Unfortunately, this one is painfully obvious. It is no spoiler alert for the rest of this article to say that the final turning point of the New York Giants' 32-31 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday was the very last play, when Matt Gay's 34-yard field goal attempt slid just outside the right upright.
That said, the sequence of events leading up to that moment is still interesting for how wildly the two teams' fortunes were swinging back and forth in the final two minutes of action. In a contest in which the Buccaneers were literally in control for 58 minutes, in terms of the team with the highest percentage of victory, the upper hand flipped back and forth three more times before it was all said and done.
This season, we're looking for the 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 Three Turning Point: Matt Gay's Missed 34-Yard Field goal, 0:00 of Q4
Outcome: N.Y. Giants, 32, Tampa Bay 31
· Buccaneers score a touchdown (Mike Evans reception) at 9:47 of the first quarter for a 6-0 lead
· Giants score a touchdown (Daniel Jones run) at 1:16 of the fourth quarter for a 32-31 lead
Through three games, this is the closest the Turning Point has come to being the actual final score of the game. In Week One, the final turning point in the win probability leader occurred just before the last lead change, and in Week Two it occurred eight minutes after the last lead change. The Giants did surge ahead on the chart on the game's final score, but they did not hold that edge for the final 1:16 of regulation.
As noted above, the Buccaneers grabbed an early lead on the chart, surprisingly surging to 75.2% on Peyton Barber's seven-yard run to start the game. The Buccaneers would take that opening drive for a touchdown and, after a Giants field goal, would also find the end zone on their second possession. The two missed extra points after those scores didn't noticeably affect the Bucs' win probability at the times they occurred, though they were clearly significant in the long run.
The win probability line stayed on the Bucs' half of the chart almost the entire way, even as the Giants mounted a second-half comeback. In fact, even when the Giants got a first down at the Buccaneers' 12-yard line, down by six with two minutes to go, Tampa Bay was still considered the favorite by 55.9%. The chart didn't swing to the Giants' side until quarterback Daniel Jones scrambled up the middle for a touchdown on fourth down.
The Bucs got the ball back with 1:16 to play, and when Jameis Winston scrambled and was dropped for just a two-yard gain at the Bucs' 27 on the first play of the drive the Giants' win probability surged to 76.9%. However, that took a hit when Winston hit Chris Godwin for 20 yards over the middle of the field, dropping the Giants' edge to 59.4%. And then it suddenly surged back into the Buccaneers' favor.
That happened on the very next play, when Winston threw deep for Mike Evans, who got behind his man and hauled in a 44-yard pass at the Giants' nine-yard line. Suddenly the game was very much in the home team's favor, with an 82.2% chance of victory. That's obviously based on the likelihood of an NFL team making a field goal from that spot, and it only dropped to 82.0% when the Buccaneers took a delay of game penalty to back the kick up five yards.
Of course, we all know what happened next. Gay just missed as time expired and the pendulum took one final swing 100% in the Giants' favor.