“You can never have enough points on the board in the National Football League,” says Atlanta Falcons head coach MIKE SMITH. “Any lead can turn back at any time.”
The 2011 NFL season has proven this to be true. Through the first four weeks, there have been four games in which a team trailing by at least 20 points rallied to win. That is already tied for the most such games in any season in NFL history. Additionally, 16 teams have come back from a deficit of at least 10 points, the most ever through the first four weeks.
“There was no question in our heads that we were going to win this,” says Detroit wide receiver NATE BURLESON about the team’s 24-point comeback win at Dallas. “I’m proud to be on this team.”
In Week 3, the Buffalo Bills overcame a 21-point deficit to defeat New England and the Detroit Lions roared back from being down 20-0 to win in Minnesota. The following weekend, the Lions erased a 24-point deficit to get a victory in Dallas and the San Francisco 49ers rallied from a 20-point hole to knock off Philadelphia. That marked the first time in NFL history that two teams have overcome 20+ point deficits in consecutive weeks.
“I feel pretty good about that one,” says 49ers head coach JIM HARBAUGH after the team’s 24-23 comeback win at Philadelphia. “That was as good a win as I can remember being a part of. I’m really proud of our players. They never flinched. There was never a moment that made them nervous. They kept fighting. They made some great adjustments. It’s just a great victory for us.”
The Lions, who are one of only two unbeaten teams (Green Bay Packers), are the fifth club since 1990 to start a season 4-0 after opening the previous year at 0-4. With comeback wins of 20 points in Week 3 and 24 points in Week 4, Detroit is the first team in NFL history to win consecutive games in which it trailed by at least 20 points in each contest.
“The game is played for 60 minutes and you have to be able to play all 60,” says Lions head coach JIM SCHWARTZ. “The attitude is to just play your best for four quarters. You’re never going to have every single play go right for you. This is the NFL. There are going to be plays in there every other team is going to make and the other team is going to earn. There are mistakes you’re going to make. We just need to play consistently for four quarters. Nobody plays a perfect game, but we can chase that.”
Asked what helped spark San Francisco’s comeback victory, Harbaugh points to the team’s heart and resilience.
“It was because of the heart of the players,” says the 49ers rookie head coach. “Just down after down, they never tired mentally or had any doubt. They didn’t flinch. They didn’t get scared. They just kept fighting. It’s a great character build for a young team to really know and trust and believe that they can, and will, do well. They believe that they’re good enough to do well. That’s the way we wanted them to play and that’s the way that they did play.”
Schwartz credits the trust that his players have in one another for his team’s ability to fight back from large deficits.
“They have confidence in themselves and their talent, but they also have confidence in their teammates,” he says. “They know that the defense can go out in the second half and not give up a third-down conversion. They know they can score on defense to get us back in the game. The defense knows if they can get the ball back for the offense that they’ll score. There’s confidence there.”
Lions wide receiver CALVIN JOHNSON, who is the first player in NFL history to record at least two receiving touchdowns in each of a team’s first four games, praises quarterback MATTHEW STAFFORD for getting the team back into games.
“We take on Matt’s personality,” says Johnson. “I say that Matt’s always cool, calm and collected in the huddle, no matter what the situation is. We didn’t get anything going in the first half, but we just kept on plugging away.”