Peyton Manning breaks more records, Broncos clinch AFC
Bengals eliminate champion Ravens, Rodgers returns to lead Packers past Bears
OAKLAND, Calif. — Peyton Manning leads the Denver Broncos into the playoffs with another record, home-field advantage and some rest after doing all his work in one half against the reeling Oakland Raiders.
Manning set the NFL single-season record for yards passing and threw four first-half touchdown passes to clinch the top seed in the AFC playoffs for the Broncos with a 34-14 victory over Oakland on Sunday.
Manning needed just one half to add the yards record to the touchdown mark he set last week and assure that the Broncos (13-3) won't have to leave home again until the Super Bowl if they make it that far.
He threw touchdown passes to Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno in the first quarter and added two to Demaryius Thomas in the second quarter. He broke Drew Brees' record of 5,476 yards set in 2011 with a 5-yard pass to Thomas with 13 seconds left in the half to make it 31-0.
That ended Manning's day having completed 25 of 28 passes for 266 yards. He finished the season with 5,477 yards and 55 touchdown passes.
The Raiders (4-12) ended their 11th straight non-winning season with six straight losses and big questions about the future of second-year coach Dennis Allen. Oakland has won eight games in Allen's two seasons but after showing signs of progress early this season, regressed down the stretch to put his job in jeopardy.
CHICAGO — Aaron Rodgers fired a 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the final minute, and the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears 33-28 to capture the NFC North championship.
Back after missing seven games with a broken left collarbone, Rodgers found a wide open Cobb on fourth-and-8 at the 48 to wipe out a one-point deficit with 38 seconds left.
Green Bay will host San Francisco next weekend.
The Bears had one final drive, but Jay Cutler's deep pass to Alshon Jeffery was intercepted by Sam Shields on the final play.
That gave the Packers (8-7-1) their third straight division title and fifth post-season appearance in a row. It also kept the Bears (8-8) out of the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.
NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees passed for four touchdowns and ran for another score, and New Orleans clinched a wild card spot with a 42-17 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Three of Brees' scoring strikes were longer than 40 yards — 76 to Kenny Stills, 44 to Lance Moore and 41 to Robert Meachem. Brees passed for 381 yards, eclipsing 5,000 yards in a season for an unprecedented fourth time. He finished the season with 5,162 yards to go with 39 touchdowns.
Brees' other TD was a 10-yard pass to tight end Jimmy Graham, and the Saints (11-5) finished 8-0 in the Superdome.
Mike Glennon passed for 219 yards and two TDs for Tampa Bay (4-12). With doubts swirling about the future of second-year Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano, the Bucs closed the season with losses in their last three games, and four of their last five.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — LeGarrette Blount ran for a career-high 189 yards and two touchdowns and had two long kickoff returns as the New England Patriots clinched a first-round AFC bye with a 34-20 win over the Buffalo Bills on a rainy Sunday.
Tom Brady was content to hand the ball off during a steady downpour against a team first in the NFL in sacks and second in interceptions. And Blount responded, leading the charge into the playoffs.
Stephen Gostkowski helped make sure the Patriots (12-4) wouldn't have a game next weekend with four field goals.
While the Patriots earned their eighth bye in Bill Belichick's 14 seasons as coach, the Bills (6-10) missed the playoffs for the 14th straight year, the league's longest current streak.
SAN DIEGO — Nick Novak kicked a 36-yard field goal with 5:30 left in overtime and the San Diego Chargers, who trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter, beat the Kansas Chiefs 27-24 to claim the AFC's final playoff spot.
The Chargers (9-7) ended a three-year post-season drought. The winning drive was kept alive by a 2-yard gain by Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle on a fake punt on fourth-and-2 from the Chargers 28. The game ended when Kansas City couldn't convert on fourth-and-15 from the San Diego 41 with 3:16 left.
With the Chargers on the verge of an embarrassing collapse against a team resting 20 of 22 starters, Philip Rivers threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Royal early in the fourth quarter and Novak kicked a 22-yard field goal to tie it.
Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop was wide right on a potential game-winning, 41-yard field goal try with 4 seconds left in regulation.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Phil Dawson kicked a 40-yard field goal as the game ended to lift San Francisco to a 23-20 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, giving the 49ers the NFC's No. 5 playoff seed.
Dawson had matched his career best with a 56-yarder to put San Francisco (12-4) up 20-17 with 1:45 to go. Jay Feely's 43-yard field goal then tied it for Arizona with 34 seconds left.
LaMichael James' 45-yard kickoff return and two quick completions by Collin Kaepernick set up Dawson's game winner.
Arizona (10-6) rallied from a 17-0 first-quarter deficit to tie it on Carson Palmer's 34-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts with 3:20 remaining.
Anquan Boldin caught nine passes for 149 yards and a TD in his first game back since Arizona traded him to Baltimore after the 2009 season.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Nick Foles threw two touchdown passes, NFL rushing champion LeSean McCoy had 120 yards and a receiving score and the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys 24-22 in a win-or-go-home game for the NFC East title Sunday night.
The Cowboys (8-8), with Kyle Orton filling in two days after Tony Romo had back surgery, lost to a division rival with a playoff berth on the line for the third straight year.
The Eagles (10-6) will host New Orleans a wild-card game Saturday night.
Dallas trailed 24-16 when Orton threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant. Orton went back to Bryant for the 2-point conversion, but the ball fell incomplete.
The Cowboys got another chance with a stop from their beleaguered defence, but Orton's pass was intercepted by Brandon Boykin on the first play to seal the win.
McCoy finished with 1,596 yards.
PITTSBURGH — Le'Veon Bell ran for 90 yards and a touchdown and Pittsburgh defeated the lifeless Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 179 yards and a touchdown against two interceptions as the Steelers (8-8) won their third straight to avoid the franchise's first losing season since 2003. The victory also continued a furious second-half rally by the Steelers, who went 6-2 over the season's final eight weeks. However, Pittsburgh could not make it into the playoffs after San Diego defeated Kansas City to claim the AFC's final playoff spot.
Jason Campbell completed 23 of 40 passes for 240 yards with a touchdown, but the Browns (4-12) lost their seventh straight, fueling speculation first-year coach Rob Chudzinski's job could be in jeopardy.
SEATTLE — Malcolm Smith returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown, Marshawn Lynch added a 2-yard scoring run and the Seattle Seahawks clinched the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a 27-9 win over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
Seattle (13-3) matched the franchise record for wins in a season and finally wrapped up the No. 1 seed after failing in two previous attempts, including last week's loss to Arizona that snapped a 14-game home winning streak.
Smith's interception was the start of a dominant performance by the Seahawks defence that held St. Louis under 100 yards of total offence into the fourth quarter.
The defensive effort and a lack of discipline from the Rams (7-9) helped Seattle's offence do just enough. Russell Wilson threw a 47-yard TD pass to Golden Tate, and Lynch finished with 97 yards rushing.
CINCINNATI — Andy Dalton threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and set a pair of Bengals passing records, leading Cincinnati to a victory that eliminated the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
It was an erratic performance by the third-year quarterback, who threw four interceptions as well. The Bengals (11-5) head into the playoffs as AFC North champions.
The Ravens (8-8) lost their last two games, becoming the 15th Super Bowl champ that failed to reach the playoffs the following season and the sixth in the last 12 years.
In Cincinnati, there's only one thing in mind: finally win a playoff game. The Bengals haven't done that since the 1990 season, tied for the seventh-longest streak of futility in NFL history.
Most of the focus will be on Dalton, who broke Carson Palmer's club records for touchdown passes and yards passing.
ATLANTA — Cam Newton threw two touchdown passes, Greg Hardy had a team- record four sacks and the Carolina Panthers clinched the NFC South title by beating the Atlanta Falcons.
The Panthers (12-4) clinched a first-round bye and home-field advantage for at least one game as the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Carolina could move up to the No. 1 seed with losses by Seattle and Arizona in late games.
Carolina set a team record by sacking Matt Ryan nine times. The defence also produced a touchdown on Melvin White's 7-yard interception return in the second quarter.
Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez had four catches for 56 yards and was honoured at halftime in his final regular-season game. He has announced plans for retirement.
INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck threw for 282 yards and one touchdown, Robert Mathis reclaimed the NFL sacks lead and Adam Vinatieri joined the 2,000-point club as the Colts routed Jacksonville.
The AFC South champs have now won three straight, matching their longest streak of the season. Indy (11-5) finished with a 6-0 mark against division foes and has outscored its last three opponents 78-20.
Jacksonville (4-12) lost its third straight.
Luck was 26 of 37 and became the first player in league history to top 8,000 yards in his first two NFL seasons. Mathis retook the sacks lead in the first half and added another in the second half, giving him 19 ½, and Vinatieri moved into fifth on the career scoring list with 2,006 points, passing George Blanda and Matt Stover.
It was never close. Indy built a 17-0 lead and never let the Jags get close.
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins were eliminated from the scramble for the AFC's final wild-card berth by the New York Jets, who thrived in the role of spoilers against their archrivals and won.
Geno Smith led three long scoring drives, ran for a touchdown and threw for 190 yards, while two interceptions by rookie Dee Milliner and one by 35-year-old Ed Reed prevented a Miami comeback.
The Dolphins (8-8) squandered a shot at their first playoff berth since 2008 by losing their final two games. It was a dismal end to a roller-coaster season that included a four-game losing streak, a bullying scandal that drew national scrutiny, and a December surge that briefly left the Dolphins in control of their playoff destiny.
The Jets (8-8) will sit out the postseason themselves for the third year in a row under Rex Ryan, whose future is in doubt.
NASHVILLE — Chris Johnson ran for 127 yards and a touchdown in what might be his last game with the Titans, who beat the Houston Texans for a win that may help coach Mike Munchak's argument to stay on the job in 2014.
With their 14th straight loss, the Texans (2-14) clinched the No. 1 selection in next May's draft for the next head coach owner Bob McNair hires.
The Titans (7-9) scored 16 straight points in snapping a five-game home skid that was their longest since leaving Houston for Tennessee in 1997. They also won a second straight game for the first time since September, when they started 3-1.
Rob Bironas kicked three field goals, including a season-long 55-yarder. Linebacker Akeem Ayers intercepted a pass and forced a fumble as the Titans got four turnovers they turned into 10 points.
MINNEAPOLIS — Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson scored two more touchdowns, including the go-ahead catch in the end zone in the fourth quarter, and the Minnesota Vikings beat the Detroit Lions in the final game at the Metrodome after 32 seasons.
With both the Vikings (5-10-1) and the Lions (7-9) out of the playoffs, both coaches also faced the possibility of their last full day with their teams. Jim Schwartz fell to 29-52 in five years with the Lions. Leslie Frazier raised his record with the Vikings in three-plus years to 21-33-1. Each of them has reached the playoffs once.
The building will be torn down next month to make room for a new domed stadium on the same site.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Jerrel Jerigan caught a 24-yard touchdown pass and ran 49 yards for another to lead the New York Giants to a victory over Washington in what might be Mike Shanahan's final game as the Redskins' coach.
Shanahan has not only seen the Redskins (3-13) finish the season with an eight-game losing streak just a year after winning the NFC East, but his future is uncertain because of his shaky relationship with oft-injured franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The Giants (7-9) also aren't going to the playoffs, but they closed the season with a 7-3 record after losing their first six games. It's a finish that probably will have two-time Super Bowl winning coach Tom Coughlin back next season, unless the 67-year-old decides he has had enough.
The game was the final one at MetLife Stadium until the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.