NFL roundup: Fitzmagic makes playoff bye disappear for Patriots in Dolphins’ win
Miami dropped defending Super Bowl champion New England into the wild-card playoff round when Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mike Gesicki with 24 seconds remaining for a stunning 27-24 victory Sunday.
New England (12-4) will have to play in the opening weekend of the postseason for the first time since 2009. The Patriots never have made the Super Bowl while playing in the wild-card round.
The Patriots won their first eight games, the split the next eight, including the rarity of two losses at home.
It is the second straight season the Dolphins have denied the Patriots an unbeaten division record. They scored on a wild series of laterals on the final play in their second meeting last season, in Miami.
After trailing throughout the game, Tom Brady threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to James White to put New England in front 24-20 with 3:53 left. But Fitzpatrick, who finished 28 of 41 for 320 yards and a touchdown, was unflappable, leading Miami on a 13-play, 75-yard drive that included him recovering a fumbled snap, and completing a 24-yard pass to DeVante Parker.
Miami (5-11) made New England play catchup for most of the game and led 10-0 early and 20-17 in the fourth quarter.
The Chargers end the season with another frustrating performance highlighted by L.A. turnovers and the Chiefs’ trademark speed in a 31-21 loss.
Brady finished 16 of 29 for 221 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He went over 4,000 yards for the 11th time in his career, tying him with Philip Rivers for fourth on the all-time list.
The Dolphins drove inside the Patriots 20 early in the fourth quarter, but settled for a 32-yard field goal by Jason Sanders to take a 20-17 lead with 8:29 remaining.
Brandon Bolden gave the Patriots good field position, taking the ensuing kickoff and returning it 38 yards to the New England 40. Rex Burkhead rushed 14 yards on the first play to get the Patriots across the 50.
Brady completed a short pass to Ben Watson, followed by a 20-yard strike to Mohamed Sanu. Three plays later, Brady connected with White for the go-head score.
But it wasn’t enough.
49ers 26, Seahawks 21
San Francisco won the NFC West and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs with a win over Seattle on Sunday night when Jacob Hollister was stopped by rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw on fourth-and-goal just inches short of the goal line. San Francisco claimed its first division crown since 2012 and wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs by silencing a crowd that showed up looking for a division title and to celebrate the return of Marshawn Lynch.
But it took a replay review for San Francisco to finally celebrate its title.
Seattle took possession at its own 27 with 2:27 left down by five. Russell Wilson drove the Seahawks to the San Francisco 1 and on fourth-and-10, Wilson hit John Ursua for 11 yards to the 1. Wilson spiked the ball, but Seattle was called for delay of game on second down with confusion about whether Lynch should enter the game. Backed up to the 6, Wilson was incomplete on two straight passes.
On fourth-and-goal Hollister caught the underneath pass but was knocked down by Greenlaw. Replay confirmed Hollister hit the ground before the ball reached the goal line and San Francisco’s celebration was on.
Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 285 yards and Raheem Mostert ran for a pair of second-half touchdowns. San Francisco was dominant in the first half and made enough big plays in the second to hold off Seattle’s rally from a 13-0 halftime deficit.
The Dolphins’ upset win over the Patriots and the 49ers’ narrow defeat of the Seahawks make a big impact on the AFC and NFC playoff seedings.
Seattle’s crowd had the stadium shaking after Lynch scored on a 1-yard TD plunge with 9:55 left to pull the Seahawks to 19-14. Skittles rained down on the field and the Seahawks had all the momentum.
But those same fans were silenced in barely four minutes. San Francisco marched downfield with more big plays as Garoppolo hit George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. Mostert capped the drive with his second touchdown — a 13-yard run — and a 26-14 lead with 5:51 remaining.
Seattle scored with 3:36 left on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to DK Metcalf, but Wilson didn’t have one more magical moment.
Wilson was 25 of 30 for 233 yards. Lynch had 12 carries for 34 yards in his first game since October of last season.
The 49ers (13-3) will face the lowest-remaining seed in the NFC at home in two weeks. Seattle (11-5) took its fourth home loss of the season in a place that used to be impenetrable. The Seahawks will play at NFC East champion Philadelphia next week in the wild-card round. Seattle beat the Eagles 17-9 at Philadelphia in late November.
Broncos 16, Raiders 15
Shelby Harris knocked down Derek Carr’s 2-point pass to Hunter Renfrow with 7 seconds left and host Denver put at end to the Raiders’ dim playoff hopes — and to Oakland’s run as an NFL city.
The Raiders (7-9) nearly made the Broncos (7-9) pay dearly for Garett Bolles’ latest penalty, a personal foul that pushed Brandon McManus way back for a 57-yard field-goal attempt, which sailed wide left, giving Oakland the ball at its 45-yard line with 1:41 remaining.
Carr hit Renfrow for the touchdown on second-and-goal from the 3 -- the first time the Raiders reached the end zone in five red-zone trips -- and Jon Gruden went for 2 instead of the tie.
The Raiders had an outside shot of making the playoffs for just the second time since 2002, but they needed several things to go right, starting with a win.
Rookie Drew Lock won for the fourth time in his five starts and Phillip Lindsay topped 1,000 yards for the second straight season for Denver, which went 7-5 after a winless September under first-year head coach Vic Fangio.
The Raiders lost five of their last six games in missing the playoffs for the second straight season under Gruden.
The Broncos are missing the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year but one thing they were better at than anyone in the league in 2019 was red zone defense.
Eagles 34, Giants 17
Carson Wentz and Philadelphia are heading to the playoffs thanks to a group of players off the practice squad.
Boston Scott ran for three touchdowns in the second half and the injury-ravaged Eagles beat host New York to win the NFC East title.
Philadelphia hosts either San Francisco (12-3) or Seattle (11-4) in a wild-card game next weekend. The 49ers and Seahawks battle for the NFC West title Sunday night with the loser getting the No. 5 seed and a trip to Philly.
Already missing three starting wide receivers for the fourth straight game, the Eagles also began the game without Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz and right tackle Lane Johnson.
Then they lost running back Miles Sanders and three-time Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks in the first half.
Jared Goff passes for more 300 yards and three touchdowns as the Rams close out a disappointing 9-7 season with a 31-24 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
But Wentz guided the Eagles (9-7) to their fourth straight win and second division title in three seasons.
Wentz threw for 289 yards, including a 24-yard TD pass to Josh Perkins, who was promoted from the practice squad on Nov. 30.
Scott had TD runs of 7, 2 and 2 yards. He came off the practice squad earlier in the season. Scott had 54 yards rushing and 84 receiving.
While the Eagles head to the playoffs for the third straight year seeking their second Super Bowl title, the Giants (4-12) face more uncertainty. Coach Pat Shurmur’s job status is a question after going 9-23 in two seasons.
Titans 35, Texans 14
Derrick Henry and the visiting Tennessee Titans ran their way into the playoffs, beating a Houston team that rested several starters and setting up an intriguing first-round matchup with New England.
Henry rushed for a season-high 211 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. The Texans beat the Titans two weeks ago to take control of the AFC South and locked up the division last week, allowing Houston to sit quarterback Deshaun Watson and other key players.
Tennessee got its first win at Houston since Jan. 1, 2012. The Titans, who will visit the Patriots next weekend, are in the postseason for the second time in three seasons and the first under coach Mike Vrabel, who played for New England for eight seasons.
Ryan Tannehill threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns for Tennessee and will make his playoff debut in his eighth NFL season. Rookie receiver A.J. Brown had 124 yards receiving and a touchdown.
Watson was active on Sunday, but coach Bill O’Brien started AJ McCarron instead. Watson was listed as questionable with a back injury this week but said he was OK. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins was also active, but did not play and several starters, including receiver Kenny Stills, left tackle Laremy Tunsil and nose tackle D.J. Reader, were inactive.
McCarron threw for 225 yards with an interception and ran for a touchdown.
Houston was already locked into the AFC’s fourth seed and will host Buffalo next week.
Cowboys 47, Redskins 16
Dak Prescott threw four touchdown passes as host Dallas beat Washington, a win rendered meaningless when the Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs by the Eagles’ victory over the Giants.
The Cowboys (8-8) lost control of their playoff fate with a 17-9 loss at the Eagles last week. Last season’s NFC East champions will now wait to see how much longer Jason Garrett will be coach after underachieving in the final year of his contract.
Dallas could have made the playoffs without a winning record for the third time in franchise history. Instead, the Eagles won the division for the second time in three years by beating the Giants 34-17.
Case Keenum had a TD toss as the Redskins (3-13) secured the No. 2 pick in the draft in what could be their final game under interim coach Bill Callahan. The former Dallas assistant replaced Jay Gruden, fired in October with Washington at 0-5.
About the time the Cowboys put away the Redskins on the second of three TD passes to Michael Gallup for a 37-16 lead late in the third quarter, Philadelphia went up 10 with a TD after the Giants lost a fumble at their 2-yard line.
Prescott, playing with a sprained right shoulder for the second straight game and looking much better than he did in the loss at Philadelphia, was 23 of 33 for 303 yards. He fell 1 yard short of Tony Romo’s club record of 4,903 yards passing for a season.
Ravens 28, Steelers 10
Slogging through the rain without several notable stars and with very little at stake, Baltimore relied on a strong defensive performance to beat visiting Pittsburgh and finish the regular season riding a 12-game winning streak.
Baltimore’s first touchdown followed a fumble by Steelers rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges, who failed to generate any offense in a game that meant far more to Pittsburgh (8-8) than to the Ravens (14-2).
Baltimore also scored on special teams when Steelers punter Jordan Berry couldn’t handle the wet football and Jordan Richards recovered the fumble for a touchdown. Fifteen seconds later, the Ravens tacked on a safety when Hodges was called for intentional grounding in his end zone.
Baltimore already clinched the top seed in the AFC playoffs, so coach John Harbaugh placed seven starters on the inactive list — including quarterback Lamar Jackson, injured running back Mark Ingram (calf), guard Marshal Yanda and safety Earl Thomas.
Marshawn Lynch received a warm welcome in his return to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday and showed why his career still isn’t over.
All seven players, six of whom were voted to the Pro Bowl, should return to action on the weekend of Jan. 11-12, when Baltimore opens postseason play following a first-round bye.
Pittsburgh entered the game needing help to fulfill its quest to become only the seventh team since 1970 to reach the playoffs after an 0-3 start.
The easiest route for Pittsburgh to qualify was a victory over Baltimore combined with a Tennessee loss to Houston. The Titans, however, won 35-14 to earn the final AFC wild-card slot. The Steelers could have gotten in with a loss, but all those equations included Tennessee losing.
Bears 21, Vikings 19
Eddy Pineiro’s fourth field goal of the game for Chicago came from 22 yards with 10 seconds left, giving the Bears a victory over host Minnesota with the Vikings resting their regulars for the playoffs.
Pineiro, the latest attempt by the Bears (8-8) to solve their persistent kicking trouble, finished the season with 11 straight made field goals. Mitch Trubisky highlighted another unremarkable performance by hitting Riley Ridley for 34 yards on fourth-and-9 with 2:36 left from midfield to set up the winning kick.
David Montgomery had 23 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown to cap a strong rookie season and help the Bears beat the Vikings (10-6) for the fourth consecutive time. Chicago dodged what would have been a fifth losing record in six years, after winning the NFC North in 2018 in coach Matt Nagy’s debut.
Minnesota missed a third 11-win season in six years under coach Mike Zimmer, but he was far more concerned about taking a healthy team to the playoffs. The only drama in the building was the way the Green Bay-Detroit game was unfolding, with a significant impact on where the Vikings will play their first-round game.
Ifeadi Odenigbo strip-sacked Trubisky in the fourth quarter to pick up the ball and set up Dan Bailey’s fourth field goal for a brief lead for the Vikings, but a replay review negated what would have been Odenigbo’s second fumble return for a touchdown in three games after it was ruled that his knee was down after the recovery.
Packers 23, Lions 20
Mason Crosby kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired, lifting Green Bay to a win over host Detroit for a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The Packers (13-3) fell behind by two touchdowns in the second quarter. They didn’t lead until Crosby made his second game-winning kick against Detroit this season.
The Lions (3-12-1) closed with nine straight losses for their longest losing streak in a season since going 0-16 in 2008.
Green Bay won despite Aaron Rodgers struggling to make accurate throws for much of the afternoon. Rodgers was 27 of 55 for 323 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He made a short pass under pressure to Aaron Jones, who turned the clutch throw into a 31-yard reception to set up Crosby’s kick.
Jones ran for 100 yards on 25 carries and had 43 yards receiving. Davante Adams had seven receptions for 93 yards and a score.
David Blough was 12 of 29 for 122 yards — and a 19-yard touchdown reception — filling in again for Matthew Stafford, who had a season-ending back injury.
Jets 13, Bills 6
Sam Darnold hit Jamison Crowder for a 1-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, and the Jets avoided finishing their fourth consecutive season with double-digit losses in a win over the Buffalo’s backups at Orchard Park, N.Y..
The Jets missed the playoffs for a ninth consecutive season, but finished at 7-9 under first-year coach Adam Gase for their best record since going 10-6 in 2015.
The playoff-bound Bills had very little to play for while resting most of their starters, including quarterback Josh Allen after the first quarter. Buffalo dropped to 10-6 — still its best finish since going 11-5 in 1999 — and entered the game already locked in as the AFC’s fifth seed.
The Bills will travel to play AFC South champion Houston Texans in the wild-card playoff round next weekend. The Texans were assured of the No. 4 seed after Kansas City defeated the Los Angeles Chargers.
Otherwise, the game between the Jets and Bills was a defensive struggle that befitted the sloppy conditions, with a persistent drizzle falling for most of the afternoon.
With the score tied at 3, and following Jets kicker Sam Ficken missing two of his first three field-goal attempts, Darnold oversaw a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, which he capped by hitting Crowder cutting across the middle on second-and-goal with 13:31 left.
Saints 42, Panthers 10
New Orleans took care of business against reeling Carolina and finished off a 13-3 regular season but still might not get a week of rest in the playoffs.
Drew Brees threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns, Alvin Kamara ran for two scores and the Saints handed the host Panthers their eighth straight loss.
But the runaway NFC South champions’ chances at home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs ended when Green Bay beat Detroit on a last-second field goal. New Orleans needs Seattle to beat San Francisco on Sunday night to earn a first-round bye. If the 49ers win, the Saints will be the No. 3 seed and host the Minnesota Vikings in the wild-card round next weekend.
The only thing that went right for the Panthers (5-11) was Christian McCaffrey joining Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk as the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. McCaffrey needed 67 yards receiving coming in and got there with a 17-yard reception late in the third quarter, earning some bear hugs from teammates on the sideline and a standing ovation from the scattered fans remaining in the seats.
Any suspense about the outcome of the game ended much earlier.
The Saints took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards on eight plays to take a 7-0 lead on Kamara’s 15-yard touchdown run. Kamara added a second TD run later in the quarter, and former Panthers linebacker A.J. Klein made it a three-touchdown lead when he picked off rookie quarterback Will Grier and returned it 14 yards for a TD early in the second quarter.
Bengals 33, Browns 23
Andy Dalton threw for a touchdown and ran for another in his farewell as a franchise quarterback — a Joe Burrow banner in the upper deck reminded him what comes next — and host Cincinnati ended one of its most miserable seasons with a victory over Cleveland.
Ohio’s two professional football teams wrapped up another fruitless year together and set course for an offseason of potentially big changes.
The Bengals (2-14) matched the worst record in their 52-year history. They’ll pick first in the draft for the first time since 2003, when they also were coming off a 2-14 finish and chose franchise quarterback Carson Palmer.
Cleveland (6-10) was a chic Super Bowl pick with Baker Mayfield coming off a sensational rookie season and Odell Beckham Jr. adding star quality to the offense. Instead, the Browns significantly regressed under first-year coach Freddie Kitchens, raising questions about whether he’ll get a second chance.
On a gray, rainy afternoon, the intrastate rivals moved on with an uneven game that epitomized their seasons.
Dalton knew it was likely his final start for the Bengals after nine seasons without a playoff victory. A day earlier, Burrow threw seven touchdown passes in LSU’s rout of Oklahoma, and the Bengals can take the Heisman Trophy winner if they wish.
Jaguars 38, Colts 20
Gardner Minshew turned in his best performance in two months, throwing for 295 yards and three touchdowns and leading host Jacksonville to victory over Indianapolis.
The rookie closed out Jacksonville’s disappointing season by strengthening his case to be the team’s starting quarterback next season. Coach Doug Marrone might be around, too.
Marrone’s status has been unclear since team owner Shad Khan fired top executive Tom Coughlin last week. Khan will meet with Marrone, general manager Dave Caldwell and others in the coming days before deciding anyone’s fate. Marrone and Caldwell have two years remaining on their contracts.
Minshew and the Jaguars (6-10) certainly made Marrone look good in the regular-season finale for both teams. Minshew connected with Keelan Cole, Ryquell Armstead and Dede Westbrook for touchdowns, showing poise in the pocket and enough mobility to turn nothing into something.
The sixth-round draft pick also looked like a rookie at times as well, with a fumble, an interception and two point-blank misfires in the red zone.
The Colts (7-9) had a chance to finish .500 or better for the seventh time in the past eight years. But they did little on offense in the second half and finished below .500 for the second time in three years.
Falcons 28, Buccaneers 22
Deion Jones intercepted Jameis Winston on the first play of overtime and returned the ball 28 yards for a touchdown to give Atlanta a victory over host Tampa Bay.
Winston became the first Tampa Bay quarterback to pass for 5,000 yards in a season, but another non-playoff year ended on a sour note. The Falcons (7-9) tied the game with a field goal on the last play of regulation and won for the sixth time in eight games when Jones became the seventh opposing player to score on a pick-6 off Winston this season.
Matt Ryan completed 30 of 51 passes for 313 yards and one touchdown for the Falcons, who saved coach Dan Quinn’s job by rebounding from a 1-7 start to go 6-2 over the second half of the season. Atlanta will finish second in the NFC South despite posting a losing record for the second year in a row.
Winston threw for 201 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, hiking his NFL-leading total to 30. Ronald Jones II had the first 100-yard rushing performance and Breshad Perriman topped 100-yards receiving for the third straight week for the Bucs (7-9), who miss the playoffs for the 12th consecutive year.
Ryan only got the Falcons into the end zone once, throwing a 35-yard TD pass to a wide- open Ty Sambrailo, a 6-foot-5, 311-pound backup offensive tackle. Younghoe Koo kicked field goals of 27, 33, 45, 42 and 33 yards, while his Bucs counterpart, Matt Gay, was 0 for 3 on field goal attempts.
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