Los Angeles, CA
You never know how good a team is until they lose their quarterback. It's sort of like cutting a head off snake, particularly if the team has a shitty backup. Some backups are so good that they step right up with a seamless transition. It's like one of those lizards that regenerates a new tail of it gets its original tail cut off in a back alley brawl (or a back jungle brawl, or some other seedy place that incorrigible lizards hang out and get wasted then fight over some petty stuff like a lizard lover's triangle).
Big Ben went down in the 3Q after a pair of KC grunts tore his ribs apart. Both KC players danced in jubilation, yet the zebras turned a blind eye to their shenanigans. No flag. The zebras hate the Steelers for some reason... maybe they don't send them Christmas cards, or make them change in a janitor's closet?
The bookies set the line at Pittsburgh -12 and the public jumped at it, not to mention all those last minute bets from folks completely stuck for the weekend. I was scared to lay double digits... but then again KC's offense struggled to score double digits, especially in the last few games. So... a 20-9 victory was likely. I suggested an insanely crazy moneyline wager on Pittsburgh at -550 would be the best bet over at MatchBook. I also loved the UNDER 42 and that was before I saw the weather report for rain, rain, and rain. Hey, let's be frank here... Pittsburgh has the best D in the league (statistically) and KC is.... well... KC. They blow chunks in forty different ways and their anemic offense is spearheaded by the slapstick duo of Matt "I can't believed my own fans booed me" Cassel and Brady "Not So Mighty" Quinn.
I thought Sanchez/Tebow was a bad QB combo... I guess it could be a lot worse. Enter Cassel/Quinn.
Oh, and don't get me started about KC's coach who looks more like a stoned out hippie confused at the complicated dessert menu at Denny's.
In the end, we all settled on a UNDER 42 and a moneyline bet -550. Yeah, that's ridiculous, but there was no way Pittsburgh would lose. By the way HAL420 suggested Pittsburgh would win by 15 but we decided to shun him after this weekend's travesty. HAL420 is in the penalty box for a few more days.
The rain pissed down on Heinz Field and the game started out disastrous for Steelers nation. KC's Jamaal Charles shrugged off a concussion and finally got the damn ball after the coaching staff decided for an unknown reason to not call his number during running plays. Charles ran the ball up Pittsburgh's arse-hole and put up a quick 7. Yep, not even a few minutes into the game ad I was shitting bricks the size of cinder blocks.
Big Ben and Pittsburgh's offense couldn't get anyway going in the 1Q and KC continued to put the pressure on. Dwyane Bowe slipped by the secondary and scored a TD... but it was called back by a penalty. Wow... a rare penalty going Pittsburgh's way! Pitt is the worst penalized team in the league, so it was a shocker they got a fortuitous break and the zebras waved off the TD and took points off the board. KC could only muster up 3 points and instead of 14-0... it was just 10-0.
Pittsburgh struck back pulled even 10-10 going into halftime. The rain let up a bit and Pittsburgh was ready to put KC away in the second half.
Until... Big Ben went down. CRUNCH.
KC's grunts did a little dance on his grave and the zebras looked the other way. Big Ben left the sidelines and headed to the locker room. A few minutes later, MNF cameras caught him without his pads on. He was going to get X-Rays or consult a faith healer or something. Big Ben was done for the day. It was up to the backup... whoever he was... to lead Pittsburgh to victory and not fuck over any of our bets.
Shiiiiiit... who is Pittsburgh's backup?
Millions of dollars were on the line on any given Monday night. As a gambler did you really expect the fate of your wager would be decided by a backup? Backups are usually journeyman QBs that couldn't quite cut it as a starter due to old age, or injury, or both. Or your backup is a neophyte who has yet to get his ears wet in the show.
Jason Campbell. Nick Foles. Colin Kaepernick. Byron Leftwich.
All of them are backup QBs. Millions of greenbacks, pounds, and Euros were riding on backup QBs this weekend. Chicago, Philly, SF, and Pittsburgh were among the teams looked to their backups to bring home a win after their starter left the game because of an injury. Their employers paid them handily to hold a clipboard for most of the season until... BAM! The starter goes down after getting his bell rung and it's up to the backup to shake off the rust and win the game in crunchtime.
10-10. Byron Leftwich trotted out to the field to a tense crowd. I tried to remember the last time he played while my stomach churned and howled. I hoped Leftwich was better than KC's Matt Cassel. Hey, I wasn't expecting a miracle here. Leftwich did not have to unleash a dazzling all-star performance. The prime objective for Leftwhich? Do not under any circumstances fumble or throwing an INT. Protect the ball, son! Plus with a 1-2 punch ground attack of Dwyer and Redmen, all Leftwich had to do was hand the ball off and let the O-line and the back tandem do their jobs.
Leftwich went 7 for 14 but did not throw any INTs while their offense scrapped together a FG to take a 13-10 lead. Pittsburgh's D stepped it up and shutdown KC's offense... until the two-minute drill. All of a sudden Cassel woke up and started to think he was John Fucking Elway. With seconds remaining, Cassel threaded a pass down the middle and got his team in FG range. KC nailed it and sent the game into overtime.
Overtime lasted less than a minute and that's with the new OT rules in effect. Both teams got the ball at least once. Cassel promptly threw a pick which sunk his team's hopes at pulling off an upset. Cassel was set to be the hero yet ended up the goat. Pittsburgh kicked a FG and won the game 16-13.
The UNDER 42 was not much of a sweat but that moneyline pick was rough... like knots in the stomach... like spitting up blood because my ulcer is churning like a volcano. Byron Leftwich earned every cent of his paycheck and did not fuck up. He was smart and let Cassel fuck up first.
As my buddy @MeanGene put it best... "Steeler football isn't pretty football."
Not pretty, indeed but it was Matt Cassel's arm that was the difference between a suicidal nightmare and a profitable evening.