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Misleading Finals

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There was some great football drama last weekend including several tense moments with spread changing plays in the final seconds. Here are some of the wild fourth quarter finishes with the point-spread in mind from last week’s action in pro football.

Atlanta (-6) 23, Tennessee 17

The Falcons were in complete control leading 23-3 late in the third quarter with Tennessee forced to go with rookie quarterback Jake Locker. Locker played well and led the Titans on a scoring drive to cut the margin to just 13 points entering the final frame and then with just over three minutes to go the Titans struck again, leaving the game at a six-point margin to save a push and steal a backdoor cover for many as the line was up to 6.5 much of Sunday morning even though Atlanta dominated the statistics. An Atlanta fourth quarter fumble inside the Tennessee 15 proved to be the key play in the game relative to the spread.

Baltimore (-7) 31, Cincinnati 24

Baltimore took advantage of a couple of turnovers to gain a big lead in what had been a close game, scoring twice in less than two minutes with one touchdown late in the third quarter and another early in the fourth quarter, leading 31-14. Cincinnati struck back with a big play score to cut the margin to 10 points and the Bengals forced a 3-and-out to get the ball back. Cincinnati appeared to have a touchdown on a great catch by Jermaine Gresham but the score was overturned and Cincinnati settled for a field goal trimming the lead to seven points, right on the spread or just past the 6.5 number that was available much of the weekend. Cincinnati got another stop and had first in goal deep in Baltimore territory as rookie Andy Dalton moved the team 64 yards in the two-minute drill but Baltimore eventually held to leave the game at a seven-point margin.

Cleveland (-1.5) 14, Jacksonville 10

The Browns and Jaguars were knotted at 7-7 entering the fourth quarter in what was a game between two ugly offenses. Cleveland struck first in the fourth quarter completing a 12-play drive to lead by seven and Jacksonville answered with a field goal after a long 13-play drive. Cleveland would miss a controversial field goal that looked costly late in the game as Jacksonville was stopped short of the goal line on the final drive of the game.

Detroit (-7) 49, Carolina 35

The Lions trailed 24-7 early last week but rallied in the third quarter, taking a 28-27 lead into the final frame. It looked like the Lions might run away with the game after scoring again, leading 35-27 halfway through the fourth. Cam Newton and the Panthers scored and got the two point conversion to tie the game at 35-35 with less than five minutes to go. The Lions would score twice in the span of 32 seconds late in the game following an interception to get pas the spread and pad the statistics.

Green Bay (-13.5) 35, Tampa Bay 26

The Packers led 21-13 entering the fourth quarter in what was a very competitive game. Tampa Bay ended up with a substantial yardage edge but was on the wrong side of a few big plays while also getting burned with several borderline penalties to aide Green Bay drives. Tampa Bay scored first in the fourth to get within two points but Kellen Winslow dropped a wide open pass for the tying conversion. Green Bay answered with a touchdown but Tampa Bay would march down the field to get back within two points after a rare Aaron Rodgers interception. Green Bay scored again three plays later and then a Tampa Bay interception appeared to set the Packers up for a front door cover despite the massive spread. Starting at the Tampa Bay 13, Green Bay looked to run out the clock and then actually missed a field goal and Tampa Bay’s final drive did not add any more drama.

Chicago (-4.5) 31, San Diego 20

This was a 17-17 game late in the third quarter but the Bears capitalized on a few opportunities to quickly turn the game around, getting two touchdowns in less than a minute of game clock surrounding a Chargers fumble. San Diego added a field goal to get within eleven early in the fourth quarter and then a Jay Cutler interception looked like a pick-six before Cutler made the saving tackle. Philip Rivers responded in kind with an interception in the end zone. Had the Chargers scored they would have gone for two in what would have been a critical point spread conversion as the margin would have been three or five. Chicago got to midfield and then bizarrely went for a fake punt rather than pinning the Chargers deep. San Diego backers still had a hope as the Chargers were near mid-field with plenty of time to get the backdoor cover score but Rivers, seeking to just throw the ball away, lazily left the ball in bounds and the Bears got an interception to seal the win and cover.

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