If it seems as though nearly every NFL game this season has come down to the final seconds, that's not your imagination.
Through nine weeks, there were 31 matchups with the winning score made in the last two minutes of regulation or overtime — nearly one quarter of all games. That's the most since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
In each of the previous four seasons, no more than 24 games had been decided that late through Week 9.
And many of these teams have been celebrating their wins very, very late this year. Of the 31 such games, 21 had the decisive points scored in overtime or the final 10 seconds of regulation.
The Panthers have lost twice on last-second field goals in a season when all but one of their games were decided by a touchdown or less.
"If this doesn't show how close the margin is, it's sickening," coach Ron Rivera said.
As with many trends, parity is a popular explanation.
Teams are certainly bunched up in the standings: Nineteen had a record between 3-5 and 5-3 through nine weeks, up from 15 a year ago.
A knack for pulling out victories in the final seconds would seem to separate the winners from the losers, but that hasn't been the case in 2012. The Eagles have played a league-high five such games, and they're 3-2 in them.
That accounts for all their wins, though — and at 3-5, coach Andy Reid's job is in jeopardy.
Similarly, among teams taking part in four such games, the Lions and Titans have each gone 3-1; Detroit is 4-4 overall and Tennessee 3-6. Only the Colts, led by rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, can say they've gotten a big boost from these heart-stopping endings. They're also 3-1 in those games.
Only six teams have not had a game with a winning score in the last two minutes of regulation or overtime, and they're all over the standings: the Texans, 49ers, Broncos, Chargers, Bengals and Cowboys.
Week 9 was the first this season that didn't feature a game with the winning score in the final two minutes or overtime; there were at least two every previous week.
GIANTS: New York activated rookie safety Will Hill after the former University of Florida Gator served a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
STEELERS: Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will appeal the $15,000 fine he received after NFL officials ruled he faked an injury earlier in the season. The league also fined the organization $35,000 on Friday after Sanders went down with what he called a cramp in the fourth quarter of a 24-17 win over the Bengals on Oct. 21.
Sanders fell suddenly, clutching his leg, but he returned to the game after missing just one play.