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Cardiac Cards are NFL's best at fourth-quarter rallies

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Posted Dec. 31, 2011 @ 2:47 p.m. ET
By Eli Kaberon

It would appear that Peyton Manning and John Skelton have little in common. Though both are NFL quarterbacks, one is a former top draft pick, a four-time MVP and a Super Bowl champion; the other is a fifth-rounder who has just two career games with more than 300 passing yards.

The two are close when it comes to one category: fourth-quarter comebacks. Manning led the 2009 Colts, the team that holds the NFL record since 1970 with seven victories after trailing in the fourth quarter. Skelton and Kevin Kolb have carried this season's Cardinals to six victories when behind in the final period, a tie for second-best all-time with four other teams.

Arizona's signalcallers aren't the only QBs rallying their teams, however, as the 2011 campaign has been the Season of the Comeback in the NFL. Here are the teams with the most victories in 2011 after trailing in the fourth quarter, through Week 16.

 

1. Cardinals (6) — The Cardinals also can thank rookie Patrick Peterson for their late-game success this season. Peterson has won two games with punt returns. His return beat the Rams in overtime in Week Nine, after Larry Fitzgerald had caught a game-tying TD in regulation. In the season opener against Carolina, Peterson's 89-yard touchdown return in the fourth quarter ended up being the game-winner.

2. (tie) Bengals (5) — Rookie QB Andy Dalton has been at the helm for all of the Bengals' comeback wins. It started in Week Four, when they handed the Bills their first loss of the season. A Dalton TD run tied the game with 4:14 to go, and Mike Nugent's field goal won it as time expired. Dalton also has had his share of struggles in the fourth quarter, throwing six interceptions and three TD passes in the final period.

2. (tie) Broncos (5) — PK Matt Prater deserves a lot of credit for Denver's late-game success. Oh, and Tim Tebow has had something to do with it, too. Starting with the record-breaking rally against the Dolphins in Week Seven — the first time since 1970 that a team came from 15-plus points behind in the final three minutes to win a game — the fourth quarter became "Tebow Time" in Denver. Tebow's struggles throwing the ball in the first three quarters have been well-documented, but he had success throwing against prevent defenses, and his scrambling helped extend plays so receivers could get open. Prater's leg has won four games, including a game-winning 51-yard kick to beat Chicago in Week 14.

2. (tie) Giants (5) — The Giants have a few bad losses this season, and their wins haven't come easy. They had back-to-back fourth-quarter comeback wins over AFC East teams, beating the Dolphins 20-17 in Week Eight and the Patriots 24-20 in Week Nine. If the Giants make the playoffs, they'll look back at their comeback against the Cowboys in Week 14, when Eli Manning made up for a 12-point deficit in the final 5:41 to produce a 37-34 win in Dallas.

2. (tie) 49ers (5) — In his first season as head coach, Jim Harbaugh already has proven he is a master at late-game management. The man who earned the nickname "Captain Comeback" during his 15 years as an NFL QB has helped his team rally to win five times, the latest being in Week 16, when the Niners drove into position for the go-ahead field goal with less than three minutes remaining to top the Seahawks in Seattle. Niners PK David Akers is a perfect 8-for-8 on fourth-quarter field-goal attempts.

6. (tie) Cowboys (4) — The Cowboys have played three overtime games, and six additional contests were decided by four points or fewer, so late comebacks are nothing new to them. Two of the fourth-quarter comebacks were against the rival Redskins. There also was a 10-play, 54-yard drive in the final 2:59 of Dallas' Week 12 game against the Dolphins to cap off a 20-19 victory on Thanksgiving.

6. (tie) Jets (4) — As they did in 2010, when the Jets had three fourth-quarter comebacks in the regular season and one more in the playoffs, Gang Green has gone down to the wire often this season. The most dramatic win might have been in Week One, when a blocked punt returned for a touchdown with five minutes left tied the game at 24 against the Cowboys. Then, an interception by Darrelle Revis with 49 seconds remaining set up Nick Folk's game-winning 50-yard field goal.

PFW associate editor Kevin Fishbain contributed to this article.

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