Close Calls - Week 3
September 25, 2013
By Joe Nelson
NFL games often go down to the wire, especially relative to the spread. Here are close calls from Week 3 of the NFL season, recapping the spread-changing plays from the fourth quarters around the league. Each week there are several key plays late in games that can change the result or create a misleading final score, get the details in this weekly column.
Tennessee Titans (-3) 20, San Diego Chargers 17: The Chargers continued a run of dramatic endings, squandering a 17-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Tennessee got a field goal to get within four with six minutes to go and the defense held to force a punt. The Titans got the ball back with just over two minutes to go, but they started on their own six-yard line. Jake Locker ran the two-minute drill with great success and a 34-yard pass play put Tennessee on top with the extra point pushing the margin to three points, enough to save a push for many though the early week line was -3½.
Detroit Lions (-1) 27, Washington Redskins 20: The Lions and Redskins were tied 17-17 entering the fourth quarter, but Detroit took control with an early field goal following up a controversial fumble from Robert Griffin III. Washington had to punt on its next possession after having a 57-yard touchdown pass overturned on replay. With less than four minutes to go, the Lions went up by 10 after a Calvin Johnson touchdown, but Washington was quickly into Detroit territory before stalling. The Redskins ran seven more plays and valuable time off the clock, only to settle for a short field goal to trim the margin to seven. Those on the 'over' were certainly upset with the decision to kick and while the Washington defense held to get the ball back, there was not enough time for the Redskins to make a serious threat to force overtime.
Cincinnati Bengals (+3) 34, Green Bay Packers 30: The Bengals stormed out to a 14-0 lead in this game, but late in the third quarter, Green Bay had scored 30 unanswered points until the Bengals found the end zone again. Down nine entering the fourth quarter, the Bengals scored to cut the margin to just three points, right even with the spread and the score stayed there with a blocked extra-point that looked like it would loom large for most wagers. Green Bay had fourth down and short in Cincinnati territory as they looked to ice the game, but rookie running back James Franklin had a fumble that was eventually returned for a touchdown to give the Bengals a stunning win as the Packers were stopped on fourth down in Cincinnati territory on their final possession.
Miami Dolphins (-2½) 27, Atlanta Falcons 23: The Falcons led most of this game, but Miami slowly climbed back into the picture, getting within three just before halftime and then answering with 10 points in the third quarter to tie the game. Early in the fourth, Atlanta hit a short field goal to go up by three as a slight road underdog and they had the chance to add more points on the next drive but Matt Bryant missed a 35-yard kick. The Dolphins made the most of the opportunity, putting together a 13-play drive that included successful third down conversions three times to eventually get the go-ahead touchdown. The Falcons still had a bit of time left, but an interception quickly ended the threat to take the lead back.
Seattle Seahawks (-19½) 45, Jacksonville Jaguars 17: While Seattle led 31-0 early in the second half, the Jaguars would make this game interesting relative to the massive spread. With nine minutes to go in the game, the Jaguars cut the margin to 21 points and with Seattle putting reserves in the game, things did not look promising for more points. With Tavaris Jackson at quarterback, Seattle was aggressive on offense however, passing in three of five plays and connecting for a few big gains with the back-up quarterback calling his own number for the score to put Seattle back up by 28. Jacksonville drove down to the Seattle 14 before folding with an interception as the huge favorite held on.
New York Jets (-2½) 27, Buffalo Bills 20: The Jets led 20-6 early in the second half, but Buffalo chipped away with a pair of field goals to get within eight before the start of the fourth quarter. With 20 penalties in the game, the Jets did their best to hand Buffalo extra chances and Buffalo was able to tie the game with a score and a two-point conversion with about 10 minutes to go. New York answered quickly, hitting on a 69-yard pass play just over a minute later to reclaim the lead. The Bills would get the ball back four more times, but never seriously threatened to score again as the Jets held on defense to secure the win.
Chicago Bears (-2½) 40, Pittsburgh Steelers 23: The Bears seemed to be in complete control Sunday night, taking advantage of turnovers to build a 27-10 lead in the third quarter. Pittsburgh roared back and was within four points early in the final frame however. The Bears moved into Pittsburgh territory, but seemed to stall after narrowly missing a touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone to Earl Bennett on third down. Chicago challenged the incompletion and somewhat surprisingly won the challenge, with the score being granted to put Chicago up by 11. A Pittsburgh fumble led directly to another Bears touchdown a few minutes later and while the Steelers continued to move the ball well, six total turnovers allowed the Bears to win comfortably despite being out-gained by over 200 yards.
Denver Broncos (-16½) 37, Oakland Raiders 21: The Broncos were up 30-7 late in the third quarter, but the Raiders showed some fight with a few successful drives, cutting the margin to 16 entering the fourth quarter. Denver scored early in the fourth to get past the massive spread, but the Raiders scored with just over a minute to go, getting back within 16 after a late fumble from the Broncos and with Matt Flynn in the game for a concussed Terrelle Pryor. That late score was critical relative to the spread as the line did climb to 16 or 16½ late in the day for many after being below that number at times throughout the week.
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