NFL Close Calls – Week 15
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 15 of the NFL regular season including two late defensive scores that made a great impact.
Baltimore Ravens (-17) 42, New York Jets 21 (44): The Ravens wrapped up this game with a 35-7 edge through three quarters but a blocked punt touchdown in the fourth put the Jets back in the conversation against the heavy underdog spread. A touchdown halfway through the fourth put the Jets within 21 after a successful two-point conversion and New York got the ball back at midfield with still five minutes remaining. On 4th-and-1 a Sam Darnold throw fell incomplete and Baltimore was able to run out the remaining clock with Robert Griffin III in the game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6) 38, Detroit Lions 17 (46): The Buccaneers stormed out to a 21-0 lead in this game but the Lions slowly climbed back in the picture, completing a long touchdown drive on the first play of the fourth quarter to trail by only seven on a spread that climbed as high as +6 by kickoff. Tampa Bay missed a field goal on its next possession as the Lions were a live upset threat but with about five minutes remaining David Blough was intercepted with a 70-yard return for a touchdown. The Lions had to go for it on 4th down short of midfield on its next drive and the Buccaneers added another score to pull away for a somewhat misleading 21-point final margin. Three fourth quarter touchdowns also shifted a possible ‘under’ with 34 points through three quarters to a clear ‘over’.
Philadelphia Eagles (-6½) 37, Washington Redskins 27 (38): The Redskins led at halftime and erased a three-point deficit through three quarters with an early fourth quarter touchdown run from Adrian Peterson for a four-point lead as a home underdog. The fourth quarter would feature 33 points to soar ‘over’ the total and Philadelphia was able to set-up next week’s NFC East clash by going in front with 26 seconds to go, leading by four for the largest lead of the game for the Eagles. That would change with no time on the clock however as in desperation mode just across midfield an attempted lateral wound up going the other way for a late Eagles touchdown to flip the spread result.
Green Bay Packers (-4½) 21, Chicago Bears 13 (40½): After a low-scoring first half the Packers went in front 21-3 with two third quarter scores. The Bears added a field goal early in the fourth and later a touchdown while forcing five consecutive Green Bay punts with only one first down allowed. Down eight the Bears had three late possessions ending in an interception, stopped on downs in Green Bay territory with a failed pass interference challenge, and then delivering an incredible final play that nearly shifted the spread and total results and could have sent the game to overtime. The Bears had one second on the clock from the Green Bay 34-yard-line and opted for a short pass rather than a deep throw to the end zone. Against loose coverage Tarik Cohen had a lateral back to Mitchell Trubisky who sent the ball to Jesper Horsted who rumbled inside the 10-yard-line. Horsted failed to send the ball back one more time even with two Bears with an opening down the sideline in what could have been a score for Chicago to set-up a possible tying two-point conversion.
Houston Texans (+3) 24, Tennessee Titans 21 (50½): The Texans had a 14-0 lead in the huge AFC North contest with some big momentum swings early in this game. Deshaun Watson was intercepted for a touchback on the opening drive but Houston would block a field goal attempt for a scoreless first quarter. The play of the game was a deflected Ryan Tannehill pass to the edge of the end zone deflecting for an interception and an 86-yard return to set-up a Houston touchdown. Up 14-0 Houston stopped the Titans on downs later in the first half but Tennessee managed to score back-to-back touchdowns to tie the game around an interception of Watson in the end zone to thwart another scoring opportunity. Houston would respond with a touchdown on the next drive and later a field goal to lead by 10 but Tennessee added a score just ahead of the two-minute-warning to stay in play while keeping those on the ‘over’ in the mix for a late miracle. The Titans wouldn’t get the ball back until just 17 seconds remained and Ryan Tannehill was sacked to end the threat, narrowly avoiding a potential defensive score.
Seattle Seahawks (-6) 30, Carolina Panthers 24 (49): The Seahawks seemed to be in complete control going up 30-10 with about seven minutes remaining in the game. Those on the ‘over’ and taking the points found late life however with the Panthers scoring with about five minutes remaining on a Christian McCaffrey run while the defense then forced a quick 3-and-out. Just over minute later the Panthers were in the end zone again to send the total ‘over’ while allowing many Carolina tickets to be cashed at +6½. The scoring stopped there as Seattle was able to take a knee to eventually burn over three minutes of clock, moving to the #1 spot in the NFC.
New York Giants (-3½) 36, Miami Dolphins 20 (46½): The Dolphins trailed by one late in the third quarter despite botching two early scoring opportunities with a missed field goal while being stopped on downs at the 10-yard-line as well. A false start pinned Miami deep and a safety followed while the Giants got a good kickoff return and scored a few plays later to turn a one-point edge into a 10-point edge in quick order. Miami’s offense disappeared from there and the Giants pulled away while a 10-7 game at halftime turned into a clear ‘over’ with 39 second half points.
Buffalo Bills (+1) 17, Pittsburgh Steelers 10 (37): The Steelers led 10-7 through three quarters as a very slight favorite but the second of eventually four Devlin Hodges interceptions handed the Bills a field goal to tie the game. Buffalo didn’t have a productive offensive game but Josh Allen led the Bills 70 yards in six plays in the middle of the fourth quarter with Buffalo surviving a fumble in the red zone. Down seven the Steelers had a new set of downs at the Buffalo 26-yard line with three minutes to go but went backwards with a penalty and a sack before a fourth down interception in the end zone. Hodges would be intercepted in the end zone again in the final seconds as the Bills defense came through to send Buffalo into the postseason.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+6½) 20, Oakland Raiders 16 (46½): Oakland appeared to have a good sendoff underway with a 16-3 lead at halftime though settling for three short field goals left the door open. The Jaguars added three in the final seconds of the third quarter to trail by 10 before the Raiders offense faltered in the fourth with a costly sack near midfield forcing a punt and then a missed field goal. The Jaguars would get two touchdowns from Gardner Minshew to Chris Conley with the go-ahead score coming with only 31 seconds to go. Oakland got a 33-yard pass interference call to have a reasonable shot late but the final two deep throws fell incomplete.
Atlanta Falcons (+10) 29, San Francisco 49ers 22 (49): The score was just 13-10 through three quarters in favor of the 49ers with the underdog points and the ‘under’ looking safe. San Francisco would score with 10 minutes remaining but missed the PAT in a key play with +10 a common number late in the week in this game. That wound up not mattering as the Falcons scored a touchdown with five minutes to go and San Francisco added a field goal after the two-minute warning for a five-point margin. Atlanta had a touchdown called back on review in the final seconds but on the final play Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones right at the goal line. Ruled short on the field, review gave Atlanta the score for the win. The Falcons did not add the conversion to lead 23-22 as the ‘under’ held but a disastrous 49ers kickoff return lateral situation after time expired would result in a fumble recovery in the end zone as Atlanta added six more points and the ‘over’ was cleared.