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Wilson's gutsy performance keeps Seahawks in playoff chase

The New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees, Minnesota Vikings' Teddy Bridgewater, Cincinnati Bengals' Andy Dalton, Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson and Carolina Panthers' Luke Kuechly each had the strength to come through during a key moment and contribute to wins during Week 8.

Thanks to those strong performances, each player is up for Castrol EDGE Clutch Performer of the Week honors. This is a deeper look at the significance of those conquests.

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Strong stats to consider:
» In the 13-12 win over the Cowboys, the Seahawks gained 323 total yards of offense, including 113 on the ground. The Seahawks have gained more than 100 yard rushing in every game this season, and are riding a 19-game streaj of 100-plus rushing games, the longest such streak in the league.
» The Seahawks have the NFL's best record in the months of November and December since 2012, improving to 22-4 in those two months in that timespan.

Power of the moment: Wilson led a 17-play, 79-yard drive to set up Steven Hauschka's go-ahead 24-yard field goal with 1:06 remaining. On that drive, Wilson had four QB scrambles for 30 yards, including a 10-yard scramble on a third-and-7 situation that kept the drive alive. Wilson's gutsy performance in the waning moments against the Cowboys earned the Seahawks a second consecutive win and keeps the team in the thick of the NFC playoff race. Seattle also improved to an NFL-best 21-6 in games heading into the bye, and will face the division-leading Arizona Cardinals when it returns from the week off.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Strong stats to consider:
» With Brees' seven touchdown passes and Eli Manning's six touchdown passes, the quarterbacks combined for 13 passing touchdowns in a game, the most in NFL history. They topped a record set in 1962 of 12 touchdown passes set in 1969 by Billy Kilmer of the Saints and Charley Johnson of the St. Louis Cardinals when each had six touchdown passes.
» The Saints' 52-49 win over the Giants tied for the third highest-scoring game in NFL history with 101 total points. That matched an American Football League showdown from 1963 when the Oakland Raiders defeated the Houston Oilers, 52-49. Saints-Giants came five points short of matching a 2004 game when the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Cleveland Browns, 58-48. The record, of course, is the 1966 showdown when the Washington Redskins and New York Giants combined for 113 in a 72-41 Redskins romp.

Power of the moment: Brees became the eighth quarterback in NFL history to chuck seven touchdown passes in a single game, joining Nick Foles (Philadelphia Eagles, 2013), Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos, 2013), Joe Kapp (Minnesota Vikings, 1969), Y.A. Tittle (New York Giants, 1962), Adrian Burk (Philadelphia Eagles, 1954) and Sid Luckman (Chicago Bears, 1943). More importantly, Brees' efforts earned the Saints a third consecutive victory following a 1-4 start to the season. That gives the Saints hope in the NFC playoff race.

Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings

Strong stats to consider:
» With the 23-20 last-second win, the Vikings snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The last time the Vikings won in Chicago was in 2007, when the quarterbacks that day were Tarvaris Jackson (Vikings) and Brian Griese (Bears), and running back Adrian Peterson was just a rookie.
» This was also the first time the visiting team has won a game in this series in the last seven meetings.

Power of the moment: The Vikings are just a game behind the heavy favorite to run away with the NFC North title this season, the Green Bay Packers. Bridgewater has led the Vikings to three consecutive wins -- the first three-game win streak in the young quarterback's career, and the first three-game win streak for Minnesota since 2012 when the team won four games at the end of the season to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

Strong stats to consider:
» 16-10 win over the Steelers didn't come with any style points for the Bengals. Cincinnati hit a season low in points, total yards (296) and first downs (16), and tied for season lows in third-down conversions (four) and giveaways (two).
» The Bengals' defense continues to thrive. The Bengals have yet to allow more than 25 points in any game this season.

Power of the moment: Look at who's threatening to run away with the AFC North ... the Dalton-led Bengals. Dalton has delivered the first 7-0 start in Bengals franchise history. By starting 7-0, the Bengals have statistically assured a playoff berth. Since playoff expansion in 1990, all 20 teams that started a season 7-0 made the playoffs. That would give the Bengals a fifth consecutive playoff appearance, and playoff berths in six of the previous seven seasons. This comes after an 18-year period during which the Bengals made the playoffs just once.

Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

Strong stats to consider:
» Since the overtime scoring rules for regular-season games were changed in 2012, this was the first time the team that scored first in overtime lost the game.
» The Panthers have won 11 consecutive regular-season games, the longest such active streak in the NFL. Carolina is also the first team to win 11 consecutive regular-season games since the Denver Broncos won 17 straight from 2012-13.

Power of the moment: Kuechly was all over the place in the Panthers' 29-26 overtime win over the Indianapolis Colts. Kuechly had 14 tackles, a tackle for loss, three passes defensed and the interception that led to the game-winning field goal by Graham Gano with 5:22 remaining in overtime. One of those passes defensed could have ended the game, as Kuechly got a hand on but could reel in an interception in the end zone on the drive that the Colts ultimately tied up the game. The victory -- coupled with the Green Bay Packers' loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday night -- meant that Carolina remains the lone unbeaten team in the NFC. Guess who the Panthers play in Week 9? The Packers, at Bank of America Stadium, for which team will have the edge on attaining home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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