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Close Calls - Week 12

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NFL games often go down to the wire, especially relative to the spread. Here are close calls from Week 12 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.

San Diego Chargers (+3) 41, Kansas City Chiefs 38: The highly regarded Chiefs defense did not look overly threatening in this AFC West clash as these teams alternated scores throughout the second half. Kansas City led by four after the first quarter, second quarter, and third quarter, but still down four with less than a minute to go, San Diego connected on a deep pass in the front of the end zone on a very close play that withstood review as the Chargers scored the upset. The spread on this game was as high as +5 as many on the Chargers would have won either way, but the spread fell sharply over the weekend.

Carolina Panthers (-4 ½) 20, Miami Dolphins 16: The Dolphins led 16-6 at halftime, settling for three field goals in the second quarter, but the Panthers were able to add a long kick at the end of the half to climb within 10. By the fourth quarter, the Panthers were within three. Miami missed a field goal early in the fourth quarter and then later after stalling at midfield, they had to give Carolina another shot in the final minutes. Aided by a critical personal foul penalty, the Panthers were able to keep the winning streak alive with another late touchdown drive, scoring with less than a minute to go. Some may have earned a push as the line did fall to just -4 at times in the week, but most on Miami still held on narrowly.

Tennessee Titans (-2 ½) 23, Oakland Raiders 19:
There were five field goals in the first half of this game as Oakland led 9-6 at the break. On a 54-yard pass play, Justin Harper put the Titans in front in the third quarter, but by the start of the fourth quarter, the Raiders were within one and covering with the small home underdog number. Tennessee had to settle for a 23-yard field goal to go up by four and the Raiders took advantage as Matt McGloin led Oakland back in front with a 27-yard touchdown pass with six minutes to go. Ryan Fitzpatrick has had many poor fourth quarter moments, but facing third and 10, he delivered a 10-yard pass with Kendall Wright falling into the end zone to put Tennessee in the win column rather than forcing overtime.

Dallas Cowboys (+2 ½) 24, New York Giants 21: Dallas led 21-6 late in the third quarter, but few leads are ever safe in the NFC East. New York was within eight a few minutes later and in the fourth quarter, Eli Manning connected with Louis Murphy for a touchdown with less than five minutes to go. The Giants needed two to tie and a draw to Andre Brown worked to knot the game at 21-21. Despite his reputation, Tony Romo led the Cowboys brilliantly down the field with great use of the clock. The Cowboys lined up a short game-winning kick and did not allow the Giants a chance to answer as Dan Bailey connected as time expired.

New England Patriots (+1) 34, Denver Broncos 31: The Broncos led this game 24-0 at the half, making a commanding statement in the AFC picture. It did not last, however, as the Patriots stepped up on defense and found rhythm on offense with three touchdowns in the third quarter. Early in the fourth quarter, the Patriots added another touchdown, though the Denver defense held to keep the team in the game as New England settled for a short field goal with seven minutes to go, keeping the margin to just seven points after 31 consecutive points from the Patriots. On the first play for Denver, an interception was wiped out with a penalty, but Peyton Manning eventually put the Broncos in the end zone to tie the score and the Denver defense stuffed the Patriots, getting the ball back with over a minute left on the clock. The Broncos did not have the same success this time and had to punt as well as overtime would settle it.

Winning the toss, the Patriots opted to kick and take the more favorable wind in a controversial move and with the Broncos quickly in New England territory, the move looked questionable. An offensive pass interference call changed things, however, as the Broncos eventually sent the ball back. New England also had to punt and Denver seriously threatened on its next drive before being burned by another penalty. Facing fourth and 13 from the New England 42 the Broncos had to punt again. The Patriots picked up a first down on the first play, but eventually they also had to punt again and the second tie game of the day seemed likely. On the New England punt, the ball bounced backwards and hit Denver cornerback Tony Carter as New England took over immediately in field goal range and they finished the game off.

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