Okay, so you're probably wondering how the Tennessee Titans -- a team that managed to stay undefeated through their first 10 games of the season -- suffered an exceedingly ugly 13-12 loss to the Houston Texans. Simple: Stat curse. On the day of that fateful game, Knoxnews.com published a story titled There's no letup in Titans' vocabulary in which the author said "[Tennessee] won't be slowing down as they look to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs" and Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck added that "There's definitely going to be no letup. ... We're going to take care of Houston and let everything else take care of itself." Then mention was made of this little fun fact: Texans coach Gary Kubiak hadn't beaten the Titans since taking over the Texans and Tennessee has won the last seven games in the series. Oh, and Houston's last and only wins against Tennessee came when it swept the 2004 series.
So, uh, yeah. That's like a stat curse powered up by a Tanooki suit and an invincibility star. The Titans really didn't have a cookie's chance at a Cookie Monster convention. Which is a bummer for them, since they blew a chance to secure homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Of course, Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan was quick with an excuse for the loss: "They weren't doing that well, but it was their Super Bowl and credit them for being the good team today."
However, Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck had a more realistic appraisal of the sitch: "Hopefully we'll be up for the challenge and guys will come back from vacation. I think we were on vacation this week, knowing we got a bye and whatever other good stuff happened for us last week. But I know as a team we need to get our heads out of our (expletive) and come out and play football. Pittsburgh is playing for way more than us next week."
Yes, injuries suck. But look at it this way.
You get to leave. You're the lucky one.
But the Titans weren't the only team choking up a winnable game on the road. Those hapless, helpless Detroit Lions were doing the same thing in Indy. Detroit clawed their way back from a 21-10 halftime deficit to tie the game at 21-all with just under 13 minutes remaining before once again succumbing to what seems to be their fate (not to mention Dallas Clark's single-game franchise-record-for-tight-ends 12 receptions, 142 yards and touchdown): The 0-14 Lions have now lost 15 straight and 21 of their last 22...and they're two defeats away from becoming the first NFL team to finish 0-16. Said Lions QB Dan Orlovsky: "No one wants to be part of that. No one wants to have their name involved with that. It's tough to swallow, everybody says we stink. We don't have much debate with that." Not really, no.
But don't think Indianapolis is except from a little stink eye: The Smurfs fumbled four times (losing two), blew a nearly certain scoring drive because of a stupid holding penalty, and their defense basically quit in the second half. And yes, they've done a great job in winning seven straight to recover from that 3-4 start...but most of the wins in the streak have been shaky at best. Said Colts coach Tony Dungy: "We weren't as sharp as we'd like to be. We couldn't make the plays we needed to put the game away, but it's something we expected." Wait. You expect to be NOT sharp and struggle to ice a game against the Lions?! Oooookay. I guess that sort of tells you all you need to know about Indy's playoff chances...
Now, Riddle me this, Batman: What's worse, that the Suck Diego Chargers nearly lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, or that the the Chiefs lost after building a 21-3 third-quarter lead. Hell, KC was still leading by 11 points with one minute and 14 seconds left. Then...things unraveled. Philip Rivers threw a TD pass to Malcom Floyd, but failed on the two-point conversion. The ensuing onside kick bounced off Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe's chest and San Diego recovered. Four plays later, Rivers tossed another TD to Vincent Jackson to put the Chargers up one. SD then missed ANOTHER two-point conversion, which set them up for a loss if the Chiefs could only kick a field goal. And chances of that looked slim until Shaun Phillips got glogged for a delay-of-game penalty for running into an official trying to place the ball. Said Philips: "I got pushed in the back. I hit the ref, so it was on me, but I got pushed by their guy."
So KC got a 50-yard field goal attempt for the win...only Chiefs kicker Connor Barth -- who had been nine-for-nine before missing a 34-yarder in the first half -- was wide left. Said Barth: "I'm kind of speechless. Don't know what to say. There's no excuse." Indeed. And now the Chiefs have to win their final two games to avoid setting a franchise record for fewest wins in a 16-game season. They play Miami and then travel to Cincy for their final game.
Pictured: Guy who is about to get
his butt kicked in the locker room.
Of the win, Rivers said: "There have been so many doubts and we've fallen so short of the expectations. The way we've bounced back these past two weeks in our division and won says a lot about our guys. It is big for our locker room and team, no matter what plays out the rest of the day." Yes. The 6-8 Chargers must be real proud to have beaten the 3-11 Raiders and the 2-12 Chiefs. That REALLY says a lot about the San Diego as a team...only not quite what Rivers had in mind.
Here are some final "fun" facts. First, boning the 21-3 lead was only they second-worst collapse of the season for Kansas City. They also blew a 24-3 lead against Tampa...which was a team record. Now, the Chargers gave up three sacks to the the Chiefs, who have the league's worst pass rush. How bad is that pass rush? KC has a league-low nine sacks and they need five more in their last two games to avoid tying the NFL record for fewest in a season. In fact, the Chiefs hadn't gotten a sack since playing San Diego four games ago. Speaking of which, five of KC's nine sacks game against the Chargers...who beat Chiefs twice this year by a total of only two points. Modern science cannot possibly quantify all the fail in the game or this paragraph. Let's move on.
Sadly, the Chargers and Chiefs weren't the only two teams slugging it out for "Which One Is Worse" dishonors. With less than two minutes remaining in their home game against the Bills, the Jets looked like they were about to suffer a devastating loss that would cost them the AFC East division lead and possibly deal their playoff hopes a fatal blow. Then Buffalo said, "Whoa now, whoa now, you do NOT suck worse than us" and, instead of chewing up the clock by running Marshawn Lynch -- who had 127 yards on 21 carries -- Dick "I stopped coaching after getting my contract extension" Jauron called a passing play for J.P. Losman...who got sacked from behind by Abram Elam. The sack forced a fumble that was retrieved by Shaun Ellis and returned 11 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Wow, wow, wow.
Uh oh. This could end badly...
...and it does.
Said Jauron: "Clearly the responsibility for the last call, the play-action pass, that was mine. That goes right on me. It backfired clearly and caused us to lose the game. It's one of those times in a game that's pretty good for a pass, right before the 2-minute." Uh...you sure about that coach? Really?!
Now, amazingly enough, the Bills had two more chances to come back...but Losman threw two interceptions. Game over.
And perhaps lost amidst all the collapsing was the performance of Brett Favre, who was only 17-of-30, tossed a couple picks, and was missing receivers all over the place. Said Brett: "Maybe I don't have the arm I once had. I don't know." News flash: Brett Favre doesn't know whether his arm was cut off and surgically replaced with one that was formerly owned by Cade McNown. I promise to look into this.
(P.S. To all you Bills fans out there, I'm sorry but they are who we thought they were.)
(Speaking of which, do I really need to break down the Raiders' 49-26 loss to the Patriots in which Matt Cassel threw a career-high four TDs and LaMont "He's still alive?!" Jordan chewed up his former team for 97 yards on the ground, including on 49-yard TD run? Yeah, didn't think so.)
Let's wrap things up in Baltimore, where the Ravens had a chance to keep alive their hopes of winning the AFC North. And things were looking pretty good for the first 56 minutes or so, particularly since the Steelers -- who had a measly six points at the time -- began their final drive at their 8 with 3:36 left. No matter. Pittsburgh moved the ball 92 yards in 13 plays to score the game-winning touchdown with 43 seconds left. Big Ben went 7-for-11 for 89 yards on the drive. No problem. It was the Steelers' first win in Baltimore since 2002.
The Ravens, who were held to a season-low 202 yards, had kind of shot themselves in the talon on the previous series, when they had moved the ball to Pittsburgh's 27 before a third-down sack forced them to punt. Whoops. Also worth noting is that only one Baltimore drive lasted longer than nine plays or 34 yards. Ouch.
Of course, there was a little controversy regarding the game-winner. The play was reviewed because it sure looked like Santonio Holmes' feet were in the end zone while the ball was not. But don't take my word for it. Watch for yourself:
After the game, referee Walt Coleman said: "He had two feet down. When he gained control of the ball, the ball was breaking the plane." If you say so, Walt. That said, the Steelers still would have had the ball on the goal line with plenty of time to punch it in. But still...it's been one lousy season for officiating in the NFL. I bet David Stern is freaking jumping up and down with joy.
One last 'bawful side note to the game: After Steelers kicker Jeff Reed converted the extra point following Holmes' touchdown-that-wasn't-one, Reed and Steelers' punter Mitch Berger got into a jawing match with Ravens cornerback Frank Walker. Stunningly, Reed got flagged for a 15-yard personal foul for shoving Walker. What could cause a kicker/punter/cornerback dustup you ask? Well, after the game, Berger told the Pittsburgh media that Walker tried to make contact with Reed's knee and when Berger approached Walker, Walker supposedly spit in Berger's mouth. No, really. Said Berger: "I tried to get in the middle to separate him, but he got in my face and spit right in my mouth. He spit right in my mouth. I'm still trying to spit that...out. I was talking to him, trying to separate everybody, and he spit right in my mouth."
I'm sure you'll join me in saying: Bwahahahahah! Naturally, Walker was unavailable for comment, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh was available to go over-the-top in defense of his player. "That's the first I heard that. I don't believe it for one second. Frank Walker wouldn't do it; none of our players would do it. I don't believe it for one second." Indeed. It's totally unbelievable. They would, however, make their fans throw up in their mouths a little...