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Most 4th Quarter Comebacks In NFL History

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#1 Falconsfan567™

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Posted 22 July 2010 - 11:21 PM

Forty-seven. The most famous number when it comes to quarterbacks and fourth quarter comebacks is 47. It may also be the most misleading number in NFL history. No matter what source you look at, John Elway is credited with a NFL record 47 comebacks in the 4th quarter. This leads much credence to the "clutchness" of a QB in his career, and is often cited in debates between Elway and other great QBs. But if you research all of his wins, you will have found that he is being credited for comeback wins in a game that ended in an overtime tie, and in several games the Broncos never trailed in the fourth quarter. You cannot come back when there's no deficit to come back from. Dan Marino, always credited with 37 comebacks, has been ranked in 2nd place since retirement. Even DanMarino.com has 37.

Currently, Marino sits 3rd behind Favre (42 is the widely reported number) and Elway (lucky 47). But when the PR staff for the Miami Dolphins exclude wins that the Dolphins never trailed in the 4th quarter, while the Favre and Elway people do not, does that not suggest a serious issue with the validity of these “records”? And why has this been allowed to go on for over a decade?

That's where my research comes in.


In part I, we are going to look at just Elway and Marino’s comebacks. In part II, I will show how several other QBs have had their comebacks tracked and try to create a standard method of crediting comebacks and game-winning drives.

I have taken the time to go through each player's career and get to the bottom of things. As I looked through the games, I used a source for each QB to guide me through how they had arrived at the widely reported numbers.

Marino, from a Dolphins site
Elway, from the HOF website

I will point out the issues with those games, and bring up games missed by those lists. Before starting with Marino, let’s quickly create the definition of a comeback (there will be more detail on this in part II).

For it to be a 4th quarter comeback win, you must:

Win the game (no ties or losses)
Take the field with a 1--8 pt deficit (1--7 prior to 1994) and score as an offense (no fumble return TD to win the game)
It does not have to be the final winning score (hence, that applies to the number of game-winning drives)
Got it? Now it’s time for the data. Note that this includes both postseason and regular season.

Marino is credited with 37 comebacks and 13 game-winning drives (games where the Dolphins did not trail in the 4th quarter and he broke a tie for the win). My data has 51 games, and the boxscores to those games are listed below. An asterisk (*) denotes games that were drives to break a tie and are not comebacks.

*1983-11-06  @ SFO   W 20-17     [1]
1983-12-04  @ HOU   W 24-17     [2]
1984-11-04  @ NYJ   W 31-17
1984-11-11    PHI   W 24-23
*1984-12-17    DAL   W 28-21
1985-10-06    PIT   W 24-20
*1985-10-20    TAM   W 41-38
1985-11-10    NYJ   W 21-17
1985-12-08  @ GNB   W 34-24
*1985-12-16    NWE   W 30-27
1986-01-04    CLE   W 24-21
1986-11-16  @ BUF   W 34-24
*1986-12-14  @ RAM   W 37-31 OT
1987-11-01    PIT   W 35-24
1987-12-20    WAS   W 23-21
1988-10-16    SDG   W 31-28
*1988-12-12    CLE   W 38-31
*1989-10-08    CLE   W 13-10 OT
1989-10-15  @ CIN   W 20-13
*1989-10-22    GNB   W 23-20
1989-11-19  @ DAL   W 17-14
1990-09-09  @ NWE   W 27-24
1990-10-07    NYJ   W 20-16
1990-12-09    PHI   W 23-20 OT
1991-01-05    KAN   W 17-16
*1991-09-22    GNB   W 16-13     [3]
*1991-11-10    NWE   W 30-20
1991-11-24  @ CHI   W 16-13 OT
1992-09-14  @ CLE   W 27-23
1992-09-27  @ SEA   W 19-17
1992-10-11    ATL   W 21-17
1992-11-22    HOU   W 19-16
1992-12-20    NYJ   W 19-17
1992-12-27  @ NWE   W 16-13 OT
1993-09-05  @ IND   W 24-20
1994-09-04    NWE   W 39-35
1994-10-16    RAI   W 20-17 OT
1994-11-06    IND   W 22-21
1994-11-27  @ NYJ   W 28-24
1995-10-01  @ CIN   W 26-23
*1995-11-05  @ SDG   W 24-14
1995-12-03    ATL   W 21-20
*1996-11-17  @ HOU   W 23-20     [4]
1997-09-07    TEN   W 16-13 OT
*1997-10-05    KAN   W 17-14
*1997-12-07    DET   W 33-30
1998-10-25    NWE   W 12- 9 OT
*1999-01-02    BUF   W 24-17
1999-10-10  @ IND   W 34-31
1999-12-19    SDG   W 12- 9
2000-01-09  @ SEA   W 20-17

There are four issues with these games (the ones with a bracketed number) that I have resolved.

[1] It is not known what 13 games a few sources have listed as the games Marino led a game-winning drive to break a tie, but I’m guessing they are missing one from his rookie season against the 49ers (source). The Dolphins led 17-14 to start the 4th before Joe Montana drove the 49ers to a game-tying field goal. Marino led the game-winning field goal drive for the Dolphins, picking up yardage on a Ronnie Lott pass interference penalty. This makes Marino +1 in overall 4th quarter wins (51).

[2] The dolphinsinfo.com source misses Marino’s very first comeback, also from his rookie year. At Houston on 12/4/83, the Dolphins trailed 17-10 starting the 4th. Marino threw a TD to Tony Nathan to tie the game at 17. Later he led an 82 yd drive for the winning TD in a 24-17 win (source). Marino was injured and left the game the play before the Nathan TD. But by virtue of his TD to Nathan and being out there for most of the game-winning drive, this is most definitely a 4th quarter comeback, the first of Marino's career. So Marino is +1 in both comebacks (38) and overall GW drives (51).

[3] 9/22/1991 vs. Green Bay - the Dolphins started the 4th quarter trailing 13-6. The Miami offense had been rather impotent to this point. NT Chuck Klingbeil recovered a Don Majkowski fumble for a TD to tie the game at 13. So this cannot be a comeback since Marino never did anything while trailing. Marino completed a 40 yard pass to Duper to set up the winning field goal for a 16-13 win. This is a game-winning drive, not a comeback. So subtract a comeback (that'd keep him at 37).

[4] 11/17/1996 vs. Houston - Similarly, the Dolphins trailed 17-13 to start the 4th quarter. Zach Thomas scored on an interception return to take a 20-17 lead. This cannot be a Marino comeback. The Oilers tied the game on a field goal at 20-20. Marino then led a game-winning field goal drive for a 23-20 win. This is a game-winning drive, not a comeback. Subtract it from the total (36).

Marino results: Marino had 51 overall wins decided in the 4th quarter/overtime, and 36 of them are comebacks. This is one less than what he's usually credited with.

Elway is credited with 47 comebacks. According to the HOF article and in the Denver media guide, "Elway chalked up a record 47 fourth quarter come-from-behind comebacks during his pro career." Come-from-behind? Not quite. Here is my list of 50 Elway games, again with asterisks pointing out games that were not comebacks.

1983-12-11    BAL   W 21-19
1984-11-04    NWE   W 26-19
1984-11-11  @ SDG   W 16-13
*1984-12-09    SDG   W 16-13
1985-09-22  @ ATL   W 44-28
*1985-10-20    SEA   W 13-10 OT  [1]
1985-11-11    SFO   W 17-16
1985-11-17    SDG   W 30-24 OT
1985-12-01  @ PIT   W 31-23
1985-12-14    KAN   W 14-13
1985-12-20  @ SEA   W 27-24
1986-09-07    RAI   W 38-36
1987-01-11  @ CLE   W 23-20
*1987-09-20  @ GNB   T 17-17 OT  [4]
1987-11-16    CHI   W 31-29
1987-12-06    NWE   W 31-20
*1988-01-17    CLE   W 38-33
1988-10-09  @ SFO   W 16-13 OT
1989-10-08    SDG   W 16-10
1989-10-22  @ SEA   W 24-21 OT
*1989-11-12  @ KAN   W 16-13
1990-01-07    PIT   W 24-23
1990-09-17    KAN   W 24-23
*1990-09-23    SEA   W 34-31 OT  [2]
*1990-10-21  @ IND   W 27-17
*1991-10-20    KAN   W 19-16
*1991-10-27  @ NWE   W  9- 6
*1991-12-08  @ CLE   W 17- 7
1991-12-15    PHO   W 24-19
1992-01-04    HOU   W 26-24
1992-09-06    RAI   W 17-13
1992-10-04    KAN   W 20-19
1992-10-18    HOU   W 27-21
1993-12-12    KAN   W 27-21
1994-10-23  @ SDG   W 20-15
*1994-11-13    SEA   W 17-10     [3]
1994-11-20    ATL   W 32-28
*1995-09-17    WAS   W 38-31
*1995-11-19    SDG   W 30-27
1995-12-24  @ OAK   W 31-28
1996-09-15    TAM   W 27-23
1996-10-20    BAL   W 45-34
1996-11-04  @ OAK   W 22-21
1996-11-24  @ MIN   W 21-17
*1997-10-26  @ BUF   W 23-20 OT
*1997-11-02    SEA   W 30-27
1998-01-04  @ KAN   W 14-10
*1998-01-25  @ GNB   W 31-24
1998-11-01  @ CIN   W 33-26
1998-12-06    KAN   W 35-31

Again, several issues here. First, the Broncos' PR people must have fallen asleep while looking at games against the Seattle Seahawks. There were three Seattle games where Elway should be credited with a game-winning drive (but no comebacks since they never trailed).

[1] 10/20/85 vs. Seattle – Denver led 10-7 to start the 4th quarter. Seattle forced OT with a field goal. After the teams traded punts twice, Dave Krieg threw an interception that put Denver at the Seahawks' 15 yard line. The offense, with Elway, came out and ran 3 plays for 8 yards. They kicked a 24 yd FG for the 13-10 OT win. Hardly the stuff of legends, but it still counts as a game-winning drive.

[2] 9/23/90 vs. Seattle – Denver led 28-24 to start the 4th. After adding a field goal to the lead, Seattle forces overtime with a TD for a 31-31 tie. In OT, Elway completes three passes and Bobby Humphrey ran 26 yards on a draw on a 66 yard drive that led to the winning field goal.

[3] 11/13/94 vs. Seattle – Denver led 10-3 to start the 4th quarter, only to see the Seahawks tie the game on a TD run. Denver answered with the winning TD drive, capped by a Leonard Russell 11 yard TD run. On the 9-play, 80 yard winning drive, Elway completed all five of his passes.

None of the three are comebacks, but they are game-winning drives. I was thinking the reason Denver people didn't list the first two is because they have nothing to do with the 4th quarter; they were OT drives. The third one was not, and they just flat out missed it.

But if you look closely at that Denver/HOF link with the 47 games, you'll find this gem:

"Oct. 26, 1997 at Buffalo — Directs 9-play, 43-yards drive in 4:47 during overtime to set up a 33-yard Jason Elam field goal with 1:56 remaining on the clock, giving Denver a 23-20 win."

That’s right; it is the exact same situation as the first two games they missed. This is why my Elway data includes 50 games (the 49 wins and the tie). Of those 50 games, 15 of them saw Elway lead a game-winning drive without ever trailing in the 4th quarter. Subtract these 15 from the comeback total, and that makes it 35 comebacks.

Some people have mentioned backup QB Gary Kubiak filling in for an injured Elway and finishing off a winning drive, thinking that Elway should not get credit. This was on 12/20/85 vs. Seattle (something about Elway and Seattle). That thinking is wrong. Twice, Elway led game-tying touchdown drives in the 4th quarter when Denver trailed by 7. With the game tied, he completed a 27 yard pass, and then was knocked out of the game. Kubiak scrambled to finish off the drive and they won on a field goal. Elway deserves credit for this one, one of his finest comebacks and NFL games period.

[4] Finally there's the issue of the 17-17 tie against Green Bay in 1987. Granted, the Broncos were down 17-10 and he led an 18-play drive to tie the game at 17. But the next 20+ minutes of the game were scoreless and the game ended in a tie. While this technically can be seen as a comeback, there's no win attached to it. Call it a tying comeback, a special situation, but do not call it a comeback win. Subtract this one too.

Elway results: Elway had 49 overall wins decided in the 4th quarter/overtime, and 34 of them are comebacks, and another game was a comeback that produced a tie. This is 13 fewer than he gets credit for, and the overall number of drives is fewer than Marino's.

Even if you count the tie, it's still 51 to 50 in favor of Marino. If you count the tie as a comeback, it’s still 36 to 35 in favor of Marino for comebacks. No matter what you wish to call them, Marino has more than Elway, and deserves to be recognized for it.

Next time we’ll look at some other QBs and how their comebacks have been tracked, not to mention how Elway may actually be only third all-time instead of the clear #1 position he has held for over a decade.

In the mean time, if you're interested in more studies of 4th quarter comebacks, see Jason McKinley's article at Football Outsiders, and Clark Heins' research, which you can read about here.

Feel free to send any special questions or comments about this to me at smk_42@yahoo.com.

#2 Falconsfan567™

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Posted 22 July 2010 - 11:22 PM

Last time we looked at 4th quarter comebacks for Dan Marino (the "new king of the 4th quarter comeback") and John Elway. Now we’re going to look at creating a
clear-cut definition of what a 4th quarter comeback is, what a game-winning drive is, and how other QBs have been tracked, and developing a standard for all teams to follow.

The ideal 4th quarter comeback analysis would be to:

1. Identify the games where a comeback (from a 1--8 pt deficit) was possible: this gives you all successes and failures. Just telling me a QB has 10 comebacks does not mean a whole heck of a lot. But if you tell me he has 10 comebacks in 13 comeback opportunities, I can probably say he’s doing a great job. If he has 10 comebacks in 30 opportunities, he might be someone only as good as Jon Kitna.

2. Identify the situation of the drive: time it started and ended, starting field position, number of timeouts, etc. Not all comebacks/drives are created equal. It’s a lot harder to come back from a 4-8 pt deficit with 30 seconds and no timeouts than it is to start the 4th quarter on the 1-yard line, down by a point.

3. Collect the drive statistics: attempts, completions, yards, length and number of plays, etc. Just your usual QB statistics. Obviously going 8/8 for 80 yards and a TD beats going 1/5 for 8 yards to set up a long FG.

4. Create advanced statistics to better understand performance: average deficit, average yards to go, average time left, points per drive, percentage of 3-and-outs, turnover likelihood, “blown saves”, etc. Along with having the number of successes and failures, this would be the most useful part of comeback
analysis. This is how you can begin to answer who’s really the biggest choker in the league. Unfortunately you need solid play-by-play data here, so the number of seasons you can obtain this type of data is greatly limited.

The problem is that we’re still stuck in stage one after all these years. Due to a semantics argument/hiccup/tie-up, no one is able to agree on a consensus definition of what a 4th quarter comeback or game-winning drive in the 4th quarter/overtime is.


Take a look at this game for Drew Bledsoe. The Patriots trailed 13-10 to start the 4th quarter. They got a FG to tie it, later a FG to win it. 4th quarter comeback for Drew right? Well, a look at the play-by-play shows the final play of the 3rd quarter was a failed 3rd down conversion by the Patriot offense. The first play of the 4th quarter was a 21 yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri on 4th down. That means Bledsoe and the offense never took the field in the 4th quarter with a deficit, therefore no comeback opportunity. It’s a game-winning drive only. I do have a fear that for seasons without play-by-play data on the net that these types of things can happen once in a while where the first play of the 4th quarter is a tying/go-ahead FG.

Let’s stick with another Bledsoe example. This time, it’s a game from 1995.
The game was tied at 14 to start the 4th QT. After Bledsoe leads a FG drive, Boomer Esiason throws a TD for a 21-17 Jets lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Dave Meggett fumbles, but sure-handed teammate Troy Brown is there to scoop up the ball and return it 75 yards for a TD and 24-21 lead. Ty Law intercepts Boomer, Curtis Martin puts it away with a 1-yard TD run. Bledsoe should not get credit for a comeback, as it was purely a special teams play that erased the one deficit they had in the quarter. But, by virtue of his FG drive when it was tied at 14, he is credited with a 4th quarter win.

So it can admittedly get confusing. There is a situation that happens once in a blue moon that confuses
even me. What do you do with a game like this one? (And it’s purely coincidental that I reference a game involving Miami and Denver)

The Dolphins trailed 10-0 to start the 4th quarter. Marino’s successor, Jay Fiedler, already was driving the offense into the redzone when the quarter began. Fiedler throws the 11-yard TD pass to Chris Chambers to make it a 10-7 Denver lead. On the ensuing drive, Elway’s successor, Brian Griese, is intercepted for a TD and a 14-10 Miami lead that they never give up. Denver fumbles the kickoff, which Miami turns into another TD for a 21-10 final.

Does Fiedler get credit for a comeback? He did lead the initial TD drive, which if he did not, Miami may never win the game. It is obviously not a game-winning drive, as the defense scored the winning points. However, Fiedler never took the field with a tie or 1-8 point deficit. Is it a comeback you give him credit for? I lean towards yes, but I’m not as confident with this type of situation as I am the others.

What makes this really interesting is Brian Griese never even got the opportunity to lead a comeback from a 1-8 pt deficit because of the fumbled kickoff. Yet the whole reason they were down in the first place was his pick 6 thrown with the lead. That is a mind-bender of an example, and I do not want to see too many
of those kind.

What can we do to define a 4th quarter comeback once and for all? I’m going to lay out several steps to follow when analyzing a game to see if it’s a comeback/game-winning drive.

1. The game in question was a victory: This is the easiest part of tabulating comebacks. You only need to look at games won (you can look at losses if you’re trying to get the number of opportunities, but that’s more time consuming and especially difficult prior to the play-by-play era). When it comes to ties, I think they are worth a look. If it was prior to 1974 (the season the NFL instituted overtime), they could mean more than post-OT ties. For example, this game with Joe Namath was a pretty impressive 4th quarter performance. Down 24-7, he threw two TD passes and led a tying FG to preserve a 24-24 tie instead of a sure defeat. That is a lot better than the tie we looked at in Elway’s
career. But generally, we’re looking at QBs in the OT-era, and a tie doesn’t cut it in today’s game.

2. Some type of offensive scoring drive put points on the board in the 4th quarter while the team trailed by one possession or were tied: It is ok if the
drive started in the 3rd quarter; as long as it finished in the 4th with the offense still on the field (this eliminates the Bledsoe/Cincinnati situation). It is ok if it’s a FG or TD, as long as the offense was on the field for it. It is ok if it’s in overtime.

3. There can be a difference between a comeback and game-winning (GW) drive: FOR IT TO BE A COMEBACK, THE OFFENSE MUST OVERCOME A DEFICIT. Trust me; the importance of that statement justifies the usage of the caps lock. Not all comebacks are GW drives, not all GW drives are comebacks. If you never trailed in the 4th quarter, but the game is tied and you lead a drive to win the game, that is a GW drive, not a comeback. I’ll use the reigning champion 2008 Steelers as an example, considering they’re recent and six of their 19 games played were won in this fashion.

In their first meeting against the Ravens, the Steelers led 17-13 to start the 4th quarter. They added a FG, then Baltimore tied the game at 20 with a TD. In OT, the Steelers drove for the game-winning FG.

RESULT – Game-winning drive (OT), not a comeback

Against the Dallas Cowboys, the Steelers trailed 13-3 to start the 4th quarter. They added a FG to cut the deficit to 13-6. Roethlisberger then completed 4 passes for 57 yards and the tying-TD to Heath Miller. On the very next drive, Tony Romo was intercepted by Deshea Townsend for the winning TD in a 20-13 victory.

RESULT – 4th Quarter Comeback, not a game-winning drive.

In Super Bowl 43, the Steelers blew their 20-7 lead and found themselves trailing 23-20 in the final 2:30. Roethlisberger led the historic TD drive, capped off with Holmes’ game-winning catch for a 27-23 victory.

RESULT – 4th Quarter Comeback and game-winning drive.

Those are three different examples of the types of 4th quarter wins you can achieve, and with the help of boxscores, play-by-play and newspaper articles/archives, it should not be that difficult to classify them.

Checklist of questions to ask:

Did the team win the game?

- If the answer is no, then move onto the next game.

Did the QB ever have the ball in the 4th quarter or overtime with a tie or deficit of 1--8 pts?

- If the answer is no, then move onto the next game.

Did the winning team ever trail in the 4th quarter?

- If the answer is no, then this cannot be a comeback.

Did the offense produce the winning points or was it a return by the defense/special teams?

- If the answer is yes, then it’s a game-winning drive (and if there was a deficit, a comeback).

- If the answer is no, then the QB/offense does not get credit unless they did something to force a tie or get a lead at some point.

Did the offense produce a tying drive and then watched the defense/special teams score the winning points?

- If the answer is ‘yes’, then it’s a comeback, but not a game-winning drive.

All of these types of drives are positives for the offense and QB in question. Winning a game that is tied may not be as impressive as overcoming a deficit, but if you never make the plays to do it, that game may result in a loss. I think all of these kinds of drives and comebacks should be bunched together into one collection of games, and we can call them something like “4th Quarter/Overtime Wins” or “Wins Decided in the 4th Quarter/Overtime”. Then in addition to that total number, we can say how many of those wins were comebacks. That is what I did with Marino & Elway in part I. I said Marino had 51 overall wins and 36 were comebacks, while Elway had 49 & 34 (50 & 35 if you want to count that tie).

When the networks decide to show just how many comebacks/GW-drives Eli Manning has when that situation comes up in a game, they can display two numbers: 14 wins, 12 comebacks. This lets the viewer know how many comebacks he has, how many times he only had to break a tie, and overall how many times he’s come through in this drive situation they’re about to see unfold.

A popular term some teams use in their media guides are "game-saving" drives. This would be fine if everyone else was on board with it and counted games the same way. But there is no standardization and teams can basically count whatever they want. My method would provide structure. It would keep things on an even level.

Let me just state that John Elway (or any other QB) did not do anything wrong here. To the best of my knowledge, he did not instruct the Broncos to count any game they could as a comeback. The Broncos were allegedly the first team to keep track of comebacks after being asked by fans how many comebacks Elway had in the 80’s. Other teams followed suit for their star QBs, but not everyone used the same definition of a comeback. The following is a table that shows how various teams calculated comeback totals differently for some popular QBs. Using my methods to track these games, I put my actual number of comebacks up against the widely reported figure.

QB                 Reported     Actual
John Elway              47        34
Brett Favre             42        27
Dan Marino              37        36
Peyton Manning          37        28
Drew Bledsoe            32        24
Joe Montana             31        31
Johnny Unitas           31        34
Tom Brady               28        20
Roger Staubach          23        15
Ben Roethlisberger      19        15
Chad Pennington          7         7
Jay Cutler               7         5

The very first question you may ask is, "why are Chad Pennington and Jay Cutler on that list?" It’s just to show that the Dolphins and Broncos are staying true to form in their tabulations. The Broncos have no problem mentioning games that broke ties, while the Dolphins only focus on true comebacks.

Ben Roethlisberger already having 15 legit comebacks in five seasons is pretty impressive. If he can stay healthy and the Steelers continue their winning ways, he could be a threat to challenge the record holder (which is Elway, should be Marino, probably will be Peyton) some day. In the 2008 Steelers media guide, they list Ben as having 13 game-winning drives in the 4th QT/OT (12 reg. season, 1 postseason). Yet in the press release for Super Bowl 43, they say Roethlisberger had 5 during the 2008 season for a total of 17. Either they forgot to count the postseason one they had in the media guide, or they don’t want to count the postseason. With his drive against Arizona, Ben has 19 overall 4th quarter wins and 15 comebacks.

Roger Staubach was known as 'Captain Comeback', but he must have built that legacy squarely on an amazing comeback off the bench in the playoffs in 1972, and the Hail Mary to Drew Pearson against Minnesota three seasons later. He only had 15 comebacks, while every site says 23. I did locate those 23 games, and found that the Cowboys never trailed 8 times (interestingly enough 7 of the 23 games were against the Cardinals). Even the Cowboys’ official site says Staubach led 23 come-from-behind wins in the 4th quarter when they selected him the #1 Cowboy ever. My apologies to Captain Comeback and his fans, but the facts do not justify the moniker. Terry Bradshaw, a rival QB of Staubach’s, had 19 comebacks (four in the postseason). And not to stick the knife in deeper, but Troy Aikman had 16 comebacks in his career. I do not know where Danny White ranks, but Tony Romo is at 6 and counting.

I already talked about a couple Drew Bledsoe games. Now let’s look at Mr. Patriot himself, Tom Brady. Now frame this, as this will be the only time you see me defend Tom Brady. According to his Patriot bio, in the Giants victory that made New England 16-0, Brady “led the Patriots to victory after trailing in the fourth quarter for 28th time of his career.” Not true, as 9 times they never trailed. I have 29 games for Brady, but for some reason sources do not count the first game of the 2006 season against Buffalo. Trailing 17-14 to start the 4th quarter, Brady led a tying FG drive. On the ensuing drive, J.P. Losman was tackled for a safety and the Patriots won 19-17. If you’ve understood everything so far, you know that this is a 4th quarter comeback (but not a GW drive). How is this any different than one of those Elway games where Elway ties it and they return a blocked FG for a TD in overtime to win the game? It’s the same situation, yet Brady gets no credit for that game. He should have 29 overall wins and 20 comebacks.

Brett Favre is supposed to stay retired, so hopefully that will spare us any chance of the media claiming he is chasing the comeback record. He is credited with 42, but only has 27 comebacks, and is not exactly known for any real famous ones. Maybe the long game-winning TD pass to Sterling Sharpe against the Lions in the playoffs would be worth mentioning. Just not a situation Favre thrived in. The opportunities were certainly there for him to have more than anyone, but he did not come through with the record amount. A propensity for turnovers via forced throws is not what you look for in a QB in this situation.

Let’s have a round of applause for the 49ers and Chiefs for keeping it legit for Joe Montana and the 31 comebacks he made in his career. Of course it was not too hard considering he only had three other games in his career where he led a game-winning drive to break a tie. This just speaks to the dominance of the 49ers. Rarely found themselves behind in the 4th quarter, but if they were, Montana could lead them back with the best of them. Lots of memorable TD drives, and that’s what stands out about Montana. He led TD drives, several times in the playoffs, and he was usually the catalyst of the drive and the guy that threw the winning score.

According to the last press release for the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning is credited with 36 game-winning drives in the 4th QT/OT. For some reason, they choose not to include the 2006 AFC Championship, which was Manning’s shining moment. Manning threw for 155 yards in the quarter, as he led the Colts to 17 points on three scoring drives in the quarter, and a 38-34 victory. They also do not include Manning’s week 16 performance against Jacksonville from last season, another of the finest games of his career. Trailing 24-14 to start the 4th quarter, Manning passed for 110 yards on two drives to tie the game at 24. On the ensuing drive, David Garrard was intercepted by Keiwan Ratliff for the game-winning TD. Obviously, it’s a 4th quarter comeback for Manning, but he doesn’t get the credit from his own team because it wasn’t a game-winning drive. That gives Manning 38 overall wins, and 28 are comebacks. He’s the favorite to take the comeback king title, especially if the Colts play games like they did last season. In 2008 alone, Manning led 4 comebacks and 3 game-winning drives in the 4th quarter.

You may remember I mentioned at the end of part I that Elway may only rank 3rd all time in comebacks. The last QB I want to talk about is Johnny Unitas. Known for crafting the 2-minute drill, Unitas led a ton of late-game rallies in his career. The only question is how many? The same Colts media guide says Unitas had 31 as a Colt. Given that he had none in his brief appearance as a Charger, it’s safe to say they’re giving him 31 for his career. And assuming they do not count postseason like they did with Manning, they are not counting "The Greatest Game Ever Played." But 32 still does not jive with what I found. Due to the fact these are older games and things can be less accurate, I am not as confident in Unitas’ data as I am that of Elway and Marino (and the other QBs mentioned). Though I will still present the case for how Unitas can be anywhere from 3rd to 1st in comebacks.

I have 43 games for Unitas. 34 are comebacks, 7 were game-winning drives that they never trailed, and 2 were comebacks he led in games that resulted in a tie. The two ties are pretty impressive for the non-OT era. Against the Lions in 1965, Unitas threw 2 TD passes to John Mackey in the 4th quarter to force a 24-24 tie. Two years later in Minnesota, Unitas twice led the Colts to tying TDs in the 4th quarter when facing a 7 point deficit. The game ended in a 20-20 tie. If you believe that ties should count, then Unitas would have 36 comebacks, the same number as Marino; the most in history.

There is another game to consider with Unitas, and it’s another one of those nasty Fiedler/Griese examples. Playing at Detroit in 1963, the Colts trailed 21-16 to start the final quarter. Unitas led a drive that resulted in a 45 yard FG to cut the deficit to 21-19. Milt Plum, throwing his first and only pass of the game, was intercepted for a TD by Andy Nelson. The extra point failed, and the Colts had a 25-21 victory. We know Unitas did not lead a game-winning drive; the defense took care of that. We know he did not lead a comeback drive to tie the game as well. The difference between this game and the Dolphins/Broncos game is that the Colts still win this game no matter if Unitas led the FG drive or not. With the other game, Fiedler’s TD pass was crucial in giving them the lead (and win). Keeping a butterfly effect in mind, does Plum ever throw that pass at that field position if Unitas never got the FG drive? I lean towards not crediting Unitas for a comeback in this situation. They needed 5, he got them 3. Could he have led another scoring drive to win the game? Of course. The defense took care of it for him though. If you are a huge Unitas fan and want to truly believe this should count (in addition to the two ties), then that would give him 37 comebacks, the most ever. But I do not think you should count this game.

Additionally, there was a game in 1970 against Buffalo that presents a rather unique case that has yet to be discussed. The game was tied at 14 to start the 4th quarter. Unitas led a go-ahead FG drive, only to see Buffalo tie it with a FG of their own. The game would end in a tie. Unitas did not lead a game-winning drive as there was no win to attach it to. He did not lead a comeback as there was never a deficit in the 4th quarter (though the Colts did trail 14-0 in the 2nd quarter before scoring 17 unanswered). This game is a positive for Unitas, given that he helped wipe out a 14 point deficit and did lead what could have been the game-winning drive, but I think in terms of 4th quarter comeback analysis, you just make a note of this one and keep it separate from the other games.

As for explaining my discrepancy with the Colts’ media guide (34 to 31), the best I can say is they must not be counting the 1958 championship game, and they probably are not counting this game against Green Bay in 1958. The Colts trailed 17-14 to start the 4th quarter. Unitas led a tying FG drive, then the defense intercepted Bart Starr for the winning TD. This is just like the Manning/Jacksonville example, which the Colts did not count. It’s a comeback, but not a game-winning drive. Subtracting those two games, it’s still 32 to 31. My best guesses are that there are errors in a boxscore(s), Unitas may have not finished one of these scoring drives, and that the Colts just simply missed a game somewhere.

Comebacks and game-winning drives are interesting subjects. On the field they make for some of the most memorable moments in NFL history. Now if everyone can get on the same page with how to classify and analyze them, it would make discussion a lot easier and more productive. No longer should someone be able to simply drop “47” and end the debate. Maybe it’s just a fantasy of mine, but I’m looking forward to the day where someone can fire back, “well he had 6 more comebacks, but on 18 more opportunities and he only led TD drives 45% of the time and had twice as many turnovers in the process!”

Feel free to send any special questions or comments about this to me at smk_42@yahoo.com.

#3 Falconsfan567™

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Posted 22 July 2010 - 11:26 PM

Last time I wrote out my methodology in gruesome detail for tabulating comebacks and game-winning drives. What's changed since then? Now that data can be found on every QB's page at Pro-Football-Reference in it's own table.

Everything is complete through 2009 and it goes back to 1950, with some that even go further back than that. When you are looking at a QB like Dan Marino's player page, just click on the "Comebacks and game-winning drives" link above his passing table and you'll be taken to a new page with a table of all his 4th quarter wins, complete with a link to the box score, his stats for the game, and the classification (GWD, 4QC, etc.) which is located in the "Notes" column. This information has also been added to the Play Index in the Player Game Finder. So now you can do various searches for comebacks/GWDs.

Run queries such as:
* All games where the QB had a GWD and 400+ passing yards
* Most comebacks before age 28
* Most comebacks by a QB who is retired and not a Hall of Famer
* Most GWDs in the postseason

Now I'll explain the layout of these new tables. Getting back to the Marino table of comebacks, you'll notice from the green table header that he is listed with 36 4QCs and 51 GWDs. If you sort the table by clicking on "Notes", you can see the 36 comebacks followed by the 15 games listed only as "GWD". Those 15 are all the games in which Marino led the winning score in a tied game. They did not trail, so they were not comebacks.

Take a look at John Elway's page of comebacks, and you may find some conflicting numbers at first glance. The header reads 35 comebacks, which if you remember from Part 1, is different than the 34 I credited Elway with. This is because the tables count games that end in ties as comebacks. Technically, Elway did have 35 comebacks, but only 34 comeback wins. Normally we talk in terms of wins, so that tied game against the Packers from 1987 usually would not be recognized. Keep that in mind when looking at someone's table. You can see from the "Result" column that the game ended in a tie, and any query you run in the game finder will also recognize the game as a tie.

Sort Elway's table by Notes, and you'll see 32 games that fall under the 4QC/GWD classification, which simply means it was a fourth quarter comeback AND a game-winning drive. Games 33-35 just say 4QC. You'll see the tied game is there, along with two others. Any game that's noted as just "4QC" is a game in which the team trailed in the 4th quarter, and the offense scored enough points to at least tie the game. Click on the box score for those two games and you'll see that after an Elway TD pass tied the game against New England, Dennis Smith returned a fumble 64 yards for the winning TD. Since the defense provided the winning points, Elway does not get credit for the GWD. Against the Chargers, the Elway-led offense scored 17 points in the quarter (10 when trailing twice) and the game went to overtime. Louis Wright blocked a FG and returned it for a TD for the winning points, again making this a comeback win, but not a GWD. After that you just see the remaining 15 games for Elway that were all GWDs, just like Marino had.

That's basically all there is to these tables. Now for the difficult part: trying to explain the "other games of note" table you'll find at the bottom of these pages for some QBs.

Let's use Kurt Warner as an example.

First you'll notice his normal table with 9 4QCs/14 GWDs, no different than any other player's table. Now at the bottom is a second table, which lists "3 other games of note". These tables only appear for QBs that have these "unique" games in their career. They have the same columns as the other table, but the Notes are different.

You'll either see "QB deserves no credit" or "QB deserves little credit". Simple terms, but there is no simple way of explaining how this was decided.

Fortunately there have only been a little over 150 games like this, so they do not come up often. Many of them can be grouped into a few categories, which I will try to break down as neatly as possible.

But if you click on the first game for Warner you will see a game that was tied at 20 to start the final quarter. Roderick Hood intercepted Gus Frerotte for a TD to give the Cardinals a 27-20 lead, a lead which they would not relinquish. This is why the "QB deserves no credit", because it was a defensive score that put the team ahead for good. Likewise if you click on the third Warner game, you'll see that after Houston rallied to tie the game at 21, Matt Schaub threw a pick 6 to Rodgers-Cromartie that produced the winning points for Arizona, once again making this a game Warner does not deserve credit for in terms of the 4th quarter drives classification. You would almost never see a team try and list such a game as a comeback for a QB. I list them just so people have a complete list of all the games won by that QB in which there was some winning score produced in the 4th quarter/OT. If you were analyzing Warner's performance in these situations, you would note that he did have an offensive possession against Houston with the game tied at 21 and completed one of three passes for six yards on a three and out. Analyze that any way you want. The point is this type of game should not be counted as a 4th quarter win for Warner.

The game in between these two was against the Cowboys in 2008 and it is an interesting case. You'll see that "QB deserves little credit" is listed for this one.

A quick recap of the game's events:
* Tied at 14 to start the 4th quarter, Warner threw an 11 yard TD pass to Steve Breaston to cap off an 89 yard TD drive
* The Cardinals added a FG for a 24-14 lead
* Tony Romo led the Cowboys to 10 straight points to force overtime
* Cowboys won the toss and received first
* After forcing Dallas to punt on a three and out, the Cardinals blocked the punt and recovered it for the game's winning TD (the first time in NFL history a game ended in OT on a blocked punt return)

Knowing the definitions I've laid out, this cannot be a comeback because Arizona never trailed in the 4th quarter. It also cannot be a game-winning drive since the winning points were provided by the special teams on a blocked punt return. However, the reason Warner deserves credit here is that he threw a go ahead TD pass with the game tied in the 4th quarter. If the defense would have held the 10 pt lead, then obviously Warner would have had a game-winning TD pass and a game-winning drive to his credit. They did not, and the special teams won the game for Arizona in OT without Warner having to touch the ball. Instead of just ignoring the game, I am giving Warner some credit for what he accomplished in the 4th quarter. The only problem is since it does not fit the definition of a comeback or a GWD, it's basically on it's own island and that is why you see it in a separate table. But he is still given some credit for a positive outcome that helped produce a win that day.

(Note: I had this part typed before the 51-45 win over Green Bay in the Wild Card round. Believe it or not Warner registered yet another type of "unique" win which would fall into the same category as the Dallas game (QB deserves little credit). It was not a comeback as they never trailed, and it's not a GWD since the winning points were scored by the defense on a fumble return in OT. Warner gets credit because he threw a go ahead TD pass when it was 38-38. Of course he would have had the GWD himself if Neil Rackers did not deliver yet another choke by a kicker this season at the end of regulation. When the site is updated for the postseason, this 4th game will appear on Warner's comebacks page.)

I'm going to type out a list of the type of "unique" games you'll find on these tables, and provide some examples that may bring back some memories (good and bad).

1. With a tie or one score deficit, the defense returned a fumble or interception for a TD to provide the winning points. The offense did not contribute to any 4th quarter scoring from a deficit or tie.
Type: QB deserves no credit
Examples:
* Cardinals enjoy the unique wins
* Ollie Matson, playing on defense, makes the winning play in 1952
* Trent Green gives the Bills a gift in 2008
* Neil O'Donnell watches another QB (Scott Mitchell) throw away a game in OT (this coming after getting a punt return TD to take the lead earlier)
* Doug Williams helps Danny White get a playoff win
* Even Peyton could use a bailout one time
* Tommy Maddox crushes the hearts of Steeler Nation against Jacksonville
* Dilfer example #1

Comments: This is the most common type of game found on these "other games of note" tables

2. With a tie or one score deficit, the special teams returns a kickoff/punt/blocked punt/blocked FG for a TD to provide the winning points. The offense did not contribute to any 4th quarter scoring from a deficit or tie.
Type: QB deserves no credit
Examples:
* They let them off the hook! (this had defense and ST)
* Some more Cardinals, Plummer style...
* You just can't get enough unique Cardinal games (Breaston punt return TD vs. Steelers 2007)
* Where there's Cardinals, there's also Trent Dilfer completing 5 passes in the AFC-D win at Tennessee
* Eric Metcalf abuses the Steelers in 1993
* Brian Westbrook saves the Eagles' season in 2003 against the Giants
* Roger Staubach takes it easy as Charlie Waters scores the blocked punt return TD
* Favre needed a little help from Allen Rossum in 2001 vs. TB
* Bart Starr approves of this ensuing kickoff return TD to take the lead for good against who else but the Cardinals

Comments: Slightly less common than the defensive scores. Slightly more common if the game involves the Cardinals.

3. With the game tied, the offense scores the go ahead points, but the game is ultimately decided by a tie.
Type:QB deserves little credit
Examples:
* Sonny Jurgensen did his part one time...
* Sonny Jurgensen did his part a second time, but two ties
* Norm Van Brocklin game, but still Cardinals related
* Tobin Rote was hoping for one stop, but...
* Johnny U example I brought up in the past
* Lee Grosscup tried his best, but Eddie LeBaron wouldn't let up
* Y.A. Tittle had his team ahead, but...

Comments: This is interesting because I have the tied games where the offense trailed, tied it, and came away with a comeback (but not a GWD obviously). Here we have a situation where you never trailed, so there is no opportunity for a comeback. And since the game ended in a tie, there was never a GWD. So you end up with a positive drive, some credit to the QB, but ultimately not a 4QC or GWD. That's why it ends up in this separate table with little credit attached to it. This is not something you'll see in today's game due to the overtime format (unless Donovan McNabb's playing and not trying hard enough because he's waiting for OT period 2).

4. The offense contributed some 4th quarter points to the win, but still needed score(s) from the DEF/ST to take the lead.
Type: QB deserves little credit
Examples:
* The Fiedler/Griese game from 2001
* Down 17, Jamie Martin throws 2 TD passes, then the defense scores on a fumble for the winning points
* Down 13, Charley Johnson throws a TD pass and the defense scores a fumble for the win
* Down 11, Timm Rosenbach QB sneak for the TD, then Jeff George throws a pick 6 to lose it his rookie year
* Down 6, Bartkowski gets the FG drive, then the defense scores twice
* Down 10, Jim Kelly hits Lofton for a TD pass, then the ST won it with a blocked punt return TD
* Down 13, Milt Plum's TD pass to Jim Brown leads to a pick 6 for the winning points
* Down 13, Bledsoe hits Terry Glenn with a TD pass, then McNabb throws the big pick 6 on primetime
* Down 10, Randy Wright throws a TD, then Walter Stanley returns the punt 83 yards for the GW TD
* Down 9, Gary Hogeboom throws a TD, then the Colts win on a blocked punt return TD
* Down 14, Earl Morrall gets FG & TD, defense scores fumble for lead, Steelers tie, game ends tied
* Down 14, Richard Todd gets FG & TD, Kirk Springs returns punt for GW TD
* Down 7, McNabb leads a FG drive, but it's the blocked FG return TD that beats San Diego in 2005
* Down 13, Kitna leads a TD drive, then Marshall Faulk fumbles for a TD in 1998
* Down 7, Theismann leads a FG drive, then Jaws throws a pick 6 in 1981
* Down 11, Jaws leads TD drive, but it's the Miracle at the Meadowlands that wins the game

Comments: I tried to pick out good examples. These are the tough ones, such as the Fiedler/Griese example I talked about at length last time. On one hand the offense did not score the winning points, but on the other hand that DEF/ST score would never be the winning points without the score by the offense in the first place. You'll notice the last example is the Miracle at the Meadowlands. That's definitely NOT a case where you want to be praising the offense when it took a ridiculously bad play call to even put the ball into play at that point. It should have been a kneel down and game over. But even in that game, you never get to that point and that play mattering without the initial TD by the offense. These are a tough call, and I feel good with them being kept separate from real comebacks, but something's still not sitting right with me over these games. Glad they do not happen that often.

5. Go ahead points produced by a safety without the offense making a 4th quarter/OT contribution to the score.
Type: QB deserves no credit
Examples:
* Down 1, might as well start with a Cardinals game
* Game tied, Barry Sanders with a bad time to have a negative run
* Down 7, Dallas gets a blocked FG return TD, miss the XP, then finally sack Ken Stabler for the winning safety
* Down 1, the Vikings block a punt thru the end zone for a winning safety
* Game tied, the Saints sack Bernie Kosar for the winning safety
* Game tied, Joe Kapp is tackled for safety

Comments: These are very rare wins. Notice that Bernie Kosar went down twice in the 4th quarter for safeties in that 1987 game.

6. Game-winning FG without the offense taking the field (usually in OT). Also, the offense did not contribute to any 4th QT scoring.
Type: QB deserves no credit
Examples:
* Shanahan sends FG unit on field after Tarvaris Jackson fumble in OT
* Jets go with FG on first down in OT against Pats in 1985
* Elway fumbles, Raiders keep Marc Wilson (4 INTs) on the bench, kick a FG on first down
* No to Ferragamo, kick a first down FG after a Bartkowski fumble
* The Bucs have sent the FG unit out there on first down in 3 different OT games (1979, 1994, 2001)

And for one similarly unique game that did not go to OT...

* Dilfer example #3 - San Diego tied the game at 22, and with 0:16 left, the Seahawks returned the kickoff 64 yards. Instead of putting Dilfer & the offense out there, they tried the 54 yard FG and Rian Lindell made it for the win.

Comments: Another rare one, but it's happened a few times. Usually what will happen is a turnover or big return, and instead of risking anything with the offense, the coach sends the FG unit out on first down right away to win the game. This does not mean the offense never touched the ball in the 4th quarter/OT with a tied score. It just means they did not contribute to the winning FG since they were never on the field.

7. Without ever trailing in the 4th, the offense broke a tie with an offensive score, but the winning points finally came from a DEF/ST score.
Type: QB deserves little credit.
Examples:
* Warner against Dallas
* Bledsoe leads go ahead FG drive, Pats win on Troy Brown fumble TD

Comments: This is the Warner game against Dallas I just went over above. I went over the Bledsoe game in Part II. These are very rare, as I cannot even recall anything other than these examples.

I think that covers the kind of games you'll find on "other games of note" tables.

Next, I am going to switch gears and talk about the role that comebacks had this season.

The 2009 regular season has presented some more interesting twists and turns in the history and data classification of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. With the playoffs upon us, we could be in store for some memorable moments and a possible record-breaking performance that would be recognized by this website before anyone else catches on.

When I first declared Dan Marino the new King of the Comeback, I knew that Peyton Manning was closing in on the record. I just did not think he would rip off a record seven in one season to pull within one of Marino (36 to 35) so quickly. If this ever reaches the heights I want it to, it will already be too late for Marino to get the recognition he has deserved since he retired because Manning will be hogging it all up. In addition to the record seven in one year, every game played in November by the Colts was won with a 4th quarter comeback. That five-game run of comebacks is also a NFL record. Manning, winner of his record fourth MVP award, said himself that "I have to believe that starting 14-0 and having seven comeback wins has a lot to do with this award coming our way."

Though if Manning is to move past Marino this season, it will have to be done in the postseason. With the way the Colts play tight games, it is not a stretch to say Manning may have the opportunity to finish this season with as many as 38 comebacks. A potential AFC Championship game with San Diego could prove to be difficult for the Colts, and the NFC is wide open and offers several different challengers. Let's not even look past the Ravens in the AFC Divisional round, as they are used to playing some close ones themselves and one of Manning's seven comebacks this season was at Baltimore. It would only be fitting for Manning to break the record in this postseason with the kind of year he has had. The last nine times the Colts trailed in the 4th quarter (and Manning was still in the game), they have won all nine games. That is a record run that I cannot even imagine anyone has come close to in the past. Remember, in addition to the Curtis Painter fiasco, the Colts never trailed in the Wild Card game in San Diego last season. They took a 17-14 lead to the fourth, the Chargers tied the game late, and then won on the only possession of OT. The Colts have not been beaten in regulation with Manning playing the whole game since week 8 of last year against the Titans, which was 25 games ago.

You can expect the Colts to be a tough out in any game they play this month, so pay attention to the inevitable graphic during the game that will show how many 4th quarter wins Manning has led in his career. The number that will likely appear is 43, which is incorrect as the Colts do no count the postseason (so no credit for the 2006 AFC Championship), and they do not count the Jacksonville game from last season where Manning erased the 10 point deficit and the winning score was a pick 6 thrown by David Garrard.

Another QB playing this weekend, even though I had hoped in August that he finally retired, is Brett Favre. Something strange happened in the record keeping department when Favre made the infamous switch from Jet to Viking this past summer. Favre finished the 2008 season with 42 fourth quarter/OT wins, a number that was spot-on accurate when it was reported last season after the overtime win in New England. But I noticed when he joined the Vikings, their media guide listed him at 41, seemingly eliminating the Patriot win from last season.

Now on what basis would they eliminate such a game? The Jets never did trail, and it was a Cassel-to-Moss TD that forced OT. Brett completed 5 out of 6 passes for 56 yards in OT to set up the winning field goal. Back in 2007 in a game at Denver, the Packers never trailed, Denver tied it, game went to OT, and Favre hit Greg Jennings for the winning 82 yard TD pass on the only play from scrimmage in OT. Aside from a TD versus a FG, there is no difference between the two games, yet they were counting one and discarding the other.

Then two games into the 2009 seasons, I noticed another source erased a few more games from Favre's numbers. The ESPN article listed Favre at 39 game-winning drives. So he went from 42 to 41 to 39 in a span of maybe one month. My best guess is ESPN was not counting the playoffs, in which there would be two fewer games and that means they were going with 41 from the Vikings (overall there are 3 playoff games on our table for Favre, but he did not lead a GWD against Seattle in 2003 as Matt Hasselbeck took the ball and scored in his own way instead).

Well I can tell you after a very memorable game winning TD pass to Greg Lewis against the 49ers, and a comeback win over the Ravens, Favre is sitting at 29 comebacks and a total of 44 games won in the 4th QT/OT. Would have been interesting to see if the "47" number would have been brought up by the media at some point this year if Favre had a few more for the Vikings than what he did.

One other thing brought up with Favre and comebacks in 2009 was that he has never led his team to a win after trailing by 17 or more points at any time in the game (0-43 record). This was presented during week 16 on Monday Night Football after the Vikings trailed 23-6 to the Bears before forcing OT and losing 36-30. It was probably the closest Favre has come to getting a win in that situation. ESPN could have said 15 points or more and the same would have been true (and the number of losses probably would have went up a little bit). I gave Carl Bialik over at the Wall Street Journal some data on comeback wins from double-digit deficits. You can read his article here for more on Favre and big comebacks. This article has reached its Favre quota.

Another QB that did pretty well with comebacks this season was the opposing QB for the Pittsburgh Steelers, specifically the one known as Jay Palmerkowski-Casselacco (he's reportedly Polish). Five times the Steelers had the lead in the fourth quarter and lost the game, the most by any team this season. Carson Palmer led a game-winning drive to break a tie in a sixth loss. It was a season of devastating losses for the defending champs, a year after they made the fourth quarter their own trademark performance of coming up with big scoring drives and defensive stops.

Perhaps the most mystifying of the five blown leads came against the Oakland Raiders. Pittsburgh's defense allowed not one, not two, but three TD passes by Bruce Gradkowski in the final 8:30 of the game, the game winner coming with nine seconds left. That is the first time since 1940 any QB has ever thrown three 4th quarter TD passes when facing a tie or one score deficit on each drive. That's right. Not Unitas, not Montana, not Marino, not Manning. Bruce Gradkowski, and he was using Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens to get the job done. The only thing that could have made this more embarrassing was if JaMarcus "Big Macs and Sizzurp" Russell was hovering over center that day.

Other nuggets from 2009:
* The season started with the longest game-winning TD from scrimmage (87 yards) in the last minute of the 4th quarter when Brandon Stokley caught a tipped ball thrown by Kyle Orton to beat the Bengals.
* Ben Roethlisberger became the second QB in NFL history (Boomer Esiason) to throw for 500+ yards in a 4th quarter comeback win when he had 503 yards and threw the game winning TD on the final play of the game against the Packers.
* Vince Young led a 99 yard TD drive to beat the Arizona Cardinals on the last play of the game, a drive that evoked memories of Super Bowl 43 and The Drive. For the opposing QB that day, Matt Leinart, it brought back nightmares from the 2006 Rose Bowl.
* For the first time since 2004, Donovan McNabb led two comeback wins in the fourth quarter in the same season. He also did this for the first and likely last time.
* Matthew Stafford's signature moment of his rookie season is his winning TD drive against the Browns, as he came back to the game after being injured and threw the winning TD to fellow rookie Brandon Pettigrew on an un-timed down after pass interference was actually called in the end zone.
* The lone "unique" 4th quarter win of the 2009 regular season belongs to...you guessed it, the Arizona Cardinals when they intercepted Matt Schaub for the game winning TD against Houston.
* The Texans still picked up four game-winning drives this season (two comebacks), a franchise high, on their way to the first winning season (9-7) in franchise history.
* The largest 4th quarter comeback of the season was 17 points from the New England/Indianapolis showdown that will best be known for "4th & 2".
* The Patriots also lost their reg. season finale at Houston after holding a 14 point lead in the final quarter. In the previous nine seasons with Bill Belichick coaching the Patriots they had lost just one game with a double-digit lead in the 4th quarter. They did it twice in 2009.

Reminder: if you consider the 2006 AFC Championship the real Super Bowl due to the Grossman Factor that year, the last three championships have seen a team erase a 4th quarter deficit in the final two minutes of the game. My prediction for this postseason is that some team will try to do the same, and we will have another Scott Norwood moment in the Super Bowl. If you have been paying close attention to the kicking game this year, you know why. It would only be fitting.

If the Cardinals are involved for the second straight year, perhaps they will block a Matt Stover FG, return it for a game winning TD in a tied game they never trailed in, but which Kurt Warner threw another go ahead TD to Larry Fitzgerald earlier in the 4th quarter. Again, it would only be fitting.

Please e-mail any questions or comments to smk_42@yahoo.com.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

#4 Falconsfan567™

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Posted 22 July 2010 - 11:27 PM

According to this (which uses the information above) Matt Ryan has 3 4th quarter comebacks and 7 game-winning drives.

4TH QUARTER COMEBACKS
1. 2008 - Bears - W 22-20
2. 2008 - Rams - W 31-27
3. 2009 - at Jets - W 10-7

GAME-WINNING DRIVES
1. 2008 - at Packers - 27-24
2. 2008 - Bears - W 22-20
3. 2008 - Bucs - W 13-10
4. 2008 - Rams - W 31-27
5. 2009 - Bears - W 21-14
6. 2009 - at Jets - W 10-7
7. 2009 - at Bucs - W 20-10


#5 REV.2000

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Posted 22 July 2010 - 11:33 PM

I KNOW ONE THING, "IF YOU HAD A HEART CONDITION, DAN MARINO
AND JOHN ELWAY ..... WOULD KILL YOU IN THE FOURTH QUARTER." :D


#6 Falconsfan567™

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Posted 22 July 2010 - 11:36 PM

View PostREV.2000, on 22 July 2010 - 11:33 PM, said:

I KNOW ONE THING, "IF YOU HAD A HEART CONDITION, DAN MARINO
AND JOHN ELWAY ..... WOULD KILL YOU IN THE FOURTH QUARTER." :D


It's like the Braves putting so much stress on my heart this year with all these final at-bat wins. But no such worries today thankfully. :lol:

#7 pencilpusher. just because

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 02:36 AM

I nver got the 4th quarter comeback thing. I would rather my team not be behind in the 4th to begin with.

#8 REV.2000

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 06:14 AM

View Postpencilpusher, on 25 July 2010 - 02:36 AM, said:

I nver got the 4th quarter comeback thing. I would rather my team not be behind in the 4th to begin with.
I WOULD TOO PUSHER, BUT THE GAME JUST WON'T DO WHAT WE WANT IT TO DO.
I HATE THOSE NIP AND TUCK TO THE VERY END GAMES. IT LEAVES YOU DRAINED.


#9 Falconsfan567™

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 08:36 PM

View Postpencilpusher, on 25 July 2010 - 02:36 AM, said:

I nver got the 4th quarter comeback thing. I would rather my team not be behind in the 4th to begin with.

Yes Pusher I think we all would but sometimes if you don't have a good defense you have to comeback. Some QB's excell under the pressure and many fold under the pressure. So far Matt Ryan has shown the ability to bring his team from behind which is a very good trait to have in your QB. :)

#10 pr0d1gy

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 02:55 AM

Marino is the greatest QB to ever live and it is sad how much people take away from him for never leading the Dolphins to a title.  For most of his tenure they had an average, at best, defense and almost no real running game to speak of.  It sucks to join a franchise after the end of a dynasty, see Pittsburgh circa 1985-6, and Marino caught the tail end of The No Name Defense and The Perfect Dynasty.  It took them 20 years to build another D comparable to that one.  

To sum it up, I think great players know who the best players are and to quote Brett Favre, " Dan Marino is the greatest quarterback to ever live. "  I will let you marinate on that one.

#11 Falconsfan567™

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 02:01 PM

View Postpr0d1gy, on 31 August 2010 - 02:55 AM, said:

Marino is the greatest QB to ever live and it is sad how much people take away from him for never leading the Dolphins to a title.  For most of his tenure they had an average, at best, defense and almost no real running game to speak of.  It sucks to join a franchise after the end of a dynasty, see Pittsburgh circa 1985-6, and Marino caught the tail end of The No Name Defense and The Perfect Dynasty.  It took them 20 years to build another D comparable to that one.  

To sum it up, I think great players know who the best players are and to quote Brett Favre, " Dan Marino is the greatest quarterback to ever live. "  I will let you marinate on that one.

It's so insane that people hold it against Marino that the Dolphins never won a Super Bowl while he was there. You nailed it as to the reasons why. It certainly wasn't because of him.

#12 AutoMax

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 09:13 AM

There are so many things that Marino could do on the field that we have never seen again. I remember watching him play. He really was that good.

#13 pr0d1gy

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 11:53 AM

Having watched football for almost 30 years, I can say that if I were building a team tomorrow and had the first pick of every player ever I would take Marino in a heartbeat.  No question at all.

#14 ukfalc

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 02:02 PM

View Postpr0d1gy, on 31 August 2010 - 02:55 AM, said:

Marino is the greatest QB to ever live and it is sad how much people take away from him for never leading the Dolphins to a title.  For most of his tenure they had an average, at best, defense and almost no real running game to speak of.  It sucks to join a franchise after the end of a dynasty, see Pittsburgh circa 1985-6, and Marino caught the tail end of The No Name Defense and The Perfect Dynasty.  It took them 20 years to build another D comparable to that one.  

To sum it up, I think great players know who the best players are and to quote Brett Favre, " Dan Marino is the greatest quarterback to ever live. "  I will let you marinate on that one.



For me, the true test of a Qb is how he plays under pressure, in the biggest games. The problem I have with Marino is that even within a very weak AFC conference his teams rarely made any impact when it mattered and he consistently failed to show up at playoff time.

I'll take a QB that shows up and plays at his best in the biggest gams, over a player who puts up fanstasy numbers in the regular season but struggles in the big games. That's why I'd take Montana over guys like Manning, Marino and Favre in a heartbeat.

For me, Marino doesn't even make the top 5 alltime.

#15 AutoMax

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 02:27 PM

View PostUKFalc, on 01 September 2010 - 02:02 PM, said:

For me, the true test of a Qb is how he plays under pressure, in the biggest games. The problem I have with Marino is that even within a very weak AFC conference his teams rarely made any impact when it mattered and he consistently failed to show up at playoff time.

I'll take a QB that shows up and plays at his best in the biggest gams, over a player who puts up fanstasy numbers in the regular season but struggles in the big games. That's why I'd take Montana over guys like Manning, Marino and Favre in a heartbeat.

For me, Marino doesn't even make the top 5 alltime.
What about supporting cast of said QB? Does that play into your equation? I'm not sure Marino had the best help year in and year out.

#16 pr0d1gy

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 03:02 PM

View PostAutoMax, on 01 September 2010 - 02:27 PM, said:

What about supporting cast of said QB? Does that play into your equation? I'm not sure Marino had the best help year in and year out.


All he had was 2 Receivers, an average running back, and a below average defense.  Jesus they lost the Super Bowl to the 49ers.  You go through those two lineups and tell me which Dolphins you would take over any of the 49ers player for player other than Marino & Duper or Clayton, because Rice certainly cancels one of those two out.  The 49ers had better linemen, better backs, and a much better defense.  How Marino is constantly crapped on for not winning a Super Bowl is beyond me.  Keep in mind he was in the game in his 2nd year, and only his first full year as a starter, as compared to Montana who was in his 6th year.  

Turnovers plagued those teams in big games  and most of them weren't Marino.  They beat the '85 Bears and went to the AFCCG the next year after losing the Super Bowl.  Marino didn't have a great performance but the FOUR fumbles lost by his teammates could have had a little to do with that.  They were always in the hunt with Marino there despite never getting a great defense or running game to help Marino.  The only thing anyone can take away from Marino is not winning a Super Bowl and, in a sport as team driven as this one is, that is completely absurd.

#17 Same Ol Falcons

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 08:09 PM

I wonder what Vince Young has - he seems to have a comeback every other week

#18 Falconsfan567™

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 09:21 PM

View PostSame Ol Falcons, on 01 September 2010 - 08:09 PM, said:

I wonder what Vince Young has - he seems to have a comeback every other week

Legs that Marino didn't.

All Marino had was Mark Duper and Mark Clayton. That was it.


#19 Same Ol Falcons

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 09:12 AM

View Postfalconsfan567, on 01 September 2010 - 09:21 PM, said:

Legs that Marino didn't.

All Marino had was Mark Duper and Mark Clayton. That was it.

lol - I meant numbers wise

#20 pr0d1gy

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Posted 02 September 2010 - 01:46 PM

View PostSame Ol Falcons, on 02 September 2010 - 09:12 AM, said:

lol - I meant numbers wise


Young will have plenty of comebacks if he keeps improving.  I had him as the #1 ranked player in his draft class.  He needs to clean up the off the field crap and really learn to read defenses, but he has everything you need to be a top 10 starter in the NFL.  This is a huge year for both he and Matt Ryan, because they both need to step up big time, and consistently do so.