NFL roundup: Steelers’ playoff hopes in jeopardy after loss to Jets
Le’Veon Bell helped deal his former team’s playoff hopes a big blow, leading the New York Jets to a 16-10 victory over the banged-up Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
The Steelers (8-7) entered the game controlling their postseason destiny and would have clinched a berth with wins in their final two games, but now need some help. Pittsburgh now needs to win next week at Baltimore to stay in the mix.
The Steelers also have more injury concerns as running back James Conner, center Maurkice Pouncey and quarterback Mason Rudolph all left with injuries.
Bell ran for 72 yards, including 7 on a big third-down play in the fourth quarter, on 25 carries while facing the team with which he spent his first six NFL seasons. After sitting out all last season in a contract dispute, Bell signed with the Jets (6-9) in the offseason.
Devlin Hodges, who was benched earlier in the game after throwing two interceptions, came back in early in the fourth quarter when Rudolph went out with a left shoulder injury.
Hodges had a chance to lead the Steelers to a comeback win, but fell short. His deep pass for James Washington on third-and-7 from the Jets 44 was knocked away by Marcus Maye in the end zone. On fourth down, Hodges’ pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster fell incomplete in front of a MetLife Stadium crowd that appeared to be at least half-filled by Steelers fans.
Smith-Schuster, who returned after missing four games with a knee injury, had two catches for 22 yards.
How the NFL handles the branding of Baltimore Ravens’ star Lamar Jackson will be a fascinating look into how intersectionality influences stardom.
Former Steelers star wide receiver Hines Ward, now an offensive assistant on Adam Gase’s staff with the Jets, said he hoped to celebrate a win with a Gatorade shower — and he got one moments after New York’s final defensive stop sealed the win.
Hodges was 11 of 17 for 84 yards and the two interceptions, while Rudolph was 14 of 20 for 129 yards and a touchdown to Diontae Johnson that helped the Steelers erase a 10-0 deficit to tie it at halftime.
Conner, who left in the second quarter with a thigh injury, had 32 yards on six carries before leaving. Pouncey hurt his left knee at the end of the third quarter.
Sam Darnold went 16 of 26 for 183 yards and a touchdown to Robby Anderson. Bell also had four catches for 21 yards.
Chiefs 26, Bears 3
Patrick Mahomes outplayed Mitchell Trubisky, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another score, and Kansas City beat host Chicago to stay in contention for a first-round playoff bye.
Kansas City (11-4) earned its fifth straight win and remained a game behind New England for the AFC’s second seed. The Patriots clinched their 11th consecutive AFC East championship by beating Buffalo on Saturday. The Chiefs hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over New England thanks to a victory two weeks ago that helped secure their fourth AFC West title in a row.
Mahomes’ big game in his first appearance at Soldier Field is just another blow for Chicago in a rough season that began with Super Bowl hopes. The Bears passed on Mahomes when they traded up a spot to grab Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick in 2017. Mahomes went to Kansas City at No. 10 and won the MVP award last season.
Trubisky has not performed the way the Bears envisioned. And with their playoff hopes already dashed coming off an NFC North championship, they got outclassed by Kansas City.
Mahomes, playing his 30th game, became the fastest player to reach the 9,000-yard passing mark. He was 23 of 33 for 251 yards, giving him 9,238 in three seasons. Hall of Famer Kurt Warner did it in 32 games.
Veteran safety Eric Weddle is contemplating retirement, and he knows next week’s season finale between the Rams and Cardinals might be his final NFL game.
Mahomes also has 75 touchdown passes, making him the fastest player to hit that mark.
Travis Kelce, already the first tight end with four straight 1,000-yard seasons, became the first to reach 1,200 yards in back-to-back years. He caught eight passes for 74 yards, giving him 1,205 this year. That included a 6-yard touchdown near the end of the first half.
Harrison Butker kicked a career-best 56-yard field goal that was the fourth-longest in franchise history. He also hit both the left and right uprights on a missed extra point.
The Bears (7-8) dropped their second straight after winning four of five.
Trubisky completed 18 of 34 passes for 157 yards. Khalil Mack had a sack, and fans let the Bears have it before heading toward the exits in the closing minutes.
Saints 38, Titans 28
Drew Brees threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns and Alvin Kamara ran for two TDs as New Orleans kept its chase of the NFC’s No. 1 seed alive by rallying from a 14-point deficit to beat host Tennessee.
The Saints (12-3) had to win after San Francisco beat the Rams 34-31 on Saturday night. They scored 24 straight points to keep alive their chance at one of the NFC’s top two seeds and a first-round playoff bye going into their regular-season finale at Carolina.
Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Thomas also set the NFL record for most catches in a season. The Saints receiver needed 10 to tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison’s mark of 143 catches in 2002. Thomas finished with 12 catches for 136 yards, his last reception a 2-yard TD with 2:10 left for a 38-28 lead.
The Titans (8-7) still have a shot at the AFC’s final playoff berth after Houston won the AFC South title beating Tampa Bay on Saturday. The Jets beating Pittsburgh 16-10 means the Titans must beat the Texans in Houston in the finale to earn their second playoff berth in three seasons.
Tennessee had the ball with 4:24 left and down 31-28. The Saints turned over the ball after lining up for a punt and snapping the ball short to Taysom Hill. He threw to a wide-open Justin Hardee Sr., who dropped the ball.
On the next play, Ryan Tannehill threw to Kalif Raymond to the New Orleans 40. Saints rookie safety C.J Gardner-Johnson hit Raymond, knocking the ball loose. Gardner-Johnson picked it up and ran 38 yards to the Titans 25.
Tennessee had one last chance. Tannehill threw incomplete to Tajae Sharpe in the end zone with 1:44 left to turn it over on downs.
The Titans sat Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry to rest the left hamstring that has limited him the past two weeks. Even without the NFL’s second-leading rusher with 1,329 yards, the Titans jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
Cardinals 27, Seahawks 13
Kenyan Drake rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns, Larry Fitzgerald added a 21-yard TD reception, and Arizona stymied Russell Wilson and the injury-depleted Seahawks in Seattle.
The Seahawks (11-4) saw their hopes for the No. 1 seed in the NFC potentially vanish with another late-season loss to the Cardinals. Seattle can still claim the NFC West with a win next week over San Francisco, but will need major help to earn total home-field advantage after entering the week as the top seed in the NFC.
Drake had an 80-yard TD run in the first quarter and provided the capper with a 3-yard TD with 4:18 remaining to take a 27-13 lead. Drake’s 166 yards were a season high against Seattle.
The question now is Seattle’s health going into next week. Seattle faced the Cardinals without four key starters: left tackle Duane Brown, safety Quandre Diggs, cornerback Shaquill Griffin and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The Seahawks depth was thinned further when starting running back Chris Carson went down with a hip injury early in the second quarter and backup C.J. Prosise suffered an arm injury only a few minutes later.
Arizona (5-9-1) lost No. 1 overall draft pick Kyler Murray to a hamstring injury midway through the third quarter. Murray was tended to on the sideline after leading a drive that finished with Zane Gonzalez’s 46-yard field goal that gave Arizona a 20-7 lead early in the third quarter. Murray scrambled on the final play of the drive for 4 yards and never returned.
The absence of Brown and the lack of a run game left Seattle’s offense stuck in neutral. The Seahawks gained 89 yards on their opening drive that was capped by Wilson’s 3-yard TD pass to Nick Bellore. They gained 49 total yards combined in the second and third quarters. Between the six-minute mark of the first quarter and Tyler Lockett’s 12-yard catch early in the fourth quarter, Seattle had one first down.
Wilson finished 16 of 31 for 169 yards, but was sacked five times — four by Chandler Jones, who also forced a key fumble early in the second half.
Murray was 11 of 18 for 118 yards and a touchdown before leaving.
Ravens 31, Browns 15
The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC goes through Baltimore, where its MVP candidate will be waiting.
Lamar Jackson threw three touchdown passes — two to tight end Mark Andrews late in the first half — and rushed for 103 yards as the visiting Ravens won their 11th straight game to lock up the conference’s top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Ravens (13-2) shook off a sluggish start and avenged their last loss, a 40-25 to the Browns on Sept. 29.
But Baltimore looks nothing like the team it was three months ago as the marvelous, multi-dimensional Jackson has taken the league by storm with his arm and legs. Jackson finished with 238 yards passing and went over 100 yards for the fifth time this season.
The Philadelphia Eagles keep their playoff hopes alive with a 17-9 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
The Ravens did suffer an injury that could hurt the playoff hopes as running back Mark Ingram went down without being touched in the fourth quarter. Ingram immediately grabbed his lower left leg and collapsed when he tried to stand. Ingram, who went over 1,000 yards rushing in the second quarter and caught a 12-yard TD pass from Jackson in the third, was able to walk to the sideline to be evaluated before limping to the locker room.
The Browns (6-9) were officially eliminated from the postseason, and now first-year coach Freddie Kitchens may be down to his last game. Kitchens has appeared overwhelmed at times and the home finale was a microcosm of this disappointing season as the Browns underperformed and will miss the playoffs for the 17th straight season.
Baker Mayfield threw a 3-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter to Odell Beckham Jr., whose acquisition by the Browns in March sent expectations soaring.
In the closing minutes, Beckham flung his helmet on the sideline in frustration and exchanged words with Kitchens.
Mayfield finished 20 of 33 for 192 yards with two TDs and a pick.
Dolphins 38, Bengals 35 (OT)
A laugher became a thriller for the Dolphins, and they needed overtime to beat visiting Cincinnati.
Miami gave up 16 points in the final 29 seconds of regulation but regrouped, and Jason Sanders kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired for the win.
Andy Dalton threw for 396 yards and four touchdown passes, including three in the final 5:01 of regulation as Cincinnati rallied from a 35-12 deficit.
After the gallant comeback, the Bengals (1-14) settled for clinching next year’s No. 1 draft pick. They’re assured of at least tying for the worst record in club history; they went 2-14 in 2002.
The Dolphins (4-11) again hurt their chances of landing a franchise quarterback in next year’s draft, but rookie coach Brian Flores has repeatedly said he’s all-out to win now. Rebuilding Miami has four victories in the past eight games with a ragtag roster.
Miami’s Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 419 yards and four scores, including one to rookie defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Each team punted twice to start the extra period before Fitzpatrick led a 10-play, 51-yard march for the winning score.
The stadium was mostly empty when the Bengals cut the deficit to 35-27 with 29 seconds left on Dalton’s TD pass and 2-point conversion throw.
They then recovered an onside kick and reached the 25 with four seconds left. Miami dropped eight defenders back to the goal line, but Tyler Eifert reached above two of them in the end zone to catch Dalton’s throw.
On the 2-point conversion, Dalton couldn’t find an open receiver and scrambled to tie the score, sparking the sort of celebration that has been a rarity for Cincinnati this season.
Colts 38, Panthers 6
Nyheim Hines pulled off a rare feat for Indianapolis.
He scored on two punt returns, set up another touchdown with a 40-yard return four plays into the game and provided the jolt of energy the host Colts needed to pull away from Carolina.
The Colts (7-8) snapped a four-game losing streak in their home finale and can avoid their second losing season in three years with a win next week.
Carolina (5-10), meanwhile, lost its seventh straight on a day it hoped new starting quarterback Will Grier could help the franchise change directions.
Instead, Hines never gave the Panthers a chance with a record-breaking performance.
His 195 yards on three returns is the highest single-game mark in franchise history — and the most by any NFL player since Eddie Drummond had 199 against Jacksonville in 2004.
And he wasted no time, either.
Just eight plays after Hines’ 40-yard return, Jacoby Brissett converted a fourth-and-goal with a 1-yard TD plunge for a 7-0 lead.
Hines made it 14-0 when he fielded the punt at his 16-yard line, found a lane in the middle of the field, cut left and eluded punter Michael Palardy right in front of the Colts’ bench before turning left in the end zone and running through the stadium tunnel. It was longest return by a Colts player in 12 years.
Giants 41, Redskins 35 (OT)
Daniel Jones put together the best performance of his rookie season fresh off an ankle injury, throwing for 352 yards and five touchdown passes in New York’s overtime victory against Washington at Landover, Md.
Jones was 28 of 42 in his first action since missing the past two games with a sprained right ankle. He tossed two TDs to Kaden Smith — including the game-winner — and also connected with Sterling Shepard, Saquon Barkley and Cody Latimer. His career-best fifth TD pass, 3 yards to Smith, came with 4:15 left in overtime after the Redskins (3-12) tied it in the final minute of regulation.
Barkley was the perfect complement for Jones and tormented a Redskins secondary missing several regulars. He was responsible for 279 total yards: 189 rushing and 90 receiving and a score each way.
The trio of Jones, Barkley and Shepard showed further evidence that whoever is running the Giants (4-11) next season has talented building blocks to work with on offense, along with a high draft pick.
With the loss, the Redskins moved into the driver’s seat to draft Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young.
The Chase Young Bowl was a showcase of prolific playmaking and porous defense. Barkley ran for 108 yards on his first four carries, while Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins was 12 of 15 for 133 yards and two TD passes before injuring his left ankle on the first play of the second half.
Veteran Case Keenum relieved Haskins and threw his first passes since Oct. 24, when he was concussed at Minnesota. He was 16 of 22 for 158 yards and rushed for the tying score with 29 seconds left in the fourth.
Falcons 24, Jaguars 12
Devonta Freeman scored two touchdowns for the host Atlanta Falcons before Jacksonville took a snap, and that was enough to beat the woeful Jaguars in a match-up between teams long since eliminated from the NFL playoff race.
Matt Ryan threw for 384 yards and Julio Jones had his biggest game of the year, hauling in 10 catches for 166 yards.
Before thousands of empty seats at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Falcons (6-9) won their third straight game while holding the Jaguars (5-10) to 288 yards in Atlanta’s final home game of a disappointing season. The Falcons piled up 518 yards.
Jacksonville came out flat in its first game since the firing of top executive Tom Coughlin, who was let go on Wednesday after several questionable roster moves and a scathing critique from the players’ union over his draconian disciplinary methods.
The Jaguars have lost six of their last seven games and 20 of 27 since a 3-1 start to the 2018 season, which came on the heels of a surprising run to the AFC championship game.
The Falcons took the opening kickoff and drove 82 yards in six plays, capped by Freeman’s 17-yard touchdown run. He took a quick flip from Ryan and scampered to the end zone without being touched.
On the ensuing kickoff, Michael Walker was stripped of the ball by Keith Smith. Brian Hill fell on the fumble at the Jaguars 25, sending Atlanta’s offense back on the field with barely enough time to catch its breath. Four plays later, Ryan hooked up with Freeman out of the backfield on an 8-yard scoring pass.
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