The New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl this past Sunday not just by being better between the lines but, according to Dr. John F. Murray, by being better between their ears.
The Mental Performance Index (MPI) was developed by Dr. Murray, a south Florida-based sports psychologist who has been called by the Washington Post the "Freud of Football." MPI shows how closely a football team comes to achieving perfection in a game across multiple domains. The system ranks a team on a scale of .000 to 1.000 -- .500 is roughly average and .600 is extraordinary. No Super Bowl-winning team has ever topped .600 in the MPI rating.
According to Murray, who authored The Mental Performance Index: Ranking the Best Teams in Super Bowl History, the Giants' MPI for the Super Bowl came out to .522, compared to the Patriots, who managed a .500 ranking for the game.
"This game was played at a higher than average level for a Super Bowl game. Overall, the Giants clearly outperformed the Patriots in terms of total team performance, so we know that the better performing team in fact won the game," Dr. Murray said. "Justice was realized! Over 90 percent of the time, the higher-performing team will win a football game as reflected on the MPI total score, so the theory that performance wins games is indeed valid."
What MPI does is factor in overall consistency as part of its formula and very rarely does a team with a lower MPI lose the Super Bowl. The last time was in 2005 when the Pittsburgh Steelers had a lower MPI than the Seattle Seahawks, who lost the game.
Through statistical analysis, Dr. Murray has created a balance system that values plays based not only on their outcome but also their impact. In essence, MPI weighs in a comprehensive, balanced fashion each team play as it objectively looks at how the 11 players as a unit performs. It is the truest way to measure how in sync a team is not just physically but also mentally.
Adjustments are made based on the observed mental performance. More than raw yardage or basic statistics, captured within this number is the pressure and significance of the moment and the execution of the team in the moment. It requires an expert human being to evaluate the moment and the significance of the play in the scheme of all four quarters. Field position, clock time and score are all factors that must be weighed.
It is in the pressure packed moments that this game was won according to MPI. Given that the Giants won on their last drive of the game, this shouldn't necessarily be a surprise, but the disparity between the two teams in the clutch according to MPI is shocking.
"The main advantage for the Giants came in pressure situations, as the Giants outperformed the Patriots in all pressure situations combined by a .569 to .461 margin," Dr. Murray said. "But whereas the Patriots offense in pressure situations was identical to the Giants defense as both teams scored .536, it was when the Giants were on offense that the greatest difference occurred.
"The Giants offense dominated the Patriots defense in pressure moments by a wide margin of .591 to .417."
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