Captain Comeback Week 5: Colts Score Season’s Biggest Comeback

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 09, 2012

By Scott Kacsmar

Cold Hard Football Facts’ Comeback King (@CaptainComeback)

If you have ever made it to the bottom of Captain Comeback, then you know there’s a quick preview of next week’s action. Last week we mentioned four games for Week 5, and three of them resulted in the week’s four game-winning drives.

Surprisingly, the one that did not even have a comeback opportunity was the much-hyped Manning vs. Brady battle in New England. Once again, the quarterbacks were not even the deciding factor, as the Patriots – for the second week in a row – had the best rushing performance (50 carries for 253 yards) in any of Tom Brady’s 186 career starts.

Still, it was nearly another big comeback in the end, but it was not meant to be this time. Thanks, Willis McGahee. You really robbed NFL fans of a classic finish.

Meanwhile the bizarro version of the Green Bay Packers showed up in the second half, and the Indianapolis Colts’ 18-point comeback win in honor of Chuck Pagano ties the largest of the 2012 season (Kansas City at New Orleans).

It highlighted a week with eight comeback opportunities. We have four wins from big-name quarterbacks, four failures from the teams you expect, and the Captain throws down the first semantics mess of the 2012 regular season. Those are always fun.

Season Report
Fourth quarter comebacks: 24
Game-winning drives: 27
Games with 4QC opportunity: 44/77 (57.1 percent)
10+ point comebacks wins (any point in the game): 13



Indianapolis Colts vs. Green Bay Packers

Winner: Indianapolis (30-27)
Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 5 (27-22)
Quarterback: Andrew Luck (1-1 at 4QC, 2-1 overall 4Q/OT record - table)

Can a wide receiver will a team to victory? Reggie Wayne gave it all the effort he could on Sunday to lead the Colts back from a 21-3 halftime deficit to a moving 30-27 win after one of the franchise’s toughest weeks.

Yes, it was Andrew Luck’s first comeback win, but Wayne stole the show with a performance as good as any in his 12-year career. While all the Colts wanted to play well this week, Wayne might have had the most motivation as rookie head coach Chuck Pagano was in an Indianapolis hospital, fighting his battle with leukemia.

Wayne has ties with Pagano back to the University of Miami, and he would carry this team down the stretch as they battled to the final seconds with the talented Green Bay Packers.

With Aaron Rodgers picking apart the defense and Luck under lots of pressure, the Packers cruised to a comfortable 21-3 lead at halftime. This looked like the Packers from their 19-game winning streak. They almost never lose such games, with a 25-1 record at halftime when leading by double-digits since 2008 (now 25-2).

But the Colts did not mail it in. They absolutely could not on a day like Sunday if they were to honor their coach. Rodgers threw an interception to Jerraud Powers to start the third quarter, setting off the needed spark.

Luck threw a touchdown to Dwayne Allen and it was a 21-10 game with some life. Green Bay went three and out, and Adam Vinatieri made a 50-yard field goal. Things heating up at 21-13.

Mason Crosby failed on a 52-yard field goal, and Luck would score his first NFL touchdown on a 3-yard run. The two-point conversion failed, but it was a 21-19 game headed into the fourth quarter.

Luck would throw a bad interception, but the Packers failed to capitalize. A 75-yard drive ended with Vinatieri’s go-ahead field goal with 8:04 left. The Colts led 22-21. The crowd would really get into it after two straight sacks of Rodgers. However, the Colts would go three and out on a poorly-run series.

Starting at the IND 49, Alex Green took over for the injured Cedric Benson and broke out a 41-yard run. On the very next play Rodgers threw a touchdown to James Jones on a drive that was fast and flawless.  

But just like in the Seattle game, Rodgers threw incomplete on the two-point conversion, and Green Bay only led 27-22, which again proved costly.

With 4:30 left, Luck went to work, and Wayne was in the zone. He would make five catches for 64 yards on the drive, including the touchdown with 0:35 left. Wayne also had catches on a 3rd-and-9 and 3rd-and-12 play. Luck scrambled on 3rd and 7 for the first down just before the touchdown pass, which saw Wayne stretch the ball out to break the plane.

Donald Brown ran in the two-point conversion, and gave a little “discount-double check” celebration to boot. Green Bay would have 0:35 left and two timeouts, so it was not over yet. After three completions for 47 yards, Rodgers and the Packers failed to get one more play off, having to burn the final timeout.

Crosby came on for the game-tying 51-yard field goal, but he shanked it wide left so badly that even Mike Vanderjagt thought that was a terrible kick. Colts win.

Wayne finished with 13 catches for 212 yards and the winning score. Luck was 31 of 55 for 362 yards, 2 TD, INT, and the rushing TD. It was his first comeback, and second game-winning drive. Had it not been for the staggering Cecil Shorts touchdown by Jacksonville, Luck would have led a game-winning drive in three straight games. The Colts have already equaled last year’s win total.

Last week we looked at the 17 rookie quarterbacks to pass for over 300 yards while leading a comeback and game-winning drive. Luck is the 18th, and his 362 yards are the second most behind Matthew Stafford’s 422 versus Cleveland in a 21-point comeback in 2009.

As for Green Bay, this was a disaster as they fell to 2-3. After almost never appearing in Captain Comeback last season, they have now trailed in the fourth quarter in seven of their last nine games (4-5).

This was a second-half disaster on all fronts, from the offense scoring once on eight drives, the defense allowing 27 points, and Crosby missing two kicks. If you still do not believe in Green Bay and the front-runner phenomena, then you never will. The Colts practically NFL-roped-a-doped them into the second half domination.

Funny how things can change in five weeks. You may recall this table we ran before the season to shut down the argument that Rodgers does not have many comebacks due to lack of opportunity. Look at this comparison of the table then and after five weeks:

Career Fourth Quarter Comeback Opportunities

Before 2012 Season Started

Through 2012 Week 5



Total 4QC Opp.




Total 4QC Opp.


Tony Romo




Philip Rivers




Philip Rivers




Tony Romo




Ben Roethlisberger




Ben Roethlisberger




Peyton Manning




Peyton Manning




Eli Manning




Aaron Rodgers




Drew Brees




Eli Manning




Joe Montana




Drew Brees




Dan Marino




Joe Montana




John Elway




Dan Marino




Brett Favre




John Elway




Donovan McNabb




Brett Favre




Aaron Rodgers




Donovan McNabb




Kurt Warner




Kurt Warner




Troy Aikman




Troy Aikman




Tom Brady




Tom Brady




Steve Young




Steve Young





Rodgers moves from 12th to 5th in between the Manning brothers. Opportunity is an invalid argument, and the current record for Rodgers is 4-21 (.160) in comeback opportunities. He may not like to hear about this, but it is a problem, and apparently a growing one.

Those two-point conversions when you are only up five have to be made, or else you see what can happen when the other team scores a touchdown in the last minute. Green Bay is 0/2 there and 0-2 as a result.

Crosby failed in the clutch for the fourth time in his career, raising more questions about his reliability. They have often been 50+ yard kicks, but this was a dome. That kick was not even close.

Defense could have made a stop again on the last drive, but Wayne and Luck were not to be denied.

Mike McCarthy is 8-29 (.216) in such games since 2006. It all adds up to another big-time failure in the fourth quarter for the Packers, and a possibly devastating one with two different 4-1 teams in the NFC North.

Even though Green Bay is still in better shape to go further this year, the story of the game is still the Colts. They had Bruce Arians as an interim head coach in his first game, and unlike in Super Bowl XLV, this time he completed the 21-3 comeback over the Packers.

When you talk about the 1998 Colts and the start of the Peyton Manning era, many will point to the 24-23 comeback win over the New York Jets as that first quality win to start defining a career.

The Andrew Luck era has that same kind of win now with this comeback, and when you look at the schedule, who is going to say the Colts cannot win 7-9 games this year?

The “ChuckStrong” Colts showed their mettle in this one, and it definitely will not be the last time this season.



Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Winner: Pittsburgh (16-14)
Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 1 (14-13)
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger (21-25 at 4QC, 28-29 overall 4Q/OT record - table)

In the battle of the Keystone State, the teams started out looking like the Keystone Kops.

Pittsburgh loved shooting themselves in the foot. It was the pre-snap penalties, two bad (high) snaps by Maurkice Pouncey, a dropped touchdown by Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery tripping over his feet short of the end zone, and Willie Colon could not find a holding penalty he didn’t like.

Philadelphia had trouble with ball security again, namely with Michael Vick coughing up two fumbles. Vick already has eight fumbles (five lost) in five games this season.

When things settled down, the Steelers led 10-0 at halftime. Philadelphia answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive. Ben Roethlisberger missed a big pass to Heath Miller to start the fourth quarter, and the Steelers added a field goal for a 13-7 lead.

It was in the fourth quarter when both offenses were at their best.

For the fourth time in five games, Vick led the Eagles on a go-ahead touchdown drive. It almost derailed right away, but Andy Reid decided to go for it on 4th and 1 at his own 30 with 13:11 left. LeSean McCoy converted, and McCoy would convert another 4th and 1 later on the drive.

Vick converted a 3rd and 10 with a 24-yard pass to DeSean Jackson. Three plays later Vick found Brent Celek for a 2-yard touchdown with 6:33 left. Philadelphia led 14-13, and the drive was 79 yards on 17 plays. It was probably more impressive than the three previous late-game drives the Eagles have had this year.

But they would never see the ball again. The Steelers at 1-2 absolutely needed this drive, and such drives have not come with ease for them in recent times.

Roethlisberger has had a bit of a hidden slump in this department, with a 1-6 record at game-winning drive opportunities dating back to Super Bowl XLV. He must have had a feeling of this, as evident by an interesting quote he made during the team’s bye week.

Roethlisberger: “You hope it won’t come to that, that you might blow some teams out instead. But I need to be better on the last drive. I take pride in fourth-quarter comebacks and drives, and I just need to be better and be ready for them.”

That’s great to hear a NFL quarterback say that. What’s not great is the Steelers’ uncanny ability to start one of these late-game drives with a penalty. Colon was called for holding, making it 1st and 20 at the 10.

Three plays later, Roethlisberger had a difficult 3rd and 12. He did what we have seen for nine years now: moved in the pocket and deliver a strike for a first down. Brown picked up 20 yards.

Rashard Mendenhall, in his return game, would gain 15 more yards on a pass. Three plays later it was 3rd and 4. From here, it would be a 55-yard field goal, which is a no-go at Heinz Field, especially at this end of the field with rainy weather and Shaun Suisham as your kicker.

Roethlisberger found Emmanuel Sanders for a 7-yard gain, and the Eagles used their final timeout. Pittsburgh kept it on the ground for five straight plays before sending Suisham out with three seconds left.

No chance to ice the kicker this week, Reid watched as Suisham drilled the 34-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. Steelers back to .500. Roethlisberger with a much-needed game-winning drive.

After the game, coach Mike Tomlin also had some interesting comments related to game-winning drives.

Mike Tomlin: "I think all of the guys that you can make the argument for being franchise quarterbacks, I think [excelling in the fourth quarter] is the common tie that binds them. The reality is if they're in that discussion, it's because they deliver when it's time to deliver. No question, I don't care who you're talking to, [Roethlisberger] is in that discussion."

Well, Mike McCarthy would probably never go this direction, but Tomlin’s right. The best quarterbacks rack up the fourth-quarter wins, and it was about time Roethlisberger had another. It was his 28th overall win in the fourth quarter or overtime, which moves him past Terry Bradshaw (27) for the most in franchise history.


New Orleans Saints vs. San Diego Chargers

Winner: New Orleans (31-24)
Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 3 (24-21)
Quarterback: Drew Brees (20-36 at 4QC, 30-42 overall 4Q/OT record - table)

With all the hype around Drew Brees breaking Johnny Unitas’ record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass, this one was a little hard to watch early on.

It would have been better if the New Orleans Saints were not 0-4 and if Brees did not already break the record in Week 1 when he had his 50th consecutive game with a touchdown pass including playoffs. Unitas had 49 straight games, including playoffs, with a touchdown, so Brees is now at 54 and counting.

At least it turned out to be an entertaining game. Brees completed an 87-yard touchdown drive late in the third quarter as the Saints now trailed 24-21. This would be the sixth straight game the Saints had a game-winning drive opportunity, and they are of course 0-5 in those games.

This time Brees drove the offense 90 yards in nine plays, connecting with Marques Colston on their third touchdown pass together on the night for a 28-24 lead with 8:50 left.

For the first time this season we saw San Diego’s offense in a comeback situation, and it was not good. Philip Rivers forced a pass on 3rd and 18 that was intercepted and returned to the SD 23. The Saints settled for a field goal and 31-24 lead.

NBC flashed an interesting graphic about Norv Turner’s awful record in “1-Possession Games”, which did not include any further context.

It appears this is likely based on the final score of the game, and not on comeback/game-winning drive opportunities like we look at every week here (expect a future article there).

Rivers had 2:51 and all of his timeouts to drive the Chargers 85 yards for the tying touchdown. The drive started well with three completions for 40 yards. After a sack, Rivers hit Antonio Gates for a big 28-yard gain, but a shady offensive pass interference on Gates negated the play.

Rivers went back to the vertical game with a 23-yard pass to Michael Floyd, but that too was wiped out by holding. Now on 2nd and 37 Rivers just threw one up, but the Chargers got a first down after New Orleans was penalized five yards for illegal hands to the face. These are the mistakes that explain the 0-4 start.

After driving to the NO 33 and out of timeouts with 0:28 left, Rivers threw two incompletions. On third down, he was quickly sacked and fumbled the ball. The Saints recovered and Brees was able to finally take a victory knee in 2012.

It was another disastrous fourth quarter for Rivers, who used to be very good in these situations. Then 2010 came and he has been like a different quarterback.

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





































That will not help Turner’s record in one-score games.

Turning towards prettier things, there were more milestones for Brees on the night. This was his 20th fourth quarter comeback win and 30th game-winning drive. Brees is the 22nd quarterback (fifth active) to hit 20 comeback wins.


Games to 20th 4QC



Johnny Unitas




Ben Roethlisberger




Tom Brady




Eli Manning




Randall Cunningham




Peyton Manning




Jake Plummer




John Elway




Dan Marino




Y.A. Tittle




Drew Bledsoe




Joe Montana




Warren Moon




Fran Tarkenton




Jim Kelly




Drew Brees




Dan Fouts




Kerry Collins




Joe Ferguson




Dave Krieg




Vinny Testaverde




Brett Favre





Atlanta Falcons at Washington Redskins

Winner: Atlanta (24-17)
Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 3 (17-14)
Quarterback: Matt Ryan (13-11 at 4QC, 18-11 overall 4Q/OT record - table)

Matt Ryan has to be the best quarterback ever in the fourth quarter that does not have a playoff win (yet).

Even with the running game stifled, a career-high-tying 52 pass attempts, and just one touchdown on the board through three quarters – not to mention a horrible pick six he gave the Redskins – Ryan lit up the fourth quarter again.

Down 10-7, Ryan went to Julio Jones for a great catch and 18-yard touchdown with 13:23 left. Robert Griffin III was out of the game already with a concussion, which was the concern with his style of play in the NFL.

Enter Kirk Cousins, and let it be known the Captain was very displeased with this pick in the April draft. Sure, he looked alright at Michigan State, but why waste a fourth-round pick on a backup quarterback if you are going with Griffin as your franchise QB?

Your backup quarterback should be a veteran; someone who has experience already as a starter and can come in at any time. Not a fourth-round rookie who ideally never sees the field or gets meaningful practice time. Give me Rex “Sex Cannon” Grossman any time. Wouldn’t you rather have someone with 51 starts, including the Super Bowl, over this young Matthew Modine-looking fellow?

Cousins was not meant for this spot, but he tried to shut me up early.

On a 3rd and 9, Cousins found Santana Moss all alone for an easy 77-yard touchdown. How’s that for a first ever drive in the fourth quarter by the rookie? Though if you look at the blown coverage by the Falcons, is it still that impressive of a play?

Does it get more open than that in the NFL? Washington led 17-14 with 12:24 left, but this is where “Matty Ice” shines. Matt Bryant would kick a 53-yard field goal to tie the game, and the Redskins went three and out.

Ryan completed three more passes for 51 yards, and Michael Turner scored on a 13-yard run with 2:46 left. Cousins would have to step up big again, and had all of his timeouts left.

Cousins started with a 20-yard pass to Pierre Garcon. Two plays later he was intercepted by Dunta Robinson after staring down that side of the field the whole way. The Falcons, recently great with the four-minute offense, just kept it on the ground all three plays as the Redskins burned through all of their timeouts.

Cousins had to go 80 yards in 1:21. On the very first play Cousins was pressured, overthrew Moss, and Thomas DeCoud collected this interception to clinch the game.

It was the third game-winning drive allowed by Washington this season, and that makes it a league-worst 24 game-winning drives allowed since 2007. Green Bay is the only other team to allow 20.

For Matt Ryan, he maybe be 0-3 in the playoffs, but he moves to a very elite 18-11 (.621) in game-winning drive opportunities in his career. It should only be a matter of time before the playoff wins come.


Most Game-Winning Drives, First 5 Seasons






Matt Ryan




Ben Roethlisberger




Tom Brady




Jake Plummer




Peyton Manning



Look at the select company – well, mostly select – here. With 18 game-winning drives in five seasons, Ryan has tied Ben Roethlisberger for the most ever. Roethlisberger and Tom Brady won a Super Bowl in their fifth season.

The Falcons are 5-0, and Ryan will soon own this record. He is just hitting his prime as of late.



This week there was an upset (or was there?) in Cincinnati, a shockingly low score in Kansas City, an embarrassing pass by Cam Newton, and the Captain still cannot believe the Jets made it into this week’s column. You’re slipping, Houston.


Cam Newton vs. $cam Newton: Epic failure in the clutch

For the 12th time in 21 career starts, Cam Newton had a comeback opportunity in the fourth quarter. For the 11th time, he lost, and this one may have been the worst yet.

Last season we spent many of the early weeks talking about how Newton put up prolific volume numbers as a rookie, but in the fourth quarter the Panthers would fall apart and lose the game.

This season, Newton’s production is taken for granted as a sophomore quarterback, but the close losses are still there, the team is 1-4, and his play looks to be worsening in such situations.

The start of this game could not have been much worse for Newton, as he was just 3-of-15 for 40 yards at halftime. Seattle’s good, but not that good. Newton had 60 yards on 22 drop backs. Russell Wilson was 12-of-13 for 124 yards, yet Seattle only led 6-3.

By the fourth quarter Seattle led 13-10, and Carolina had the ball. Newton should have had a third-down conversion to Jonathan Stewart, but like Newton last week in Atlanta, Stewart fumbled the ball and it brought up fourth down instead. Seattle added a field goal, going up 16-10.

Newton engineered a long drive to set up a 1st and goal at the SEA 6. But his designed quarterback draw only went three yards, and DeAngelo Williams lost those three yards on the next play.

On third down, Newton had a near-touchdown pass to Louis Murphy, but the Seahawks stopped him at the one-yard line. This set up a critical 4th and goal with 3:47 left.

With everyone expecting a run by Newton here, the Panthers went play-action pass, and TE Ben Hartsock was open in the end zone. Newton threw the ball into the dirt, never giving anyone a chance to catch the ball.

Even Derek Anderson knew it was a bad throw, and he should know as well as anyone.

It was a pathetic attempt in crunch time. Seattle burned clock with runs by Wilson and Marshawn Lynch before taking an intentional safety. Down 16-12 with 0:53 left at his own 31, Newton was sacked by rookie Bruce Irvin on the second play of the drive and fumbled the ball. Game over.

Last season the Panthers were scoring a lot of points (2.26 points per drive; ranked No. 5), so the lack of wins was overlooked. While the final score is 16-12 in this one, the offense managed just one field goal. The defense scored on a pick six thrown by Wilson in the third quarter.

That is already the third time this season the Panthers have failed to score more than 10 points on offense. That only happened once in 2011. The sophomore slump is only an excuse; not a valid explanation.

New season. New, but not improved, Cam Newton. More bad results in the clutch.


Cincinnati and Miami: Gap is closer than most thought

After three straight wins – albeit over very suspect competition – the Cincinnati Bengals seemed to be riding high offensively in Andy Dalton’s second season. Favored in a home game against the Miami Dolphins, this was a golden opportunity to go to 4-1 in the AFC.

But things don’t always go as planned for Marvin Lewis’ bunch, and this was a lousy performance at home. The Bengals would only score 13 points on 13 drives this week, and rookie Ryan Tannehill, with another good outing, outplayed Dalton.

Down 17-6 to start the fourth quarter, Dalton was in the process of mounting the comeback. A.J. Green made an athletic 2-yard touchdown catch with 14:15 remaining to pull within 17-13.

On his next drive, Dalton had the ball at the MIA 35, but a big sack on third down pushed the Bengals out of field goal range. Miami ran more clock this time, but still punted.

With 6:01 left, Dalton hit three straight passes for 52 yards, but the drive would then stall after a bad WR screen attempt. With 3:05 and a pair of timeouts left, Marvin Lewis decided to go for the field goal and not the 4th-and-5 conversion at the MIA 23. It is a defendable call, as a pair of field goals was certainly doable with the amount of time and clock stoppages left.

But that is moot when kicker Mike Nugent was wide right on the 41-yard attempt. Miami would still punt the ball back, and this happened sooner than it should have as fullback Charles Clay went out of bounds on a third-down catch, saving the Bengals a good 40 seconds.

Dalton, who had four comebacks and game-winning drives as a rookie last year, had 1:45 and no timeouts to drive 80 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

He started with a quick 13-yard gain to Jermaine Gresham, who stepped out of bounds. His next two passes were knocked down, but holding on center Jeff Faine forced the Bengals into a 2nd-and-20 situation.

Dalton overthrew Andrew Hawkins, and safety Reshad Jones iced the game with the interception with 1:22 left. Two knees and Tannehill had his second win.

The Dolphins are a made field goal and fourth-down stop of Kevin Kolb away from being 4-1 right now. Instead they are 2-3, but fans have to feel much better about the team.

Cincinnati’s day was made worse when the Steelers and Ravens both won in the crowded AFC North. This was exactly the type of game they won last season to get to that 9-7 record and make the playoffs.


Kansas City fans cheer for Brady Quinn… (Just kidding)

Sunday may have proven that Matt Cassel has failed to earn the hearts and support of Kansas City Chiefs fans. No one cheers for Brady Quinn, so that section of fans cheering had to be for Cassel’s concussion.

On a day where the Chiefs’ running backs carried the ball 46 times for 200 yards, the offense could only muster two field goals in a 9-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, who have to do their own soul-searching after the ugly performance.

The Ravens kicked a field goal on the final play of the third quarter for a 9-3 lead. Cassel would complete one third down, but had a second taken away after an offensive pass interference penalty. Kansas City punted.

On the second play of his next drive, Cassel was hit hard by big man Haloti Ngata, and that knocked him out for a concussion. Quinn entered the game, but this would be no Brodie Croyle-style comeback attempt like the Chiefs showed Baltimore in 2009.

Quinn would complete his first pass: a 20-yard strike to Dwayne Bowe on 3rd and 7. He would later throw a touchdown to Bowe, but offensive pass interference was called on Dexter McCluster, which was fortunate for Baltimore.

The Chiefs settled for a field goal. Baltimore could put it away in the four-minute offense. Joe Flacco was sacked on second down, but had a huge scramble for 16 yards on 3rd and 15. Three plays later Ray Rice made the tough yard on 3rd and 1, and with Kansas City out of timeouts, it was two knees for Flacco and the win.

Kansas City had their opportunities, but just failed to capitalize. Jamaal Charles rushed for 125 yards in the first half, but only 15 in the second half. The Chiefs turned it over four times and the lead the league with 19 giveaways (at least three in each game).

The Ravens are 4-1, even if the last two have not been pretty.

As for Chiefs fans, what’s wrong with you people? You are supposed to boo Matt Cassel when he’s healthy, and cheer on the inside when he gets hurt. But just remember the alternative is going to be Brady Quinn.


Houston finds the Jets to be cumbersome

This was supposed to be a blowout, and it had all the makings of one from the start. Houston used the play-action pass to easily put a touchdown on the board, and the Jets promptly went three and out.

But from there, we actually had a game, and as expected, it took a 100-yard kick return score by Joe McKnight to really give the Jets a fighting chance.

Houston led 23-14 to start the fourth quarter, but the Jets had the ball, and Mark Sanchez found Jeremy Kerley for a big 36-yard gain. Of course that would be the perfect time to bring Tim Tebow into the game, but at least he ran for 13 yards. The Jets settled for a field goal and 23-17 deficit.

After an ugly three and out by Houston, the Jets had their chance, and went with Sanchez, who actually did not play that bad of a game. The Jets overcame a 2nd and 18 with a great call of a screen pass for 19 yards to Shonn Greene.

But after reinserting Tebow behind center, he went nowhere, Sanchez was sacked by young superstar J.J. Watt, and the Jets punted. That one silly little run-option play with Tebow actually gives him a failed comeback/game-winning drive opportunity, bringing his record down to 7-5. So rejoice there if you were not a fan of seeing him at the top of the active list.

Sanchez would get the ball back with 3:28 left, and could lead a big game-winning touchdown drive to really change perceptions of himself, the Jets and also the Texans. He did it in much less time in 2010, but that was with great catches by Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, and not against a quality Houston defense.

After a sack brought up a 3rd-and-18 situation, Sanchez put a pass on TE Jeff Cumberland, but it went off his hands into the air and was intercepted by Kareem Jackson with 1:51 left. The pass was a little high, but it should have been caught by Cumberland, who is clearly no Dustin Keller.

Sanchez would get the ball back with 0:04 and needing 91 yard, and the game ended on a fitting play: Watt knocking down his third pass of the night.

The Texans, who did not play a great game, failed to become the second team in NFL history (2007 Patriots) to hold at least a 20-point lead over their first five opponents. But they would move to 5-0 and their first win in six chances against the Jets.


A Captain Comeback Semantics Lesson: Having avoided these so far since Week 1, there were several inconsistencies spotted on Sunday. While the AP report for the Denver/New England game correctly made note of Peyton Manning’s 36 comeback wins, they botched the stat on Ben Roethlisberger, claiming this game was his “25th career fourth-quarter comeback” when it’s not.

How did they get 25? They looked at all of his fourth-quarter/OT wins in the regular season only. If you read their reports, you would think Roethlisberger is 11 comebacks behind Manning, but it is apples-to-oranges. An apples-to-apples comparison would be regular season game-winning drives, which would be 24 for Roethlisberger, 46 for Manning. Big difference.

Finally, the Indianapolis Colts’ PR department wrote that Andrew Luck had his second fourth quarter comeback, meaning they count the Minnesota game in Week 2 as a comeback. It’s not. That was a classic game-winning drive only. Luck’s first comeback win was Sunday versus Green Bay, and that is exactly the kind you want to remember as your first.


Next week

Watch out for the Steelers going on the road on a short week against a bad Tennessee team. They like to play down to such competition. Browns get the Bengals at home. Without a win here, they should be 0-11 headed to Oakland in Week 13. Eli Manning leads the banged up Giants back to San Francisco; site of two nail-biters last season. Finally, a special alert – or call it a hunch – for  that potential 37th comeback win for Peyton Manning on Monday Night Football in San Diego.


Scott Kacsmar is a football writer/researcher who has contributed large quantities of data to, 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, or you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.

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