Hey guys, I’d like to wish you and yours the very best for the holidays. We’ve had some crazy games at home with some wild weather, the fans have been loud and supportive and stuck with us. Football fans everywhere, remember to travel safely.

It doesn’t matter how tired you are or what aches or pains you have, it’s about buckling down, making this final push, being the best team at the right time.

I’m hoping we practice Monday and Tuesday next week and then get Christmas Day off, so I can make the three-hour drive to Indiana for a big family get-together. We usually have 30 to 40 people with turkey and all the trimmings. The family also pulls out whatever they have in the freezer. So there’ll be some venison and summer sausage as well. Maybe some jerky for snacks. It’s always an awesome feast and a special time for me.

Now, back to crunch time football. We lost to division rivals Pittsburgh, but we’re still in first place at 9-5. We had some unfortunate mistakes in the first quarter—a botched snap and a punt return for a touchdown—and before you know it, you’re behind the eight ball. Any time you play on the road you can’t get away with mistakes. But you got to learn from them and move on. We’ve got to lock down these last two weeks and really bring it.

There were some positives from the loss. In the fourth quarter I got my second touchdown, which was cool and fun, although I wish it had been in a winning cause. But we got some pride back converting all three of our later red-zone opportunities. Playing from behind we went to the no-huddle and I definitely like it. You get the defense on their heels, they can’t really get set, they’ve got to get their calls in early. But the disadvantage is if you don’t move the ball and get first downs, you give the ball back to the other team’s offense and don’t give your defense any time to rest. You could go three and out and not run 30 seconds off the clock!

I didn’t set any reception and yardage goals before the season, but I now have 439 receiving yards, and I’d be happy if we won out and I got to 500—that’d be cool for my first year. We have a lot of other playmakers on our team, so you can’t really control how many targets you get.

If you carry the guy carrying the ball into the end zone, does that count as half a TD?

Our last two games are at home, where we’re 6-0, and they’re must-win games. We want to head into the playoffs strong. We like playing at home, it’s nice not traveling and not having to worry about the crowd noise, which is a big factor in the NFL.

First up is Minnesota, which is playing tough to end the season on a positive note. After that it’s the Ravens, the reigning Super Bowl champs, who are still playing for a spot. It’s going down to the last game, pretty much, whether we win the division or become a wild card team. You can only control yourself and hopefully get some help from other teams in your conference. Especially after this last loss, we’ve just got to stick together and stay the course. It doesn’t matter how tired you are or what aches or pains you have, it’s about buckling down, making this final push, being the best team at the right time.

I’ve gotten some more deer hunting in recently, but haven’t seen a whole lot as it’s kind of a dead time after the rutting season is over. The weather’s been pretty crappy, and they haven’t been moving a whole lot. As the duck season just returned, I went out duck hunting on Tuesday. They’re kind of heading south, and as long as the pond isn’t frozen over there are opportunities to bag a few. We sit completely camouflaged in a blind with a window you shoot out of. I layer up in a waterproof coat. What also keeps you warm is the cinnamon (schnapps) drink in the flask!

My Fighting Irish are playing Rutgers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on December 28 at famous Yankee Stadium in New York. Should be a fun one. Please hit me up on Twitter @EiferTy85. Go Irish, Who Dey and happy holidays!

—As told to Ashley Jude Collie