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NFL Bad Beats and Lucky Wins
by Larry Ness - 10/05/2004
One often hears a bettor talk about having the right side or wrong side of a game. After more than two decades in this business, I've resigned myself to the proposition that there are no right or wrong sides, but rather winning and losing sides! Such was the case with New England and Buffalo last Sunday. The Patriots (favored by anywhere from 4.5 to 5.5 points) tied an NFL record by winning their 18th consecutive game but while the final score was 31-17, pointspread players were treated to quite a wild ride.
New England took a 10-3 first-quarter lead, but Buffalo tied the game when Willis McGee returned a kick-off 98 yards for a touchdown. The game was just starting its ebbs and flows! Corey Dillon fumbled inside the Buffalo five-yard line in the second quarter ending a New England scoring chance, but all seemed well as the Pats' defense held. Buffalo punter Brian Moorman then dropped the snap on an intended punt but recovered to run for 34 yards and a first down! On the very next play, Bledsoe hooked up with Eric Moulds on a 41-yard touchdown pass and the Bills led 17-10. The Pats responded before halftime though, tying the score at 17 points each.
Neither team scored in the third quarter. The Pats had a drive stall at the Buffalo 13-yard line in the early fourth quarter and New England kicked a field goal. The Bills, however, were offsides and the Pats took the points off the board and wound up with a touchdown instead, as they got a very fortunate early whistle on what looked to be a fumble by Dillon! New England now led 24-17 rather than 20-17! The teams exchanged possessions and then Buffalo tried one last time!
Driving inside the New England 20, Buffalo's Travis Henry fell flat on his face (untouched) on a third-and-two play and then on a fourth-and-three play, Bledsoe was stripped of the ball by Tedy Bruschi and New England returned it for the game-clinching touchdown. Which team was the right side in this one?
The Jaguars opened the year with three straight wins and covers by always making the key'play! The team's luck finally ran out last week vs. the Colts. Jacksonville's first drive of the game ended when they were stopped on downs on a fourth-and-one play at the Colts 24 (an omen of things to come)!
The Colts (four-point favorites) led 17-6 in the fourth quarter when the Jags reached the Colts five-yard line with a first down. Jacksonville couldn't punch it in though and settled for a field goal. Down 17-9, the Jags came up with an interception on the Colts' very first play after the field goal and then on a fourth-and-one from the Indy 40, Leftwich connected with Jimmy Smith for a touchdown! Jacksonville converted the two-point play on a pass that was bobbled a couple of times in the end zone by the receiver and at 17-17, it seemed as if the Jags were at it again!
When Manning threw an incomplete pass on a third down play at the Indianapolis 32, the Jags were in business. Jacksonville was called for holding though, keeping the Colts drive alive. Holding Indy to a field goal would have given Jacksonville backers a win but the Colts scored a touchdown and walked away with a seven-point win.
In the first of what figures to be many meetings between Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger, the Bengals met the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh opened as four-point favorites but climbed as high as 5.5 by game time. The game's stat sheet showed Palmer with 164 yards passing and Big Ben with 174. Cincinnati RB Rudi Johnson ran for 123 yards, the exact same total as Pittsburgh's Duce Staley. The Bengals finished with 22 first downs, the Steelers with 23.
Pittsburgh trailed 17-14 entering the fourth quarter but took the lead at 21-17 on what else, a one-yard Jerome Bettis touchdown run! The Bengals went nowhere on the next drive and Pittsburgh took over five minutes off the clock before giving Cincinnati the ball left with just over two minutes remaining at its own 20.
Palmer's first pass was intercepted by his former USC roommate Troy Polamalu, who like a human pinball, bounced off tacklers for a 26-yard interception return for a touchdown! Palmer then threw another pick, securing the win and cover for the Steelers.
Philly dominated Chicago the entire game but Philly bettors still had to sweat it out! The Eagles opened as 8.5-point favorites at Chicago and closed as 9.5-point favorites, although the game did hit 10. Leading 19-3 in the fourth quarter, the reliable David Akers missed a 39-yard field goal and Chicago converted its only touchdown drive of the game, scoring with around four minutes left. Trailing 19-9, the Bears decided to get within eight points by going for two. They were STUFFED and instead of the game sitting on nine, it was at ten (a huge difference). Akers missed another field and Chicago bettors got one last chance but the Bear hopes died at the Philly 12-yard line.