Bonehead play by Bledsoe one that really smarts

On the line

December 19, 1997|By Gerald Strine | Gerald Strine,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The competition for the NFL's Bonehead Play of the Year Award has reached an all-time high. The league's highly paid professionals are bigger, stronger, faster, quicker, etc. But no one ever said they're smarter or that they're better schooled in the fundamentals.

Take, for instance, Drew Bledsoe's interception late in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Patriots seemingly had the game won, 21-13, with only 2: 10 left and facing third-and-seven at midfield. The Steelers were out of timeouts. New England had played spiritedly on defense throughout the ** afternoon.

All Bledsoe had to do was not goof it up. The Patriots would have punted deep into Pittsburgh territory and, zingo, covered the spread as 2 1/2 -point favorites.

But no. Daring Drew put up a weak pass toward the left flat. Pittsburgh intercepted and ran it back deep into New England territory. Before long, touchdown! Two-point conversion. Overtime. Field goal. The Steelers won, 24-21. You had to see it to believe it.

I was lucky. Bledsoe's interception cost me a mere $110, mythically. It may have cost New England the season.

This week's picks

(All bets in mythical dollars)

Patriots at Dolphins (-2 1/2 ): If the New York Jets upset Detroit on Sunday, the loser of this contest will be eliminated from the playoffs. If the Jets lose, the loser of this game will lose the home-field advantage for the first round of the playoffs. So this game is worth winning.

New England defeated Miami, 27-24, as a six-point favorite Nov. 23 in Foxboro. The Patriots picked off two Dan Marino passes late in the second quarter and returned them for touchdowns, then held off a strong, second-half rally by the Dolphins.

Miami lost, 41-0, at Indianapolis on Sunday, turning in an even more miserable performance than the score suggests. But Jimmy Johnson coaches the Dolphins. Pete Carroll coaches the Patriots. Miami has Marino. New England has Bledsoe. There's only one way to go.

Take Miami for $250.

Bills at Packers (-9): Don't expect to see Brett Favre or Dorsey Levens traipsing on the tundra in the fourth quarter. Green Bay has been the best team in the league over the past month. In a class by itself, almost. I doubt Mike Holmgren will permit his team to let down too much.

Take Green Bay for $100.

Saints at Chiefs (-7): Elvis Grbac, out since Nov. 3 because of a fractured clavicle, returns as the starting quarterback for the 12-3 Chiefs, who have clinched the home-field edge in the AFC playoffs. The assumption is that coach Marty Schottenheimer will rest several key players during the second half. Maybe so.

But Rich Gannon, who guided the Chiefs to a 5-1 record during Grbac's absence, figures to be the relief man in what essentially pits one of the NFL's worst offenses against one of the league's best defenses. The Chiefs lead the NFL point-spread standings at 10-3-2.

Take Kansas City for $100.

Colts at Vikings (-6 1/2 ): I was going to let this game go until the number dropped from seven points. All the incentive is with Minnesota. Or it should be. The Vikings are going to the postseason if they win. The Colts are going home. The Vikings didn't play badly against San Francisco and Detroit, and a similar effort should get them past the admittedly improved Colts.

Take Minnesota for $100.

Jets at Lions (-6 1/2 ): Detroit should win and advance to the playoffs. Detroit has the better team. Detroit has Barry Sanders and Herman Moore and a solid coach in Bobby Ross. Detroit is playing at the Silverdome, where its offense usually gets moving into high gear. The only thing the Jets have going for them is a guy named Bill Parcells. Nobody prepares a team better for a big game. I'm going with Parcells.

' Take New York for $100.

The numbers

Last week's record: 1-3. Net for week: minus $230.

Season record: 45-44-5. Net for season: plus $680.

Pub Date: 12/19/97

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