NFL Close Calls – Week 8
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 8 of the NFL regular season. Most of this week’s games apply as if you won in Week 8 on sides, congratulations, almost every game could have gone the other way with many of those games certainly deserving of an opposite spread result.
Minnesota Vikings (-17) 19, Washington Redskins 9 (41½): There were eight scoring plays Thursday night but seven were field goals as Minnesota posted more than twice as many yards but couldn’t pull away. Washington trailed by just seven late in the third quarter and got the ball back with a stop on 4th-and-1 just outside of Minnesota field goal range. Two plays later Dwayne Haskins was intercepted to set-up a Dan Bailey field goal early in the fourth quarter to put Minnesota up by 10. A late touchdown would be enough for most Vikings backers on a spread that opened at -14½ and only hit -17 very late in the day before kickoff. The Vikings had the opportunity and attempted to score despite Washington being out of timeouts late but ultimately wound up stopped on 4th-and-4 from the Washington 7-yard-line in the final minute.
Detroit Lions (-6) 31, New York Giants 26 (49): The Lions had a 14-0 lead early but Detroit has made a habit of blowing leads this season. Sure enough the Giants scored the next two touchdowns but missed a PAT to trail by one. The Lions would stretch the edge to four by halftime and led by five through three quarters after an exchange of touchdowns in the third with the Giants failing going for two. Detroit hit a big play early in the fourth quarter to lead by 12 before New York was stopped on downs on back-to-back possessions. Detroit would go backwards on both late possessions however and getting the ball back just ahead of the two-minute warning, the Giants were a backdoor threat. A 25-yard pass interference call put New York in business and with 1:19 remaining the Giants found the end zone. Down six New York matched the closing number and opted to kick the important PAT to lose by just five.
Tennessee Titans (-2) 27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 (45½): The Buccaneers have appealing numbers but the consistent turnovers stand out and they came to bite in this contest with Tampa Bay posting a 389-246 yardage edge in a narrow loss. The Titans led by two at halftime after the Buccaneers went for two after a score right before the break and came up short. The Buccaneers would get eight on an early third quarter score however to lead by six. Tennessee added a late third quarter field goal to trail by three but forced a punt with Tampa Bay unwilling to go for it on 4th-and-1 in its own territory. The Titans then nearly doubled their offensive production for the game with a 12-play 90-yard drive to deliver the go-ahead score, slipping past the slight favorite spread with 6:55 to go as well. Tampa Bay had three more possessions that ended in a fumble, failing on 4th-and-1 in Tennessee territory, and finally a deep pass from Jameis Winston intercepted at the Tennessee 25-yard-line.
Los Angeles Chargers (+3) 17, Chicago Bears 16 (41): The Bears commanded this game in the numbers but settled for three first half field goals while the Chargers got a touchdown. The scoring mode flipped in the third quarter as the Bears were able to find the end zone and led 16-10 as a slight home favorite after a Chargers field goal late in the third quarter. Mitch Trubisky fumbled in Chicago territory on the next possession and the Chargers were able to go 26 yards for a touchdown in three plays to lead by one. Chicago had a productive drive to reach the Los Angeles 37-yard-line but Trubisky took a 3rd down sack and the Bears had to punt. The defense got the stop to give the Bears another chance and rather than taking a few shots to get a touchdown or get closer, the Bears took a knee in the final minute and watched Eddy Pinero miss left from 41 yards.
Seattle Seahawks (-7) 27, Atlanta Falcons 20 (48½): The closing line says seven but that wasn’t an overly common price on this game. Seattle opened at -3 and held at -3½ early in the week before number jumped with Matt Ryan ruled out. -8 was typical over the weekend as results wound up varying on this game. Multiple outcomes didn’t seem possible as Seattle led 24-0 at halftime but Matt Schaub would prove to be a productive backup getting the Falcons 11 points in the third quarter. A Seattle field goal with about six minutes left in the game made the lead 16 and seemed safe but Atlanta went the distance in fewer than three minutes and suddenly was within 10, failing on a two-point conversion that mattered for many. In many ways that might have been a worse outcome for Seattle backers as with a two-score lead the Seahawks could still relax and they punted back while taking just 27 seconds off the clock. Schaub and the Falcons managed the clock well and kicked a second down field goal without using a timeout to trail by seven while still leaving more than a minute on the clock, giving many late-week Falcons backers a win. The on-side kick went out of bounds however to end any further threat as Seattle held on and the total that fell throughout the week stayed just ‘under’.
Jacksonville Jaguars (-7) 29, New York Jets 15 (40): Jacksonville dominated this game in most ways and led 22-7 after a late third quarter field goal. An early fourth quarter touchdown with a successful two-point conversion suddenly put the Jets down just seven however to land even with the common weekend number though early in the week Jacksonville opened at -4½ and was -6 to -6½ for long stretches. The Jaguars gained 30 yards on the next possession but had to punt. Hopes for a New York comeback were short-lived however with a penalty, a negative rushing play, and an interception on three snaps for the Jets. On a short field Jacksonville found the end zone on 3rd-and-goal to go up by 14. Sam Darnold was intercepted across midfield on the next possession for the Jets while another late series ended on downs.
Los Angeles Rams (-12) 24, Cincinnati Bengals 10 (48½): In London the Rams got more they bargained for with the winless Bengals with a 10-10 tie late in the second quarter before a trick play gave Los Angeles a 65-yard touchdown. Out of halftime the Rams added another touchdown to slip past the heavy favorite spread. The Bengals appeared ready to answer reaching the edge for field goal range before going backwards and needing to punt on 4th-and-long. Cincinnati held the Rams to four straight punts the rest of the game but two late drives deep into Los Angeles territory came up empty with a field goal not being worth considering given the time and score. The Bengals couldn’t convert from the 6-yard-line with about five minutes remaining and on a late drive appeared to get the underdog cover with a touchdown with eight seconds to go. On review the play was overturned and the Bengals came up incomplete on its last shot from inside the 10. Winning by 14 with only 24 points Rams backers escaped with a very fortunate cover in a game where the Bengals had more than 400 total yards but just 10 points.
New Orleans Saints (-12½) 31, Arizona Cardinals 9 (48): Arizona trailed New Orleans just 10-6 at halftime but opted to go for it on 4th-and-1 form its own 30 early in the third quarter. The aggressive play was commendable as Kliff Kingsbury is breaking the mold but the move backfired with the Saints adding a short-field touchdown to go up 17-6 a few plays later. Arizona would add a field goal and through three quarters both teams had three scores but Arizona had only field goals. Still down one score Arizona couldn’t get a big third down stop early in the fourth quarter and the Saints went up by 15. About halfway through the final frame the Cardinals reached the New Orleans 27-yard-line but a field goal did no good at that point and 3rd-and-2 and 4th-and-2 attempts to extend the series were stopped. A deflated Cardinals defense gave up back-to-back big plays as the Saints put the game away with another touchdown with five minutes to go.
Houston Texans (-5½) 27, Oakland Raiders 24 (52): The total wound up with mixed results on this game landing right on 51 where the number sat for big chunks of the week. Oakland led this game 21-13 as a Houston win didn’t seem in play but the Texans scored in the first few seconds of the fourth quarter and just went for one to trail 21-20. The Raiders managed a field goal to go up by four before a wild sequence with Deshaun Watson delivering a go-ahead touchdown pass but appearing to be seriously injured. Up three the Houston defense forced an Oakland punt and was a serious threat to steal the cover but Oakland exhausted its timeouts and Houston with Watson still in the game, was ultimately able to take a knee well across midfield after the two-minute warning without needing to try to advance further or consider a late field goal.
New England Patriots (-10) 27, Cleveland Browns 13 (43): Double-digit spreads in the NFL are rarely out of play as while the Patriots were in complete control after 17-0 first quarter, a Browns cover lurked as a real possibility. Down 27-10 Cleveland went for it on 4th-and-16 deep in its own territory and went further backwards. Dealt a 14-yard field the Patriots went backwards as well and missed on a 34-yard field goal with about four minutes remaining. A touchdown would have trimmed the margin to 10 but the Browns came up just short of a 1st down on a late series in New England territory and after a false start pushed it to 4th-and-6 they opted to kick a field goal to trail by 13. The Browns would get the ball back with about a minute to go and picked up a big gain with a pass interference call but a sack followed. With no timeouts left and the clock would run out a few plays later with the game staying just ‘under’ as well.
Green Bay Packers (-5) 31, Kansas City Chiefs 24 (48): A quick 14-0 lead for the Packers was erased in the second quarter as the Chiefs got a good performance from Matt Moore and the defense created some pressure. The Sunday night game was tied 17-17 through three quarters and 24-24 with nine minutes to go. The Packers scored on a 67-yard short pass and run from Aaron Jones to lead by seven but more than eight minutes remained. The Chiefs reached the 40-yard-line and opted to punt on 4th-and-3 with more than five minutes remaining and three timeouts left, a decision it isn’t clear they would make with Patrick Mahomes. Green Bay was able to covert a pair of third downs and run out the remaining clock for the win and narrow cover.