NFL Close Calls – Week 14
Glancing at the scoreboard won’t tell you the whole story in most games. Here are some of the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread and total in the fourth quarter in Week 14 of the NFL regular season with one of the wilder NFL Sundays in recent memory.
Kansas City Chiefs (-6½) 27, Baltimore Ravens 24 (49): The AFC-leading Chiefs led by seven at halftime with a spread that slipped from -7½ to -6 or -6½ by kickoff. Baltimore tied the game late in the third quarter following a Patrick Mahomes interception. A big punt return put the Ravens in position for the upset and with just over four minutes to go Lamar Jackson found John Brown to give the underdog Ravens a seven-point edge. Mahomes cemented his MVP case with a great drive that included a pair of 4th down conversions, the second of which resulted in the game-tying touchdown in the final minute. That score also put the scoring at 48 on a total that reached as high as 53 before settling at 51 and dropping to 49 by kickoff. The Ravens had some time on the clock but disaster struck as a sack led to a fumble and the Chiefs had the ball in field goal range. Harrison Butker would miss from 43 yards at time expired however. Kansas City had the ball first and survived a fumble inside the red zone, ultimately giving Butker another opportunity and he was good from 35 yards. Baltimore crossed midfield but went backwards with a penalty and a sack that saw Jackson exit the game. Robert Griffin III entered and made a good throw on 4th-and-22 but Willie Snead couldn’t come up with it to extend the game. Baltimore still cashed underdog tickets and there were likely mixed results on the total.
Cleveland Browns (+1) 26, Carolina Panthers 20 (48): The scoring pace in this game was hot early with a 17-17 halftime score as the Panthers and Browns traded scores. Cleveland fumbled on its first play of the second half but Carolina didn’t take advantage of the field position to add points and only later in the frame added a field goal to lead by three as slight road favorite entering the fourth quarter. Early in the fourth Nick Chubb put the Browns in front but the PAT was missed for just a three-point edge. Cleveland added a field goal a few minutes later but up by just six, all results were still in play. Carolina reached 1st-and-goal with about four minutes remaining but Cam Newton’s eventual 4th down throw sailed high. The Panthers would get another shot but Newton threw an interception on 1st down with a minute to go as the Browns and the ‘under’ held on.
Green Bay Packers (-4) 34, Atlanta Falcons 20 (50½): Despite only managing 300 total yards in the game the Packers pulled away with a 34-7 lead late in the third quarter. Atlanta scored early in the fourth to put the total scoring at 48, just below the closing total. The Falcons reached the Green Bay 8-yard-line with about seven minutes remaining but a fumble kept points off the board. In the final minutes Atlanta kept a meaningless drive going with a 4th down conversion and then with 14 seconds to go hit a 19-yard touchdown pass on another 4th down play to bail out those on the ‘over’.
New Orleans Saints (-9½) 28, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14 (55½): The Buccaneers led 14-3 at the half as they looked to sweep the season series with the Saints. The game seemed to swing on a blocked punt late in the third quarter as New Orleans got back in the game with a short-field touchdown. Early in the fourth New Orleans scored on 4th-and-goal with a Drew Brees reach to put New Orleans up by four and suddenly the hefty underdog cover was in danger for the home team. Another 3-and-out gave the Saints the ball back in good field position and New Orleans again scored to make the margin 11 points. The Buccaneers again had to punt and the Saints added a field goal to lead by 14 with just over a minute to go. A touchdown would still put the Buccaneers in position to cover however and Tampa Bay reached the New Orleans 26-yard-line in the final seconds before a holding call and an eventual interception in the end zone.
New York Jets (+4½) 27, Buffalo Bills 23 (37): The Bills led 20-13 early in the third quarter after a short field goal after the Jets fumbled on the halftime kickoff. The Bills didn’t add points after another Jets turnover and then early in the fourth New York managed to tie the game. Buffalo missed a field goal on its next possession but after forcing a quick punt managed three points after a 62-yard drive, leading by three with just over two minutes to go on a spread that sat at -3½ before reaching -4 or -4½. Sam Darnold led a great late drive with the Jets rushing into the end zone on 4th-and-goal to take the lead for the first time in the game. Josh Allen would get intercepted to end the game for the Bills.
Miami Dolphins (+9) 34, New England Patriots 33 (50½): The Patriots led 30-28 late in the fourth quarter but couldn’t quite burn off the remaining clock and didn’t find the end zone, ultimately kicking a 22-yard field goal with 16 seconds remaining to lead by five when a touchdown could have put New England by nine on a spread that bounced around between -7 and -9. The Dolphins returned the kickoff to the 31 and had one play left, it turned out to be a play that will be remembered for a long time as a two laterals after a Ryan Tannehill completion left Kenyan Drake with room to maneuver, eventually going the distance for a 69-yard game-winning score.
Los Angeles Chargers (-16½) 26, Cincinnati Bengals 21 (48): The Bengals were never out of position to cover the massive underdog spread in this game but their late bid to tie the game had a huge impact on the total. The ‘under’ felt safe with just 32 points into the fourth quarter and matching field goals didn’t change that trajectory. Cincinnati would complete a touchdown drive just after the two-minute warning and lined up for a two-point conversion that would have tied the game. The attempt was not a success as the Chargers led 23-21 and the total sat just ‘under’. After holding the on-side kick attempt the Chargers added a late field goal to secure the win and put the scoring at 46, just below the closing figure of 48 after an opener at 47.
Dallas Cowboys (-3) 29, Philadelphia Eagles 23 (45): Eagles backers had a right to be fuming early in Sunday’s big afternoon showcase game in the NFC East with a Dallas fumble on the opening kickoff handed back to the Cowboys on a simply unimaginable replay review decision. From there just 15 points were scored through three quarters and the underdog Eagles tied the game at just 9-9 early in the fourth quarter. These rivals scored four touchdowns in the final eight minutes for a 23-23 tie to incredibly hit the ‘over’ when the ‘under’ appeared to be in a very safe position most of the way. Dallas was in position to have a game-winning field goal attempt at the end of regulation but had a fumble and then a sack to cost the team 15 yards. In overtime Dallas again appeared to stall in field goal range but opted to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the 19-yard-line rather than kicking a relatively sure field goal. The Cowboys got the conversion and then on 3rd-and-8 connected for a game-winning and spread-covering touchdown on a lucky bounce as a deflected pass wound up in Amari Cooper’s hands.
Oakland Raiders (+10) 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 21 (51): The heavy underdog Raiders came to play in this old rivalry as the double-digit underdog was in position to cover the entire way. The ‘under’ also seemed safe with a 14-10 score through three quarters which held until the Raiders took the lead 17-14 with a touchdown with just over five minutes remaining in the game. Both teams would score again for a 24-21 Oakland edge in the final seconds. The Steelers picked up a huge gain on a lateral play to set-up a game-tying field goal that would have put those on the ‘over’ miraculously back in play but Chris Boswell’s plant foot slipped and his 40-yard attempt failed as the ‘under’ held on.
Seattle Seahawks (-3) 21, Minnesota Vikings 7 (45½): Both defenses were tough in this Monday NFC showdown with a 3-0 lead for Seattle through three quarters after Minnesota failed going for it on 4th-and-1 across midfield. In good field position Seattle got the biggest play of the game to that point with a 31-yard pass interference call on the first play of the 4th quarter, a play with minimal contact on a debatably catchable pass. That put Seattle at 1st-and-goal and Seattle got past the home favorite spread with a field goal to lead 6-0. Minnesota would go right down the field on its next possession but stalled inside the 2-yard-line and threw incomplete on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard-line. Minnesota’s defense forced a 3-and-out and returned to Seattle territory, opting for a 47-yard field goal try. Bobby Wagner blocked the kick but was flagged for pushing off teammates to leap over a gap, a new rule emphasized this season. Without explanation the flag was picked up as for the second time in the game a clear 15-yard penalty on Wagner was missed after he got away with a facemask in the 1st quarter. With the block Seattle took over downs near midfield when the penalty would have given Minnesota 1st down at the Seattle 14-yard-line in an egregious officiating mistake that created a huge swing in the potential result of the game. A big Russell Wilson scramble put the game away for the Seahawks who would also add a late score on defense before Minnesota avoided the shutout with a garbage-time touchdown for a very misleading final score.