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Close Calls - Week 12

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Glancing at the scoreboard won't tell you the whole story in most games. Here are the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread in the fourth quarter last week in the Week 12 NFL games. Each week there are several games where the money changes hands late based on a few critical late plays, whether the outcome of the game is in doubt or not. Get the details of those close calls in this weekly column.

Cleveland Browns (+2) 20, Pittsburgh Steelers 14 (33½): At halftime, Pittsburgh led 14-13, leaving a possible push for many as the Steelers were one-point favorites early in the week. While the Browns would punt on six of seven second-half possessions and net 56 total yards in the half, they did manage a 31-yard touchdown drive to take a 20-14 lead in the third quarter, following up one of three Charlie Batch interceptions and one of eight Pittsburgh turnovers. The Steelers only had one great scoring opportunity in the fourth quarter, but that drive was also finished with an interception as the Browns held on to win and the total was a push for most right at 34 before dropping just before game time.

Atlanta Falcons (-1½) 24, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 (51½): Atlanta led 17-13 in the third quarter after connecting on an 80-yard bomb to Julio Jones. Tampa Bay would take the lead 20-17 early in the fourth quarter and then had the chance to take complete control by getting a fumble from Atlanta on the next possession and being set up in great field position. The Buccaneers had to settle for a field goal however, leading by just six points. Atlanta responded with a 64-yard touchdown drive and with the critical extra-point, the Falcons had the lead and were in position to earn most a push as the line was just -1 most of the week before adding a half-point. That margin did not seem likely to hold as both teams lined up for long field goal attempts in the final minutes, but both teams missed.

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Miami Dolphins (+3) 24, Seattle Seahawks 21 (38):
The Seahawks led 14-7 entering the fourth quarter, but a defensive battle featured a high-scoring final frame as Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins caught fire. With about eight minutes to go, the Dolphins punched in a touchdown to finally tie the game, only to have Leon Washington return the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. It only took the Dolphins six plays to get down the field to tie the game again, however, going against a great defensive team. Seattle would move to midfield on its final possession, but they had to punt and the Dolphins got another chance with 1:32 left on the clock. Miami was able to go 65 yards to set up the game winning kick for Dan Carpenter, who delivered despite missing some notable kicks earlier this season.

Baltimore Ravens (-1½) 16, San Diego Chargers 13 (47): The Chargers led 10-0 at halftime and 13-3 late into the fourth quarter. With San Diego's offense doing very little, a tired defense finally allowed Baltimore into the end zone with just over four minutes to go in the game, cutting the lead for the Chargers to 13-10. Baltimore had just come up empty on an 11-play, 60-yard drive on the previous possession. San Diego was held to a three-and-out and the Ravens got the ball back with just over three minutes to go and still with two timeouts as the Chargers opted to pass on two of the three plays. After getting sacked on third and 20, the Ravens faced a now infamous fourth and 29 from their own 37. Joe Flacco stunningly opted to check down to Ray Rice despite knowing if they did not convert the game would be over. Rice made the catch on an overthrown ball and rushed forward, making a sharp cut left to foil several chasing defenders that took poor angles to cut off the play. Rice charged forward further through contact with the help of an egregious block-in-the-back that was not called and lunged for the first down. The play was reviewed, the ball was moved back a half yard, but it was still enough to grant the amazing first down. The review saved Baltimore a timeout and allowed the Ravens to eventually kick the game-tying field goal. In overtime, the Chargers picked up two first downs on the first possession, but eventually had to punt. The Ravens also moved to midfield, but punted back to San Diego. At this point, a tie was looking very possible and would have been a winning result for San Diego backers as the Chargers kicked back to Baltimore and pinned the Ravens at the 11-yard line with less than five minutes to go. Baltimore converted two big third down plays to move down the field and extend the game, the second of which came on a 31-yard pass to Torrey Smith that withstood review and put the Ravens in field goal range. The Ravens kneeled three times to burn as much clock as they could and kicked the winning field goal for an incredible comeback win.

Carolina Panthers (-3) 30, Philadelphia Eagles 22 (41½): Carolina stormed out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter, but the Eagles rebounded with two field goals and a touchdown in the second quarter, oddly going for two down 14-12 early in the game and failing, thus leading 15-14 at halftime. Both teams had touchdowns in the third quarter to give the Eagles a 22-21 lead entering the fourth. The Panthers were able to add a field goal early in the fourth, but they still sat short of the favorite spread until Cam Newton ran in for a touchdown with less than five minutes to go. Carolina should have gone up nine at that point, making Andy Reid's decision to go for two early in the game look costly, but the Panthers actually kept the Eagles in play by missing the extra-point kick. Philadelphia was not able to rally to tie the game, however, now having lost seven straight games.

  
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