Worst No. 2. In a do-or-die road game at Baltimore, Jersey/B trailed 27-17 and faced fourth and inches at the Ravens five late in the third. To that point, Testaverde had thrown 43 times and handed off 14 times. He can't possibly pass yet again on such short yardage, can he? Incomplete. Testaverde ended the day throwing 69 times, despite coming into the game as the most-intercepted player in the league. Pass Wacky Under Pressure ? Victory.
Worst No. 3. Score tied in the closing seconds of regulation, Tampa Bay needing a win over Green Bay to take the division title, the Bucs had the ball on the Packers 19, in snow and swirling wind. QB Shaun King knelt to position the ball at the center of the field for the kick—but did so in a way that lost three yards. Martin Gramatica's attempt from 40 barely hooked right but might have been good from 37; the Packers won in OT. Sure it was cold, but Gramatica wore a full-head eye-slit ski mask that made him look like a Jawa from Star Wars. Ridiculous Intergalactic Survival Gear ? Victory.
Stats of the Week: Stat No. 1. There were three touchdowns in the first 57 minutes of the Giants-Jax game and four in the final 187 seconds.
Stat No. 2. Denver had an 87-yard drive on which 66 of the yards resulted from San Francisco penalties.
Stat No. 3. Throwing 20 of 25 for 366 yards, three TDs, and no INTs against the Seahawks, Doug Flutie posted the third game this season that achieved the maximum of 158.3 under the league's cryptic QB rating system. (Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning had the other two 158.3 outings.) Flutie is now 33-14 as a starter for the Bears, Pats, and Bills, giving him the second-best winning percentage of any active QB, trailing only Warner. And still people around the league claim Flutie can't play.
Stat No. 4. Jersey/B lost at Baltimore despite these astounding edges: 542 yards of offense to 142 yards, 22 first downs to 5, 90 total plays to 51. But the Jets also allowed Baltimore an astounding 486 total return yards, including three touchdowns on kick and interception returns.
Stat No. 5. The Vikings get a bye week despite losing their last three straight while surrendering 104 points.
Bartender, Laterals for Everyone! NFL players saw the highlight reels of last week's classy Tampa Dunn-to-King lateral and came into the final week with laterals on the brain. Atlanta lateraled a kickoff return for an extra 30 yards. The Rams lateraled an interception return for a long gain. A Ravens defender so convincingly faked a lateral on an INT runback that it added another 20 yards. And the Bucs themselves converted a two-point try by handing off inside to Warrick Dunn, who reversed to Mike Alstott, who lateraled back to Shaun King.
Mile High Stadium Farewell: Last 30 years: two Super Bowl winners, three other conference championships, 250 consecutive sellouts. Wow. Explain to me again why we're smashing these storied stadiums? Does the executive set need heated skyboxes with waitress service that badly?
Authentic Game Index: TMQ's "combined efficiency" measure crashed as an indicator of who would prevail down the stretch—a post-mortem will appear in next week's column. To divert readers from remembering I proposed a statistical indicator that didn't work particularly well, let me propose another statistical indicator, the Authentic Game Index. Authentic Games are contests between playoff teams and other teams that made the playoffs too. As the postseason begins, this is how the contenders break down based on Authentic Games:
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