NFL Week 16: Buccaneers rout Panthers to take NFC South title

Tom Brady throws a pass.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady passes against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
(Jacob Kupferman / Associated Press)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won their first NFC South title since 2007 on Sunday when Tom Brady threw for 232 yards and a touchdown and Antonio Brown made a grand return to the NFL in a 32-6 rout of the Carolina Panthers.

In his first game since Oct. 13, Brown saw a prominent role on offense with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin sidelined by injuries, catching 10 passes for 101 yards while being targeted 15 times by Brady.

Ronald Jones carried 20 times for 65 yards and a touchdown filling in for the injured Leonard Fournette. Tampa Bay also got big offensive contributions from unheralded players Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Cyril Grayson. Vaughn broke two tackles and rambled for a 55-yard first-quarter touchdown. Grayson, a COVID-19 replacement player, hauled in a 62-yard reception to set up Brady’s only TD pass, a 4-yarder to Cameron Brate.


The Bucs (11-4) put up 391 yards on offense, and on defense, had seven sacks and limited the Panthers to two field goals.

Carolina (5-10) went with a dual-quarterback approach, starting Cam Newton (seven of 13 for 61 yards and ran for 42 yards) and finishing with Sam Darnold, who went 15 of 33 for 190 yards.

Sony Michel rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown and the Rams clinched a playoff spot with a 30-23 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

Dec. 26, 2021


Kansas City Chiefs 36, Pittsburgh Steelers 10

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes looks to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns, Byron Pringle caught two of the TD passes, and the Chiefs clinched their sixth consecutive AFC West title.

The Chiefs (11-4) remained a game ahead of Tennessee for first place in the AFC with their eighth straight win. That would give them the conference’s lone first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.


Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a touchdown run for Kansas City before leaving early in the second half with a collarbone injury. Darrel Williams and Derrick Gore carried the load the rest of the way with Williams running for 55 yards and Gore adding 43 yards on the ground and three catches for 61 yards.

The Steelers became the first team in NFL history to trail by at least 23 points at halftime in three straight road games. Already on the playoff bubble, Pittsburgh (7-7-1) dropped further behind the Bengals (9-6) in the AFC North.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 159 yards with a late fourth-quarter touchdown for Pittsburgh, along with throwing an interception and losing a fumble. Najee Harris added 93 yards rushing.


Las Vegas Raiders 17, Denver Broncos 13

Denver Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb tackles Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs during the second half.
(David Becker / Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS — Josh Jacobs rushed for 129 yards and Las Vegas came from behind to defeat Denver and stay relevant in the AFC playoff picture.


With the win, the Raiders (8-7) severely damaged the postseason chances for AFC West rival Denver (7-8), which dropped its third game in the last four.

Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr completed 20 of 25 passes for 201 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Zay Jones had six receptions for 50 yards and Hunter Renfrow had three catches for 40 yards and one touchdown.

The Broncos had a 13-7 lead at halftime, but the Raiders took the opening drive of the second half 75 yards over nine plays. Jacobs’ performance on the ground marked his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.

The Raiders were 9 for 10 in stopping Denver on third downs and limited the Broncos to 158 net yards on offense. Las Vegas held the Broncos to a mere 18 yards on the ground. Denver QB Drew Lock finished with 15 completions on 22 attempts for 153 yards.


Buffalo Bills 33, New England Patriots 21

The Bills' Josh Allen leaps over the Patriots' Devin McCourty.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen hurdles New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty during Sunday’s game.
(Winslow Townson / Associated Press)


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Josh Allen threw for three touchdowns and Buffalo hung on to beat New England to vault the Bills back into first place in the AFC East title race.

Buffalo (9-6) now holds tiebreakers over the Patriots and Dolphins, and is in the driver’s seat to win its second straight division title. Allen finished 30 of 47 passes for 314 yards, and he also rushed 12 times for 64 yards.

Isaiah McKenzie stepped up in place of Bills receivers Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis, who were both on the reserve/COVID-19 list, notching a career-high 11 catches, 125 yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots (9-6) saw rookie quarterback Mac Jones struggling to find openings against the Bills’ top-ranked defense. He went 14 of 32 for 145 yards and two interceptions.


Dallas Cowboys 56, Washington 14

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott celebrates a touchdown against Washington.
(Ron Jenkins / Associated Press)


ARLINGTON, Texas — Dak Prescott threw four touchdown passes, DeMarcus Lawrence returned an interception for a score as the Cowboys celebrated their clinching of the NFC East title with a blowout win.

The Cowboys (11-4) tied the franchise record for points in a first half while taking a 42-7 lead and frustrating Washington to the point that defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne scuffled on the sideline.

Dallas didn’t need to win to add the division title to the playoff berth that was sealed with San Francisco’s loss to Tennessee three nights earlier. Las Vegas’ 17-13 victory over Denver took care of that about an hour before kickoff.

Prescott and company didn’t seem to care, and scored the franchise’s most points, playoffs included, since a 59-14 victory over San Francisco in 1980.

Washington (6-9) allowed its most points since 2010 in the most-lopsided loss for either team in a storied rivalry played 123 times.


The COVID-depleted Chargers were unable to contain Rex Burkhead and the Houston Texans in a 41-29 loss that will likely drop L.A. out of the top 7 in the AFC playoff race.

Dec. 26, 2021


Philadelphia Eagles 34, New York Giants 10

The Eagles' Jalen Hurts looks to pass the ball.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts looks for a receiver against the New York Giants.
(Rich Schultz / Associated Press)

PHILADELPHIA — Jalen Hurts threw a touchdown to lineman Lane Johnson, linebacker Alex Singleton returned an interception for a score and Philadelphia continued its late-season playoff push with a win over New York.

The Eagles (8-7) have won six of eight after opening the season losing five of seven and moved into the seventh playoff spot in the NFC. They could clinch a playoff berth with a win and some help next week.

Hurts shook off a dismal first half and threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns to push the Eagles over .500 for the first time since they won the season opener. Philadelphia scored 31 points in the second half.

Quarterback Jake Fromm got the start with the Giants (4-11) left with little options after Daniel Jones was shut down for the season because of a sprained neck. Fromm went 6 of 17 for 25 yards and one interception before he was pulled for Mike Glennon late in the third.


Cincinnati Bengals 41, Baltimore Ravens 21

The Bengals' Joe Burrow throws up his hands.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow reacts after a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens.
(Aaron Doster / Associated Press)

CINCINNATI — Joe Burrow threw for a franchise-record 525 yards and four touchdowns, and Cincinnati took sole possession of first place in the AFC North by beating a COVID-depleted Baltimore team.

Burrow, the second-year QB who broke Boomer Esiason’s team record of 522 yards, was 37 of 46 and threw two touchdown passes to Tee Higgins and one each to Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon as the Bengals (9-6) swept the Ravens for the first time since 2015.

Tee Higgins had 12 receptions for a career-high 194 yards. Ja’Marr Chase caught seven for 125 yards, and Boyd had three catches for 85 yards.

Josh Johnson, who was signed as a free agent, started at quarterback for the Ravens (8-7). His 4-yard pass to Rashod Bateman put Baltimore up 10-7 in the first quarter, and he finished 28 for 40 for 304 yards with two touchdown passes and an interception. Tight end Mark Andrews had eight catches for 125 yards and a TD.


Chicago Bears 25, Seattle Seahawks 24

Chicago Bears tight end Jimmy Graham motions to fans as he heads off the field after a win over the Seattle Seahawks.
(Lindsey Wasson / Associated Press)

SEATTLE — Jimmy Graham caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Nick Foles with 1:01 remaining, Damiere Byrd made an acrobatic reception for the 2-point conversion, and Chicago Bears beat Seattle.

Making his first start since last season, Foles led the Bears 80 yards in the closing minutes, capping the drive with his TD toss to Graham, who spent three seasons with the Seahawks. Graham posted up a pair of smaller defensive backs to make the catch in the corner of the end zone.

On the 2-point attempt, Foles threw late, but Byrd got his knee down in the end zone with multiple Seattle defenders trying to push him over the back line.

It was a stunning conclusion to rare snow game in Seattle that eliminated the Seahawks (5-10) from the NFC playoff picture. Russell Wilson was 16 of 27 for 181 yards and two touchdowns.


Foles finished 24 of 35 for 250 yards for the Bears (5-10), and David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert each had rushing touchdowns.


Atlanta Falcons 20, Detroit Lions 16

The  Falcons' Matt Ryan throws a pass.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan passes against the Detroit Lions.
(Danny Karnik / Associated Press)

ATLANTA — Matt Ryan threw a tiebreaking 12-yard touchdown pass to Hayden Hurst early in the fourth quarter Atlanta held on late to beat Detroit — and preserve its slim playoff hopes.

Foye Oluokun’s interception of Lions fill-in quarterback Tim Boyle’s pass at the Atlanta 1 with 33 seconds remaining preserved the win. It was the first interception of the game for Boyle, who made his second career start as Jared Goff remained on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Atlanta wide receiver Russell Gage’s lost fumble with 2:18 remaining set up the Lions’ last possession at the Atlanta 37. The fumble was forced by Jalen Reeves-Maybin and recovered by Dean Marlowe.


The Falcons (7-8) began the day knowing they had to win their final three regular-season games to protect hopes of making the playoffs. Ryan’s 19-yard pass to rookie Kyle Pitts set up the go-ahead touchdown.

Without Goff, Detroit (2-12-1) couldn’t maintain momentum gained by last week’s surprising 30-12 win over Arizona. The Lions were called for six offside penalties.


New York Jets 26, Jacksonville Jaguars 21

The Jets' Zach Wilson throws a pass.
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson passes against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
(John Munson / Associated Press)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Zach Wilson threw a touchdown pass and ran for another to outduel Trevor Lawrence, and short-handed New York used a goal-line stand at the end of the game to hold on and beat Jacksonville.

It was the fourth matchup of rookie quarterbacks taken with the first two picks in the draft — and the No. 2 selection came out on top. Barely.


After Eddy Pineiro’s 20-yard field goal gave the Jets (4-11) a five-point lead with 1:47 remaining, Lawrence and the Jaguars (2-13) got the ball back. A 26-yard run by Lawrence got the ball to the 5, and he followed with a 4-yard pass to Marvin Jones. Lawrence spiked the ball to stop the clock to make it fourth-and-the-game.

But Lawrence’s pass to Jones fell incomplete — and the Jaguars were called for an illegal shift that the Jets declined, turning the ball over on downs.

Wilson set a Jets record for a quarterback with 91 yards rushing, highlighted by a 52-yard score — the longest run by a QB in franchise history. He was 14 of 22 for 102 yards passing, including a TD pass to offensive lineman Conor McDermott. Braxton Berrios returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown, and Michael Carter ran for 118 yards on 16 carries for New York.