Clutch Encounters: Week 3

Clutch Encounters: Week 3
Clutch Encounters: Week 3
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Scott Kacsmar

See what happens when the Browns win a game with what looks like a competent quarterback? The whole NFL goes off on a crazy, alternate timeline where the Lions smack the Patriots in prime time and the 17-point underdog Bills win by 21 points in Minnesota. Sunday was the first time three teams favored by at least a touchdown lost straight up since Week 11 of the 2014 season.

There were only eight games with a comeback opportunity this week, but we'll start with what was, hands-down, the best shootout yet between the Saints and Falcons. Just be thankful this one did not end in a tie.

Game of the Week

New Orleans Saints 43 at Atlanta Falcons 37

Type: 4QC/GWD (OT)
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 7 (37-30)
Game Winning Chance Before: 55.8 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 100.0 percent
Win Probability Added: 44.2 percent
Head Coach: Sean Payton (26-45 at 4QC and 36-48 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Drew Brees (32-59 at 4QC and 47-66 overall 4QC/GWD record)

Drew Brees and Matt Ryan met for a record 20th time on Sunday, but this was the highest-scoring matchup yet. In fact, these teams combined for 80 points in a game without a turnover, tying a record last achieved in a 1965 AFL game between the Chiefs and Broncos. This was offensive execution at the highest level, where holding penalties were the main culprit when these teams actually punted.

At one point in the second half, there were five consecutive touchdown drives as these teams exchanged blows. Offense just seemed to come a little easier for the Saints than the injury-ravaged Falcons. The Saints were 7-of-14 on third down compared to 4-of-11 for Atlanta. New Orleans mixed in 136 rushing yards to support Brees while the Falcons had 18 rushes for 36 yards with Ryan doing the heavy lifting. Atlanta got a big break midway through the fourth quarter when a field goal was nullified by an unnecessary roughness penalty that put the offense back on the field with a fresh set of downs. Ryan threw his career-high fifth touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu and the Falcons led 37-30 with 6:58 left.

Brees led the offense back into the red zone, but if there was a questionable coaching decision late in this game, it happened on third-and-2 at the Atlanta 10. The Saints moved Brees to wide receiver and put backup quarterback Taysom Hill in shotgun for a Wildcat look. Hill ran the ball on a zone-read keeper and had to break three tackles to extend for a first down. This could have really backfired and left us questioning why Sean Payton took the ball out of Brees' hands on a crucial third down. But it was an incredible effort by Hill to convert.

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That really happened in a crucial moment, and Hill is a real player regardless of what Michael Thomas says. (Thomas, by the way, has caught 38-of-40 targets this season with one drop. That's the most catches through three games in NFL history.) But the Saints still needed a touchdown, and that's when a 39-year-old Brees showed off his own trucking skills. Atlanta only rushed three so he had a lane, but the lack of tackling here was inexcusable. Was this fear of getting penalized for hitting a quarterback, or just a straight up whiff by Brian Poole?

That tied the game, but Ryan had 1:09 and three timeouts to set up kicker Matt Bryant for the win. Ryan had been almost flawless on the day, but the Saints were able to get three pressures in a row to force a punt and overtime. Ryan never saw the ball again, but more on his day later.

This was definitely a game where you wanted to win the coin toss and go on offense first in overtime. The Saints got possession and Brees used Kamara and Thomas on the drive to the tune of 68 of the 80 yards. Each had a big third-down catch to keep the drive going. Kamara looked to have scored on his 15th catch of the game, but he was down at the 1-yard line. No big deal, because it was still second down. Brees called his own number with the type of quarterback sneak he's mastered where he wisely extends the ball to break the plane to get the touchdown before pulling it back. That ended it and tied Brees with John Elway with 46 game-winning drives, the fourth most in NFL history. Brees also broke Brett Favre's NFL record for most completions in a career earlier in the game, finishing with 6,326 (for now). Just another history-making day for Brees.

It was also another historic loss for Atlanta in the Ryan era. Just last week I had a stat from Chiefs-Steelers where Pittsburgh became the first team to ever score at least 37 points at home with no turnovers and lose the game. Teams had been 386-0 when doing that since 1940 until Pittsburgh. Well, Atlanta just did the same thing in this game, bringing that record to 387-2. (The Falcons did have a punt blocked in the third quarter that was not officially a turnover, but had a similar impact on the game.)

Finally, Ryan finished the game with a 148.1 passer rating, the highest in a loss in NFL history (minimum 25 attempts). The previous record belonged to Tobin Rote in a 1963 AFL game where he had a 145.7 rating. You may recall that Ryan had a 144.1 passer rating on 23 attempts in the Super Bowl LI loss to New England. Ryan joins Tony Romo as the only quarterbacks to have multiple losses with a passer rating over 140 (minimum 20 passes). Ryan still has time to write the rest of his legacy, but it seems like some of the finest games of his career will go down as losses where he had a slim chance of winning in the final minute of regulation, only to never see the ball in overtime.

Clutch Encounters of the Winning Kind

Indianapolis Colts 16 at Philadelphia Eagles 20

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 3 (16-13)
Game Winning Chance Before: 47.3 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 75.4 percent
Win Probability Added: 28.1 percent
Head Coach: Doug Pederson (6-8 at 4QC and 7-9 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Carson Wentz (3-6 at 4QC and 3-7 overall 4QC/GWD record)

Carson Wentz was playing in his first game since he tore knee ligaments last December. He did not look physically compromised, but he did look rusty. Andrew Luck was making his third start since missing all of 2017 for shoulder surgery. He too still looked rusty, but Frank Reich's insistent use of a short passing game and decision to pull Luck on a Hail Mary to end the game makes us wonder if the quarterback is physically compromised.

Despite the talent gap between these rosters, the Colts found themselves in another winnable game that they let slip away in the fourth quarter. The Colts have blown seven fourth-quarter leads in their last 18 games, three more than any other team, but this may have been the most painful one yet since a road win over the defending champions could have gone a long way in restoring some clout in Indianapolis.

The Eagles would be 0-3 right now if not for their red zone defense. In the second half, Indianapolis had four drives reach the red zone, but kicked three field goals and had one turnover on downs. The Colts even started two drives inside the red zone after forcing Wentz turnovers, but failed to gain a first down on either opportunity. There were three drives in the third quarter where Luck delivered passes to Chester Rogers and two to Eric Ebron, but the receivers failed to make a play and produce a touchdown. None of the plays were horrific drops and there was a defender right there on both of Ebron's attempts, but you would like to see at least one of these work out to reward Luck and the team.

Not pictured is the first play of the fourth quarter, which was as frustrating as any. Luck threw a pass in the flat to running back Jordan Wilkins. It was a quick throw that looked to be by design, but the problem is it was third-and-7. The play gained nothing and the Colts kicked a field goal to take a 16-13 lead. I think the Luck of old would have held the ball and tried to find a touchdown window, knowing Adam Vinatieri could easily make the field goal if Luck had taken a sack. Now I just wonder if the Luck of old is gone for good.

Luck is averaging 7.8 yards per completion this season, the lowest of any of the 246 quarterbacks since 2001 to throw at least 100 passes in Weeks 1-3. Drew Brees was at 8.2 in an unusually bad start in 2007, so at least there's some precedent for a stud coming out of a slump. But Luck's average depth of target is 5.42 this year. Only Alex Smith in 2013 (5.41) was lower through Week 3 of a season since 2006, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Add the fact that the Colts aren't producing YAC on these short throws, and Luck's 5.34 yards per attempt ranks as the 19th-lowest season through Week 3 since 1950. If it was another quarterback, we would be talking about benching him at this point.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles put together one of the oddest game-winning drives you'll. It lasted 17 plays, went 75 yards, and consumed 11:18 off the clock. Four penalties on the Colts helped, two in particular. A tacky 5-yard flag for defensive holding bailed the Eagles out of a second-and-26 situation. That was bad enough until the Colts seemed to have the Eagles stopped on a fourth-and-5, but Jabaal Sheard was flagged for defensive holding to extend the drive. I can understand why that one was called -- Lane Johnson made sure to sell the hold perfectly too -- but you rarely see that called on a defensive lineman, crucial play or not. The Colts had one other shot at a stop, but Wentz's escapability led to a completion to Nelson Agholor, who converted the third-and-9 by diving for a 10-yard gain. Four snaps later, Wendell Smallwood finished off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to give the Eagles a 20-16 lead.

Luck had 3:01 to drive 75 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. He was the team's leading rusher on the day with a 33-yard scramble, so it was going to come down to his arm, and likely the red zone again. The drive looked good until the Colts reached the Philadelphia 11. On a third-and-3, Luck missed T.Y. Hilton on a throw that needed to go to the back pylon. On fourth down, the Colts had luck under center and used play-action in a tight formation. That was an odd look and it did not help Luck escape the pass rush. The Eagles sacked him for a big 16-yard loss with 1:13 left. The Colts were able to use their timeouts to get the ball back, but only 39 seconds remained and Luck needed 89 yards. The drive featured six really short throws in a row with receivers getting out of bounds to stop the clock each time.

This strategy got the Colts out to their own 46 with five seconds left. That would require about a solid 60-yard throw for a Hail Mary, which most NFL quarterbacks are fully capable of assuming they're not pressured. That's when the Colts subbed out Luck for strong-armed backup Jacoby Brissett. It was an interesting move, but not exactly unprecedented. The Falcons once replaced Bobby Hebert with Perry Klein to try a Hail Mary against the Packers in 1994. Brissett's Hail Mary was a great attempt, but the Colts weren't able to come down with the opportunity in the end zone. Coach Reich said the move was all about using Brissett's cannon arm to get the ball to the end zone. Luck told reporters "Jacoby has a stronger arm than I do."

The Colts have far bigger fish to fry than anything involving a Hail Mary. They need to hit these short throws in the red zone, and find some bigger throws everywhere else.

Oakland Raiders 20 at Miami Dolphins 28

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 3 (17-14)
Game Winning Chance Before: 40.2 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 72.3 percent
Win Probability Added: 32.1 percent
Head Coach: Adam Gase (8-7 at 4QC and 11-7 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill (13-24 at 4QC and 15-24 overall 4QC/GWD record)

In the latest example of Running Backs Don't Matter, Miami handed the ball off 11 times for 15 yards in a game it mostly trailed for the first 52 minutes. In the end, the Dolphins finished with this dazzling stat line: 18-of-24 passing for 341 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Big plays in a variety of ways paced the latest Miami comeback under head coach Adam Gase. After Miami fell behind 17-7 late in the third quarter, Ryan Tannehill threw a perfect 36-yard deep ball to DeVante Parker, who made his season debut. Two plays later, Jakeem Grant took a jet sweep flip 18 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-14.

Jon Gruden's Raiders, 0-3 after leading at halftime in each game, have been looking for that fourth-quarter pass rush after leading late the last two weeks. Miami didn't give them much of a chance in this one. After an 18-yard scramble by Tannehill, the Dolphins displayed teamwork that the Golden State Warriors would appreciate. Counting the center, five players touched the ball on this 52-yard game-winning touchdown pass from Albert Wilson to Grant. The play-by-play described it merely as "The play was an end around," but it was nicer than that.

The Raiders had half a quarter to answer the touchdown, and Derek Carr drove the offense to the Miami 13 with 2:59 left. However, he stared down Martavis Bryant, who was blanketed by cornerback Xavien Howard. It would have been a really difficult pass to complete and it ended up as an interception for Howard in the end zone.

Miami hasn't blown a fourth-quarter lead since Gase's first game back in 2016 in Seattle. Miami put this one away on offense with another jet sweep flip, but this time Wilson ran down the left side of the field on his way to a 74-yard touchdown to make it 28-17 with 2:00 left.

Oakland strategically played its final possession correctly. Once the Raiders reached the Miami 34 and used their final timeout with 25 seconds left, Mike Nugent came on for a 52-yard field goal to make it 28-20. Unfortunately Oakland was unable to recover the ensuing onside kick and the game was over.

Even if the Dolphins (3-0) lose 73-0 in New England (1-2) on Sunday, Miami will still go into Week 5 in first place in the AFC East. Few would have imagined that to be possible after the Dolphins let Jarvis Landry and Ndamukong Suh go in the offseason. But Howard has stepped up with three interceptions in the secondary, and the Dolphins are creatively using the speed of Wilson and Grant to generate big plays. Miami already has more completions of 50-plus yards (three) in three games this season than it had in all of 2017 (two). As the plays on Sunday show, it's not just a matter of replacing Jay Cutler with a healthy Tannehill. The Dolphins have outsmarted their opponents so far, but now comes a huge test with a trip to New England.

Tennessee Titans 9 at Jacksonville Jaguars 6

Type: GWD
Game Winning Chance Before: 45.6 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 70.9 percent
Win Probability Added: 25.3 percent
Head Coach: Mike Vrabel (1-1 at 4QC and 2-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Marcus Mariota (8-14 at 4QC and 10-14 overall 4QC/GWD record)

Maybe the 2018 Patriots aren't the best litmus test for the AFC right now, but Jacksonville seemed to be improving after last week's win in what was arguably Blake Bortles' best game in the NFL. Expectations were high for a home game against a Tennessee team missing key players and still starting Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. The Jaguars were a 10-point favorite even though the Titans swept Jacksonville last year, holding the offense to 19 points in two games.

This time there was nothing but field goals, and the game only featured two red zone opportunities (both by Tennessee). There was only one gain of 20-plus yards in the game, and that was a 22-yard pass from Marcus Mariota to Corey Davis. Mariota, despite a lack of feeling in his fingers, had to come in for an injured Gabbert in the first quarter. After Jacksonville tied the game 6-6 in the fourth quarter, Mariota was able to hit three passes for first downs to set up a 28-yard field goal by Ryan Succop to take a 9-6 lead. The last offensive snap on that drive occurred at the Jacksonville 10, the deepest penetration either offense had in the whole game. There were only three games in all of 2017 (and none in 2016) where neither team had a snap inside the 10-yard line. This was like watching an old AFC Central game between these two.

Time was no problem for Jacksonville, but the offense seemed reluctant to run the ball with Leonard Fournette out again. Despite never trailing by more than a field goal, Bortles had 14 handoffs compared to 42 dropbacks. He wasn't pressured often, but Jurrell Casey brought Bortles down for a sack that included a fumble recovered by the Jaguars. Bortles has been the most blitzed quarterback this season, but on third down the Titans disguised a four-man rush well and Bortles had to scramble to avoid another sack. There was an argument for going for it on fourth-and-3 at the Jacksonville 32, but the Jaguars still had four clock stoppages in a low-scoring game with 2:51 left.

The problem was that the Titans came out with a first-down throw (for a 7-yard gain) in a four-minute offense situation where the league runs over 90 percent of the time. That led to a third-and-1 where Mariota kept the ball on a zone-read for a big 15-yard gain, which burned Jacksonville's final timeout with 2:26 left. That allowed the Titans to run three more times before punting the ball back with only 19 seconds left. From their own 13, the Jaguars just had time for trickery. A 19-yard gain with two laterals ended up being their longest play of the day. One more attempt at a lateral failed and Brian Orakpo came away with a cheap fumble recovery to end the game.

Craving some serious déjà vu? This was the first NFL game where neither offense gained 240 yards since … the last time these teams met, in Week 17 last year. That was also a game where a late Mariota run on third down led to Bortles getting the ball back with 18 seconds left to no avail.

Chicago Bears 16 at Arizona Cardinals 14

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 1 (14-13)
Game Winning Chance Before: 52.0 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 62.5 percent
Win Probability Added: 12.5 percent
Head Coach: Matt Nagy (1-1 at 4QC and 1-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Mitchell Trubisky (1-5 at 4QC and 2-5 overall 4QC/GWD record)

Chicago had not been favored on the road by more than a field goal since the 2012 season. Arizona was awful enough in the first two weeks to influence that kind of line, but you had to figure the Cardinals would put up a better fight at home against an offense that has yet to score more than 17 points in a game.

Fitting in with the nature of Week 3, the Cardinals jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. However, like in any successful Chicago season in the 21st century, the defense led the way by pitching a shutout in the last three quarters. We wrote a lot in the offseason about regression to the mean coming to help Vic Fangio's defense after so few takeaways in the last three years. In Sunday's second half, the Bears recorded a takeaway on four consecutive drives. Chicago had gone 55 games without four takeaways, and now has eight takeaways in three games this season.

Sam Bradford's second interception late in the third quarter should have been enough to bench him after how ineffective he has been so far. Not only did Bradford do his usual act of throwing short of the sticks on third-and-12, but he forced a pass that had no chance of converting anyway. The Bears turned that pick into a short drive for a field goal and only trailed 14-13 going into the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Bradford hit his first big completion (32 yards to rookie Christian Kirk) since the first quarter to get the Cardinals into scoring territory. That's when Khalil Mack, a lock for NFC Defensive Player of the Month, struck again with a huge strip-sack to get the Bears the ball back with 11:23 left.

The first fourth-quarter comeback win in Mitchell Trubisky's career won't be a memorable one. He almost started the drive with an interception on a deep ball, but wide receiver Allen Robinson did a good job of playing defensive back on the throw. The biggest gain on the drive was a 15-yard penalty after safety Tre Boston hit Taylor Gabriel a tad late over the middle after a bad throw by Trubisky. That otherwise would have set up a third-and-12. Cody Parkey eventually came on for a 43-yard field goal to take a 16-14 lead with 4:31 left.

That's when rookie quarterback Josh Rosen made his NFL debut as Bradford was benched. It was peculiar timing by rookie head coach Steve Wilks, who really should have made the move earlier this week. Rosen was the last of the five first-round rookie quarterbacks to debut, but rarely would you ever see a quarterback willingly thrown into the fire with the game on the line. Fortunately, the moment didn't look too big for Rosen. He mostly stayed in the pocket and made quick, comfortable throws in the 8- to 10-yard range. He was moving the offense just fine until the two-minute warning hit and Arizona got silly on third-and-2 at the Chicago 42. Star running back David Johnson was not even on the field. Instead, rookie Chase Edmonds received the handoff and Chicago's run blitz stopped him for a 3-yard loss to bring up fourth-and-5. What's the point of paying Johnson if you don't put him on the field in that spot? If the report is true that Johnson was taken off for missing a blitz pickup on second down, then it still doesn't make sense to take him off the field only to run the ball with a lesser back.

On fourth down, Rosen was hit as he threw and the pass went to Bryce Callahan for a big interception with 1:10 left. The Bears then ran Jordan Howard three times to make Arizona use all three of its timeouts. Rosen only had 43 seconds left to drive again, and the Bears almost had a fifth-straight takeaway with a pick-six by Eddie Jackson, but Mack was offsides, a rare mistake from him this year. Instead of giving Rosen a chance at a Hail Mary, the Bears blitzed on the game's final play and brought him down with a sack.

This was a game that Arizona likely wins under Bruce Arians, but the first three weeks of the Wilks era leave much to be desired. Rosen officially taking over as the starter is about the only thing the 0-3 Cardinals have to look forward to this season.

Clutch Encounters of the Losing Kind

Bengals at Panthers: Duly Noted, Ron

When these teams last met in 2014, it was the highest-scoring overtime tie (37-37) in NFL history. This time wasn't nearly as close, and Cam Newton had a lot more help from his running game. In the 2014 game, Newton had a career-high 17 runs for 109 yards (second-highest total in his career). This time around, Newton still rushed 10 times and scored two touchdowns on the ground, but he only needed 150 passing yards after Christian McCaffrey had a true breakout game as a runner with 28 carries for 184 yards.

In his first 19 games (including playoffs), McCaffrey never rushed more than 15 times or for more than 66 yards. Despite this fact, head coach Ron Rivera repeatedly said this offseason that it would be "ideal" for McCaffrey to get 25 to 30 touches per game. That's 400 touches in 16 games at the low end, and only three running backs since 2007 have done so. But McCaffrey finished this game with 28 carries and added two catches for 10 yards to give him exactly 30 touches, so we can no longer say to Rivera that he's never had a game like that before. This comes on the heels of McCaffrey getting a career-high 22 touches last week in the loss to Atlanta, but that was mostly as a receiver. If he's going to start rushing like this, Carolina could have one of the most balanced offenses in the league.

Meanwhile, the Bengals put a lot on Andy Dalton's shoulders on the road, which is rarely a good idea for Cincinnati. Despite only trailing 28-21, the Bengals tried to run the ball three times in the fourth quarter and had a run for no gain, a 4-yard loss, and a holding penalty that led to Randy Bullock missing a 53-yard field goal with 7:14 left. It's also asking for trouble when A.J. Green had to leave the game with a groin injury. With 3:40 left and having just taken a big sack, Dalton forced a deep ball for John Ross, who never located the ball, which was intercepted by Donte Jackson at the 50.

McCaffrey and Newton finished off the Bengals with six more runs that led to a 40-yard field goal by Graham Gano with 1:11 left to take a 31-21 lead. Dalton's Hail Mary was intercepted, his fourth interception of the day, by Luke Kuechly in the end zone to end a frustrating day at the office.

Steelers at Buccaneers: The Full Fitzpatrick

Ryan Fitzpatrick is 3-35 (.079) when he throws multiple interceptions in a game -- the worst record among the 100 quarterbacks who have done that at least 30 times in their career since 1950. When the "Fitzmagic" is flowing through his Harvard-educated body, he can look like a competent NFL starter. When it's not, we see why it may take some Machiavellian effort for him to get on the field. With Jameis Winston's suspension ending Tuesday morning, Fitzpatrick used the Monday night stage to show us every side of him in one game.

With expectations high following Tampa Bay's stunning 2-0 start, Fitzpatrick was intercepted three times in the first half for the first time in his career as Pittsburgh built a 30-10 lead behind a dominant half by Ben Roethlisberger. Same old Fitzpatrick, right? Not to be outdone, Fitzpatrick took advantage of a sloppy Pittsburgh defense on a penalty-filled night to lead three straight scoring drives to make it 30-27 with 5:43 left. He even had bad luck with some of his picks and dropped touchdowns, so the stat line could have looked much better.

Pittsburgh stalled in Tampa Bay territory and punted the ball back with 3:02 left. Fitzpatrick had already passed for 411 yards on the night, making him the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400 yards in three consecutive games. Yes, that's really a record Fitzpatrick set in the NFL's 99th season. He had a shot at throwing for nearly 500 yards to pull off the win, but part of why Fitzpatrick's record is always poor is that he tends to throw game-crushing interceptions in these moments.

Since 2005, Fitzpatrick has the highest interception rate (7.3 percent) during game-winning drive opportunities (minimum 150 attempts). It has led to a 9-41 (.180) record at fourth-quarter comeback opportunities and a 13-42-1 (.241) record at game-winning drive opportunities. Both records are next to last among relevant active players with at least 15 opportunities (plus Nick Foles and Carson Wentz just so Eagles fans won't complain about the lack of representation).

Career Records in Fourth Quarter Comeback/Game-Winning Drive Opportunities
Quarterback 4QC Oppt. 4QC/GWD Oppt.
Wins Losses Ties Pct. Wins Losses Ties Pct.
Dak Prescott 5 6 0 0.455 9 6 0 0.600
Tom Brady 42 38 0 0.525 54 40 0 0.574
Andrew Luck 14 15 0 0.483 18 17 0 0.514
Ben Roethlisberger 32 44 0 0.421 44 49 1 0.473
Nick Foles 8 12 0 0.400 10 12 0 0.455
Matt Ryan 27 42 0 0.391 37 45 0 0.451
Russell Wilson 18 27 1 0.402 23 29 1 0.443
Matthew Stafford 26 41 0 0.388 32 41 0 0.438
Case Keenum 6 10 0 0.375 9 12 0 0.429
Marcus Mariota 8 14 0 0.364 10 14 0 0.417
Drew Brees 32 59 0 0.352 47 66 0 0.416
Andy Dalton 16 28 2 0.370 21 30 2 0.415
Kirk Cousins 7 17 2 0.308 12 18 2 0.406
Eli Manning 30 57 0 0.345 40 59 0 0.404
Quarterback 4QC Oppt. 4QC/GWD Oppt.
Wins Losses Ties Pct. Wins Losses Ties Pct.
Alex Smith 19 33 0 0.365 23 34 0 0.404
Ryan Tannehill 13 24 0 0.351 15 24 0 0.385
Derek Carr 13 21 0 0.382 13 21 0 0.382
Joe Flacco 19 44 0 0.302 26 47 0 0.356
Aaron Rodgers 13 35 0 0.271 20 37 1 0.353
Jameis Winston 5 15 0 0.250 8 15 0 0.348
Cam Newton 12 29 1 0.298 15 31 1 0.330
Blaine Gabbert 6 13 0 0.316 6 13 0 0.316
Sam Bradford 6 16 1 0.283 8 18 1 0.315
Carson Wentz 3 6 0 0.333 3 7 0 0.300
Philip Rivers 24 63 0 0.276 28 68 0 0.292
Tyrod Taylor 3 16 1 0.175 5 16 1 0.250
Ryan Fitzpatrick 9 41 0 0.180 13 42 1 0.241
Blake Bortles 6 24 0 0.200 7 25 0 0.219

Almost on cue, Fitzpatrick threw three dangerous passes in a row that gave the Steelers a shot at an interception each time. With 2:49 left, the Buccaneers punted from their own 20 on fourth-and-10. With three clock stoppages and the way these defenses have been playing, I think Dirk Koetter should have kept the offense on the field. If they had failed to convert, then the goal would have still been to force a three-and-out, and Chris Boswell has been very shaky for Pittsburgh with two more missed kicks this week. Tampa Bay could have gotten the ball back, down 33-27, with a chance to drive for the winning touchdown. Koetter trusting the inferior part of his team to get the ball back was not the right move.

After a run for no gain, the Steelers let Roethlisberger do his vintage extend-the-play thing on second down. He found JuJu Smith-Schuster for a huge 18-yard gain to make Tampa Bay burn its last timeout. James Conner put the game away on the next play with a 17-yard run and the Steelers (1-1-1) took three knees after the two-minute warning to earn their first full win of 2018.

It was far from a great night with the way Pittsburgh struggled to hold up a 20-point lead. Pittsburgh also lacked discipline in racking up 13 penalties for 155 yards. The Steelers are the first team since the 1948 Redskins to have at least 12 penalties in each of their first three games. They have the most penalties (37) through three games of any team since the 1998 Raiders (38). They're not making it easy on themselves so far, and Baltimore is coming to town for Sunday Night Football in another big AFC North showdown.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay will have a tough decision to make at quarterback with Winston returning from suspension. Fitzpatrick has done some great things this September, but the team should know what they're ultimately getting there. Winston still has time to grow as he officially starts his fourth season. A 17-point fourth-quarter comeback by Fitzpatrick may have sealed Winston's fate in Tampa Bay, but fortunately for him (and the Steelers), that's where the Fitzmagic tends to run out.

Season Summary

Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 12
Game-winning drives: 13 (plus one non-offensive game-winning score)
Games with 4QC/GWD opportunity: 29/48 (60.4 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 6

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.


1 comment, Last at 25 Sep 2018, 10:04pm

1 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 3

I'd noticed that after the Steelers lost at home while scoring 37 points without turning the ball over last week the Falcons had done the same this week. But I hadn't noticed that the Chiefs had won in the same circumstances this week too. Thus; 1940-2017; be at home, score 37 points, don't commit a turnover: 386-0. 2018: 1-2.
If these aren't the Crazy Years, it's not for lack of trying.