For the first time since week 10 of the 2017 season, the NFC South teams went 4 and 0. None of the wins, however, were as straight forward as they seemed.
Cleveland Browns @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This was a game of two halves and a bit. Tampa Bay, with a new Defensive Co-ordinator calling the shots, blew the Cleveland Browns away in the first half. Dominant on Defense and efficient on Offense, the Bucs should have been home and dry at half-time. It wasn’t all good news for the Bucs though as Linebacker Kwon Alexander suffered what turned out to be a season ending knee injury just before half-time.
This injury seemed to affect Tampa as the Offense came out flat at the start of the second half. The Browns could sense the mood change as they came back from a two touchdown deficit. Led by their rookie Quarterback, Baker Mayfield, as he started to find his rhythm, and more importantly, his Wide Receivers.
Still, the Bucs should have won the game at the end of regulation. Marching deep into Cleveland territory with all three timeouts and over 40 seconds remaining, Dirk Koetter lost the plot. Tampa opted to try a 40 yard field goal attempt from a Kicker who had already missed a PAT.
The attempt missed right as the clock expired and the teams prepared for the additional 10 minute period. Interceptions, fumbles, muffed punt returns all followed before Tampa, incredibly, decided to go for a 59 yard field goal attempt. Even more incredibly, Chandler Catanzaro, stuck the kick through the posts much to everyone’s surprise to give Tampa a huge win after three successive defeats.
New Orleans Saints @ Baltimore Ravens
Much was expected out of this match-up between two in-form teams with winning records and it didn’t disappoint.
In a see-saw game, the Saints appeared to take an unassailable lead into the final minute of this tight encounter. Ravens Quarterback, Joe Flacco, is nothing if not reliable and yet again he delivered. With seconds remaining, he marched his team into the end zone to take the game into overtime. All that was left to do was for kicking legend, Justin Tucker, to knock the extra point through the uprights.
Since entering the NFL in 2012, Tucker was 222 out of 222 on extra points. Incredibly, for the first time in his career, Tucker went full-on Catanzaro and knocked the extra point attempt wide right. The home crowd looked on in disbelief as the Saints earned a hard fought road win.
Carolina Panthers @ Philadelphia Eagles
Having already disposed of NFC South opposition in the Atlanta Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles were expected to put the Carolina Panthers to the sword in a similar manner.
The game certainly looked that way as the Eagles found themselves in what should have been an unassailable position. With less than 11 minutes left on the clock and 17-0 ahead, the Eagles were practically home and dry. Throw in the fact that the Panthers have yet to win on the road this season then this game was over. Or should have been.
Inspired by their talismanic leader, Cam Newton, the Panthers scored a touchdown on three successive drives in the final 11 minutes with the final one to Cam’s security blanket, Greg Olsen. The result was an astonishing come from behind win for the Panthers over the current Super Bowl Champions.
New York Giants @ Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are are keeping their season alive, just. After a last gasp win at home in week 6 against the Bucs, the much maligned New York Giants were the visitors to the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Week 7.
Another topsy turvy game followed as a much improved Giants team matched their opponents with the exception of one crucial stat; scoring. In a season full off record breaking scoring, the Giants can’t score. Two trips to the redzone resulted in a grand total of three points. Still, despite Big Nlue’s inefficiencies, it took a gutsy call from Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn put this game just out of reach for the G-Men.
Faced with a crucial 4th down, the Falcons opted to go for a 56 yard field goal attempt. Atlanta kicker, Giorgio Tavecchio was just signed during the week as a replacement for Mr Reliable, Matt Bryant. Bryant had injured himself on a similar game winning attempt in the previous weeks game from 59 yards. Like Bryant, Tavecchio knocked it through the uprights to give the Falcons a two score lead which they ultimately held on to record their third win of the season.
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