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Close Calls - Week 6
NFL games often go down to the wire, especially relative to the spread. Here are close calls from Week 6 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.

Chicago Bears (-9 ½) 27, New York Giants 21: Chicago took a 27-14 lead early in the third quarter, but at the very end of the quarter, the Giants found the end zone on a short rush to get back within the spread, trailing by six. On the next possession, Chicago moved to the New York 33, but an intentional grounding penalty knocked the Bears out of field goal range. Both teams traded punts and the Giants threatened to score in the final minutes before Eli Manning was intercepted at the 10-yard line. The Bears successfully picked up a first down to run out the clock, winning but failing to cover as a favorite for the third time this season.

Kansas City Chiefs (-7 ½) 24, Oakland Raiders 7: The Chiefs and Raiders were tied 7-7 late in the third quarter, but Terrelle Pryor was intercepted deep in Oakland territory in a game changing play. The Chiefs punched in a short touchdown run a few plays later to take a 14-7 lead. That was the score still when Pryor was intercepted again with just over four minutes to go in the game, setting a up a short field goal to put the Chiefs past the spread for the first time in the game with just two minutes left on the clock. Kansas City would pad the victory margin further with an interception returned for a touchdown after the two minute warning to create a misleading final and seal the favorite cover in a game where Oakland had substantially more yardage.

Philadelphia Eagles (-3) 31, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20: The Eagles were a slight favorite most of the week before closing at -3 and that looked like too steep of a number with a 21-20 lead with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. After a Tampa Bay field goal, it took just three offensive plays for the Eagles to find the end zone to move past the spread with a 28-20 lead. With less than three minutes to go, the Eagles added a field goal for good measure and the Buccaneers were not able to seriously threaten to cut into that margin on their final drive.

Green Bay Packers (-2) 19, Baltimore Ravens 17:
While the closing line was -2, the majority on Green Bay laid -2 ½ or -3 and that difference came into play late in this game. For the second straight week, the Green Bay offense failed to convert touchdowns with three field goals adding to a 16-3 lead entering the fourth quarter and the receiving corps was decimated with injuries. Baltimore would find the end zone early in the fourth to trim the margin to six points and the lead was back to nine after another short Mason Crosby field goal. Joe Flacco engineered a quick scoring drive that included a 4th-and-21 conversion and the Ravens cut the Green Bay lead to just two points with just over two minutes to go, flipping the spread result. Green Bay picked up two key first downs to melt the game clock with Eddie Lacy surrendering with a slide on the Baltimore 13-yard line on a play where it looked like he had a chance to score.

Detroit Lions (-2 ½) 31, Cleveland Browns 17: The Browns were in complete control early in this game with a 17-7 lead at halftime that felt even greater. Detroit managed to get within three by the end of the third quarter and the Lions took over in the fourth quarter. Detroit took the lead with just over 10 minutes to go and benefited from penalties to get the ball back in great field position, eventually adding a field goal to move up by seven. Brandon Weeden was intercepted on the next Cleveland possession and the Lions did not take long to add another touchdown with just over two minutes to go, a score that changed the result on the over/under. Cleveland was inside the Detroit 10 as time expired, but they finished with just 17 points and none in the second half despite posting nearly 400 total yards.

Cincinnati Bengals (-6) 27, Buffalo Bills 24: The spread on this game opened as high as -9 ½ for Cincinnati before falling to as low as -5 ½, but by the third quarter, it did not appear to matter as the Bengals seemingly had fought off the upset threat with a 24-10 lead. With just over 10 minutes to go, the Bills scored a touchdown on a 4th down play from the Cincinnati 22-yard line to get within seven. After forcing two Cincinnati punts, Buffalo had the ball back with just over two minutes to go and the Bills did not take long to find the end zone to tie the game. Cincinnati had one timeout and just over a minute left, but the Bengals could not get within range. Overtime sealed the underdog cover for those that played the Bills early in the week (the extra-point is not attempted on overtime touchdowns), but for those on either side at -5 ½ or -6, there was plenty of sweating to do. Cincinnati picked up two first downs to move into Buffalo territory, but with the new overtime rules, the Bengals punted rather than attempting a long field goal, pinning the Bills deep. Buffalo had to punt from deep in its own territory and Cincinnati only needed three at that point with both teams having had a possession. They kicked the game-winner after gaining just eight yards as they started in good field position with a strong punt return.

San Francisco 49ers (-9 ½) 32, Arizona Cardinals 20: With a third quarter touchdown, the Cardinals climbed back into this game, trailing just 22-20. That score stood until just over six minutes to go with the 49ers capping off an over nine-minute drive with a short touchdown run to lead 29-20, still short of the favorite spread. Disaster struck for Arizona backers as Arizona fumbled on the second play of the next drive, giving the 49ers the ball at the Arizona 31. Phil Dawson added the field goal that put San Francisco past the spread with about four minutes left in the game. The Cardinals had two opportunities to steal the cover back, but they did not get past the San Francisco 48-yard line.

New England Patriots (-2 ½) 30, New Orleans Saints 27: One of the most memorable games of the season so far also had a spread result flip along with the game-winner changing hands in the final seconds. After a very competitive first three quarters, the Saints pulled ahead 27-23 with two field goals in just over a minute's span to take a four-point lead with less than three minutes to go, the second field goal set-up by the Patriots aggressively going for it on fourth down deep in their own territory. With expectations of a great late drive, Tom Brady's first pass was intercepted to seemingly seal the game. The Saints kept the ball on the ground and were not able to run out the clock, forced to punt to give New England another chance. With no timeouts and just over a minute to go, Brady brought the Patriots down the field, including a fourth down conversion that required the offense to spike the ball to allow a chance for just one more play. Brady hit Kembrell Thompkins in the corner of the end zone for an incredible comeback win with the extra point giving those on the slight home favorite the win as well.

Dallas Cowboys (- 5 ½) 31, Washington Redskins 16: Washington dominated the yardage in the Sunday night game, but they lagged behind on the scoreboard all night. Entering the fourth quarter, the Redskins were covering however, down just five points. Dallas went past the spread and up by eight with a field goal and on the next Washington possession Robert Griffin III fumbled to set Dallas up at the 3-yard line. Dallas went up by 15 with a touchdown and while the Redskins moved deep into Dallas territory on the next possession and interception ended the threat and the hope to get back in the game.

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