That prompted high-fives in Denver, high anxiety in San Diego . . . and an extremely low word count in Tom Brady's postgame news conference.
The Patriots quarterback, blissfully inexperienced at losing games in December, answered two questions at the podium — a total of 74 words, one unprintable — before excusing himself in frustration.
FOR THE RECORD:
Pro football: A photo caption that accompanied a column in the Dec. 16 Sports section said hat Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn threw four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against Dallas. He threw four TD passes in the second half, two of them in the fourth quarter. —
"We had plenty of chances all day," said Brady, who threw for 364 yards and two touchdowns in the 24-20 defeat. "We make some good plays, and then we make plenty of [expletive] plays. Thank you."
It was short and semi-sweet, unlike the far-reaching ripple effect of the game's outcome. While the 8-6 Dolphins stayed in the thick of the race for the final AFC wild-card spot, they nudged that berth further out of the reach of the Chargers and others. The No. 6 seed is rounding into a two-team race between Miami and 7-6 Baltimore, which plays at Detroit on Monday night and has the tiebreaker over the Dolphins.
Why are they cheering in Denver? Because, with New England losing, the Broncos have regained the upper hand for the No. 1 seeding in the AFC and home-field advantage through the playoffs. If it comes down to a New England-Denver game with a trip to the Super Bowl hanging in the balance, you can bet that Peyton Manning would want to be playing at Sports Authority Field and not Gillette Stadium.
The Broncos had temporarily lost the inside track on the top seed when they fell at home to San Diego on Thursday. Now, at 11-3, they have a one-game lead over the Patriots with two to play.
In keeping their postseason hopes alive, the Dolphins won their third in a row, and for a week at least denied the Patriots their fifth consecutive AFC East title.
Brady, who directed his team to comeback victories in the previous three weeks, threw five passes from inside the Miami 20 in the final 27 seconds. Four of them fell incomplete — although one of those was nullified by a defensive penalty — and the fifth was intercepted in the end zone.
Picking off the pass was Michael Thomas, a reserve safety who was making his NFL debut after being signed last week off San Francisco's practice squad.
"I didn't know what his first name was," said teammate Jared Odrick, who might not have known Thomas' last name, either, if it wasn't across his shoulders. "That's being thrown into the fire and reacting. That's a pure athlete."
So 41 years after the undefeated Dolphins had the No-Name Defense, they now have the no-name defensive back, who made himself known Sunday.
In like Flynn
Matt Flynn couldn't cut it with the Seahawks, Raiders and Bills, but there's something about the way he plays when he's in a Packers uniform. He threw four touchdown passes in the second half to lead Green Bay to the largest comeback in franchise history, erasing a 23-point halftime deficit to win, 37-36.
Flynn is standing in for Aaron Rodgers, who is recovering from a broken collarbone and has not been cleared to play. Rodgers was able to practice last week, however.
It was just the second time the Cowboys have blown a lead of 23 or more, and the loss has rekindled the Tony Romo-must-go talk, as he had two crucial interceptions with the game on the line. The defeat also cranks up the heat on Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett. The Cowboys (7-7) can still win the NFC East by winning their final two games.
Who's the boss?
In the last two weeks, most of the NFL's elite teams have lost a game. That's New England, Seattle, Denver, New Orleans and Carolina. Kansas City has won two in a row, but the Chiefs lost three straight before that. San Francisco has the league's longest winning streak at four games.
Every division leader in the AFC has gone 3-2 in the last five games.
It all underscores this: No one is bulletproof in this league. Every team has its vulnerabilities, and that probably means home-field advantage is going to be that much more important in the postseason.
The NFC West went 4-0 on Sunday, with three of those wins coming on the road, and the fourth — St. Louis over New Orleans, 27-16 — being one of the two big upsets of the day (along with Green Bay's winning at Dallas).
Because San Francisco won, Seattle didn't clinch the division with its 23-0 shutout of the New York Giants. But the Seahawks are on track for the No. 1 seeding in the NFC, a scary thought considering Russell Wilson is 14-0 in his career at home. Even without suspended cornerback Walter Thurmond — who will be back for the playoffs — Seattle has the top-ranked pass defense.
One that got away
That snapped a five-game winning streak by the Eagles and denied them an opportunity to widen their lead in the NFC East. They were able to exhale a bit when Dallas lost a few hours later — the Cowboys could have pulled into a tie for first — but there's no relaxing for Philadelphia. The Eagles finish at home against Chicago and at Dallas.
For Philadelphia, the loss to the Vikings was a frightening flashback to its bottom-of-the-barrel defense at the beginning of the season. When that defense improved to average, the Eagles started winning. They had gone nine games without allowing more than 21 points, so giving up 48 was sobering.
Last season, Bruce Arians became the first interim coach to be named NFL coach of the year, after stepping in for the cancer-stricken Chuck Pagano and leading the downtrodden Colts to nine wins in 12 games and a playoff berth.
Now, as coach of the Arizona Cardinals, Arians should be in the coach-of-the-year conversation again. His team blew a late lead but hung on to beat Tennessee in overtime, 37-34, and has won six of seven.
The Cardinals are a game back of San Francisco and Carolina in the NFC wild-card race, so they're a mild longshot to make the playoffs. Still, that they have already won nine games — four more than last season — speaks to what Arians has done.
A shorthand version of Mike Shanahan's week: He benched III and went for two.
The Redskins coach benched star quarterback Robert Griffin III last week for the remainder of the season, saying he has been absorbing too many hits lately, and then with about three minutes left in Sunday's game, Shanahan made the risky decision to go for a two-point conversion instead an overtime-forcing PAT at Atlanta.
Kirk Cousins' conversion pass fell incomplete, and the Redskins lost, 27-26.
"I loved the call to go for two there," said Cousins, who threw for 381 yards and three touchdowns but had three turnovers. "I felt like we had them on the ropes."
The Redskins had seven turnovers in the game.
Soon, the eighth turnover will be at head coach.
With a 56-31 victory at Oakland, Kansas City clinched a playoff berth. Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles had quite a day, scoring five touchdowns to become the first player in NFL history with four touchdown receptions and one scoring run in the same game. Three players have scored six times in a game — not counting quarterbacks throwing for touchdowns — with the most recent being Gale Sayers in 1965.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning had a career-worst five interceptions against the Seahawks, bringing his season total to a league-leading 25. Second on that list is rookie Geno Smith of the New York Jets, with 21. So the two quarterbacks who call MetLife Stadium home have combined for 46 picks.
Seattle's Wilson had just one touchdown pass in the victory over the Giants, but that was enough to grab a piece of history. He joined Peyton Manning and Hall of Famer Dan Marino as the only quarterbacks to pass for at least 50 touchdowns in their first two seasons.