Unanswered Points

Mark Tye Turner is the author of Notes from a 12th Man: A Truly Biased History of the Seattle Seahawks The following article is Mark’s second contribution. For his previous article, see here.

The term “unanswered points” is part of the lexicon when describing events occurring during a football game. It illustrates the dominance of one team over another. And it is a pretty objective and straight-forward description. One team puts up a certain amount of points before the other scores anything. It’s that simple.

For football fans, it’s not that simple. It’s more about elation. “You can’t stop us. And you can’t contain us either!” Or it’s more about frustration. “How much time is left? Our guys are bleeding to death!”

On Sunday in the NFL, there were a number of games that featured unanswered point strings. Most made the games undramatic but a few did ignite some excitement.

In a game that shocked absolutely no one, the Seattle Seahawks scored 31 unanswered points on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Okay, I guess it did shock those who thought the Hawks would win 58-0.

In Dallas, the Cowboys put up 24 points before the St. Louis Rams finally answered with a touchdown. Alas, it was whipped cream on a turd for the Rams as the Cowboys won 31-7.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took an early 3-0 lead against the New England Patriots before the Pats came back to score 23 unanswered points and win 23-3. Similarly, in New Orleans the Arizona Cardinals crossed the endzone first but then the Saints scored the final (and unanswered) 31 points.

Sometimes a team doesn’t answer at all. In Charlotte, the Carolina Panthers racked up 38 unanswered points in their drubbing of the New York Giants, 38-0. Back in New York, Giants fans didn’t have any answers either but many were questioning their own sanity after watching the worst loss of the Tom Coughlin era.

Unanswered points played a key role in the biggest upset of the week when the Indianapolis Colts scored the final twenty points against the San Francisco 49ers. The unanswered points also confirmed that it was no fluke win. Indy didn’t win on one bad Niner bounce or mistake. They won with some stellar defense and great ball control.

The Tennessee Titans were down the San Diego Chargers, 17-10, going into the fourth quarter. But the Titans scored ten unanswered points, including an amazing touchdown in the last minute to beat the Bolts.

However, the craziest unanswered points game of the week (and maybe of the year) featured the Cincinnati Bengals and the Green Bay Packers. Cincinnati started the game with some efficient unanswered points. They scored a touchdown on the game’s opening possession. On the ensuing kickoff, Packer Jeremy Ross fumbled deep in Green Bay territory and the Bengals recovered. On the next play, Cincy scored a touchdown. The Bengals were now up 14-0 without Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers ever taking the field.

Undaunted, the Pack proceeded to score thirty unanswered points as they dominated the second and third quarters. But the Bengals, playing at home, had some answers of their own. Two Andy Dalton touchdown passes cut the lead to 30-27 with 10:55 to play.

Green Bay then proceeded to drive on Cincinnati, taking seven minutes off the clock when it faced a fourth and inches situation at the Bengal 30. Rather than kick a field goal (which would have only made it a six-point lead), head coach Mike McCarthy went for it. Unfortunately for Packer fans, running back Johnathan Franklin fumbled as he was trying to get the first down. The ball then became a hot potato when one Cincinnati player recovered and then fumbled in typical Bengal manner. In an untypical Bengal fashion, another Cincy player, Terrence Newman, scooped up the fumble and returned it 58 yards for the touchdown.

The Bengals scored 20 unanswered points and won 34-30. According to STATS LLC, Cincinnati was the first team to lead by 14, then trail by 16 and rally to win. And according to SportsIlustrated.cnn.com, the Bengals were the first team this century to win after giving up 30 unanswered points.

So how can professional football players, the proverbial cream of the crop, allow so many unanswered points? I don’t have an answer for that.

Photo by Navin75

Mark Tye Turner

Mark Tye Turner is the author of Notes from a 12th Man: A Truly Biased History of the Seattle Seahawks. You can find it on Amazon here. Follow Turner on Twitter @mtthawk