BAD BEATS: NFL WEEK ONE
BY ADAM GREENE
As we do every year, it’s important to open the first Bad Beats column with the definition of a Bad Beat. A Bad Beat isn’t just a loss of money, based on the line, the over-under or what have you. A Bad Beat comes when you’ve made the call, placed your bet and for 90 percent of the game are cruising to a solid payout, only to have it stolen from you in the final seconds, usually by something really dumb.
So as frustrating as it may have been to bet on the Cincinnati Bengals at +3 against the Los Angeles Chargers and see their kicker Randy Bullock shank the ball into the nearest sandtrap then pretend his leg had detached from his body, it doesn’t really count. Even if you factor in the offensive pass interference penalty called on A.J. Green that negated what would have been the winning touchdown, it still doesn’t quite measure up.
The game was in doubt the whole time. Either team could have won it in the final minutes. A Bad Beat just isn’t an unfortunate loss. A Bad Beat makes you question your karma, the religion you’ve picked, if you’ve accidentally purchased a cursed idol from a vengeful old witch-woman.
You could say the same thing about the Arizona Cardinals taking out the San Francisco 49ers and the Tennessee Titans outlasting the Denver Broncos. These were tight contests, in doubt the whole way. Whichever way you’d laid your money, you were prepared for what eventually happened.
No, there was only one game this week that made you hang up the phone with the bass boat dealership. Only one that made you shut down the Trivago app on your phone as you perused post COVID-19 Caribbean vacations. Only one that made you look deep inside yourself, judge every action you took the previous week and wonder aloud what you did to make such bad luck befall you.
I’m talking, of course, about Chicago Bears 27, Detroit Lions 23.
Let’s set the stage. The Lions opened as -3 favorites and sat there the whole way. With 3:19 left in the third quarter, they took a 23-6 lead against a team, and I can not stress this fact enough, quarterbacked by Mitchell Trubisky.
Trubisky isn’t exactly a fourth-quarter comeback guy. He’s not even a fourth quarter completion guy. The only thing you can feel comfortable having Trubisky doing in the fourth quarter is setting up the WiFi on Microsoft Surface tablet.
With Trubisky firing passes for the Bears, a 17-point lead with 18 minutes to go in the game should have been insurmountable.
But then a wormhole opened up or Trubisky’s soul got replaced with a better player like the end of Heaven Can Wait. Either way, the switched flipped and it was Trubisky time as he promptly drove his team down the field to score their first touchdown a minute and a half into the fourth quarter.
Still, the Lions had a 10-point lead. All you needed was three points and you can’t be too worried about Trubisky. This was very much a blind pig and truffle situation, right?
Obviously, because in the Bears’ next position they gained all of four yards and went three-and-out.
The clock was your friend and only a complete disaster could screw that up. But with less than nine minutes left, Chicago wouldn’t even have time to do anything, you told yourself as you pulled up CarMax to search for the 1997 Mazda Miata dream car of your youth.
Matthew Stafford gets the Lions to the Bears 33 and you’re already feeling the wind whip through your hair in the drivers’ seat of a little red sporty two-seater. But Stafford takes a sack. A play later the team lines up for a 55-yard field goal and Matt Prater misses wide right.
Sure, it would have wrapped the contest, but there’s only four minutes to go. What’s the worst that could happen?
A five-play scoring drive where Trubisky hits Javon Wims for the TD that takes all of a minute off the clock.
OK, scary. You’re alert now. You’ve closed the CarMax app on your phone and actually paying attention. You’re still in good shape. You’ve got the three points you need and there’s less than three minutes to go in the game. All Detroit has to do is run some plays and eat up the clock. Done deal, right?
The Bears’ Kyle Fuller had other ideas, stepping in front of a Stafford pass on third and five to set up Chicago on the 37 yard line.
And as bad as that was, in your head, you’re still doing the math. “Alright,” you say to yourself aloud, “They tie the game with a field goal, we go to overtime and the Lions still win by three. Stafford is the late game comeback king. It’s his whole deal.”
Then Trubisky tossed the best pass of his life down the right sideline to Anthony Miller, who collapsed across the goal line for the touchdown two plays later. The Bears led 27-23. Disaster.
Yikes. But, hey, you’ve still got Stafford, No. 5 among active players in fourth-quarter comebacks with 28. There’s still nearly two minutes on the clock. This could still totally happen.
And it almost did. Stafford did his thing. Worked the team down the field, controlled the clock and with 11 seconds on the board had the team on Chicago’s 16 yard line. Stafford drops back to pass and all but hands the ball to rookie running back D’Andre Swift for the game winning touchdown. Only Swift drops it like it was covered in wing sauce. It dribbled to the turf along with your Miata dreams.
There was still one more play, but you were already done. Resigned to continue your meaningless Japanese roadster-less life another week. Your inner 17-year-old would have to wait.