Five Minutes in Heaven (or Hell): Reliving Monday's finish

When you've lived a roto and poker life like I have, bad beat stories get old pretty darn quick. But if there's one time I'll accept them and lend you a sympathetic ear, it's Elimination Day -- the 24-48 window where so many fantasy teams fall by the wayside and think about the playoff spot that got away.

Monday's Jacksonville-Houston game didn't have a lot of juice to it for the first 55 minutes or so (even the Drew Rosenhaus interview was terribly boring), but down the stretch the Jaguars defense left early to beat the traffic, the Houston defense downshifted to a giveaway prevent, and all bets were off. Let's recap what happened in those crazy final five minutes:

With 4:52 left: David Garrard fumbles and the Texans recover at the Jacksonville seven yard line. Looks like a possible incomplete pass to me, but the video isn't conclusive and the call (properly) stands. The very next snap, Steve Slaton sprints untouched into the end zone (play this video for the announcer commentary, if nothing else).

With 2:11 left: Fred Taylor scores from four yards out, on the heels of six easy David Garrard completions against a Houston umbrella that is perfectly happy to trade yards for time. Onside kick fails, Texans take over.

At 2:04 left, next play from scrimmage: Steve Slaton jaunts past 11 disinterested Jags on the way to an easy 40-yard touchdown (the gem of this video is Gregg Williams looking sad). I swear three Jacksonville defenders were wearing straw hats and flip-flops on this play. Give Slaton 17 fantasy points from his last two carries (his rushing total lands right on the 130, which gains a very key additional point).

With 38 seconds left: Garrard hits Reggie Williams with an 18-yard touchdown pass, again having his way with the Houston prevent (he couldn't solve the regular defense over the first three quarters). Garrard throws for 65 yards and runs for three more on this march, and the three is very important -- it lands him on 10 yards for the game, chalk up another point.

I'm in an uncountable number of leagues, pools and contests, so I knew this series of plays would leave a personal mark somewhere. And the bad beat, for me, came in the Friends and Family League, where Slaton and Garrard rallied Brandon Funston to a one-point victory over Matt Romig; the victory lifted Brandon to a playoff spot and pushed me and my 7-6 record out of the dance. I sent a concession email to BeFun shortly after the game, he replied with a classy note back, and that was that.

Truth be told, it's not the injustice of the century that my team missed the playoffs. For the year I was an ordinary sixth in points scored, and that's the truest showing of fantasy strength (Brandon certainly had a more legitimate claim to the playoff spot than I did). I'm far more miffed at my hometown club missing the playoffs with the highest point total in the league, but hey, that's part of the dance. Total points is more fair, head-to-head is more fun.

At least we got a good story from it, right? Alcoa might not consider the Slaton-Garrard duel a Fantastic Finish, but fantasy players will remember it for years to come. And heck, it helped me in another competitive league, where Slaton's late runs pushed me (by four points) into a playoff spot. Win some, lose some.

Now it's your turn to spin your Week 13 yarn, especially if it ties to Monday night. Did you sneak in? Were you forced out? Joy, or pain? Did you nix the telecast convinced your result was final, then get shocked the following morning? To celebrate or commiserate the observance of Elimination Day, I'll open the door to bad beat stories. The cameras are rolling, let's hear it. (If you have a minute, ask me about the Adam Vinatieri 1998 story, a legendary bad beat dealt to someone in my hometowner.)

Oh, one more thing -- the skill in Fantasy Football is making the playoffs. The luck of Fantasy Football is what happens the next 2-3 weeks. If you qualified for the tournament, congrats -- you did what you were supposed to do.

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