Close Calls - Week 15
December 17, 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 15 of the NFL season, recapping the spread-changing plays from the fourth quarters around the league.
Atlanta Falcons (-5½) 27, Washington Redskins 26 (49½): The underdog Redskins rallied back from an early 14-0 deficit, taking a 20-17 lead by halftime. Atlanta scored the only touchdown of the third quarter to lead 24-20 and then with three minutes to go in the game the Falcons added a field goal to get past the spread 27-20. While Kirk Cousins and the Redskins had seven turnovers in the game, the offense came through with a great final drive, eventually finding the end zone with just 18 seconds left in the game. Mike Shanahan certainly took some heat for the decision to go for two but anyone on the underdog was certainly pleased to end the game. The conversion failed as Atlanta picked up the win and the final touchdown was also enough to push the total just ‘over’.
San Francisco 49ers (-4½) 33, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14 (41): This line was as high as -6 before falling over the weekend and the distinction looked like it might be important as a Tampa Bay fourth quarter touchdown cut the lead for the 49ers to just 20-14, right on that early number. That margin stood until just over four minutes to go as San Francisco settled for a short field goal and any hopes of Tampa Bay getting a backdoor cover were quickly extinguished as a fumble on the kickoff led directly to another San Francisco touchdown to put the game away. That score also was the difference for the total in the game as well.
Arizona Cardinals (-3) 37, Tennessee Titans 34 (42½): The Titans took a 17-13 lead in this game late in the third quarter with Tennessee playing as three-point home underdog, though the line slipped to 2½ at some outlets at various parts of the week. Arizona only needed seven plays to answer with a touchdown to put the game right on the spread heading into the fourth quarter. An early fourth quarter attempt to tie the game failed with a missed field goal and Arizona converted a few big third down plays and eventually found the end zone to go up by 10 with less than seven minutes to go. On second down for the Titans on the next possession Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted with the pick returned for a touchdown, seemingly putting the game away for Arizona. The Titans would score with about three minutes to go to get back within 10 and after failing to get the onside kick the Titans used its timeouts and got the 3-and-out it needed. Tennessee was down the field quickly and needing two scores they kicked a field goal with less than a minute to go. The Titans incredibly recovered the second onside kick attempt and in just 37 seconds Fitzpatrick led Tennessee into the end zone to tie the game. The Titans hit a 33-yard play on 2nd down getting the ball first in overtime but Fitzpatrick was intercepted on the next play and Arizona was able to connect for the game winning field goal. While eventually 71 points were scored this game was still ‘under’ until a touchdown with less than seven minutes to go in the game.
Chicago Bears (+1) 38, Cleveland Browns 31 (44): With two defensive touchdowns the Browns led 24-17 entering the fourth quarter but the Bears scored three touchdowns in less than nine minutes to pull away from the Browns. Cleveland added a touchdown within the final minute to get back within seven points but the Bears held on to take control of the NFC North. Twenty eight fourth quarter points also pushed the game ‘over’ despite a 3-0 first quarter.
Buffalo Bills (-4) 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 20 (43½): Sharp action late in the week pushed the Bills from a -2 favorite all the way to -4 and despite a 10-point halftime lead the Bills and Jaguars were tied early in the fourth quarter at 20-20. Buffalo would answer as they took a 27-20 lead with less than 10 minutes to go in the game after an 80-yard scoring drive. Jacksonville appeared ready to answer as the Jaguars eventually wound up sitting on the Buffalo 1-yard line with 1st and goal with less than four minutes to go in the game. On 1st down the Bills lost four yards and on 3rd down Chad Henne was intercepted. Jacksonville would get one more chance but a sack forced the Jaguars into 4th and long and they failed to convert deep in their own territory.
Miami Dolphins (-2½) 24, New England Patriots 20 (46½): This line flipped as the Patriots were favored early in the week before Miami closed as a slight favorite. New England was up 10-0 early as they looked to lock up the AFC East but early in the fourth quarter Miami took a 17-10 lead. New England scored the next 10 points to leave Miami down by three and Ryan Tannehill delivered the signature drive of his young career. The Dolphins converted on a 4th and 5 and eventually found the end zone to lead 24-20 with just over a minute to go. Tom Brady has had plenty of great late game heroics and he put the Patriots inside the Miami 20 but with four attempts at the end zone and no timeouts New England had three incomplete passes and on 4th down Brady was intercepted. Miami held on for the win and those on the ‘under’ also held on with the late stop as well.
Carolina Panthers (-10) 30, New York Jets 20 (40½): The Panthers controlled this game throughout but they failed to pull away, leading by just three heading into the fourth quarter. Early in the fourth the Panthers went back up by 10 with a short rushing touchdown and a few minutes later a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown put the game away. The Jets would save a push for many however with a late touchdown to trim the margin back to 10, where the line closed after being as high as 11½ early in the week. The total also saw another late win for the ‘over’ despite just 29 points through three quarters.
Kansas City Chiefs (-6) 56, Oakland Raiders 31 (44½): The Chiefs won this game by 25 points but late in the third quarter the Raiders were within four after scoring three consecutive touchdowns. The hopes for an underdog cover were short lived however as Jamaal Charles had a 71-yard touchdown just over a minute later and the Chiefs added two more touchdowns to close out the game.
Green Bay Packers (+4) 37, Dallas Cowboys 36 (49½): The season for the Packers seemed to be reaching its end, trailing 26-3 at halftime. Green Bay continued to compete with two touchdowns in the third quarter to offset a Dallas field goal but the Cowboys still led by 12 heading into the fourth quarter. Green Bay scored just four plays into the fourth quarter to get within five but any comebacks hopes were muted as Dallas answered to go back up by 12 with less than eight minutes to go. Led by Matt Flynn the Packers were back in the end zone and back within five with just four minutes to go. The Green Bay defense has not done a lot of positive things this season but they picked up a big sack as Dallas continued to throw the ball. The Cowboys picked up a key third down after Green Bay used its first timeout however. On 2nd and 6 with less than three minutes to go in the game Tony Romo added another late game play to his legacy with an interception. Green Bay only needed seven plays to find the end zone to take the lead and the Packers improbably led 37-36 after a failed two-point conversion attempt. Dallas still had plenty of time on the clock getting the ball back with 1:31 remaining and on second down Romo was intercepted again. The play was initially ruled an incompletion but on review the play was reversed as Tramon Williams made a great play for the game-sealing interception to keep the Packers in the playoff hunt.
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