By Danny Kelly
The Eagles came into their game on Sunday with the Seahawks averaging 416 yards and 31.2 points per game, but Seattle's defense dominated almost from start to finish, holding Chip Kelly's offense to 14 points on 139 total yards -- the lowest yardage output in Kelly's career ... including his college coaching days.
Seattle's pass rush and tight coverage in the secondary made Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez uncomfortable all game, and the former Pete Carroll pupil finished just 10-of-20 for 96 yards, two touchdowns and an untimely interception in the fourth quarter as Philly was trying to mount a comeback. That pick sealed the deal for Seattle, which played a more dominating game than the final score indicated.
The Seahawks put up 440 yards of offense while controlling the clock for nearly 42 minutes, racking up 28 first downs to Philly's nine. The NFL's leading rushing team put up another 188 yards on the ground -- including 86 yards on 23 carries for Marshawn Lynch -- while getting a clean 22-of-37 passing performance from Russell Wilson. Wilson finished with 263 yards, two touchdowns and no picks while adding 48 yards and a touchdown with his legs.
The Seahawks' dominating performance puts the NFC officially on notice: The Legion of Boom is back, firing on all cylinders. The front seven is as stout as ever, too. Pete Carroll's group has now held the Cardinals, 49ers and Eagles to a combined 20 points over the last three weeks. On the other side of the ball, Wilson and the Hawks' offense is starting to play with more efficiency and explosiveness.
At 9-4, the Hawks control their own destiny, and they finish off the year with three division games -- the 49ers next week, Arizona the week after, then the Rams in Week 17. It's always tough sledding in the NFC West, but Seattle looks good for the playoffs and has a real shot at getting one of those first-round byes and home-field advantage.
The Seahawks are getting hot at the right time.
Dolphins falling out of the playoff race
By Eric Sollenberger
The Dolphins' playoff hopes took a big hit on Sunday afternoon in a 28-13 loss to the Ravens. Miami hung around until the last 10 minutes of the fourth quarter when the score was 14-13 and Joe Flacco led Baltimore on consecutive touchdown drives of 80 and 81 yards.
The story of the day was the porous Dolphins defense. The Ravens had obviously studied the Jets' Monday night ground-and-pounding and tried to take advantage of Miami's 22nd-ranked unit against the run. The Ravens had a respectable 185 yards on the ground, but more importantly they were able to run for 11 first downs. Their balanced offense was the main reason they were able to put together four drives of 75 yards and longer, and average nearly 7 yards per play on the day.
Joe Flacco had a very Joe Flacco day. He was efficient, boring and effective. He kept the second-ranked Dolphins pass defense guessing by spreading the ball around to nine different receivers, even without a single target to Torrey Smith, who was clearly hobbled by a lingering knee injury. Ryan Tannehill played mistake-free football, but didn't do much to spark a comeback either. He missed a wide open Mike Wallace for what would have been an easy fourth-quarter touchdown, but the speedy wide receiver didn't seem concerned enough to continue his route at full speed or dive for the ball. The lack of effort must have been frustrating considering Wallace's hefty salary and disappointing production in Miami.
The Dolphins were making a playoff push, but with this loss they fall a game behind the Ravens for the final AFC wild card spot. They're going to be favored in two out of their last three remaining games against the Patriots, Vikings and Jets, but a 9-7 record likely wouldn't be enough to capture a playoff berth considering the strength of the AFC West and North. If the Dolphins continue to falter down the stretch, it could end up costing Joe Philbin his job.
By Danny Kelly
They say one of the most important traits an NFL quarterback can have is a short memory. Well, Andrew Luck sure proved he possesses just that, shrugging off an ugly first 56 minutes or so to close out the game with yet another come from behind, game-winning drive (the 12th of his career). The Colts got the ball back with 3:46 remaining and down five to the Browns. Luck led them on an 11-play, 90-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton with 36 ticks on the clock. (Watch Luck's incredible 42-yard touchdown pass to Hilton that got the Colts back in the game.)
The drive capped an otherwise forgettable day for Luck, who threw two touchdown passes but connected on just 24 of 53 attempts while throwing two picks and coughing up a fumble that the Browns picked up and ran in for a touchdown. The Browns harassed Luck all game long, both in the secondary and on the defensive line, sacking him three times, hitting him 13 times, and racking up 12 passes defensed to go with those two picks and fumble return.
Nonetheless, Luck stepped up when the Colts needed him to, and Indy strengthens its hold on the AFC South by moving to 9-4. Sometimes you have to win ugly in the NFL, and this was a good example of that. Indianapolis will have to play cleaner down the stretch though if it hopes to make some noise once the playoffs roll around.
Meanwhile for the Browns, that defense remains a very strong suit, but the offense isn't doing them anybody any favors. Brian Hoyer again struggled, connecting on just 14 of 31 passes for 140 yards and two interceptions -- a putrid 31.7 passer rating -- and Cleveland could only muster 248 total yards at 3.6 yards per play. This again begs the question as to why the Browns have not turned to Johnny Manziel -- the player they traded up in the first round to go get -- to try to provide a spark. Time is running out for the Browns to make a run at the playoffs as they fell to 7-6. Combined with wins by the Steelers and Ravens, their shot at the division title, or even a wild card spot, became a longer shot Sunday. Will they make a quarterback change in Week 15? We'll have to wait and see.
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Patriots in control in the AFC East
By Danny Kelly
The Patriots bounced back from a loss last week in Green Bay with a big road win over a quality Chargers team on Sunday Night Football. After falling behind early 14-3, New England climbed back into it, and a Rob Gronkowski touchdown at the 3:28 mark of the second quarter pulled New England to within one point at the half. The Chargers held Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense in check in the third quarter but the Patriots just could not be held down. Julian Edelman caught a pass, broke a few tackles, broke the Chargers' heart, and put the game away with the knockout punch touchdown with 8:41 to play.
The Patriots' defense was the story of the game, though. Darrelle Revis erased Keenan Allen, holding him to two catches for 3 yards, and Allen wasn't even targeted until the second half. With one of their top weapons held in check all night, the Chargers had a hard time adjusting. Philip Rivers finished with just 193 yards passing against a stout New England secondary, and the game could have been out of hand for the Chargers earlier than it was when Brandon Browner laid a huge hit on Ladarius Green as he went over the middle, knocking the ball out and up and into the hands of Devin McCourty. McCourty returned it for a touchdown but Browner's hit was (questionably) flagged as a personal foul, voiding the play. Nonetheless, Akeem Ayers picked off Rivers a few plays later to help make up for the loss of a huge, game-changing play.
Bottom line: the Patriots' defense looks strong, Tom Brady is still on a tear and New England still looks like the team to beat in the AFC. The win puts the Pats in prime position to take the AFC East title -- both Miami and Buffalo lost Sunday -- and they're still poised to challenge Denver for the No. 1 seed in the conference.
1. Rams pull off the ultimate troll job on Washington.
2. What's that Philadelphia fans? Richard Sherman can't hear you.
3. Colin Kaepernick took out his frustrations on a camera.
4. Watch Joe Fauria twerk for touchdowns.
St. Louis Rams 24, Washington 0 (final)
Carolina Panthers 41, New Orleans Saints 10 (final)
Minnesota Vikings 30, New York Jets 24 (final)
Baltimore Ravens 28, Miami Dolphins 13 (final)
Indianapolis Colts 25, Cleveland Browns 24 (final | recap)
Arizona Cardinals 17, Kansas City Chiefs 14 (final)
Seattle Seahawks 24, Philadelphia Eagles 14 (final | recap)
Oakland Raiders 24, San Francisco 49ers 13 (final)
New England Patriots 23, San Diego Chargers 14 (final | recap)