Close Calls - Week 13
December 3, 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 13 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.
Dallas Cowboys (-8) 31, Oakland Raiders 24: With a 21-7 lead late in the second quarter, the underdog cover looked promising for the Raiders. Dallas managed to find the end zone with just 10 seconds left in the half to get within seven and the game was tied by the start of the fourth quarter. Dallas scored early in the fourth to take the lead for the first time in the game and with an interception in the end zone, the Cowboys had the ball back, sitting just short of the favorite spread. In 14 plays, Dallas eventually lined up a short field goal after falling just short on the third down from the Oakland three-yard line. That kick put Dallas up by 10, but in the final two minutes, the Raiders moved into field goal range. On second down with 35 seconds left, Oakland opted to kick a field goal as they would need two scores to extend the game. The kick was good as Oakland was back within the spread, though the onside kick failed.
Baltimore Ravens (-3) 22, Pittsburgh Steelers 20: One way or another, it always seems to be a close finish between Pittsburgh and Baltimore and while the Ravens were in control with a 19-7 lead early in the fourth quarter after settling for a field goal, things got very interesting late. Late in the third quarter, Baltimore also had to settle for a field goal on the drive that started at the Pittsburgh 27-yard line after the 73-yard return from Jacoby Jones that was impeded by Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin. While the suggestions that Tomlin did this intentionally seem short-sighted, by rule Baltimore could have been awarded a touchdown on the play, but instead they were not even given a penalty. Pittsburgh scored a touchdown with nine minutes to go in the game to get within five and Baltimore was only able to answer with another field goal, leading but eight with about five minutes to go. Pittsburgh appeared to score with a completion to Heath Miller, but on review he was just short, leaving first and goal at the one. The Steelers appeared to score again, but the rushing touchdown was turned back on review again after Le'Veon Bell lost his helmet before crossing the plane. Pittsburgh was left with a fourth down play that would decide the game and a blown coverage allowed the Steelers to score. On the critical two-point conversion, the Steelers failed to leave the margin at just two points however giving Pittsburgh a fortunate late cover.
Indianapolis Colts (-3 ½) 22, Tennessee Titans 14: The Colts led just 15-14 entering the fourth quarter in this key AFC South clash. While the Titans had a substantial yardage edge in the game, they could not get into field goal range on two fourth quarter drives and the Colts were able to burn most of the clock and add a touchdown with less than two minutes to go to get past the spread. Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Titans to the Indianapolis 33-yard line making a late threat, but an interception effectively ended the game.
Minnesota Vikings (-2 ½) 23, Chicago Bears 20: This line moved towards Minnesota all week, but the Bears held a 20-10 lead entering the fourth quarter. Christian Ponder was knocked out of the game, but Matt Cassel led the Vikings to a touchdown halfway through the fourth to get within three. A fumble on second down for the Bears gave Minnesota the ball right back, but an interception cost the Vikings a chance to at least tie the game and the return yardage put the Bears at midfield, up three, and with less than five minutes to go. Chicago could not get into field goal range and the Vikings were pinned at the nine-yard line. Cassel led the Vikings down the field with a few big plays and a key fourth down conversion, but Minnesota had to settle for a short field goal and overtime. Robbie Gould had become the most accurate kicker in NFL history earlier in the game and despite seeing what happened in the Auburn/Alabama game, Chicago attempted a 66-yard field goal as time expired. The kick missed and the Vikings were only able to return it 31 yards. Chicago got the ball first, but after getting to midfield, the Bears stalled and needed to punt. Minnesota was quickly in field goal range and the game-winning kick went through, but a face-mask penalty wiped out the kick. Minnesota lost three more yards on the next play and the now 57-yard attempt failed. Chicago did not have far to go to give Gould another shot and on second down they hoped to escape with the win, but Gould missed from 47 yards. It appeared that a second straight tie for the Vikings might occur, but Adrian Peterson powered through a tired defense and Blair Walsh connected on a penalty-free 34-yard kick to get the win for the Vikings, dealing Chicago's playoff hopes a serious blow.
Philadelphia Eagles (-3 ½) 24, Arizona Cardinals 21: The Eagles seemed to be in complete control taking a 24-7 lead in the third quarter as Arizona turnovers proved costly. Arizona would rally to get within 10 by the start of the fourth quarter and Philadelphia could not get much past midfield with two punts. Getting the ball back with about seven minutes to go, the Cardinals went almost 70 yards in just over two minutes to get within three points. The Cardinals appeared to get an interception a few plays later, but it was called back with a penalty. The Cardinals got the ball back just outside of the two-minute warning, but they failed to pick up a first down, handing the ball back to the Eagles at the 15-yard line. Philadelphia could not run out the clock as Arizona had two timeouts as those on the Eagles or the 'over' hoped for another score, but a defensive holding penalty gave the Eagles a fresh set of downs after Arizona had used its timeouts and Philadelphia was able to take a knee, leaving Arizona with a slim underdog cover.
Atlanta Falcons (+5) 34, Buffalo Bills 31: In Toronto, the Bills were in control early, but this game was tied heading into the fourth quarter. Buffalo took a 31-24 lead early in the fourth before each team exchanged punts twice. Getting the ball back with less than five minutes to go, the Falcons converted a couple of big third down plays and with the help of a few penalties, the game was tied with less than two minutes to go. Buffalo crossed into Atlanta territory, but the threat ended with a fumble and overtime was needed. The Bills won the toss, but on the second play from scrimmage of overtime, Buffalo fumbled with Atlanta taking over in Buffalo territory. The Falcons picked up a first down and eventually put in the 36-yard game winning kick.
New York Giants (-1) 24, Washington Redskins 17: The Redskins led 17-14 entering the fourth quarter, but the Giants took the lead just 34 seconds in the fourth. Getting the ball back in great field position with six minutes to go, the Giants managed to convert a few big plays and eventually added a field goal to put the margin at seven. On the final Washington drive, the officiating confusion cost the Redskins as Washington was told they had a first down by the sideline crew, but the officials on the field were calling it third and short. Washington was dealt an unexpected fourth down situation and the Giants escaped with the win.
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