Seahawks, Broncos, Cowboys get potentially defining wins
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Coaches and well-trained players will tell you that every win is worth the same.
No better examples can be found than the way Seattle, Dallas and Denver won on Sunday. Those victories are the kind that can define a season, catapult you to special things.
Most impressive was the Seahawks' 31-24 win at Foxborough, a place visitors rarely leave with smiles on their faces. Particularly after settling for three field goals, missing an extra point kick and a dubious 2-point conversion attempt.
But in one of the most bone-rattling games imaginable - look for Earl Thomas' hit on Rob Gronkowski for proof - Seattle re-established its credentials as an opponent to be reckoned with. The Seahawks often come on in the second half of the schedule, and the way they punished the Patriots and also handled the hits they were given in return bodes very well for Pete Carroll's club.
''It says exactly what our creed is: We fight until we can't fight no more,'' said safety Kam Chancellor, whose tight coverage on Gronkowski resulted in an incompletion from the Seattle 1 to end New England's chances. ''No matter what the circumstances are, we never look back. We keep pushing forward and we keep fighting.''
Seattle (6-2-1) won on Russell Wilson's arm (348 yards, 124.6 passer rating), Doug Baldwin's mitts (three TD catches) and that fierce defense. It won even though Wilson remains almost stationary (for him) in the pocket because of bothersome leg injuries.
''It's been a tougher year in the sense of obviously, the injuries, and haven't faced that (limitation) before,'' Wilson said. ''But there was no way I was going to let that stop me. And the mentality was to do whatever I could to play the games, and get ready, And just continue to battle, and continue to have that mulish approach, and continue to stay steadfast.''
Denver, like Seattle, has had plenty of success recently, albeit with a certain No. 18 at quarterback. It is now 7-3 thanks greatly to its still-staunch defense.
And, of course, to a special teams play for the ages.
Justin Simmons leaped over the offensive line and blocked a potential go-ahead extra-point kick by Wil Lutz. Will Parks grabbed the loose ball, returning it 84 yards for a defensive 2-point conversion with 1:28 left. The defensive 2-point play was only added to the rules prior to the 2015 season, and this was the first time the winning points came on such a play.
''I've never had an ending like that, especially on special teams,'' DeMarcus Ware said, and he's been in the NFL for nearly 12 seasons. ''It was just big, a big victory. I mean usually a game ends from the defense because of a forced fumble or interception or something like that. But seeing it happen from special teams, you never see that.''
The effect it could have, particularly with two rookies combining for such a brilliant and rare play, is immeasurable.
The significance of an eight-game winning streak powered by two other kids - quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott - is that Dallas is thinking big. After its 35-30 comeback sizzler in Pittsburgh, the Cowboys have earned the right to think as big as, well, Big D itself.
Asked if he's been around a team where two rookies have had such a quick impact, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones replied, ''Not two that are so in sync to where they're feeding off each other and the team feeding off them. I haven't seen that.''
What the world saw at Heinz Field was the kind of determination and resilience that can lead to championships. Every time the more-veteran Steelers delivered a haymaker - including a touchdown off a fake spike by Ben Roethlisberger - Dallas responded.
Elliott burst through a defense he said ''parted like the Red Sea'' and streaked to the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown to win it with 9 seconds remaining, and it might have been the most impressive act the fourth overall draft pick has delivered. And boy has he been delivering all year for a team that hasn't been a true championship contender for decades.
If the Broncos, Cowboys or Seahawks find their way to the Super Bowl, they surely can point to Week 10 as a catalyst.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel contributed.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL