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Here is a recap of Week 16 of the 2018 NFL Season with a Tuesday Morning QB Christmas Edition & thanks again to AP Sports/ Pro 32 for photos & articles.
Redskins 16, Titans 25
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans finally have a victory in a game where quarterback Marcus Mariota left injured, and Blaine Gabbert did much more than just win.
Gabbert kept the Titans’ playoff hopes alive.
The veteran threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to MyCole Pruitt with 4:30 left and the Titans rallied to beat the Washington Redskins 25-16 on Saturday for their fourth straight victory.
“I don’t know,” Gabbert said when asked if this was the biggest win of his eight-year career with four teams. “It was a fun win. We got a big game next week.”
The victory was Tennessee’s first in the seven career games that Mariota has left with an injury.
Coming off the bench for the third time this season, Gabbert threw for 101 yards after the Redskins knocked Mariota out of the game late in the first half with a stinger. Gabbert hit Taywan Taylor for 35 yards to jump-start the winning drive, Derrick Henry ran four times for 33 yards, his last an 18-yarder to the 2. Gabbert then hit Pruitt at the back of the end zone.
The Titans (9-6) must beat Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts and have either Baltimore or Pittsburgh lose once to earn the AFC’s second wild-card spot for a second consecutive playoff berth.
“The only scenario that any of us are smart enough to worry about is us preparing to win and ultimately win, and that’s all we can do right now,” first-year Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.
Safety Kevin Byard intercepted Josh Johnson’s pass on third-and-3 with 1:17 left. Then Malcolm Butler picked off a pass as time expired and ran 56 yards for an emphatic TD.
The Redskins (7-8) have lost five of six, and coach Jay Gruden said they couldn’t ask for anything more from quarterback Josh Johnson, who came off his couch only weeks ago. Washington needs losses by Minnesota and Seattle to avoid being eliminated.
“I’m just very proud and sick for the way it ended for him tonight because he really just played (great), displayed great courage, leadership all in three weeks,” Gruden said. “I hate for him to be judged on that one pass (Byard’s interception), but overall just very, very proud of the way he came in here and led this team.”
Mariota had thrown for 110 yards when sacked with 48 seconds left in the first half by defensive end Jonathan Allen. His right, throwing shoulder and arm were examined, then he walked to the locker room and was replaced by Gabbert.
The stinger is the same injury that knocked him out of Tennessee’s loss Nov. 18 at Indianapolis. He also was knocked out of the season opener with an elbow injury that cost him a start. Vrabel said Mariota was still being evaluated after the game.
Byard said the Titans have full trust in Gabbert.
“It’s really no panic on the sideline,” Byard said.
Henry finished with 84 yards and a TD on 21 carries.
Johnson threw for 153 yards and a TD. Dustin Hopkins kicked field goals of 50, 40 and 46 yards, and Washington finished with three sacks.
The fourth quarterback to start this season for Washington this season, Johnson drove the Redskins on the NFL’s second-longest drive this season, taking the ball with 26 seconds left in the first quarter and then eating up 10:58 off the clock, going 93 yards over 17 plays. Johnson capped the drive with a 7-yard TD pass to Michael Floyd for a 10-6 lead.
With Washington already thin at guard, guard Zac Kerin hurt a knee on the Redskins’ second drive of the game but was able to return. Redskins defensive end Matt Ioannidis hurt a hamstring.
Titans Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey aggravated a knee that kept him out of practice all week with 4:21 left.
Adrian Peterson ran for 119 yards for Washington. That put him over 1,000 yards for the season for the first time since 2015 and made him the 12th player in NFL history with eight or more seasons with 1,000 yards rushing. None of that mattered with the loss.
“Hopefully, I’ll appreciate it after Christmas, but for the time being, you know, I play this game to win and to have an opportunity to win a championship,” Peterson said. “Falling short of having that opportunity is weighing heavy on my heart right now. I’m just going to let this one sink in and bounce back and finish the season off on the right note.”
Redskins: Host Philadelphia.
Titans: Host Indianapolis.
Ravens 22, Chargers 10
CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Just like that, the Baltimore Ravens have gone from a midseason swoon to the brink of their first playoff trip in four years.
The resurgent Ravens continued their late push with a 22-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday behind Lamar Jackson’s first 200-yard passing game and a stingy defense that held one of the NFL’s top offenses under 200 yards for the first time since 2014.
Baltimore, which has won five of its past six with Jackson as the starter, dominated for most of the night to remain in possession of the last AFC wild card with one game remaining in the regular season. And the Ravens (9-6) would move into first place in the AFC North if Pittsburgh loses at New Orleans on Sunday.
“I’m proud of our guys. So many of them stepped up and made plays,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Our guys were winning the 1-on-1 battles and our coverage was real good.”
Baltimore got a win against a Los Angeles squad that had already clinched a playoff spot with wins in 10 of its last 11 games. The Chargers’ loss, which drops them to 11-4, deals a big blow to their hopes of winning the AFC West. Kansas City can wrap up the division title and a first-round playoff bye with a win at Seattle on Sunday night.
“We couldn’t get them off the field on defense. And we couldn’t stay on the field on offense,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “We got outplayed. We got outcoached. It’s just that simple.”
Jackson, the 32nd overall draft pick in April, completed 12 of 22 passes for 204 yards. He had come into the game averaging 146.2 yards in the previous five games.
“I’m used to playing on big stages and people doubting us. I try to prove them wrong,” Jackson said. “We can play with anyone. That was a great team. We can fight and everyone sees it now.”
Baltimore led 6-3 at halftime but the Chargers took the lead less than two minutes into the third quarter on Melvin Gordon’s touchdown from a yard out. The Ravens got the ball to start the second half but Chargers rookie safety Derwin James forced Kenneth Dixon’s fumble, which was recovered by Melvin Ingram at the Ravens 21 and returned 3 yards.
The Ravens quickly answered on the ensuing possession when tight end Mark Andrews split safeties Adrian Phillips and Jahleel Addae, taking Jackson’s pass in stride and racing 67 yards for a TD.
“We turned it over so it was up to us to go back down and score,” said Jackson, who also rushed for 39 yards. “It was play action. Mark got open and made a great catch.”
The Ravens’ defense, which came into the game as the top-ranked unit in the NFL, frustrated the Chargers most of the night. Philip Rivers — who went 23 of 37 for 181 yards — was sacked four times, threw two interceptions and didn’t have a touchdown pass for the first time this season.
Baltimore converted three Los Angeles turnovers into 10 points. The Ravens were up 16-10 with 2:40 remaining when Patrick Onwuaso forced Antonio Gates to fumble and Tavon Young scooped it up and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown.
“I saw a couple opportunities where I could punch the ball out and that was one of them. Once I punched it I didn’t know if he was down or not,” Onwuaso said.
STUCK IN NEUTRAL
The 198 net yards by the Chargers’ offense was their fourth-lowest total since Rivers became the starting quarterback in 2006. The last time they were held under 200 yards was Nov. 2, 2014, at Miami (178).
“We got off to a terrible start, turning the ball over on the first play. And we had three third-down conversions called back really that we couldn’t overcome. We got ourselves in third-and-super-long a lot,” Rivers said. “It’s a good defense and they outplayed us today. Depending on what happens we may get another crack at them in two weeks.”
It is the fourth time this season the Ravens have held a team under 200 yards and the 20th time since Harbaugh became coach in 2008.
PRETTY GOOD TRIP
It ended up being a great 48 hours for Harbaugh. On Friday, the Ravens announced their longtime coach will be back next season. Some had wondered if Harbaugh’s 11th season in Baltimore would be his final one because the team has reached the postseason only once since winning the Super Bowl in 2012.
“This is about our guys in the locker room and us. We’re fighting to accomplish something,” Harbaugh said.
While Harbaugh tried to deflect questions about his contract extension, players were supportive of the decision.
“That’s really cool that he’s going to keep being here when I excel,” Jackson said.
BATTLE OF THE BACKS
Baltimore’s Gus Edwards had 92 yards rushing on 14 carries. Nearly half his yards came on the Ravens’ first offensive play when he went 43 yards up the middle for his longest run of the season. It was also the longest rushing play the Chargers have allowed all season. The rookie has rushed for 578 yards over the past six games.
Gordon, who missed the past three games due to a knee injury, had 41 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown.
Ravens: Host the Cleveland Browns in the regular-season finale Dec. 30.
Chargers: At the Denver Broncos on Dec. 30.
Texans 30, Eagles 32
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Nick Foles ran back onto the field after a hard shot knocked him out for a play and the crowd roared, seemingly knowing he was about to do it again.
Jake Elliott kicked a 35-yard field goal as time expired after Foles led the offense into position and the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Houston Texans 32-30 Sunday to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“Foles was so confident and everyone was so calm,” said Zach Ertz, who set a single-season record for most receptions for tight ends. “No one flinched. Guys stuck together.”
Foles threw for a franchise-record 471 yards.
The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles (8-7) need a win at Washington (7-8) next week and for Minnesota (8-6-1) to lose at home to Chicago (11-4) to get a wild-card berth.
The Texans (10-5) missed an opportunity to clinch the AFC South and also allowed New England (10-5) to take control of the No. 2 seed. But when Pittsburgh lost to New Orleans, Houston earned at least a wild-card berth.
The Texans would secure the division title with a victory against Jacksonville next week. They’d get a first-round bye with a win and if the Patriots lose or tie.
“I’ll put that on my shoulders,” J.J. Watt said. “The offense did a great job giving us a chance, and we just didn’t get a stop at the end.”
Filling in for the injured Carson Wentz for the second straight week, Foles again played like the Super Bowl MVP who led Philadelphia to a victory over New England.
“We stuck together through the ups and downs,” said Foles, who choked up when asked about possibly playing his last game in Philadelphia.
Deshaun Watson had two TD passes and ran for two scores.
Watson threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Vyncint Smith with 2:04 remaining as Houston rallied from a 13-point deficit.
But Foles brought Philadelphia back.
Foles was injured on a late hit by Jadeveon Clowney while completing a 19-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery to the Texans 30 on third-and-10. Nate Sudfeld came in and threw an incomplete pass, but Foles returned on the next play. His 20-yard pass to Ertz on third-and-10 put Philadelphia at the Houston 35.
The Eagles ran the clock down and Elliott made the kick to make up for missing an extra point earlier in the quarter.
“When it ends a game, you get to enjoy it a little bit longer,” Elliott said.
Watson threw a 14-yard TD to DeAndre Hopkins to cut the deficit to 29-23 with 4:48 left and the Texans got the ball back at their 20 after a three-and-out.
Watson made an incredible escape on third-and-11 and threw 22 yards to Jordan Akins for a first down at the Philadelphia 34.
On third-and-11, he hit Smith deep in the back of the end zone. Smith made an outstanding catch, and dragged his feet to stay inbounds.
Foles connected with Nelson Agholor on an 83-yard TD in the third quarter to give the Eagles a 23-16 lead. Foles changed the play at the line of scrimmage and fired a deep pass that Agholor caught in stride at the Texans 30 and ran untouched to the end zone, stopping at the 1 and falling backward in for the score.
The Texans had a first down at the Eagles 31 on the ensuing drive but Chris Long sacked Watson, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Fletcher Cox and returned to the Houston 49.
Foles then connected with Ertz on a 23-yard TD to give the Eagles a 29-16 lead. Elliott missed the extra point.
Ertz had 12 catches to break Jason Witten’s record. Ertz has 113. Witten had 110 catches for the Dallas Cowboys in 2012.
Watson ran in from the 5 one play after Clowney’s strip-sack and recovery, giving the Texans a 9-7 lead.
The Eagles scored a TD on their opening drive for just the fourth time this season. Darren Sproles turned a short pass from Foles on fourth-and-2 into a 37-yard TD to give Philadelphia a 7-0 lead.
Texans: WR Demaryius Thomas (right leg) was carted off the field in the fourth quarter. CB Kareem Jackson (knee) and CB Kayvon Webster (thigh) were injured in the first half. CB Johnathan Joseph (neck) went down in the third quarter.
Eagles: LT Jason Peters (quad) got hurt on the first possession.
Texans: Host the Jacksonville Jaguars next Sunday.
Eagles: Visit the Washington Redskins (7-8) next Sunday.
Bills 12, Patriots 24
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — It’s not every day that a team finds itself cheering for the one that beat it the season before in the Super Bowl.
This isn’t the typical season for the New England Patriots.
Patriots players erupted in a loud cheer in the locker room as Eagles kicker Jake Elliott’s 35-yard field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired to give Philadelphia a victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday.
Combined with the Patriots’ 24-12 win over the Buffalo Bills just minutes before to snap a two-game losing streak, New England moved back into the No. 2 spot in the AFC with one game to play. A Patriots win over the Jets next week would give New England a first-round bye in the playoffs.
“Fly, Eagles, Fly!” receiver Julian Edelman said afterward.
It was a perfect ending to a less than perfect day for the Patriots.
New England (10-5) earned their 10th straight AFC East title with Sony Michel running for 116 yards and a touchdown. It also improved to 7-0 at home this season and became the first franchise in NFL history to earn playoff berths in 10 straight seasons. It marked the Patriots’ fifth straight win over the Bills (5-10) and their 26th series sweep of Buffalo.
Tom Brady went 13 of 24 for 126 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions — his lowest output since he passed for 123 yards in a 2003 loss to the Bills.
“We didn’t have our best day in the passing game. But it felt good to win. At this time of year, whatever it takes to win, that’s what you’ve got to do,” Brady said. “And we still have one hugely important game left. We have to finish strong.”
But with the touchdown he joined Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers with at least 10 seasons of 4,000-plus passing yards. Manning has 14 such seasons, Brees entered the day with 12 and Rivers has 10.
It was Michel’s fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season.
It helped mask Brady’s mild day. The two interceptions were his third time with multiple picks in a game this season. He now has 11 interceptions in 2018, his most since 2013.
Brady’s touchdown pass of the game came thanks to a heads-up play by Julian Edelman in the third quarter .
Leading 14-6 and facing fourth-and-4 on the Bills 32, Brady found Edelman over the middle on a quick slant. Edelman was tackled and rolled up by safety Rafael Bush, but Edelman never touched the ground. He got up and sprinted into the end zone.
Brady’s interceptions were among three turnovers by the Patriots on the day, but Buffalo was only able to turn them into three points. Leading 24-6 in fourth quarter, he was replaced by backup Brian Hoyer.
Asked why he pulled Brady with more than six minutes to play, coach Bill Belichick said because “I thought it was the right thing to do.”
Bills back running back LeSean McCoy returned after a one-game absence with a left hamstring injury. He had a quiet return, rushing six times for 9 yards. He didn’t play the first series of the game and said afterward he was benched by coach Sean McDermott after a disagreement for which McCoy took responsibility.
“We had an issue. He corrected me. That’s all,” McCoy said.
Rookie quarterback Josh Allen was bottled up for most of the day, limited to 20 of 41 for 217 yards with two interceptions. He ran five times for 30 yards. Buffalo finished with 72 rushing yards, the first time in five games it failed to rush for 100 or more.
“Gotta get better,” Allen said. “We’ll learn from this one. New England is the team that teams want to be. The trajectory of where we want to put this team and how they can sustain success, so yeah we’re gonna learn from this one.”
After going three plays and out on their first drive of the day, the Patriots went to the run game to score the game’s first touchdown. New England ran six straight times, capped by a 4-yard TD run by Michel. It was Michel’s first touchdown since New England’s Week 12 win over the Jets.
Following a Buffalo punt, the Patriots crossed into Bills’ territory again, but gave the ball back when Rex Burkhead fumbled. But Stephen Hauschka’s 43-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar.
After both teams exchanged punts, New England pushed its lead to 14-0 in the second quarter via a 27-yard touchdown run by James White .
Buffalo’s first six drives of the game were a regression for an offense that had shown promise in recent games. The Bills went three plays and out three straight times, followed by six plays and the missed field goal; three-and-out; and one play and an interception by Allen.
The Bills returned the favor when Lorenzo Alexander picked off an errant pass by Brady. But Buffalo again failed to convert the turnover into points, turning the ball over on downs when Allen’s deep, fourth-and-3 pass for Robert Foster fell incomplete.
Bills: LB Julian Stanford left in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. … WR Isaiah McKenzie was evaluated for a head injury in the second quarter but returned in the second half. … WR Deonte Thompson left in the third quarter with a toe injury.
Patriots: WR Cordarrelle Patterson left with a knee injury in the third quarter.
Bills: Host Miami next Sunday.
Patriots: Host the Jets.
Giants 27, Colts 28
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck took one peek at the New York Giants’ defense and changed the call.
Instead of trying to force the late run coach Frank Reich wanted, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback asked T.Y. Hilton to go up the field with the defenders and Chester Rogers to slide underneath into the flat. It worked brilliantly.
Rogers’ 1-yard TD reception with 55 seconds left gave the Colts their first lead of the day, a 28-27 victory over the Giants and a shot to end a three-year playoff drought next week.
“I just can’t say how clutch Andrew was on that last drive,” Reich said. “He made a check on that last play. I called a run, he checked to a pass because he saw the pressure.”
Actually, Luck faced the same alignment earlier in the game and asked his receivers if they could make the audible work with the game — and perhaps Indy’s season — potentially on the line.
When they said yes, Luck swung the ball out to a wide-open Rogers, who turned up the field and scooted into the end zone untouched for Indy’s eighth win in nine games. The Colts (9-6) started 1-5, including 0-2 at home, but won their last six home games and now would make the playoffs for the first time in four years if they beat Tennessee next week. They could even win the AFC South with a win and a loss by Houston.
Still, Luck, Reich and everybody else in the Colts’ locker room downplayed the playoff talk and instead tried to focus on a remarkable comeback in a game that looked lost.
Luck led the Colts to touchdowns on three of their first four second-half possessions, capitalizing on just about every opportunity. He finished 31 of 47 for 357 yards with one interception and two touchdowns, including the audible.
“When he called the run, I looked at Chester and T.Y. and said, ‘How about running the pass pattern on top?’ and they said, ‘Yeah, we’ll do it,'” Luck said. “Glad they picked up on it.”
The Giants (5-10) had themselves to blame for their second straight loss.
After leading the entire game and having a chance to make it a two-possession lead after reaching the Colts 7, New York settled for a 27-yard field goal that made it 27-21 in the fourth quarter.
The unraveling began after Indy pinned the Giants back at the 4. The Giants were called for two offensive penalties and then watched Saquon Barkley lose the ball on a third-down run. Darius Leonard scooped it up and ran into the end zone, but the officials ruled Barkley’s forward progress had been stopped, forcing a punt.
On the ensuing possession, linebacker Tae Davis was called for pass interference on third-and-3 and six plays later, cornerback B.W. Webb drew the same infraction in the end zone, giving Luck the ball at the 1. He found Rogers on the next play, and the Giants’ last gasp ended when Eli Manning was picked off by Malik Hooker.
Manning was 25 of 33 for 309 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Barkley rushed 21 times for 43 yards and one score while catching five passes for 113 yards.
“They made the plays at the end to get the ball in the end zone,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. “They made enough plays to win and we didn’t at the end.”
Giants: Odell Beckham Jr. (quad) missed his third straight game and linebacker Alec Ogletree sat out with a concussion. … Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. left on the first series of the game with an injured calf and did not return. … Tight end Rhett Ellison left in the third quarter with a concussion and also did not return.
Colts: Center Ryan Kelly (neck) and Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron (concussion) left in the first half. Neither returned. … Cornerbacks Kenny Moore III and Quincy Wilson departed on successive plays in the third quarter with undisclosed injuries.
Giants: Barkley needs two receptions to break the NFL’s single-season franchise record for most receptions by a rookie running back. Reggie Bush had 88 in 2006. … Sterling Shepard had six catches for 113 yards but only one catch for three yards in the second half. … Evan Engram caught six passes for 87 yards.
Colts: Hilton had seven catches for 138 yards while Rogers caught seven for 54 yards. … Dontrelle Inman caught a 2-yard TD pass from Luck in the third quarter and Nyheim Hines and Marlon Mack each rushed for TDs. … Kicker Adam Vinatieri tied Jeff Feagles for No. 3 on the league’s career list for games played (352). … John Unitas Jr. and John Unitas III served as honorary captains as the 60th anniversary of the 1958 championship between these teams nears.
Giants: Host NFC East champion Dallas’ regular-season finale next Sunday.
Colts: Put their playoff hopes on the line next Sunday at Tennessee.
Jaguars 17, Dolphins 7
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Weeks after losing his job, Blake Bortles stepped back into the Jacksonville Jaguars huddle with the score tied and the offense sputtering.
“He said, ‘Let’s go, boys, I’m back,'” teammate Dede Westbrook said.
Bortles came off the bench late in the third quarter and provided a spark Sunday, helping Jacksonville eliminate the Miami Dolphins from the AFC playoff race by winning 17-7 .
Bortles took the Jaguars 51 yards for a short field goal and 10-7 lead early in the fourth quarter. On the next series, Telvin Smith Sr. intercepted Ryan Tannehill and scored on a 33-yard return to seal the Jaguars’ victory.
“To get the opportunity to go play with those guys and share a win with them is awesome,” Bortles said.
The Dolphins (7-8) will sit out the playoffs for the 15th time in the past 17 years.
“We’re on the outside looking in,” defensive tackle Akeem Spence said, “and it stinks.”
Miami will finish at .500 or worse for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons, leaving the jobs of coach Adam Gase and top executives in jeopardy.
Play-caller Gase acknowledged his offense was terrible.
“It was brutal to watch, to be a part of,” he said.
Jacksonville (5-10) won for only the second time in the past 11 games.
Jaguars starter Cody Kessler bruised his throwing shoulder when hit as he threw a pass and left the game late in the first half. He returned to begin the third quarter, but after being sacked for a fifth time was replaced again by Bortles.
Coach Doug Marrone said he made the change because he thought Bortles’ superior mobility would help against Miami’s stout pass rush. Marrone declined to say which quarterback will start the season finale next Sunday, and Bortles declined to lobby for the assignment.
“I just work here, man,” he said. “I signed up for three years, and until those three years are up or they let me go, I’ll play when they need me.”
Bortles finished 5 of 6 for 39 yards, and ran four times for 25 yards. The third overall pick in the 2014 draft, he lost the starting job to Kessler in Week 13.
“He gave us a huge lift,” Westbrook said. “It felt like old times again.”
After Bortles helped the Jags take the lead, their defense provided the exclamation point. Tannehill had a first down at his 32 when he pumped and threw off his back foot. Smith stepped in front of the intended receiver and scored untouched.
“Don’t think you’re going to chase me down and tackle me when I got the rock,” Smith said.
Tannehill said the primary receiver was covered and he forced a pass elsewhere.
“Got to be smart there and throw the ball away,” Tannehill said.
Tannehill went 15 of 22 for 146 yards with one touchdown.
There was no miracle reminiscent of the Dolphins’ previous home game, when they beat New England with a double lateral on the final play. An attempted double pass in the closing minutes went haywire and resulted in a holding penalty.
The two offenses surprisingly traded touchdowns on their opening drives, which covered 78 and 75 yards, but then resumed their season-long sputtering ways. Each team committed 10 penalties.
Calais Campbell led the Jaguars’ defensive charge with a forced and recovered fumble, a sack, two tackles for a loss and three quarterback hurries.
Miami and Jacksonville took turns showing why their records aren’t better. Kessler lost a fumble cocking his arm to throw, but the Dolphins failed to capitalize on the gift, missing a field goal.
The Dolphins allowed a long punt return to give the Jaguars a chance at a 56-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, but Kai Forbath’s kick fell short of the 20-yard line.
Campbell’s takeaway gave the Jaguars a scoring chance at the Miami 17, but three plays later they were at their own 47 and punted.
Jaguars: T Josh Wells left the game in the second quarter with a concussion.
Dolphins: Reserve DT Ziggy Hood hurt his hamstring.
The Dolphins close the season Sunday when they try for a series sweep at Buffalo. Miami beat the Bills in Week 13.
The Jaguars conclude their season Sunday at the Texans, who won when the teams met in Week 7.
Bengals 18, Browns 26
CLEVELAND (AP) — No awkward hug. No cold handshake. No holiday greeting.
Baker Mayfield’s only interaction with former coach Hue Jackson was an icy stare.
Mayfield threw three touchdown passes to thrill a sellout, holiday-spirited crowd that came out to boo Jackson, and rookie Nick Chubb ran for 112 yard as the Cleveland Browns beat the Cincinnati Bengals 26-18 on Sunday to sweep their southern Ohio neighbors for the first time since 2002.
“Quite honestly, I couldn’t care about what happened in the past,” Mayfield said. “It is about this year and we won. We are moving forward.”
The No. 1 pick in this year’s draft continued his stellar rookie season, one that took off after Jackson was fired by the Browns on Oct. 29. Mayfield has thrown 24 TD passes, third most in NFL history by a rookie and just two shy of the record shared by Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson.
With their fifth win in six games, the Browns (7-7-1) improved to 5-2 under interim coach Gregg Williams, who has gone from long shot to legitimate candidate to become Cleveland’s next coach. It’s only the second time since 2007 that the Browns have won at least seven games.
The Bengals (6-9), on the other hand, are disintegrating under coach Marvin Lewis. They lost for the sixth time in seven games and are assured of finishing last in the AFC North, a spot the Browns have occupied every season since 2011.
Cincinnati made it interesting as Jeff Driskel threw two TD passes in a two-minute stretch to get the Bengals close.
However, Mayfield connected with tight end David Njoku for 66 yards just before the two-minute warning and the Browns ran out the clock.
Following the long completion, Mayfield jogged past Jackson standing on the sideline and stared at his former coach, whom he called “fake” after their matchup last month in Cincinnati.
Mayfield playfully denied he was showing up Jackson.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said.
Told that the exchange was blowing up on social media, Mayfield said, “That’s all right. We won.”
Lewis spent little time discussing what went wrong, holding a news conference that lasted just over a minute.
“We came into this season thinking, ‘We can win this division,'” Driskel said. “You have to look at yourself and ask, ‘What can I do to prevent this next week or next season?'”
Mayfield has Browns fans convinced there are glory days ahead. He challenged Clevelanders to fill FirstEnergy Stadium for the home finale, and they did show with a surge in ticket sales this week.
The Browns were officially eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday. That hardly dampened the enthusiasm around a team that has recovered from a 0-16 season and become one of the league’s best stories in 2018.
Mayfield’s the main reason.
In the fourth quarter, fans chanted “Ba-ker, Ba-ker” after he scampered 10 yards. Moments later, they were roaring again after Mayfield stretched to reach for a first down before being shoved hard out of bounds by defensive end Carlos Dunlap, triggering a sideline skirmish near Cleveland’s bench.
“It has been a good run,” Mayfield said. “Obviously, we would love to be in the playoffs, but like I said earlier in the year, you know that you have to go through some tough times to see the brighter end of it.”
NO PASSING GRADE
Driskel, making his fourth start for the injured Andy Dalton, was sacked three times and under duress all day. He completed two passes for 3 yards in the first half, when the Bengals had minus-15 yards passing.
TRICK AND TREAT
Browns offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens went into his bag of tricks to set up Cleveland’s second TD. On first down, the Browns ran a pass off a reverse with wide receiver Jarvis Landry threading a 63-yard pass — the ball traveled more than 50 yards in the air — to Breshad Perriman. Two plays later, Mayfield rolled right and found just enough space to throw a scoring pass to Darren Fells.
“I need to ice up my shoulder,” joked Landry.
Chubb and set the franchise rookie rushing record for a season, previously held by Trent Richardson.
Mayfield has thrown at least one TD pass in each of his 12 starts. He trails only St. Louis’ Kurt Warner (23 from 1999-00) and Minnesota’s Brad Johnson (15 from 1996-97) for the most consecutive starts with a scoring pass to begin a career.
Bengals running back Joe Mixon came in leading the AFC in yards rushing and attempts and needing 5 yards to reach 1,000. He got them on his first carry, a 6-yard run in the first quarter. Mixon is the first Cincinnati back to reach the plateau since Jeremy Hill (2014).
Bengals: LB Vontaze Burfict played most of the first half before going out with a concussion. He came in listed as questionable with a head injury that forced him to miss practice. … Starting CB Dre Kirkpatrick hurt his right shoulder in the first quarter and did not return.
Browns: Pro Bowl rookie cornerback Denzel Ward is back in concussion protocol after getting hurt in the fourth quarter. Ward had just returned after missing the previous two games with a head injury.
Bengals: At Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Browns: Finish season at Baltimore on Sunday.
Buccaneers 20, Cowboys 27
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott shared a brief hug with star running back Ezekiel Elliott after the Dallas quarterback kneeled twice to wrap up their second NFC East title in three seasons together.
The postgame celebration was equally muted after Prescott accounted for two touchdowns and Jaylon Smith returned a fumble 69 yards for a score in a 27-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Now it’s on to something Prescott and Elliott couldn’t do after an NFC-best 13 victories during their remarkable rookie year together in 2016: win a playoff game.
“We’ve got a lot more work to do,” Prescott said after running for Dallas’ first touchdown and throwing a 4-yard pass to Michael Gallup for the last. “This is something that we set out, wanted to do way back in the offseason, and this is giving us a chance to go and get the greater goal.”
Smith’s long return came after a scrambling Jameis Winston lost the ball on a blind-side sack by Randy Gregory, who also recovered a fumble to set up a touchdown for a 14-point lead late in the third quarter.
The Cowboys (9-6) clinched their third division title in five seasons a week after failing in their first chance with their first shutout loss in 15 years, 23-0 at Indianapolis.
It was a moment of redemption for Elliott, whose six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations last year came just as the Cowboys were playing their best. The ensuing three-game losing streak ultimately kept them out of the playoffs.
“We can’t get comfortable,” said Elliott, who had 85 yards rushing. “We can’t afford to take a week off next week. We’ve got to keep working and make sure we’re ready for the playoffs.”
Winston threw for 336 yards in another prolific passing game for the Buccaneers (5-10), who outgained the Cowboys 383 yards to 232 but hurt themselves with turnovers and holding penalties. Tampa Bay’s third straight loss clinched the franchise’s fifth season of at least 10 losses in the past six years, a week after the Bucs were eliminated from postseason contention.
“It’s frustrating to move the ball like that and not get touchdowns,” coach Dirk Koetter said. “Against good teams, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Smith’s fumble return and Gregory’s recovery at the Tampa Bay 4 helped a Dallas offense that wasn’t sharp for a second straight week. Prescott was 20 of 25 but for just 161 yards.
Prescott ran 7 yards to cap the only lengthy Dallas touchdown drive, a 75-yarder. His toss to the rookie Gallup came after Gregory’s recovery, which resulted from a botched exchange between Winston and receiver Bobo Wilson.
A play before that bad exchange in a seven-point game, Peyton Barber’s 33-yard run was wiped out by one of four holding penalties against the Bucs.
Smith gave the Cowboys a 14-3 lead in the second quarter, scooping up the loose ball after Gregory hit Winston from behind and outrunning the Tampa Bay quarterback down the sideline for his first career touchdown.
The sprint was one of the best illustrations of Smith getting his speed back after the devastating knee injury in his final game at Notre Dame that sidelined him as a rookie with the Cowboys in 2016. For the first time this season, he’s playing without a brace designed to offset nerve damage.
“I’ve been known as a sideline-to-sideline fast linebacker and athlete,” Smith said. “Had I run the 40 (at the NFL combine), I would have been somewhere in the 4.4s and all that good stuff. But it feels good to be able to open up like that again at the highest level.”
Winston’s 7-yard pass to Mike Evans got the Bucs within a touchdown with 2:05 remaining, but Dallas linebacker Leighton Vander Esch recovered the onside kick. Evans had six catches for 90 yards, and Adam Humphries had 10 grabs for 79 yards.
With a chance to get within a touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter, Winston was stopped about half a yard short of the first down at the Dallas 1 on a fourth-down scramble.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
The Cowboys could have clinched the division with a Philadelphia loss at home against Houston. The issue was already settled by the time Jake Elliott hit a 35-yard field goal as time expired to give the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles a 32-30 win. “I think it was mandatory for us to go out there and take care of it ourselves,” Elliott said. “Honestly, it just feels better.”
Elliott, the NFL rushing leader by 98 yards over Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams coming in, is at 1,434 yards with what could be seen as a meaningless game at the Giants to finish the regular season. In a similar situation two years ago, Elliott didn’t play at Philadelphia. His final carry Sunday was an 11-yarder for a first down that allowed Prescott to run out the clock.
Dallas defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford went to a hospital to have a neck injury evaluated after getting hurt on the second play of the game. Crawford’s neck was stabilized on a stretcher with his facemask removed. The seventh-year player was moving his arms and legs before he was taken off the field.
The Cowboys said after the game that Crawford was released from the hospital and would be re-evaluated by the team’s medical staff Monday.
Buccaneers: Finale at home against Atlanta next Sunday.
Cowboys: Regular-season finale at the Giants next Sunday.
Packers 44, Jets 38 OT
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers refused to sit this one out, even with the playoffs out of the question. And he willed the Green Bay Packers from setting some dubious franchise history.
A banged-up Rodgers threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams with 6:23 left in overtime, capping an eye-popping performance by leading the Packers to a wild 44-38 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.
The win was the Packers’ first on the road this season — snapping a nine-game skid away from Lambeau Field dating to last season — and it prevented them from becoming the first Green Bay squad since 1958 to go an entire season without a win away from home.
“It’s good for the young guys to see what the locker room on the road feels like with a win, what the plane flight feels like,” Rodgers said. “How special that plane ride is after a road victory.”
And this one was all on Rodgers, who was masterful in the fourth quarter and the overtime period for the Packers (6-8-1).
He threw for 442 yards and touchdowns to Adams and Jake Kumerow, and also ran for two scores — his first since the 2016 season. That’s despite a groin issue that nagged him last week, and a knee ailment that has bothered him all season. Rodgers was intent on playing, and believed it proved something.
“That it matters, even when the record isn’t great and you’re not going to the playoffs,” he said. “That I have a lot of pride. I love competing in anything. I don’t want to look back in 20 years and wonder, ‘What if I had played that game? Could something special have happened? What would it look like to my teammates if they knew I kind of quit on them?’ I hope my teammates know I’m never going to quit on them.
“I’m going to battle through anything I’ve got, and they did the same.”
They certainly did, erasing a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit and improving to 2-1 under interim coach Joe Philbin, who replaced the fired Mike McCarthy earlier this month.
“I think it speaks a lot about the character of the guys,” Philbin said. “They never stopped believing that they could get the job done.”
The loss for the Jets (4-11) overshadowed a dazzling performance by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who threw for a career-high 341 yards — but never got a chance with the ball in overtime. Darnold was 24 of 35 passing with TDs to Robby Anderson, Chris Herndon and Elijah McGuire, who also ran for a score.
“As an offense, we’ve just got to finish,” Darnold said. “We had a chance to put the game away.”
It was also likely the final home game for coach Todd Bowles, who’s expected to be fired after next week’s game at New England.
The Jets were done in by penalties, getting called for a whopping 16 that cost them 172 yards. Bowles was critical of the officiating crew, saying some of the calls against New York shouldn’t have happened.
“I haven’t seen one like that in my 18, 19 years in the league,” Bowles said. “I thought we were playing two teams: I thought we were playing the Packers and the striped shirts.”
After the Packers won the OT toss and elected to receive, Rodgers took over — as he has so many times throughout his career.
On third-and-10 from the Packers 40, Rodgers got hit as he was throwing and his pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling hung in the air and fell incomplete — but Trumaine Johnson was called for pass interference, putting the ball at the Jets 27. Moments later, a pass interference call on Buster Skrine gave the Packers the ball at the 6.
Rodgers ran it in — but right tackle Bryan Bulaga was called for holding. On the next play, Rodgers found Adams in the back of the end zone for the rare road victory.
“It would have been pretty pathetic if would have gone the entire season without one,” Adams said.
That all came after Rodgers went over a pile and reached past the goal line for a go-ahead 1-yard touchdown with 1:13 left in regulation, giving Green Bay its first lead. Rodgers’ initial 2-point conversion try was intercepted by Darryl Roberts — but Roberts was called for defensive holding. Rodgers then ran it in to make it 38-35, finishing off a terrific drive that included a 23-yard run to get the ball to the 1.
Andre Roberts, selected to his first Pro Bowl earlier in the week, returned the ensuing kickoff 51 yards to put the Jets in good shape. Darnold completed passes of 9 and 14 yards to get the Jets to the Green Bay 15. But three straight passes fell incomplete and New York settled for a tying 33-yard field goal by Jason Myers with 17 seconds left in regulation.
SPECIAL SPECIAL TEAMS
Roberts returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score late in the first half, the second of his career, to highlight a solid outing by New York’s special teams unit.
Rontez Miles took a direct snap on a punt on fourth-and-1 from the Jets 31 in the fourth quarter and ran up the middle for 4 yards and a first down. Anthony Wint also forced a fumble on a kickoff earlier in the game.
The one hiccup came on the game’s opening drive, when Jason Myers — picked for his first Pro Bowl — was wide left on a 45-yard attempt.
LEO LOSES COOL
Jets defensive end Leonard Williams was ejected after throwing a punch at Bulaga in the second quarter. The penalty gave the Packers the ball at the Jets 7.
Jamaal Williams took the ensuing handoff, stayed in bounds after a hit by Jamal Adams and stretched his body — and the ball — over the goal line for a TD that made it 21-14 with 1:33 left.
Packers LG Lane Taylor hurt a knee in the first quarter and CB Jaire Alexander injured his groin in the first half. Neither returned.
Packers: Host Detroit next Sunday.
Jets: At New England next Sunday.
Vikings 27, Lions 9
DETROIT (AP) — Looks like the Minnesota Vikings have a feel for desperation.
And desperation pass plays.
Kirk Cousins took a shotgun snap, rolled slightly to his right, stepped up and heaved a pass from near midfield into the end zone.
Kyle Rudolph leaped to make a go-ahead touchdown catch.
Cousins’ 44-yard Hail Mary to Rudolph as time expired in the first half put the Minnesota Vikings ahead and they beat the Detroit Lions 27-9 Sunday, moving a step closer to playing in the postseason.
“It was a big way to gain some momentum going into the half after a slow start,” Cousins said. “They were calling it a Hail Rudy after it happened.”
Minnesota famously beat New Orleans in the playoffs last January on Diggs’ game-ending, 61-yard touchdown reception to advance to the NFC championship game.
The Vikings could have clinched a spot in the playoffs with a win and losses by Washington and Philadelphia this weekend. The Redskins lost to Tennessee on Saturday, and shortly after Minnesota walked into its locker room at Ford Field, the Eagles beat Houston on a game-ending field goal.
Minnesota (8-6-1) can still earn a spot in the postseason by closing the regular season with a win against NFC North champion Chicago at home, or by having wild-card hopefuls lose in Week 17.
“We don’t want to leave it up to anyone else,” Rudolph said.
The Vikings overcame an awful start offensively, scoring two touchdowns on Cousins’ passes over the last 1:32 of the second quarter, and relied on their defense all afternoon against Detroit.
Minnesota had almost as many punts (4) as yards (5) before Cousins led an eight-play, 69-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs late in the first half. On the Vikings’ next possession after calling timeout with 2 seconds left in the second quarter against a three-man rush, Cousins capped a 70-yard drive with his Hail Mary to Rudolph, who didn’t have much traffic in front of him,.
“I didn’t have to move one step off of my spot. I was able to jump,” said the 6-foot-6 Rudolph, who was a highly touted high school basketball player in Cincinnati. “I joked earlier I had a lot of rebounds in high school basketball and at that point, it turns into another rebound, so maybe see if I can get that added to my career total.”
In the same end zone three years ago, Aaron Rodgers connected with Richard Rodgers on a winning desperation pass to lift the Packers to a win over Detroit to help them make a push to get into the postseason.
Cousins finished 21 of 28 for 253 yards with three touchdowns, matching his career high with 29 set in 2015 with the Redskins. Rudolph had a career-high 122 yards receiving, matched a career high with two touchdown receptions, and had a season-high nine receptions.
The Lions (5-10) wasted opportunities to have a comfortable cushion in the first half because their offense stalled repeatedly. They had to settle for three field goals and a 9-0 lead, and then they had to deal with a 14-9 deficit after the Hail Mary.
“When those things happen, certainly they have a little bit of a toll on you,” coach Matt Patricia acknowledged.
Detroit has dropped four of five and seven of nine since reaching .500 in late October, falling apart in Patricia’s first season as a head coach after the franchise fired coach Jim Caldwell with a 36-28 record over four seasons.
The playing-for-pride Lions got off to a strong start defensively against the playoff-hopeful Vikings, holding them without a first down until there were three-plus minutes left in the first half.
With the ball, though, Detroit could not to take advantage of favorable field position against a stingy defense. The Lions were relegated to Matt Prater kicking one field goal in the first quarter and two in the second.
The Vikings opened the second half with a field goal for a 17-9 lead that looked like it would be enough against a team that failed to score a touchdown against them in two games this season. Minnesota sent a lot of fans out of Ford Field early in the second half when Cousins threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Rudolph to go ahead by 15 points.
Matthew Stafford was 18 of 32 for 116 yards and was replaced with 4:10 left by Matt Cassel, who was welcomed by cheers before the Lions were called for a false start prior to his first snap.
“It’s frustrating that that’s the way the game went,” said Stafford, who is playing through a back injury. “Coach makes those decisions. Always want to be out there, understand where he’s coming from with it. He knows what I’m dealing with and going through. As far as fans’ reaction, it doesn’t make any difference.”
Vikings: CB Marcus Sherels left with a foot injury in the first quarter and didn’t return. CB Xavier Rhodes (groin) limped off the field in the fourth quarter. FB C.J. Ham (elbow) had an elbow injury.
Lions: TE Luke Willson (concussion), DT A’Shawn Robinson (knee), DeShawn Shead (knee) were hurt during the game.
Vikings: Host the Bears on Sunday.
“It’s going to be like a playoff game,” Rudolph said.
Lions: Close the season at Green Bay on Sunday.
Falcons 24, Panthers 10
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — It’s been a disappointing season for Matt Ryan and the Falcons, but the veteran quarterback is excited about what’s ahead for Atlanta next season — particularly on offense.
“It’s great to have a bunch of different guys that are capable of making plays at any time during a game,” Ryan said.
Ryan had 239 yards passing and threw touchdown passes to three different wide receivers, the Falcons ran for 194 yards without Devonta Freeman and Atlanta beat Carolina 24-10 on Sunday. It was the seventh straight loss for the Panthers (6-9), who were eliminated from playoff contention.
The Falcons (6-9), who’ve battled injuries at a number of key positions, have won two straight, giving them some hope for the future.
“We are at our best when everybody is involved and we can run the football and play-action pass off of it,” Ryan said. “We did a nice job of that today and everybody created explosive plays. It makes it difficult to defend when you have to account for a lot of different people.”
Ryan found Calvin Ridley for a go-ahead, 75-yard touchdown strike on the first play of the second half when Panthers safety Eric Reid bit on a play-action fake. He also connected with a wide-open Mohamed Sanu on a crossing route for a 44-yard score and threw a 1-yard TD pass to Julio Jones in the back of the end zone.
Ridley had three catches for 90 yards tied the franchise rookie record for TD catches in a season with eight. Sanu had five grabs for 81 yards, and Brian Hill had 115 yards rushing on eight carries.
The Falcons intercepted first-time starter Taylor Heinicke three times and forced four turnovers after allowing a touchdown on the game’s opening possession. Heinicke, making his first NFL start for the injured Cam Newton, left the game briefly in the second quarter with a left elbow injury, but returned and was repeatedly battered by the Falcons.
He finished 33 of 53 for 274 yards with one touchdown.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Heinicke gutted it out, but the team needs to find players who can make plays in the red zone.
“I wasn’t coming out of that game,” an emotional Heinicke said. “Those guys know I am going to fight for them.”
The Panthers’ frustration was evident when linebacker Thomas Davis and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn got into a heated exchange on the sideline.
“I really believed seven weeks ago we were a good football team,” Munnerlyn said. “Right now, we’ve just got a bad record. We just ran into some injuries, ran into some bad luck and fell short.”
Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey had 21 carries for 101 yards and 12 receptions for 77 yards to set an NFL record for receptions in a season (106) by a running back.
He became the third running back in league history to record 100 receptions and 1,000 yards rushing in a season, joining LaDainian Tomlinson and Matt Forte. McCaffrey has 1,080 rushing yards and 845 receiving yards, giving him an outside chance to become only the third player to post 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving.
He also broke his father Ed’s record for receptions in a season, although McCaffrey quipped, “He’s got a comeback — he’s got three Super Bowl (rings). So he’s got me there.”
Falcons punter Matt Bosher went viral when he delivered a blistering hit on Panthers returner Kenjon Barner.
“It was pretty cool,” Sanu said. “I jumped out of my seat. I was looking at the tablet and I saw it and was like, ‘Oh!’ I had to go congratulate him. It was a big hit.”
MORE FINES FOR REID?
Reid already been fined four times by the NFL this season for illegal hits and almost certainly will get a fifth letter in his locker next week. Reid was flagged for unnecessary roughness for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Ridley in the second quarter as Ridley tried to make a sliding catch.
Reid has been outspoken about the league drug-testing him six times in 11 weeks and fining him for four hits, one of which has already been overturned. He sued the NFL for collusion for keeping him out of the league because of his decision to kneel alongside Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem to protest racial and social injustice and said he’s not surprised by the treatment he’s received from the league.
Reid knelt again before Sunday’s game.
KEEPING UP WITH JONES
Jones continued to be a problem for the Panthers. He came into the game averaging more than 100 yards in 12 career games against Carolina and didn’t wait long to assert himself with four catches for 28 yards and 1-yard TD catch on Atlanta’s first possession.
Falcons: Running back Tevin Coleman left the game with a groin injury in the second half and did not return with the Falcons up by two scores.
Panthers: Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner left the game with an ankle injury and did not return.
Falcons: Visit the Buccaneers next Sunday.
Panthers: Visit the Saints next Sunday.
Rams 31, Cardinals 9
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — C.J. Anderson was looking for a job last week. The Los Angeles Rams needed a running back.
It was a marriage of convenience that turned out so well for everyone on Sunday, except the Arizona Cardinals.
And almost nothing is going well for them.
Anderson, the former Denver Bronco playing five days after he was signed off the street by Los Angeles, rushed for 167 yards — one shy of his career high — and the Rams bounced back from a pair of losses to beat the troubled Cardinals 31-9.
Anderson, playing in place of the injured Todd Gurley, had a 4-yard touchdown run and other gains of 46 and 27 yards as the Rams (12-3) rushed for 269 yards, most allowed by Arizona on the ground this season.
Anderson was not at all surprised.
“That has been my game I have been in for six years,” he said. “If you paid any attention of football with C. J. Anderson in it, you wouldn’t be surprised at all.”
Rams cornerback Aqib Talib was a teammate of Anderson in Denver.
“It looked like C.J.,” Anderson said. “It’s nothing new to me, either. It’s what he does. He grinds, man.”
Anderson had plenty of help.
The Rams’ master at disruption, Aaron Donald, had three sacks to break the NFL record for defensive tackles with 19 1-2 and break the franchise overall sacks record in the process.
“It was a game we needed, a bounce-back game,” Donald said. “We are back on track and hopefully we will keep it up.”
With the victory, Los Angeles remained with the second-best record in the NFC behind New Orleans, which clinched the conference’s top seed. The Rams are one game ahead of third-place Chicago. Each has one left to play, and the Bears would have the tiebreaker should they finished tied.
Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, in perhaps his final home game, threw the first touchdown pass of his 15-year NFL career, a 32-yard toss to David Johnson.
But it was the only trip to the end zone for the Cardinals (3-12), who at 1-7 had the worst record at home since they moved to Arizona from St. Louis in 1988. A loss in their season finale at Seattle would leave them 3-13, matching the worst record in the 30 years since that move.
All this leads to speculation that Steve Wilks’ rookie season in Arizona as head coach might be his last.
Jared Goff completed 19 of 24 passes for 216 yards for a touchdown. He also ran for a score on one of three consecutive TD drives for Los Angeles in the first half.
A Rams turnover gave Arizona its chance to score early and take its only lead. Goff, under duress, fumbled and Deone Bucannon recovered for the Cardinals at the Rams 41. Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen scrambled for 15 yards and threw three short passes to Fitzgerald to set up Zane Gonzalez’s 36-yard field goal.
But Los Angeles methodically mounted touchdown drives the next three times it had the ball.
The Rams needed only 3:08 for a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive, Robert Woods scoring from 4 yards on an end around.
Anderson’s 27-yard run up the middle highlighted an 11-play, 84-yard drive, Goff scoring on a 1-yard run to make it 14-3.
After Arizona’s unlikely TD, with Fitzgerald dropping in a perfectly thrown 32-yard pass to Johnson, the Rams took the kickoff and used up 7½ minutes in another 75-yard drive. Anderson scored on a 4-yard run and Los Angeles led 21-9 with 2:10 left in the half.
Fitzgerald isn’t saying whether this, his 15th NFL season, will be his last. But if this was his final home game, he had a good one.
At the top of the list was the throw. After Rosen’s 16-yard run to the Los Angeles 32, the Cardinals ran a play with Rosen tossing a lateral to Fitzgerald, who then passed to the wide-open Johnson for the touchdown. Fitzgerald is 2 for 4 in his NFL passing career for 53 yards — and one touchdown.
Coach Sean McVay, and even Gurley himself, had talked as if they expected the prolific running back to play. But Gurley didn’t practice all week with left knee inflammation and it was announced a couple of hours before the game that he wouldn’t play.
In the end, they decided it made no sense to push it considering the opposition and the bigger games ahead.
Rams: Host San Francisco next Sunday.
Cardinals: Play at Seattle on Sunday.
Bears 14, 49ers 9
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — With a dominant defense behind him, Mitchell Trubisky knows the Chicago Bears’ offense doesn’t have to do too much to keep winning.
That formula has the Bears heading into the season finale with a chance to earn a first-round playoff bye.
Trubisky threw one TD pass and the Chicago defense used a couple of key late stops to keep San Francisco out of the end zone, leading the Bears to their eighth win in nine games, 14-9 over the 49ers on Sunday.
“For us as an offense, we have to do our part as well,” Trubisky said. “Because we’re a family and we want to take care of those guys and take a lot of pressure off them and score a lot of points so they don’t have to play all-world every single week. That’s the standard that they’ve come to hold themselves to.”
Khalil Mack and Co. delivered again. Danny Trevathan made a key interception with San Francisco (4-11) driving in the fourth quarter, and then the defense made one more stop to clinch at least the third seed in the NFC playoffs. The Bears (11-4) can earn a first-round bye with a win in the season finale and a loss by the Rams.
“We’ve been in this situation so many times and have come up big. It’s almost expected of us,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “Like when we had to go back on the field to help win it for our team. Everyone was poised and no one was shaking. We expected great things to come out of it and we’re glad we stood up for our team.”
The game turned feisty in the fourth quarter, when San Francisco safety Marcell Harris hit Trubisky after he started sliding on a scramble near the Bears’ bench. Trubisky’s teammates took exception to what they considered a “dirty” hit and a scuffle ensued with punches being thrown and San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman and Chicago receivers Joshua Bellamy and Anthony Miller all getting ejected.
“As a leader, you can’t let them get your teammate like that, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of what’s going down,” Sherman said. “I felt like they went over the top, and I responded over the top.”
Shortly after the melee, the Bears converted a fourth-and-1 sneak by Trubisky from their own 35 with 4:19 to go. After the 2-minute warning, Chicago appeared ready to ice the game on a third-down completion to Allen Robinson. But instead of going down to allow the Bears to run out the clock, Robinson kept running and had the ball knocked out of his hands by Tarvarius Moore.
Greg Mabin recovered at the San Francisco 24 with 1:52 to play, but the Niners were unable to convert when Nick Mullens threw a deep incompletion to Marquise Goodwin on fourth-and-4 from the Chicago 45 instead of scrambling for the first down.
“I’ve just got to handle the situation better,” Mullens said. “I should have ran. I didn’t run. In the heat of battle, a lot of things are happening fast, split-second decisions. Saw ‘Quise down the field. Tried to give him a chance, instead of making the simple play. I didn’t make the simple play.”
The Bears struggled to do much offensively all game but managed a TD drive on their final possession of the second quarter and first of the third quarter.
Trubisky capped the first with a 4-yard pass to Miller and then completed all seven passes on a 90-yard drive that took 7:43 and ended when Howard scored on a 2-yard run that made it 14-9. He finished 25 of 29 for 246 yards, with his 86.2 completion percentage the best mark for the franchise since at least 1950 with a minimum of 16 attempts.
“We figured out we had to dink and dunk a little bit,” Trubisky said. “They played more zone shell than they had played all year. That’s fine. We just had to make that adjustment and make them tackle in space.”
GOOD AS GOULD
Former Bears kicker Robbie Gould kicked three field goals in the first half against his former team after making all five in a 15-14 win at Chicago last year. Gould was cut by the Bears before the 2016 season. Cody Parkey missed a 37-yard field goal for Chicago in the first quarter.
TAKE IT AWAY
The 49ers finally got a takeaway. Trubisky threw a lateral to Tarik Cohen in the second quarter that ended up in a fumble recovery by DeForest Buckner. The Niners had gone a record six full games and 399 defensive plays without a takeaway since last recording one Oct. 28 at Arizona. San Francisco added the second fumble recovery and has just seven takeaways on the year, on pace for its fewest in a season.
Bears: Robinson left the game after making a diving 43-yard catch in the first quarter before returning.
49ers: RB Matt Breida (ankle), WR Dante Pettis (left knee) and TE Garrett Celek (concussion) all left the game with injuries in the first half and didn’t return. CB K’Waun Williams left in the second half with a knee injury.
Bears: Visit Minnesota on Sunday.
49ers: Visit the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
Steelers 28, Saints 31
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees found a receiver who hadn’t played most of the season to sustain a late touchdown drive. The Saints’ defense found a way to force two fumbles in the fourth quarter. And New Orleans’ punt-return unit stopped a fake punt less than a yard short of a conversion that might have helped Pittsburgh protect a late lead.
Combine that with some good fortune on decisions by the officials, and it added up to a third straight fourth-quarter comeback for these charmed 2018 Saints, who’ll finish the regular season as the best team in the NFC.
Brees capped a 326-yard passing performance with 2-yard touchdown toss to Michael Thomas with 1:25 left, Sheldon Rankins stripped JuJu Smith-Schuster in the final minute, and the Saints clinched the top seed in the NFC playoffs with a 31-28 victory over the Steelers that dealt a significant blow to Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes.
“That’s one thing these guys have done a good job with, coming up with plays when we needed it. We’ve won a lot of different ways this year,” Saints coach Sean Payton said after New Orleans (13-2) reached 13 victories for the third time since he became coach in 2006. “I’m proud of this team. Man, they’ve showed a great resolve — dealt with injuries, dealt with all the adversity you might have in a long season.”
Pittsburgh drove into potential tying field-goal range on its final drive, but Smith-Schuster fumbled while landing on Rankins after a short reception and linebacker Demario Davis recovered.
“One thing you know about this team is we’re resilient,” Rankins said.
Alvin Kamara gained 105 yards from scrimmage and ran for two touchdowns for New Orleans. Receiver Tedd Ginn Jr., playing for the first time since Week 4, caught a 25-yard pass on third-and-20 during the Saints’ go-ahead series.
The late rally came after New Orleans kept it close with two crucial fourth-quarter stops. Safety Kurt Coleman forced Pittsburgh’s first fourth-quarter turnover when he stripped Stevan Ridley and defensive end Alex Okafor recovered in Saints territory.
The Steelers briefly preserved their four-point lead when L.J. Fort blocked Wil Lutz’s 50-yard field goal attempt with 6:16 left. But New Orleans quickly forced a fourth-and-5 and then stopped upback Roosevelt Nix a yard short of a first down when he took the snap on a fake punt with a little more than four minutes to go.
“I just wanted to be aggressive,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “I like the play.”
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 380 yards and three touchdowns for the Steelers (8-6-1), connecting 14 times with Antonio Brown for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Pittsburgh fell into second in the AFC North behind Baltimore and out of playoff position.
The Steelers could still win the division with a victory next week and a loss by the Ravens. Their path to a wild card is unlikely at best because it would require Indianapolis and Tennessee to tie. Pittsburgh’s loss also clinched a playoff spot for the AFC South-leading Houston Texans.
“We’re playing pretty good football, but it might not matter,” Roethlisberger said. “Obviously we don’t control our destiny anymore. We have to take care of business next week.
“You can be as skillful as you want on both sides of the ball and special teams, but there is still a small element of luck involved in football. A play here, a play there. If that’s what it is, I don’t know, but it’s the game of football.”
New Orleans went up 24-14 in the third quarter when Kamara dove over blockers at the line of scrimmage, capping a drive highlighted by his career-long 42-yard reception.
But the Steelers seized momentum back with a nine-play, 75 yard drive that included three passes to Brown, the last a 3-yard TD toss. Pittsburgh then took a 28-24 led with on its next drive, which again ended with a TD pass to Brown, who split double coverage by Coleman and Marshon Lattimore for his 20-yard score.
The Saints’ final scoring drive was aided by a pass interference call on fourth down, marking the third Saints touchdown drive of the game aided by such a call.
The first also came on a fourth-down play in the first quarter when Joe Haden placed his hand on Kamara’s back on a pass that appeared overthrown.
“I don’t know what they saw. I just tried to jump up and go get the ball,” Haden said. “It’s an offensive game. You can’t touch these guys. … I’m very frustrated.”
A play later, Mark Ingram scored from a yard out for his franchise-record 50th rushing touchdown, surpassing Deuce McAllister’s mark set in 2008.
Before Lutz had a kick blocked, he made his franchise-record 26th straight field goal, surpassing the Saints mark set by Hall of Famer Morten Andersen during the 1992 and ’93 seasons.
BEN AND BROWN
Roethlisberger now has 33 TDs passing, breaking his single-season mark of 32 set in 2007 and 2014.
Brown clinched a sixth straight season with at least 100 catches — making him the only NFL receiver to do so — and six straight seasons with 1,200 yards receiving. He also has 15 touchdown catches, surpassing his career best.
Steelers: Nickel cornerback Mike Hilton was examined in the blue tent by team medical staff but returned to action. … Starting linebacker Vince Williams left the game in the second half.
Saints: Left tackle Terron Armstead left the game in the first half, returned to action a few series later, but then left the game again for good in the second half. After that, Andrus Peat moved to left tackle and rookie Will Clapp took over at left guard.
Steelers: Host Cincinnati on Sunday, needing a win to have any hope of advancing to the playoffs.
Saints: Finish the season at home against Carolina on Sunday.
Chiefs 31, Seahawks 38
SEATTLE (AP) — Doubted before the season began, questioned even more after a 0-2 start, the Seattle Seahawks are back where they’ve spent most seasons since Pete Carroll arrived.
The Seahawks are in the playoffs and perhaps as the type of opponent no one would like to see in the postseason.
“You hear it. You hear the noise. You hear the 4-12 predictions, the 5-11 and that stuff motivates you,” Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright said. “We kept believing.”
Seattle clinched its spot in the NFC playoffs after toppling Kansas City 38-31 on Sunday night, thanks to three touchdown passes from Russell Wilson and a pair of TD runs by Chris Carson.
Wilson got the better of Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and helped lead Seattle back to the postseason after missing the playoffs a year ago. Seattle has now made the playoffs in seven of the nine seasons with Carroll in charge, and six of seven with Wilson at quarterback.
It was an unexpected accomplishment after Seattle overhauled its roster in the offseason. But the discovery of the best run game in the NFL, coupled with vets like Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Doug Baldwin was enough for Seattle to navigate its way into the postseason.
“There’s an emotion to it that’s deep and it’s because there wasn’t very many people that thought we could do this,” Carroll said. “Most everybody thought we didn’t have a chance and to hang together, hang through it, we got it done before the season is even over.”
The Seahawks (9-6) can wrap up the No. 5 seed and a matchup with Dallas by beating Arizona in Week 17.
Wilson was 18 of 29 for 271 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson with 7:31 left for his third TD. But it was Seattle’s next drive that stood out as the best run team in the NFL put the game on the arm of its quarterback and receivers in the fourth quarter.
Leading 31-28, Wilson hit David Moore for 7 yards to convert a key third-down and after Kansas City used its first timeout with 3:04 left. He followed with a 45-yard strike to Tyler Lockett, and Baldwin added a one-handed catch for 29 yards to the Chiefs 1. Carson capped the decisive drive with his second TD run with 2:29 left gave Seattle a 38-28 lead.
Carson rushed for 116 yards, while Baldwin had seven catches for 126 yards and an acrobatic 27-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.
“When it’s our time to make plays and we’re given opportunities to make plays, we are going to make them. We have shown that,” Baldwin said.
Mahomes had a few of his own magical moments that will enhance his MVP candidacy. But for the second straight week the Chiefs (11-4) were unable to come through with a victory that would have wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the AFC and will go into Week 17 with the chance of being division champs for find themselves on the road for the opening weekend of the postseason.
“I know if you take care of business, you don’t have to talk about anything,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid said. “When we play the way we can play, and we are going to play, we are a tough team.”
Mahomes was 23 of 40 for 273 and three TDs. Mahomes had only 83 yards passing in the first half. He had 76 and was 6 of 6 on Kansas City’s first possession of the second half, finishing the drive with a scrambling, sidearm fling to Charcandrick West for a 25-yard touchdown that pulled the Chiefs even at 17-all midway through the third quarter.
That was the last time the teams were tied.
Harrison Butker’s 32-yard field goal with 1:20 left pulled the Chiefs within seven, but the onside kick went out of bounds and Seattle ran out the clock.
“It’s frustrating knowing that we’ve had it so close both times,” Mahomes said. “Luckily we are still in the position where we will have the opportunity to go out there and win it next week.”
Damien Williams rushed for 103 yards and caught a 2-yard touchdown pass in the first half. But Seattle managed to keep Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce from taking over and the Seahawks pass rush did enough to disrupt the Chiefs passing attack. Mahomes was sacked only once, but was hit 11 times. Kelce had five catches; Hill had four. Neither scored.
“We knew (Hill) and (Kelce) were the go-to guys and if you eliminate those two guys you have a good chance of winning,” Wright said.
Carson became the first Seattle running back since Marshawn Lynch in 2014 to have 1,000 yards rushing. … Kelce passed Tony Gonzalez for most yards receiving in a single season by a tight end in Chiefs history. … Mahomes has 31 touchdown passes on the road, most in NFL history. Tom Brady had 29 in 2007. … Wilson is first QB in NFL history with winning record in each of first seven seasons.
Kansas City running back Darrel Williams suffered a hamstring injury in the first half and did not return. Seattle’s banged up offensive line saw J.R. Sweezy go down with an ankle injury in the second quarter and he did not return. D.J. Fluker, who was only supposed to play a limited number of snaps filled in and played the entire second half.
Seattle had kicking concerns arise after Sebastian Janikowski was roughed on a field goal attempt in the second half. He was able to hit a 28-yard field goal later in the drive, but it was punter Michael Dickson handling the next two kickoffs with drop kicks. Dickson has done it in special situations this season.
Chiefs: Kansas City hosts Oakland in Week 17.
Seahawks: Seattle hosts Arizona to close out the regular season.
Broncos 14, Raiders 27
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Dwayne Harris returned a punt 99 yards for a touchdown after Denver failed to down it, and the Raiders gave their fans plenty to celebrate in their possible final game in Oakland, beating the Broncos 27-14 on Monday night.
The Raiders (4-11) are set to move to Las Vegas in 2020 and have no lease for next year. With Oakland officials having sued the team over the move, the Raiders are looking into other options for 2019, including AT&T Park in San Francisco.
A decision is expected before the Super Bowl, but many of the die-hards came out for this game knowing it could be the last NFL game ever in the stadium that opened in 1966.
It has been almost that long since the Broncos (6-9) had gone back-to-back seasons with losing records, having last done it in 1971-72. After going 5-11 in coach Vance Joseph’s first season, Denver has done little better in year two and general manager John Elway could be ready to make a change after the season.
The Broncos opened the month with playoff aspirations, but three straight losses to teams that entered the game with losing records ended those hopes and have the team searching for answers.
Shortly after Oakland native Marshawn Lynch lit the torch in honor of late owner Al Davis before the game, Harris delivered the biggest highlight with a punt return that was tied for the second-longest ever.
Andre Holmes deflected Colby Wadman’s punt just before it crossed the goal line and Isaac Yiadom was in position to down it at the 1. But he couldn’t hold onto the ball and Harris picked it up before racing 99 yards down the sideline for the touchdown that stunned the Broncos. Only Patrick Peterson (99 yards) and Robert Bailey (103) have punt returns that long in NFL history.
The Broncos weren’t much better at the other phases of the game, committing pre-snap penalties, generating almost no consistent offense in the first half and then allowing Doug Martin to scamper 24 yards untouched around the end to make it 14-0 midway through the second quarter.
Martin, who was born in Oakland, finished with 107 yards for his biggest rushing day since 2015.
Case Keenum got the Broncos on the board with a pair of TD passes in the second half to DaeSean Hamilton and Courtland Sutton. But it wasn’t enough as Jalen Richard scored on a 3-yard run for Oakland and the Raiders sealed the win with interceptions by Marcus Gilchrist and Erik Harris.
RED FLAG ALERT
Raiders coach Jon Gruden threw his challenge flag after Keenum’s 19-yard TD pass to Sutton, believing that Keenum crossed the line before the throw. But scoring plays are automatically reviewed and the replay booth confirmed the call without a stoppage. Oakland was charged with a timeout, the second time this season Gruden has tried to challenge a TD.
The Raiders came into the game allowing the most points per game in franchise history since 1961, but gave up nothing in the opening half against the Broncos. It’s the third straight meeting between the teams where Denver failed to score in the opening half. Those are the only times in the past 90 games that Oakland has pitched a first-half shutout.
Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in the first half, joining Dominic Rhodes and LaGarrette Blount as the only undrafted rookies to top 1,000 in a season in the Super Bowl era. Lindsay ran for 46 yards before leaving with a hand injury and as has 1,037 on the season. He needs 68 more to break Rhodes’ record set in 2001 for Indianapolis.
Broncos: Host the Chargers on Sunday.
Raiders: Visit the Chiefs on Sunday.