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 and total in the fourth quarter in Week 2 of the NFL regular season.
Cleveland Browns (-5½) 35, Cincinnati Bengals 30 (44½): A 24-point 2nd quarter put the Thursday night game on a clear ‘over’ pace but the Browns were barely past the favorite spread with an eight-point edge at halftime. Cincinnati seemed to a get huge swing of momentum stuffing the Browns on 4th-and-goal on the opening drive of the 2nd half but rookie QB Joe Burrow would fumble on a sack a few plays later, handing the Browns another red zone chance and this time Cleveland delivered. Cincinnati would add a field goal to trail by 12 and the defense again delivered with an interception when it looked like Cleveland would add points. Burrow led a 14-play drive to put the Bengals within five with just under six minutes remaining. The underdog cover position was short-lived however as it took Cleveland just two minutes to answer, effectively putting the game away up by 12 at the 3:55 mark. Burrow impressed on another long drive that included two 4th down conversions, eventually connecting for a touchdown inside the final minute on a 3rd-and-long play to take back the spread result for the underdog.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8) 31, Carolina Panthers 17 (47): The 0-2 Panthers are proving to have a lot of fourth quarter life losing in Week 1 in a back-and-forth final frame and also rallying vs. Tampa Bay after falling behind 21-0. Christian McCaffrey added two touchdowns before getting hurt to cut the score to 21-14 early in the fourth. The Panthers got the ball right back but Teddy Bridgewater had an interception across midfield. Tampa Bay only added three points off the turnover however and Carolina cut the margin back to seven just after the two-minute warning with its own field goal, which was enough to sit within the underdog spread. The onside kick attempt failed and Leonard Fournette rushed for 46 yards and a score on 1st down, putting the Buccaneers up by 14 and clearing the closing total that opened as high as 48½ before sliding to 47. Those laying the points with the Buccaneers didn’t have an easy viewing the rest of the way as Bridgewater had quick completions of 22 and 14 yards to cross midfield with still more than a minute to go. Carolina eventually reached the Tampa Bay 18 and the game’s final play didn’t quite get there with a 14-yard gain stopped around the 4-yard-line to keep the Panthers from stealing the cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-6½) 26, Denver Broncos 21 (40½): The Steelers led 17-3 at halftime and Denver was down to Jeff Driskel at quarterback. The Broncos added 11 points in the third quarter and to stay in the game but the Steelers had a strong start to the fourth, completing a touchdown drive and getting a safety to lead by 12 with about 10 minutes to go. Getting the ball back after the safety, Pittsburgh fumbled on first down however and the Broncos delivered with a Melvin Gordon touchdown about halfway through the final quarter. Down by five, Denver’s defense held for a quick punt and Driskel appeared poised to deliver a game-winning drive for the Broncos, getting a big completion to the Pittsburgh 23-yard-line that withstood a replay challenge. Facing 4th-and-2 Driskel was sacked to thwart the upset and those on the favorite had a fleeting opportunity for a late cover with James Conner breaking a 59-yard rush to the Denver 10. Denver only had two timeouts remaining and the Steelers were able to run out the clock, eventually taking a knee at the 6-yard-line.
Dallas Cowboys (-3) 40, Atlanta Falcons 39 (53½): The fourth quarter didn’t change the spread or total results in this NFC clash but it is worth reminding everyone that the same team that recently lost the Super Bowl with a 28-3 lead was leading 39-24 with five minutes to go in a NFL game and lost. Those taking Atlanta plus the points watched in horror after the incredible onside kick recovery as the prospect of a Dallas win and cover was back in play as Dallas had a healthy 1:49 to work with down two. After the big 2nd down gain the Cowboys played for the field goal and successfully pulled off one of the most improbable comebacks in NFL history.
Buffalo Bills (-5½) 31, Miami Dolphins 28 (42): Buffalo jumped out to a 17-7 lead but Miami took control in the middle of the game, delivering 13 consecutive points on three scoring drives, each of fewer than 50 yards, to take a 20-17 lead with about 10 minutes remaining. Over two drives surrounding a punt Josh Allen needed only 12 combined plays for two touchdown drives of more than 70 yards as the Bulls were up by 11 with just three minutes remaining. Miami didn’t even face a 3rd down against a relaxed defense and connected in the final minute to spoil the spread result, getting the two-point conversion for good measure in the three-point final result.
Chicago Bears (-5) 17, New York Giants 13 (42½): After needing a big comeback in Week 1 the Bears took a 17-0 lead over the Giants at halftime. Even with significant injuries for New York, the Bears weren’t able to coast for a win as four second half drives ended in a pair of interceptions, a punt, and a missed field goal. New York was down 17-10 before Mitchell Trubisky’s second interception set the Giants up in decent field position. With about 10 minutes remaining Chicago almost put the game away with a pick-6 but it was called back for pass interference. The Giants would stall at the Chicago 19 and kicked a field goal with still more than seven minutes remaining to trail by four. Chicago had a chance to push the margin back to seven points to go back in position to cover but Cairo Santos missed the field goal try. New York had a great opportunity to steal the win, converting two fourth downs along the way but eventually ended the game on the 10-yard-line as the Bears moved to 2-0 with a second straight narrow escape.
Tennessee Titans (-7½) 33, Jacksonville Jaguars 30 (44½): The Jaguars trailed 30-17 through three quarters but completed a 75-yard drive early in the fourth and forced a quick three-and-out. Jacksonville went 86 yards to tie the game halfway through the final frame with another big performance from Gardner Minshew. A pair of punts followed, and getting the ball back in good field position with just over three minutes to go the Titans were able to add three points to go in front, aided greatly with a big 3rd down conversion via penalty. Minshew was intercepted on a short pass on a 2nd-and-1 play in the final minute as the Titans held on but Jacksonville did enough for a second straight underdog win to start the season.
Seattle Seahawks (-4) 35, New England Patriots 30 (45): The Patriots opened the game with an early pick-6 but Russell Wilson rebounded nicely ultimately posting five touchdown passes even though the Seahawks only twice entered the red zone in the game. Seattle pulled away in the third quarter with back-to-back scores around a Cam Newton interception to lead by 11 but the Patriots answered early in the fourth quarter. Down five, New England went for two and came up short in a key play relative to the spread outcome. With just over four minutes remaining Seattle seemed to put the game away with a big 3rd down conversion and two plays later a touchdown to lead by 12. The Patriots answered quickly however and were able to get the ball back after the Seahawks tried to throw deep on 3rd-and-1. The Patriots put together a great final drive but opted not to call their final timeout after a connection to the Seattle 13-yard-line, leaving only 12 seconds on the clock by the time they got the ball snapped. After Julian Edelman couldn’t haul in a throw to the end zone, the Patriots reached the 1-yard-line on the next play and used the final timeout setting up the expected final play. Newton’s charge to the goal line was blown up as Seattle came away with the win and narrow cover in another entertaining edition between these teams and Hall of Fame coaches.
Las Vegas Raiders (+4) 34, New Orleans Saints 24 (48): The line on the Monday night game shot downward Monday afternoon but the Saints opened up a 10-0 lead looking to move to 2-0 again considered by many a top NFC contender. Opening its new stadium in Las Vegas, the Raiders rallied for a tie score by halftime and took the lead early in the 3rd quarter. The Saints punted on their first two possessions of the second half while the Raiders lost a fumble to keep the scoring at 41 well into the fourth quarter as the only drama that remained was on the total. The Saints would find the end zone with about four minutes remaining to trail by seven and the scoring hit 48, the closing total but with most sitting with tickets slightly above that with the number gradually sliding from an opening price of 50½. A pass interference penalty converted a big 3rd down for the Raiders just ahead of the two-minute warning and the Raiders would face a decision up by seven with just over a minute to go on 4th-and-long. They opted for a risky 54-yard field goal attempt and Daniel Carlson delivered to seal the upset, as well as hitting the ‘over’.
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