- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Cooler heads always prevail.

Fans and media-types like to make a big deal when a team loses an important game. How many times have you heard someone say, “That’s just a crushing defeat. There’s no way they can recover from that”?

Crushing defeat? Not in the NFL.

As much as some people might believe our loss to the Cowboys on Monday night will have devastating and lasting effects on our team, they need to understand that professional football players just don’t think that way.

They say the NFL is a marathon, not a sprint. Week to week, you have your ups and downs, your highs and lows. But we as players have trained ourselves to keep level heads throughout the season, to avoid getting too high after wins or too low after losses.

Pro athletes aren’t just pro athletes because of their skill and ability. Pro athletes have a tremendous amount of mental toughness, a tremendous amount of perseverance that carries them through the marathon.

The marathon typically refers to the entire season. But in some ways, each game can be looked at as a mini-marathon, and Monday night’s game certainly fit that bill.

The game was a roller coaster of ups and downs. We went back and forth through the first half. Dallas took the lead in the second half. Then we rallied down the stretch, just falling short in the end.

We as players had to keep our focus throughout. We couldn’t let ourselves suffer an emotional letdown when the Cowboys took the lead.

If there’s time on the clock in an NFL game, you still believe you have a chance to win. That’s how it is.

We have so much confidence in one another, and so much respect for our coaches that we just know nobody’s going to give up. We’re going to play until they tell us to leave the field. When the clock reads 0:00, then we can leave the field. Until then, our guys fight and live and die with every play.

Because there are so many great players and great coaches in this league right now, you’ll hardly ever see a team go out and dominate from start to finish. There are too many great coaching matchups and too many great position matchups for it to be like college football. It’ll never be like college football.

If you’re a top-10 team in college and you lose a game, your season’s over. (What are you going to play for now — the Liberty Bowl in Memphis?)

Not up here. Every game adds up. The goal is just to get into the playoffs. And one game does not make a season in the NFL. It never has, and it never will.

Yeah, our loss Monday night was disappointing, but by no means are we finished. We’ve got to play again in, what, six days? We’ve already started preparing mentally for Cleveland. You’re always thinking about the week ahead.

No one’s panicking. No one’s pulling fire alarms. Everyone’s going back to work, trying to win this week. That’s the sign of a good NFL team. Good NFL teams don’t panic. They get ready to try to win the next game.

People might call it a grind, but it’s not. It’s our job. It’s what we love to do. And we love the fact that we have another huge opportunity next week.

That’s the great thing about this league: Until you’re officially out of it, you always have another chance.

And we have 13 more chances.

Ask Matt

Q: What feels better: an interception or a sack?

A: It depends on the situation. Interceptions and sacks are all great, but if it’s a crucial play in the game, it doesn’t matter which one. It just matters that it’s a play that can change the game.

Q: So if the Expos move to Washington, who are you going to root for: the Cubs or the new Senators?

A: Obviously, the Cubs. But I’ll buy season tickets just so I can go when the Cubs are in town.

Staff writer Mark Zuckerman collaborates with Redskins safety Matt Bowen on this column. It appears every Wednesday. If you have any questions for Matt, e-mail them to [email protected]

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