NFL Close Calls – Week 1
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 in the fourth quarter last week in Week 1 of the NFL regular season.
Philadelphia Eagles (-10) 32, Washington Redskins 27 (44): Case Keenum hit several big plays early in his Washington debut as the Redskins stunned the Eagles with a 17-0 lead 20 minutes into the game and held on to a 20-7 edge at halftime. Philadelphia erased that lead in a three-minute span in the third quarter with back-to-back scores to lead by one heading into the fourth. The Eagles kept the momentum with an early fourth quarter touchdown and then a field goal with about three minutes remaining put the Eagles past the heavy home favorite spread for the first time in the game leading by 12. Having punted on its first three possessions of the second half with a total of five yards gained, Washington put together a 16-play, 75-yard drive that ended with an underdog cover saving touchdown with six seconds on the clock.
Buffalo Bills (+2½) 17, New York Jets 16 (41): The Jets took the lead early on an interception return touchdown but missed the PAT and that was the only scoring of the first half with Josh Allen having four turnovers for the Bills. The Jets led 8-0 after a safety on Buffalo’s first offensive snap of the third quarter and with good field position they added a touchdown to lead 16-0. Buffalo finally answered with a field goal and then in the fourth quarter produced an impressive touchdown drive to trail by only six with about 10 minutes to go. The Jets picked up a first down but opted to punt short of midfield rather than risk going for it on 4th-and-2. Allen led an 8-play, 80-yard touchdown in just three minutes as the Bills took a 17-16 lead with about three minutes to go. The Jets got close to midfield on its next drive but couldn’t convert for a one-point loss in a game where new kicker Kaare Vedvik missed two kicks.
Tennessee Titan (+5½) 43, Cleveland Browns 13 (44): The Browns crept back in this game with a touchdown to trail by only two late in the third quarter but a 75-yard touchdown followed to put the Titans in commanding position leading 22-13 through three quarters. Those on the ‘under’ still had some room to work with but back-to-back Baker Mayfield interceptions handed the Titans short fields and Tennessee scored quickly on drives of only 35 and 34 yards to push the total ‘over’, eventually adding a Malcolm Butler pick-6 later in the game for good measure to create the blowout 30-point final margin.
Arizona Cardinals (+3) 27, Detroit Lions 27 (48½): Laying just a few points against 2018’s worst NFL team seemed too good to be true but the Lions got out to a 17-0 edge in the second quarter and after the defense held Arizona to a pair of field goals, wound up in front 24-6 early in the fourth quarter. Zane Gonzalez added a field goal to trim the margin to 15 points and Detroit had a 3-and-out. Kyler Murray then led his first NFL touchdown drive with David Johnson going in from 27 yards and the Cardinals were within a single score with six minutes to go. Detroit should have been able to put the game away, but Arizona exhausted its timeouts and ultimately the Lions had to punt from midfield, with a poor effort going only 11 yards. With a short field Arizona was able to work its way down the field and Murray again delivered a touchdown as well as a two-point conversion to tie the game. Arizona went first in overtime and reached the Detroit 8-yard-line but had to settle for a short field goal. The Lions likewise couldn’t get through to the end zone and tied the game at 27-27. Arizona faced a dilemma on 4th-and-7 from the Detroit 46 with the risky options to try an extremely long field goal or go for the 1st down both likely to hand the game to the Lions if they failed. The Cardinals played for the tie and punted to the Detroit 5-yard-line where the Lions didn’t offer much of a threat to deliver a miracle late score.
Los Angeles Chargers (-6½) 30, Indianapolis Colts 24 (44½): Side and total results faced a dramatic finish in the battle of 2018 AFC playoff teams. The Chargers had a 17-6 lead at halftime after Adam Vinatieri missed a PAT and a field goal to cost the Colts. He hit for three on the first drive of the third quarter, but the Chargers answered with a touchdown to lead by 15. In two plays the Colts answered back to get back within a single score down eight, just short of a spread that bounced between 7 and 6½ before even sliding to just 6 at some outlets by kickoff. The Colts got the break they needed late in the third quarter with a muffed punt return catch but Vinatieri would miss again from just 29 yards early in the fourth to keep the margin at eight. The Chargers moved to 1st-and-goal with a chance to put the game away but an interception in the end zone gave the Colts new life. 16 plays later the Colts found the end zone while converting a 4th down along the way. The two-point conversion with less than a minute on the clock could have ended the spread uncertainty but Marlon Mack got through and tied the game to force overtime. The Chargers got the ball first and hit a big early play that withstood review. On 3rd-and-1 the Colts needed a stop to stay in the game but the Chargers converted and ran into the end zone on the next play. With no PAT needed in OT most on the Colts still covered while the late Indianapolis touchdown secured the ‘over’ as well.
New Orleans Saints (-6½) 30, Houston Texans 28 (51½): With a 14-3 halftime lead the Texans underdog cover appeared on track on a line that dipped from +7 to +6½. New Orleans scored quickly out of halftime, but the Texans were able to answer to maintain an 11-point lead. A late third quarter touchdown put the Saints down by four and a few plays later Deshaun Watson was intercepted giving the Saints the ball back near midfield. On the first play of the fourth quarter the Saints took their first lead by three. Both teams had to punt before Houston appeared to climb into scoring range reaching the New Orleans 44. Watson took an 11-yard sack and Houston had to punt. Pinned deep the Saints got 41 yards on a huge 3rd-and-2 play and eventually had a new set of downs on the 33-yard-line of Houston, with those on the Saints and the ‘over’ eagerly awaiting a score. Houston’s defense held leaving the Saints to kick a field goal with 50 seconds left, leading by only six. Watson needed only two plays to find the end zone with completions for 48 and 37 yards as the Texans stunned the Superdome crowd. The game was tied ahead of the PAT which Ka’imi Fairbarin incredibly missed right, a controversial flag came out as Fairbairn was contacted well after his kicking leg came back down and on the retry Houston went up by one to take overtime out of the picture and confirm the underdog cover. New Orleans would use the final 37 seconds to go 35 yards and Will Lutz came through with a 58-yard field goal for a dramatic win for the Saints.