08-08-2019, 08:58 AM
JuJu Smith-Schuster began Week 16 with a promise to tough it out for all those fantasy football owners trying to win their league championships. He ended it with an apology for a mistake that might have wrecked Pittsburgh’s playoff plans.Limited at practice all week by a sore groin Clelin Ferrell Jersey , Smith-Schuster tweeted before the Steelers’ showdown at New Orleans that he wouldn’t miss the game for anything.“A lot on the line this week. The whole season comes down to this,” Smith-Schuster tweeted. “I’m talking about the fantasy football championship round. Of course I’m playing Sunday!! There’s no way I can let down the real ones who believed in me by drafting me!! Let’s get it!!”Smith-Schuster delivered 11 receptions for 115 yards. But he let down Steelers Nation with his fumble at the New Orleans 34 in the final minute, sealing Pittsburgh’s 31-28 loss .That dropped the sliding Steelers out of first place in the AFC North and endangered their chances of even making the playoffs.To claim the AFC North, Pittsburgh (8-6-1) needs to beat Cincinnati next Sunday and have surging Baltimore (9-6) lose at home to Cleveland. Failing that, the Steelers, who has lost four of their last five by a total of 16 points, would need the unlikely scenario of an Indianapolis-Tennessee tie to earn a wild card berth.“When I’m at my lowest, I’m not going to hide,” Smith-Schuster wrote in an Instagram post Monday. “I’m sorry. That loss was on me. I let everyone down, it won’t happen again.”Smith-Schuster wasn’t the only one in the spotlight of blame and blunders. His coach, Mike Tomlin, is being second-guessed for a failed fake punt that set up the Saints on Pittsburgh’s side of the field for the game-winning touchdown drive with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter.Drew Brees threw the game-winning touchdown toss to Michael Thomas with 1:25 remaining.“I just wanted to be aggressive,” Tomlin said after the Steelers fell from fourth to eighth in the AFC playoff picture thanks to two fumbles and the failed punt on their last three possessions.Upback Roosevelt Nix took the snap, stepped to his right and ran up the middle. He was stopped just shy of first down Josh Oliver Jersey , although he celebrated as though he’d fooled the Saints.“I didn’t even know it was coming,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of the fake punt.The same couldn’t be said for the Saints (13-2), who captured the NFC’s top seed for just the second time in their history. They parlayed the No. 1 seed in 2009 into their only Super Bowl championship.Despite their 38-31 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday night, the Chiefs (11-4) can capture the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win over Oakland next week.Their generational quarterback already is a big winner — in the marketing department.Hunt’s signed notorious ketchup lover Patrick Mahomes as its brand ambassador after learning one of the QB’s culinary passions is the red condiment he puts on everything from steak to mac & cheese.“I’ve been a fan of ketchup for as long as I can remember, and the thick, rich flavor of Hunt’s ketchup delivers every time,” Mahomes said — or at least he read that advertising copy that was written for him.Other key decisions in Week 16 included Raiders punt returner Dwyane Harris scooping up the loose ball at Oakland’s 1-yard line Monday night and returning it 99 yards for a touchdown on a muddy field in one of the most spectacular plays of the season. It tied for the second-longest punt return in NFL history.Broncos rookie Isaac Yiadom tried to down the ball just shy of the end zone but it squibbed away from him in the drenched grass and Harris picked it up and swept around the right side for his improbable score that gave the Raiders a 7-0 lead.Harris joined Patrick Peterson (99 yards) and Robert Bailey (103) as the only players ever to score a touchdown on a punt return of 99 yards o more. Next Gen Stats said he covered 157½ total yards and almost hit 20 mph on his return.And the New England Patriots sent a shout-out to Nick Foles , of all people, after the Eagles backup QB — who outdueled Tom Brady to secure Philadelphia’s Super Bowl win last season — did them a huge favor.Foles threw for a franchise record 471 yards and four touchdowns in leading the Eagles past the Texans 32-30, denying Houston the AFC South title and sending the Patriots back into the No. 2 playoff spot.The Patriots, who have won their division 16 times in the 18 years Brady has started for them, haven’t had to play a wild-card game since 2009. And their five championships each followed a first-round playoff bye like the one they’re in line for following the Texans’ loss.So, the Patriots tweeted, “We never thought we’d say this in 2018 http://www.jacksonvillejaguarsteamonline...-ii-jersey , but … Thanks Nick Foles!” FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — New England tight end Rob Gronkowski said the Patriots would take the night to enjoy it. Safety Devin McCourty said it would be closer to just a few hours of celebration.However long the Patriots players planned to relax after their dominating 41-28 divisional-round win over the Chargers on Sunday , this much is clear: A very good Kansas City Chiefs team is waiting in the AFC championship game.Meanwhile, in the losing locker room in Foxborough on Sunday, the Chargers headed back across the country after dropping their lone game of the season outside the state of California.New England needed a field goal from Stephen Gostkowski in the waning seconds to slip past the Chiefs 43-40 in one of the wildest games of the regular season in Week 6. Tom Brady had one of his best games of the season in the Oct. 14 victory over KC, throwing for 340 yards and a touchdown and running for another to earn his 200th career victory as starting quarterback.All of it was needed on a night in which counterpart Patrick Mahomes rallied his team from a 24-9 halftime deficit, throwing for 352 yards and four touchdowns in what was the Chiefs’ first loss of the season and his first as a starting quarterback.Now comes a rematch against a Kansas City team that oddsmakers have installed as an early favorite. It will be rare air for the Patriots.Sunday’s win over the Chargers sent the Patriots to the conference title game for eighth straight season. It will also be the 13th conference championship game appearance by the Patriots during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.McCourty said despite their unprecedented run and performance Sunday, nobody in the Patriots locker room believes they can just show up and win at Arrowhead Stadium.“You go to eight straight AFC championship games, you’re in the playoffs 10 years in a row, you kind of get in a mode like it’ll keep happening, it’ll be there,” McCourty said. “But this is a special group, and I think we’re starting to realize that we have one opportunity to try to take advantage of everything that’s in front of us.”New England got three first-half touchdowns from rookie Sony Michel to set the early tone against the Chargers. He finished with 129 yards rushing, his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season.The Patriots scored touchdowns on their first four possessions Ryquell Armstead Jersey , building a 35-7 halftime lead.Buoyed by the run game, Brady was in vintage form at age 41, completing 34 of 44 for 343 yards and a touchdown. He improved to 8-0 as a starter against Philip Rivers, who drops to 1-8 against New England all-time.Afterward, Brady acknowledged that he heard the voices this season who doubted the Patriots and thought “we can’t win any games.”Asked if he thought the win might have quieted those voices, he simply smiled and paused.“I just like winning,” he said.“I just like winning.”OPEN GATESThe Chargers’ final touchdown came long after the game was out of reach, but don’t call it garbage time to Antonio Gates.The Los Angeles tight end is 38 years old, and it might have been his final game. When he caught an 8-yard pass from Rivers to make it 41-28 in the final minute, it made him the oldest tight end in NFL history with a touchdown catch in a playoff game.Only wide receiver Jerry Rice had a postseason TD reception at a more advanced age.“Pretty cool that if it were to be his last one, that his last catch was a touchdown,” said Rivers, who has thrown 89 regular-season TD passes to Gates, the most for a quarterback-tight end tandem.“You’re talking about a guy that’s caught more than anybody in the history of tight ends. And he and I have thrown more in the history of quarterbacks and tight ends Will Harris Jersey ,” Rivers said. “If it were to be (his last game), you’d look back one day and say it ended just how it started there a long time ago.”NO PLACE LIKE HOMEWhile a lot was made of the Chargers’ success on the road this season, Rivers said it might have been nice to play Sunday’s game at home.They were 7-1 during the regular season, losing only when they played at the crosstown Los Angeles Rams. The Chargers won at Baltimore in the wild-card round to open the postseason.“We won every game we got on a plane this year, except for this one. So we’d done a heck of a job on the road. Sometimes you look at what you did and you go, ‘Yeah, let’s just keep them all on the road because we’ve been good on the road.’ … There’s no question, you want to be at home where it’s about 65 degrees and it’s your place, not dealing with the noise and being able to communicate and all those things. Those things could have helped a little bit today, too. But they just outplayed us, they just outplayed us.”MOVING ON UPThe Patriots won their 35th playoff game, tying the Cowboys for second all-time. With one more win, New England will tie Pittsburgh for the most postseason wins in NFL history.