NFL Close Calls – Week 3
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 3 of the NFL regular season.
New England Patriots (-7) 36, Las Vegas Raiders 20 (47): After falling just short in Week 2, the Patriots were caught in a tight game in the first half leading by three after both teams put together touchdowns in the final minute of the 2nd quarter. While those points spoiled a spectacular ‘under’ pace, only 10 points were added in the third and the Raiders could only muster a field goal after a long drive into the fourth quarter putting the scoring at 36. New England would go 86 yards and burn more than six minutes before effectively clinching the win with a 29-13 advantage. A penalty on the kickoff return would pin the Raiders deep and they fumbled on first down, taken in for a Patriots touchdown to seal the ‘over’ as well. The Raiders would add a late touchdown as well for 56 points including 20 in the final 5:17 of game clock.
Buffalo Bills (-2) 35, Los Angeles Rams (46½): The ultimate ‘under’ team last season the Bills have changed course this season and scored three touchdowns in the first half for the early edge vs. the Rams. Buffalo scored first after the break as well to take a 28-3 edge, a now an infamous score in recent NFL history. The Rams would do their best impression of Buffalo’s AFC East rival putting four consecutive touchdowns together, the last of which came on a short field after an Aaron Donald sack and fumble recovery against Josh Allen. The following touchdown came with 4:30 to go putting the Rams ahead 35-32 with a remarkable comeback completed. Allen would convert a 3rd-and-22 and moved Buffalo into the red zone however. The rising MVP candidate would then take his second big penalty in the game with a face mask call pushing the Bills back to the 30-yard line and eventually facing 4th-and-8 with 25 seconds to go. Allen and the Bills were bailed out with a tough pass interference call on the Rams and Buffalo connected for the game-winning touchdown and spread covering extra-point with 15 seconds to go.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3½) 28, Houston Texans 21 (46½): The Texans seemed to be in control of this game up 14-3 and the Steelers were facing 3rd-and-goal from the 10-yard-line after an intentional grounding call. Ben Roethlisberger would deliver the touchdown pass to get the Steelers back within four and both teams would add another touchdown before halftime for a surprisingly high scoring first half. Pittsburgh would climb within one with a field goal out of the break before four straight punts were exchanged without a single first down. Early in the fourth quarter still leading by one Houston was across midfield, but Deshaun Watson wound up intercepted at the 13-yard-line. Pittsburgh converted a pair of third downs and marched down the field for a seven-minute drive to take the lead. Up five Pittsburgh went for two and succeeded and Houston’s next possession featured a sack and a false start to leave 3rd-and-26. After picking up more than half that yardage Houston surprisingly punted, and never saw the ball again.
San Francisco (-3) 36, New York Giants 9 (43½): This game was closer than the final score and nearly 2-to-1 production edges indicate. It was 6-6 until 67 seconds to go before halftime as the 49ers would score 10 points before the break, making the most of an interception. The Giants scored out of the break to cut the score to 16-9 after a field goal on a lengthy drive and the ‘under’ pace seemed secure. San Francisco would score a pair of touchdowns over the next five minutes to seal the outcome leading 29-9 early in the fourth quarter. Nick Mullens and Jeff Wilson would star on a 92-yard touchdown drive culminating in a touchdown to push the total ‘over’ with just over three minutes to go.
Tennessee Titans (-2½) 31, Minnesota Vikings 30 (43½): While both teams moved the ball successfully the scoring was mostly limited to field goals early in this game with a 17-12 Vikings edge nearly midway through the third quarter. Minnesota appeared to break the game open with a 71-yard touchdown for rookie Justin Jefferson but the Titans would score a pair of touchdowns in the final four minutes of the third quarter to secure the ‘over’ and put Tennessee in front by one, missing on the two-point attempt. Minnesota would score early in the fourth to lead by five, also unable to get the conversion. The struggling Minnesota defense would hold on the next Titans drive, with Tennessee opting for and getting a 54-yard field goal to trail by two, keeping both spread outcomes in play for the final six minutes. Minnesota had two penalties and was unable to put the game away on its next possession and for the third straight week the Titans delivered a late kick to go in front as Stephen Gostkowski again hit from long range. While Minnesota remained in range to cover they seemed more of a threat to allow another score than to go back in front on a disastrous final drive that resulted in a Kirk Cousins interception on 4th-and-26 after he had earlier fumbled on the drive.
Cleveland Browns (-7) 34, Washington Football Team 20 (45): Cleveland led 17-7 at halftime but Washington would storm back in the third quarter with consecutive touchdown drives, taking a 20-17 lead into the fourth as a touchdown underdog. After two negative drives to start the second half the Browns converted a big 3rd-and-12 at the end of the third quarter and found the end zone with 11 minutes to go to lead by four. An interception followed as Cleveland put in another touchdown three plays later putting Cleveland up 11. Washington had its fifth turnover of the game on the next possession across midfield to spoil any chances of climbing back within the number and the Browns would add a field goal to complete a rare 2-1 start in Cleveland.
Cincinnati Bengals (+5½) 23, Philadelphia Eagles 23 (47): After a scoreless first quarter the Eagles completed a busy second quarter with a long pass for a touchdown with 16 seconds to go before halftime to lead 13-10. The Bengals would go in front 17-16 with a touchdown late in the third quarter as the total sat at 33. Cincinnati stalled on a pair of drives and settled for field goals to lead 23-16 but after some disastrous moments, Carson Wentz put together the tying drive in the final three minutes, scoring himself on a seven-yard scramble with 21 seconds to go. Those on the ‘under’ seemed doomed while underdog ticket holders sweated but neither offense generated a significant scoring threat over three possessions each in overtime. On its second overtime drive the Eagles did reach the Cincinnati 43-yard-line but then had penalties on two of the next three plays as for a pair of winless teams, a tie seemed to be a favorable result.
Chicago Bears (+2½) 30, Atlanta Falcons 26 (46): After an unfathomable collapse in Week 2 the Falcons didn’t come out flat, they quickly jumped out to a 16-3 lead though the Bears were able to score before halftime to stay in the game. Mitchell Trubisky threw an interception on Chicago’s first second half possession and was replaced by Nick Foles, who also ended his first drive with an interception, though he led the Bears into scoring range. Atlanta added 10 points in the third quarter and led 26-10, where the score remained after missing a field goal early in the fourth quarter. A Bears comeback didn’t seem possible after a 4th-and-goal touchdown was lost on replay review. Still up 16, Atlanta had a 3-and-out to give the Bears the ball back with nine minutes to go. Foles converted a 4th down in Chicago territory and the Bears would eventually find the end zone but remained down two scores with a failed conversion. The Falcons again punted after picking up only one yard and the Bears struck quickly with a 55-yard touchdown drive in just three plays, suddenly down only three. Atlanta went backwards and handed the Bears extra yardage with a penalty on the punt as the Bears needed only 44 yards to complete the comeback, with Foles hitting Anthony Miller just after the two-minute warning. Atlanta crossed midfield before Matt Ryan was intercepted as the Falcons managed to out-do themselves again with another 4th quarter meltdown.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6) 28, Denver Broncos 10 (42½): The Buccaneers jumped in front early in Denver and with a 23-3 lead late in the second quarter the outcome seemed secure. The Broncos would score in the final seconds before halftime to make it a 33-point first half as the ‘over’ also seemed inevitable. The Buccaneers notched a safety early in the third quarter but had an illegal block on the return to give up the favorable field position. Denver would have the next scoring threat but threw an interception near midfield and the Buccaneers added three points at the end of the quarter to put the scoring at 38. Both teams punted on fourth quarter possessions, but Denver looked like they would help those on the ‘over’ with a drive to the Tampa Bay 16-yard-line. Eventually facing 4th-and-1 the Broncos were stuffed and Tampa Bay was able run out the remaining clock to keep the total ‘under’.
Seattle Seahawks (-5½) 38, Dallas Cowboys 31 (57½): The afternoon showcase between prominent NFC teams lived up to its billing as while Seattle seemed to have control with a 30-15 edge early in the third quarter following a Dallas fumble, the Cowboys would rally back. Dallas touchdown drives of 94 and 89 yards put the Cowboys within two early in the fourth quarter but they were not able to tie the game going for two with still more than 13 minutes remaining. The high total was already cleared when Dallas did take the lead on a 42-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal to close a 16-play drive with Zuerlein having missed two extra-points earlier in the game. Leading by one as a healthy underdog Dallas was in a favorable position, even after Seattle converted a 4th-and-3 just across midfield. Facing 3rd-and-3 in field goal range Dallas just needed one stop to seal the cover but Russell Wilson hit DK Metcalf for a 29-yard touchdown. To the horror of Dallas backers the Seahawks also connected on the two-point conversion to suddenly lead by seven. Dallas had moved the ball with ease the entire game and still had all three timeouts, but time was running short with the Cowboys reaching a 1st down at the Seattle 22-yard-line. Dak Prescott was sacked on 2nd down and Dallas used its final timeout with 16 seconds to go. Prescott would break free from pressure and heave to the end zone on a broken play on 3rd down, predictably ending with an interception as Seattle again escaped with a win.
Green Bay Packers (+3½) 37, New Orleans Saints 30 (51½): This was a back-and-forth game, but the critical sequence came early in the fourth quarter with a 27-27 tie. The Packers went for it on 4th-and-1 and initially were given a new set of downs, but a New Orleans challenge was successful. With the ball and some momentum after the stop the Saints would give it right back on 2nd-and-3 near field goal range with a Taysom Hill fumble. New Orleans held the Packers to a field goal as a touchdown would still get the job done for Saints backers down three, but New Orleans was forced to punt with under seven minutes remaining. Green Bay was in scoring range quickly but got a big 3rd down converted via penalty and eventually found the end zone at the two-minute warning to lead by 10. The Saints would add a field goal late, but Green Bay delivered Sunday night to stay on top of the NFC.
Kansas City Chiefs (+3½) 34, Baltimore Ravens 20 (55): The Chiefs took command quickly Monday night but a kickoff return touchdown kept Baltimore in the game, as did a missed field goal at halftime for the Chiefs for a 27-10 advantage. The ‘over’ pace was strong at that point, but the Ravens got stops in the third quarter and only three points were added. Early in the fourth Baltimore suddenly found itself within a score, taking advantage of a short field after the Chiefs failed on 4th-and-1. Hopes for a comeback faded quickly as the Chiefs faced only one third down on the way to another touchdown, going up by 14 and putting the scoring at 54 with still more than eight minutes remaining. The promising ‘over’ wound up not making it there however as field goals weren’t needed and both teams wound up missing on 4th down efforts in scoring range late in the game.