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Bad Beats: The Agony of the Onside Kick

   by Ben Burns - 11/28/2008

Buffalo Bulls at Bowling Green Falcons

I had Bowling Green in this game and it was a tough way to kick off the weekend. I played the Falcons earlier in the week at -3.5 points. However, the line moved to four or 4.5 by kickoff.

Bowling Green backers appeared in good shape almost the entire way, no matter what line they had. After a scoreless first quarter the Falcons jumped ahead 14-0 in the second quarter and would carry that lead into halftime. With 13 minutes left, Bowling Green had extended its lead to 27-7. That's when Buffalo quarterback Drew Willy and the resilient Bulls began to battle back.

With 11:06 remaining, running back James Starks scored on an 11 yard run. Buffalo missed the extra point which brought the score to 27-13. It stayed that way until Willy capped a seven-play, 71-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown pass with 2:29 to play. With the lead down to just seven points, Bowling Green backers were beginning to get a little nervous. Surely, there wasn't enough time remaining for Buffalo to score another touchdown?

The dagger dropped when Alex Pierre recovered the ensuing onside kick. With the momentum on their side, Willy and the Bulls tied things up and forced extra time. Buffalo would go on to win 40-34 in the second overtime period.

"Drama's part of this team, I guess...," said Willy after the game.

That's the case for those betting on Bulls' games this year. Last week's game marked the fifth time this season that they went to overtime and the third time in the past five games.

While I didn't personally play the total, it should be mentioned that this was also an extremely tough loss for those who played the under. The total was 55.5 points and the game was low scoring right from the opening quarter. Even with all the fourth quarter fireworks, the game still needed overtime before eclipsing the number.

New York Jets at Tennessee Titans

The total for this game was 40.5 or 41 points. I expected a low-scoring game and had a large ticket to finish under the number. Things started off very well. The score was 7-0 Jets after the first quarter and 10-3 at halftime. By the fourth quarter, the Jets had extended their lead to 20-3.

Knowing that the Titans would be forced to open things up on offense, things were beginning to get tense. The Jets' defense continued to do its job though and Tennessee wasn't able to muster much of an attack. The first serious hit to the under came shortly after the Titans had settled for a Rod Bironas field goal early in the fourth quarter.

With a 20-6 lead, the Jets were looking to run some clock. They took over at their own 20 with less than 13 minutes remaining. Sure enough, they ran the ball on first down, gaining 11. The next play was a short pass which netted eight yards. Boom! Simply, looking to pick up the two yards for the first down, Leon Washington breaks one for a 61-yard touchdown. Instead of chewing up five to seven minutes as hoped, the Jets used up less than two.

Things quickly went from bad to worse.

Up 27-6, the previously stout Jets' defense began to soften. They didn't play a prevent defense, but they might as well have. Four plays and 1:24 later, the Titans had gone 66 yards for a touchdown. In the span of about five minutes, the under ticket had gone from looking like it had a solid chance of cashing to virtually no chance at all. Still, the teams only had 40 points which meant that it wasn't quite over yet.

With less than 10 minutes remaining, the Jets took over at their own 25-yard line. This time they were determined to run some time off the clock. They did an excellent job of it too. Aided by a questionable pass interference on a third down early in the drive, they managed to take the clock down inside the four minute mark. The Titans' defense finally stopped them, creating a fourth and four situation and forcing Mangini to make a decision.

Rather than elect to kick the long field goal, quarterback Brett Favre came back on the field. While a missed field goal also would have been nice, this was exactly the decision that under bettors had wanted to see. If the Jets picked up the four yards, they wouldn't be that many plays away running out the clock. If they failed to pick up the four yards, the Titans would take over and would need to go a long way for a score.

Either of those scenarios would have at least given the under a chance. Instead, rather than going for the first down, Favre went for the home run. Cue the dagger. The pass was incomplete but the official called a pass interference penalty. Set up with a first and goal, the Jets ran it in for touchdown. Final score 34-13.

This one wasn't a classic bad beat (like Bowling Green) and some might argue that it wasn't really a bad beat at all. All the same, it was a tough loss and ultimately was the difference between me making a profit or splitting with my Sunday selections.

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