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Close Calls - Week 11

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NFL games often go down to the wire, especially relative to the spread. Here are close calls from Week 11 of the NFL season, recapping the spread-changing plays from the fourth quarters around the league, including the wild Monday night game. 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.

Indianapolis Colts (-3) 30, Tennessee Titans 27: In a key AFC South clash Thursday night, the Titans stormed out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and still led 17-6 at halftime. Indianapolis took charge in the third quarter and took the lead, up 23-17 entering the final frame and sitting past the road favorite spread that was -2 ½ most of the week before climbing to -3 at close. The Titans made that difference relevant with a field goal early in the fourth quarter to get within three, but Indianapolis seemingly put the game away with a Donald Brown touchdown run with just three minutes to go. It only took Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Titans four plays to get right back within three with a touchdown with just under two minutes to go, but the onside kick attempt failed and the Titans had no timeouts left.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+3) 37, Detroit Lions 27: The Steelers led 14-0 after the first quarter, but the Lions scored 27 points in the second quarter to take a 27-20 lead into halftime. That would be the only quarter that Detroit would score in, however, but the Lions were still ahead of the spread 27-23 entering the fourth quarter. Early in the fourth, the Lions opted for a fake field goal from the Pittsburgh 10 but the attempt was botched, eschewing the chance to take a solid seven-point lead. The Steelers then put together a 16-play, eight minute drive that included a big fourth down conversion as they took a 30-27 lead with less than five minutes to go. Three plays later for the Lions and the Steelers had the ball back after an interception and it did not take long for Pittsburgh to seal the game with another touchdown.

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Philadelphia Eagles (-4) 24, Washington Redskins 16:
While the Redskins moved the ball well at times in the game and ended up with more total yards, they trailed 24-0 entering the fourth quarter as the game was not overly competitive. Washington hit the big play it needed with a first down 62-yard pass play to finally get on the board early in the fourth. The defense held near midfield and Washington found the end zone again with about six minutes to go in the game. After both touchdowns, Washington converted for two as it was suddenly just a one score game. Nick Foles appeared to scramble for a first down on the next possession, but Washington challenged the spot and won, forcing a punt and still with a shot. Washington would need a third consecutive two-point conversion to tie the game, but those backing the underdog Redskins were not concerned with that as a touchdown and a failed conversion would be the preferred result. Washington had a 16-play drive to make things interesting, but on third and one from the 18-yard line, Robert Griffin III basically threw up a jump ball into the end zone feeling some pressure and the throw was intercepted to end the threat.

Miami Dolphins (+3) 20, San Diego Chargers 16: The Dolphins opened as a slight favorite, but this line moved all week with the offensive line issues for the dysfunctional Dolphins and San Diego closed as a field goal favorite. The game was tied at halftime, but Miami led 17-13 entering the fourth quarter. Early in the final frame, the Chargers settled for a field goal to get within one, but Miami returned the favor a few minutes later to go back up by four. San Diego moved to the edge of field goal range on the next drive, but opted to punt down four and they pinned the Dolphins deep with about four minutes to go. Miami picked up two first downs to get some breathing room, but they eventually had to send the ball back to the Chargers. With only one timeout, the Chargers made a threat in the final seconds, getting to the Miami 25-yard line, but with only time for two shots at the end zone they did not convert.

Chicago Bears (-3 ½) 23, Baltimore Ravens 20: This line was at -3 most of the week and that proved to be the eventual difference in this game, a game that was delayed about two hours in the first half due to bad weather. Baltimore's early 10-0 lead was erased as early in the fourth quarter, Chicago took a 20-17 lead with a touchdown after a scoreless third quarter on a sloppy field. The Bears had the ball back with the lead and in Baltimore territory later in the quarter, but they eventually had to punt and the Ravens had another shot. On a 15-play drive that featured a fourth down conversion, the Ravens had first and goal at the Chicago 5-yard line in the closing seconds, but the Bears held and Baltimore had to settle for a short field goal and overtime. Baltimore went first and got just past midfield before stalling and punting. After converting a key third down play, the Bears hit the big play it needed with a 43-yard catch to get within field goal range and on third down, Robbie Gould ended the game with a 38-yard kick in conditions where no field goal was a sure thing, leaving most with a push.

Arizona Cardinals (-9) 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 14: This spread jumped several points throughout the week from an opening line of -6 ½ or -7 and there were chances late for Jacksonville to score. Arizona took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter after a 91-yard pass play and Jacksonville was in Arizona territory twice in the fourth, but nothing came of it with a failed fourth down try as well as two interceptions in the final frame.

Seattle Seahawks (-13) 41, Minnesota Vikings 20: This game featured a misleading final as Seattle led just 24-13 entering the fourth quarter after a scoreless third quarter and despite the score the Vikings wound up with more yardage. In the fourth quarter, three consecutive Minnesota possessions went for interceptions from Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel, the first led to a touchdown two plays later and the second was a pick-six as the Seahawks pulled away late. New Orleans Saints (-3 ½) 23, San Francisco 49ers 20: Taking advantage of an interception, the 49ers took a 17-14 lead early in the third quarter as an underdog with the line at +3 most of the week before a late rise. The 49ers would add a field goal early in the fourth to lead by six, sitting in a promising position. New Orleans had to settle for a field goal halfway through the fourth despite having first and goal from the San Francisco six and the Saints were able to tie the game with just over two minutes to go on another field goal. That drive was aided by a controversial penalty as Drew Brees was hit high but with no contact to the head or neck, negating a recovered fumble for the 49ers. San Francisco went nowhere on its chance to play for the win, but the Saints did what they needed to do, going 43 yards in the final two minutes to line up the game winning field goal, leaving most with a push.

Carolina Panthers (-3) 24, New England Patriots 20: Carolina led 17-10 entering the fourth quarter, but the Patriots had the game tied a few minutes into the final frame. New England forced a Carolina three-and-out and then marched for a short field goal, unable to find the end zone from inside the 10. The Panthers got the ball back with six minutes to go and Cam Newton created a signature scoring drive, eventually hitting Ted Ginn who evaded a tackle and dove into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with just a minute left for New England. The Patriots had all three timeouts and they extended the drive with a fourth and 10 conversion. New England eventually got to the Carolina 18 with a chance for one play. Tom Brady faced some pressure and threw over the middle for Rob Gronkowski, who was blanketed with contact and the pass interference flag came out. The pass was thrown short and intercepted and the flag was picked up as it was ruled that the pass interference did not apply as the pass never got to the intended target in a very controversial finish. New England still would have had to score from the one if the penalty stood, but a touchdown would have flipped the spread and total results.

  
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