With less than three minutes remaining in the second quarter of yesterday’s game between the Buffalo Bills and the Baltimore Ravens, quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Jamison Crowder could not connect on a third-down pass attempt, leading to a Bills punt. With Buffalo already trailing in the contest 20-3 at that time, the Ravens had a 93.6% win probability, according to ESPN Analytics.
The Ravens did not win the game. Allen and the Bills rallied in the second half, securing a 23-20 win on a last-second Tyler Bass field goal to go to 3-1 on the season. Here’s how the game’s win probability metric changed from the aforementioned second-quarter moment until the final seconds ticked off.
Halftime: BAL 82.8% win probability. It took less than three minutes for the Bills to shave more than 10% off of the metric; the defense forced a quick three-and-out, and then Allen engineered a 12-play, 74-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie. Baltimore was still clearly in control, but Buffalo had re-captured some momentum.
Q3, 3:26 remaining: BAL 52.5% win probability. At this point, Allen had just capped off a ten-play, 80-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 20 apiece. The game was back to essentially being a toss-up in 15 short game minutes.
Q4, 7:04 remaining: BAL 74.6% win probability. Midway through the fourth quarter, with the game still tied 20-20, quarterback Lamar Jackson scrambled 18 yards on a 3rd & 12 to set up a 1st & GOAL opportunity for the Ravens. This particular drive had begun at Baltimore’s five-yard line, and Jackson’s run was the 13th play of the drive. Everything was pointing toward this jaunt down the field being a back-breaker for the Bills.
Q4, 4:15 remaining: BUF 53.2% win probability. On the 17th and final play of the aforementioned drive, saftey Jordan Poyer intercepted Jackson’s desperation 4th & GOAL heave into the corner of the end zone to snuff out the scoring attempt and preserve the 20-20 tie. The game was now back in Allen’s hands.
Q4, 2:59 remaining: BUF 65.7% win probability. On 3rd & 2 from their own 28-yard line on the ensuing possession following the Poyer interception, Allen hung in the pocket and delivered a 20-yard dime up the right sideline. Tight end Dawson Knox hauled it in for a key first down, and the Bills’ game-winning drive was off and running.
Q4, 2:14 remaining: BUF 76.2% win probability. In the face of two oncoming Ravens rushers, Allen stepped up in the pocket, then stepped back in the pocket. He stiff-armed one of the rushers, rolled to his left, and found an open wide receiver in Khalil Shakir on the left sideline for nine yards to convert a scary-looking 2nd & 3 into a casual first down just before the two-minute warning. It was vintage Allen, and CBS’ play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle knew it.
Q4, 1:43 remaining: BUF 91.4% win probability. A (questionable) roughing the passer penalty on Baltimore followed by a 16-yard screen pass to running back Devin Singletary did most of the damage, but when Allen plunged forward for two yards to set up 1st & GOAL following the Ravens using their last timeout, the win probability surged in Buffalo’s favor permanently. Two kneel-downs and a field goal later, the victory was secured.