Patriots

Russell Wilson leads Seahawks past Eagles, 24-10

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Russell Wilson leads Seahawks past Eagles, 24-10

SEATTLE -- The Seahawks felt they were being written off, with injuries and the schedule converging to create doubt about whether Seattle was still among the NFC's elite.

With Russell Wilson, the Seahawks seemingly always have a chance.

"He was in the zone," Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. "I told him whatever that felt like, he's got to hold on to it because we need him to be in that mode for the rest of the season, because if he does that, we'll be unstoppable."

Wilson was masterful while throwing three touchdown passes, the last a 15-yard strike to J.D. McKissic with 7:29 left, and the Seahawks stayed in the NFC playoff hunt with a 24-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.

Seattle (8-4) snapped Philadelphia's nine-game winning streak thanks largely to another brilliant performance by its quarterback. Wilson was 20 of 31 for 227 yards and threw touchdowns of 11 yards to Jimmy Graham, 1-yard to Tyler Lockett and the TD to McKissic after the Eagles had trimmed the lead to seven.

"I thought Russell was phenomenal tonight. I thought that was Russell showing you everything he's all about," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "From start to finish, from the first play of the game he was on it."

Philadelphia (10-2) was the highest-scoring team in the NFL with 31.9 points per game. But the Eagles got just 10 points out of seven drives that reached Seattle territory. Twice this year Seattle has faced what was the top scoring offense in the NFL at the time. Both times they scored 10 points against the Seahawks.

"I felt like everybody was sleeping on us and nobody expected us to win this game," Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "But we expected to win this game. This is not a surprise to us."

Carson Wentz was 29 of 45 for 348 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Wentz had a costly fumble at the Seattle 1 on the opening drive of the second half that could have pulled the Eagles even at 10-all.

Wentz was inches shy of breaking the plane when Sheldon Richardson ripped the ball free. The loose ball bounced around the end zone and eventually over the end line for a touchback and Seattle's ball. It was a major turning point, as Seattle went 80 yards in 11 plays, capped by Wilson's 1-yard pass to Lockett for a 17-3 Seattle lead. The touchdown was set up by a 47-yard pass to Doug Baldwin on third-and-10, beating a Philadelphia blitz.

"I make my big plays here and there," Richardson said.

Seattle snapped a rare two-game losing streak at home mostly because of Wilson. It wasn't his best game in numbers, but it might be one of his best performances. He came up with key throws when needed, kept plays alive with his legs and pulled out some unexpected improvisation just went the Seahawks needed it.

"We had a good game plan going against (Wilson)," Philadelphia safety Corey Graham said. "But as you see, you know how it is, better in person than it is on film."

Wentz started a Philadelphia rally on the first play of the fourth quarter. Facing third-and-13 at the 16, Wentz was pressured from the pocket. As he was about to be dragged down by Quinton Jefferson, Wentz hit Nelson Agholor for 51 yards. Four plays later, and again facing third-and-long, Agholor beat Maxwell again and Wentz found him for a 27-yard TD to pull the Eagles within 17-10.

Agholor had seven catches for 141 yards.

LATERAL OR PASS?

Wilson pulled out a little more magic on what proved to be Seattle's decisive drive that ended in McKissic's TD. Facing third-and-8 at the Philadelphia 42, Wilson was forced to scramble. Six yards downfield and short of the first down, Wilson lateraled the ball to Mike Davis as he was about to be hit. Davis took the lateral another 17 yards for a first down. It was a borderline play that appeared close to a forward pass, but Philadelphia didn't challenge.

"Real time, it looked fine. It looked legit. We didn't get all the necessary looks, because they hustled to the line," Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson said. "But at the same time, it looked good. I trust the guys upstairs in making those decisions."

GRAHAM'S ROLL

Graham had just three catches for 26 yards but continued to be Wilson's favorite target near the goal line. Graham has touchdowns in four straight games and nine in the past seven games.

SCORING STREAK

Philadelphia failed to score at least 20 points for the first time in 15 games, a streak dating to last season. The Eagles were the only team in the league to score at least 20 in every game this season.

FIRST QUARTER FINALLY

Seattle became the first team to score an offensive touchdown in the first quarter against the Eagles on Graham's 11-yard TD catch. The Eagles had allowed just 18 points in the first quarter coming into the game, but allowed points on two of Seattle's first three possessions.

INJURIES

Philadelphia tight end Zach Ertz left in the third quarter to be evaluated for a head injury and did not return. Ertz was injured trying to make a difficult catch across the middle that was broken up by Bradley McDougald.

UP NEXT

Eagles: At the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

Seahawks: At Jacksonville on Sunday.

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A little deja vu for Belichick: 'It was a similar ending to the Seattle game'

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A little deja vu for Belichick: 'It was a similar ending to the Seattle game'

When asked on a conference call if Sunday's matchup with the Steelers reminded him of any of his previous close-and-late finishes with the Patriots, Bill Belichick had a relatively quick reply. 

"It was a similar ending to the Seattle game," he said, referring to Super Bowl XLIX, which of course ended on the most famous goal-line interception in NFL history. Even down to the inward-breaking route in the final moments, Duron Harmon's pick had similarities to the one Malcolm Butler made to win a Lombardi Trophy.

MORE PATRIOTS

"The difference in that game was they had to score a touchdown," Belichick added. "They were down by four. This one, the field goal changed it, which kind of highlights the importance of the two-point play. Had we not hit that two-point play they would've just kneeled on the ball and kicked the field goal at the end. There were so many big plays in that game."

The two-point conversion that the Patriots executed with less than a minute left can get lost in the shuffle in game recaps, but it was in many ways a game-winning play -- even though the Patriots already had a one-point lead before Tom Brady floated his pass to Rob Gronkowski in the back corner of the end zone.

The fact that Gronkowski was so open, after a quick move at the line of scrimmage, made it seem like a foregone conclusion. But as Belichick explained, it was one of many critical plays in the final minutes that led to the dramatic Patriots win. 

"Just go back through the fourth quarter of the game. Really every play is a huge play," Belichick said. "A difference in any of those plays in the fourth quarter -- maybe call it the second half of the fourth quarter on, the last seven or eight minutes -- a change in any one of those plays could've effected the outcome of the game.

"That just to me showed how competitive the game was, and how critical every little thing is. Each play, each player, each call, each situation. It was a great football game."

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Mix of fear, hubris and disorganization led to Steelers' downfall

Mix of fear, hubris and disorganization led to Steelers' downfall

PITTSBURGH -- A weird mix of fear, respect and hubris led the Steelers meltdown Sunday evening.

All day and into the night, they did all the right things. Minimal mental stupidity. Great resilience. Mostly outstanding execution. Unforced physical errors at a minimum. 

For 59 minutes and 26 seconds they were on it. They had the Patriots where they wanted them. The elephant in the room? The Steelers had embraced it. There were fireworks. The kitchen was lit. Every other metaphor Mike Tomlin had used to whip up his team and fanbase worked. 

Then they short-circuited and kicked it away in the final 34 seconds.  

First, they burned a timeout at the end of the Juju Smith-Schuster catch-and-run that put the ball at the 10. That left them no way of stopping the clock aside from spiking the ball or throwing incomplete, which -- as we would see -- the Steelers opted not to. That bad time management was Mental Gaffe No. 1. 

PATRIOTS 27, STEELERS 24

We’d seen that before. Coming out of the two-minute warning in Super Bowl 49, the Seahawks burned their final timeout ON AN INCOMPLETION and that set the stage for their unprecedented (until Sunday) mental disintegration. To adeptly work clock management and manage down, distance and score while understanding how the game is playing out demands a little bit of zen. Bill Belichick praised Pittsburgh's outstanding game management earlier in the week. And those weren't empty words. The Steelers had been brilliant in executing comeback after comeback and recording four buzzer-beating wins. Now, though, they were on a slippery, sloppy slope. 

Next came the touchdown throw to Jesse James and Mental Gaffe No. 2. 

The reality of the reversal that hasn't been highlighted is simple. Either James didn't know the rule, chose to ignore it or, he too got swept away. His first job was to make the catch. He’s not a rookie. He's not a scrub. Presumably he watches games. It’s December. They coach this stuff every day. Or should. 

You can’t stick the ball out and put the fortunes of your team at the mercy of your grip strength. James did.  Forget the chest-puffing “trying to make a play . . . ” crap that’s pouring forth. One job. Catch it. Don’t bring the officials into it. Monkey roll into the end zone if you have to. 

From there, the Steelers threw in-bounds to Darrius Heyward-Bey and he wasn’t able to get out of bounds. Tick, tick, tick. Mental gaffe No. 3. And now the Steelers were on the precipice, clock running. 

In the 2015 season opener, the Steelers came undone in a loss at Foxboro. They didn't cover Rob Gronkowski on multiple plays. They looked unprepared. They got croaked. After the game, Tomlin complaining about headset interference. Ben Roethlisberger complained about the Patriots synchronized shifting on the defensive line. The loss was anybody’s fault but theirs. 

Now, with homefield and a chance to exorcise the Patriots demon in this game Tomlin walked the verbal plank for, confusion reigned. 

Roethlisberger said he got to the line with the intention of clocking it. The Steelers would kick the field goal and take their chances in overtime against a reeling defense.

 “I felt like that was the thing to do,” Roethlisberger said. “But it came from the sideline, ‘Don’t clock it! Run a play!’ At that point, everyone thinks I’m going to clock it and we didn’t have time to get everyone lined up.”

Terrific. Play of the year and you’re disorganized. And you’re trying to get the most well-prepared and anal team in NFL history for fall for the banana in the tailpipe.Like the Seahawks figuring the Patriots would never expect a pass and opting to throw into the teeth of coverage rather than taking a calculated risk with a fade. 

And here’s where the hubris comes in. Asked about the end-zone slant to Eli Rogers that was ricochet-picked, Tomlin said, “We play and play to win. That’s what we do.”

The words are “we play to win.” What he meant was, “we played to win on our terms..” With Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley lobbying to clock it and send the game to overtime, Tomlin -- who built this game up for a month -- injected himself and led with his chin. Mental gaffe No. 4.

This isn’t the NHL. You don’t get downgraded for the win if it comes in extra time. The Steelers are most likely traveling to Foxboro in January because Jesse James wasn’t tight on the rules -- blame him or the coaches for that -- and because Tomlin didn’t want to win the game, he wanted to win the game a certain way.

If that’s luck, the Patriots are lucky.

Back in 2009, Bill Belichick, iin a game at Indianapolis, went for it on fourth-and-2. That, obviously, was a diceroll that -- like Tomlin's on Sunday -- didn't work out. But here's the difference. The Patriots gambled because they didn't like their odds playing straight up. Take the chance to end the game, but don't give it back to Peyton Manning. It was understanding game situation and defensive shortcomings. Appreciating your weakness.

That's not why the Steelers gambled Sunday. They didn't fear overtime. And even though Tom Brady just went through them like poop through a goose, they didn't need to. The Patriots had forced one three-and-out all day. The Steelers were 10-for-16 on third down. They went for the win because winning right there would FEEL a certain way. It would make a certain statement about the Steelers and Tomlin. It would satiate their fans and their egos to see the Patriots on the canvas rather than seeing both teams standing after overtime with one having its hand raised on a decision. 

It took the Steelers an hour of football to push the Patriots to the ledge. But in the final 34 seconds, they were the ones that lost their footing. 

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