NFL: Seahawks And Steelers Gaining Momentum


We have nought but three weeks left in the regular season, following the tumultuous end to week fourteen. Many teams suffered heartbreaking losses that put the playoffs beyond them, while several teams shot themselves in the foot when it mattered most. With so much still to play for in the last three weeks, we’ll analyse where those in the hunt went right and wrong with our recap of all the best week fourteen action from the NFL.

Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles (24-14)

Another strong showing from the previously ailing Seattle Seahawks. The Super Bowl champs are now in the middle of a three game winning streak, getting hot at just the right time. The defense is playing lights out football, and they really shut down this high tempo offense, with Mark Sanchez finishing with less than one hundred yards passing, and only getting the ball to four receivers. They pressed hard at the line of scrimmage, and gave no separation to Jeremy Maclin and company. One of the touchdowns they gave up was the result of a short field off a muffed punt, so this could easily have been a bigger score. Russell Wilson is orchestrating the offense magnificently, and beat the defense through the air when they went all out to shut down Marshawn Lynch. Nobody wants to play Seattle right now.

This was a serious crash back down to earth for the Philadelphia Eagles, who can suggest their losses came against top sides, but can’t point to many top sides they have beaten. LeSean McCoy was pretty well contained, and Mark Sanchez couldn’t move the offense on his own. The offensive line struggles continue, as the Seahawks were able to get good pressure when rushing only four men. The Eagles do look like a good run defense, but the exposure their corners get makes it hard for them. The Eagles move on to a big divisional clash with the Dallas Cowboys, having lost the fear factor once again.

Buffalo Bills at Denver Broncos (17-24)

The Denver Broncos continue to win games with an underwhelming Peyton Manning under center. There are positives and negatives to that, but if the Broncos are going to seriously contend for Super Bowl honours, they need the veteran quarterback to raise his game. Manning went 14/20 for zero touchdowns and two interceptions here and, while you have to credit the defense, that’s not going to be good enough come January. C.J. Anderson added three more rushing touchdowns to his repertoire, while Wes Welker had a return to form, catching six balls for 82 yards. The defense bailed the Broncos out here big time, stifling Kyle Orton time and again. If Denver’s main man gets hot again before season’s end, the Broncos will be contenders.

The Buffalo Bills learn more and more each week how important it is to have the right guy under center. This is a playoff calibre team, that is just missing that one piece. Kyle Orton was actually given 57 passing attempts, which is lunacy at the best of times. To his credit he completed two thirds of those, but the inevitable two interceptions followed. Sammy Watkins and Scott Chandler had two hundred receiving yards between them, and this juggernaut of a defense pushed Manning around. But that first round pick spent on EJ Manuel looks worse and worse every week, as the playoffs drift just out of reach for the Bills yet again.

Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals are alive, if not well. This was a huge win for the Cards, ending their slump before it got out of hand. Their divisional fate is still in their hands now. Drew Stanton only completed 15/30 passes, but they went for 239 yards and a touchdown. In a tight, tense affair like this, those are big numbers. Kerwynn Williams stepped up as the hero on the ground, as Andre Ellington became the latest player to hit injured reserve for the Cardinals. Williams mustered 100 yards on nineteen rushes, giving the Cards some much needed balance. The defense continues to play hard, no matter how many guys they lose, and winning the turnover battle 2-0 was crucial in this one. It would be heartbreaking to see Arizona miss out on the playoffs at this late stage.

The Kansas City Chiefs struggled to deal with multiple dialed up blitzes here, as Todd Bowles went after Alex Smith. This should have been anticipated, as that has been Bowles’ modus operandi all year, but the Chiefs offensive line woes have come back to haunt them. Alex Smith played well, with 26/39 for 293 yards, a touchdown and a pick. But it is real hard to win games at quarterback with no wide receivers and no offensive line. Travis Kelce played well, Jamaal Charles battled hard through injuries for two touchdowns, and Jason Avant showed he was a nice pick up. But the Chiefs formerly sturdy run defense is now hurting them, and they have been exposed as a team a couple pieces short of making a run.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (42-21)

What a fourth quarter performance that was from the Pittsburgh Steelers! In what amounted to a do-or-die divisional clash with the team ahead of them, the Steelers racked up a stunning 25 points in the fourth quarter to blow the home team away. Ben Roethlisberger completed 25/39 for 350 yards and three touchdowns, but the standout player had to be LeVeon Bell, who had 235 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. It was a phenomenal performance from arguably the games top running back, making big plays early to keep Pittsburgh in it, before stepping up in the fourth to help them blow the opposition away. Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant also deserve credit, seeing as they both went over a hundred yards receiving. Never mind the defense, this Steelers team wins with the ball in its own hands. The AFC North refuses to be resolved!

The Cincinnati Bengals were so close to staking their claim to the divisional title…. and then it all went sour in the fourth quarter, when their underperforming defense couldn’t stand the heat any more. AJ Green had a monstrous 224 yards and a touchdown on just eleven receptions, on what was also a good day for Andy Dalton (21/29, 302 yards, 2 touchdowns). Dalton got hurt in the fourth, bringing Jason Campbell in. Both quarterbacks lost a fumble at some stage, and those being the only turnovers of the game hurt the Bengals. But their defense has undoubtedly been one of the NFL’s biggest underachieving units all season long. It may cost them post-season football.

Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns (25-24)

The Indianapolis Colts are never beaten in the fourth quarter, and it is arguably their most impressive attribute. Andrew Luck and his offense had a torrid time in the first half, failing to deal with the incessant pressure and tight coverage from the defense. They punted seven times in this game. At the half, they made some re-adjustments, and T.Y. Hilton sprung to life. Hilton had ten receptions for 150 yards, but only recorded one catch for nine yards in the first half. The offensive line needs some healthy bodies, the run game is deplorable, and Andrew Luck has real trouble dealing with trap defenses and late moves in the secondary. But the Colts can beat anyone on their day.

You just knew, early in the second half when Brian Hoyer was missing passes, that the Cleveland Browns were letting their chance slip by them. That was one of the outstanding defensive performances of the year, with Donter Whitner, Joe Haden, Jim Leonhard and Buster Skrine lording it in coverage, Craig Robertson making play after play at linebacker, and Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo getting to Andrew Luck time and again. The special teams hunted down Josh Cribbs, never giving him any real room for returns, and helping the Browns win the battle for field position. And the offense failed to capitalise. The only real shock was that Johnny Manziel didn’t see any snaps. Josh Gordon is certainly part of the problem, as he clearly is operating from a different playbook to his quarterbacks, but Hoyer left big plays (and, arguably, his viability as an NFL starter) out there on the field, regularly overthrowing wide open receivers. The defense put up fourteen points themselves, and the Browns got a field goal from another turnover. Hoyer did nothing, aside from tossing two costly interceptions. Brace yourself, NFL – It’s Johnny Football time.

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