The Tampa Bay Buccaneers converted turnovers into touchdowns on each of Jacksonville's first three drives, built a 25-0 lead by halftime and never again led by fewer than 14 points. So one might expect that, as this afternoon progressed at TIAA Bank Field, the visiting Buccaneers would be the prohibitive favorites to win for almost the whole game.
And for the most part, that was true. However, neither team scored in the first 12 minutes of the game and the home-team Jaguars spent a good amount of the time as the favorites in the "win probability" chart. It wasn't until a key third-down conversion by the Buccaneers' offense that the tide of probability swung in their favor and stayed there for good.
And, coincidentally, that conversion came on a contested Breshad Perriman catch along the sideline for the second week in a row. When the Buccaneers win in Atlanta in Week 12, the game turned in their favor for good when a play that was ruled a 44-yard catch by Perriman on third-and-seven was challenged by the Falcons but upheld by the officials in New York. The Buccaneers would go on to score a touchdown on that drive just before halftime and pull away from the Falcons for a 35-22 victory.
The difference in Week 13? The initial ruling on the play was that Perriman did not get two feet in bounds. It was the Buccaneers who then threw the challenge flag, and that proved to be a very good decision.
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 13 Turning Point: Breshad Perriman Drags Left Foot for Key Third-Yard Conversion
Outcome: Tampa Bay 28, Jacksonville 11
· Buccaneers score a touchdown (Peyton Barber run) at 2:49 of the first quarter for a 7-0 lead
Even before the game began, the home team was given a 54.3% chance to earn the victory on Sunday. It took less than a minute for the Bucs to drag that probability line over to their half of the chart, as a 16-yard catch by Mike Evans converted the game's first third down and put the Bucs' win chances at 52.0%. However, that drive was essentially cut short by a Leon Jacobs sack and the Jaguars became the favorites again. In fact, their win probability got as high as 62.5% when Nick Foles hit Dede Westbrook for a 39-yard gain to the Bucs' 36 on Jacksonville's third play from scrimmage, but an interception by Devin White pushed the line back towards middle ground.
The line on the probability chart spent some time dipping over and back across the 50% line for the next four minutes of play, and then the Bucs' faced a third-and-nine at their own 47. When Jameis Winston's pass to Mike Evans on the previous play fell incomplete, the line jumped to Jacksonville's half of the chart at 52.1%. Surely it would have gone even further in that direction if the next play failed to convert the third down.
And for a moment that appeared to be the case. Winston threw a deep out to Perriman on the left sideline and in real time it wasn't clear that the receiver got a second foot in before going out of bounds. The two officials along that sideline believed he did not and called it incomplete. The Buccaneers' coaching staff, however, got a quick look at the replay and in that footage it was very clear that Perriman did drag the toes of his left cleat.
It didn't take long for New York to agree and the ruling was overturned. It became a 13-yard gain and a first down at the Jacksonville 40 and all of a sudden the Buccaneers were 52.8% favorites. It quickly became 60.5% when Winston hit O.J. Howard on a deep post for 25 yards on the next play, and then 84.7% when Peyton Barber took a handoff up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown on the following snap.
Tampa Bay's defense would tack on another touchdown just a few minutes later on Devin White's 12-yard fumble return and by the two-minute warning of the first half the win probability chart was already considering the Buccaneers a 98.4% favorite. Even when reserve quarterback Gardner Minshew came in and gave the Jaguars a bit of a spark, those adds never again fell below 96.1%.