Everything was proceeding nicely Sunday until the final minute of the Bills-Patriots catastrophe. Washington, Houston and Denver all had covered. New England, the week's fourth major pick, didn't appear likely to do so until a miracle happened with less than a minute left.
The Patriots, favored by four points, had just scored to regain the lead at 21-18, only to see Adam Vinatieri miss the extra point by a mile to the left. Wonderful!
But Jim Kelly wasn't through. The Buffalo quarterback put up a pass in the right flat that defensive end Willie McGinest intercepted and returned 46 yards for a touchdown, at which point referee Dick Hantak became the most confused person in the stadium.
First, Hantak said it wasn't a touchdown. Then he said it was. He didn't have the foggiest idea. Still, after Vinatieri made the extra point, the Patriots led 28-18, and I start counting my mythical money: plus $880 for the day.
However, after Hantak penalized New England 15 yards on the kickoff for having confused him on the touchdown play, Buffalo returned the ball to the Patriots' 48 and, with about 30 seconds left, Kelly threw a Hail Mary, and the ball deflected to Andre Reed for a touchdown that made the final 28-25.
Fellow bettors, I feel your pain. Bill Parcells was asked how many times his team had surrendered such a long-shot play this year. "Three," the Patriots coach replied, before launching into the kind of talk a gambler could appreciate. "This is a trifecta. It's like hitting a Pick Six."
This week's picks
All bets in mythical dollars:
Dolphins at Patriots (-4): New England's offense is nicely balanced, Drew Bledsoe enjoys solid protection and reality has caught up with Miami. Not even Jimmy Johnson can overcome the shortage of talent. Look for Keith Byars, a Johnson reject picked up by the Patriots, to have an enjoyable afternoon. Take ** New England for $100.
Panthers (-1 1/2 ) at Falcons: Atlanta is the best 0-8 team in NFL history. The Falcons showed considerable improvement in challenging Dallas and Pittsburgh. Carolina's not in the same class with the Cowboys or Steelers. Take Atlanta for $100.
Chiefs (-1 1/2 ) at Vikings: The Chiefs were embarrassed in Denver but they have the quickness on defense needed to unsettle Warren Moon (injured ankle) or Brad Johnson and the Vikings' passing game. The loss of running back Robert Smith (torn knee ligaments) is a blow to the Minnesota offense. Take Kansas City for $100.
Eagles at Cowboys (-8 1/2 ): Ty Detmer beats me every week. So I'll give Philadelphia's little quarterback another opportunity. The Cowboys have been too physical for the Eagles in most of their recent matchups. Take Dallas for $100.
Rams at Steelers (-13): The number's large, and the Steelers' offense will never be characterized as explosive, but the Rams don't figure to do much on offense against the AFC's best defense other than commit turnovers. Take Pittsburgh for $100.
Redskins at Bills (-3): The Redskins don't have anybody ready to take on Bruce Smith, so Gus Frerotte will be under much more pressure than usual. But Washington is 7-1, Terry Allen's on a tear and the Bills' offense doesn't scare anyone. Take Washington for $100.
Broncos at Raiders (-1 1/2 ): Oakland's pass protection has improved for Jeff Hostetler. He can throw on the Broncos' secondary. But Denver's going to score frequently, too. Take Denver for $100.
Chargers at Colts (-4): The Chargers must continue to go with Sean Salisbury until Stan Humphries' shoulder heals. The Colts have lost three of four after getting off to a fast start. Time to regroup. Take Indianapolis for $250.
Record: 4-3. Net for week: plus $355. Net for season: minus $915.
Pub Date: 11/01/96