Backdoor Cuts: Play to win the game

November 18, 2010

As a football fan, few things are more dispiriting than watching your team lose to the Cleveland Browns. Tying them may be one of them.

I thought I was about to find out what that would feel like this past Sunday afternoon, as I watched the Jets squander a lead late in regulation and then struggle through nearly all of overtime. But somehow, just 24 seconds away from kissing his sister, Mark Sanchez found Santonio Holmes for a game-winning touchdown.

After leading a similarly improbable overtime comeback just a week earlier, I’ve reached a conclusion: Mark Sanchez just wins football games. It’s not always pretty, but he gets the job done.

As a fan, having a “just a winner” on your team is a mixed blessing. On one hand, as Jets fans well know, you play to win the game. But when your quarterback “just wins” football games, it means he’s not doing it in a way that inspires confidence.

The cliché is most commonly applied to quarterbacks, but the concept easily applies to other sports. And that’s why, two days before Sanchez’s saving play, I was deciding whether or not the same theory applies to Austin Freeman and Chris Wright.

Now, I don’t want to downplay either of the Hoyas’ senior guards’ talents. All-Big East players don’t “just win” basketball games, and both Wright and Freeman have legitimately won games for Georgetown with their individual contributions. For much of the season opener against ODU, however, they were not those game-saving players. Freeman couldn’t find his touch behind the arc, and Wright had more than once squandered an easy fast break.

For all their talent and considerable accomplishments, the duo is still not automatic. For every UConn (for Freeman) or Big East Tournament (for Wright) there’s a Rutgers, or USF, or Ohio … you get the idea. Like Sanchez, they are players with considerable potential that is not always realized. And on those occasions when they weren’t on, Wright and Freeman haven’t shown the capability to “just win” and tap that potential for a few necessary minutes. When they were off, they just lost.

So after trailing for most of the second half against Old Dominion, it was reasonable to expect that the Hoyas were heading for a repeat of last season’s disappointment against the Monarchs. But all of a sudden, down seven with about six minutes to go, Wright and Freeman came alive, raining down threes and scoring 18 of Georgetown’s last 21 points for the win.

Chris Wright and Austin Freeman aren’t the kind of players who always need to “just win” basketball games, but sometimes they’ll have to. Practicing these escape artist skills in November will pay dividends come March.

Then again, by that point, maybe the rest of the Hoyas will have come along far enough that Wright and Freeman can take their rightful places as the stars at the helm of a Georgetown juggernaut and not face such game-saving burdens in the final minutes. I have the same hopes for Sanchez and the Jets come January. Because as nice as it is to have players who just win games, once the regular season ends, you want to be rooting for teams that just don’t lose.


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