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Close Calls - Week 12
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NCAAFB - 4th Quarter Covers

Glancing at the scoreboard won’t tell you the whole story in most games. Here are some of the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread in the fourth quarter last week in the NFL with several result-changing scores in the final minutes of a favorite-friendly Week 12.

Minnesota Vikings (-2½) 30, Detroit Lions 23 (46): An early fourth quarter touchdown pass put the total ‘over’ and got the Lions to within a point of the common +3 spread in the early Thanksgiving game, trailing Minnesota 27-23. The Vikings reached the Detroit 34-yard-line, but went backwards and opted to punt and then Detroit went 3-and-out with a pair of short gains. The Vikings weren’t able to burn significant time, but managed to push the lead to seven points with a field goal just under the four-minute mark.

Late game heroics from Matthew Stafford are almost expected at this point, but facing 4th-and-7 still in Detroit territory Stafford was intercepted. The Vikings again couldn’t run off the entire clock and attempted a 25-yard field goal with just over a minute remaining, having missed a field goal and had a blocked extra-point already in the game. Kai Forbath’s attempt was blocked again and returned for a touchdown that could have tied the game, but an offside penalty was called on Darius Slay who had the block, and the penalty made it first down, allowing the Vikings to take a knee.

Washington Redskins (-7) 20, New York Giants 10 (44): The Redskins had a clear yardage edge throughout the Thursday night game, but couldn’t pull away with a 3-3 game at halftime. Washington managed to score in the third quarter, but the Giants got the big play they needed to stay in the game with a dropped pass bouncing to Janoris Jenkins who went 53 yards for an interception return touchdown. The score remained 10-10 well into the fourth quarter before a sack of Kirk Cousins on third down was wiped out with a penalty and a few plays later Washington connected for a touchdown pass to match the spread with a 17-10 advantage. New York wound up fumbling on a sack going for it on fourth down to hand Washington the ball already in field goal range and a 33-yard kick put Washington past the spread just after the two-minute warning. The Giants would cross midfield on their final possession, but an interception at the 12-yard-line ended the threat.

Cincinnati Bengals (-7) 30, Cleveland Browns 16 (38½): The Bengals led 23-9 heading into the fourth quarter with several short field goals in the first half, but the Browns completed an 89-yard drive with about seven minutes remaining to climb within or even with the underdog spread that opened at -9 and climbed steadily to -7 by kickoff. The Bengals were bailed out of a failed third down with an unnecessary roughness call and three plays later found the end zone to seal the ‘over’ and put the favorite back in position to cover. Cleveland reached the Cincinnati 40-yard-line after the two-minute-warning, but came up empty for another defeat.

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New England Patriots (-16½) 35, Miami Dolphins 17 (49): The Dolphins were down 11 much of the second half looking to stay within the largest spread of the season thus far. The underdog cover looked relatively safe after a big third down sack forced New England to punt deep in its own territory with about 10 minutes remaining. Matt Moore was sacked on back-to-back plays and the Dolphins were pushed back in their own territory and still opted to go for it on 4th-and-long. The Patriots were likely to kick a field goal that wouldn’t have impacted the spread or closing total result but on a conservative third down rush, Dion Lewis broke through for a 25-yard gain down to the 4-yard-line. Two plays later with a successful extra-point, the Patriots led by 18. Miami gained just five net yards on its final two possessions before Moore was intercepted on a first down play to prevent any backdoor potential. The touchdown for the Patriots also sealed up the ‘over’ on a total that climbed from 47 to 49.

Atlanta Falcons (-10) 34, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 (47): Atlanta led 27-6 early in the third quarter, but consecutive Peyton Barber touchdowns put the Buccaneers in position to cover, trailing 27-20. Atlanta fumbled on its next possession to set the underdog Buccaneers up near midfield for a great opportunity to tie the game. The Buccaneers reached the Atlanta 18-yard-line and opted to go for it on 4th-and-1 rather than kicking a field goal to get closer with still seven minutes to go. They didn’t convert and Atlanta went 81 yards to score a touchdown just after the two-minute-warning, getting past the double-digit favorite spread and locking up the ‘over’ as well.

Carolina Panthers (-6) 35, New York Jets 27 (39½): The Jets led 20-18 early in the fourth quarter after settling for a 19-yard field goal from 1st-and-goal at the one-yard-line. New York’s defense held Carolina to a three-and-out, but disaster struck for the Jets with a fumble returned for a touchdown putting the Panthers up by six with Carolina getting the two-point-conversion. With momentum gone, the Jets were forced to quickly punt on the next possession and Kaelin Clay delivered a 60-yard punt return touchdown to put the Panthers up by 12 with a pair of non-offensive scores.

New York backers got a glimmer of hope back as the Jets completed a touchdown drive with five minutes remaining to climb back to within five, enough for most to cover on a spread that climbed from +4½ to +6. The spread result ultimately came down to a 3rd-and-11 play from near midfield just ahead of the two-minute-warning. Cam Newton threw an incomplete pass but was handed a roughing the passer penalty after calling out at the nearby official. That gave the Panthers a new set of downs and they slowly ran into field goal range as the Jets burned through timeouts. On 4th-and-3 with 21 seconds to go, Ron Rivera opted to kick the field goal which was good from 45 yards for an eight-point final margin and a narrow road favorite cover.

Tennessee Titans (-3) 20, Indianapolis Colts 16 (46½): The Colts led 16-6 late in the third quarter, but fumbled on a backwards pitch that was dropped deep in their own territory. Two plays later, the Titans were in the end zone and within three points. Well into the fourth quarter after three straight punts, the Titans put together a 77-yard scoring drive to score with under six minutes to play. The extra point took the Titans past the road favorite spread for a great reversal of fortune and another late game failure for Indianapolis.

Arizona Cardinals (+6) 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 24 (37): The Cardinals led 16-3 well into the third quarter as the underdog cover looked fairly safe against a limited Jacksonville offense. The Jaguars climbed to within six late in the third quarter and then scored on defense early in the fourth quarter to suddenly lead by one. Arizona responded with a 52-yard touchdown pass and with a two-point conversion, the Cardinals were back up by seven and the ‘over’ was cleared on one of the lower totals of the week.

Jacksonville got a great kick return to start in Arizona territory and tied the game halfway through the final frame. Disaster appeared to strike for the Cardinals with an interception near midfield, but about a minute later, Blake Bortles had the same fate. Arizona punted to the Jacksonville 10-yard-line with 1:21 remaining and the Jaguars could have taken the game to overtime as Arizona had just one timeout. They opted to throw on second down with an incomplete pass stopping the clock. Arizona got the ball back at its own 39-yard-line and managed to pick up 22 yards including the second completion out-of-bounds holding up after replay review. That left time for Phil Dawson to hit a 57-yard field goal as the Cardinals won without putting both side results back in play in overtime.

Baltimore Ravens (-7½) 23, Houston Texans 16 (39½): The Ravens led just 17-13 through three quarters, but hit a field goal to lead by seven on a spread that was right at -7 most of the week and reached -7½ at most outlets Monday afternoon. Houston responded with a field goal with just over eight minutes to go and got the ball back but Tom Savage fumbled near midfield on a first down sack. Baltimore did enough to add another field goal to go back up by seven with just under three minutes to play, a key three points for total players as well with a total that climbed from 38 to 39½. Savage was intercepted throwing deep on 2nd-and-1 just before the two-minute-warning. Baltimore was able to pick up a first down on a Joe Flacco scramble as the Ravens held on for the win with half-point results on the closing line in favor of the underdog and the ‘under’.

  
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