by Scott Kacsmar
Week 12 started with a couple of close games on Thanksgiving, then the weekend slate featured seven games with a comeback opportunity. One week after noting the lack of close finishes on NBC's Sunday Night Football, we finally had a nail-biter (and a game-winning drive) between the Packers and Steelers. Naturally, Pittsburgh was the only two-touchdown favorite to not cover the spread on Sunday, while the Eagles and Patriots easily dispatched of the Bears and Dolphins.
The week's best game on paper, Saints at Rams, did not have a comeback opportunity despite the 26-20 final score. Maybe it would have if Sean Payton had not opted for a 21-yard field goal on fourth-and-3 with the Saints still down 23-10. The failure to recover a late onside kick ensured that game would not have a comeback opportunity.
In Oakland, Derek Carr made sure the Broncos wouldn't have a shot at an improbable 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter after Trevor Siemian replaced an injured, ineffective Paxton Lynch. Carr dropped a pass in the bucket to Cordarrelle Patterson for a 54-yard gain on third-and-8 to run out the clock. Denver has lost seven in a row, and only one of those games (Cincinnati in Week 11) even featured a comeback opportunity for the offense. This has been really bad football for John Elway's squad.
Game of the Week
Green Bay Packers 28 at Pittsburgh Steelers 31
Game Winning Chance Before: 64.3 percent
Game Winning Chance After:100.0 percent
Win Probability Added: 35.7 percent
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (24-43 at 4QC and 36-48 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger (30-42 at 4QC and 42-47 overall 4QC/GWD record)
For the fourth meeting in a row since 2009, the Packers and Steelers played an entertaining, high-scoring game. If this one was a great game without Aaron Rodgers, then imagine what could have been if he had played in Pittsburgh on Sunday night. The schedule makers nailed this pick for the game of the week, but the misfortune of injury led to Brett Hundley starting for the fifth time in Rodgers' place. Little did anyone expect that Hundley would go toe-to-toe with a Pittsburgh offense that is back to firing on all cylinders. Hundley actually finished the game with a 134.3 passer rating, the highest by any quarterback in a loss since Matt Ryan's 144.1 rating in Super Bowl LI.
The gaudy numbers in that one metric do conceal some of Hundley's mistakes. Early on, he took advantage of a Pittsburgh defense that has been allowing long passing plays at an alarming rate in the last month. All three of Hundley's touchdown passes gained at least 39 yards. He wasn't really putting together long drives with a stream of successful plays. When he had to do that in the second half, he began to feel the pressure and took some big sacks from a pass rush that found its way behind Cameron Heyward.
The game really turned around in the third quarter. Green Bay led 21-14 and had just intercepted Ben Roethlisberger for a second time. Hundley took two sacks that pushed the Packers back to the Pittsburgh 39. Every coach, especially one with ties to the Pittsburgh area, should know about the kicking difficulties at Heinz Field. Mike McCarthy chose to let Mason Crosby attempt a 57-yard field goal (that wasn't even close) when he should have just punted. The Steelers took advantage of the field position and tied the game with a touchdown.
There was a Super Bowl XLV flashback in the fourth quarter when Le'Veon Bell lost a fumble with 13:24 left. That was not nearly as damaging as when Rashard Mendenhall did it, but it still put the Steelers at -3 in the turnover differential. Since 2011, NFL teams are 14-181 (.072) with a -3 turnover differential, so it is very rare to win when that happens. The Steelers were shaky early, but the defense stepped up and did not allow any points after the last two turnovers. That always helps.
Beyond the turnovers, the offense was very effective with a second game in a row with four touchdown passes for Roethlisberger. His 33-yard strike to Antonio Brown with 8:42 left gave the Steelers a 28-21 lead. That was when Hundley delivered with the type of long drive he could not produce earlier. Hundley led the Packers 77 yards in 12 plays, converting a few tough third- and fourth-down situations. Jamaal Williams plunged ahead for a 4-yard touchdown run to tie the game with 2:02 left.
Each defense then made a stand, but Pittsburgh rookie T.J. Watt was fortunate to not get flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on a first-down sack of Hundley, the fourth sack of the night for the defense. It did not look to be a dirty play, but the contact made could have easily drawn a flag, which would have changed how the Packers approached the rest of the drive. It was surprising to see Mike Tomlin hold onto his three timeouts, but then again, clock management hasn't been a strength in his career. Williams did the Steelers a huge favor with a rookie mistake when he ran out of bounds on a short gain on second down.
Pittsburgh had the ball back with two timeouts and 17 seconds left at its own 30. Roethlisberger went right to Brown for an excellent 23-yard gain along the sideline. That only took four seconds as Brown dragged his second foot to complete another highlight-worthy play. Green Bay then tried to blitz, but I don't know how you can leave Brown in single coverage in that situation. With JuJu Smith-Schuster out and the non-Brown receivers struggling with drops, Dom Capers needed to make someone else beat the defense. Instead it was Brown for 14 more yards at the sideline.
The Steelers moved 37 yards in eight seconds without using a timeout. Remember that the next time you see a team sit on the ball with 30 seconds left and timeouts in hand.
With nine seconds left, I would have run the ball with Bell, but Roethlisberger ended up checking down to him for a 2-yard loss as Bell looked to go down quickly. That was not good execution, and the teams exchanged timeouts with four seconds left. Chris Boswell had to make a tough 53-yard field goal on a cold night, and he had already missed an extra point to start the game. But the kicker came through with quite arguably the best field goal ever made in this stadium. It not only tied the stadium record for longest distance (53 yards by Dallas' Dan Bailey last year), but it gave the Steelers a 31-28 win too.
This was the 16th time since 1981 that an offense started a scoring drive in the final 20 seconds that led to a win. Amazingly, it was the second of the day after the Cardinals, with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, pulled one off against Jacksonville with 16 seconds left. See, you don't even need an outstanding quarterback-receiver duo like Roethlisberger-Brown to get this done. You just need to take a chance. Pittsburgh's 35-yard drive is the longest on the list (which is in chronological order) that did not involve a Hail Mary completion.
|Scoring Drives that Started in Final 20 Seconds Leading to a Win Since 1981|
|SF||Joe Montana||at CIN||9/20/1987||W 27-26||6||0:02||7||25||0:00||Game-winning TD pass w/0:00 left|
|NO||Bobby Hebert||DAL||10/3/1988||W 20-17||0||0:16||3||26||0:00||49-yd game winning FG w/0:00 left (M.Andersen)|
|ARI||Jake Plummer||SD||12/27/1998||W 16-13||0||0:07||3||10||0:00||52-yd game-winning FG w/0:00 left (C.Jacke)|
|CLE||Tim Couch||at NO||10/31/1999||W 21-16||2||0:15||7||75||0:00||Game-winning Hail Mary TD pass w/0:00 left|
|DAL||Quincy Carter||at NYG||9/15/2003||W 35-32 OT||3||0:11||3||26||0:00||52-yd game tying FG w/0:00 left (B.Cundiff)|
|MIN||Daunte Culpepper||GB||10/23/2005||W 23-20||0||0:17||3||26||0:00||56-yd game winning FG w/0:00 left (P.Edinger)|
|DAL||Tony Romo||at BUF||10/8/2007||W 25-24||2||0:18||3||12||0:00||53-yd game winning FG w/0:00 left (N.Folk)|
|ATL||Matt Ryan||CHI||10/12/2008||W 22-20||1||0:06||3||26||0:00||48-yd game-winning FG w/0:00 left (J.Elam)|
|TB||Josh Freeman||at CIN||10/10/2010||W 24-21||0||0:14||3||21||0:01||31-yd game-winning FG w/0:01 left (C.Barth)|
|JAC||David Garrard||HOU||11/14/2010||W 31-24||0||0:08||7||66||0:00||Game-winning Hail Mary TD pass w/0:00 left|
|MIN||Christian Ponder||JAC||9/9/2012||W 26-23 OT||3||0:14||3||32||0:00||55-yd game-tying FG w/0:00 left (B.Walsh)|
|CIN||Andy Dalton||at PIT||12/23/2012||W 13-10||0||0:14||3||21||0:04||43-yd game-winning FG w/0:04 left (J.Brown)|
|KC||Alex Smith||at CAR||11/13/2016||W 20-17||0||0:20||3||11||0:00||37 yd game winning FG w/0:00 left (C.Santos)|
|PHI||Carson Wentz||NYG||9/24/2017||W 27-24||0||0:13||3||19||0:00||61-yd game-winning FG w/0:00 left (J.Elliott)|
|ARI||Blaine Gabbert||JAC||11/26/2017||W 27-24||0||0:16||3||22||0:01||57-yd game winning FG w/0:01 left (P.Dawson)|
|PIT||Ben Roethlisberger||GB||11/26/2017||W 31-28||0||0:17||3||35||0:00||53-yd game winning FG w/0:00 left (C.Boswell)|
Pittsburgh (9-2) retains its hold on the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but the Packers (5-6) really needed this one to keep hope alive with a possible return of Rodgers in a few weeks. Eleven other NFC teams have a record as good as or better than Green Bay right now.
Clutch Encounters of the Winning Kind
Jacksonville Jaguars 24 at Arizona Cardinals 27
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 7 (24-17)
Game Winning Chance Before: 43.2 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 100.0 percent
Win Probability Added: 56.8 percent
Head Coach: Bruce Arians (17-16 at 4QC and 25-16-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Blaine Gabbert (4-11 at 4QC and 4-11 overall 4QC/GWD record)
This had to be a tough game to watch for Jacksonville fans. Not only was it a totally avoidable loss in regulation, but it served as a reminder that this franchise has hitched its wagon for the last seven seasons to Blaine Gabbert and Blake Bortles. While Gabbert got the win over his successor, there wasn't much differentiating the two mistake-prone quarterbacks. Even before the frantic fourth-quarter finish, I thought this game was perfectly depicted by that famous Spider-Man meme.
This meme was created for a Bortles vs. Gabbert game pic.twitter.com/hXJVJVafgH
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) November 26, 2017
The so-called Gabbert "revenge game" looked like it may have been a Calais Campbell revenge game instead. The former Arizona defender has been a stud for the Jaguars this year, and in the fourth quarter, he recovered a Gabbert fumble forced by rising star Yannick Ngakoue and returned it for a touchdown. That gave Jacksonville a 17-16 lead, so of course a game between Gabbert and Bortles produced a SICO (self-imposed comeback opportunity).
To his credit, Gabbert found some cracks in Jacksonville's defense that most quarterbacks have not found this season. His legs helped him to extend the ensuing drive with two scrambles for first downs, and then he climbed the pocket to find Jaron Brown for a 52-yard touchdown. Brown flew past safety Barry Church on the play.
I'm absolutely sick. Barry Church is the safety to that side on the play and he gets lost in coverage. Blaine Gabbert goes 52 yards to Jaron Brown.#Cardinals up 24-17 on the #Jaguars. Ugh. pic.twitter.com/PQBuPFfUPU
— Big Cat Country (@BigCatCountry) November 27, 2017
Bortles didn't have any help from his running game (16 running back carries for 29 yards), but a 68-yard kick return by Corey Grant set him up at the Arizona 38. Four plays later, Bortles kept the ball on the zone-read for a 17-yard touchdown run to tie the game with 7:26 left. He may not be an efficient passer, but he's a really solid runner, and led the team with 62 rushing yards and two scores.
The rest of the game was a comedy of errors. The quarterbacks exchanged interceptions, with Bortles throwing an especially brutal pick to Tyrann Mathieu with the Jaguars on the edge of field goal range with 2:42 left. I thought Bruce Arians should have kept his offense on the field on a fourth-and-1 at the 50 with 1:21 left. It would be aggressive, but when your record is 4-6 and you're starting Gabbert at quarterback, what's the problem? Instead Arians punted, and the Jaguars bailed him out with a half-assed strategy. In this situation, you either have to commit to going for the win now or playing for overtime. After a 2-yard run on first down, the Jaguars seemed content to let the clock run for overtime, but Bortles threw an incompletion with 37 seconds left. It was just a short crossing route that wouldn't have done much anyway, but it was dropped. Arizona was able to use its last timeout after a third-down run to get the ball back. That was a big mistake by Doug Marrone and the Jaguars.
After the punt, Gabbert only had 16 seconds left at his own 39, but the sideline is a quarterback's best friend in these situations, as Pittsburgh would go on to remind us on Sunday night. After a 10-yard completion with Kerwynn Williams getting out of bounds, 11 seconds remained. Gabbert again bought time with his legs and found D.J. Foster waiting at the sideline for an impressive 12-yard catch. That left enough time for Phil Dawson to nail a 57-yard game-winning field goal with one second left. There was no River City Relay on the kick return for the Jaguars, dropping them to 7-4 for the season.
Tennessee Titans 20 at Indianapolis Colts 16
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 3 (16-13)
Game Winning Chance Before: 39.5 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 79.5 percent
Win Probability Added: 40.0 percent
Head Coach: Mike Mularkey (9-25 at 4QC and 10-26 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Marcus Mariota (7-11 at 4QC and 8-11 overall 4QC/GWD record)
This game could not have been any more typical of how these teams have played this season. Marcus Mariota shook off a shaky start to lead a fourth game-winning drive in Tennessee's last six games. The Colts played well in the first half, but lost a game after leading at halftime for the sixth time this season. Only seven other teams since 1940 have done that in a season. Indianapolis led 16-6 in the third quarter before things went awry again. This the fourth time this season that the Colts lost after leading by at least 10 points in the second half. The only other teams to do that four times since 2001 were the 2015 Giants and 2009 Patriots.
The turnaround started when Marlon Mack fumbled a toss from Jacoby Brissett deep in Indianapolis territory with 2:15 left. It was an unforced error, and the Titans turned that into a 4-yard touchdown drive. Delanie Walker finally got his first receiving score of 2017 to make it 16-13 going into the fourth quarter.
The Brissett-led offense went into the tank again, while the Titans rediscovered Derrick Henry on their game-winning drive. Henry had six touches for 52 yards on the drive. The only other player Mariota completed a pass to was rookie Corey Davis, who had a leaping 19-yard gain. DeMarco Murray finished off Henry's work with a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:59 left to take a 20-16 lead.
The Indianapolis defense gives up these leads, and without Andrew Luck the offense is never able to take them back this year. While Brissett suffered eight sacks on the day, his protection held up on his final drive. He just delivered too low of a pass to Chester Rogers on third-and-3 that brought out the punting unit with 4:12 left.
Tennessee proceeded to run out the clock behind its ground game, which struggled to the tune of 12 carries for -3 yards through three quarters. But in crunch time, Tennessee's running back duo delivered. Mariota converted a third-and-5 with a little throw to Murray out of the backfield for 8 yards to force the Colts to use their final timeout with 2:39 left. At the two-minute warning, Henry put the final nail in the coffin with a 16-yard run.
Despite being outscored by 17 points this season, the Titans are 7-4. Meanwhile, the Colts (3-8) comfortably lead the league with five blown fourth-quarter leads this season. The Colts only blew six fourth-quarter leads from 2012 to 2016, and you would have to go back to 2001 to find the last regular season where the Colts blew even three fourth-quarter leads.
Carolina Panthers 35 at New York Jets 27
Type: 4QC (non-offensive game-winning score)
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 2 (20-18)
Game Winning Chance Before: 38.1 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 81.3 percent
Win Probability Added: 43.2 percent
Head Coach: Ron Rivera (11-28-1 at 4QC and 13-31-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Cam Newton (11-27-1 at 4QC and 13-29-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
An offensive game broke out between the Panthers and Jets in New York, but there wasn't much fun for either team's tight end. Greg Olsen returned for the first time since Week 2, but had to leave after aggravating his foot injury. Meanwhile, Austin Seferian-Jenkins couldn't buy a touchdown for the Jets. He dropped one earlier in the game, and then was ruled to have lost control of another in the end zone in the fourth quarter. The Jets ended up settling for a 19-yard field goal and a 20-18 lead, but created a SICO (two of these on Sunday) on their next drive.
[ad placeholder 3]
Josh McCown had a nice game, but he tried to do too much to get rid of the ball with Wes Horton hanging onto him. McCown fumbled and Luke Kuechly returned the ball 34 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. Running back Elijah McGuire blew his pass block on the play, and McCown needed to just take the sack and protect the ball in that spot. Cam Newton ran in the two-point conversion to take a 26-20 lead with 12:05 left. This doesn't count as a game-winning drive for Newton since the defense scored the go-ahead points, and the Panthers were already leading when he scored the two-point conversion. It goes down as a "no decision" in his fourth-quarter comeback record too, since the Panthers went three-and-out on the previous drive, but took the lead for good on this fumble.
After Julius Peppers sacked McCown, the Panthers got another return touchdown with Kaelin Clay's 60-yard punt return. Carolina led 32-20 after a second two-point conversion failed. McCown responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive to pull within 32-27 with 5:32 left. Carolina mostly relied on the ground game to put the game away. Newton was not sharp at all as he completed 11-of-28 passes (39.3 percent) on a day with a lot of vertical attempts. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Newton was off target on 37.0 percent of his attempts, the second-highest game by a quarterback this season. Oddly enough, the highest game was also against the Jets (DeShone Kizer at 43.8 percent in Week 5).
On a huge third-and-11 at midfield, Newton threw incomplete, but was bailed out by a foolish roughing the passer penalty on Mike Pennell with 2:12 left. That really helped Carolina run the clock down for Graham Gano to hit a 45-yard field goal with 21 seconds left to increase the lead to 35-27. The Jets couldn't get close enough for a Hail Mary. Jermaine Kearse failed to start the chain of laterals after a meaningless 12-yard gain to the 50 to end the game.
Newton will have to be much sharper next week when Carolina travels to New Orleans in a battle of 8-3 teams for first place in the NFC South.
Clutch Encounters of the Losing Kind
Bills at Chiefs: A Tale of Three Seasons
For the second week in a row, the Sunday shocker was Kansas City losing a low-scoring game (16-10) to a team people had left for dead. Hell, even the Bills left themselves for dead a week ago when they benched Tyrod Taylor for rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman. Taylor returned to the starting lineup this week, but it's not like he had a magical day and led Buffalo to a win. The Bills were 6-of-17 on third down, didn't crack 270 yards of offense, and didn't even average 3.0 yards per carry. The teams combined to go scoreless on the final nine possessions of the game.
This was a case of the old Alex Smith showing up for the Chiefs. His average pass only traveled a season-low 4.4 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Tyreek Hill had seven catches, but for only 41 yards. The Bills also shut down the running game, holding Kareem Hunt to 17 yards on 11 carries. Smith actually led the team in rushing with 35 yards. If the Chiefs tried something cute, the Bills had an answer, like when Travis Kelce handed off on a read-option on third-and-2 in the fourth quarter. Hunt lost 3 yards on that play, which featured Smith lined up in the backfield. There is hiding your quarterback, and then there is literally hiding your quarterback from the action.
With 5:05 left, the Chiefs reached their own 48. Smith proceeded to complete three short passes for a trio of failed completions. Not only was that a poor way of advancing the ball 6 yards, but the Chiefs had to convert a fourth-and-4 with the clock now under three minutes. Ironically, a short slant on fourth down would have likely converted over the middle, but Smith tried to go downfield to Hill, who was shaken up on a diving attempt at a bad throw.
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) November 27, 2017
Smith had one more opportunity to be a hero with 2:28 left at his own 14. The drive was moving alone fine, but there was a 15-yard penalty on Buffalo's E.J. Gaines for unnecessary roughness that has to be seen to believe. This would have been a much bigger deal if the Chiefs ended up scoring on the drive, but this is one of the most absurd calls you'll ever see. Gaines barely grazed the shoulder of Charcandrick West, but the official must have thought he saw contact with the head or neck area. An explanation of the call was not even offered by official Bill Vinovich.
(Click here if you are having trouble loading the image.)
The ball was 38 yards away from the end zone, but three plays later, Smith drilled a pass right to the opportunistic TreDavious White, who jumped Hill's route and tried his hardest to score on a 63-yard return when he really needed to just go down immediately to end the game. White, a first-round rookie, has been involved in a handful of takeaways for the Bills this year and deserves serious consideration for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The game's only takeaway was a costly one.
The Chiefs and Bills now have the same 6-5 record. The Chiefs have lost five of their last six games and have looked like three different teams since Week 1.
If you go back to the beginning of 2017, the Chiefs were 5-0 and No. 1 in DVOA and offensive DVOA, and Smith and Hunt were front-runners for individual awards. This team beat the Patriots and Eagles in impressive fashion, which really looks odd given where those teams are now. Then Weeks 6 to 9 happened, and they were not nice for the Chiefs (1-3 record). Kansas City allowed big plays in close losses to the Steelers and Raiders, and the defense was starting to show some cracks with the absence of All-Pro safety Eric Berry. Surely these were mistakes that Andy Reid could fix over a bye week, but that takes us to the third version of the 2017 Chiefs: the one that can't score more than 10 points against the Giants and Bills. The defense has played well enough to win the last two weeks, but the offense only found the end zone one time.
Now we wait to see if a fourth version of this team emerges, which may be one that features rookie Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. Reid insists that won't happen, but we'll see how many more of these 12-9 and 16-10 losses he can endure without making a change. It's not that unusual to see a team start 5-0 and fall apart. The 2015 Falcons and 2016 Vikings both started 5-0 and finished 8-8 in the last two seasons. Perhaps more infamously, the 2009 Broncos (8-8) and 2003 Vikings (9-7) collapsed after 6-0 starts. Unless the Chiefs are planning on one of those "get hot for the playoff" finishes, they are poised to join that group of disappointments.
Buccaneers at Falcons: The 2016 Falcons (Minus the Blown Lead) Return
If there is a team in the NFL not to be trusted with a 27-6 lead at home in the second half, it is Atlanta. The Falcons have blown five leads of 17-plus points since 2012, two more than any other team. So when the Falcons led 27-6, this one was far from over even if the offense looked to be back to last year's efficiency level with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones having huge games. Jones even caught a touchdown from Mohamed Sanu on his way to 253 receiving yards.
[ad placeholder 4]
Tampa Bay's offense had a turnover-free performance behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, who quickly led back-to-back touchdown drives to pull within 27-20. The triggers of PTSD from Super Bowl LI were there for Atlanta fans. A crucial tripping penalty on the offensive line stalled a drive in between Tampa Bay's scores. Despite a 44-yard catch from Jones, the Falcons failed to add to the lead after another big fourth-quarter fumble when Terron Ward lost the ball at the Tampa Bay 14.
Fortunately, the defense stepped up this time. Keanu Neal broke up a pass on fourth-and-1 intended for Cameron Brate at the Atlanta 18 with 7:05 left. I think given different team dynamics, a field goal may have been the right call there in a 27-20 game since the Buccaneers needed to score twice to win. However, with Atlanta's offense playing so well and the Tampa Bay offense short on time and opportunities, going for it was likely the right move. According to EdjFootball, Tampa Bay's Game Winning Chance with a field goal attempt was 15.4 percent, compared to 17.9 percent with a pass attempt.
Ryan converted a pair of third downs as Atlanta was a stellar 11-of-14 on third downs on the day. After Ward converted on a third-and-1 run, the Buccaneers were out of timeouts. At the two-minute warning, Tevin Coleman got the carry and scored a 14-yard touchdown. He really should have just gone down after picking up enough yards for the first down to end the game right there. Instead, that pushed the lead to 34-20, and Atlanta's defense had to defend nine more plays on a drive that took too long for Tampa Bay to do anything to the final score.
The Falcons move to 7-4, but still have to play the Saints (8-3) twice, and host the Vikings (9-2) and Panthers (8-3). So any playoff berth will be well earned by the defending NFC champions.
Texans at Ravens: The Rare 'Flacco Game' Win
The Monday night slog in Baltimore went about as expected. You know Baltimore did its best to hide Joe Flacco's horizontal passing game when the most vertical completion of the night was a 22-yard gain by punter Sam Koch on a fake punt. The Ravens also surprised Houston with a run by Alex Collins on third-and-8 for 12 yards to start the fourth quarter. That led to a Justin Tucker field goal and a 20-13 lead.
Houston only wishes it could have hid Tom Savage in the fourth quarter, but the running game has been too inconsistent for that, and DeAndre Hopkins (125 yards) was the only receiver who did damage against the Ravens defense. Down 20-16 and in Baltimore territory, Savage lost the ball on a strip-sack by Terrell Suggs, who proceeded to admire himself while a group of players fought over the loose ball (Baltimore ultimately recovered). That led to another Tucker field goal and 23-16 lead with 2:53 left.
Savage had a chance to lead a 75-yard drive to tie the game, but two plays into it, he drilled a terrible pass right to Anthony Levine for the defender's first career interception. Levine really should have returned that into field goal range instead of taking a quick knee, but it was a moot point after Flacco took off on a bootleg for 25 yards to ice the game.
Flacco finished the game with a stat line that should be known as a "Flacco" moving forward. He had 141 passing yards on 32 attempts for 4.41 yards per attempt (YPA). It's pretty hard to not crack 4.5 YPA on that many attempts, but this was the 11th time a quarterback did it in 2017, and Flacco is the only one to do it twice this year.
In fact, including the playoffs, no quarterback in NFL history has more Flaccos than Flacco himself with 11 now. Drew Bledsoe had 10 Flaccos. Like Flacco, Bledsoe was a volume passer known for a big arm, but who still loved to throw short passes. These ineffective passing games don't make it easy for teams to win, as Flacco is now just 2-9 in Flacco performances.
Since 2014, teams are 4-46 when their quarterback has a Flacco game. Ironically, the other three wins were all in games against Flacco's Ravens, including that infamous loss to Blake Bortles and the Jaguars in 2015 (a real fluke finish). When Peyton Manning (2015 Broncos) and Case Keenum (2014 Texans) beat Baltimore, Flacco himself had a Flacco each time, so someone had to win.
Hey, that's a pretty good way to describe last night's game. Someone had to win. Oh my, what has the AFC come to when this was a game between playoff contenders?
Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 32
Game-winning drives: 52 (plus two non-offensive game-winning scores)
Games with 4QC/GWD opportunity: 95/176 (54.0 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 18
Historic data on fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives can be found at Pro Football Reference. Screen caps come from NFL Game Pass. Game Winning Chance (win probability) data is from EdjFootball.