NFL Week 15: Aaron Rodgers and Packers defeat Ravens to NFC North title

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reacts to throwing a touchdown.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reacts to throwing a touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 31-30 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
(Terrance Williams / Associated Press)

BALTIMORE — Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes — tying Brett Favre on Green Bay’s career list — and the Packers became the first team this season to clinch a division title, wrapping up the NFC North with a 31-30 win over Baltimore.

The Ravens missed another big 2-point conversion in the final minute.

With Lamar Jackson out with a sprained ankle, Tyler Huntley nearly led Baltimore (8-6) all the way back from a 31-17 deficit. His 8-yard touchdown run with 42 seconds left pulled the Ravens within one, but Huntley’s 2-point conversion pass was incomplete.

It was the third consecutive loss for Baltimore, which also fell to Pittsburgh two weekends ago on a missed 2-point conversion in the final seconds. The Ravens fell into a first-place tie in the AFC North with Cincinnati.


Ravaged this season by injuries — especially in the secondary — Baltimore faced a difficult task trying to stop Rodgers and the Green Bay receivers. The Ravens mounted enough time-consuming drive of their own to keep the game close, but the Packers had the ball first after a 14-14 halftime tie and took advantage.

The Rams got a big boost with cornerback Jalen Ramsey coming off the COVID-19 list ahead of Tuesday’s game vs. Seattle. How many others will return?

Dec. 19, 2021

Baltimore appeared to have Green Bay (11-3) stopped on a third-down incompletion, but minimal contact by Kevon Seymour was enough for a pass interference flag. Rodgers found Aaron Jones for a 9-yard touchdown on the next play.

The Ravens drove into Green Bay territory before another devastating penalty. With Baltimore running the ball effectively and preparing to go on fourth-and-1 in the red zone, Ben Cleveland committed a false start. The Ravens settled for a field goal, and Green Bay drove 88 yards, taking an 11-point lead on an 11-yard pass from Rodgers to Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

That was Rodgers’ 442nd touchdown pass, pulling him even with Favre. He went 23 of 31 for 268 yards. Rodgers has thrown for 13 touchdowns without an interception over his last four games and didn’t appear the slightest bit limited by his toe injury.


Down 31-17, the Ravens began their comeback when Huntley ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 4:47 remaining. Then they got the ball back and scored again.

Tight end Mark Andrews had 10 catches for 136 yards and two TDs for the Ravens.


New Orleans Saints 9, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0

New Orleans Saints defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson taunts Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.
New Orleans Saints defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, right, taunts Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady after Brady fumbled during the second half.
(Jason Behnken / Associated Press)

TAMPA, Fla. — New Orleans’ defense gave Tom Brady fits again, shutting down Tampa Bay’s high-powered offense as the Saints put the Buccaneers’ division-title celebration plans on hold.

Despite playing without coach Sean Payton on the sideline, the Saints (7-7) beat the Bucs (10-4) for the seventh straight time during the regular season — fourth since Brady left New England for Tampa Bay in 2020.

The victory gave New Orleans a sweep of the season series between the NFC South rivals and boosted the Saints into playoff position. It also forced Tampa Bay to wait at least one another week to clinch its first division crown since 2007.


The Bucs, who did win a playoff game at New Orleans last January en route to winning the Super Bowl, lead the division by three games with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

With defensive coordinator Dennis Allen standing in for Payton, who missed the game after testing positive for COVID-19, the Saints stymied the NFL’s No. 1 passing and scoring offense and ended Brady’s streak of 255 consecutive starts without being shut out.

Brady leads the NFL in completions, attempts, yards passing and touchdown passes, but was just 26 of 48 for 213 yards and one interception — the eighth he’s thrown in four regular-season games against the Saints, who didn’t have any turnovers.

Taysom Hill, meanwhile, was 13 of 27 for 154 yards and no interceptions for New Orleans, which also got field goals of 39, 35 and 42 yards from Brett Maher.


Cincinnati Bengals 15, Denver Broncos 10

Cincinnati Bengals running back Samaje Perine carries the ball against the Denver Broncos.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)


DENVER — Khalid Kareem snatched the ball from backup quarterback Drew Lock on second-and-goal early in the fourth quarter to help the Bengals stay in the thick of the logjammed AFC playoff race.

The Bengals (8-6) won despite star rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase being held to a single catch for 3 yards and Tee Higgins managing only 23 yards on two catches.

The Broncos (7-7) saw their postseason hopes whittled with their fourth home loss of the season.

Lock was in for Teddy Bridgewater, who was taken to the hospital in the third quarter for further evaluation of a head injury after he was carted off the field following a scary collision that also sent Bengals linebacker Joe Bachie from the game with a leg injury.

Bridgewater had movement in his extremities and coach Vic Fangio said he’d be held overnight for observation but was expected to be OK.


Tyler Boyd caught five passes for 96 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown throw from Joe Burrow moments after Denver had taken a 10-9 lead late in the third quarter.

Kareem almost went from hero to goat on his strip of Lock, who faked a handoff to Javonte Williams but ran smack into Kareem. He wrested the ball away from the quarterback and tumbled to the ground, bounced up and rumbled down the Broncos sideline. The return was eliminated by video replay but the fumble stood.


Pittsburgh Steelers 19, Tennessee Titans 13

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passes in front of Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Bud Dupree.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passes in front of Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Bud Dupree during the Steelers’ 19-13 win Sunday.
(Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger ran for his first touchdown in three years and Chris Boswell kicked four field goals to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Steelers (7-6-1) forced the Titans (9-5) into four turnovers and needed every one of them to win for the second time in three games. The Titans let a winnable game slip away, trimming their lead over Indianapolis in the AFC South to one game.


Despite the miscues, Tennessee drove deep into Pittsburgh territory in the final moments, but wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine was tackled inches short of the first down at the Steelers 11 with 27 seconds to go.

Pittsburgh remained in the mix in the muddled AFC North despite managing just 168 yards of total offense. Roethlisberger threw for 148 yards to move past Philip Rivers into fifth on the NFL’s career yards passing list, but it was his legs — and Pittsburgh’s resilient defense — that provided the difference.

Ten days after getting gashed in a loss to Minnesota, the Steelers responded by picking off Ryan Tannehill once and recovering three Tennessee fumbles. Each turnover led to field goals by Boswell, the final one a 48-yard kick with 4:34 to go.


Detroit Lions 30, Arizona Cardinals 12

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff throws against the Arizona Cardinals.
(Jose Juarez / Associated Press)

DETROIT — Kyler Murray’s shaky performance against the team with the worst record in the NFL led to Arizona’s first road loss of the season.


The Cardinals (10-4) started the day tied for the NFL’s best record, but were coming off a loss to the Rams. The Lions (2-11-1) were mired at the bottom of the league standings before the first snap.

Arizona missed its chance to get in the playoffs for the first time since 2015 with a win over a team it was favored to beat by nearly two touchdowns. The Cardinals can still earn a postseason berth during Week 15, but they’ll need some other playoff contenders to lose.

And in any scenario, Murray will have to play better. The third-year quarterback was 23 of 41 for 257 yards with a touchdown and an interception, adding up to a 72.9 passer rating. Murray couldn’t get away from the scrappy Lions when he tried to run, and finished with 3 yards rushing on four carries.

Jared Goff, meanwhile, was the best quarterback on the field in one of many surprises at Ford Field. He completed 21 of 26 passes for 216 yards with three touchdowns.

Detroit’s Craig Reynolds ran for a career-high 112 yards and rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown had 90 yards receiving, setting a season high for the second straight week, and a touchdown.


San Francisco 49ers 31, Atlanta Falcons 13

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo passes against the Atlanta Falcons.
(Tony Avelar / Associated Press)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 235 yards and a TD, while San Francisco ran for three more scores. The 49ers won for the fifth time in six games.

The Niners (8-6) scored touchdowns on four straight drives to make easy work of the Falcons (6-8) to remain in wild-card position as the sixth-place team in the NFC.

Atlanta got stopped at the goal line on its first possession of the game and lost a fumble on a strip-sack by Nick Bosa on the opening drive of the second half. That helped the Niners take control as they took advantage of the good field position to drive 38 yards to take a 24-10 lead on Jeff Wilson Jr.’s 5-yard run.

The Falcons settled for a field goal in the red zone on their next possession when pressure by Arden Key forced Matt Ryan into an incomplete pass on third-and-goal from the 4. San Francisco responded with a 75-yard drive capped by Garoppolo’s 4-yard TD pass to Jauan Jennings.


Kyle Juszczyk and and Deebo Samuel scored on San Francisco’s other TD runs in the first half.


Dallas Cowboys 21, New York Giants 6

Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence celebrates against the New York Giants.
(Steve Luciano / Associated Press)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence forced a fumble and made two other big plays that led to 15 points and the NFL-East leading Cowboys inched closer to a playoff berth.

Dak Prescott threw for a touchdown, Ezekiel Elliott scored on a 13-yard run and the defense forced four turnovers, including Trevon Diggs’ NFL-leading 10th interception. The Cowboys (10-4) won their third straight. Greg Zuerlein added three field goals.

Graham Gano kicked field goals of 35 and 42 yards as the Giants (4-10) lost their third straight game with backup Mike Glennon starting for the injured Daniel Jones (neck).


This game was not as close as the score. Dallas has four takeaways in three straight games for the ninth time in team history, and the first since 1994. The Cowboys never trailed and the Giants never looked threatening against a defense that also got interceptions from Jourdan Lewis and Malik Hooker.


Buffalo Bills 31, Carolina Panthers 14

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen passes against the Carolina Panthers.
(Adrian Kraus / Associated Press)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Josh Allen threw three touchdown passes and Devin Singletary ran for a season-high 86 yards.

Allen finished 19 of 34 for 210 yards while Singletary kept Buffalo moving on the ground and opened the scoring on a 16-yard run.

The Bills limited Allen’s mobility a week after the fourth-year starter sprained his foot in a 33-27 overtime loss at Tampa Bay. Allen was sacked a season-high four times for 17 yards. He scrambled once for 26 yards in the third quarter.


Gabriel Davis scored twice, including a 20-yard catch on a post route for a 24-8 lead in the third quarter. Davis also scored on a 14-yard catch in the fourth quarter, and Stefon Diggs had an 11-yard TD grab in a game the Bills never trailed.

Buffalo (8-6) was at risk of its first three-game skid in three years. The Bills have won four of nine games and kept a hold of at least a wild-card spot. They can still repeat as AFC East champions, too, with a key showdown against first-place New England (9-5) next Sunday.

The Panthers (5-9) dropped their fourth straight and lost for the ninth time in 11 games. In a what-else-can-go-wrong season, Carolina was dealt a blow a little over an hour before kickoff when kicker Zane Gonzalez had to be helped off the field after hurting his quadriceps.

The Panthers passed up a field-goal attempt and failed to convert fourth-and-9 from Buffalo’s 24 to end their second possession. Carolina converted one of two 2-point attempts.

Quarterback Cam Newton has lost 12 consecutive starts for Carolina.


Miami Dolphins 31, New York Jets 24

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa passes against the New York Jets.
(Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)


MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — DeVante Parker caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa for the decisive points and Duke Johnson rushed for two scores. The Dolphins extended their winning streak to six games.

Johnson, basically the go-to back for Miami as a last resort because of virus-related issues throughout the week, finished with 107 yards on 22 carries for the Dolphins (7-7), who rallied from an early 10-0 deficit. It was the first two-rushing-TD game of Johnson’s NFL career and the first 100-yard game from a Miami rusher this season.

Defensive lineman Christian Wilkins caught a touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter for Miami, juggling the ball before controlling it and then letting loose with a wild celebration. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound defensive lineman leaped into the stands, then did “the worm” in the end zone as teammates danced around him.

Brandin Echols had a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the fourth period for the Jets. Zach Wilson and Braxton Berrios rushed for scores for New York (3-11).

The Dolphins became the second team in NFL history to get to 7-7 after starting a season 1-7.


Jets safety Elijah Riley was taken off the field on a backboard after being injured during the third quarter, hurt in a collision with Jets teammate Kyle Phillips.


Houston Texans 30, Jacksonville Jaguars 16

Houston's Tremon Smith celebrates with Tavierre Thomas after scoring on a 98-yard kickoff return.
Houston’s Tremon Smith (24) celebrates with Tavierre Thomas after scoring on a 98-yard kickoff return against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Tremon Smith returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, ending the longest drought in the NFL, and then the Texans beat woeful Jacksonville to end a three-game skid and extend their dominance in the series.

Smith somehow escaped five defenders near the 30-yard line — Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins broke his right ankle trying to make the tackle — before coasting the rest of the way. It was Houston’s first kickoff return for a score since Oct. 4, 2009. Every other NFL team had enjoyed at least one since.

Rookie quarterback Davis Mills won for the first time in eight starts. He connected with Brandin Cooks twice for touchdowns, once early and again late. The second one was a 43-yarder that sealed yet another Houston victory against Jacksonville.


The Texans (3-11) won their eighth straight against the Jaguars (2-12), sweeping their rivals for the ninth time in the last 11 years.

The latest one capped a tumultuous week for Jacksonville, which fired Urban Meyer early Thursday to end one of the worst coaching tenures in NFL history.

The Jags showed no spark before or after the kickoff return and ended up dropping their sixth consecutive game. It was their 10th straight loss against AFC South opponents.