Clutch Encounters

A look at Sunday's fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drive opportunities

Clutch Encounters: Week 16

by Scott Kacsmar

Week 16 left us some early gifts with a few great games that really cleared up the playoff picture heading into the final week. There were nine games total with a comeback opportunity, and a few more where a team won by a touchdown after closing things out on offense in the final minutes.

Due to the holiday schedule, we are looking at Clutch Encounters on Monday instead of Tuesday for the remainder of the season. This means we won't be covering Broncos-Raiders on Monday night, but we'll consider that a gift as well.

Game of the Week

Pittsburgh Steelers 28 at New Orleans Saints 31

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 4 (28-24)
Game-Winning Chance Before: 46.0 percent
Game-Winning Chance After: 96.1 percent
Win Probability Added: 50.1 percent
Head Coach: Sean Payton (30-46 at 4QC and 41-49 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Drew Brees (36-60 at 4QC and 52-67 overall 4QC/GWD record)

With a playoff atmosphere in New Orleans, the Saints (13-2) clinched the NFC's No. 1 seed with another fourth-quarter comeback, leaving the Steelers (8-6-1) on the outside looking in for now. After Baltimore shocked the Chargers on Saturday night, the Steelers knew this was a must-win game to keep control of their playoff destiny. In true Mike Tomlin fashion, the Steelers played better in the Superdome against the NFC's best team than they did in games at Denver and Oakland. Couple that with last week's win against the Patriots, and the 2018 Steelers could go down as one of the ultimate "What Could Have Been?" teams.

While the Steelers did so much right on Sunday, it was another poorly managed fourth quarter that led to their downfall. After scoring three straight touchdowns, the Steelers took a 28-24 lead into the fourth quarter and were marching again with a strong drive. Then everything changed on a third-and-2 at the New Orleans 34. The Steelers brought in backup running back Stevan Ridley, who has a history of fumbling. Worse, they used a tight formation and ran right into the guts of a nine-man box. The Steelers have been running into loaded boxes often this season, but James Conner (out again) was much more successful at that. It did not make sense to use Ridley, who never had a chance on the play, but he really exacerbated things by fumbling.

At least the Steelers held up on defense, and they even blocked a 50-yard field goal without jumping offsides this time. That only set up the quarter's second major coaching blunder. Tomlin is no stranger to ludicrous fakes on special teams when it would have made more sense to put the ball in Ben Roethlisberger's hands. Facing a fourth-and-5 at his own 42 with 4:11 left, Tomlin had the Steelers execute a fake punt with a run by fullback Roosevelt Nix. He came up a full yard short, but that didn't stop Nix and his teammate from celebrating the play as if he had made it.

A premature celebration is the fitting image for the 2018 Steelers. If Tomlin did not trust his defense to defend a long field, then he should have trusted his offense to convert there instead of trying to surprise the Saints with a fullback. Successful fake punts usually involve a faster player, and they usually don't need to go 5 yards. The only silver lining here was that if Drew Brees scored a go-ahead touchdown, there was probably enough time for Roethlisberger to answer.

The Steelers had a fourth-and-2 to make a stop, but Joe Haden was penalized for pass interference. Haden was already hit with a highly questionable 33-yard pass interference penalty in the first quarter on a fourth down that set up New Orleans' first score. This one was more obvious, but still somewhat questionable. It looked as though the pass may have been slightly tipped at the line, which would negate any interference. This play happened after the two-minute warning so it would have needed a booth review, but that never came.

Finally, the defensive coaching failed the Steelers again. A holding penalty made the Saints need 20 yards for a first down. Keith Kirkwood was wide open on second-and-20, but dropped the ball. On third-and-20, Ted Ginn, in his return game from injury, got even more wide open and caught a pass for 25 yards. To not get any pressure or cover the receivers there is inexcusable. Two plays later, Michael Thomas beat Haden for a touchdown that was initially ruled short before correctly getting overturned as the ball broke the plane.

The Steelers were out of timeouts, but at least they had 1:25 to work with from their own 25, down 31-28. It almost ended with a four-and-out after some bad throws by Roethlisberger, but he delivered on fourth-and-15 to Antonio Brown for 19 yards. Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster accounted for 300 receiving yards and really carried the offense along with Roethlisberger on the day. Ill-advised spike on first down aside, it looked like the trio would pull this one out for the Steelers, or at least put the game's fate on the unsteady leg of Chris Boswell. However, Smith-Schuster tried to do too much on a short throw at the New Orleans 34 and he fumbled the ball before he was down. The Steelers could have kicked a field goal from there even if they didn't gain another yard. The game was over and now we'll just have to see if the season is over too after the Steelers lost for the fourth time in five games.

Pittsburgh had the highest odds (13.8 percent) to win the Super Bowl in Football Outsiders Almanac 2018. Consider this the team's eulogy since we may not have to cover what the Jeff Driskel-led Bengals do in Pittsburgh in Week 17. To make the playoffs, Pittsburgh needs to win at home against Cincinnati and have the Browns win in Baltimore, or a tie in the Indianapolis-Tennessee game. Crazier things have happened, but this does not look good for a team that was once 7-2-1. Imagine getting a win over the Patriots, pushing the Saints in New Orleans, and not even making the playoffs. That's the reality the Steelers face at 8-6-1. With the effort the last two weeks, Tomlin's job is likely secure in a city that prides itself on stability at head coach. While problems persist with Tomlin's game management, this is one season where he has a strong argument that the team could be as high as the No. 1 seed if a few plays or calls by officials just went his team's way.

It's one thing to lose 42-37 to a Patrick Mahomes masterpiece, or get stifled in a half by Baltimore's defense. The Steelers can accept those two September losses. But the season-opening tie in Cleveland and the four losses since Week 12 have to really burn Tomlin and this team. Any coach can preach ball security, but the fact is fumbles will happen from time to time. As I wrote about nearly three years ago, running back fumbles have been a huge part of Pittsburgh's playoff fortune in the Roethlisberger era. While this wasn't a playoff game on Sunday, the fumble by Ridley falls in line with past huge fumbles by Jerome Bettis (2005 divisional in Indianapolis), Rashard Mendenhall (Super Bowl XLV), and Fitzgerald Toussaint (2015 divisional in Denver). JuJu's late fumble is the 11th time that Roethlisberger's teammate fumbled during a game-winning drive opportunity, which is more than Aaron Rodgers (four) and Tom Brady (four) combined. Conner also lost big fumbles in Denver and in Cleveland in Week 1, which sparked the Browns to a 14-point comeback to force overtime.

The Steelers have blown four leads in the fourth quarter this year, leading to three losses and that tie. It wouldn't have been a tie if Boswell didn't miss a 42-yard field goal in overtime, but he hasn't been right ever since. He also had the two costly misses in the Oakland loss. The defense still had a fourth-down opportunity to stop Derek Carr in that one, as it did on Sunday against Brees. Both times they allowed a game-winning touchdown pass. The loss in Denver was a comedy of errors, while the blown 16-point lead against the Chargers saw everything from massive officiating blunders to Sean Davis turning a sure interception into a deflected touchdown pass for Los Angeles. That's not about the coach when a false start is missed on a long touchdown, or when a safety blows up his own teammate in the end zone.

If Boswell is competent on high-percentage kicks, the skill guys don't fumble as much, and the defense makes a couple of fourth-down stops, the Steelers would be the 13-2 team to come out of this matchup. While the fact is that mistakes are inevitable and teams are likely to give up leads, the counter is the 2018 Saints. This team has not blown a fourth-quarter lead this season, and they now have six comebacks and seven game-winning drives. The all-time record for game-winning drives in a season is eight. Matthew Stafford did it for the 2016 Lions, while Super Bowl teams such as the 2003 Panthers (Jake Delhomme) and 2011 Giants (Eli Manning) needed the postseason to get to that total. Maybe Brees and the Saints are due for (another) disappointment next month when things don't go their way at the end of a playoff game. That wouldn't be new.

But so far, things have gone great for Sean Payton's Saints in crunch time, and that's why they have the best record in the NFL. The mistakes in crunch time are why the Steelers only look like a team that could have been the best in the NFL this year. Given how well the Steelers could have stacked up in this AFC playoff field, this has to go down as the most disappointing season of Tomlin's tenure. Still, it's a tenure that is likely to continue into 2019, but at some point the Steelers will have to address if this standard is good enough as the AFC starts to develop new contenders.

Clutch Encounters of the Winning Kind

Houston Texans 30 at Philadelphia Eagles 32

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 1 (30-29)
Game-Winning Chance Before: 18.6 percent
Game-Winning Chance After: 100.0 percent
Win Probability Added: 81.4 percent
Head Coach: Doug Pederson (8-13 at 4QC and 9-14 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Nick Foles (9-12 at 4QC and 11-12 overall 4QC/GWD record)

The Eagles kept their title defense hopes alive with a dramatic win over Houston in another one of the best games this season. This was an excellent quarterback duel led by Nick Foles passing for a career-high 471 yards. It was his second game with four touchdown passes in Doug Pederson's offense. The Texans were playing to hold on to the No.2 seed and could really use the bye week to rest some key players. Despite only handing the ball off 11 times for 13 yards, Deshaun Watson led the team in rushing with 49 yards and two scores while passing for 339 yards and two more scores. He led an impressive 13-point comeback in the final 5:21 that the defense was unable to uphold. At one point Watson even avoided multiple sacks to convert a third-and-11 in spectacular fashion.

That play alone would have been a great highlight, but Watson finished the drive with a 35-yard dime to Vyncint Smith in the end zone for a touchdown to take a 30-29 lead with 2:04 left. He never saw the ball again. For Watson, this is already the fourth lost comeback (trailed, took lead, but lost) of his 22-game career. It took much longer for the other prominent quarterbacks of this era to have a fourth lost comeback: Aaron Rodgers (43 games), Drew Brees (49), Peyton Manning (108), Ben Roethlisberger (129), and Tom Brady (215).

The Eagles missed an extra point earlier in the quarter that loomed large. Foles was able to answer with a third-and-10 conversion to Alshon Jeffery for 19 yards after getting drilled in the chest by Jadeveon Clowney. Foles left the game for a play in which backup Nate Sudfeld threw an incompletion. Facing another third-and-10, Foles found tight end Zach Ertz all alone for 20 yards after Houston defenders collided into each other. After a wise 16-yard run by Darren Sproles to catch the defense off guard, the Eagles were in comfortable range for a game-winning field goal. Of course, nothing is truly comfortable anymore with kickers missing extra points these days, but this time Jake Elliott delivered from 35 yards away as time expired to give the Eagles a 32-30 win.

Philadelphia (8-7) needs a win and a Minnesota loss next week to get the No. 6 seed. Chicago may want to stick with the No. 3 seed and let the Vikings get in next week to avoid any Foles magic from happening again in the playoffs. The Eagles simply look like a better team with Foles as opposed to Carson Wentz. Foles is now 5-1 at game-winning drive opportunities under Pederson, who is 4-12 in such games with Wentz at quarterback. The only loss with Foles was in Tampa Bay in Week 2 when the Eagles needed to go 90 yards in 19 seconds.

New York Giants 27 at Indianapolis Colts 28

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 6 (27-21)
Game-Winning Chance Before: 36.7 percent
Game-Winning Chance After: 88.2 percent
Win Probability Added: 51.5 percent
Head Coach: Frank Reich (3-4 at 4QC and 3-4 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Andrew Luck (17-17 at 4QC and 21-19 overall 4QC/GWD record)

The Giants struggled to run the ball and were without Odell Beckham, but Eli Manning came to life in one of his best games of the season. Not many would have expected that with the Colts still having the postseason to play for, but the Giants had leads of 14-0, 24-14, and 27-21 on the day. There was a chance to put together a great drive to run out the clock, but backed up in their own end, the Giants stuck with Saquon Barkley on the ground and were fortunate to get a forward progress call to negate a potential fumble.

That three-and-out led to Andrew Luck only needing 53 yards to drive for the go-ahead touchdown in the final 3:43. Things never got too difficult for the Colts on the drive, but the Giants hurt themselves with two penalties on plays where they didn't even need to make contact with the receivers. After getting a first-and-goal at the 1, Luck threw a touchdown pass to Chester Rogers on a natural pick play with 55 seconds left. Adam Vinatieri hit the go-ahead extra point for the Colts' first and only lead of the day.

Manning still had 55 seconds and a timeout. He also has plenty of experience in this situation, though the CBS graphic was way off about his place in history. Manning's 37 regular-season game-winning drives rank ninth in NFL history. Number 38 will have to wait, because once Manning finally attempted a deep throw, he overshot it and Malik Hooker made the game-clinching interception.

The Colts (9-6) can make the playoffs with a win in Tennessee to close out the regular season on Sunday night. While Luck is 10-0 against the Titans in his career, the Colts cannot afford another slow start on the road. The Colts got by at home doing that against Miami and the Giants, but Tennessee (and the road) presents a different challenge.

Green Bay Packers 44 at New York Jets 38

Type: 4QC/GWD (OT)
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 15 (35-20)
Game-Winning Chance Before: 60.6 percent
Game-Winning Chance After: 100.0 percent
Win Probability Added: 39.4 percent
Head Coach: Joe Philbin (9-19 at 4QC and 9-19 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers (15-40 at 4QC and 22-42-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)

What a strange, strange season for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who narrowly avoided going 0-8 on the road this year. Rodgers has shown us that a quarterback can throw 25 touchdowns to two interceptions and still lead a middling scoring offense. He's going to make us look through old charting files for the most intentional throwaways in a season. He also just led Green Bay's second 15-point fourth-quarter comeback of this season after he was 0-31 when trailing by double-digits in the fourth quarter coming into 2018.

This was an entertaining game against Sam Darnold and the Jets, who led 35-20 early in the fourth quarter. Rodgers used big plays to lead three scoring drives in a row, including two touchdown runs and a two-point conversion run to take a 38-35 lead with 1:12 left. The special teams almost gave that away with a 51-yard kick return, but Darnold was unable to finish in the red zone. The Jets settled for a 33-yard field goal and overtime.

Rodgers got the ball right away in overtime for a change, but it quickly became a penalty fest that was hard to watch. Rodgers thought he had a third rushing touchdown of the day for the win, but Bryan Bulaga was flagged for holding. From the 16, Rodgers found Davante Adams against hopeless coverage from Morris Claiborne for the game-winning touchdown. It's the 15th fourth-quarter comeback of Rodgers' career, and for the first time he has had three comebacks in the same season. No one would have expected that would come with a 6-8-1 record after he started every game.

Jacksonville Jaguars 17 at Miami Dolphins 7

Type: GWD
Game-Winning Chance Before: 54.7 percent
Game-Winning Chance After: 62.3 percent
Win Probability Added: 7.6 percent
Head Coach: Doug Marrone (5-21 at 4QC and 8-22 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Blake Bortles (6-28 at 4QC and 8-29 overall 4QC/GWD record)

A Florida matchup between teams with struggling quarterbacks, skill positions limited by talent and injury, and some talented defensive backs did not surprise in producing a 7-7 tie to start the fourth quarter. It was a surprise to see Blake Bortles get credit for a game-winning drive, but Cody Kessler was benched after taking five sacks. Bortles didn't have to do much, but his legs on designed runs helped set up Kai Forbath for a 26-yard field goal with 10:56 left.

The Dolphins had another one of their offensive clunkers where they only had chunk plays on the opening drive. Jacksonville didn't surrender a 15-yard play in the game's final 55 minutes. Ryan Tannehill tried to throw a ball away with Calais Campbell grasping at his feet, and the predictable result was a pick-six returned 33 yards by Telvin Smith. The Dolphins only had one more offensive possession, down 17-7, and Tannehill took a third-down sack by Malik Jackson. The Jaguars were able to run out the final 5:14 on the clock with mostly Carlos Hyde runs.

With the Dolphins (7-8) eliminated from the playoffs again, there's still great hope that 2019 will be the breakout year for Tannehill.

Washington Redskins 16 at Tennessee Titans 25

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 4 (16-12)
Game-Winning Chance Before: 34.3 percent
Game-Winning Chance After: 81.1 percent
Win Probability Added: 46.8 percent
Head Coach: Mike Vrabel (4-3 at 4QC and 5-3 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Blaine Gabbert (7-13 at 4QC and 7-13 overall 4QC/GWD record)

For the first time in his career, Blaine Gabbert is playing for a team that will finish with a winning record. In helping Tennessee to a ninth win on the season, this was arguably the most significant moment in Gabbert's dreadful eight-year career. After yet another Marcus Mariota injury, Gabbert had to enter the game just before halftime. He really just made two big plays, but they were Tennessee's two longest gains of the day, and both led to points in the fourth quarter against a competitive Washington team.

Down 16-12 with 8:09 left, Gabbert started the game-winning drive with a 35-yard completion to Taywan Taylor. Running back Derrick Henry was much quieter than his recent outputs with 84 yards rushing, but he saved 33 yards for this drive. With everyone expecting Henry to finish the drive with a touchdown after an 18-yard run to the 2, the Titans trusted Gabbert to use play-action for an easy touchdown toss to MyCole Pruitt with 4:30 left. It was the first touchdown of Pruitt's career.

Down 19-16, Josh Johnson had to drive Washington into at least field goal range, but at the Tennessee 44 he was not on the same page with Josh Doctson. Kevin Byard made a huge interception with 1:17 left. Washington used its timeouts to get the ball back, but only 14 seconds remained with the ball 85 yards away from the end zone. On the final play, Malcolm Butler intercepted Johnson's desperation heave, but instead of going down to end the game, he aggressively returned the ball 56 yards for a touchdown to produce a 25-16 finish. Maybe he thinks the AFC will actually come down to a points scored tie-breaker, or maybe he told his friends to bet the over. Either way, count me in on hoping to see a game where a player does this, fumbles, and the other team returns it for one of the most stunning game-winning touchdowns ever.

Clutch Encounters of the Losing Kind

Chiefs at Seahawks: Rematch Before 2022, Please

Unless these teams meet in a Super Bowl, we won't see this matchup again until the 2022 season. It's an exciting brand of football to watch Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson improvise plays for their offenses. Wilson usually gets the best of these matchups at home, but not so much when the game is a shootout. Wilson was just 3-25 in his career when the Seahawks allowed at least 26 points. Mahomes has always led the Chiefs to at least that many points in his career (16 starts), though this was the first time he did not put Kansas City ahead in the fourth quarter or overtime.

In fact, the closest the Chiefs got was cutting a deficit to 24-20 with 10:28 after Kelvin Benjamin dropped a touchdown in the end zone. The Chiefs settled for a field goal, and it was just that kind of night on the road. Kansas City still scored an impressive 31 points on 11 drives, but settled for three field goals, the skill players lost two fumbles, and there was also a drive where Mahomes never touched the ball (Damien Williams was stuffed on a third-and-1 run). So it wasn't a game where Mahomes did anything to weaken his case as 2018's MVP and All-Pro quarterback, but it also wasn't spectacular enough on a night where Wilson finished strong in exposing Kansas City's porous defense.

NBC's Cris Collinsworth claimed that this was a good loss for Kansas City, but it's really not when the Chiefs continue to lose games just like this with the playoffs coming. At some point the defense needs to step up against a good quarterback, but that did not happen again on Sunday night. After making it 24-20, the Chiefs gave up two chunk plays to put Seattle in the red zone. Just when it looked like the Chiefs made a third-down stop, there was a weak holding penalty called after Doug Baldwin spun around and fell down. One play later, Ed Dickson caught a 2-yard touchdown and the Seahawks were up 31-20. Mahomes led a 72-yard touchdown drive and ran in the two-point conversion himself to make it 31-28 with 4:36 left.

That should have been plenty of time to get the ball back, but again the defense couldn't stop the receivers down the field. The Chiefs had five plays that gained at least 25 yards and all of them happened in the game's final 16 minutes. Tyler Lockett made a 45-yard catch and Baldwin may have outdone that with a 29-yard grab to the Kansas City 1. At that point, letting the Seahawks score was the best move, and Seattle did score to make it 38-28 with 2:29 left. A 61-yard kick return helped Mahomes get into great field position, but the drive stalled quickly. The Chiefs settled for a field goal to make it 38-31, which made recovering an onside kick essential. Good luck with that this season, and sure enough the Chiefs' attempt bounced out of bounds to end the game.

After some preseason prognostications of doom from other outlets, Seattle (9-6) is back in the playoffs with a winning record. The Chiefs (11-4) can still clinch the No. 1 seed with a home win over the Raiders, but even a potential matchup with a No. 6 seed like Indianapolis (Andrew Luck) could be a scary thought for this defense.

Ravens at Chargers: Saturday Night's Alright for Rushing

The tried-and-true formula of running the ball and playing defense is still alive and well in 2018, thanks in large part to the Ravens since Lamar Jackson has taken over at quarterback. The only Baltimore loss since the bye has been that overtime defeat in Kansas City, and here the Ravens crafted another impressive road win after some thought the Chargers were peaking at the right time. While the defense and running game showed up, the game actually wasn't low on possessions, and the Ravens should have been further ahead on the scoreboard based on what they did on the stat sheet. Baltimore's offense was nothing special, but the defense held what was the league's No. 4 scoring offense to 10 points on 12 drives, and the only Los Angeles touchdown came on a 17-yard field after a fumble.

This was shutdown defense as the Chargers never had a play longer than 17 yards. They failed to crack 200 yards of offense for only the fourth time in the Philip Rivers era. Baltimore's front seven ripped through the offensive line to hold the Chargers scoreless on their six final drives. Still, the Chargers only trailed 16-10 in the fourth quarter and Rivers finally was heating up with three third-down conversions in a row. The defense stood tall on a third-and-5 and sacked Rivers to knock the Chargers out of field goal range, forcing a punt. It was a great punt downed at the 2, and the Los Angeles defense promptly forced a three-and-out followed by a 24-yard punt return by Desmond King to give Rivers the ball at the Baltimore 39 with 3:00 left. Suddenly another one-point win looked possible, but left tackle Russell Okung had a costly holding penalty to start the drive. That's when the play of the game happened as Patrick Onwuasor dislodged the ball from Antonio Gates just before the tight end's knee was down. Tavon Young returned the ball 62 yards for a crippling touchdown with 2:40 left.

That's actually the second time this month Baltimore scored a touchdown after Onwuasor forced a fumble and Young returned it for a score. The duo got Matt Ryan on a strip-sack in Atlanta in Week 13. The Ravens were stopped on a two-point conversion run, but the damage was already done. Rivers threw his second interception of the night on a bomb in the end zone with 1:21 left. Rivers had thrown a touchdown pass in 27 consecutive games before getting blanked by Baltimore.

Bears at 49ers: The Great Escape

The Bears became the fourth team since 1950 (but second this season) to complete at least 85 percent of their passes but score fewer than 17 points. A missed field goal and pair of fumbles made it difficult on the Bears to add to their 14-9 lead, but the defense came through in the fourth quarter. From the Chicago 20, Nick Mullens thought he had a completion to Marquise Goodwin, but the ball deflected off Goodwin's hands right to Danny Trevathan for an interception with 7:37 left. Matt Nagy made an aggressive move to go for a fourth-and-1 from his own 35, but he dialed up the quarterback sneak to great success.

It looked like the Bears might run out the final half of the quarter, but Allen Robinson had what could have been a devastating fumble on a slant after he had the ball punched out. He really could have gone down as soon as he caught the pass to pick up the first down to end the game, but he kept moving and lost control. Mullens had 1:52 to answer from his own 24, but the drive stalled badly at the Chicago 45. Mullens showed poor accuracy and did not run for a first down on fourth-and-4 when the lane was available to him. He instead forced a deep pass that landed out of bounds to end the game.

Season Summary

Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 67
Game-winning drives: 84 (plus three non-offensive game-winning scores)
Games with 4QC/GWD opportunity: 141/239 (59.0 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 32

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 EdjSports.

Comments

8 comments, Last at 25 Dec 2018, 1:13pm

1 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 16

by Sixknots // Dec 24, 2018 - 8:52pm

As a Seahawks fan, I'm absolutely down with your thought of hoping " these teams meet in a Super Bowl" for a Wilson/Mahomes rematch.

And, should that happen this year, Carroll deserves Coach of the Year.

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2 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 16

by Damon // Dec 24, 2018 - 9:44pm

With yesterday's comeback win, the Packers now have 13 comeback wins after trailing by 15+ points:

1. Aaron Rodgers 5
2. Don Majkowski 2
3. Cecil Isbell, Bobby Thomason, Bart Starr, Scott Hunter, Lynn Dickey and Matt Flynn 1

Brett Favre- 0

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3 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 16

by Damon // Dec 24, 2018 - 10:35pm

A couple more points on Aaron Rodgers:

1. Much has been made of Rodgers lack of comebacks compared to guys like Ryan, Stafford and Brees (the top 3 since 2008), but while he doesn't have the volume of comebacks those guys do, but since the Bengals loss in 2013, he's been a whole lot better in these situations. 10-16 (.385) in comeback chances and 13-16-1 in GWD chances (.450) compared to the 5-24 in 4QC/9-26 in GWD chances he was at then.

2. As for his odd season, while his efficiency hasn't been as steady from 2015-2018 as it was from '09-'14, he's still put the Packers in position to have at least 9 wins right now and be a playoff team, yet with 3 blown 4th quarter leads (Week 2 vs the Vikings, the Rams and Seattle), 3 other GWD's allowed (at New England, vs Arizona and at Chicago) and several key special teams errors that cost the Packers points/games, it just wasn't meant to be and 6-8-1 is all they got in them.

3. Yesterday's game was basically the 2018 Packers in a capsule, save for the Rodgers performance part, which was a throwback to great efforts wasted throughout his career (the '09 epic at Pittsburgh ranking #1 for me). At the time the Packers offense left with 8:17 in the 3rd and Crosby made the FG to cut the lead to 21-20 for the Jets, Rodgers was 22-27 for 231 yards passing and 1 TD. By the time he returned to the field, the Packers were down 15 thanks to defense/special teams, it's just nice to know Vintage Rodgers is still there when needed, now they just need to make the right decision on the head coach for 2019, have a productive draft and get more out of free agency than they did in 2018 with Mo Wilkerson and Jimmy Graham.

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7 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 16

by big10freak // Dec 25, 2018 - 8:01am

The foundation of a team to win the division in 2019 exists. Good players at qb, left tackle, number one receiver, running back, shutdown corner, interior d-line. GB needs to shore up the guard position, safety and somehow find a pass rushing linebacker (assuming they stick with the 3-4). And for the love that all is holy make the special teams average. GB's offense had to go long fields repeatedly thanks to the awful special teams. GB might also want to consider finding Crosby's replacement.

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4 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 16

by Blustrk // Dec 25, 2018 - 1:21am

Great article. Spot on comments on Steelers!

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5 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 16

by MC2 // Dec 25, 2018 - 3:42am

Maybe [Butler] thinks the AFC will actually come down to a points scored tie-breaker...

Actually, I wish that point differential (or, better still, Pythagorean wins) was used as the first tiebreaker.

First, it would lead to better teams making the playoffs, since it's a better measure of team quality than small sample size W-L records (like division record, conference record, and so on).

Second, it would hopefully disincentivize tactics that make the game more boring (such as kneel downs, prevent defenses, and so on).

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6 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 16

by Roosevelt // Dec 25, 2018 - 4:49am

"there was also a drive where Mahomes never touched the ball"

Three straight wildcat snaps?

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8 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 16

by Sixknots // Dec 25, 2018 - 1:13pm

Chicago may want to stick with the No. 3 seed and let the Vikings get in next week to avoid any Foles magic from happening again in the playoffs.

I doubt it. Win the early game against the Vikes and a Rams loss to the newly spunky 49ers in the late game would give the Bears the #2 seed and a bye and worth the hope of a 49ers win.

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