The Steelers should be shaking their heads over what could have been against the Patriots.
The Patriots didn’t get many style points for their victory in Pittsburgh, but the gritty performance reinforced why Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the NFL championship favorites again.
Nick Foles kept the offense rolling, but some of the old concerns about the Eagles’ pass defense popped up against the Giants. Philly will look to finish strong with two straight at home.
They dodged a bullet when they learned Antonio Brown should return to be a difference-maker in the rematch.
The defense dominated and the running game delivered in a get-well outing against the hapless Bengals. The Vikes have fewer holes than any NFC team with a high floor, but the key in the playoffs will be hitting the ceiling with Case Keenum.
But Butler put his body on the line and drew a much-needed charge on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson milliseconds before he hit Carroll in the corner. For the rest of the third quarter the Wolves outscored the Nets 25-14, including a 23-7 run.
The fourth quarter is where winners win, and that’s where Butler butters his bread. Only two players — LeBron James and Kyrie Irving — have scored more points in clutch situations (game within five points with five or fewer minutes left) than Butler this season. But this time, his non-scoring plays were the difference.
With two minutes to go and Minnesota down four, Butler soared over Hollis-Jeffereson to recover a critical 50/50 loose ball.
Thirty seconds later, he comes up with a pivotal block on Hollis-Jefferson.
And right after that block, he clears Quincy Acy from helping on Tyus Jones’s game-tying layup.
Derrick Henry isn’t a big or brash talker. That’s what made the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner calling his performance kind of soft in Tennessee’s regular-season finale stand out.
The massive running back sure made up for that with an NFL postseason debut for the record books.
Getting Henry to acknowledge any change in his own confidence or being pleased after a big game is as tough as tackling him in the open field.
I’m just trying to play better every week, Henry said . I’m going to get another chance to play — it’s a great team in a good environment — so just making sure I’m doing all the right things this week.