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Crushing Losses and Tailspins

   by Al McMordie - 10/25/2009

Remember the red hot start the NY Jets had? Neither do they! Back in Week 4, the Jets were a sizzling 3-0 SU/ATS and had an early showdown with the unbeaten New Orleans Saints. The Jets lost 24-10, despite a strong defensive game. What stood out in the contest was rookie QB Mark Sanchez. He had been unspectacular up to that point, but he was 3-0 and playing better than could be expected.

But that all changed in New Orleans. Sanchez imploded with 3 picks and no touchdowns. "My mistakes killed us. They absolutely killed us," Sanchez said. "The defense played well enough to win. That whole game is 10-10 without three interceptions and a fumble. You turn the ball over like that in this league, and you can't win."

You wonder if the kid’s confidence has taken a beating in the NY spotlight, as they followed that with two more losses. Week 5 was the worst, as Sanchez threw 5 picks against the Bills in a brutal OT loss at home as a big favorite. Crushing losses can sap the confidence of individual players and teams, depending on the circumstances. That can also carry over.

How about Missouri in college football? Have the Tigers recovered from that horrific national TV loss to Nebraska three weeks ago? Not really, riding a 0-3 SU/ATS run. They led 12-0 in the fourth quarter against the Huskers, then completely self-destructed in a 27-12 loss at home. They then got smoked, 33-17, at banged-up Oklahoma State and got roasted at home Saturday by Texas, 40-7. Not exactly a confidence-building October!

Think back to the 2007 season for the Detroit Lions. That was a team that started 6-2 and had postseason visions, only to collapse and miss the playoffs. It was a team in a total tailspin the second half of the season. They couldn’t win (1-7) or cover games (1-7 ATS). Teams can feel helpless when the wheels fall off or they suffer a crushing defeat. It takes a good coaching staff to get a group to focus and prepare itself mentally the following week.

In 2007, the Houston Texans started 2-0 SU/ATS then hosted rival Indy. The Colts stole a 30-24 victory at Houston in a close game, even though the Texans were decimated with injuries. Houston entered that game without star receiver Andre Johnson (sprained his knee), and lost running back Ahman Green to a knee injury on the first series of the second quarter. Backup Ron Dayne was inactive because of bruised ribs, so the Texans had to rely on third-stringer Samkon Gado for the rest of the game. Rookie Jacoby Jones, who started for Johnson, left in the third quarter with a separated shoulder, and center Steve McKinney left with a knee sprain in the fourth quarter!

The Texans played hard, even getting the ATS cover, but couldn’t keep their undefeated record alive. What’s important to note is what happened after that game: Houston went in the tank, going 0-6 ATS the next six games, winning straight up only once.

What happens is teams can feel frustrated over close losses or shocking collapses and not have it in them to give 100% the next game. That’s especially true during a bad season, or with a bad coaching staff, or one a team with a lame duck coach.

I recall two years ago when the Baltimore Ravens outplayed the unbeaten Patriots as a +19 dog, only to lose on a last second TD pass, 27-24 on Monday night. The Ravens had the edge in yards 376-326 and should have won. The Patriots caught several lucky breaks down the stretch. RB Willis McGahee said, "The loss takes away everything. We played our hearts out.” "It's hard to go out there and play the Patriots and the refs at the same time," CB Chris McAlister complained.

It was clear the Ravens had put everything they had into that one game in a lost season and had their hearts broken. The next week the Ravens were 9-point home dog to the Colts….and lost 44-20. They packed it in, trailing 37-7 at the half.

All this ties into the highs and lows of a football season. Sometimes teams can use that frustration for a big win the next week. Good coaches will have the teams prepared and focused following a tough loss. When the Patriots lost at Denver two weeks ago, it was a very difficult defeat, blowing a 10-point halftime lead, only to lose in OT. They didn’t get down, though, destroying the Titans the next week, 59-0.

In 2003, the Buccaneers had a stunning 38-35 Monday night loss to Indianapolis, when they blew a 21-point lead in the final four minutes. The next week, Tampa Bay rolled 35-13 over the Redskins, holding a 22-point lead with 6:55 to play. "I've never been more uncomfortable with a 22-point lead in my life," Coach Jon Gruden joked. Gruden kept his team cool and focused during practice that week after the devastating loss. Keep close tabs on coaches and players all during the week to see what they are saying about a tough loss or a lucky win. And look at history, too: Does a coach have a track record of success? Has a team dealt well with adversity before? It can pay off handsomely at the wagering window - the next week!

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