 10-point Indianapolis lead and the Colts' win chances instantly shot up to 79.4%.
The Colts would expand their lead to 35-21 and though the Buccaneers would then rally, it took some time for the win probability chart to buy in. Just before Winston hit O.J. Howard on a 33-yard pass with five minutes left in the third quarter, the Colts were seen as 87.5% favorites, their high-water mark for the game. The Bucs would score a touchdown on that drive but the Colts remained heavy favorites and still had a nearly 80% win probability with less than 10 minutes to play.
At that point, the Colts had the ball at the Buccaneers' 25 after a Malik Hooker interception. This looked like an opportunity to drag that line even closer to 100%, but instead it went the other way when the Bucs' defense backed the Colts up five yards and then rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin banged a 48-yard field goal try off the right upright. Winston got the ball back with 8:13 left and the Colts holding a 65.7% edge on the chart, and he began chipping away at the lead and that number.
The Buccaneers got the odds back in their favor when they moved into the Colts' red zone, but then briefly lost it when a Peyton Barber run on third-and-one at the 15-yard line actually lost a yard. With the Bucs facing a fourth-and-two and a field goal not enough to tie the game, the win probability chart gave Indy a 66.6% chance of winning.
Tampa Bay went for it, of course, with Winston in the shotgun and Dare Ogunbowale lined up next to him. Ogunbowale then snuck out of the backfield to the left and then cut back to the right underneath safety Clayton Geathers, with enough separation to allow Winston to stay on his first read. One quick pass later and the Bucs had a first down…and they had the blessing of the win probability chart, at 52.9%.
Perriman scored on the next play and the Colts weren't able to do much with their last possession, which means the odds never swung back in their favor. That makes Ogunbowale's fourth-down catch the game's final turning point.