Clutch Encounters

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

Clutch Encounters: Week 6

by Scott Kacsmar

Week 6 was good for fans of some of the NFL's "flagship" or "media darling" teams. The Cowboys hung 40 points on Jacksonville's respected defense. The two Pennsylvania teams (Eagles and Steelers) took care of the division rivals they usually take care of in big games (Giants and Bengals). The Patriots and Packers won in dramatic fashion on Sunday and Monday night to end the week.

If you're just a fan of competitive football in general, then Week 6 was really disappointing until those final two games in prime time. The three games in the late afternoon slate on Sunday were especially brutal, unless you enjoy watching Marcus Mariota take 11 sacks against Baltimore. That followed one of the worst London games yet with the Raiders sleepwalking in a 27-3 loss to Seattle. Even the Browns couldn't give us another exciting game in 2018, falling 38-14 to the Chargers.

Going into Sunday night, there were only five games with a fourth-quarter comeback opportunity in Week 6, but at least the Chiefs and 49ers helped push that total to seven.

Game of the Week

Kansas City Chiefs 40 at New England Patriots 43

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 3 (33-30)
Game Winning Chance Before: 68.1 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 100.0 percent
Win Probability Added: 31.9 percent
Head Coach: Bill Belichick (54-79 at 4QC and 69-80 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Tom Brady (43-38 at 4QC and 55-40 overall 4QC/GWD record)

It's always great when the latest "Game of the Year" lives up to the hype. This one took a half to warm up after an odd NBC intro with Morgan Freeman that referenced serial killer thriller Se7en. While the quarterback matchup was hyped up, Patrick Mahomes looked like a youngster ready to panic after Bill Belichick wouldn't tell him what's in the box. Hint: Dont'a Hightower was in the box on Mahomes' first interception, which led to a short-field touchdown for the Patriots. There were actually seven scoring drives of fewer than 50 yards in this 43-40 game. Mahomes threw two interceptions in the first half and the Chiefs trailed 24-9 at halftime. Meanwhile, Tom Brady looked more like an anonymous John Doe through three quarters. He deferred to the running game in a matchup against the defense that was ranked 19th against the pass by DVOA, but last against the rush.

While the Patriots were gashing the Chiefs on the ground, they switched up to a pass-happy approach late in the third quarter. After nearly throwing an interception, Brady held the ball for an eternity before getting stripped on a sack, the first of rookie Breeland Speaks' career. That led to a 14-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill, but down 27-25, Andy Reid kicked the extra point instead of trying to tie the game with a two-point conversion with 56 seconds left in the third quarter. I think we put too much emphasis on tying the game at times, but in a game that clearly was going to have more points scored, I thought it was a fine spot to go for the two to maximize every possession. The Chiefs had already settled for far too many field goals on the night. Had the touchdown happened a hair more than 56 seconds later, I get the feeling that Reid would have gone for two, but it's not like one has to wait for the fourth quarter to do so.

Later, a 97-yard kick return (all hail Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub) put Mahomes in prime position to make a fourth-quarter comeback. His pass looked like an overthrow to Kareem Hunt, but Hill made a sliding catch for a 1-yard touchdown to give Kansas City its only lead of the night at 33-30.

The Patriots did not have a play longer than 17 yards through nearly three quarters, but Brady finished with five long completions starting with the final play of the third quarter. His 42-yard completion to Chris Hogan, who was interfered with and still caught the ball anyway, led to another red zone opportunity and arguably the play of the game. On a third-and-goal at the 4, Speaks looked like he was going to get his second sack, but he did not wrap Brady up and finish the play. Maybe that's just a young player afraid to get a penalty in this new roughing the passer era, but it was really lousy timing. The odd action froze the defenders on the field as well, and Brady found a nice path to the end zone to run the touchdown in himself. There was a flag for defensive holding on the play, but that may not have been thrown had Speaks just taken Brady down for the sack when it looked like he would.

Down 37-33, the Chiefs quickly went three-and-out for the only punt in the game after Mahomes missed Hill on a deep ball. Rob Gronkowski was having a quiet receiving night with all the blocking he was doing, but he muscled his way through the defense for a 42-yard gain to set up another field goal. Down 40-33, Mahomes had 3:15 to potentially take this game to overtime, or maybe Reid would have saved his best two-point conversion for the win in regulation. But Mahomes only needed one play to correct himself to find Hill on a 75-yard bomb for a game-tying touchdown. Mahomes now has the most passing yards (2,149) through a player's first seven games in NFL history.

That was a great play, but it unfortunately left the Patriots with an eternity of time to just get a field goal. At midfield, Gronkowski roasted single coverage for a deep 39-yard catch, the 500th reception of his career. It probably would have been wise to just let Gronkowski score, but that would have been almost 20 yards after the catch. Maybe Gronkowski goes down at the 1 on his own, or maybe the Chiefs cut Josh Shaw on Monday for giving up on the play. That was just a bad spot to be in, but it allowed the Patriots to kick the field goal on the final play. Stephen Gostkowski was good on a 28-yard field goal as time expired for the win, an almost anticlimactic finish to a half that was filled with big plays.

On one hand, the Chiefs have to be disappointed to not get a win in a game that would have gone a long way in ensuring they would not have to return to New England this season. On the other hand, there was a lot to be encouraged about here as well. The Chiefs missed some touchdown throws early, lost the turnover battle, gave up 43 points, but still scored 40 and lost on a last-second field goal. The Patriots never punted and had zero accepted penalties in a very clean game, but still needed the late score to win. Kansas City may also have Eric Berry and Justin Houston, the cornerstones of this defense, available in a January rematch after both missed Sunday night's game.

But like last year showed, January is a long ways away, and much can happen between now and then. While a rematch would be great, it is far from a guarantee, even in an AFC where these two teams appear to be the cream of the crop right now.

Clutch Encounters of the Winning Kind

Pittsburgh Steelers 28 at Cincinnati Bengals 21

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 1 (21-20)
Game Winning Chance Before: 27.2 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 97.9 percent
Win Probability Added: 70.7 percent
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (27-46 at 4QC and 39-51-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger (33-45 at 4QC and 45-50-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)

Those rare moments of optimism for the Bengals tend to be short-lived before that nemesis from Pittsburgh returns. Head coach Marvin Lewis is now 2-16 at home against the Steelers, one of the more stunning facts in NFL history. That includes two losses in the playoffs with his best teams (2005 and 2015) in years where his quarterbacks (Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton) were injured at their peaks. This season, the Bengals got off to a 4-1 start behind three fourth-quarter comebacks, and were hoping to finish off a fourth comeback on Sunday.

This would have been a huge win for the Bengals in the AFC North, especially on a day where they were outgained by over 200 yards. Some shoddy game management by Mike Tomlin and the Steelers helped keep the Bengals within striking distance, including some errors on when to challenge and when to go for it on fourth down. A pass-heavy drive in the fourth quarter helped the Steelers reach the 6-yard line, but running back James Conner really should have carried the ball on a third-and-2. Not making that drive four-down territory in an effort to take a 10-point lead was disappointing. The Steelers settled for a 24-yard field goal, so the Bengals had 3:32 to drive 75 yards for a go-ahead touchdown in a 20-14 game.

Pittsburgh's defense has not done well recently in preventing late touchdown drives when its opponent absolutely needed one (down four to eight points). In the last five games with an opportunity, the only real stop was in Week 17 against Cleveland last year, and that took a clean drop by Corey Coleman on a fourth-and-2 in the red zone.

This time, the Steelers weren't able to get the Bengals into anything trickier than a third-and-4. The biggest gain on the drive was a 23-yard completion to A.J. Green after the Steelers were content with playing zone as the Bengals drove closer to the end zone. Dalton looked poised in the pocket and guided the offense to the 4-yard line. From the 4, Joe Mixon received the drive's only carry and scored a touchdown with 1:18 left. It was probably better for Pittsburgh that Mixon scored rather than getting a new set of downs at the 1 and burning more clock for what felt like an inevitable score.

Once again, Pittsburgh's offense had to bail out the defense in the end. Ben Roethlisberger led his seventh game-winning drive in Cincinnati, and this may have been the finest one yet. He had all three timeouts to do it, but needed a holding penalty on Dre Kirkpatrick to convert a third-and-10. JuJu Smith-Schuster actually had the drive's first three receptions, including a great snag on a third down and another gain of 23 yards that put the Steelers in field goal range with 15 seconds left.

Chris Boswell has been a very untrustworthy kicker this season, so putting the game on his leg from nearly 50 yards away was not an ideal position to be in. That's why you had to love the play call against a big blitz for a quick slant to Brown with some legal pick action by Justin Hunter. The Steelers probably didn't expect it to break for a 31-yard touchdown, but there was no deep safety to make the tackle, so Brown scored with 10 seconds left. Smith-Schuster added a two-point conversion catch, and the Bengals only had time for a Hail Mary that never had a shot.

This play has obviously drawn some controversy with the lack of a flag for offensive pass interference on Hunter. He's allowed to block within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage (the 31), but he clearly held that block beyond the 30 while the ball was still in the air. Teams tend to get away with this often these days, which is part of the reason why it's so hard to play defense now. Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron also defended the no-call by claiming that the defender initiated the contact with Hunter, and that's typically a guideline used by officials to judge that type of play. Any time the pick is set that close to the line of scrimmage, it's a safe bet that the offense will get away with it.

The Bengals took a big gamble by blitzing, but they were that desperate to try knocking the Steelers backwards on a day where pass pressure just wasn't there. While not every pass was picture-perfect in a rainy mist, Roethlisberger had one of the "cleanest" games of his career on Sunday. His 46 pass attempts were the second-most he's ever had in a game without a sack or interception. He's had 17 games in his career with zero sacks on at least 30 passes, and five of those games have come against the Bengals.

Pittsburgh (3-2-1) goes into a bye week with a little winning streak. Cincinnati (4-2) may have to hope it can get the split in Week 17 in a stadium where wins against the Steelers are actually possible for the Bengals.

San Francisco 49ers 30 at Green Bay Packers 33

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 7 (30-23)
Game Winning Chance Before: 49.9 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 100.0 percent
Win Probability Added: 50.1 percent
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy (22-48-1 at 4QC and 31-50-2 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers (14-35 at 4QC and 21-37-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)

Despite the point spread (Packers -9.5), this game being so close is actually right on brand for these teams. In his second season, Kyle Shanahan has consistently had the 49ers competitive in games they weren't expected to win, but they are only 2-10 at game-winning drive opportunities. The two wins came last year when Jimmy Garoppolo was at quarterback. This year, the 49ers have lost a league-high four close games with a game-winning drive opportunity. The offense looks very functional until it's closing time, and that's when it is hard to put the trust in someone like Brian Hoyer (last year) or C.J. Beathard. That's when offense becomes predictable, and the play-action bomb to Marquise Goodwin or relying on the run isn't there. Meanwhile, the Packers are increasingly reliant on Aaron Rodgers to make miracles look routine. After throwing for his second-highest yardage total ever last week (442 yards), Rodgers threw for his third-most yards in a game with 425 yards.

I hate to simplify it by saying the Packers won because they had Rodgers and the 49ers had Beathard, but that's basically what happened on Monday night. Despite the yardage, this had to be one of the streakiest games of Rodgers' career. He started hot with a success rate of 9-for-16 (56.3 percent) after hitting several big plays. But from the midpoint of the second quarter through late into the fourth quarter, Rodgers' success rate plummeted to 5-for-24 (20.8 percent). To give you an idea of how bad that is, Josh Allen was 5-for-23 on Sunday for Buffalo. Rodgers rebounded on the final two drives (6-for-11) as the Packers scored the last 10 points to win in regulation.

On the other side, Beathard started hot with those two scoring strikes to Goodwin. His success rate was 14-for-20 (70 percent) through the third quarter. But in the fourth quarter, Beathard's success rate was 1-for-8. Maybe the worst play of them all was his third-and-4 throw to start the fourth quarter. Beathard had George Kittle completely wide open, but overthrew him badly. The 49ers settled for a 43-yard field goal to lead 30-23 when 34-23 may have been enough to win on an off night from Rodgers.

Rodgers was afforded three drives to get the game-tying touchdown. On the first, the 49ers blitzed on a fourth-and-3 to make Rodgers release a quick fade that never had a chance. McCarthy definitely could have kicked a field goal there, but I thought the decision was fine given the field position (San Francisco 4). The teams then exchanged three-and-outs after Rodgers was sacked on a third down. Beathard had another chance to deliver a dagger on third-and-10, but Clay Matthews sacked him without getting a penalty. That three-and-out set Rodgers up at his own 42 with 3:00 left. Davante Adams became the go-to guy with three targets on the drive, including a 16-yard touchdown that was placed perfectly over the defender in the end zone to tie the game.

The 49ers looked to steal Rodgers' thunder with a 32-yard kick return and a 15-yard penalty on the Packers, putting the ball at the San Francisco 47 with 1:49 left. A good quarterback turns that into a field goal attempt at the very least, but Beathard did not get a first down. On third-and-3, Beathard threw deep for Goodwin, but Kerry King came down with the interception. Rodgers can work with 1:07 left from his own 10, but the drive seemed to stall quickly after a third-down sack. However, Richard Sherman was penalized for illegal contact away from the play.

That's a really tough call since there was just a touching of the jersey rather than any pull. Cooked into that 2-10 record for Shanahan in close games are some really questionable penalties or non-penalties, though he did get one in his favor against the Lions this year in his only 2018 win. Rodgers had a 21-yard scramble before using the sidelines in a situation (no timeouts) where the 49ers should have known he'd use the sidelines. Yet Rodgers was able to convert a third-and-2 with a key 19-yard back-shoulder pass to rookie Equanimeous St. Brown, who showed great concentration in getting both feet down and going out of bounds.

For all the talk this week about teams settling for long field goals, I loved that Rodgers went right back to a sideline throw for another 19 yards even though 11 seconds remained. He hit Adams at the San Francisco 9, making sure things would be easy for kicker Mason Crosby, who had the worst game of his career last week in Detroit. Rodgers oddly threw one more pass with six seconds left, but it appeared as though it was a throwaway to make sure the field goal was the last snap. Crosby came out and made the 27-yard field goal like his life depended on it. Green Bay certainly needed it to make sure this season wasn't going to be a lost cause.

The Packers get a much-needed bye week, but if this is how the team plays a 1-5 San Francisco team at home, then trouble could be brewing with this upcoming schedule: at Rams, at Patriots, Dolphins, at Seahawks, and at Vikings.

Chicago Bears 28 at Miami Dolphins 31

Type: 4QC/GWD (OT)
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 8 (21-13)
Game Winning Chance Before: 63.0 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 100.0 percent
Win Probability Added: 37.0 percent
Head Coach: Adam Gase (9-8 at 4QC and 12-8 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Brock Osweiler (5-8 at 4QC and 5-8 overall 4QC/GWD record)

After news broke that Ryan Tannehill was sidelined by injury, the Dolphins dropped from a four-point underdog to a seven-point underdog at home against the Bears. Fortunately, they had a secret weapon. Aside from being tall, we may have found something else that Brock Osweiler is good at: beating Chicago and Vic Fangio's defense. Osweiler's first starts with Denver (2015), Houston (2016), and now Miami (2018) were all wins over Chicago. If the 2017 Browns had wanted to avoid 0-16, they should have held on to Osweiler to start him against the Bears.

In all seriousness, the spread made some sense in that Chicago's defense looked great, and you had to figure that Khalil Mack could have forced Osweiler into some turnovers like he has against better quarterbacks this season. The actual result: Osweiler suffered zero sacks on 45 pass plays, and while he threw two interceptions, he also had a career-high 380 yards and three touchdown passes.

This is a really difficult game to judge which team "deserved" to win. Both offenses feasted on big pass plays, but both also fumbled at the 1-yard line against these ball-hawking defenses. One thing's for sure: the offenses moved the ball better than the 7-0 halftime score suggests, but the second-half scoring explosion was still unexpected. This is only the third game in NFL history where 52 points were scored after halftime after no more than seven points were scored in the first half.

The first breaking point came early in the fourth quarter when the Bears were up 21-13. On a first down at the Miami 13 after a penalty wiped out a touchdown, Mitchell Trubisky forced a pass into the end zone and was intercepted by T.J. McDonald. Forcing a pass on an early down when a field goal and 11-point lead is in your back pocket was bad enough, but the target on the play was tight end Ben Braunecker, who hasn't caught a ball since 2016. That was real costly, and Miami turned that into a game-tying touchdown drive after Albert Wilson took a bubble screen on third down 43 yards for a touchdown.

We noted in the offseason that Wilson was the most productive player on wide receiver screens with Kansas City last year, and that he could fill that role better than Jarvis Landry did for the Dolphins. After the Bears went ahead by another touchdown, Wilson again showed how dynamic he can be after the catch, turning a short throw into a 75-yard touchdown to tie the game on a one-play drive. Landry only has two touchdown catches of 43-plus yards in his whole career. Wilson had two in the fourth quarter alone on Sunday.

Someone was eventually going to have to start playing defense again in this game. The Dolphins forced a fumble from Tarik Cohen with 1:52 left, putting Osweiler in great field position at the Chicago 45. However, Adam Gase decided to punt on fourth-and-6 at the Chicago 41. Chicago coach Matt Nagy waited until 41 seconds remained before calling his second timeout. He could have called it sooner and saved his offense about 50 seconds to drive for a winning field goal. Instead, the Bears took a knee and played for overtime.

In overtime, Miami converted a third-and-11 with a 35-yard gain to Kenny Stills after Osweiler's pass was deflected off a defender covering a different receiver. After a 32-yard run by Frank Gore (his longest run since 2015), the Dolphins looked poised to end this with a touchdown. On his way to the end zone, however, Kenyan Drake lost control of the ball after Akiem Hicks contacted him. That was the big break Chicago needed, and Jordan Howard soon had two runs for 34 yards to move into scoring range. Once Chicago had a first down at the Miami 41, Nagy conservatively played for the long field goal, or the kind of mistake that was expected of Lovie Smith or John Fox. That was disappointing to say the least.

Cody Parkey missed the 53-yard field goal that would have won the game. Oddly enough, Parkey also missed a game-winning field goal against Gase's Dolphins in 2016 when he played for the Browns, but made a 54-yard game-winning kick against the Chargers in 2017 as a member of the Dolphins. This was the fourth time since 2016 that a kicker missed a game-winning field goal against Miami, so Gase has been getting the most breaks of any coach on field goals in the last three years.

We almost had another tie, but Drake redeemed himself with a 15-yard reception. Gase also didn't mind relying on the long field goal with a tie in his back pocket on the final play of the game. Jason Sanders was good on a 47-yard field goal to move the Dolphins to 4-2 -- a better 4-2 than what the team showed last year before falling apart.

Buffalo Bills 13 at Houston Texans 20

Type: 4QC and non-offensive game-winning score
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 3 (13-10)
Game Winning Chance Before: 60.1 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 99.0 percent after pick-six
Win Probability Added: 38.9 percent
Head Coach: Bill O'Brien (11-20 at 4QC and 12-20 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Deshaun Watson (2-4 at 4QC and 3-4 overall 4QC/GWD record)

October is the month for horror, but the Buffalo offense is scheduled to terrify from September 9 through December 30 this year. There won't be another miracle playoff berth this season, but maybe Vegas can chill with the big point spreads. Buffalo's offense is embarrassingly bad, but the defense is good enough to keep this team in games, especially in a season filled with heavily flawed teams. It was surprising to see Buffalo as a 10-point underdog to a Houston team that has only pulled out two wins (both by field goals in overtime) this season. Deshaun Watson was playing with a bruised rib and lung, and he turned the ball over three times against an opportunistic Buffalo defense.

Turnovers are really the main fuel for Buffalo's ability to score points this season. The Bills haven't had a scoring drive of 50-plus yards since the first quarter of Week 3 at Minnesota. After a strip-sack of Watson in the final minute of the third quarter, Buffalo was 32 yards away from the lead, but had to get there with backup quarterback Nathan Peterman after starter Josh Allen left with an injury. To just about everyone's surprise, Peterman converted a third-and-11 with a good 16-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones to give the Bills a 13-10 lead with 13:00 left.

Peterman also had a third-and-15 conversion for 20 yards with less than 7 minutes left, but Buffalo soon punted the ball back. Watson drove the offense from his own 8 to the 1-yard line after a 41-yard pass interference penalty in the end zone, but the Texans showed some of their red zone struggles and moved backwards on three snaps. Houston ended up settling for a 27-yard field goal to tie the game with 1:34 left.

Peterman had a chance to be a hero, but he quickly added to his legacy of being most charitable to the opponent. Peterman stared down Kelvin Benjamin and Johnathan Joseph jumped the route to become the 17th player in NFL history with at least seven interceptions returned for touchdowns. This should be his most memorable yet as it gave the Texans a 20-13 lead and proved to be the game-winning score with 1:23 left.

Fittingly, the game ended with another Peterman interception as Kareem Jackson got a hold of one to secure the win with 23 seconds left. Maybe this won't be the last time we see Peterman in the NFL, but is there any reason for Buffalo to keep him? Including the playoffs, he has thrown 10 interceptions on 82 passes. That 12.2 interception rate has not been seen in the NFL (minimum 50 attempts) since Rich Campbell -- maybe the worst first-round pick ever back in 1981 -- threw nine interceptions on 70 attempts (12.9 percent). Peterman's interception rate is worse than even that of Henry Burris (9.8 percent) Caleb Hanie (8.8 percent), Max Hall (7.7 percent), and Keith Null (7.6 percent).

Since we may not have another chance to talk about a quarterback this ineffective again, here's a handy review of all 36 drives that Peterman has played with the Bills since last year.

Nathan Peterman: Drive by Drive (2017-18)

Dr# Year Week Opp Score Result Net Yds Peterman Drive Notes
1 2017 10 NO Down 40-3 Downs 19 Overthrew receiver on 3rd-and-1
2 2017 10 NO Down 47-3 TD pass 75 7-yard TD pass to N.O'Leary
3 2017 11 LAC Tied 0-0 Interception 34 Pick-six returned 59 yards
4 2017 11 LAC Down 7-0 Interception 2 Intercepted on 3rd-and-8
5 2017 11 LAC Down 7-0 TD run 64 No dropbacks on drive (two L.McCoy runs)
6 2017 11 LAC Down 10-7 Interception 16 Intercepted on 3rd-and-10
7 2017 11 LAC Down 17-7 Interception 0 Picked on first play of drive
8 2017 11 LAC Down 24-7 Punt 5 Three-and-out drive
9 2017 11 LAC Down 27-7 Punt 3 Three-and-out drive
10 2017 11 LAC Down 34-7 Interception 19 Benched at halftime
11 2017 13 NE Down 23-3 Downs 73 Incomplete on 4th-and-1 at NE 1
12 2017 13 NE Down 23-3 Downs 19 9-yard pass on 4th-and-15 (four-and-out)
13 2017 13 NE Down 23-3 Downs 4 Four-and-out drive to end game
14 2017 14 IND Tied 0-0 Downs 29 Decoy at WR in Wildcat on 4th-and-3
15 2017 14 IND Tied 0-0 Punt 19 No dropbacks on drive (6 runs)
16 2017 14 IND Tied 0-0 Downs 17 Incomplete on 4th-and-7 at IND 38
17 2017 14 IND Tied 0-0 Punt 3 Three-and-out drive
18 2017 14 IND Tied 0-0 TD pass 80 8-yard TD pass to K.Benjamin
19 2017 14 IND Led 7-0 Punt 19 Completed both passes for 19 yds on drive
20 2017 14 IND Led 7-0 Punt 6 Injured on three-and-out drive
21 2017 WC JAX Trailed 10-3 Interception 8 Season-ending pick to Jalen Ramsey
22 2018 1 BAL Down 7-0 Punt -4 Three-and-out drive
23 2018 1 BAL Down 7-0 Punt 3 Three-and-out drive
24 2018 1 BAL Down 14-0 Punt -3 Three-and-out drive
25 2018 1 BAL Down 17-0 Punt -4 Three-and-out drive
26 2018 1 BAL Down 17-0 Missed FG 1 Three-and-out drive (52-yd FG no good)
27 2018 1 BAL Down 17-0 Interception 2 Interception returned to BUF 29
28 2018 1 BAL Down 20-0 Punt 2 Three-and-out drive
29 2018 1 BAL Down 26-0 End of half 8 Time expires
30 2018 1 BAL Down 26-0 Punt 14 0/2 passing; punt was botched
31 2018 1 BAL Down 33-0 Interception -1 Interception returned to BUF 1
32 2018 6 HOU Down 10-3 FG 6 Took over for Allen; 1/2 for 6 yards
33 2018 6 HOU Down 10-6 TD pass 32 16-yard TD pass to Z.Jones
34 2018 6 HOU Led 13-10 Punt 34 2/3 for 24 passing yards
35 2018 6 HOU Tied 13-13 Interception 0 Pick-six returned for 28 yards
36 2018 6 HOU Down 20-13 Interception 17 Picked w/0:23 left

Of Peterman's 36 drives, 26 of them ended in an interception, a three-and-out, or a turnover on downs. The only two drives that ended in field goal attempts were drives where Peterman started in field goal range. Only four drives ended in touchdowns, and Peterman didn't touch the ball (other than to hand off) on one of those. Perhaps the best thing Peterman can provide the Bills right now is proof that things actually can get worse at quarterback in Buffalo.

Clutch Encounters of the Losing Kind

Buccaneers at Falcons: The Near-Loss Is Historic Too

Well, it looks like the Falcons got Mike Smith (Tampa Bay's defensive coordinator) fired again. The 2018 Falcons scored 34 points at home with no turnovers for the third time, which had never been done (regardless of venue) in a team's first six games in a season before. The good news is this time it did not result in a loss. Atlanta only almost lost this week as Tampa Bay actually made history in Jameis Winston's first start of the season. Here's the stat from The Athletic's Greg Auman:

Now since Winston was sacked twice, the net passing yards were actually 389 instead of 395. If we adjust the stat for at least 389 passing yards, 100 rushing yards, four touchdown passes, and include the playoffs, then teams doing that are now 65-3-1 since 1940. So it is a rare loss for Tampa Bay, but when looking into those 69 games, something very interesting stood out: Tampa Bay is the only team to not score 30 points. That's a big deal, especially when the Buccaneers are one of only 19 teams on the list to allow at least 34 points.

Winston-led offenses have historically done well in yards per drive, but disappointed in points per drive. For example, the 2017 Buccaneers finished seventh in yards per drive, but 16th in points per drive. Sunday had some of that on display again. Despite some of the great numbers Winston had, he also threw two interceptions, including one he forced into the end zone in the third quarter. He also took a third-down sack in the red zone and misfired on a two-point conversion that would have tied the game at 24 early in the fourth quarter. So the opportunities to top 30 points were definitely there on the day.

Atlanta did a lot right in closing the game this week. The offense added another touchdown to take a 31-22 lead, but Tampa Bay answered that too. Up 31-29, Matt Ryan passed for a pair of first downs to make the Buccaneers use the last of their timeouts, but Tevin Coleman was stopped for no gain on a third-and-2 run after the two-minute warning. With the ball at the Tampa Bay 39, the Falcons certainly could have gone for the first down to end the game. If they had failed, Winston would have had about 70 seconds to set unreliable kicker Chandler Catanzaro up for a game-winning field goal. Catanzaro's early missed extra point set Tampa Bay on a path towards needing a touchdown instead of a field goal at the end.

Kicking a 57-yard field goal with Matt Bryant to take a 34-29 lead was also an option, but a miss there would have given Winston the ball at his own 49, or about 10 yards better than if the offense failed on a fourth-and-2 try. It was a really difficult decision given the two-point lead. So it was a bit surprising that Dan Quinn chose the field goal, but Bryant came through on the kick to make it 34-29. According to EdjFootball, Atlanta's Game Winning Chance by kicking the field goal was 90.9 percent, but it would have moved up to 98.0 percent by going for it. I think I would have put the ball in Ryan's hands and tried to end the game that way.

At least Bryant, who injured himself on the kick, is a great kicker, but this defense is a sieve even when it only has to defend 76 yards with 1:04 left. A holding penalty on Brian Poole was declined after an 18-yard completion, but that basically bought the Buccaneers a fourth timeout. Two more completions led Tampa Bay to the Atlanta 21 with 7 seconds left. On what was really a brilliant call, the Buccaneers had Winston run a quarterback draw, only to lateral at the last possible second. Once the ball got to Mike Evans, he had a clear lateral attempt to DeSean Jackson, who was waiting by the sideline with a path to the end zone to win the game as time expired. The Holy Roller rule would not have applied here as this was a lateral in the final two minutes rather than a fumble.

Unfortunately, Jackson did not catch the lateral and the ball went out of bounds to end the game. For a change, Atlanta came out on the winning end of a rare outcome.

Panthers at Redskins: And Now for Something Completely Different

Here are two teams that are hard to figure out this season. It was just a week ago when the Panthers were saved by a game-winning field goal from Graham Gano, and the Redskins were destroyed in New Orleans on a record-setting night by Drew Brees. Things could not have gone much more differently in Sunday's matchup. Cornerback Josh Norman, who was ridiculed by Saints wideout Michael Thomas this week, had a big game against his former team with an interception and forced fumble as the Panthers couldn't get out of their own way in falling behind 17-0. Once the Panthers finally got on the board, Gano missed an extra point, which was barely more than half the distance of his 61-yard field goal last week.

It really didn't feel like Carolina's day when Alex Smith took a sack on third-and-7 and fumbled, and the Redskins actually gained 2 yards on the fumble recovery. That set up Dustin Hopkins for a tough 56-yard field goal, but he made it to take a 20-9 lead. Cam Newton found Torrey Smith on a 3-yard touchdown and a two-point conversion to make it 20-17, which is why Gano's missed extra point did not come back to haunt Carolina. The Redskins had a good response drive, but as we've seen so often around the NFL this season, they could not put the game away with a touchdown. Hopkins kicked a 29-yard field goal and Washington led 23-17 with 3:15 left.

With three timeouts left, Newton had an eternity of time, which was going to help after some questionable clock management on Carolina's game-winning drive against the Giants last week. Washington's four-man rush was not effective, so Newton had little trouble moving the ball to the 16-yard line in the final minute. That's when the Redskins blitzed and Newton did not have the time to deliver an accurate throw to Christian McCaffrey, who was open in the end zone. On third-and-5, Newton threw aimlessly to the same spot for Devin Funchess. With two timeouts left, the Panthers really could have used some higher-percentage plays here. On fourth-and-ballgame, a big blitz made Newton unload quickly, but the pass wasn't even close to Jarius Wright. Safety D.J. Swearinger was fortunate his taunting penalty came after the change of possession instead of giving the Panthers a fresh set of downs.

These teams are both 3-2 after having early bye weeks, and Washington actually sits in first place in the NFC East for now. Neither team might actually be good, but it's hard to feel confident about anyone in the NFC not named the Rams or Saints through Week 6.

Season Summary

Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 28
Game-winning drives: 31 (plus two non-offensive game-winning scores)
Games with 4QC/GWD opportunity: 54/93 (58.1 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 12

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 18 Oct 2018, 8:42am

1 Clutching at Straws: Week 6

by nat // Oct 16, 2018 - 4:44pm

There was a flag for defensive holding on the play, but that may not have been thrown had Speaks just taken Brady down for the sack when it looked like he would.

Considering that the holding happened and the flag was thrown before Brady was touched, you should consider renaming the column. :-)

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2 Re: Clutching at Straws: Week 6

by Scott Kacsmar // Oct 16, 2018 - 4:53pm

Flag was thrown after he was touched.

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3 Re: Clutching at Straws: Week 6

by nat // Oct 16, 2018 - 5:49pm

Clutching at straws.

1) Bullpucky. You can see the ref's feet shift with the flag throw in the video before Brady is even touched. His arm and upper body are not visible so we don't see th start of the throw, which would be even before the legs shift. The flag appears in the image later than that. And hits the turf even later. But so what?
2) The hold itself happens well before Brady is even touched. So why would a delayed throwing of the flag ever matter if it had happened? It's when the foul happened that matters.
3) Without the hold, the receiver gets a clean break inside, and likely gets the ball for a TD before Brady is touched, too.

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4 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 6

by Anon Ymous // Oct 16, 2018 - 6:06pm

Later, a 97-yard kick return (all hail Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub)

And the ref who chose not to flag the block in the back of Matt Slater, without which the return may not have made it to the 20. :)

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5 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 6

by nat // Oct 17, 2018 - 7:42am

Snicker. I saw that, too. I guess the refs thought the side of Slater's shoulder wraps way back. Way. Way. Back.

Seriously, refs miss stuff like that a lot. The rest of the coverage needed to be a lot better.

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6 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 6

by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Oct 17, 2018 - 1:07pm

What's frustrating is when they call the ticky-tack contact on a guy in no position to make a play on the returner, and miss one on a guy about to force a stop.

However, I've read many times on this board that all referee calls in Foxborough are biased in favor of the Pats, so the only logical explanation is that the NFL doctored the replay tapes before releasing them. No doubt Slater was facing the other way in real life and the block was perfectly legal until the NFL conspired to make it look like a missed call to NE's disadvantage.

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7 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 6

by JoeyHarringtonReigns // Oct 17, 2018 - 7:59pm

Are you from Hamilton Ontario Canada or is this your irreverent account? Respect from the 905 if it's true!

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8 Re: Clutch Encounters: Week 6

by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Oct 18, 2018 - 8:42am

Not from Hamilton, but a Hamilton football fan, yes.

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