Captain Comeback Week 10: “Epic Comeback Failure” Limited Edition

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 13, 2012



By Scott Kacsmar

Cold Hard Football Facts’ Comeback King (@CaptainComeback)

If Captain Comeback was a comic book, this would be a rare one-shot with a limited pressing.

Each week we chronicle the comebacks and game-winning drives in the NFL, but what happens when there aren’t any successes?

That is what Week 10 has delivered, and it is a head-scratcher, even though the four injured quarterbacks did not help. We still had eight games with a comeback opportunity, so it is not like the week was full of blowouts. Eight of the 14 games were very competitive.

But for the first time since Week 13 of the 1973 NFL season, not a single team registered a fourth-quarter comeback win, nor did anyone lead a game-winning drive.

That week 13 games were played with an average margin of victory of 20.3 points (31.46 to 11.15). This is only the fourth week since the 1970 merger without a fourth-quarter comeback win or game-winning drive.

How did it happen this week? It was the combination of three rare events to complete the week of no clutch wins for any offense.

  • First, Dallas broke a 17-17 tie in the fourth quarter with a game-winning punt return touchdown. They would add two more return touchdowns to close the game.
  • For the first time in NFL history, two teams each came back to take a fourth-quarter lead, went to overtime, blew multiple chances for the win, and it ended in a tie. No comeback win, no game-winning drive.
  • Finally, even though the Steelers went on a go-ahead drive, they could not stop lowly Kansas City from forcing overtime. But after Matt Cassel’s interception put the ball at the KC 5, Mike Tomlin immediately sent the kicking unit out, resulting in a non-offensive field goal to win the game, hence no game-winning drive for Pittsburgh.

Wow, what a week of unusual finishes happening together. Of course we also chronicle failure, so we will take a game-by-game look as always. Some of our usual suspects like Philip Rivers and Ryan Fitzpatrick just choked again. But more on them later.

 

Historical context of the anti-clutch week

Just how rare was this week? Very rare. In almost any NFL week, you are going to have a few comebacks and game-winning drives. That’s just how it is.

You have to go back to Week 12 of the 2008 season to find a week without a fourth-quarter comeback win, though there were two game-winning drives.

You then have to go back to Week 14 of the 2003 season to find a week without a game-winning drive, though Michael Vick did lead a fourth-quarter comeback, and the Falcons won in overtime after intercepting Jake Delhomme for a touchdown.

What about a week without either? Week 14 of the 1986 season came close with two games that somewhat compare to this week.

  • The 0-13 Colts overcame a 23-14 deficit against Atlanta in the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass by Gary Hogeboom and a blocked punt return for a touchdown to win 28-23. A team comeback, a partial QB-driven comeback, but not a GWD.
  • The Cardinals and Eagles played to a 10-10 overtime tie after each team scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Overtime consisted of three missed field goals (two by Eric Schubert of the Cardinals). Neil Lomax gets credit for a fourth-quarter comeback leading to a tie.

In the end, the week featured one team comeback win in the fourth quarter, but no game-winning drives.

After that, you have to go back to Week 13 of the 1973 season. There you will find not a single tie, fourth-quarter comeback win, or game-winning drive. Only two of the 13 games were decided by fewer than 13 points. The Eagles barely escaped the Jets, 24-23, in the closest game of the week.

Staying in 1973, it was in Week 7 that no team had a comeback win or game-winning drive, though San Diego and Cleveland both came back to force a tie one year prior to the overtime system. That was actually the first comeback of Dan Fouts’ career, but not for a win.

Something similar happened in Week 8 of the 1972 season, as Philadelphia forced a tie with the Cardinals. Other than that, not a single fourth-quarter comeback win or game-winning drive.

Every other week since the 1970 merger had at least one comeback or game-winning drive. Only these three weeks in the early 1970s and this current week have failed to deliver.

So how rare was it? When you have to go back to the defensive-driven 1970s, when rushing attempts were ample and league-wide passer ratings made Forrest Gump’s IQ look high, then you know it is something rare.

Season Report
Fourth quarter comebacks: 41 (and a tie)
Game-winning drives: 49
Games with 4QC opportunity: 84/146 (57.5 percent)
10+ point comebacks wins (any point in the game): 24

 

DRIVE OF THE WEEK

St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers

Winner: NONE
Type: 4QC (Tie)
Largest Deficit: 10 for San Francisco (17-7), 4 for St. Louis (21-17)

Quarterback 1: Colin Kaepernick (0-0-1 at 4QC, 0-0-1 overall 4Q/OT record - table)

Quarterback 2: Sam Bradford (2-9-1 at 4QC, 2-10-1 overall 4Q/OT record – table)

Can we still even have a “Drive of the Week” given the circumstances? Well, this game was the closest to having a clutch win as both teams had many opportunities to finish the other off. It was the 18th overtime tie since 1974.

It started with a shock, as the Rams led 14-0 after one quarter. Alex Smith was knocked out with a concussion, letting us get a good look at the very interesting Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers trailed 14-7 after Smith went out, and the offenses really sputtered at that point.

St. Louis did add a field goal after a long drive to take a 17-7 lead into the fourth quarter. But Kaepernick put together a great drive, completing a 17-yard pass on 3rd and 18 to Vernon Davis. Frank Gore pushed ahead on 4th and 1, and two plays later Kaepernick ran for a 7-yard touchdown.

The Rams fumbled the kickoff, and with the ball at the 20, Gore only needed one play to take the 21-17 lead. The 49ers scored two touchdowns in 25 seconds, and this was their first true fourth-quarter comeback opportunity of the season.

But that’s when the Rams went on what was really the drive of the week (14 plays, 81 yards), even if it was quickly stalled at the RAM 33. The Rams got ballsy and attempted their second fake punt of the day, and Johnny Hekker converted for the second time, completing a 19-yard pass.

An offensive holding penalty did not even stop the Rams, as Sam Bradford completed two passes to returning receiver Danny Amendola. Bradford later hit Amendola with a pass down to the SF 2 before throwing the go-ahead touchdown to Austin Pettis with 1:09 left. It was “the drive” of Bradford’s career, though the Rams could not hold it up.

Kaepernick had 1:03 and two timeouts left at his own 22. He started the drive by scrambling for 19 yards. Later he ran for 10, and also had three completions for 25 yards. It was a good drive for someone who has never been in this position in the NFL.

The 49ers could have gotten closer or tried for the touchdown, but they sent out David Akers for the 33-yard field goal, and he made it with 0:03 left. We had overtime.

The Rams won the toss and received, and they nearly won this thing right away. Amendola caught a pass deep down the right sideline for 80 yards down to the SF 2. But an extremely late flag for an illegal formation wiped the whole thing out. St. Louis would punt after Bradford’s pass on 3rd and 1 was thrown right at Ahmad Brooks.

San Francisco drove back into field goal range, and after discussing David Akers’ mythical “clutchness”, FOX mentioned he has nine game-winning field goals. Someone like, let’s say Adam Vinatieri, has 29 game-winning field goals in his career. Nine? But according to Tim Ryan, “you wouldn’t want anyone else.” Okay.

As it turns out, Akers actually has 15 game-winning field goals, so not sure what FOX was going on about. Granted, my numbers include the playoffs, but even then, it is 13 (fact) vs. 9 (FOX). Karl Rove will probably say FOX is right though.

David Akers' Game-Winning Field Goals

No.

Date

Opp.

Result

Down

Distance

Time Left

1

11/5/2000

DAL

W 16-13 OT

0

32

7:05 (OT)

2

11/12/2000

PIT (A)

W 26-23 OT

0

42

10:44 (OT)

3

11/26/2000

WAS (A)

W 23-20

0

30

3:00

4

12/30/2001

NYG

W 24-21

0

35

0:07

5

11/3/2002

CHI

W 19-13

0

27

13:29

6

1/11/2004

GB

W 20-17 OT

0

31

10:12 (OT)

7

10/24/2004

CLE (A)

W 34-31 OT

0

50

5:02 (OT)

8

9/25/2005

RAI

W 23-20

0

23

0:09

9

11/27/2005

GB

W 19-14

1

37

4:31

10

12/4/2006

CAR

W 27-24

0

25

3:13

11

1/7/2007

NYG

W 23-20

0

38

0:00

12

10/12/2008

SF (A)

W 40-26

2

38

7:46

13

11/29/2009

WAS

W 27-24

0

32

1:48

14

12/27/2009

DEN

W 30-27

0

28

0:04

15

12/24/2011

SEA (A)

W 19-17

1

39

2:57

Akers was involved in the NFL’s last tie (2008 Eagles at Bengals), and could have had a 16th game-winning kick, but he was wide left from 41 yards away. That right there was a dangerous sign we could be having a tie.

The Rams thought they had the win with Greg Zuerlein’s 53-yard field goal, but they failed to snap it fast enough, causing a delay of game penalty. Of course, Zuerlein was wide right from 58 yards away.

The 49ers went three and out. With 1:36 left, the Rams looked very careful in not trying to win the game. Aldon Smith made a huge sack of Bradford. On 3rd and 23 with 0:06 left, Bradford completed the 24-yard pass to Brandon Gibson, who got out of bounds, but the clock expired.

Why not put one second on, which it probably should have been anyway, and see if Zuerlein can make a 68-yard field goal? Either way, FOX ended with one more blunder.

Like Donovan McNabb, maybe someone at FOX didn’t know we had ties and not a second overtime sessions?

Ties are the worst, and usually a kicker is to blame. The last nine NFL games to end in a tie have seen at least one kicker miss at least one game-winning field goal in overtime.

Akers just has to make one from 41 yards away, and the game is over. This game could have been over several times, but neither team capitalized, and we are left with a crumby tie that makes the game feel pointless.

Both Kaepernick and Bradford get a fourth-quarter comeback, but for a tie and not a win. It marks the 17th and 18th times a quarterback received a fourth-quarter comeback for a tie since overtime was put in back in the 1974 regular season.

It is the first NFL game ever in which both quarterbacks led their teams back in the fourth quarter, only to end in an overtime tie.

The last time both quarterbacks got a fourth-quarter comeback for a tie was November 4, 1973. Fitting we hit on that year again. That day it was Jim Hart (Cardinals) and Charley Johnson (Broncos) dueling to a 17-17 tie a year before overtime was put in.

When you have overtime and still cannot sort out a winner after 15 minutes, something else needs to be done. No more ties, NFL.

Figure it out.

 

THE OTHER (ONLY) PATHS TO VICTORY

There were two strange paths to victory this week, so let’s use some more Bill Belichick to convey the emotions for us.

 

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

Winner: Dallas (38-23)
Type: Non-offensive game-winning score (punt return TD)

The story where an injured Michael Vick gives way to rookie Nick Foles, who saves Andy Reid’s career in Philadelphia? Well, it did not get off to a good start on Sunday.

Foles entered the game for the concussed Vick, did throw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin, but Dallas showed up to the Blunder Bowl with a turnover-free performance.

After Foles led two scoring drives to take a 17-10 lead, Tony Romo threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant, who held on this time. Or did he? The review was 50/50, but the call went Dallas’ way, and that was the final play of the third quarter.

A few more seconds, and we likely do have a 4QC this week. But it was not meant to be in Week 10.

Now tied 17-17, Foles had his first game-winning drive opportunity, and it started with an interception. But, in typical Dallas fashion, Morris Claiborne was flagged for holding, negating the pick.

Philadelphia had to punt, and that is when Dwayne Harris returned the punt 78 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 13:35 left.

It is only the second game-winning punt return touchdown in Dallas history. The first also came against Philadelphia when Kelvin Martin went 85 yards on December 15, 1991. 

Three plays later, Foles threw behind his receiver, and Brandon Carr came up with the pick and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown. Dallas led 31-17. It was the first turnover of the game, and a critical one.

Both teams punted, and Foles led a 77-yard touchdown drive with 1:55 left, but Alex Henery missed the extra point. The onside kick did not work either, and Felix Jones ran the ball three times before Dallas punted.

Down 31-23, Foles had 0:53 left and needed to go 89 yards without a timeout. Is it impossible?

The Captain thought of Brett Favre in 1992, coming off the bench against the Bengals. He had 1:07 left, down 23-17, and needed to go 92 yards without a timeout. Favre did it, and Andy Reid was on the Green Bay sideline that day.

Not likely that Reid was thinking about that moment at this point, as he has a lot more on his mind in what has to be the toughest year of his life.

After a false start, Foles was sacked, lost the ball, and the Cowboys recovered for their third return touchdown of the quarter to cap an amazing 38-23 victory.

Criticized for not closing, the Cowboys managed to seal the game without Romo even needing to score in the fourth quarter.

Foles should have better days ahead, but it was a rough fourth quarter in his rookie debut. And an even rougher season for Philadelphia continues, losers of five straight.

Can Dallas catch the Giants? It will take more efforts like this and more no-shows from the Giants like they have had the last two games.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Winner: Pittsburgh (16-13 OT)
Type: Non-offensive game-winning field goal

Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers rarely ever take the “little games” seriously, and it may have bit them hard this time. Instead of crushing the worst team in football, the Steelers trailed by 10 points for the third time in four games.

The good news is they have won all three of those games, but the bad news is they lost Ben Roethlisberger for an unknown period of time in the process.

Kansas City started with their first in-game lead of the season, which already made this feel like a Pittsburgh loss. But after tying the game 10-10 at halftime, the Steelers lost Roethlisberger to a shoulder injury in the third quarter.

Enter Byron Leftwich. After getting the tuck rule call Roethlisberger did not get last week in New York, the Steelers kept it on the ground four times, turning the ball over on downs.

Fortunately it was only the Kansas City offense, and they went three and out. Leftwich converted a 3rd and 9 with a good pass to Emmanuel Sanders for 31 yards. The drive continued after a Leftwich pass drew 22 yards of pass interference by Javier Arenas on 3rd and 3.

Now into the fourth quarter, Leftwich converted another third down thanks to a roughing the passer penalty. But then the drive stalled, and Shaun Suisham made the 31-yard field goal for a 13-10 lead with 12:37 left.

This was the week’s first game-winning drive, right? Not so fast.

The game turned into a sloppy punt-fest with six straight punts and some weird plays like a screen pass to Peyton Hillis instead of Jamaal Charles.

In the four-minute offense, Leftwich converted 3rd and 7 with a 22-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery, but Jonathan Dwyer was stopped a yard short and 3rd and 1. The Steelers had to punt.

No one has much faith in Matt Cassel in these situations, but how can you still have faith in Pittsburgh’s defense to make the critical stop? Cassel had 1:51 left, and was putting together a solid drive.

Dwayne Bowe had another big drop, then on 3rd and 15 Cassel threw a very short pass that would have wasted a ton of time and gained almost nothing. At this point, no one believed he would convert 4th and 15, but sure enough, Bowe was open for the 27-yard gain to the PIT 28. Cassel spiked the ball, and Ryan Succop forced overtime with a 46-yard field goal with no time left.

Incredibly, this thing was headed for overtime. Kansas City won the toss and received, which bad offenses need to start realizing is the wrong move.

Two plays into overtime, Cassel remembered he was Matt Cassel, and threw an awful pass to Lawrence Timmons for the interception. Timmons returned it to the KC 5.

Taking no chances and ensuring us of a NFL week without a game-winning drive, Mike Tomlin sent Suisham out immediately on first down. He easily made the 23-yard field goal to win the game, 16-13. It was ugly, but it was a win.

Leftwich had the go-ahead drive earlier to make it 13-10, but that was not a comeback since the Steelers never trailed in the fourth, and it was not the game-winning drive. Instead it just remains in purgatory, or more accurately, it will show up in the “Other games of note” on Leftwich’s page at Pro-Football-Reference.

Just getting a lead was big for Kansas City, who spent much of the night celebrating plays the way no 1-7 (now 1-8) team ever has celebrated before.

Maybe next time they can finish and actually win a game in regulation.

By the Captain’s count, Pittsburgh’s non-offensive game-winning field goal is the seventh in the database. They rarely happen. This season we have seen the Bills and Raiders get cheap game-winning drives by sending their quarterback out to fall down and center the ball. No messing around by Tomlin on a night like this with Leftwich.

But now, he may have to trust Leftwich as his starter for a few weeks.

 

COMEBACK FAILURES OF THE WEEK

Our five tales of failure are strong for the defense this week. While we have grown to expect mistakes in the clutch by Jason Campbell, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Philip Rivers, it was surprising to see Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford also fail to deliver for their offenses.

But this was not your usual week by any means.

 

Saints become 6th team with losing record to knock off team 8-0 or better

It was bound to happen eventually. After four game-winning drives to get to 8-0, Matt Ryan was unable to finish off another one, losing for the first time all season despite a career-high 411 yards passing.

It is also the first time Ryan’s had a 100.0+ passer rating and lost (29-1). Perhaps fitting since the 100.7 is the lowest he has ever had when going over 100. Ryan also lost to the Saints with a 99.9 rating in 2008.

Usually a team 8-0 or better loses to stiff competition, but the Saints are the sixth team to pull off the upset as they only improve to 4-5 on the year.

Drew Brees joins Tony Romo as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to defeat two undefeated teams who were 7-0 or better.

That stat is even more interesting when you consider how connected it is.

  • Both Romo and Brees knocked off the Indianapolis Colts in their best runs. Brees beat the 2005 Colts (13-0) with San Diego while Romo stopped the 2006 Colts (9-0).
  • Romo went into the Superdome in 2009 and beat Brees’ Saints (13-0).
  • Romo had his crack last week at 7-0 Atlanta, lost, and Brees took care of business this week against 8-0 Atlanta.

Early on it looked like it would be all Atlanta, taking a 10-0 lead, but these games are usually high scoring and close. Ryan has thrown for at least 350 yards four times in his career, and three of them are his most recent games against the Saints.

New Orleans went ahead 28-17 in the third quarter, which is the Falcons’ largest deficit of the season. Ryan has come back to win from a 10-point deficit twice in the fourth quarter in his career, but never 11.

Ryan had Atlanta driving to start the fourth quarter, and finished the 91-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown to Tony Gonzalez, who earlier caught his 100th career touchdown.

The Saints went three and out after Devery Henderson dropped a third-down pass. Down 28-24, it took Ryan two plays to go deep to Julio Jones on a jump ball for 52 yards down to the NO 10.

Expecting another Atlanta go-ahead drive, things stalled. Ryan’s pass on 3rd and goal at the NO 2 to a diving Jones was too far and the Falcons decided, oddly, to kick a field goal. They trailed 28-27 with 9:08 left.

Brees answered, hitting a 46-yard pass to Jimmy Graham to convert a 3rd and 5 in his own territory. The Saints settled for a field goal, leading 31-27 with 5:54 left.

Looking to bolster his MVP credentials and get to 9-0, Ryan took over at his own 20. After converting two third downs, the Falcons picked up three big plays in a row to set up a 2nd and goal at the NO 1 with 2:00 to play.

But the battered New Orleans’ defense, the one that has allowed 420+ yards in nine straight games, a NFL record for futility, made some plays.

A play-action pass to Gonzalez was broken up by Malcolm Jenkins. Michael Turner lost a yard on the ground. This set up a 4th and goal at the NO 2. Ryan, fading back under pressure, watched his pass to Roddy White be defended well by Jabari Greer, ending the drive.

The Saints just ran it three times and punted. Ryan had 0:37 left at his own 31 and no timeouts. This would have been epic to pull off, but the odds were heavily stacked against the Falcons.

FOX botched the semantics again as well, showing the graphic of Ryan’s “game-winning/tying drives” and the “Son of a Marv” announcer incorrectly saying “fourth quarter comebacks” of course. He also said “including three this season”, even though the number is four.

But this comeback almost happened. Ryan went to Harry Douglas for nine yards, then threw a pass away deep after nearly crossing the line.

The next play was the big one. Ryan took a running start and launched a bomb for White that traveled nearly 60 yards in the air. White stopped to look back for the ball, but had he kept going, it would have dropped in there for a 60-yard game-winning touchdown.

That little timing miscue is the difference between 9-0 and another miracle finish, and 8-1 after Gonzalez drops the short pass on 4th and 1 to end the game.

Even though it was 3-5 beating 8-0, it was hardly a shocking result. This is usually how a game between these teams plays out. We just have higher expectations for Ryan in clutch situations, and on three drives with a one-score deficit, he only could muster a field goal.

The rematch (Week 13) should be fun too, and with potentially higher stakes than just one team chasing the dream of a perfect season.

 

Norv Turner’s career floating down the Rivers

It really is an amazing story to see Philip Rivers go from being the leader in the tier below the elite quarterbacks, to a guy who puts up big numbers and chokes with historic consistency.

A lot of points were expected in Tampa Bay in this battle of 4-4 teams, and neither disappointed early. San Diego led at halftime, 21-17, and Rivers was nearly flawless: 16 of 18 for 218 yards, 3 TD, and a 156.7 passer rating.

Heading into the fourth quarter, Rivers was still 21 of 25 for 267 yards and a 150.8 passer rating. But now the Chargers trailed 24-21, and he needed a comeback.

That’s nothing but bad news for San Diego since 2010, and sure enough, it only took three plays for a reminder.

On 3rd and 4 at the TB 23, Rivers, who had hit six in a row on the drive, scrambled to his right, and instead of throwing it away like he usually does, decided to make a Favre-ian throw, resulting in Leonard Johnson taking it 83 yards to the house for a touchdown. San Diego trailed 31-21.

Just an abysmal play with the team in field goal range already. This is not a play Rivers would have made earlier in his career.

San Diego would come back down the field, but settled for a field goal. Tampa Bay gained one first down before punting with 3:53 left.

At his own 22, trailing 31-24, what do you think happened next? Rivers was sacked for 10 yards, then threw another interception on an underthrown deep ball, returned to the SD 45. Tampa Bay added the field goal with 1:07 left to take a 34-24 lead.

Rivers completed three meaningless passes before simply handing off to Ronnie Brown for a 16-yard gain to end it.

The decline in numbers – namely the rise in turnovers and lack of scoring – in clutch situations for Rivers says it all.

Philip Rivers' 4th Quarter Comeback/Game-Winning Drive Oppt.

Years

Games

Record

Att.

Cmp

Pct.

Yds

TD

INT

PR

Fum

Pts/Dr

2006-09

32

14-18

223

128

57.4

1586

11

7

82.9

1

2.60

2010-12

17

2-15

163

92

56.4

1047

3

11

53.9

4

0.94

The worst part about this latest loss? Rivers could not have been much better in the first three quarters. But get it to the fourth quarter, and he had four unsuccessful plays when trailing by one score, including two awful turnovers.

For the third season in a row the Chargers are playing a lot of winnable, close games, but they keep losing them, and that is why they continue to miss the playoffs.

If Norv Turner is gone after this season, Rivers should not be far behind.

 

Bills being the Bills in New England

Tom Brady is 20-2 against Buffalo in his career. He has seen just about every type of game you can play in the NFL against Buffalo, and outside of throwing four interceptions twice (2003, 2011), he always comes out on the winning end.

Not by coincidence, the Bills are 1-7 against Brady in games decided by 1-8 points. Buffalo always seem to blow it in the end.

This one did not feature the big scoring runs we have recently seen from these teams, as New England took control early with a 10-0 lead. Buffalo did keep within striking distance throughout the game, trailing 34-24 early in the fourth quarter.

But after driving all the way from their own six, Fred Jackson had a big run down to the NE 1. The only problem was in his unwillingness to go down, he fumbled the ball, and New England took over.

With 9:35 left, we have seen the Patriots struggle to close games offensively. Brady threw three straight incompletions at his own 1-yard line – one batted at the line, one dropped by Welker, one nowhere close under pressure – and the Patriots’ offense only burned 19 seconds off the clock, and nearly half of that was the punt.

Now at the NE 45 to start the drive, two big runs by C.J. Spiller plus a penalty on Jerod Mayo put the ball at the NE 5. Three plays later Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a 2-yard touchdown to Donald Jones with 7:47 left.

New England recovered to put together a drive taking 5:41 off the clock. Wes Welker had a big 23-yard play on a screen pass. But on 2nd and goal at the BUF 9, Brady threw incomplete, followed by yet another incompletion in which he threw the ball low intentionally instead of sliding down to burn more time.

That forced a 27-yard field goal, and New England only led 37-31 with Buffalo keeping two timeouts and plenty of time. The Patriots have already lost twice by one point this season, and they put themselves in a dangerous position for a third.

Fitzpatrick had 2:06 left at his own 20. He rarely comes through here, but he did lead a game-winning drive against the Patriots last season. He converted 3rd and 9 to Stevie Johnson for 21 yards. Jones made a 14-yard catch, but was injured on the next play after failing to complete a catch down at the NE 15.

The Bills would actually reach the NE 15 anyway after three completions by Fitzpatrick. With the clock down to 0:33, Fitzpatrick’s pass to a diving Scott Chandler in the end zone only made contact with one hand.

Fitzpatrick then went to rookie T.J. Graham, but it was intercepted in the end zone by Devin McCourty to ice the game. Fitzpatrick threw underneath while Graham went deeper in the end zone.

While Graham says he ran the route incorrectly and everyone from Chan Gailey to Fitzpatrick is taking blame on the drive, the result is the same. Buffalo fails to close again.

Fitzpatrick is just 5-21 (.192) at fourth-quarter comeback opportunities, and that includes a 2-16 record against teams .500 or better. New England fans may not feel great about the win, but at least the defense stopped them in the end.

Or Buffalo stopped themselves again. Choose which ending you feel is more fitting.

 

Jason “Captain Checkdown” Campbell is no Captain Comeback

Poor Chicago fans. The last few “big games” for Jay Cutler have not gone so well. After being knocked out with a concussion in this one, the Bears had to turn to Jason Campbell to lead a comeback over the tough Houston defense.

Campbell actually did lead a comeback over Houston last season, but the weather and field were miserable this time, and it was a low-scoring battle as expected. But while only one scoring drive would have done the trick, Campbell’s safe style of play makes it difficult to even score one touchdown against an elite defense.

Though Campbell will not turn the ball over at historic rates like Caleb Hanie did last season, he will not do much in terms of winning you a game either.

Campbell’s seven possessions resulted in four punts, a field goal, a missed field goal, and a critical four and out.

Trailing 10-6 in the fourth quarter, Michael Bush had a good run of 20 yards. Robbie Gould’s 48-yard field goal hit the left upright and was no good.

Houston went three and out as they played it very safe in the second half with a small lead. They did add a 42-yard field goal to their lead on their next drive.

Now down 13-6, Campbell was running out of time with 4:42 left. His first pass was late and nearly a pick six. A dump pass to Matt Spaeth lost a yard. On 3rd and 11, Campbell threw a bit high to tight end Kellen Davis, who was unable to make the touch catch, forcing the Bears to punt.

The Texans went three and out, staying with Arian Foster on the ground all three plays and not even risking it on a night Matt Schaub was 14 of 26 for 95 yards and two picks.

Down to 2:35 and a timeout at his own 38, this was a big spot for Campbell to show his worth. But that 7-24 (.226) record at fourth-quarter comeback opportunities did not inspire much confidence, nor did his constant check-down passing.

Campbell threw to Matt Forte even though Connor Barwin was all over him, resulting in a 3-yard loss. Holding made it 2nd and 23. Campbell went short again for a 7-yard gain. He then went short to Brandon Marshall, who could not make yards after the catch, setting up the game on a 4th and 8.

Campbell’s pass to Forte was throw into a crowd of Texans, falling incomplete, and effectively sealing the game for Houston.

It was an ugly game, which usually favors Chicago, but their four giveaways and the loss of Cutler were too much to overcome against a team like Houston.

 

Ponder the thought: Stafford outscored by Ponder

For a brief moment it appeared the Detroit Lions were trending upwards, while the Minnesota Vikings, facing a tough schedule, may not win another game in 2012.

But after completing the season sweep, the Lions (4-5) are buried again in the NFC while the Vikings (6-4) still have some confidence after a rebound performance from Christian Ponder. He finished 24 of 32 for 221 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, and a 114.2 passer rating.

It seemed like Detroit had a big quarterback advantage. Matthew Stafford had led two game-winning drives this season in which he passed for 75 and 80 yards. Ponder had entire games with just 63 and 58 yards in two of the last three weeks.

When they met in Week 4, Stafford was inefficient, while Ponder was ineffective and relied on two return scores in a 20-13 win.

This time the scoring was all offense, and Ponder started the fourth quarter with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph to take a 24-10 lead after Adrian Peterson’s two-point conversion run.

But the Lions are a scoring machine in the fourth quarter, and Stafford immediately answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive. Calvin Johnson had two catches for 40 yards. Titus Young caught the 1-yard touchdown pass on the slant with 11:32 left.

Minnesota went three and out after Ponder’s pass went over Rudolph’s head. Stafford had his chance, but a holding penalty on Jeff Backus to start the drive set Detroit back into a 1st and 20.

Mikel Leshoure dropped a swing pass behind the line on first down. A screen to Leshoure was thrown away on second down. On 3rd and 20, Stafford overthrew Johnson into a crowd of Vikings. Detroit was 0-of-8 on third down at this point, and they punted.

Peterson ripped off impressive runs of 19 and then 61 yards for a touchdown to take a 31-17 lead with 8:06 left. Johnson fumbled after a 20-yard catch to start the next drive, and Minnesota only had to go 30 yards to add another field goal for a 34-17 lead with 4:36 left.

At that point you could write “game over”, and Stafford added 80 yards and a touchdown to his stats. Minnesota ran out the final 1:50 on the clock for the 34-24 win.

Detroit’s slow starts have been a constant problem, and they are not good enough yet to make all of these comebacks.

Well, no one in Week 10 was good enough to make a comeback win.

 

Next week

How about some damn comebacks and no more ties, NFL? Regression to the mean. None last week, so can we expect about…nine in Week 11?

Colts at Patriots is always interesting no matter what. Ravens at Steelers is usually close, though may be compromised this week. Maybe the Lions can do something late against Green Bay. Will Denver need another against San Diego? Philip Rivers is charitable enough to give one. Bears at 49ers could and should be low scoring like Bears/Texans.

Do what ever is necessary for a return to normal…even if it means reentering The Tebow Zone in St. Louis.

Goodbye stat: even in a week without a single fourth-quarter comeback win or game-winning drive, we still cracked the 6,150-word mark.

 

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.


Read more: Adam Vinatieri, Adrian Peterson, Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Alex henery, Alex Smith, Alvin Johnson, Arian Foster, Austin Pettis, Ben Roethlisberger, Brandon Carr, Brandon Gibson, Brandon Marshall, Brett Favre, Bryant, Buffalo Bills, Byron Leftwich, C.J. Spiller, Caleb Hanie, Calvin Johnson, Christian Ponder, Colin Kaepernick, Connor Barwin, Dallas Cowboys, Danny Amendola, David Akers, Detroit Lions, Devery Henderson, Devin McCourty, Dez Bryant, Don Smith, Donald Jones, Donovan McNabb, Drew Brees, Dwayne Bowe, Dwayne Harris, Ed Jackson, Emmanuel Sanders, Felix Jones, Frank Gore, fred jackson, Greg Zuerlein, Harry Douglas, Ian Peters, Indianapolis, Indianapolis Colts, Jabari Greer, Jake Delhomme, Jamaal Charles, Jason Campbell, Javier Arenas, Jay Cutler, Jeff Backus, Jeremy Maclin, Jerod Mayo, jerricho cotchery, Jimmy Graham, Johnny Hekker, Jonathan Dwyer, Julio Jones, K King, Kansas City Chiefs, Kellen Davis, Kyle Rudolph, Lawrence Timmons, Leonard Johnson, Malcolm Jenkins, matt cassel, Matt Forte, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Matt Spaeth, Matthew Stafford, Michael Bush, Michael Turner, Michael Vick, Mikel LeShoure, Minnesota Vikings, Morris Claiborne, New England Patriots, NFL, Nick Foles, Peyton Hillis, Philadelphia Eagles, Philip Rivers, Pittsburgh Steelers, robbie gould, Roddy White, Ronnie Brown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Succop, Sam Bradford, San Diego, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Scott Chandler, shaun suisham, St Louis Rams, stevie johnson, T.J. Graham, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Titus Young, Tom Brady, Tony Gonzalez, Tony Romo, Vernon Davis, Week 10, Wes Welker
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