Bills end playoff drought, Browns finish 0-16
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) The Buffalo Bills snapped the longest current non-playoff drought in North American pro sports with a 22-16 victory Sunday at Miami and Cincinnati’s victory at Baltimore. The Bills hadn’t made the postseason since 1999.
Buffalo (9-7) will travel to Jacksonville next weekend in a wild-card game.
The Bills’ anxiety was compounded by the loss of 1,000-yard rusher LeSean McCoy with a right ankle injury. He was carted off the field in the third quarter.
The frustration of a disappointing season got the best of the Dolphins (6-10) with 6:21 left, when receiver Jarvis Landry, running back Kenyan Drake and offensive lineman Jake Brendel were ejected following a fight. Landry was cited for disrespecting an official, and Drake for throwing his helmet 20 yards in anger. Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were called against both teams.
The undisciplined Dolphins, who came into the game with the second-most penalties in the NFL, had 14 for 145 yards.
BENGALS 31, RAVENS 27
BALTIMORE (AP) – The Ravens were ousted from the playoff hunt in stunning fashion when Andy Dalton threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd with 44 seconds, giving the Bengals the win.
Needing a win to advance to the postseason, Baltimore (9-7) rallied from a 14-point deficit to take its first lead with 8:48 left. But Dalton put together a magnificent 90-yard drive in the closing minutes before hitting Boyd over the middle on a fourth-and-12 play.
Boyd avoided a tackle by Maurice Canady and raced to the end zone to give Cincinnati (7-9) the victory in what might have been its final game under coach Marvin Lewis.
Baltimore entered knowing it could have also gotten into the postseason if either Tennessee or Buffalo tied or lost. Both those teams won, leaving the Ravens with no margin for error on a frigid and windy day.
STEELERS 28, BROWNS 24
PITTSBURGH (AP) – The Browns joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams in NFL history to go 0-16 when they failed to find a way to beat the backup-laden Steelers.
Cleveland had a chance late in the fourth quarter, but DeShone Kizer’s fourth-down pass to Corey Coleman bounced off Coleman’s hands and fell incomplete.
And for the 16th time in 2017, the Browns walked off the field searching for answers that are as elusive now as they’ve been at any point since the franchise’s return to the NFL nearly two decades ago. Head coach Hue Jackson is expected to return despite a 1-31 record and the Browns have two of the top four picks in the 2018 draft.
Kizer finished with 314 yards passing and two touchdowns to Rashard Higgins, but also threw a fourth-quarter pick, his NFL-leading 22nd of the season.
The AFC North champion Steelers (13-3) sat stars Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell among others, but it hardly mattered. Landry Jones completed 23 of 27 passes for 239 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster caught nine passes for 143 yards and a score. He also returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown.
Pittsburgh, which has a wild-card round bye, sacked Kizer six times, boosting its season total to 56, a franchise record.
TITANS 15, JAGUARS 10
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown and used his legs to help the Titans end an eight-season playoff drought by beating the Jaguars to clinch an AFC wild-card berth.
The Titans (9-7) snapped a three-game skid in a game they needed to win or get some help with losses elsewhere to advance. They also posted their first back-to-back winning seasons since 2007 and 2008.
Mariota ran a season-high 10 times for 60 yards, the biggest a 13-yard scramble on third-and-5 at the 2:00 mark. Mariota also threw for 134 yards.
Derrick Henry took a screen pass from Mariota 66 yards for a TD in the second quarter, and Ryan Succop kicked three field goals.
The Titans also sacked Blake Bortles twice and forced four turnovers, two interceptions by Kevin Byard.
The Jaguars (10-6) clinched their first AFC South title a week ago when Tennessee lost to San Francisco.
BUCCANEERS 31, SAINTS 24
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Jameis Winston threw for 363 yards, including a 39-yard scoring pass to Chris Godwin with nine seconds remaining, to help the Buccaneers snap a five-game losing streak with a victory over the Saints.
The playoff-bound Saints (11-5) entered the day hoping to clinch their first NFC South championship in six years. They wound up winning the title anyway, with Carolina (11-5) losing its regular season finale at Atlanta.
Trailing 24-23 with 1:58 remaining, Winston moved the Bucs (5-11) 95 yards in 11 plays for the winning TD.
He converted a fourth-and-10 from his own 5 yard line with a 12-yard completion to Cameron Brate and threw 9 yards to Mike Evans on third-and-1 to keep the drive going at the Tampa Bay 35.
The fourth-year pro, who was intercepted three times, found Godwin racing up the right sideline just ahead of Saints cornerback Ken Crawley to put the Bucs ahead for good.
FALCONS 22, PANTHERS 10
ATLANTA (AP) – Matt Bryant kicked five field goals, including a 56-yarder, for all of Atlanta’s second-half points and the Falcons clinched a playoff spot by beating the Panthers.
After the teams played to a 7-7 halftime tie, the 42-year-old Bryant kicked field goals of 30, 42, 30, 56 and 33 yards without a miss.
Atlanta (10-6) clinched the No. 6 seed in the NFC and will play at the Los Angeles Rams next week in the first round of the playoffs.
On a day when Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense struggled, Bryant’s 15 points provided a margin too great for Carolina to overcome.
The Panthers (11-5) had a playoff spot secured entering the weekend, but they couldn’t improve their position.
Minnesota’s 23-10 win over Chicago earlier Sunday ended the Panthers’ hopes of a first-round bye. The loss to the Falcons ended Carolina’s goal of winning the NFC South, and the Panthers will open the playoffs at New Orleans.
VIKINGS 23, BEARS 10
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Minnesota’s defense turned in another dominant performance and Latavius Murray rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Vikings secure a first-round bye for the playoffs.
Stefon Diggs caught six passes for 65 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings (13-3), who reached 13 wins for only the second time in the history of the 57-year-old franchise after holding a second straight opponent without an offensive touchdown.
Mitchell Trubisky finished his rookie season with a turnover-free game, completing 20 of 36 passes for 178 yards. He failed, however, to guide the Bears (5-11) across the goal line despite 11 plays from the 10-yard line or closer in the fourth quarter.
Trubisky also took a safety in the second quarter on an intentional grounding call.
In what could have been the final game for coach John Fox, who’s 14-34 in three seasons, the Bears didn’t cross midfield until the fourth quarter and totaled only 30 yards rushing. They were penalized 10 times for 116 yards and went 1 for 14 on third- and fourth-down conversions.
PATRIOTS 26, JETS 6
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Dion Lewis ran for a touchdown and caught a scoring pass, helping the Patriots clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
The win clinched the seventh 13-win season for the Patriots (13-3), second in NFL history to San Francisco’s nine seasons. It was also Bill Belichick’s 250th career regular-season win, moving him into a tie with Tom Landry for third all-time among head coaches.
New England has defeated New York in four straight meetings, and the Patriots haven’t lost to the Jets (5-11) at home during the regular season with Tom Brady starting since 2006. Brady’s 13th win as a starter this season tied him with Brett Favre for most by a starting quarterback at age 40 or older.
Lewis finished with a season-high 26 carries for 93 yards . Brandin Cooks had 11 catches for 79 yards and touchdown for New England, which will have a first-round bye in the playoffs. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was held without a catch for the first time this season and the third time in his career.
James Harrison, signed by New England last Tuesday after being cut by Pittsburgh, had two sacks – on consecutive plays to end the game – and finished with five total tackles and a forced fumble.
CHIEFS 27, BRONCOS 24
DENVER (AP) – Patrick Mahomes II made both his first NFL start and his first NFL relief appearance a success Sunday, leading the Chiefs past the Broncos on Harrison Butker’s 30-yard field goal as time expired.
Starting in place of Alex Smith, Mahomes handed off a 24-10 lead to No. 3 QB Tyler Bray midway through the fourth quarter but came back with the score tied at 24 and less than three minutes left.
He drove the Chiefs 67 yards in 11 plays for the game-winning field goal that sent the Chiefs (10-6) to their fifth straight win over the Broncos (5-11).
Mahomes became the first quarterback drafted by the Chiefs to win a game for them since Todd Blackledge in 1987. He threw for 284 yards on 24-of-35 passing with no touchdowns and an interception.
Broncos QB Paxton Lynch was 21 of 31 for 254 yards with two TDs, two interceptions and was sacked five times.
COWBOYS 6, EAGLES 0
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Dak Prescott tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brice Butler early in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys beat playoff-bound Philadelphia, preventing the Eagles from earning a franchise-record 14th win.
The Eagles (13-3) rested several starters on a frigid day and played others briefly after securing the NFC’s No. 1 seed last week. They’ll host a playoff game on Jan. 13 or 14.
The Cowboys (9-7) earned their second straight winning season for the first time since five in a row from 2005-09. That’s little consolation for Dallas, which was eliminated from playoff contention in Week 16.
Philadelphia has two weeks to work on its slumping offense.
Nick Foles struggled in one quarter, going 4 of 11 for 39 yards with one interception. Foles was excellent in his first start after Carson Wentz went down for the season, tossing four TD passes in a 34-29 win at the Giants on Dec. 17. But he has followed up with two poor performances.
The Cowboys drove 99 yards for the only score. A holding penalty on Rasul Douglas on an incomplete pass on third down extended the drive and Prescott connected with Butler on a slant on third-and-7. Dan Bailey hooked the extra point wide left, only his second career miss in 278 tries.
Ezekiel Elliott ran for 103 yards, falling 17 short of 1,000 in only 10 games because of a six-game suspension.
LIONS 35, PACKERS 11
DETROIT (AP) – Matthew Stafford threw three touchdown passes and the Lions beat the turnover-prone and short-handed Packers in a matchup of teams out of the playoff race.
The Lions (9-7) finished with a winning record in consecutive seasons for the first time since doing it three years in a row from 1993-95. That relative feat, along with a 36-28 record and two postseason appearances over four seasons in Detroit, may not be enough for coach Jim Caldwell to keep his job.
The Packers (7-9) have a losing record for the first time since 2008, which is also the last time they didn’t earn a spot in the playoffs. Their chances this season were crushed by Aaron Rodgers missing nine games with a collarbone injury.
Stafford was 20 of 29 for 323 yards without a turnover. He caught a 2-point conversion pass after Ameer Abdullah, who had just run for a TD, took a direct snap and pitched it to Tate, who easily connected with Stafford in the end zone to put Detroit up 35-11 midway through the fourth quarter.
COLTS 22, TEXANS 13
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Jacoby Brissett threw for one touchdown and Marlon Mack ran for another as the Colts beat Houston in the season finale for both teams.
The win ended the longest losing streak of Colts coach Chuck Pagano’s six seasons. It did nothing to quell speculation whether he’ll be back next season, which has been the hottest topic in town since the Colts (4-12) were eliminated from the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
Pagano has two years left on his contract.
Houston’s plight has been just as bad.
The Texans (4-12) lost their last six, nine of their last 10, finished last in the AFC South, and can’t even take solace in draft picks because they don’t own one in either the first or second round in 2018.
GIANTS 18, REDSKINS 10
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning threw a touchdown pass in what might be his final game with the Giants and New York got a rare taste of winning.
Manning threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Sharp and Orleans Darkwa rushed for a career-high 154 yards, including a 75-yarder on the second play from scrimmage The Giants (3-13) snapped a five-game losing streak and gave interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo his first win since taking over from the fired Ben McAdoo on Dec. 4.
Aldrick Rosas kicked two short field goals and Kelvin Sheppard had two interceptions for New York, whose 13 losses are the most in franchise history.
Coupled with Indianapolis’ win over Houston, the Giants will have the No. 2 pick overall in the draft.
Kirk Cousins, who also might be playing his last game for the Redskins and can be a free agent after the season, scored on a 12-yard run for Washington (7-9), which has missed the playoffs the past two years.
CARDINALS 26, SEAHAWKS 24
SEATTLE (AP) – Phil Dawson kicked four field goals, the last from 42 yards with 2:21 left, Blair Walsh missed a 48-yard attempt with 32 seconds left and the Cardinals beat the Seahawks.
Seattle’s playoff hopes were dashed when Atlanta beat Carolina to earn the final wild-card spot in the NFC.
Dawson’s four field goals and Arizona (8-8) winning its third straight in Seattle was the final blow to an underwhelming season by the Seahawks.
Arizona’s game-winning drive was helped by a careless third down roughing penalty on Seattle’s Bobby Wagner when it appeared the Seahawks would get off the field. Arizona later converted third-and-2 with a 17-yard pass to D.J. Foster and Dawson connected after hitting earlier in the game from 46, 49 and 53 yards.
Seattle (9-7) got into position for a game-winning attempt from Walsh, but his kick stayed out to the right and the Seahawks were left to lament missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 season.
49ERS 34, RAMS 13
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns to lead the 49ers to their fifth straight victory, against a Rams team resting its big stars for the playoffs.
The Rams (11-5), who clinched the NFC West title last weekend, rested Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, Aaron Donald and other top players for their home playoff game next weekend, the franchise’s first postseason game since the 2004 season.
The 49ers (6-10) finished last in the division, but have hope with Garoppolo, who was Tom Brady’s backup with New England before being acquired on Oct. 31. He threw touchdown passes of 8 yards to Marquise Goodwin – who later left with a concussion after a brutal hit by Blake Countess – and 12 yards to Aldrick Robinson. Both receivers were wide open.
Garoppolo completed 20 of 33 passes, looking confident and making some brilliant throws. He also was intercepted twice. Of course, it helped not having to face Donald and the Rams’ four starting linebackers.
CHARGERS 30, RAIDERS 10
CARSON, Calif. (AP) – Philip Rivers passed for 387 yards and three touchdowns, but the Chargers missed out on a playoff berth despite their victory over the Raiders.
Keenan Allen scored on a 27-yard fumble recovery and a 6-yard TD catch for the Chargers (9-7), who won six of their final seven games in their relocation season.
The Bolts needed help from losses by two other AFC teams to become the second team in NFL history to make the playoffs after an 0-4 start, and they were eliminated when Tennessee beat Jacksonville moments after the final gun in Carson.
Tyrell Williams caught a 56-yard TD pass and Travis Benjamin caught a 62-yard scoring pass for the Chargers, who won nine of their final 12 games. They fought fiercely to overcome their 0-4 start, which included two losses decided by missed field goals on the final snap, but the Bolts couldn’t quite do it.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and – http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
- AFC East
- AFC North
- Cleveland Browns
- Dallas Cowboys
- Detroit Lions
- New England Patriots
- New York Giants
- Pittsburgh Steelers