NFL Close Calls – Week 9
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 9 of the NFL regular season. Every home team covered in Week 9 heading into Monday night but not without late drama in several games.
San Francisco 49ers (-10) 28, Arizona Cardinals 25 (43½): While Arizona put up a decent fight they allowed a score on the final play of the first half to fall behind 21-7. Scoring a few minutes out of the break kept the Cardinals in the game but San Francisco answered three minutes later to lead 28-14 heading into the fourth quarter. In the final frame a long Cardinals drive resulted in a field goal to trim the margin to 11, with the decision to kick due to facing 4th-and-13. That wasn’t going to be quite enough for the underdog on a spread that leaped from +7 all the way to +10. The Arizona defense held and Kyler Murray and Andy Isabella connected for 88 yards to put the Cardinals back in play for the upset. The-two-point conversion was good and it was a 3-point margin. San Francisco converted three third downs including one that was upheld on a challenge to melt the remaining clock, moving to 8-0.
Buffalo Bills (-10½) 24, Washington Redskins 9 (37): A rout seemed possible with a quick 10-0 lead for the Bills in the first quarter. Washington managed a second quarter field goal but a strong Bills kickoff return followed and it was 17-3. Washington got three more before the break to trail by 11, right near the closing spread. A productive Bills drive out of halftime was stopped on 4th-and-1 and eventually Washington added three more to trail by just eight with a spread that was as low as +9½ before climbing back up. Four consecutive punts kept the scoring in check and aided the ‘under’ before the Bills inherited great field position with about six minutes remaining. The play of the game relative to the spread was Buffalo facing 3rd-and-18 in deep field goal range. An incomplete pass and Buffalo likely punts to pin Washington back but Josh Allen connected with John Brown for 23 yards. Still ahead of the two-minute warning Buffalo wasn’t going to be able to run out the clock and eventually added a Devin Singletary touchdown to flip the spread result with just 2:21 to go. Dwayne Haskins got the Redskins near midfield before falling short on 4th-and-4 in a mediocre but perhaps slightly better than some expected performance in his first NFL start against a quality defense on the road.
Carolina Panthers (-3) 30, Tennessee Titans 20 (43): After a scoreless first quarter the Panthers scored 17 in the second and led 24-7 through three quarters. The Titans completed a 94-yard drive early in the fourth but allowed a 58-yard run to Christian McCaffrey a few minutes later to stay down by 16 as a slight underdog, though the spread was +3½ or higher much of the week. Ryan Tannehill was intercepted on Tennessee’s next drive in Carolina territory but the Panthers would miss a field goal to keep the Titans in the game. With fewer than three minutes remaining Tennessee found the end zone but didn’t get the conversion to trail by 10, leaving the door open for a spread-spoiling touchdown if they got the ball back. Only 20 seconds came off the clock on Carolina’s 3-and-out with Tennessee only needing to burn two timeouts thanks to a 2nd down pass call from the Panthers. The Titans went down the field quickly but had to waste a down to stop the clock with just over a minute remaining on 3rd down and opted for a field goal on 4th-and-3 to the relief of those on the Panthers. The kick was ultimately missed anyway but the 19-point fourth quarter did clear the total ‘over’.
Philadelphia Eagles (-5) 22, Chicago Bears 14 (41): The Eagles dominated the first half in this playoff rematch as in a week where Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears offense came under great scrutiny, the offense had negative total production five drives into the game and didn’t pick up a first down until the final minute of the first half. Philadelphia extended a 12-0 halftime lead to 19-0 going 84 yards after halftime but Chicago would score touchdowns on two of its next three drives to trail by five, even with a common spread on the game. A pair of punts followed before a great Carson Wentz drive, burning more than eight minutes of clock in a 16-play effort that resulted in a field goal in the final minute of the game to give the Eagles the clear win and cover.
Kansas City Chiefs (+5½) 26, Minnesota Vikings 23 (46): The line on this game was not commonly available until the weekend and with Patrick Mahomes ruled out the road favorite price kept climbing. A 10-10 tie at halftime was broken with a short-field Vikings touchdown following a Chiefs fumble on the kickoff after the break. Minnesota missed the PAT however and that allowed the Chiefs to lead by one after Damien Williams broke a 91-yard run late in the third quarter. The Chiefs added a field goal to lead by four but Minnesota went in front by three early in the fourth. The Vikings weren’t able to hold on defense however even with a huge 3rd-and-13 sack to push Harrison Butker’s tying field goal attempt to 54 yards. Still ahead of the two-minute warning Kirk Cousins went backwards on Minnesota’s chance for a go-ahead drive. A terrible punt followed as special teams issues continue to haunt Mike Zimmer with the Chiefs starting at Minnesota’s 45-yard-line. A sack on 1st down gave Minnesota a chance to get to overtime but Matt Moore connected for two solid gains and Butker was good from 44 yards.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-1) 26, Indianapolis Colts 24 (39½): A common fallacy is assuming a near-even line won’t come into play but the difference between +1 and -1 looked significant in the Colts/Steelers game much of the way with either option available on either team depending on the timing. The scoring got off a normal trajectory as Pittsburgh recovered its own fumble in the end zone late in the third quarter to take a safety instead of allowing a touchdown, trimming a 20-16 lead to 20-18. The Colts would fumble the kickoff to botch an opportunity to have good field position and despite gaining only four yards, the Steelers added three points to lead by five. With Brian Hoyer at quarterback most of the game the Colts were in the red zone midway through the third but faced a decision on 4th-and-2. Hoyer connected for the touchdown but the Colts didn’t get the two-point try as the lead was one. A big defensive pass interference call withstood review but from 1st-and-goal the Steelers had to settle for a short kick to go back in front by two with still six minutes to go. Punts were exchanged before Hoyer and the Colts got the ball back with 2:28 to go from their own 15. Pass interference would again be the central conversation with Indianapolis gaining 35 yards on a call that withstood review. Pittsburgh would also challenge for offensive pass interference later in the drive but with no change of course. Indianapolis reached field goal range but lost three yards on 3rd-and-1 with just over a minute to go. Adam Vinatieri would miss in another high profile spot from 43 yards as Pittsburgh escaped with the win.
Oakland Raiders (-3) 31, Detroit Lions 24 (51½): While both teams moved the ball well, the scoring stalled in the third quarter as the Lions settled for a short field goal to tie the game 17-17. Off-setting penalties offset a potential 3rd down stop for the Lions early in the fourth quarter and on the re-play Oakland went up 24-17. After a series of punts the Lions took advantage of good field position to tie the game with just over five minutes remaining. Oakland quickly earned 1st-and-goal as the two-minute warning approached but on 3rd-and-9 Oakland connected to go back up by seven. The Lions got two chunks of yardage on penalties but in the final minute Matthew Stafford took a sack from the 4-yard-line. Facing 3rd-and-goal from the 14, Detroit got 13 yards and Oakland held on the final play with an incomplete pass on a jump ball off play-action, with Lions fans certainly having a valid case that the defender’s contact was early.
Seattle Seahawks (-4) 40, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34 (50½): +6 and even briefly +6½ was available early in the week on the Buccaneers. It didn’t seem to matter with a 21-7 early lead for the road underdog. Halfway through the third quarter Seattle connected for a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to tie the game. Matching field goals followed to make it 24-24 early in the fourth before both teams had fumbles. Taking advantage of great field position Seattle took its first lead of the game with eight minutes to go on a short field goal. The Buccaneers were able to tie the game with five minutes to go. It took only three plays for Seattle to answer, hitting a 53-yard touchdown to pass up the favorite spread for the first time in the game. Jameis Winston converted a 4th down at the two-minute warning and then put Tampa Bay into the end zone in the final minute. With still 46 seconds to go, Tampa Bay kicked the PAT to tie the game. To no one’s surprise Russell Wilson was able to get the Seahawks in position to win but Jason Myers missed from 40 yards, setting up the nightmare scenario to come for Buccaneers backers. Seattle won the toss and an exhausted Buccaneers defense was picked apart. An illegal contract call gave Seattle a big first down to get into field goal range and on 3rd-and-6 the Seahawks struck for 29 yards, inevitably getting into the end zone two plays later for the win and the undeserved favorite cover for most.
Denver Broncos (+4) 24, Cleveland Browns 19 (39): Before Joe Flacco was ruled out, the Broncos were a slight favorite in this game but were +3 to +4 with Brandon Allen set for his first NFL action. Allen played well and led the Broncos to a 17-12 lead at halftime, with Denver’s defense holding Cleveland to four field goals. A Phillip Linsday run put Denver up by 12 late in the third quarter but the Browns got back within five early in the fourth. Cleveland forced a punt and had the ball back with still more than seven minutes to go. A signature drive was possible for Baker Mayfield in what has been a difficult season. The Browns reached 3rd-and-1 at the Denver 25 and kept the ball out of Mayfield’s hands with a rush from Nick Chubb losing three yards. Mayfield fell incomplete on 4th down as the Broncos held on to surpass the Browns in the ACC standings.