By Scott Kacsmar
Cold, Hard Football Facts Comeback King

An intriguing Week 13 was highlighted by the Green Bay Packers having their first game-winning drive since the second game in their 18-game winning streak, which is now tied for the second longest in NFL history, and is easily one of the most unique streaks we’ve ever seen.
There were also familiar, winning finishes for the Broncos and Jets, and a shocking result in Arizona. The Texans notched their franchise-record sixth straight win in the first career start by T.J. Yates. Overall, 8 of the 16 games featured a comeback opportunity this week.
With the season’s fourth quarter now upon us, we are 75% of the way through the regular season. Only 64 games remain on the schedule.
Three-quarters Season Report:
Fourth quarter comebacks: 54
Game-winning drives: 66
Games with 4QC opportunity: 118/192 (61.5%)
10+ point comebacks (any point in the game): 30
20+ point comebacks (any point in the game): 5 (single-season record)
Games won in fourth quarter with non-offensive score: 1 (Denver at Oakland…#Tebow)
While it’s been a great week (and season) for fourth quarter wins, it was a subpar week for the statistical coverage of them. We’ll clean up as much as we can, as a major network was being naughty again in their graphics department. Hint: they like to show dancing robots.  

Drive of the Week

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants
Winner: Green Bay (38-35)

Type: GWD
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers (3 4QC, 6 GWD – table)
Though they still have not trailed in the fourth quarter for a record 18 straight wins, the Green Bay Packers did something they haven’t done since Week 17 against Chicago last season: a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.
Not just any game-winning drive either. This time they actually did a “one-minute drill”, taking over with 0:58 left. Plenty happened to get to that point in one of the most entertaining games this season.
The Giants had the formula for the upset: an offense that can score and come back with the best of them, a big-play passing game, and a defense that can get pressure by only rushing four.
The Giants jumped ahead with a 67-yard touchdown on the third play from scrimmage. They looked to go up 14-7 on a touchdown to Jake Ballard, but the referees did not rule it a score despite numerous pieces of graphical evidence that prove otherwise, and even former head of officiating Mike Pereira said on air he thought it was a touchdown.
Eli Manning threw a pick six to Clay Matthews on the next drive, putting the Packers ahead 14-10. They went up 28-17 in the third quarter after another controversial touchdown was ruled a catch by Greg Jennings, further fogging up the idea of what is a catch in today’s NFL.
Eli’s 51-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks kicked off the next drive, and he went back to Nicks for the touchdown. The Giants trailed 28-24 to start the fourth quarter and had the ball. Eli’s third down pass was broken up in the end zone, leading to a 50-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes.
After Green Bay punted, this looked like the prime opportunity for the Giants, down 28-27, to take the lead. But as they have done so often during the streak, the Packers’ defense stepped up and forced a quick three and out.
Aaron Rodgers threw his fourth touchdown of the day to Donald Driver for a 35-27 lead. Eli had 3:29 left, and as he’s done so often this season (and in the past), he led the Giants back. His 2-yard touchdown pass to Nicks led to a two-point conversion run by D.J. Ware.
The game was tied in the fourth quarter, a sight that Green Bay has only seen twice during the streak. With 0:58 left, it took all of two plays to move into field goal range after bullets to Jermichael Finely and Jordy Nelson. Rodgers was 4/4 for 68 yards, and Mason Crosby booted the 31-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. The Giants lost 38-35, the same score they lost to the 16-0 Patriots in 2007’s regular season finale. Will they get a rematch this time?
Green Bay is now the 7th team to win 18 straight games, and will look to inch closer to the 2003-04 Patriots’ streak of 21 wins.
Here’s the updated table for the 10 longest winning streaks in NFL history as they relate to fourth quarter wins:
Team Games Season(s) 4QC GWD %4QC %GWD 3Q Mg. Avg.
Pittsburgh Steelers 15 2004 6 7 40.0 46.7 75 5.00
New England Patriots 21 2003-04 4 8 19.0 38.1 147 7.00
San Francisco 49ers 18 1989-90 3 6 16.7 33.3 177 9.83
Chicago Bears 18 1933-34 4 5 22.2 27.8 155 8.61
Oakland Raiders 17 1976-77 3 4 17.6 23.5 183 10.76
New England Patriots 18 2007 4 4 22.2 22.2 255 14.17
Denver Broncos 18 1997-98 3 4 16.7 22.2 206 11.44
Miami Dolphins 18 1972-73 4 4 22.2 22.2 202 11.22
Chicago Bears 18 1941-42 2 2 11.1 11.1 302 16.78
Green Bay Packers 18 2010-11 0 2 0.0 11.1 229 12.72
3Q Mg. is how many points the team led by thru three quarters. The Packers are still the only team to not have a comeback win, blowing away the previous record (13 games by the 1942-43 Washington Redskins) for consecutive wins without trailing in the fourth quarter.
Here’s the updated table for how the last six teams have done on defense in the fourth quarter or overtime when protecting a tie or one score lead.
Clutch Defense
Team Games Drives Points TOs Pts/Dr TO/Dr
2004 Steelers 9 19 15 3 0.79 0.158
2010-11 Packers 11 20 17 7 0.85 0.350
2007 Patriots 5 7 7 4 1.00 0.571
2003-04 Patriots 17 43 44 12 1.02 0.279
1997-98 Broncos 8 16 21 2 1.31 0.125
1989-90 49ers 7 11 20 5 1.82 0.455
The Packers did not allow any points on the first 16 drives, but allowed a touchdown to Tampa Bay (Winslow Jr. dropped the two-point conversion), and allowed 11 points to the Giants this week.

Rodgers’ Winning Drive

Before the season even kicked off, we did our own front-running to point out Green Bay’s unique style of winning games in recent years. Little did we know they’d go on the greatest front-running streak in NFL history with 18 straight wins of not trailing in the fourth quarter.
They were the team that couldn’t win the close ones, but have since turned things around on defense. Though if that’s starting to bend more and more, maybe the offense will get more chances as the season goes on. They’ve rarely needed a game-winning drive. 11 of Mike McCarthy’s 65 wins have come via a game-winning drive. That’s only 16.9%. For comebacks it’s 6/65 (9.2%).
While Sunday wasn’t a comeback, it was the kind of drive Green Bay needed, if only a reminder that they are capable of winning such a game. It’s unlikely they can get through another season without making a single fourth quarter comeback, so consider this great practice.
It’s not just rare to see the Packers have a game-winning drive, but for them to have one in the final minutes of the game is the most unusual part.
Drives 23
Points 27
Pts/Dr 1.17
Yds/Dr 25.09
TOs 9
Missed FGs 2
Since 2006, the Packers have had 23 drives (including Sunday) start in the last 3:00 of the fourth quarter or in overtime. This is with the game tied or down by 1-8 points. Crosby missed two field goals, but they were from 52 and 53 yards out. Two drives started with 0:02 left, which are insignificant because no one would do anything in that situation.
They’ve only scored on five drives.
1. The first was against the Eagles on opening day in 2007. After not moving the chains, Green Bay punted and the Eagles muffed it. The Packers took over at the PHI 31 and just had to run three plays to set up a field goal. Favre even took a knee to lose two yards. Hardly a drive worth remembering.
2. Two weeks later Favre threw a 57-yard touchdown to Greg Jennings with 2:03 left to beat San Diego on a 2-play drive. San Diego had an elite pass defense that season.
3. On Monday Night Football, Denver forced Green Bay into overtime. On the very first play, Favre found Jennings for the 82-yard game-winning touchdown. Since this game, Mike McCarthy has lost 6 straight overtime games.
4. On opening night for 2009, Rodgers had his first late drive, against Chicago in primetime. It started with 2:28 left and the Packers down by 2 points. Rodgers hit Jennings (he’s pretty good) for a 50-yard touchdown, and went back to him with the two-point conversion. There was 1:11 left in the game after that winning score.
5. Then there’s Sunday. 0:58 left, game tied, ball at your own 20. Rodgers goes 4/4 for 68 yards for the last-second field goal.
Three times under Favre, twice now under Rodgers. The Favre drives were hardly even “drives”, seeing as how they took a play or two. So these two drives by Rodgers really are the best (and only) examples of a McCarthy team going on a late game-winning drive with success since 2006. That helps make it more memorable when you’re not used to seeing such a thing.

Fox’s Graphics Confusing People Again

Before Rodgers took the field for his drive, Eli came out for a legit comeback opportunity. The graphic said Eli’s had 5 game-winning drives this season. 100% accurate. True. Joe Buck threw the word “comebacks” in there, but just ignore him.
When Rodgers came out, Fox once again changed the wording in their graphic.
Have a look at the difference:

There goes that “comebacks in 4th quarter or overtime when tied or trailing” once again.
Now if you hate Skip Bayless or like the Packers too much, that exact wording might have been overlooked. A lot of people flocked to Twitter to boast about Rodgers having 6 comebacks now.
Meanwhile the people that read the graphic clearly have to of been asking the question everyone should have been asking years ago: how is it a comeback if you’re tied? That doesn’t count.
My point exactly.
Why is it they can state how many game-winning drives Eli has when he takes the field down 8, but need to throw the word comeback in for Rodgers when he takes the field in a tied game? It’s just annoying because it’s garbage in, garbage out.
We should see the Packers in a comeback situation at some point this season, but Sunday wasn’t one. You can only wonder what sort of phrasing they’ll have ready next time.

The Other Paths to Victory

Denver Broncos at Minnesota Vikings
Winner: Denver (35-32)

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 8 (29-21)
Quarterback: Tim Tebow (5 4QC, 5 GWD – table)
We said we’d revisit The Tebow Zone, but the truth is we really haven’t left it since the 5-game winning streak began.
Much of the justified credit for this streak has gone to the Denver defense, but with Von Miller in street clothes, they were not at their best on Sunday in Minnesota. Yes, that’s even with including a pick six they forced from Christian Ponder early in the game.
As is often the case, Denver trailed 15-7 at halftime and Tebow was a forgettable 4/6 for 29 yards passing. But things picked up in a hurry in the third quarter, and Tebow found Demaryius Thomas for two touchdowns in the quarter. Thomas is a wide receiver, but he looks like a tight end. He finished with a career-high 144 yards.
The unexpected shootout continued with a touchdown by Percy Harvin in the fourth quarter for a 29-21 Minnesota lead. Tebow came right back with a 42-yard pass to Thomas, and then Willis McGahee ripped off a 24-yard touchdown run. Of course Tebow would run the 2-point conversion in himself to tie the game.
Minnesota had a time-consuming field goal drive to take a 32-29 lead, leaving Tebow with 3:06 left and the ball at his own 20. Now it’s comical to joke about how he’s going to pull it off, but you have to admit he must be getting pretty good if we’re expecting him to do this every game.
Sure enough, another 40-yard completion to Thomas got the Broncos in field goal range. Thomas just missed out on a game-winning touchdown catch, and Denver settled for the field goal. Matt Prater has been excellent all year, and made the 46-yard kick with ease.
Ponder had been playing his best game of the year up to this point, looking Fran Tarkenton-like on his way to a Minnesota rookie record 381 yards passing. But on the very first play of the drive, Ponder went from Tarkenton to Sean Salisbury, as he threw a bad interception to Andre Goodman, the hero from the Jets game.
The pass was returned to the 15, and Tebow only had to hand the ball off four times before centering it for the field goal. Prater nailed the 23-yard kick with no time left, giving Denver their fifth straight win and a tie for first place in the AFC West.

This Week’s Tebow Sermon

Denver continues to win by the slimmest of margins, and always with 10 pass completions or less. Every week you think it’d be harder to document Tebow’s rise (for He has risen), but it’s actually not. There are plenty more nuggets to dig out of this odyssey of success.
Passer Rating:
  • Tebow finished 10/15 for 202 yards, 2 TD, and his passer rating was 149.3.
  • His 149.3 passer rating is the 2nd highest by a Denver QB in a fourth quarter comeback. It’s the highest by a Denver starter. Craig Morton had a 156.2 on 8 attempts in (winning) backup duty.
  • His 149.3 passer rating is the 7th highest by a quarterback in a fourth quarter comeback since 1960 (min. 15 attempts)
  • In the 5 games Tebow has led a comeback, his cumulative passer rating is 95.3. That ranks 2nd among quarterbacks in their first two seasons since 1960 (min. 100 attempts). Ben Roethlisberger is 1st (99.4) and John Elway is 5th (92.7).
Three Consecutive Fourth Quarter Comebacks, Denver History:
  • This is only the 3rd time the Broncos have had 3 consecutive fourth quarter comeback wins in their team’s history.
  • The first time happened in games 9-11 in 1984. Gary Kubiak led the first one, and John Elway led the next two.
  • The second time was games 15-16 in 1985 and game 1 in 1986. Elway led all three.
  • This current third streak means it’s the only time Denver has done it in the same season and with the same QB (Tebow).
Record Pace to Five Fourth Quarter Comebacks and Game-Winning Drives:
Last week we had a large table for Tebow’s pace to four comeback wins. We won’t do that this week, but he has found himself near the top once again. We’re also going to look at game-winning drives this time.
When the NFL released their weekly “Seven from Sunday” group of stats, they said Tebow’s 5 game-winning drives in 10 starts ties Scott Brunner and Marc Wilson for the most since 1970. Such information would come from Elias, who is usually money on game-winning drive stats. But these don’t add up.
These statistics are rather tricky because of the semantics and ways they can happen (games played vs. games started, fourth quarter wins in non-starts vs. starts, comebacks vs. game-winning drives, playoffs or not, etc.). We’ll state it as best we can.
In his 12th career game (8th career start), Jay Schroeder had 5 4QC and 5 GWD. The first of these came in a non-start on 11/18/1985 against the Giants. This was the Monday night game Joe Theismann had his career ended by Lawrence Taylor on a brutal hit. Schroeder led the Redskins back for the win.
In his 19th career game (10th career start), Tim Tebow has 5 4QC and 5 GWD. They have all come in games he started.
Marc Wilson’s 5th GWD was not until 10/7/1984, a game he did not even start. It appears they weren’t counting such games (see Schroeder). Besides, he already had 12 starts to this point, so his name most definitely does not belong. As for comebacks, his 5th came on 10/23/1983. That was his 10th career start, so you can say Wilson tied Tebow for 2nd fastest to 5 comebacks (10 starts). It would be surprising to see if they were counting a punt return touchdown as a GWD for Wilson, because that would be the only (incorrect) way of giving him 5 GWD in 10 starts.
Scott Brunner? This one doesn’t add up. Brunner never even made it to 5 4QC (retired with 4). Brunner’s 5th GWD (all came in games started) was on 12/5/1982. That is his 14th start (16th counting playoffs). The pro-football-reference QB starts database has been researched many times over (and continues to be), and games after 1970 are believed to be on the money. Brunner threw all of the Giants’ passes in 3 starts in 1980, did the same in 6 starts in 1981, and was the only Giant to attempt a pass in the 1982 season. That’s as good of a sign as any that he started these 14 games.
So how did Wilson and Brunner end up in this press release for GWD’s? We’ll try and find out.
The last quarterback we’ll look at is Tommy Kramer. Last week we acknowledged he had 4 4QC in 9 starts, just like Tebow. This time we’ll look at his 5th GWD, which came on 10/21/1979, the same day as his 4th comeback. But since his first two GWD’s came in non-starts, that must be why he wasn’t included.
See how confusing it can be? Since GWD and 4QC are two different stats, and you can break them up by starts and games played, we really could make four different lists here. Tebow wouldn’t be #1 on any of them (err, we think), but he is right in the mix with Schroeder, Wilson and Kramer (AKA one very random group of signal callers).
Tebow can clear this up easily by just having another comeback and game-winning drive next week against the Bears. Who’s wiling to bet against it at this point?

Arizona Cardinals vs. Dallas Cowboys
Winner: Arizona (19-13 OT)

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 7 (13-6)
Quarterback: Kevin Kolb (2 4QC, 1 GWD – table)
Come on, Dallas. After giving you the perfect setup to show that December has been more about the schedule than anything else, you blow another overtime game in Arizona to the Cardinals. Also, like clockwork, the Chargers won Monday night against an overmatched Jacksonville team and the usual December chants have begun after one week.
The Cardinals trailed 13-6, but returning starter Kevin Kolb found Andre Roberts for a 40-yard pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. Beanie Wells rushed for a 4-yard touchdown to tie the game.
After the teams exchanged two punts, Tony Romo had 2:54 left to try and lead his third consecutive game-winning drive. Faced with a 2nd and 20, Romo completed two passes to Dez Bryant for 24 yards. That’s when things got dicey.
The Cowboys had two timeouts left, but head coach Jason Garrett decided to hold onto them. Romo spiked the ball with 0:07 left, still saving the two timeouts.
Then as kicker Dan Bailey was trying the 49-yard attempt, Garrett called timeout, effectively icing his own kicker. Bailey made the kick, but it didn’t count. When it came time for the real thing, Bailey missed, and the game went to overtime. Bailey’s streak of 26 straight field goals ended in the first quarter, and this was the first time he missed a game-winning kick.
Arizona won the toss and received. They never had to give the ball back, as LaRod Stephens-Howling raced through the Dallas defense for a 52-yard touchdown to end it. Kolb had the first game-winning drive of his career. The Cowboys had a crushing loss to start this December run.
Why would Garrett not try to get closer for the field goal with two timeouts? Is he truly afraid of calling a real play and protecting Romo from screwing up? Why should he think that given Romo’s track record truly is legit? It was a poorly coached drive, and at the end of the day, we’re not talking about much here had Bailey simply made the kick like he’s done all year. Even the shaky Nick Folk made two 53-yard field goals for Dallas after being iced in 2007 at Buffalo.
Still, coaches overestimate their kicker’s range and overlook their propensity for choking on game-deciding kicks.
That other coach, Ken Whisenhunt, is now 3-0 against Dallas, and all the wins were decided in the fourth quarter or overtime. He’s 4-0 if you count his offensive coordinator days in Pittsburgh, when Ben Roethlisberger led a 10-point comeback in the fourth quarter his rookie season.
In 2008 the Cowboys forced overtime in Arizona, but had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown; the first time in NFL history a game has been won in that fashion. Last Christmas it was John Skelton leading a game-winning field goal drive for a 27-26 win over the Cowboys after Dallas missed an extra point.
Arizona is the only team in the league that can say all their wins this season (5) have been the result of a fourth quarter or overtime score. That’s the most such wins the Cardinals have had in a season since Jake Plummer led 7 game-winning drives in 1998. They’re 4-1 in their last 5 games after starting 1-6.
Kolb (2 4QC, 1 GWD) and John Skelton (2 4QC, 2 GWD) have combined for the five wins this season. It’s the fourth time in team history the Cardinals have had two different quarterbacks register at least two fourth quarter comebacks in the same season.
1994 – Steve Beuerlein (2), Jay Schroeder (2)
1996 – Kent Graham (2), Boomer Esiason (2)
1997 – Kent Graham (2), Jake Plummer (2)
2011 – Kevin Kolb (2), John Skelton (2)
Random, useless facts: Cardinals are first team ever to win two games in overtime by score of 19-13 in the same season. Dallas is 0-4 in overtime games against the Cardinals.

HoustonTexans vs. Atlanta Falcons
Winner: Houston (17-10)

Type: GWD
Quarterback: T.J. Yates (0 4QC, 1 GWD – table)
As the 10th overall pick in the 2004 draft, Dunta Robinson always wanted to help the Houston Texans make the playoffs. On Sunday, he may have done more to help their cause as a Falcon than he did in his six seasons with the team.
Rookie quarterback T.J. Yates made his first start for the Texans, and in an attempt to clear up the uncertainty over the team’s future this season, did a respectable job through three quarters. With the game tied 10-10 in the fourth quarter, Yates was trying to lead the first game-winning drive of his career. On the second play in the quarter, Mike Peterson got in front of his intended pass and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown.
The problem: Dunta Robinson was called for defensive holding on the other side of the field (Sean Weatherspoon was as well), negating the score and giving Houston a first down. It should also be noted Yates avoided a sack/fumble returned for a touchdown in the first quarter due to another penalty.
After that Robinson penalty, Yates completed a 12-yard pass on 3rd and 4 to keep the drive alive, then later scrambled for 8 yards on 3rd and 9. That set up a 4th and 1 at the ATL 9. Halfway through the fourth quarter, most coaches would have kicked the go-ahead field goal. The Texans are confident in their running game and defense, so they went for it. Arian Foster gained 7 yards, and then two plays later he scored the game-winning touchdown.
The game-winning drive was massive: 19 plays, 85 yards and consumed 10:41 off the clock. Yates didn’t do much on the drive, notably getting bailed out with the holding penalty and also a defensive pass interference that erased a 2nd and 15. But he didn’t screw things up, and that’s what Houston needs from their third-string quarterback.
Matt Ryan tried to lead a comeback, but the drive went haywire once Atlanta reached the 20. Ryan threw deep to Jones on 3rd and 1, then couldn’t get the snap off in time, causing a delay of game penalty. Atlanta used their second timeout of the half to set up a 4th and 6. Ryan’s pass fell incomplete for Roddy White.
Houston went three and out, but with only one timeout and the two-minute warning left on defense, Ryan had only 0:59 left to go 67 yards with no timeouts on offense. He made a good effort, with a great 20-yard catch by rookie Julio Jones. An illegal touch penalty on Jones moved the ball back to the HOU 30, giving Ryan two shots for the end zone.
Jones let the final pass of the game go through his hands in the end zone. It was a tough catch, but that’s exactly the type of big play the Falcons traded four picks to get him for, and he failed to deliver.
Houston’s keeping pace with the best in the AFC at 9-3, and have won a team-record six straight. They’ve won their last three games with a different starting quarterback in each of them (Schaub, Leinart, Yates). The last team that did that also came from the AFC South. It was the 2003 Tennessee Titans that started Billy Volek, Steve McNair and Neil O’Donnell in three consecutive wins.
As for Yates, a game-winning drive in your first career start isn’t bad. Bob Griese and Archie Manning did it as rookies, and in their team’s season opener. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re great either. Ryan Leaf and Texans’ first franchise pick David Carr also had Week 1 game-winning drives in their rookie seasons. The last rookie quarterback to have a game-winning drive in his first career start was Max Hall with Arizona last year against the Saints. That would be the only win of his career. Josh Freeman did the same in 2009 against the Packers.
The Texans will take on rookie Andy Dalton and the Bengals in Cincinnati this week.

New York Jets at Washington Redskins
Winner: NY Jets (34-19)

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 3 (16-13)
Quarterback: Mark Sanchez (9 4QC, 11 GWD – table)
The Jets crawled back into the AFC playoff race with their second consecutive comeback victory (fourth of the season).
Tied 13-13 in the fourth quarter, the Redskins went three and out, but were able to take advantage of great field position and kicked a go-ahead field goal. They led 16-13.
New York also got great field position after a short kickoff. Mark Sanchez found Santonio Holmes (who else?) for the game-winning 30-yard touchdown with 4:49 left.
Rex Grossman, who completed only 19/46 passes, sacked and fumbled the ball deep in his own territory. Shonn Greene scored a 9-yard touchdown run for a 27-16 lead. Washington settled for a field goal, and then failed to recover the onside kick. Greene put it away with a 25-yard touchdown run on the only play of the drive (34-19). Grossman just couldn’t help himself and had to end the game with an interception down the field.
It’s difficult being the quarterback of the New York Jets. After his four touchdown performance last week against Buffalo, Sanchez was criticized because it was a “bad” four touchdown, fourth quarter comeback.
He won’t win over any more fans after this game, seeing as how he put up nearly the same efficiency numbers (5.14 YPA last week vs. 5.16 YPA this week), but with three fewer touchdown passes.
We’ll ignore the bastardization of the stats for Sanchez’s fourth quarter wins (8? 9? 10? 11? Seen it all) and just present what we know to be true.
  • Since 2010, Sanchez’s 8 fourth quarter comebacks are the most in the league
  • Since 2010, Sanchez’s 10 game-winning drives are the most in the league
  • Sanchez (2010-11) joins Vinny Testaverde (2000-01) as the only quarterbacks in Jets’ history to have two consecutive seasons with at least 4 comebacks (also: at least 4 game-winning drives)
  • Sanchez joins Steve Bartkowski (1978-79), Vinny Testaverde (2000-01), Marc Bulger (2003-04) and Peyton Manning (2008-09) as the only five quarterbacks in NFL history to have consecutive seasons with at least 4 fourth quarter comeback wins.
It’s not always pretty, but it’s something the Jets have done enough times that they can definitely rely on.
Speaking of reliable, Santonio Holmes is as good as anyone in the game when it comes to catching game-winning touchdowns. Sunday’s score was his 7th game-winning touchdown catch in the fourth quarter or overtime since his 2006 rookie season (4th with the Jets).

Comeback Failures of the Week

We try remembering when Buffalo was actually 3-0, the heinous Hanie, and Detroit loses to another NFC elite in embarrassing fashion in front of a national audience.

Buffalo: 3-0 Feels Like Eons Ago

Remember when the Buffalo Bills were 3-0? They had just completed consecutive 18+ point comebacks against the Raiders and Patriots, and had arguably the hottest offense in the league behind Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even after losses to solid teams like Cincinnati and the Giants, the Bills were still 5-2 and in good shape.
Then the clock struck midnight (or the calendar hit November), and things fell apart in a hurry. Injuries mounted, Fitzpatrick went on another second-half season decline, and they were not getting takeaways on defense to cover up the deficiencies. They had 18 takeaways when they were 5-2; they have just 4 in this 5-game losing streak.
There was a chance to get back to .500 against Tennessee at home, but the Bills did not capitalize. They trailed 23-10 in the fourth quarter. With their season essentially down to its final 9:00, Fitzpatrick did manage a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Stevie Johnson held on this week for a 2-yard touchdown on 4th and goal.
Chris Johnson, having another very productive game (153 rushing yards, 2 TD), ran for one first down before Tennessee had to punt. But that one first down did damage the amount of time Fitzpatrick had left to score a touchdown. He needed to drive 85 yards in 1:02.
After a completion and spike at the BUF 46, Fitzpatrick’s final three passes were all well off the mark. With that, Buffalo is now 5-7 and all but out of the playoff race. Mathematically they are alive, but in 10th place, meaning it’s only a matter of days before those circling Buffalo wagons are dismantled. Like 2008 (started 5-1, finished 2-8), it’s shaping up to be another disappointing finish.
The win moves the Titans into 7th place, keeping hope alive for a division title should Houston collapse. The two teams will meet in Houston in Week 17.

The Heinous Hanie

How much leeway should a backup quarterback get for performing at a poor level? Many of them are thrust into action with little prior experience or practice. But they are in the NFL for a reason, right? We’ve already seen Curtis Painter do his part to lead the Colts on the path to imperfection, now we’re seeing that Jay Cutler did a lot to make Chicago’s offense click this year.
Caleb Hanie is, bluntly put, an awful quarterback. A three-year player with a brief career, he has proven to be no better than the likes of a Painter-type backup. On Sunday, he was outplayed in Chicago by Tyler Palko. We said enough last week about Palko’s ability.
Hanie doesn’t protect the ball. In three significant appearances, he has thrown 8 interceptions on just 80 attempts. That’s an interception percentage of 10%. Sid Luckman, playing mostly in the pass-discriminated 1940’s, only had an INT% over 10.0% in one of his 12 seasons. What ever happened to the backup quarterback that just manages the game, doesn’t make mistakes, and lets the running game and defense take over?
Also in these three appearances, the Bears kept it close enough for him to have a chance at a fourth quarter comeback. He’s 0-3.
Against the Palko-led Chiefs on Sunday, Chicago trailed 10-3 in the fourth quarter. On five fourth quarter drives, Hanie moved the offense just 47 yards combined. His red zone pass to Roy Williams was intercepted after Williams bobbled the catch. His last real chance ended with two sacks and an incompletion on 4th and 17. He threw his last interception on a Hail Mary on the final play of the game. Fittingly, a Hail Mary touchdown by Palko before halftime was the difference in this battle of the backups.
The Chiefs haven’t always looked bad defensively this season, but you should expect to score more than 3 points at home against them, backup or not. That’s the second fewest amount of points allowed by the Chiefs on the road in the post-Schottenheimer era (since 1999).
Kansas City won the game with a shaky backup quarterback. Kyle Orton only made a token appearance for one play before dislocating his finger. Jay Cutler’s thumb is broken. Donovan McNabb’s ego is shattered. Brett Favre’s body is done.
Caleb Hanie’s young and healthy, but unfortunately for the Bears, he’s just not NFL-caliber. 

Lions Not Ready for the Big Stage

In front of a national audience, the Lions lost their cool, and lost the game by double-digits to a NFC elite. We could have said the same thing about their performance on Thanksgiving versus Green Bay. Now it’s the same story after their Sunday night loss in New Orleans.
Whether it’s their youth, the inexperience of handling success, or something Jim Schwartz is not doing as a head coach, the Lions are practically out of control. With their defensive star Suh suspended, the Lions continued to make mind-numbing penalties, finishing with 11 for 107 yards on the night. One included Brandon Pettigrew pushing a ref, and that was after Titus Young delivered a late shot that turned a 3rd and 1 at the NO 3 to a 3rd and 16 at the NO 18. The Lions had to settle for a field goal. Nate Burleson was called for offensive pass interference three times in the second half, and had a fourth flag for a 15-yard facemask erased due to offsetting penalties.
Detroit trailed 24-7 at halftime, but they’ve been historically good at erasing such a deficit. If they didn’t make so many unforced errors, they have done it for a fourth time this season.
Still, they trailed 24-17 early in the fourth quarter. But after two incomplete passes, Schwartz decided to try a 55-yard field goal. Now Jason Hanson has made more 50+ yard field goals than any kicker in NFL history, but he is 41 years old, and the downside of a miss is great field position for Brees and the Saints.
Indoors or out, old kicker or young, the decision was risky and Hanson missed. It only took Brees 7 plays to reach the end zone and take a 31-17 lead. Detroit would never threaten anyone but themselves (and one official) on their final three possessions.
Going back to last year, the Lions are 11-5 in their last 16 games; a real Detroit rarity. The problem is they’re just 2-5 in their last seven, and are losing control of both their playoff spot and their on-field composure.
That could be quite the sight in Week 17 if the Packers are still going for their record-setting 22nd straight win, and the Lions are just ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence.
NEXT WEEK: Does Dan Orlovsky have any chance to keep Indy’s 8-game winning streak against Baltimore alive? Joe Flacco is 0-3 and has never led a touchdown drive against the Colts. Will Carson Palmer’s hot finish in garbage time (9/11 for 153 yards, 2 TD after it was 34-0 and he started 11/30 for 120 yards and a pick 6) carry over when Oakland travels to Green Bay? Yeah, not going to happen. It has already been written: Tebow comes back against Bears; Hanie throws another trio of interceptions. In primetime, we have the Giants’ second-half swoon vs. Dallas’ December’s swoon on display. Something has to give. Finally, let’s just pretend that Monday night game between the Rams and Seahawks doesn’t actually exist.
Scott Kacsmar is a football researcher/writer who has contributed large quantities of data to, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. In keeping the “Rrr” spirit this week, all rebuttals requested for recognition are welcomed via e-mail or Twitter. You can send any questions or comments to Scott at and you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.