By Scott Kacsmar
Cold Hard Football Facts’ Comeback King (@CaptainComeback)
It was another week where the NFL’s marquee game, Baltimore at Houston, was a total dud. The Texans easily took care of the banged-up Ravens, handing them a 43-13 loss to establish some dominance in the mediocre AFC.
But in a week with nine of the 13 games featuring a comeback opportunity, our six teams coming through with game-winning drives all exhibited qualities of an “experience over youth” type of win.
All six quarterbacks with a game-winning drive this week are over the age of 30.
In Week 9 of the 2000 season, five quarterbacks over 30 led a game-winning drive. Every other week since the 1995 season has featured four or less.
Last week Peyton Manning picked up his record 37th fourth-quarter comeback win. This week Tom Brady earned his 37th game-winning drive, and no, that’s not in a row (NSFW).
Past champions who have been struggling like Pittsburgh and New England pulled out their games, as did the defending champion New York Giants behind another historic drive (or one pass) from Eli Manning.
Carson Palmer led another 10-point comeback for the Raiders, Matt Hasselbeck directed a consecutive win for the Tennessee Titans, and Tony Romo outgunned Cam Newton in Carolina.
Guys in their thirties leading game-winning drives. That sounds like an awful TBS sitcom, but it made for good television on CBS/FOX/NBC this weekend.
Three of the five quarterbacks with the worst active records at comebacks/game-winning drive opportunities lost this weekend, while the other two (Aaron Rodgers, Sam Bradford) played each other in a game that was not close enough to make the cut.
Fourth quarter comebacks: 34
Game-winning drives: 40
Games with 4QC opportunity: 62/104 (59.6 percent)
10+ point comebacks wins (any point in the game): 19
DRIVE OF THE WEEK
New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins
Winner: NY Giants (27-23)
Largest Deficit: 3 (23-20)
Quarterback: Eli Manning (23-24 at 4QC, 27-26 overall 4Q/OT record - table)
Unlike last season when the 5-11 Redskins with Rex Grossman at quarterback comfortably swept the Giants, this game went according to plan.
Since 2007, no offense has more game-winning drives than the New York Giants (22), and no defense has allowed more game-winning drives than the Washington Redskins (25).
Despite a valiant effort from Robert Griffin III in his first NFC East game, Eli Manning and the Giants outlasted them in the end with another huge passing play. It’s the 10th game-winning drive for the Giants since last season.
Both offenses looked strong in the first half, but three straight turnovers in the third quarter changed the path of the game. After a Griffin interception, the Giants had the ball at the WAS 35.
On the fourth play of the fourth quarter, Ahmad Bradshaw scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown for a 20-13 lead.
Mike Shanahan treated the ensuing drive as desperation time, even though it was not. The Redskins went for it on 4th and 2 at the NYG 48 with 10:12 left. Griffin converted with a 9-yard pass. Griffin would later scramble for a first down on a 4th and 1 at the NYG 30.
But on the next play, Griffin tried a college option and fumbled the ball. Manning gave the ball right back after not even seeing Rob Jackson on the interception. The Redskins ran three straight plays without putting the ball in Griffin’s hands once, and now kicked a field goal. It was a bizarre change from the aggressiveness showed on the previous drive.
The Giants had to punt after Manning failed to connect with Hakeem Nicks on a tough 3rd-and-1 pass. This set the stage for Griffin: 2:59 left, down 20-16, 77 yards to go, and one timeout.
Griffin started with an overthrow, a no-gain pass he barely got off under pressure, and then a deep ball that was well overthrown. Quickly down to a 4th and 10, the Giants rushed three, and Griffin was able to buy a lot of time by scrambling before finally throwing a 19-yard pass to Logan Paulsen. It was a keeper for the highlight reel.
Griffin followed it up with a 24-yard scramble, which he even managed to get out of bounds and not take a big hit. After a short pass to Josh Morgan, Griffin put up a 30-yard rainbow to Santana Moss for the touchdown with 1:32 left. Washington led 23-20.
At this point, even Captain Comeback doubted Eli Manning on this day after his tough second half with two interceptions. But we should know better by now that Manning is a flat-liner. Nothing bothers him.
It bothers the Captain that FOX’s Thom Brennaman would say – without a graphic backing him up – that Eli has 23 game-winning drives. There is no way you could have come up with that number without making an error, or you can see the future. Thom Brennaman definitely cannot see the future.
Back to the drive, which takes less time than the rant. After a lousy incompletion to start it, Manning simply dropped back and unloaded one just over 40 yards in the air to Victor Cruz, who ran a go-route out of the slot. Cruz ran the rest of the way for a 77-yard touchdown, and the Giants were back on top 27-23.
A quarterback and receiver with a lot of big plays the last two seasons, and this one was as good as any of them.
Griffin was in a tough spot now, down to 1:13 and needing to go 80 yards. Morgan fumbled on a first-down catch, but picked it up for an overall gain of 12 yards. Griffin then threw behind Moss. Going back to him, Moss fumbled the ball with 0:39 left. It was recovered by Jayron Hosley, who was burned on the Moss touchdown minutes earlier.
Griffin III finished 20 of 28 for 258 yards, 2 TD, INT, fumble, 89 rushing yards, and a 108.9 passer rating. It was another impressive game, but Manning came through in the end again, and passed for 337 yards.
The win put Manning into more select company. Being his 23rd fourth quarter comeback win, it ties Johnny Unitas and Peyton Manning for the most in a player’s first nine seasons, and he’s not done yet.
Most 4QC Wins in First 9 Seasons
For the Redskins, it is already the fourth game-winning drive they have allowed this season.
Imagine how different things would have been for Washington if they had those extra 4-5 wins every season that they keep losing out on with allowing game-winning drives. Sure, no team wins every close game, not even the Giants. But the games are in reach.
Should Robert Griffin III be everything they expected, then they will start winning more of these games, just like the Giants have made a habit of doing.
But for now, experience found a way to outlast youth.
THE OTHER PATHS TO VICTORY
New England Patriots vs. New York Jets
Winner: New England (29-26 OT)
Largest Deficit: 3 (26-23)
Quarterback: Tom Brady (26-21 at 4QC, 38-23 overall 4Q/OT record - table)
The Patriots had this one put away this time, right? It was only the harmless Jets and Mark Sanchez. No threat to come back, right?
Once again the Patriots struggled to close in the fourth quarter. Leading 23-13 on what was an off-day by the offense (a kick return score and safety helped their cause), Tom Brady had consecutive completions that lost two yards, and the Patriots punted.
Only two of Sanchez’s 10 comeback wins have been from a deficit of 10+ points, and one of those was aided by a blocked punt for a touchdown against Dallas (Week 1 2011).
After a false start backed the Jets up to their own 4-yard line, Sanchez hit three passes for 47 yards. He later converted two more third downs, and threw a 7-yard touchdown to Dustin Keller with 5:44 left to cap an impressive march.
Back in the situation they struggle, the Patriots led 23-20. Brandon Lloyd was flagged for offensive pass interference. Brady threw off his back foot a deep pass that was dropped by Antonio Cromartie, missing out on the interception. Stevan Ridley rushed for four yards, and Brady threw deep to Welker, which we know how that usually turns out. The home crowd was booing, and for good reason.
Sanchez hit Keller for 21 yards. But on a big 3rd and 4 at the NE 25, rookie Stephen Hill dropped a pass when he was completely wide open. The Patriots would have had to think about using their timeouts, and more importantly the Jets could have scored a touchdown on the drive.
Instead Nick Folk kicked a 43-yard field goal. Then something unusual happened. Devin McCourty fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, and the Jets had the ball at the NE 18. However, the clock read 2:01, so the Patriots saved the two-minute warning.
Tim Tebow, apparently trying to pad his game-winning drive stats, came in for a 2-yard run to start the drive. But after a 1-yard run, Sanchez held the ball too long and took a big sack on third down. It was better than throwing the ball away and stopping the clock, but it made the field goal 10 yards longer.
Folk came through with another 43-yard kick, but the Jets, leading 26-23, left too much time for Brady. With 1:32 and a timeout left at his own 21, Brady had plenty of time to get into field goal range.
Just a week ago we looked at CBS’ graphic displaying 37 game-winning drives for Brady. Someone must have been paying attention, as a week later the number was correctly moved down to 36.
This was a much-needed drive after the way things have gone this season for New England. It started with two passes to Rob Gronkowski for 15 and 12 yards. Looking like the old-school days with Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead caught a simple dump pass and went 20 yards into field goal range.
What did all three plays have in common? The three-man rush. You would think Rex Ryan watched his brother make that mistake last year with Dallas.
After a deep pass to Lloyd was incomplete, the Jets brought three again, and Woodhead caught one over the middle for seven yards to set up the kick. Stephen Gostkowski, looking to atone for the miss against Arizona, came through with a 43-yard field goal as time expired.
In overtime, the Patriots won the toss and went on offense of course. After a few completions, with the Jets still sticking to the three-man rush, Brady faced a 3rd and 7 at the NE 44. The pass was incomplete to Aaron Hernandez, but a late flag, after some strong reaction from the New England sideline, came in for the first down (pass interference on Kyle Wilson). That is home-field advantage defined.
The drive eventually stalled, but Gostkowski made the 48-yard field goal. No longer a game over, the Jets had their chance to play with four downs of offense the whole way.
A defensive holding penalty converted one third down, and Sanchez found Jeremy Kerley for 17 yards. Two plays later, Sanchez again had to be more decisive, and after submitting to the sack, he compounded it by coughing up the ball on a fumble. Rob Ninkovich recovered it, and the game was over.
Brady’s 37th game-winning drive ties him with Warren Moon for the sixth most in NFL history.
Obviously Rex did not realize he had to put in Tebow for an easy 80-yard touchdown to win the game.
Jokes aside, Sanchez played a solid game (28 of 41 for 328 yards, TD, INT), but he left too many plays on the field, especially late in the game. Better offense would have made things very hard on New England.
The Jets had a great shot to take the lead in the AFC East, but once again we witnessed why the Patriots have owned the division since 2001.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Winner: Pittsburgh (24-17)
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger (21-26 at 4QC, 29-30 overall 4Q/OT record - table)
Facing essentially a must-win game, the Pittsburgh Steelers came out dropping the ball all over the place. Mike Wallace, possibly dropping millions of dollars in the process, had the worst of it.
But after Cincinnati’s strong 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to start the game, their offense showed next to nothing. The Steelers were able to quickly wipe out a 14-3 deficit to tie the game at halftime.
After each team opened the second half with a field goal, things eased up on offense. The Steelers were driving late in the third quarter after Ben Roethlisberger converted third-down passes to Antonio Brown (16 yards on 3rd and 8) and Emmanuel Sanders (31 yards on 3rd and 6).
On the second play of the fourth quarter, rookie Chris Rainey ran for 11 yards to score his first NFL touchdown with 14:16 left.
The Bengals would punt three times in the quarter, never once threatening on a night where Andy Dalton finished 14 of 28 for 105 yards, TD, INT, and a 56.4 passer rating. Young superstar A.J. Green caught just one of six targets for an 8-yard touchdown.
With 3:57 left, the Steelers showed they could still run a four-minute offense. After seeing the defense blow a fourth-quarter lead in four of the first five games this season, it was crucial to end the game on the offense’s terms.
Roethlisberger completed an 11-yard pass to Wallace, though on his tough night, this one was also a very close call as the ball appeared to touch the ground, helping him control it. The ruling on the field was a catch, and Marvin Lewis used his last challenge and second timeout on it. The call stood.
Jonathan Dwyer had big runs of 14 and 32 yards to ice the game. After winning three straight, the Bengals have lost their last three.
The win gave Roethlisberger his 28th game-winning drive, setting a new franchise record (Terry Bradshaw had 27). Roethlisberger is 29-30 (.492) in overall fourth quarter/overtime opportunities, while Bradshaw was anywhere from 27-27 to 27-30 (still have three games with a cloud of uncertainty).
For some strange reason, the Bengals play the Steelers better in Pittsburgh than they do in Cincinnati. Since 1991, the Bengals are 4-19 at home and 7-14 on the road against the Steelers.
Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers
Winner: Dallas (19-14)
Largest Deficit: 1 (14-13)
Quarterback: Tony Romo (14-21 at 4QC, 15-23 overall 4Q/OT record - table)
It was a close game involving the Dallas Cowboys, yet Tony Romo was not the center of attraction for a change. Instead the focus shifted to Cam Newton, who once again struggled as the Panthers dropped another close one.
To paraphrase Newton, it was the same script by the same director. We have seen this one about as often as USA once aired Die Hard in all its “Yippee-ki-yay, Mr. Falcon” glory on Saturday afternoons.
The Panthers may die hard every week, but in the end they lose these games almost every single time, as Newton is a league-worst 1-12 (.077) at comeback opportunities.
With both offenses continuing to disappoint, Dallas led 13-7 to start the fourth quarter. Newton took over early, and led a solid drive, ending with Mike Tolbert’s 2-yard touchdown run with 11:38 left.
Now trailing 14-13, Romo scrambled for just two yards on 3rd and 6, and Dallas had to punt. Carolina called three straight shotgun passes, and it was a quick three and out.
Romo completed two passes for 19 yards and scrambled for 10 more yards. After Dez Bryant dropped a touchdown in the end zone, Dallas went conservative and ran the ball for five yards on 3rd and 9.
Dan Bailey has missed his last three clutch kicks, but this was only from 28 yards away, and he nailed it. Dallas led 16-14 with 3:25 left. That was plenty of time for Newton.
The drive started well with an 11-yard strike to Louis Murphy. But a loss of one yard on a shovel pass to Jonathan Stewart followed by a throwaway after being pressured set up 3rd and 11.
Newton passed to Steve Smith for 10 yards, but needed 11. After converting the fourth-down pass, the play never counted since Dallas called timeout before the snap. On 4th and 1 at their own 40, Newton threw incomplete to Murphy, who was covered closely (too closely?) by rookie Morris Claiborne.
A horse collar tackle gave Dallas a first down, but they stayed on the ground for three plays and Bailey kicked a 38-yard field goal.
Now down 19-14 with 0:53 left, no timeouts and needing 80 yards, Newton needed a miracle. Newton threw short under pressure, then found Smith for 26 yards and spiked the ball.
Rolling to his right, Newton’s deep pass was almost intercepted by Eric Frampton. Anthony Spencer came up with the huge sack, and time only remained for one of those lateral-filled plays. Newton had the ball in his hands, and to summarize the day, he flipped it back right into the hands of DeMarcus Ware for a game-ending fumble.
For all the flak Tony Romo gets for leading teams in the fourth quarter, his 14-21 (.400) record in comeback opportunities is tied for the eighth best among active starters. Newton is the one who is dead last in the league at 1-12.
Last year the excuse was the defense allowed too many points, and Cam was a rookie. Okay. This year the defense is better, but the record is the same. Whether you lose 34-29 or 19-14, the result in the fourth quarter is unchanged.
Didn’t Superman win in most issues? Also, what is the logic behind “even if we have to kick the ball from the 70”, as Newton said in his post-game conference?
Carolina (1-5) has many problems, and right now it starts with the “savior.”
Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills
Winner: Tennessee (35-34)
Largest Deficit: 6 (34-28)
Quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck (16-29 at 4QC, 25-33 overall 4Q/OT record - table)
Chris Johnson does not care if he has to play them in Toronto, London or North Korea. CJ2K just wants more cracks at the Buffalo Bills’ inept run defense.
In his last 14 games Johnson has four touchdowns, and they all have come against Buffalo. So have two of his four games with over 100 rushing yards in that span.
Johnson was on full display in this shootout between two awful defenses. He rushed for 195 yards, but Buffalo took a 34-28 lead late in the third quarter.
The defenses started to get stops in the fourth quarter, starting with a punt forced by each. A 22-yard punt gave Matt Hasselbeck great field position at the BUF 46, but he passed incomplete on a 4th and 5 at the BUF 36.
With a chance to end the game on offense, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a poor pass on third down, and it was intercepted by Jason McCourty.
Hasselbeck had 2:57 left at his own 48, but the drive started with an 8-yard loss on a sack. Nate Washington had a big catch, but after carrying the ball like a loaf of bread, he fumbled and gave up the first down.
Johnson converted the 3rd and 1 with a 27-yard run. After three unsuccessful plays, it came down to a 4th and 9 at the BUF 15 with 1:08 left. Tennessee used their second timeout, putting the game all on this one play.
Hasselbeck found Washington, who beat Justin Rogers in the end zone for an impressive touchdown connection with 1:03 left. Safety George Wilson was unable to close quickly enough. Rob Bironas’ extra point put Tennessee ahead 35-34.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, one of the worst quarterbacks in the league at fourth quarter comebacks (5-20), had 1:03 and two timeouts left at his own 20. The good news is they only needed a field goal.
But after a 6-yard check down to Fred Jackson and a bad decision on a 2-yard pass to Scott Chandler, the Bills were down to 0:35 and one timeout. Fitzpatrick’s deep pass to Chandler was tipped before it got to him.
On 4th and 2 Fitzpatrick was pressured up the middle on a safety blitz, and threw low and wide of Stevie Johnson. Ballgame. Bills went four and out.
All three of Tennessee’s wins this year are fourth quarter comebacks. Since joining the team last year, forgotten veteran Matt Hasselbeck has thrown four game-winning touchdown passes in the final five minutes of the game. That does not include his game-tying touchdown pass with 4:19 left last week against Pittsburgh.
Matt Hasselbeck's Career Game-Winning/Game-Tying TD Passes
How rare are those five touchdown passes in the last five minutes for Hasselbeck? Consider he only did it a total of four times with Seattle from 2001 to 2010.
Oakland Raiders vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Winner: Oakland (26-23 OT)
Largest Deficit: 10 (23-13)
Quarterback: Carson Palmer (13-38 at 4QC, 20-38 overall 4Q/OT record - table)
After doubting Eli Manning earlier in the day, the Captain had some strange confidence in Carson Palmer in the late afternoon game, which was one of just two games going on at the time. Brilliant scheduling, NFL.
Actually, it was not confidence in Palmer as much as it was doubt in Jacksonville, who lost Maurice Jones-Drew and Blaine Gabbert during the game. Never expecting to say this, but the Jaguars really missed Gabbert.
After having little trouble with Oakland’s pathetic pass defense, Gabbert left with an injury in the second quarter. Enter Chad Henne, for who many thought was probably a better quarterback option anyway.
Not so fast. Henne turned in one of the worst performances of the season. Even though Jacksonville scored three field goals with Henne, here was his total contribution to those drives: 0/3 passing, a 6-yard sack on 3rd and 7, a 2-yard scramble on 3rd and 7. and a 3-yard scramble on 2nd and 10. Wow.
If you thought Palmer was bad with failed completions, well Henne had six of them on his nine incompletions, which include a pass that lost four yards on 2nd and 20, plus a 2-yard pass on the ensuing 3rd and 24.
Their last field goal drive came after Palmer fumbled on a sack. Jacksonville led 23-13 with 12:40 left, but much like their 10-point comeback win over Pittsburgh, Oakland had them where they wanted them, or something.
A roughing the passer penalty kept the drive alive, and it extended to 12 plays and 79 yards before Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 31-yard field goal. Henne threw three straight incompletions.
With the ball back, the Oakland drive appeared to stall when Palmer threw incomplete on 4th and 10, but pass interference put the ball at the 1-yard line. Palmer ran it in himself to tie the game with 3:34 left.
After both teams punted, the Jaguars had a quick three and out despite great field position. A 23-yard completion from Palmer set Janikowski up for a try at the most historic field goal in regular season history.
Janikowski was on line, but came up several yards short on the 64-yard attempt. Jacksonville returned it to their own 32 to end regulation.
On a 3rd and 20, Henne passed short to Cecil Shorts, who has made some big catches for Jacksonville this season. But this time he fumbled, and Oakland took over at the JAX 21.
For the second straight week a team sent out their quarterback to simply center the ball, picking up a “cheap” game-winning drive in the process. But at least the comeback was legit this week. So was the CBS graphic.
This was the 13th game-winner in his career. Janikowski nailed the kick from 40 yards away, and the Raiders picked up a 26-23 win.
Chad Henne’s 4-13 (.235) record at opportunities for comebacks and game-winning drives only ranks ahead of Aaron Rodgers (7-23), Sam Bradford (2-10), and Cam Newton (1-12) among active quarterbacks.
Of Henne’s 25 drop backs (excludes a kneel down), he had a successful play on just three of them. Not even Blaine Gabbert is that bad.
COMEBACK FAILURES OF THE WEEK
The rule book does in Tampa Bay, the Browns drop another one, and the Seahawks forgot to pack their clutch again.
Shady ending in Tampa Bay
When Drew Brees passed for 313 yards and four touchdowns in the first half, it looked like a day where some long-time records could finally fall, namely the 554 yards passing in a single game by Norm Van Brocklin.
It was in Week 2 when the Buccaneers allowed 510 yards passing to Eli Manning, so it was a possibility with the Saints only leading 28-21.
Instead, Brees finished with only 64 yards in the second half, while Josh Freeman soared to a 420-yard day. Only problem is he needed 429.
New Orleans drove 95 yards to take a 35-21 lead with 13:23 left in the game. After a pair of three and outs, the Buccaneers took over at their own 19 and put together a 14-play drive. They overcame a 4th and 10 with Freeman’s 15-yard pass to Dallas Clark, who then caught a 3-yard touchdown with 4:10 left.
The Saints picked up one first down, but then had to punt. Freeman, 0-6 in his last six comeback opportunities, had 1:50 to go 79 yards to tie the game.
Vincent Jackson, who had a huge day (216 yards, but stopped short on a critical 95-yard play), started it off with a 38-yard reception. Clark made catches for 15 and 9 yards, and Jackson came up with an 8-yard gain on 4th and 1. Freeman spiked the ball at the NO 9 with 0:17 left.
Freeman was pressured and threw the ball away out of the end zone. On third down, Jackson caught the ball, but could not get his feet down in bounds in the back of the end zone.
However, Freeman missed a wide open receiver (Tiquan Underwood) who should have been able to score. The Saints dropped three defenders back into the end zone with Jackson, and you can see Freeman still had the ball with the throw available (top), and how the scoring chance looked after he released it (bottom). There was good spacing between Underwood and the defense.
On 4th and goal, Freeman rolled to his left and found Mike Williams in the back of the end zone for the touchdown, but there was a penalty. Since Williams was pushed out of bounds, he came back in and was the first to touch the ball, which is illegal, and ended the game.
Why no penalty for him being pushed out? That’s because Freeman was out of the pocket on the scramble, so there is no illegal contact. The rule is a bit shady, as any time you see a quarterback scrambling you should just push your receiver out of bounds, making them ineligible on the play.
Not sure why a player should not be allowed to reestablish themselves after being pushed out like that. Don’t say the defense does not have any rule in their favor though. This is one.
Now the Saints are 2-4 and possibly building some momentum, though they still have major issues defensively and are heading to Denver.
Colts hang on, because Josh Gordon and the Browns didn’t
After each team had just three possessions in a first half dominated by offense, things really changed late in the third quarter. After the Colts scored 17 points on their first four drives and led the Browns 17-13, the game’s final 11 possessions were scoreless.
From 30 points on eight possessions to zero on 11 possessions, you might expect the defenses finally decided to show up. They did. Sort of.
On a big 3rd and 3 to start the fourth quarter, Brandon Weeden’s pass was tipped at the line. The next time he faced a third down, Ben Watson could only gain two yards on 3rd and 4.
With the Colts running the ball, Andrew Luck’s first drop back of the drive resulted in a sack/fumble, giving Weeden possession at the 50. On 3rd and 1, his deep ball was perfectly thrown to big playmaker (but rookie) Josh Gordon, who just entered the sunlight at Lucas Oil Stadium and dropped the ball in typical Cleveland fashion.
Almost as bad: the Browns used a timeout and then punted on 4th and 1 at the IND 41 with 6:38 left. Ouch. What is Pat Shurmur, who benched Trent Richardson (eight carries for eight yards) earlier, thinking here?
The Colts went three and out, giving Weeden 4:08 to drive 69 yards for the go-ahead score. In their last game at college Weeden led a comeback for Oklahoma State over Luck’s Stanford team in the Fiesta Bowl. The reason he needed a touchdown this time is that the Browns botched an extra point in the second quarter.
After two completions for 26 yards to start the drive, things stalled. Another deep ball to Gordon was too inaccurate, the running game picked up four yards, and Greg Little was overthrown and covered well on third down.
That brought up 4th and 6, and Jerraud Powers had tight coverage on Josh Cooper, causing the incompletion.
The Colts could have ended the game, but Vick Ballard ran out of bounds, stopping the clock after a big 26-yard run for a first down. Cleveland was able to get the ball back, but only had one second left and needed 80 yards. One of those lateral-filled plays ensued, and it eventually ended at the CLE 42.
Indianapolis has exceeded last season’s win total now at 3-3, and can still contend in the AFC. Cleveland is in the cellar at 1-6, (literally) dropping another close one.
Russell Wilson: Not old enough to lead comebacks past state lines yet
It has been a strange season for Seattle. With home wins over Dallas, Green Bay and New England, the Seahawks are 0-3 on the road in the NFC West.
In a game that was obviously going to be low scoring with teams ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in points allowed, everything went according to plan with a 10-6 San Francisco lead to start the fourth quarter.
Alex Smith really only led one good drive all night, while Russell Wilson was victimized by several dropped passes. Smith wishes he had a drop early in the quarter when his awful throw was intercepted by Brandon Browner in the red zone.
Seattle went three and out, and with good field position, the 49ers moved it 39 yards before David Akers kicked a 28-yard field goal for a 13-6 lead with 5:24 left.
On 3rd and 12 Wilson was pressured and the ball was deflected, coming up short to Sidney Rice. Seattle punted, and the 49ers went three and out after a safe call on third down (quarterback sweep with Smith).
This set the stage for Wilson’s fifth comeback attempt of the season. What was interesting is how the broadcast showed his two successful drives against Green Bay and New England, yet there was no footage or even mention of the failed drives against Arizona and St. Louis.
Wilson needed 89 yards in 1:36 and no timeouts left. After Rice gained five yards and went out of bounds, Aldon Smith sacked Wilson. Russell Okung was called for a false start, and it was quickly 3rd and 17. Wilson overthrew Zach Miller out of bounds, and it came down to a 4th and 17.
Out of his own end zone, Wilson went down the middle to Ben Obomanu, but he was ruled short, gaining 16 yards. It was a bad play not to extend the ball out for a first down, but it was irrelevant.
Seattle was flagged for a chop block in the end zone, which meant a safety. After some confusion over whether Jim Harbaugh would accept it to take a 15-6 lead or not, he declined the penalty and took over on downs at the SEA 20. Smith took two knees to end the game.
We know all about Seattle’s home-field advantage, but if they are to make the playoffs this year, they will need to find ways to finish on the road too. Three division losses hurt, but at least it means the next three NFC West meetings are all in Seattle.
Matt Ryan could pick up a fourth straight game-winning drive against a Philadelphia team who has played five very close games this season. RGIII comes to Heinz Field, which should not happen again until the 2020 season. Giants at Cowboys usually comes down to the wire, and NBC has an expected shootout with Peyton Manning and Drew Brees to highlight Week 8.
Scott Kacsmar is a football writer/researcher who has contributed large quantities of data to Pro-Football-Reference.com, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. You can visit his blog for a complete writing archive. Please send any questions or comments to Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.