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

Clutch Encounters: Week 2

Clutch Encounters: Week 2
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Scott Kacsmar

Perhaps we should have expected a wild Week 2 after it began with Andy Dalton throwing four touchdowns in prime time last Thursday night. Little did we know we'd get our second tie of the season and a slew of missed kicks on a terrible day for kickers. We just had the table last week where 21 of the 23 overtime ties in NFL history have seen at least one kicker miss in overtime. Make that 22 of 24 now.

There were 10 games with a comeback opportunity in Week 2, but a few more surprisingly came up short. The Steelers were almost in miracle comeback territory despite Patrick Mahomes' six touchdown passes, but a roughing the punter penalty denied any lateral-filled attempt from taking place in a 42-37 decision. In Jacksonville's 31-20 win, the Tom Brady-led Patriots always trailed by double digits after the first quarter for just the third time since 2001. Finally, the Jets had a chance to get the ball back with a 20-12 deficit, but Miami ran out the final 5:56 on the clock. Frank Gore somehow had enough room to take a checkdown from Ryan Tannehill for 19 yards on a pivotal third-and-19.

Three teams came back from at least a 9-point deficit in the fourth quarter on Sunday, but only two ultimately claimed a victory. While the true Game of the Week would be reserved for the Minnesota-Green Bay showdown, we have to start with a game that actually decided a winner.

Game of the Week

Oakland Raiders 19 at Denver Broncos 20

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 9 (19-10)
Game Winning Chance Before: 13.6 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 89.2 percent
Win Probability Added: 75.6 percent
Head Coach: Vance Joseph (2-3 at 4QC and 2-3 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Case Keenum (6-10 at 4QC and 9-12 overall 4QC/GWD record)

This was the kind of comeback win John Elway could really appreciate. Not only was it against hated rival Oakland, but the Broncos didn't seem to have any business winning until a major second-half transformation. They trailed 12-0 at halftime after Case Keenum had 38 passing yards, and 20 of those came on a tricky but meaningless lateral to end the half. Derek Carr was completing almost every pass he threw, and on his 29-of-32 day, he only had five failed completions.

In the second half, Denver scored on all four possessions and every drive had double-digit plays. Keenum's game-winning throw last week against Seattle was a controversial ruling; this week replay ruled a Keenum pass into the end zone incomplete in the third quarter. It has been that kind of start to the year for Keenum, who entered last postseason with a 3-10 record at fourth-quarter comeback opportunities. He has led three comebacks in his last four games for Minnesota and Denver despite struggling throughout each contest.

Denver still trailed 19-10 to start the fourth quarter. Jon Gruden went for it on fourth-and-1 at the Denver 33, which made sense. Finishing the drive with a touchdown would have been huge. The play call looked like it was going to be old-school I-formation football, but it was actually a play-action pass. Fullback Keith Smith was open but couldn't snag the ball for the first down.

That was a big miss, because Denver turned it into a long touchdown drive. On a better fourth-and-1 call, Keenum dove into the end zone on a quarterback draw with 5:58 left. That's actually a pretty ballsy call in a 9-point game, because the Broncos needed two scores and a field goal would obviously have been acceptable. That put a ton of pressure on getting this play to work, but I think because the ball was at the 1-yard line, it was the right call. If the Broncos had been facing fourth-and-1 from the 15, I think they should have kicked the field goal and gone for the touchdown later. But from the 1-yard line, it's score or leave Oakland in terrible field position, where you may even get a safety to make it a 7-point game anyway. So that was good thinking and execution by Vance Joseph's staff there.

Oakland had a chance to just about put the game away, but Carr threw a quick slant to Martavis Bryant that only gained 3 yards on third-and-8. The only way the play would have worked was if Bryant had broken Bradley Roby's tackle. That was a disappointing call on a day where Carr actually wasn't overly conservative.

That left Keenum with 1:58 to drive for a winning field goal, but it was anything but easy for Denver. With no timeouts, the Broncos had to overcome a holding penalty, a Keenum scramble that wasted a lot of time, and a bad drop by Demaryius Thomas, and they were still at the Oakland 44 with 18 seconds left. Keenum threw to Tim Patrick for his first career catch, but it was a risky throw that led the receiver away from the sideline. Cornerback Gareon Conley played it terribly, allowing Patrick to get away, gain 26 yards, and get out of bounds to stop the clock with 10 seconds left.

Brandon McManus was good on a 36-yard field goal to give Denver its first lead, 20-19, with 6 seconds left. Carr only had time for a meaningless 13-yard completion to end the game, a stunning loss for the Raiders who thought they had one in Gruden's second game back.

Before you get too excited about Denver's 2-0 start, remember that the 2016 Broncos started 4-0 (finished 9-7) and the 2017 Broncos started 2-0 (finished 5-11). Also, this is the 22nd time since 1960 that a team started 2-0 with a pair of fourth-quarter comeback wins. Of the last 21 teams, only seven (one-third) made the playoffs and only four won at least 10 games.

4QC Win in First Two Games (Since 1960)
Quarterback(s) Year Team Final Record Result
Charley Johnson 1966 STLC 8-5-1 No Playoffs
Kent Nix 1971 CHI 6-8 No Playoffs
Steve Bartkowski 1979 ATL 6-10 No Playoffs
Brian Sipe 1979 CLE 9-7 No Playoffs
Doug Williams 1980 TB 5-10-1 No Playoffs
Turk Schonert/Ken Anderson 1981 CIN 12-4 Lost Super Bowl
Lynn Dickey 1982 GB 5-3-1 Lost NFC-DIV
Steve DeBerg 1983 DEN 9-7 Lost AFC-WC
Boomer Esiason 1990 CIN 9-7 Lost AFC-DIV
Brad Johnson 1996 MIN 9-7 Lost NFC-WC
Drew Bledsoe 1999 NE 8-8 No Playoffs
Quarterback(s) Year Team Final Record Result
Vinny Testaverde 2000 NYJ 9-7 No Playoffs
Jay Cutler 2007 DEN 7-9 No Playoffs
Alex Smith 2007 SF 5-11 No Playoffs
Jake Delhomme 2008 CAR 12-4 Lost NFC-DIV
Michael Vick 2012 PHI 4-12 No Playoffs
Jay Cutler 2013 CHI 8-8 No Playoffs
Matt Schaub 2013 HOU 2-14 No Playoffs
Nick Foles 2014 PHI 10-6 No Playoffs
Carson Palmer/Drew Stanton 2014 ARI 11-5 Lost NFC-WC
Matt Ryan 2015 ATL 8-8 No Playoffs
Case Keenum 2018 DEN TBD TBD

Denver's historic home-field advantage also bears mention. This was the fourth time since 2014 that Denver got to start a season with two home games. The rest of the league has done that 14 times combined. Denver's home dominance in September goes back a long way, posting a 75-20-2 (.784) record since 1970 compared to the league average winning percentage of about 56 percent. We'll learn a lot more quickly about this year's team if they're still winning when the Chiefs (Week 4) and Rams (Week 6) come to Denver in October.

Clutch Encounters of the Tying Kind

Let's hope this section does not become a regular occurrence, but this is the first time there's ever been a tie in Week 1 and Week 2 since overtime has existed (1974).

Minnesota Vikings 29 at Green Bay Packers 29

Type: 4QC tie
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 13 (20-7)
Head Coach: Mike Zimmer (7-10-1 at 4QC and 11-11-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Kirk Cousins (7-17-2 at 4QC and 12-18-2 overall 4QC/GWD record)

Only 24 games in NFL history have ended in an overtime tie, and three of them have been Minnesota at Green Bay. No other pair of teams has done it more than once like the Packers and Vikings have in 1978, 2013, and now 2018. Despite it being Week 2, this was a big matchup for the NFC North race. There hasn't been a tie between teams that both finished that season with a winning record since Atlanta-Pittsburgh in 2002, and both of these teams expect to be in the mix come January, so it is extra annoying to not get a winner.

Like they have in so many past disappointing outcomes, the Packers failed to close out the fourth quarter and overtime. A week after the largest fourth-quarter comeback win in Green Bay history, the Packers blew their biggest fourth-quarter lead (13 points) since the 2003 season. The Packers kept settling for field goals while the Vikings were scoring touchdowns. Davante Adams was unable to hold onto an Aaron Rodgers pass in the end zone after getting contacted to the ground, which kept it a one-possession game in the final two minutes. After Rodgers set up Mason Crosby for a 52-yard field goal in the final seconds, the veteran missed the kick wide left to bring up overtime. On Green Bay's only overtime possession, Rodgers inexcusably fumbled after faking a handoff and had to eat a third-down sack to bring out the punting team. Mike McCarthy and Rodgers are 1-7-1 together in overtime games.

Like with some historic Minnesota meltdowns, Vikings special teams were atrocious. Before the overtime nightmare, in the first half the Vikings had a punt blocked for a touchdown and a missed field goal that made it an uphill battle. By DVOA, Minnesota was the better team on Sunday on offense and defense, but had -30.5% DVOA on special teams. That still led to a team total of 0.8% DVOA compared to -28.2% for Green Bay.

I wrote in Football Outsiders Almanac 2018 (still available!) that Kai Forbath might be the latest kicker to screw Kirk Cousins, but not enough attention was paid to fifth-round rookie Daniel Carlson. He won the job in camp, but he's already lost it after missing three field goals on Sunday. Carlson missed a 49-yard field goal on the first drive of overtime, and ensured the tie after he missed from just 35 yards away with no time left. I was planning to write that the Vikings should consider moving on to free agent Dan Bailey since kicker is such a mental position and a game like this could ruin a guy, but they wasted no time. On Monday, Carlson was released and Bailey was signed. Head coach Mike Zimmer was incredibly blunt on the move:

Ouch. It's a tough tie after scoring 22 points in the fourth quarter and twice getting the kicker set up in overtime. This could have been a signature win for Cousins on a day he passed for 425 yards and tied his career-high with four touchdowns, including one of his best throws under pressure to find Adam Thielen on the way to tying the game late. Cousins also threw a two-point conversion to Stefon Diggs to lock the game at 29 after earlier hitting Diggs for a 75-yard touchdown in the quarter.

Technically, the game's only turnover was an interception Cousins threw on a flat drop off the hands of Laquon Treadwell just before the two-minute warning. However, that's not the only interception we saw happen on the day. When he got the ball back again with 1:45 left, Cousins was picked on a deep ball after he was hit by Clay Matthews as he threw. The interception was wiped out when Matthews was penalized for roughing the passer, but unlike his foolish foul a week ago against the Bears, this call was bogus.

Not surprisingly, the NFL has already supported the call as part of 2018's new emphasis to make hitting the quarterback harder than ever, if not impossible in moments like this. This wasn't the "body weight" rule, but it's in the same spirit. It's bad enough this great game was subjected to a non-ending because of the NFL's overtime rules, but we got there after this terrible call for what has for decades been a clean hit on a quarterback just as he released the ball. The irony of course is that this emphasis seems to have stemmed from the hit Minnesota's Anthony Barr made on Rodgers last season to break his collarbone, yet the Packers are the biggest victims of this enforcement so far in 2018. The Packers also lead all defenses with four roughing the passer penalties.

This is a tie to remember, but probably not for the right reasons.

Clutch Encounters of the Winning Kind

Cleveland Browns 18 at New Orleans Saints 21

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 9 (12-3)
Game Winning Chance Before: 25.6 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 97.8 percent
Win Probability Added: 72.2 percent
Head Coach: Sean Payton (25-45 at 4QC and 35-48 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Drew Brees (31-59 at 4QC and 46-66 overall 4QC/GWD record)

After a stunning 48-40 loss at home to Tampa Bay last week, everyone expected the Saints to get back on track against the Browns. So when the Saints trailed 12-3 going into the fourth quarter with Cleveland driving, one had to wonder just what kind of messed up season was in store for New Orleans. Cleveland's non-winning streak (thanks, Pittsburgh) very well may have ended if the team had a better kicker on Sunday. Zane Gonzalez had already missed an extra point, and then he missed a 44-yard field goal with 14:16 left. You knew Brees would find the end zone eventually, and he did on a 2-yard pass to Michael Thomas to make it 12-10.

The Cleveland defense has been pretty impressive so far against the Steelers and Saints. The offense behind Tyrod Taylor has not been good. Taylor threw an interception that set up Brees in the red zone, which led to another touchdown for Thomas and a two-point conversion run for Alvin Kamara to give the Saints an 18-12 lead with 2:40 left. Forced to air it out, Taylor delivered on a fourth-and-5 with a 47-yard touchdown bomb to Antonio Callaway, who beat Ken Crawley. It was looking like the fourth time in the last eight games that the Saints allowed a crucial touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

However, Gonzalez was wide left on the extra point with 1:16 left, so the game remained tied at 18. That seems like the kind of thing that would only happen to these franchises. Sure enough, Brees made the Browns pay with a 42-yard completion to Ted Ginn to get into scoring range. A couple of deep passes that stopped the clock weren't good for New Orleans, but Wil Lutz was good on the 44-yard field goal to take a 21-18 lead with 21 seconds left. The Saints really should have mixed a run or short pass in there to leave Taylor less time, because he was able to set Gonzalez up for a 52-yard kick. Of course, this time Gonzalez was wide right and the game was over.

That's two missed extra points and two missed field goals for Gonzalez in the final 22 minutes. He reportedly played with a groin injury that coach Hue Jackson did not know about until after the game. It's likely the last time we'll see Gonzalez kick for a while. His attempt in overtime to beat Pittsburgh last week was blocked, but this time it was just bad kicks. The Browns blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead to Green Bay last year, but this one somehow feels more embarrassing after a good effort to keep Brees' offense down and some big plays by Taylor and the receivers.

But don't worry, Cleveland fans. Gonzalez's replacement, Greg Joseph, was signed Monday. He made 69.5 percent of his field goals in college. He'll fit in nicely.

Houston Texans 17 at Tennessee Titans 20

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 3 (17-14)
Game Winning Chance Before: 60.4 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 97.7 percent
Win Probability Added: 37.3 percent
Head Coach: Mike Vrabel (1-1 at 4QC and 1-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Blaine Gabbert (6-13 at 4QC and 6-13 overall 4QC/GWD record)

The last time Deshaun Watson faced Tennessee, the Texans won 57-14. This year, the Titans have already lost Delanie Walker for the season, were without both starting offensive tackles, and had to start Blaine Gabbert for Marcus Mariota. That made Houston a road favorite, but it was jarring to see this team with high offensive expectations down 14-0 shortly before halftime. Tennessee's fake punt for a 66-yard touchdown pass was going to have a huge impact on a day when the offense wasn't expected to do much.

Houston crawled back into it and even took a 17-14 lead with 13:25 left after Watson found Will Fuller for a 39-yard touchdown against Malcolm Butler. Someone like Gabbert needs all the help he can get to lead a scoring drive. Few could have imagined that Jadeveon Clowney (in street clothes) would have picked up a 15-yard flag to benefit the Titans after he taunted a player from the sidelines. That was technically the longest gain on the drive, but Gabbert had a key third-down conversion to Tajae Sharpe to set up Ryan Succop for a 42-yard game-tying field goal.

Now tied, the Texans faced a fourth-and-8 at the Tennessee 37 with 6:50 left. Bill O'Brien decided to punt, which led to a net of 12 yards in field position after a touchback and 5-yard penalty on Houston. That sounded like a ludicrous decision to me, so I looked at the Game Winning Chance (GWC) according to EdjSports to see what the preferred decision was. By punting, Houston's GWC was 44.4 percent. Going for it with a pass bumped them up to 49.4 percent. The recommended decision was a 55-yard field goal attempt, which moved the GWC to 51.0 percent. Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn had missed a 54-yard field goal earlier in the game, which may have impacted the decision to punt. With the Texans in no man's land at the 37, they probably should have tried something minimal on third down to set up an easier fourth down or field goal. Instead Watson had tried another deep throw for a touchdown, but missed the mark badly. I still think punting was the worst possible decision there.

From their own 25, the Titans didn't ask Gabbert to do too much. One of his best plays was picking up a quarterback sneak on a third-and-1. Two plays later he did try to do too much after catching his own deflected pass and throwing it a second time to avoid a much bigger loss than 5 yards for the penalty.

While we're on the subject of rule changes, how about blowing the play dead at the spot of the second throw and making it a loss of down? This is something that might only happen a couple of times in a season anyway.

On the very next play, Corey Davis caught a screen pass to get into field goal range, but J.J. Watt forced a fumble at the end. Tennessee was fortunate that the ball was knocked out of bounds to retain possession. The Titans had a shot to make the field goal the last play of the game, but Dion Lewis was stopped on a third-and-1 run. Succop kicked a 31-yard field goal to take a 20-17 lead, but Watson had 1:00 left from his own 25 to answer.

Clock management was, let's just say, less than ideal on the final drive. Watson holding the ball forever on the final play covers up the fact that Mike Vrabel's Titans sent a two-man rush when Houston only needed a 15-yard gain to realistically set up a game-tying field goal. That was a risky strategy, but it worked out after Watson stepped beyond the line of scrimmage, reestablished himself behind it again, and threw into the middle of the field for DeAndre Hopkins despite having zero timeouts left. It was a bizarre ending to a game that had a few peculiar plays.

Watson has only started eight games in his career, but Houston is already 1-3 at protecting a one-score lead in the fourth quarter in those games.

Clutch Encounters of the Losing Kind

Panthers at Falcons: Red Zone Ryan

Hats off to the Atlanta Falcons for going 4-for-4 at scoring touchdowns in the red zone. This time it wasn't going to be a matter of forcing balls to Julio Jones with which he couldn't come down in bounds. Calvin Ridley caught his first touchdown, Austin Hooper scored at tight end, and in the second half, Matt Ryan took matters into his own hands. Ryan scored a 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak, and later added an 8-yard touchdown run on a scramble that was shades of Cam Newton. Ryan actually had as many touchdown runs on Sunday (two) as Christian McCaffrey has in his first 18 games.

That play is so uncharacteristic of Ryan that you can sense the frustration with these red zone problems the Falcons have been having. But they weren't there on Sunday, and that score gave the Falcons a 31-17 lead halfway through the fourth quarter.

It wouldn't be an Atlanta game without threatening to blow a big lead. Newton started to get on a roll in the fourth quarter and capped off a 96-yard drive with a 51-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Moore, who broke through some poor tackling by the Falcons with 2:20 left. Up 31-24, the Falcons weren't able to pick up a third-and-1 run with Tevin Coleman to ice the game.

Newton had a chance to drive 84 yards in 1:48 to tie the game. The drive reached the Atlanta 26 with five seconds left, but a false start moved the ball back to the 31. Newton's pass reached Moore in the end zone in between the traffic of two defenders, but the rookie was unable to come down with that one and the game ended.

Colts at Redskins: Bizarro Colts Strong on Road

Washington's Week 1 win over Arizona may have been a little fool's gold given how bad the Cardinals look, but this was still a bizarre game. The Colts won by 12 points, leading wire to wire on the road in a game where Andrew Luck didn't pass for 180 yards and threw more interceptions (two) than the opponent had giveaways (one), but the Colts actually had more sacks and outrushed the opponent.

Again, it has only been two games, but the 2018 version of Luck has been more of a dart-thrower than a javelinist. In Week 1, Luck's average depth of target (5.53) was the fifth-lowest of his career, according to ESPN Stats & Info. In Week 2, Luck threw even shorter (4.84 yards), the second-lowest mark of his career. Mistakes aside, Luck was a perfect 7-for-7 on third-and-short plays on the three touchdown drives for the Colts. After the Redskins settled for a 49-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it 14-9, Luck continued his success on third down, capped off by a 3-yard score to T.Y. Hilton with 7:32 left to make it 21-9.

Alex Smith is certainly no stranger to dinking and dunking, but he needed two touchdowns in a hurry. A successful drive was stopped just short of the red zone after Jordan Reed fumbled on a strip by second-round rookie Darius Leonard. It was a big fourth quarter for Leonard, who also got his first sack (untouched) that led to the Redskins settling for that 49-yard field goal.

On their last drive, the Redskins lacked any big-play ability and wasted too much time. You know it's a weird game when wide receiver Jamison Crowder led the team in rushing with two carries for 29 yards. Smith targeted receiving back Chris Thompson six times on the last drive and 14 times on the day. He completed the first 13, but on the 14th try, Leonard was there to add a pass defensed to his stat sheet on fourth-and-4 to end the game.

Maybe Frank Reich is waiting for the Philadelphia game in Week 3, a potential shootout, to unveil a different game plan, but things have certainly been different in Indianapolis so far.

Lions at 49ers: Family Guy vs. Family Pedigree

Detroit's final 28 offensive snaps were all dropbacks by Matthew Stafford in an effort to dig the Lions out of a 30-13 hole. In other words, the Matt Patricia era is off to a typical Detroit start. That's not to bury the coach's career after two games, but the early results sure have not been good. On the other side, Kyle Shanahan continues to get good play out of Jimmy Garoppolo, but the quarterback had a lot of help from the running game (25 carries for 186 yards).

Shanahan learned from his father Mike and Gary Kubiak, and he always seems to run an offense that can make any back look good. While Jerick McKinnon was supposed to be the starter this year before his injury, the 49ers have rolled on with Matt Breida and Alfred Morris. Late in the third quarter, Breida ripped off runs of 20 and 66 yards, the latter going for a touchdown after displays of bad angles and poor tackling by Detroit. Just like that, Breida finished the game with 138 rushing yards. Since 2005, a Detroit running back has only cracked 138 rushing yards three times in a game. That can really help the quarterback on a day where Garoppolo suffered six sacks.

So we were back to watching Stafford in catch-up mode, but he delivered on two third-and-long plays. He found Golden Tate for a 67-yard completion to convert a third-and-17, which led to a 5-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones. Stafford came right back with a touchdown on third-and-goal from the 15 to tight end Michael Roberts to make it 30-27 with 3:27 left. Most offenses would have ended up kicking a field goal in that spot, but it was a nice find by Stafford.

Detroit actually leads the NFL during Stafford's career (since 2009) with eight fourth-quarter comeback wins from double-digit deficits, but none were from a deficit larger than 13 points. Detroit's defense almost pulled it off this time. On a third-and-2, Garoppolo threw casually to Breida in the slot, and Trey Walker picked the pass off and returned it to the San Francisco 7 with 2:14 left. However, Quandre Diggs was penalized for holding away from the play, giving the 49ers the ball back with an automatic first down. That was a killer, but was it even a good call?

Diggs jammed the receiver within 5 yards as he is allowed to do, and the ball was already thrown to the other side of the field before they got past that 5-yard marker (the San Francisco 48 in this case). The play happened so fast and if there even was a hold, it was so irrelevant to the play that I have a hard time agreeing with that flag. The 49ers lost a couple of games to phantom contact penalties in the secondary last year, but they came out on the other side this time. Garoppolo took another third-down sack and the 49ers punted.

Stafford can certainly put Matt Prater's strong leg into range with 1:08 left from his own 16, but he didn't have any timeouts left. After reaching third-and-2 at the Detroit 39, Stafford found Theo Riddick open over the middle, but the running back had a really bad drop. That was the best opportunity, because on fourth down, Stafford's scramble and throw to a diving Riddick also fell incomplete. That was going to be a much harder catch that would have burned most of the final 14 seconds, so it was really the first drop that hurt Detroit.

It doesn't get any easier for Patricia. He has to host Bill Belichick's Patriots, coming off a loss, on Sunday night.

Eagles at Buccaneers: The Gang Gets a Lesson from Harvard

The Eagles barely qualified for a comeback attempt after getting hit with two 75-yard touchdown passes by Ryan Fitzpatrick in his second-straight game with over 400 yards and four touchdowns. There really hasn't been a two-game stretch of incredible passing stats from a non-incredible quarterback like this since Billy Volek did it for the 2004 Titans. OK, if we lower the yardage and touchdown thresholds a tad, then what Nick Foles just did in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LII is right up there too.

Foles' Eagles trailed this one 27-7 at one point, but clawed back into the game, making it 27-21 with 2:46 left after Foles found Nelson Agholor for a 2-yard touchdown on fourth down. That was a difficult red zone sequence for the Eagles. A much quicker score would have left adequate time for Foles to drive for the winning touchdown, but three runs by Jay Ajayi bled more than 90 seconds off the clock. Foles finished the game with 16 failed completions, tying Derek Carr's single-game record in our database (back to 1989 for now).

Fitzpatrick thrived on Sunday in spite of a running game that produced just 22 carries for 44 yards and one first down. When Tampa Bay needed to run out the clock, they couldn't, producing six failed runs on the final drive. This came as part of a stretch of 1-for-14 in rushing success rate in the second half. Fitzpatrick picked up two big first downs through the air, including a third-down conversion to Mike Evans despite the receiver being held on the play. That actually would have ended the game if there was not a rule that the clock has to stop even after a declined penalty on the trailing team. That little loophole essentially bought the Eagles a fourth timeout, and after three failed runs for the Buccaneers, the Eagles had the ball back at their own 10 with 19 seconds left.

The Eagles could have used a time machine to field their best 11 offensive players ever and the drive result likely would have been the same: a cheap fumble to end the game after attempting a series of laterals. Tampa Bay can complete the Pennsylvania sweep next Monday night against Pittsburgh. Fitzpatrick's season is about to go from having zero expectations in replacing the suspended Jameis Winston to maintaining the high standard of someone who is leading the league in most advanced quarterback metrics.

And I thought 2018 was supposed to be a return to normalcy.

Seahawks at Bears: These Apples Are Rotten, Jason

On Monday night, the only thing worse than these offenses was Jason Witten's performance in the booth. We had our first game of the season where neither offense cracked 280 yards. While Chicago handed Seattle just its 10th wire-to-wire loss in the Russell Wilson era (fewest in the NFL), Matt Nagy's offense still has a long way to go, which is why we didn't project the Bears for immediate greatness. The offense has only scored 33 points in two games and has rarely looked functional past the early, scripted series. After starting the game with a 96-yard touchdown drive, the Bears only scored 10 more points and Mitchell Trubisky threw two interceptions.

This was quite arguably the worst roster the Seahawks have fielded in the last seven seasons, because in addition to the roster turnover, Doug Baldwin, K.J. Wright, and Bobby Wagner were all inactive with injuries. They still had Wilson, but after five sacks in the first half, Seattle trailed 17-3 in the fourth quarter. The offense had just one play that gained more than 10 yards in the game's first 45 minutes, but struck for six such plays in the fourth quarter. Wilson threw a 19-yard touchdown to Tyler Lockett despite strong coverage from Kyle Fuller, and the comeback was on at 17-10.

Chicago pitched in with a quick three-and-out, giving Wilson a chance to tie. That's when the Seahawks turned things over to rookie back Rashaad Penny on three straight carries. Penny then lined up as a receiver, but Wilson threw an ill-advised pass to him that Prince Amukamara picked off and returned 49 yards for a touchdown with 6:37 left. It was only the third pick-six of Wilson's career (including playoffs). On the ensuing drive, Wilson held the ball too long and was strip-sacked by Danny Trevathan. Chicago failed to turn that short field into any more points, but time was slipping away.

Wilson was left with the ball at his own 1-yard line, down two touchdowns with 2:42 to go. He led one scoring drive, hitting a 2-yard touchdown pass to promising rookie tight end Will Dissly, but only 14 seconds remained. New punter Michael Dickson tried his hand at an onside kick, but that was recovered easily by Chicago to end Week 2.

On the bright side, Seattle (0-2) has six road games left and won't see Von Miller and Khalil Mack again this year. On the other hand, this offensive line combined with Wilson's attempts to make things happen can make even the most pedestrian pass rush look ferocious.

Season Summary

Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 7
Game-winning drives: 7 (plus one non-offensive game-winning score)
Games with 4QC/GWD opportunity: 21/32 (65.6 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 3

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

14 comments, Last at 20 Sep 2018, 2:50pm

2 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 2

Denver has 4 of its first 6 games at home this year. Last year they had 4 of their first 5 at home. And in 2016 it was 5 of their first 7. I wonder why they keep getting so front loaded.

12 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 2

That's certainly a common perception, but it's not really the reality. A typical December day in Denver is sunny with highs in the upper 30s to mid 40s. Certainly not as nice as the weather you'll find in Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, or Charlotte. But I'd rather spend a December day outside in Denver than outside in Kansas City, Foxboro, Newark, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Green Bay, or even Seattle.

3 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 2

If the criteria are consecutive games of 350+ yards and 3+ TDs, here's that list.
http://pfref.com/tiny/hm4MY

Foles seems unlikely, but he has as many Pro Bowl nods as Cousins or Stafford, but more 7+ TD games and more rings. The longest such streak is actually Stafford's, at 4, in 2011-2012.

Other luminaries:
Beuerlein, Bledsoe, George, M. Hasselbeck, Trent Green, Cassel

4 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 2

Not super important, but it doesn't matter whether Watson "reestablished" himself behind the LOS or not; once you pass the LOS, all forward passes are illegal. The play only stood because nobody cared to challenge it.

5 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 2

Is it me - or does something seem off between Russell Wilson and the Seahawks play-calling. In the 4th quarter before the pick-six, it seemed like Wilson was changing the called play at the LOS continuously and the offense was moving the ball. Finally, the sideline (Carroll? Schotty Jr?) burned a timeout after Wilson was again checking at the LOS on 1st down. Wilson went to the sideline and appeared angry/frustrated and was yelling at someone.

After that, no more checks by Wilson. First play after the time-out on 1st-and-10, Penny runs from a power formation (with a FB) for 1 yard. Next play, empty backfield Penny splits wide against a CB and the pick-six.

On ESPN Seattle, Brock Huard seemed to imply that the pick wasn't solely Wilson's fault. He said that when a RB splits out wide against a CB, the CB knows what's coming 99% of the time -- a quick curl/hitch. Penny ran the route, turned and just stood there while Akanamura guessed the play and beat him to the ball. Penny is supposed to make sure he is always running to the ball in such a way to not allow the CB to get to the ball. Rookie mistake combined with poor play call. The Seahawks had run the same play/formation in Denver - so maybe the Bears defense was alert for the play.

It just seems like Carroll/Schotty Jr and Wilson are not on the same page. But what do I know other than it might be a long season for the Seahawks offense.

8 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 2

I have two questions:

Firstly, is the "The Gang Gets a Lesson from Harvard" an Always Sunny reference?
Secondly, what's the Family Guy thing mean? Is it just because Matt Patricia is fat?

11 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 2

1. Yes.
2. No, it's a reference to what I wrote in the Detroit chapter this year.

"It was then that Patricia started to have a visible presence during New England games. He was hard to miss with his bright red hoodie, backwards baseball cap, and pencil always tucked above his ear. He’d make a great Family Guy character if they ever wanted to give the defensive coordinator some lines in one of the episodes that feature the Patriots."

10 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 2

"But don't worry, Cleveland fans. Gonzalez's replacement, Greg Joseph, was signed Monday. He made 69.5 percent of his field goals in college. He'll fit in nicely." - I actually laughed out loud, at this one. Brilliant.

14 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 2

'Mike McCarthy and Rodgers are 1-7-1 together in overtime games.'

And 4 of those 7 OT losses have come after not getting an overtime possession.

On the flipside in overtime, Rodgers is just 5/11 passing, with no TD passes, 1 INT, 1 fumble lost, 4 times sacked and 3 points produced in 6 OT possessions (5 games).