Packers, Jets lose ground: NFL roundup
Patriots 1st team to clinch playoff spot
The Miami Dolphins turned two early turnovers into their only points, beating the flat New York Jets 10-6 Sunday at the rainy Meadowlands.
Much of the game was played in a downpour, which made for inept offence in the sloppy conditions. The Dolphins gained 132 yards, with Chad Henne passing for only 55, yet improved to 7-6.
The Jets moved the ball better, picking up 286 yards. But Mark Sanchez's fumble led to the only touchdown, Brandon Marshall's 6-yard reception in the first quarter.
The Dolphins sacked Sanchez five times, with Cameron Wake picking up a pair.
Earlier, Nolan Carroll's interception set up Dan Carpenter's 47-yard field goal.
By far the most effective player on the wet field was Dolphins punter Brandon Fields. He finished with 10 kicks for a 50-yard average.
Nick Folk kicked field goals of 35 and 42 yards for the Jets (9-4).
New York's offence has not scored in over nine quarters, with the team coming off a 45-6 drubbing in New England. Their last touchdown of any kind came late in a win Nov. 25 against Cincinnati, a Brad Smith kickoff return.
Chargers 31, Chiefs 0
Philip Rivers threw two touchdown passes to Malcom Floyd and the San Diego Chargers remained alive in the AFC West race with a rout over the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs, who went nowhere without quarterback Matt Cassel.
The four-time defending division champion Chargers (7-6) pulled within one game of the Chiefs (8-5). Cassel didn't travel after having an emergency appendectomy on Wednesday. His backup, Brodie Croyle, completed 7-of-17 passes for 40 yards and was sacked four times in his first start since the 2009 opener.
Rivers was 18-of-24 for 226 yards and the Chargers outgained the Chiefs 426 yards to 67. Kansas City had only five first downs.
It was San Diego's first regular-season shutout against the Chiefs.
Jaguars 38, Raiders 31
David Garrard threw three touchdown passes, Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings each topped 100 yards rushing and the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Oakland Raiders 38-31 Sunday in a game filled with big plays.
The Jaguars overcame a 10-point deficit to win for the fifth time in the last six games, setting up a critical AFC South game at Indianapolis next week.
Jacksonville (8-5) stayed a game ahead of the Colts and can clinch the division title next week with a victory and a loss by Houston. The Raiders (6-7) lost for the third time in four weeks and faded from post-season contention.
Patriots 36, Bears 7
Tom Brady threw for 369 yards and two touchdowns, as the New England Patriots locked up their eighth playoff berth in 10 years with on a snowy, blustery, bone-chilling Sunday in Chicago.
The win was the fifth straight for the Patriots (11-2), and this one was no less impressive than their 45-3 rout of the New York Jets on Monday night. They wasted little time blowing it open, grabbing a 33-0 halftime lead and sending coach Bill Belichick to his 174th career win. That put him in a tie for 10th place with Mike Holmgren.
Brady was brilliant again despite the brutal conditions, picking apart the league's third-ranked defence. He completed 27-of-40 passes and went without an interception for the eighth straight game.
Saints 31, Rams 13
Drew Brees threw for three scores, Malcolm Jenkins returned one of his two interceptions 96 yards for his first career touchdown, and the New Orleans Saints won their sixth straight game.
Marques Colston had a pair of touchdown catches in traffic as New Orleans (10-3) raced to a 14-0 lead and never trailed at home. Lance Moore made a 31-yard touchdown catch.
Brees finished 25 of 40 for 221 yards and was intercepted twice.
Rams rookie Sam Bradford scored the only St. Louis touchdown on a short keeper. He passed for 231 yards and was intercepted twice, both times near the New Orleans goal line.
Bradford's first interception was especially costly, giving the Saints a 21-6 lead when it appeared the Rams (6-7) were about to pull within one score late in the second quarter.
Falcons 31, Panthers 10
Michael Turner ran for 112 yards and three touchdowns, Matt Ryan threw for another and the Atlanta Falcons maintained their grasp on the best record in the NFC with a 31-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
The Falcons (11-2) built a 17-0 halftime lead, survived a brief hiccup to start the third quarter, and cruised to their seventh straight win. John Abraham and Kroy Biermann each had two sacks as the Falcons became the latest team to shut down the NFL's worst offence.
Jonathan Stewart rushed for a season-best 133 yards, but lost a fumble on Carolina's first play from scrimmage to set up Atlanta's first TD.
Things didn't get much better for rookie Jimmy Clausen and the NFL-worst Panthers (1-12), who dropped their seventh straight.
Lions 7, Packers 3
Drew Stanton threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Will Heller midway through the fourth quarter, and the Green Bay Packers couldn't come back without an injured Aaron Rodgers.
Detroit (3-10) snapped a five-game losing streak and a 19-game skid against the NFC North, the NFL's worst slump within a division since the merger four decades ago.
Green Bay (8-5) lost Rodgers and a game it desperately needed to win for playoff positioning. The star quarterback was knocked out in the second quarter with his second concussion this season.
Matt Flynn got Green Bay to the Detroit 31 before turning the ball over on downs with an incomplete pass into the end zone just past a diving Greg Jennings in the final minute.
The Packers now trail Tampa Bay in the NFC wild card race and have to next face the Patriots in New England, an imposing task. New England did help Green Bay on Sunday, blasting NFC Central rival Chicago.
Steelers 23, Bengals 7
Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley returned interceptions by Carson Palmer for Pittsburgh's only touchdowns and the Steelers sent Cincinnati to a franchise record-tying 10th consecutive defeat, winning 23-7 on Sunday.
The Steelers (10-3) couldn't get into the end zone on offence despite dominating the time of possession — a 9½-minute drive produced no scoring — but it didn't matter as they closed in on a playoff spot by playing just well enough to beat the Bengals (2-11).
Palmer threw three interceptions, two to Polamalu, as Cincinnati matched the David Shula-coached 1993 Bengals by losing 10 consecutive games in the same season. The overall franchise record is 11 consecutive defeats from 1992-93.
Buccaneers 17, Redskins 16
A flubbed extra point attempt with nine seconds to play kept the Washington Redskins from tying the game, giving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a 17-16 victory Sunday.
The Redskins pulled within a point on Santana Moss' six-yard touchdown catch, but Nick Sundberg's slightly high snap on a wet field went through holder Hunter Smith's hands.
The Buccaneers improved to 8-5 and broke a two-game losing streak. The Redskins fell to 5-8 and have dropped four straight at home.
Bills 13, Browns 6
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to David Nelson, Leodis McKelvin made a late interception and the Buffalo Bills beat the Cleveland Browns 13-6.
Rian Lindell hit two field goals, both from 19 yards, to help the Bills improve to 3-11 and snap a three-game losing streak against Cleveland.
The Browns (5-8) were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
McKelvin intercepted Jake Delhomme's pass with under four minutes left at the Bills 32, and Buffalo was able to run out the clock.
49ers 40, Seahawks 21
Alex Smith threw for 255 yards and three touchdowns in a triumphant return to the starting lineup following a five-game absence, and the 49ers improved their once-slim playoff hopes with a victory over the NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
San Francisco (5-8) moved within a game of division leaders Seattle (6-7) and St. Louis (6-7).
Vernon Davis, Josh Morgan and Brian Westbrook hauled in the touchdown passes. Westbrook's 62-yarder was his longest play from scrimmage since 2006.
Dashon Goldson made a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown on the third play of the second half.
Matt Hasselbeck went 27-for-42 for 285 yards and two TDs, but threw four interceptions and lost a fumble as Seattle had turnovers in five of six possessions during one stretch.
Leon Washington returned a kickoff 92 yards for the Seahawks in the third. Deon Butler caught a late two-yard touchdown but appeared to break his leg upon being hit by Phillip Adams.
Cardinals 43, Broncos 13
Jay Feely became the fourth kicker in 40 years to run for a touchdown and added career-best five field goals to help the Arizona Cardinals end a seven-game losing streak with a 43-13 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Rookie quarterback John Skelton, in his first NFL start, completed 14-of-36 for 141 yards with no interceptions and had at least four passes dropped for Arizona (4-9).
The Broncos (3-10) committed six turnovers, three of them interceptions by Kyle Orton, in their eighth loss in nine games, an uninspired debut under interim coach Eric Studesville, promoted from running backs coach when Josh McDaniels was fired last Monday.
The Cardinals' Tim Hightower rushed for a career-best 148 yards.