Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Just Win, Baby

How our teams fared yesterday

Print Email
Redskins running back Ryan Torain scores.(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In baseball’s 162-game season, close games leave one feeling ambiguously, no matter the result: You got lucky this time, but be careful next time; you got unlucky this time, but you’ll get ‘em next time. In football’s 16-game season, though, that is not the proper response: You must be happy with a win and sad about a loss, no matter how close each was. And you must draw broader lessons, because winning close games is something of its own skill—chiefly, it’s about minimizing your own mistakes and exploiting your opponents’ (and your opponent will always make mistakes). And winning close games just may be the most important skill in the NFL.

Which is why the Washington Redskins’ 27-24 loss last night, at home, to the Indianapolis Colts is more of a sucker punch than it should first appear. Sure, the loss was to the great Peyton Manning and his Colts, who are assuredly one of the best teams in the League—through Week 6, it seems clear that all the best teams are in the AFC—who already demolished NFC East rivals the New York Giants and will do the same to the Dallas Cowboys (surely) and the Philadelphia Eagles (likely).

But, ugh! The Skins failed to minimize their mistakes—I am thinking of the two interceptions Donovan McNabb (uncharacteristically) threw, particularly the one in the first quarter, as well as several instances of blown coverage, most notably on the Colts touchdown to receiver Pierre Garçon. And they failed to capitalize on their opponents’—I am thinking of the anywhere between two and four dropped interceptions (though the Skins did force, and I mean force, three fumbles). The brightest spot was the rushing game, which finally got off the ground (or, rather, on the ground), with prior no-name practice-squad regular Ryan Torain accomplishing 100 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. On its face, falling to 3-3 after playing two or three of your five toughest games of the season (this one, plus last week’s victory over the Green Bay Packers, plus the win two weeks ago in Philly) still gives the Skins a pretty strong playoff shot. But only if they get better at—say it with me—minimizing their mistakes and exploiting their opponents’ to the fullest. At winning close games.

Want a clinic on how to win a close game? Then study the New England Patriots, who yesterday at home against the surging Baltimore Ravens came back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to send the game into overtime, played ferocious D there, and kicked the winning field goal, 23-20. The last time these two played, it was also in Massachusetts, it was the first round of last year’s playoffs, and New England was humiliated. This time around, the Pats showed that their effective trade of future Hall of Fame-er Randy Moss for former Super Bowl MVP (for the Pats, no less) Deion Branch may have been worth it indeed: Tom Brady connected with Branch for nine receptions, 98 yards, and a crucial fourth quarter touchdown. There are still issues with their defensive secondary—they allowed Baltimore QB Joe Flacco a stellar 285-yard, two-touchdown, zero-interception day—but, crucially, they protected their home turf (they went 8-0 in Foxboro during last year’s regular season, and are 3-0 this year), which they will need to continue to do if they are to make the playoffs while competing in the same division as the for-real New York Jets and the maybe-real Miami Dolphins as well as the same conference as Baltimore, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Denver Broncos. Oh, and the Colts. The AFC is brutal.

The Detroit Lions are a bad team that are not as bad as everyone thinks they are, and the New York Giants’ 28-20 victory over them yesterday, at home, isn’t quite as sour as some would think. But still: Should it really have been this close? When Eli Manning for once didn’t throw an interception? When primary back Ahmad Bradshaw was running with abandon and goal-line back Brendan Jacobs was powering his way to two touchdowns? When the Giants’ furious pass rush knocked Lions starter Shaun Hill (himself the back-up QB, playing for the injured Matthew Stafford) out of the game? Why is the supposedly vaunted Giants defense, playing at home, allowing the third-string quarterback of a basement-dwelling team to put together a respectable 222-yard, one touchdown/one interception effort? (That QB, incidentally, was Drew Stanton, a Michigan State grad who is, according to Wikipedia, Jewish. Which means the Lions played a Jewish QB but the Giants, with Sage Rosenfels waiting in the wings, did not.) When breakout Lions rookie running back Jahvid Best was effectively corralled? When the game was never truly iced until a late-minutes interception that was in part dependent on the Lions’ desperation?

There was something fishy about this win, and the Giants, who moved into a tie for first in the NFC East with the (very impressive-looking) Eagles, still have a lot of work to do. Then again, with only 16 games, you take the win and you be glad for it.

Our record: 11-6.

Earlier: Week Five: True to Form
Week Four: Winning Ugly
Week Three: A Whole Lot of Crap
Week Two: Three Up, Three Down
Week One: Check The Scoreboard!

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

“Jewish descent”? How far back are they going on that Wiki entry? Because if you go back far enough…

And what kind of Jewish parent names their daughter “Christ”-ine?


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Just Win, Baby

How our teams fared yesterday

More on Tablet:

Why the Teenage Girls of Europe Are Joining ISIS

By Lee Smith — Because they want the same things that teenage boys want: a strong sense of meaning and purpose