NFL Close Calls – Week 4
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 in the fourth quarter last week in Week 4 of the NFL regular season.
Los Angeles Rams (-7) 38, Minnesota Vikings 31 (49): The Thursday night NFC clash lived up to its billing with an exciting back-and-forth first half as both offenses had consistent success. The total was nearly reached by halftime as the Rams led 28-20 with big plays on both sides. Minnesota cut the margin to three points late in the third quarter but the Rams quickly answered to take a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter. The Rams melted over five minutes of clock but Sam Ficken missed a 28-yard field goal to keep the Vikings in range. Minnesota would reach the 14-yard-line with a touchdown being enough to earn the underdog cover but a sack on 3rd down forced Minnesota to take the field goal with just under four minutes remaining. The Vikings did get the ball back and approached midfield but another sack led to the game’s only turnover as the Rams held on to win by seven, with winners and losers on both sides depending on the timing, though a push was ultimately the common result.
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Houston Texans (-1) 37, Indianapolis Colts 34 (48½): The winless Texans took a 28-10 lead in the third quarter but the Colts would score the next two touchdowns to close to within five halfway through the fourth quarter. Houston appeared to lock up the win with a field goal with three minutes to go but with 45 seconds remaining Andrew Luck completed an 85-yard drive and got the two-point conversion. Deshaun Watson gave his team a shot with a 30-yard pass play in the final seconds but a 59-yard field goal was wide right. In overtime the Colts sustained a long drive but had to settle for a field goal. Houston reached the Indianapolis 11-yard line looking for the win but had to settle for the tying kick. With a late chance Indianapolis faced a 4th-and-4 at its own 43-yard-line with 24 seconds remaining and went for it, unable to get the completion. Houston didn’t need many yards for a reasonable field goal try and after a 24-yard gain Ka’imi Fairbairn hit from 37 yards to get the Texans in the win column in a division battle with a see-saw finish relative to the spread.
Cincinnati Bengals (+3) 37, Atlanta Falcons 36 (52): The ‘over’ wasn’t in question long with 52 points by halftime in a back-and-forth affair. The slight underdog Bengals led by one heading into he fourth quarter but Atlanta struck for another touchdown from Calvin Ridley to lead by five, failing going for two. Randy Bullock got the Bengals closer with a field goal with around eight minutes remaining but Atlanta answered in kind to lead by five with four minutes left on the clock. Andy Dalton turned in a 16-play drive with a pair of 4th down conversions, hitting A.J. Green for the go-ahead touchdown with just seven seconds on the clock to flip the S/U and ATS result.
Dallas Cowboys (-2½) 26, Detroit Lions 24 (44): Dallas led 20-10 through three quarters with the favorite and ‘under’ looking promising most of the way in this NFC battle of 2016 playoff teams. Dallas settled for a 22-yard field goal following a drive that ate nearly nine minutes of clock to answer an early fourth quarter touchdown for the Lions, as Dallas led by six with fewer than six minutes remaining. Detroit took advantage of the opportunity getting the go-ahead touchdown in just six plays but leaving more than two minutes on the clock. Dak Prescott had a fumble scare early on that late drive but eventually converted a big 3rd down and hit Ezekiel Elliott for a 34-yard gain into field goal range. Brett Maher was good from 38 yards as time expired to get the Cowboys to 2-2 though the two-point win was just short of the home favorite spread.
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Jacksonville Jaguars (-7) 31, New York Jets 12 (40½): The Jaguars led 25-3 through three quarters but the Jets made a late rally with nine points early in the fourth quarter to get within 13, sitting within a touchdown of covering. That scoring also put the ‘over’ back in play despite what was mostly a game of field goals. Jacksonville looked likely to add points reaching the New York 23-yard-line before fumbling for the third turnover of the game despite the healthy lead. The Jets had a quick 3-and-out and Jacksonville had the ball back with good field position. With the Jets out of timeouts the Jaguars couldn’t quite take a knee to run out the remaining clock and on 4th-and-goal T.J. Yeldon ran in for a late score with 25 seconds remaining to hit the ‘over’ with Doug Marrone actually unsuccessfully going for two after the score, citing the chart with a rare 19-point advantage.
Tennessee Titans (+3) 26, Philadelphia Eagles 23 (41): After a slow start the Eagles scored on both ends of halftime to take a 17-3 lead in Nashville. Tennessee fought back in the game and sat within four with nine minutes remaining after getting a field after a fumble recovery. The Titans then forced a 3-and-out on defense and then went 75 yards in just five plays to take a 20-17 lead with five minutes to go. Philadelphia again had to punt but the Eagles held on defense to get the ball back with nearly two minutes remaining and two timeouts and sitting in great field position with a big punt return. The Eagles only picked up 27 yards on that drive but managed to force overtime in the final seconds. Philadelphia went first in overtime and quickly went down the field before stalling near the 20-yard-line, ultimately kicking to lead by three, right on the closing spread though many on the Titans had opportunities to get +3½ or even +4 earlier in the week. It didn’t wind up mattering as Marcus Mariota led one of the drives of the season featuring three separate 4th down conversions en route to a 3rd down 10-yard touchdown pass on to Corey Davis with five seconds left. Presumably had that throw missed the Titans would have kicked a field goal for the tie on 4th-and-10 even though Mike Vrabel turned down a 50-yard kick to tie on 4th-and-2 earlier on that drive.
Seattle Seahawks (-3½) 20, Arizona Cardinals 17 (40): Seattle took a 17-10 lead through three quarters but Josh Rosen hit a big play in the fourth to tie the game in his first NFL start. The Arizona defense held to get the ball right back and Rosen got the team in position to for the go-ahead score but Phil Dawson missed right from 45 yards for the fourth missed field goal of this division battle. Russell Wilson didn’t have a timeout to work with but managed to go 31 yards in the remaining time and Sebastian Janikowksi hit from 52 for the win, though for most on Seattle the three-point win wasn’t quite enough to cover in Glendale. Those on the ‘under’ in the lowest total of the week also rejoiced avoiding what could have been a fourth overtime game Sunday.
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Oakland Raiders (-2½) 45, Cleveland Browns 42 (44½): This AFC contest proved to be one of the most entertaining games of the season. Baker Mayfield’s first start featured an early pick-6 but the Browns battled back for a 17-14 edge at the half and appeared to pull away with a 28-14 edge halfway through the third quarter. Oakland would score the next 20 points following a pair of fumbles and several Cleveland punts, leading 34-28 as a small favorite with about 10 minutes remaining. Cleveland was ruled to have fumbled on its kickoff return but retained the ball on review and Mayfield later struck for a 59-yard gain to Antonio Callaway and Cleveland rushed in to go up by one. Oakland had to punt on its next possession and the Browns struck quickly with a three-play drive to lead 42-34 leaning on Nick Chubb and Carlos Hyde. The Raiders would drive down to the Cleveland 6-yard-line but eventually failed on 4th down just after the two-minute warning as consecutive wins for the Browns looked likely. Cleveland lost a big potential first down on replay review on its next possession and punted to back to near midfield. Derek Carr got the Raiders into the end zone with 30 seconds remaining and the two-point conversion was also good with a great contested catch from Jordy Nelson. Mayfield’s chance to be a hero ended with an interception but in overtime Oakland missed a 50-yard field goal going first. Mayfield had three straight incomplete passes despite great field position and the Browns opted to punt as a second Cleveland tie in four weeks looked very possible. The Raiders had a big 1st down taken away on replay review as well but converted on 3rd down and leaned on Marshawn Lynch to get into field goal range where Matt McCrane redeemed his earlier miss to give the Raiders the win and narrow cover for most.
New Orleans Saints (-3) 33, New York Giants (51½): New York’s defense held up in the red zone holding the Saints to four field goals to trail just 12-7 at halftime. The Saints extended the lead to 19-10 through three quarters and then sustained a 14-play drive to go up 26-10. The Giants showed late fight with a 75-yard touchdown drive and a successful two-point conversion to sit down eight and still within one score potentially. The Giants got the stop they needed on a 3rd-and-8 incomplete pass but a questionable pass interference call gave the Saints a new set of downs and Alvin Kamara eventually broke a 49-yard run vs. a tired defense. The scoring was at 51 as the Giants got the ball back as ‘over’ backers hoped for a miracle but after approaching midfield Eli Manning lost the ball on a sack as the Saints sealed the win to reach 3-1.