Manning leads Colts back to playoffs: NFL
Peyton Manning threw two touchdown passes and Adam Vinatieri made a 43-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Colts a 23-20 home victory Sunday afternoon and their seventh AFC South title in eight years.
The Colts (10-6) tied Dallas' NFL record for most consecutive playoff appearances (nine) and will face the New York Jets next weekend in a wild-card game.
Manning was 27 of 41 for 264 yards and threw his 398th and 399th career TD passes. He set the NFL's single-season record for completions with 450.
But it was Manning's masterful five-play, 37-yard drive that gave Indy its fourth straight win.
Jacksonville lost minutes earlier to guarantee the Colts a playoff berth even before Vinatieri's field goal.
Tennessee (6-10) lost eight of its last nine. Chris Johnson ran 20 times for 39 yards.
Seahawks 16, Rams 6
Seattle used a stingy defense to become the first sub-.500 division champ in league history with a 16-6 home win over St. Louis on Sunday night.
Backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst threw a four-yard touchdown pass on Seattle's first drive, and Olindo Mare kicked second-half field goals of 31, 38 and 34 yards. The Seahawks finished as champs of the NFC West at 7-9, the first playoff team with a losing record — not including the 1982 strike-shortened season — since the merger in 1970.
It was Seattle's first division title since 2007. Their reward: a home game on Saturday with the defending Super Bowl champion Saints. New Orleans beat the Seahawks 34-19 in Week 11.
Whitehurst finished 22 of 36 for 192 yards making just the second start of his career. He started in place of Matt Hasselbeck, who was active and went through warmups, but didn't play after suffering a hip injury last week against Tampa Bay.
St. Louis (7-9) and rookie quarterback Sam Bradford was held without a touchdown for the second time this season.
Texans 34, Jaguars 17
Arian Foster ran for 180 yards to capture the NFL rushing title for Houston.
The Jaguars (8-8) needed a win on the road and a Colts loss to make playoffs, but couldn't overcome the absence of its top two offensive players. Quarterback David Garrard had finger surgery Thursday and Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew sat out with a right knee injury.
Indianapolis wound up winning minutes after the Jaguars' game ended.
Foster finished with 1,616 yards rushing, the highest single-season total for an undrafted player.
The Texans (6-10) won for only the second time in their last 10 games amid speculation coach Gary Kubiak would keep his job but fire defensive assistants.
Falcons 31, Panthers 10
Matt Ryan and Atlanta put a decisive stamp on the NFC South title and home-field advantage in the playoffs.
The Falcons (13-3) earned their first division title since 2004, home-field edge throughout the NFC playoffs and a bye next weekend. The time off for Ryan and other starters came early, as backups took over in the fourth quarter.
Carolina (2-14) had a weak finish to an awful season under coach John Fox as the league's worst offence was held without a touchdown until the final minute. The Panthers announced Friday that this was Fox's last game as coach.
Ryan passed for 236 yards with TDs to Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White, and Eric Weems scored on a 55-yard punt return.
Steelers 41, Browns 9
Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes and Pittsburgh won the AFC North to secure a first-round playoff bye.
The game could be the final one for Browns coach Eric Mangini.
Roethlisberger, who got to rest most of the second half, threw a 56-yard TD to Mike Wallace on his first pass.
The Steelers (12-4) built a 31-3 halftime lead and rocked the rival Browns (5-11), who didn't put up much of a fight in their finale.
In winning its third division title in four years, Pittsburgh guaranteed itself at least one post-season home game.
Mangini's record fell to 10-22 in two seasons. On Monday, he's scheduled to meet with team president Mike Holmgren.
Ravens 13, Bengals 7
Ed Reed had two interceptions and Ray Lewis recovered two fumbles, part of an opportunistic defence that carried Baltimore.
Despite the victory, the Ravens (12-4) failed to get the help necessary to win the AFC North. Baltimore needed Pittsburgh to lose to Cleveland, but the Steelers won easily to deny the Ravens a first-round bye.
Baltimore will play Kansas City next Sunday and comes into the playoffs with a four-game winning streak.
Ray Rice scored on a seven-yard run and Billy Cundiff kicked two field goals for the Ravens, who forced five turnovers to offset the 395 yards in offence amassed by the Bengals (4-12).
The Ravens' victory Sunday was not assured until Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer threw an incompletion on a fourth-down play from the Baltimore two with 10 seconds left.
Raiders 31, Chiefs 10
Michael Bush rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown and short-handed Oakland beat playoff-bound Kansas City to gain a unique NFL distinction.
The Raiders (8-8) finished 6-0 in the AFC West, the first team since the 1970 merger to go unbeaten in the division and not make the playoffs. The AFC West champion Chiefs (10-6) were 2-4 in the division, and will host the Ravens in the playoffs next Sunday.
Two of Oakland's best players, running back Darren McFadden and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Richard Seymour, were inactive because of injuries. But the Raiders dominated in just about every way while handing the Chiefs their first home loss.
Packers 10, Bears 3
Aaron Rodgers' one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Donald Lee to give Green Bay the lead, and its defence held on to clinch a wild card berth.
The Packers will visit the NFC East champion Eagles next Sunday.
Nothing came easy for the Packers (10-6), They trailed 3-0 at halftime and were tied going into the fourth quarter with the Bears — a team that didn't have anything to play for in terms of playoff seeding, but still played to win with its starters.
Rodgers and the Green Bay offence sputtered for three quarters, but the Packers' quarterback broke through with back-to-back big passing plays early in the fourth quarter to set up the go-ahead touchdown. The defence did the rest, as Nick Collins' interception ended a late drive for the Bears (11-5).
Buccaneers 23, Saints 13
Josh Freeman passed for two touchdowns but Tampa Bay failed to make the playoffs.
The Bucs (10-6) entered the game needing a victory and losses by both the Giants and Packers to make the post season. The Giants an Packers both won.
The Saints (11-5) will open the playoffs next Saturday on the road against Seattle.
Freeman passed for 255 yards, including a two-yard scoring strike to Dezmon Briscoe in the back of the end zone, and an 18-yard TD to Mike Williams on fourth-and-short.
Connor Barth hit three field goals, the third from 48 yards to give the Bucs a two-score lead with 4:01 to go.
Patriots 38, Dolphins 7
Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes to cap a record-setting season as New England won its eighth straight.
The game meant nothing in the standings. Still, Brady played into the third quarter and finished with 36 touchdowns passing and four interceptions. He extended his NFL records to 335 straight passes without an interception and 28 consecutive regular-season wins as a starter at home.
The Patriots (14-2) already had homefield advantage for as long as they remain in the AFC playoffs and have a first-round bye.
The Dolphins (7-9) lost for the fourth time in five games, jeopardizing the job of coach Tony Sparano.
Jets 38, Bills 7
Mark Brunell threw two touchdown passes in relief of Mark Sanchez, Joe McKnight ran for a career-high 158 yards and the Jets' defence dominated.
Having already clinched a post-season spot, New York (11-5) sat a handful of stars, including LaDainian Tomlinson and Darrelle Revis, but still earned the fourth 11-win season in franchise history — and first since the 1998 team went to the AFC championship game.
The Jets open the playoffs against the Indianapolis Colts next Saturday.
Sanchez, dealing with a sore right shoulder, started but played only one series and handed off nine times without a throw.
Lions 20, Vikings 13
Brett Favre stood in street clothes on the sideline in what likely was the final game of his 20-season career, watching the Lions (6-10) beat his Vikings for their fourth straight win.
The Vikings (6-10) closed out a lost season by putting the three-time MVP quarterback on the inactive because of a concussion, with rookie Joe Webb making his second start.
After the game, Favre said it was time for him to call it a career.
The Lions tripled last season's win total and closed with their best finish since 1995.
Shaun Hill threw for 258 yards and a touchdown for the Lions, who took a 13-0 lead and sealed the win with Maurice Morris' four-yard TD run with 9:29 left.
Cowboys 14, Eagles 13
Stephen McGee threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten with 55 seconds left to lead Dallas over the NFC East champs.
Michael Vick and nearly every starter didn't play in a game that had no effect on Philadelphia's playoff positioning. The Eagles (10-6) are locked into the No. 3 seed and will host Green Bay in a wild-card game next Sunday.
The Cowboys (6-10) were playing for jobs next year, and the win may convince owner Jerry Jones to have interim coach Jason Garrett stay on next season. The Eagles were playing to stay healthy for next week.
Still, Dallas struggled against a bunch of backups and seldom-used reserves — until their final drive.
Giants 17, Redsksins 14
The Giants got the win, but they didn't get the help they needed to make the playoffs.
Osi Umenyiora forced two of the defence's four turnovers, and the Giants ended with a 10-6 and no playoff spot after the Packers defeated the Bears to clinch the final NFC post-season spot.
The Giants and Buccaneers became the first NFC teams with at least 10 wins to miss the playoffs since 1991.
Rex Grossman threw for 336 yards for the Redskins, who finished 6-10. Washington went 2-6 at home, its worst mark since 1994.
49ers 38, Cardinals 7
Alex Smith threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis in what likely was the quarterback's final hurrah with the 49ers in a matchup for last place in the awful NFC West.
Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick who becomes a free agent, threw for 276 yards and two TDs overall and the Niners (6-10) made interim coach Jim Tomsula a winner in what will probably be his only game coaching the team. Tomsula was promoted from his defensive line duties after coach Mike Singletary was fired following a loss last week.
Larry Fitzgerald had a 10-yard TD reception from John Skelton among his 11 catches for Arizona (5-11).
Brian Westbrook had a pair of six-yard TD runs in the third quarter for San Francisco.
Chargers 33, Broncos 28
Rookie Ryan Mathews ran for three scores and Nate Kaeding kicked four field goals for San Diego.
The Broncos (4-12) closed out the season with more than 11 losses for the first time in club history, but secured the No. 2 overall pick in the April draft behind Carolina.
San Diego (9-7) missed the playoffs after winning the AFC West title the past four years.
Mathews topped 100 yards for the first time, gaining 120 yards on 26 carries and scoring on runs of 27, 12 and 31 yards.