The game of football is defined by many things, but nothing defines football more than big plays. Whether it is a touchdown in a huge situation or a turnover at the goal line, individual moments create the seismic shifts that we see determine the results of games every Sunday.
One tool that is especially helpful when it comes to gauging the impact of individual plays is Earned Points Added, or EPA. Inside The Pylon does a great job of explaining this, but essentially this way of looking at plays shows how much value a play has depending on the specific context of the play in question. In short, it takes consideration into down and distance and field position. So for example, this would show a 10-yard pass on third-and-5 is more impactful than a 10-yard pass on third-and-15, even if the quarterback and receiver each get 10 yards either way.
So with this in mind, I am going to use play data from Pro Football Reference every week to look at the five most impactful plays from the Jaguars' previous game in terms of EPA.
To arrive at the figure, I subtracted the actual earned points from projected earned points before each play, using PFR data. The plays with the largest difference were the most impactful plays. I ranked them on a 0 scale, which means that the further away from 0 a play is, the more impactful it is. A negative value simply means it is a bad play from the offense, so consider it a valuable play for the defense.
With that said, here are the five most impactful plays from the Jacksonville Jaguars 39-29 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 7.
Play No. 1: Justin Herbert throws a deep bomb against Jaguars' defense
Less than a minute after the Jaguars retook the lead and went up 29-22 with 3:00 left in the third quarter, Justin Herbert and the Chargers struck back with their own shot downfield. On first-and-10 from Los Angeles' 30-yard line, Herbert threw a deep pass down the right sideline to Jalen Guyton, who beat cornerback Tre Herndon and caught the accurate toss from Herbert. Guyton took the ball into the end zone, scoring the 70-yard touchdown to tie the game and record a play with an EPA of 6.06.
Play No. 2: Rookie Daniel Thomas makes the Jaguars special teams play of the year
It had been a quiet rookie season for Daniel Thomas outside of some special teams tackles and a second half of playing time against the Houston Texans. But that changed on Sunday in Los Angeles, with Thomas making the biggest play any Jaguars' special teamer has made all season. Following the first drive of the third quarter, Thomas shot through the middle of the Chargers' punt block unit, getting easy penetration and forcing the fumble. He then recovered his own blocked punt, returning it 16 yards for a touchdown. The play capped off a 21-0 run by the Jaguars and recorded an EPA of -5.89.
Play No. 3: Gardner Minshew throws a downfield strike of his own to Chris Conley
On the drive before Herbert completed a 70-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 29-29, Gardner Minshew and Chris Conley connected for their own massive play. Facing third-and-7 from the Chargers' 28-yard line, the Jaguars opted to test the Chargers on the perimeter rather than picking up the first down. Minshew floated a pass to Conley who made a terrific catch in the end zone, recording an EPA of 4.32 and giving Jacksonville a big lead. The Jaguars would go on to blow the lead, but this was one of the biggest third downs they have converted all season long.
Play No. 4: Chargers force a Dede Westbrook fumble
There isn't much to say here. With a bit under 2:00 left in the third quarter and immediately following Herbert's 70-yard touchdown toss, the Chargers were able to tackle Dede Westbrook on the ensuing kickoff and force a fumble, regaining possession at Jacksonville's 19-yard line. The fumble, which was Jacksonville's lone turnover of the day, recorded an EPA of -4.31 and led directly to the Chargers taking a 36-29 lead on a Justin Herbert touchdown run four plays later.
Play No. 5: James Robinson finds the end zone as a receiver
The final play was another Jaguars touchdown, this time with rookie running back James Robinson being the one to punch it in. Robinson scored twice in the first half but it was this score, a nine-yard touchdown pass on third down, that was a bigger play considering the downs and distance. The touchdown catch earned an EPA of 3.64 and was Robinson's second touchdown catch of the season.