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28 Oct 2014

Clutch Encounters: Week 8

by Scott Kacsmar

Peyton Manning versus Philip Rivers? Aaron Rodgers versus Drew Brees? The prime-time quarterback duels weren't everything they were cracked up to be in Week 8. Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck combined for 907 net passing yards, the second most in NFL history, but that was the only "close" game without a game-winning drive this week. Our six other games with a comeback opportunity all featured a game-winning score in the fourth quarter or overtime, including a most improbable finish in London.

Game of the Week

Detroit Lions 22 vs. Atlanta Falcons 21 (London)

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 11 (21-10)
Win Probability (4QC/GWD starting with 1:38 left): 0.20
Head Coach: Jim Caldwell (10-16 at 4QC and 12-16 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford (12-24 at 4QC and 14-24 overall 4QC/GWD record)

Panic on the streets of London. What would Morrissey think if he watched this mess of a football game?

Falcons fans after halftime: "I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour, but heaven knows I'm miserable now."

Desmond Trufant to Kemal Ishmael after passing off Golden Tate on third-and-25: "I started something, I forced you to a zone, and you were clearly never meant to go."

Matt Ryan after his brutal interception: "And you go home, and you cry and you want to die."

Mike Smith: "Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head."

Jim Caldwell: "And I'm not happy and I'm not sad."

Ever since blowing a 17-point lead in the 2012 NFC Championship, the Falcons have been broken. They have allowed seven fourth-quarter comebacks in their last 25 games after allowing three in 84 games from 2008-2012.

When Atlanta led 21-0 at halftime to an undermanned Detroit team, this didn't feel like a collapse in the making. You almost have to help the opponent make a comeback on a day like this with Detroit missing Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, three tight ends and losing Nick Fairley to injury. No two plays better exemplify this than the coverage played on Golden Tate's 59-yard touchdown on third-and-25 and the mind-blowingly bad interception Ryan threw to Cassius Vaughn. Detroit trailed 21-10 to start the fourth quarter, but Ryan was fortunate his pick only cost his team three points. Still, we had a one-score game at that point.

Detroit took half the quarter to score a touchdown and was actually bailed out by the referees missing a delay of game penalty on a key third-down conversion. The referees then missed a defensive holding penalty on the failed two-point conversion pass to Tate, leaving it at 21-19.

Atlanta had 3:56 left in a classic four-minute offense situation. Harry Douglas made a tough catch on third-and-5 for one first down. After Detroit's second timeout, the Falcons made a smart call by throwing a second-down screen to Julio Jones for 22 yards. So many teams would just run the ball to get to the two-minute warning and put everything on a third-down play.

With two minutes left Atlanta needed to be thinking three runs. Most likely that would leave Detroit 20 to 25 seconds with a super long field in front of them. The Falcons botched this as badly as any team I have seen. An offensive holding penalty (wow, Lions are lucky again with one of those) stopped the clock with 1:50 left. I can understand the craving to throw on third-and-10. A decent gain would allow for a field goal, but I think this had to be another run to move the clock down and make Stafford drive the field with a shaky kicking situation on a poor-quality field.

Atlanta tried another screen and Jones took his eyes off the ball this time for a drop. Even after a solid punt, Stafford had the ball at his own 7 with 1:38 left. That's plenty of time. He immediately rifled a 32-yard pass to Tate, who has been incredible in Johnson's absence with back-to-back 150-yard games. Two more completions put the field goal inside of 50 yards, and Stafford spiked the ball with 34 seconds left.

Detroit ran the ball on second down for a yard and Smith immediately called a questionable timeout with 25 seconds left. I guess the thought was to make Detroit kick on third down and conserve time for an answer drive, but by calling the timeout right away, he gave Detroit enough time to run another play, get closer to the goalposts and rush the field goal unit out in time if need be. I think I would have saved the timeout to force them to rush the kick or concede a 49-yard try.

Caldwell answered one suspect coaching decision with a running play on third-and-9. That was really going to make the field goal a rush job, but Detroit was bailed out again by defensive holding on a run. As Aaron Schatz noted, that has only happened one other time this year. Stafford centered the ball and ran a spike with four seconds left. Detroit was still slow in getting the field goal ready, and Matt Prater was wide right on the 43-yard kick. However, this time the referees caught the delay of game penalty, so technically the play never happened. There was no 10-second runoff since it was a dead ball. That's a tough one since you can't really say the play ever happened, but the penalty helped Detroit stay alive. Maybe the NFL could look into this in the offseason.

With a second life, Prater made the 48-yard field goal and the Falcons tied the biggest blown lead in team history. Stafford has rallied Detroit to a win four times after trailing by 20-plus points in his career. The only other quarterback to do that was Drew Bledsoe, which has been a fitting comparison. They are both No. 1 overall picks and volume passers who have just enough bright moments to make you believe in them, but their inconsistency can be maddening.

After Week 1, Detroit has been winning ugly, but that still beats losing.

Clutch Encounters of the Winning Kind

Washington Redskins 20 at Dallas Cowboys 17

Type: GWD (OT) and defensive stop
Win Probability (GWD starting with 15:00 left in overtime): 0.53
Head Coach: Jay Gruden (1-4 at 4QC and 2-4 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Colt McCoy (2-7 at 4QC and 5-7 overall 4QC/GWD record)

One of Dallas' biggest fears this season was what would happen if Tony Romo was injured. Brandon Weeden replaced the reliable Kyle Orton as backup quarterback. Well, after Romo's back gave out again in the third quarter, we saw that at least for a few plays against a struggling Washington defense, Weeden might be OK in short-term use in an offense that's much better than the one he had in Cleveland.

The whole game had to be quite the spectacle for Browns fans with Colt McCoy starting for Washington and completing 25-of-30 passes for 299 yards. He has now hit on 36 of 42 passes this year, and while the knock on him has always been arm strength, his 45-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson looked pretty good to end the third quarter. McCoy finished the drive with a 7-yard quarterback draw touchdown to give underdog Washington a 17-10 lead. Weeden answered with his own 80-yard touchdown drive, finding an open Jason Witten for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Again, there's something humorous about watching McCoy and Weeden exchange long scoring drives with some real talent around them for a change.

Washington had 9:27 left and nearly managed to use it all to set up a game-winning score. However, the drive bogged down with a delay of game penalty and McCoy took a bad sack on third down to knock the Redskins out of field-goal range.

With 1:52 left at his own 3-yard line, Romo returned to the game. Was it a risk? Perhaps, but if your star quarterback is medically cleared to go, he's going to play. Romo nearly gave the game away on his first dropback with a sack-fumble by Brandon Meriweather, but DeMarco Murray somehow recovered the ball. Romo only picked up one first down before getting hit with an intentional grounding penalty on third-and-1.

The game went to overtime and Washington had first possession. After an ESPN graphic showed 21 runs to two passes on first down for the Redskins, McCoy surprisingly went deep on the first play with a 23-yard gain to an open Pierre Garcon. Jordan Reed made two stellar catches, but his third of the drive was stopped for no gain. Kai Forbath kicked the 40-yard field goal and Romo needed at least a matching score in four-down football.

Romo has five 4QC/GWD against Washington, his most against any team, but he did not look himself upon returning. This should have been a run-heavy drive with the clock not a factor. Murray rushed for 141 yards and looked great minus another fumble. He started the drive with an 8-yard run, but Dallas went to the air afterwards. Murray lost a yard on a swing pass that was read well by Perry Riley, who then defended Witten on a third-down throw. Just like that it was fourth-and-3. Romo danced in the pocket, but it appeared every receiver was covered well and he had to force a bad throw to Dez Bryant, defended by rookie Bashaud Breeland, who knocked the pass away to secure the upset win.

In 47 modified overtime games, Washington is the eighth team to get a field goal on the first drive. The Cowboys are the fifth team to fail to respond with at least a tying field goal. They are the first team to go four-and-out since the Blaine Gabbert-led Jaguars did so in the first ever regular-season modified overtime game. Coincidentally enough, both had an 8-yard run but continued to throw in short-yardage situations.

Dallas has committed to the running game this season, but failed to do so in a situation where it made more sense than ever with an ailing Romo. Two years ago Washington famously ended Dallas' season with a middle-blitz technique for which the Cowboys never had an answer. Jim Haslett dialed up some more impressive blitzes to throw the Cowboys off on Monday night. Romo was sacked five times, and now with the back issues creeping up again, expect Arizona to test this offensive line next week.

Philadelphia Eagles 20 at Arizona Cardinals 24

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 3 (20-17)
Win Probability (4QC/GWD starting with 1:56 left): 0.16
Head Coach: Bruce Arians (10-5 at 4QC and 13-5 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Carson Palmer (18-43 at 4QC and 26-43 overall 4QC/GWD record)

This was an entertaining battle last season in Philadelphia, and the rematch had more hype, with both teams boasting a 5-1 record and two of the most vertical passing games in the league. While there was certainly pressure from both defenses -- ESPN cited 26 pressures on Nick Foles -- this game actually set one impressive record and tied another.

It was the first game in NFL history in which the teams combined for more than 100 pass attempts (104 to be exact) without a single sack allowed. The 104 passes tie the regular-season record for a non-overtime game set in last season's opener between Denver and Baltimore.

Despite all that passing without sacks, there were only 44 points on the board on 27 possessions. As always, turnovers were a big deal. Leading 17-14 in the fourth quarter, Foles threw behind Riley Cooper and Antonio Cromartie was there for the interception. Arizona settled for a 28-yard field goal after Carson Palmer threw three incompletions at the 10-yard line. DeMeco Ryans saved a touchdown with a pass break-up on third down.

The Eagles had 9:01 to go in a 17-17 tie. Despite their deserved reputation as a fast-paced offense, they embarked on an impressive, run-heavy march that consumed more than seven minutes off the clock. The problem was another criticism of modern college-style offenses: shotgun dependency. On third-and-1 at the Arizona 2, you would like to see a quarterback under center either for the quarterback sneak or a short handoff. This wasn't even a full yard to gain, but the Eagles were still in shotgun. LeSean McCoy got the carry and was stuffed for no gain. I think most coaches would take the field goal and lead here. I would have probably just run the quarterback sneak twice, but I'm obsessed with that play.

The conservative 20-yard field goal was good and Palmer had 1:56 to answer with all three timeouts from his own 20. He was a little late on a throw to John Brown, but Nolan Carroll was injured on the play. That cost the Eagles a big timeout with the clock stopped. The next play cost the Eagles the game.

Palmer floated a rainbow and Brown ran underneath it for a 75-yard touchdown. Teams like prevent defense for a reason in this situation, but two Eagles were caught peeking into the backfield and were unable to catch up to Brown down the field. Arizona led 24-20 with 1:21 left.

Philadelphia is built for quick drives like this and still had two timeouts. Arizona has not been afraid this season to blitz and play aggressively on defense in these situations. The chess match was in progress with both sides making things happen. Foles kept the ball on a zone read and barely picked up the first down on a crucial fourth-and-2. That was a pretty bold call, but it also cost the Eagles their final timeout with 18 seconds left and 35 more yards to go.

Jeremy Maclin's huge day (12 catches for 187 yards) concluded with a 19-yard grab against Jerraud Powers, who was giving up a lot of space on an island. From the 16, Arizona trusted its defensive backs in the end zone, bringing a big blitz on second down, but Foles' pass for Zach Ertz was knocked away by rookie Deone Bucannon with a second left.

On the last play of the game Arizona rushed seven to force Foles into an off-balance throw. The blitz did just enough to make him inaccurate and Jordan Matthews was unable to get his feet in bounds with the catch for that reason.

Aggressive Arians picks up another close win. Is there any denying he's running away with the Coach of the Year award to this point?

Seattle Seahawks 13 at Carolina Panthers 9

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 3 (9-6)
Win Probability (4QC/GWD starting with 4:37 left): 0.28
Head Coach: Pete Carroll (17-36 at 4QC and 23-40 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Russell Wilson (9-11 at 4QC and 12-12 overall 4QC/GWD record)

For the third year in a row Carolina hosted Seattle in a low-scoring game where the Panthers could not close in the end. Before you take the 13-9 final as hope these teams are back to their defensive ways, keep in mind each offense only had eight possessions. Still, this was an abysmal display of offensive execution in scoring territory. Both teams had two turnovers inside the 35-yard line to help produce a 6-6 tie in the fourth quarter.

With neither quarterback displaying much, someone needed to make a play. That player has often been rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin for Carolina this year. On third-and-11, Cam Newton gave him a chance deep down the field and Benjamin made an incredible 51-yard catch in between Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. Sherman tried to catch the ball at its highest point, but Benjamin made the play instead. Last season Seattle's defense held quarterbacks to a league-best 1-of-41 conversion rate (2.4 percent) on passes on third-and-11 or longer. This season quarterbacks are 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) on such plays against Seattle (which is now ranked 27th).

A sack of Newton nearly derailed the scoring opportunity, but Graham Gano converted the 46-yard field goal with 4:37 left for a 9-6 lead.

Starting at his own 20, this was Russell Wilson's chance to shine. Seattle let him drop back on six of the nine plays, twice choosing to run on easy second-and-1 situations and never facing a third down. Both teams had all three timeouts, so Carolina was in a sticky situation with Seattle having the ball at the Panthers' 35 with 1:58 left. Conserving time eventually had to be on Ron Rivera's mind. Seattle was content to take as much time as possible.

Wilson gained seven yards on a zone-read keeper and the clock moved under a minute. With good protection, Wilson drilled a perfect pass to Luke Willson for a 23-yard touchdown with 47 seconds left. Carolina finally had to use a timeout, but that was due to an injury on the score, which hurt even more.

After a kick return to the 23, Carolina needed 77 yards in 42 seconds with two timeouts. It's not like Seattle hasn't allowed a drive like that already this year, but this was going to be extremely tough. The lack of time begs the question: when should a coach use his timeouts in the last two minutes with a three-point lead? In theory, if Rivera used timeouts after Seattle's first two plays in scoring range and the Seahawks had still scored the touchdown on the third, Carolina could have had 1:40 to answer instead of 42 seconds. That's roughly an increase of 14 percentage points of win probability.

That's also assuming Seattle would call the same plays, but again, the availability of timeouts made this difficult. If Carolina conserved too much time, Seattle could have realistically gotten the ball back by using its timeouts. It's not like the Seahawks were going to run out of time to do at least the bare minimum required of them: the field goal attempt.

But this was about touchdowns now, and Newton needed a Superman effort to pull this off. The result was a pathetic drive with Seattle's four-man rush getting to Newton with ease. Bruce Irvin notched back-to-back sacks and the Panthers faced a fourth-and-25 at their own 8. This needed to be a deep throw followed by a quick spike or a play designed to use laterals. The call was a screen that Newton short-hopped into the ground to end the game.

That's like ending a comic book by having Superman crack open a fire hydrant to save a burning Daily Planet.

Baltimore Ravens 24 at Cincinnati Bengals 27

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 4 (24-20)
Win Probability (4QC/GWD starting with 3:59 left): 0.25
Head Coach: Marvin Lewis (24-56-1 at 4QC and 35-65-2 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Andy Dalton (7-14-1 at 4QC and 12-14-1 overall 4QC/GWD record)

Think Baltimore has seen enough of Cincinnati yet? In their last nine games dating back to last year's Week 17 finale, the Ravens have allowed three game-winning drives to the Bengals. This one was especially tough with first place in the AFC North at stake.

Much like this year's Week 1 meeting, Cincinnati controlled the early quarters before Baltimore rallied. Leading 17-14, Andy Dalton missed an opportunity for Greg Little to drop a touchdown on third down in the end zone, so the Bengals settled for a field goal and 20-14 lead.

Joe Flacco misfired on two bombs in short-yardage situations, prompting a quick three-and-out. That mishap nearly cost the Ravens after the Bengals drove into field-goal range again. That's when the Bengals got cute and tried so hard to fake a run to the right that they failed to even account for Haloti Ngata, leaving him unblocked on the left. He produced a strip-sack of Dalton, who was pretty careless with his ball security. The Ravens were 8 yards away from the go-ahead score after the return, and Lorenzo Taliaferro only needed one carry to score with 6:31 left.

Again like Week 1, the Ravens were leading by a point more than halfway through the final quarter. This time the Bengals did not have the services of A.J. Green to immediately respond with a long touchdown. Instead, Dalton threw to Mohamed Sanu, but after pulling down the high pass, Sanu was stripped by safety Matt Elam. C.J. Mosley caught the ball in midair to get credit for the interception, which you can't fully put on Dalton here. Sanu just had the ball ripped away from him. Baltimore stayed conservative on offense and only gained 8 yards on the drive. Justin Tucker hit a 53-yard field goal. He is now 13-of-17 on field goals of 50-plus yards in his career.

Down 24-20 with 3:59 left, Dalton and Sanu atoned for the earlier turnover with a 53-yard deep connection on third-and-10. Little moved the ball to the 6-yard line as the clock hit the two-minute warning. Cincinnati could afford to burn some clock here and did so with three runs in a row with Jeremy Hill. Baltimore was wise to use its two final timeouts to conserve time for an answer drive. On fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Dalton went with the most unstoppable play in the game: the quarterback sneak. They needed more than a full yard, but the Ravens failed to clog the middle and Dalton kept pushing forward, even with a little help from his teammates.

Flacco still had 57 seconds at his own 20, only needing a field goal with the fantastic Tucker on his side. Decent pressure with a four-man rush helped create one bad throw, but a five-man rush on second down really forced Flacco to unload an incompletion. On third-and-10, Flacco scrambled to his right and launched another prayer the same way he did in Denver that one night. This prayer was answered by Steve Smith, who made a cut and found his way into the end zone with 32 seconds left. Flacco had pulled out another one.

Except this one did not count thanks to an offensive pass interference on Smith. Replay clearly shows Smith getting a push on George Iloka, who then fell down on the play. Did Iloka embellish the contact to help draw a flag? Most likely, but when the receiver extends his arms to push the way Smith did, that has to be penalized. This wasn't another Denver-sized miracle.

Good luck gaining 90 yards in 23 seconds, let alone converting on fourth-and-20. Cincinnati only needed to rush four with the whole field to defend and still generated heavy pressure on Flacco. He checked the ball down to Taliaferro, but the running back only gained 13 yards to end the game. So this wasn't another San Diego miracle either.

Cincinnati completed its fifth season sweep of the Ravens.

Minnesota Vikings 19 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13

Type: 4QC and non-offensive game-winning score (OT)
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 3 (13-10)
Win Probability (4QC starting with 1:57 left): 0.16
Head Coach: Mike Zimmer (2-0 at 4QC and 2-0 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Teddy Bridgewater (2-0 at 4QC and 2-0 overall 4QC/GWD record)

Records aside, it was hard not to argue Tampa Bay (last in DVOA) was the worst team in the league headed into the week. After a bye week to regroup, Lovie Smith's defense's best performance of the season was wasted by an offense that failed to score until the fourth quarter. It took both teams a total of 12 possessions to get any points on the board, but Teddy Bridgewater's drive inside of the two-minute warning was crucial to this win.

Minnesota led 10-0, but back-to-back field goals put Tampa Bay in business, down 10-6 with 5:40 to play. After Mike James converted a fourth-and-1 run, Mike Glennon used play action to find Austin Seferian-Jenkins for a 7-yard touchdown on a great throw with 2:02 left.

That set the stage for Bridgewater to deliver with two timeouts left, starting at his own 20. Cordarrelle Patterson was heavily involved early on the drive with four targets (one 12-yard catch and 7 yards drawn on pass interference), but Johnthan Banks nearly jumped his route for a game-ending interception.

Inches from a win. So far, Jarius Wright has been a better connection for Bridgewater this year, and his 17-yard catch moved the ball into field-goal range at the Tampa 34. The Vikings really never went aggressively for the touchdown, settling for short passes to make the field goal easier. They could have called their timeout at the 19-yard line to try a shot into the end zone, but were arguably wise with a shaky rookie passer to just let the clock run down and kick the game-tying field goal. Blair Walsh was good from 38 yards away to force overtime.

In a low-scoring game with two defensive coaches, one might think the coin-toss winner would consider kicking off, but no. The Buccaneers probably wanted to make sure they had a possession this time after losing in New Orleans without touching the ball.

But the team receiving first is only 23-21-3 in modified overtime. That's technically a winning percentage of .521, but that's also 24 cases of not winning the game by going first versus 23 cases of winning. Tampa Bay started at its own 17-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Glennon went back to Seferian-Jenkins, but Anthony Barr made up for allowing the completion by stripping the ball, recovering the fumble and returning it for a stunning game-winning 27-yard touchdown.

In 47 modified overtime games, we have seen the receiving team throw three interceptions and fumble six times. This was the first turnover returned for a touchdown as Minnesota's first-round rookies came through on the day. This is the first time Minnesota had a fourth-quarter comeback capped off by a non-offensive winning score since a punt was blocked for a safety in overtime against the Rams in 1989.

Clutch Encounters of the Losing Kind

Colts at Steelers: Big Ben's Big Day

On the most impressive day of Ben Roethlisberger's career, the Steelers had to sweat out a 25-point comeback attempt by Andrew Luck and the Colts. Once trailing 35-10, the Colts pulled to within 42-34 in the fourth quarter and had the ball at their own 5-yard line following a red-zone fumble by LeGarrette Blount.

In a rare occurrence, this comeback fell flat. Specifically, Luck fell flat on his ass after pulling away from center on second down. He landed just in front of the end zone with momentum carrying him through the plane of the goal line. He tried throwing a pass away, but there was no receiver close enough to where the ball landed, bringing a justified flag for intentional grounding.

However, was this a legitimate safety? CBS' Mike Carey said the ball's release point is what's important in determining where the grounding occurred. The entire ball has to be out of the plane of the end zone at the release point for it not to be considered a safety. Carey made no mention of the passer's body, and Luck was partially in the end zone when he threw the ball. Carey didn't think there was conclusive evidence on replay, but when is he ever right? When looking at the play frame by frame, there is conclusive evidence that Luck released the ball out of the end zone, so by Carey's logic, he should have been penalized a loss of down and the Colts would have faced a third-and-long in a 42-34 game.

Former Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira pointed out that replay cannot review any aspect of intentional grounding, including the spot of the release, which Carey said was reviewed. They can only review whether or not Luck was down by contact before throwing the pass. The NFL's replay system can look at a fourth-and-inches spot, but it somehow cannot review the spot of the ball on a crucial scoring play. Imagine that.

Of course, this is assuming Carey and Pereira are even right, which is not a given. This little blurb from the NFL about intentional grounding mentions it's a "safety if passer is in his own end zone when ball is released" which would contradict Carey's analysis.

Sure enough, Carey was giving bad information again. Current Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino cleared things up on Twitter for me. The entire body and the ball must be out of the end zone for this not to be a safety. Luck's body was not entirely out, so safety it is. All that was reviewed is whether or not Luck was down by contact before the pass, so Pereira was correct there.

With 12:34 left, the Steelers weren't home-free yet. Another long drive stalled with a fourth-and-1 at the Indianapolis 11. Instead of kicking a field goal to go up 13 and inviting the possibility of a one-point loss, the Steelers did the smart thing and went for the dagger. Roethlisberger rolled to his right and found Heath Miller open for his sixth touchdown pass of the day, breaking the franchise record. Pittsburgh led 51-34 and there was only time left for Luck to throw a desperation interception.

Luck has had nine failed 4QC/GWD opportunities in his career. This was the sixth time a failed offensive drive was followed by the defense allowing a decisive scoring drive. That leaves little margin for error, meaning Luck has to be close to perfect. He wasn't on Sunday, but Roethlisberger damn near was in becoming the first quarterback in NFL history with multiple 500-yard passing games. I have watched every game of his career and Sunday was his 150th regular-season start (and 100th win). He has never played a better game.

Few quarterbacks ever have.

If you would like to read more about this game, check out Any Given Sunday.

Season Summary
Fourth-quarter comebacks: 31
Game-winning drives: 35
Games with 4QC opportunity: 69/121 (57.0 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 21

Historic data on fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives can be found at Pro-Football-Reference. Win Probability comes from Advanced Football Analytics. Screen caps come from NFL Game Rewind.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 28 Oct 2014

5 comments, Last at 28 Oct 2014, 6:19pm by jonnyblazin


by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 10/28/2014 - 3:21pm

I've watched the end of ATL-DET a couple of times on DVR, and I still can't make heads or tails of what Smith and Caldwell were trying to accomplish with their respective coaching decisions (calling a timeout that benefits the other team, and running on 3rd and 9 when you have no timeouts left).

by TimK :: Tue, 10/28/2014 - 5:32pm

If Luck had simply stretched forward to get the ball out of the end zone that would have a third and long from a few inches out wouldn't it? It isn't as if he had much time to think of exactly what he doing, and I can imagine anyone would practice or even mentally rehearse something like that, but that would likely make it a bad mistake by Luck to let go of the ball.

by turbohappy :: Tue, 10/28/2014 - 5:43pm

Yeah if Luck rolls over there onto the ball with it fully out of the end zone it isn't a safety. I actually think that Nicks may have ran the wrong route. It didn't look like Luck was trying to throw it away to me, it looked like he was legitimately trying to complete it.

by andrew :: Tue, 10/28/2014 - 5:50pm

"This is the first time Minnesota had a fourth-quarter comeback capped off by a non-offensive winning score since a punt was blocked for a safety in overtime against the Rams in 1989."

Ah, the Rick Karlis/Mike Merriweather game.

To my knowledge, the 23 points scored by the Vikings (7 FGs + Safety) is the most a team has ever scored without scoring a touchdown (when Rob Bironas kicked 8 FGs they also had two touchdowns). So the Rams had 3 more touchdowns than the Vikings and still lost.

The most amazing thing apart from the ending was how short the field goals were. The first 5 were all from less than 30, and the last two were 36 and 40. So the field goals were kicked on drives that ended at the: 3, 7, 5, 8, 12, 19 and 23 yard lines. So much for Red Zone efficiency. It tied an NFL record at the time for Field Goals (with Jim Bakken), and was the most without a miss at the time, since equaled and then since surpassed.

It was IIRC the first overtime game to end on a safety, but that has happened a few times since as well (Chicago had one, as did Miami I think). When he blocked the Punt, Merriweather tried to recover it in the end zone for a touchdown, but couldn't control the ball and it went out the back of the end zone. He fell to his knees in anguish, thinking he had missed a chance to win the game. He didn't realize he had won it until his teammates ran up to inform him.

by jonnyblazin :: Tue, 10/28/2014 - 6:19pm

Given that the NFL has now become hyper-sensitive to defenders pushing each other on FG attempts (see Pats-Jets last year), I wonder if they are interested in cracking down on offensive players pushing each other forward on QB sneaks.

Not that the Ravens have any excuse for the way they defended that play. 4th and goal from 1.5 yards out, and the Ravens go to the nickel with 2 DL and 4 LB. Only one DL (Williams) was lined up between the tackles, Ngata was outside the RT. Easiest QB sneak in the world. I don't know how Dean Pees keeps his job, he makes some unbelievably poor decisions.