By DAN SCIFO
Buffalo Bills tight end Tyler Kroft (81) celebrates with running back Devin Singletary (26) and others after scoring on a pass from quarterback Josh Allen during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Buffalo Bills tight end Tyler Kroft (81) scores on a pass from quarterback Josh Allen, running near Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Terrell Edmunds (34), during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Buffalo Bills tight end Tyler Kroft (81) celebrates his touchdown on a pass from quarterback Josh Allen during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) is tackled by Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward (97) during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White (27) intercepts a Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges pass intended for Diontae Johnson (18) during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) scores during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) strips the ball from Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary (26) and the Steelers recovered during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) scores with Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Matt Milano (58) defending during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges looks to throw a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Matt Milano (58) and cornerback Taron Johnson (24) go after a turnover by the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. The Bills recovered the ball. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) runs the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges calls signals during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges (6) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary, second from right, is stopped short of the goal line by Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Mark Barron, right, outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) and free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, left, during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, center, scores on a 1-yard run during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) is tackled by Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Terrell Edmunds (34) during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. Allen fumbled on the play. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
PITTSBURGH (AP) The Buffalo Bills didn’t have many playoff experiences during a recent two-decade stretch.
Bills coach Sean McDermott and his quarterback Josh Allen are helping to change the culture in Buffalo.
Allen threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Kroft with 7:55 to play and the Bills clinched a playoff spot, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10 on Sunday night.
“(McDermott) preaches playoff caliber and that’s the standard we hold ourselves to,” Allen said. “The goal is to get yourself into the playoffs to have a shot at the Super Bowl.”
The Bills (10-4) have done that.
They secured their second playoff berth in three seasons under McDermott. Buffalo trailed 10-7, but scored on two possessions in the fourth quarter, as Allen rallied the Bills for a comeback win for the fifth time this season. Consecutive interceptions by Jordan Poyer and Levi Wallace on Pittsburgh’s last two possessions sealed the victory.
The surging Steelers (8-6) had an opportunity to leapfrog the Bills for the top AFC wildcard spot, but Buffalo snapped Pittsburgh’s three-game win streak. The Steelers remain the No. 6 seed in the AFC, but they have no room for error.
“We will learn from this and move forward to our next opportunity,” said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, a college teammate with McDermott at William & Mary. “There is scarcity in this business. You only get so many opportunities to state a case for yourself.”
Buffalo won for the fourth time in five games and recorded its first 10-win season since 1999. The Bills also beat the Steelers for the second time ever in Pittsburgh, first since a 21-point win in the 1993 AFC Divisional playoff round.
The Bills, who improved to 6-1 on the road, made their first Sunday night appearance in 12 years when they were dismantled by the Patriots in a 46-point loss.
Not this group, led by a No. 3-ranked defense and an opportunistic offense.
The Bills no longer resemble the inept franchise with a revolving door of coaches, general managers and quarterbacks that struggled through a 17-year playoff drought before McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane arrived.
Allen completed 13 of 25 passes for 139 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Allen, who also rushed for a score, has only lost consecutive games once in his career. Kroft scored his first touchdown since 2017 when he played for Cincinnati. Devin Singletary rushed for 87 yards and John Brown caught seven passes for 99 yards. He became Buffalo’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2015.
The Steelers entered with wins in seven of their last eight games since a 1-4 start.
Devlin Hodges completed 23 of 38 passes for 202 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. Hodges had a chance to become the first undrafted rookie in the Super Bowl era to win his first four starts.
James Conner played for the first time since missing five of the last six games with a shoulder injury. He finished with 42 yards rushing and caught a touchdown pass.
“After a loss like that, it’s kind of quiet,” Hodges said. “Everyone knows what’s on everyone’s mind. Not a whole lot of talking needs to be done.”
Pittsburgh scored on the first drive of the second half to take a 10-7 lead.
Hodges opened the series with a 31-yard pass to Diontae Johnson and Conner broke off a 17-yard run, setting up his 11-yard touchdown reception two plays later. The 69-yard touchdown drive came after Pittsburgh totaled 64 yards in the first half.
Tre’Davious White returned his second interception of the game 49 yards to the Pittsburgh 18 late in the third quarter. The Bills couldn’t capitalize with a touchdown and instead settled for a 36-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka to tie it.
The Bills took the lead for good on their next possession.
Allen connected with Brown for a 40-yard gain one play after a Pittsburgh punt. Five plays later, Allen found Kroft at the front pylon for a 14-yard touchdown pass.
“We were on the same page,” Kroft said. “I saw the coverage and I knew I had to get my head around fast. He threw a perfect strike and it made my job easy.”
Allen’s 1-yard touchdown run on the second play of the second quarter opened the scoring.
Allen’s ninth score also established a new single-season franchise record for touchdowns rushing by a quarterback. Buffalo took advantage of a short field following a 22-yard punt and converted a fourth down during the 40-yard series.
Pittsburgh trailed 7-3 when Steven Nelson picked off Allen late in the second quarter. A facemask set Pittsburgh up with first-and-goal from the 10, but Johnson fumbled and the Bills recovered to preserve a four-point halftime lead.
The defense also helped lead the Bills back to the playoffs again.
“Before we got here, it was a 17-year drought,” said White, the Bills’ first round pick in 2017. “Since we’ve been here, we’ve been to the playoffs two out of the last three years. It’s pretty special because these things don’t come around often.”
NOTES: Allen tied Doug Flutie for the most consecutive games accounting for a touchdown by a Bills quarterback with 20. ... T.J. Watt is the first player in Steelers history with multiple 13-sack seasons. ... Pittsburgh registered at least one sack in 55 straight games, the longest in regular-season franchise history. ... Chris Boswell kicked his 125th career field goal, fourth-most in Steelers history. ... The matchup featured the first trio of brothers – Pittsburgh’s Trey and Terrell Edmunds and Buffalo’s Tremaine Edmunds – to appear in the same game since 1927.
Bills: Travel to New England on Saturday.
Steelers: Visit the New York Jets on Sunday.
Los Angeles Chargers defensive lineman Melvin Ingram was behind the only happy moment for the Chargers Defense on Sunday as they got otherwise got thrashed by the Vikings. Late in the second quarter, with LA trailing by just two points, Ingram snagged a poorly-thrown pass to nab the only positive turnover of the day for the Chargers. The team would go on to give the ball away seven times, and their defense was wholly outmatched throughout the entire contest as they fell by a final score of 39-10. The Chargers defense is usually better than that, as that was the first game this season where the team lost by more than one score. Look for them to bounce back against the Raiders next week.
The Los Angeles Chargers aren't a great football team this season, but it's hardly the fault of wide receiver Mike Williams. Williams put up another strong day with 71 receiving yards and a touchdown on Sunday, but LA got blasted by the Minnesota Vikings. Williams' score was the only touchdown of the day for the Chargers, who committed seven turnovers in the loss. Williams is now at 912 receiving yards on the season, and he'll likely eclipse the 1,000-yard notch before the season is out, joining teammate Keenan Allen in the club. The third-year wideout has proven this season that he can be a superstar in this league, though he's also reinforced that superstar wide receivers don't necessarily translate to team success at the same time.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry did something in Week 15 that he hasn't done since the second game of his NFL career: cough up a fumble. After catching a pass deep in his own territory early in the fourth quarter, a defender stuck his hand right into the ball as he dragged Henry to the ground, and the ball popped out and straight into the waiting arms of another Vikings defender. Fortunately, Henry's mistake wasn't a back-breaking one since the Chargers were already down 22 points at the time and committed six other turnovers on the day. Henry will look to get back on track when the team hosts the Raiders next week.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler was one of a couple members of the Chargers team that still looked like a stud on Sunday, even though his team was getting run over by the Vikings. Ekeler rushed seven times for 19 yards and caught five passes for another 62 yards while remaining turnover-free. Unfortunately, Ekeler wasn't able to find the end zone, but the 81 scrimmage yards are still a nice consolation prize. Ekeler has been one of the team's standout players this year even though they've been a downtrodden squad overall. A wonderful playmaker, Ekeler has added a lot of fun and excitement to an otherwise disappointing team.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen hasn't been the loudest receiver on the block this season, but he's still put in the work and ground his way up over the 1,000-yard mark once again. Allen topped the millennial mark in Week 15 by posting nine catches for 99 yards in the team's blowout loss to Minnesota. Allen ranks fifth in the league in receptions and 11th in yards, though his five touchdowns are tied for second-fewest amongst 1,000-yard wideouts this year. It's hard to believe how bad the Chargers team has been this season with how well Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler have played for the entire season, but it's evidence that big numbers to those guys don't necessarily translate to wins.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers flip-flopped back to the bad setting on Sunday when he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble against the Vikings. Rivers did rack up 307 passing yards in the blowout loss, but his four turnovers were a large part of why LA got demolished. The rest of the squad coughed up three more turnovers to cause the team to tie the all-time record for most turnovers in a single game. Rivers is third in the league in passing yards, but his 18 interceptions are second-most as well. The yards are nice, but the turnovers are more than a little responsible for the team's woeful record. With all attention turned to next year's draft, the question will now be whether the team will turn to Tyrod Taylor in the final two games or if Rivers will even get to finish out the season.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon was one of the team's primary sources of turnovers on Sunday as he coughed up the ball on two separate occasions, both times deep in his own territory. Gordon is usually one of the most sure-handed backs in the league, and he's never lost two fumbles in a single game before this week. In fact, he's only fumbled twice three other times in his career, and it's only happened one other time since his rookie season. The Chargers were stomped in every facet of the game on Sunday, so Gordon's fumbles were just one of the many issues the team had. Hopefully, he'll be able to bounce back from them and light up Oakland next week.
Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister caught all three passes slung his way on Sunday, but they only added up to 23 yards and no scores. Hollister burst onto the scene earlier this year when Will Dissly hit the IR with a torn Achilles, but he's cooled down as the weeks have gone on. He's faced a few tough matchups, but he's also having to deal with the thing all players struggle with at some point, which is that teams are starting to adjust to him. As teams get tape on opposing players, they learn their moves, they learn their sets, and they start to account for them. The test will now be whether Hollister can make the appropriate adjustments to his game to get more chances. That remains to be seen.
Seattle Seahawks kicker Jason Myers drilled a 30-yarder in Sunday's win over the Panthers to improve to five straight games without missing a field goal. Unfortunately, he faded his first extra point attempt into the right upright, giving him a missed XP for the second week in a row. That said, he made the other three on the day to finish with a solid performance. He finished the season 12-of-13 on field goals on the road, and he has yet to miss from inside the 40-yard line all year. Myers is no Justin Tucker, but he's been a solid kicking addition for the Seahawks this season.
Seattle Seahawks rookie wide receiver D.K. Metcalf made a strong leaping catch over his man late in the first quarter to bring in his sixth touchdown of the season on Sunday. Metcalf climbed the ladder to snag the perfectly placed pass by Russell Wilson, giving him his first score in six weeks. Metcalf was only targeted four times in the day, one of which was on an ill-fated trick play pass thrown by Josh Gordon where Metcalf was double covered and not open in any way, shape, or form. With Tyler Lockett rounding back into form, Metcalf will likely recede back into being a home run hitter more often than not, but he's proven that he can work as a possession receiver when needed.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett seemed to finally be healthy as he ripped apart the Carolina Panthers Defense on Sunday. Lockett hauled in eight of the nine passes thrown his way for 120 yards and a touchdown, giving him his first big game in six weeks. Surprisingly enough, Lockett told reporters after the game that his shin contusion and the lingering flu bug are actually still impacting him, which was an unexpected confession after such a big performance. With Lockett nearing full strength, Seattle becomes a lot more dangerous team heading into the playoffs. Expect Lockett to be a main part of their offense week-in and week-out as he nears 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career.
The Seattle Seahawks are never boring, and they're certainly not predictable when it comes to players like wide receiver Josh Gordon. Coming into Sunday's game against Carolina, Gordon had caught all of six passes for the Seahawks so far in four weeks with the team, and he had only been targeted 10 times. In Week 15, Gordon was only targeted once, but it was for a 58-yard bomb that was an absolutely magnificent throw by Russell Wilson. Ever more surprisingly, the newest and rarely-used member of the squad was then tagged late in the third quarter to be the passer in a trick play. Gordon promptly threw a deep interception into double coverage. Maybe they'll have him do an onside kick next week.
With one of his best performances of the year, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson helped lead Seattle to the win over Carolina on Sunday. While Wilson's 286 yards and two touchdowns weren't the type of flashy numbers that folks love to see from the QBs nowadays, his solid approach included a 77% completion rate and his second-highest passer rating of the season. Wilson had been coming off the back of some recent sub-par performances, so this was a welcome change of pace. He also led Seattle to a 7-1 road record this year, the best in their franchise history. Wilson has clearly been surpassed by Lamar Jackson in the MVP race, but he's still a huge part of why the Seahawks have already clinched a playoff berth.
Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson was tasked with being the solo shot in the backfield once again after Rashaad Penny hit the IR with a torn ACL, and he came to play. Carson destroyed the Panthers Defense on Sunday as he carried the ball 24 times for 133 yards, a new career-high. He also ran in a pair of touchdowns and exploded for huge yardage on the regular against the Panthers. He's now at 1,190 rushing yards this season, another career-high, and he'll be expected to remain one of the focal points of Seattle's offense for the rest of the season. Expect the Seahawks' success to ride heavily on his shoulders as the regular season winds up and the postseason begins.
The Seattle Seahawks Defense came up big with a win over Carolina even though they were banged up to start the game and lost more firepower as the game went on. Already missing Jadeveon Clowney (flu) and Mychal Kendricks (hamstring), Seattle lost both Bobby Wagner and Quandre Diggs to sprained ankles during the game. Afterwards, Wagner told reporters that his ankle was fine and was cracking jokes while walking without a limp, but head coach Pete Carroll said Diggs' injury seemed to be more serious. Diggs may miss next week's game against Arizona.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson tied for the team lead in catches in Week 15, coming down with five catches for 62 yards. He was targeted seven times, good for second on the team. Johnson made some big plays in this one and should be primed for another good game next week against the Jets secondary.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Nick Vannett played well in Week 15, catching five passes for 40 yards. He was targeted six times. With Vance McDonald (concussion) forced to miss the game, Vannett was the main tight end for the Steelers offense. His five catches tied for the team lead in catches. He'll be a solid TE2 with a decent floor for as long as McDonald is out.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Defense was okay against the Buffalo Bills in a Week 15 loss. They allowed 17 points, but recorded a sack and an interception. The Steelers defensive unit will have a better matchup in Week 16 against a scuffling New York Jets team. They'll be a solid fantasy option for fantasy championship week.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges did not play well in a Week 15 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Hodges completed 23 of his 38 pass attempts for 202 yards and one touchdown. He threw four interceptions, some at critical times in the game. The Steelers take on the Jets next week and should fare slightly better through the air, but Hodges still won't be much of a fantasy option for the fantasy championships.
The Buffalo Bills Defense was excellent in a Week 15 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. They recovered a fumble, collected four interceptions, allowed just 10 points, and got four sacks. It was an all-around impressive performance by Buffalo, who will have a tougher contest next week against the New England Patriots.