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Titans’ two-point gamble fails so Chargers win

Tennessee and quarterback Marcus Mariota nearly pulled off their third unlikely late-game comeback win of the season on Sunday. The odds just caught up to them.

Against the Los Angeles Chargers at Wembley Stadium in London, England, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel showed he has great faith in Mariota.

After the fourth-year QB hit tight end Luke Stocker on a fourth-and-goal one-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds left, to narrow the Chargers’ lead to 20-19, Vrabel decided to go for two, rather than kick a one-pointer and force overtime.

After a Los Angeles defensive-holding penalty moved the ball to the one-yard yard line, Mariota missed receiver Taywan Taylor on a pass tipped up and over by Chargers safety Adrian Phillips.

Los Angeles recovered Tennessee’s ensuing onside kick attempt and won 20-19.

Mariota in September twice had engineered late-game scoring drives to win.

“I’m not going to second-guess the call,” Vrabel said. “It just didn’t work out … I have full confidence in (my players) to make the plays, and that’s why I make the decisions that I’ve made.”

For his part, Mariota said he “loved the call. I love that (Vrabel) has confidence in us to go make that. We just didn’t execute.”

Philly not so special anymore

Philly is most decidedly not special through seven weeks of the NFL season.

The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles blew a 17-0 fourth-quarter lead at home on Sunday and lost 21-17 to the Carolina Panthers.

The Eagles are now 3-4, the Panthers 4-2.

After being so special a year ago, especially on offence when piloted so spectacularly by temp starter Nick Foles in the playoffs, the Eagles have landed with a thump this year.

Whether quarterbacked by Foles in Weeks 1 and 2, or since then by Carson Wentz (upon his full recovery from the mangled knee he suffered last December), Philadelphia is, at best, average on offence in 2018.

They struggle running the ball, they can’t protect their quarterbacks as well, they’re having troubles scoring in the red zone and the defence has been carved late in games.

After Philly took a 17-0 lead with 39 seconds left in the third, quarterback Cam Netwon led the Panthers – who to that point had gained just 135 total yards – on consecutive touchdown drives of 80, 87 and 69 yards.

Carolina’s winning score came with 1:22 left on a one-yard third-and-goal pass from Newton to tight end Greg Olsen, in his second game back from an ankle injury.

Wentz drove the Eagles deep into Carolina territory with a chance to win it with a TD, but was strip-sacked by 38-year-old Julius Peppers and Carolina recovered to seal the deal.

“They just made more plays. Nothing changed,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said when asked what changed in the fourth quarter. “Same guys, same people out there. They just made more plays than we did … Schematically, nothing changed.”

Bucs beat Browns on 59-yard field goal

Hey, the Bucs didn’t stop here.

Losers of four straight after a 2-0 start, and just days after firing their defensive coordinator Mike Smith, and despite coughing up leads of 16-2 at halftime and 23-9 early in the fourth quarter, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the visiting Cleveland Browns in overtime, 26-23.

Chandler Catanzaro, who’d missed an attempt to win it at the end of regulation with a 40-yard field goal, curled a 59-yarder just inside the right upright, and just over the crossbar, to lift Tampa Bay with 1:55 left in overtime.

The Bucs thus improved to 3-3, while the Browns fell to 2-4-1. It was Cleveland’s fourth overtime game of the season.

The Browns had a great chance to win on the third possession of overtime, needing only a field goal, after linebacker Jamie Collins intercepted Bucs QB Jameis Winston at the Tampa Bay 45-yard line.

But Cleveland netted zero yards in three plays after a seven-yard sack of rookie QB Baker Mayfield, and punted.

The Bucs then went three-and-out, but second-year Tampa Bay tight end Antony Auclair of Notre-Dame-des-Pins, Que., stripped the ball from Browns punt returner Jabrill Peppers, and the Bucs recovered at the Cleveland 48.

After four plays netted seven yards, Catanzaro kicked his winner.

“We’ve got to find a way to finish these games, in the W column,” Browns head coach Hue Jackson said.

Hail no! Bears come up a yard short vs. Pats

Completing a long Hail Mary pass is unlikely enough. Completing it to the one-yard line as time expires is not only ridiculously unlikely, it’s just plain cruelty.

That’s how the Chicago Bears’ 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots ended Sunday afternoon – one yard short of probably tying the game.

With the ball on their own 45-yard line and two seconds remaining, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky wound up and let fly as strong and as as high an arcing deep pass as you’ll ever see in the NFL. It came down into the hands of Bears receiver Kevin White at the New England one-yard line.

Patriots safety Duron Harmon immediately wrapped up White at that spot. Harmon’s defensive-backfield teammates J.C. Jackson and Devin McCourty slammed in and helped push White backward. Video replay confirmed White did not score.

“Just tried to fight and get in,” White said. “Tried to change the game, make a big-time play. So after I caught it, I thought I had a chance, like I said, for a split-second. And once I felt a bunch of guys I knew it was over.”

Trubisky finished with 414 yards of total offence, with 81 on the ground off six carries, two of which were crazy, weaving scrambles – the first for an eight-yard score that gave Chicago a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter, the second that went for 39 yards and set up a go-ahead touchdown for Chicago early in the third quarter.

An NBC computer tracker determined that Trubisky on his TD run, after a deep spin-around that took him as far as 22 yards behind the line of scrimmage, ran 71.9 yards on his eight-yard score.

New England needed two big-play return touchdowns to win it. Cordarrelle Patterson returned a first-half kickoff 95 yards for one score, and linebacker Kyle Van Noy returned a blocked punt 29 yards for a third-quarter TD that broke a 24-24 tie.

New England improved to 5-2, and for the first time all season sits alone in first place in the AFC East – all too familiar territory. Chicago fell to 3-3, now behind both Minnesota (4-2-1) and Green Bay (3-2-1) in the NFC North and tied with Detroit.

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