Close Calls - Week 10
November 12, 2013
By Joe Nelson
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NFL games often go down to the wire, especially relative to the spread. Here are close calls from Week 10 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.
Minnesota Vikings (+1) 34, Washington Redskins 27: The Redskins opened up a 27-14 lead well into the third quarter, but Minnesota would battle back, scoring two touchdowns in less than four minutes to lead by one entering the fourth quarter. Quarterback Christian Ponder was injured just before the second touchdown as the Vikings held a slim margin on the scoreboard in a game where the outright winner was almost certain to cover as well. Washington's offense disappeared in the fourth quarter with two drives with almost no yards gained, while Minnesota behind Matt Cassel was able to add two field goals to lead by seven with less than four minutes to go. Playing with some urgency, the Redskins made it down to the Minnesota 4-yard line, but in the final minute, the final three throws from RGIII went incomplete as the Vikings held on.
New York Giants (-7) 24, Oakland Raiders 20: There were big plays early in this game as a fumble set up a Raiders touchdown in the first minute and the Giants tied the game with a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. Late in the second quarter, Oakland had an interception return touchdown to give them a halftime lead. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Giants had taken a 21-20 lead but the Giants burned nearly seven minutes of the final frame only to settle for a 23-yard field goal, unable to get past the spread with a four-point lead. After an exchange of punts, Oakland approached midfield, but Terrelle Pryor was sacked and the Giants recovered a fumble in Oakland territory. The Giants were able to pick up two first downs as Oakland used its timeouts and there was no need to add further scoring, though the Giants took a knee well within field goal range, leaving Oakland to hold on for the underdog cover.
Baltimore Ravens (-2) 20, Cincinnati Bengals 17: The Bengals were a slight road favorite most of the week, but this line flipped on game day as Baltimore went off as a slight favorite. The Ravens appeared worthy of the move with a 17-0 lead at halftime. Cincinnati climbed back into the game with a field goal in the third quarter and then a touchdown with eight minutes to go in the fourth after a Joe Flacco interception. After taking the 17-0 lead, Baltimore's drives consisted of six punts and two turnovers with a total of just 70 yards, but what appeared to be a costly midfield fumble was wiped out with an Andy Dalton interception a few plays later as the Ravens took over with less than two minutes to go and a seven-point lead. Cincinnati had all three timeouts and after three Baltimore runs fell short, the Bengals got the ball back with over a minute to go. It was a not a pretty two-minute drill as the Bengals gained nine yards in six plays, only to have one final shot from midfield. Cincinnati got the miracle it needed as the Hail Mary attempt deflected up and landed smoothly into A.J. Green's hands for the tying score. With momentum, the Bengals got the ball first and moved the ball well, getting to the Baltimore 33-yard line and on fourth and two, the Bengals went for it. The move backfired with an 11-yard loss as Giovani Benard tried to make something out of nothing, giving Baltimore great field position. The Ravens were able to get two first downs and they put the game away with a 46-yard field goal, earning the narrow cover in the process.
Detroit Lions (-1 ½) 21, Chicago Bears 19: The look-ahead line on this game had Detroit as a 3 ½-point favorite, but with Jay Cutler being announced as the starter, the game fell to a pick for most of the week before a slight climb Sunday with the Lions closing as a slim favorite. Detroit took a 14-7 lead in the third quarter and they still held a one-point lead after the Bears had to settle for two short field goals. Up one in the fourth quarter, Detroit missed a makeable field goal with about six minutes to go, but the Bears did nothing with the great opportunity. Detroit's next chance paid out with the Lions going 74 yards for a touchdown to lead by eight with just over two minutes to go. Josh McCown was in the game at quarterback for the Bears and he did a nice job to lead Chicago to a touchdown with just 40 seconds to go. Needing the two-point conversion, the Bears failed on a pass attempt, but a Detroit penalty gave Chicago a on that drive as the Lions held on.
Arizona Cardinals (-4) 27, Houston Texans 24: With the season the Texans have had, this game could not have started out any worse as Arizona had a 7-0 lead 14 seconds in with a fumble return touchdown. The Texans kept their composure, however, and actually took a 17-14 halftime lead. Two short field goals gave Arizona a 20-17 lead going into the fourth quarter. The spread on this game was -2 ½ most of the week so the three-point margin was going to be enough for many on the home favorite but the line did climb to -3 over the weekend and then Sunday afternoon, shot up to -3 ½ or even -4 at a few outlets in the hour or two before kickoff. Arizona appeared to make it a non-issue with a touchdown score with less than seven minutes to go to take a 10-point lead. Houston punted on its next possession and the Cardinals appeared that they would be able to run out most of the clock. However, on the first down play, Rashard Mendenhall fumbled which set the Texans up at the 5-yard line. Case Keenum hit Andre Johnson for a touchdown on a third down play that withstood review as Houston was able to get within three. Both teams would have the ball again, but no additional scoring was added as those on Arizona early won, while those on the Cardinals late lost, though many pushed in between.
Denver Broncos (-7) 28, San Diego Chargers 20: The Broncos took a 28-6 lead in this AFC West clash early in the third quarter, but the Chargers would battle back, cutting the lead to just 28-20 with over 10 minutes to go. Momentum had swung as the Broncos had to punt back to San Diego on the next possession and San Diego picked up two first downs to approach midfield. The Chargers went backwards from there and facing fourth and long, they punted with two timeouts left and over three minutes to go. Denver quickly made two first downs and a key penalty burned the Chargers as they did not see the ball again and fell just a point short of the spread.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2 ½) 22, Miami Dolphins 19: Looking for its first win of the season, Tampa Bay stormed out to a 15-0 lead against Miami Monday night, though they did lose running back Mike James to injury. In a difficult week, the Dolphins battled back and had a 16-15 lead late in the third quarter, though they missed on the two-point conversion. A familiar feeling sunk in for the Buccaneers as down one, Mike Glennon was intercepted to give Miami the ball right back at the Tampa Bay seven-yard line. The Tampa Bay defense held as the Dolphins settled for a short kick to lead by four, past the spread but leaving the Buccaneers still in the game heading into the fourth quarter. It all started to work again for the Tampa Bay offense as they Buccaneers went 80 yards in nine plays to take a 22-19 lead. Miami had the ball twice more in the game, but the Tampa Bay defense stepped up with several big plays to seal the first win of the season.