This is usually a blog about crime numbers but the first Saints victory of the year requires a post about the Saints. Our beloved Who Dats beat the Chargers on Sunday 35-34 for their first win of the season. The win came about thanks in large part to a pair of Chargers fumbles late in the 4th quarter with the home team ahead. The first fumble came at the San Diego 13 with just under 7 minutes to play and San Diego up 13. The second came on the San Diego 25 with just under 5 minutes to play and San Diego up 6.
To figure out how unlikely this was I brought up Pro-Football-Reference’s win probability matrix. According to PFR, the Saints had a 0.1 percent chance of winning the game after a 3rd and 6 incompletion from Drew Brees to Coby Fleener with 7:04 in the game. The Saints punted on 4th and 6 and San Diego fumbled for the first time the next play.
The fairly nuts win probability chart is provided below.
So the Saints winning Sunday was extremely unlikely. It was only the second time the Saints had come back to win a game getting the ball down two scores with less than 8 minutes to play in a game since 1998 (the last year of PFR’s drive finder tool). The other time was a 2004 21-17 victory over Tampa Bay that sent the Saints to 6-8.
Tampa led 17-7 when John Carney missed a 38 yard field goal with 6 minutes to play in the game. At that time the Saints had a 99.6 percent chance of losing the game. The Bucs went three and out and a 53 yard punt return by Michael Lewis led to a 4 yard TD pass to Joe Horn. Tampa fumbled the next play and Aaron Brooks hit Donte Stallworth for a 7 yard touchdown with 38 seconds left to win the game.
As an aside, the Saints punted on 4th and 6 from the San Diego 44 but the New York Times 4th Down Bot is crystal clear that they should have gone for it.
So Payton punting wasn’t the right choice strictly by the numbers but it was the choice his contemporaries usually make. And all’s well that ends well, right?
PFR only has play by play and win probability going back to the mid-90s, so it’s possible there was an unlikelier win out there. But for the time being we’re going to call yesterday’s victory over San Diego the most unlikely win in Saints history.