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NFL Week 17: Patriots fail to earn top seed; Steelers nab playoff spot

NFL Week 17: Patriots fall to Dolphins; Steelers earn playoff spot

New England Patriots’ Steven Jackson (39) in action during the first half against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

(Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Tom Brady was sacked twice and knocked down at least half a dozen times Sunday, and the New England Patriots missed a chance to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs when they lost to Miami, 20-10.

Brady watched New England’s final offensive series from the sideline. With the Patriots eager to protect his health, he threw a season-low 21 passes, but even so was lucky to make it through the game in one piece.

New England (12-4) still has a first-round bye, but the Denver Broncos earned the top seeding in the AFC playoffs with a 27-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers.

The Dolphins (6-10) wrapped up a disappointing season and are expected to embark on a search for their ninth coach since 2004.

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Steelers 28, Browns 12

CLEVELAND -- Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes, Pittsburgh’s defense dominated and the Steelers slipped into the AFC playoffs with the win over Cleveland, which is expected to fire Coach Mike Pettine.

The Steelers (10-6) had to win and needed Buffalo to knock off the New York Jets to make the postseason. Pittsburgh did its part despite a sloppy performance, and then earned a wild-card berth when the Bills shocked the Jets 22-17 in Orchard Park, New York.

Roethlisberger threw for 349 yards, 187 to the sensational Antonio Brown, who had 13 catches and a TD.

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The Browns (3-13) ended another losing season in disarray and doubt. Owner Jimmy Haslam, who vowed in August that he wouldn’t “blow things up” will likely clean house, ousting Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer. Pettine went just 10-22 in two seasons, losing 18 of his final 21 games.

Bengals 24, Ravens 16

CINCINNATI -- AJ McCarron overcame a rough start and threw a pair of touchdown passes, rallying Cincinnati to a victory over Baltimore that kept the Bengals in the running for a playoff bye.

The Bengals (12-4) matched the best record in franchise history — they also won 12 games during the 1981 and 1988 seasons when they reached the Super Bowl — and left their playoff seeding up to the later games.

The AFC North champions wasted a chance to clinch the No. 2 seed when they lost in Denver 20-17 on Monday night.

The Ravens (5-11) completed a season that went sour early with close losses and more injuries than any other team in the league.

Jeremy Hill ran for 96 yards and put the Bengals in control by breaking through the line for a 38-yard score on a fourth-and-1 play in the third quarter.

Seahawks 36, Cardinals 6

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes in a second-quarter outburst and Seattle emphatically snapped Arizona’s nine-game winning streak with a rout in Arizona.

Playing on the same field where they lost a Super Bowl heartbreaker last February, the Seahawks (10-6) dominated from their opening possession and led 30-6 at the half.

It was a sour end to the regular season for the NFC West champion Cardinals (13-3), who already had clinched the NFC’s No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye.

Tyler Lockett set up three of Seattle’s four first-half touchdowns — with punt returns of 66 and 42 yards and a 36-yard reception.

Seattle will play at either Washington or Minnesota in the wild card round next weekend, depending on the outcome of Sunday night’s game between the Vikings and Green Bay.

Texans 30, Jaguars 6

HOUSTON -- J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus led the defense and Jonathan Grimes scored twice to help the Houston Texans clinch the AFC South with the win over Jacksonville.

Grimes had a 12-yard touchdown reception and added a 3-yard rushing score in the second quarter to help Houston take a 20-3 lead by halftime. Kareem Jackson added a score on an interception return in the fourth quarter to pad the lead.

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Watt, playing without a cast for the first time since breaking his left hand Dec. 9, had had three sacks, forced a fumble and recovered another one to help the Texans (9-7) to their first division title and playoff berth since 2012.

Mercilus tied a career high with 3 1/2 sacks and forced a fumble and recovered one.

Blake Bortles threw for 239 yards with two interceptions for the Jaguars (5-11).

Bills 22, Jets 17

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Ryan Fitzpatrick threw interceptions on each of New York’s final three drives and the Jets’ playoff hopes were dashed with the loss to Buffalo.

The Jets (10-6) would have made the postseason for the first time since 2010 with a win, but the defeat combined with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 28-12 win at Cleveland ended those hopes. New York had a five-game winning streak stopped, and it came against former Jets coach Rex Ryan, who was fired by New York and hired by the Bills (8-8) last January.

Fitzpatrick, who had thrown just one interception in the Jets’ winning streak, was picked off by Leodis McKelvin in the end zone early in the fourth quarter with New York driving.

The game was decided when Fitzpatrick’s side-arm pass over the middle was intercepted by A.J. Tarpley with 11 seconds remaining.

49ers 19, Rams 16 (OT)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Phil Dawson kicked a 23-yard field goal 11:33 into overtime for his fourth of the game to lift San Francisco in what might have been Jim Tomsula’s last game as coach.

Dawson came through after Greg Zuerlein’s 48-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Dontae Johnson, giving San Francisco the ball back with 4:49 to play.

Blaine Gabbert passed for 354 yards and a 33-yard touchdown for the 49ers (5-11), who avoided their worst finish since 4-12 in 2005.

Rams Coach Jeff Fisher finished 7-9 for his fourth straight losing season running the team.

Redskins 34, Cowboys 23

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Kirk Cousins threw for three touchdowns before leaving late in the first half of a playoff tuneup, and the Washington Redskins finished the regular season with a win at Dallas.

Cousins broke Jay Shroeder’s franchise record for yards passing in a season, finishing with 4,166. Had the game mattered, he might have threatened Sonny Jurgensen’s 48-year-old team record of 31 touchdown passes, instead settling for 29.

The Redskins (9-7) won four straight to finish the season, their longest streak since winning the last seven the last time they made the playoffs in 2012. The NFC East champions will be the No. 4 seed on wild-card weekend.

Kellen Moore had 435 yards passing and three touchdowns after throwing an interception and losing a fumble on a snap to help dig a quick 21-0 hole for the Cowboys (4-12).

Eagles 35, Giants 30

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants suffered another tough loss in what may have been Tom Coughlin’s final game.

Former Giant Walter Thurmond scored on an 83-yard interception return in the third quarter and the Philadelphia Eagles added to Coughlin’s season-long frustrations with the road win.

It was the third straight loss for the Giants (6-10) and finished a third straight losing season and a fourth straight year out of the playoffs.

Coughlin, who led the Giants to two Super Bowl titles in his 12 seasons, has a year left on his contract. His future is expected to be decided soon by co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch.

The 69-year-old might retire and end his 20-year NFL head coaching career.

Saints 20, Falcons 17

ATLANTA -- Jamarca Sanford’s interception at the Atlanta 25 with less than two minutes remaining set up Kai Forbath’s 30-yard field goal as time expired, giving New Orleans the win over Atlanta.

Sanford cut in front of Devonta Freeman for the interception with 1:47 remaining.

It was the Saints’ sixth sweep of the season series with the Falcons in 10 years under coach Sean Payton. Payton is 15-5 against Atlanta.

The loss denied the Falcons (8-8) their chance to give first-year Coach Dan Quinn a winning record. The Saints (7-9) avoided giving coach Sean Payton his first 10-loss season.

Drew Brees threw for 323 yards, including a touchdown pass to Ben Watson.

Julio Jones had nine catches for 149 yards for Atlanta and moved to second place in the NFL single-season records for receiving yards and catches with 136 for 1,871 yards.

Ryan threw first-half scoring passes to third-string tight end Tony Moeaki and Freeman, but his only interception of the game was devastating.

Lions 24, Bears 20

CHICAGO -- Matthew Stafford threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns, Calvin Johnson had 137 yards receiving, and Detroit beat Chicago in what could be coach Jim Caldwell’s final game.

Detroit (7-9) avoided a last-place finish in the NFC North with its sixth win in eight games. Whether the Lions bring back Caldwell for a third season remains to be seen.

He led them to a rare playoff appearance last year, but a 1-7 start put his future in doubt.

Caldwell survived a midseason purge that saw offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi get fired and ownership drop the ax on President Tom Lewand and General Manager Martin Mayhew the following week.

The Lions intercepted three passes by Jay Cutler.

Colts 30, Titans 24

INDIANAPOLIS -- Recently signed Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley each threw one touchdown pass in the first half, and Jerrell Freeman scored on a 23-yard interception in the second half to lead Indianapolis past Tennessee.

But not into the playoffs.

The Colts (8-8) won their last two games to avoid the first losing season since 2011, but didn’t get the help they needed — a Houston loss and seven other games to go the right way -- to make the postseason.

Josh Freeman was 15 of 28 for 149 yards and one interception while running Indy’s regular offense. Lindley ran the 2-minute offense and gave Indy a 20-14 halftime lead with an 18-yard TD pass.

Tennessee (3-13) clinched the No. 1 draft pick by losing its fourth straight. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger fell to 0-10 as a starter.


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