The Bad Beat Bracket: Sweet 16
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images. Pictured: The Fail Mary
Warning. This post contains lots of heartbreak.
We’re now down to the Sweet 16 after you voted on each matchup on Twitter.
We acknowledge there’s some recency bias in the selections; fresh wounds still sting, and the Twitter Era has made it easier for these beats to surface.
You can check out the full bracket here.
What’s a bad beat? They come in many shapes and sizes, but it’s generally a bet that looked like a winner and ended up a loser thanks to some wild series of events.
Over the next few weeks, you can cast your votes on Twitter to determine the worst beat of all-time.
Some of these atrocities will look familiar, and some you probably haven’t heard of. So we explained all remaining 16 below with videos. Here are explanations of all 64 originally in the bracket.
1. Falcons vs. Patriots, Super Bowl 51
- The Line: Falcons +4.5
- The Final: Patriots 34, Falcons 28
- The Heartbreak: Everything
This game needs little introduction.
If you’re a Falcons fan, you still can’t believe they blew a 28-3 lead and lost Super Bowl 51. If you bet the Falcons that day, you still can’t believe they didn’t cover as 4.5-point underdogs.
5. Bills vs. Patriots, 1998
- The Line: Bills +3.5
- The Final: Patriots 25, Bills 21
- The Heartbreak: The 11 vs. 0 Conversion
This might be the most unique football beat in the bracket.
As a Bills +3.5 ticket holder, you were safe no matter what with Buffalo leading 21-17 with just seconds left.
The officials called pass interference on Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe’s Hail Mary attempt as time expired, giving the Pats an untimed down from the 1-yard line. They scored to go up 23-21. And still, you were safe.
But in frustration, the Bills walked off the field, leaving 11 Patriots against zero Bills players for the extra point. Instead of kicking the PAT, Adam Vinatieri just ran it in for two points and New England won 25-21, covering -3.5.
3. The Fail Mary
- The Line: Packers -3
- The Final: Seahawks 14, Packers 12
- The Heartbreak: Replacement Refs
One replacement ref ruled the play a touchdown. The other ruled the play an interception. After review … I still don’t think they know yet.
Trailing 12-7 with no time left, Russell Wilson chucked up a Hail Mary that appeared to be intercepted, but the replacement refs ruled simultaneous possession and awarded it to Seattle, so the Seahawks won and covered.
2. Browns vs. Bears, 2001
- The Line: Browns +4.5
- The Final: Bears 27, Browns 21
- The Heartbreak: Pick-Six in OT
I can’t believe it took us this long to find a Browns bad beat, but here it is.
The Browns (+4.5) led 21-7 win 32 seconds left. They gave up a touchdown, onside kick, and tipped Hail Mary to send the game to overtime.
In 2001, you needed just a field goal to win in overtime, so Browns bettors still felt safe. Then Tim Couch had a pass tipped at the line, intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
9. St. Bonaventure vs. VCU, 2017
- The Line: Bonnies +1.5
- The Final: VCU 83, St. Bonaventure 77
- The Heartbreak: The Court Storm
If you’re going to storm the court, make sure you wait until the clock hits zero.
St. Bonaventure ended up losing this game in overtime after a go-ahead 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left. The Bonnies received a technical foul, and VCU converted the foul shot to send the game to overtime, where the Rams won by six.
5. Penn State vs. Duquesne, 2018
- The Line: Duquesne +5.5
- The Final: 73-67
- The Heartbreak: The free throws
Penn State got fouled with 5.2 seconds left, causing Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot to lose his damn mind. He received two technicals, giving the Nittany Lions four additional free throws.
Penn State was just 11 of 20 at the free throw line before this, but of course hit all six.
Oh, yeah. The line was +5.5.
3. Iona vs. Manhattan, 2013 MAAC Title
- The Line: Iona -4
- The Final: Iona 60, Manhattan 57
- The Heartbreak: 5 Points, 1 Second
Iona (-4) was cruising to a win and cover in the 2012 MAAC Championship Game. The Gaels led by eight points with six seconds left. Then disaster struck.
Manhattan hit a three as time expired, but officials ruled there was still time on the clock, so Iona received a technical foul when its bench rushed the court.
The Jaspers hit both free throws and covered +4.
7. Raptors vs. Wizards, 2007
- The Line: Wizards +4.5
- The Final: Raptors 123, Wizards 118
- The Heartbreak: The heave
How do you run out the clock in a basketball game? Heave the ball into the air. Just make sure there are more than 2.5 seconds left.
The Wizards’ Michael Ruffin did just that against the Raptors in 2007, and Mo Peterson caught it and fired in almost one awkward motion to tie the game at 109 and send it to overtime.
Of course, Toronto won by five in OT to cover -4.5.
College Football Region
1. Belk Bowl, 2012
- The Line: Cincinnati -9
- The Final: Cincy 48, Duke 34
- The Heartbreak: Goal line fumble, 83-yard TD, Pick-Six
Belk is no longer sponsoring this bowl after the 2019 edition, which will be a welcome change for anyone who was on Duke in the 2012 game. You never have to hear the words “Belk Bowl” again. After this.
Tied 34-34, Duke (+9) was inside Cincy’s 5-yard line with less than two minutes to play. There’s not even a chance Duke doesn’t cover in bettors minds. But the Blue Devils fumbled. Still, you feel great about +9.
Cincinnati QB Brendon Kay then threw an 83-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce to go up 41-34 with 44 seconds left. Still, at +9, you feel good.
But then, Duke quarterback Sean Renfree got hit as he threw with less than 20 seconds left, and Cincy picked it off and returned it for a touchdown.
4. Ohio State vs. Northwestern, 2013
- The Line: Ohio State -6.5
- The Final: Ohio State 40, Northwestern 30
- The Heartbreak: The Hook and Ladder
You might remember this one for Brent Musburger’s infamous call:
“And you know what, there are some folks that are celebrating, and others who are saying, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.'”
What you might not remember is that Northwestern, 93 yards from Ohio State’s end zone, spiked the ball with five seconds left to run the play that ultimately led to a horrific beat.
11. Prayer at Jordan Hare, 2013
- The Line: Georgia +3.5
- The Final: Auburn 43, Georgia 38
- The Heartbreak: The Tipped Pass TD
Auburn’s run to the 2013 national title game should have ended right here. But instead, two Georgia safeties collided, allowing Nick Marshall’s pass on fourth-and-18 to fall into the hands of Ricardo Lewis, giving the Tigers a win and cover as 3.5-point favorites.
7. Stanford vs. Northwestern, 2019
- The Line: Northwestern +6.5
- The Final: Stanford 17, Northwestern 7
- The Heartbreak: Strip Six
Stanford has been on the fortunate end of many of these beats, and got another one here with a strip sack and score. The worst part is a Northwestern offensive lineman fell right over the ball and missed it — a safety would’ve kept Northwestern inside the number.
Other Sports Region
1. Mariners vs. White Sox Total, 2013
- The Line: Over/Under 7
- The Final: White Sox 7, Mariners 5
- The Heartbreak: 0-0 Entering Extras
The White Sox and Mariners played 13 scoreless innings on June 5, 2013. And then chaos ensued.
Chicago scored five runs in the top of the 14th and led 5-1 with two outs in the bottom of the frame, but Seattle answered with a Kyle Seager grand slam on a 1-2 count.
The Sox ended up winning 7-5.
12. British Open 1999
- The Line: Jean Van de Velde 200-1
- The Final: Paul Lawrie wins
- The Heartbreak: Socks and Shoes
Longshot Jean Van de Velde took a three-shot lead into the final hole of the 1999 British Open. Then disaster struck.
He pushed his drive, then tried to reach the green with a 2-iron, and his ball hit a railing on the grandstand and landed in deep rough. He again tried to reach the green and instead ended up in the water.
He removed his shoes and socks, rolled up his pant legs, then decided against the effort and took a drop. He then hit into a greenside bunker and splashed out to 6 feet. After that debacle, he holed the ensuing putt for a triple bogey to get to a playoff.
But with his nerves shattered, he lost the playoff to Paul Lawrie.
3. Sharks vs. Golden Knights, 2019 Playoffs
- The Line: Knights -105
- The Final: Sharks 5, Knights 4
- The Heartbreak: The Cross Check
With Vegas up 3-0 with 11 minutes left, Cody Eakins was inexplicably given a major for cross-checking Joe Pavelski off a faceoff.
San Jose scored four goals on that 5-minute powerplay (major penalties don’t end if a goal is scored), and eventually won it in overtime after the Knights tied it 4-4 with 47 seconds left in regulation.
2. Mets vs. Braves, 1999 NLCS
- The Line: Over/Under 7.5
- The Final: Mets 4, Braves 3
- The Heartbreak: The Grand Slam Single
Robin Ventura smoked a grand slam to right field to give the Mets a 7-3 win in Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS.
But Todd Pratt, the runner on second, mobbed Ventura before he could finish rounding the bases. So the home run was officially ruled a single, and only one runner had crossed the plate.
That meant the game finished with seven runs, falling just short of the total.