I am writing this post because I have never seen or heard of anything like what is happening to this team this year. We have the 8th worst point differential in the NFL, which should mean that we're a bad team, yet we've had double digit leads in 9 games. Despite those 9 double digit leads, we've won a grand total of ONE game by double digits (exactly 10, and we were lucky to be at that). This has to be one of the worst second half--especially 4th quarter--teams EVER, relative to their overall talent. This has to be, bar none, the worst team ever at holding leads. Check out what I'm talking about in a game-by-game analysis after the jump.
Week 1 (@Denver): In control all game, up 10 deep into the 4th, give up an 80-yd TD drive (first offensive TD all game for Denver), then get the ball back and run out the clock to win by 3. Keep this in mind because this is probably the BEST we played with a double digit lead all year.
Week 2 (@Buffalo): Dominating, up 21-3 at half, give up TD's on ALL 5 of Buff's 2nd half possessions (first time in NFL history that happened), come back with 2 4th quarter TD's of our own, still lose when defense lets Fitzpatrick walk the team down the field for a last minute TD.
Week 3 (NY Jets): I constantly see people referencing this game as our "most complete game of the year" and proof of our ability to play playoff-cailber football. While we certainly did play well, let's not forget that we had the ball up 14 with 11:00 to go in the 4th, proceeded to go 3 and out, gave up a TD, got a big FG, then let Sanchez march the Jets right down the field and score an apparent TD to make it a 3-pt game. We got bailed out by an overturn on Sanchez's 4th down run (the right call but a very close one). Keep THAT in mind, because that right there was our only double digit win this year.
Week 5 (@Houston): Not a 10 point lead game but still worth mentioning
The Win One for Al Game, emotional no doubt. We were completely outmanned yet somehow found ourselves with an 8 point lead and the ball with under 10:00 to go, we go 3 and out, give up a FG, we go 3 and out again (including an ill-advised incompletion to stop the clock), let Houston pull off a miracle 30 yard completion, then win it on Huff's pick that Schaub could have very well taken himself for the TD.
Week 6 (Cleveland): Up 24-7, in COMPLETE control despite JC's injury. Give up a FG, but we take the ball and march it down the field for what seems like a game icing drive. HJ decides to go for it on 4th and 1 instead of just kicking a FG that would've put us up 3 scores. We don't make it, but no worries, it's Colt McCoy and the Browns down 14 with under 5 to play. But YET we find a way to make it interesting, letting them go 95 yards in under 4 minutes, and then letting them recover the onsides kick! (bad call should have been illegal touching but still!) We stop them but again let it get WAY to close.
Week 9 (Denver): Chalk it up to Tebow or whatever deity you want, but we were up 10 at halftime and then again in the 3rd. We're up 7 and driving to go up at least 10, probably 14, when Palmer throws a pick. 60 yard McGahee TD, Decker return, yada yada yada, we lose by 14.
Week 10(@SD): Now THIS was probably our most complete game of the year, and yet again we made it interesting. Up 24-10, give up a TD to Rivers, Palmer gets picked in the EZ, we need a circus Giordano pick to stop Rivers, but even still they had the ball back with a 2-minute drill opportunity with a chance to tie. We certainly didn't blow anything here like in other losses, or even wins, but again, keep in mind, this was our BEST game of the year.
Week 11(@Minnesota): Up 20 at the start of the 4th, give up a TD, driving to put the game away up 13 when Bush fumbles, they score less than a minute later, we punt and give them a legitimate shot to drive down the field and win, but we stop Ponder on 4th down. Nice stop, but it should not have come down to this UP 20 against a rookie QB and no AP (got hurt in the first quarter).
Week 12(Chicago): After letting the Hanie-led Bears creep back with FG's, we finally get what seems like the knockout punch (big pass to Murph on 3rd down, Bush rushing TD to put us up 12 with under 4 to go. We force them into a 3rd and 16, then give up a ho hum 81 yard pass to Johnny Knox, they score 2 plays later. We ALMOST give them the onsides kick, then can't get a 1st down, have to punt, and win when Hanie tries to channel his best Marino with the fake spike-then-spike that counts as intentional grounding. Talk about making a statement with the way you win!
Week 15(Detroit): And that brings us to today's almost unfathomable yet completely fathomable loss. Curry TD puts us up 12 (of course no 2-pt conversion, that would be too obvious, so we're up 13). Give up a TD in less than 3 minutes, then actually get a couple of nice first downs running the ball, setting the stage for the already infamous Schillens incomplete pass (I'm going to pass judgment on whom to blame on this one, still stirring around in my head). But no worries, Lechler pins them at the 2...And the rest is history. This absurd loss was punctuated by the fact that we actually put ourselves in decent position for a reasonable FG attempt (at midfield with 21 seconds and a timeout left), but Palmer get sacked when everyone was running deep for some reason, and we have to try a circus 65-yarder.
And that sums it up. I'm exhausted from writing it, I'm sure you're exhausted from reading it (if you're still reading). The bottom line is that we are the worst closers in NFL history. Last year, we may have had our down moments, but we won FIVE games by 15 or more. FIVE! This year, the most we've won by was 10 (and barely at that). I know, I know, a win is win, but that failure to close wins reared its ugly head today, in a game that even the most pessimistic of fans had to think we still were going to win, but didn't. Not closing games is mentally draining on the team; you need a few easy wins so that you can remain extra focused in those nail biters. The point of this article was mainly informational, so I'm out of energy and words to start the blame game (HJ, Bres, Palmer, o-line, secondary, linebackers, injuries, Tebow, you name it). You guys take the reins from here.