Analysis: Top NFL teams had lots of close calls in Week 15

By Rob Maaddi

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Joe Burrow wasn’t satisfied after throwing four touchdown passes in the second half to rally the Bengals to a comeback victory over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.

“Not one of my favorites,” Burrow said when asked how he felt about Cincinnati’s 34-23 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday. “I mean, it was an exciting game but an ugly one that we were able to pull out and that just goes to show you that teams, like we have, they just find ways to win games. We keep just talking about it and guys just keep stepping up and making big time plays for us.”

Week 15 was a struggle not only for the Bengals (10-4) but several playoff-bound teams. Only one game – Bengals-Buccaneers – was decided by more than 10 points, going into the Rams-Packers matchup Monday night.

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs (11-3) needed overtime to beat the lowly Texans (1-12-1). The Chiefs trailed 21-16 going into the fourth quarter and Harrison Butker missed a 51-yard field goal in the final minute that would’ve won it in regulation for Kansas City. But the Chiefs wrapped up their seventh straight AFC West title on Jerick McKinnon’s 26-yard TD run in OT.

“In today’s world, the NFL, you can’t go by the record,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Everything is so close, the parity, and you’re off by like a fingertip catch or maybe a penalty or a turnover. It’s just one thing. It’s never been where there have been so many close games as there are now that have been determined by one score. The tape tells you the story. You put on the tape. We knew it was going to be a battle. We felt that going in.”

Jalen Hurts and Philadelphia (13-1) had to overcome a tough first half and three turnovers to beat Chicago 25-20. Hurts ran for three scores on a day he tossed two picks.

“I think it’s a testament to how we persevered as a team and how we believed in one another as a team,” Hurts said. “And I think the great teams, great players, they find a way.”

The Cowboys (10-4) blew a 17-point lead in the third quarter and lost 40-34 in overtime at Jacksonville. Dallas nearly lost to Houston last week. This time, the Cowboys couldn’t put away the surging Jaguars, who now trail first-place Tennessee (7-7) by only a game in the AFC South.

Dak Prescott threw two picks in the second half, including a tipped ball Rayshawn Jenkins returned 52 yards for a TD in OT.

The Cowboys may have been looking ahead to facing the Eagles on Christmas Eve

but now the loss to Jacksonville all but eliminates Dallas from winning the NFC East.

“You don’t overlook any game,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “When we have conversations about `don’t take the cheese’ it’s really for the younger players and just to stay focused based on the questions they have to answer that will be different than they normally answer.”

On Saturday, Minnesota (11-3) fell behind Indianapolis (4-9-1) 33-0 at halftime before staging the biggest comeback in NFL history to win 39-36 in OT. Baltimore (9-5) fell out of first place in the AFC North with a 13-3 loss to Cleveland (6-8). Buffalo (11-3) held onto the No. 1 seed in the AFC when Tyler Bass kicked a 25-yard field goal as time expired to beat Miami (8-6) 32-29.

There have been 101 games decided by six points or less this season, the most in NFL history through the first 15 weeks. Fifty-six games have been decided by a score in the final two minutes of regulation or in overtime, also the most through 15 weeks.

With three weeks remaining, the race to the Super Bowl is wide open.

The Eagles, Vikings, Bills and Chiefs are the top four teams by record, but each had a close call this weekend and it’s only going to be tougher in January.