TORONTO - Rarely has losing received such lofty rewards.
On the final day of the season the race for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC was down to four teams — the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders.
Of those teams the only winner on Sunday afternoon were the Titans, who were handed a gift-wrapped victory over the Houston Texans.
The Titans, though, on Monday will be cleaning out their lockers, not heading to the post-season.
Playoff bound and winner of the final wild-card spot are the Cincinnati Bengals, despite a 24-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The Bengals loss coupled with the Titans triumph left both teams with 9-7 records. Cincinnati, however, earned their dance card due to a 24-17 victory over Tennessee on Week 9 of the season.
The Jets, meanwhile, were bounced 19-13 by Miami while the Raiders lost 38-26 to the San Diego Chargers.
The Bengals will now travel to Houston to take on the Texans in next weekend’s wild-card round.
On a day when nobody seemed to want to win, the nuttiest game featured the Titans and Texans.
How else to explain what happened in Houston.
Head coach Gary Kubiak and his Texans team did everything but drag the Titans across the finish line in their head-to-head matchup.
Were the Texans attempting to hand pick their playoff opponent next weekend by dropping a 23-22 decision to the Titans?
Were they hoping to have the Titans emerge with the final wild-card entry, the sixth seed, which coincidently enough happens to be the seed that the Texans will pay host to next weekend?
Consider the following.
The Texans elected to sit out Arian Foster, their No. 1 rushing back. Then following their first offensive series, one where quarterback T.J. Yates went 4-for-4 for 47 yards and led them to a 76-yard touchdown drive, Yates was pulled after injuring his left shoulder and replaced by the turnover machine known as Jake Delhomme who had been in the Texans camp for a month and was seeing his first action of the season.
Yates could have played on but Kubiak decided he didn’t want to push it with his rookie quarterback who was making just his fifth NFL start.
But the Houston shenanigans to pull out a defeat reached hilarious proportions in the final seconds of the game.
Following a Houston fumble in the final minutes and TD pass by Delhomme with 19 seconds left on the clock, Kubiak decided to attempt a two-point conversion for the win.
But before the ball was snapped, tight end Joel Dreessen jumped offside. That put the ball back to the seven but Kubiak elected not to kick the convert to tie the game and go into overtime.
Instead, backup center Thomas Austin zipped the ball over Delhomme’s head to guarantee a Tennessee win.
If it was a horse race, there would be an inquiry.
Instead, Houston get the Bengals.
As for the Jets, they were all talk and no guts as they lost to the Dolphins. Quarterback Mark Sanchez had a dreadful day, tossing three interceptions.
Afterwards, motor-mouth head coach Rex Ryan did a Richard Nixon imitation, his spin of Nixon’s “I am not a crook” statement.
“I’m always going to chase the Super Bowl,” Ryan. “I know I’m going to get criticized for it, but if you don’t, you’re probably a loser. I’m not a loser.”
Sorry Rex, but you are.
To complete the ‘loser’ theme of the day we give you Jets receiver Santonio Holmes whom teammates accused of quitting. Holmes ended his day on the sidelines.
“There were guys in the huddle not happy with Santonio’s demeanour throughout the game and in the two-minute drill,” LaDainian Tomlinson told ESPN. “And they said something to him about it.
“The worst thing that can happen, the worst thing, is when your teammates start to question your passion for the game,” Tomlinson added. “That’s the worst thing. And I think in that huddle, that’s what you saw. When guys looked in his eyes, and he didn’t have that fire in his eyes, guys were turned off about that.”
No beautiful loser there.