Watching the final moments of regulation time during the Baltimore Ravens-Denver Broncos AFC Divisional round playoff game, I couldn't help but remember back to a Saturday night at Milan Puskar Stadium.
West Virginia had just taken a 31-24 lead over visiting Texas Christian thanks to a 74-yard punt return by Paul Hornung Award winner Tavon Austin and a Tyler Bitancurt PAT.
More importantly, after a rare stop by the Mountaineers' defensive unit, it appeared as if all WVU had to do was get one first down and the old gold and blue would snap its two-game losing streak and keep alive its hopes for a major bowl bid.
That did not happen, however, as TCU's offense was given one last opportunity to knot the game. The Horned Frogs - led by freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin -had to go 85 yards in just over 90 seconds. Make that 94 yards after a Josh Francis 9-yard sack.
Then, the unthinkable happened.
Boykin again dropped back to pass. This time escaping a possible safety and finding wideout Josh Boyce completely uncovered behind the Mountaineer secondary at the TCU 40. An easy flip of the wrist and 54 yards later, Boyce was in the end zone with the football and a successful PAT knotted the game at 31 with 1:28 showing on the clock. TCU eventually would win the game with a controversial two-point conversion pass in the second overtime
Why bring up this painful memory at this time?
Well, up until the final 31 seconds of Denver's first (and what would turn out to be its only) playoff game it appeared as if the Broncos and their Comeback Player of the Year quarterback Peyton Manning would be advancing into next weekend's conference championship game.
Then, it happened.
The Ravens' Joe Flacco found wideout Jacoby Jones for a 70-yard touchdown that enabled the visitors to knot the game in regulation and eventually snatch victory away from defeat when Justin Tucker nailed a 47-yard field goal just 1:42 into the second overtime.
Granted Jones' catch was much more contested than that the one TCU's Boyce produced. But, it still begs the question, "How was he allowed to get behind the secondary at all?"
The answer is a simple one, albeit one that fans fail to understand.
A player made a mistake.
He didn't want to make the mistake, he didn't plan to make the mistake, and he wasn't 'coached' to make the mistake. It just happened.
Fans need to realize two things. First, the old adage that "players win games and coaches lose games" isn't always the case.
More importantly, when you point a finger at someone, there are three others (four if you include the thumb) that are pointing back at you.
Instead of looking for someone to blame (usually the coach), learn to move on. It's OK to be upset that your favorite team lost, but until they start making robots that play the game we are going to have humans making human mistakes.
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org