Just when you thought they were out, they pulled you back in! Here are a few of the compelling comebacks among an exciting slate of early Week 5 games, starting with what happened at LP Field in Nashville:
Browns 29, Titans 28: Things seemed dicey for Tennessee when quarterback Jake Locker left the game late in the second quarter with an injury to his right hand. But the Titans, who were already up 14-3 and had been cutting Cleveland's iffy pass defense to ribbons, brought in backup Charlie Whitehurst. And Whitehurst threw two touchdown passes on two straight throws, putting Tennessee up 28-3 -- a seemingly insurmountable lead.
Not so fast. The Browns reached double digits with 12 seconds left in the first half when Jim Dray caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Brian Hoyer, and the comeback was on. Billy Cundiff's field goal accounted for the only points in the third quarter, but the Browns put their foot on the gas in the fourth quarter with a punt blocked for a safety and two touchdown passes from Hoyer to Travis Benjamin. Whitehurst was virtually nonexistent in the second half, and the Browns came away with the most improbable win of the day and the biggest comeback in the franchise's history (not to mention the biggest road comeback in NFL history) to move to 2-2.
Saints 37, Buccaneers 31: The Bucs certainly seemed to have this one wrapped up. They were up 24-13 with 11:30 left in the third quarter and 31-20 with 13:28 left in the game, but New Orleans scored 11 unanswered points with less than 10 minutes to force overtime: a 27-yard touchdown run by Pierre Thomas, a safety from pass-rusher Junior Galette that made up for a failed two-point conversion and a Shayne Graham field goal to knot it up at 31 with two minutes left in regulation. And with 9:24 remaining in overtime, Khiry Robinson bounced off tacklers on a game-winning 18-yard touchdown run.
It was a marvelous comeback for the Saints, keeping Sean Payton's team from a shocking 1-4 start to the season, but there are definitely concerns in New Orleans. Drew Brees threw three interceptions and looked off much of the day, Jimmy Graham left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury and the defense still looks like a shell of what it was last year. That said, it's the Bucs who now stand at an unexpected 1-4. Lovie Smith's team has been a huge disappointment after so many pundits (including yours truly) anticipated that they'd be in the playoff hunt.
Giants 30, Falcons 20: The Giants can't ever seem to pick a narrative and stick with it for the whole season. They won their two most recent Super Bowls despite average regular seasons and started off 0-6 in 2013 before finishing up 7-3 in their final 10 games. This season has been more of the same.
Big Blue started the 2014 campaign with two straight losses and an offense that looked overwhelmed, to say the least. Three wins later, things look very different in New York. Not that the Giants' win over the Falcons came easy -- Atlanta was up 20-10 in the third quarter after Antone Smith caught a 74-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan. But rookie Andre Williams brought things back into range with a three-yard touchdown run, first-round rookie Odell Beckham Jr. caught his first touchdown pass of the season and Josh Brown kicked two field goals to put the game out of reach. The Falcons, who were down three injured offensive linemen through the game, simply ran out of air on that side of the ball, and Ryan started to get more and more pressure.
Panthers 31, Bears 24: Earlier this week, former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said that in retrospect, it was a mistake to trade tight end Greg Olsen to the Panthers in the summer of 2011. The Bears felt the weight of that mistake on Sunday, when Olsen caught the game-winning touchdown (his second of the day) to put away his old team and cap Carolina's second-half comeback with 2:18 left in the game. The Bears had a 21-7 lead through most of the second quarter, but Olsen hauled in a nine-yard pass from Cam Newton with 12 seconds left in the first half to cut the deficit to a single possession.
All Chicago could manage in the second half was a 45-yard field goal from Robbie Gould, as Jay Cutler's turnovers began to affect the direction of the game. Chicago's three fourth-quarter giveaways all led to Carolina points.
Bills 17, Lions 14: No doubt, Jim Schwartz dreamt of his players carrying him off the Ford Field turf on their shoulders when he was the Lions' head coach from 2009 through '13. It never happened back then, but it did on Sunday, when Schwartz, now the Bills' defensive coordinator, received that treatment after Dan Carpenter's 58-yard field goal lifted Buffalo to victory. Of course, the real story for the Bills was on offense, where Kyle Orton made his first start in place of the struggling EJ Manuel.
Orton did give a spark to the offense, completing 30-of-43 passes for 308 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was helped by Sammy Watkins, who made an amazing juggling catch on the game-winning drive, which was capped by that field goal from Carpenter. Kicking was also the story for Detroit -- Alex Henery, signed two weeks ago to replace rookie kicker Nate Freese, missed all three field goal attempts he tried. Outside of a burst of scoring in the late first and early second quarter, Detroit's offense couldn't do much.