Why close games are good for the soul

I enjoy close games.

Don't get me wrong. Blowing out an opponent certainly makes me "feel" better for much of the day, and I certainly have more fingernail mass around the tips of my fingers. However, blowouts don't really measure the heart of a good football team. "Nail-biters" do. Joseph Addai echoed that statement during his post-game discussion with the press:

"You feel good about yourself when you win the close ones," RB Joseph Addai said after a game in which his 22-yard touchdown pass to WR Reggie Wayne provided not only unusual fourth-quarter points, but the winning ones.

"You have those games that you win that are really big. Yeah, it's a good game, but it means something when it's close. That was a game you didn't think about the scoreboard. You just went out there and played."

While some hem and haw over the offense not being efficient enough, or the line not blocking well, or Peyton Manning seeming out of rhythm, I personally chalk all that talk up to spoiled fans you don't seem to understand that in the NFL blowouts are indeed very rare. You may THINK your team should blow out the opponent, but understand that this is the man's game, not college football. Just two weeks ago, everyone was bashing the Philadelphia Eagles for losing a terribly played game to the woeful Oakland Raiders. Now, Philly is on top in the NFC East after blowing out the Giants in impressive fashion. By the way, that's the same Giants team that started 5-0, and has since lost 3 straight.

Ebb and flow, folks. Hype and hate.

Perspective is often key in enjoying and appreciating the NFL. We Colts fans tend to get way to tunneled into how good Peyton Manning and the offense actually are, skewing our perspective. A "bad" day for Peyton is 350 yards, 64% completion percentage, no turnovers, and a win. For any other QB in the league, including guys named Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Brees, those numbers are a good day. That is how much better Peyton is from the rest of the pack.

So, be careful when you say or think that such a game is "off" or "bad." Games like this build confidence. They test the spirit. As John Oehser stated so well in his recent Coffee With the Colts article:

But the overarching thought -- the one I kept going back to reflecting on the game afterward -- is that while the game will cause angst among fans, sometimes it's not bad to have a close game. or two. Or three. In 2005, the Colts won 13 consecutive games by seven or more points. That never had been done in the NFL, but I remember Tony Dungy saying the next season he liked it more when the Colts had a few close games, and as opposed to 2005 -- when the Colts lost in the Division Playoffs to Pittsburgh -- he believed they entered the 2006 postseason more playoff ready. That was the year they won Super Bowl XLI.

We fans are often a bit "Chicken Little" when things don't go well or how we think they should go. We freak out. We say stupid crap. We insult players. We demand someone get fired. But really, it is when things go wrong that you truly see what your football team is made of. 

In the NFL, a team must have a consistent, pressure-themed defense if they want to win. Your defense must get after the QB, cause turnovers, and limit the opponent's scoring. This defense must also have the strength to step up if your team's offense fails. Bill Polian loves quoting Marv Levy on this all the time, but a defense must shine during games like the one against the 49ers, allowing the offense to fail at times. Often, during playoff football, offenses play rather poorly, forcing the defense to shoulder the load much of the game. Yesterday's game had very much a playoff feel, and the Colts were able to overcome.

For someone like me, I don't like getting caught up in all the craziness when fans see their team struggle a bit. Adversity and struggle are what make this league the great league it is. Great teams struggle against all manner of teams. Championship-caliber teams win those struggles.

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