Peyton Manning breaks TD record, Broncos clinch AFC West: NFL
Eagles rout Bears, Panthers earn 7th straight win
HOUSTON — Peyton Manning has regained his NFL record for touchdown passes with 51 and the Denver Broncos have clinched the AFC West.
Manning threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns, including three in the fourth quarter to surpass the 50 TD passes Tom Brady threw in 2007. Manning led the Broncos (12-3) to a 37-13 win over the Texans (2-13) on Sunday that extended Houston's franchise-record skid to 13 games.
Manning did it on a 25-yard pass to Julius Thomas with 4:28 remaining. Just 2 1/2 minutes earlier, he tied the mark with a 20-yard pass to Eric Decker.
He entered the game with 47 and his first touchdown came on a 36-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas in the second quarter, and the second one was a 10-yard throw to Decker earlier in the fourth period.
PHILADELPHIA — Nick Foles threw two touchdown passes, LeSean McCoy ran for two scores and the Philadelphia Eagles routed the Chicago Bears 54-11 on Sunday night in a matchup of first-place teams with opposite stakes.
Chicago's loss sets up two winner-take-all games for NFC division crowns next week.
The Bears (8-7) came in needing a win to clinch the NFC North and secure the No. 3 seed while Philadelphia was just trying to stay healthy. But the Eagles (9-6) played like the team trying to lock up a playoff berth.
Now, the Bears must tie or beat the Packers (7-7-1) at home next week to win the North.
The Eagles (9-6) have to tie or beat the Cowboys (8-7) in Dallas next Sunday night to win the NFC East and complete a worst-to-first season under rookie coach Chip Kelly. Once Dallas rallied to beat Washington earlier, the Eagles knew they were only playing for a No. 3 seed if even they win the division.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cam Newton threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon with 23 seconds left to lift the Carolina Panthers to a 17-13 win over the New Orleans Saints and clinch the team's first playoff berth since 2008.
Carolina (11-4) can wrap up the NFC South and a first-round bye in the playoffs with a win next Sunday at Atlanta.
The Panthers intercepted Drew Brees twice and sacked him six times to avenge a 31-13 loss two weeks ago.
Still, the Panthers needed some last-minute big plays from Newton to seal the win. After being held to 116 yards passing for the game's first 59 minutes, Newton led the Panthers 65 yards in 32 seconds for the go-ahead score.
The Saints (10-5) can still clinch a playoff berth if Arizona loses to Seattle.
New Orleans' road woes persist. The Saints have dropped five of their last six games away from the Superdome.
LANDOVER, Md. — Tony Romo threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to DeMarco Murray on fourth down with 1:08 remaining Sunday, giving the Dallas Cowboys a 24-23 win over the Washington Redskins and setting up a winner-take-all regular season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles next week for the NFC East title.
After a one-point, meltdown loss to the Green Bay Packers the previous week, the Cowboys nearly pulled a repeat — blowing a second-half lead after committing turnovers on back-to-back drives.
But Romo recovered and rallied the Cowboys from a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit. He hit Murray after a long scramble as Dallas snapped a two-game skid — as well as a four-game losing streak in the month of December.
The Cowboys (8-7) host the Eagles next week for the division crown. The Redskins (3-12) have lost seven straight.
BALTIMORE — Logan Ryan had two interceptions, LeGarrette Blount scored twice and the playoff-bound New England Patriots breezed past Baltimore 41-7 Sunday, ending the Ravens' four-game winning streak and diminishing the post-season hopes of the defending Super Bowl champions.
This rematch of the AFC championship game was a mismatch from the outset. New England took a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter and never let up behind a defence that forced four turnovers and had four sacks.
The Patriots (11-4) were assured their fifth straight AFC East title before the game started when Miami lost at Buffalo. It's the 11th division crown for New England coach Bill Belichick, tied with Don Shula for most since the 1970 merger.
The loss eliminated the Ravens (8-7) from contention in the AFC North and dropped them into a tie with Miami and San Diego for the final AFC wild-card slot. Baltimore closes the regular season at Cincinnati, which displaced the Ravens as division champs.
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Le'Veon Bell scored a 1-yard touchdown with 1:28 left and the Pittsburgh Steelers withstood Green Bay's last throw into the end zone, dealing the Packers' playoff hopes a blow with a wild, 38-31 win Sunday.
Bell soon scored five plays after scrambling Packers quarterback Matt Flynn fumbled while being tackled by safety Troy Polamalu. The Steelers recovered at the Green Bay 17.
Micah Hyde returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards and the Packers (7-7-1) moved through the snow to the Pittsburgh 1. After a penalty, Flynn's pass was incomplete on the final play.
Despite the win, Pittsburgh (7-8) was eliminated from the playoff race after the Chargers beat the Raiders.
The Steelers won after overcoming a rarely seen illegal batting penalty that negated a blocked field goal.
SEATTLE — Carson Palmer overcame four interceptions to throw a 31-yard touchdown to Michael Floyd with 2:13 left, and the Arizona Cardinals kept their playoff hopes alive with a 17-10 win over Seattle on Sunday, snapping the Seahawks 14-game home win streak.
Arizona (10-5) had to win after Carolina beat New Orleans. And the Cardinals did thanks to a stingy defence that flustered Russell Wilson into one of his worst days as a pro, delaying any celebration of an NFC West championship. The Seahawks can still clinch the NFC West with a win over St. Louis next Sunday.
Palmer twice was intercepted in the end zone, including Richard Sherman's second pick of the game early in the fourth quarter. After Seattle (12-3) took a 10-9 lead with 7:26 left, Palmer led the Cardinals 75 yards and found Floyd for a juggling TD catch with 2:13 left.
DETROIT — Josh Brown's 45-yard field goal on the third drive of overtime lifted the New York Giants to a 23-20 win over Detroit on Sunday and eliminated the Lions from post-season contention.
Detroit (7-8) lost for the fifth time in six games.
Embattled Lions coach Jim Schwartz chose to play for overtime by running out the clock with 23 seconds and two timeouts left from the Detroit 25. When the crowd reacted with a chorus of boos, Schwartz turned his head toward the stands and appeared to angrily shout back at the fans.
The Giants (6-9) overcame Eli Manning's interception late in regulation and Andre Brown's fumble on the opening possession in overtime to win for just the second time in five games.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Kyle Williams had two sacks as the Buffalo Bills set a single-season record and put a dent into the Miami Dolphins' playoff chances with a 19-0 win Sunday afternoon.
Fred Jackson had 111 yards rushing and scored on a 9-yard run, while the Bills limited the Dolphins to a season-low 103 yards offence and six first downs. The Bills (6-9) closed their home schedule with seven sacks for 56 this season, breaking their previous high of 50 during a 14-game season in 1964.
Dan Carpenter sealed the win by hitting four field goals, including a 45-yarder.
The Dolphins (8-7) had a three-game winning streak snapped and are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. Miami needs help from other teams to have a shot, and closes the season hosting the New York Jets next weekend.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Andrew Luck threw for 241 yards and a touchdown, Donald Brown ran 51 yards for another score and the Indianapolis Colts beat the Kansas City Chiefs 23-7 on Sunday in a potential preview of an AFC wild-card playoff game.
The Colts (10-5) took advantage of four turnovers by the Chiefs (11-4) to win for the fifth time in their last six tries against Kansas City. If Indianapolis ends up as the No. 4 seed and the Chiefs the No. 5 for the playoffs, they'll meet again at Lucas Oil Stadium in two weeks.
Alex Smith threw for 153 yards for Kansas City, but he also lost a fumble and was picked off twice. He had thrown just six interceptions in the first 14 games.
Jamaal Charles ran for 106 yards and the game's opening touchdown, but Kansas City failed to keep him involved as the Colts scored the final 23 points.
SAN DIEGO — Philip Rivers threw a go-ahead, 4-yard touchdown pass to rookie Keenan Allen in the third quarter and the San Diego Chargers remained alive in the playoff race by overcoming three turnovers to beat Oakland 26-13 on Sunday.
The Chargers also got help from Buffalo, which beat Miami 19-0, and was getting help from New England, which was leading Baltimore.
The Chargers (8-7), who have won three straight games for the first time this season, need more help to end a three-year playoff drought. They have to beat Kansas City at home next Sunday and have Miami and Baltimore both lose.
Oakland (4-11) helped San Diego, too, by committing 12 penalties for 73 yards. Mike Jenkins was penalized 15 yards for taunting Ryan Mathews after he pushed the running back out of bounds. Allen scored six plays later.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Geno Smith threw two touchdown passes to David Nelson and ran for another score as the New York Jets topped the Cleveland Browns 24-13 on Sunday in their home finale.
With Rex Ryan's job status uncertain, it could have been the coach's last game in front of the home fans, and Smith helped make it a good one with a solid performance. The rookie quarterback had his first game with at least two TD passes since October and committed no turnovers.
Smith finished 20 of 36 for 214 yards and ran for 48 more. Chris Ivory had 109 yards on 20 carries for the Jets (7-8), who were eliminated from playoff contention last week.
Jason Campbell was intercepted twice as the Browns (4-11) lost their sixth straight. The offence was sluggish with star tight end Jordan Cameron sidelined with a concussion.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Nate Washington scored on a 30-yard reception in the fourth quarter, Tennessee got a much-needed defensive stop late and the Titans ended a three-game losing streak with a 20-16 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
The Titans (6-9) overcame a 10-point deficit in the second half and won for just the third time since September.
Washington made several key plays, none bigger than when he slipped behind Alan Ball for the go-ahead score. He finished with six catches for 117 yards.
The Jaguars (4-11) were in position to take the lead after that, but Ropati Pitoitua stuffed Maurice Jones-Drew on a fourth-and-1 play at the Tennessee 20 with 5:21 remaining.
It was the seventh fourth-down attempt in a fairly entertaining game, one of three on this weekend's NFL schedule with no playoff implications. The highlight of the game came when Jacksonville got retiring centre Brad Meester his first career reception.
CINCINNATI, Ohio — Linebacker Vincent Rey returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown as Cincinnati's defence set up another fast start on Sunday, and Andy Dalton threw four touchdown passes as the Bengals pulled away to a 42-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
The Bengals (10-5) remained perfect at home and could clinch an unprecedented third straight playoff appearance if Miami lost to Buffalo. They could clinch the AFC North title if Baltimore lost at home to New England later Sunday.
Something about Paul Brown Stadium brings out the best in Dalton. In his past four home games, Dalton has thrown for five, three, three and four touchdowns. The Bengals have topped 40 points in each of their past four home games, a club record.
The Vikings (4-10-1) had knocked off playoff contenders Chicago and Philadelphia in the past three weeks. Even with Adrian Peterson back from a foot injury, they couldn't keep up.
ST. LOUIS — Zac Stacy rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown, and two other rookies also had big games for the St. Louis Rams in their 23-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Stedman Bailey scored on a 27-yard reverse, and Alec Ogletree forced two fumbles.
Robert Quinn had three of the seven sacks of Mike Glennon to give him an NFC-high 18, breaking Kevin Carter's franchise record of 17 sacks in 1999. The Rams (7-8) wore throwback jerseys from the '99 Super Bowl title season.
Ogletree stripped Bobby Rainey early in the second quarter, and Bailey scored his first career touchdown on the next snap on the reverse to put the Rams up for good at 14-7.
The Buccaneers (4-11) managed just 170 total yards, setting a season low for the second straight week. Vincent Jackson had five catches for 98 yards.