NFL Close Calls – Week 5
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 or total in the fourth quarter last week in Week 5 of the NFL regular season.
Seattle Seahawks (-1½) 30, Los Angeles Rams 29 (48½): The Thursday night NFC West clash lived up to its billing with a back-and-forth contest. The Seahawks led by one at halftime, briefly opening as a slight underdog but listed commonly a slight favorite at -1½ most of the week. The Rams had two 75-yard touchdown drives in the third quarter surrounding a short-field Seattle score but Los Angeles missed on a two-point conversion attempt to lead by just five. Early in the fourth quarter field goals were exchanged before Russell Wilson led a lengthy drive for the Seahawks and found the end zone on 4th-and-goal with 2:28 to go. The two-point conversion try loomed large on the spread result but DK Metcalf was unable to haul it in, leaving Seattle up by just one. The Rams had plenty of time to get into field goal range but Seattle challenged an incomplete pass and it was ruled that it was narrowly a wild interception from Tedric Thompson, a deflected pass that was juggled several times but was kept off the turf. Seattle was not able to pick up a first down to finish off the game however and it appeared that the Rams would sneak away with the win, reaching field goal range only to have Greg Zuerlein miss from 44 yards.
Baltimore Ravens (-3) 26, Pittsburgh Steelers 23 (44): The Ravens jumped out to an early 10-point lead but Pittsburgh took advantage of two interceptions to add a six points before the break to trail by four, getting close to the home underdog spread that mostly fluctuated between +3 and +3½. Pittsburgh scored first after halftime after another Lamar Jackson interception but Baltimore quickly answered with a field goal to knot the game at 20-20. Mason Rudolph was injured in the third quarter as the Steelers were down to undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges at quarterback. He did enough to lead Pittsburgh to another field goal with 2:37 remaining but Baltimore answered as Justin Tucker was good from 48 to force overtime, a kick that also sealed the ‘over’. The Ravens were forced to punt starting the extra session and Pittsburgh appeared to be on the move but JuJu Smith-Schuster lost the ball after a solid gain, with Baltimore narrowly recovering the fumble in bounds, effectively already in field goal range. A conservative approach followed as the Ravens picked up only six yards and Tucker hit from 46 for the win, though for many on the Ravens it wasn’t quite enough.
Oakland Raiders (+7) 24, Chicago Bears 21 (40): After a scoreless opening quarter in London the Raiders delivered 17 points in the second quarter for a commanding underdog edge on a line that climbed back up dramatically by Sunday, opening at -6 before falling as low as -4½ and rising all the back to -6½ and -7 by kickoff. The Bears suddenly also climbed back into the game in the third quarter taking advantage of good field position to score three touchdowns, going in front 21-17. The Raiders were on the doorstep to go back in front but Chicago got a fumble recovery near the goal line and the Bears were able to work their way out of danger into Oakland territory. Points weren’t added however but then it was the Raiders who were then pinned deep. A running into the kicker penalty gave Oakland a retry on a punt that would have left the Bears near midfield. Now facing 4th-and-1, the fake punt was on and Eddie Harris picked up the first down but appeared to fumble. On review the Raiders kept the ball and Derek Carr would go on to complete the 97-yard scoring drive to put Oakland back in front. Chicago crossed midfield on a late possession, but Chase Daniel wound up intercepted as Oakland moved to 3-2.
Arizona Cardinals (+3) 26, Cincinnati Bengals 23 (46½): These winless squads kicked a lot of field goals early on as Arizona held a 13-9 lead through three quarters and the ‘under’ sat in good shape. The Cardinals added three more to lead by seven and seemed to put the game away with a 37-yard touchdown run with about seven minutes remaining for a 14-point lead. Andy Dalton led a 79-yard scoring drive around the four-minute mark to get the Bengals back within seven and the Cardinals weren’t able to gain a first down while only running off 27 seconds. Dalton hit Tajh Boyd for two big plays and suddenly Cincinnati was in the end zone. The Bengals opted to kick for the tie rather than go for the win with the touchdown right at the two-minute warning, a score that was also extremely relevant for those on a total that hovered in-between 46 and 47. There was too much time left for the Cardinals as Kyler Murray led his first NFL game-winning drive using his arm and his legs to set-up Zane Gonzalez for another field goal for the win.
Carolina Panthers (-3) 34, Jacksonville Jaguars 27 (41): The Panthers took a 28-17 lead early in the third quarter but the Jaguars would fight back adding a touchdown to trail by just four heading into the final frame on a spread that was commonly +3 or +3½. The Panthers weren’t able to put the game away despite two chances to add points, missing a field goal and then getting stopped on 4th-and-1 at the 5-yard-line. Jacksonville settled for a field goal to trail by one with about six minutes remaining but the Panthers seemed to close the door with a 59-yard touchdown run. Incredibly the extra-point went right however as the margin stayed at seven. Jacksonville fumbled near midfield ahead of the two-minute warning but still wound up getting another shot, eventually reaching the Carolina 24-yard-line before running out of time.
Buffalo Bills (+3½) 14, Tennessee Titans 7 (39): Tied 7-7 through three the Bills turned in a 77-yard touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter surrounded by the third and fourth missed field goals of the day from Titans kicker Cairo Santos. The Titans would get a late possession but punted with about four minutes to go and didn’t get another chance as the Bills escaped with a win in a matchup that could loom large late in the season in the AFC wild card picture.
Denver Broncos (+4½) 20, Los Angeles Chargers 13 (46): A 14-0 first quarter lead offered great promise for the underdog Broncos and that edge was pushed to 17-0 with a field goal following up a missed field goal from the Chargers. Los Angeles also fumbled for a touchback on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard-line in the final play before halftime. Most of the third quarter went by harmlessly but winless teams often find ways to give their opponents a shot. Joe Flacco wound up intercepted at his own 7-yard-line to seemingly put the Chargers right back in the game but Philip Rivers returned the favor with another red zone turnover. Denver’s defense wouldn’t get a shot to prevent the next score however with Desmond King returning a punt 68 yards for a Chargers touchdown near the end of the third quarter. Joe Flacco took a costly 3rd down sack on the next Broncos drive to push the field goal attempt back and Brandon McManus would miss. A few plays later the Chargers added three to wind up within one score. The Broncos were eventually able to hit a field goal late in the fourth to finally put the game away for win #1.