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NFL Close Calls – Divisional Playoffs

NFL Close Calls – Divisional Playoffs

01/16/2017

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 the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs.

Philadelphia Eagles (+2½) 15, Atlanta Falcons 10 (40½): Atlanta took advantage of two Eagles turnovers to lead 10-6 but Philadelphia cut the margin to 10-9 just before halftime, having missed an extra-point in the second quarter. Philadelphia took a 12-10 lead in the third quarter and had to settle for a 21-yard field goal with six minutes remaining, unable to put the game away. The five-point margin set-up for a wild finish relative to the spread as if Atlanta scored a touchdown they would certainly go for two with a one-point lead, meaning that a two-point conversion would have decided the spread outcome on a line that was at +3 much of the week before dipping to +2½. The Falcons converted a 4th down play just past midfield with just over three minutes remaining and eventually reached 1st-and-goal with 1:19 to go. Incomplete passes occurred on 1st and 2nd downs. The Falcons completed a short pass in bounds on 3rd down to reach the 2-yard line. Philadelphia took a timeout to preserve some time if they surrendered the lead and the game came down to a 4th down throw with Julio Jones unable to haul in the high pass with Matt Ryan under pressure as the home underdog Eagles held home field to advance to the NFC Championship.

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New England Patriots (-13½) 35, Tennessee Titans 14 (48): The Titans looked like a viable threat in this game with a 7-0 lead after the first quarter but the Patriots would score three touchdowns in the second quarter to take control. Tennessee’s offensive line lost right tackle Jack Conklin and a banged-up Marcus Mariota was under great pressure in the second half. The Patriots had the outcome in hand with a 35-7 edge with 10 minutes remaining but the total remained in play. Tennessee got the ball back with about six minutes remaining and converted a 4th-and-11 at the New England 29-yard-line with just over three minutes remaining in a play that could have effectively sealed the ‘under’. Eventually facing 4th-and-9 after the two-minute warning the Titans narrowly struck the end zone with a completion to Corey Davis, with the extra-point sealing the ‘over’. That close sideline play withstood review as did another big play for the Titans on the drive which was too little too late for a Titans team that was burned by a couple of very questionable calls in New England’s favor early in the game.

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Minnesota Vikings (-5½) 29, New Orleans Saints 24 (46½): The Vikings led 17-0 at halftime with those on the ‘under’ getting both teams to miss on field goal attempts before halftime. The ‘under’ pace remained strong with a 17-7 score through three quarters and a 20-14 score well into the fourth quarter. Some of the wildest minutes in playoff history would follow however as the Saints took a 21-20 lead at the 3:01 mark following a blocked punt. Minnesota reached the edge of field goal range at the 1:47 mark but continued to throw with a pair of incomplete passes and a completion out of bounds allowing very little time to come off the clock before Kai Forbath made a 53-yard field goal to put Minnesota up 23-21. The Vikings had a chance to seal the win and the ‘under’ but the Saints converted a 4th-and-10 throw with 45 seconds remaining and then delivered a 43-yard field goal to take the lead, hitting the ‘over’ in the process as well. With just 10 seconds on the clock the Vikings faced 3rd down from their own 39-yard-line with no timeouts remaining. Hoping to get a chunk of yardage to set up a field goal try Stefon Diggs hauled down a pass near the sideline and avoided a diving defender to have a clear path to the end zone for a miraculous finish. The Vikings eventually would take a knee on the conversion attempt following a long celebration as the final margin landed at five, in between an opening spread of -3½ and a closing number that hit -5½ at many outlets.