When the New York Giants defeated the Cleveland Browns, 41-27, it was the redemption of two players who led the way in the victory. The New York Yankees opened their ALDS with the Baltimore Orioles with a player redeeming himself from last season's mediocre postseason performance. And the New York Jets went from pathetic to an almost-win in back-to-back games against arguably the two best teams in the NFL.
On Sunday, the Giants quickly fell behind the winless Browns, 14-0, mainly due to the mistakes of Ahmad Bradshaw and Stevie Brown. Bradshaw fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, which led to an easy Cleveland touchdown, and Brown's blown coverage on the 62-yard Brandon Weeden to Josh Gordon touchdown connection four minutes later dug their team an early hole. But Bradshaw's performance for the next 55 minutes was the key to the Giants' win, as he angrily steamrolled over the Browns for 200 rushing yards, with a touchdown, and also chipped in with four receptions for 29 yards. Down 17-10, on the first drive of the second quarter, with the Browns in Giants territory, Brown picked off a Weeden pass and ran it back 46 yards, setting up Bradshaw's score to tie the game. From there, the Giants would be off and running, with Brown's interception changing the momentum of the game for good. Bradshaw and Brown went from goats to heroes in the span of a few minutes.
Later that night, CC Sabathia went from goat to hero, in the span of a year. Last October, in the ALDS loss to the Detroit Tigers, the Yankees' ace made three appearances in the five-game series and wasn't particularly ace-like in any of them. In Game 1, he was foiled by rain, as the game was suspended early on, with Sabathia only able to pitch two innings, while allowing a run, before the two teams called it a night. He started Game 3, and only lasted five-plus innings, giving up four runs and walking six in the 5-4 loss. And he came out of the bullpen, in the all-hands-on-deck Game 5 3-2 loss, and gave up a run with two more walks in an inning-and-a-third of work. It all added up to a 6.23 ERA in 8.2 innings pitched. Before this year, Sabathia had a career 4.56 postseason ERA in 10 series, though to be fair, in 2009, he had ERAs of 1.35, 1,13 and 3.29 in the three series, which resulted in a World Series victory for the Yankees. On Sunday, though, he pitched like an ace, almost going the distance while picking up the win. He was one out from a complete game, gave up only two runs on eight hits, striking out seven and walking one.
While the Giants and Yankees are beyond moral-victory territory, with one a true Super Bowl contender and the other gunning for a World Series, the Jets will take what they can get after the drubbing they suffered at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. Though they continue to make mistakes, whether it's a turnover, wasted timeouts or a missed catch that goes through the hands of a receiver, the Jets played with heart and grit in sticking with the Houston Texans in Monday night's 23-17 loss. Despite Rex Ryan's denials when asked if his team could take anything positive from the loss ("This is a win business. Absolutely not. We knew we'd be in the game, but we thought we were going to find a way to win it."), they have to feel somewhat better about themselves after being accused of quitting in the shutout loss to San Francisco. If you took the team's temperature today, the morale would be higher than one week ago. The Jets still have issues in all phases of the game -- quarterback, where neither Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow appear to be the answer, run defense, as they were again shredded, the invisible Shonn Greene and on and on. But the somewhat redemptive performance of Gang Green at least gives them hope that they can be one of those Little Teams That Could for the remainder of the 2012 season.
And now it's time for the two players who need to redeem themselves the most to step up and turn their production around in a positive manner. Of course, those players are Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher. A-Rod's 2011 ALDS stats (.111/.261/.111, 2-for-18, three RBIs, four walks, six strikeouts, one run) look an awful lot like his showing in the first two games this year (.111/.200/.111, 1-for-9, one walk, five strikeouts, one run). Swisher is also a replica of last October: 2011 -- .211/.250/.368, 4-for-19, one home run, one RBI, one walk, five strikeouts, one run; 2012 -- .167/.333/.167, 1-for-6, one RBI, two walks, two strikeouts. The Yankees are going to need them to pull a CC Sabathia if they want to achieve their goal this October. And unlike the Jets, they have no room for moral victories. Maybe they can borrow some of Ahmad Bradshaw's fury. It worked for the Giants' bulldog, and maybe that "enough is enough" mentality will rub off on A-Rod and Swisher.