McKenzie shows prowess in showing Routt the door

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McKenzie shows prowess in showing Routt the door

Still wondering if Reggie McKenzie is truly running the Raiders show?Stanford Routt isn't.McKenzie releasing the high-priced cornerback less than a year after Routt re-structured his contract, and a day before he was reportedly due 5 million, was a clarion call to all over-paid, under-performing Raiders on the roster. You know, the guys derisively referred to as being "on an Al Davis scholarship."Officially, McKenzie became the first Raiders general manager since Davis on Jan. 10. Thursday, McKenzie hit his first mile marker on the job.
NEWS: Raiders release CB Stanford Routt
Consider: just about a year ago Routt was re-signed by Davis to a three-year, 31.5-million contract, with 20 million guaranteed, before being re-structured to a five-year, 54.5 million deal in training camp, with the same 20 million guaranteed. And according to rotoworld.com, Routt was due to make 5 million in base salary this season with another 5 million in a "signing bonus."Did his play warrant such money?Routt's "burn rate" this past season rose to 47.4 percent, after being among the league leaders with a 39.4 percent in 2010, and he gave up eight touchdown passes.Routt was the most penalized player in the NFL last season, drawing 17 flags, including nine in the last three games. His 17 penalties -- eight for holding, seven for pass interference, one each for illegal use of hands and personal foul -- were nearly as many as the entire Green Bay Packers defense.And yetRoutt, who also had a career-best four interceptions, was the best cornerback on the Raiders roster. By far.So why do you cut the the best player on a unit that was a stark weakness?Perhaps the Raiders have all the trust in the world in second-year corners DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa to blossom in 2012? Maybe the rumored move of Michael Huff from free safety to cornerback is more than a rumor? Or might the Raiders be in the market for a more inexpensive free agent, someone like Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan, Brandon Carr, Carlos Rogers or Terrell Thomas, as listed by rotoworld?New coach Dennis Allen cut his teeth as a secondary coach in New Orleans, so he might have more than an inkling as what he likes and dislikes in his cornerback play.Routt did not return texts or voicemails. Neither did McKenzie.Then again, the move was loud enough.

Boswell boots Steelers to AFC championship with six field goals

Boswell boots Steelers to AFC championship with six field goals

BOX SCORE

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Who needs to reach the end zone when you have Le'Veon Bell chewing up yards and the clock, and Chris Boswell setting an NFL playoff record with six field goals?

Throw in a stingy Pittsburgh defense for most of Sunday night, and a multitude of mistakes by Kansas City, and the Steelers' 18-16 victory sent them into the AFC championship game.

The Steelers (13-5) needed to hold off a last-ditch threat by the Chiefs (12-5) before advancing to face New England next Sunday night for a spot in the Super Bowl. The Patriots won at Pittsburgh 27-16, but Ben Roethlisberger was injured and didn't play.

"I think it's going to be a showdown," Bell said. "Two great quarterbacks going head to head. Two of the best teams in the AFC. It's time to settle it next week."

Since 2001, the Patriots and Steelers have combined to win nine AFC titles.

Spencer Ware's 1-yard touchdown run took Kansas City within 18-16. The Chiefs at first converted the 2-pointer to tie it, but tackle Eric Fisher - the first overall selection in the 2013 draft - was penalized for holding. The next try failed.

With 2:43 remaining, Justin Gilbert misplayed the kick return and was tackled at the Pittsburgh 5. Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for 7 yards on third down and Pittsburgh then ran out the clock, securing a ninth straight victory for the Steelers. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1994, losing five in a row.

The scoring started furiously in the opening minutes, then the game became a kicking exhibition by Boswell, who also had six field goals in the regular season against Cincinnati. And Bell put on a virtuoso running performance, patiently finding holes and then exploding through them. He added a team-record 170 yards rushing to the 167 he had in a win over Miami last week.

"The coaches put a lot of trust in me to get the job done," Bell said of his 30 carries. "Just run hard. Just picked my spots where I could and run hard."

The Steelers became first team to win a playoff game without a TD since eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis in the 2006 AFC divisional round at Baltimore.

Using a no-huddle attack almost to perfection early on, the Steelers drove deep into Kansas City territory. But they bogged down inside the 5 and Boswell made a 22-yard field goal.

The Chiefs were just as efficient on a six-play march capped by receiver Albert Wilson lining up in the backfield, then slipping uncovered into the end zone for a 5-yard score.

Pittsburgh's answer came on a 52-yard heave to All-Pro Brown, who somehow was covered by linebacker Justin Houston. That led to Boswell's second field goal, a 38-yarder. He added a 36-yarder to cap a 14-play drive on which Pittsburgh again barely huddled.

A clean game up until then turned to, well, turnovers, on successive series. Bud Dupree pounded Alex Smith, whose pass shot high into the air and was caught by linebacker Ryan Shazier.

The Steelers got to the Kansas City 5, where Frank Zombo leaped to deflect Roethlisberger's throw, and All-Pro safety Eric Berry - burned for 26 yards on the previously play - picked it off in the end zone.

Boswell's fourth field goal, from 45 yards, made it 12-7 at the half. His 43-yarder, setting the franchise record for a postseason game and tying the league mark of five, came on Pittsburgh's first series of the second half. A 43-yarder midway in the fourth quarter gave Boswell the NFL record.

"It's just about doing my job," Boswell said. "Coming out here, put it through the yellow pipes. Don't really think too much. Don't think like I'm the guy or anything. I'm just doing my job and doing my one-eleventh for the team."

Kansas City's Cairo Santos got in on the kicking act with a 48-yarder to make it 15-10. At that point, 10 seconds from the end of the third quarter, the Chiefs were outgained 333 yards to 150.

WEATHERMAN

Switching the game from noon local time to an evening kickoff to avert an ice storm had no effect on the crowd. Fans arrived early, tailgated in the rain as the worst of the storm never hit the area. But fog rolled into Arrowhead Stadium in the second quarter, obscuring some views from on high. Not that what was going on was worth watching for Chiefs fans.

NOTES

Bell rushed for almost as many yards (101) in the first half as the Chiefs gained (106). ... Boswell's four first-half field goals tied the team record for an entire playoff game. ... Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce had a rough game, including a big drop and a 15-yard roughing penalty in the third period.

UP NEXT

Steelers: Head to New England for a shot at making the Super Bowl.

Lewis' historic performance leads Patriots past Texans, into AFC title game

Lewis' historic performance leads Patriots past Texans, into AFC title game

BOX SCORE

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots are headed back to a familiar spot: the AFC championship game.

Dion Lewis had a 13-yard touchdown reception , a 98-yard kickoff return for a score, and a late 1-yard touchdown to help the Patriots hold off the Houston Texans 34-16 on Saturday night and advance to an NFL-record sixth straight conference title game.

Lewis became the fifth Patriots player to score three touchdowns in a playoff game. He's also the first player in the Super Bowl era to score on a rush, a catch and a kick return in a postseason game.

The Patriots (15-2) survived a gritty effort by the Texans' top-ranked defense, which intercepted Brady twice. Houston's special teams also forced a third turnover.

But the Texans (10-8) couldn't find enough traction on offense to take full advantage of the Patriots' mistakes, settling for field goals on both of Brady's picks.

New England led just 17-13 at the half, but pushed its lead to 24-13 early in the third quarter on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Brady to James White.

Houston's Brock Osweiler was intercepted three times after that, and the Texans managed only a field goal the rest of game.

It was the first breakout game of the season for Lewis, who spent the first eight games of the season on injured reserve recovering from offseason surgery on his left knee.

Brady finished 18 of 38 for 287 yards and two touchdowns and was showered with chants of "MVP! MVP!" and "Brady! Brady!" late in the game. Julian Edelman was Brady's most dependable target, catching eight passes for 137 yards.

Osweiler was just 23 of 40 for 198 yards with the two turnovers.

When New England did have the ball in the first half, it gave Houston a steady diet of Lewis early with LeGarrette Blount coming off an illness that limited him during practice this week.

Without Blount to contend with, the Texans applied pressure to Brady.

A.J. Bouye intercepted a slightly overthrown ball by Brady late in the first quarter on a pass that bounced out of the hands of receiver Michael Floyd. That led to a 27-yard field goal that cut New England's lead to 14-6.

On the ensuing kickoff, Lewis coughed up the ball on a hit from Akeem DentEddie Pleasant fell on it at the Patriots 12, and two plays later, Brock Osweiler hit C.J. Fiedorowicz from 8 yards out to cut the deficit to 14-13.

Brady only threw two interceptions during the regular season. With his 28 touchdown passes, that was the lowest touchdown to interception ratio in NFL history.

CLOWN TIME IS OVER:
Jadeveon Clowney was in Brady's face all game, flattening him in the first half with a legal hit and bringing him down a couple of times in the second on plays that were a little more questionable.

In the third quarter, Brady was chased out of the pocket before heaving the ball downfield. Clowney dragged him to the turf, and Brady came up kicking. The Patriots quarterback made his case to the referee, but no penalty was called.

Early in the fourth, though Clowney was called for roughing the passer for Brady after he got rid of the ball and while he was in the clutches of defensive end Christian Covington.

PILING UP POINTS:
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski continues to climb the NFL's career postseason scoring list.

He made an extra point in the first quarter to pass Rice and move into third place on the league's career list. It was Gostkowski's 133rd postseason point, breaking a tie with the San Francisco 49ers receiver.

Next up are kickers Gary Anderson, David Akers and all-time leader Adam Vinatieri, who had half of his 234 career postseason points with New England before moving on to the Indianapolis Colts.

INJURIES:
Texans: RB Tyler Ervin left in the second quarter with a concussion. Defensive end Joel Heath exited in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and did not return.

Patriots: WR Chris Hogan left in the third quarter with a thigh injury.

UP NEXT:
Texans: End of season.

Patriots: Will host either Pittsburgh or Kansas City in next week's AFC title game.