Seattle — By the time the playoffs arrive, the Seattle Seahawks are going to feel just fine in a close, tight game.
Even when they’re comfortably ahead, the Seahawks have a way of making the final minutes more than a little unnerving.
“Close games are cool, aren’t they? I like them,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll joked. “Maybe the 17 points was too much. Maybe we shouldn’t have been ahead by that much.”
Thanks to the combo of Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson, and one big strike from Russell Wilson, the Seahawks built a big second-half lead before holding off the Minnesota Vikings for a 37-30 win Monday night.
Penny scored one touchdown rushing and one receiving, and Wilson hit David Moore on a 60-yard touchdown pass as the Seahawks scored 24 straight points to take control before needing to hold on late as the Vikings tried to rally.
Seattle (10-2) moved into a tie with San Francisco atop of the NFC West but holds the tiebreaker. The Seahawks have the inside track to the division title with four games left.
“Just couldn’t be more excited to have that kind of win and put us at 10 wins, that’s a nice spot for this time,” Carroll said. “We kick it into the fourth quarter and now it’s finish time.”
Minnesota (8-4) fell a game behind Green Bay in the NFC North and is only one game ahead of the Los Angeles Rams in the wild-card race. They lost star running back Dalvin Cook to a shoulder injury when he fumbled midway through the third quarter in what became a major turning point.
Cook said he believes he should be able to play next week and took responsibility for the fumble.
“Everybody acts like this is the end of the world, we lost one game tonight,” Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said. “We’re 8-4 we have four games left, three division games. This isn’t the end of the world, we still have a lot of good football left to play.”
Wilson wasn’t great, but he came up with key plays as Seattle won its fifth straight. He had a forgettable first-half moment trying to bat down a deflected pass only to watch Anthony Harris intercept the ball and return it for a touchdown. Wilson was 21-of-31 for 240 yards.
The key was the running of Penny and Chris Carson. Seattle rushed for 218 yards, the most allowed by Minnesota this season. Carson had 102, including a 1-yard TD. Penny added 74. The Vikings were giving up just 94 yards per game rushing.
“Our running game has been a staple of our offense. That’s our foundation and both of those guys are amazing backs. They’re really coming on,” Seattle offensive lineman Duane Brown said.
Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) was 22-of-38 for 276 yards but couldn’t connect with Irv Smith Jr. on fourth-and-3 at the Vikings 42 with 2:31 left. Jason Myers’ 36-yard field goal with 21 seconds left provided the final margin for Seattle.
“I think we have a football team that can go on the road in a tough environment and get a win. I think this is an opportunity we missed. It’s disappointing,” Cousins said.
It was a wild second half featuring 40 combined points and four key turnovers – three by Minnesota.
Seattle pulled even at 17 on Penny’s 1-yard TD run. On Minnesota’s first play of the next possession, Cook was stripped by Rasheem Green, and Bradley McDougald recovered. It was the first of two critical turnovers that led to 10 points for Seattle.
The Seahawks were held to a field goal following Cook’s fumble but took a 27-17 lead on their next possession when Moore ran free through the Vikings secondary and Wilson hit him in stride. Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes appeared to think he had safety help over the top, but no one was there as Moore sprinted for his second TD catch of the season on the next-to-last play of the third quarter.
The first play of the fourth quarter was forgettable for the Vikings as well. Cousins’ pass for Stefon Diggs was intercepted by Tre Flowers, who may have gotten away with pass interference, but deflected the pass and made a juggling interception at the Minnesota 25. Three plays later, Wilson found Penny on a screen pass and Seattle had a 17-point lead.
Minnesota’s rally started with Seattle’s own blown coverage as Cousins hit Laquon Treadwell for a 58-yard TD. Seattle seemed poised to add on, helped by a fake punt that Travis Homer took for 29 yards, but DK Metcalf fumbled and the Vikings recovered at their 28 with 9:34 left.
It took barely 2 minutes for Minnesota to pull within 34-30 as Cousins connected with Kyle Rudolph for a 3-yard touchdown and another brilliant one-handed catch by the Vikings’ tight end. But that was as close as Minnesota would get.
“We’re in control and that’s a great thing. We like having that,” Wilson said.
Kitchens feeling heat
Browns coach Freddie Kitchens swears he’s not anxious about his fashion choices or future.
Maybe he should be. They’re both under heavy scrutiny.
On Sunday, the Browns’ playoff hopes took a devastating hit with a demoralizing 20-13 loss in Pittsburgh that all but guarantees the NFL’s longest postseason drought will extend from 2002 into the 2020 season.
For the second time under Kitchens, the Browns (5-7) did not play up to their talent level and failed to beat a team starting an unheralded and virtually unknown quarterback. Rookie Devlin “Duck” Hodges made more big plays than Baker Mayfield in leading the Steelers to a 16th straight win over Cleveland at Heinz Field.
The latest setback came after Kitchens inexplicably wore a “Pittsburgh started it” T-shirt in public, the slogan referring to the infamous Nov. 14 brawl between the teams that led to Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett being indefinitely suspended even while reviving this rust-belt rivalry.
But Kitchens’ attempt at sartorial humor — or maybe to impress his players — failed as badly as some of his suspect play calls this season.
Following Sunday’s game, Kitchens said he doesn’t regret wearing the shirt. However, he did express shame if his actions fired up the Steelers (7-5). That was never his intent.
“If that is what they take as motivation, of course, I am disappointed,” he said.
“I know (Steelers coach) Mike (Tomlin) very well. They are motivated by more than just a T-shirt. We had a lot on the line there for that game, and I do not think that T-shirt put them over the top. Now, that is being strictly honest for you.”
And, just as honestly, Kitchens is once again under fire for a season again spinning in the wrong direction.
The Browns were expected to start December in the thick of the playoff race, not as an outsider hanging by a thread and calculating year-end, wild-card scenarios.
Kitchens may not survive to get a second season, but insists his focus is solely on improving his inexperienced team, which was clearly not ready for big moments like Sunday’s.
“No, I am not,” Kitchens said when asked point blank if he’s concerned about his job security.
Fortunately, he doesn’t have to worry about Mayfield, who is not expected to miss any time after injuring his right hand late in the first half.
Mayfield banged his hand on the face mask of Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree during his follow-through while throwing an incompletion just before halftime.
Kitchens said he was prepared to play backup Garrett Gilbert in the second half before the X-rays take on Mayfield came back negative.
Mayfield played the entire second half wearing a glove, and Kitchens doesn’t think it impacted his ability to throw. He expects Mayfield to practice this week and play Sunday against the Bengals.
Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew will return to Jacksonville’s starting lineup Sunday against the Chargers, replacing ineffective and highly paid veteran Nick Foles following the team’s fourth consecutive lopsided loss.
Coach Doug Marrone made the announcement Monday, one day after a 28-11 home loss to Tampa Bay in which the Jaguars (4-8) managed 242 yards, turned the ball over four times and were flagged a season-high 16 times for 125 yards.
It was the team’s 18th loss in its past 24 games.
Foles ended Jacksonville’s first three drives with turnovers that the Buccaneers turned into touchdowns. Marrone benched Foles at halftime, trailing 25-0.
... The Jets might have to try to bounce back from an embarrassing loss without Jamal Adams.
Adams has a sprained left ankle that could sideline him for at least the team’s game Sunday against Miami.
“I think it’s a legit week-to-week (injury),” coach Adam Gase said Monday.
Adams was still expected to have an MRI exam to further evaluate the injury which happened early in the Jets’ 22-6 loss at Cincinnati to the previously winless Bengals.
After the game, Adams fought back tears while discussing the loss and the injury, which had him in a walking boot.
“A lot of mixed emotions right now,” Adams said Sunday. “I’m more upset at the fact that I feel like I let the team down.”
... The Cardinals have released veteran cornerback Tramaine Brock Sr. and running back Zach Zenner, a former Lion.
The team announced the moves Monday, one day after a 34-7 loss to the Rams.
The 31-year-old Brock was part of a secondary that’s given up the most passing yards in the NFL this season. Brock, a 10-year veteran, had played in 10 games and was sixth on the team with 37 tackles.
Zenner was signed midseason after injuries to David Johnson and Chase Edmonds hurt the team’s depth at running back.
Zenner, a five-year veteran, appeared in three games.