Captain Comeback: Eli Manning Out-Clutches Tony Romo In Dallas

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 30, 2012



By Scott Kacsmar
Cold Hard Football Facts’ Comeback King (@CaptainComeback)

We may have witnessed only four game-winning drives and six games (out of 14) with a comeback opportunity this week, but the Giants-Cowboys showdown alone had enough “comeback-ness” to fill up a whole column.

Look away Dallas fans, for we are about to unveil a shocker.

Stat of the Week: Eli Manning has produced as many fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives in Cowboys Stadium as Tony Romo (three).

Manning has only played there four times since the building opened in 2009, while Romo has 23 home starts for Dallas in that time.

Ouch.

For Manning, it was also the 24th fourth-quarter comeback of his career, surpassing Johnny Unitas and older brother Peyton for the most in a quarterback's first nine seasons.

What happened to the rest of the notable games in Week 8?

  • With a puny St. Louis touchdown pass in between, Jeff Fisher has been outscored 59-0 (2009 Titans) and 45-7 (2012 Rams) by Bill Belichick’s Patriots in their last two meetings.
  • Andy Reid’s now imperfect 13-1 record after a bye week hides the fact he is now 1-2 when facing a team who was also coming off their bye week (2004 Patriots in the Super Bowl; Mike Smith’s Falcons in 2008 and 2012).
  • Robert Griffin III forgot to buy his receivers the type of “Stick ‘em” that works – not the San Diego kind – as the Redskins dropped a game in Pittsburgh.
  • Peyton Manning vs. Drew Brees V: The Final Chapter was supposed to be a shootout, but the Saints had arguably their worst offensive performance of the Brees era. That would be 252 yards and 14 points, including an 80-yard touchdown drive in garbage time.
  • All three prime time games were decided by 19 or more points: Tampa Bay over Minnesota (36-17), Denver over New Orleans (34-14), and San Francisco over Arizona (24-3). Flex you, very much.

Season Report
Fourth-quarter comebacks: 38
Game-winning drives: 44
Games with 4QC opportunity: 68/118 (57.6 percent)
10+ point comebacks wins (any point in the game): 21

 

DRIVE OF THE WEEK

 

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys

Winner: NY Giants (29-24)
Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 1 (24-23)
Quarterback: Eli Manning (24-24 at 4QC, 28-26 overall 4Q/OT record - table)

On opening night it looked like a different Dallas team in New York. They were poised, executed well under pressure, and closed the game like they were the champs.

Flash forward to the big Week 8 rematch, and the Cowboys came out like the discombobulated choking dogs they often get painted as, but rarely deserve.

This was bad, with Dez Bryant fumbling twice on the same punt, and Tony Romo throwing three interceptions, including an athletic pick-six return by Jason Pierre-Paul to make it 23-0 Giants in the second quarter.

But with 8:29 left in the half, things started to change. The Cowboys went 72 yards for a touchdown. They forced a punt, and Dez Bryant was wide open for a 55-yard gain. Now they settled for a field goal, and at 23-10, we had a game to watch in the second half.

And what a half it was.

Dallas opened with an 86-yard touchdown drive, capped off by Romo’s 1-yard touchdown run on a 4th-and-goal bootleg run. Just like that it was a 23-17 game, and Eli Manning had been off all day, leading to a quick three and out and the ball back to Dallas.

From the time it was 23-0 Giants to this point, Manning was just 3/11 for 27 yards and sacked once.

With Felix Jones giving them nothing on the ground, Romo used his tight ends and threw a 1-yard touchdown off play action to John Phillips. Dallas led 24-23, and they did not even wait until the fourth quarter to complete the 23-point comeback.

But this one was far from finished. Even though Manning was intercepted on a pass that bounced off Victor Cruz, the Cowboys went three and out after a sack derailed the drive right away.

They moved into the fourth quarter, and Dallas was holding onto a 24-23 lead against the best closing team in the game today. It was only fitting the Giants would be playing yet another nail biter.

Starting at his own 15, Manning went to Hakeem Nicks for 29 yards, and Randle for 12 yards. But after offensive holding forced a 1st and 20, the drive stalled, bringing out Lawrence Tynes to kick a 43-yard field goal. It was good with 10:20 left, and the Giants led 26-24.

Dallas was driving until Jones fumbled at midfield. The Giants turned that into a 37-yard field goal, but this actually was not that bad for Dallas. They trailed 29-24, meaning they could take their time (3:22 left) to drive for a game-winning touchdown that hopefully leaves no time for Manning to answer.

With the game nationally televised, everyone was able to see Romo in another big spot. That plays a huge factor in his perception, as so many of his worst moments have been on the biggest stages.

The drive was going well with a lot of short passes, mostly to Jason Witten, who finished with 18 receptions, breaking the record for most by a tight end. It also ties him for the third most ever receptions in a game.

But after Witten made a 9-yard catch to set up a 2nd and 1 at the NYG 19 with 1:23 left, things went haywire for Dallas in the clutch again. With all three timeouts and three straight plays needing a yard, the Cowboys passed on all three plays.

Witten dropped a pass going out of bounds. Romo overthrew Kevin Ogletree in the end zone.

On 4th and 1, Romo was in trouble as he scrambled back beyond the 40, and his pass was intercepted by Stevie Brown, who had two interceptions and a fumble recovery in the game. The only thing missing from the play was one of Dallas’ classic bad snaps.

Even though the running game produced 15 carries for 19 yards, you have to give someone a shot to pick up a yard at least once on those three plays. Instead, Romo finished with 62 pass attempts, four sacks, and four turnovers.

Not over yet, the Cowboys used all three timeouts as the Giants were content with three vanilla runs. They punted, and Romo had 0:44 left at his own 30. Stranger things have happened.

After a 13-yard pass to Witten, Romo spiked the ball. Bryant made a 16-yard catch and got out of bounds. Witten made yet another short catch to get out of bounds. It was time to go to the end zone with 0:16 left at the NYG 37. Give yourself multiple chances at it.

Romo did, and the Giants somehow failed to properly defend the play, leaving Bryant open enough in the back of the end zone to come down with the miraculous touchdown with 0:10 left.

The only problem is Dez’s hand touched out of bounds before he established possession, making it an incomplete pass. It is a sometimes cruel game of inches, but a game of inches nonetheless.

Romo again went short to Witten out of bounds to get 10 yards closer. He misfired to Miles Austin, who likely would have not scored anyway. Now just one second remained – thanks to some home-field advantage with the clock operator – for a final play.

All you can ask of your quarterback here is to give someone a chance to make a play. The last thing you can do is take a sack, and the only thing as bad as that would be to throw the ball out of bounds.

Well, Romo’s pass went well out of bounds in the back of the end zone, ending the day the way Dallas started it, with a crashing thud.

Neither quarterback played particularly well, but Romo had more costly mistakes. In the process, Manning moved into sole possession of first place with his 24th fourth-quarter comeback win; the most by any quarterback in their first nine seasons.

Most 4QC Wins in First 9 Seasons

Rk

QB

Years

4QC

1

Eli Manning

2004-12

24

2T

Johnny Unitas

1956-64

23

2T

Peyton Manning

1998-06

23

4

Ben Roethlisberger

2004-12

21

5T

Tom Brady

2000-08

20

5T

John Elway

1983-91

20

Last week in the AP report, they noted Manning had 22 regular season game-winning drives. This week it said that he has 20 regular season fourth quarter comebacks, which is also correct.

However, ESPN added their own twist by claiming Manning leads all quarterbacks in fourth quarter comeback wins since 2004 with 25 (including playoffs). His brother has 22, Ben Roethlisberger has 21, Drew Brees has 19, and Tom Brady has 16.

Negative. This is the most unusual (Denver Broncos-esque) case of adding a game where a return score was the comeback, such as a fumble return touchdown for Peyton, a Reggie Bush punt return for Brees, or a pick six of Trent Edwards for Eli. These should never count.

Still, it was another one for Eli on Sunday, even if he had no business falling behind after taking a 23-0 lead. That makes for a ridiculous 10 fourth quarter comebacks and 11 game-winning drives in Manning’s last 26 starts. For reference, Phil Simms had 11 fourth quarter comebacks in his entire career (174 games).

It was not a memorable comeback for the Giants, but it sure will be a memorable game in this rivalry.

 

THE OTHER PATHS TO VICTORY

 

Chicago Bears vs. Carolina Panthers

Winner: Chicago (23-22)
Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 12 (19-7)
Quarterback: Jay Cutler (13-15 at 4QC, 17-16 overall 4Q/OT record - table)

Some like to say that players and teams cannot continue to repeat their clutch success or failure. But the outliers on both ends like the Giants (good) and Carolina Panthers (bad) challenge that thought.

Though it did not look like we would get to that point, it was another tight game in the fourth quarter, and once again the Panthers folded.

Cam Newton’s 1-12 (now 1-13) record in the clutch was our topic last week, and he disguised himself as both Superman and $cam once again in this game.

There was a play in which he fumbled at the CHI 1, only to have a teammate recover it for a fortunate touchdown. There were also enough big completions to take a 19-7 lead into the fourth quarter.

Chicago’s offense had been completely lifeless at home for three quarters, but they started to pick up some steam for their first fourth quarter rally of 2012. However, reliable kicker Robbie Gould was wide right on a 33-yard field goal with 12:09 left. The decision to kick it, down 19-7 with a 4th and 5 at the CAR 15, was very questionable.

Carolina went three and out after Mike Tolbert was stopped on a 3rd-and-1 run. Rookie punter Brad Nortman could only get off a 6-yard punt, giving Chicago the ball at the CAR 38.

Cutler converted a 3rd and 8 to Brandon Marshall, and four plays later found Kellen Davis for a nice grab in the end zone for the touchdown. Chicago trailed 19-14 with 6:52 remaining.

Almost like clockwork for both Newton and the Chicago defense, on the very next play from scrimmage Steve Smith went in motion and slipped, leading to Tim Jennings coming up with the pick six down the sideline for the go-ahead touchdown.

The sixth interception returned for a touchdown by Chicago’s defense already ties the franchise record, and they have nine more games.

Cutler, with the Captain’s dreaded “partial comeback” in hand, threw an interception on the two-point conversion attempt. Chicago led 20-19.

To his credit, Newton put together a drive. It was aided early by one of those “Tom Brady rule” roughing the passer penalties. On a 3rd and 1, Newton gained 16 yards on a bootleg run.

After four running plays, Newton had 2nd and 8 at the CHI 27. His pass to Smith was just a hair too far, and Smith could only get one hand on what would have been a big touchdown.

Game of inches indeed. Newton threw the ball away under pressure, and Carolina had to settle for a 45-yard field goal by Justin Medlock. They led 22-20, but Cutler had an eternity to set up Chicago’s winning field goal.

This eliminated the partial comeback mess, and marked the first official fourth quarter comeback opportunity for Chicago’s offense this season.

With 2:20 left at their own 22, Chicago’s win probability was 0.39. That number just keeps rising with each first down, which Chicago found with ease as Carolina only rushed four on every play.

Amazingly, the Bears got it done running almost the same play every time. Carolina had no answers.

Cutler completed 6-of-7 passes for 52 yards on the drive. After a 3-yard run by Matt Forte, the Bears brought out Gould for some redemption for his earlier miss. The 41-yard kick was good with no time left, and Chicago completed the comeback, 23-22.

The 12-point comeback was the first double-digit comeback win in the fourth quarter for Chicago since they overcame a 34-20 deficit against Denver when Jay Cutler was the Broncos’ quarterback on November 25, 2007.

The only other double-digit 4QC in the Lovie Smith era was the “Crown their ass!” game in 2006 against Arizona. Chicago trailed 23-10.

Cutler completed 14 of his final 16 passes against Carolina, and has built up an impressive collection of clutch wins. But because he has the stigma – plus the track record to back it up – of not being a quarterback who wins “big games”, he does not get any respect for his late-game success.

Best Overall 4Q/OT Records - Active Quarterbacks

QB

4QC Wins

4QC Losses

Pct.

4Q/OT Wins

4Q/OT Losses

Pct.

Matt Ryan

13

11

0.542

19

11

0.633

Tom Brady

26

21

0.553

38

23

0.623

Tim Tebow

6

5

0.545

7

6

0.538

Matthew Stafford

8

8

0.500

9

8

0.529

Eli Manning

24

24

0.500

28

26

0.519

Jay Cutler

13

15

0.464

17

16

0.515

Peyton Manning

37

44

0.457

49

48

0.505

Cutler is one of only seven active quarterbacks to have a winning record when it comes to his opportunities for fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives.

If you are a Chicago fan, that list has to give you some confidence, even if Cutler rarely radiates such feelings.

And of course, Cam Newton is still firmly entrenched at the very bottom of that list. With 11 straight losses at these opportunities, should this continue we may have to dig up the list of the worst clutch losing streaks in NFL history.

When you get in that conversation, things are probably moving beyond bad luck.

 

Detroit Lions vs. Seattle Seahawks

Winner: Detroit (28-24)
Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 3 (24-21)
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford (8-8 at 4QC, 9-8 overall 4Q/OT record - table)

Just 37 starts into his career, Matthew Stafford has developed a flair for the dramatic.

With evidence mounting that the Detroit Lions were merely a one-year wonder, Stafford pulled out his best game of the season against one of the league’s top pass defenses. Detroit scored 28 points on a Seattle defense that has not allowed more than 23 points in the 18 games since their bye week last season.

Cincinnati scored 34 points against Seattle last season, but 14 of those were on return touchdowns. Seattle’s talented defense let them down especially in the fourth quarter this week, which has been a nightmare of a quarter for this young team on the road.

Both teams are very familiar with close games in the fourth quarter. This was the fifth comeback opportunity for Detroit (3-2), and the sixth for Seattle (2-4).

Detroit has been so prolific in the fourth quarter, scoring 94 points in seven games. That ties the 2006 Cowboys for the most points in the fourth quarter in a team’s first seven games. Only the 2002 Chiefs (102) and 1989 49ers (96) scored more.

Trailing 17-14 to start the fourth quarter, Stafford converted a third down to Brandon Pettigrew down to the SEA 2. After two unsuccessful runs, Stafford rolled right on a bootleg and snuck inside the corner for the touchdown run with 11:35 left for a 21-17 lead.

Russell Wilson has led two comebacks at home, but has yet to finish on the road. He put together a strong drive, keyed by two 18-yard passes to Sidney Rice. On a 4th and 2 at the DET 32, Wilson found Golden Tate on a quick slant for the first down.

Marshawn Lynch carried for 10 yards, then Wilson went to Zach Miller in the end zone, making an incredible one-handed catch for the 16-yard touchdown with 5:27 left. Seattle led 24-21.

Stafford had plenty of time and went to work on one of the best drives of the season. This epic would last 16 plays, with Stafford throwing the ball 15 times, completing 10 passes for 75 yards.

It was a lot of dink and dunk, but it was effective and burned much of the clock. The toughest situation Detroit faced was a 3rd and 10, and this was after Calvin Johnson had a pass go off his hands in the end zone.

A little halfback angle route and it was Joique Bell taking the ball down to the 1-yard line. Using their final timeout, Detroit had 0:35 to score the go-ahead touchdown, or settle for yet another overtime game like they did in Philadelphia.

Stafford had to throw the ball away twice, setting up a third and goal. With a quick slant bullet to Titus Young, the Lions came through with the game-winning touchdown with 0:20 left.

Seattle only had 0:15 left to go 82 yards, and Tate fumbled the lateral play to end the game. All three of Detroit’s wins this year have been fourth quarter comebacks.

For Stafford, it moves him to 8-8 at fourth quarter comeback opportunities, and he is only one of four active quarterbacks with a record of at least .500 (min. 12 opportunities). It is his ninth game-winning drive.

As has often been the case, Stafford was prolific in the whole game as well. With three touchdown passes and a touchdown run, it was the fifth time Stafford had at least four total touchdowns while leading a game-winning drive. That puts him in some very select company this early in his career.

Games with 4+ TD and GWD

Rk

QB

Games

Career GWD’s

1

Dan Marino

8

51

2

Johnny Unitas

6

40

3T

Matthew Stafford

5

9

3T

Brett Favre

5

45

3T

Dan Fouts

5

26

6T

Jack Kemp

4

11

6T

Jeff Garcia

4

19

6T

Ken Stabler

4

26

6T

Tommy Kramer

4

20

Even if Calvin Johnson continues to struggle, as long as Detroit keeps it close Stafford gives them a good chance to win any game on the last drive.

 

 

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans

Winner: Indianapolis (19-13 OT)
Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 7 (13-6)
Quarterback: Andrew Luck (2-1 at 4QC, 3-1 overall 4Q/OT record - table)

Andrew Luck earned his first road victory and winning streak while also becoming the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to lead three game-winning drives in his team’s first seven games.

It was a battle of two of the league’s worst pass defenses. Luck and Matt Hasselbeck did not disappoint. The ball rarely hit the ground, and with each offense finding a productive running game, this one featured a lot more offense than the 19-13 score suggests.

There were only a total of 16 possessions in the game, and each team botched a makeable field goal attempt.

Rob Bironas made a 30-yard field goal to extend Tennessee’s lead to 13-6 early in the fourth quarter. Luck and the Colts have found their first two road games difficult and were too far behind to realistically come back, but this time they had a chance.

With 10:26 left, the Colts put together a long one (14 plays, 80 yards). Luck had an interesting quarterback sneak that gained seven yards.

The drive almost stalled short of the end zone when Luck completed a 9-yard pass to LaVon Brazill, setting up a 4th and 1. Fortunately, the Colts did go for it this time and Delone Carter plowed away for a 7-yard gain to the TEN 1. He finished off the drive with a touchdown run to tie the game.

Now it was up to the defense to get a stop. Hasselbeck guided the offense with relative ease to the IND 42 with 1:21 left, but things slowed down there. Chris Johnson only gained a yard on a run blitz. Hasselbeck overthrew Jared Cook by a big margin down the middle of the field with Pat Angerer covering him (mismatch).

Captain’s Semantics Lesson: Before the 3rd-and-9 play, CBS flashed an odd graphic, noting that Hasselbeck has 25 game-winning/tying drives in last 5 minutes/OT. He has 25 total fourth quarter/overtime wins, but since when is the stat expressed as the final five minutes? There must be many different subdivisions at these networks that just come up with any stats they want in these situations. Zero uniformity. Then again, at least they were consistent to use the same bizarre wording for Luck and his two game-winning drives when he came out later.

Hmm, and to think last week we mentioned and looked at a list of Hasselbeck’s game-winning or game-tying touchdown passes in the last 5:00. But back to the drive and a critical play at that.

This time Angerer was in better position and Hasselbeck’s quick pass to Kenny Britt hit the young linebacker. Rather than try a long 58-yard field goal and risk the field position, the Titans punted and pinned the Colts at their own 6 with 0:56 left.

The Colts started with two runs, but did go to the air on third down, with Luck converting to Donnie Avery for 10 yards. The next pass went to rookie tight end Dwayne Allen, who appeared to fumble, but his forward progress was ruled to have stopped, eliminating any chance to review the play.

It was a huge break for the Colts to avoid a real disaster. After that play, they played it safe and took a knee for overtime.

Winning the toss and choosing to receive, the Colts started at their 20. Six straight runs by Donald Brown set up a 3rd and 8 at the TEN 36. Luck made his biggest play of the day by stepping up and throwing a perfect 20-yard pass to Reggie Wayne against good coverage for the first down.

Losers of 10 straight road games, the Colts were 16 yards away from the win. After a run by Vick Ballard for no gain, the Colts went to a throwback screen to Ballard, and he showed the effort play of the year with an incredible dive for the end zone, extending the ball to break the plane for the game-winning touchdown.

Luck was 10/12 for 115 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter and overtime. Both incompletions were drops.

Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas was the first game-winning touchdown pass under the new overtime rules in last year’s postseason. Andrew Luck to Vick Ballard will forever be known as the first game-winning touchdown pass under the new overtime rules in the regular season.

After nine teams kicked a field goal to eventually win in overtime this season, we finally have that sudden-death defining touchdown drive, and it was a very memorable play.

Andrew Luck becomes the 11th rookie quarterback to lead at least three game-winning drives, and he has nine games left to move up the chart.

Most GWD's, Rookie Season (Playoffs Included)

Rk

Quarterback

Year

Team

GWD

1

Ben Roethlisberger

2004

Steelers

6

2

Vince Young

2006

Titans

5

3T

Matt Ryan

2008

Falcons

4

3T

Andy Dalton

2011

Bengals

4

5T

Johnny Unitas

1956

Colts

3

5T

Sam Etcheverry

1961

Cardinals

3

5T

Virgil Carter

1968

Bears

3

5T

Kerry Collins

1995

Panthers

3

5T

David Carr

2002

Texans

3

5T

Bruce Gradkowski

2006

Buccaneers

3

5T

Andrew Luck

2012

Colts

3

Note: Otto Graham had four game-winning drives in 1950, but is technically not considered a rookie because of previous professional experience (AAFC).

As we looked at last season (apologies to any Dallas fans for bringing up this “Eli Does Dallas Edition” of Captain Comeback), Virgil Carter set the benchmark for having three game-winning drives in his first three starts as a rookie for the 1968 Bears.

In that same article we tried to painstakingly pinpoint the fastest to six comebacks or game-winning drives with Tim Tebow, Marc Wilson, Scott Brunner, Jake Delhomme and Jay Schroeder. Luck is on their pace with just seven starts and already the two comebacks and three game-winning drives.

Not sure Luck will be on that epic of a roll here, but the fact is he has been great in every fourth quarter when the game was close so far.

 

COMEBACK FAILURES OF THE WEEK

The Captain has been saying for years that Philip Rivers is the AFC version of Tony Romo, and it never seems more apt a comparison than in 2012. It is especially true after the latest debacle in Cleveland. Also, the Jacksonville Jaguars gave Green Bay a close one, but facing Blaine Gabbert is always a good antidote for those teams who struggle to close.

 

Betty White can score more in Cleveland than Philip Rivers

A Week 8 game in Cleveland (1-6) sounded like the perfect remedy for Philip Rivers to put up some numbers as the San Diego Chargers (3-3) looked to rebound from their humiliating defeat against Denver in Week 6.

But even that is apparently no longer a given for Norv Turner’s team. While the Browns have been competitive, two things they rarely do are win the game, and limit the opponent to few points.

It was only the ninth time since Cleveland returned in 1999 that they allowed fewer than seven points. The Chargers have six points in the last six quarters.

Each team’s opening drive set the tone. San Diego turned it over on downs after Jackie Battle was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 run, while rookie Trent Richardson scored on an impressive 26-yard run. That would be the game’s only touchdown.

Trailing 7-6 in the fourth quarter, the Chargers embarked on a long, but ultimately empty drive. It started with five straight runs before Rivers converted a pair of third and shorts. But after Ryan Mathews lost five yards and the offense was penalized for a false start, Rivers threw low and incomplete to Robert Meachem on 3rd and 14.

Cleveland’s offense did a solid job, picking up three first downs, but eventually had to punt. If Rivers was going to finish a game, this was a favorable situation. San Diego had 2:36; a timeout left, and only needed to get a field goal, starting from their own 12.

After one first down Rivers went to his Joe Montana/Tom Brady film study, and simply checked down to Ronnie Brown over the middle three times in a row, completing two for 32 yards.

Now at the CLE 44, Rivers missed Dante Rosario on a critical play that may have put them in field goal position. At this point CBS said Rivers has 14 game-winning drives, which is simply not true.

On second down, Rivers tried to scramble to make something happen, but ended up throwing the ball away. Cleveland rushed four but put pressure on Rivers, who floated one short of Rosario down the field.

With the game coming down to a 4th and 10, Cleveland rushed five and Rivers threw left to Malcom Floyd, but Buster Skrine deflected the pass away as he was in coverage underneath. Game over.

We talk about Cam Newton, but Philip Rivers is now 2-14 in fourth quarter comeback/game-winning drive opportunities since 2010. It has been a dramatic fall for what was once the quarterback first in line in that second tier below the game’s elites.

This 7-6 dud in Cleveland in some ways is as bad as the meltdown against a team like Denver in their last outing.

The Chargers are an upset at home on Thursday night to the worst team in football (Kansas City) away from completing the trifecta of terrible, and bringing up a code red, blow-it-up-and-start-over situation.

 

Gabbert’s career day still results in 15 points and a loss

Even as Blaine Gabbert passed for 303 yards (43 yards better than his previous career high), the Jacksonville offense still struggled to score 15 points on 13 possessions.

In place of the injured Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings rushed for 59 yards on 17 carries and caught six of his eight targets for 56 yards. He did have a costly fumble at the GB 22 early in the second quarter.

But no Jones-Drew was hardly a factor in the loss. Jacksonville converted only 5-of-16 third-down conversions, had a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, and botched a two-point conversion before halftime when they did not necessarily need it.

The Green Bay offense, missing Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, also struggled, but the Jaguars failed to take advantage in the close game Mike McCarthy’s team loathes to play.

Leading 14-12 to start the fourth quarter, Aaron Rodgers led just the second scoring drive of the game for the Packers, throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to old reliable Donald Driver. This is where the failed two-point conversion hurts, as the Packers now led 21-12.

Jacksonville put the ball in Gabbert’s hands, and he dinked and dunked the ball down the field until Cecil Shorts made a 24-yard catch at the GB 17. But after a loss on third down, Josh Scobee kicked a 32-yard field goal with 6:50 left.

Scobee’s deep kick went out of bounds, but the Packers only went three and out, and quickly at that. Now Gabbert had his chance, down 21-15 with 5:52 left and 92 yards ahead of him for a go-ahead score.

Gabbert started with three straight completions for 42 yards to get to the 50, but threw wildly to rookie Justin Blackmon, who would then catch a 6-yard pass to set up a critical 4th and 4.

Blackmon was the target for the fourth straight play, but he and Gabbert had a miscommunication on the route and the pass was nearly intercepted. Instead it just hit the ground and the Packers took over.

After two runs and with Jacksonville out of timeouts, Rodgers threw incomplete deep on 3rd and 7, but a 38-yard flag for pass interference on Will Middleton gave the Packers a huge first down. They ran three more plays and kicked a field goal for a safe 24-15 lead with 0:28 left.

Gabbert just threw four straight incompletions to end the game with a whimper, but not a Guy Whimper touchdown like in the second quarter on the tackle-eligible play. Those scoring plays have been rare for the Jaguars, and they were a touchdown short again in Green Bay in a very winnable game.

Gabbert falls to 1-7 in fourth quarter comeback opportunities while Rodgers (186 yards) is just glad he avoided an opportunity on a day where he failed to pass for over 200 yards, snapping a 26-game streak (including playoffs).

 

Next week

It is a surprising rookie showdown (assuming Ryan Tannehill can play) as the 4-3 Colts host the 4-3 Dolphins. Big Ben and Eli Manning get the Round 3 rubber match that only comes once every four years. Can the Cowboys pull off a shocking upset in Atlanta? Can Arizona draw the Packers into a close game? There are also a lot of really bad games that hopefully can be avoided in writing about next week.

 

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 smk_42@yahoo.com, or you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.


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