I can't stress enough the importance of winning close games. Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl last year. They won five games by 10 or more points in the regular season. Those wins didn't mean a whole lot in the playoffs. Pittsburgh's 11-10 win over San Diego, their 20-13 win over Dallas and a pair of tight wins over Baltimore were the kinds of games that got them ready for the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh had faced pressure-packed situations. They lost some games, but had enough success that Mike Tomlin and his players didn't panic when things got tough. They had experienced success and knew it was just a matter of execution.
We won a pair of playoff games last year, but mostly played with the lead. We didn't blow away the Vikings or the Giants, but also never had to mount that late drive to win or come up with that huge defensive stand to prevent a game-winning score. We got to the NFC title game and things changed entirely. We got behind early. We were able to make a furious comeback and took the lead. We weren't able to protect the lead on defense or re-gain it on offense. I think the lack of success in close games hurt us. Our guys didn't have confidence at those moments because we had struggled in similar situations during the regular season.
We aren't guaranteed a playoff berth this year, but we're getting closer each week. This team is better prepared to handle postseason pressure because of tough wins against Chicago, Washington and the Giants. Blowouts are fun for everyone, but they don't help you get ready for the playoffs. We've now played in several close games and had good success. That's very encouraging. I can't guarantee you we'll win in the postseason because so often those games boil down to matchups and who is healthy. I do know that I like what I'm seeing from the team right now. There was a lot on the line in Sunday night's game. Andy Reid, his coaches and the players all came through in a big way.
To check out my complete recap of the Eagles' win over the Giants, head on over to my Fan-Demonium column.
*-- Posted by Tommy Lawlor, 6:09 p.m., December 15 *