In an Oakland Raiders season when everything was going right, something went very wrong.
In a Cleveland Browns season when everything was going wrong, something finally went right.
The playoff-bound Raiders, in the running for the AFC’s No. 1 seed, lost quarterback Derek Carr to a broken leg in a 33-25 victory over Indianapolis on Saturday. He’s the club’s best quarterback since Rich Gannon and an NFL most-valuable-player candidate. The devastating blow puts the franchise in the hands of backup Matt McGloin, who last started a game in 2013 and has 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his career.
Carr is reportedly scheduled to undergo surgery Sunday for a broken fibula.
“It feels like we lost the game,” Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin told reporters. “We lost our leader.”
About 2,500 miles away, the Browns experienced the other end of the emotional spectrum. On the verge of joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only NFL teams to go 0-16, Cleveland swerved at the last minute and beat San Diego, 20-17, in the second-to-last week of the regular season.
The merciful win came when Chargers kicker Josh Lambo missed 45-yard field goal as time expired, failing to force overtime.
As the ball fluttered wide right, an entire city did the Lambo leap.
“I was looking around for people to hug,” Browns tackle Joe Thomas said. “There were a few tears in my eyes. I was really happy. There was a genuine feeling of joy. The Christmas spirit was amongst us, for sure.”
For Cleveland, the downside of winning was they lost the inside track on the No. 1 overall pick, as one-win San Francisco has a weaker strength of schedule. The Browns regained pole position by the afternoon, though, as the 49ers picked up their second victory with a season sweep of the Rams.
If it wasn’t clear already, the loss by San Diego virtually ensures Mike McCoy won’t be the Chargers’ coach next season, whether they’re playing in San Diego or Los Angeles. That means the Rams and Chargers could be sharing a city and competing for the same coaching candidates.
Kicking themselves — There’s shock and disbelief in Seattle after the Seahawks lost to Arizona, 34-31, likely blowing their chance for a first-round bye.
Arizona took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter, and led the rest of the way, until the Seahawks rallied with two touchdowns in the final three minutes to forge a 31-31 tie with 1:06 to play. The home team was poised to take the lead, but Steven Hauschka missed the extra point.
The Cardinals, a one-time vogue Super Bowl pick who never got on track this season, went 50 yards in the final minute and won with a 43-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro on the final play. It was Seattle’s first home loss of the season, and the third time Arizona has won in the last four visits there.
Making things worse for the Seahawks, they lost speedy receiver Tyler Lockett in the second quarter when he was carted off with a leg injury after a long reception. Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said after the game that Lockett will need surgery and will miss the rest of the season.
Heading south — The Tennessee Titans, who had won three in a row and had visions of the playoffs dancing in their heads, absorbed a double-whammy Saturday with a 38-17 loss to Jacksonville and by losing quarterback Marcus Mariota to a broken right leg. The Jaguars snapped a nine-game losing streak.
Bay watch — The Green Bay Packers, who stumbled to a 4-6 start this season, are now rolling. They have won five in a row, counting Saturday’s 38-25 victory over Minnesota. That sets up a Week 17 showdown in Detroit with the Packers and Lions playing for the NFC North title.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers showed no ill effects of his calf injury, throwing four touchdown passes and running for a six-yard score on which he juked a defender at the goal line.
“Once I got moving, I felt like myself,” Rodgers said.
Lucky No. 13 — With their 41-3 rout of the New York Jets, the New England Patriots improved to 13-2. That was the sixth time in Patriots history they have won at least 13 games, tying the Denver Broncos for the second-most such seasons in league history. The 49ers have the record with nine seasons of 13 or more victories.
Spreading the wealth — Kyle Shanahan, Atlanta’s offensive coordinator, is a hot candidate for a head-coaching job. This won’t hurt him: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown at least one touchdown pass to 13 different players this season, the most in league history. Saturday, he threw scoring passes to tight ends Joshua Perkins and D.J. Tialavea, each player’s first career touchdown reception.
Miami nice — Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi ran for 206 yards in the Dolphins’ 34-31 overtime win at Buffalo. It was his third 200-yard game of the season, after he gained 204 yards in Week 6 against Pittsburgh, and 214 in Week 7 against Buffalo. Ajayi joins Earl Campbell (four), O.J. Simpson (three) and Tiki Barber (three) as the only backs to run for at least 200 yards three times in the same season.