Captain Comeback Week 9: Down to the Wire

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 08, 2011



By Scott Kacsmar
Cold, Hard Football Facts Comeback Kin
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It would be an understatement to say Week 9 got off to a less than rousing start with the slate of 1 p.m. games. As Daylight Savings Time came to an end this weekend, maybe it was the extra hour of sleep that threw some people off. That is, the people involved with the Bills, Seahawks, Browns, Colts, Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Redskins. These teams put up little fight in their games.
 
While there wasn’t a single fourth quarter comeback opportunity to start the day, fortunately that means the late-afternoon games were probably going to be pretty good.
 
They were. Extremely good even, as Week 9’s last seven games all featured comeback opportunities. The Giants and Ravens pulled off epic drives late in the game for big road wins, Rivers helped Green Bay make history, the AFC-leading Bengals picked up a road comeback, and Denver registered a fourth quarter win without having to step into the Tebow Zone.
 
In fact, special teams made a historic mark on Sunday’s action. For the first time in NFL history, we had two games decided on a game-winning punt return touchdown on the same day: Patrick Peterson did it for Arizona in overtime, while Eddie Royal’s return against the Raiders put Denver ahead for good.
 
Both Cincinnati and Denver came back from 10 points down, while the Steelers, Eagles and Patriots all accomplished the same feat, only to lose the game in the fourth quarter.
 
The drives engineered by Joe Flacco and Eli Manning could battle for the “Drive of the Year” award, but only one can get the top spot for this week.
 

Drive of the Week

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Winner: Baltimore (23-20)

 
Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 4 (20-16)
Quarterback: Joe Flacco (6 4QC, 10 GWD – table)
 
Down by four points, on the road, 2:24 left, one timeout, 92 yards away from the end zone.
 
That’s the kind of scenario fans dream about watching, but the truth is it rarely plays out that way. But that’s the exact situation Joe Flacco was faced with on Sunday night in Pittsburgh, and almost no one expected him to pull it off.
 
NBC had to be thrilled to see the Steelers and Ravens up to their old tricks, playing a competitive, hard-hitting game. Baltimore led 16-6 to start the fourth quarter, but a touchdown drive by Pittsburgh closed the gap to 16-13.
 
Flacco, so good on third down all night, made his first big mistake after he fumbled the ball on a sack. We’ve seen this story before. Ben Roethlisberger turned that mistake into a touchdown drive, scrambling to find Mike Wallace, who stepped in front of Antonio Brown for the 25-yard touchdown with 4:59 left. The Steelers led 20-16.
 
Flacco hastily threw three straight incompletions, but the Steelers were unable to run out the clock on offense. Coach Mike Tomlin also waffled on a field goal decision, costing the Steelers a delay of game penalty and forcing them to punt.
 
That’s when Flacco was set up to deliver the drive of his career, the drive no one thought he could put together.
 
Anquan Boldin got things started with a 21-yard gain out to the BAL 29. Boldin would later convert a 4th and 1 with a catch to keep the drive alive.
 
Rookie receiver Torrey Smith dropped a 37-yard touchdown in the end zone, much like Steve Johnson’s dropped touchdown against Pittsburgh last season in overtime. He beat Ike Taylor, but could not haul it in.
 
Boldin dropped a pass as well, but Flacco didn’t let it bother him. He went right back to an inexplicably open Smith in the end zone with 0:08 left for the 26-yard winning pass. Flacco came through, and the Ravens swept the Steelers.
 
The Ravens were 14/21 (66.7%) on third down. The 14 conversions are a franchise record, and the conversion percentage is the best for any game in the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco era (since 2008). It was only fitting the winning touchdown pass came on a 3rd and 10 at the PIT 26.
 
The Steelers continued their record march to takeaway futility, coming up with their fourth takeaway in nine games, which is still the fewest by any team thru the first nine games of a season. They could have really used one on the final drive, like they have caused in the past against Flacco, but this time he was dialed in and made all the plays necessary for Baltimore to win, and even some his teammates failed to complete for him.
 

The Greatest Drive in Ravens History

Sunday’s drive was easily the most impressive of Flacco’s game-winning drives.
 
Joe Flacco's 10 Game-Winning Drives
Date Opponent Score Down Time Start DL Flacco Time End
11/2/2008 at Cleveland FG 0 7:30 59 0/1 for 0 yards 5:36
1/10/2009 at Tennessee FG 0 4:17 51 2/3 for 31 yards 0:53
9/13/2009 Kansas City TD 0 5:14 74 3/2 for 45 yards, TD 0:00
11/29/2009 Pittsburgh FG 0 10:05 (OT) 17 1 rush for -2 yards 6:42 (OT)
9/26/2010 Cleveland TD 3 14:44 69 6/7 for 78 yards, TD 9:13
10/3/2010 at Pittsburgh TD 4 1:08 40 4/4 for 40 yards, TD 0:32
10/24/2010 Buffalo FG 0 12:52 (OT) 9 no stats accumulated 10:54 (OT)
12/19/2010 New Orleans FG 0 11:34 66 0/2 for 0 yards 10:03
10/30/2011 Arizona FG 0 0:52 37 2/2 for 39 yards 0:00
11/6/2011 at Pittsburgh TD 4 2:24 92 7/13 for 92 yards, TD 0:08
 
Some of these games involved more than one scoring drive, but the one listed is the one that put Baltimore ahead for the last time.
 
In the past Flacco has had drives that were more about great field position, or Ray Rice breaking a huge run, limiting what Flacco had to accomplish. This was the fourth time he won a game with a touchdown drive. He did the same last year in Pittsburgh, but only had to go 40 yards. This time it was 92, and unlike anything else he’s done in his career.
 
Not only was it the best drive of Flacco’s career, but it’s the greatest drive in the (brief) history of the Baltimore Ravens.
 
Even though they won a Super Bowl in 2000, there was no signature drive in that postseason. Their only fourth quarter win came against Tennessee thanks to a blocked field goal being returned for a touchdown, and a Ray Lewis pick six after Eddie George bobbled a pass.
 
Flacco started their one playoff game that involved a game-winning drive, which was the 2008 AFC Divisional game in Tennessee. But with the Ravens, a regular season win over the Steelers to complete a season sweep probably means more to them than a Divisional playoff win (unless it was against the Steelers).
 
The history of late, game-winning touchdown drives by the Ravens is a short one. Defined as happening in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter or in overtime, this was just the sixth late-game winning touchdown drive in Ravens’ history.
 
And none have ever been more impressive or important for the team than Sunday night’s.
 

The Other Paths to Victory

New York Giants at New England Patriots
Winner: NY Giants (24-20)

 
Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 3 (20-17)
Quarterback: Eli Manning (18 4QC, 22 GWD – table)
 
Is it possible for two teams to meet in a classic Super Bowl, change over much of their rosters, meet four years later and produce an eerily similar, classic game?
 
That’s exactly what the Giants and Patriots did on Sunday. In the end, the results were all too familiar for Patriots fans.
 
Like Super Bowl XLII, the first half was surprisingly low scoring. So low, that neither team scored a single point. The difference is the Super Bowl was well played, while this first half was downright sloppy execution. Each team had six possessions in the first half. They had that many through three quarters of XLII.
 
The Giants took advantage of Tom Brady turnovers to take a 10-0 lead in the third quarter.
 
After assaulting the nearest water bottles for most of the day, Brady had enough and started to play the way you expect him to, putting a field goal on the board.
 
Eli returned the favor by throwing an ill-advised interception deep in the red zone near the end of the quarter. This just set us up for another classic fourth quarter shootout.
 
Brady tied the game with a touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez. On his next drive, the Patriots went ahead on a 45-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, one of the very few times in his career he has actually been tested on a critical field goal. He made it.
 
That’s when Eli kicked things into gear and delivered an 85-yard touchdown drive, capped off by an excellent throw to Mario Manningham in the end zone.
 
Brady had 2:58 left and put together his own drive. After a few close calls, he was able to connect with Rob Gronkowski on 4th and 10 for the 14-yard touchdown with 1:36 left.
 
Too much time for Eli. The stage wasn’t as dramatic, the opposing defense wasn’t as good, but Eli had another memorable drive. He had 1:36 left, two timeouts and 80 yards to go.
 
No problem. Manning completed another unlikely play over the middle on a third down, gaining 28 yards to Jake Ballard. Pass interference put the ball at the one, and three plays later it was Ballard hauling in the pass in the “Plaxico corner” with 0:15 left.
 
Eli passed for 85 yards and 2 TD on the two drives, while also gaining 55 yards via pass interference penalties, and had a 12-yard scramble. That’s 152 yards total. In XLII, Eli passed for 152 yards and 2 TD in the fourth quarter, while also gaining 5 yards on a scramble. That’s just 5 yards more than Sunday. Crazy.
 

The Patriots Must Hate the Manning Brothers

Few teams have matched the kind of success the New England Patriots have had since 2001, but if there’s been a thorn in their side that has limited this success from something even greater, it’s been those damn Manning brothers.
 
Prior to 2006, the Patriots almost never lost to teams they played for the second time in a season, nor did they lose leads in the fourth quarter.
 
In 2006, the Patriots blew a 21-3 lead in Indianapolis in the AFC Championship game against Peyton Manning’s Colts. Leading 34-31 in the fourth quarter, the Patriots took the field on defense with 2:17 left and 80 yards to protect. Peyton came through with the game-winning drive, scoring the touchdown with 1:00 left. It was just the second fourth quarter comeback allowed by the Patriots since 2001.
 
A year later, with Peyton in attendance, the perfect season went down in flames at the hands of Eli Manning and the greatest drive in NFL history.
 
The Patriots have since looked rather mortal in their ability to protect fourth quarter leads, but there’s no denying these facts:
 
  • The Patriots have only allowed a game-losing touchdown in the last minute four times since 2001; all 4 have come at the hands of Peyton and Eli Manning (2 each).
  • Of the 9 fourth quarter comebacks the Patriots have allowed since 2001, 4 of them have been by Peyton and Eli Manning (2 each).
  • Of the 11 game-winning drives the Patriots have allowed since 2001, 5 of them have been by Peyton (3) and Eli Manning (2).
 
After taking away two more Super Bowl titles, the “4th and 2” disaster, and now Sunday’s game, there is no doubt the Patriots are not very fond of the Manning’s. At least they were 3-0 against Archie.
 
It’s not just the Patriots, however.
 
With his 5th game-winning drive in the last six games, Eli Manning is the first quarterback in NFL history to have 5 game-winning drives in the first 8 games of a season.
 
He also becomes the third player ever to have 5 game-winning drives in a 6-game span, joining his brother Peyton Manning and Don Majkowski (1989).
 
Peyton had a record 5 consecutive comebacks and game-winning drives in 2009. He finished the season with 7 each, and won MVP. Don Majkowski had that one great season for the Packers in 1989, and he finished the season with 5 comebacks and 7 game-winning drives. He made the Pro Bowl and received 6 votes in MVP voting to finish 2nd behind Joe Montana (62 votes).
 
Let’s not forget the Giants had a go-ahead touchdown and field goal against Seattle this year as well. If they would have been able to hold on that day, we’d be talking about 6 straight game-winning drives (5 comebacks) by Eli. It’s just been that kind of bizarre season for Eli and the Giants.
 
It may finish as a historic one.

 
Bizarro Patriots Season

Speaking of bizarre, Patriots fans are probably tired of hearing about all the things they haven’t done in the past, but which they do now.
 
The Patriots don’t lose to the Bills (15 straight)…until this season.
The Patriots don’t lose to the Steelers, especially with Tom Brady (6-1)…until this season.
The Patriots don’t lose back-to-back games…until this season.
The Patriots don’t lose home games to NFC teams (18 straight)…until this season.
The Patriots don’t get shut out in the first half (74 straight)…until this season.
Tom Brady doesn’t lose at home anymore in the regular season (31 straight)…until this season.
 
What’s the next one? “The Patriots haven’t lost three straight games since 2002.” Careful, because a road game with the Jets in primetime is up next, and these teams have split the last three seasons.
 
Speaking of the past, how does Chad Ochocinco have 9 catches for 136 yards in 8 games? Wes Welker had 9 catches for 136 yards…just in this game against the Giants alone. Reche Caldwell had 23 catches for 245 yards and a TD in his first 8 games with the Patriots in 2006.
 
Reche F’n Caldwell.
 

One Last Comeback Note

On the bright side, at least for Captain Comeback, it looks like either Fox or the Patriots got the memo about Brady’s fourth quarter wins. Remember, against Dallas it was Thom Brennaman citing some graphic-less stat about “31 game-winning touchdown drives” for Brady prior to the successful win that day.
 
This time it was Joe Buck reading a graphic that said Brady had 34 comebacks from a deficit or tie. Those words could still use some work, but at least the overall number was corrected. Thanks. See that? Progress.
 
But once again, the comeback and the day belonged to Eli and the Giants. Too bad these teams can’t play each other in meaningful games more often.
 

Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans
Winner: Cincinnati (24-17)

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 3 (17-14)
Quarterback: Andy Dalton (3 4QC, 3 GWD – table)
 
When San Francisco travelled to Cincinnati for a Week 3 game, who would have imagined it was a competitive game between two teams that would be in position for a first-round bye at the midpoint of the season?
 
We even joked that it was the lowest-priority game of the week, and building up excitement via Justin Smith’s return to Cincinnati would be a real pain.
 
But here we are with the 49ers at 7-1 and the Bengals at 6-2, thanks to their fourth comeback win of the season. The Bengals were competitive in virtually every game last season, but could not finish behind Carson Palmer.
 
The two rookies, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, are quickly making people forget all about Palmer and Chad Ochocinco. Green led the way with 7 catches for 83 yards, as Dalton threw for 217 yards, 3 TD, and no turnovers. Dalton was 7/7 passing to Green.
 
Trailing 17-14 to start the fourth quarter, Dalton led a 75-yard touchdown drive that actually was 95 yards due to holding penalties. He converted a trio of third downs, including a 3rd-and-18 strike to Green, followed by a 5-yard touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell.
 
The Titans had four chances to score, but the stingy Cincinnati defense (ranked 2nd and 4th in yards/drive and points/drive headed into the week, respectively) held them off.
 
How impressive is it for a rookie quarterback to lead three fourth quarter comebacks? Ben Roethlisberger holds the record with five, and Vince Young had four. Dalton could be looking at a record eventually, which might mean a playoff berth for the Bengals.
 
This fifth straight Cincinnati win has the Bengals in the stunning position of first-place in the AFC, setting up an interesting test with Pittsburgh coming into town Sunday.
 

Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams
Winner: Arizona (19-13 OT)

Type: 4QC
Largest Deficit: 7 (13-6)
Quarterback: John Skelton (2 4QC, 1 GWD – table)
 
If you have been following the comeback articles for a long time now, it’s probably no surprise which team would be the one to win another game with a non-offensive scoring play.
 
Back in Week 1, Arizona tied Carolina in the fourth quarter, then won the game on rookie Patrick Peterson’s punt return touchdown. It was their 8th non-offensive game-winning score since 2002; by far the most in the league (next closest teams have 3).
 
On Sunday, something very similar but record-breaking happened, and that number has grown to 9. It’s the 7th time under Coach Ken Whisenhunt, who has only been there since 2007.
 
John Skelton started at quarterback for the injured Kevin Kolb. Skelton did lead a comeback and game-winning drive against Dallas last Christmas.
 
Before he could do that, Skelton put himself on a short list of quarterbacks to have two plays result in safeties in the same game. It happened in the third quarter on consecutive plays: a sack and then an intentional grounding penalty.
 
That little comedy of errors allowed the Rams to become the first team in NFL history to score exactly four points in one quarter. This is why we love the NFC West. We can always count on that division to set new standards for low points in NFL history.
 
Down 13-6 in the fourth quarter, Skelton did manage a very effective 84-yard drive, hooking up with Larry Fitzgerald with a 13-yard touchdown to tie the game.
 
The Rams really struggle with comebacks, but this time it was just a game-winning drive situation. The offense did their part to set up Josh Brown for a 42-yard game-winning kick, but it was blocked as time expired. St. Louis won the coin toss in overtime, but had to punt after gaining 18 yards.
 
That’s when Patrick Peterson put his name all over the record books by returning the punt 99 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Is there such a thing as a clutch punt returner?
 
Trying to hit on all the records and history Peterson made is difficult, but here’s an attempt:
  • Peterson joins Tamarick Vanover as the only players in NFL history to have two game-winning punt returns for touchdowns in their career.
  • Vanover’s returns came for the Kansas City Chiefs on 10/9/1995 and 12/5/1999, meaning Peterson is the only player to accomplish the feat twice in the same season.
  • Peterson and Vanover are the only two players to ever return a punt for a touchdown in overtime.
  • Peterson is the first player in NFL history to return three punts for touchdowns in his first 8 games.
  • The 99-yard return is the second longest punt return in NFL history (record: 103 yards by Robert Bailey on 10/23/1994).
 
Peterson needs just one more punt return touchdown to tie the record for most in a single-season (4 by Jack Christiansen, Devin Hester and Rick Upchurch). Christiansen was also a rookie when he did it in 1951 for Detroit, accomplishing the feat by having two games with two punt return touchdowns.
 
Peterson will probably want to be known as a great cornerback, but for now, he’s quickly emerged as an incredible punt returner that’s provided the winning score in Arizona’s wins this season.
 

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders
Winner: Denver (38-24)

 
Type: None (“Other Game of Note”)
Quarterback: Tim Tebow (2 4QC, 2 GWD – table)
 
Here’s an interesting one, and a first for this season.
 
Since people either love or hate Tim Tebow, there will be plenty of relief and disappointment with this game. While you can give Tebow another career win from a second half deficit of 10+ points, he gets nothing for the fourth quarter.
 
Denver trailed 24-17 late in the third quarter. After they intercepted Carson Palmer, who was making his first start for the Raiders, Tebow handed the ball off to Willis McGahee with 0:07 left. McGahee went 60 yards for the touchdown with no time left in the third quarter to tie the game. Denver never trailed in the fourth quarter, so no comeback opportunity for Tebow.
 
That’s actually a good thing, since fans would have been mocking this “Tebow comeback” had it been a 60-yard run as the only play of the drive. Usually the “touchdown on the last play of the third quarter” is a cheap way of taking the comeback away from the quarterback. This time it prevented a quarterback from picking up a cheap comeback.
 
As for McGahee, his 163 rushing yards were completely unexpected. He would probably like to campaign for more games against the Raiders, seeing as how his only other career game with 160+ rushing yards came against Oakland on 1/3/2010 (167 yards and 3 touchdowns).
 
Tebow ran with the ball 12 times for 118 yards. Unorthodox? Sure, but he did get results this week, didn’t turn the ball over, and got the win.
 
With the game tied, each team punted. The Raiders went three and out again, and that’s when Eddie Royal returned the punt 85 yards for the game-winning touchdown. It was the third game-winning punt return touchdown in the fourth quarter by the Broncos in their team’s history. Abner Haynes returned a punt 57 yards for the go-ahead score against the Houston Oilers on 11/14/1965, and Rick Upchurch did the same (75 yards) on 9/17/1978 against San Diego.
 
Oakland’s drive stalled after three straight Palmer incompletions, and Denver had the ball again. McGahee added the insurance touchdown, Palmer threw an interception, and that was the ball game.
 

Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles
Winner: Chicago (30-24)

 
Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Deficit: 4 (24-20)
Quarterback: Jay Cutler (12 4QC, 16 GWD – table)
 
For the first time this season, the Chicago Bears had a game decided by a score in the fourth quarter. They came out on the winning end, after Jay Cutler used a variety of unique passing stances to move the ball down the field with his receivers.
 
His touchdown pass to college teammate Earl Bennett put the Bears ahead 27-24 with 12:18 left.
 
The Eagles avoided a Michael Vick interception, but then ran one of the more controversial plays of the season. Rookie punter Chas Henry attempted a fake punt pass to a wide open gunner, but the pass was woefully short and bounced off the ground.
 
If the play works, you’re a genius. It didn’t, so Andy Reid gets questioned about it. Maybe he should have known better not to trust anyone named Chas (or Chaz). You never know what you’re going to get. If only Big Red could turn back time…
 
Chicago added a field goal (30-24), and Michael Vick had 3:51 left to drive 63 yards. In usual Philadelphia fashion, there was no real sense of urgency on the drive.
 
After Vick threw two incompletions at the CHI 39, the game came down to a 4th and 10 play. Jeremy Maclin caught a pass over the middle and appeared like he could run for the first down, but since he caught the ball high, he lost his balance and fell to the ground short of the first down. That was Philadelphia’s last real chance.
 
The Bears are now 5-3 with a key win over the 3-5 Eagles, who are now in 10th place in the NFC. Ever since DeSean Jackson’s great punt return touchdown to cap off the comeback in New York last year (Philly’s fourth comeback win in a five-game stretch), the Eagles have gone 3-8, and are 0-7 in fourth quarter comeback opportunities.
 
The Eagles have allowed a league-high four comebacks in the fourth quarter, and already have set a franchise-worst with four losses after leading to begin the fourth quarter.
 
“Fo’, fo’, fo’” used to have a different meaning to Philadelphia sports fans.
 

All Comeback Failures of the Week

Philip Rivers is well within reach of his “worst season ever”, and an early time slot of games that were all kinds of awful.

 
Rivers Makes It Easy For Those Anti-Comeback Kings From Green Bay

By now you’re probably aware of a few things: the Green Bay Packers are the first team in NFL history to win 14 straight games without trailing in the fourth quarter, Philip Rivers is 2-9 in comeback situations since 2010, he had his first ever game with three interceptions, and had two pick 6’s in the first quarter of Sunday’s 45-38 loss.
 
Rivers didn’t go down without a fight though. After Green Bay went up 45-21, Rivers led two straight touchdown drives with an onside kick recovery in between to pull within 45-38. The Packers finally went three and out, and he had another chance, needing only 52 yards to tie the game.
 
An intentional grounding penalty stalled the drive, and San Diego had to punt. Rivers was left with 1:05 and no timeouts left, needing to go 69 yards. Showing more haste than the drive against the Jets earlier this season, Rivers got the ball to midfield with 0:54 left.
 
But his next four passes were incomplete, with the last being intercepted on a desperate throw to Vincent Jackson (7 catches, 141 yards, 3 TD).
 
It was the ninth consecutive hold by Green Bay’s defense with a one score lead in the fourth quarter during their win streak. Here’s a look at what the defense has done in those games to thwart the opponent during this win streak:
 
Green Bay's Clutch Defense
Game # Opponent Drives Faced Results Final
2 Chicago 3 3 and out, punt, INT 10-3
3 at Philadelphia 1 INT 21-16
5 at Chicago 3 3 and out, INT (pick 6), INT 21-14
6 Pittsburgh 2 Fumble, turnover on downs 31-25
7 New Orleans 1 Goal line stand w/0:00 left 42-34
8 at Carolina 1 Turnover on downs 30-23
11 at Atlanta 2 3 and out, INT 25-14
13 at Minnesota 1 Punt 33-27
14 at San Diego 2 Punt, INT 45-38
 
That’s facing 16 drives in high-pressure situations, and pitching a shut out in the process. 16 drives is roughly the equivalent of 5-6 quarters of action. Seven of the drives ended with a takeaway (six interceptions and one fumble).
 
The Packers have allowed some points during these games to get to this situation, but when the differential was 1-8 points, no one has been doing a better job of closing the door than this defense.
 

1 p.m. Boredom

The seven games played in the 1 p.m. time slot offered almost no excitement this week, especially if you’re talking about comebacks or for that matter, any type of close, and competitive play in the second half.
 
Buffalo Bills (vs. NY Jets) – Just days after looking at the strange career of Ryan Fitzpatrick and his league-worst second-half season declines, Fitzpatrick had his worst game of the season. He was just 4/12 for 24 yards and a pair of interceptions in the first half (passer rating: 2.8). Buffalo trailed 20-3 after three quarters; fell behind 27-3, and finally lost 27-11. Failing to capitalize with this home game and New England’s loss, this is exactly the kind of loss that could keep Buffalo out of the playoffs with the tight races in the AFC East and North.
 
SeattleSeahawks (at Dallas Cowboys) – Usually the Cowboys are good for a close game, but they were coming off both ends of 34-7 finals the last two games. DeMarco Murray had another fine day, rushing for 139 yards, and Tony Romo was turnover-free. It was a 13-6 game after three quarters, but Romo’s touchdown pass to Laurent Robinson made it 20-6. One Tarvaris Jackson interception later and the Cowboys eventually went up 23-6, and Seattle could only draw within 10 (23-13 final). When a T-Jax drive in the last minute of a 10-point game is arguably your most exciting comeback moment, you know you’re watching a lot of routs.
 
Cleveland Browns (at Houston Texans) – Colt McCoy and Matt Schaub had similar passing numbers. The difference was Cleveland’s running backs combined for 18 carries and 38 yards, while Houston’s combined for 37 carries and 261 yards. Houston led 24-3 at halftime and Cleveland never got closer than the 30-12 final.
 
Indianapolis Colts (vs. Atlanta Falcons) – “1 p.m. Boredom” might stand for one “Peyton Manning Boredom”, as he watched the Colts easily fall to 0-9. This game was practically over after rookie Delone Carter fumbled on the opening drive and Atlanta turned it into a short-field touchdown. Julio Jones almost single-handedly gained 130 yards on two touchdown catches, and the Colts only scored on defense via a pick six. Perhaps it was a given the Colts would finish 0-16 when they signed Dan Orlovsky in the off-season. Orlovsky entered the game in the fourth, after the Colts were already down 31-7. He is probably best remembered for running out of the end zone for a safety and his contributions to the 0-16 Detroit Lions in 2008. Now he’s seven losses away from being able to say he played for both of the NFL’s 0-16 teams.
 
Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Miami Dolphins) – Guess Todd Haley can drop the dirty hat for a sharp razor. What happened to the rebounding Chiefs that won four straight games? They didn’t even put up a fight at Arrowhead against the winless Dolphins. The defense made Matt Moore look somewhere between Bob Griese and Dan Marino, and the Chiefs did absolutely nothing on offense after an opening drive field goal. It was 28-3 to start the fourth quarter and the Dolphins added a field goal to the final. But if you’re a Miami fan, you have to be wondering when has a win ever felt so bad? The Colts are now in position for Andrew Luck as the only remaining winless team.
 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at New Orleans Saints) – Even down 24-6 to start the fourth quarter, if there was ever a team that could conjure up some excitement for a finish, it was going to be Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers. After doing nothing on their first four drives, Tampa Bay scored three field goals and a touchdown on their next four. We finally had a one score game in the fourth quarter (24-16), and over five minutes left. The problem was Drew Brees used his arm and shockingly his legs, coming up with a 20-yard scramble on a third down (2nd longest run of his career), and the Saints were able to milk the clock and add a field goal. Now with the Bucs down 27-16, their final drive ended with a whimper.
 
Washington Redskins (vs. San Francisco 49ers) – The West Coast 49ers came over to Washington, who were shut out last week for the first time in Mike Shanahan’s career, for a 1 p.m. game. Of course, they improved to 4-0 in those games this year, with little trouble here. Washington’s Roy Helu had a franchise-record 14 catches for 105 yards on 17 targets. Trailing 16-3 as the fourth quarter started, Helu had a stretch of plays where he caught an 8-yard pass on 1st and 25, a 0-yard pass on 2nd and 17, and a 15-yard pass on 3rd and 17. John Beck, 0-7 as a starter in his career, threw incomplete on 4th and 2. Well those three catches were real useful. Washington did later manage a touchdown and 2-point conversion (19-11), but did not recover the onside kick and the 49ers improved to a surprising 7-1.
 
That was the only 1 p.m. game decided by one score, and not a single one of these games featured a comeback opportunity. Luckily, these games were easily forgotten by Sunday evening.
 
Next week: Eli “Captain Comeback” Manning takes his talents to San Francisco to take on Jim “Captain Comeback” Harbaugh, in a game that should likely show up in next week’s…Captain Comeback.
 
Scott Kacsmar is a football researcher/writer 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. He slept through most of LSU/Bama, but woke up for the fourth quarter. You can send any questions or comments to Scott at smk_42@yahoo.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.

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