NFL roundup: Patriots clinch playoff berth for 11th consecutive season
Tom Brady threw a pair of touchdown passes to move within one of the NFL career record, Stephon Gilmore returned one of his two interceptions 64 yards for a score, and the New England Patriots clinched a playoff berth Sunday with a 34-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
A week that started with intrigue — a Patriots crew videotaping the Bengals’ sideline in Cleveland — concluded with more New England history. The Patriots have made the playoffs 11 consecutive seasons, extending their NFL record.
Brady had touchdown passes of 23 and 7 yards that left him with 538 for his career, one shy of Peyton Manning’s record.
The Patriots (11-3) haven’t been as overwhelming in this playoff push, getting just enough out of the 42-year-old Brady and more than enough out of the league’s top-ranked defense.
Thousands of Patriots fans filled the stadium and chanted Brady’s name as the minutes ran off. Brady was 15 of 29 for 128 yards and a pair of sacks.
The Patriots broke a two-game losing streak with four interceptions in the second half.
Gilmore picked off Andy Dalton twice in the third quarter, with his second pick-6 of the season putting New England in control. The Patriots pushed their league-leading interception total to 25.
The Bengals (1-13) got a touchdown pass from Dalton that ended a streak of 20 straight games without reaching the end zone on their opening drive. All they managed the rest of the way was a pair of field goals.
The Rams need a lot of help to make the playoffs following a 44-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys that Aaron Donald described as embarrassing.
It was the second time Bengals coach Zac Taylor was on the opposite side against Bill Belichick. Taylor was the Rams’ quarterbacks coach last season when the Patriots thwarted them to win the Super Bowl.
This time, with Taylor calling the plays, the Bengals held up for a half before it all fell apart, leaving them as the league’s only one-win team.
Alex Erickson muffed a punt that set up a field goal, Dalton’s interception led to Brady’s second touchdown pass, and Gilmore’s return made it 27-10.
Dalton went 17 of 31 for 151 yards and tied his career high with the four interceptions.
Belichick is in the playoffs for the 18th time, tying Tom Landry for second all-time, one behind Don Shula. His 11th straight postseason berth broke a tie with Tony Dungy for the league record.
Bills 17, Steelers 10
Josh Allen threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Kroft with 7:55 to play and the Buffalo Bills clinched a playoff spot, beating the host Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Bills secured their second playoff berth in three seasons under coach Sean McDermott, a college teammate with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin at William & Mary. Buffalo trailed 10-7, but scored on two possessions in the fourth quarter, as Allen rallied the Bills for a comeback win for the fifth time this season. Consecutive interceptions by Jordan Poyer and Levi Wallace on Pittsburgh’s last two possessions sealed the victory.
The surging Steelers (8-6) had an opportunity to leapfrog the Bills for the top AFC wildcard spot, but Buffalo snapped Pittsburgh’s three-game win streak.
Buffalo (10-4) won for the fourth time in five games and recorded its first 10-win season since 1999. The Bills also beat the Steelers for the second time ever in Pittsburgh, first since a 21-point win in the 1993 AFC Divisional playoff round.
Falcons 29, 49ers 22
Matt Ryan teamed with Julio Jones on a 5-yard pass that was ruled a touchdown after a replay reversal with 2 seconds left. Jones was called short of the goal line with the visiting Falcons (5-9) trailing 22-17. But a replay showed the ball breaking the plane with the Jones in the air while being tackled by Jimmie Ward.
When things couldn’t get crazier, they did: On the final kickoff, Atlanta scored another touchdown when Olamide Zaccheaus came up with the ball as the 49ers were tossing it around in desperation.
The 49ers (11-3) still clinched their first playoff berth since a 2013 run to the NFC championship game with the Rams’ loss at Dallas.
In an afternoon when Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense hardly shined, San Francisco’s other units did their best to hold off Ryan until the quarterback exhibited the poise of a former MVP in a dramatic final minute — or, make that 12 seconds.
Facing his former team and now in his third year as 49ers coach, Kyle Shanahan’s high-powered offense fizzled much of the day.
Shanahan spent two seasons as offensive coordinator in Atlanta coaching Ryan during his 2016 MVP year when the Falcons set a franchise record by scoring 540 points and Ryan had career bests in yards passing (4,944), TD passes (38) and passer rating (117.1). Then the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead on New England in the Super Bowl and Shanahan left for the Bay Area shortly after.
Raiders 20, Jaguars 16
Gardner Minshew threw two TD passes to Chris Conley in the final 5:15 of the game and the Jacksonville Jaguars spoiled the final scheduled game at the Oakland Coliseum.
The Raiders (7-7) broke out to a 16-3 lead and appeared comfortably ahead before falling apart in the closing minutes to put a damper on an already somber day in Oakland. The Jaguars (5-9) drove 79 yards to draw within 16-13 on Minshew’s 6-yard TD pass to Conley.
The Raiders tried to run out the clock and got a pair of first-down runs from Josh Jacobs and another from Derek Carr. But Carr was ruled out of bounds with 2:05 to play after trying to slide down inbound, sparing the Jaguars from using a timeout.
Oakland then got a delay of game in the confusion and Tyrell Williams dropped a third-down pass. Daniel Carlson then missed a 50-yard field goal only to get another chance after Parry Nickerson was called for running into the kicker.
Carlson missed again from 45 yards and the Jaguars took over at the 35 with 1:44 to go. Minshew moved them down the field and connected with Conley on the 4-yard score with 31 seconds left.
Texans 24, Titans 21
The Houston Texans grabbed control of the AFC South by beating the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.
The defending division champs are looking for Houston’s fourth AFC South title in six years under coach Bill O’Brien. The Titans haven’t won this division since 2008, and Mike Vrabel is Tennessee’s third coach since then.
Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked a 29-yard field goal with 3:26 left for the winning points.
The Texans (9-5) nearly blew a 14-0 halftime lead. Deshaun Watson threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns, but Tennessee also intercepted him twice inside the Titans 1.
The Titans (8-6) snapped a four-game win streak with only their second loss in seven games. Now they will need help in the final two games to earn their second playoff berth in three seasons.
Eagles 37, Redskins 27
Carson Wentz recovered from a disastrous fumble by leading a 75-yard, go-ahead scoring drive and throwing his third touchdown pass of the day to keep the Philadelphia Eagles’ NFC East hopes on track with a victory over the Washington Redskins at Landover, Md.
Wentz threw TD passes to running back Miles Sanders, tight end Zach Ertz and receiver Greg Ward and was 30 of 43 for 266 yards. The 4-yard pass from Wentz to Ward with 26 seconds left put Philadelphia up for good and electrified a stadium full of green-clad Eagles fans.
Wentz’s ability to bounce back from some accuracy issues and a turnover means the Eagles (7-7) are still in the thick of the division race with a game against the division rival Dallas Cowboys coming next week.
Coming off an overtime victory against Eli Manning and the New York Giants, a loss to Washington (3-11) could’ve had the Eagles facing elimination next week.
Seahawks 30, Panthers 24
Russell Wilson threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns, Chris Carson ran for 133 yards and two scores, and the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte to inch closer to clinching a playoff spot.
The Seahawks (11-3) can wrap up a postseason berth for the seventh time in the last eight seasons with a Rams or Vikings loss. Both teams play later Sunday. It was the 100th regular season win for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Seattle scored on its first three possessions as Wilson completed 8 of 10 passes for 175 yards, with 19-yard touchdown passes to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett for a perfect 153.8 QB rating. Chris Carson added a 16-yard TD run as the Seahawks built a 20-7 lead at halftime.
Despite the loss, Christian McCaffrey continued his impressive season for Carolina (5-9), racking up 165 yards and two more touchdowns, giving him a league-high 18 for the season. McCaffrey also became the first Carolina player to eclipse 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a season.
Packers 21, Bears 13
Aaron Jones ran for two scores, Davante Adams caught another and the host Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears in the 200th edition of he NFL’s oldest rivalry.
With the win, the Packers (11-3) swept the regular-season series between the teams for the 15th time in the last 26 seasons and the seventh time in the last 11 seasons. Green Bay defeated Chicago 10-3 in the season opener.
Green Bay now leads the all-time series 99-95-6. The Bears saw their three-game win streak end.
The Packers improved to 19-5 against their NFC North rival with Rodgers as the starting quarterback. Rodgers completed just 16 of 33 passes for a pedestrian 203 yards but did enough to secure the victory. The two-time MVP entered the day with a 103.2 career passer rating against the Bears, the highest in league history of quarterbacks with at least 250 passes against Chicago. He had a 78.2 rating on Sunday.
Mitchell Trubisky completed his first five pass attempts for the Bears (7-7) but for only 18 yards. Chicago’s offense opened the game with three straight punts and a turnover on downs. Trubisky finished 28 of 53 for 321 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Chiefs 23, Broncos 3
Patrick Mahomes threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were on the receiving end of many of his biggest throws, and the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs romped to a victory over the Denver Broncos at snowy Arrowhead Stadium.
Hill caught five passes for 67 yards and both scores, and Kelce hauled in 11 catches for 142 yards to become the first tight end in NFL history with four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, helping the Chiefs (10-4) beat the Broncos for the ninth straight time. Denver (5-9) hasn’t won in Kansas City since Nov. 30, 2014.
The Chiefs outscored their longtime division rival 53-9 this season.
The Broncos were so inept offensively that Kelce had more yards receiving at the start of the fourth quarter than they had total offense (139 yards). Phillip Lindsay was bottled up on the ground, and former Missouri standout Drew Lock — who grew up in the Kansas City suburb of Lee’s Summit — struggled not only with the conditions but a suddenly stout Chiefs defense.
Buccaneers 38, Lions 17
Jameis Winston became the first player in NFL history to throw for 450 yards in consecutive games, leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a win over the host Detroit Lions.
Winston threw three touchdowns in the first half — four overall — and a career-high 458 yards passing one week after throwing for 456 yards.
The Buccaneers (7-7) have won four straight and five of six, but their surge started too late for them to get in the playoffs race. Detroit (3-10-1) has dropped seven games in a row and 10 of 11, increasing the scrutiny on embattled coach Matt Patricia.
The Lions looked like they were still competing for their coach, and themselves, after falling behind 21-0 in the first half. Running back Wes Hills, who was signed Saturday, ran for a second TD early in the fourth quarter to cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 24-17.
Giants 36, Dolphins 20
Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning threw two touchdowns in what might have been his final home start for the Giants and New York snapped a franchise record-tying nine-game losing streak with a victory over the Miami Dolphins at East Rutherford, N.J.
Saquon Barkley ran for 112 yards and scored two walk-in touchdowns and New York’s much-maligned defense added a safety as the Giants (3-11) handed the Dolphins (3-11) their second loss in as many weeks at MetLife Stadium.
Manning, who lost his starting job to Daniel Jones in Week 3 and got it back last week when the rookie sprained an ankle, threw a 51-yard scoring pass to Golden Tate in the second quarter and a go-ahead 5-yarder to Darius Slayton on the opening series of the second half. The 38-year-old also threw three interceptions, two of which set up by field goals by Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders.
Cardinals 38, Browns 24
Kenyan Drake ran for four touchdowns, Kyler Murray threw for 219 yards and a score and the Arizona Cardinals (4-9) snapped a six-game losing streak by beating the Cleveland Browns (6-8) in Glendale, Ariz.
Murray got the best of a much-anticipated showdown with Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield. The two were teammates in college at Oklahoma and both won Heisman Trophies before being selected with the No. 1 overall picks by their respective teams in back-to-back years.
Murray completed 19 of 25 passes and also ran for 58 yards. Drake, acquired mid-season in a trade with the Dolphins, ran for a season-high 137 yards and scored a touchdown in every quarter. He’s the first Cardinals player to score four rushing touchdowns in a game since 1993.
Philip Rivers says he’s not sure how he figures into the Chargers’ 2020 plans after the team’s seven-turnover game in a 39-10 loss to the Vikings.
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