NFL Close Calls – Week 2
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 2 of the NFL regular season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6½) 20, Carolina Panthers 14 (48): The Thursday night game featured a weather delay and a slow early scoring pace as Joey Slye hit four field goals to give the Panthers a brief 12-10 lead halfway through the third quarter. Tampa Bay answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive as the road underdog took a 17-12 lead heading into the fourth quarter on a Peyton Barber score. After a Carolina fumble and a missed Tampa Bay field goal, Barber would be the victim of a safety early in the fourth as the Panthers climbed within three points to keep overtime in the range of possibility. Getting good field position after the defensive score the Panthers were stopped on 4th-and-short just past midfield but a pair of punts followed before the Buccaneers extended the lead to six points. Cam Newton and the Panthers got the ball back with just over two minutes remaining needing a touchdown drive and they eventually reached the Tampa Bay 11-yard-line with a new set of downs. Short gains and a penalty left the Panthers facing 4th-and-1 from the 2-yard-line and a direct snap to Christian McCaffrey was sniffed out as the Buccaneers were the NFC South squad to avoid the 0-2 start.
Indianapolis Colts (+3) 19, Tennessee Titans 17 (43½): The Colts had two first half touchdowns but led only 13-7 with another missed PAT from Adam Vinatieri. The Titans scored on a short field after the break to lead 14-13 and then after a Jacoby Brissett fumble, Tennessee added a field goal despite only picking up 14 yards. The Titans forced a punt and had the momentum to put the game away after pass interference call converted a big 3rd down. A few plays later Marcus Mariota was sacked on the subsequent 3rd down and the Titans settled for a kick to go up seven, only this time Cairo Santos missed. The Colts didn’t take advantage on its next possession but getting the ball back with just under seven minutes remaining the Colts were able to hit a big play with a 55-yard-run and got the eventual touchdown to take the lead. Vinatieri would again miss the PAT however to leave the lead in jeopardy. The Titans had an opportunity crossing midfield in the final minute but ultimately couldn’t get the job done as the Colts played a second-straight down-to-the-wire game, this time winning.
Detroit Lions (+1) 13, Los Angeles Chargers 10 (47): The Lions missed a field goal six minutes before halftime and allowed the Chargers to add three before the break to trail 10-6. Matthew Stafford had an interception on the first drive of the second half but the Lions were bailed out with the defense forcing a fumble of Austin Ekeler on 1st-and-goal. More mistakes followed as the Chargers missed two field goals surrounding another Stafford interception before Detroit broke through in the fourth quarter with a big play to Kenny Golladay, leading 13-10. The Chargers reached the red zone late in the fourth quarter but went backwards and Philip Rivers wound up intercepted on 3rd-and-19 before the Chargers had a chance to struggle with the decision to try for the tying field goal from punter Ty Long who was serving as the kicker with Michael Badgley injured.
Dallas Cowboys (-6) 31, Washington Redskins 21 (46): After a scoreless first quarter Washington took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter that held until Dallas hit a 51-yard touchdown with about six minutes remaining. Dallas also managed to find the end zone just before halftime to suddenly take a 14-7 lead. The Cowboys kept the momentum with another touchdown out of the break to lead 21-7 but Washington answered to sit a point short of the underdog number down 21-14. Dallas had a touchdown brought back on a penalty and Washington’s defense was able to hold for a field goal, sitting just one touchdown away from covering the number into the fourth quarter. A promising drive stalled just past midfield and with still more than 11 minutes on the clock Washington went for it on 4th-and-3 and came up empty. Dallas put the game away with another touchdown on the short field. Washington would climb back within 10 with a touchdown just ahead of the two-minute warning to clear the ‘over’ but they couldn’t get a stop to get the ball back.
Houston Texans (-7) 13, Jacksonville Jaguars 12 (43½): Houston led just 6-3 through three quarters after a scoreless third quarter but the first touchdown of the game came from Deshaun Watson with just over 11 minutes remaining. That touchdown put the Texans past the favorite spread for the first time in the game. Gardner Minshew led the Jaguars down the field for a field goal to trim the margin to seven, with a spread that closed right at +7 from as high as +9½. The Jaguars held on defense to get the ball back and Jacksonville converted two fourth downs on the way to the red zone. With 30 seconds left Minshew connected with DJ Clark and down by one the Jaguars opted to go for the win but came up short on a Leonard Fournette rush attempt.
Green Bay Packers (-3) 21, Minnesota Vikings 16 (43): After a win in Week 1 but limited offensive production for the Packers in Matt Lafleur’s debut, Green Bay came out firing in the home opener. The Packers scored just over two minutes into the game and eventually went up 21-0 early in the second quarter. Dalvin Cook broke a 75-yard run to break the momentum for the Packers and after missing an early field goal Dan Bailey added three before halftime to put the Vikings back in the game down 21-10 after the Packers opted not to kick on 4th-and-1 from the Minnesota 25. The Vikings thought they added seven on that drive with a three-yard score to Stefon Diggs questionably overturned via replay to call offensive pass interference under the new challengeable rules. Green Bay would fumble on its first possession of the second half and the Vikings added a short field touchdown to climb within five, with Bailey’s PAT blocked. Five straight punts followed as neither offense could get anything going and ‘over’ backers moaned after supposedly sitting pretty with the hot scoring start. The Vikings were poised to take the lead with about five minutes remaining reaching the Green Bay 8-yard-line with a new set of downs but Kirk Cousins made an ill-advised throw to the corner of the end zone that was intercepted on 1st down. Green Bay was able to run out most of the remaining clock to hold on despite the offense disappearing, while the ‘under’ also held on.
Chicago Bears (-3) 16, Denver Broncos 14 (40½): The spread on this game fluctuated a lot after quickly rising from even to the Bears as a slight favorite. A common number was -2 for the Bears much of the weekend but on Sunday afternoon the Bears hit -2½ and eventually -3. Chicago didn’t impress early in the game but managed a 13-3 edge through three quarter to sit comfortably ahead of the number. In the fourth the Broncos completed a lengthy drive to add three points and were poised to tie the game with 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard-line. Joe Flacco eventually was intercepted but pinned deep Chicago punted a few plays later to give the Broncos another shot. This time Flacco delivered including two 4th down conversions and after the touchdown with 31 seconds left Flacco delivered what looked like the game-winning two-point conversion in a huge bold play from Vic Fangio against his old team. It was not to be as a borderline 1st down roughing the passer call gave the Bears a big boost and Mitchell Trubisky struck for 25 yards on 4th-and-15 in the final seconds. Chicago still had a timeout and new kicker Eddy Pineiro became a hero hitting from 53 yards.
Atlanta Falcons (+1) 24, Philadelphia Eagles 20 (53½): The Falcons had a 17-6 edge in the third quarter of this game but Matt Ryan had an interception deep in his own territory to get the Eagles back in the game. Philadelphia appeared to add the two-point conversion as well but Carson Wentz was ruled down just short of the line as Atlanta held a five-point lead. Ryan would be intercepted in the end zone on the next possession when a field goal could have put the margin to eight points. After swapping punts Philadelphia delivered a tremendous 13-play drive to burn well over eight minutes to take the lead. Up by one the two-point conversion try loomed large on a spread that was commonly +2 before sliding to +1 and the Eagles hit Zach Ertz to lead by three. Atlanta stalled near midfield facing 4th-and-3 at its own 46 when a short pass to Julio Jones to get past the sticks turned into a 54-yard score. Up four Atlanta’s defense still had a lot of work ahead with the Eagles converting an epic 4th-and-14 for 43 yards and getting a free timeout as an Atlanta player was injured on the play. With still a minute to go, an Eagles score seemed inevitable but the Eagles picked up just two yards in the next three plays and faced 4th-and-8. Wentz hit Ertz again incredibly close to the line but he was ruled just short with that spot holding on review as Atlanta escaped with the win.