Clutch Encounters: Week 12
by Scott Kacsmar
On the eve of Donovan McNabb's birthday, we had another database-killing overtime tie, which apparently some players on the Green Bay Packers didn't know was possible. Sunday also happened to be the 11-year anniversary of Marty Mornhinweg taking the wind in overtime in Detroit's 2002 loss to the Bears.
Bill Belichick became the 11th coach to take the wind in overtime (including playoffs), so I no longer to have to write about wanting to see a coach do it. Now we wait to see if others will follow suit, because it did not backfire in an epic game everyone had to be watching.
Game of the Week
Denver Broncos 31 at New England Patriots 34
Type: 4QC/GWD (OT)
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 3 (24-21)
Win Probability (GWD): 0.92
Head Coach: Bill Belichick (39-67 at 4QC and 54-68 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Tom Brady (29-26 at 4QC and 41-28 overall 4QC/GWD record)
We can call this one "Manning-Brady XIV: Inherit the Wind." In the classic film, two lawyers argue the case of teaching evolution. Peyton Manning would definitely be Spencer Tracy while Tom Brady is naturally Fredric March, who plays a character named Matthew Harrison Brady. While the intellect of Tracy's character is overwhelming, Brady ultimately wins the case, which can summarize a lot of Manning-Brady meetings too.
God speaks to Brady, and Brady tells the world! Brady, Brady, Brady, Almighty!
Yes, it's hard to hide that I am burned out talking about this game, but it is the biggest comeback of 2013 and just the 19th comeback from at least a 24-point deficit in NFL history. It was not as good as the San Francisco-New England game last year, but there were certainly similarities given the pathetic first half by the Patriots followed by a period of pure domination.
What this game did not have was a classic game-winning drive. In fact, out of the 111 recaps I have written this season, this was probably the worst ending to any of the games. with the night's 11th fumble -- one of the unforced error variety -- gifting the Patriots the winning points.
New England offered some early gifts as Denver's three forced fumbles in the first quarter built a 17-0 lead, but the Broncos had minus-2 passing yards at that point. In a way, it prevented Manning and his receivers from ever getting into a rhythm on the very cold night; Manning took nearly four quarters to hit 100 yards passing. Content with the big lead and holes in the running game -- Denver rushed for 280 yards -- the passing game produced just 132 net yards.
When it was 24-0, Manning's only real contribution was a 10-yard touchdown strike to Jacob Tamme, who filled in for the inactive Julius Thomas. Everything else was a short pass, a screen or a drop. Beyond the fumbles, New England's offense was stopped on all eight drives in the first half.
However, the turning point of the game was just before halftime. Denver can only wish it would have let the Patriots head into the half instead of calling timeouts. Trindon Holliday muffed a punt, part of a mistake-ridden day that had him off the field late in the game. Brady threw a Hail Mary that never had a chance, but Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie dove for it anyway and injured himself. That changed the way Denver played defense in the second half as Von Miller was no longer rushing Brady and Champ Bailey was already out, leaving few healthy bodies in the secondary.
New England responded after halftime with 31 points on five drives. That's the type of blistering pace Brady has enjoyed in the past against a Jack Del Rio defense. This was with going into the wind as well. A fumble by Montee Ball near midfield really helped the comeback get off the ground when it was 24-7.
New England only trailed 24-21 to start the fourth quarter. Now going into the wind, Manning forced a pass to Eric Decker, who could not handle the physical play from the secondary. Logan Ryan made the interception and returned it to the Denver 30. Three plays later, Julian Edelman broke free for a 14-yard touchdown catch.
Denver went three-and-out as Manning threw two incompletions, but the defense made a big stop to keep the Patriots to a field goal and a 31-24 lead. With 7:37 left, the Broncos had to drive 80 yards into the wind at a point where Manning had just 73 yards in the game. A comeback did not feel likely. Aqib Talib intercepted Manning immediately, but only after he grabbed Demaryius Thomas on his way to the ball. That was a penalty for defensive holding. Four plays later, Thomas finally made his first catch of the night.
After Wes Welker dropped a pass, a holding penalty put the Broncos in a second-and-20 situation. Manning delivered his best pass of the night with a 15-yard strike to Thomas near the sideline. On third-and-5, he threw one equally as good to Tamme for 11 yards despite the tight coverage. Rob Ninkovich was penalized for pass interference on a third-and-7. On the next play, Manning went to the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown to Thomas.
Surprisingly, the game was tied at 31-31 with 3:06 to play. Expecting one of these quarterbacks to engineer a game-winning drive, we were treated to seven straight drives without a score.
New England came up a yard short on third down, culminating in a three-and-out. Manning had a chance on a third-and-10, but his floater to Thomas had to be knocked down to avoid getting picked off. The Patriots ran two more plays, but let the clock expire for overtime.
Then Bill Belichick shocked everyone by taking the wind in overtime. It took 34 modified overtime games, but we finally had a coach win the coin toss and not want the ball first. Here's the game-ending summary for the 34 games:
|NFL's Modified Overtime Game-Ending Summary|
|Game-winning (GW) event||Games||Pct.|
|1st drive GW TD||6||17.6%|
|2nd drive GW defensive stop||3||8.8%|
|2nd drive GW score||10 (10 FG)||29.4%|
|3rd drive GW score||6 (6 FG)||17.6%|
|4th drive GW score||3 (2 FG, 1 safety)||8.8%|
|5th drive GW score||3 (2 FG, 1 TD)||8.8%|
|5th drive clock expires (tie)||1||4.5%|
|6th drive GW score||1 (1 FG)||4.5%|
|6th drive: clock expires (tie)||1||2.9%|
If Belichick can deny giving Brady the ball and take the wind, which was significant and the only reason he did it, against Manning, then anyone can do it now. It no longer has that Marty Mornhinweg stench to it. If Thomas would have taken a bubble screen 80 yards for a touchdown, then that probably would have been the end of any coach ever doing this again, but the odds were against that happening.
Naturally, Denver did need to drive 80 yards for a touchdown into the wind. Manning had problems throwing into the wind and the Patriots were playing very physical with the receivers. Decker had only one catch for five yards while Thomas and Welker both had several drops. There was no separation to be found as every throw was contested.
But who needs to throw when you have Knowshon Moreno rushing for 224 yards? He started overtime with two runs for 26 yards, but the drive stalled when Decker was penalized for offensive pass interference on a night filled with inconsistent officiating. Denver may have gone for it on fourth-and-1 at the New England 45 without the penalty. Manning again could not get it to Thomas with Talib there.
Denver punted and no one could dare criticize Belichick's decision. One should criticize the New England offense for calling a timeout and throwing deep to Edelman on third-and-4. That brought out the punting unit.
The Broncos again were driving. A game-winning drive for Manning would give him sole possession of the record at 52, so history was on the line. On third-and-4 from his own 49, Manning found Tamme for 12 yards. One more play like that and Denver could try the field goal. However, Manning handed off to a battered Moreno twice for three yards. On third-and-8, Manning hit Welker, but he dropped the ball. It would have been short, but Denver could have gone for it on fourth-and-3. Del Rio took a delay of game penalty and punted.
Despite the two quarterbacks, we were 4:50 away from Sunday's second tie. Brady missed another deep throw and could only pick up six yards on third-and-10 to Kenbrell Thompkins.
New England punted with the wind and Welker did not call off the return unit fast enough to get away from the ball. It bounced off of Tony Carter, who was just trying to block, and the Patriots recovered the 11th fumble of the night at the Denver 13.
What a rip-off. That helped New England win the turnover battle (4-to-3) and it moved the record to 69-2 at home since 2001 when winning that battle. It also won the game as Brady just came out for some knees before the 31-yard kick by Stephen Gostkowski.
I haven't seen an epic end in such disappointing randomness since No Country for Old Men.
For those wondering, yes, that goes down as a game-winning drive, and yes, I should consider putting an asterisk next to such field goal drives in overtime that do not pick up a first down. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Palmer had drives like that last season, but I cannot recall a team muffing a punt like this in overtime to set up a loss. At least San Francisco's Kyle Williams fielded the ball and fumbled on contact in the 2011 NFC Championship.
While it's the biggest joke of a game-winning drive on Brady's resume, the comeback was legit and it's the largest he's had.
It would be nice to get a rematch of the greatest quarterback rivalry where one of the quarterbacks actually does something to win the game at the end.
Clutch Encounters of the Winning Kind
San Diego Chargers 41 at Kansas City Chiefs 38
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 4 (38-34)
Win Probability (4QC/GWD): 0.16
Head Coach: Mike McCoy (3-4 at 4QC and 3-5 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Philip Rivers (16-38 at 4QC and 19-41 overall 4QC/GWD record)
When the Chiefs were 9-0, it was valid to point out the team's good fortune of not suffering significant injuries that other AFC contenders have been dealing with this season. It was also hard to overlook the group of backup quarterbacks the defense faced. What would happen against a better quarterback who can put points on the board? Could this Alex Smith-led offense respond?
This game answered a lot of those questions about Kansas City. The disappearing pass rush suffered a big blow with both Tamba Hali and Justin Houston leaving the game with injuries in the second quarter. Kansas City led 14-3 at the time, but Philip Rivers began to move his offense during what will go down as one of the best games of his career.
The scoring raged on in the second half. San Diego trailed 28-24 to start the fourth quarter, but had to settle for a field goal, which was answered by the Chiefs thanks to Jamaal Charles' 46-yard run. Ladarius Green took a short pass from Rivers and raced 60 yards for a touchdown. San Diego led 34-31 with 7:50 to play.
Both offenses punted. Smith dropped back to pass on six consecutive plays and completed five of them for 55 yards. Smith had his fullback wide open for a touchdown, but he made the tougher play with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Bowe. The Chiefs led 38-34 with 1:22 left, but in today's NFL, that's too much time.
This one almost ended after one play when a high pass to Antonio Gates was tipped and nearly intercepted. Gates made a 12-yard catch on third-and-10 and San Diego used one of its two timeouts. Danny Woodhead took over from that point. He could have cut out of bounds for a short gain, but he cut it back for a 19-yard gain while still going out to stop the clock. He gained 14 more yards to Kansas City's 33 on another dump-off pass.
Eric Berry was penalized 12 yards for pass interference after grabbing Gates. Berry made up for it by sacking Rivers on a blindside hit. Rivers was fortunate not to fumble. That used up San Diego's last timeout and registered as Kansas City's only sack of the day. On second-and-15 from the 26, Rivers dropped a perfect dime to Seyi Ajirotutu with Sean Smith in coverage for the game-winning touchdown with 24 seconds left.
Rivers hasn't had this much reason to celebrate since a game-winning touchdown to Vincent Jackson in New York in a similar situation in 2009. He finished with 392 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers.
Kansas City's offense was not the issue in this one. It was a pure defensive letdown. Smith had 20 seconds and two timeouts left at his own 20. He completed an 11-yard pass, but took a sack. On the final play, the lateral was fumbled and recovered by San Diego.
It's been easy to pick on Rivers for his streak of failure in these moments in the previous three seasons, but he came through with his best game-winning drive yet to keep San Diego's playoff hopes alive.
Dallas Cowboys 24 at New York Giants 21
Win Probability (GWD): 0.55
Head Coach: Jason Garrett (15-31 at 4QC and 23-35 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Tony Romo (19-28 at 4QC and 21-31 overall 4QC/GWD record)
It was the final minutes of a 21-21 game. The Giants, winners of four straight, were trying to keep their season alive while the Cowboys could move into first place in the NFC East. With only three live games in progress, many were tuned in for a moment tailor made for Tony Romo to throw a critical interception.
Anyone expecting it was sorely disappointed. Romo engineered his 21st game-winning drive -- that's as many as Troy Aikman had in his career and on four fewer opportunities -- and all but eliminated the Giants from contention before December.
Sure, the setup for a Dallas collapse was present. The Giants trailed 21-6, but scored one touchdown after the Cowboys failed to touch Brandon Myers down. New York shredded Dallas on the ground with 30 carries for 202 yards. Eli Manning was not sharp, but he found Victor Cruz down the middle for a 22-yard pass on third-and-8. Two plays later, Manning threw a 4-yard touchdown to Louis Murphy with 4:45 left. Andre Brown ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game.
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Now it was Romo's turn at his own 20. On third-and-7, he found Dez Bryant working on Antrel Rolle for 19 yards. That was advantageous enough to work on another third down three plays later as the game hit the two-minute warning. Miles Austin reminded us he's still alive with a drop, but did come up with a 17-yard catch on the next play -- his lone catch on three targets.
Romo threw an absolute dagger to Bryant that would have put the ball inside the five, but Bryant failed to complete the process of the catch going to the ground. (The subjective and impossible-to-interpret consistently Calvin Johnson rule strikes again.) On third-and-10, Cole Beasley abused Rolle from the slot, making the defender lose his feet on an easy 13-yard catch. That was the game as the Giants burned their last timeout and Romo was able to take two knees to set up the field goal. Dan Bailey delivered the 35-yard kick with no time left and Dallas won 24-21.
Including the playoffs, Romo's 11 game-winning drives since 2011 tie Eli Manning for the most in that time. For Manning, it's the fifth time in his career he led a game-tying touchdown drive and never touched the ball again. This was the second time he lost on a field goal to Romo at home after such a drive.
Some continue to write a Romo narrative that's more suitable for the tabloids, but the non-fictional account still reflects favorably on him in these situations.
Carolina Panthers 20 at Miami Dolphins 16
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 3 (16-13)
Win Probability (4QC/GWD): 0.27
Head Coach: Ron Rivera (5-17 at 4QC and 5-18 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Cam Newton (5-17 at 4QC and 5-18 overall 4QC/GWD record)
November 10, 2013 (morning): The Carolina Panthers are 2-18 at game-winning drive opportunities in the Ron Rivera/Cam Newton era. They have not won a game after trailing by more than two points in the fourth quarter since October 24, 2010. They have not won a game after trailing by 12-plus points since October 11, 2009. "Riverboat Ron" is as real as the Easter bunny.
November 24, 2013 (late afternoon): The Carolina Panthers have won after trailing in the fourth quarter in three consecutive weeks, and each game was against a team in playoff contention. Twice they trailed by three points late. They erased a 16-3 deficit in Miami for a 20-16 win. Ron Rivera is Riverboat Ron.
Clearly, things have changed in a hurry for the Panthers, but the defense has been a constant this season. After a poor first half where Mike Wallace actually got deep twice for 110 yards, the defense pitched a second-half shutout, stopping Miami on its last five drives (there was one missed field goal).
That allowed the offense to shake off a putrid start and grind away at the deficit. In the third quarter, Carolina had a touchdown drive which included Cam Newton picking up a fourth-and-1 at the Carolina 41 with an 8-yard run. The Panthers trailed 16-13 to start the fourth quarter.
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With 5:36 left, Miami stayed aggressive in killing the clock like last week against San Diego. But a false start penalty set the drive back and Ryan Tannehill completed a 9-yard pass on third-and-11.
Newton had 4:13 left at his own 20. The drive started the wrong way with a penalty for an illegal formation and a 3-yard loss on a pass to Ted Ginn. On fourth-and-10, Newton delivered to Steve Smith, who bounced off two defenders and picked up 19 yards. Newton had a run for eight yards and got out of bounds, but safety Reshad Jones hit him late for a 15-yard flag. On replay, it was really just a slip and flop from Newton.
Mike Tolbert took two carries and gained 20 yards down to the Miami 1 with 46 seconds left. Sensing the inevitable, Newton had Greg Olsen all alone in the end zone for an easy touchdown pass off a play-action fake.
Miami was out of timeouts and had just 38 seconds left to drive 86 yards. As improbable (win probability: 3.0 percent) as that sounds, Miami had a great shot. Tannehill completed a 26-yard pass over the middle to Brian Hartline and then spiked the ball. Tannehill pump-faked and went deep for Wallace, who was open, but he could not haul the pass in.
Even if Wallace caught it, he would have been down short of the end zone and the clock would have expired. But that was dangerously close to another blown lead for Carolina. Tannehill was hit as he threw it, so he couldn't get everything he wanted on the ball. Looking for the Hail Mary, Tannehill took a game-ending sack, but what an opportunity on that next to last play.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 at Detroit Lions 21
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 4 (21-17)
Win Probability (4QC/GWD): 0.31
Head Coach: Greg Schiano (3-9 at 4QC and 3-10 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Mike Glennon (2-2 at 4QC and 2-3 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Detroit won most of the statistical battles in this one, but minus-5 in turnovers (five giveaways and no takeaways) is almost always a losing formula. Since the merger teams are 14-273-1 (.050) when they are minus-5 in turnovers. The fact it was this close for 60 minutes comes as a surprise.
Matthew Stafford alternated between terrible interceptions (he had four on the day) and great touchdown passes, so Detroit actually led 21-17 to start the fourth quarter. But on the second play of the quarter, rookie Mike Glennon went deep for Tiquan Underwood for an 85-yard touchdown pass over cornerback Chris Houston. He had a rough debut against Arizona's stingy pass defense, but Glennon is surprisingly turning in one of the better seasons we have seen by a rookie quarterback.
Tampa Bay blocked a punt and started at Detroit's 11, but the Buccaneers lost six yards and Rian Lindell missed a 35-yard field goal to keep it a 24-21 game.
Jim Schwartz continued the inconsistent pattern of aggressive coaching he's shown in 2013 by letting Stafford run a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 at the Detroit 34 with 6:58 left. That's extremely aggressive, but at least it was the smartest play call. According to Pro-Football-Reference, since 1999 teams are 12-of-13 when going for it on fourth-and-1 inside their own 40 in the fourth quarter when trailing by 1-8 points with more than five minutes left.
Three plays later, Kris Durham had a big 19-yard grab, but he fumbled the ball after twisting to land out of bounds. Once again, Lindell was wide left on a 50-yard field goal with 3:49 left. A 21-yard pass to Calvin Johnson put the Lions in field-goal range. Penetrating as deep as the Tampa Bay 26, Detroit started to move backwards after Reggie Bush lost two yards on the ground.
Johnson could not come down with a pass in solid coverage, so Stafford resorted to his favorite third-down tactic: forcing the ball to Johnson. Keep in mind it was third-and-12 at the 28, so a tie was likely without a loss of yardage. Stafford faded back under some pressure and threw a pass to Johnson that actually was perfect:
That should be a first down inside the five, but on the hit by Kelcie McCray, Johnson lost control of the ball and rookie Johnthan Banks made the interception. Tampa Bay was able to run out the clock with kneel downs for its third straight win.
Tennessee Titans 23 at Oakland Raiders 19
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 3 (19-16)
Win Probability (4QC/GWD): 0.30
Head Coach: Mike Munchak (6-10 at 4QC and 9-11 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick (6-27 at 4QC and 8-28-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Ryan Fitzpatrick finally ended his streak of 14 failed fourth-quarter comebacks and the Titans are currently the sixth seed in the AFC. Take a picture -- it will last longer. This was one of the closest games of the season with neither team ever leading by more than four points.
Tennessee increased its lead to 16-12 in the fourth quarter. Matt McGloin, solid in just his second start, hit four passes in a row, including a 27-yard touchdown to Marcel Reece to put Oakland ahead 19-16 with 6:10 left. McGloin threw the pass under pressure, but linebacker Zach Brown never had a chance to play the ball.
The Titans are tied with Houston and San Diego for a league-high eight game-winning drive opportunities, so they are used to these situations this season. This week Fitzpatrick avoided the risky throws and played it safe with seven completions in a row.
The Raiders had two timeouts, but shockingly never used them as the Titans continued to drive down the field. Oakland could have called timeout before a third-and-6 play with about 1:04 left to conserve time for a game-winning drive. Instead, the clock ticked down to 36 seconds before the Titans used a timeout.
Fitzpatrick hit Justin Hunter with a 9-yard pass to convert and the Titans used their second timeout at the Oakland 10. This is a situation where many teams get content with the game-tying field goal, but the Titans played to win in regulation. Fitzpatrick threw the ball away on first down and flicked an incompletion to Chris Johnson in the end zone on second down. On a crucial third-and-10 with Oakland (4-7) needing to win this game to stay alive in the AFC, Kendall Wright was open for the touchdown with 10 seconds left. It was zone, but I think Tracy Porter needs to play tighter coverage in this situation:
Even pass interference would be better than watching Wright catch the ball. The Raiders only had time to fumble a lateral to end the game.
Clutch Encounters of the Tying Kind
I wanted to taste that victory, but my mouth was dry. My mouth was dry. - Mineral
Minnesota Vikings 26 at Green Bay Packers 26
Type: 4QC and OTC
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 16 (23-7)
Largest Overtime Deficit: 3 (26-23)
Head Coach 1: Mike McCarthy (9-34-1 at 4QC and 15-36-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback 1: Matt Flynn (1-3-1 at 4QC and 1-3-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Head Coach 2: Leslie Frazier (1-15-1 at 4QC and 4-17-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback 2: Christian Ponder (1-8-1 at 4QC and 3-10-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Since it's really not a win or a loss, I needed a new category for the tie. It should have never come to that. Minnesota led 23-7 two plays into the fourth quarter. Matt Flynn became Green Bay's latest quarterback after starter Scott Tolzien, who only provided an incredible rushing touchdown, was benched.
The last time Green Bay won a game after trailing by at least 16 points was in 1989 against New Orleans. Technically, that drought will continue, but Flynn gave it a good effort off the bench. Eddie Lacy capped off an 80-yard touchdown drive aided by a 35-yard pass interference penalty on Marcus Sherels. With 11:42 left, the Packers went for two, but Flynn's pass was intercepted.
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There is an argument to kick the extra point given the time remaining. If a team only has a 25-percent chance of making a pair of two-point conversions, then the odds are they will need to score three times. So by kicking the nearly automatic extra point, a team can realistically score two touchdowns and a field goal to win by one point. Once you move past the halfway point of the quarter, the two-point conversion is a no-brainer, but I can see the argument to just kick with 11:42 left.
Minnesota punted after gaining one first down. Flynn and Lacy worked the no-huddle offense down the field. Lacy converted a fourth-and-1 run with a 4-yard gain. Four plays later, Flynn threw a 6-yard touchdown to Jarrett Boykin with 3:30 left. The Vikings had a rough three-and-out drive. Christian Ponder lost three yards on a broken play before taking a third-down sack.
The Packers had a great shot to drive for the win now, starting at their own 31 with 2:27 left. Lacy caught a 16-yard pass at the Minnesota 44 and ran the ball for four more yards. However, pressure on Flynn quickly brought up a fourth-and-6 with the Packers out of field-goal range. With the Vikings offsides, Flynn threw up a prayer under more pressure, but James Jones subtly pushed off to make the 28-yard catch. Lacy carried for no gain and Flynn's pass was batted down, setting up a third-and-10. A slant to Boykin only picked up three yards and Mason Crosby came on for the 27-yard field goal to tie the game.
Interestingly enough, the combined deficit in Aaron Rodgers' five fourth-quarter comeback wins is 16 points. Flynn, a quarterback who has done literally nothing in the NFL since Week 17 of the 2011 season, came this close to doing that in one game.
Ponder had 41 seconds left at his own 30, but could only move it 14 yards before punting. Flynn took a knee for overtime. The Packers won the coin toss and the home crowd went nuts, but it's only a great thing if you make it count. A defensive holding penalty was all that kept the Packers from going three-and-out. Flynn hit three big passes in a row to three different wide receivers, setting up a first-and-goal at the Minnesota 7.
Now it's easy to say Lacy (110 rushing yards) was having a great game, but to run him on first and second down is pretty conservative if Mike McCarthy really wanted to win the game. Flynn gave Jordy Nelson no shot at a catch on third-and-goal. Facing fourth-and-goal from the Minnesota 2, McCarthy should have gone for the win. He had Crosby kick the 20-yard field goal instead.
That was only the fifth time a team kicked a field goal on the first drive, so we rarely get to see this unique situation where a team gets to use four downs to move down the field in a one-score game with no concern over the clock. It was easy to see the advantages of four-down football when Ponder handed off to Adrian Peterson on a third-and-9 draw. It worked for a 15-yard gain. Toby Gerhart had some good runs too as the Vikings rolled up 232 yards on the ground.
Minnesota had a first down at the Green Bay 13. Gerhart carried for one yard before Peterson lost five. Again, we have two teams with the chance to win the game with a touchdown and both called a run on first and second down. Where's the play-action pass? Where's the willingness to earn this win? Green Bay needed it more than Minnesota, yet it was I-formation football going nowhere.
On third-and-14, Ponder had Cordarrelle Patterson in the end zone, but the ball was tipped just enough to end as an incompletion. Blair Walsh kicked the 35-yard field goal and for just the second time ever, both teams scored in overtime.
The long drives meant only 3:49 remained. Both teams went three-and-out, but Greg Jennings dropped a very catchable pass on third down for Minnesota. I guess Sunday was "Help Your Old Team In Overtime Day." Flynn had 1:59 left at his own 10, but it was an ugly 17-yard drive with three penalties on Green Bay's offensive line. McCarthy punted, giving the Vikings one last play from their own 34. Patterson made the catch for 21 yards, but did not even try a lateral and the game was over. A 26-26 tie.
This game made some dubious history. Flynn becomes the first NFL quarterback to lead a go-ahead drive in overtime and not win the game. Ponder becomes the first NFL quarterback to lead an overtime comeback for a tie (and without any presence of a fourth-quarter comeback). That "OTC" did not mean "over the counter." It's a first and I hate it.
The NFL should let them play until we get a winner, or add some type of sudden death where each team gets the ball at the opponent 20. The team who scores the most points on the drive wins.
This is just unfulfilling, and when working with statistics, it's downright annoying.
Clutch Encounters of the Losing Kind
Saints at Falcons: "Matty Ice" Is a Puddle of Water
This rivalry often produces a close game and last Thursday was no exception despite Atlanta's four-game losing streak. Only three points were scored in the second half, but they gave New Orleans a 17-13 lead. Matt Ryan had Atlanta near the red zone, but Darius Johnson fumbled on a screen pass with 13:05 to play.
New Orleans kept moving the ball with Drew Brees' arm. Facing a third-and-13 at the Atlanta 47, Pierre Thomas had an excellent blitz pickup to save his quarterback and the field position. After a punt Ryan had to start at his own nine, so the long field helped take more time off the clock.
The drive started to stall at the New Orleans 29 when Ryan was sacked for the fifth time in the game. On third-and-15, his pass under pressure never had a chance. With 2:24 left, the Falcons faced the unenviable situation of fourth-and-15 at the New Orleans 34. It's at least a 50/50 proposition, but the 52-yard field goal is an option and Matt Bryant is a very good kicker. Atlanta had all three timeouts and the two-minute warning.
They could have gone for it too, but fourth-and-15 statistically boils down to a 20-percent conversion rate. It also is no guarantee of points, as converting could gain anywhere from 15 to 34 yards (or five yards on certain penalties).
According to Advanced NFL Stats, the break-even conversion rate is 31 percent to make it worthwhile to go for it. That was not very realistic for Atlanta's offense. Punting is even an option, though the real problem was the third-and-15 play where Atlanta failed to get any yards to make this decision easier. I do not mind the field goal call here as Bryant is solid. They had to get a stop regardless of field position and the Falcons had four clock stoppages to get the ball back.
Bryant made the kick, but the Saints called timeout. Bryant then missed wide left, which lowered Atlanta's win probability by 20.5 percent, according to ESPN. Brees hit a big 18-yard pass to Robert Meachem on a second down. Later, a holding penalty gave Atlanta a glimmer of hope, but it was fourth down with 12 seconds left. For some strange reason Sean Payton had Brees lose 11 yards on a run, giving up field position and allowing Ryan a chance at his own 38 with five seconds to play. The lateral-filled ending never had a chance as Harry Douglas threw an illegal forward lateral.
After seven game-winning drives last season, the Falcons have failed on their last seven attempts (0-6 this year).
Jaguars at Texans: No Letterman Jackets This December
Speaking of epic regression, the Houston Texans are currently on the clock after losing their ninth game in a row. A wire-to-wire loss at home to the Jaguars is as low as it gets in 2013.
Case Keenum struggled against the league's worst pass defense, but Houston's defense kept it a 10-6 game in the fourth quarter. Dennis Johnson failed on a fourth-and-1 run at the Jacksonville 40. After the Jaguars added a 53-yard field goal, Keenum got away with a terrible throw for a dropped interception that would have put Jacksonville in scoring territory, then was nowhere close on a third-down pass. Jacksonville picked up one first down before punting the ball back.
Keenum had 110 seconds and no timeouts to drive 80 yards. A promising start to the drive faded fast when Keenum's pass down the sideline to DeAndre Hopkins was not caught. Hopkins appeared to slow down and misjudged the ball. Keenum had Keshawn Martin for an easy catch, but Martin juggled the ball right to Ryan Davis for the game-ending interception.
One could say that made up for the missed interception earlier, but it was a bad day all around for Houston's offense.
How fast can things change in the NFL? We just did the Falcons and Texans as the failed comebacks of the week. Both teams are dead last in their conference at 2-9. Last season, the Falcons (13-3) were the regular-season champions while Houston (12-4) held the AFC's No. 1 seed until Week 17.
Neither team was as good as their record last year, but no one could have predicted such a dramatic fall from grace. Fittingly, the Falcons and Texans lead the league with six failed game-winning drives.
Fourth-quarter comebacks: 47
Game-winning drives: 57
Games with 4QC opportunity: 111/176 (63.1 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 25