Captain Comeback Week 2: No. 1 Quarterbacks to the Rescue

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 18, 2012



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

Where did all the close-game finishes go in Week 2? We had just six games feature a fourth quarter comeback opportunity. Since 2011, the only other week with fewer than seven opportunities was Week 15 last year when there were just five.

Still, a quartet of No. 1 overall picks at quarterback came through to lead this week’s four game-winning drives. While we did not have our usual average of nine comeback opportunities, that number was still creeping up this week.

Michael Vick had his ninth career game where he led both a fourth quarter comeback and a game-winning drive. Sam Bradford picked up his ninth career win. Eli Manning led his ninth game-winning drive since Week 3 of 2011. Andrew Luck completed nine passes to Donnie Avery.

Okay, that last one sucked, but cut the Captain some slack. Luck only played his second game, and he is off to a 1-0 start in the close ones. It also apparently helps to have Adam Vinatieri – and not Stephen Gostkowski – as your kicker.

Yes, we will detail the moment where the New England Patriots finally lost a game because their kicker choked in the clutch. That has not happened since December 26, 1999. Yours truly was likely dominating the Warehouse level in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater that day.

Season Report
Fourth quarter comebacks: 8
Game-winning drives: 9
Games with 4QC opportunity: 15/32 (46.9 percent)
10+ point comebacks wins (any point in the game): 3

DRIVE OF THE WEEK

New York Giants vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Winner: NY Giants (41-34)
Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 11 (27-16)
Quarterback: Eli Manning (22-23 at 4QC, 26-25 overall 4Q/OT record - table)

Things just have to be extra dramatic for the New York Giants, do they not? Since 2011, 17 of their 22 games have featured a fourth quarter comeback opportunity, and that includes 14 for Eli Manning and the offense.

They have now come away with wins in nine of those games, including eight comebacks since Week 3 of 2011. It is an impressive number, but you have to wonder how long they can keep sustaining this type of play.

Tampa Bay played a pretty good game on the road, but in the end they could not match the prolific output of Manning, who passed for 243 yards in the fourth quarter alone. Josh Freeman had 243 yards in the entire game.

After an ugly second quarter with three interceptions, the Giants were trailing 27-16 to start the fourth quarter, but already had good field position following a pick by Freeman. The Giants finished the drive with a 24-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes.

Tampa Bay punted, and three plays later it was Manning finding Week 1 goat Victor Cruz for an 80-yard touchdown. Andre Brown scored the two-point conversion to tie the game.

Tampa Bay went three and out, and the Giants only needed four plays to go 67 yards with Manning finding Martellus Bennett for a 33-yard touchdown with 3:59 left for a 34-27 lead.

Not to be outdone, Freeman completed three straight passes to veteran Dallas Clark before finding Mike Williams for 41 yards in the end zone for the score. Williams plucked the ball out of the air with 1:58 left to tie the game.

With just two completions, Manning already moved the ball 74 yards. Brown ran the ball twice, and was in the end zone after the Giants faced another “will my opponent let me score?” moment just like in Super Bowl XLVI.

It was the right move by Tampa Bay, as now they would have one more chance with the ball. Freeman appeared to complete a pass to Williams at the sideline down at the 16, but replay overturned the call. He threw an interception out of desperation to end the game.

Well, at least it set up the Giants’ victory formation, and all hell broke loose when the Buccaneers rushed the pile under the guidance of rookie coach Greg Schiano. Not getting into this one, but let’s just say teams really do not do that in the NFL. Simple as that.

Manning finished with 510 yards, becoming the 13th quarterback to pass for at least 500 yards. He pushed their record to 7-6 in those games, but joins Boomer Esiason (1996) and Ben Roethlisberger (2009) as the only three quarterbacks to lead a game-winning drive after throwing for 500 yards.

Manning also became the third quarterback this season (Michael Vick, Matthew Stafford) to throw three interceptions and lead a comeback and game-winning drive. That has happened just twice in the three previous seasons (2009-2011) combined. It has been an unusual year so far in that regard.

Not unusual: Chalk up another comeback and game-winning drive for Manning as he looks to move to the top of these leaderboards for a quarterback through nine seasons:

 

Most 4QC Wins in First 9 Seasons

Rk

QB

Years

4QC

1T

Johnny Unitas

1956-64

23

1T

Peyton Manning

1998-06

23

3

Eli Manning

2004-12

22

4T

Ben Roethlisberger

2004-12

20

4T

Tom Brady

2000-08

20

4T

John Elway

1983-91

20

 

Most GWD in First 9 Seasons

Rk

QB

Years

GWD

1

Peyton Manning

1998-06

29

2T

Tom Brady

2000-08

28

2T

Dan Marino

1983-91

28

4T

Johnny Unitas

1956-64

27

4T

Jake Plummer

1997-05

27

6T

Ben Roethlisberger

2004-12

26

6T

Eli Manning

2004-2

26

6T

John Elway

1983-91

26

 

Sunday may not have been a playoff game or the largest deficit Manning ever erased, but it was as fine of a performance in the fourth quarter to win a game that he has ever had. Just consider that 229 of his yards came in the final 7:41 of the game.

It is too bad the kneel down controversy happened, because this was one incredible finish to a game, and could be crucial for the success of the Giants’ season and title defense. Starting 0-2 and facing a road Thursday game would have been a potential season killer.

Instead it is just another big comeback win for the team who keeps finding ways to win these games in dramatic fashion.

THE OTHER PATHS TO VICTORY

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Baltimore Ravens

Winner: Philadelphia (24-23)
Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 6 (23-17)
Quarterback: Michael Vick (11-23-1 at 4QC, 15-25-1 overall 4Q/OT record - table)

Last season the Philadelphia Eagles had one game-winning drive (by Vince Young) and six failures in these situations. Flash forward a season later, and they are now 2-0 with consecutive game-winning drives late in the game.

They are also the first team in NFL history to start the season with consecutive one-point victories. Throw in the fact they have turned the ball over at least four times in each game, which has not been done since the 1983 Los Angeles Rams, and you have the makings of just about the worst 2-0 team in NFL history.

But they are at least 2-0. Sunday’s game was much better than the debacle in Cleveland last week. Even though Michael Vick had three more turnovers, he still had a very effective game not commonly seen against the Baltimore defense.

With a minimum of 25 pass attempts, Vick had the highest yards per attempt (11.59) any quarterback has had against Baltimore since 2000. Vick had 371 yards on 23 of 32 passing.

The only other quarterback in history (since 1996) with a higher YPA against Baltimore was Stan Humphries in 1997 (13.77 YPA).

Why did the Eagles need another late comeback with such production? They had three turnovers with the ball inside the Baltimore 20 in the first half. Baltimore led 17-7 at halftime.

With the game tied 17-17 to start the fourth quarter, the Ravens struck first. Rookie kicker Justin Tucker made a 51-yard field goal. Baltimore thought they had the clincher with a touchdown to Jacoby Jones with 5:29 left, but Jones was flagged for offensive pass interference. It was not a good call by the replacement referees.

Baltimore settled for a 48-yard field goal by Tucker, and led 23-17 with 4:43 left.

Like last week, Vick took over needing a touchdown. After driving into the red zone, Vick was ruled to have been sacked and fumbled, but it was clearly an incomplete pass. The only question is whether or not it should have been intentional grounding, but the Eagles had 3rd and goal at the 1. Vick scored on a quarterback draw with 1:55 left. It was an 80-yard touchdown drive.

Joe Flacco did not have a good day after all the praise for his Monday night performance. But he had a chance to come through, only needing a field goal and having a kicker with great range to help.

However, of the eight passes Flacco would throw (that includes an illegal contact penalty), only two passes were accurate, and the Ravens turned it over on downs. Flacco overthrew his receiver on both 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1 to end the game.

The Baltimore defense should be rightfully accused of failing to finish in recent years, and this game should be added to the list. Flacco – now 6-17 (.261) at fourth quarter comeback opportunities – gets a lot of unwarranted grief for his play in such games, but not this time. He did not come through when given a good opportunity.

The Eagles are living extra dangerously with the turnovers and final-minute touchdowns and defensive stops, but they are 2-0 for now. They will play the Cardinals next week to see who can be the worst 3-0 team in NFL history.

As for Vick, he becomes the 14th quarterback since 1960 to lead a comeback and game-winning drive in each of the first two games of the season. Here is how those teams fared that season.

 

Quarterback

Year

Team

Record

Result

Charley Johnson

1966

Cardinals

8-5-1

No Playoffs

Kent Nix

1971

Bears

6-8

No Playoffs

Brian Sipe

1979

Browns

9-7

No Playoffs

Doug Williams

1980

Buccaneers

5-10-1

No Playoffs

Lynn Dickey

1982

Packers

5-3-1

Lost NFC-D

Steve DeBerg

1983

Broncos

9-7

Lost AFC-WC

Boomer Esiason

1990

Bengals

9-7

Lost AFC-D

Brad Johnson

1996

Vikings

9-7

Lost NFC-WC

Drew Bledsoe

1999

Patriots

8-8

No Playoffs

Vinny Testaverde

2000

NY Jets

9-7

No Playoffs

Jay Cutler

2007

Broncos

7-9

No Playoffs

Alex Smith

2007

49ers

5-11

No Playoffs

Jake Delhomme

2008

Panthers

12-4

Lost NFC-D

Michael Vick

2012

Eagles

?

TBD

Not much long-term success. Only five of the previous 13 teams made the playoffs, and none of them got past the second round. Jake Delhomme most recently did it, and of course Delhomme turned it over six times in that playoff loss to Arizona.

You look at the fortunate game-winning drives, the league-leading nine turnovers, the two one-point wins, and it is not a sustainable way for the Eagles to win this season. Things have to get better in a hurry, but it still does beat going 0-2 and having pretty stats.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Minnesota Vikings

Winner: Indianapolis (23-20)
Type: GWD
Quarterback: Andrew Luck (1-0-overall 4Q/OT record - table)

This one surprised the Captain, as last he checked, the Colts looked to have this one wrapped up pretty well. It was a 20-6 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, and Andrew Luck was having much more success than he did in his debut in Chicago.

As he should. Remember, the Vikings allowed a defensive passer rating of 107.6 in 2011. Fifteen of the previous 17 quarterbacks to face the Vikings have put up at least an 85.0 rating. Luck should have been expected to play well, and he came through.

While Luck was making plays with his arms and legs, the Vikings were stalling offensively. With 10:10 left, they finally started to perk up and they had their longest drive of the game (54 yards).

On 4th and 4 at the 7-yard line, Christian Ponder’s pass was tipped around multiple times like a volleyball before fortunately being caught by Stephen Burton for the touchdown with 5:07 left.

The Colts had Luck. Minnesota just had luck on this play. Otherwise the game would have been a formality at this point. Now it was 20-13.

Indianapolis did gain one first down, but they had to punt after Luck lost 22 yards on a big sack. The Vikings used their final timeout, and Ponder would get the ball back with 2:50 left and a second straight attempt at a comeback this season.

Ponder mostly stuck with short completions, but led a sound drive that was capped off by his 6-yard touchdown to Kyle Rudolph to tie the game with 0:31 left. It looked like the Vikings were headed to their second straight overtime game.

Instead, the Colts took over with 0:31 left at their own 20, two timeouts, and they were playing for the win behind the rookie quarterback. Luck came through with consecutive completions of 20 yards to Donnie Avery and Reggie Wayne.

He found Avery for a 7-yard gain, but Minnesota was off-sides, which the Colts accepted to stop the clock. Out of timeouts, Luck spiked the ball and the Colts called for Adam Vinatieri to add to his legacy.

Of course Vinatieri came through with the 53-yard kick with 0:08 remaining. It was the 28th game-winning field goal of his career, and the longest one yet at 53 yards.

Ponder completed two passes for 34 yards to end the game, but he needed a few more seconds than he had last week. The Vikings fall to 1-1, but at least are showing competitiveness and an improved sophomore quarterback.

For Luck, he became the 7th rookie since 1960 to lead a game-winning drive in one of his team’s first two games of the season.

 

Game-Winning Drive in Team's First Two Games, Rookie QB (Since 1960)

QB

Date

Team

Opp.

Result

G#

Cmp.

Att.

%

Yds

TD

INT

PR

Andrew Luck

9/16/2012

IND

MIN

W 23-20

2

20

31

64.5%

224

2

0

107.5

David Carr

9/8/2002

HOU

DAL

W 19-10

1

10

22

45.5%

145

2

1

78.8

Ryan Leaf

9/6/1998

SD

BUF

W 16-14

1

16

31

51.6%

192

1

2

54.8

Jim Druckenmiller

9/7/1997

SF

at RAM

W 15-12

2

10

28

35.7%

102

1

3

19.3

Jerry Golsteyn

9/18/1977

NYG

WAS

W 20-17

1

7

14

50.0%

123

1

1

74.4

Archie Manning

9/19/1971

NO

RAM

W 24-20

1

16

29

55.2%

218

1

1

76.5

Bob Griese

9/17/1967

MIA

DEN

W 35-21

1

12

19

63.2%

193

2

2

92.5

 

Not the most impressive list of names, for sure.

  • David Carr threw a 65-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Corey Bradford in Houston’s first ever game.
  • Ryan Leaf and Jim Druckenmiller had very low impact game-winning drives that were hardly about their minimal contributions.
  • Jerry Golsteyn threw a game-tying touchdown pass before later leading a game-winning field goal drive.
  • Archie Manning is the last before Luck to pull off the winning drive in the game’s final minute as he scored on a 1-yard run.
  • Bob Griese started his career with a comfortable win that did feature a game-winning drive after Abner Haynes scored on a 3-yard run.

Without adjusting for opponent or era, it would appear Luck had the best four-quarter game of these seven.

Last week it was Ponder with the one-minute drill, and now it was Luck, which was the 106th successful one-minute drill in a win since 1981.

In terms of coming through with only 31 seconds left, it was the 33rd such drive on the list. The most similar to compare it to? Let’s go with a Peyton Manning game-winning drive in 1999 against Miami.

With 0:30 left, Manning completed two passes to Marvin Harrison to set up Mike Vanderjagt for the 53-yard winning kick. A little bit of déjà vu for the Colts.

Though it may have only been Minnesota, it was a good sign to see Luck deliver in all the ways you expect from a No. 1 quarterback. The 14-point rally was also a good sign for Ponder’s development.

St. Louis Rams vs. Washington Redskins

Winner: St. Louis (31-28)
Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 5 (28-23)
Quarterback: Sam Bradford (2-7 at 4QC, 15-25-1 overall 4Q/OT record - table)

What’s this? The Rams overcame a 21-6 deficit in the first half for a win? They actually had a fourth quarter comeback, and their quarterback threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns?

Might be a new era for the Rams under Jeff Fisher after all. They were very competitive for the second straight week, but finished a little better this time. The comeback may have been as “weak” as it comes statistically: having the ball at the 1-yard line on first down the first play of the fourth quarter.

But down 28-23, Bradford threw the touchdown to Matthew Mulligan and Daryl Richardson scored the two-point conversion for a 31-28 lead. The Rams have not had a fourth quarter comeback win from a deficit larger than four points since November 27, 2005 (14 points at Houston).

After last week’s sensational debut, Robert Griffin III had his first comeback opportunity. It started with three punts. On the other side, the Rams exhibited some of that Jeff Fisher conservativeness and were punting too. That was until Richardson fumbled with 2:40 left at the WAS 39.

Griffin had his fourth drive of the quarter, and only needed a field goal for the tie, and had plenty of time left to do it. After completing three passes for 16 yards and scrambling for 11 more, the Redskins faced a 3rd and 8 at the 36.

Josh Morgan caught the pass for a 7-yard gain, but was short of the first down. It would have been a 46-yard field goal attempt for Billy Cundiff. Instead, Morgan was irritated by Cortland Finnegan and threw the ball at him, drawing a 15-yard flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.

That turned a decent attempt at a tying field goal into a very difficult 62-yard attempt. Cundiff’s kick was short with 1:13 left, and that was the ball game. It was a very selfish and foolish move by Morgan.

While Griffin starts 0-1 in the close ones, we will have to see what happens the next time he has an opportunity that is not spoiled by a receiver acting the fool. Griffin finished 20 of 29 for 206 yards and did throw his first interception. Fisher seems to have given the team more of an edge defensively, and an irritant like Finnegan has certainly paid off so far.

This was one of Bradford’s very best games, and a much-needed win for the 2010 No. 1 pick. It’s his second comeback and game-winning drive, but last year’s was a sham over Cleveland. This was a much better performance, even though the drive was just 24 yards following a blocked punt. But Bradford threw for 310 yards in the game.

It was only the third time since 2007 (second for Bradford) that a St. Louis quarterback went for 300 yards and three touchdown passes. Bradford completed 15 of 16 passes to Danny Amendola for 160 yards and a touchdown.

Three of the last five game-winning drives for St. Louis have come against Washington. The fact that their fifth most recent game-winning drive was on Christmas Eve in 2006 just shows how rare it is for the Rams to pull out such a win.

Just winning any game in any fashion has been hard for the Rams, but you have to like what we have seen so far this year from Bradford and the defense. The early schedule is favorable, but they will get a tougher test this week in Chicago.

Though after the way Green Bay handled that Bears’ offense, this could be a good opportunity for the Rams to have their first winning streak since December 5, 2010.

COMEBACK FAILURES OF THE WEEK

With just two more games left to look at, it was a good week for the four-minute offense or just late-game offense in general with the lead. The Bengals and 49ers both scored twice in the fourth quarter and recovered onside kicks to deny the Browns and Lions any attempts at a late comeback.

On Monday night, Peyton Manning was looking for that historic 37th comeback win, which would have been from a 27-7 deficit in the fourth quarter. But Atlanta, who was 3-for-3 at running out the clock in the four-minute offense in 2011, did it again with a big third-down completion by Matt Ryan to Julio Jones.

Sometimes your best defense really is your offense.

 

Patriots End Streak of Clutch Kicking with Gostkowski Choke-job

Bill Belichick has officially reached ruthless dictator status after the genocide of millions of football fans in survivor pools across the country. Like last year, the NFC West has probably secured the upset of the season.

How did Arizona win in New England? They made sure Kevin Kolb did not do enough to lose the game by limiting his attempts. They played great defense and special teams. They benefitted from the injury to Aaron Hernandez and Tom Brady having one of his off days.

Finally, Arizona just held on for dear life in the clusterf*** that was the final 2:06 where several players for both teams assumed the roles of hero and goat in one of the wildest finishes in NFL history.

Arizona held a shocking 20-9 lead in the fourth quarter after Kolb scored a touchdown on a sneak. Tom Brady’s biggest comeback win in the fourth quarter is from an 11-point deficit, and he has done it three times. This was doable, and it looked to be a textbook-New England comeback at one point.

Trailing 20-12 now, Brady moved the offense down the field with ease and threw a touchdown to Rob Gronkowski with 2:06 remaining. The only problem was the Patriots failed on the two-point conversion as Brady was unable to connect again with Gronkowski.

The Patriots usually dominate these situations, and since 2001, they were 7/9 on two-point conversions in the fourth quarter if they were trailing by 1-8 points before the touchdown. One of those misses was probably even intentional in 2005 as Belichick was content with playing Jacksonville in the playoffs instead of Pittsburgh.

But not this time. The Patriots had to kick off deep, and that’s where Arizona first screwed up by not taking the ball out and trying to negate the two-minute warning. Instead the Patriots get an extra timeout.

If that was not bad enough, Ken Whisenhunt still decides to run the ball on 3rd and 13 with the Patriots out of timeouts and 1:10 left. Teams don’t convert those plays for first down. Be smart, take a knee, punt, and Brady has 20 seconds at best at his own 20-30.

Ryan Williams fumbles on the play, and immediately you expect an easy New England win. Not so, as Gronkowski would be called for a holding penalty that wipes out a 30-yard touchdown by Danny Woodhead, and then a false start for five more yards. Belichick gets conservative and centers the ball, going for a spike with 0:05 left.

Stephen Gostkowski is one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. He was 4/4 already this day, and the 42-yard attempt was going to be his second shortest attempt of the game.

However, Gostkowski has not been tested in the clutch the way his predecessor Adam Vinatieri was, so this was one of the biggest kicks of his career.

Gostkowski practically shanked it wide left in a manner similar to Billy Cundiff in the AFC Championship last year in Foxboro. The Patriots lost 20-18 to the Cardinals. While so much went wrong late, the focus immediately falls onto the kicker, which has not been the case in New England for a long time. Likely a record amount of time.

The last time the Patriots lost a game because of a failed clutch kick was December 26, 1999 against the Buffalo Bills. That day Adam Vinatieri actually missed two game-winning field goals with the game tied 10-10.

First it was a 33-yard field goal missed wide right by Vinatieri with just two seconds left. The game went to overtime, and Vinatieri was short on a 44-yard attempt that would have ended the game. New England had one more crack at it, but punted, and Buffalo won the game with their own field goal.

Since then it has been the greatest display of clutch kicking in NFL history, and it coincides with the start of Bill Belichick’s tenure in 2000. Check the clutch field goal log, which is defined as any field goal attempt in the fourth quarter or overtime with the game tied or trailing by 1-3 points.

 

Date

Opp.

Result

Down

Kicker

Distance

Time Left

Type

11/5/2000

BUF

L 16-13 OT

0

A.Vinatieri

43

2:03

Go ahead

11/19/2000

CIN

W 16-13

0

A.Vinatieri

22

0:03

Game-winning

12/17/2000

at BUF

W 13-10 OT

0

A.Vinatieri

27

0:00

SHORT

12/17/2000

at BUF

W 13-10 OT

0

A.Vinatieri

24

0:19 (OT)

Game-winning

10/14/2001

SD

W 29-26 OT

0

A.Vinatieri

44

10:55 (OT)

Game-winning

12/2/2001

at NYJ

W 17-16

2

A.Vinatieri

28

6:29

Game-winning

12/16/2001

at BUF

W 12-9 OT

3

A.Vinatieri

25

2:45

Game-tying

12/16/2001

at BUF

W 12-9 OT

0

A.Vinatieri

23

9:15 (OT)

Game-winning

1/19/2002

RAI

W 16-13 OT

3

A.Vinatieri

45

0:27

Game-tying

1/19/2002

RAI

W 16-13 OT

0

A.Vinatieri

23

6:31 (OT)

Game-winning

2/3/2002

RAM

W 20-17

0

A.Vinatieri

48

0:00

Game-winning

9/22/2002

KC

W 41-38 OT

0

A.Vinatieri

35

10:20 (OT)

Game-winning

12/29/2002

MIA

W 27-24 OT

3

A.Vinatieri

43

1:09

Game-tying

12/29/2002

MIA

W 27-24 OT

0

A.Vinatieri

35

12:57 (OT)

Game-winning

11/23/2003

at HOU

W 23-20 OT

0

A.Vinatieri

37

12:46 (OT)

BLOCKED

11/23/2003

at HOU

W 23-20 OT

0

A.Vinatieri

28

0:41 (OT)

Game-winning

1/10/2004

TEN

W 17-14

0

A.Vinatieri

46

4:06

Game-winning

2/1/2004

CAR

W 32-29

0

A.Vinatieri

41

0:04

Game-winning

9/25/2005

at PIT

W 23-20

0

A.Vinatieri

43

0:01

Game-winning

10/9/2005

at ATL

W 31-28

0

A.Vinatieri

29

0:17

Game-winning

9/10/2006

BUF

W 19-17

3

S.Gostkowski

32

9:33

Game-tying

1/14/2007

at SD

W 24-21

0

S.Gostkowski

31

1:10

Game-winning

1/21/2007

at IND

L 38-34

0

S.Gostkowski

28

7:42

Go ahead

1/21/2007

at IND

L 38-34

0

S.Gostkowski

43

3:49

Go ahead

10/26/2008

RAM

W 23-16

3

S.Gostkowski

41

8:22

Game-tying

11/2/2008

at IND

L 18-15

3

S.Gostkowski

25

11:33

Game-tying

11/13/2008

NYJ

L 34-31 OT

3

S.Gostkowski

47

10:!6

Game-tying

10/17/2010

BAL

W 23-20 OT

3

S.Gostkowski

24

1:51

Game-tying

10/17/2010

BAL

W 23-20 OT

0

S.Gostkowski

35

1:56 (OT)

Game-winning

11/6/2011

NYG

L 24-20

0

S.Gostkowski

45

7:08

Go ahead

12/24/2011

MIA

W 27-24

0

S.Gostkowski

42

8:55

Game-winning

9/16/2012

CRD

L 20-18

2

S.Gostkowski

42

0:01

WIDE LEFT

The two New England kickers since 2000 have combined to make 29 of 32 (90.6 percent) clutch field goals. While they may have lost six games throughout the list, they never missed until Sunday.

Vinatieri was short in Buffalo at the end of regulation, but got the game-winning kick in overtime. In 2003, he had his kick blocked, which is always difficult to say who is at fault. He got the game-winner later in the game.

Those were the only two misses until Gostkowski on Sunday. With the numbers being what they are, is it fair to say Gostkowski is not clutch like Vinatieri?

 

Stat

Adam Vinatieri

Stephen Gostkowski

FG Percentage

18 of 20 (90%)

11 of 12 (91.7%)

Avg. Distance

34.5

36.3

Avg. Deficit

0.55

1.42

Avg. Time Left

4:03

5:38

GW/go ahead

15 of 17 (88.2%)

6 of 7 (85.7%)

Game-tying

3 of 3 (100%)

5 of 5 (100%)

Last 2:00/OT

14 of 16 (87.5%)

3 of 4 (75%)

40+ Yards

8 of 8 (100%)

5 of 6 (83.3%)

Team Record

14-1

5-5

Gostkowski’s average kick was nearly two yards longer, though he was not really more successful on the 40+ yard kicks. He was also more likely to be attempting a kick to tie and not win the game.

You can easily see why the perception would be that Vinatieri is much more clutch. His kicks came later in the game, they were usually to win the game, they came in bigger (playoff) games, they were more memorable, and they were part of more wins (14-1 record compared to just 5-5 for Gostkowski).

Is Gostkowski a choker after one miss? That would not be fair. But should he have another kick or two fail like he did Sunday, then he will earn that reputation much in the way Mike Vanderjagt did in Indianapolis.

Now that this mark of invincibility in New England has been broken, the floodgates may also open in Gostkowski’s head for a downward spiral in his career.

As we have seen with Vanderjagt and former kickers like Jeff Reed (Steelers), all it can take is a big miss or two before these guys mentally check out and are finished.

Playing on a great team does not help a kicker become clutch. It just gives them more opportunities to choke. Stephen Gostkowski’s next opportunity will come with many fans doing the Belichick face, afraid to watch.

“Is it safe?”

Déjà vu For New Orleans Saints in Week 2

For the second straight week the Saints were picked apart by a highly touted athletic quarterback, putting them last in the NFC South at 0-2 and 31st in the league in scoring defense (75 points).

Sean Payton was a great offensive mind, but even he could not fix this terrible defense. He also would not have stopped Drew Brees from throwing a horrible pick six early in the first half that no 12-year veteran should throw, let alone someone like Brees.

New Orleans barely even made the cut for Captain Comeback this week. Their problems started late in the second quarter when the Panthers scored a touchdown with 0:11 left before halftime to take a 21-13 lead.

They added to the lead on their second drive in the third quarter, going 80 yards for a 28-13 lead. Brees would go on to take an intentional grounding penalty that knocked the Saints out of field goal range.

New Orleans did score a touchdown (1-yard run by Mark Ingram) in the fourth quarter to make it a 28-20 game with 12:53 left. But the defense immediately allowed a 66-yard pass to Steve Smith and another Carolina touchdown.

Brees was unable to convert on a fourth down after barely recovering the snap on the play. He would score on a 1-yard run on his next drive with 1:55 left, but the Panthers recovered the onside kick.

Out of timeouts and just 0:48 left, Brees had to go 80 yards while trailing 35-27. This was the official comeback attempt, and it was a rather hopeless endeavor. After a 9-yard pass to Jimmy Graham, Brees went back to Graham, but was intercepted by Jon Beason to ice the game.

Brees is still piling up the yards this year, but he is only completing 54.5 percent of his passes, has 4 TD, 4 INT, and just a 71.6 passer rating.

It would be foolish to not admit the absence of Sean Payton is having an impact, but no one expected Brees to start playing like Aaron Brooks. The Saints are in a dangerous position already after two games, and the schedule will not get any easier after this next game with Kansas City.

If the Saints need to come back at home to beat the 0-2 Chiefs, then you can stick a fork in them in Week 3. The Chiefs have allowed 75 points just like the Saints.

After a nine-game winning streak last year, the Saints have lost their last three outings, and are -8 in turnover differential in those three games.

The defense is the biggest problem with the Saints, but their offense is also floundering a bit without their coach as well. It could be 2007 all over again when a 0-4 start and poor quarter season by Brees doomed the Saints from making the playoffs.

They will play the Super Bowl in New Orleans this season, but do not count on the home team participating. It would continue the trend with the seasons of implosion by Indianapolis (2011) and Dallas (2010) the years they hosted the Super Bowl.

Tony Romo and Peyton Manning were injured and lost for a significant portion of the season. Drew Brees got up gimpy on Sunday after taking a bad shot on his leg.

Do these implosions come in threes?

Next week: Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff are gone, but will the Baltimore Ravens find another way to blow it in the clutch against New England on Sunday night? With Aaron Hernandez already out, which Patriot will Bernard Pollard injure this time? The Giants are arguably the league’s best fourth quarter team right now, and they face a tough road game on Thursday night against one of the league’s worst closers in Carolina.

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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