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Here is a recap of Week 16 of the 2015 NFL Season with a Tuesday Morning QB & thanks again to AP Sports/ Pro 32 for photos & articles.
Chargers 20, Raiders 23 OT
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Philip Rivers’ last pass fell incomplete near Charles Woodson’s feet and the celebration began. Woodson got a Gatorade shower and then led the fans in a chant of “Rai-ders! Rai-ders!”
What was Woodson’s final game in Oakland — and might have been the last for the Raiders as well — was far from pretty but it ended in a victory.
Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime and the Raiders got a defensive stop to seal a 23-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night.
“I guess it had to end like that,” Woodson said. “It was a little much for me. I would have rather it had been a lopsided victory and we blew them out. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Derek Carr threw a touchdown pass and led the winning overtime drive for the Raiders (7-8), who could be moving to the Los Angeles area after the season. It also made Woodson a winner in his final home game with the Raiders before retiring after his 18th NFL season.
“This is my last game in the Coliseum but just know I’ll never leave you,” Woodson told the crowd. “Go Raiders!”
The Raiders won despite 15 penalties, including five on their overtime drive, and being held to one first down of the second half on a 3-yard touchdown drive.
But Oakland did move the ball in overtime after winning the toss. Three straight penalties left the Raiders with a second-and-29 but San Diego’s Denzel Perryman bailed them out when he was called for a personal foul for hitting a defenseless Michael Crabtree in the head.
Seth Roberts then made a juggling 33-yard catch and run to put the Raiders on the 10. After Woodson lost 3 yards on a reverse when San Diego covered a possible pass to Carr in the end zone, Janikowski hit the go-ahead field goal.
“Charles is one of the greatest players to ever put on a uniform,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a great Raider. To be able to send him out the right way, to be able to cap off a special evening like this, our last home game of the year … I’m just really proud of the effort.”
The Chargers (4-11) were unable to muster a first down and lost their seventh straight division game. Rivers threw for 277 yards and a TD for San Diego, also possibly on the move to the Los Angeles area.
“It’s been the story of the year, just losing close games,” Rivers said. “Doesn’t make it any easier losing another one like that.”
The Raiders had done nothing offensively for most of the night when the defense gave them a needed spark. Malcolm Smith forced a fumble on a catch by David Johnson, and Benson Mayowa returned it 41 yards to the 3.
Carr hit Crabtree on the next play for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:42 to go. Carr added a 2-point conversion to Roberts to make it 20-17.
The Chargers tied it on Josh Lambo’s 47-yard field goal with 55 seconds to play.
It was a night of goodbyes as Woodson played his final home game with the Raiders after announcing his retirement earlier in the week. Woodson got a loud ovation as he was introduced last with the defensive starters and was the only Oakland captain for the pregame coin toss.
While Woodson’s future is determined, the team’s remains in flux. Raiders owner Mark Davis and Chargers owner Dean Spanos are seeking to partner on building a stadium in Carson. The Rams are looking to build their own stadium in Inglewood as well and the league will likely decide in January which teams — if any — will be allowed to move.
Some fans came with “Stay in Oakland” signs in hopes that the team does not leave the Bay Area for the second time. The Raiders moved from Oakland to Los Angeles following the 1981 season and then returned in 1995.
The Raiders hardly provided a memorable game if this was the Oakland finale as both offenses struggled for much of the game. The third quarter was particularly bad with the teams combining for seven punts and one safety when Denico Autry sacked Rivers in the end zone on eight drives.
The sloppy play continued in the fourth quarter when San Diego was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after an incomplete pass on third down. That backed the Chargers to the 35 but Lambo made a 53-yard field goal.
Oakland’s Khalil Mack was called for holding on the play and Chargers coach Mike McCoy opted to take the penalty instead of the three points. That seemed to pay off when Rivers appeared to hit Ladarius Green for a 30-yard touchdown pass on the next play. But the catch was wiped out on replay review and Lambo eventually missed a 48-yard field goal, keeping the Chargers lead at 17-12.
NOTES: Raiders WR Amari Cooper was limited by a sore foot on the short week. … San Diego lost several players to injuries, including CB Jason Verrett (hamstring), Eric Weddle (groin), OL Orlando Franklin (concussion) and C Trevor Robinson (concussion).
Redskins 38, Eagles 24
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Dropped passes. Costly turnovers. Missed tackles.
It’s been the same story for the Philadelphia Eagles all season.
Kirk Cousins threw four touchdown passes and had a season-high 365 yards and the Washington Redskins beat the Eagles 38-24 on Saturday night to clinch the NFC East title.
The Eagles (6-9) entered the game in control of their playoff hopes. They needed to beat the Redskins and Giants next week to win the East. Washington’s win also eliminated New York (6-8).
“I think we’re good enough,” coach Chip Kelly said. “We just have to put them in better position to make plays. It’s 100 percent on my shoulders. It’s unacceptable.”
While the Redskins head to the playoffs, the Eagles and Kelly face a challenging offseason. Kelly took control of personnel decisions last year and overhauled a team that went 10-6 in each of his first two seasons.
It clearly didn’t work out.
But Kelly isn’t concerned about losing his job. Owner Jeffrey Lurie made a big commitment to Kelly, who has two years remaining on his contract.
“Anybody in my situation, if they are worried about being fired, they probably already should’ve been fired,” Kelly said.
Kelly got rid of several star players, including DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin. His biggest additions were Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray and Kiko Alonso. Murray and Alonso have been busts.
“If it’s not good enough, it’d not good enough,” Kelly said. “But I’m going to continue to work as hard as I can, show up early in the morning, stay late at night.”
Murray went from leading the NFL in rushing and setting records in Dallas to third-string running back in Philadelphia after getting a $40 million contract.
DeAngelo Hall returned Murray’s fumble 17 yards for a momentum-changing TD in the third quarter. Cousins then threw TD passes to Chris Thompson and Pierre Garcon after a pair to Jordan Reed in the first quarter.
“Obviously it’s been a tough season — individually and collectively — but these are the things that make you want to work harder and make you more hungry,” Murray said.
Two teams have clinched division crowns in Philadelphia in six days. Arizona won the NFC West with a 40-17 win over the Eagles last Sunday night.
Only 4-12 in 2014, the Redskins (8-7) began their turnaround when Cousins rallied them from a 24-0 first-half deficit to a 31-30 win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 25. After that game, he yelled at reporters: “You like that?” It’s become a rallying cry for the Redskins and their fans, who continued the chant for several minutes after the game.
Cousins was outstanding down the stretch with 16 TD passes and only two interceptions in the last seven games. He showed resolve after a mental blunder at the end of the first half cost the Redskins at least three points.
Cousins took a knee with no time-outs and 6 seconds left from the Eagles 6 with a 16-10 lead. He realized his mistake and tried to spike the ball, but the clock ran out. He made up for it in the second half.
Cousins tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Thompson to give Washington a 23-10 lead. He converted three third-down passes on the series after Jaylen Watkins dropped an interception.
The Eagles missed a chance to take the lead early in the second quarter when Bradford overthrew a wide-open Zach Ertz on third-and-9. It would’ve been a 60-yard TD.
They missed another opportunity on the following series when Nelson Agholor dropped a 28-yard TD pass and settled for Caleb Sturgis’ 34-yard field goal that cut it to 13-10.
After going three-and-out on their first possession, the Redskins scored touchdowns on the next two. Cousins connected with Reed over the middle on a 22-yard scoring pass to cut it to 7-6. Dustin Hopkins missed the extra point wide left.
Cousins then hit Reed over the middle again for a 12-yard TD pass and a 13-7 lead.
Notes: Bradford had 380 yards passing. … Reed had nine catches for 129 yards. … Jackson had four catches for 40 yards. … The Redskins are 2-5 on the road, 3-12 in Gruden’s two seasons.
Panthers 13, Falcons 20
ATLANTA (AP) — For the first time this season, there was no big comeback for Carolina. No clutch play at a key moment. No costly mistake by its opponent in the last few minutes.
The perfect start is over for Cam Newton and the Panthers.
After Julio Jones’ spectacular 70-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter gave Atlanta the lead, the Panthers came up empty in two possessions in the final three minutes as the Falcons held on for a 20-13 victory on Sunday.
Carolina (14-1) got the ball for the last time with 90 seconds left and no timeouts remaining. Newton completed a 19-yard pass to Corey Brown on first down but fumbled when stripped by Vic Beasley Jr. on the following play. Adrian Clayborn recovered for the Falcons, wrapping up the win.
It was Carolina’s first regular-season loss since Nov. 30, 2014, at Minnesota. The Panthers did not get into the end zone after their opening drive.
“That’s unacceptable, particularly at this time of the year,” Newton said.
Newton said coach Ron Rivera said the team played as if it was waiting for a turnaround that never came.
Newton, the Panthers’ MVP candidate with the Superman celebration pose, was just OK. He threw for 142 yards and was held without a touchdown pass for only the second time this season. He ran for 46 yards, including an 8-yard scoring run on the Panthers’ opening drive.
After that, Carolina’s only points came on two second-half field goals from Graham Gano.
Carolina’s 13 points set a season low. The Panthers had scored at least 24 points in 13 straight games.
“We’re 14-1 now,” Newton said. “We put ourselves in a situation that we can use this as fuel to the fire.”
The Falcons (8-7) spoiled the Panthers’ bid for a perfect season only two weeks after being humbled in a 38-0 loss at Carolina.
“I viewed this game as a measuring stick for us,” Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. “I wanted to see how our team would respond after the game up there.”
Matt Ryan threw for 306 yards and one touchdown for the Falcons. Devonta Freeman ran for 73 yards and a TD.
Carolina needed a win or tie or an Arizona loss or tie against Green Bay to clinch home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs. But the Cardinals (13-2) cruised to a 38-8 victory over the Packers.
Jones got the best of his much-anticipated matchup with Carolina cornerback Josh Norman. Jones had nine catches for 178 yards, including the dramatic touchdown catch.
Jones reached above linebacker Luke Kuechly for the catch as Panthers safety Kurt Coleman slipped, leaving a clear path for Jones to the end zone. The play put Atlanta ahead to stay at 14-10.
“Julio made a great play on it,” Kuechly said. “That’s really all there is. I thought I was in a good spot, but he went up and got it.”
Atlanta’s Shayne Graham kicked field goals of 37 and 54 yards in the final three minutes.
Carolina trailed 14-10 in the fourth quarter when Ryan mishandled a shotgun snap from the Panthers 37. Norman recovered the fumble, setting up Gano’s 47-yard field goal that cut Atlanta’s lead to 14-13.
Carolina’s defense drew two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, including one on cornerback Charles Tillman that helped keep the Falcons’ marathon touchdown drive alive on their first possession.
The Falcons were stopped on a third-down incomplete pass before Tillman became entangled with Atlanta wide receiver Roddy White. Tillman drew the flag to keep Atlanta’s offense on the field for a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that lasted more than 9 minutes. Freeman scored from the 4 on the first play of the second quarter for a 7-7 tie.
Rivera said he would talk with the league office about the penalty but said “There’s nothing we can do about it. We didn’t get off the field. We’re not making any excuses.”
NOTES: The loss snaps the Panthers’ streak of 18 straight regular-season wins. … Falcons DT Paul Soliai (calf) and WR Eric Weems (concussion) left with injuries. Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker was carted to the locker room with a right ankle injury. … White had five catches for 67 yards.
Cowboys 6, Bills 16
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Rex Ryan vowed the Buffalo Bills would have a ground-and-pound running attack.
Little did the first-year coach expect it was going to feature Mike Gillislee doing his best LeSean McCoy impression.
With McCoy sidelined by a right knee injury, Gillislee and rookie Karlos Williams ran over the Dallas Cowboys in a 16-6 win on Sunday.
“Absolutely terrific,” Ryan said. “You’ve got a Pro Bowl running back out, and these two men step in and do a tremendous job for us.”
Gillislee had 93 yards rushing, and sealed the win by weaving his way up the right sideline to score on a 50-yard touchdown run with 2:25 remaining. Williams also scored on a 1-yard run as the NFL’s top-ranked running attack combined for 236 yards despite missing numerous regulars.
“I always had this confidence,” said Gillislee, who spent his first two seasons in Miami before landing on Buffalo’s practice squad this year. “It was a matter of opportunity, and the Bills gave me that an opportunity.”
Another rookie, linebacker A.J. Tarpley, also had a hand in the win. Filling in for injured starter Nigel Bradham, Tarpley sealed the victory by forcing Lucky Whitehead to fumble on the kickoff return that followed Gillislee’s touchdown. Tarpley also had an interception.
Buffalo (7-8) snapped a two-game skid and won for just the second time in six games in a matchup between two teams already eliminated from playoff contention.
The Cowboys (4-11) continue to slide without injured quarterback Tony Romo. Kellen Moore lost in his first career start, as Dallas dropped to 1-10 in games without Romo.
The Cowboys also played without receiver Dez Bryant (ankle, foot injury).
Dan Bailey had two field goals for the Cowboys, who have scored just 22 points in their past five games.
“We certainly need to get better offensively,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We did a good job of running the football at different times. But, we weren’t able to sustain drives.”
Moore went 13 of 31 for 186 yards with an interception. Darren McFadden ran for 99 yards.
The game was decided after the Bills ate up more than 4 minutes of the clock. Facing second-and-5 at midfield, Gillislee took a handoff to the right and got key blocks from guard Richie Incognito and receiver Chris Hogan.
Bills starter Tyrod Taylor went 13 of 18 for 179 yards and an interception.
The Bills went ahead for good on Dan Carpenter’s 32-yards field goal with 6:17 left in the third quarter.
With the game tied at 6, Taylor blew a chance to put Buffalo ahead before halftime. Facing third-and-1 at the Cowboys 4 with 8 seconds left, Taylor underthrew a pass intended for Hogan at the right sideline of the end zone, and was easily intercepted by Deji Olatoye.
It was only Taylor’s sixth interception of the season.
The victory took the heat off Ryan, who was facing a large share of criticism for Buffalo being eliminated from playoff contention for a 16th straight season — the NFL’s longest active drought.
And it also sets up an intriguing showdown in the Bills’ season finale in Buffalo next weekend. Ryan will be facing his former team, the New York Jets, who at 10-5 need a win to guarantee a playoff berth.
“We’re going to give them our best shot,” said Ryan, whose Bills beat the Jets 22-17 at the Meadowlands in November.
NOTES: Taylor had 67 yards rushing to up his season total 517, surpassing the single-season franchise record for yards rushing by a quarterback set by Doug Flutie (476) in 1999. … Bills DT Marcell Dareus did not return after sustaining a neck injury in the second quarter. … Cowboys S Barry Church broke his right arm.
49ers 17, Lions 32
DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions are playing winning football right now. It’s too late for it to matter, and that part is frustrating for Matthew Stafford and company.
Stafford threw for two touchdowns, including one to Calvin Johnson early in the fourth quarter, and Detroit took advantage of several mistakes by the San Francisco 49ers in a 32-17 victory Sunday.
The Lions (6-9) have won five of their last seven games, perhaps giving coach Jim Caldwell a chance to keep his job for a third season.
“It’s a sick feeling because we understood how good we were back in training camp, but we took too long to show it,” defensive end Darryl Tapp said. “We dug too big of a hole starting at 1-7, but we are working toward our future and hopefully coach Caldwell is a part of it.”
Caldwell, perhaps coaching the Lions for the last time at home, called for a fake punt and the gamble paid off. Isa Abdul-Quddus took a direct snap to the upback and converted a fourth-and-1 from the Detroit 35. Stafford went on to throw a 29-yard pass to TJ Jones for his first TD reception, putting the Lions up 10-7 early in the second quarter.
The second-year coach, who is guaranteed to have a winning record with the team even after next week’s finale at Chicago, also challenged a spot at the end of the third quarter to help set up Detroit with a first down, leading to Johnson’s 1-yard TD catch.
Caldwell dodged questions about his future and deflected credit for his team’s recent success.
“This is a group of very motivated, very competitive NFL players who want to win every game they play,” he said. “I’m very happy with the way they have fought down the stretch.”
The 49ers (4-11) have lost three straight and five of six under first-year coach Jim Tomsula.
Stafford’s TD pass to Johnson gave Detroit a 12-point lead one play after Tramaine Brock was called for pass interference in the end zone. During the drive, the 49ers were flagged for being offside or in the neutral zone for the seventh time to set a single-game high by an NFL team this year, according to STATS.
“That’s shooting ourselves in the foot,” 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead said. “We beat ourselves.”
San Francisco turned the ball over on downs on its next two possessions.
The 49ers became the first team to have six offside or neutral-zone penalties in the first half since 1993, when the Houston Oilers did it against New Orleans, according to STATS. On special teams, they allowed Detroit to convert a fake punt, missed a field goal and negated a pair of 30-plus yard returns in the closely contested first half with penalties. San Francisco was flagged 11 times for the second straight week.
“For the life of me, I can’t give you an excuse,” Tomsula said.
Blaine Gabbert threw for two TDs, both of which gave San Francisco a lead in the first half, but his fumble let the Lions take the lead for good. Gabbert finished 22 of 33 for 225 yards.
Joique Bell’s 1-yard run midway through the second quarter gave Detroit a 17-14 lead one play after Gabbert lost the ball on a sack.
Stafford was 29 of 37 for 302 yards. Johnson, possibly playing his last home game with the Lions because they may cut him to manage their salary cap, had six receptions for 77 yards.
San Francisco’s Anquan Boldin became the 13th NFL player with 1,000 career receptions on the first play of the game.
“At this point, it doesn’t mean much,” he said. “I’d much rather take the win.”
Boldin caught all five of the passes thrown his way for 27 yards in the first quarter and wasn’t targeted by Gabbert the rest of the game.
DuJuan Harris, signed by San Francisco on Tuesday off Baltimore’s practice squad, ran for a career-high 73 yards while replacing injured running back Shaun Draughn. He helped the 49ers to a relatively successful first half in which they tied a season high for points by halftime and scored a TD on offense in the opening quarter for the first time.
Harris had 74 yards on nine carries in the first half when the 49ers trailed 20-17, and then carried the ball just two more times in the second half.
“We got up on them, so they had to throw more,” Tapp said. “When you make teams play one-dimensional football, you give yourself a better shot to win.”
NOTES: Detroit’s Matt Prater made all four of his attempted field goals, one in each quarter. … San Francisco DT Quinton Dial left with a back strain.
Colts 18, Dolphins 12
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — On the brink of elimination from the playoff race, the Indianapolis Colts dug in.
Their defense made a last-minute stand, third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst again came off the bench and the Colts kept alive their faint postseason hopes Sunday, beating the Miami Dolphins 18-12.
Miami had first-and-goal at the 5 with 40 seconds left, but after three consecutive incompletions, rookie backup center Jamil Douglas snapped the ball prematurely, and Ryan Tannehill was sacked by three Colts.
Indy backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck left with an injury for the fourth game in a row, and Whitehurst did just enough in relief, completing two scoring drives.
The Colts (7-8) would have been out of the playoff race with a loss, and they can still be eliminated in Week 16 if Cincinnati wins at Denver on Monday.
“We did our job today,” Whitehurst said. “That’s kind of what we can control. We need a little bit of help. Hopefully it goes our way, and we’ll have a fun week of practice and have something to play for next week.”
Miami (5-10) was eliminated two weeks ago, and a half-empty stadium reflected the sad state of the franchise. The Dolphins have lost three in a row and are 4-7 under interim coach Dan Campbell, who is likely to be replaced after the season.
The Dolphins couldn’t beat a third-string QB. Indy’s Andrew Luck missed his sixth consecutive game with a lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdominal muscle, and Hasselbeck left in the second quarter with a right shoulder injury.
Whitehurst completed a third-down pass on his first play, setting up the Colts’ second touchdown for a 15-6 lead. He also directed a 10-play drive early in the fourth quarter for a field goal that made it 18-9.
“I did OK, and I got a lot help,” Whitehurst said. “The defense really delivered.”
Whitehurst hurt his hamstring and was limping after being sacked on third down with three minutes left. But he was needed for only one more snap — out of the victory formation on the final play.
Hasselbeck said he was “not super optimistic” he would be available to play next Sunday against Tennessee.
“We’ll do an MRI Monday, but I think it’s just an AC sprain, which is great news,” Hasselbeck said. “I had this injury to my left arm a long, long time ago, so I kind of know it’s not that serious. It’s just a matter of how quick.”
The afternoon was rough on quarterbacks for both teams. Tannehill was sacked six times, hurt his left leg late in the game and walked with a limp in the locker room.
“It’s not easy to win when quarterbacks get hit,” he said. “That’s something we have to fix.”
The Colts’ season-high sack total included rookie T.Y. McGill’s first career sack for a safety and the game’s first points. Robert Mathis was credited with the final, game-clinching sack thanks to the botched snap by Douglas, who was filling in for injured Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey.
“My fault,” an emotional Douglas said. “I should have been locked in on that play. Bad play by me.”
“He feels like it’s on his shoulders, but it’s not,” Campbell said. “There are enough mistakes to go around, offensively and defensively. It’s never one man’s fault.”
The defense allowed Frank Gore to rush for 85 yards and score the Colts’ touchdowns on runs of 37 and 11 yards. The South Florida native was playing in Miami for the first time.
Tannehill threw for 329 yards, but was intercepted in the end zone by Vontae Davis to end a Dolphins threat. A questionable offensive pass interference penalty on the Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry negated a Tannehill touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron, and they settled for a field goal.
Landry became the first Miami player to have 100 catches in a season. He had seven receptions for 111 yards, including a sensational one-handed catch as he tumbled to the turf for a 26-yard gain.
Notes: Dolphins LB Jelani Jenkins aggravated an ankle injury and left the game in the third quarter. … Colts guard Hugh Thornton left the game in the first half with an ankle injury. … The Colts’ Adam Vinatieri joined Morten Andersen and Gary Anderson as the only players in league history with 500 field goals. However, Vinatieri missed an extra point for the third time this season.
Bears 26, Buccaneers 21
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Chicago Bears are determined to prove a losing record isn’t the best indicator of what kind of team they’re going to be in the future.
Running back Ka’Deem Carey delivered a glimpse of what he might be able to contribute moving forward, rushing for one touchdown and catching a pass for another Sunday to help the Bears stop a three-game losing streak with a 26-21 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Rebounding from a disappointing performance in a 21-point loss to Minnesota, the Bears (6-9) surpassed their victory total for a year ago to create some momentum heading into next week’s season finale against Detroit.
Coach John Fox, hired after Marc Trestman was fired following a 5-11 finish in 2014, is confident the team’s headed in the right direction.
“We feel it; those guys feel it. We’re getting there,” Fox said. “We need to improve. They know it, but they’re still trying to finish this year well. We’ve got one more game to try to avoid a double-digit losing season.”
Carey caught a 1-yard TD pass from Jay Cutler, and the third-string running back also scored on a 1-yard run while teaming with Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford to spearhead a rushing attack that gained 174 yards and kept Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston off the field for long stretches.
The victory was only the second in the past six games for the Bears. Tampa Bay has lost four of five, including three straight after rebounding from a slow start to climb into contention for a wild-card playoff berth.
“We’ve just got to bounce back. It’s the NFL. Sometimes this stuff happens,” Winston said of the tough stretch that ensures the Bucs (6-9) will finish with a losing record for the fifth straight season.
“Obviously we don’t want it to happen to us, but it happened. We have to be accountable,” the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft said. “And every one of those games, it’s our fault. You can pick two or three plays to say: ‘This could have changed the game.’ That’s what this game comes down to. … If you want to be a great team, you’ve got to make every single play count.”
Winston completed 15 of 29 passes for 295 yards with one costly interception. He threw for two TDs, including a 43-yard Hail Mary toss to Austin Seferian-Jenkins with one second remaining.
Cutler was 20 of 27 for 156 yards, one TD and no interceptions. Robbie Gould kicked first-half field goals of 26 and 27 yards, then added a couple of long ones — 49 and 50 yards — after Tampa Bay took the lead early in the second half.
The Bears, meanwhile, forced three turnovers — one of them Harold Jones-Quartey’s goal-line interception — and limited Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin to 49 yards rushing on 17 attempts.
“We had a lot of reasons to play well. We practiced well. I thought we were prepared,” said Bucs coach Lovie Smith, who also feels his team is better than it has performed during its late-season skid.
“We’re disappointed. What it says about our team is if you turn the ball over and you make a couple critical mistakes on the other end, you have an outcome like that,” Smith added. “This is a better football team. Today we didn’t play our best ball.”
Both teams were eliminated from playoff contention last week, but want to use the final two games of the season to learn about young players and set the tone for next year.
One of Tampa Bay’s goals also is to try to help Martin win the NFL rushing title. The fourth-year pro entered day as the league’s second-leading rusher, 9 yards behind Adrian Peterson.
Martin scored on a 4-yard run set up by a blocked punt, but the Bears outrushed the Bucs 95-40 and controlled the ball for just over 20 minutes in building a 13-7 halftime lead.
Winston then handed off to Martin five consecutive times before finishing a six-play, 78-yard touchdown drive with a sideline throw to Charles Sims that the running back turned into a 50-yard scoring play to put the Bucs ahead 14-13.
NOTES: Langford rushed for 83 yards on 19 carries, Forte had 54 yards on 11 attempts, and Carey carried seven times for 16 yards. … Smith lost for the second straight season to Chicago, the team he coached for nine seasons from 2004 to 2012. The Bears won three division titles and appeared in two NFC championship games and one Super Bowl under him. … The Bucs forced zero turnovers. They have one takeaway in the past five games.
Patriots 20, Jets 26 OT
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Patriots gave the Jets the ball, and New York might carry it right into the playoffs.
Eric Decker’s 6-yard touchdown catch on the first drive of overtime — after New England stunningly chose to kick off — lifted the Jets to a 26-20 victory Sunday that put New York in position to make the playoffs.
A win next week at Buffalo gives the Jets a wild-card berth.
“It was thrilling,” Decker said. “Those are the moments that you cherish.”
New England (12-3) won the OT coin toss and elected to kick to the Jets (10-5). Patriots coach Bill Belichick (BeliKICK?) said there was “no confusion” on the call; he’d done it once before in 2013, but a hefty wind was involved against Denver. That decision worked, this one flopped.
Special teams captain Matthew Slater called heads and won the toss. He told referee Clete Blakeman the Patriots wanted to kick in a specific direction. But once he said they wanted to kick, whatever followed didn’t matter, according to NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino.
“I just thought we would be able to choose the direction we kicked off from,” Slater said.
It was the third time since the 2012 rule change a team chose to kick off for OT. The other times, New England and Minnesota, were winners.
New York used a career-long 48-yard reception by Quincy Enunwa and a 20-yard pass to Brandon Marshall to move into scoring position. And then, Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Decker on a fade behind Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler for New York’s fifth straight victory.
“The last five weeks, they’ve all kind of been do-or-die games for us, so that’s how we’ve approached each one,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ve got to get the next one to get in and that’s how we’ll view it. This is a fun run.”
Marshall had two touchdown catches and also became the first NFL player with 100 receptions in six seasons. Fitzpatrick tied a franchise record with 29 TD throws this season.
Neither has been to the playoffs in a combined 21 pro seasons.
“It feels real good,” Marshall said. “I’m so proud of my teammates. … I’ve never been more proud to be on a ballclub like this.”
Tom Brady hit James White for a 9-yard score with 1:55 to go, forcing OT. That was the only drive on which Brady got comfortable against an aggressive defense that pressured and hit him all game.
It was also the most impact Rob Gronkowski had for the undermanned Patriots, who were missing top wideouts Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. The tight end had an 8-yard reception on fourth-and-1, then a 26-yarder to set up the touchdown.
“I think we have some mental toughness,” Brady said. “A lot of guys have been in and out of the lineup. We have a lot of guys coming in off the street trying to play.”
New England was surprisingly conservative on offense in the first quarter, then went the other way in the second period. Brady threw deep for the first time, connecting with Gronkowski, early in the quarter. The next play was a flea flicker that failed, followed by a reverse to Brandon LaFell for 9 yards and a run out of the wildcat by running back Brandon Bolden — with Brady spread wide right.
Some normalcy returned on fourth down with Brady’s pass to James White for 13 yards, but New York’s defense held and Stephen Gostkowski made a 35-yard field goal. He also kicked a 44-yarder.
The Jets weren’t restrained on offense even after top back Chris Ivory left in the second quarter with a right knee problem. With strong contributions from Bilal Powell and former Patriot Stevan Ridley, the Jets marched 80 yards and went ahead 10-3 on Marshall’s 2-yard reception, when he stretched his long right arm over the goal line before going out of bounds.
The halftime margin was New York’s biggest over the Patriots since a 2010 playoff game the Jets won in Foxborough.
Their other points came on Randy Bullock’s field goals of 30 and 49 yards.
Ivory returned in the second half and Marshall’s 33-yard TD reception on which he appeared to push off safety Duron Harmon made it 17-3. It was his career-best 13th TD catch of the season and his 99th reception overall.
Jamie Collins’ 14-yard fumble return on a third-quarter sack of Fitzpatrick by Jabaal Sheard made it 17-13. The nervousness among Jets fans in the crowd was palpable at that point.
It was over the edge in the Patriots’ 66-yard drive to tie it.
But when Decker scored, Jets players stormed the field, leaping and hugging as if they’d made the playoffs. Could happen, thanks greatly to their archrival’s overtime decision.
NOTES: New England sustained more injuries. OT Sebastian Vollmer (leg) left in the first quarter and OT LaAdrian Waddle (shoulder) went out in the fourth period, as did DB Justin Coleman (head). … Fitzpatrick tied the team TDs passing record by Vinny Testaverde in 1998. … Marshall had eight receptions for 115 yards, Fitzpatrick threw for 296 yards. … Brady went 22 of 31 for 231 yards, one TD and an interception by Darrelle Revis.
Steelers 17, Ravens 20
BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens fully expected to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers — even if few others gave them a chance of pulling off the upset.
In a season of defeats and injuries, the Ravens added a memorable chapter to this contentious rivalry with a 20-17 victory Sunday.
The Ravens (5-10) had lost three straight, the last two by a combined 69-20 score. In this one, however, they turned back the Steelers (9-6), who were riding a three-game winning streak and striving for a playoff berth.
“This might sound brash, but we believed the whole time that we were going to beat Pittsburgh,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “Records, score, how good they’re playing — nothing matters when you’re playing Pittsburgh.”
Smith had an interception and limited the dangerous Antonio Brown to 61 yards, part of a strong defensive effort that gave Baltimore with its first season sweep of its AFC North rivals since 2011.
“It makes this season because obviously we can’t go to the playoffs,” Smith said.
Making his seventh career start — the first with Baltimore — Ryan Mallett went 28 for 41 for a career-high 274 yards and a touchdown. Signed by the Ravens on Dec. 15, he was the fourth quarterback to start for Baltimore in a span of six weeks.
“Getting the start was awesome,” he said. “Getting a win was even better.”
The stunning, agonizing loss ended Pittsburgh’s 10-game winning streak in December. The Steelers are still in contention for a wild-card berth, but they will need to beat Cleveland next week and get some help.
“We didn’t handle the business in the stadium today, so we’re left to look around at other stadiums,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “Such is life this time of year when you don’t do what you’re supposed to do. And we didn’t today. We take ownership over that.”
DeAngelo Williams ran for 100 yards and had six catches for 53 yards. Ben Roethlisberger went 23 for 33 for 227 yards with two interceptions.
“We controlled our own destiny and we gave the ball away,” Roethlisberger said.
Baltimore, which came in with a minus-15 turnover differential, had two takeaways and did not commit a turnover.
Up 20-10 with just over seven minutes left, the Ravens appeared to clinch the upset when Smith ran 101 yards with an interception for a touchdown. But Baltimore’s Courtney Upshaw lined up offside on the play, negating the TD, and Williams scored his second touchdown with 6:33 left.
The Ravens held on. On fourth-and-15 at the Pittsburgh 37, a pass from Roethlisberger to Markus Wheaton fell incomplete following the two-minute warning.
The Steelers didn’t get the ball again until there was 4 seconds left.
“We were thinking we were going to beat them, and we knew it,” Ravens defensive back Lardarius Webb said.
Down 13-3 at halftime, the Steelers got back into it with the aid of two pass interference calls totaling 53 yards. The penalties, against Smith and Kendrick Lewis, led to a 1-yard run by Williams that cut the deficit to three points.
Later in the quarter, the Ravens put together a 13-play drive that concluded with a punt. Though the march did not produce points, Baltimore kept the ball away from the Steelers for nearly seven minutes and pinned Pittsburgh on its own 9.
Roethlisberger threw his second interception a few minutes later. Mallett then connected with Chris Givens for 39 yards and Kyle Juszczyk for 34 to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Javorius Allen, making it 20-10.
Roethlisberger went 7 for 12 for 66 yards and an interception in the first half, a 38.9 quarterback rating.
After the Ravens stuffed Williams on a fourth-down run following the opening kickoff, Mallett’s first drive with Baltimore could not have gone better. He moved the Ravens 75 yards in 15 plays, went 4 for 4 on third down and threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Chris Matthews to complete a possession that lasted more than seven minutes.
The Steelers then settled for a field goal after an apparent 16-yard touchdown catch by Brown was overturned by a replay.
Mallett produced in his second series, too, covering 61 yards in 11 plays before Justin Tucker kicked a field goal for a 10-3 lead. It marked the first time this season Baltimore got as many as 10 points on its first two possessions.
An interception by Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith led to a 50-yard field goal late in the half.
NOTES: Pittsburgh CB Antwon Blake (back spasm) left in the second quarter and FB Roosevelt Nix (right foot) left in the fourth quarter. Neither returned. … Baltimore finished 3-5 at home.
Browns 13, Chiefs 17
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The atmosphere inside the Kansas City Chiefs locker room wasn’t a whole lot different Sunday than in any of their other victories during a franchise record-tying nine-game win streak.
There were high-fives and congratulations, of course. But mostly a business-like attitude.
It was hard to believe the Chiefs had just qualified for the playoffs.
“We still have one more week left and there’s still a lot to play for,” said quarterback Alex Smith, who threw two touchdown passes in a down-to-the-wire, 17-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
When Pittsburgh lost to Baltimore moments later, the Chiefs clinched at least a wild-card spot.
They can still win the AFC West and host a playoff game if they beat Oakland next week and the Broncos lose to Cincinnati on Monday night or in their regular-season finale against San Diego.
Hard to believe when they were 1-5.
“We didn’t panic, that’s the most important part,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “You can’t get too far in the hole, and we got as far as you can get to still make the postseason.”
The Chiefs (10-5) jumped out to a 17-3 halftime lead Sunday, and looked as if they were cruising to an easy win. But their offense became listless over the final two quarters, just as Johnny Manziel was pumping some life into the downtrodden Browns (3-12).
The former Heisman Trophy winner led Cleveland to 10 straight points, then had them in possession for a go-ahead touchdown before his incomplete pass to the end zone on fourth down with 2:55 left.
Kansas City had a chance to put the game away, but failed to pick up a first down, and Cleveland took over at its 30 with 1:52 left and no timeouts. The Browns picked up three first downs, and Manziel hit Darius Jennings on fourth-and-10 from the 32 with time ticking away.
It ran out before Manziel could get off another snap, and he spiked his helmet in frustration.
“I’m definitely shouldering a lot for this loss,” he said. “Regardless of what our record is, where we are in the season, it (stinks) not to win, especially when our coach and the other 10 guys put us in a position to try to get us in the end zone there at the end. I just felt like I didn’t do the right thing in crunch time. I think that’s the moral of the entire story of the game.”
Manziel threw for 136 yards with an interception, but he also ran for 108 yards to give his team a chance. Isaiah Crowell added 88 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Browns.
“I talked earlier this week about planting seeds and moving forward,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said. “I think that second half was an indication. It’s one of those, you look at the scoreboard, you lost. But in some sense you just feel like you ran out of time.”
The Chiefs looked as if they’d make this one easy in the first half, driving downfield for a TD on their opening drive. Smith zipped a pass to Jeremy Maclin between three defenders for a score.
Kansas City added a field goal moments later for a 10-0 lead.
Travis Coons kicked the first of his two field goals for Cleveland, and an interception of Smith gave the Browns life. But two plays later, Manziel was picked by Marcus Peters, and the rookie returned his eighth of the season deep into Cleveland territory. Smith then connected with Travis Kelce with 32 seconds left to help the Chiefs take a 17-3 lead into the break.
Then the Chiefs got stagnant. And the Browns made things interesting.
His scrambling ability was critical to a nine-play, 82-yard drive to begin the second half, and Crowell finished it by racing 10 yards for a touchdown.
Then, after forcing a quick punt, Cleveland put together a grinding 21-play drive that took up more than 12 minutes despite going only 62 yards. Three times, Manziel picked up a first down by scrambling on third or fourth down, though his intentional grounding penalty helped force a field goal.
The Browns had twice more advanced deep into Kansas City territory. The final time came in the game’s final seconds, when he couldn’t get the ball spiked in time.
“Johnny is one of those quarterbacks you can never get comfortable with him, Johnson said. “For a defensive guy he’s a headache. But at the end of the day, time ran out on him.”
NOTES: Maclin became the fourth wide receiver under Andy Reid to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving. He has 1,034. … Browns RB Raheem Mostert (ankle) and WR Marlon Moore (concussion) left in the second quarter and did not return. … Smith threw for 125 yards, giving him a career-best 3,330 this season. … The Chiefs only had 258 yards total offense.
Texans 34, Titans 6
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Forget about that rough stint with Dallas. It looks as if Brandon Weeden might be the right quarterback at the right time for the Houston Texans.
Weeden scored his first career rushing touchdown and threw for two more as the Texans moved closer to the AFC South title with a 34-6 victory over the hapless Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Houston (8-7), which hosts Jacksonville in its regular-season finale next Sunday, lost out on a chance to clinch the division title when Indianapolis beat Miami 18-12 this weekend. The Texans could wrap it up on Monday night if Cincinnati wins at Denver.
“We have to play to win,” Houston coach Bill O’Brien said of his approach against Jacksonville. “I think the bottom line is we need to win. I don’t think we can look at any scenario, this scenario, that scenario, I believe that we need to play to win.”
Houston has won seven of its last eight against the Titans. The Texans forced four turnovers and turned them into 17 points. Quintin Demps returned a fumble 33 yards for a touchdown less than two minutes into the game, putting Houston ahead to stay.
J.J. Watt even got his first sack since breaking his left wrist.
“Quite frankly, it really doesn’t matter what anybody else does,” Watt said. “We go out there and we win next week, that’s all that matters.”
The Titans (3-12) did nothing to hurt their chances at the No. 1 pick in the draft, turning the ball over twice in the first quarter. Interim coach Mike Mularkey called it a disappointing loss, with a few fans wearing the day’s giveaway — a cloth grocery bag — over their heads.
“I really thought we were prepared,” Mularkey said. “I thought we had a good plan and felt good about it.”
The Texans scored a season high in points despite starting their fourth different quarterback this year.
With Brian Hoyer scratched before kickoff as he recovers from his second concussion in a month, Weeden became the first player in franchise history to throw for two TDs and run for another. He finished with 200 yards passing for his first win as a starter this season after coming off the bench to beat the Colts a week ago.
Weeden began the season with the Cowboys and lost each of this three starts while subbing for the injured Tony Romo. He was cut by Dallas last month.
“We needed this one,” Weeden said. “As a team, we needed this one. It feels good personally, I’m more excited for this team.”
O’Brien even worked backup B.J. Daniels, signed Monday off Seattle’s practice squad, onto the field. Daniels completed his first career pass in the first quarter, a 7-yarder to Jaelen Strong, and he finished the game in the fourth quarter.
Kareem Jackson stripped Antonio Andrews to end Tennessee’s first series, a ball Demps picked up and ran in for the TD. Nick Novak also kicked a 22-yard field goal, and Weeden hit former Titans wide receiver Nate Washington for a 13-yard TD in the third quarter after Eddie Pleasant took the ball away from Andrews after a catch. That put Houston up 31-0.
The only good thing for the Titans was allowing just the one sack to Watt after Zach Mettenberger was sacked seven times in the first game between the teams Nov. 1. They also avoided being shut out at home for the first time since 1976 when Mettenberger hit rookie Tre McBride for a 1-yard TD with 91 seconds left.
Titans wide receiver Kendall Wright started and caught three passes before going to the locker room with an injured knee, and left tackle Taylor Lewan left early in the second quarter to be checked for a concussion. Neither returned.
NOTES: Houston LB Jadeveon Clowney left early in the fourth quarter with an injured left foot. O’Brien said he thought Clowney was fine. … The Texans finished 4-4 on the road, beating all three divisional opponents on the road for the first time in franchise history. … The Titans have not been shut out at home since Dec. 11, 1976, when the then-Oilers lost 21-0 to Pittsburgh.
Jaguars 27, Saints 38
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees’ right foot was hurting. His right arm was fine.
He even returned to the field in street clothes to play with his children after the game.
Brees passed for 412 yards and three touchdowns, and the New Orleans Saints beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 38-27 on Sunday.
Just six days after tearing his plantar fascia, Brees said he remained in pain, but stressed, “Once you get up to the line, you flip the switch and it’s all about competing at a high level.”
His mobility was restricted, he said, but that only seemed to sharpen his focus in the pocket and make him more decisive. He completed 25 of 36 passes without a turnover.
“Maybe the only thing you could draw a parallel to, or compare it to, is when you have one of your senses taken away, your other senses are heightened,” Brees said.
Brandin Cooks caught a 71-yard touchdown pass to highlight his 123 yards receiving, which gave him more than 1,000 yards this season. He said he expected Brees to play well after seeing his limited work in his return to practice Friday.
“A guy like that, man, if he can walk, he’s going to play,” Cooks said. “That’s just what type of guy he is and I didn’t have no other doubt for him to come out and have a great game.”
Running back Tim Hightower, who missed the previous three seasons because of a knee injury and subsequent complications, consolidated his recent resurgence with 122 yards and two touchdowns rushing for New Orleans (6-9).
“I told the (offensive) line before the game, ‘I’m going to give you all I got today. I’m going to give you every single ounce of energy I got and I need everything you got,'” Hightower said. “They gave it to me.”
Newly reacquired running back Travaris Cadet added a 44-yard TD catch.
Blake Bortles passed for 368 yards and four TDs for Jacksonville (5-10), which was eliminated from playoff contention earlier Sunday by Houston’s victory.
Bortles’ TD strikes included a 90-yarder to Allen Robinson, who finished with 151 yards receiving. Allen Hurns caught eight passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. But it wasn’t enough to overcome an early 24-0 deficit.
“It’s tough. You get behind like that and you’ve got to do some different things game plan-wise,” Bortles said. “I don’t really know what to tell you. We’ve got to find a way to be better in the first half.”
Brees, who has missed only one game in the past 10 seasons, led New Orleans to points on four of the Saints’ first five offensive series, starting with his 17-yard scoring pass to tight end Michael Hoomanawanui.
The record-setting quarterback still hasn’t missed a snap since his injury during the second quarter of the Saints’ loss to the Lions the previous Monday night, when he reached 4,000 yards passing in a season for an NFL-record 10th straight year.
“We expected him to play. All we could go off of was the little bit we saw of Detroit,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “It didn’t seem to hamper him at all.”
“He just really executes,” Bradley added. “Sure enough, he did it again.”
Against Jacksonville, Brees reached 31 touchdown passes for the season, his NFL record eighth straight with at least 30.
It also was Brees’ 13th career 400-yard game, tying Hall of Famer Dan Marino for second in NFL history — behind only Peyton Manning’s 14.
“People might say we have nothing to play for as far as playoffs and such, but we have a lot to play for,” Brees asserted. “We’re continuing to build what is going to be a great team for years to come.”
Bortles reached 300 yards passing for the sixth time this season, tying Mark Brunell for the most such outings in a single season by a Jaguars QB.
He was 27 of 35, but was intercepted twice, once by first-year Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux and another time by lineman Bobby Richardson, who snagged a ball that had been deflected by Breaux back toward the line of scrimmage.
Hurns’ production made him the second 1,000-yard receiver for Jacksonville this season, joining fellow second-year receiver Robinson.
Bortles’ other TD pass was a 2-yarder to Marqise Lee.
NOTES: Saints WR Marques Colston was scratched because of a chest injury. Also sitting out was running back C.J. Spiller. Payton said he wasn’t injured, but hasn’t appeared fully recovered from preseason surgery. … The Saints defense has now allowed 43 TDs passing, eclipsing the old NFL record of 40 by the 1963 Denver Broncos, who played only 14 games.
Packers 8, Cardinals 38
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers dropped back and cocked his arm, ready to throw the ball downfield.
Instead of flinging to his intended target, the Green Bay quarterback was flung to the ground, causing the ball to break loose from his grip.
Arizona defensive lineman Cory Redding scooped it up, tossed Packers running back Eddie Lacy to the ground and rumbled 36 yards for a touchdown.
Another big game, another big letdown for the Packers.
Rodgers was sacked eight teams, had two fumbles returned for touchdowns and threw an interception in the end zone, sending the Packers to a disheartening 38-8 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday.
“We are professionals. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard and play better. Everybody has to play better,” said Rodgers, who threw for 151 yards and a touchdown on 15-of-28 passing.
The Packers (10-5) had seemed to gather themselves over the past month, winning three straight after a stretch of four losses in five games that started with a blowout by Denver on Nov. 1.
Green Bay came into Sunday’s game with a slight hope of earning a first-round bye in the playoffs, but it would have to start with a win over the Cardinals.
The Packers never really had a chance, unable to protect their quarterbacks behind an injury-riddled offensive line.
Taking advantage of Green Bay’s shoddy O-line, Arizona (13-2) had nine sacks, its most since 1986 and third-most in team history. Three of those were by resurgent veteran Dwight Freeney and Calais Campbell had 2 1/2.
Instead of the Packers surging toward the playoffs, it’s the Cardinals with the momentum after their ninth straight win clinched a first-round playoff bye.
“Our guys were just causing havoc,” said cornerback Jerraud Powers, who had Arizona’s second defensive touchdown.
The Packers had a hard time stopping it, right from the start.
Without starting left tackle David Bakhtiari (ankle) to protect him, Rodgers was sacked three times in the first half and threw for 58 yards while under constant pressure.
Green Bay’s ground game did little to take the pressure off, its longest gain a 7-yard run by punter Tim Masthay on a fake.
Despite everything that went wrong, the Packers appeared to gain a spark just before halftime, when defensive tackle Mike Daniels intercepted Carson Palmer’s screen pass and rumbled to the Arizona 15-yard line.
Instead of capitalizing on the Cardinals’ first turnover in five games, Green Bay gave it right back when Rodgers threw a ball into the end zone that Justin Bethel intercepted.
The Packers compounded Rodgers’ seventh interception of the season by allowing Michael Floyd to break free for a 47-yard reception on the next play. Palmer followed with a 7-yard touchdown pass to John Brown that put the Cardinals up 17-0 at halftime.
“That was a huge swing,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
It got worse quickly for the Packers in the second half.
James Starks fumbled on Green Bay’s first play, Arizona recovered at the Packers 28-yard line and David Johnson ran in for a 14-yard touchdown two plays later.
The Packers continued to have trouble protecting Rodgers and he started losing the ball.
The first fumble came on Kareem Martin’s arm-flinging sack that led to Redding’s touchdown.
After a 28-yard touchdown pass to Lacy, Rodgers found himself on the ground again, this time in the hands of Freeney. He lost the ball again, Powers grabbed it out of midair and scored on a 7-yard touchdown to put the Cardinals up 38-8.
Green Bay pulled Rodgers with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, its disaster in the desert complete.
“We have a standard we have set around here for a long time and we just haven’t lived up to it consistently,” Rodgers said.
Notes: Cardinals S Rashad Johnson missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. Arizona also was without its other starting safety, Tyrann Mathieu, after he tore an ACL last week. … Green Bay DT B.J. Raji went out in the first half because of a concussion and did not return. … Arizona has had 19 different players to score a touchdown this season, most in the NFL. … Starks has four fumbles the past four games.
Rams 23, Seahawks 17
SEATTLE (AP) — After making a habit of giving Russell Wilson fits in St. Louis, the Rams ended a decade-long drought in the Pacific Northwest.
For the first time since the 2004 playoffs the Rams left Seattle on Sunday as winners.
“We’ve come up here the last three years and we’ve come up short. … I just felt like the last three years, in the fourth quarter we always slip up and let them win. I’m glad we got the W,” St. Louis cornerback Trumaine Johnson said.
Todd Gurley scored on a 2-yard TD run with 10:34 left, Akeem Ayers returned a fumble 45 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and the Rams ended Seattle’s five-game win streak with a 23-17 victory.
St. Louis swept the season series from the Seahawks (9-6) having won 34-31 in overtime in Week 1. And the Rams (7-8) caused the same kinds of problems they did in the opener by flustering Wilson and slowing down a Seahawks offense that had not been stopped for the previous five weeks.
Gurley rushed for 85 yards on 19 carries. Case Keenum won his third straight start for the Rams, completing 14 of 23 passes for 103 yards and a 28-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Britt in the second quarter.
It was enough for the Rams to win in Seattle for the first time since the NFC wild-card playoffs in Jan. 8, 2005, when St. Louis came away with a 27-20 victory and most of the current roster was in high school or even younger.
“It’s nice to win three straight against good teams. We have a chance to go 5-1 in the division and finish on a winning note. That’s what our focus is going to be,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.
St. Louis has turned around a season that appeared headed for turmoil at 4-8. The Rams have won three straight and with a Week 17 win at San Francisco can finish with a .500 record for the first time since 2006. It’s not enough to get St. Louis to the postseason, but the effort is still there.
And there was no greater example than center Tim Barnes, who was given the game ball afterward. He helped not allow any sacks and was credited with a pair of critical fumble recoveries in the fourth quarter.
Benny Cunningham fumbled on a third-and-1 at the Seattle 40 and it appeared Seattle’s Earl Thomas had fallen on the loose ball. But officials ruled that Barnes had made the recovery and was down by contact before the ball ended up back in Seattle’s possession under the pile.
Two plays later, Gurley darted 20 yards inside the Seattle 10, but as he hurdled Thomas was hit and fumbled. Again the scramble for the ball ended up in the arms of Barnes chasing the play downfield and three plays later Gurley was in the end zone and St. Louis had a 13-point lead.
“Just got to follow the ball. That’s what we try and do every play. That’s what we do as an O-line, we try to chase the ball and keep our guys from getting hit downfield and if something does happen like that we want to try and be there.”
Ayers had given St. Louis an early 10-0 lead when he scooped Will Tukuafu’s fumble and returned it for his first career touchdown, shaking off a tackle attempt by Wilson.
It was part of a banner day for the Rams defense that forced three turnovers including Wilson’s first interception in 168 pass attempts by Johnson in the first half.
Wilson was sacked four times and hit 13 times according to the final stats. Wilson was 25 of 41 for 289 yards and two touchdowns, including an 18-yard TD to Jermaine Kearse with 17 seconds left. But St. Louis recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
Wilson also threw a 25-yard touchdown to Doug Baldwin in the third quarter that appeared to be the start of Seattle’s second-half rally. It never materialized and the Rams were left celebrating.
“Ultimately we had multiple chances of winning the game. We can’t really make any excuses,” Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett said.
NOTES: St. Louis DE Ethan Westbrooks, DT Nick Fairly and S Mark Barron all left the game with concussions. Johnson was checked for a concussion and allowed to return. … Baldwin’s TD was his 14th of the season setting a new franchise record. … Rams P Johnny Hekker, a Seattle-area native, was flagged for unnecessary roughness in the second quarter for a hit on Seattle’s Cliff Avril. “I regret the actions, but I have to live with the consequences,” Hekker said.
Giants 17, Vikings 49
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings had all afternoon to watch their competitors play, with the realistic possibility that their spot in the postseason would be secured by the time they took the field.
Turns out, they didn’t need the help. It was a lot more rewarding that way.
Adrian Peterson ran for 104 yards and a touchdown before resting in the fourth quarter, Harrison Smith took one of Eli Manning’s three interceptions into the end zone and the Vikings qualified for the playoffs with a 49-17 victory over the listless New York Giants on a frigid Sunday night.
Teddy Bridgewater turned in another sharp December performance, Blair Walsh chipped in five field goals and the Vikings (10-5) set up an NFC North championship game next Sunday night at Green Bay.
“It’s a perfect scenario,” said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who picked off Manning’s pass midway through the third quarter to set up Peterson’s score that stretched the lead to 29-3.
Said coach Mike Zimmer: “If you would’ve told me in July that we’d have a chance the last game of the year to go Jan. 3 and play for a division title, I would’ve been excited about it.”
With Peterson trying to stay warm on the sideline, Jerick McKinnon rushed for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including a 68-yard romp through a disinterested defense with the temperature down to 11 degrees.
Manning badly missed suspended wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and his 1,396 yards and 13 touchdowns, as the Giants (6-9) trudged toward a fourth straight absence from the postseason. They were eliminated the night before when Washington beat Philadelphia to win the NFC East.
“We wanted the team to play well for each other, for our coaches, and we weren’t able to do that,” Manning said.
Here are some key angles to know about the game:
SEEDS STILL UNSETTLED
The Vikings, who eliminated Atlanta from contention by winning, will be the No. 3 seed and host Seattle in the first round if they beat the Packers to win the division for the first time since 2009.
If they lose, they’ll be a wild-card team and play at either Green Bay or Washington, depending on the Seattle-Arizona game. If the Seahawks lose, the Vikings would be the higher seed and visit Washington. If the Seahawks win, the Vikings will get back-to-back trips to Green Bay.
“Once we get in the playoffs, the only team that can beat the Vikings is the Vikings,” Bridgewater said, citing Zimmer’s message to the team this week.
After winning the Super Bowl following the 2011 season, the Giants have gone just 28-35. They are 12-19 in the last two years, and the job that coach Tom Coughlin has held since 2004 has become rather tenuous again.
“We had an opportunity to play for pride and to regain some respect and I thought everybody was on the same page. Tonight is just very difficult for me to explain,” Coughlin said.
McKinnon has three touchdowns in the last two games after going the first 24 games of his career without one. He would’ve had a third score, a 24-yard run on a jet sweep play from the left slot midway through the second quarter, but Matt Kalil was penalized for a false start.
“To see him get in the end zone this year,” Bridgewater said of his roommate for road games, “I was just really excited.”
Manning finished 15 for 29 for 234 yards, boosted by a 50-yard pass to Rashad Jennings that set up an early field goal and a 72-yard touchdown heave to Rueben Randle. Manning, sacked four times, was hindered by a handful of drops by his receivers in these tough-to-catch conditions. He fumbled a shotgun snap, too, and through three quarters had only nine completions to three interceptions.
“I didn’t see it coming. I thought we’d be able to go out there and move the ball and score some points and run our offense,” Manning said.
The Vikings registered their highest score since a 50-10 victory over Jacksonville on Dec. 20, 1998, when Coughlin was coach of the Jaguars.
Bengals 17, Broncos 20 OT
DENVER (AP) — DeMarcus Ware beat AJ McCarron to a fumbled snap in overtime, sending the Denver Broncos into the playoffs with a 20-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night.
Ware’s recovery followed a 37-yard field goal by Brandon McManus, whose shanked 45-yarder at the end of regulation made necessary the extra drama.
The Broncos (11-4) overcame a 14-0 first-half deficit in clinching their fifth consecutive playoff berth and denying the Bengals (11-4) their first road win on a Monday night since 1990.
Cincinnati also blew a chance to earn a bye in the playoffs.
Denver can earn the top seed in the AFC with a win over San Diego and a loss by New England at Miami next weekend.
Denver, which was in danger of becoming the first team since the 1970 merger to miss the playoffs after starting 10-2, snapped a two-game skid with its third overtime win of the season.
McManus has missed a kick in five consecutive games, and this one wasn’t even close. It sailed wide left to the astonishment of 74,511 fans even though the flags atop the goal posts revealed a complete lack of wind.
The Bengals called tails and the coin landed heads.
Unlike Patriots coach Bill Belichick a day earlier, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak chose to receive, and Denver drove 60 yards in 13 plays. Both Emmanuel Sanders and Owen Daniels limped off during the drive.
Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler, making his sixth straight start in place of Peyton Manning, also banged an elbow in the frenetic final minutes but stayed in.
McManus then redeemed himself by splitting the uprights from 37 yards out 5 minutes into the extra period.
Then, it was up to the league’s best defense to seal the deal.
There was an incompletion on first down that the Broncos felt should have been a fumble by McCarron with Derek Wolfe recovering the ball as it skittered downfield, but a review upheld the ruling.
Second-and-10 from the Bengals 33.
Center Russell Bodine’s shotgun snap sailed past McCarron, making his second start in place of Andy Dalton, and Ware beat him to the loose football.