Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Anatomy of a Most Improbable Comeback | A Next Gen Look at Saints-Bucs

The Bucs pulled off one of the most unlikely comeback wins of the NFL Next Gen Stats era, and even as Tom Brady was directing two thrilling drives the odds were stacked against the home team right up to the end


After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Week Nine win over the Los Angeles Rams, we used the NFL Next Gen Stats win probability chart to highlight the key moments in a last-minute game-winning touchdown drive. Now, after Tom Brady just delivered the latest-on-the-clock game-winning touchdown of his career – of Tom Brady's career – it's time to give the Buccaneers' 17-16 win over the New Orleans Saints the same treatment.

Here, let us give the stage to Next Gen Stats to set the scene:

As a quick recap, Tom Brady led consecutive scoring drives of 91 and 63 yards in the fourth quarter and scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes of play. When Jake Camarda punted the ball away with 7:06 left in regulation. The aforementioned NGS win probability chart was pinged at 99% in favor of the visiting Saints. (All subsequent percentages will be rounded to the nearest whole digit.)

It didn't immediately get any better. Neither a two-yard run by the Saints' Alvin Kamara nor a seven-yard catch by Mark Ingram altered that 99% figure. Carlton Davis broke up a third-and-one pass intended for Marquez Callaway and that gave the Buccaneers a little glimmer of hope…the Saints' win probability plummeted all the way to 98%. And even though New Orleans was able to punt the ball all the way down to Tampa Bay's nine-yard line with 5:21 to play, the NGS chart relented just a bit more, making it 97% in the Saints' favor.

Things were so dire at this point that even three first downs by the Buccaneers' offense didn't move the needle. Brady got the Bucs to the Saints' 35-yard line but after a deep pass to rookie tight end Cade Otton missed that Saints' win percentage was still holding strong at 97%. The first real turn in the Bucs' direction wasn't even a play that counted. Paulson Adebo's 44-yard pass-interference call on a deep ball intended for Mike Evans put the ball at the one yard line and moved the Bucs' chances of victory up from 3% to 8%. It stayed there after a one-yard touchdown catch by Otton on the next snap.

The next big play in the Bucs' favor was Carl Nassib's 10-yard sack of Andy Dalton with 2:47 left in the game, which dropped the Saints' win probability advantage to 85%. When Keanu Neal arrived just in time to break up what looked like a sure first-down catch by Taysom Hill on the next snap, that number dropped again to 81%.

Still, the Bucs were facing an uphill battle even as they got the ball back at their own 37 with 2:29 to play and just one timeout left. Even when the Bucs got the ball down to the Saints' 27 with a minute left, a second-down incompletion in Otton's direction saw the win probability spike back up to 73% in the Saints' favor. That's when one of the shorter gains on the drive proved to be one of the pivotal moments. Brady's quick slant to Scotty Miller in traffic gained seven yards on third-and-six and put the win probability chart almost at the 50-50 line. On the next play, Julio Jones dragged that win probability to the Buccaneers' favor for the first time, with his 15-yard catch down to the five-yard line now putting the home team at a 68% likelihood of winning.

However, it still wasn't smooth sailing from here. After a penalty nullified an apparent touchdown catch by Chris Godwin, the win probability chart reversed course again, to 67% in the Saints' favor, and that went to 73% after a nine-yard sideline grab by Godwin made it third-and-goal at the six with eight seconds to play.

In the aforementioned breakdown of the last minute of the Bucs' win over Los Angeles, we noted that the most significant play of the game in terms of win probability wasn't actually Otton's touchdown catch to take the lead. Well, that's not the case here. Before the snap on the Bucs' final offensive play, Next Gen Stats pegged them as having only a 27% chance to win. Just to state the obvious, that all changed over the ensuing five seconds. Brady hit Rachaad White on a little pivot route at the three-yard line and the rookie back spun from there and dived over the goal line for the score. Suddenly it was the Saints who had lower than a 1% chance of victory.

Even during the majority of the Bucs' frenzied comeback over the last five minutes of Monday night's games, the odds were stacked heavily against the home team, according to the NGS win probability chart. Of course, that chart may not have realized that Tampa Bay's quarterback was Tom Brady.

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