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The plays that changed the game in a last-minute loss to the Indianapolis Colts

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Which plays had the biggest impact in Giants’ 28-27 loss?

NFL: New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants were in control of the Indianapolis Colts for much of the game on Sunday before a last-minute touchdown gave the Colts a 28-27 win. The passing games for both teams played a big part in the effectiveness and results of the game. There are no rushing attempts in this week’s most impactful plays.

These are some of the most important plays of the game by Win Probability Added (WPA) and Expected Points Added (EPA), per data provided by nflscrapR. Explainers here (WPA) and here (EPA).

Both WPA and EPA presented from the perspective of the offense.

6:22 remaining, first quarter - Sanchez flips the field

EPA: 2.54 | WPA: 7.9 percent (NYG 79.5 percent → 71.6 percent)

Punts don’t usually make it into the top EPA plays, but this one deserved it. With the Giants already up 7-0, the Colts were forced to punt from their own 24-yard line after a drive of three plays and negative one yard. Rigoberto Sanchez rocketed a punt that should have been caught at the 29 by Jawill Davis, but he backed off and the ball rolled to the Giants’ 13 for a 63-yard punt. That’s a punt that actually flipped the field.

The Giants entered the Week fourth in DVOA on special teams, per Football Outsiders, but the punt return unit is the one place they have really struggled — only three teams have seen worse value on returns this season.

2:39 remaining, first quarter - Shepard shakes free

EPA: 4.99 | WPA: 12.1 percent (NYG 72.9 percent → 85 percent)

After the punt pinned them deep, the Giants started to inch down the field with moderate gains. But on a third-and-11 from the Giants’ 38, Eli Manning was able to avoid pressure and hit Sterling Shepard wide open down the field for a 55-yard gain.

Shepard started the play outside and motioned inside the numbers before the snap. His route was a double move that froze cornerback Pierre Desir (35) to create the wide open throw.

The double move is something the Giants have not used enough of this season. Per Sports Info Solutions charting, the Giants had only seven targeted routes on double moves, only two were considered catchable and there were no receptions. But with a slant-heavy offense, adding a deep component to the end should open up more plays down the field.

A false start pushed the Giants back before the next snap, but they scored a touchdown on the next play to go up 14-0.

12:35 remaining, second quarter - Luck punts to Riley

EPA: minus-4.79 | WPA: minus-5.9 percent (NYG 82.3 percent → 88.2 percent)

Early in the second quarter, the Colts drove down the field to just outside the red zone. But on a first-and-10 from the 26, Andrew Luck faced some pressure from John Jenkins and floated a pass to the corner of the end zone. The problem for Luck was the only player close to the corner of the end zone was Curtis Riley, who came down with the interception.

Replay showed Luck was likely expecting tight end, Eric Ebron, to break off his route toward the end zone, but the tight end stopped and the Colts lost their shot at points.

4:56 remaining, second quarter - Hines at empty

EPA: 2.67 | WPA: 6.6 percent (NYG 82.4 percent → 75.8 percent)

Indianapolis forced a three-and-out on the next Giants offensive drive, got the ball back, and moved down the field again. The Colts went 10 plays and 69 yards and faced a third-and-3 from the Giants’ 8-yard line. Indianapolis came out in an empty formation with running back Nyheim Hines out wide to the right, isolated on linebacker Tae Davis. Before the snap, Hines motioned in to be stacked with wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. At the snap, Hilton took his release wide, then up to the end zone while Hines delayed his release off the line. That created a pick that left Hines open on a slant that took him down to the 1-yard line.

Hines scored a rushing touchdown on the next play to bring the score to 14-7.

10:30 remaining, third quarter - Hilton’s turn

EPA: 3.32 | WPA: 10.1 percent (NYG 80.2 percent → 70.1 percent)

The Giants opened the second half with a five-play 18-yard drive that resulted in a punt. On the third play of the Colts’ ensuing drive, they faced a first-and-10 from their own 28. Indianapolis had in an extra offensive lineman and motioned tight end Mo Allie-Cox (81) tight to the formation before the snap. The number of blockers and the play-fake gave T.Y. Hilton time to get down the field from the left slot. Luck threw a pass just within the reach of Hilton and the play went for 55 yards.

Indianapolis ended the drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Dontrelle Inman.

4:13 remaining, third quarter - Engram up the seam

EPA: 2.53 | WPA: 7.7 percent (NYG 73.8 percent → 81.5 percent)

They finally did it. The Giants threw to Evan Engram up the seam. On a first-and-10 from the Indianapolis 33, Engram started inline to the left and got behind Darius Leonard (53). Engram was ruled down at the 1, but replay showed he probably scored. Eli Manning snuck into the end zone for a rushing touchdown on the next play.

Engram’s usage has increased over the past few weeks, but this was easily the best and more efficient use of the tight end. He finished the game with 7.71 EPA and all six of his targets resulted in positive EPA.

2:54 remaining, third quarter - Luck takes a chance

EPA: 3.78 | WPA: 9.7 percent (NYG 85.4 percent → 75.6 percent)

Andrew Luck and the Colts offense started slowly in this game but really picked it up as the game went on. This 29-yard throw from Luck to Inman on a third-and-8 was the 16th-least likely completion of the week per Next Gen Stats with a 30.8 percent completion probability. Luck would make a 28-yard throw to Nyheim Hines less than a minute later that would be the 15th-least likely completion of the week at 28.9 percent. He also had a 28-yard pass to T.Y. Hilton in the second quarter that was the 17th-least likely completion of the week at 31.1 percent completion probability. Luck was the only quarterback this week with three throws in the top 20.

1:03 remaining, fourth quarter - B.W.D.P.I.

EPA: 1.59 | WPA: 21.7 percent (NYG 66 percent → 44.3 percent)

The Giants fell apart at the end of the game in many ways. Penalties did not help. Earlier in the third quarter, Janoris Jenkins had a holding call that reversed an Oliver Vernon strip sack of Luck that was recovered by B.J. Hill. Instead of a turnover, the Colts scored a touchdown.

On Indianapolis’s final drive of the game, the Giants had two defensive pass interference calls against them. The most costly was on B.W. Webb. The Colts already had a first-and-goal from the 8, but Webb was penalized on a pass to Inman in the end zone that gave the offense a first-and-goal from the 1, which dropped the Giants’ win probability below 50 percent.

:59 remaining, fourth quarter - Picked perfectly

EPA: 1.17 | WPA: 15.3 percent (NYG 44.3 → 28.8 percent)

The Colts wasted no time scoring. The first down play was drawn up perfectly. T.Y. Hilton was outside to the left with Chester Rogers in the slot. On the other side of the formation, receiver Zach Pascal (11) motioned in tight and forced nine Giants in the box to defend against the run.

Indianapolis ran a legal pick play that was set up by Rogers’s release off the line. He made two quick steps forward, which forced Grant Haley to stand his ground. But once Rodgers broke to the outside, Haley couldn’t recover and was forced to go around Hilton, who stopped his route just inside the end zone. It was a wide open throw and with the extra point, the Colts took a 28-27 lead.

:31 remaining, fourth quarter - Eli misses high

EPA: minus-1.26 | WPA: minus-33.6 percent (NYG 51 percent → 17.4 percent)

Even after the touchdown, the Giants weren’t out of it. They got the ball left at their own 25 with 55 seconds and one timeout remaining needing only a field goal to win. That’s not an impossible feat and this model still gave the Giants a 51 percent chance at the victory.

The Giants didn’t try to push the ball downfield on the first two plays of the drive but gained 11 yards on gains of six and five. The shot came on a first-and-10 from the 36. Manning sailed a ball high over the head of a tightly covered Bennie Fowler and into the arms of safety Malik Hooker (29). With just one timeout remaining, the Giants could not do anything when the Colts kneeled to end the game.