Celebrity NFL picks: Spirit of 76 (yarder) costs Kiffin

Sal DeFilippo

Celebrity picks

Lance Burton, Monte Carlo master magician (5-7)
Chargers –6 ½ at Dolphins
Steelers +4 at Jaguars
Saints -3 vs. Vikings
Anthony Crivello, star of "Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular"(9-3)
Chargers-Dolphins under 45
Bears-Lions under 44 1/2
Saints -3 vs. Vikings
Carrot Top, Luxor headliner (6-6)
Colts –3 at Texans
Broncos –3 vs. Buccaneers
Bills +1 at Cardinals
Danny Gans, Mirage headliner (4-8)
Eagles –5 ½ vs. Redskins
Giants –7 vs. Seahawks
Jaguars –4 vs. Steelers
Oscar Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas (6-6)
Colts –3 at Texans
Chargers –6 ½ at Dolphins
Saints –3 vs. Vikings
Kevin Janison, KVBC meteorologist (7-5)
Redskins +5 ½ at Eagles
Broncos-Buccaneers over 48
Bears –3 ½ at Lions
Wayne Newton, "Mr. Las Vegas" (7-5)
Saints -3 vs. Vikings
49ers-Patriots under 41 ½
Cardinals -1 over Bills

Late in the first half of the Raiders-Chargers game, Oakland was enjoying an unusual bout with prosperity, leading San Diego 15-0, with the ball in its possession.

With 36 seconds to go, JaMarcus Russell completed a short pass, setting up a third-and-2 situation at Oakland’s 42-yard-line. The receiver was unable to get out of bounds on the play, however, so the clock continued to tick down toward the end of the half. Oakland had a timeout remaining, but seemed content to let the clock run out.

I was a little surprised. Even though Oakland had built a nice lead, I couldn’t figure out why the Raiders wouldn’t continue to be aggressive, or at least try a Hail Mary pass to end the half. Russell’s arm is certainly strong enough to give it a shot.

With one second remaining, the Raiders finally used their timeout, and for a minute, I was applauding the move by embattled coach Lane Kiffin. From here, it was pretty easy to figure out what would happen. The Raiders would line up several receivers on one side of the field, Russell would drop back, roll out to one side, and heave it as far as he could, hoping for an interference call, a miracle catch off of a batted ball, or … insert your favorite Doug Flutie reference here.

A desperation pass really the Raiders’ only option if they hoped to score. What else could they do? It was either that, or try a 76-yard field goal, and let’s face it -- Don Knotts wouldn’t have even sent Gus the Kicking Mule out to try one from that distance. Any coach who wanted to keep his job would have sent his offense out there to take a free shot at the end zone.

Suddenly, I was the one calling a timeout from my living room as I watched Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski trot onto the field. Yep, the Raiders were actually lining up for a field goal. And apparently the mule didn’t clear waivers, because the Raiders were going to legitimately attempt a 76-yard kick with Janikowski.

For those who don’t follow the game that closely, the longest made field goal in NFL history is 63 yards – by Tom Dempsey in 1970 and matched by Jason Elam in 1998. Janikowski has one of the game’s strongest legs, but he was being asked to accurately kick a ball 39 feet farther than anyone had ever done in NFL history. If this were golf, Janikowski would have probably tried to hit an iron down to around the 15 and hope to chip in from there. There was just no way he was going to make this in one shot.

He gave it his best effort – but San Diego’s Antonio Cromartie, who was standing back by the goal line as if he were waiting for a punt, fielded the kick – which was well short and wide of the goal posts -- at the 2-yard line and returned it 26 yards as the half expired.

Sure, the odds on a Hail Mary pass aren’t good, but they’re better than the odds of making a 76-yard field goal. I just couldn’t figure out why Kiffin would even try it – especially after I watched the second half, when San Diego awoke and dominated the Raiders with a 25-point fourth quarter for a 28-18 win. What did he have to lose?

His job, apparently. He was removed from the heading coaching spot two days later. It wasn’t directly linked to his silly field-goal try – he and general managing partner Al Davis have been at odds since well before the season started -- but I doubt his successor, Tom Cable, will be attempting 70-plus-yard field goals any time soon. Not without a mule, anyway.

Speaking of getting kicked, a 1-2 week against the spread evens the season mark at 6-6. This week, I’ll go with the Patriots –3 at the 49ers, the Steelers +4 at the Jaguars and the Ravens +3 vs. the Titans.


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