by Scott Kacsmar
The TV ratings are down for the NFL this season, but how can anyone blame consumers when the league is offering such riveting content like Monday night's Mistake Bowl in Carolina, or Drew Stanton vs. Blaine Gabbert last Thursday night? Believe it or not, those were two of the closer games this week.
Have the shoddy matchups led to fewer close games? Not really. Through Week 5, 48 of the 77 games have featured a fourth-quarter comeback or game-winning drive opportunity, right on par with the past five seasons.
|Games with 4QC/GWD Attempt, Weeks 1-5|
If there has been a decline, it has been in the last three weeks. To start the season, 24 of the first 32 games (75.0 percent) featured a close finish, but that rate has dropped to 24 of the last 45 games (53.3 percent) since Week 3. This little three-week lull is the lowest since Weeks 12-14 of the 2014 season.
This week only featured eight close finishes. Why not more? Pittsburgh extended to a 24-13 lead over the Jets on the first play of the fourth quarter in a 31-13 win. Atlanta's 23-16 win in Denver was not as close as the score suggests, as the Broncos were unable to recover an onside kick with 14 seconds left to end that one. Green Bay's 23-16 win over the Giants on Sunday night was a little closer, but Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb put things away in the four-minute offense with a third-and-10 conversion, denying Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. a shot at a game-tying touchdown.
Game of the Week
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 at Carolina Panthers 14
There is usually a little more prestige in the Game of the Week, but pickings were slim in Week 5, and Monday night's shocking fall of the Panthers to 1-4 is worth highlighting. Even with Cam Newton (concussion), Jonathan Stewart, and Michael Oher all out with injuries, the Panthers were expected to right the ship against a Tampa Bay team missing Gerald McCoy and its top two running backs. Yet, despite a monster performance from Greg Olsen (181 receiving yards) and a very efficient rushing attack (24 carries for 132 yards), Carolina managed just 14 points at home and finished 1-of-8 on third downs.
If you missed the first half, then you only missed bad kicking and the lowest scoring first half of the season, as Tampa Bay led 6-0. The offenses looked better in the third quarter, but hit a 14-14 stalemate to start the fourth. The team with the fewest mistakes was likely to pull this one out, and once again that was not the defending NFC champions.
Derek Anderson mostly threw the ball well in his third start for Carolina (all of which have come against Tampa Bay), but he committed some costly turnovers in the final 15 minutes. First, he made a good decision to scramble on a third down, but fumbled on the way to the ground. Then, after driving the offense to a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, Anderson inexplicably forced a throw into double-coverage, and Brent Grimes came away with a diving interception. Grimes is usually the one falling on his face in these moments, but he read this one all the way. Question is, why would the Panthers even go with the pass on first down? Maybe this is where Newton's rushing was missed, but a simple handoff there for a running team like Carolina would have made a lot of sense. Blake Bortles (2015), Andy Dalton (2013), Jay Cutler (2013) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (2012) are the last four quarterbacks to throw an interception on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. No one has done it in a 4QC/GWD situation since Brett Favre (2006), and no one has thrown an interception from the 1-yard line on any down in a tied game in the fourth quarter since at least 1994. So this was epically bad from Anderson, and certainly not funny for Carolina fans.
Mike Evans gave Carolina's secondary some problems with 89 yards and a touchdown, but he may have done more damage if Jameis Winston had been sharper. Winston nearly threw an interception himself in field-goal range after not identifying the safety, but the Panthers were unable to come away with the pick. This may have led to a very conservative call from coach Dirk Koetter in having Winston hand off the ball on third-and-9. That is playing things too safe with a struggling rookie kicker in Roberto Aguayo. Sure enough, Aguayo missed the biggest kick of his career, wide left, from 46 yards away, the second miss of the night for the second-round draft pick.
If Tampa Bay was gun-shy with Winston, then Ron Rivera may have had similar feelings about Anderson, who is now 7-14 at game-winning drive opportunities in his career. Carolina casually ran the ball three times, but was stuffed on third-and-2 to bring up the two-minute warning. Tampa Bay waited for third-and-7 to throw a pass on the ensuing drive, but Winston delivered to Evans for a first down. Winston started to get into a rhythm as the drive moved to midfield.
We seemingly can never have a close Monday night finish without some officiating controversy. With Aguayo's kicking struggles, this one should not go overlooked as it has. Winston completed a pass to Vincent Jackson near the sideline, but Jackson was clearly tackled in bounds at the 41-second mark. While the clock continued to run down to 32 seconds with Tampa Bay having one timeout left, the game suddenly stopped, and the clock was reset to 41 seconds after Jackson was ruled to have gone out of bounds.
What? Neither official could see that Jackson was tackled in bounds? That was a big help to Tampa Bay to run more plays. Two Jacquizz Rodgers runs and an accidental facemask grab by Kony Ealy put the ball in the red zone, and then Winston took a dive to set the kick up on the right hash mark. If the referees had gotten the Jackson catch right, then Aguayo may have been looking at a much tougher kick here. From 38 yards away, the rookie nailed his first game-winning field goal as time expired, dropping the Panthers to 1-4 and last place in the NFC South.
Clutch Encounters of the Winning Kind
Philadelphia Eagles 23 at Detroit Lions 24
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 2 (23-21)
Head Coach: Jim Caldwell (17-24 at 4QC and 20-24 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford (19-32 at 4QC and 22-32 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Through three games, the Eagles had only allowed 20 points on defense. So when the Lions went into halftime with 21 points on three long drives, head coach Doug Pederson had to make some serious adjustments for the first time in his tenure. The defense had to stop the bleeding, and the offense was going to finally play from behind with a rookie quarterback, down 21-10. Of course, we are still talking about the Lions here, and Jim Caldwell has blown an NFL-high five leads of 12-plus points since 2014. That does not even include the 18-point lead the Lions nearly squandered for good in Indianapolis in Week 1.
Naturally, Detroit's offense stalled, and the pass defense continued to struggle without its top pass-rusher (Ezekiel Ansah) and linebacker (DeAndre Levy). Philadelphia eventually came back to take a 23-21 lead with 6:40 left, putting the pressure back on Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense. A screen for Theo Riddick was blown up in the backfield for a 6-yard loss, and the Lions went three-and-out with 4:59 left. That is a decent amount of time, but the Eagles got into a position where a third-and-2 conversion would have sealed the win. I would have liked to see Carson Wentz get the ball there, or at least a running play that was not so far away from the line of scrimmage. The Eagles decided to go with a toss to Ryan Mathews, which meant the back needed to run a solid 10 yards around the edge just to get the 2-yard conversion. No matter what Mathews did, the last thing he could afford to do was fumble the ball. While Detroit was missing some key players, its best defensive back, Darius Slay, was ready and able to knock the ball loose. Detroit recovered just before the ball went out of bounds, and the Eagles picked about the worst time for their first giveaway of 2016.
Stafford had great field position at the Philadelphia 45 with 2:34 left. Down 23-21, the last-second field goal is most ideal, but a touchdown is also very desirable. The worst score is a quick field goal, because that would leave the Eagles, who had all three timeouts, plenty of time to answer with their own go-ahead kick. After a big 27-yard gain by Golden Tate, Philadelphia's unnecessary roughness penalty actually did the defense a favor by stopping the clock, and making it a goal-to-go situation as well. Again, at least once a season I find myself advocating for a rule change where the offense should have the option to let the clock run in these situations after a penalty instead of letting the opponent gain that advantage.
Since they could not get a new set of downs without a penalty, the touchdown was very important for the Lions. Unfortunately, this looked like an offense that was playing for the field goal. Two runs for 1 yard by Zach Zenner kind of confirms that. On third-and-5, Stafford did not force a pass and took a sack, which caused the Eagles to use their last timeout. Matt Prater's 29-yard field goal was good, but the Eagles had 1:28 to answer with their own field goal now.
This is exactly the kind of situation where quarterbacks really should (and often do) make safe, short passes, especially at the start of the drive. A lot of these defenses, some running a prevent, practically give away free yards in an effort to not get beat by the big play. There has been a lot of talk about Wentz's air yards this season, and I guess I started that with what I felt was the context missing from his statistical start. Wentz's average pass has traveled 6.97 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, the third-shortest average in 2016. This style of offense is predicated on a lot of short throws by design, as Alex Smith (6.76) is right below Wentz in a similar system with Andy Reid in Kansas City.
On his first 32 pass attempts on Sunday, Wentz averaged 5.9 air yards, so this was actually going to be his "shortest" game yet. That was until he quite uncharacteristically stepped up in the pocket and unloaded a 52-yard bomb on the first play of the drive. Unfortunately, Slay looked more like a wide receiver than Nelson Agholor did, and the first interception of Wentz's career was a game-ending one. Slay did the right thing by sliding down after Detroit's second pick of the season to clinch the win. Wentz had only thrown a pass deeper than 35 yards just twice all season, so this was a real surprise to see him go for it all on the first play. This was a mistake from which he can certainly learn.
Chicago Bears 23 at Indianapolis Colts 29
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 4 (23-19)
Head Coach: Chuck Pagano (9-12 at 4QC and 12-13 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Andrew Luck (12-12 at 4QC and 16-13 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Too bad, Jim Irsay and Chuck Pagano, but the "Star Wars numbers" and "last-minute culture" are here to stay in Indianapolis with more big performances and late-game heroics from Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton. The Colts are the only team this season with a fourth-quarter comeback opportunity in all five games. At least this was not another slow start. In fact, these teams combined to score 12 times on 21 possessions, not including a missed field goal by Chicago and the fact that the Colts finished the game with a couple of kneeldowns.
Neither team has really hit the meat of its schedule, but the offenses have been productive, especially for Chicago since the injured Jay Cutler and Jeremy Langford were replaced by Brian Hoyer and Jordan Howard. Even by advanced metrics, Hoyer has posted some excellent numbers so far this season, but with defenses this bad, it is not surprising. What the Bears and Colts did well was force a lot of third-down stops and field-goal attempts in this game. The offenses were only 5-for-21 on third down. Luck was sacked on a third-and-8 in the fourth quarter, his fifth sack of the game. The Colts had not allowed five sacks in back-to-back games since the beginning of the 1997 season, and Luck has already gone down 20 times this season.
Down 19-16, Hoyer drove the Bears 96 yards in nine plays, culminating in a 21-yard touchdown to Howard. It was just a simple checkdown, but one broken tackle was all Howard needed to score.
Luck delivered again on an 82-yard touchdown drive with a 35-yard strike to Hilton down the middle that looked a bit similar to some past game-winners for the duo. In fact, Luck now has 10 game-winning touchdown passes in his career, and Hilton has caught five of them. That already compares favorably with three of the other most prolific duos in team (and NFL) history. Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry connected on five game-winners, while Peyton Manning hit Reggie Wayne four times, and only one to Marvin Harrison.
The Indianapolis defense stepped up right away after Rashaan Melvin forced Cameron Meredith to fumble after a 12-yard reception. However, the Colts shot themselves in the foot on the ensuing drive with a false start and delay of game penalty. Adam Vinatieri's 46-yard field goal was good, but the Colts only led 29-23 with Hoyer having plenty of time (2:28) to drive for the win. Hoyer only needed 28 seconds to drive the offense 45 yards, reaching the Indianapolis 30. That was where things stalled after Hoyer missed Alshon Jeffery on a back-shoulder throw, and the Bears were penalized for holding. On fourth-and-8, Hoyer threw well behind Meredith, who was cutting into the sunny portion of Lucas Oil Stadium. However, take a look at the single coverage on the left side of the field.
I hate to be that guy, but FOX showed a rather compelling replay of Jeffery breaking open against Vontae Davis, who really just let him go even before Hoyer threw. Jeffery could only throw his hands up in frustration that he did not get the ball on fourth down, signaling another Chicago loss. Jeffery's six targets paled in comparison to what Meredith (12), Zach Miller (eight), and Eddie Royal (nine) saw on the day.
But the game belonged to Luck and Hilton again, as they connected 10 times on 11 targets for 171 yards and the game-winning score. With the way the Colts are playing this year, they will have plenty of more opportunities for days like this.
Clutch Encounters of the Losing Kind
Chargers at Raiders: One Crazy Loss Away from BINGO
Is this going to be a weekly thing with San Diego this year? This time, the Chargers did not blow a fourth-quarter lead -- because they had already blown a 24-16 lead in the third quarter after another Melvin Gordon fumble and another aggressive fourth-down gamble by Oakland's Jack Del Rio that turned into a Derek Carr touchdown pass. The special teams especially melted down for the Chargers this week, including a 16-yard punt to end the third quarter. Oakland turned that into a short touchdown drive and a 34-24 lead, but only after one of the most absurd officiating delays I have ever seen. Gene Steratore is usually one of the best referees in the NFL, but more than three minutes passed before he even announced a call to the crowd after a four-man conference for a seemingly typical "illegal touching by the receiver who stepped out of bounds" situation. Ultimately, a phantom defensive pass interference call was issued, but the Chargers were not done yet.
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No, San Diego fans, you cannot get off that easy. Your punishment must be more severe than a double-digit loss. Philip Rivers has gotten comfortable with his new-look offense that features the receiving trio of Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams, and Dontrelle Inman. Antonio Gates is still there for the occasional touchdown, like he had on a pick play with 6:21 left to cut the score to 34-31, and rookie Hunter Henry has also been productive. Let's give San Diego credit for still being so competitive despite all of the starters on injured reserve.
One new addition to the lineup was Joey Bosa, the No. 3 pick in the draft. He registered 2.0 sacks in his debut, and while the overall pressure was quite good on Carr, that is still a tough offensive line to get through for sacks. Carr had only gone down twice in the first four games this season. Oakland's three-and-out gave Rivers plenty of time (4:08) to lead a game-winning drive from his own 33.
After an 8-yard completion to Benjamin set up second-and-2 at the Oakland 19, things begin to unravel again for the Chargers. Following an incompletion, the ball was spottedabout half a yard behind the original line of scrimmage for some reason. San Diego wasted a timeout with the clock stopped after it was unable to get ready for the play in time, but the ball was still in the wrong spot when play resumed. Gordon carried the ball, but came up inches short, which may not have been the case if it had been 1.5 yards to go instead of a full 2 yards.
To make matters worse, there was a lengthy delay in spotting the ball, so the play clock was reset to 25 seconds while the kicking unit was on the field. While the Gordon run ended at about the 3:00 mark, the field goal was not attempted until 2:07 remained. Of course, punter Drew Kaser, who was the holder, failed to get the hold down on the 36-yard attempt, so the Chargers botched the game-tying field goal. Since the play was blown dead at 2:00, the Chargers also lost the two-minute warning in the process.
What a devastating turn of events. I still contend at 1-3 that the Chargers should have just gone for the fourth-down conversion. Why settle for a tying field goal when both defenses have been poor, and you will end up giving Carr nearly two minutes to drive for the game-winning score? Why move up in the draft for Gordon last year if you cannot trust to run him in that spot, or put the ball in the hands of Rivers? In a way, the Chargers got what they deserved for the conservative call. Had San Diego not blown a timeout and the two-minute warning, this would have been quite possible to overcome, but the Chargers only had 11 seconds left by the time they got the ball back -- just enough time for another failed lateral play.
Just last week, we looked at Rivers' shortcomings in these situations. While I am not one to give him a pass for San Diego's decline over the years, this particular game was one where he deserved better from his teammates and coaches. Rivers finished with 359 passing yards on 30 attempts. His 11.97 yards per attempt are the seventh highest in a loss since 1960 (minimum 30 attempts).
Bills at Rams: Two of a Kind
Jeff Fisher and Rex Ryan have a lot in common. There is the obvious link to the late defensive mastermind Buddy Ryan, Rex's father and the coach for whom Fisher played in Chicago and coached under in Philadelphia to start his NFL career. Both coaches were sound bite gold on HBO's Hard Knocks, including Fisher's hilarious "7-9 bullshit" this past summer. Unfortunately, talk is where these coaches have excelled in recent years, as on-field results with winning seasons have been absent since 2010.
The most success these coaches have had occurred early on in their careers, and they both seem caught up with trying to recapture that old-school formula rather than evolving with today's quarterback-driven passing league. Both have even kept Brian Schottenheimer as their offensive coordinator for multiple seasons, for crying out loud.
This year, both teams would have figured to field strong defensive units with offenses that featured star running backs, and asked the quarterbacks to simply manage the game. On Sunday, only the Bills were able to accomplish that. LeSean McCoy's 150-rushing yard effort was aided by the absence of Rams starters Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, and William Hayes on the defensive line. However, after a poor start, the Rams weathered that storm by holding Tyrod Taylor in check, and forcing four straight punts in the second half.
The turning point came with 4:05 left in the third quarter in a 16-16 tie. Case Keenum feathered a timing pass to Pharoh Cooper, a rookie who had yet to get a pass target this season before this play. Nickell Robey-Coleman easily undercut the route and picked off the pass for a touchdown to take a 23-16 lead.
The rest of the game was an uphill battle for the Rams, who again struggled to open up running room for Todd Gurley (23 carries for 72 yards). Gurley had six carries in the fourth quarter, and none of them went for more than a 2-yard gain. His best play was actually recovering his own fumble on third-and-1 to convert for the Rams. That drive stalled in the red zone after Gurley lost a handful of yards on a first-down stuff by Lorenzo Alexander, who also had 3.0 sacks on the day. With 5:55 left, the Rams certainly could have gone for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal at the 4-yard line. This offense entered the week ranked dead last in yards per drive (23.70) and points per drive (1.24). It was not like Los Angeles could count on getting back down there, and they still would have needed a touchdown whether they kicked a field goal or not. The 22-yard field goal was good, but this was not a good decision.
Then again, why go for the touchdown with your offense on fourth-and-4 when you can try a fake punt on fourth-and-5 at your own 23? Instead of going three-and-out, Fisher rolled the dice as he has in the past on special teams with a fake punt with 3:47 left. The Bills were not fooled by the direct snap and stuffed the play. Then, their offense only had to drive 25 yards to ice the game with a touchdown. McCoy nearly got it all on one run, but the stop at the 1-yard line actually cost the Rams more than a minute and a timeout. That was almost a "let them score" situation once McCoy reached the second level, but that is too radical of a strategy for the coaches in this game. Taylor fit a good pass in for a diving Marquise Goodwin for the touchdown with 2:37 left.
Down 30-19, Keenum took another Alexander sack, and on fourth-and-18, managed to throw another interception to Robey-Coleman. Fisher did not even elect to use his final two timeouts, even though it was likely he would have gotten the ball back in a 33-19 game with a minute left. While the situation was dire, this looked like a coach giving up.
Fittingly, this was Fisher's 100th loss in a game-winning drive opportunity, dropping his career record in such games to 53-100-1 (.347).
Redskins at Ravens: The Award for Worst Game Plan Goes to…
Sometimes, you see a game plan so bad that it should get someone fired. Well, after Baltimore's offense limped to a season-low 10 points in a 16-10 home loss on Sunday, the Ravens did in fact fire offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.
Try to justify a split of 50 dropbacks to 18 handoffs given the following scenario. Washington's defense entered the week ranked 18th against the pass and 32nd against the run. Top wide receiver Steve Smith left in the first half with an injury and did not return. Running back Terrance West was coming off a breakout 113-yard rushing game against Oakland. He received only 11 carries for 95 yards in this game. While that included a 35-yard rush, West still finished with a success rate of 45 percent. Most importantly, the Ravens never trailed by more than six points at any time in the game.
Did the fourth quarter skew things with Baltimore trailing 16-10? Sure, Baltimore's last 22 plays were all passes, but none of those drives needed to be pass-heavy except for the final one with 2:33 remaining. The short-passing approach was also the wrong strategy given Washington ranked 13th against short passes and 31st against deep passes (thrown more than 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage).
Trestman's vertical neutering of Flacco is likely the biggest reason why he is unemployed now. After 11 failed completions last week, Flacco had 12 against Washington, and now leads the NFL with 45 failed completions this season. Nine players caught a pass for the Ravens on Sunday, and none of them averaged 10 yards per catch. I cannot recall ever seeing a box score like that. Flacco's average pass traveled a career-low 7.39 yards last season under Trestman and he is at 7.53 yards through Week 5. We will see if this changes now with Marty Mornhinweg taking over. Currently, Flacco's 9.3 yards per completion would rank as the ninth lowest in a season since 1970 (minimum 200 attempts).
Alas, the defense kept the game winnable again in the final minutes. Kirk Cousins helped by overthrowing DeSean Jackson on third-and-6 on Washington's final offensive play. Flacco had 2:33 and two timeouts to drive 83 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. He had to scramble on a fourth-and-2 to avoid a four-and-out, and then threw four of his first five passes to fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Yeah, we spent some good time this summer in projecting how the Ravens would use Justin Forsett (cut), rookie Kenneth Dixon, Buck Allen, and West in the passing game, and it has been Juszczyk with 12 targets in the last two weeks.
Flacco started going to more familiar downfield targets, and the Ravens were 23 yards away from the end zone with 39 seconds left. On first down, Flacco threw deep for Breshad Perriman, and the second-year receiver was ruled to have caught a touchdown in the end zone over Josh Norman. Upon further review, this was a bad call by the official, as it was rather clear that Perriman did not get his second foot in bounds. Perriman will have to learn to drag the toe next time. His inexperience cost the Ravens here, but there was still plenty of time to score. Unfortunately, Flacco's decision-making and accuracy were not at their best on the last three plays. On fourth-and-8, much like last week's deciding pass to Kamar Aiken, a Baltimore receiver was led right into a hit and unable to make the catch. This time it was Mike Wallace, and Baltimore dropped its second straight home game.
Titans at Dolphins: The NFL's Most Hopeless Team?
When Adam Gase's Dolphins opened up the season with close losses at Seattle and New England, not much should have been concluded. Most teams in the NFL would start 0-2 with an opening schedule like that. But after the last three weeks, Miami looks more like the league's biggest mess rather than just a team in flux or soon to be on the upswing, as you might expect from a new head coach.
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First, there was the ugly Week 3 overtime win over Cleveland in which the Browns likely would have kept Miami as the NFL's only winless team had kicker Cody Parkey been just average instead of terrible. Then there was the 22-7 loss in Cincinnati where the team looked lifeless in the final 54 minutes. But the real kicker may have been at home on Sunday when Miami allowed the Titans, who were tied with Chicago as the lowest-scoring team coming into Week 5, to never trail while scoring 30 points.
Oh, there was still a chance for Miami in the fourth quarter, down 24-17. However, Tennessee's best players stepped up as a team's best players should. Jurrell Casey came away with a third-down sack of Ryan Tannehill, and the offense clicked with a 66-yard touchdown drive. There were rumblings that Rishard Matthews, who played his first four seasons in Miami, was going to get benched in Tennessee this week, but he started the game and caught the third touchdown of the day from Marcus Mariota with 8:23 left to give Tennessee a 30-17 final. Tannehill suffered two sacks by Brian Orakpo, and then later threw an interception on another miserable day for the offense. Miami is now just 11-24 (.314) in game-winning drive opportunities with Tannehill at quarterback.
Tannehill has started all 69 games for the Dolphins since 2012. His 18 pass attempts against Tennessee were the fewest he has ever had if you exclude a game he left with injury in his rookie season. The number is low due to taking six sacks, and while Branden Albert and Laremy Tunsil missed the game, we know Tannehill has always struggled with pass pressure regardless of Miami's starting line combination. Center Mike Pouncey's return to the lineup did not spark anything.
While Gase was expected to improve the offense, this unit has not even been able to string together enough plays to stay on the field this season. Miami's 41 offensive plays on Sunday were tied for the fewest in the 69-game Tannehill era. The second-lowest total just happened in Cincinnati with 43 plays in Week 4. The defense has been just as disappointing. Ndamukong Suh has not lived up to his massive contract, Byron Maxwell has already been benched this season, and an aging Cameron Wake has had limited production in limited snaps after last year's torn Achilles.
The Titans may still be on a similar tier with Miami as non-contenders in the AFC. However, at least there are reasons for hope with Tennessee, whether it is Mariota's potential, or some successful veteran pickups in DeMarco Murray (633 yards from scrimmage) and Orakpo (6.0 sacks since Week 2). Where does that hope come from in Miami?
Cardinals at 49ers: I Protest Blaine Gabbert in Prime Time
Have you forgotten about last Thursday night's game? We may have too if not for such a limited week of close finishes. After uncharacteristically blowing two fourth-quarter leads during a 1-3 start, Bruce Arians' Cardinals got back on track in San Francisco. There are not many better ways to uphold a 21-14 fourth-quarter lead than to force Blaine Gabbert to erase it. The struggling quarterback threw his second interception of the night on the first play of the fourth quarter as Marcus Cooper got some redemption for his Week 4 struggles. Arizona went three-and-out behind Drew Stanton on a tough night filling in for Carson Palmer (concussion), but the short field set up a 36-yard field goal, and Arizona's lead stayed above double digits for the remainder of the game in the 33-21 win.
Chip Kelly's offenses, which have been led by a variety of non-stellar quarterbacks going back to 2013 in Philadelphia, are just 3-13 at fourth-quarter comeback opportunities, the worst record among active head coaches with at least 10 opportunities. Perhaps this is the time to go back to Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, because I think the country -- minus Phil Simms -- has seen enough of Gabbert.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Done!)
Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 22
Game-winning drives: 26
Games with 4QC/GWD opportunity: 48/77 (62.3 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 11
Historic data on fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives can be found at Pro Football Reference. Screen caps come from NFL Game Pass.