Worst beats of 2021: Reliving the painful losses that will stick with us forever
We were all excited to put 2020 in the rearview for many reasons, and the start of a new year offered a clean slate.
But it took less than 48 hours into 2021 to deliver a soul-crushing loss. In fact, it was a two-for-one kick to the groin serving as a warning that the year ahead wasn't going to be any prettier.
An exciting day of bowl games had a delicious nightcap between No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 13 North Carolina (+7.5, 65.5) in the Orange Bowl. Still recovering from New Year's Eve and an always exhausting holiday season, I turned out the lights, lit a Balsam Cedar candle for the vibes, and settled in for a doozy, loading up on Sam Howell's Tar Heels, with a sprinkle on the under.
North Carolina led 20-17 through three quarters. Cake. I had a 28.5-point cushion on the under and 10.5 on the spread. "GIMME MY MONEY," I shouted at the TV like a complete loser.
A burst of 17 points in under five minutes wasn't ideal, but things still looked good at 27-27, and even better after three successive punts resulted in the Aggies starting a drive at their own 13-yard line with 5:02 left. Even a long touchdown drive would see both bets cash.
Three plays and 83 seconds later, Texas A&M found the end zone. A bit fast for our liking, but North Carolina's attempt to respond fell flat, and that just about sealed it. The Aggies run out the final two minutes, the game stays under, and the Tar Heels cover. "GIMME MY MONEY!"
Well, the Aggies ran alright. But they didn't run out the clock. North Carolina effectively gave up, in sickening fashion, as Devon Achane ripped off runs of 11 and 22 yards. "It's fine, just take a knee now," I pleaded. Why would they?
Achane waltzed into the end zone on the next play to rub all the salt in the wounds. A 31-point fourth quarter - 24 of them by Texas A&M - turned my 2-0 night into 0-2.
They were the first two bad beats of 2021 but certainly weren't the last.
49ers -9.5 (vs. Lions)
It took only a few hours into the 2021 NFL season before an awful, awful taste entered the mouths of bettors. The 49ers and Lions entered the season with very different expectations, which showed through much of this game. San Francisco led 41-17 at the two-minute warning, with its odds of covering surely greater than 99%.
You know what that means? Time to grab a drink and re-fill the snack bowl ahead of the next slate of games. Sound good? Good. Oh, by the way, while you were gone, the Lions scored a touchdown, converted the two, recovered an onside kick, drove 60 yards down the field for another touchdown, and then nailed another 2-point conversion. That's right. A 24-point lead dipped to eight in less than a minute. Just like that, what seemed certain to be a sweat-free win turned into a sleep-depriving loss.
Boise State -13 (vs. Wyoming)
Full disclosure, I had Wyoming +13 in this game. I was at my wife's friend's house for a birthday I didn't want to be at, talking to people I had no interest in talking to. The situation was exacerbated as I tracked this score, seeing Wyoming struggle to piece together back-to-back plays of positive yards, let alone a scoring drive.
When they got the ball back with 59 seconds left and down 16 points, I didn't even care. They had just one play over 20 yards in the game, and the thought of them driving 75 yards in under a minute, with no timeouts, was laughable. I still can't believe this happened.
Wyoming quarterback Levi Williams recorded just 77 passing yards before throwing for 79 yards on the Cowboys' final two offensive plays, completing the miraculous backdoor cover with four seconds left.
Derrick Henry: NFL rushing leader (+400)
We try to look deep down the board in our preseason player prop futures, but it was hard to make a case for anyone other than Derrick Henry when it came to the rushing yards leader market. So I didn't ... sort of. I said the only way Henry wouldn't win is if he got injured and missed more than a few games - something he's never done before in the NFL or college.
Of course, this year would be a first. Henry was running away with the NFL's rushing lead when he got hurt in Week 8, and he hasn't played since. I can't help but feel like this is all my fault.
Flames/Rangers under 5.5
I never knew an October hockey game could hurt so bad. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way. There was little threat to the under with 15 minutes remaining as the Flames - one of the league's best defensive sides - sat on a 2-0 lead. A reader at the game actually DM'd me on Twitter thanking me for the play.
Fast forward six minutes, and the Flames are up 4-1. Things became quite uneasy, but the pace absolutely died with Calgary blowing the doors open. Neither side threatened, and it looked like both were ready to run out the clock before Filip Chytil took a high-sticking penalty with 1:36 remaining. I wasn't even worried. The Flames slowly moved the puck around, going through the motions, not even putting out their top power-play unit. They just wanted to end the game. Then disaster struck.
A Calgary dump-in took a weird bounce off the boards, popping out in front of the net and forcing Igor Shesterkin to cover up with 11 seconds left. Dillon Dube won the ensuing draw back to Rasmus Andersson, whose point shot resulted in a juicy rebound that Andrew Mangiapane banged home with five seconds to go. Pain.
Florida State +9.5 (vs. Clemson)
Clemson came into this game 0-7 ATS, meaning there was plenty of reason for bettors to fade the overvalued Tigers.
When Clemson took a 24-20 lead with 2:53 left, those who took the points with Florida State were in decent shape. The Seminoles got the ball back, but after two sacks resulted in fourth-and-32, they punted to Clemson to figuratively run out the final 82 seconds, clinch a victory, and a Florida State cover. However, the Tigers didn't do that and punted with 23 seconds left.
This unfortunate play also pushed the game over the total, giving Clemson its first cover of the season.
Illinois -5 (vs. Ohio State)
Few things are more terrifying as a bettor than watching a scorned 3-point shooter line up behind the arc with nobody in front of him as the clock winds down ... with absolutely nothing at stake.
You know, like C.J. Walker in the waning seconds of Illinois' win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament title game. The Illini had already put the finishing touches on the Buckeyes to assure themselves a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So who could blame Walker for padding the box score a bit and baiting the committee into thinking, "Hey, maybe Ohio State did keep it closer than the final score suggests?" ...
... or maybe a 23-year-old simply decided to twist the knife into the hearts of everyone who (rightfully) laid the points on Illinois. It hurts all the same.
Patriots +3.5 (vs. Cowboys)
I'm no mathematician, but when the Patriots took possession with 2:42 left and a 21-20 lead, +3.5 bettors had, like, a 97% chance of cashing their tickets. What ensued was absolutely disgusting and rather difficult to relive.
Instead of running three straight plays, New England decided to throw following a delay of game penalty, with Trevon Diggs intercepting a Mac Jones pass and returning it for a touchdown. The next play? New England responds with a 75-yard touchdown. That should have sealed the cover, but the Patriots successfully made their 2-point conversion after the Cowboys missed theirs, leaving the door slightly open for a Dallas field goal to tie it and push the game to overtime.
Of course, that's what happened, with Greg Zuerlein hitting from 49 yards after the Cowboys converted fourth-and-4 earlier in the drive. However, Patriots bettors could finally breathe easy when New England won the overtime coin toss. After its drive stalled at midfield, Dallas got the ball back at its own 20-yard line, needing just a field goal to win the game. A few plays later, this happened:
This was the first of three games this season where a favorite of more than three points covered in overtime - the first time that's happened since 2002. But the Cowboys remain the only team to do so after losing the coin toss. Fun.
Rams -16.5 (vs. Texans)
In hindsight, this line could have been Rams -23, and it still would have been a good bet. That's how thoroughly this team destroyed the Texans through three quarters, at which point Los Angeles led 38-0 and was a mere 15 minutes away from validating those who laid the points.
Surely the Rams were safe from a backdoor cover, right? After all, Texans quarterback Davis Mills had gotten off to one of the worst starts we've seen from a rookie quarterback in recent memory, and he'd led his side to exactly zero points through the first three quarters.
The first touchdown was a given. The second one was excusable. But it's that third score - which came after an inexplicable onside kick attempt from a team still down by 24 points with five minutes left - that really tortured the soul, only to set up the inevitable 2-point conversion to cut it to 16. The Rams even had a chance to answer, but they mustered just two of their 467 total yards before punting away all hopes of a fair and just outcome.
Texas A&M team total over 67.5 (vs. LSU)
Up 66-60 with 8:50 left in College Station, Texas A&M had a better chance of hitting 100 points than staying under 67.5. Heck, I could have put a team together with my buddies to play the final 8:50 and we'd have gone over the total. But the Aggies? Not them.
They finished 0-for-15 from the field and 0-for-1 from the free-throw line with two turnovers over the final 8:50 in a 78-66 loss. You could replay those final nine minutes 100 times, and the Aggies would go over 67.5 every single time. I sincerely hope your year turned around if you happened to be on this over because this beat is so bad I still can't even fully comprehend it. Who goes 8:50 without a single basket? Dixie State doesn't even go that long without scoring against Gonzaga.
Wizards/Celtics first half over 114.5
Missing a wide-open layup to swing the balance for total bettors is bad enough. Missing two of them is downright criminal. So you can't blame over bettors for wanting to pursue charges against Wizards star Bradley Beal, who botched two layups so open that even his teammates laughed at him.
Do you know who wasn't laughing? Anyone who bet over 114.5, which looked like a stone-cold lock until Beal's late flub. The only thing worse than the misses was the fact he converted the bucket right as the halftime buzzer sounded - as if to remind jilted over bettors what could have been.