Winning close games in the NFL can be the difference between a sub-.500 record and a trip to the postseason.
After watching his club fall many times in tight contests last season, Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren likes the resiliency of this year’s team.
Seattle looks to continue the best start in team history when it visits the Cincinnati Bengals for the first time in 10 years.
The Seahawks began the 2003 season with consecutive routs of the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals. Seattle has won three of four since those two victories, but not in the same dominating fashion.
The Seahawks’ last three wins have come by a combined nine points—a pair of one-point victories over the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers, respectively, and a 24-17 triumph over the Chicago Bears last Sunday that gave Seattle its first 5-1 start.
Last season, Seattle finished 7-9 and missed the postseason. But four of those losses came by seven points or less. Holmgren believes this year’s club is much better prepared to win close contests.
“I think there is a maturity now that the guys are a year older, or two years older, or whatever the case may be,” Holmgren said. “As we have said a few times, when you do it once, and twice, and now when they go out there they think that it’s going to happen.
“And that’s big, the belief that you can get it done. It doesn’t always work. But so far, we have executed pretty well at the end of games. That’s why we have the record that we do.”
Seattle has had to come from behind in two of its last three wins, and against Chicago last week, the Seahawks scored on a 25-yard run by Shaun Alexander with 1:04 remaining to break a 17-17 tie.
The Seahawks have outscored their opponents 34-21 in the fourth quarter this season.
“We just like to win because we’ve been here long enough that we understand how it feels when you lose,” Alexander said. “We have confidence in our own abilities, and we have confidence in each other. We said ‘let’s just go win.’ We don’t care what happened with the first 45 minutes of the game, the last 15 is ours.”
The Bengals are starting to play well after dropping their first three games under first-year coach Marvin Lewis. Despite the recent success, star running back Corey Dillon said he wants out of Cincinnati.
Cincinnati has won two of its last three games by relying on its passing game while Dillon recovers from a strained groin, leaving the running back in a bad mood.
As he walked into the locker room Wednesday, Dillon said aloud, “I want out. Trade me to Dallas.”
When reporters approached, Dillon shooed them away, saying, “Beat it. I don’t like you guys.” He then told the team’s Web site employee and a reporter from the Dayton Daily News that he’s unhappy with his limited role and desperately wants to leave.
“When I’m healthy, I still don’t get the ball over 20 times a game,” Dillon said. “So it really doesn’t matter, healthy or unhealthy.”
Cincinnati was idle Week 6, and it came out of its bye week by beating the Baltimore Ravens 34-26 last Sunday to match last season’s win total.
The Bengals are only one game behind the AFC North-leading Ravens.
“This division is up for grabs. It’s really bizarre,” Bengals backup quarterback Shane Matthews said. “The next three, four, five weeks are very critical. We have a lot of teams that we should beat.
“If we don’t win that game (against Seattle), we take a step backward. We have them in a good spot. They’re coming in at 5-1, they have to travel across the country, so it’s a good spot for us. Hopefully we go out and play well.”
The Seahawks and Bengals haven’t played in Cincinnati since Seattle came away with a 19-10 win on Sept. 26, 1993.