NFL Close Calls – Week 7
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 7 of the NFL regular season.
Philadelphia Eagles (-5) 22, New York Giants 21 (44½): The underdog and ‘under’ looked promising throughout the Thursday NFC East clash as New York led 14-10 through three quarters. An impressive 97-yard drive for New York seemed to seal those fates going up 21-10 with just six minutes remaining but anyone that took New York on the moneyline could sense what was coming. The Eagles needed only four plays to score, burning not even two minutes of clock and getting the two-point conversion to trail by five. The Giants punted just before the two-minute warning and tacked on 15 yards to the return with a penalty. Without seeing a 2nd down the Eagles were down to the New York 5-yard-line with just over a minute to go before the drive stalled. A defensive holding call converted a 3rd down and then with 40 seconds to go the Eagles took the lead. The total would come down to the two-point conversion with Jalen Hurts in the game and it was unsuccessful. Those on the Giants and ‘under’ felt relief until Daniel Jones was sacked on a final desperation drive, but the fumble was harmlessly recovered without a return.
Cleveland Browns (-4) 37, Cincinnati Bengals 34 (50): The Bengals didn’t trail until a back-and-forth 4th quarter as the Browns scored first in the final frame to take a 24-20 edge, just past the road favorite spread that was commonly at -3 or -3½ before closing at -4. Touchdowns were exchanged as the Browns still led by four inside of five minutes. Joe Burrow converted a big 3rd-and-11 and then with just over a minute to go on 4th-and-1, Burrow hit Giovani Bernard for the go-ahead score. Baker Mayfield and the Browns only needed a few plays to go 75 yards however, with a 24-yard connection just in bounds for the win with only 11 seconds left. Seemingly Browns backers had escaped but incredibly Cody Parkey missed the PAT and the final margin stayed at 3.
Detroit Lions (+1) 23, Atlanta Falcons 22 (55): The Falcons led by one through three quarters to match the closing spread though most likely had -1½ or -2 on Atlanta. The Falcons eschewed a short field goal that could have put them up by four early in the fourth quarter but they failed on 4th-and-5. The Lions would go 60 yards but Matt Prater would miss from 46 yards as Atlanta clung to a narrow lead. It didn’t last long as Matt Ryan fumbled on a sack with just over five minutes to go, putting the Lions immediately in field goal range. Detroit only gained a yard on that possession but Prater was good from 49 as Detroit went up by two. The Falcons were again in the red zone and Detroit had exhausted its timeouts with just over a minute remaining. Facing 3rd-and-1 Todd Gurley got the first down and survived a brief fumble. Atlanta could have run the clock down and kicked a game-winning field goal but instead Gurley broke through the line and in a late attempt to go down, the ball narrowly passed the goal line. That touchdown did give Atlanta the lead they needed but it left more than a minute on the clock and even with a successful two-point conversion the lead was only six. Matthew Stafford and the Lions didn’t face a 3rd down on a march to the Atlanta 11-yard-line where they clocked it. Eluding pressure Stafford hit T.J. Hockenson in the end zone to tie the game and Prater’s PAT was good for a narrow Detroit win.
New Orleans Saints (-7) 27, Carolina Panthers 24 (50): The Saints led 14-3 early but Carolina had back-to-back touchdowns from DJ Moore to briefly lead in the second quarter until Drew Brees engineered a touchdown drive just before halftime. Late in the third quarter the Saints pushed the margin to seven points on a spread that was -7½ much of the week before Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders were ruled out, sending the number down to -6½ and -7 by Sunday. The Panthers converted a pair of 3rd downs on an efficient drive to tie the game at the end of the third quarter. New Orleans would settle for the go-ahead field goal about halfway through the fourth quarter but the Panthers were not able to equal the score with a costly 3rd down sack just before the two-minute warning necessitating a 65-yard kick that fell short. The late Saints field goal pushed the scoring to 51, even with the opening number but most saw the total drop to 50 by game day.
Buffalo Bills (-9½) 18, New York Jets 10 (46½): The Jets jumped out to a 10-0 lead in this game but it became clear that might be all the points they would get as those on the ugly underdog hoped to hold on. Buffalo would wind up with a 422-190 edge in yardage and five second half drives for the Jets netted four yards. The Bills could not find the end zone however as Tyler Bass hit from 53, 48, 46, 37, and 29 before Buffalo had the ball back up five with about five minutes to go. The Bills were stopped on a Josh Allen rush on 3rd-and-2 that forced Bass back out for another field goal of 40 yards, putting the Bills up eight instead of 11. Sam Darnold was intercepted at the New York 15 on the final Jets play but New York was out of timeouts and the Bills were able to just take a knee deep in New York territory rather than kicking the seventh field goal that those on the favorite needed.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+1) 27, Tennessee Titans 24 (51): The Steelers seemed to have total control of this game up 24-7 at the half but they settled for a short field goal to lead by 20 early in the third quarter. The Titans answered with a 73-yard touchdown to get back in the game, and then added a field goal to trail by 10 after a Ben Roethlisberger interception. With about 10 minutes to go the Titans got another shot after an incomplete pass on 4th-and-goal was wiped out with defensive holding. Derrick Henry rushed in on the next play to put Tennessee down just three. The Steelers were in position to put the game away while sealing the ‘over’ as well reaching the Tennessee 9-yard-line but Roethlisberger wound up intercepted in the end zone. Tennessee converted a pair of third downs and reached the Pittsburgh 25 but Ryan Tannehill was called for intentional grounding. Tennessee only got seven of those yards back in the next two plays and Stephen Gostkowski narrowly missed from 45 yards trying to tie the game in the final seconds.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4) 45, Las Vegas Raiders 20 (51½): Despite the lopsided final, this game featured a 24-20 edge for the Buccaneers into the fourth quarter. An 11-play touchdown drive with a couple of big 3rd down conversions led to the touchdown to put Tampa Bay up by 11 about halfway through the final frame. Derek Carr was intercepted on the next play and the Buccaneers eventually added two more short-field scores to pad the numbers to a misleading blowout final score.
Los Angeles Chargers (-8) 39, Jacksonville Jaguars 29 (48): As a substantial underdog Jacksonville led this game 29-22 late in the third quarter. Justin Herbert struck Jalen Guyton who ran for a 70-yard touchdown in the final two minutes of the quarter and then after the Jaguars fumbled on the subsequent kickoff return, Los Angeles added a 19-yard touchdown drive to suddenly lead by seven going into the fourth quarter. The Jaguars crossed midfield but Gardner Minshew took a sack to force a punt and the Chargers slipped past the spread with a field goal with about six minutes remaining. An eight-play final drive for the Jaguars didn’t threaten to get the underdog back within the spread as the Chargers held on with all 29 points for Jacksonville being scored in the middle quarters.
Arizona Cardinals (+3½) 37, Seattle Seahawks 34 (55): Seattle led 27-17 at halftime and 34-24 relatively late in the fourth quarter but the Cardinals wouldn’t go away. A 14-play touchdown drive put Arizona within three with 2:28 to go and Arizona’s defense only allowed one first down while using all three timeouts to preserve almost a minute on the clock, getting the ball back at the 20 after a touchback on the punt. Kyler Murray delivered an efficient drive to set up a 44-yard field goal to force overtime. Seattle went first in overtime and the Arizona defense held, forcing another Seahawks punt. Kliff Kingsbury’s game management fell off a cliff on Arizona’s next drive after a 32-yard gain put the Cardinals in range to win with a field goal. The Cardinals lost five yards trying to set up the kick on the preferred side then had to burn a timeout to avoid a delay of game call. Kingsbury effectively iced his own kicker as Zane Gonzalez missed from 41 yards kicking on 2nd down rather than Arizona trying to get a bit closer. It seemed like Seattle would again find a way to escape with a win crossing midfield as the overtime clock pushed towards a minute remaining. Russell Wilson hit D.K. Metcalf for a touchdown but it was nullified with an offensive holding call. On the next play Wilson suffered his third interception of the game, leaving Arizona near midfield. Murray was able to add 19 yards for the Cardinals and this time Gonzalez delivered the winning kick from 48 yards.