2016 NFL Week 17 Tuesday Afternoon QB

Demarus Dye|BKD TV Insiders

Happy New Year 2017!!!!

Here is a recap of Week 17 of the 2016-17 NFL Season with a Tuesday Morning QB & thanks again to AP Sports/ Pro 32 for photos & articles.

Patriots 35, Dolphins 14

Tom Brady

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks to pass, during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The New England Patriots finished the regular season with a perfect road record, and are hoping their next trip is to the Super Bowl.

Tom Brady threw for 276 yards and three scores Sunday to help the Patriots clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by beating the Miami Dolphins 35-14.

New England took a 20-0 lead in the first half, and turned away Miami’s comeback bid with the help of a 77-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Julian Edelman and a 69-yard fumble return by linebacker Shea McClellin .

The Patriots (14-2) were already assured of a first-round bye but played all-out, as coach Bill Belichick had promised.

“It’s just important to keep that foot on the gas pedal,” Brady said.

New England became the ninth team since 1972 to go undefeated on the road during the regular season.

The Dolphins (10-6), beaten for only the second time in the past 11 games, had already earned an AFC wild-card berth and will play their first postseason game since 2008 next weekend at Pittsburgh. That made the thumping by New England much easier to take.

“Flush it,” safety Michael Thomas said. “We’re still in it. Last year at this time we were going home.”

If the Dolphins beat Pittsburgh, they’ll face New England again in two weeks.

“Can’t wait,” Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry said.

The Patriots had lost their past three games in Miami, and appeared intent from the outset on snapping that streak. By the time they led 20-0, they had advantages of 238 to 30 in yards, and 17 to one in first downs.

“This has always been a challenging place for us, for one reason or another,” Brady said. “But we just found a way to beat a good football team.”

After Miami mounted consecutive 75-yard touchdown drives to make it 20-14, Edelman caught a short pass from Brady, broke free thanks to a crushing downfield block by Michael Floyd and scored on the longest reception of his career.

When the Dolphins threatened early in the fourth quarter, Devin McCourty forced a fumble by Damien Williams, and McClellin returned it 69 yards to set up a touchdown for the game’s final score.

The Dolphins were steamrolled by a Brady-led offense that wasn’t forced to punt until late in the third quarter.

“He’s a Hall of Famer,” Miami coach Adam Gase said. “It happens. A lot.”

Brady went 25 for 33 with no turnovers . Edelman had a career-high 151 yards on eight catches.

Miami’s Matt Moore, subbing again for injured starter Ryan Tannehill, went 24 for 34 for 205 yards.

INJURIES

Miami’s Jay Ajayi went to the X-ray room after the game but said he was fine. He ran for 59 yards and finished his breakout season with 1,272.

NEWCOMER

Floyd scored his first touchdown with the Patriots when he caught a short pass and powered into the end zone for a 14-yard score to make it 14-0. Floyd was acquired last month after the Cardinals released him following a DUI arrest in Arizona.

“To come in at this point is very tough,” Brady said. “There’s not really the time to make the mistakes anymore. But he’s a veteran, he has played for a long time.”

CLIMBING THE LIST

Brady increased his career yardage total to 61,582 to surpass former Dolphins quarterback and Hall of Famer Dan Marino for fourth place on the NFL’s career list. Next is the Saints’ Drew Brees, who went into Sunday’s game with 65,761 yards.

Brady finished the regular season with 28 touchdown passes and two interceptions.

UP NEXT

Dolphins: The Dolphins will have a rematch against the AFC North champion Steelers, who lost 30-15 at Miami in Week 6.

Patriots: The Patriots swept the regular-season series against Miami for the first time since 2012, and could now face the Dolphins in consecutive games. If the Dolphins beat the Steelers, they’ll play at New England the weekend of Jan. 14-15.

Browns 24, Steelers 27 OT

Browns Steelers Football

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Cobi Hamilton (83) makes the winning touchdown catch during overtime of an NFL football game with Cleveland Browns strong safety Briean Boddy-Calhoun (20) defending in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Jared Wickerham)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown stood on the sideline in sweatsuits already thinking about the playoffs.

No matter, their understudies kept up a late-season tradition unlike any other.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers always beat the Cleveland Browns.

Always.

Backup quarterback Landry Jones hit Cobi Hamilton in the left corner of the end zone with 2:57 left in overtime as Pittsburgh rallied by the Browns 27-24 on Sunday.

After Cleveland took a three-point lead on its first possession of the extra period, Jones deftly led the Steelers 75 yards in nine plays, the last a pretty lob that Hamilton ran under to give Pittsburgh (11-5) its seventh straight victory overall and 13th consecutive at home against the Browns.

“For a game like this, to show that we can get open and we can make plays too it kind of shows for the fans, for the coaches and across the league,” said Hamilton, a former practice squad player who finished with three receptions for 54 yards and his second career score.

Jones, who will become a free agent in the offseason, took time to get going but came on late to help dig Pittsburgh out of an early two-touchdown deficit to earn his first victory in a game he played from start to finish.

“It was hard the way that we won,” Jones said. “But in the end, for a quarterback to do it in overtime, to do it on the last drive and to throw a pass like that — those are the things you dream about. I think for me that was just a big deal in my career.”

Jones finished 24 of 37 for 277 yards with three touchdowns and an interception despite getting sacked four times.

“He’s just a good quarterback,” Hamilton said. “It’s not really reps. He knows how to throw the ball. It’s nothing special we did. It’s kind of what we do every day in practice.”

Fitting, since for long stretches in the first half it seemed as if the AFC North champions — already assured of the third seed when the postseason begins at home against Miami next weekend — played as if nothing was on the line.

The defense allowed the Browns (1-15) to move up the field with relative ease and the offense did practically nothing until rookie safety Sean Davis recovered Robert Griffin’s fumble late in the first half that gave Pittsburgh the jolt it needed to get back in the game.

Still, it appeared the Steelers were in trouble when Jones threw into double coverage in the third quarter and Cleveland cornerback Brien Boddy-Calhoun zigzagged 67 yards the other way.

Boddy-Calhoun tried to stretch for the goal line to restore Cleveland’s two-touchdown lead only to have Pittsburgh wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Beyswat the ball out of Boddy-Calhoun’s hands.

Jones fell on it for a touchback and the Steelers responded by going right down the field to tie the game on the second of DeAngelo Williams’ two touchdowns.

“I was going for the tackle,” Heyward-Bey said. “But defenders never hold the ball well or that often so when I saw the ball slip out I just kind of threw a little punch at it.”

Heyward-Bey later added a 46-yard reception to set up a touchdown and the Steelers benefited from another mistake-prone performance by Cleveland.

Pittsburgh was outgained 437-312 and allowed 231 yards on the ground, but forced a fumble with a minute to go in regulation to preserve a tie and then sent the Browns backward after Cleveland had first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh 2 on the opening possession of overtime, forcing the Browns to settle for a field goal.

“It’s good to know that your backups or somebody behind you is willing to come in and do something like you or even better,” linebacker Lawrence Timmons said.

“As a team that’s going to make you strong, especially as you go down the stretch. Playoffs, injuries happen, just to know you have that guy in the back, that’s going to make you better.”

REMATCH

The Steelers were rolling at 4-1 when they went to Miami on Oct. 16. The Dolphins promptly ran them over in a 30-15 thumping that saw Roethlisberger leave with a left knee injury, the first loss in a four-game spiral that seemed to put Pittsburgh’s promising season in serious jeopardy.

Pittsburgh insists it’s not the team it was nearly three months ago.

Still, the Steelers are plenty wary after serving as the coming out party for Miami running back Jay Ajayi, who ran for 204 yards and two scores.

“They ran for 200 yards, enough said there,” Timmons said. “We can’t allow that at all. That’s not what we stand for.”

INJURIES

The Steelers already banged up defensive line took another hit. Ricardo Mathews left with an ankle injury and did not return. Rookie Javon Hargrave went into the concussion protocol in the second half. He was cleared and returned for one more series, but spent the rest of the game on the bench. Hargrave missed a game last month because of a concussion.

Jaguars 20, Colts 24

Joe Haeg, Dwayne Allen, Jack Doyle

Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle (84) celebrates with offensive tackle Joe Haeg (73) and tight end Dwayne Allen (83) after scoring a touchdown in the final seconds of the team’s NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Indianapolis, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. The Colts defeated the Jaguars 24-20. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars endured one final, frustrating farewell.

This time, they blew a 17-point lead, couldn’t pick up the game-clinching first down after blocking a punt with less than 2 minutes to go and then watched the young defense, supposedly the foundation for the future, fritter it away.

Andrew Luck drove the Colts 75 yards in 84 seconds, with no timeouts, and threw a 1-yard TD pass with 9 seconds left for a 24-20 victory Sunday that left agonized players and coaches again searching for explanations.

“It’s been a difficult year for everyone,” interim coach Doug Marrone said. “But you can’t make mistakes like we made today and expect to go out there and win the game.”

If the Jaguars (3-13) didn’t understand that lesson before lining up for the season finale, they certainly should now.

Jacksonville started fast, jumping to a 17-0 lead and appeared even to be on verge of blowing out the Colts (8-8).

But when Jason Myers pushed a 30-yard field goal wide right just before halftime, everything changed.

“We just stopped making plays,” quarterback Blake Bortles said. “It was nothing they did. In the first quarter, we were good. Then we hit a lull, mid-game. We had a good start to the fourth quarter, but Luck is a good quarterback, they have a good offense and they made the plays.”

Jacksonville fans have seen this script play out way too much lately.

With the latest loss, the Jags have tied the second-worst record in franchise history, gone six straight seasons with fewer than six wins and nine consecutive years with losing records. Now they will be slotted into a top-10 draft spot for the 10th consecutive year.

Those streaks were supposed to end this year.

When they didn’t, the Jags responded by firing coach Gus Bradley and installing Marrone as interim coach two weeks ago.

In Marrone’s debut, those problems seemed to disappear as the Jags ended a franchise-record, nine-game losing streak.

On Sunday, they were back — and so were the questions.

“I don’t want to say they made the plays, we just weren’t in position on some plays,” Marrone said.

Bortles finished 25 of 39 with 301 yards and one touchdown on a day he was missing his top two running backs. Corey Grant filled in capably, running 18 times for 122 yards, including a 57-yard score that made it 17-0 late it in the first half.

Jacksonville couldn’t hold it.

After Indy made it 17-3, Myers missed the field goal and Luck tied the score on a TD pass to Dwayne Allen late in the third quarter.

But instead of closing it out with the blocked punt at the Colts’ 30-yard line, the Jags had to settle for a 41-yard tiebreaking field goal and Luck took advantage by repeatedly burning the defense over the middle.

“I think a lot of things that showed up in this game you would be able to go back to and put into play with a lot of the close games that we have been in,” Marrone said. “I think that is the challenge for the future of this team, to cut that out.”

Bills 10, Jets 30

Bills Jets Football

New York Jets running back Bilal Powell (29) scores on a touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, far left, as Buffalo Bills cornerback Corey White (30) pursues during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The New York Jets are sticking with Todd Bowles. The roster he coaches next season might look a lot different.

After ending a dismal season on a winning note with a 30-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, the Jets are making no changes in leadership heading into what appears will be a busy offseason.

“I’m not going to take away from the team win today,” Bowles said. “I knew I’d be back, so it wasn’t a big deal.”

Bowles is 15-17 in his two-year tenure with New York, which hired him in January 2015 after firing Rex Ryan. He had been the subject of increased criticism by some fans and media in recent weeks because of a few ugly losses and questions about his in-game management and handling of the locker room.

But the Jets (5-11) announced after the game that owner Woody Johnson decided that Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan will return next season.

“One of the biggest things with the NFL and something that’s very helpful to franchises is continuity,” said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw two touchdown passes in what was likely his final game for the Jets.

Fitzpatrick went 20 of 30 for 210 yards, but is likely to be among the big names to go because he’s a free agent and unlikely to return.

It could have also been the final game with New York for cornerback Darrelle Revis (who had his first interception of the season in the game); wide receiver Brandon Marshall (inactive because of a hip injury); and center Nick Mangold (on injured reserve), among others.

The Bills (7-9) also face some uncertainty this offseason after firing coach Rex Ryan earlier in the week and elevating offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn to the interim role.

Two people with direct knowledge of the situation told the AP before the game that Lynn is the clear favorite to take over the job permanently.

One person called Lynn’s succession to replace Ryan as being “the working plan.” Another person said the final decision on general manager Doug Whaley’s recommendation rests solely with owners Terry and Kim Pegula.

Both people spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the Bills have not revealed details of their coaching search.

“Until they tell me I’m not employed anymore,” Lynn said, “then I have to go back and get these evaluations done and look at our team and what we have to go after in the offseason.”

A third person with direct knowledge of the discussions told the AP that former Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley is a candidate to become the Bills defensive coordinator under Lynn. Bradley was fired by the Jaguars two weeks ago.

Lynn was asked if the Bills, who have missed the playoffs 17 straight seasons, have indicated to him that the job is his.

“No,” he said. “Not at all.”

Safety Corey Graham called the pending decision “very important.”

“We’re all very interested to see what’s going to happen, whether it’s a new guy coming in or if it’s going to be A-Lynn,” he said. “It’s going to affect me, if I have to learn a new defense.”

The Jets took a 7-0 lead on a 2-yard pass from Fitzpatrick to Bilal Powell, who also finished with 122 yards on 22 carries.

Dan Carpenter’s 34-yard field goal made it 7-3, but the Bills missed out on more points when EJ Manuel underthrew a wide-open Charles Clay.

Nick Folk kicked a 30-yarder as time expired in the first half to give the Jets a 10-3 lead.

The Jets got a turnover on the Bills’ next drive when Corey Lemonier — claimed off waivers during the week — got a strip-sack of Manuel and Jordan Jenkins recovered at the Buffalo 13. Officials initially ruled Manuel down, but Bowles challenged the call and it was reversed by video review.

Three plays later, Jalin Marshall reached over the goal line for a 6-yard touchdown reception that made it 17-3.

Buffalo turned it over again on its next possession, Sheldon Richardson recovering a fumble by Jonathan Williams.

WHOOPS

New York’s Doug Middleton recovered a kickoff in the end zone after the Bills’ Mike Gillislee allowed the ball to bounce, giving New York a 30-3 lead.

Gillislee tried to make up for the gaffe with a 1-yard TD run with 39 seconds left to cap the scoring.

QB SHUFFLE

Manuel started at quarterback instead of Tyrod Taylor, who was inactive for the game with a groin injury.

Manuel made his first start since Oct. 25, 2015, and finished 9 of 20 for 86 yards. He was replaced by Cardale Jones in the fourth quarter, and the rookie was 6 of 11 for 96 yards with an interception.

INJURIES

Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy limped to the sideline with a high right ankle injury after a 2-yard loss on the first play of the second quarter. He was carted to the locker room. X-rays were negative, he was upgraded to a “probable” return, though he didn’t get another carry.

Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins also left late with a hip injury.

DUBIOUS DISTINCTION

Bills running back Reggie Bush finished the season with 12 carries for minus-3 yards, becoming the first NFL running back to have negative yards rushing with 10 or more carries. He had no carries against the Jets.

Texans 17, Titans 24

DaQuan Jones, Chris Clark

Tennessee Titans defensive lineman DaQuan Jones, left, recovers a Houston Texans fumble in the end zone for a touchdown ahead of Houston Texans tackle Chris Clark (74) in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Houston Texans are going into the playoffs with their quarterback situation unsettled once again, this time a combination of injury and improved play by Brock Osweiler.

Tom Savage wound up sidelined by a concussion Sunday, and Osweiler played well enough after coming off the bench in Houston’s 24-17 loss at Tennessee that coach Bill O’Brien said the Texans will be evaluating who starts their AFC wild-card game.

“We will talk about that as a staff,” O’Brien said. “We will talk about that tomorrow and the next day.”

Savage started for the AFC South champions, left in the second quarter to be evaluated for a concussion and was cleared. He took a snap to kneel down on the final play of the first half, and O’Brien told team radio Savage would play in the second half. But Savage was diagnosed with a concussion after being re-evaluated at halftime.

O’Brien said he did not know what happened. The Texans (9-7) will host Oakland (12-4) next weekend.

That left Osweiler, benched during a win over Jacksonville on Dec. 18, running the offense. He threw for 253 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a 1-yard TD on fourth-and-goal in the fourth quarter.

Osweiler had one final chance to tie with Houston getting the ball with 53 seconds left. But he was sacked and threw incomplete on fourth down as Tennessee held on.

“He did a good job,” O’Brien said. “He competed. Guys got open for him. He threw the ball. Did a nice job for us.”

Osweiler, the quarterback signed away from Denver for $72 million, said he absolutely wants to start in the playoffs.

“You play this game to be a starter,” Osweiler said. “You play this game to contribute positively to your team, so I would absolutely love to start this playoff game. But at the end of the day I don’t make those decisions.”

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said nobody panicked when Savage left the game.

“We hate that Tom went down the way he did,” Hopkins said. The guy’s just getting his chance in this league. But this is the NFL, and it’s next man up.”

DaQuan Jones recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the first quarter, and the Titans never trailed to finish with their first winning season since 2011.

The Titans (9-7) also ended a five-game skid to the two-time AFC South champs, who had beaten Tennessee eight of the previous nine games in this series. With their six-win improvement from going 3-13 in 2015, the Titans matched the biggest one-year turnaround in franchise history, previously set in 1967 and 1974.

Matt Cassel also threw for a touchdown in his first start this season in place of an injured Marcus Mariota, and Derrick Henry ran for a TD.

The Texans had little at stake except sweeping the AFC South for the first time in franchise history. They deactivated six starters before kickoff and had just one starter in on defense by midway through the third quarter. Undrafted rookie Joel Heath had two of the Texans’ four sacks.

MISSING IN ACTION

O’Brien said running back Lamar Miller, who missed his second straight game with an injured ankle, should be back for the playoffs. Fullback Jay Prosch also was deactivated. On defense, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, linebackers John Simon and Brian Cushing and cornerback Johnathan Joseph also did not dress. O’Brien said quarterback Brandon Weeden was the only healthy player deactivated.

ATOP AFC

DeMarco Murray came into the regular-season finale trailing Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell by two yards for the most yards rushing in the AFC. Pittsburgh rested Bell for the playoffs. Murray struggled to find running room against Houston, which has allowed an NFL-stingiest 68 yards rushing per game since Week 8. Murray finished with 21 yards on 11 in his worst performance this season.

Murray finished with 1,287 yards and said after the game he finished the season with a torn plantar plate, a ligament on the bottom of his right foot.

QUOTABLE

“Winning is hard to do, and obviously a really good feeling,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “But still disappointment as we are not playing. Feel a little bit empty here that we don’t have a chance to keep going after today. This is a lesson … learned.”

UP NEXT

Texans: Figuring out who starts at quarterback.

Titans: A busy offseason featuring two first-round draft picks and lots of salary cap space to accelerate rebuilding.

Ravens 10, Bengals 27

Andy Dalton

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton passes during the second half of the team’s NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

CINCINNATI (AP) — Andy Dalton completed his first 10 passes, one of them for a touchdown, and the Bengals were on their way to another home victory over a division rival.

And then? An uncomfortably long offseason.

Dalton was sharp early, and Rex Burkhead ran for a pair of touchdowns on Sunday and Cincinnati beat Baltimore 27-10 on Sunday for its fifth straight win at home over the Ravens.

The Bengals (6-9-1) missed out on the playoffs for the first time in six years, and haven’t won a playoff game in 26 years, the sixth-longest streak in NFL history. Coach Marvin Lewis — 0-7 in the postseason — says he’ll return in 2017.

“It’s weird sitting up here after winning the last game and not going to the playoffs,” said Dalton , who had made the postseason in each of his first five NFL seasons.

Dalton was 18 of 28 for 226 yards. He topped 4,000 yards passing for the second time in his career, finishing with 4,206. The other time was 2013, when he set a club record with 4,293 yards.

“To me, he has had his best season,” Lewis said. “Unfortunately, as a team we haven’t.”

Baltimore (8-8) failed to reach the playoffs for the third time in four years. The Ravens played their final game with an emotional hangover from a last-minute loss at Pittsburgh last Sunday that eliminated them.

“For whatever reason — it’s hard to put your finger on it — our emotional level was not where it’s been in the past, and I think it has a lot to do with what happened last week,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It was definitely our worst game of the year as far as the way we played.”

Ravens receiver Steve Smith caught three passes for 34 yards in what he’s called the final game of his remarkable career. The 37-year-old receiver reiterated after the game that he plans to retire.

Smith has 51 games with 100 yards receiving, tied for fourth most in NFL history.

“The pressure I have now is getting the kids to school on time,” said Smith , still dressed in his silver and purple cleats and uniform pants. “Do I eat a pint of ice cream or a gallon of ice cream?”

The AFC North sent more teams to the playoffs than any other division over the past eight seasons, but had only one team with a winning record this time — the champion Steelers.

DEFENSIVE COLLAPSE

The Ravens gave up three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter of their 31-27 elimination loss to Pittsburgh, and two more in the first quarter on Sunday. The Bengals pulled ahead 20-3 before halftime.

STATS

Baltimore’s Justin Tucker had a 30-yard field goal, his 38th of the season, matching his club record. Only two kickers have made 40 field goals in a season — David Akers and Neil Rackers. … Joe Flacco was 32 of 49 for 267 yards with an interception in the end zone. He finished with 4,276 yards, topping Vinny Testaverde’s club record of 4,177 yards in 1996. Asked if the record meant anything to him, Flacco said, “Not really.”

BURKHEAD’S BIG DAY

With their top two running backs hurt, the Bengals turned to Burkhead, who hadn’t carried more than nine times in a game until the past two weeks. He finished with 119 yards on 27 carries.

“I kind of got in a zone,” said Burkhead, a four-year player from Nebraska. “It took me back to my younger days.”

INJURIES

Bengals: Running back Jeremy Hill was inactive with a knee injury after being listed as questionable. The Bengals already were missing receiver A.J. Green, tight end Tyler Eifert, running back Giovani Bernard, tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and guard Clint Boling. … Linebacker Vontaze Burfict also was out with a concussion.

UP NEXT

The Ravens have 12 potential free agents, including Smith and backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, who played the final series on Sunday and threw an interception.

The Bengals have 15 potential free agents, including Burkhead, left tackle Andrew Whitworth and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.

Cowboys 13, Eagles 27

Cowboys Eagles Football

Philadelphia Eagles’ Zach Ertz, right, tries to break free from Dallas Cowboys’ Byron Jones during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Tony Romo shrugged off a successful cameo like it was no big deal.

Romo threw his first touchdown pass in nearly 14 months and the playoff-bound Dallas Cowboys played it safe in a 27-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

“You expect to go out there and do something well,” Romo said. “It felt normal.”

The Cowboys (13-3) locked up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs when the Eagles (7-9) beat the Giants on Dec. 22. So Dak Prescott played only two series and Ezekiel Elliott watched from the sideline.

Romo finished 3 for 4 for 29 yards in his first regular-season game since Thanksgiving 2015 when he broke his left collarbone for the second time in less than three months.

“It’s enjoyable to have a little success, but I kind of do that at practice each day,” Romo said. “Ultimately, you are going to be defined by what you do on Sunday, but in my experience, if you’re not doing it throughout the week, Sunday is going to be difficult.”

Carson Wentz tossed two TD passes to Zach Ertz to help Philadelphia finish with a two-game winning streak.

Prescott was 4 for 8 for 37 yards before giving way to Romo, the league’s most expensive backup. Romo broke a bone in his back in the third preseason game against Seattle this season, paving the way for Prescott to have one of the best years by a rookie quarterback in NFL history.

“I want the football every possession, but it was fun to watch Tony make it look so easy,” Prescott said.

Prescott’s 104.9 passer rating surpassed Robert Griffin III’s rookie mark of 102.4 in 2012 for Washington. Prescott also had the lowest interception percentage by a rookie QB at .9 (4 picks in 459 attempts).

Romo overthrew Terrance Williams on a deep pass on his first play. His first completion was a 16-yarder to Williams on third-and-12. After Dez Bryant drew a pass interference penalty on a deep pass at the Eagles 3, Romo connected with Williams for his first TD pass since Nov. 22, 2015 against Miami.

“If you’re going to play, might as well be aggressive with the reads,” Romo said.

Mark Sanchez replaced Romo and threw two interceptions to Jordan Hicks in the second quarter. The Eagles took advantage of the second one at the Cowboys 49. Wentz tossed a 6-yard TD pass to Ertz to tie it at 10 going into halftime.

Wentz fired a 20-yard TD pass to Ertz in the third quarter to give Philadelphia a 17-13 lead. Wentz ran over to Ertz, grabbed the ball, jogged over to two-time AL MVP Mike Trout and handed it to him. Trout grew up in nearby Millville, New Jersey and has season tickets for the Eagles on the field behind one of the goal posts.

“You have to have fun out there,” Wentz said. “This is still a kid’s game they are paying us way too much money to play.”

Terrell Watson ran in from the 1 for his first career TD to extend Philadelphia’s lead after a blocked punt late in the fourth quarter.

RESTED

Three Cowboys starters were inactive: LT Tyron Smith, CB Morris Claiborne, DE Tyrone Crawford. LB Sean Lee dressed but didn’t play.

SETTING RECORDS

Wentz broke Sam Bradford’s record for most completions by a rookie. Bradford had 354 completions in 2010 after St. Louis selected him with the No. 1 overall pick. Wentz finished with 379 complete passes. … Caleb Sturgis set a franchise record with 34 field goals in a season.

ZEKE FALLS SHORT

Elliott finished with 1,631 yards rushing, 178 yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rookie record. Elliott is the NFL’s rushing champion.

UP NEXT

Cowboys: First-round bye and a home playoff game on Jan. 14 or 15.

Eagles: A long offseason.

Panthers 16, Buccaneers 17

Kyle Love, Jameis Winston

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) eludes Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kyle Love (77) on a run during the first quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan Ebenhack)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Jameis Winston has helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers become relevant again.

The team’s first winning season in six years, capped by Sunday’s 17-16 victory over Carolina, didn’t produce a playoff berth. Nevertheless, finishing 9-7 after stumbling to a 3-5 start is clearly a step in the right direction for a franchise that hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 2007 .

“We’re not where we want to be,” coach Dirk Koetter said, “but we’re getting better.”

Winston is just one of the reasons.

The No. 1 overall pick from the 2015 draft threw a 10-yard scoring pass to Mike Evans to snap a fourth-quarter tie and became the first player in NFL history to start his career with consecutive 4,000-yard seasons. The 22-year-old also broke club single-season records for passing yards and touchdowns, while falling 64 yards short of Andrew Luck’s league standard of 8,196 for the first two years of a career.

“I wanted to make it to the playoffs,” said Winston, who finished 20 of 35 with one interception and a fumble. He broke Josh Freeman’s team records for passing yards and touchdowns in a season, finishing with 4,090 yards and 28 TDs.

“My individual statistics don’t mean a lot,” Winston added. “Maybe when I get older, maybe I’ll look back and laugh at it with my grandkids. Right now … I just want to continue to get better.”

Tampa Bay entered the regular-season finale clinging to extremely slim playoff hopes, needing to beat the Panthers and have six other games end with favorable results, including Washington finishing with a tie against the New York Giants.

They didn’t get the necessary help, but Koetter wasn’t discouraged.

“‘I’m not the most patient person in the world. I think we have to remind ourselves, this is a tough league where every team has really good players and really good coaches,” the Bucs coach said. “I believe a team is judged on how close they come to achieving up to their talent level. I’ll be honest with you, I think this team did a pretty good job in that area.”

Winston’s TD pass to Evans put the Bucs up 17-10 with 3:10 remaining. Newton, however, moved the Panthers (6-10) right down the field, with help of a 47-yard pass to Kelvin Benjamin and two fourth-down passes to set up a 5-yard scoring pass to trim Carolina’s deficit to one with 17 seconds left.

Instead of kicking the extra point, the defending NFC champions opted to go for 2 points. Newton’s pass intended for Greg Olsen was batted away by safety Bradley McDougald as the Panthers tight end slipped in the end zone.

Newton, who played the entire game despite aggravating a shoulder injury, completed 18 of 32 passes for 237 yards, but was intercepted three times. Brent Grimes returned one of the picks 31 yards for a touchdown, and the Bucs also sacked Newton three times.

“They asked me if I could go, and I said I could,” Newton said, adding that injury did affect his throwing. “As a leader of the team, it’s important to show I’m willing to leave it all out on the field. I take pride in putting a good product out there. Today wasn’t good enough, but at the end of the day I could say I gave it my all.”

The Panthers forced a pair of turnovers by Winston in the first half, but couldn’t convert them into points. Graham Gano missed three field goals, including a 36-yarder that would have given Carolina a 13-10 lead with just over six minutes remaining.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said he didn’t give any consideration to not attempting a 2-point conversion.

“We were going for it. We didn’t come here to tie and see what happens. We came here to win the football game, and with 17 seconds left thought we had a great opportunity,” Rivera said. “Unfortunately, Greg (Olsen) slipped coming out the break. As you saw, the ball was on the money.”

WINNING RECORD

The Bucs snapped a two-game losing streak to finish with their first winning record since 2010, when Tampa Bay went 10-6 but failed to earn a playoff berth.

INJURIES

Panthers: LB Luke Kuechly missed his sixth consecutive game, even though he had been cleared from the NFL concussion protocol.

Buccaneers: RT Demar Dotson returned to the lineup after missing three games with a concussion. C Joe Hawley (thumb) and G Kevin Pamphile (foot) left in the second quarter and returned. DE Noah Spencer (shoulder) and long snapper Andrew DePaola were hurt in the third quarter and did not return.

UP NEXT

Panthers: The Panthers’ season is over after they went 17-1 a year ago before losing in the Super Bowl. Six of their 10 losses were by three or fewer points .

Buccaneers: Offseason decisions on how to improve a team that doesn’t have a postseason win since its Super Bowl run in 2002.

Bears 10, Vikings 38

Kyle Rudolph

Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) celebrates with teammates after catching a 22-yard touchdown pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Sam Bradford wrapped up his first season with Minnesota with three first-half touchdown passes and an NFL record, leading the Vikings to a 38-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday to finish on a winning note after tumbling out of contention over the last two months.

Bradford went 25 for 33 for 250 yards and one interception, posting a 71.6 percent completion rate to set the single-season record. Drew Brees (71.2 for New Orleans) last set the league mark in 2011.

“I would trade that for wins any day, but the fact that we were able to go out there and accomplish that as a group, everyone contributes to that, it’s pretty cool,” said Bradford.

He also established career bests for yards (3,877), interception percentage (0.9) and passer rating (99.3) after arriving in an emergency trade following the serious injury to original quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s left knee.

Kyle Rudolph caught 11 passes for 117 yards and a score for the Vikings (8-8), who started 5-0 before stumbling out of their bye week and never recovering.

“It’s a good win, but it’s tough that that’s the end of it,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “We did things today like we did early in the year.”

The Bears (3-13) wound up with their most losses since 1969, looking as if they were more than ready for winter vacations while turning the ball over five times and allowing the Vikings to rush for a season-high 124 yards.

Everson Griffen returned one of their three lost fumbles for a touchdown, and Matt Barkley was picked off twice to total 10 interceptions over the past three games. Bradford was picked off just five times in 15 games.

Coach John Fox fell to 9-23 in two years with the Bears. He said he hasn’t asked for, or received any, assurance from the front office that he’ll return.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Fox said. “I’ve never worried about job security, and I’m not going to start now.”

Jordan Howard, the lone bright spot for the Bears, rushed for 135 yards on 23 carries to break Matt Forte’s franchise rookie record and finish with 1,313 yards for the season.

Howard’s 202 yards from scrimmage in Chicago in the first meeting with Minnesota on Oct. 31 served as a breakout for the fifth-round draft pick and a bad omen for the Vikings in defeat.

“That’s the point of the game, to win the game,” Howard said. “If you’re not winning, there’s no point in celebrating.”

CATCHING ON

Barkley’s best moment actually came as a wide receiver, when he caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Cameron Meredith on a trick play late in the second quarter. Barkley slid out of the shotgun formation and ran an out pattern. The snap went directly to running back Jeremy Langford, who pitched the ball back to Meredith on a reverse. Barkley joined quarterbacks Russell Wilson of Seattle and Blake Bortles of Jacksonville in catching passes for scores this season.

FAMILIAR FEEL

This was the fourth time in the past 12 years that the Bears and Vikings met in Minnesota in the last game of the regular season without any playoff implications for either team. This was the third of those played at noon local time on New Year’s Day, the perfect storm for a snoozer.

LOOKING UP

A woman and a man in a Brett Favre Vikings jersey spiced up the docile atmosphere by rappelling down from a ridge truss on the building’s east end that stretches from the upper concourse to the roof, unfurling a banner protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline project . They were arrested for trespassing.

“Why wouldn’t the season finish like that?” Bradford said. “I think it’s just been that kind of a year.”

INJURY REPORT

The Bears held out two of their top edge rushers, OLBs Leonard Floyd (concussion) and Pernell McPhee (shoulder), as expected. McPhee had four sacks in only nine games this season, and the rookie Floyd had seven sacks in just 12 games.

The Vikings put Joe Berger at LG for Alex Boone (back) for their eighth different starting lineup combination on the offensive line this season. Then T.J. Clemmings (elbow) left with an injury in the first quarter and was replaced at LT by Rashod Hill, who made his NFL debut. Hill was the 12th player to see action for the Vikings along the front five this season.

Giants 19, Redskins 10

Trevin Wade

New York Giants cornerback Trevin Wade (31) runs into the end zone for a touchdown after picking up a fumble during the second half of the team’s NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. The Giants defeated the Redskins 19-10. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Josh Norman walked around toward the end of the Washington Redskins’ season-ending 19-10 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday wanting to thank fans for showing up for what should have been a playoff-clinching victory over an opponent with nothing to play for.

Instead, the Redskins came out flat, Kirk Cousins threw two costly interceptions and they blew their virtual win-and-in opportunity to join the Giants in the playoffs.

“You don’t come out and lose and like that,” Norman said. “That right there was just disgusting, it was despicable. … That right there, it’s not football.”

With control of its playoff hopes, Washington (8-7-1) lost two of its final three games and four of six down the stretch with a combination of horrendous starts, ill-timed mistakes and lackluster offense. Cousins was picked off in the second half twice Sunday by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the second interception all but sealing the result.

Cousins was 22 of 35 for 287 yards with a touchdown and those two interceptions in what could be his final game with the Redskins after playing this season on the franchise tag.

“This isn’t my first time dealing with this,” said Cousins, who was sacked a season-high four times. “Tough times don’t last; tough people do, right? I sound like a broken record, but I’m going to keep saying that until I retire.”

Redskins players complimented the Giants (11-5) for being “the better team,” which was jarring given that they were locked into the NFC’s first wild card with nothing at stake. Eli Manning played the entire game and was 17 of 27 for 180 yards as New York employed a conservative second-half approach and still came away with the victory.

The Giants will visit the winner of the Green Bay Packers’ Sunday night game at the Detroit Lions that will decide the NFC North.

Coach Ben McAdoo called it “a physical, hard-nosed football game against a hungry team on the road where we ran the ball, we stopped the run, we took care of the ball, and we took the ball away.”

For the Redskins, it was the ultimate failure with their season on the line.

“They just made more plays to win the game, and that’s what good teams do,” defensive end Chris Baker said. “Any time you have the situation in your hands to make it to the next level and you don’t capitalize on that, it’s a disappointment.

NEXT EPISODE

Norman and Odell Beckham Jr. added another dramatic chapter to their always contentious and ever-eventful rivalry. The Redskins cornerback, who entered tied for the most penalties in the NFL, was flagged for two more Sunday.

Norman shoved Beckham out of bounds in the second quarter and slammed his facemask into the Giants receiver’s facemask for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third.

“It’s the game,” Norman said. “You can’t tell referees what to say, what to do, what to call.”

McAdoo said he used a “coach’s decision” to remove Beckham in the third quarter after five catches for 44 yards, while keeping Manning in.

BIG-TIME TAVARRES

Replacing Beckham in the third quarter, Giants receiver Tavarres King caught a 44-yard pass from Manning late in the fourth to set up Robbie Gould’s 48-yard field goal. King came in with three catches for 19 yards in his career, and one for 6 yards this season.

“It was just what the doctor ordered,” McAdoo said. “It was something we saw in the series before. We saw TK had an advantage.”

CLOCKED OUT

Despite being down 10-0 and not getting the ball out of halftime, the Redskins wasted a lot of time late in the second quarter. They didn’t get the snap off before the two-minute warning and wasted 16 seconds by not calling a timeout when Chris Thompson slipped in bounds later in the drive. The series ended with a 57-yard field goal attempt by Dustin Hopkins that sailed wide left.

NOTABLE

Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins claimed sole possession of the franchise record for field goals in a season in the third quarter with his 34th. … The Giants set a season high in rushing yards with 161. … Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan left the game with a right finger injury.

UP NEXT

Giants: A wild-card playoff game next weekend.

Redskins: Preparing for the offseason.

Saints 32, Falcons 38

Saints Falcons Football

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) speaks with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) after an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Atlanta. The Atlanta Falcons won 38-32. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Ryan trotted off the field to chants of “MVP! MVP! MVP!”

He certainly did nothing to hurt his credentials with a brilliant first half Sunday.

The Atlanta quarterback threw four touchdown passes to lead the Falcons to a 38-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints, securing a first-round playoff bye for the NFC South champions.

Ryan was 17 of 19 for 235 yards by halftime, directing the Falcons (11-5) to touchdowns on all five possessions and a commanding 35-13 lead. He finished 27 of 36 for 331 yards, leaving him with a franchise-record 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions this season.

Atlanta is seeded second in the NFC to Dallas.

“It was a pretty cool moment out there,” Ryan said, appreciating the crowd’s recognition of his brilliant season. “It felt really good.”

The Saints (7-9) came into the regular-season finale looking to finish another disappointing season with a three-game winning streak and avoid a third straight losing mark. But they were blitzed early and often by the league’s highest-scoring offense.

Atlanta piled up 323 yards in the first two quarters, and also benefited from a 46-yard pass interference penalty against Roman Harper. Ryan threw scoring passes of 7 yards to Tevin Coleman, 1 yard to Julio Jones, 10 yards to Mohamed Sanu and 7 yards to Justin Hardy.

“Matt played particularly well,” coach Dan Quinn said. “He just threw some balls that were right on point.”

Devonta Freeman ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run and also hauled in three passes for 55 yards as the Falcons put on a dazzling offensive display.

The second half was essentially a chance for Atlanta fans to serenade Ryan with MVP chants every time he was shown on the video board. The Falcons have never had a player win the NFL’s top individual award.

The Saints staged a furious rally in the fourth quarter, scoring three touchdowns and recovering an onside kick. But the Falcons pounced on a second onside try with 38 seconds remaining, securing the victory.

One consolation for New Orleans: Drew Brees became the first quarterback in league history to throw for 5,000 yards five times. He was 29 of 50 for 350 yards, giving him 5,208 on the season.

His 471 completions this season set an NFL record.

“I thought we had a better team than what our record ended up being,” Brees said.

Before Ryan returned to the field for the second half, he hugged former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in the tunnel.

Vick, whose Falcons career ended with a dogfighting scandal that sent him to prison in 2007, made a triumphant return to the Georgia Dome during a halftime ceremony honoring the final regular-season game at the Falcons’ home for the last 25 years.

He was certainly impressed with the guy who replaced him.

“He’s in total control,” Vick said.

ANOTHER GEORGIA DOME FINALE

The Falcons are moving to Mercedes-Benz Stadium next season, but making the playoffs for the first time since 2012 ensures they will have at least more game in the Georgia Dome.

The new $1.4 billion retractable-roof facility going up next to the dome has already been picked to host next year’s college football championship game, the 2019 Super Bowl and the 2020 Final Four.

HUGE HIT

Falcons rookie safety Keanu Neal and Saints receiver Willie Snead IV were both left with possible concussions after a huge collision in the fourth quarter.

Neal turned his head as he approached Snead to make the tackle on a 27-yard pass play, but their helmets struck when they both ducked down.

Snead fumbled, though the Saints recovered. Both players staggered off the field before they were taken to the locker room for evaluations.

PAYTON’S FUTURE

Saints coach Sean Payton declined comment about his future after a third straight 7-9 season.

Payton was once the toast of New Orleans, posting a record of 62-34 over his first six years with the team, including four playoff appearances and the franchise’s lone Super Bowl title.

Since being suspended for a year in a bounties scandal, Payton is 32-32, with the lone playoff appearance coming in 2013.

UP NEXT

The Falcons earned a week off in the opening round of the playoffs, only the fourth time they’ve been in that position under the current postseason format. Atlanta had a first-round bye during the 1998 (different divisional alignment), 2004, 2010 and 2012 seasons. The Falcons won their first playoff game three of those years to advance to the NFC championship game (the only exception was 2010).

The team’s lone Super Bowl appearance was 1998. Atlanta has never won a championship.

Cardinals 44, Rams 6

Cardinals Rams Football

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Harlan Miller intercepts a pass intended for Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Larry Fitzgerald still hasn’t decided whether he’ll return to the Arizona Cardinals next season.

Yet if the star receiver realizes that if he can’t end his career holding the Lombardi Trophy, catching a touchdown pass to win the NFL receptions title in a dominant victory wouldn’t be a terrible substitute.

Carson Palmer threw touchdown passes to Jeremy Ross, Darren Fells and Fitzgerald, and the Cardinals wrapped up a frustrating season with a 44-6 victory over the freefalling Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

Fitzgerald caught five passes and took the overall NFL lead with 107 catches in perhaps his final game for the Cardinals (7-8-1).

He intends to take his time with his decision on retirement following his 13th NFL season, even after he returned to the field in the fourth quarter for that TD grab and chants of “Larry! Larry!” from the Coliseum crowd.

“It’s disappointing, but we really finished the season on a high note,” said Fitzgerald, who moved ahead of Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and New England’s Julian Edelman with his last catch.

“I always stay in the moment, and the game wasn’t over yet. I was still honed in and focused on what we had to accomplish. … I approach the offseason the same way all the time: It’s jet-setting time.”

The Cardinals missed the playoffs one year after reaching the NFC championship game despite an offense and a defense ranked in the top quarter of the league.

Arizona still finished the season strong with wins over NFC West champion Seattle and Los Angeles (4-12), which has lost seven straight.

“I’m very happy with the way we played in the last two weeks,” coach Bruce Arians said. “But I’m unhappy that we did not win four or five games in the fourth quarter (earlier in the season).”

The Cardinals’ defense sacked Jared Goff seven times and allowed just 122 yards by the Rams, who wrapped up their homecoming season with their worst record since 2011.

“I’m not sure there is much” of a bright spot to this season, Goff said. “Maybe that we have a change coming that is going to be positive and bring a lot of positive energy.”

With a blowout win capped by Justin Bethel’s 68-yard TD return of Sean Mannion’s interception with 8:06 to play, the Cardinals also got even for their 17-13 loss to the Rams in Week 4, one of several early flubs that doomed an injury-filled roster to an early winter.

Los Angeles was 3-1 after that road victory, but lost 11 of its final 12 games in an incredible pratfall.

Interim coach John Fassel went 0-3 after replacing the fired Jeff Fisher, who presided over the Rams’ relocation and the franchise’s 13th consecutive non-winning season.

“This isn’t the culture you want to live in,” offensive tackle Rodger Saffold said. “I’ve been here seven years and still haven’t had a winning season. I know I’ve worked hard enough to deserve better.”

Despite managing just 77 yards of offense in the first half, Los Angeles kept Arizona’s lead to 16-6 with a handful of big plays, including a blocked punt by Chase Reynolds.

INJURY UPDATE

David Johnson left the field on a cart in the first quarter with an injured left knee after getting tackled awkwardly, but Arizona’s star running back appeared to be able to put weight on his leg when he returned to watch the second half from the sideline. Johnson gained 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the first 15 games for the Cardinals while compiling the franchise’s first 2,000-yard season. The Cardinals had no immediate update on his prognosis. “We’re praying it’s all positive, and I can block for him in the Pro Bowl in the next couple of weeks,” Fitzgerald said.

GOFF’S FINISH

Goff wrapped up his winless rookie season by going 13 of 20 for 120 yards while getting physically clobbered by yet another defense. The No. 1 overall pick went 0-7 with seven interceptions and five TD passes for the Rams, who lost their final six home games after winning their ballyhooed opener in September.

THE WORST

The Rams managed 482 yards in their final three games under Fassel, including 81 yards in the first three quarters against Arizona. They will finish as the NFL’s 32nd-ranked offense for the second straight season.

HEISMAN RETURN

Palmer went 20 of 38 for 255 yards in a solid return to the stadium where he won the Heisman Trophy 14 years ago with Southern California. He hadn’t been back inside the Coliseum since throwing four touchdown passes to beat Notre Dame in November 2002.

TYPICAL STRUGGLES

The Rams went nowhere on offense for their first 5 1/2 drives before back-to-back big gainers, but even that went wrong. After Todd Gurley caught a 29-yard pass, Tavon Austin ran 38 yards for a TD on a direct snap to the wideout — but it was wiped out by an illegal motion penalty against Goff, of all people.

Seahawks 25, 49ers 23

Michael Bennett, Frank Clark

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett (72) celebrates with defensive end Frank Clark after sacking San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — With his game still in doubt, Seattle coach Pete Carroll made what he described as an uncomfortable decision. With the chance of a first-round bye all but gone with Atlanta holding a comfortable lead, Carroll pulled quarterback Russell Wilson and other key players to keep them fresh for next week’s playoff game.

Wilson threw for 258 yards and a touchdown before being replaced in the fourth quarter and the Seahawks rallied from an early 11-point deficit to beat San Francisco 25-23 on Sunday in what could be coach Chip Kelly’s final game with the 49ers.

“I hate backing off any time ever,” Carroll said. “I can’t remember doing it very many times. I just thought we were able to do something to protect ourselves for next week. I did not want to be planning for that. It just kind of happened and it just seemed like we (were) able to do something to help, and it worked out fine.”

The Falcons wrapped up a bye with a 38-32 win over New Orleans, sending the NFC West champion Seahawks (10-5-1) to the playoffs as the third seed. The Seahawks will host the loser of Sunday night’s game between Detroit and Green Bay next week.

Seattle had control of the race for the No. 2 seed before losing at home last week to Arizona but heads into the playoffs with the confidence of a team that has been to two of the past three Super Bowls, winning it all after the 2013 season.

“Sometimes you get it and it knocks you off your rhythm,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “Sometimes you get it and it gives you a chance to rest. At this point we’re about as healthy as we’re going to be. We don’t need it.”

The loss capped a disastrous season for the 49ers (2-14), who matched the franchise record for losses in a season previously reached in 1978, ’79 and 2004.

San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke told the team’s flagship radio station KNBR before the game that he had been fired and ESPN reported Saturday night that Kelly would be out as well.

Kelly was meeting with team CEO Jed York after the game and there was no immediate word on his status.

“That stuff doesn’t bother me,” Kelly said. “I don’t control what goes on and what doesn’t go on. I just deal with it. I’m a face-to-face guy.”

The Niners started fast with touchdowns on two of their first three drives, but were outgained 366-99 over the final three quarters as Wilson delivered numerous big plays and Seattle shut down Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco offense.

Trevone Boykin, who replaced Wilson, converted a pair of third downs with Seattle protecting a two-point lead to help run out the clock.

“It was a great job of getting in there and get it done,” Carroll said. “He put together a great drive with the guys up front, to finish the game.”

FAST START, SLOW FINISH: Kaepernick completed his first 10 passes and Shaun Draughn scored on a pair of 1-yard runs to give the Niners a 14-3 lead. That marked the fifth time this season San Francisco led a home game by at least 11 points in the first half, but the Niners won only the opener against the Rams. San Francisco blew 14-point leads to Dallas, Tampa Bay and the Jets.

MILESTONE: Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin caught two passes for 44 yards, tying the franchise record for catches in a season with 94. Baldwin tied Bobby Engram’s mark set in 2007 with an acrobatic 41-yard catch in the second quarter.

DUBIOUS RECORD: Jimmy Graham used his basketball skills to box out safety Antoine Bethea on a 42-yard catch in the second quarter that set up Thomas Rawls’ go-ahead 1-yard run. With that play, San Francisco broke the franchise record for most yards allowed in a season. The Niners had already set franchise worsts for most points and yards rushing allowed in a season. This year’s team gave up 6,502 yards, breaking the mark of 6,259 set in 2005. The Niners had already set franchise worsts for most points and yards rushing allowed in a season.

FIGHT: Seattle defensive tackle Jarran Reed was ejected after a scuffle following an extra point. Reed was called for a personal foul for throwing a punch in the fourth quarter. Reed then got into a yelling match with teammate Frank Clark near the Seattle sideline as he walked off the field. Teammates had to separate the two.

“Somewhere in there he threw a punch,” Carroll said. “So he deserved to get ejected.”

DRAFT POSITION: San Francisco will have the second pick in the draft, the highest for the team since taking Alex Smith No. 1 overall in 2005. The Niners had a shot at the No. 1 pick if Cleveland won, but the Browns lost 27-24 in overtime at Pittsburgh.

ROUGH WARMUP: The 49ers lost tight end Je’Ron Hamm to a broken leg in warmups. Hamm had an air cast placed on his left leg and was carted off the field following the injury. San Francisco also lost cornerback Rashard Robinson to an ankle injury in the first half.

Raiders 6, Broncos 24

Justin Forsett

Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett (20) avoids a tackle from Oakland Raiders free safety Reggie Nelson, lower left, while making a 64-yard run in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

DENVER (AP) — In a game that couldn’t have gone much worse, Oakland lost its latest starting quarterback, Matt McGloin, to a shoulder injury, then fell 24-6 on Sunday to Denver, a team with nothing to play for and now in need of a new coach.

Gary Kubiak informed his players in an emotional postgame locker room that he’s stepping away for health reasons.

Combined with Kansas City’s win over San Diego, the Raiders (12-4) squandered the AFC West title and the first-round bye that went with it — and instead fell to the No. 5 seed.

The Raiders came into the last week of the regular season with a chance at the AFC’s top seed. Now, they are a wild card with a rookie third-stringer as their only fully healthy quarterback.

Earlier in the day, New England locked up the top seed.

Leading Oakland into next week’s game at Houston could be rookieConnor Cook if the injury to McGloin proves serious.

McGloin , who got the start when Derek Carr broke his leg last week, left late in the second quarter. He completed six passes for 21 yards, missing virtually every throw downfield. He stood on the bench in a stocking cap for the second half.

A fourth-year player out of Penn State, McGloin was making his first start since 2013. He was hurt when Jared Crick slammed him to the turf, drawing a roughing-the-passer penalty. Moments before that play, McGloin overthrew a wide-open Amari Cooper.

Cook was 14 of 21 with a touchdown to Cooper, an interception and a lost fumble against the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos (9-7), who ended a three-game slide.

Devontae Booker became the first Broncos rookie with a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game since Clinton Portis in 2002.

The speculation that Kubiak was stepping away from the game was circulating all day. He’s 11 months removed from leading Denver to a Super Bowl win over Carolina. The 55-year-old Kubiak suffered a complex migraine on Oct. 9 following Denver’s loss to Atlanta.

“It was emotional,” quarterback Trevor Siemian said. “Got a lot of guys who love him. He’s a heck of a coach, but a better person. Glad we sent him off with a win.”

STATS

Justin Forsett’s 64-yard run in the second quarter was the longest of the season by a Broncos running back. … The Broncos’ offense scored more points Sunday than the last three games combined (23). … Oakland coachJack Del Rio is still looking for his first division title as a coach. Only Norm Van Brocklin (173) coached more games without winning a division in NFL history than Del Rio (171).

INJURIES

Raiders: Safety Nate Allen was evaluated for a concussion.

Broncos: Receiver Emmanuel Sanders hurt his foot in the first quarter and didn’t return. … Special teamer Zaire Anderson was strapped to a backboard and carted off the field after being injured on punt coverage in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Raiders: Face the Texans (9-7), who have an unsettled QB situation as well.

Broncos: Head into the offseason looking for a new head coach.

Chiefs 37, Chargers 27

Chiefs Chargers Football

Kansas City Chiefs running back Charcandrick West, front left, scores a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Alex Smith, Travis Kelce and the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs have goals far bigger than simply winning the AFC West.

The Chiefs finished off their domination of the division when they beat the last-place Chargers 37-27 Sunday in possibly the final NFL game in San Diego.

“Right now it’s awesome that we won it and we’re happy that we achieved that goal, but everything is kind of moving forward and we’ve got our eyes set on the biggest prize yet, and that’s getting a Super Bowl win,” said Kelce, the star tight end. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we can go get that thing.”

The Chiefs haven’t been to the Super Bowl since beating Minnesota following the 1969 season.

San Diego fired coach Mike McCoy after the game.

Smith threw for two touchdowns and ran for another for the Chiefs (12-4), who clinched the division with the win and Oakland’s loss at Denver.

Smith, who went to nearby Helix High in La Mesa, scored on a 5-yard scramble early in the second quarter to tie the game at 10. He threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to wide-open Charcandrick West later in the quarter to put the Chiefs ahead for good. That followed the first of two interceptions of Philip Rivers that led to 10 points for the Chiefs.

“For us it was such a big swing, to go from potentially playing a road game in the wild card to a bye and hosting a game,” Smith said. “There was no in-between there. We took care of our end and got some help from Denver, so it was pretty sweet.

“We saw the score there at the end, and we had our deal sealed up. Pretty awesome, and to win the division is special as well, that’s something that this group hasn’t done.

“It’s crazy to sweep the division,” he said of going 6-0.

Smith was intercepted once, on a deflected pass that Jahleel Addae returned 90 yards for a touchdown to pull the Chargers (5-11) to 20-17 in the third quarter. Smith came right back and threw a 2-yard scoring pass to West, who again was wide open.

Rookie Tyreek Hill showed some fancy footwork in returning a punt 95 yards for a touchdown in the final minute of the third quarter.

MCCOY FIRED

McCoy was 27-37 in four seasons, with the Chargers having lost 23 of their last 32 games. They’ve also lost 13 of their last 14 AFC West games dating to late in the 2014 season. He had one year left on his contract.

THE LA OPTION

For the second straight year, the Chargers were playing perhaps their final game in San Diego.

Last year, Chairman Dean Spanos was in the process of trying to move the team to Carson to share a stadium with the rival Raiders. That plan was defeated by fellow NFL owners in January, but Spanos was given the option to move to LA if he couldn’t come up with a way to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium. A Nov. 8 ballot measure asking for $1 billion in increased hotel occupancy taxes to help fund a new downtown stadium was overwhelmingly voted down.

Spanos has until Jan. 15 to announce whether he’ll move the team

The Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time” played on the PA during a break in the action after a Chiefs field goal made it 37-20 late in the game.

Smith, for one, hopes that doesn’t happen. He grew up in the San Diego area and played at Qualcomm Stadium in high school championship games and in college when Utah visited San Diego State.

“For me growing up here, I think it’d be tragic if there wasn’t a team here. If there wasn’t football in this town, it would be weird for me.”

GATESY

Chargers tight end Antonio Gates tied Tony Gonzalez for the most touchdown catches in NFL history by a tight end with 111.

Gates tied the mark on a 2-yard toss from Rivers early in the second quarter to give the Chargers a 10-3 lead. Gates caught the ball and extended it in his right hand to break the plane.

The Chargers tried to get Gates sole possession of the record in the fourth quarter but couldn’t.

“They were not going to let him get that touchdown,” Rivers said. “I was looking at him every other time, too. We did the best we could.”

Late in the game, Rivers threw a 12-yard TD pass to San Diego’s other tight end, wide-open rookie Hunter Henry.

RIVERS PICKOFFS

Rivers was intercepted twice to set a career high with 21. Rivers’ previous high was 20 in 2011.

“We gave ourselves a chance. We turned it over twice. which killed us,” Rivers said.

INJURIES: Chiefs S Eric Berry left with an ankle injury in the second half. Chargers S Darrell Stuckey left with a knee injury, LB Christopher Landrum suffered a concussion and G Orlando Franklin had a shoulder injury.

Packers 31, Lions 24

Aaron Ripkowski Tahir Whitehead

Green Bay Packers fullback Aaron Ripkowski (22), defended by Detroit Lions middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59), falls into the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DETROIT (AP) — Aaron Rodgers was right.

The Green Bay Packers ran the table, just as their star quarterback said they could, by capping a six-game winning streak with an NFC North-clinching 31-24 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday night.

“This wasn’t just a shot in the dark,” said Rodgers, who threw three of his four touchdown passes in the second half. “It was an optimistic belief in my teammates.”

The Packers (10-6) were undefeated after losing four straight games midway through the season, when Rodgers shared his bold thoughts, to win the division for the fifth time in six years. Like his team, Rodgers has been perfect during the streak with 15 TD passes and no interceptions. He will lead fourth-seeded Green Bay at home Sunday against the fifth-seeded New York Giants in an NFC wild-card game in its eighth straight postseason appearance.

“We have bigger aspirations,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “This is the first step.”

Detroit (9-7) dropped its last three games after it had a two-game lead in the NFC North, spoiling its shot at winning a division title for the first time since 1993.

The Lions, though, will be in the playoffs for the second time in three years with coach Jim Caldwell because the Giants beat the Washington Redskins

“If you’re in, you’ve got a chance,” Caldwell said.

Rodgers , who was 27 of 39 for 300 yards, threw a go-ahead, 3-yard TD pass to Davante Adams with 9:23 left in the third quarter. Rodgers connected with Geronimo Allison and Adams in the end zone in the fourth quarter to give Green Bay a 14-point lead in a game it trailed 14-7 at halftime.

THE OTHER QB

The Lions had a slim shot to comeback from a fourth-quarter deficit to win, as they did eight times this season, when Matthew Stafford connected with Anquan Boldin for a 35-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left. The Packers dashed Detroit’s hopes by recovering the onside kick and Rodgers had only to kneel once to seal the victory.

Stafford put Detroit ahead by a touchdown with a 3-yard pass to Golden Tate with 23 seconds left in the second quarter after Zach Zenner tied it with a 1-yard run.

Stafford was 26 of 41 for 347 yards with two TDs and an interception. He made some fantastic passes and some he sailed over wide-open receivers.

RODGERS RUNS

Rodgers ran for 42 yards, his third-highest total of the season, on 10 carries. By design, he converted a third-and-1 from the Green Bay 34 with a 13-yard run a bootleg. Rodgers also used his feet to escape sacks and to give his receivers time to get open.

earlier in the day. The sixth-seeded Lions will play at third-seeded Seattle on Saturday night in a wild-card game.

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

Stafford failed to connect with Tate when he was all by himself midway through the first quarter, wasting a chance to make a big play to possibly score on Detroit’s second drive.

“That one was close to being really good,” Stafford said. “You’re going to hit some, you’re going to miss some.”

Early in the scoreless second period, Detroit’s Matt Prater missed a 39-yard field goal. Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews also missed an opportunity, dropping one of Stafford’s passes that he could’ve possibly returned for a score.

MATTHEW’S MILESTONE

Stafford surpassed 30,000 yards passing for his career, becoming the fastest quarterback to reach the mark. He did it in his 109th game Sunday night against Green Bay. The previous record was held by Dan Marino and Kurt Warner, who did it in 114 games. With a chance to lead the Lions to a signature win, however, Stafford came up short to add to his legacy that he beats bad teams and loses against winning teams.

INJURIES

Packers: Two cornerbacks — Quinten Rollins (neck) and Makinton Dorleant (knee) — were carted off the field minutes apart late in the third quarter and another cornerback — Damarious Randall (knee) — left the game with an injury in the second half. Rollins, who was conscious and able to move, was taken to a hospital. Receiver Randall Cobb (ankle), running back James Starks (concussion) and center JC Tretter (knee) were inactive with injuries.

Lions: Cornerback Asa Jackson left the game with an ankle injury. Receiver Marin Jones was evaluated late in the game for a concussion, but returned to play. Cornerback Darius Slay returned from a one-game absence with a hamstring injury. Right tackle Riley Reiff was out with a hip injury and was missed, especially when Nick Perry got past his replacement, Corey Robinson, for a possession-ending sack in the third quarter. Robinson left the game with an apparent injury in the second half and

UP NEXT

Packers: Green Bay will play the Giants at Lambeau Field, where it beat them 23-16 in Week 5.

Lions: Detroit, which has won only one playoff game since winning the 1957 NFL title, will face long odds to advance on the road against the Seahawks.

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