Clutch Encounters: Week 3
by Scott Kacsmar
Now that was the NFL we love. The games of Week 3 were higher scoring and more competitive, and we saw several touchdowns (one reversed, though) in the final minute, as well as three walk-off field goals. This was the type of week the NFL needed (on the field, at least) after a pretty bland and slow start in the previous two weeks.
One thing that really stood out was just how well the 0-2 teams played. Most won their first game of the season, including the Jets of all teams, and the ones who didn't still played a close game. Atlanta and Kansas City are the only remaining 3-0 teams. The Falcons' only loss in their last 10 games was the Super Bowl. Kansas City is 13-3 in its last 16 games with each loss by two points, so these teams have continued their success from last year.
We had 10 games with a comeback opportunity this week after 14 games in the first two weeks combined. While the game's two most respected quarterbacks had their latest successes, we start with a game in Detroit that, going in, I would have bet everything I own would appear in this column.
Game of the Week
Atlanta Falcons 30 at Detroit Lions 26
Game Winning Chance Before: 58.9 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 80.8 percent
Win Probability Added: 21.9 percent
Head Coach: Dan Quinn (5-8 at 4QC and 8-11 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Matt Ryan (25-35 at 4QC and 35-38 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Only four quarterbacks in NFL history have had at least 25 fourth-quarter comeback wins in their first 10 seasons: Johnny Unitas, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford. Ryan is only three games into his 10th season, while Stafford holds the record with 26 comebacks, and he's only three games into his ninth season. Both players are more than halfway to Peyton Manning's record of 45 comeback wins, and seemingly are involved in games like this every week.
|Most Fourth-Quarter Comeback Wins Thru Year X|
|Thru Year||Quarterback||Seasons||4QC Wins|
|2||Andrew Luck/Russell Wilson||2012-2013||8|
So it was no surprise to see this game go down to the very last snap. Atlanta led 17-3 at one point, but two interceptions thrown by Ryan helped Detroit tie the game at 23 to start the fourth quarter. Ryan's offense had the ball first, and on the first play of the fourth quarter, he threw a bubble screen to Taylor Gabriel for a 40-yard touchdown. The Falcons were very successful with this play last season, and Gabriel's 31 DYAR on WR screens was second in the league to only Cole Beasley (51 DYAR). Atlanta led 30-23.
Detroit settled for a long 57-yard field goal by Matt Prater, then caught another break when Mohamed Sanu tipped a pass in the red zone to Darius Slay for Detriot's third interception on the day. Ryan had not had a multi-interception game since Week 12 of the 2015 season, but a couple of tips from your teammates can do that.
The offenses quickly exchanged a pair of punts. A false start on Devonta Freeman really hurt Atlanta's chances of putting the game away on offense. Julio Jones came up 1 yard short of a conversion on third-and-12, and the Falcons punted on fourth-and-1 from their own 46. One yard would have won the game, but I think punting was the right call given the lead was only four instead of seven or eight.
Stafford had 2:23 to drive his Lions 89 yards for the game-winning touchdown in what would have to be a signature win in his career. He got off to an excellent start in getting to the Atlanta 18, but that's when referee Walt Coleman decided to steal some of the spotlight. First, a phantom call for offensive pass interference on Detroit led to a first-and-30. On second-and-30, Robert Alford appeared to have a game-clinching interception, but Desmond Trufant was flagged for defensive holding on the other side of the field. Again, it looked like a phantom call as there was barely any contact after the allowed 5-yard zone. But the flag gave Detroit a new set of downs.
In the final 40 seconds, Detroit somehow got off seven plays. The middle five were all incompletions, but one big third-and-10 again drew a flag on Trufant, this time for pass interference in the end zone. Again, not a fan of the call, because the ball landed well out of bounds, and any uncatchable pass is supposed to negate pass interference. The judgment call of uncatchable is one of the most troubling aspects of how pass interference is officiated in the NFL.
Now with a first-and-goal at the 1 but with no timeouts, the Lions really needed to keep throwing, or risk a sneak by Stafford a la his game-winning play against Dallas in 2013. After two misses, 12 seconds remained on third down. Stafford threw a slant to Golden Tate, who was signaled to have scored with eight seconds left. The Lions were in celebration mode, not worrying about hurrying to the line to run a fourth-down play. In live action, this certainly looked like a game-winning touchdown, but it's never that simple when Golden Tate is involved.
Upon review, Brian Poole saved the day for Atlanta by just getting his hand on Tate's right shoulder pad while he had control of the ball with his knee down. That play was short of the goal line. Unfortunately, NFL rules state that a 10-second runoff must take place in the event of a reversal. Since Detroit was out of timeouts and only eight seconds remained, the game was over. It's a tough way to lose, but it was fair by the rules. Had the officials gotten the call right, then Detroit would have had to hurry to the line for a fourth-down play (they could not have spiked the ball), which is possible in eight or nine seconds, especially when everyone is already so close to the goal line. We've seen the Jaguars pull this off in 2015 against the Ravens at midfield. However, even if this was changed to an 8-second rule, then the Lions still would have run out of time. That's just the danger of throwing short of the goal line in that situation.
It is also fitting that the Lions would lose a game by such a tiny margin, and the Falcons, much like they did in Chicago in Week 1, held on the by tiniest of margins. Last year, the Lions had eight fourth-quarter comebacks while the Falcons blew five fourth-quarter leads, including the mother of them all in the Super Bowl. So far this year, the coin is turning the other way for these teams.
Let's hope for a playoff rematch.
Clutch Encounters of the Winning Kind
Houston Texans 33 at New England Patriots 36
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 5 (33-28)
Game Winning Chance Before: 28.9 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 95.7 percent
Win Probability Added: 66.8 percent
Head Coach: Bill Belichick (51-78 at 4QC and 66-79 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Tom Brady (40-36 at 4QC and 52-38 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Forgetting the Kansas City loss for a moment, New England's hopes of a (post-Week 1) perfect season seem rather unlikely if it took this kind of effort to defeat the offensively challenged Houston Texans at home. We are not used to seeing the Patriots, twice in the last three weeks, allow 33 points at home and give up a lead in the fourth quarter. But rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson tried to have his 2012 Russell Wilson moment on Sunday, and may have pulled it off had his coach let him be more aggressive.
After the Texans took a 30-28 lead early in the fourth quarter behind some of Watson's magic tricks, the defense twice stopped New England on third-and-1. Watson may have saved his masterpiece for a first-and-20, evading at least four sacks before finding his running back for a 31-yard gain. But the Texans did not go back to Watson's mobility on the rest of the drive, settling for two runs by Lamar Miller that were snuffed out by the Patriots. On fourth-and-1 at the New England 18, Bill O'Brien chose to kick a 36-yard field goal to take a 33-28 lead, leaving Tom Brady 2:24 and a timeout to drive for the winning touchdown.
We know what happened next, but I'll ask the question that keeps popping up once again: why didn't a team run the ball to put the Patriots away?
When you get a chance to put away the Patriots in New England, you have to take it, and O'Brien should know that given his history there. When Brady plays with high pass efficiency, this team is almost impossible to beat. Brady is 106-2 when his passer rating hits serious fever levels (103.0 or higher). Brady did take five sacks in this one, but was sitting on four touchdowns with nearly 300 yards as well. He was having a big day, and was going to be difficult to stop on a fourth straight drive, especially when four-down football is involved. We also know that 36-yard field goals aren't sure things in New England, and Ka'imi Fairbairn is an unproven kicker.
When a team kicks a field goal within three points of the Patriots in New England since 2001, their game record is now just 2-14. Unless that kick is coming in overtime to win the game, like the Jets in 2008, you better add a touchdown to the lead like Seattle did a year ago.
According to EdjFootball, Houston's Game Winning Chance was 81.2 percent with a fourth-and-1 run compared to 72.0 percent with a field goal. Almost 10 percentage points in win probability is worth considering. The only reason I would not crucify O'Brien over the decision here is that the Texans only led 30-28. If this was 31-28, then the decision to go for it should be a no-brainer, but at 30-28, a failed fourth-down play would have left Houston open to losing by a field goal, and the Patriots have one of the best in Stephen Gostkowski. But I'll also point out that even if the Texans converted and (likely) still kicked a field goal instead of entirely running out the clock, the Patriots would have had maybe 35 seconds left to answer with a long touchdown in a best-case scenario. When you respect what the Patriots can do with 2:24 left, then going for it had to earn heavy consideration, but the field goal unit came on immediately after the measurement showed the Texans were short.
In the end, it almost worked out for O'Brien. The fifth sack of Brady produced another fumble, but the Patriots were there to recover, setting up a second-and-18 at the New England 48 with a minute left. Brady overthrew Brandin Cooks, but safety Corey Moore failed to come down with the interception to end the game.
More on that one later. Houston looked gassed defensively at this point, and called its second timeout. Brady found Danny Amendola for a big 27-yard gain, then just beat the pressure of Jadeveon Clowney on a perfect 25-yard strike to Cooks in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. The ball moved a little when Cooks landed, but I don't think it was enough to overturn the call. Cooks also caught the two-point conversion to put the Patriots up 36-33. This was the 40th fourth-quarter comeback for the 40-year-old quarterback, and the first time he had a game-winning drive and five touchdown passes in the same game.
Watson only had 23 seconds left to answer, but made another scrambling play to pick up 21 yards on a completion to DeAndre Hopkins. Houston should have called timeout immediately at 13 seconds, but waited too long, and was ultimately not given a timeout until just three seconds remained. Watson's Hail Mary was intercepted off a deflection in the end zone, but Houston fans can start to feel good about his potential again.
But what a tough loss for Houston. Getting two turnover-worthy plays in a row and not capitalizing is rough, but how rare is it really? Before Week 1, I happened to take up a request and look into our game charting data and the Clutch Encounters archives for dropped interceptions on fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. I looked at plays in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter since the later it gets in the game, the bigger the impact. I removed fourth-down plays, since those are usually advantageous for the defense to not intercept (field position), and really don't give the offense that second chance. I also removed Hail Marys at the end of the game, and I removed a dropped pick that would have been negated anyway by a roughing the passer penalty.
That left 36 dropped interceptions in crunch time since 2013. I separated those plays into four categories in the table below, including who threw the pass, who dropped the interception, the drive result, and some game notes. The first 10 happened as part of a fourth-quarter comeback or game-winning drive. The next four were all by quarterbacks on the winning team, but they did not score on that drive with the dropped interception. (This actually happened on Sunday when Mike Glennon got away with a dropped interception late in the game against Pittsburgh, but the Bears didn't score on that drive.) The next two are drives from Colin Kaepernick and Philip Rivers that resulted in scores after the dropped interception, but their teams still went on to lose those games. The last 20 dropped interceptions were all on drives that did not score and the team lost the game. Each section is sorted in chronological order.
|4QC/GWD After a Dropped Interception in Final 5:00 of Fourth Quarter (Since 2013)|
|Year||Wk||OFF||DEF||Passer||Gap||D||ToGo||Dropped INT||Time||Drive Result||Notes|
|2013||3||TEN||SD||10-J.Locker||-4||2||6||38-M.Gilchrist||0:51||GW TD pass||D.Walker tipped it; helped force INC|
|2013||WC||SF||GB||7-C.Kaepernick||0||2||10||33-M.Hyde||4:14||GW FG||P.Dawson 33-yd GW FG w/0:00 left|
|2014||12||OAK||KC||4-D.Carr||-3||2||6||39-H.Abdullah||3:49||GW TD pass||OAK still had 3 timeouts w/3:44 left|
|2015||10||JAC||BAL||5-B.Bortles||-1||2||15||23-K.Lewis||0:20||GW FG||Facemask on BAL set up 53-yd GW FG|
|2015||10||NE||NYG||12-T.Brady||-2||1||10||21-L.Collins||1:47||GW FG||S.Gostkowski 54-yd GW FG w/0:01 left|
|2015||12||DEN||NE||17-B.Osweiler||-4||1||10||23-P.Chung||2:00||TD pass||Tipped by D.Thomas;
DEN later won in OT
|2015||DIV||ARI||GB||9-C.Palmer||-3||1||10||37-S.Shields||4:46||TD pass||Go ahead TD pass w/3:44 left;
later won in OT
|2016||4||OAK||BAL||4-D.Carr||-6||1||10||32-E.Weddle||2:25||GW TD pass||Threw GW TD pass on next play w/2:12 left|
|2016||SB||NE||ATL||12-T.Brady||-8||1||10||23-R.Alford||2:28||Tying TD/2PC||J.Edelman 23-yd catch on play;
NE won in OT
|2017||3||NE||HOU||12-T.Brady||-5||2||18||43-C.Moore||1:00||GW TD pass/2PC||Threw GW TD pass two plays later
|Did Not Score on Drive with Dropped Interception, But Team Still Won Game|
|Year||Wk||OFF||DEF||Passer||Gap||D||ToGo||Dropped INT||Time||Drive Result||Notes|
|2015||2||DEN||KC||18-P.Manning||0||3||5||39-H.Abdullah||4:58||Punt||Tipped by D.Thomas;
DEN wins on fumble TD
|2015||11||BAL||STL||5-J.Flacco||0||2||8||25-T.McDonald||1:28||Missed FG||Tipped by C.Givens;
BAL later wins on FG
|2015||13||BUF||HOU||5-T.Taylor||0||3||6||29-A.Hal||3:50||Punt||BUF later gets GW TD pass|
|2017||3||CHI||PIT||8-M.Glennon||0||1||10||23-M.Mitchell||1:23||Punt||CHI wins w/TD run in OT|
|Scored on Drive with Dropped Interception, But Team Still Lost Game|
|Year||Wk||OFF||DEF||Passer||Gap||D||ToGo||Dropped INT||Time||Drive Result||Notes|
|2015||5||SF||NYG||7-C.Kaepernick||-3||1||2||21-L.Collins||1:54||TD run||NYG add GW TD w/0:21 left|
|2015||16||SD||OAK||17-P.Rivers||-3||3||7||27-T.Mays||1:06||Tying FG||Tipped by L.Green;
SD loses in OT
|Team Did Not Score on Drive with Dropped Interception (Lost Game)|
|Year||Wk||OFF||DEF||Passer||Gap||D||ToGo||Dropped INT||Time||Drive Result||Notes|
|2013||2||IND||MIA||12-A.Luck||-4||2||10||30-C.Clemons||1:45||Downs||A.Luck sacked on 4th-and-10
|2013||9||NO||NYJ||9-D.Brees||-6||3||19||27-D.Milliner||1:36||Downs||D.Brees pressured on 4th-and-19
to end game
|2013||15||JAC||BUF||7-C.Henne||-7||2||7||35-J.Leonhard||1:21||Downs||BUF ran out clock after
|2013||15||JAC||BUF||7-C.Henne||-7||2||5||21-L.McKelvin||3:25||INT||C.Henne INT on next play w/3:15 left|
|2014||1||CLE||PIT||6-B.Hoyer||0||2||7||28-C.Allen||4:48||Punt||Diving attempt; CLE lost on
|2014||3||NYJ||CHI||7-G.Smith||-8||1||10||23-K.Fuller||1:26||Downs||G.Smith incomplete on 4th-and-5
at CHI 9 w/0:58 left
|2014||3||NYJ||CHI||7-G.Smith||-8||1||10||57-J.Bostic||3:10||Downs||First play of the drive|
|2014||12||ATL||CLE||2-M.Ryan||-2||3||5||22-B.Skrine||3:52||Punt||Bad throw; ATL later took lead
before losing on FG
|2015||7||TEN||ATL||7-Z.Mettenberger||-3||2||16||37-R.Allen||4:28||Downs||Diving attempt by defender|
|2015||11||BUF||NE||5-T.Taylor||-7||2||6||23-P.Chung||1:01||Clock||Bills reached own 48 as time expired|
|2015||12||CLE||BAL||7-A.Davis||0||1||10||21-L.Webb||1:23||Punt||BAL blocked FG returned for
TD w/0:00 left
|2015||14||DET||STL||9-M.Stafford||-7||1||10||22-T.Johnson||2:03||Downs||Terrible decision; DET 4-and-out|
|2015||14||CHI||WAS||6-J.Cutler||-3||2||7||26-B.Breeland||1:57||Missed FG||R.Gould missed 50-yd FG w/1:40 left|
|2015||15||DEN||PIT||17-B.Osweiler||-7||2||10||20-W.Allen||1:56||Downs||DEN 4-and-out; PIT ran out clock|
|2016||4||ARI||LARM||5-D.Stanton||-4||2||10||22-T.Johnson||0:12||INT||Defender's foot OOB; Hail Mary INT
on next play
|2016||6||BAL||NYG||5-J.Flacco||-4||3||5||21-L.Collins||0:27||Clock||Diving attempt by defender|
|2016||7||WAS||DET||8-K.Cousins||-3||2||10||27-G.Quin||0:10||Clock||Late bomb, but not a real Hail Mary|
|2016||8||GB||ATL||12-A.Rodgers||-1||3||3||29-C.Goodwin||0:20||Downs||Part of GB 4-and-out to end game|
|2016||10||ATL||PHI||2-M.Ryan||-6||2||4||21-L.McKelvin||3:22||Downs||Part of ATL 4-and-out w/2:19 left|
|2016||11||HOU||OAK||17-B.Osweiler||-7||2||4||29-D.Amerson||4:38||Punt||Thrown right to defender's chest|
So Brady has three of the last six comeback wins following a late dropped interception, including the Robert Alford-Julian Edelman play in Super Bowl LI. That happens to be the only play in the 36-play sample that still resulted in a completion and gain (23 yards) for the offense. Brady also had a dropped interception by Landon Collins, who shows up three times on the list of defenders, in New York in 2015. The only other player with multiple wins after a dropped interception in this time is Derek Carr. Two of these 10 plays went against the Ravens, including that horrific drive by the Jaguars in 2015 that never should have happened, and the Packers had two huge drops in postseason losses to the 49ers (2013) and Cardinals (2015). The passes thrown by Jake Locker and Brock Osweiler were tipped by their own receivers, so that would have been bad luck the other way. I included a collage of the 10 dropped interceptions that still led to points in a win.
The moral of the story: don't give a great team and player a second (or third) chance. They are likely to make you pay for it. Brady and the Patriots have been doing this better than anyone for 17 seasons now.
Dallas Cowboys 28 at Arizona Cardinals 17
On Monday night, Arizona had a good opportunity to take an early two-score lead. But then a holding penalty negated a touchdown, and Phil Dawson missed a very makeable field goal (36 yards). Dallas overcame its slow start on the road and the game was tied at 14 to start the fourth quarter. Dak Prescott rolled out, and like we saw in Week 1 in Detroit, the plan was to attack Justin Bethel in Arizona's secondary. Brice Butler beat Bethel for a 37-yard touchdown. The teams then exchanged some pretty ridiculous challenges, starting with one by Bruce Arians when it was clear that J.J. Nelson did not hold onto a ball while going to the ground out of bounds. Not to be outdone, Jason Garrett unsuccessfully challenged an incredible catch on third-and-18 by Larry Fitzgerald, who helped prevent an interception by Orlando Scandrick on a drive where Carson Palmer was offering up several gifts to the defense.
The drive finally stalled after Palmer just couldn't connect with Brittan Golden on third-and-10. Dawson kicked a 37-yard field goal and Arizona trailed 21-17 with 6:35 left. Dallas is one of the few offenses capable of running out the clock in that scenario, but I really liked the aggressive approach the offense took. Prescott immediately came out firing deep again, finding Butler for a 53-yard gain against Tyrann Mathieu, who barely put in any effort on the tackle. Ezekiel Elliott finished off the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run, and Dallas led 28-17 with 4:57 left.
The Cardinals decided to punt on fourth-and-15 from their own 20 with 4:15 left. I did not care for that call, since you're basically putting your odds on recovering an onside kick, which happens roughly 15 percent of the time (at best). Meanwhile, a vertical passing game like Arizona's should have at least a 20 percent chance of converting fourth-and-15, and penalties are always a possibility too. Turning the ball over on downs and giving up another field goal (a near certainty with Dan Bailey kicking) isn't a huge deal at that point either. But Arizona punted, the Cowbosy went three-and-out, and the Cardinals got the ball back with 2:57 remaining, the best-case scenario barring an improbable takeaway. Arizona's drive was a struggle against the Dallas pass rush, but I cannot fault Arians for pushing hard for the touchdown first. The egregious call was a negative-ALEX pass on third-and-goal that saw Fitzgerald get tackled in bounds at the 2-yard line. That throw had to be in the end zone. If it failed, the Cardinals needed to kick a field goal, recover an onside kick, and use the last minute to get a touchdown. Instead, they went for it on fourth down too and also failed, ending the game.
That was just an all-around miserable fourth quarter for Arians, which is a sentence we weren't expected to be writing so often. It is one thing to come out on the end of bad results in the fourth quarter like the 2016 Cardinals did (missed field goals and such), but this was bad coaching too.
Cincinnati Bengals 24 at Green Bay Packers 27
Type: 4QC/GWD (OT)
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 7 (24-17)
Game Winning Chance Before: 65.1 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 100.0 percent
Win Probability Added: 34.9 percent
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy (17-45-1 at 4QC and 26-47-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers (11-34 at 4QC and 18-36 overall 4QC/GWD record)
For the 14th time in their last 34 games, the Packers trailed by multiple scores in the second half. This was something that only happened 23 times in the previous 121 games with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, so that rate has more than doubled ever since that bad night in Denver in 2015. You certainly don't expect to see Rodgers throw a pick-six at home to fall behind the winless Bengals 21-7 at halftime, but that's where we are with this team.
While CBS' Tony Romo said that we may see a 60-minute game after that pick-six, the fact is Green Bay has not made many of these comebacks, and has rarely made the game close in the fourth quarter in recent years. Incredibly, the Packers entered this game with a 1-35 record when trailing by multiple scores in the second half with Rodgers at quarterback. I tracked this back in 2015 when the only win occurred: the infamous Hail Mary in Detroit.
|Aaron Rodgers: 2-35 When Packers Are Trailing by 9+ Points in Second Half|
|Date||Opp||Final||Gap||Halftime||Gap||Thru 3 QT||Min 2H DEF||4QC/GWD Opportunity?|
|11/29/2007||at DAL||L 37-27*||-10||Down 27-17||-10||Down 27-24||-3||Yes (sacked on 3rd-and-5; DAL added TD)|
|9/21/2008||DAL||L 27-16||-11||Down 13-6||-7||Down 20-9||-4||No|
|9/28/2008||at TB||L 30-21||-9||Down 13-7||-6||Down 20-14||1 (lead)||Yes (led on a C.Woodson 4Q pick-six)|
|10/5/2008||ATL||L 27-24||-3||Down 17-7||-10||Down 17-10||0 (tie)||Yes (A.Rodgers INT led to ATL 27-17 lead)|
|11/9/2008||at MIN||L 28-27||-1||Down 14-10||-4||Led 24-21||6 (lead)||Yes (M.Crosby 52-yd FG
no good w/0:26 left)
|11/24/2008||at NO||L 51-29||-22||Down 24-21||-3||Down 45-21||-3||No|
|11/30/2008||CAR||L 35-31||-4||Down 21-10||-11||Tied 21-21||7 (lead)||Yes (CAR outscored GB 14-10 in 4Q)|
|9/20/2009||CIN||L 31-24||-7||Tied 21-21||0||Down 28-21||0 (tie)||Yes (comp. to CIN 10,
but false start ends game)
|10/5/2009||at MIN||L 30-23||-7||Down 21-14||-7||Down 28-14||-7||No (MIN recovered onside kick w/0:55 left)|
|11/1/2009||MIN||L 38-26||-12||Down 17-3||-14||Down 24-20||-4||Yes (down 31-26,
M.Crosby 51-yd FG no good w/5:38)
|11/8/2009||at TB||L 38-28||-10||Led 21-17||4||Led 21-17||11 (lead)||Yes (A.Rodgers pick-six w/0:35 left)|
|12/20/2009||at PIT||L 37-36||-1||Down 21-14||-7||Down 24-14||6 (lead)||Yes (go-ahead score w/2:06 left;
lost on last-play TD)
|1/10/2010||at ARI||L 51-45 OT||-6||Down 24-10||-14||Down 38-24||0 (tie)||Yes (A.Rodgers fumble-six in OT)|
|12/18/2011||at KC||L 19-14||-5||Down 6-0||-6||Down 9-7||1 (lead)||Yes (sacked on 3rd-and-10; KC added TD)|
|1/15/2012||NYG||L 37-20||-17||Down 20-10||-10||Down 20-13||-7||Yes (sacked on 4th-and-5; NYG added FG)|
|9/9/2012||SF||L 30-22||-8||Down 16-7||-9||Down 23-7||-8||Yes (A.Rodgers INC on
4th-and-10 at SF 45 w/0:49)
|11/25/2012||at NYG||L 38-10||-28||Down 31-10||-21||Down 38-10||-21||No|
|12/30/2012||at MIN||L 37-34||-3||Down 20-10||-10||Down 27-24||-3||Yes (GB tying TD answered
by MIN GW FG w/0:00)
|1/12/2013||at SF||L 45-31||-14||Down 24-21||-3||Down 31-24||0 (tie)||No|
|Date||Opp||Final||Gap||Halftime||Gap||Thru 3 QT||Min 2H DEF||4QC/GWD Opportunity?|
|9/4/2014||at SEA||L 36-16||-20||Down 17-10||-7||Down 22-10||-7||No|
|9/21/2014||at DET||L 19-7||-12||Down 12-7||-5||Down 12-7||-5||No|
|10/26/2014||at NO||L 44-23||-21||Tied 16-16||0||Down 30-16||0 (tie)||No|
|12/14/2014||at BUF||L 21-13||-8||Tied 10-10||0||Down 16-10||0 (tie)||Yes (A.Rodgers stripped,
ball recovered for BUF safety)
|11/1/2015||at DEN||L 29-10||-19||Down 17-7||-10||Down 24-10||-7||No|
|11/8/2015||at CAR||L 37-29||-8||Down 27-7||-20||Down 30-14||-8||Yes (A.Rodgers INT on
4th-and-4 at CAR 4 w/1:54 left)
|11/15/2015||DET||L 18-16||-2||Tied 3-3||0||Down 9-3||-6||Yes (M.Crosby 52-yd FG no good w/0:00 left)|
|12/3/2015||at DET||W 27-23||4||Down 17-0||-17||Down 20-14||4 (lead)||Yes (61-yd Hail Mary TD to
R.Rodgers w/0:00 left)
|12/27/2015||at ARI||L 38-8||-30||Down 17-0||-17||Down 38-8||-17||No|
|1/3/2016||MIN||L 20-13||-7||Down 6-3||-3||Down 20-3||-3||Yes (Hail Mary incomplete
from MIN 38 w/0:00 left)
|9/18/2016||at MIN||L 17-14||-3||Down 10-7||-3||Down 17-7||-3||Yes (strip-sack and INT on last two drives)|
|10/16/2016||DAL||L 30-16||-14||Down 17-6||-11||Down 20-6||-11||No|
|11/6/2016||IND||L 31-26||-5||Down 24-10||-14||Down 24-13||-5||No (IND ran out final 3:29 on clock)|
|11/13/2016||at TEN||L 47-25||-22||Down 35-16||-19||Down 41-25||-13||No|
|11/20/2016||at WAS||L 42-24||-18||Down 13-10||-3||Down 22-10||-3||No|
|1/22/2017||at ATL||L 44-21||-23||Down 24-0||-24||Down 37-15||-22||No|
|9/17/2017||at ATL||L 34-23||-11||Down 24-7||-17||Down 34-10||-11||No|
|9/24/2017||CIN||W 27-24||3||Down 21-7||-14||Down 21-14||3 (lead)||Yes (game-tying TD pass w/0:17 left
and GW FG in OT)
|Includes all regular season and playoff games where Aaron Rodgers played in both halves and was Green Bay's leading passer.|
|*Did not start game (Brett Favre)|
Something had to give here, but 1-35? Rodgers was also 0-7 in overtime games and 0-2 against the Bengals, the only team (excluding Green Bay) he has never beaten. The Detroit Hail Mary in 2015 was the last time the Packers had a fourth-quarter comeback. To get to that point against Cincinnati, they had some business to take care of out of the halftime break. Rodgers threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, and the Bengals were never able to regain their two-score lead. Andy Dalton played his best game of the season under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, but had some struggles on third down. The sack he took in the third quarter led to a 48-yard field goal that was missed by Randy Bullock. In the fourth quarter, Dalton was penalized for intentional grounding on a third down, and then had a mix-up with his running back on a crucial third-and-1 in the red zone. Bullock was good from 46 yards away that time, but Green Bay only trailed 24-17 with 3:46 left.
Rodgers put together a smart, accurate drive that used clock to push the game into overtime instead of leaving the Bengals time to answer. With 21 seconds left, he found Nelson again for a 3-yard touchdown to tie the game. That pass was in a tiny window with Dre Kirkpatrick in coverage.
In overtime, the Bengals won the toss and elected to receive. That's fine, but in this modified overtime with a ten-minute clock, you really have to take an aggressive offensive approach to make going first pay off since only a touchdown ends the game. Starting overtime in a hurry-up, pass-heavy offense is really the best way to do this assuming you have the right personnel. The Bengals have enough talent for it, and A.J. Green (10 catches for 111 yards and a touchdown) was having a big game. Still, the Bengals came out confused, burning a timeout before the first snap. They started with a run and Joe Mixon lost 2 yards to set the offense back. On third-and-6, I cannot explain what Lazor's play call was trying to accomplish. Only one receiver ran his route beyond the sticks, and Dalton ended up forcing a 1-yard gain to Tyler Kroft.
If that's the type of offensive series you are going to call, then you might as well have gone on defense first. When Rodgers got the ball back, which has rarely been the case in those seven overtime losses, he did what he usually does on third-and-10: toyed with the defense to make someone jump offsides for a free play. The Bengals bit, and Rodgers uncorked a deep one for Geronimo Allison, who made some nice moves after the catch for a 72-yard gain. After centering the ball, the Packers sent out Mason Crosby for the easy 27-yard game-winning field goal, and he delivered a 27-24 win.
A multi-score second-half comeback that didn't require a Hail Mary? Check. A win over the Bengals? (Discount Double) Check. A win in overtime? Yes, it was that kind of liberating day for Rodgers and the Packers in avoiding a 1-2 start.
Pittsburgh Steelers 17 at Chicago Bears 23
Type: GWD (OT)
Game Winning Chance Before: 41.8 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 100.0 percent
Win Probability Added: 58.2 percent
Head Coach: John Fox (36-60 at 4QC and 46-67 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Mike Glennon (3-6 at 4QC and 4-8 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Pittsburgh's reputation for coming up small in small games is well intact after another tough loss, this time to a previously winless Bears team. This was the seventh time (and fourth in overtime) Mike Tomlin has lost on the road as at least a 7-point favorite, or three more such losses than any other NFL team since 2007. Of course, the Steelers have been a touchdown favorite on the road 18 times (11-7 record) since 2007, trailing only the Patriots (30 games, with a 28-2 record). Expectations are always high for the Steelers, but the results have not been good to start this season. It would be wrong not to point out that Pittsburgh's highly talented offense only scored 14 points in Cleveland in Week 1, and that the Bears almost beat Atlanta in Chicago that day.
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But the key word there is almost. Not many contenders would play almost 60 minutes of catch-up to a team quarterbacked by Mike Glennon, who was really the only thing holding the Bears back on Sunday. Glennon could not push the ball down the field. He only had 9 of his 101 passing yards to wide receivers, and he flirted with multiple turnovers in bad spots. Pittsburgh's offense only scored in the second half after Chicago turnovers, including a 16-yard touchdown drive and a 7-yard field goal drive that tied the game after a brutal interception by Glennon in the fourth quarter.
However, the Steelers could not put their special teams' failures (including a muffed punt and blocked kick before halftime) behind them to ever take a lead. Mike Mitchell had a diving attempt at another Glennon interception at midfield, but was unable to make the play. With 52 seconds left, Ben Roethlisberger got the Steelers out to their own 32, but after a day of not hitting the big plays, he took a sack and the game went to overtime.
Chicago ran the ball very well all day, with Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard combining for 216 rushing yards on 35 carries. They were even the leading receivers on the day with 50 more yards there between the two of them. The Steelers really struggled to tackle the pair, and Cohen seemingly ripped off a 73-yard touchdown run on the second play of overtime, only to be called out of bounds after 36 yards. It's really hard to tell if he ever actually stepped out or not. Fortunately for Chicago, the Bears just kept gashing Pittsburgh, which was expected to be stronger against the run than the pass this year. Howard finished off the Steelers with runs of 18 and 19 yards, including a touchdown off left tackle. Taking the game completely out of Glennon's hands in overtime could not have been a wiser decision.
Were the Steelers possibly distracted by their pre-game protest (the first team to not take the field entirely on Sunday) or looking ahead to Week 4's big Baltimore game? Perhaps, but even if you remove those elements, the offensive line still has to block much better, and the quarterback has to start hitting his receivers on big passes. Neither of those things has been happening in the first three weeks, and the Bears took advantage of some special teams miscues and a dominant running attack to gain an edge for an overtime win. Pittsburgh's offensive stars have been healthy, but they sure aren't shining in September.
New York Giants 24 at Philadelphia Eagles 27
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 7 (21-14)
Game Winning Chance Before: 60.6 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 100.0 percent
Win Probability Added: 39.4 percent
Head Coach: Doug Pederson (2-6 at 4QC and 2-7 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Carson Wentz (2-6 at 4QC and 2-7 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Just a week ago, we looked at how the Eagles in the Carson Wentz/Doug Pederson era were 0-10 when allowing 20-plus points, and 1-7 at fourth-quarter comeback opportunities. On Sunday, they earned a 27-24 comeback win in a game that seemingly never would have reached these heights after the Eagles led 14-0 to start the fourth quarter.
A bad punt gave the Giants solid field position at their own 45. Eli Manning finally got in a rhythm with the no-huddle offense, and Odell Beckham Jr. ran an incredible route against Jalen Mills for a 10-yard touchdown. Mills was picked on all day long by the Giants. Zach Ertz fumbled on the ensuing play for the Eagles, and the Giants were right back in business at the Philadelphia 33. Amazing field position and a no-huddle tempo are two great ways to help a struggling offense that hadn't scored 20 points in its last eight games. Manning went back to Beckham against Mills, and the receiver made yet another highlight-worthy 4-yard touchdown to tie the game with 10:53 left.
The Giants weren't finished. Manning threaded the needle off play-action to Sterling Shepard for a 77-yard touchdown after a big run after the catch. Finally the Giants broke the 20-point barrier again, but would the defense hold? When we did our under-25 talent rankings for ESPN this summer, I noted that cornerback Eli Apple was the weak link in New York's secondary. That was met with a surprising amount of criticism from Giants fans, but I see no reason to dispute it. Apple struggled as a rookie, and with Janoris Jenkins' health an issue this year, he has struggled again in an attempt to step up for the defense. Apple was flagged for a 36-yard defensive pass interference penalty while guarding Torrey Smith. That led to a 15-yard touchdown run by Corey Clement to tie the game.
New York seemingly had a big third-down conversion in the red zone, but right guard John Jerry was penalized for grabbing a Philadelphia defender, which prevented him from getting off the field in a timely manner. It was such an unnecessary thing to do too. That big penalty brought up third-and-7, and then Manning's incompletion to Beckham broke a streak of 11 completions in a row in the quarter. It also stopped the clock and saved the Eagles plenty of time, now down 24-21 with 3:08 left.
The Giants were gashed by the run all day, but two completions from Wentz to Ertz set up rookie kicker Jake Elliott for a 46-yard field goal to tie the game again with 51 seconds left.
New York had three timeouts, so Manning could push the ball here, but still needed to be careful. Two penalties by Ereck Flowers sabotaged the drive, and the Giants had to punt with 19 seconds left. That's usually not enough time to be concerned about, but this series has seen its share of wild finishes on late punts swing in Philadelphia's favor before.
It happened again after Brad Wing's punt traveled 28 yards and went out of bounds with 13 seconds left at the Philadelphia 38. After a throwaway, Wentz found Alshon Jeffery for a 19-yard gain with a second left (no clock shenanigans here). Elliott's 61-yard field goal was just good enough, giving him the longest field goal ever by a rookie kicker. This was only the 10th time since 1981 that an offense took over in the final 15 seconds and had a game-winning or game-tying drive.
|Scoring Drives that Started in Final 15 Seconds Leading to a Win Since 1981|
|1||SF||Joe Montana||at CIN||9/20/1987||W 27-26||6||0:02||7||25||0:00||Game-winning TD pass w/0:00 left|
|2||ATL||Matt Ryan||CHI||10/12/2008||W 22-20||1||0:06||3||26||0:00||48-yd game-winning FG w/0:00 left (J.Elam)|
|3||ARI||Jake Plummer||SD||12/27/1998||W 16-13||0||0:07||3||10||0:00||52-yd game-winning FG w/0:00 left (C.Jacke)|
|4||JAC||David Garrard||HOU||11/14/2010||W 31-24||0||0:08||7||66||0:00||Game-winning Hail Mary TD pass w/0:00 left|
|5||DAL||Quincy Carter||at NYG||9/15/2003||W 35-32 OT||3||0:11||3||26||0:00||52-yd game tying FG w/0:00 left (B.Cundiff)|
|6||PHI||Carson Wentz||NYG||9/24/2017||W 27-24||0||0:13||3||19||0:00||61-yd game-winning FG w/0:00 left (J.Elliott)|
|7||TB||Josh Freeman||at CIN||10/10/2010||W 24-21||0||0:14||3||21||0:01||31-yd game-winning FG w/0:01 left (C.Barth)|
|8||MIN||Christian Ponder||JAC||9/9/2012||W 26-23 OT||3||0:14||3||32||0:00||55-yd game-tying FG w/0:00 left (B.Walsh)|
|9||CIN||Andy Dalton||at PIT||12/23/2012||W 13-10||0||0:14||3||21||0:04||43-yd game-winning FG w/0:04 left (J.Brown)|
|10||CLE||Tim Couch||at NO||10/31/1999||W 21-16||2||0:15||7||75||0:00||Game-winning Hail Mary TD pass w/0:00 left|
With that, the Giants remain New York's only winless team this season. When's the last time a road team scored 24 points in the fourth quarter and lost in regulation? That was also Eli Manning's Giants, who lost in Seattle in 2006 after turning a 42-3 deficit into a 42-30 final. Before that, it had not happened since 1980, so this was a rare game script, and another classic entry in the Giants-Eagles rivalry.
Clutch Encounters of the Losing Kind
Broncos at Bills: Peace, Love, and Understanding
The first road test for Vance Joseph's Broncos did not go so well. The Bills scored 23 points on Denver's vaunted defense despite the facts that left tackle Cordy Glenn was out, the running game only produced 62 yards on 25 carries, and Tyrod Taylor was sacked four times and pressured as often as usual. Still, Taylor was sharp with a dink-and-dunk approach, completing 20-of-26 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns.
Buffalo kicker Steven Hauschka also had a banner day. Not only did he hit a 55-yard field goal before halftime, he added a key 53-yard field goal with 13:52 left in the fourth quarter to give the Bills a 23-16 lead. That was actually on a -3-yard drive following Denver's failure to convert a fake punt (direct snap) on fourth-and-3 from its own 31, a curious decision to say the least.
Down 23-16, Trevor Siemian led his offense into Buffalo territory, but that was where Denver drives stalled all day. Two plays after nearly being intercepted, Siemian was picked again by TreDavious White on an inexcusable attempt of a throwaway gone awry.
With 10:44 left, Buffalo's offense looked to put the game away with a field goal on a long drive that overcame four third-down situations. I say overcame instead of converted, because the second third down was a moment of controversy. Taylor threw incomplete on a third-and-6 at the Denver 46, and Von Miller took him to the ground on a clean hit. Miller then extended a hand to help Taylor to his feet, but faked him out in a silly moment that even Taylor got a laugh out of. Not laughing was the official, who you can see threw his flag for unsportsmanlike conduct after this little act.
Von Miller flagged for "unsportsmanlike conduct" pic.twitter.com/Dvzgrht4Qv
— Stupidsportsbullshit (@StupidSportsBS) September 25, 2017
From the NFL rule book on unsportsmanlike conduct, the only potentially applicable point is "using baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams." I don't see how this lighthearted gesture brought any ill will towards Taylor, but as Joseph said of the official after the game, "It's pro football, but he called it."
That huge call put the Bills in scoring range, and two more third-down conversions brought the clock down to 3:14 after Hauschka's 27-yard field goal made it 26-16. Siemian only reached the Buffalo 42 before underthrowing Emmanuel Sanders on fourth-and-4 to effectively end the game.
We'll see if the 2018 NFL rule book includes "don't pull a psych-out" for taunting. Joseph (0-1) joins the other rookie head coaches this year -- Sean McDermott (0-1), Sean McVay (0-1), Kyle Shanahan (0-2), and Anthony Lynn (0-3) -- for a combined 0-8 record in games with a fourth-quarter comeback opportunity.
Chiefs at Chargers: Not a Spectacular Loss
This game could have easily had a scoreless second half, which means the Chargers had ample opportunities to chip away at Kansas City's 17-10 halftime lead, but never scored on their final six drives. The best opportunity came at the beginning of the fourth quarter. We have asked a few times in the last year why Andy Reid has revealed some trick plays in spots that weren't so advantageous to the win probability, and we're questioning him again after his fake punt on fourth-and-14 backfired. Albert Wilson lost 4 yards on a direct snap, but why was he even trying to convert such a long play in the first place from the Kansas City 39?
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That should have given the Chargers a good boost, but two bad runs and a forced checkdown from Philip Rivers led to fourth-and-10 at the Kansas City 35. That should either be a 53-yard field goal attempt, or if head coach Anthony Lynn doesn't want to shake Younghoe Koo's confidence any more, then let the offense go for it. The game took a defensive turn in the second half, and your opponent just tried a fake punt inside its own 40. Be daring too. Instead, the Chargers took a delay of game penalty and punted. Later, Rivers narrowly avoided a fourth interception on the day, and was unable to answer again after pressure from Justin Houston began to heat up. On the third drive of the quarter, Rivers drove his offense as far as his own 43, but then suffered his only two sacks of the day, including a big one by Houston on third-and-10. The Chargers had no choice but to punt with 3:05 left.
Rookie runner Kareem Hunt was having a respectable day, but decided to put the icing on this one. After he gained one first down to get to the two-minute warning, Hunt exploded down the middle of the field for a 69-yard touchdown run. Hunt could have gone down at any point after 10 yards to end the game, but when you're 22 years old and see a clear path for a 50-plus-yard touchdown for the third week in a row, you're going to take it every time. In just three games, Hunt has as many 50-yard touchdowns as Hall of Famers Thurman Thomas, John Riggins, or Franco Harris had in their careers. He already has one more 50-yard touchdown than Eric Dickerson, Jerome Bettis, and Curtis Martin had in their long Hall of Fame careers.
The Chiefs lead the NFL with three defensive holds of a one-score lead in the fourth quarter, and the Chargers are the only team with a 0-3 record at game-winning drive opportunities so far. Yep, not much has changed in the AFC West, but Kansas City's newest weapon is another fun one to watch. The Chiefs were able to win on the road by 14 points in a game where Travis Kelce had just one target for 1 yard. On a day where the rest of the division all lost, the Chiefs remain on top of the AFC at 3-0.
Browns at Colts: Misleadingly Close
Cleveland came into this one having lost 27 of its last 29 games, and had not won a road game since Week 5 of the 2015 season. Still, the Browns were favored in Indianapolis, because that's how little people think of the Colts without Andrew Luck. However, the Colts likely would have beaten Arizona last week had they not botched a third-and-20 in the fourth quarter on defense. T.Y. Hilton made the difference for the Colts at home, piling up 153 yards on seven catches from Jacoby Brissett, who also rushed for two touchdowns.
The Colts opened up a 31-14 lead in the fourth quarter, but still had to sweat things out a little after DeShone Kizer led back-to-back touchdown drives for the Browns. Cleveland actually used its timeouts very early (starting before the nine-minute mark), so an onside kick was the only real hope remaining, but the Colts recovered and wisely ran Frank Gore three times before punting.
Kizer was left in a hopeless situation: down 31-28 from his own 9 with 23 seconds and no timeouts left. His Hail Mary shot was intercepted at midfield by rookie safety Malik Hooker to end the game. The Browns (0-3) aren't the NFL's only winless team, but they are the only team that has yet to have a lead in a game this season. This one was not as close as the final score suggests.
Rams at 49ers: Thursday Night Fun
The first 41-39 final score in NFL history also belongs to the highest-scoring game in the history of Thursday Night Football. Who would have imagined the Rams and 49ers would put on such a show? The game was far from perfect -- Jeff Triplette was the referee, after all -- but we saw spectacular catches, tough goal-line defense, steady quarterback play, and big hits. The fun seemingly was about to end after the 49ers punted the ball back, trailing 41-26, with 8:11 left.
But from there, the 49ers were able to generate three straight possessions to nearly pull off an improbable comeback. After one touchdown drive, the special teams forced a fumble by Pharoh Cooper on the ensuing kickoff return, leading to a 29-yard touchdown drive. However, Brian Hoyer was intercepted on the game-tying two-point conversion attempt. Perhaps even worse was the fact that Kyle Shanahan used a timeout before the fourth-down scoring play, and a second timeout to set up that two-point try.
San Francisco still ended up in great position after recovering an onside kick, which is no small feat in this game. The 49ers got to start at the 50, only down 41-39 with 2:10 left. This now looked very winnable, and a conversion on third-and-10 from Hoyer to slot receiver Trent Taylor had the 49ers a first down away from solid field goal range. Unfortunately, Taylor was flagged for offensive pass interference, and the replay failed to show that any such foul occurred.
— De'AaronHimself (@aaronhimself) September 22, 2017
It's strange that this was not given other replay angles and barely discussed by the game's announcers (Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth), because that was a huge call. If the 49ers had a first-and-10 at the Los Angeles 39 with 1:54 left, their Game Winning Chance would have been 51.3 percent, according to EdjFootball. Thanks to the phantom penalty setting up a third-and-20 at the 49ers' 40, their Game Winning Chance dropped to 19.0 percent, a huge difference of 32.3 percentage points. Hoyer threw a bad incompletion, and then took a sack on fourth-and-20 by Aaron Donald. The Rams picked up one more first down to officially end the night, but it was really a cheap call that put a damper on the comeback.
Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 8
Game-winning drives: 13
Games with 4QC/GWD opportunity: 24/47 (51.1 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 4
Historic data on fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives can be found at Pro Football Reference. Screen caps come from NFL Game Pass. Game Winning Chance (win probability) data is from EdjFootball.