2017 NFL Week 16 Tuesday Afternoon QB

Demarus Dye| BKD TV Insiders

Here is a recap of Week 16 of the 2017 NFL Season with a Tuesday Morning QB & thanks again to AP Sports/ Pro 32 for photos & articles.

Colts 16, Ravens 23

Michael Campanaro

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Michael Campanaro (12) lands in the end zone for a touchdown on a pass reception during the first half of an NFL football game against Indianapolis Colts in Baltimore, Saturday, Dec 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens didn’t force a turnover, scored only two touchdowns and were dangerously close to going into overtime at home against lowly Indianapolis.

“We didn’t play our best game,” coach John Harbaugh readily acknowledged.

Though the Ravens’ performance Saturday was not particularly artistic, they perceived the final result to be a thing of beauty: Ravens 23, Colts 16.

Baltimore (9-6) scored on its first two possessions and held off the skidding Colts (3-12) in a windy, rain-soaked second half.

The Ravens will reach the playoffs as an AFC wild card by defeating Cincinnati at home next Sunday. Striving for its first postseason berth since 2014, Baltimore has won five of six following a 4-5 start.

“We found a way to win it. That’s the thing, it’s a win,” Harbaugh said. “It doesn’t matter. You have to find a way to win in this league.”

Joe Flacco threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns, Justin Tucker kicked three field goals and the Ravens did just enough to squeeze out a victory.

“I wish we had gotten into the end zone one more time,” Flacco said. “It’s not always pretty.”

Indianapolis closed to 16-13 in the third quarter before Flacco threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Maxx Williams with 8:40 remaining.

It was 23-16 when Anthony Walker blocked a Ravens punt , giving the Colts the ball at the Baltimore 27 with 2:36 left. Indianapolis moved to the 10 before a third-down sack and a fourth-down incompletion ended the comeback bid.

“We had a great chance to win this game,” Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett said. “We just didn’t get it done down there.”

Flacco, who went 29 for 38, has thrown for seven TDs with just one interception over his last four games.

“We’re a very excited, a very confident football team,” Flacco said.

The Colts have lost six in a row for the first time since 2011, when they opened 0-13. That was the year before they drafted quarterback Andrew Luck, whose absence this season with a shoulder injury contributed heavily to the team’s slide into the AFC South cellar.

Brissett completed 16 of 33 passes for 215 yards and Frank Gore had 68 yards rushing and a touchdown catch for Indianapolis. More importantly, the Colts did not commit a turnover against a team that leads the NFL with 33 takeaways.

Adam Vinatieri kicked three field goals for the Colts, but he had one blocked and came up short on a 60-yard try at the end of the first half.

Flacco went 16 for 22 for 157 yards to help the Ravens take a 13-7 halftime lead.

After kicking a field goal on its first possession, Baltimore blocked a field goal try by Vinatieri. The Ravens then launched a 71-yard drive that ended with Flacco tossing a 6-yard touchdown pass to Michael Campanaro for a 10-0 lead.

Brissett answered with a 14-yard TD pass to Gore, and Tucker kicked a 39-yard field goal for Baltimore after the two-minute warning.

Tucker connected from 36 yards out to increase the lead to 16-7 with 5 1/2 minutes gone in the third quarter, but Vinatieri kicked a pair for the Colts to make it 16-13.

BLOCK THAT KICK

Baltimore’s Tony Jefferson swatted away a 38-yard FG try in the first quarter, the 13th blocked kick by the Ravens since 2014 and their fifth over the past two seasons. It was the first time the Colts had a FG blocked since Nov. 3, 2013. Vinatieri later came up short on a 60-yard try before connecting from 48 and hitting the right upright on a successful 38-yarder.

INJURY UPDATE

Colts: WR Donte Moncrief (ankle), CB Rashaan Melvin (hand) and TE Jason Vander Laan (concussion) were among seven players on the inactive list.

Ravens: WR Jeremy Maclin (knee) was on the inactive list. … CB Jaylen Hill (right knee) left in the third quarter and did not return.

UP NEXT

Colts: Wrap up this unpleasant season at home against Houston on New Year’s Eve.

Ravens: Seek their first sweep of Bengals since 2012. Baltimore won the Super Bowl that season.

Vikings 16, Packers 0

Vikings Packers Football

Minnesota Vikings’ Harrison Smith intercepts a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — While winning at Lambeau Field means a lot to the Minnesota Vikings, the NFC North champions have bigger goals in mind.

A first-round playoff bye is well within reach, and could be secured as soon as Sunday.

The Vikings took care of business on their end with a 16-0 victory Saturday night over the injury-depleted Green Bay Packers, the team’s first shutout in 24 years. Having already clinched the division title, Minnesota (12-3) can wrap up a first-round bye if the Carolina Panthers lose or tie on Sunday against Tampa Bay.

“I’m hoping we can get one more win, work on some things we need to work on … and then go out and play our rear ends off in the playoffs,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.

Stefon Diggs caught a 4-yard pass from quarterback Case Keenum just inside the back line of the end zone in the first quarter for the only touchdown. After the game, Keenum stopped before heading up the tunnel at Lambeau, clapping his hands above his head while Vikings fans chanted “Skol! Skol!”

They felt right at home in Titletown.

“Defense played absolutely incredible today, and we did enough. It doesn’t matter how, it matters how many,” Keenum said.

The Packers (7-8) managed to hold a 239-236 edge in total yards. They were still shut out twice in a season for the first time since 2006.

“I never felt more defeated, more embarrassed by a performance. Yeah, we had opportunities, and we didn’t connect when we did,” receiver Randall Cobb said.

In its defense, the team fielded a lineup that often looked like one coach Mike McCarthy might send out for a game late in the preseason. The Packers had already been eliminated from playoff contention.

Brett Hundley was 17 of 40 for 130 yards with two interceptions in taking over at quarterback again for Aaron Rodgers, who returned to injured reserve this week after missing seven games earlier in the year with a collarbone injury.

“It’s so frustrating just because of the fact that I know what I can do,” Hundley said. “But to go out there and not be consistent — which is my number one goal — and just give our team an opportunity to win each game, that hurts.”

MINNESOTA MILESTONES: The Vikings forced an incompletion into the end zone on fourth-and-4 from the 14 early in the fourth quarter to turn away the Packers’ last best effort to cross the goal line. Minnesota safety Harrison Smith ended another Green Bay drive with an interception at the Vikings 5 late in the second quarter. Minnesota left frigid Lambeau Field with its first shutout since a 13-0 win over Detroit on Dec. 5, 1993. It was the first shutout over the Packers since Nov. 14, 1971.

THAT HURTS: Starting outside linebackers Clay Matthews (hamstring) and Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder) missed the game for Green Bay, along with cornerback Damarious Randall (hamstring). The Packers didn’t have leading receiver Davante Adams, who is in the concussion protocol, and then lost wideout Jordy Nelson and tight end Richard Rodgers to shoulder injuries in the first half.

“Injuries are unfortunate. We had a lot of opportunities tonight. We didn’t make the plays,” McCarthy said.

FROZEN TUNDRA: The hard turf at chilly Lambeau didn’t help, either, as some players had trouble with their footing early in the game. With the Packers unable to connect on medium-to-long-range passes, their best plays came when Hundley broke free for big gains on the run .

In the stands, fans bundled up in parkas, huddled under blankets and sipped on free hot chocolate to stay warm. Purple-clad Minnesota backers celebrated on a night when temperatures were in the single digits.

STAT WATCH: Diggs finished with five catches for 60 yards. Keenum was 14 of 25 for 139 yards. … The Packers were also shut out 23-0 by Baltimore on Nov. 19. … Hundley finished the home schedule having thrown no touchdowns and seven interceptions in six games at Lambeau.

Falcons 13, Saints 23

Ted Ginn

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Ted Ginn beats Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant on a touchdown reception in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Whether it was the weirdest interception of Marshon Lattimore’s football life or a ball-dislodging hit by Tyeler Davison near the goal line, the Saints’ defense poetically tipped the scales in a long-awaited playoff-clinching victory.

Shoddy defense was widely seen as the reason the Saints missed the playoffs the last three seasons. Those days are over.

Lattimore corralled a momentum turning interception off his backside, New Orleans made two defensive stands from inside its 2-yard line, and the Saints clinched their first postseason berth since 2013 with a 23-13 victory over the rival Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

“We want the team to win because of the defense, not in spite of the defense, and I feel like we’ve all kind of hung our hat on that,” Davison said. “We saw it in our mind and we turned it into real life, man, and it feels amazing. It feels just as you thought it would when you pictured it 100 times.”

Ted Ginn caught a 54-yard pass for a touchdown, which came a few plays after Lattimore’s interception and shortly before halftime. Mark Ingram used a sharp cutback to break loose for a 26-yard touchdown for New Orleans (11-4), which kept its tenuous hold on first place in the NFC South heading into the final week of the season.

While the loss eliminated the Falcons (9-6) from the NFC South race, Atlanta can clinch a wild-card berth by beating Carolina in the final regular-season game.

The Falcons entered the game with a second straight division crown within reach, but they needed to beat the Saints. They squandered chances spectacularly, much to the delight of a deafening Superdome crowd — and certainly to the chagrin of scattered fans wearing Falcons red. The Falcons were taunted on their way to the game by a plane towing a banner that read “28-3 Merry Xmas,” a reference to Atlanta’s Super Bowl collapse.

Atlanta trailed 6-0 when Lattimore’s interception of Matt Ryan set the Saints up to double their lead.

Early in the third quarter, Atlanta linebacker Deion Jones intercepted a pass that deflected off Ginn’s hands and returned it 41 yards to the New Orleans 2. But Devonta Freeman fumbled on a hit by Davison two plays later and linebacker Manti Teo recovered.

“That was my fault,” Freeman said. “No matter what play is called, you’ve got to get in the end zone and score, and I’ve got to protect the ball. I’ve got to do better at that. I’m going to do whatever it takes to fix it.”

Early in the fourth quarter, Freeman was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1, preserving a 20-3 Saints lead. One play earlier, Julio Jones caught a third-down pass with his feet in the end zone, but he was unable to pull the ball across the goal line after reaching back to make the catch. Atlanta challenged the spot, but the call on the field was upheld.

“That’s kind of the tale of the day,” Ryan said. “We can’t do that in these type of games and we missed too many opportunities.”

FORTUITOUS PICK

Lattimore, drafted 11th overall last spring out of Ohio State, said he’d never had a more unusual interception at any level of football. Lattimore had been beaten on the play and launched into a desperate dive as Ryan’s high pass deflected off the hands of receiver Marvin Hall and fell on Lattimore as he lay face down.

He curled his leg up on the ball to try to prevent it from touching the ground, reached back with his right hand to swipe it from players from both teams who grasped at it.

“I felt the ball on the back of my leg. I knew it didn’t touch the ground because everybody was trying to fight for it,” Lattimore said . “I just went back and reached for it and got it.”

FINAL NUMBERS

Drew Brees completed 21 of 28 passes for 239 yards. Ginn finished with 76 yards receiving and Michael Thomas — who’d been listed as questionable with a hamstring injury — caught four passes for 66 yards. Brees became the third quarterback in NFL history to eclipse 70,000 career yards passing, joining Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.

Ryan was 22 of 36 for 288 yards. He was sacked five times, twice by Cameron Jordan.

Jones had seven catches for 149 yards, but the Falcons’ running game struggled.

Freeman was held to 36 yards on 11 carries.

INJURY REPORT

Falcons: Tight end Levine Toilolo was sidelined by a knee injury in the second half.

Saints: Left tackle Terron Armstead left the game in the second half with a thigh injury.

UP NEXT

Falcons: Finish regular season at home against the Panthers.

Saints: Try to wrap up the division title at Tampa Bay on New Year’s Eve.

Rams 27, Titans 23

Todd Gurley, Brice McCain

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) leaves Tennessee Titans cornerback Brice McCain (23) behind as Gurley scores a touchdown on an 80-yard pass reception in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams and first-year coach Sean McVay saved the real celebration for the locker room.

That’s where McVay, the youngest coach in modern NFL history, channeled wrestler Ric Flair after the Rams clinched the franchise’s first NFC West title since 2003 by beating the Tennessee Titans 27-23 on Sunday.

“When you find a way to come on the road and finish up your road record 7-1 and win a division title, there’s only one thing you can say. Woooo! One more: Woooo!” McVay said before giving the Rams off until Wednesday.

Los Angeles trailed 23-20 before Jared Goff threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp with 11:41 left. The Rams (11-4), who came in needing a win or a loss by Seattle to secure the division, took care of business themselves, with Todd Gurley II and Goff leading the way again.

Gurley bolstered his argument for NFL MVP with 118 yards rushing and 158 yards receiving with two TDs, including a screen he took 80 yards for the longest reception of his career. He became only the third in NFL history to put together such a performance in the same game, joining Ollie Matson (1954) and Herschel Walker (1986). Goff finished with four touchdowns and 301 yards passing.

“He is in my book,” Goff said, vouching for Gurley for MVP. “If there’s anyone out there that’s a running back that deserves it, he’s the guy.”

The Titans (8-7) lost their third straight game, damaging their chances of ending their own playoff drought stretching to 2008. The loss handed the AFC South title to the Jaguars, and Tennessee hosts Jacksonville in the regular-season finale needing a win to reach the postseason.

“We still have an opportunity to get into the playoffs, and that is the next objective,” coach Mike Mularkey said.

The Titans had the ball and a chance to win late in the game. On fourth-and-4 at the Rams 44, Marcus Mariota rolled right and chucked the ball incomplete under pressure from Connor Barwin.

The Rams ran out the final 1:35 for their second straight victory and fourth in five games.

OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES

The Titans’ penchant for settling for field goals was costly once again. They had four trips inside the Rams 20 and scored only one offensive TD on DeMarco Murray’s 6-yard run. Ryan Succop kicked three field goals and missed a 45-yarder wide right. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard scored Tennessee’s first defensive TD of the season on a 4-yard fumble return.

MISSING ZUERLEIN

Greg Zuerlein was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, and the Rams really missed their Pro Bowl kicker. Instead of letting Sam Ficken kick with Los Angeles at the Titans 32 on their opening drive, the Rams picked up a delay of game penalty the Titans declined. Then punter Johnny Hekker’s pass intended for Michael Thomas was batted down. Ficken also missed his first point after attempt.

When the Rams turned first-and-goal at the Titans 7 into fourth-and-18, McVay sent Ficken out for a 36-yard field-goal try. The kick bounced off the right upright no good.

ONSIDE CONFUSION

It looked as if the Rams benefited from a confusing sequence in the third quarter. After Murray scored on a 6-yard run, the Titans recovered an onside kick. Succop said the official signaled live ball, so he tried the onside kick to steal a possession. But officials threw a flag, and referee Walt Anderson announced the Rams took their first timeout just before kickoff. Then he announced there was no timeout because the ball had not been put in play. Then he said, “First down.” The Titans kicked deep on the next try.

MORE TURNOVERS

The Rams forced a turnover on the opening drive for the eighth time this season. Linebacker Cory Littleton, starting with Mark Barron scratched, intercepted Mariota on the Titans’ second play from scrimmage.

INJURIES

Rams left guard Rodger Saffold hurt his ribs late in the game, and Rams safety Marqui Christian hurt a shoulder.

Murray was helped to the sideline with 2:23 left with an injured right knee. Mularkey said Murray will have an MRI exam, but it doesn’t look good.

UP NEXT

Rams: Host 49ers on Sunday.

Titans: Host Jaguars on Sunday.

Buccaneers 19, Panthers 22

Cam Newton, Gerald McCoy

Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton (1) runs as Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Gerald McCoy (93) defends during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton certainly has a flair for the dramatic.

The emotional and charismatic quarterback scored on a whacky 2-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds remaining to lift Carolina to a 22-19 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday and help the Panthers secure a spot in the NFC playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.

The Panthers (11-4) trailed most of the second half, but Newton completed 4 of 7 passes for 52 yards in the final 3 minutes before turning a potential debacle into a memorable touchdown. Newton fumbled the shotgun snap after it hit his knuckles, but the ball bounced back up into his hands and he alertly picked it up and dove across the goal line for the go-ahead score.

“The idea was to put it on the ground, get (the defense) to freeze for a second, and pick it up and score,” joked Panthers coach Ron Rivera. “I tell you when I saw that. … But the best part is it didn’t ruin my Christmas, which I appreciate.”

Newton celebrated the score by using the football as a prop, pretending to “light a candle on a cupcake” in celebration of son Chosen’s birthday. Newton brought his son into the news conference after the game for the first time ever, and said it was ironic that he scored on a 2-yard run on his son’s 2nd birthday.

Newton said he lost sight of the snap because he was thinking about whether or not to leap over the pile.

When the play came in, Newton said he had the option to run or pass in the huddle.

He chose a run — and he’s glad he did.

“I’m just happy it wasn’t a pass play because if it was then the offensive line would have been coming back,” Newton said. “But everyone was moving forward, so it might have been good because it froze everybody for a moment. I’m just happy that we scored.”

The Panthers sealed the game when Kawann Short sacked Jameis Winston on Tampa Bay’s final drive, and forced a fumble that Julius Peppers recovered. Winston threw for 367 yards and a touchdown but was sacked six times and fumbled three times for the Bucs (4-11).

“The guy’s a warrior,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said about Winston.

The Panthers offense struggled all day.

Newton threw for just 160 yards and ran for 52 yards on 14 carries. Carolina’s only touchdown in the first three quarters came on a 103-yard kickoff return by Damiere Byrd. Tampa Bay’s defense set the tone early, limiting the Panthers to just 78 yards in the first half — the fewest in an opening half since Newton took over as Carolina’s starting QB in 2012.

“We found ways and this is what great teams do — they find ways to win,” Newton said.

Added Short: “It was an ugly win. At the end of the day we got the job done. We’re in the playoffs, another step to where we’re trying to get to.”

For the Bucs it was another close loss — the story of their season.

“We play together, but we just have to figure out the last step — that’s it,” said Tampa Bay cornerback Brent Grimes.

PLAYOFF SCENARIO: Carolina can still clinch the NFC South championship, but it would need a win over Atlanta and a New Orleans loss to Tampa Bay next Sunday.

For now, the Panthers are just happy to be back in the playoffs following a 6-10 season last year.

“To be 11-4 with one game left, that’s solid,” tight end Greg Olsen said.

STRONG RUSH: Short and defensive end Wes Horton each had 1 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble for the Panthers. Carolina has 15 sacks in the last three games and forced 10 turnovers.

BIG GAME FOR BUCS RECEIVERS: The Bucs had six plays of 25 yards or longer against the Panthers fifth-ranked defense, including a 70-yard catch-and-run by Chris Godwin. Mike Evans led the way with 107 yards on six catches, while Godwin finished with 98 yards on three receptions.

RIVERBOAT RON: Panthers coach “Riverboat” Ron Rivera called a fake punt in the third quarter because he felt the offense needed “a shot in the arm.” It worked as punter Michael Palardy threw over the middle for tight end Ed Dickson, who was interfered with by Josh Robinson. That resulted in a first down and led to a Carolina field goal.

“He’s a lefty and he went to Tennessee — so there is a lot of things we can sharpen up,” Newton joked about Palardy’s throw.

UP NEXT

Buccaneers: Host Saints next Sunday.

Panthers: Visit Falcons next Sunday.

Lions 17, Bengals 26

Giovani Bernard

Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) rushes during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)

CINCINNATI (AP) — Matthew Stafford made a right-hand turn out of the visitors’ locker room and headed into the gloomy night with yet another long offseason soon to follow. With everything on the line, the Lions came up short again.

Stafford and the Lions couldn’t take advantage of a down-and-out team to stay in playoff contention Sunday. Giovani Bernard ran for 116 yards and a clinching touchdown that sent Cincinnati to a 26-17 victory, a good moment for Marvin Lewis in possibly his final home game as Bengals coach.

Nothing good for the Lions (8-7) , who ended their playoff chances in appropriate form. After rallying for a fourth-quarter lead, they self-destructed and let it all slip away.

“It’s not fun when you get eliminated,” said Stafford , who was only 19 of 35 for 203 yards with a touchdown and an interception. “It’s not fun.”

Detroit repeatedly wasted chances to move to the thick of the playoff chase during the season. It still had an opportunity to extend its hopes for one more week after Tion Green’s 5-yard touchdown drive put the Lions ahead 17-16 early in the fourth quarter.

Then it all fell apart.

“We laid an egg out there today,” Lions receiver Marvin Jones Jr. said .

Penalties for holding and pass interference extended Cincinnati’s drive to Randy Bullock’s 51-yard field goal. Given one last chance, Detroit self-destructed with a holding penalty, a false start and a short punt.

“We were not sharp in any way, shape or form,” coach Jim Caldwell said.

The Bengals (6-9) then finished it off in front of a half-empty stadium. Bernard broke free for a 12-yard touchdown run with 1:54 to go, sending fans to the exits.

The erratic season raised questions about Caldwell’s future after four seasons in Detroit without a playoff win. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the sixth-longest stretch of postseason futility in NFL history. The Lions are right behind them in futility.

“Anytime you lose, everything’s up for consideration,” said Caldwell, adding that he hasn’t talked to management about the future.

The focus on Lewis’ future in Cincinnati has increased since a 23-20 loss to the Steelers on Monday night essentially snuffed out the Bengals’ chances.

There wasn’t much reaction from the small crowd when Lewis’ name was announced as part of the pregame team introductions. He’s finishing his contract and has been cryptic about whether he thinks he’ll return for a 16th season.

Lewis didn’t show any extra emotion about the game.

“Emotional?” Lewis said. “Why? Do you know something I don’t know?”

The win ended Cincinnati’s streak of three straight dismal losses, momentarily salving the sting of the Bengals’ second straight losing season.

“We have a lot to play for, too — the logo on our jersey and name on our backs,” Bernard said. “That was Marvin’s message to us every day.”

INJURIES

Lions: Detroit’s offensive line was in flux again. Center Travis Swanson was out for the second straight game with a concussion, and guard T.J. Lang was inactive with a foot injury. Right tackle Rick Wagner missed his third game with an ankle injury.

Bengals: LB Vontaze Burfict was back after missing two games with a concussion, but hurt his right shoulder shortly before halftime. Running back Joe Mixon — who also missed the last two games with a concussion — left with an injured right ankle in the first quarter, putting the onus on Bernard.

STAFFORD’S STREAK SNAPPED

In his three previous games, Stafford completed 80 percent of his passes overall. The Lions’ offense never got into a rhythm against the Bengals. His passer rating of 69.1 was his lowest in six games.

“Sometimes it’s not going to be easy,” Stafford said. “For some reason or another, we didn’t score enough points.”

DISAPPOINTING RETURN

Jones was one of the Bengals’ top receivers for four seasons. He was hoping to have a big game in his return, but was limited to three catches for 50 yards. He topped 1,000 yards receiving for the season.

“It really doesn’t mean anything right now,” Jones said.

EMPTY SEATS

The 65,000-seat stadium was half-empty for the kickoff. The Bengals sold 47,732 tickets, though many went unused. It was their smallest announced crowd since 2011.

UP NEXT

The Lions host the eliminated Packers. They’re 3-4 at home this season. Detroit won at Green Bay 30-17 on Nov. 6.

The Bengals play at Baltimore, which is in the thick of the playoff chase. The Ravens opened the season with a 20-0 win at Paul Brown Stadium.

Bills 16, Patriots 37

Rob Gronkowski, Micah Hyde

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) makes a one-handed catch of a Tom Brady pass, as Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) defends, before running for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Rob Gronkowski has always been proud of his roots growing up outside of Buffalo.

He also has never forgotten how his hometown team didn’t want him.

Tom Brady passed for a pair of touchdowns, including Gronkowski’s one-handed grab, and the New England Patriots stayed on track for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a 37-16 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

For Gronkowski it was his 12th touchdown catch in 13 career games against the Bills — more than he’s had against any other opponent.

“It’s cool when your hometown team passed on you twice in that (2010) draft. And you kind of remember it still,” Gronkowski said. “No lie, I remember it every single time I play them.”

New England (12-3) locked up a first-round bye with Jacksonville’s loss 44-33 loss at San Francisco. If Pittsburgh loses to Houston on Monday, the Patriots will secure home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

Dion Lewis caught a touchdown pass and rushed for a 4-yard score. He carried 24 times for career-high 129 yards. It was just his second-career 100-yard game. Mike Gillislee, active for the first time in six games, added a 1-yard rushing touchdown

Even with the loss, the Bills (8-7) remain in contention to break their 17-year playoff drought. It is the longest active streak in North America’s four major professional sports and the longest in the NFL since the 1970 merger.

New England has won at least 12 games in eight straight seasons — an NFL record.

Buffalo went into halftime tied at 13, but the Bills managed just three points in the final 30 minutes.

Trailing 13-10, Buffalo was in position to take the lead, but an apparent 4-yard touchdown pass from Tyrod Taylor to Kelvin Benjamin in the corner of the end zone was overturned after an official review.

Benjamin said he thought it was a catch.

“I mean definitely, but ref made the call and you’ve got to live with that,” he said.

NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron said in a Twitter post Benjamin was juggling the ball and was only able to get one of his feet down before completing the catch.

“When Kelvin Benjamin gains control, his left foot is off the ground. The receiver only has one foot down in bounds with control. Therefore, it is an incomplete pass,” Riveron wrote.

That was echoed postgame by referee Craig Wrolstad.

“It was clear and obvious that he did not have control of the ball until he brought it all the way down into his chest,” Wrolstad said in a pool report.

The Bills were forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal as the half expired.

The play elicited immediate reaction on social media.

“Regarding the Buffalo no touchdown, nothing more irritating to an official than to make a great call and then someone in a suit in an office in New York incorrectly reverses it,” former NFL officiating VP Mike Pereira wrote on Twitter .

The game was tied at 3 on Buffalo’s second possession when Taylor was sacked on a fourth-and-2 run by Marquis Flowers. On the next New England drive, Brady’s third down pass intended for Kenny Britt wasintercepted by Jordan Poyer and returned 19 yards for a touchdown.

It was Brady’s eighth interception of the season. He threw two picks in the first 10 weeks, but now has six in his last five games.

The mistake only momentarily slowed down New England’s offense. Brady capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 17-yard pass that Gronkowski pulled in with one hand to tie the game at 10.

INJURIES

Bills: RB Travaris Cadet was carted off the field late in the second quarter with a right ankle injury. … S Micah Hyde left the game after being shaken up in the third quarter. … CB Shareece Wright was shaken up in the fourth quarter, but walked off on his own power.

RARE MISTAKE

The pick six thrown by Brady was his first since he was intercepted by Robert Alford in last season’s Super Bowl win. Brady’s last regular season pick six came in Week 13 of 2015 against Philadelphia (Malcolm Jenkins).

DYNAMIC DUO

Brady’s touchdown 17-yard TD pass to Gronkowski marked the 75th time they have connected for a score. It is the fifth-most all-time between a quarterback and a receiver.

UP NEXT

Bills: At Miami in regular-season finale

Patriots: Host Jets in their finale.

Chargers 14, Jets 7

Antonio Gates

Los Angeles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (85) catches a pass for a touchdown in front of New York Jets’ Jamal Adams (33) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers are still hanging around in the AFC playoff hunt.

They had to sweat out a 14-7 win against the New York Jets on Sunday, but they’ve been playing with little room for error all season after an 0-4 start. They’ll go into next week’s showdown against Oakland needing one more win — and a little more help elsewhere.

“That’s all we can ask for at this point, starting 0-and-4, digging the hole we dug, is to be alive in Week 17,” Rivers said. “All those games you are sick about at this point, but you’re excited to have a chance.”

Rivers threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Gates, and Melvin Gordon ran for a score for the Chargers (8-7), who entered the weekend needing to win both of their remaining games. Rivers & Co. held up their end of things, but just barely.

Los Angeles had a tough time getting much going consistently against a spirited effort by the defense of the Jets (5-10), but didn’t need much offense in this one. Rivers finished 22 of 40 for 290 yards.

Tennessee (8-7) lost 27-23 to the Rams, and Buffalo (8-7) fell to New England 37-16 — each helping the Chargers’ playoff hopes. The Titans are home against Jacksonville next week, while the Bills are at Miami. The Chargers would be in the postseason if they win, Baltimore (9-6) beats Cincinnati and Tennessee loses.

“We’ve put ourselves in a better position, even though we don’t control our own destiny,” cornerback Casey Hayward said. “We’re still in it. You’re never out until they say, ‘You don’t have a chance.'”

Gordon had 81 yards on 19 carries, but left late with an ankle injury. He remained standing on the sideline as the Chargers tried to run out the clock, and coach Anthony Lynn was not immediately sure of the severity.

Bryce Petty, making his second start this season in place of the injured Josh McCown, struggled all game. He missed open receivers and repeatedly flexed his right hand, which he banged up early in the game. But he remained in and said his hand is fine, finishing 15 of 28 for 119 yards and an interception.

“It’s frustrating,” Petty said. “This team deserves better, this offense deserves better — and I know I can make those plays.”

Bilal Powell was the bright spot for the Jets’ offense, rushing for 145 yards, including a 57-yard TD, on 19 carries.

Los Angeles took a 7-0 lead with 8:55 left in the first half on Gates’ 3-yard touchdown catch, capping a 12-play, 71-yard drive.

The Chargers had a chance to increase their advantage early in the third quarter, but Nick Rose, signed earlier this week, was wide right on a 47-yard attempt.

New York took advantage of the miss to tie it on Powell’s long touchdown run.

Los Angeles regained the lead quickly, however, on Gordon’s 1-yard run. Gordon hit the hole and pushed over the goal line with a strong second and third effort.

The Jets had a chance to tie in the closing minutes, getting a roughing-the-passer call on Joey Bosa to help extend their drive. But on fourth-and-7 from the Chargers 17, Petty’s heave to Robby Anderson in the end zone with 3:07 left fell incomplete.

“We were off-key as an offense and in the passing game,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “We’ll go back and look at the film and build from there. We didn’t make enough plays.”

GOOD HANDS

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen intercepted Petty’s desperation toss to end the first half. It was the first career interception for Allen, who was tackled by Brandon Shell. The Jets right tackle suffered a concussion on the play and was replaced by Brent Qvale in the second half.

“We wanted to put a tall guy back there that can jump, and Keenan showed why he’s back there,” Lynn said of the 6-foot-2 Allen.

HOLD ON

Los Angeles’ Travis Benjamin returned a punt 91 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter — but it was nullified by a holding penalty on Nick Dzubnar. Instead, it went down as a 14-yard return for Benjamin.

NO MO

Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was inactive after being benched at New Orleans last Sunday for being late to a team meeting.

Wilkerson practiced with the team all week, and coach Todd Bowles insisted the veteran “served his sentence” when asked if further discipline might be used. Bowles said it was “a coach’s decision” for Wilkerson to not play.

The coach declined to say whether Wilkerson’s contract situation played a role. His $16.75 million salary for next season is fully guaranteed against a serious injury.

INJURIES

Chargers: Safety Adrian Phillips re-injured an ankle. Left tackle Russell Okung was inactive with a groin injury and replaced by rookie Sam Tevi.

Jets: Defensive end Leonard Williams left in the second half with a back injury and didn’t return. Jonotthan Harrison started at center for the Jets in place of Wesley Johnson, who was active but dealt with a hip ailment all week. Right guard Brian Winters was out with an abdominal injury and Dakota Dozier started in his place.

SURPRISE START

The Jets won the opening coin toss, but deferred — and then pulled off a successful onside kick to start the game.

New York became the second team this season to attempt an onside kick to open a game, joining Tennessee (Week 1). The Jets are also the first team to successfully recover on onside kick in the first 30 seconds since Philadelphia in Week 17 of the 2012 season, according to NFL Research.

The Jets came away without any points, though, as an offensive pass interference call on Anderson and a sack by Tenny Palepoi short-circuited New York’s drive.

UP NEXT:

Chargers: vs. Oakland next Sunday.

Jets: at New England next Sunday.

 

Dolphins 13, Chiefs 29

Travis Kelce

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) makes a one-handed catch of the ball in the end zone but drops it during the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Andy Reid addressed the Kansas City Chiefs in a jubilant locker room dressed from head-to-toe in a Santa Claus suit, which not only fit him perfectly but was also perfectly fitting.

The Chiefs had just given their fans quite a present.

Alex Smith threw for 304 yards and a touchdown in another steady performance, Kareem Hunt ran for 91 yards and a score, and the Chiefs beat the Miami Dolphins 29-13 on Sunday to clinch back-to-back AFC West titles for the first time in franchise history.”Just phenomenal,” Reid said, likely smiling beneath his fluffy white beard. “But we’re not going to sit on this. We’re not done yet. We’re going to enjoy the holiday and get right back at it.”

Tyreek Hill had six catches for 109 yards, and Harrison Butker converted five field goals, as the Chiefs (9-6) dashed what faint postseason hope the Dolphins (6-9) still harbored.

“It’s hard to win football games only kicking field goals,” Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler said. “A couple fumbles, couple of missed opportunities here, a penalty when we’re driving — it’s those types of things that’ll hurt you.”

Cutler threw for 286 yards and a touchdown, but a big chunk of that came on a 65-yard toss to Jakeem Grant late in the first half. Otherwise, Miami went 0 for 8 on third down and struggled against a Chiefs defense that has been stingy and opportunistic the past two weeks.

That’s coincided with the return of Marcus Peters from his disciplinary suspension.

The Chiefs’ star cornerback had two interceptions and forced a fumble against the Chargers last week, a win that pushed them to the brink of the playoffs. He recovered a fumble and forced another on Sunday, giving Peters a hand in five turnovers the past two weeks.

“He’s always around the ball,” said Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, who forced the first fumble. “Marcus is always playing with fire, this whole year.”

Both turnovers led to points, but they weren’t the Dolphins’ only costly miscues.

They also were nailed for defensive holding four times, all of which came on three scoring drives for Kansas City. And the Dolphins inability to get off the field on third down, after holding opponents to 8 for 39 the past two games, was similarly deflating.

“Got in a couple situations that we couldn’t use some of the things that we had planned,” Miami coach Adam Gase said. “We just need to find a way to be consistent and get them off the field.”

Still, the Dolphins had the ball trailing 17-13 late in the first half, the outcome and their longshot playoff hopes were still in the balance. But they soon went three-and-out and the Chiefs added a field goal to make it 20-13 at the break, then another to start the second half.

Even when the Dolphins made a crucial stop on fourth down to get the ball back later in the third quarter, they squandered the opportunity. Peters stripped Kenny Stills to give the Chiefs the ball, and Butker hit his fourth chip-shot field goal for a 26-13 lead with 12:19 to go.

That gave a sparse crowd that turned out on Christmas Eve, braving slick roads from an overnight snowfall and frigid wind chills at kickoff, plenty of time to celebrate a division title.

Turn their thoughts toward a home playoff game in the new year, too.

“It’s a great feeling,” Hunt said. “We’ve got these fans that are going to go crazy for the playoff game, and we get to play in Arrowhead Stadium one more time.”

FROZEN FIELD

There was no tarp on the field overnight, so a crew of workers used shovels to remove about an inch of snow by hand. The footing turned out to be fine, but Smith thought the cold weather gave Kansas City an advantage. “We have a lot of experience playing in cold weather,” he said. “All the little things, the snaps, they’re that much harder, and I think all the reps do help.”

STATS AND STREAKS

Chiefs TE Travis Kelce had four catches for 47 yards and a score , and has a catch in 63 straight games. … Chiefs coach Andy Reid improved to 5-1 against Miami. … Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry had five catches for 51 yards, giving him a league-best 103 catches this season. … The Dolphins had won seven of their last 10 against Kansas City. Their last loss at Arrowhead Stadium was in 2002.

INJURY NOTES

Dolphins DT Vincent Taylor hurt his knee on the opening kickoff, while CB Alterraun Verner went down with a hamstring injury later in the half. Miami DE Andre Branch played despite a knee injury.

UP NEXT

Dolphins conclude their season against the Bills next Sunday.

Chiefs head to Denver on Sunday to finish their regular season.

 

Broncos 11, Redskins 27

Josh Doctson

Washington Redskins wide receiver Josh Doctson (18) carries the ball into the end zone for a touchdown during the second half an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos in Landover, Md., Sunday, Dec 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — As his mind wandered to whether it was his final home game as the Washington’s starting quarterback, Kirk Cousins had a bigger concern early against the Denver Broncos and their top-ranked defense.

“After the first couple of possessions, I didn’t know if we were going to get 100 yards on them,” Cousins said.

Cousins and the Redskins rebounded from losing 2 yards on their first two drives to put up 386 yards and three touchdowns against the Broncos in a 27-11 rout Sunday. Cousins was 19 of 37 with TD passes to Jamison Crowder , Josh Doctson and Vernon Davis and an interception, and managed the game well.

“It just came down to protecting, making the throws, making the catches and converting,” said Cousins, the first quarterback in Washington history with three seasons of 25 or more TD passes and needs 65 yards for his third in a row with 4,000-plus yards. “It was an imperfect game, certainly, but when you have a defense playing at such a high level, it kept us in the game and kept giving us a chance, and then we finally got rolling and made enough plays to pull away.”

Washington’s 386 offensive yards are third most by a Denver opponent this season, behind only Philadelphia and New England. The Broncos came in giving up an average of 276.8 yards a game.

The Redskins (7-8) came 78 seconds from not allowing a touchdown for a second consecutive game for the first time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Washington, which allowed a combined 68 points in its previous two games, forced three turnovers.

“That’s the name of the game,” said linebacker Zach Vigil, who recovered a fumble. “The more turnovers a defense can get and get the ball back to the offense, just gives you a great opportunity to win the game.”

After a week of uncertainty, Brock Osweiler started at QB over Paxton Lynch for the Broncos (5-10) and was 22 of 38 for 193 yards with a fumbleand an interception .

“I’ve been a backup in this league, I’ve been a starter in this league,” Osweiler said. “I know how to prepare with no reps and I know how to prepare with all the reps. So was it ideal? No. But is it an excuse? Absolutely not.”

C.J. Anderson scored a late touchdown and was the game’s leading rusher with 16 yards on 88 carries.

KERRIGAN’S MILESTONE

Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan sacked Osweiler twice and has 11 this season, becoming the first Redskins player with 10 or more in consecutive seasons since Dexter Manley and Charles Mann in 1985 and 1986. His 69 1-2 sacks are tied for fourth since entering the NFL in 2011, behind only Von Miller, J.J. Watt and Cameron Wake.

WHAT’S HE THINKING?

Rookie receiver Isaiah McKenzie made a memorable blunder late in the first half that likely cost Denver three points. With the Broncos out of timeouts, McKenzie caught the ball near the sideline inside the Washington 30-yard line and kicker Brandon McManus’ field goal range. But he didn’t go out of bounds, and Osweiler and other offensive teammates were visibly upset not to get another snap.

Coach Vance Joseph called McKenzie over after the play and gave him an earful while putting his arm around the 22-year-old.

“I should’ve got out of bounds,” McKenzie said. “I just caught the ball and mentally was like, ‘Make a play.’ And unfortunately I didn’t make the right decision.”

INJURIES

Broncos: WRs Emmanuel Sanders (ankle) and Cody Latimer (thigh) were inactive.

Redskins: NT Ziggy Hood left with a dislocated right elbow early in the second quarter. Coach Jay Gruden said Hood would have an MRI. … Rookie WR Robert Davis was knocked out with a concussion. CB Kendall Fuller was pulled from the game for a potential concussion late in the second quarter, but was cleared. … LB Zach Brown missed his second consecutive game with various injuries, including Achilles tendon and toe.

UP NEXT

Broncos: Host Kansas City next Sunday.

Redskins: Finish at the New York Giants next Sunday.

Browns 3, Bears 20

Browns Bears Football

Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) tries to elude Cleveland Browns outside linebacker James Burgess (52) in the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO (AP) — The Cleveland Browns got pushed to the brink of a winless season, and the anger and embarrassment were as easy to spot as the mistakes they made.

DeShone Kizer called it a low point in his life. Coach Hue Jackson made his feelings clear, too.

Kizer threw two more interceptions and the Browns committed two turnovers in the red zone on the way to a 20-3 loss to the struggling Chicago Bears on a snowy Sunday.

One more loss and the Browns will join the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to go 0-16.

It’s not hard to see why Kizer called this “one of the more difficult moments in my life.” He insisted this will be “one of the more pivotal years in my career.”

“You’ve got to understand what rock bottom looks like before you can even climb to the top,” Kizer said.

The Browns (0-15) could hit rock bottom when they wrap up the season at AFC North leader Pittsburgh next week. But whether they’re playing first-place teams or last-place teams, the Browns (0-15) keep racking up losses.

They’re 1-30 in two seasons under Jackson. And after beating the then-San Diego Chargers on Christmas Eve last year, there was no holiday celebration for them this time.

“I’m (ticked) off because I never saw this being this way in my two years — ever,” Jackson said. “I’ve been coaching football for a long time, been through a lot of things, seen a lot of things. I just know without question we’re gonna get this fixed. … I’m not going to let this define our organization, our players, our coaches, as we move forward.”

Kizer threw for 182 yards and ran his league-leading interception total to 21. One of those was to a wide-open Kyle Fuller in the end zone in the second quarter.

Defensive end Myles Garrett had what looked like a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter with the Browns trailing 6-3 wiped out because Carl Nassib was offside.

Rashard Higgins lost a fumble near the goal line that Chicago (5-10) recovered in the end zone. And Josh Gordon, playing through an illness, had just two catches for 19 yards.

Mitchell Trubisky threw for 193 yards and ran for a touchdown against his hometown team to help the Bears pick up the win in what might be coach John Fox’s final home game at Soldier Field. With a 14-33 record, he could be on his way out after three seasons.

The Bears at least avoided the ultimate indignity in a season full of them by not losing to the Browns.

HAUNTING HOMETOWN TEAM

Trubisky, who grew up near Cleveland, played a big role, completing 14 of 23 passes facing a blitzing defense. He scrambled for 44 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown in the third quarter that made it 20-3. And he played turnover-free ball after getting picked off three times by Detroit in the previous game.

“They’ve got a really good pressure package and they get to the quarterback really well and disguise it really well on the back end,” Trubisky said. “That’s what we wanted to do was just offset it with the screens. We hit them with a couple big ones and that was really big for us. We’ve got to keep using that and keep the defense on their heels any way we can.”

Though he finished with 44 yards on 22 carries, Jordan Howard ran for two scores, and the Bears came away with the win after dropping six of seven.

QUOTABLE

“Don’t be fearful, be grateful. No matter where you’re picked. If you’re part of the Browns, or you’re part of Chicago, whoever you are, be grateful of the opportunity. There is no curse, there is no problem here. You got to be able to execute and finish games.” — Garrett on what he would tell players who don’t want to be drafted by the Browns.

NO COMMENT

Jackson declined comment on reports that he will hire an offensive coordinator in the offseason and hand over play-calling duties.

INJURY REPORT

Browns: Garrett got poked in the eye on the first play of the fourth quarter but returned to the game.

Bears: RT Bobby Massie played through a slight knee injury he suffered in the first quarter. He exited late in the game, though Fox said he could have stayed in if needed. … G Josh Sitton (ankle) and TE Adam Shaheen (chest) were inactive.

UP NEXT

Browns: At Pittsburgh on Dec. 31.

Bears: At Minnesota on Dec. 31.

Jaguars 33, 49ers 44

George Kittle, Myles Jack

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) scores a touchdown in front of Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Myles Jack (44) during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Forty-four points against the team with the league’s stingiest defense. MVP chants for the quarterback who has single-handedly changed the mood around the San Francisco 49ers.

The legend of Jimmy G is showing no signs of slowing down.

Jimmy Garoppolo threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score against the defense that allowed the fewest points in the league, and the 49ers won their fourth straight behind their new quarterback, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 44-33 on Sunday.

“It’s awesome. Things are going good right now,” Garoppolo said. “There’s a buzz in the air. You can feel it as soon as you walk into the stadium. The crowd’s going nuts just in pregame. It’s exciting. It’s a nice thing to be a part of.”

Garoppolo has been the major reason for the turnaround for the 49ers (5-10) since being inserted into the starting lineup earlier this month following a midseason trade from New England.

He has led San Francisco to four straight wins, but this one might have been the most impressive, considering the quality of Jacksonville’s defense. The Jaguars came into the game having allowed the fewest points and yards passing in the league, while making the most sacks.

“Since Jimmy G got here things have been a lot different,” running back Carlos Hyde said. “Things have been feeling really good around here. It’s been a good vibe. That energy in the locker room right now is really good. Guys are teeing off that and ready to play.”

Garoppolo carved Jacksonville up, completing 21 for 30 passes for 242 yards with TD throws to George Kittle and Trent Taylor as San Francisco pulled away in the second half. Garoppolo improved to 6-0 in his career as a starter.

The day wasn’t a total loss for the Jaguars (10-5), who clinched their first division title since 1999 earlier in the afternoon when Tennessee lost at home to the Rams. But the defeat dealt a big blow to Jacksonville’s hopes for a first-round bye. The Jaguars need to win next week and hope Pittsburgh loses twice to get a bye. They were in no mood to celebrate after the game.

The frustration boiled over into sideline arguments and several personal fouls, and the Jaguars had little to feel good about after the game.

“I still wanted to win this game and come in here and celebrate, but we’ve earned everything we’ve got to this point,” said cornerback Aaron Colvin, who got into a heated argument during the game with teammate Malik Jackson. “”We put ourselves in this position, but it’s not over. It’s cool and all, but we have bigger goals.

Blake Bortles threw three interceptions for the Jaguars, including one returned for a touchdown by Dontae Johnson in the first half, after going three straight weeks without one in the best stretch of his career .

Bortles threw for 382 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough for the Jaguars.

“Very weird feeling. Any time you lose, especially the way we’ve been playing, it’s tough,” Bortles said. “But it’s also kind of in the back of your head that we won the division. So that’s pretty cool, but I don’t think anybody’s happy with what went on today. We wanted to win the division by winning today. We weren’t able to do that, so that’s tough.”

FAST START

Garoppolo got San Francisco off to a fast start by completing 5 of 6 for 75 yards on the opening drive that was capped by his 1-yard TD sneak . That marked the first time the Niners scored a touchdown on their opening drive since Dec. 11, 2016 against the Jets and the first time Jacksonville allowed one this year.

BAD TEMPERS

San Francisco scored on its first two drives, leading to the argument between Jackson and Colvin. Jacksonville then committed two personal fouls by Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue on a TD drive in the second half. Jackson then committed a personal foul with 1:43 remaining to give the Niners a key first down.

“Controlling our emotions when we’re on the field, that affects the team and that’s what we have to do a better job of,” coach Doug Marrone said.

MOMENTUM CHANGER

The 49ers appeared in control when Johnson returned a deflected interception 50 yards for a TD to put San Francisco up 16-0. But the Jaguars blocked the extra point attempt and Colvin returned it for two points. Bortles then led two straight touchdown drives to close the half, while Garoppolo was intercepted in the end zone by Barry Church after getting hit on the pass to leave the game tied at 16 at the half.

INJURIES

Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson (abdominal strain) and linebacker Blair Brown (concussion) left in the first half and didn’t return. … 49ers LB Reuben Foster left the game with a stinger.

UP NEXT

Jaguars: Visit Tennessee on Sunday.

49ers: Visit Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

Seahawks 21, Cowboys 12

Dak Prescott, Justin Coleman,

Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott (4) follows behind watching as Seattle Seahawks’ Justin Coleman (28) returns a Prescott interception for a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Russell Wilson didn’t have to do much to keep alive Seattle’s hopes for a sixth straight trip to the playoffs, despite the return of star Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott from a six-game suspension.

Justin Coleman put the Seahawks in front for good with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown , and Seattle beat the Cowboys 21-12 in a playoff elimination game Sunday.

Dak Prescott threw two interceptions and the Dallas offense didn’t score a touchdown despite the reunion with his backfield mate, the one he shared a remarkable rookie season with a year ago when Cowboys had an NFC-best 13 wins.

Now Dallas (8-7) is eliminated from the postseason with the end of its three-game winning streak, and the Seahawks (9-6) still have life after Wilson threw for two touchdowns despite a career-low 93 yards passing.

“In these situations where it truly is a must-win game, we don’t have to make anything up,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “We’re well-prepared for it. The process that we’ve gone through the whole season really helped us today.”

Coleman gave Seattle a 14-9 lead in the third quarter when he reached down to catch Prescott’s badly overthrown pass to Elliott and ran untouched 30 yards for a touchdown.

It was the fourth pick-six of the season for Prescott, who threw just four interceptions last season when he was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He has 13 interceptions for the season.

The Seahawks were eliminated in the NFC West race by the Los Angeles Rams’ 27-23 win at Tennessee. But they can still make the postseason with some help despite gaining just 136 total yards — their fewest since getting 135 in a 14-9 win over the St. Louis Rams in 2013.

Seattle’s first two offensive touchdowns were set up by pass interference penalties in the end zone. The first was a 3-yarder to Jimmy Graham, the second a 6-yarder to Baldwin after running plays backed up the Seahawks both times.

The Cowboys, who lost their first three without Elliott before the winning streak, didn’t take it easy on last year’s NFL rushing leader after his six-week layoff, giving him 15 carries for 73 yards in the first half.

The longest carry was a 9-yarder as he averaged 4.7 per carry. Elliott, who was suspended on domestic violence allegations, finished with 97 yards on 24 carries.

But Dallas didn’t give Elliott the ball with a first down at the Seattle 3 when trailing by nine points midway through the fourth quarter. After a Prescott run, a holding penalty on a pass play and the third sack of Prescott, Dan Bailey missed a 34-yarder.

Bailey, who had two 51-yarders among his four kicks, missed again in the closing seconds.

“It’s hard to get over,” said Prescott, who was 21 of 34 for 182 yards. “I’m sure I’ll get over it at some point. But right now’s not the time. Didn’t play well enough for us to win. Simple as that.”

Dallas receiver Dez Bryant dropped the first pass of the game and was caught on camera on the sideline yelling at former Cowboys receiver Miles Austin, now a staff member. Soon after, he fumbled after making a catch , setting up Wilson’s scoring toss to Graham.

Wilson saved that scoring chance by recovering a fumble on a bad handoffon the previous play.

“I didn’t have time to sense anything,” Wilson said. “The year on the line right there, with the ball on the ground. Whoever takes it, so I just leaped to get that ball.”

Bryant had another ball go off his hands on a throw behind him, and the tipped ball was intercepted by K.J. Wright to wipe out one of several promising Dallas scoring chances.

“I’m a little numb because the way we started, the good feeling, the uptick we had with Zeke coming back,” owner Jerry Jones said. “All of that, I thought that would rule the day today.”

MIMICKING ZEKE

Coleman repeated an Elliott antic from last season, when the Dallas running back jumped into a jumbo Salvation Army red kettle after a touchdown on Thanksgiving. Coleman got the same penalty, too — a 15-yarder for unsportsmanlike conduct.

WAY BACK

The Seahawks had 2 yards passing at halftime thanks in part to DeMarcus Lawrence’s 22-yard sack of Wilson in the first half. Lawrence overpowered Germain Ifedi, forced Wilson to backtrack after he tried scrambling to his right and tackled Wilson as he tried to run away from him at the Seattle 8.

GRAHAM MILESTONE

Graham’s second-quarter touchdown made him the first NFL tight end with at least 10 scoring catches in a season for two franchises. He did it three times with New Orleans and has 69 career TDs.

INJURIES

Cowboys: Five-time Pro Bowl LT Tyron Smith started despite a right knee injury that kept him out of practice most of the week. He came out after the first series, replaced by Byron Bell.

UP NEXT

Seahawks: Home against Arizona next Sunday.

Cowboys: At Philadelphia next Sunday.

Giants 0, Cardinals 23

Giants Cardinals Football

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) scores a touchdown as New York Giants defensive back Brandon Dixon (25) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Larry Fitzgerald had never completed an NFL pass, from the throwing end of one anyway. He’d never been on the winning end of a shutout, either.

Both things happened and more in the Arizona Cardinals’ dominant 23-0 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday in what might have been Fitzgerald’s final home game.

“No. 11 (Fitzgerald) was probably my fault,” Giants interim coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “We should have double-teamed him more.”

Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. In the process, he has become the oldest player, at 34 to top 100 receptions and 1,000 yards receiving in a season.

“It’s nice to play a game you love and be able to do it at a high level still,” Fitzgerald said, “and especially being able to do it in a win.”

He was asked this week when he will decide whether to come back for a 15th NFL season but said only that he’d take some time to figure it out. If he leaves, he will have that elusive completion, a 21-yarder to Jaron Brown after two incomplete tosses earlier in his career.

Fitzgerald said it never entered his mind that this might be the final time he plays at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“I don’t like to get into that type of thinking,” he said, “because it’s a lot bigger than me.”

The Cardinals (7-8) shut out an opponent for the first time in 25 years.

“Our defense, they’ve been playing unbelievable for the last six to seven weeks,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. “To get that shutout is huge.”

The Cardinals’ last shutout also came against the Giants, 17-0 on Dec. 12, 1992.

The Giants have lost five in a row and nine of 10.

“No one wants to lose and lose as much as we have,” said Manning, who was intercepted twice and had a fumble returned for a touchdown. “It’s obviously been tough all year. Nothing has come easy. We’ve lost heartbreakers. We’ve lost some like this as well, where we just never could get much going.”

The 36-year-old quarterback completed 27 of 45 passes for 263 yards and was intercepted twice, both by Antoine Bethea. Manning also had the ball stripped by Deone Bucannon and returned 21 yards for a touchdown by Robert Nkemdiche.

The Giants were last shut out on Oct. 12, 2014, 27-0 by the Eagles.

The only real New York threat came when Aldrick Rojas missed a 33-yard field goal although the Arizona defense held after a late deflected pass for an interception.

With the victory for Arizona (7-8), Arians moved into a tie with Ken Whisenhunt for most victories by a Cardinals coach (49).

The Giants fell to 0-3 under Spagnuolo, who took over after Ben McAdoo was fired.

Arians benched quarterback Blaine Gabbert after five starts and returned to Drew Stanton, who completed 20 of 34 for 209 yards, including TDs passes of 13 yards to Fitzgerald and 15 yards to John Brown, but was intercepted twice.

The Cardinals entered the game without a touchdown — but 10 field goals — in their previous 10 quarters, and they added another three-pointer with Phil Dawson’s 21-yard chip shot with 5:29 left in the first quarter.

After the kickoff, New York drove near midfield but, looking over the middle, Manning apparently didn’t see Bethea move from his safety spot to pick off the pass.

FINALLY A TD

Arizona’s touchdown drought ended in the waning moments of the first half. In a drive that started at their 21, the Cardinals went 79 in 11 plays, aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty against Olivier Vernon on third-and-3, Stanton hit Fitzgerald with a 13-yard TD pass that put Arizona up 10-0 with 1:01 left in the second quarter.

Arizona took the second-half kickoff and went 75 yards in eight plays, culminated by a 15-yard touchdown pass to Brown that made it 16-0. Dawson’s conversion try was no good.

INJURIES

The Giants lost their leading receiver, tight end Evan Engram, on Bethea’s first interception with a rib injury. New York safety Landon Collins was knocked out of the game in the third quarter. Spagnuolo said afterward he had a broken forearm.

Arizona linebacker Haason Reddick left with a foot injury in the second quarter.

UP NEXT

Giants: Finish their season at home against Washington on Sunday.

Cardinals: Complete their season at Seattle on Sunday.

Steelers 34, Texans 6

T.J. Yates, Cameron Heyward

Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates (2) is tackled by Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward (97) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 25, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

HOUSTON (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers clinched a first-round playoff bye with a 34-6 win over the Houston Texans on Monday.

Roethlisberger threw passes to six players as Pittsburgh (12-3) romped over the lowly Texans (4-11) despite missing NFL leading receiver Antonio Brown, who sat out with a calf injury.

The Steelers led 20-0 at halftime after taking advantage of two turnovers by the Texans. Le’Veon Bell added a 10-yard TD run late in the third quarter and rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster made it 34-6 with an 18-yard touchdown grab in the fourth.

Bell finished with 14 carries for 69 yards and Smith-Schuster had six receptions for 75 yards.

T.J. Yates was 7 of 16 for 83 yards and a touchdown for the Texans, who lost their fifth straight game and for the eighth time in nine games. Yates made his second straight start since Tom Savage sustained a concussion. Yates left the game briefly on Monday to be evaluated for a concussion, and his replacement, Taylor Heinicke, sustained a concussion on his only full possession.

Roethlisberger was replaced by backup Landry Jones with about six minutes remaining and the game well in hand.

The Steelers hurried and harassed Yates all day with Mike Hilton leading the way with three sacks and three quarterback hits, Cameron Heyward adding two and forcing a fumble.

The Texans couldn’t do much right on a day their home stadium was overtaken by vocal Steelers fans waving their Terrible Towels. One of the few highlights came on an acrobatic 3-yard touchdown reception by DeAndre Hopkins in the fourth quarter. Hopkins deflected the ball with his right hand, reeled it in with his left and got both feet down before falling out of bounds for his NFL-best 13th touchdown reception.

The Steelers took a 10-0 lead when Roethlisberger connected with Justin Hunter on a 5-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.

Alfred Blue had a 48-yard run on the first play of the second quarter to get the Texans to the Pittsburgh 18-yard line. The Texans got to the 1 on second down later in that drive, but couldn’t do anything on the next two plays before Yates was intercepted in the end zone.

Pittsburgh added a touchdown on a 1-yard run by Roosevelt Nix on the ensuing possession. Heyward sacked Yates three plays later and caused a fumble recovered by Bud Dupree to give the Steelers the ball right back.

Pittsburgh added a 36-yard field goal on the next drive to push the lead to 20-0.

Yates was sacked again on Houston’s next possession and injured on the play. He left the game to be evaluated for a concussion, forcing the Texans to play Heinicke.

Heinicke finished that possession and remained in the game for the first drive of the third quarter while Yates was being evaluated. But Heinicke took a hard hit on a sack on the last play of that drive and had to be evaluated for a concussion, too.

FAMILY TIME

J.J. Watt didn’t get to play on Monday as he recovers from a broken leg, but spent some time pregame with his brother, Pittsburgh rookie linebacker T.J. Watt. Houston’s defensive end threw the ball around with T.J. and the brothers also posed for some pictures with their parents before the game.

INJURY UPDATE

Houston cornerback Kevin Johnson injured his knee in the third quarter and didn’t return. … Texans safety Corey Moore also injured his knee in the second half and didn’t return.

UP NEXT

Steelers: Host the Browns on Sunday.

Texans: Visit Indianapolis on Sunday.

Raiders 10, Eagles 19

Jay Ajayi, NaVorro Bowman, Dexter McDonald, Zach Ertz

Philadelphia Eagles’ Jay Ajayi (36) is tackled by Oakland Raiders’ NaVorro Bowman (53) and Dexter McDonald (23) as Zach Ertz (86) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 25, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Philadelphia.

Jake Elliott kicked a 48-yard field goal with 22 seconds left, and the Eagles clinched the No. 1 seed for the NFC playoffs with a sloppy 19-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Monday night.

The Eagles (13-2) went to the Super Bowl and lost 24-21 to New England the last time they had home-field advantage following the 2004 season.

They’ll need the edge after a second straight poor performance. The defense struggled in a 34-29 win at the Giants last week. The offense was awful against the Raiders.

“We played great team ball,” cornerback Patrick Robinson said. “The offense didn’t play as well as they have been, the defense had to step up.”

Ronald Darby intercepted Derek Carr’s pass and ran it back 52 yards with 54 seconds left, but was ruled down by contact at the spot of the pick. Nick Foles then completed four straight passes for 21 yards. After an incomplete pass, Elliott nailed his kick right down the middle.

“We have to pick up for each other,” Darby said.

Derek Barnett returned a fumble 23 yards for a touchdown after picking up a lateral on Oakland’s final play from scrimmage.

Coming off a 12-4 season, the Raiders (6-9) were a popular pick to challenge the Patriots for the AFC title. But they were eliminated from the playoff chase on Sunday.

Still, playing for pride, Oakland nearly spoiled Philadelphia’s Christmas.

“Defensive battle, hard-fought game, certainly had our chances,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “We ran it well, struggled throwing it. Defense played extremely well.”

Making his second start since MVP candidate Carson Wentz tore his left ACL, Foles had a tough time on a windy night. He was 19 of 38 for 163 yards with one TD and one interception. He had four TD passes and no picks against New York.

“I didn’t play good enough,” Foles said. “I have to play cleaner, (need) pinpoint accuracy and good decisions on third downs.”

Carr was even worse. He was 15 of 29 for 140 yards, one TD and two interceptions.

“Anytime you give the ball to the other team, it hurts,” Carr said. “We got to help (the defense) out.”

Carr threw a 63-yard TD pass to Amari Cooper to tie it at 7 early in the second quarter. Cooper was wide open after cornerback Jalen Mills tried to jump the route.

Giorgio Tavecchio kicked a 25-yard field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter to give the Raiders a 10-7 lead.

The teams traded turnovers on three straight possessions, starting with Robinson intercepting Carr and returning it to Oakland’s 44.

Eagles left guard Chance Warmack then caused Jay Ajayi to fumble when he tried to push the pile and hit his teammate. The Raiders recovered at their 30, but gave it back on the next play when Marshawn Lynch fumbled at the same spot.

Philadelphia couldn’t do much with excellent field position and settled for Elliott’s tying 35-yard field goal.

After Tavecchio missed a 48-yard field goal with 7:58 remaining, Foles threw a pass that bounced off Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz’s hands and was intercepted by Reggie Nelson at the Eagles 37.

But Philadelphia quickly got the ball back when Malcolm Jenkins stripped Jalen Richard and recovered it at the Eagles 16. The offense went three-and-out.

Oakland’s first drive ended with Carr throwing the ball away on fourth-and-2 from Philadelphia’s 42.

The Eagles scored on the ensuing possession when Foles tossed a 17-yard TD pass to Ajayi for a 7-0 lead. Corey Clement ran 2 yards on fourth-and-1 to extend the drive.

STREAK SNAPPED

Foles had gone 170 passes without throwing a pick. It was the longest active streak in the NFL.

MISSED CHANCES

Raiders: Nelson dropped what should’ve been a pick-6 in the second quarter.

Eagles: Elliott was wide right on a 33-yard field goal at the end of the first half.

INJURIES

Raiders: OT Vadal Alexander sustained a concussion.

Eagles: DE Brandon Graham left with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter.

UP NEXT

Raiders: Host the Los Angeles Chargers (8-7), who are still in contention for an AFC wild card.

Eagles: Host the Dallas Cowboys (8-7) in a game that has no playoff implications.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s