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Winning the second half

By Stephen L. Carter

While everybody is busy remembering that last Colts game – you know, the one four years ago where the Redskins wasted a brilliant performance by Mark Brunell and a turnover-free offense, leading 14-13 after two quarters and then rolling over in the second half, gaining almost no yards as Indy scored 23 consecutive points – you do remember, right? Well, while everyone is busily remembering that game, and reassuring each other that this year’s team doesn’t lie down in the second half – let’s look at who does.

The Colts.

Seriously.

In week one, losing to the Texans 34-24, Indianapolis was outscored in the second half by seven. In week two, although they crushed the Giants, the Colts played them to a draw in the second half. In week three, the Colts defeated Denver by two touchdowns, but only won the second half 14-10. In week four, Jacksonville outscored Indy by three in the second half. Finally, in week five, Indy outscored Kansas City in the second half by a single touchdown. Overall, the Colts have scored exactly one more point than their opponents in the second half.

Just to extend the argument, over five games, the Colts are winning the second half by an average of 0.2 points.

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p>And this is a team that has owned the second half in recent years, the way the Redskins once did. During Joe Gibbs’s first reign as coach, John Madden used to say that Washington made better and quicker adjustments than any team in football. True, with halftime now a measly twelve minutes, there is not a lot of time for the coaching staff to make changes. Nevertheless, the rule is the same across every sport: teams that win the second half tend to be winning teams. When John Thompson Jr. coached Georgetown basketball, he used to preach that the only purpose of the first half was to get to a playable second half. Trying to win in the first half – said Thompson – was silly.

On the other hand, football teams that are not winning the second half probably look forward to playing the Redskins. Until last week, the Skins had been outscored in the second half by every opponent this season, even while beating two of them. Washington was ten points better than Green Bay after intermission, but still, with five games in the book, we are minus-29 in the second half, for an average of nearly minus-6 points a game.

In other words, after halftime, we are spotting everybody a touchdown.

Now, five games are less than a third of the season, and there is a lot of football yet to be played. But trends can emerge early. (For instance, when you have given up 410 yards per game, more than any team in football, over the first third of the season, you can’t keep telling yourself that you secretly have a top-ten defense.) So let’s hope that the Green Bay game signaled the start of a new trend: winning the second half.

By Box Seats blogger  | October 15, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins, Stephen L. Carter  | Tags:  Redskins, Stephen L. Carter  
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