Vikings beat Packers in thriller, secure playoff spot: NFL roundup
Redskins clinch NFC East, Broncos secure home-field throughout AFC playoffs
MINNEAPOLIS — Adrian Peterson came within 9 yards of Eric Dickerson's rushing record on Sunday, finishing with 199 yards and powering the Minnesota Vikings into the playoffs, 37-34 over Green Bay.
That forced a rematch with the Packers this upcoming Saturday night in a wild-card game at Lambeau Field.
Peterson rushed for 36 yards on the last drive, plenty for rookie Blair Walsh's 29-yard field goal as time expired to put the Vikings (10-6) in the post-season. The Packers (11-5) fell to the NFC's No. 3 seed.
Aaron Rodgers completed 28 of 40 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns and no turnovers, connecting with Jordy Nelson from 2 yards to tie the game with 2:54 remaining. But Christian Ponder threw for three scores, including one to Peterson.
SAN FRANCISCO — Michael Crabtree caught touchdown passes of 49 and 7 yards and finished with a career-high 172 yards, leading the San Francisco 49ers to a second straight NFC West title with a 27-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Colin Kaepernick overcame a slow start to throw for a career-best 276 yards and two TDs as the Niners (11-4-1) secured a first-round bye with the Vikings' win over the Packers. Frank Gore ran for a 2-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter for his franchise-best 51st touchdown rushing.
Brian Hoyer went 19 of 34 for 225 yards and a late TD toss in his first career NFL start as Arizona's fourth quarterback. The Cardinals (5-11) lost for the 11th time in their last 12 games in what might have been Ken Whisenhunt's final game as coach.
LANDOVER, Md. — RG3 and the Washington Redskins are NFC East champions.
Robert Griffin III ran for a touchdown, and fellow rookie Alfred Morris rushed for 200 yards and three scores Sunday night as the Redskins won their first division title in 13 years by beating the Dallas Cowboys 28-18.
The Redskins are 10-6 and will host the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday, having won seven straight since their bye week. Washington is the first NFL team to rally from 3-6 to make the post-season since the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1996.
The Redskins would have been out of the post-season with a loss. Instead, the Cowboys will miss the playoffs for the third straight year. Dallas finished 8-8, stumbling in a do-or-die end-of-regular-season game for the third time in five years.
SEATTLE — Russell Wilson tied Peyton Manning's record for most touchdown passes by a rookie with 26, and his 1-yard TD run with 1:39 left gave Seattle a 20-13 win over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday and an 8-0 home mark for the Seahawks.
Seattle (11-5) entered the day with hopes of still winning the NFC West and getting a home playoff game, but those dreams were dashed when San Francisco beat Arizona to clinch the division. Seattle will be the No. 5 seed in the NFC and face the NFC East champion Washington Redskins in the opening round next weekend.
Seattle finished as the only unbeaten team at home in the NFL.
St. Louis' defensive effort didn't make it easy for Seattle. The Rams (7-8-1) sacked Wilson six times, but couldn't do enough offensively to finish with their first winning record since 2003.
DENVER — Peyton Manning threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns Sunday to lift Denver to a 38-3 win over Kansas City that sealed the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs for the Broncos.
Manning finished the season with 4,659 yards, only 41 short of his career high. He finished with 37 touchdown passes, and none will be more memorable than the last two — circus catches by Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas that turned the game into a blowout.
Denver (13-3) won its 11th straight and leaped past Houston for the top seed after the Texans lost to Indianapolis 28-16 earlier in the day.
The Chiefs gained only 119 yards all day and finished their season 2-14. They will get the top pick in April's draft.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes and the New England Patriots regained their dominance after a rare slump, earning a playoff bye with a 28-0 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
Stevan Ridley ran for two touchdowns as the Patriots used a ball-control offence and a defence that racked up a season-high seven sacks.
Now, seeded second in the AFC, they have an extra week to savour the win and prepare for their post-season opener.
The Patriots (11-5) led 21-0 at halftime on Brady's 9-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker and Ridley's runs of 1 and 2 yards, capping drives lasting 14 and 13 plays. They ended the scoring on Brady's 23-yard scoring pass to Rob Gronkowski, who missed the previous five games after breaking his left forearm.
The Dolphins (7-9) finished with a losing record for the fourth straight season.
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts made Chuck Pagano a winner in his return to the sideline.
Andrew Luck threw for two touchdowns and Deji Karim swung the game with a 101-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, giving the Colts a 28-16 victory over Houston. It was Pagano's first game back as coach since starting treatment for leukemia Sept. 26.
Indianapolis (11-5) heads into the playoffs as the No. 5 seed and on a roll. They will visit the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC wild-card game early next Sunday afternoon.
Slumping Houston (12-4) will host Cincinnati in a Saturday AFC wild-card game for the second straight season. The Texans won that game 31-10. However, Houston is limping into the playoffs this time around, having lost three of their last four games.
CINCINNATI — Carlos Dunlap returned an interception 14 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter Sunday, sending the Cincinnati Bengals to a 23-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in a game that didn't much matter to either playoff-bound team.
The Ravens (10-6) had already clinched their second straight AFC North title, putting them in line to host the Colts next Sunday afternoon.
The Bengals (10-6) were locked into the sixth seed as the final wild-card team. They will face the Texans in Houston on Saturday.
The Ravens let quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice play only two series. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green sat out the second half. Panthers 44, Saints 38
ATLANTA — The Falcons couldn't follow through with their plan to gain momentum for the playoffs as Josh Freeman threw a touchdown pass to Mike Williams, Doug Martin ran for 141 yards and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat Atlanta 22-17 on Sunday.
The Falcons (13-3) had little to play for as they already have home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs.
Coach Mike Smith said he wanted to "finish the regular season the right way," and he stayed with his starters through the game.
The danger to Smith's strategy was losing a top starter to an injury.
Defensive end John Abraham, Atlanta's best pass rusher, left with an apparent left ankle injury in the fourth quarter. Abraham couldn't put his weight on the ankle as he was helped off the field.
Starting cornerback Dunta Robinson suffered a head injury in the first quarter and did not return.
DETROIT — Jay Cutler threw for 257 yards and a touchdown and helped seal the game with a late scramble, as the Chicago Bears beat the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Chicago however, was eliminated from playoff contention with the Vikings beating the Packers.
The Lions (4-12) lost their last eight games and turned the ball over four times in the finale. Calvin Johnson fell short in his attempt to become the first player with 2,000 yards receiving in a season.
Cutler's 19-yard run on third down helped Chicago (10-6) run out the clock late in the fourth quarter.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Eli Manning threw a career-high five touchdown passes and the New York Giants beat Philadelphia 42-7 in what might have been Andy Reid's final game as the Eagles' coach.
The Giants (9-7) needed to beat the Eagles (4-12), have Chicago and Minnesota lose and have Dallas either lose or tie against Washington to advance to the post-season.
When the Bears won, the chance disappeared.
The Giants put themselves in a tough spot to reach the playoffs, losing five of seven prior to Sunday, including two games by a combined 67-14 margin to playoff-bound Atlanta and Baltimore.
NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees made more NFL history, but so did the Saints' defence in an undesirable way, and the Carolina Panthers rallied to a 44-38 victory Sunday.
DeAngelo Williams rushed for 210 yards, including touchdown runs of 54 and 12 yards, for Carolina (7-9), which has won four straight. His 65-yard gain set up the first of three 1-yard scoring runs by Mike Tolbert.
Brees passed for 396 yards, giving him 5,177 this season. That makes him the first player to eclipse 5,000 yards three times. His four TD passes gave him 43 in 2012, and he's the first player with 40 TD passes in consecutive seasons.
The Saints (7-9) also gave up 530 yards, raising their season total to 7,042 to break the old record of 6,793 allowed by the 1981 Baltimore Colts.
PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger threw three short touchdown passes, and the Pittsburgh Steelers avoided their first losing season in nearly a decade with a 24-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns..
Antonio Brown, Leonard Pope and Plaxico Burress scored for the Steelers (8-8), who mustered enough energy to end a disappointing season on a positive note.
Pittsburgh's top-ranked defense forced four turnovers as the Steelers won for just the second time in the last six weeks, a slide that knocked them out of the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Cleveland's third-string quarterback, Thaddeus Lewis, passed for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his first NFL start.
But the Browns (5-11) dropped their third straight in what is likely coach Pat Shurmur's final game on the sideline.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — C.J. Spiller scored on a 66-yard catch and run in helping the under-achieving Buffalo Bills end their season with a 28-9 win over the New York Jets on Sunday.
Safety Bryan Scott also returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown for the Bills (6-10), who snapped a three-game skid. Both AFC East rivals had already been eliminated from playoff contention.
Despite the win, the Bills could only manage to match last year's record, and they still finished last in the division for a fifth straight season. That's led to questions about coach Chan Gailey's job security.
Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez turned over the ball twice in making what could be his final start for New York (6-10), which closed its season with three consecutive losses amid all sort of turmoil.
NASHVILLE — Tennessee became the first team in NFL history with two players scoring twice on returns in a game as the Titans beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 38-20 Sunday in their season finale.
Darius Reynaud scored on two punt returns and rookie linebacker Zach Brown returned two interceptions for touchdowns.
The Titans (6-10) finished by winning two of their final three games, which may be enough for owner Bud Adams to keep coach Mike Munchak with two years left on his contract.
Reynaud became the first player in franchise history to return two punts for TDs on a day the Titans also set a franchise mark for most points allowed in a season with 465.
The Jaguars (2-14) wrapped up their worst season with their 12th loss in 13 games. Now owner Shad Khan has to decide whether to fire general manager Gene Smith and possibly first-year coach Mike Mularkey.
SAN DIEGO — Micheal Spurlock returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and San Diego beat the Oakland Raiders 24-21 on a wet, gloomy Sunday in what's expected to be Norv Turner's final game as Chargers coach.
Turner and general manager A.J. Smith are expected to be fired because the Chargers (7-9) missed the playoffs for the third straight season. The Raiders finished 4-12.
If Turner does get fired, he'll finish 56-40 in six seasons with San Diego, but just 24-24 the past three seasons.
Spurlock became the first Chargers player to have a kickoff and punt return for touchdowns in consecutive weeks. He returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown a week earlier in a victory against the New York Jets.
San Diego linebacker Takeo Spikes and Oakland running back Mike Goodson were ejected following a skirmish in the second quarter.