Keeping Score

Unusual Ending: How the NFL Got a Tie Game

Three lessons from Week 10 of the NFL

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Greg Zuerlein of the St. Louis Rams misses a 58-yard field goal in sudden-death overtime against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on Nov. 11, 2012

Three things we learned in Week 10 of the NFL:

1. All Tied Up. Ordinarily, if the St. Louis Rams — who entered this week’s game against division rival San Francisco with a 3-5 record — went into Candlestick Park and exited with a tie game, they’d have reason to be satisfied. The 49ers, at 6-2, are one of the best teams in the NFC. However, Sunday’s 24-24 tie — the first tie game in the NFL since Nov. 16, 2008, when the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals finished overtime knotted at 13 (and Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb famously admitted he was not aware that an NFL game could even finish in a tie) — felt like a loss for the Rams. Because dumb mistakes cost them an upset.

How dumb? On the first play of overtime, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford hit Danny Amendola streaking up the right sideline for what looked like an 80-yard, game-winning touchdown pass. (It’s been reported that some 49ers fans even started to leave.) But the Rams had lined up in an illegal formation, so the play was called back. Later, rookie St. Louis kicker Greg Zuerlein — nicknamed, among others things, Legatron because of his power — nailed a 53-yard field goal that, once again, appeared to give St. Louis the win. But he did it a second too late: the Rams were whistled for a five-yard delay-of-game penalty. Zuerlein missed the next one, from 58.

And the game ended in a tie, which was unsatisfying for both the fans and the teams. Especially St. Louis.

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2. ‘Aints No Longer?  When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton for the season for his role in Bountygate, it was easy to write off the Saints. And when New Orleans started the season 0-4, the obituaries appeared. The team’s dream of playing in this year’s Super Bowl, in New Orleans, was surely dead.

But is it? On Sunday, New Orleans not only won for the fourth time in the past five games but also beat the only undefeated team left in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons, 31-27. At 4-5, New Orleans still seems a long shot for the playoffs; Atlanta has a comfortable lead in the NFC South, and New Orleans would have to leapfrog several solid teams to clinch a wild card. But it’s no secret that the Saints have all kinds of weapons. Tight end Jimmy Graham, for example, had a huge game Sunday, catching seven passes for a career-best 146 yards and two touchdowns. The team still has plenty to play for.

3. End of Andy? Andy Reid is the longest-tenured coach in the NFL; he’s been the head man for the Philadelphia Eagles since 1999. Now his run might be over. Before the season, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was clear: if the Philadelphia did not finish with a winning record, Reid would not be back. That declaration (much like Vince Young’s “dream team” remarks at the start of last season) did the team no favors, as it gave Philly fans and media more reason to endlessly obsess over Reid’s job status. The Eagles have reached a low point: with backup quarterback Nick Foles seeing his first significant playing time after Michael Vick, who has been pretty bad most of the season, left the game with a concussion, the Eagles fell to the hated Dallas Cowboys, 38-23. The Eagles have lost five straight, which has never taken place during Reid’s 14 seasons. At 3-6, finishing with a winning record would almost take a miracle.

So should the Eagles just cut ties with Reid now? Probably. He has taken his team to five conference championship games and a Super Bowl during his decade-plus tenure. But after the Eagles made some splashy free-agent signings last off-season, raising expectations for a franchise that has still never won a Super Bowl, the team has largely underachieved. And Reid will take the fall.

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