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 4th quarter of the Week 13 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.
Atlanta Falcons (-3½) 23, New Orleans Saints 13 (54½): Atlanta led 17-0 early but the Saints chipped away and after two 3rd quarter field goals New Orleans was within four, just short of the underdog spread. Off a Drew Brees interception Atlanta used a short field to add a field goal early in the 4th and they did it again a few minutes later after a New Orleans punt to put the margin at 10. Atlanta had the margin to two scores but a Saints touchdown would spoil the cover. Drew Brees was not going to make it happen on this night however with another interception that was going to allow the Falcons to run out most of the clock. Incredibly with Atlanta pounding the ball with Michael Turner and less than three minutes to go, Turner fumbled and initially the play was ruled returned for a touchdown that could have changed everything. On review however there was contact and while the Saints did get the ball they did not advance it. Drew Brees threw his fifth interception a few plays later but there was a defensive penalty. It didn’t matter as Brees did it again on the next play and the game was over after Atlanta was able to get one more first down.
Seattle Seahawks (+3½) 23, Chicago Bears 17 (37): Chicago led by four entering the 4th quarter but the Seahawks took the lead with 24 seconds to go after a great drive starting from their own three. The game seemed likely over but Jay Cutler hit Brandon Marshall for 30 yards on 1st down and the Bears hit a game tying field goal as time ran out. Seattle got the ball first in overtime and they would not relinquish it, taking over seven minutes to move down the field on a drive that featured three big 3rd down conversions. From the Chicago 13 Russell Wilson hit Sidney Rice right near the end zone but he was hit hard and the ball was jarred out. It was ruled a touchdown and on review Rice did just break the plane before contact, giving Seattle the win. Winning with a touchdown instead of a field goal also ended the hopes of anyone on the ‘under’.
Green Bay Packers (-7½) 23, Minnesota Vikings 14 (47): Minnesota led 14-10 into the 3rd quarter and there were opportunities for the Vikings to have a far bigger lead with an interception in the end zone on offense and a interception by the defense that would have left Minnesota in scoring position if it had not been wiped by a highly questionable late hit penalty. Green Bay has had issues with kicker Mason Crosby this season but he hit on a 47-yard attempt in the 3rd quarter and a James Starks touchdown run put the Packers up by six heading into the 4th quarter. Minnesota took the ball deep into Green Bay territory again but had another interception that allowed the Packers to go on an impressive 11 minute drive that resulted in a field goal to lead by nine. Minnesota then moved down the field with ease but then missed a field goal and the game was basically set.
New York Jets (-6½) 7, Arizona Cardinals 6 (37): In an ugly offensive game the Cardinals led 3-0 entering the 4th quarter but back-up Jets quarterback Greg McElroy led New York into the end zone to lead 7-3 early in the final frame. Arizona would add a field goal after a fumble despite finishing the day with five first downs, incredibly going 0-15 on 3rd downs. Getting the ball back with almost eight minutes to go the Jets were able to melt the entire clock with a 13 play drive that ended inside the Arizona two yard line. It was a situation where the Cardinals should have let the Jets score as they were out of timeouts but it didn’t happen, Arizona lost by one and the Jets did not cover.
Indianapolis Colts (+7) 35, Detroit Lions 33 (52): Detroit led 30-21 entering the 4th quarter and then 33-21 when the Colts got the ball back with just four minutes to go. This line climbed all week, doubling from an early number of -3½ and the Lions found another way to blow a late lead. The Colts took just over a minute to 85 yards for the first touchdown and then after a Lions punt Indianapolis had just over a minute left on the clock. Andrew Luck led the Colts down the field and then with time for just one more play on 4th down on the Detroit 14, Luck hit Donald Avery who was able to break into the end zone for the winning score.
New England Patriots (-9) 23, Miami Dolphins 16 (52): The Patriots pulled to a 20-10 lead early in the 4th quarter and it would still be a 10-point margin after the teams traded field goals. New England’s kick was just a 20-yard attempt with just over a minute to go in the game after a 3rd down quarterback sneak failed. Miami was able to get down the field quickly and needing two scores they kicked the field goal that delivered the cover for the underdog.
Denver Broncos (-8) 31, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 (50): Denver led 28-10 entering the 4th quarter but Tampa Bay has had a knack for making the 4th quarter interesting this season. In the first eight minutes both teams had field goals and then with three minutes to go the Buccaneers tallied another three points to sit down 15 after the Broncos had missed a field goal. Using two timeouts and forcing a 3-and-out Tampa Bay got the ball back with just less than three minutes to go and it took just four plays for the Buccaneers to find the end zone and reach the eight-point margin, right on the spread for some as this line climbed from 7 and 7½ to 8 and higher at some outlets. Denver was able to run out the clock from there.
Cleveland Browns (-3) 20, Oakland Raiders 17 (40): The Browns led 13-10 entering the 4th quarter, just past the common spreads on this game that were below three most of the week. There was no scoring in the 4th until the Browns cashed in with a Trent Richardson run to go up 20-10 with less than four minutes to go. The Raiders didn’t give up and converted two 3rd downs and a 4th down en route to a touchdown pass with just a second left on the clock, spoiling things for some of the late Sunday Cleveland backers.
Cincinnati Bengals (PK) 20, San Diego Chargers 13 (46): The Chargers led 13-10 entering the 4th quarter and that score held until late in the 4th. 13-10 was the same lead San Diego had on the Ravens before disaster struck and while it happened with less drama this week the Bengals reached the end zone with four minutes to go, taking a 17-13 lead. Philip Rivers fumbled on a sack on the next possession and the Bengals added a field goal. The Chargers got the ball back with plenty of time and went right down the field but on 4th and 10 from the Cincinnati 17, Rivers threw an interception and the game was over.
Dallas Cowboys (-10½) 38, Philadelphia Eagles 33 (45): Philadelphia led 24-17 as the offense did its part with good production in the game. The Eagles would still lead 27-24 until Dallas took the lead for the first time in the game with just over five minutes to go. The Eagles still seemed to be in good shape to cover but a fumble was returned 50 yards for a touchdown to suddenly put Dallas past the double-digit spread with less than four minutes to go in the game. The Eagles turned the ball over on downs on the next possession as the lead looked like it would hold but Dallas had to punt with less than a minute to go. Returning a kick that likely should have been let go in most situations, Damaris Johnson returned the punt 98 yards for a touchdown, gaining the cover for the underdog Eagles.
Washington Redskins (+3) 17, New York Giants 16 (50½): New York led 16-10 entering the 4th quarter after settling for field goals on many possessions. Washington delivered a 12-play 86 yard drive early in the 4th quarter to take the lead however. The Giants had two more possessions but had to punt both times and Washington was able to run out the clock for a huge home win.