In this week’s post-game Handshakes, we marvel at the sheer number of teams that are “destiny’s darlings” with multiple close wins. The Texans survived a second straight overtime, the Ravens won . . . again, despite being pretty awful for large chunks of another game offensively. The Falcons did it again with another close win, this time at Tampa Bay.
These Teams Just Know How to Win: Four teams in the NFL are now at least five games over .500 in one score games, and all have their share of improbable outcomes. For Baltimore, their most improbable came yesterday facing a 4th and 29, and converting when Joe Flacco threw a dart to Ray Rice for the first down after Rice ran another 25 yards.
For Houston, they’ve now survived two straight games in overtime where they overcame a double digit second half deficit in each. It also took a controversial non-review of a touchdown, and an opposing coach who thinks kicking long field goals on third down is a good thing.
Atlanta was in another close one in winning on the road at Tampa Bay, likely ending any drama in the NFC South. This wasn’t necessarily the Falcons most improbable win, since they held the lead and held off the Falcons late, but it was their seventh win by fewer than eight points.
The fourth team in the group is the Indianapolis Colts, who just beat the Bills to go to 6-1 in close games, and solidify their standing for a wildcard spot.
Not included in that group is the Arizona Cardinals, who went 9-1 in close games from last year until they started 4-0 this year, and whom I called “yes, just lucky” before their first loss. What about these teams? They are, with the exception of the Colts who are a flawed team, both good and lucky. But let’s go ahead and get this out there. None of them has likely found some magical formula to get the right bounces carrying forward.
I found 32 other teams since the merger who were +5 in close games through eleven contests. Among those is the 2010 Falcons, who were 6-1 at this point in close games and just coming off the inspiring win over the Packers in game #11–a game that showed they were a team of destiny. The remarkable thing this year is not that one team is seeing fortune smile so prominently, but that there are four different ones. No other year in the last forty had more than three (1986 and 2003) teams with such stellar close game records.
How did these teams do the rest of the way? They went 33-29 in close games the rest of the regular season, then fell to 10-12 in close games in the postseason. Some broke through and won the Super Bowl (1970 Colts, 1976 Raiders, 1986 Giants, and 2003 Patriots). Others lost in heartbreak fashion when fortune turned. It would be just as foolhardy to think they will all start losing. With four of them, one may very well continue winning and appear to be the team of destiny. Good luck picking them out ahead of time, though.
Matt Schaub Says Ndamukong Suh is not Texans worthy: Matt Schaub got kicked in the groin by Ndamukong Suh on Thursday, and initially said he didn’t want to talk about that player. Today, Nick Wright interviewed Schaub, and when asked if he would want to play with Suh, Schaub responded: “No. That type of person is not Houston Texans worthy.”
In other news, I expect to hear more news about Suh in a few days. A minority think that this was an accident, but I don’t see how that foot extending out is a natural motion. Suh felt contact with his foot, then pushed out.
Andre Brown broken leg: The Giants rolled last night over the Packers. All they need is for everyone to doubt them, and they are near unbeatable. They will have to figure out the running back situation now, though, because Ahmad Bradshaw is perpetually on the injury report, and Andre Brown broke his leg last night and is possibly out for the rest of the year. David Wilson, who has been in the doghouse for fumbling early in the season, is now an honorary Pittsburgh Steelers running back and may get more action in New York.
Patriots Continue to Run Up the Score: Lost among all the nonsense about the Patriots running up the score and karma is this: The Patriots have scored 407 points through eleven games– tied for 4th most all time through 11 games, and now within shouting distance of their own 2007 record. Remember when they weren’t as good as the Cardinals?
Jay Cutler Tying Shoes: Jay Cutler is a key cog in the Bears offense, and he is truly only appreciated when he is gone. Last week, the Bears tripped all over themselves on offense in San Francisco, but this time around he was there to tie up loose ends for J’Marcus Webb. D.J. Moore thinks Cutler needs to cut the cord and let Webb tie his own shoes.
Martellus Bennett Saves Falling Fan: After the victory last night, Martellus Bennett was engaging with fans on the way to the locker room when an overzealous adult flipped over the railing. Bennett broke his fall by catching him, and both took a tumble. Bennett on his save: “I just did what any super hero would do, saved his life,” Bennett said. “I’m like Scott Summers [Cyclops from the X-Men comics].”
Richard Sherman is Mad About His Suspension, Bro: Seattle could be without both starting cornerbacks, as ESPN reported that Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman are both facing four game suspensions for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy (reportedly for Adderall). This could be a huge blow for a team right in the middle of the playoff hunt, which relies on its defense, and its corners to provide aggressive man coverage. Sherman, you might recall, engaged in some trash talk with Tom Brady when the Seahawks beat the Patriots. No word on whether Brady has inquired whether Sherman is Mad, Bro, yet.
Buttocks Ruled the Week That Was: As Judy Battista so deftly put it, “from the Butt fumble to a butt whipping, quite a weekend at MetLife so far.” A hearty slap on the cheeks to the NFL this week for providing the butt for many jokes. It all started with the Mark Sanchez fumble by running into his lineman’s butt. I am a bad person, because I laughed uncontrollably at this.
Ed Hochuli then got to show he is more than a biceps man and use the word “buttocks” when informing us about a fumble that wasn’t in the Colts-Bills game, because T.Y. Hilton’s buttocks were firmly on the ground. Then, Al Michaels joined in the buttocks fun when analyzing the Hakeem Nicks touchdown last night. It’s a bottom line league, people.
And for Michael Turner’s next impression, Eddie George: Jacquizz Rodgers took on a larger role yesterday in the Falcons win. One area they can improve down the stretch is the running game, where Michael Turner is looking like end of the line Eddie George. Turner managed 17 yards on 13 carries, and is now averaging 2.8 yards per carry over the last six weeks.
Ray Lewis to Return? Michael Silver reports that the Ravens may get a boost if Ray Lewis can return, and says its possible as early as the key matchup against Denver.
Stevie Johnson Wants to Know “Why Him?” In Regard to His Coach: The Buffalo Bills had one last chance to get back into contention with a victory over the Colts yesterday. They came up short and managed 13 points on the road. Stevie Johnson thinks he knows the solution to the Bills’ offensive woes. “How I see it, I think we need to let our quarterback call these plays. He’s out there on the field. He sees the adjustments that need to be done. I think we just need to let him make adjustments on the go. I think that’s the way we can move the ball better.”
FOURTH AND ONE LOG
1. Houston punted on 4th and 1 at DET 46 in scoreless game in first quarter. Game would eventually go to overtime.
2. Indianapolis kicked a field goal on 4th and goal from the 1 with one second remaining in the half to extend the lead to 13-6, and would win 20-13.
3. Kansas City went on 4th and 1 at the DEN 40 in the first quarter. They converted on a sneak, but a timeout was called. Denver jumped offsides to give a first down after the timeout. Later, Kansas City kicked a field goal on 4th and 1 at the 31 to take a 9-7 lead. Kansas City also kicked a field goal on 4th and 2, in a game they lost 17-9.
4. Seattle punted on 4th and 1 from the Miami 38 in a scoreless game. Miami scored the first touchdown on the ensuing possession, and won 24-21.
5. San Diego went on 4th and 1 at Baltimore 27 in scoreless game, converted, and scored a touchdown two plays later. They eventually lost in overtime.
6. Baltimore went at the San Diego 13 down by a touchdown at the end of the third quarter, were stopped on a Bernard Pierce run.
[photo via US Presswire]
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