Mayo picks up defense in the end

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Mayo picks up defense in the end

LANDOVER, Md. - Jerod Mayo had to wait 55 games before his first NFL interception found him. His second came in Game 56. At a very good time. Mayo sealed the Patriots' narrow win over Washington with an interception on third-and-goal from the Patriots 9 with just 30 seconds left. The play made sure that the biggest talking point from the 34-27 win over the Skins would be the Brady-O'Brien dustup.The story could havebeen abouta win that turned into a loss courtesy of uncharacteristically poor work by the quarterback and characteristically poor work by the defense. The Patriots - as they often do - bent, bent, bent, but Mayo and Tracy White made sure they didn't break. White was the linebacker that wrapped Santana Moss as Rex Grossman's short pass was arriving. The contact shot the ball toward the goal line where a diving Mayo got his hands under it. "My responsibility on that playwas to look back to the strong side of the field and Tracy made a great play on Moss and the ball just popped up and I was fortunate enough to make the catch," explained Mayo.The defense needed that?"Yeah, we did, and I was fortunate to come up with the ball," said Mayo, who had to wait while the play was reviewed for accuracy. The defensive captain knows, though, that living and dying through each game is no way to go through a season. "It was good enough today, but it probably won't be good enough on any other week," he said. "We know we're a better team than what we put out there today. We'll get back to the drawing board tomorrow and try to get better."The dynamic on this team is interesting right now. The offense is terrified of putting the game in the hands of the defense and - time and again - they are given reason to feel that way. There is no way Brady should ever have thrown the pass intended for Tiquan Underwood when, with a throw into the stands, the Patriots would go ahead by 10 on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. But he is in attack mode at all times, not given the luxury of playing with a defensive safety net. Maybe that need to get a red-zone attack that had sputtered on Sunday a positive vibe made him lock up and make a stupid decision. Either way, the Patriots' defense made him sweat and swear for the final minutes. Vince Wilfork says plays like the one Mayo made simply have to start coming sooner and from more player. "We can't kill ourselves," said Wilfork. "Mayo is making huge plays for this team. We need 'em going forward from everyone. Not just myself and Jerod. We need everyone to step up and start playing better football. That's our goal. We'll take this one in stride and try to get better and we'll have our hands full again next week with Denver."Yeah. Good thing they never play games that go down to the wire.

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

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Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)