Points matter. Turnovers matter. After that, you can throw out the stats when it comes to the Redskins and Colts. Some teams just have the touch.
(Maybe the Bengals, too, but the insane game management by Marvin Lewis in Week 16 prevents me from getting too excited about them temporarily.)
You can reduce the magic of these two teams’ success this season to drafting rookie quarterbacks, and damned good ones, if you want. But there is a lot more to the Redskins and Colts.
Oh, we can talk all day about Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. What they do for their teams. The shortcomings they cover up. Who should be Rookie of the Year (sorry, Russell Wilson). Who has done the most with the least. All of that.
But it takes more than a proficient quarterback to make a winning team. Drew Brees can attest to that.
The Redskins won Sunday with an undrafted guard at right tackle. They had a gimpy Griffin (two rushes, four yards) at QB. They once more leaned on a sixth-round phenom at running back for 91 hard yards and a score. A seventh-rounder came up with a huge fumble recovery.
Their past five victories have come by seven, one, three, 17 (with a backup QB in) and seven points, the last one with the Eagles knocking on the door at the 5-yard line in the final seconds and prepared to go for two if they scored.
“It’s guys fighting for a full 60 minutes and finding a way get it done,” Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said. “That’s what I told everybody — I was really proud with the way they finished. You’ve got to find ways to win those tight games, and they’re not easy unless everybody’s on the same page.”
Let me be clear: I am not saying the Redskins are lucky. NFL teams make their own luck. They’re just rolling aces these days and making the most of them.
It’s a little different with the Colts. For every Luck and Reggie Wayne and Dwight Freeney they have, there are a dozen guys like Jerrell Freeman, Joe Lefeged, A.Q. Shipley and Mewelde Moore on the roster.
And all those guys helped the Colts clinch a playoff spot in Week 16. Freeman, the former CFL standout who was an undrafted free agent out of Mary Hardin-Baylor and who had not been on an NFL roster since 2008 prior to this year, led the team in tackles against the Chiefs with 10 despite a left thumb injury that was supposed to keep him out. Lefeged had a big fumble recovery and was flagged for a questionable P.I. call in the endzone. Shipley was a long shot to start with a knee injury; he did, and he played well. Moore had a 32-yard reception that set up a field goal before the end of the half. All of them made key plays. Every week, the Colts count on these guys.
This week, the Colts get their coach back. Chuck Pagano has set a tone, Bruce Arians has perpetuated it and the players are carrying out their demands. It’s a winning formula the likes of which we have not seen in some time.
“Mission accomplished,” Arians said of the playoff berth. “That’s all I can say. It’s a fantastic feeling. Without getting emotional again, knowing that (Pagano) is going to be back (in Week 17), and the work week shouldn’t be as stressful.”
You hear that? The Colts have turned stress and anguish and potential heartache into a hardening force. They have come out tougher and more game-prepared.
But still, we need to take a step back with the Redskins and Colts. Perspective is a must.
The Redskins are only 4-3 at home. They have committed nearly 1,000 penalty yards and have allowed 4,315 passing yards and 29 pass TDs this season.
The Colts lost by five to the 2-13 Jaguars and by 26 to the Jets. The Patriots, who could be their first postseason opponent, smacked them a little over a month ago by 35. The Colts are also postseason Kryptonite in that they are minus-14 in the turnover ratio.
But don’t deny the unquantifiable factor they each possess. They’re clutch, they’re fearless (with little to lose at this point) and they don’t care what happened last time. That’s the mark of a dangerous team. Or, in this case, two.
If ESPN’s reports that Tim Tebow (a) will be a Jaguar next season and (b) that he asked out of the “Wildcat” package for the final two games, it says a lot about Tebow. And not much positive.
Last season, many of us wrote that Tebow was, above all else, a winner who just found ways to lead his team to victory. Unconventional. Sometimes ugly. But a winner, indeed.
Asking out of the lineup, even in the awkward situation he has been put in, is not winning. It’s shockingly selfish. That’s hardly the Tebow that he or his camp have portrayed himself to be.
The basis of the first report — that the Jaguars are the only team to seriously covet Tebow — feeds into the second point. NFL executives from other teams, some of whom even respected Tebow’s physical and intangible skills, wondered what having a lightning rod like him on the roster would do.
The Jets found out. It was a miserable experience, from the hot August zoo during training camp to the final strains of the team’s elimination dirge. Behind Tebow, a player who played less than 10 percent of the team’s snaps the season, followed a crazy, distracting circus that left the media obsessed, the Jets’ locker room distracted and the fans of the team angered.
But what we’re just becoming privy to is another side. The selfish side to Tebow. Again, this is assuming the reports are true. But what he essentially has said by asking to not play is that because he’s not starting, he wants nothing to do with this team.
Outwardly, fans probably can understand not wanting to play for the Jets or the mess they have created. But this would be tantamount to career suicide if true. Tebow might quit on his next team — that’s what the Jaguars’ GM (whether it’s Gene Smith or his replacement) is certain to ask himself if owner Shahid Khan does not mandate the team to add Tebow.
Why would you ever want a player on your team that is going to whine if he’s not a starter and might not be talented enough to be one? There are many folks who are convinced that Tebow is little more than a trick-play specialist (Rex Ryan would be one) or a last-ditch option (not Ryan, clearly).
Heck, Tebow might not even be that. Jeremy Kerley stepped into Tebow’s "Wildcat" role on Sunday and completed a 42-yard pass — more yards than Tebow accumulated through the air all season. The Jets (the Jets!) did not trust him to throw the ball. At all. What does that tell you?
On top of that, Tebow might lack toughness. Not the physical toughness it takes to barrel through a would-be tackler. We know he has that. But the mental toughness to fight through a tough situation that is almost certain to end.
Some say Tebow is on the right side in this, that he should stick it to the Jets for apparently reneging on their promise to play him when they traded for him, when midseason comments by owner Woody Johnson seemed to portend more time for Tebow and when they listed him the No. 2 QB behind Mark Sanchez.
But no player is guaranteed anything. Lineups change every week in this league. You have to earn it. And not based on accomplishments with another team and from another season. Playing in the NFL is a privilege not a right, but that’s not how Tebow apparently views it. Did he donate his game check Sunday — the game he begged out of — to charity? Not sure, but I’ll check on that. If so, that might be his biggest contribution this season.
You could chalk up the 49ers' loss Sunday to playing the Seahawks in Seattle, where Pete Carroll's crew is unbeatable. You could. But you might be wrong.
The 49ers remain a tough team whose physical approach is too much for some clubs to handle. But the absence of DT Justin Smith (elbow) and the in-game losses of TE Vernon Davis (concussion) and TE Mario Manningham (knee) could be devastating events.
A week ago we talked about the Niners being a team that is capable of winning it all following their 41-34 victory in Foxborough. But lose those three players for any extended time, and you really have to think about retracting that statement. All season long, our fruitless attempts to determine which team is the best in the NFL — in Weeks Four, Nine, 13, whatever — have been undercut by the many currents of the season. There have been dozens. Each team has at least one shaky, questionable loss. This is like the NCAA tournament without many No. 1 seeds to go around. The 49ers really could be hurt if these key players are hurt.
They were stung by the Seahawks on Sunday night. Badly. And the Seahawks themselves might be similarly hurt if starting CB Richard Sherman's suspension is upheld or if QB Russell Wilson is injured in Week 17 … you get my drift. The beauty of this season, which hasn't been pretty but has the chance for a big finish, is that we really could be surprised by who ends up in Super Bowl XLVII and who ends up winning it.