Here is the good news. The season is very much alive for the Patriots following a 24-21 victory over Seattle.
It was not pretty, but the Patriots (8-5) put themselves back in the thick of the AFC East race by rallying with 11 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for a victory against the 2-11 Seahawks. The comeback, coupled with San Francisco's win over the Jets, means the Patriots moved into a three-way tie atop the AFC East with the Jets and Miami, which knocked off division rival Buffalo.
New England must take care of business in its final three games -- at Oakland, home against Arizona and at Buffalo. That is certainly doable, and the Patriots have a history of finishing strong. Since 2003, New England is 21-2 in December.
Now for the bad news. Indianapolis and Baltimore continue to surge and are in firm control of wild-card spots. Both teams are a full game ahead of New England. The Colts beat New England, and Baltimore has a superior record in conference play, meaning the Patriots would lose tiebreakers with both teams.
That being the case, there is no margin for error for New England the rest of the way. Winning the division may be the only way into the playoffs.
As if that wasn't pressure enough, New England has to win out while playing at far less than 100 percent. Already banged up on defense -- starting defensive end Ty Warren (groin) and outside linebacker Pierre Woods (jaw) were inactive at Seattle -- the situation got worse. Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (shoulder) went down in the first quarter and did not return. Inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi (knee) and safety James Sanders (ribs) also were knocked out with injuries.
"We'll take stock of where we are heading into next week," coach Bill Belichick said. "Now, I'm not sure exactly what all that's going to be. But during a game, you've just got to go with what we have. And those guys stepped in: (Antwain) Spann, Mike Wright, Le Kevin (Smith), Junior (Seau), Rosy (Colvin) -- a lot of guys ended up playing probably more than they thought they would have. And they came through for us. You hate for that situation to come up, but it's good that they answered the bell."
They Said It: "What can't you say about Wes Welker? He is the all-around football player. He is a guy who you can rely on. He is a guy that I look to constantly in big pressure situations because I know that he is going to get open. He is a guy that everybody looks up to because he gives you 150 percent on every play." -- Quarterback Matt Cassel, on wide receiver Wes Welker, who had 12 catches for 134 yards at Seattle.
-- Belichick recorded his 150th career victory as a head coach, including 135 in the regular season and 15 in the postseason. With an overall record of 150-90, he is the 17th coach in NFL history to reach the plateau.
--WR Randy Moss became the 11th player in NFL history to top 13,000 career receiving yards with a 13-yard catch in the first quarter.
--After missing a 29-yard attempt last week against Pittsburgh, PK Stephen Gostkowski got back on track by hitting on attempts from 50, 42 and 27 yards. The 50-yard make was his longest of the season, and was Gostkowski's third make in as many career attempts from 50 yards or more.
--With 12 catches, WR Wes Welker now has 96 on the season. Since coming to New England, he has 208 catches for 2,177 yards in 29 regular-season games. Before joining the Patriots, Welker had 96 catches for 1,121 yards in 47 games with Miami and San Diego.
--S Brandon Meriweather struggled early, getting beat by Deion Branch for a touchdown in the first quarter. Meriweather, however, got the last laugh, clinching the victory with a strip sack of Seneca Wallace. DL Richard Seymour recovered the fumble on the play. The sack was the first of Meriweather's career.