There is a school of thought in sports that it is - at least sometimes - better to be lucky than good, and that thought crossed my mind several times during the Ravens' 23-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers yesterday at M&T; Bank Stadium.
I'll take lucky every time, but that's because I seldom have a choice. The Ravens probably would rather not leave things to chance, but the only reason that they were still in the game late in the fourth quarter was that Mark Clayton plucked two deflected balls out of the air for unlikely touchdowns.
Fill-in quarterback Kyle Boller played well in a difficult situation, but if both of those balls had come down in enemy hands, we'd all be nodding knowingly and wondering what Trent Dilfer is doing these days.
Heaven knows, Kyle has had his share of bad luck the past few years, which means that he probably was in serious karma deficit at the moment Steve McNair was, quite literally, knocked out of the game in the first quarter.
Apparently, there were a couple of lines left blank in Kyle's celestial register of good fortune, and Clayton filled them in by twice being in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to turn calamity into kismet.
"God has a strange way of drawing things up," Clayton said afterward.
That's probably true, but what does it say about the Ravens that they were favored by a field goal and were handed two gift touchdowns and still found a couple of ways to lose a game that would have looked pretty darn good in the win column?
I know exactly what it says:
Good karma is a terrible thing to waste.
Fortunately, perspective is pretty easy to come by this week. The other NFL team in the neighborhood (the 2-4 Washington Redskins) lost at home to the worst team in the AFC (the previously 0-5 Tennessee Titans) and faces perhaps the best team in the AFC (the 5-0 Indianapolis Colts) on the road next week.
In comparison, going into a bye week in first place in the AFC North - especially after the Cincinnati Bengals stumbled against the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers - doesn't seem so bad, does it?
Doesn't it do your heart good to know that, somewhere, Dan Snyder has his foot stuck in a wall?
Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle took responsibility, sort of, for the deflating 72-yard touchdown pass from Jake Delhomme to a wide-open Steve Smith in the fourth quarter. Rolle played Smith to the outside and got burned on the long post that reinstated a nine-point Carolina lead with four minutes left in the game.
"I stayed outside, and I guess the safety saw something else," Rolle said. "That happens. It happened. It was on my side. It's my fault."
Coach Brian Billick decided sarcasm was the best medicine when he was asked during his post-game news conference whether someone was supposed to stay with Smith on that play.
"I imagine somebody is supposed to stay with him," Billick said. "Most defensive plays are designed that way."
Crossing the line
Terrell Suggs insists that he was drawn offside at a particularly inopportune moment near the end of yesterday's game. The officials disagreed and assessed the Ravens the 5 most costly penalty yards of the year.
The penalty put the Panthers in a first-and-five situation with a couple of minutes left in the game. They were able to grind out those 5 yards with three plays while the Ravens used two of their timeouts, preventing any opportunity to regain possession when a long field goal could have won the game.
Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu wasn't happy when Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson dragged him down by his long, flowing hair in the third quarter of yesterday's lopsided Steelers victory.
The unusual tackle might have prevented Polamalu from scoring on a long interception return - and it was totally legal, but it still caused a brief scuffle and led to an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.
I like Polamalu, who's a USC guy, but I think it's time for a new 'do. The whole Rapunzel thing is getting old, and it could eventually cost the Steelers some points in a more critical game than yesterday's blowout.
T.O.'s TD trio
If all seemed right with the world after Terrell Owens scored three touchdowns in the Dallas Cowboys' 34-6 victory over the Houston Texans, his ability to divide a team was put on display again when team owner Jerry Jones sided with him in his midweek quarrel with receivers coach Todd Haley.
Jones indicated to an ESPN reporter Friday that if anyone was to be disciplined for the nasty exchange, it would be Haley, who had the audacity to question Owens for being late to a workout.
I guess yesterday's big win was just more proof that good team chemistry is overrated.
The long run
Saturday's Baltimore Marathon was a big success, and I'm thinking of taking part in next year's race. I think if I train really hard starting right now, I'll be in excellent shape to hand out bottled water somewhere along the course.
The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.