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NFL Close Calls

NFL Close Calls – Week 4

10/06/2020

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 4 of the NFL regular season.

Denver Broncos (+1) 37, New York Jets 28 (41½): While greatness was not on display, the 0-3 vs. 0-3 matchup Thursday night to start Week 4 proved to be quite an entertaining game. Denver led 27-16 early in the fourth quarter but the Jets would score 12 points over around six minutes of clock with a pair of field goals around a defensive touchdown, leading 28-27, having gone unsuccessfully for two on the touchdown when they were trailing by two. A facemask penalty took away a third down sack for the Jets and Denver eventually went back in front with a 53-yard field goal with just over three minutes remaining. New York was stopped on downs at midfield and Melvin Gordon put the game away for the Broncos rushing for 43 yards on first down.

Minnesota Vikings (+3½) 31, Houston Texans 23 (52½): Houston cut an early deficit to just 17-16 in the third quarter but the Vikings would score a pair of touchdowns to take a commanding 31-16 edge early in the fourth quarter. After a collapse in Week 3, Minnesota appeared in danger again as the Texans had cut the margin to eight points and forced a Vikings punt. Getting the ball back with still nearly three minutes to go Houston would reach 1st-and-goal at the 4-yard-line. The Vikings were able to hold, stuffing David Johnson twice, watching Deshaun Watson fumble to lose yardage, and then ending the threat with an incompletion that withstood review.

Seattle Seahawks (-4½) 31, Miami Dolphins 23 (55): Miami trailed by five heading into the third quarter and completed a 17-play drive with a short field goal to trail by only two. It took just a few minutes for the Seahawks to push past the spread however and after Seattle went up by nine before quickly intercepting Ryan Fitzpatrick and putting in another touchdown to lead by 16. Those on the ‘over’ suddenly had a chance after the very low scoring start as Miami was able to get a touchdown and a conversion to trail by only eight. The onside kick failed for the Dolphins however and the Seahawks were able to take a knee at midfield following narrowly reaching a first down that withstood review just after the two-minute warning.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7½) 38, Los Angeles Chargers 31 (42½): The Chargers stormed out to a 24-7 lead including getting a long interception return touchdown and productive numbers from rookie Justin Herbert. A fumble just before halftime proved to be a critical swing as Tampa Bay was able to add a touchdown to trail by 10 before the break. Tampa Bay scored on its first drive of the second half to climb within three and added another quick touchdown to go in front after the Chargers missed a field goal. Los Angeles would go 75 yards in three plays to go back in front at the end of the third quarter but Tampa Bay didn’t endure a 3rd down on its next drive, taking a four-point lead. After a 3-and-out for the Chargers, Tampa Bay added a field goal to lead by seven and Herbert was intercepted in the last opportunity for the Chargers as the Buccaneers were winners but for most the hook was enough for the underdog.

Baltimore Ravens (-14) 31, Washington Football Team 17 (45): Washington trailed by 11 at the half with missed opportunities on both sides. The Ravens went past the heavy favorite spread on their opening drive of the second half before an exchange of punts. Starting at its own 10, Washington put together a lengthy 17-play drive but after taking an 18-yard sack from 1st-and-goal, Washington still opted to go for it on 4th down from 13 yards out. Dwayne Haskins inexplicably didn’t even throw close to the end zone and Baltimore would answer with a field goal to lead by 21. With Robert Griffin in the game for the Ravens, Washington got an interception and added a late touchdown ahead of the two-minute warning to push the total ‘over’ while earning a push or a win for those on the ugly underdog.

Buffalo Bills (-3½) 30, Las Vegas Raiders 23 (52½): The Raiders had a strong opening drive in the second half and seemed poised to take the lead but the drive stalled in the red zone and the subsequent short field goal put the Raiders down just one. On the first play of the fourth quarter Buffalo rushed in for a touchdown to go in front by seven but that is where the margin stayed with a missed PAT. The Raiders fumbled on its next possession in Buffalo territory and the Bills took advantage to suddenly lead by 14. The Raiders were stopped on downs and then had a fumble over their next two possessions before eventually cashing in with a score inside of two minutes. That touchdown was just enough for many on the ‘over’ but not close enough for the underdog despite a clear production edge for the Raiders.

Kansas City Chiefs (-11) 26, New England Patriots 10 (48½): Those on the Patriots as a double-digit underdog would have gladly accepted a final Chiefs output of only 26 points prior to the game but turnovers burned New England in many ways Monday night. An egregious early whistle robbed the Patriots of a defensive touchdown in the first half and then with no timeouts Brian Hoyer took a sack before halftime that took points off the board for New England as well. Jarrett Stidham rallied the Patriots for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter as the hefty underdog trailed by only three points but on the next drive the Chiefs were handed back-to-back penalties for a total of 34 yards, including a 3rd-and-long conversion to set up a touchdown with nine minutes to go. The extra-point was missed however as New England sat down just nine. On first down of the next Patriots possession Stidham’s pass went off Julian Edelman’s hands and Tyrann Mathieu took it the other way for a defensive touchdown as suddenly Kansas City was ahead by 16. The Patriots were a threat to get back within the number on its next possession but Stidham was intercepted in the end zone and then a productive final drive in the final two minutes came up short on 4th down as well as Kansas City moved to 4-0. The Chiefs also earned a rare heavy favorite cover vs. Bill Belichick with a 4-1 turnover edge and a couple critical officiating decisions certainly changing the course of a game in which the Patriots were the more productive team.

Green Bay Packers (-5) 30, Atlanta Falcons 16 (56½): While the line on the popular Packers dropped throughout the day Monday Green Bay took a 20-3 edge at halftime. The Packers were stopped on downs early in the game to keep points off the board while those on the ‘under’ also had to be frustrated as a 20-play, 94-yard drive for Atlanta netted only three points. The Falcons got a stop and a touchdown to open the second half and while the Packers answered quickly, Atlanta did likewise to maintain an 11-point deficit early in the fourth quarter. Atlanta lost two players in its already short-handed secondary in the game but the Falcons defense held Green Bay to a field goal with about six minutes remaining to stay within two scores. A touchdown pass on 4th down was stripped out of Calvin Ridley’s hands to prevent the Falcons from getting within seven, on a spread that was +7 much of the week before falling all the way to +5 by kickoff. Atlanta would get another opportunity in the final minute reaching the edge of scoring range but couldn’t deliver on 4th down after taking a costly sack earlier in the series from the Green Bay 31 as the Packers delivered another win despite modest production while both Monday games played ‘under’.