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 or total in the fourth quarter last week in Week 3 of the NFL regular season.
Green Bay Packers (-7) 27, Denver Broncos 16 (41½): Denver looked poised to go into halftime tied 10-10 in Green Bay with the ball back just ahead of the two-minute-warning. Joe Flacco was sacked however, and his fumble was recovered at the 5-yard-line. The Packers scored two plays later to take a 17-10 edge into the break, even with the closing spread that was a half-point higher earlier in the week. The second half also started with a Denver fumble and Green Bay scored quickly on the short field to suddenly lead 24-10. Denver would eventually answer in the third quarter, but the extra-point attempt hit the upright as Bronco backers could not catch a break in a game that was even statistically. Later in the third a 59-yard drive for the Broncos ended in an interception that was granted on replay review. Green Bay eventually added a field goal halfway through the fourth to seal win as well as getting the total just ‘over’.
Kansas City Chiefs (-4) 33, Baltimore Ravens 28 (52): Results wound up varying on the big AFC showdown between 2-0 squads as a line that was as high as -7 eventually landed at -4 with numbers in-between certainly possibilities depending on the timing and location. The Chiefs dominated the first half with a 23-6 edge and the margin didn’t change in the third quarter with both teams adding touchdowns. Baltimore made a run in the fourth however adding 10 points in succession to climb within a single score, down by eight. The Chiefs were able to add a field goal with about four minutes remaining, but Baltimore was able to add a late touchdown just ahead of the two-minute warning to get within five. The two-point conversion try loomed large for many and Baltimore was not able to convert.
Buffalo Bills (-6) 21, Cincinnati Bengals 17 (43½): The Bills dominated the turnover-prone Bengals early in this game getting to 14-0 unconventionally with eight points on an early touchdown and on short field drives Cincinnati stayed in the game by holding the Bills to two second quarter field goals (plus another missed field goal try). The Bengals finally got on the board with about six minutes to go in the third quarter after swapping interceptions, suddenly only down seven despite a big disparity in production. The Bengals forced a punt and turned in their best drive of the day going 82 yards in 11 plays to tie the game early in the fourth quarter. Another defensive stop and a field goal put the Bengals in the lead for an improbable comeback, but Buffalo was able to respond with a Frank Gore touchdown inside of the two-minute warning. Cincinnati was a threat for the outright win on its last drive, reaching the Buffalo 28 in the final seconds before an Andy Dalton interception.
Indianapolis Colts (-1) 27, Atlanta Falcons 24 (48): The Colts were in charge up 20-3 at halftime but Atlanta scored two touchdowns consecutively around only one Colts possession to climb within three early in the fourth quarter, with the second score on a 16-play drive that took nearly 10 minutes of game clock. The Colts converted several drives to get back on the board halfway through the fourth with a 10-point edge. Atlanta would add a late touchdown to get within three, a touchdown that cleared the ‘over’ in the final five minutes, but the Colts wouldn’t surrender the ball back and held on for the narrow win.
New England Patriots (-20½) 30, New York Jets 14 (43): Those brave enough to lay three touchdowns with the defending Super Bowl champions were rewarded with a dominant showing that led to a 30-0 lead late in the third quarter. A muffed punt would put the Jets on the board late in the third quarter and then in the fourth quarter with rookie Jarrett Stidham in the game, a pick-six put the Jets back within the spread, hitting the ‘over’ in the process as well. The Jets defense posted 14 points while the offense had only 105 yards but the 16-point margin left the underdog with a win despite the mismatch.
Dallas Cowboys (-22½) 31, Miami Dolphins 6 (46½): With a 10-0 early lead a Dallas rout seemed to be underway, but Miami would manage a pair of field goals and turned in a few defensive stops as a respectable 10-6 deficit was the halftime score. Dallas scored a touchdown coming out of halftime to regain control of the game and added another seven late in the third to lead by 18. One more touchdown would put Dallas ahead of the historic spread, but Dallas had to settle for a field goal attempt which they missed. Miami was able to cross midfield on a late drive but failed on 4th down and with fewer than four minutes remaining Dallas added the critical touchdown for those on the heavy favorite. Miami reached the Dallas 40-yard-line looking to play spoiler but only got a yard on a 4th-and-2 rush.
New York Giants (+5) 32, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 (48): The Buccaneers took a commanding 28-10 lead with 16 points in the final eight minutes of the second quarter but in settling for three field goals on those four scores they kept the door open for the Giants. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half the Giants connected for 75 yards on the first touchdown pass for Daniel Jones, who earlier in the game ran in for a score in his first NFL start. The New York defense was ignited and turned in three straight punts and an interception with New York able to climb within three with another touchdown drive. A Jones fumble with about 10-minutes to go seemed to halt the momentum but Tampa Bay only got another field goal to lead by six, where the spread was commonly sitting before falling to -5. After swapping punts, the Giants had the ball back with just over three minutes to go and quickly reached the red zone. The drive stalled from there facing 4th-and-5 from the 7-yard-line with Jones eventually calling his own number for the tying score, with the extra-point putting New York in position for win #1. Tampa Bay went 59 yards in the final minute but kicker Matt Gay, who had made four field goals but also missed two extra-points in an eventful day, missed the game-winner from only 34 yards.
Houston Texans (+3) 27, Los Angeles Chargers 20 (49): The Chargers led 17-7 at halftime but Houston scored a pair of touchdowns around a Philip Rivers fumble to take a 21-17 lead. The Texans extended that advantage to 27-17 in the fourth quarter before a Chargers field goal brought the margin back to seven. Overtime looked like a possibility as Rivers led the Chargers down to the Houston 24-yard-line in the final minute before a penalty and a pair of incomplete passes ended the threat.
San Francisco 49ers (-6) 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 20 (44½): The 49ers did their best not to go 3-0 with turnovers on four of their first five possessions but Pittsburgh managed only two field goals behind Mason Rudolph despite the extra chance and good field position. San Francisco was able to get on the board with a field goal before halftime to trail only 6-3 in what ordinarily would be much worse circumstances given that many mistakes. Fortunes changed after halftime and San Francisco scored a short field touchdown after a Rudolph interception. Both teams added touchdowns to keep the 49ers up by four on a spread that was commonly -6½ after Ben Roethlisberger was ruled out. A mostly stagnant Pittsburgh offense was able to go 81 yards in just a minute early in the fourth with a 32-yard pass interference call a big factor. Next a promising San Francisco response ended in another fumble in the red zone as Pittsburgh appeared poised to get its first win. The Steelers would fumble just three plays into the next drive on a 1st down rush and needing only 24 yards the 49ers went back in front, though they didn’t get past the spread despite an edge of nearly 200 yards in the game. The final touchdown put the scoring at 44, past early week totals around 43 though by Sunday most books had the price at 44 or higher.
Los Angeles Rams (-4) 20, Cleveland Browns 13 (48½): The underdog Browns led 6-3 at halftime Sunday night with the Rams missing a field goal and having a fumble in the first half. Both teams scored on their opening possessions of the second half and Cleveland was granted a golden opportunity to pull further in front with a Jared Goff interception near midfield. Cleveland managed two yards and punted and then the Rams scored a touchdown to take the lead a few minutes into the fourth quarter. That touchdown put Los Angeles up by four to match the closing spread though the Rams were commonly -3 before a late rise. The infamous 4th-and-9 draw from Freddie Kitchens followed as the Browns came up empty on the next possession and the Rams were able to add three more to lead by seven. On 3rd-and-3 with fewer than three minutes to go Goff inexplicably threw deep into coverage for an interception to give the Browns an unexpected late opportunity. Baker Mayfield led an uneven drive down to the Los Angeles 4-yard-line, aided greatly by a roughing the passer call and an earlier illegal contact call that wiped out a sack. Three incomplete passes followed before a game-ending interception in the endzone on 4th down.