by Scott Kacsmar
On paper, Week 14 looked to be as good as any in the regular season this year. There were six games pitting teams with non-losing records against each other. In reality, it was arguably the most competitive week of the season, with 11 games featuring a comeback opportunity and a season-high nine successful game-winning drives.
The craziness started with Atlanta's comeback over the Saints on Thursday night, and ended with the Patriots falling again in Miami in the upset of the year on Monday night. That game didn't even have a comeback opportunity after a peculiar onside kick ended things for the Patriots, who will play in the game of the year at Pittsburgh in Week 15.
How wild was this week? We saw multiple comebacks from double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter. Joe Webb and Nick Foles led game-winning drives in games with playoff implications. Blake Bortles and Jay Cutler outplayed MVP favorites Russell Wilson and Tom Brady.
But we start things in Pittsburgh where the Steelers and Ravens, famous for final scores such as 13-10 and 13-9, played a 39-38 shootout. This is the third week in a row that the Steelers have played in the Game of the Week. We can only be so fortunate if Patriots-Steelers lives up to that type of greatness next week.
Game of the Week
Baltimore Ravens 38 at Pittsburgh Steelers 39
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 11 (31-20)
Game Winning Chance Before: 36.4 percent
Game Winning Chance After:91.9 percent
Win Probability Added: 55.5 percent
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (26-43 at 4QC and 38-48 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger (32-42 at 4QC and 44-47 overall 4QC/GWD record)
As the NBC graphic showed during the game, the Steelers were 215-0-2 all time when leading by at least 14 points at home. They were able to add a 216th win, but it may have been the toughest of them all.
And to think some people wanted this game to be flexed out of Sunday Night Football. The Steelers and Ravens put on another December show in the national spotlight with the AFC North on the line. Much like in 2008 and 2010, when both teams played incredible defense, and like last Christmas, when Antonio Brown saved the day with his goal-line stretch in a 31-27 final, the Steelers prevailed over their chief rival to improve to 11-2. For the second week in a row, the Steelers had to overcome a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter.
The fact that the Steelers had to make that type of comeback after opening up a 14-0 lead and scoring on all four first-half drives is pretty remarkable itself. Baltimore scored on six of seven drives at one point to take a 31-20 lead. After some halftime adjustments, Pittsburgh punted three times in the third quarter, but scored on every fourth-quarter drive in a memorable finish.
There were a few breaking points where Baltimore could have taken control of things, but didn't. On a third-and-10 with the Steelers down 31-23, Ben Roethlisberger made a great adjustment to find Brown open over the middle for a 57-yard gain. That led to a risky 1-yard touchdown pass to Roosevelt Nix, but the fullback made an impressive catch. Poor blocking doomed a two-point conversion run by Le'Veon Bell, so the Ravens still led 31-29.
Pittsburgh's defense, playing without Ryan Shazier (spine), had problems with penalties, tackling, and blown coverages on the night. But the officials in this game also left a lot to be desired, namely in the random calls on pass interference penalties for both teams. Artie Burns was penalized 20 yards for interference on a pass that was clearly uncatchable. That led to a 9-yard touchdown run by Buck Allen to give Baltimore a 38-29 lead with 6:44 left. But Pittsburgh's no-huddle offense didn't waste much time in driving 68 yards for another touchdown to pull within 38-36 with 3:29 left.
Joe Flacco was having a solid night, but was off the mark at a bad moment in throwing two incompletions to stop the clock twice. Roethlisberger had 2:25 left from his own 17 to drive for the winning field goal, but Terrell Suggs was in his grill for a sack to nearly derail the drive right away. Roethlisberger hurried the offense to run another play before the two-minute warning, but it was a measly gain to bring up third-and-13. He really should have just regrouped the offense at the two-minute warning to run that second-down play, but things all worked out when Roethlisberger drilled a 16-yard gain to Jesse James. The tight ends were open often on the night for Pittsburgh, with James and Vance McDonald (who left with an injury) combining for 14 catches for 149 yards.
On another third down, Roethlisberger went to the deep right for the fourth time on the night to Brown, and he once again beat Brandon Carr for a 34-yard gain on a perfect throw. The Ravens really missed Jimmy Smith (Achilles) on the night as Brown burned the defense on all of those shots. That pass put Roethlisberger over 500 yards for the third time in his career, an NFL record. He also threw a career-high 66 passes, but he shouldn't have thrown any after the Brown play. The Steelers really botched their strategy with Baltimore down to one timeout on second down. Bell should have carried the ball twice to play things safely. Instead Roethlisberger threw up one dangerous pass that could have been intercepted, and then almost took a sack before throwing the ball into play again. Clock management is bound to catch up to this team at some point.
Fortunately, Chris Boswell has been an excellent kicker. He calmly hit the 46-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 39-38 lead. The only problem was that 42 seconds remained thanks to that terribly botched strategy, and the Ravens have a great kicker in Justin Tucker. But Baltimore had some bad luck on its final drive. An injury timeout to Jeremy Maclin left the Ravens with zero timeouts. Maclin later failed to keep his feet in bounds on a sideline catch. Had he been able to make that catch in bounds, Tucker would have had a great shot at winning the game with a 52-yard field goal.
With 16 seconds left, T.J. Watt relentlessly pursued Flacco until he stripped him of the ball, which went out of bounds with eight seconds left. Baltimore huddled up while the clock evaporated, ending the game. There is an obscure rule where on a fumble out of bounds in that situation, the clock runs after the ball is ready for play. Baltimore did not seem to be aware of this, hence the weird ending to a classic game that locked up the AFC North for Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh can enter its Week 15 showdown with New England with all the offensive confidence in the world, but something has to change with this defense. In the last two home games, the Steelers have allowed 66 points and needed last-second field goals to down teams led by Brett Hundley and Flacco. Cue a week of "Angry Tom Brady" proclamations in what should go down as the game of the year in the regular season.
Clutch Encounters of the Winning Kind
Philadelphia Eagles 43 at Los Angeles Rams 35
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 4 (35-31)
Game Winning Chance Before: 66.4 percent
Game Winning Chance After:63.5 percent
Win Probability Added: -2.9 percent
Head Coach: Doug Pederson (3-6 at 4QC and 3-7 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Nick Foles (6-11 at 4QC and 7-11 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Under the definition of Pyrrhic victory, you'll find this game for the Eagles. Philadelphia (11-2) came out on top in this high-scoring battle with the Rams (9-4), but lost MVP candidate Carson Wentz for the season to a torn ACL in the process. Wentz still threw his fourth touchdown pass of the day to give the Eagles a 35-31 lead while he was injured, but he did not return for the fourth quarter.
In the first meeting between the first two quarterbacks selected in the 2016 draft (Wentz and Jared Goff), we ended up with Nick Foles getting credit for a game-winning drive (his first since 2015). When Foles entered the game and dropped the first snap with the Eagles trailing 35-31, an instant sense of doom had to flash before fans' eyes. However, the Eagles were very aggressive in allowing Foles to throw despite coming in cold off the bench. He made enough plays to get a 41-yard field goal from Jake Elliott.
Goff then made a big mistake in holding the ball long enough for Chris Long to strip him at his own 29. The Eagles actually lost 11 yards before Elliott kicked a 54-yard field goal, but Aaron Donald was penalized 15 yards for leverage. Honestly, I am happy to say that the game-winning drive was not minus-11 yards. But it did not gain another first down and the 10-yard drive finally ended with a 33-yard field goal. So the penalty only cost the Rams a little more than two minutes, which is really fine when you just want to go get a field goal down 37-35 late. Believe it or not, that's the first time this season that a team's Game Winning Chance decreased at the end of a game-winning drive from where it had been at the start of the drive, according to EdjFootball.
While only 20 starts into his career, we are still waiting for that first game-winning drive engineered by Goff. This was a great spot for one, but the Rams went three-and-out after an incompletion by Goff on third-and-10 that wasn't even close to his receiver. I have to agree with Sean McVay's decision to punt given the four clock stoppages the Rams had, and the expected conservatism with Foles in the game instead of Wentz. But let's give Foles plenty of credit. On a critical third-and-8, he was able to find Nelson Agholor for a 9-yard gain on a pretty throw and catch. That almost wiped out the rest of the clock. Wade Phillips called a pretty soft four-man rush on that play for the Rams. The Eagles had to punt the ball back, but Goff only had a second left at his own 24. Philadelphia added a cheap touchdown after the lateral was fumbled. The Eagles even kneeled on the two-point conversion instead of kicking an extra point, which was the classy thing to do, but it did rob us of the first 44-35 final in NFL history.
Much like Oakland fans last year with Derek Carr's broken leg in Week 16, Eagles fans have to feel robbed of a dream season with Wentz's injury. These things don't happen often, but as I wrote a few weeks ago, this has been an especially brutal season for quarterback injuries with Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Sam Bradford, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, and Carson Palmer. Now add Wentz (and Josh McCown was lost for New York on Sunday) to a list that we can only hope will stop growing. But Foles does at least have playoff experience and one great season (2013) under his belt, so the Eagles could be worse off.
Green Bay Packers 27 at Cleveland Browns 21
Type: 4QC/GWD (OT)
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 14 (21-7)
Game Winning Chance Before: 79.4 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 100.0 percent
Win Probability Added: 20.6 percent
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy (20-47-1 at 4QC and 29-49-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Brett Hundley (2-2 at 4QC and 2-2 overall 4QC/GWD record)
There was a stretch when the Packers were 0-8-1 in overtime games under Mike McCarthy. This season, the Packers are 3-0 in overtime, including back-to-back wins with touchdown drives led by backup Brett Hundley. Green Bay even needed a 14-point fourth-quarter comeback just to get to overtime, which is something the Packers haven't done in a win since Brett Favre made his first impact in 1992 against the Bengals.
Well, 0-16 just might happen after this blown opportunity by the Browns. This was Cleveland's first fourth-quarter lead of the season, so maybe the team just wasn't used to playing with the lead and burning clock. We are certainly not used to seeing rookie DeShone Kizer play well, but he did in regulation. He even came close to putting the Packers away with a third-down conversion, but David Njoku dropped the pass on his way to the ground. That was huge since the Packers were able to return the ensuing punt 65 yards to the Cleveland 25. From there, Hundley was able to use safe plays (quarterback sneak, bubble screen, and quarterback draw) that burned up clock. After getting stopped short on the draw, Hundley fired a back-shoulder pass to Davante Adams for the game-tying touchdown with 17 seconds left.
In overtime, Kizer had the ball first and delivered another critical turnover late in the game. Instead of just taking a sack or throwing the ball away, he tried to launch a pass and was hit as he threw. The ball floated to Josh Jones for an interception, setting up Hundley at the Cleveland 42. Kizer's another spread-killing mistake or two like this away from being the subject of 30 for 30: The Golden Point Shaver.
Only needing a field goal, the Packers didn't have to get too aggressive on a third-and-6. The Browns needed to be a bit more aggressive on making the tackle, as Adams took another screen for a 25-yard touchdown to win the game.
McCarthy's Packers are now 2-44-1 when trailing by double digits in the fourth quarter. That includes a record of 0-28 when Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback of record, and 0-9 with Brett Favre. The first win was engineered by Matt Flynn in Dallas in 2013, as was the important tie that year against Minnesota. With Rodgers expected back this week, the team has stayed afloat with crazy comebacks again to give this team a shot at making the playoffs for the ninth year in a row.
Minnesota Vikings 24 at Carolina Panthers 31
Game Winning Chance Before: 51.5 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 93.2 percent
Win Probability Added: 41.7 percent
Head Coach: Ron Rivera (11-28-1 at 4QC and 14-31-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Cam Newton (11-27-1 at 4QC and 14-29-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterbacks are entitled to a down game here and there, especially on the road against a playoff contender. When Case Keenum turns the ball over three times and takes six sacks in a loss, he might not get the same leeway a star would get since people have been waiting for the other shoe to drop on his season. Keenum was still leading the league in passing DVOA coming into Week 14, but a steady amount of pressure saw him under siege against the Panthers.
Still, no one was expecting much from Minnesota after the clock dipped under six minutes and the Vikings still trailed 24-13. However, before the clock hit three minutes, the game was deadlocked at 24. Keenum got help from Adam Thielen after another impressive play, this time for a 52-yard touchdown. Then a pass that was slightly off from Cam Newton to the short Christian McCaffrey was deflected to Andrew Sendejo for an interception, which was returned to the Carolina 6. Keenum took a third-down sack and the Vikings had to settle for a game-tying field goal.
Two plays into the next drive, Newton got his revenge on Sendejo. On a zone-read keeper, Newton juked Sendejo out of his equipment on his way to a 62-yard scamper down to the Minnesota 8. From there, Jonathan Stewart finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run on third down, a big conversion since the Vikings could have called timeout, likely forcing the Panthers to kick a field goal and leaving themselves plenty of time to tie the game with a kick of their own. Instead, Keenum was going to have to drive 78 yards for a game-tying touchdown with 1:41 left. Carolina blitzed on every play and got the desired result of a sack on first down, which only led to more poor plays from the Vikings. On fourth-and-15, Keenum went deep like he knew he had to, but Thielen wasn't able to locate the ball, ending the game.
Keenum had only been sacked five times since Week 5 when he replaced Sam Bradford for good. Keenum even avoided several sacks in this game, as he has done all season, but the six times the Panthers got him down were crucial in winning this contest.
Indianapolis Colts 7 at Buffalo Bills 13
Type: GWD (OT)
Game Winning Chance Before: 62.6 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 100.0 percent
Win Probability Added: 37.4 percent
Head Coach: Sean McDermott (1-2 at 4QC and 3-2 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Joe Webb (0-3 at 4QC and 1-3 overall 4QC/GWD record)
There are snow games, and then there is the incredibly thick powder that fell in Buffalo on Sunday afternoon. When Adam Vinatieri shanked a 33-yard field goal in the first quarter, fans started to wonder if this game would have any points. Maybe Nathan Peterman, subbing again for Tyrod Taylor, would turn the ball over, but he barely had a chance after suffering a third-quarter injury. Before he left, Peterman threw a touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin that was looking like it would be the game's only score.
However, the Colts engineered an epic touchdown drive of nearly 10 minutes and 77 yards with 1:16 left to play. The Colts had to overcome multiple third-and-longs and fourth-down situations. Some run-pass option trickery led to a nifty 3-yard touchdown pass from Jacoby Brissett to Jack Doyle. Even though the Game Winning Chance would have been roughly 6.0 percentage points higher on an extra-point attempt (according to EdjFootball), I think the Colts were absolutely right to go for a two-point conversion to win this game in regulation given the conditions. Vinatieri is great, but even he could shank a 33-yard kick in this weather. The Colts again used the run-pass option with a pass to Doyle for the conversion, but Kamar Aiken was penalized for offensive pass interference. While Aiken was blocking with the ball in the air, his block started at the 1-yard line rather than in the end zone, so that should have been legal since he is allowed to block within a yard of the line of scrimmage.
The really late call for this being OPI is a shame. pic.twitter.com/NHo1bY1LXQ
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) December 12, 2017
To make matters worse, the flag was super late, and it was just one of four penalties called in the entire game. That felt a little shady. With the extra point coming from 43 yards away, Vinatieri had his work cut out for him, but he has been here before. After already having a strong claim to the greatest field goal in NFL history, we can now argue that Vinatieri made the greatest extra point in NFL history after curving this one in to tie the game.
lol this is crazy pic.twitter.com/5x6ernRBcZ
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) December 10, 2017
The game almost ended in regulation after Joe Webb, converted back to quarterback, threw an interception that was returned to the Buffalo 28. The Colts could have tried to get a little closer, but stayed conservative to give Vinatieri a shot at another 43-yard kick. The first one was barely good, but the second wasn't even close.
The game went to overtime, and the teams exchanged punts. This might have been heading for a tie if Deonte Thompson had not made a great 34-yard grab to convert a third-and-6. Three plays later, LeSean McCoy saved the day with a 21-yard touchdown run to win the game 13-7.
If the Bills (7-6) finally end their playoff drought this season, then remember this wild outcome in the snow, late penalty and all.
Dallas Cowboys 30 at New York Giants 10
Game Winning Chance Before: 51.5 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 83.9 percent
Win Probability Added: 32.4 percent
Head Coach: Jason Garrett (24-35 at 4QC and 31-37 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Dak Prescott (5-5 at 4QC and 7-5 overall 4QC/GWD record)
The firing of Giants head coach Ben McAdoo and return of Eli Manning as the starting quarterback may have provided an early spark for New York at home. But after scoring 10 points on their first three drives, the Giants punted seven times in a row before Manning threw two late interceptions.
Despite the 30-10 final, this was a 10-10 game halfway through the fourth quarter. That's when Cole Beasley caught a short pass on third-and-2 before turning up field for a 54-yard gain. Beasley's production has been sorely lacking all season. He had 14 games (including the playoffs) with at least 40 yards in 2016, but he never had more than 33 receiving yards in the first 12 games this season. On the next play, Dak Prescott drilled a pass to Jason Witten in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown, and the Cowboys never looked back. Rod Smith took a short pass 81 yards down the middle of the field for another touchdown with 4:08 left. Remember, this was the vaunted New York defense that allowed a 52-yard touchdown on a third-and-33 to the Rams. Sean Lee's interception of Manning led to another Smith touchdown for insurance, and the Cowboys had the offense humming along again just fine without Ezekiel Elliott.
But this really showed more of the problems in New York that go beyond the coach and aging quarterback. Big changes are coming for the Giants.
Detroit Lions 24 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21
Game Winning Chance Before: 55.9 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 98.7 percent
Win Probability Added: 42.8 percent
Head Coach: Jim Caldwell (24-31 at 4QC and 30-31 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford (26-39 at 4QC and 32-39 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Road teams who turn the ball over three times are just 2-33 this season. The first win was when Atlanta escaped Detroit in Week 3, and now the Lions returned the favor in Tampa Bay, which turned the ball over five times at home on Sunday. Despite all of that sloppiness, the Lions limited Mike Evans and Cameron Brate to a combined 36 receiving yards, and led 21-7 deficit to start the fourth quarter. So how exactly did they end up needing another late game-winning drive from Matthew Stafford?
Jameis Winston got into a rhythm, but still needed to be bailed out by a 40-yard pass interference penalty to convert a third-and-10 on an underthrown pass to Evans. That set up a game-tying touchdown pass with 8:05 to play. The teams exchanged punts before Stafford went to work from his own 23 with 2:54 left. The drive was nothing spectacular, but a few easy completions over the middle to Theo Riddick (18 yards) and Golden Tate (14 yards) did enough damage. Matt Prater delivered on a 46-yard field goal with 20 seconds left. Ezekiel Ansah then sacked Winston to end the game, a routine finish for these Lions.
Tennessee Titans 7 at Arizona Cardinals 12
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 1 (7-6)
Game Winning Chance Before: 37.8 percent
Game Winning Chance After:59.0 percent
Win Probability Added: 21.2 percent
Head Coach: Bruce Arians (18-16 at 4QC and 26-16-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Blaine Gabbert (5-11 at 4QC and 5-11 overall 4QC/GWD record)
We just detailed Tennessee's sketchy play despite a record of 8-4 last week, and sure enough the Titans faltered on the road against a competitive Arizona team. Even though Blaine Gabbert suffered eight sacks and the Cardinals were 3-of-14 on third down, this was a deserved win for Arizona. Phil Dawson even missed a 40-yard field goal that would have given the Cardinals a 9-7 lead in the fourth quarter, but he came back on the next drive to hit a 32-yard kick that proved to be the game winner with 5:59 left.
Marcus Mariota's third-year struggles continued with two more ugly interceptions, including one from a clean pocket in the fourth quarter with 5:48 left. That led to another Dawson field goal and a 12-7 deficit. Mariota had 3:45 to drive for the win, but Arizona was aggressive in attacking him. However, just a four-man rush got to Mariota for a big sack by first-round rookie Haason Reddick that set up a third-and-18. Pressure again forced Mariota to get rid of the ball on a play that never had a shot. Punting was the right call with 2:11 left, though there may have been some clock operator shenanigans to bring up the two-minute warning instead of leaving 2:01 remaining.
The Titans picked up another third-down sack of Gabbert and used all three of their timeouts to get the ball back with 1:27 left at their own 22. Delanie Walker couldn't come down with a diving effort and dropped another pass after some contact to bring up fourth-and-10. Mariota threw a slant akin to Steve McNair in Super Bowl XXXIV where the receiver likely would have been tackled short of the first down even if he had caught the ball. Oh, the play was also flagged for offensive pass interference, so the conversion wouldn't have counted. Finally, did I mention the target was cornerback Adoree' Jackson, and this was his first career target?
Titans last play of the game was a throw to CB Adoree' Jackson. He said they hadn't practiced the play before. They just told him his route. Pass went his way. Interesting and sort of a statement toward trust level of WR core overall.
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) December 11, 2017
Tennessee's offense is so broken that a trip to the playoffs would be a shock at this point.
Clutch Encounters of the Losing Kind
Seahawks at Jaguars: The Truth Is Jade Plants Die
Seattle losing in Jacksonville would have been Any Given Sunday material any time in the last six years, but not in 2017. Jacksonville's defense is a greater unit than the famed Seattle defense that has been ravaged by injuries. Jacksonville only led 3-0 at halftime, which included a missed 38-yard field goal by Blair Walsh, but the game exploded in the second half with the teams each having a pair of plays that gained at least 60 yards.
Oddly enough, Blake Bortles has arguably played his two best games this season against the two best defenses he faced in Baltimore and Seattle. The Seahawks didn't have Bobby Wagner on the field for two of the touchdowns surrendered, but a 72-yard punt return also hurt late in the third quarter. Jacksonville opened up to a 27-10 lead in the fourth quarter, but Russell Wilson always makes things interesting. Wilson was picked off three times earlier in the game, but on two drives that lasted just 39 seconds combined, he threw touchdowns of 61 yards to Paul Richardson and 74 yards to Tyler Lockett to pull within 30-24. Prior to Sunday, Jacksonville had not allowed a touchdown pass longer than 52 yards this season.
Wilson got the ball back with 2:39 left at his own 42 in a great position to bolster his MVP case with a monster fourth-quarter comeback on the road against the league's top pass defense. A wide-open Jimmy Graham dropped a pass on first down and finished the game without a catch. Doug Baldwin ducked out of bounds on a 9-yard gain that should have been easy first down if he, you know, tried to move forward. That was big, because on the next playMalik Jackson broke through to sack Wilson to bring up a fourth-and-9. Jacksonville then blitzed and Wilson had to quickly unload a deep ball that was overthrown with 2:17 left.
Leonard Fournette's 13-yard run on third-and-11 iced the game and pushed him over the 100-yard milestone. Safety Earl Thomas really should have been playing that one a bit closer to the line given the way the Jaguars have stayed away from putting the ball in Bortles' hands in those moments. That would have been a big stop to get Wilson the ball back with nearly two minutes left, but it essentially ended the game. Some nastiness went down when Seattle tried to get rough on the kneeldowns, prompting another Bottlegate moment, but like the first one in 2001, Jacksonville walked away with the win.
49ers at Texans: The Cemetery Yates
With respect to Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard, it's as if Kyle Shanahan's offense just got a lot more handsome to watch. Rarely do teams make a big quarterback upgrade this late in the season, so the projection models are hard to trust on the 49ers after one start by Jimmy Garoppolo. There were many positive signs in Chicago last week, but the 49ers were still a slight underdog in this matchup. However, what if Garoppolo really is on his way to being a very good quarterback? The Patriots saw enough in him to make him a second-round pick in 2014, and the 49ers saw enough to make the recent trade. Garoppolo's fourth start was a win, like his previous three, and his first 300-yard passing game as the 49ers hit multiple big plays to take a 23-16 lead into the fourth quarter.
T.J. Yates did some good work off the bench after a nasty concussion for starter Tom Savage. DeAndre Hopkins had yet another huge day (149 yards and two touchdowns), but his fumble on a bubble screen with 5:40 left was a death knell to Houston. The 49ers didn't pick up a first down, but the great field position allowed them to extend to a 26-16 lead with 3:50 left after a 41-yard field goal by Robbie Gould. Yates managed to keep the game alive with a fourth-and-22 conversion, but Houston's last gasp came when Ka'imi Fairbairn's 52-yard field goal hit the left upright with 1:29 left.
For only the fourth time since 2004, the 49ers passed for at least 300 yards and rushed for at least 100 yards in the same game.
Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 42
Game-winning drives: 66 (plus two non-offensive game-winning scores)
Games with 4QC/GWD opportunity: 112/208 (53.8 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 23
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.