Blowouts are the exception, not the rule, in the NFL. Seven points or fewer decide most games.
The teams that win the close ones participate in the playoffs. The teams that don't watch them on TV.
It's as simple as that.
The relative fates of the Browns and Jets had already been decided by the time they clashed in East Rutherford, N.J. The former would be shooting for a postseason berth and the latter would be, well, watching the playoffs on TV.
Why? Because the Browns were 2-0 in overtime and had won four games by a touchdown or less. The Jets, on the other hand, had lost five by that same margin.
It's not just luck. It's the ability to rise to the occasion. The Browns had it through most of 2007. The Jets had it during an improbable run to the playoffs in 2006, but were a woeful 3-9 heading into this Sunday clash.
Browns coach Romeo Crennel understood that, but he also knew that sometimes you need a little bit of luck.
"Sometimes those bounces go against you," he told the Columbus Dispatch. "And when they go for you, it works out good and improves your record. When they go against you, you lose the game and your record is not as good. But that's how close it is a lot of times in the NFL."
A year earlier Jets coach Eric Mangini had been nicknamed "Man-Genius" for transforming his team into playoff contenders in his first season while many Browns fans were debating who should replace Crennel as their beloved team was skidding toward a 4-12 finish.
How times change. While the Browns' offense was blossoming, injuries and poor performances had turned the Jets into also-rans with inexperienced Kellen Clemens at quarterback.
"It's something that we talked about quite a bit going into the season in terms of every year being unique," Mangini told the Cleveland media. "You need to be able to do all of the things you did the year before, but you're going to face different adversities, and you need to be able to respond to those adversities."
One adversity to which the Browns had yet to consistently respond was playing on the road. They were 2-4 away from the friendly, cheering home fans heading into the game and were coming off an error-filled loss at Arizona in which the Cardinals scored 21 points off turnovers.
"We'll be fine," said Browns quarterback Derek Anderson. "We've bounced back before when we've had bad games. I think the guys are willing to come in and keep preparing to correct those mistakes."
They were. They did. And they won.
In the 2000 Oregon state high school football semifinals, the Scappoose team led by quarterback Derek Anderson defeated rival Burns and counterpart Kellen Clemens.
Three years later, Clemens' Oregon team defeated Anderson and Oregon State. The following season, Anderson and the Beavers returned the favor.
Let's see. That's Anderson 2, Clemens 1.
Make it 3-1. Final score on December 8, 2007: Cleveland 24, New York Jets 18.
The battle within the war proved fairly even. Anderson threw for just 185 yards, but tossed two touchdown passes and one interception. Clemens racked up 286 yards through the air, but fired two critical picks with no scores.
It took a while for either team to get untracked offensively. The Browns finally broke the ice with a minute left in the first quarter on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Anderson to Jamal Lewis. Lewis did most of his damage, as usual, on the ground with 118 yards rushing. And he would certainly be heard from later.
A 38-yard field goal by Mike Nugent with no time remaining in the quarter sliced it to 7-3, but a 45-yard pass from Anderson to Braylon Edwards set up another Cleveland touchdown. The pair hooked up on a 4-yard strike to stretch the lead to 14-3.
A 41-yard Nugent field goal chopped the Jets deficit to 14-6 at halftime, but after a scoreless third quarter, the Browns' Phil Dawson answered from 49 yards two minutes into the fourth to make it 17-6.
The Jets were far from vanquished. Clemens scored on a 1-yard run, then Nugent nailed a 38-yard field goal to make it 17-15. That's when Lewis set off on one his most important jaunts of the season, a 31-yard touchdown run with just 1:22 remaining to give the Browns a 24-15 lead.
Nugent drilled another field goal with 32 seconds left, but Joe Jurevicius, who had recovered one onside kick a minute earlier, snagged another one to clinch the victory.
The triumph pushed the Browns to within one game of first-place Pittsburgh, which had lost to New England. But Cleveland still controlled its own destiny in the Wild Card race.
In the end, it was Jurevicius' ability to hold on to the ball that allowed the Browns to hold on to their playoff hopes.
It is considering one of the most harrowing few seconds in football.
The onside kick.
They are almost always crucial. One false move by the receiving team can result in disaster.
That's why Jurevicius was out there for the Browns when the desperate Jets tried two onside kicks trailing by less than a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He snagged both and held on for dear life to ensure the victory. The second recovery, after a Nugent field goal had chopped the deficit to 24-18, proved monumental.
"I'm not a big fan of (onside kicks), but it's part of the game," Jurevicius told the Associated Press. "The one place you don't want to be in an NFL game is at the bottom of a pile. Fortunately, I knocked (the ball) straight down and I was able to jump on it down there."
The Browns wouldn't have been in position to win had Lewis not rushed for 118 yards and scored twice. But it was a slowly, but surely improving defense that played the biggest role in the victory. They still gave up 387 total yards, but they continued a trend of halting opponents in the red zone.
They even shut down the Jets after a Kerry Rhodes interception placed the ball on the Cleveland 12-yard-line in the first quarter. The Jets later had 1st-and-goal at the 1, but the Browns sent them back one yard on successive running plays before Sean Jones intercepted a Clemens pass in the end zone.
"We knew we were going to have to fight to keep them out of the end zone," defensive lineman Robaire Smith told clevelandbrowns.com. "So we got down there and everybody did their job and we ended up making the plays and got off the field without them scoring."
Crennel understood the importance of that goal-line stand.
"That was huge because they had great field position and some momentum," he explained. "I'm sure they were planning on getting points out of that and to come up with no points hurt them a little bit."
It hurt them a lot because that gave the Browns a chance to score the first touchdown of the game and they remained ahead throughout.
Every touchdown would be critical now. Especially with a blizzard and the Buffalo Bills coming to Cleveland.