NFL roundup: Colts top Titans, lock down playoff spot
Andrew Luck threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns Sunday night as the Indianapolis Colts claimed the AFC’s final playoff spot with a 33-17 win over the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
Luck, who completed 24 of 35 passes, finished the regular season with 39 touchdown passes, the most for a player who missed the previous season. He also enabled Indianapolis (10-6) to cap a comeback from a 1-5 start and earn a trip to AFC South champion and divisional foe Houston for a wild-card round game on Saturday.
Tennessee (9-7) snapped a nine-year playoff drought last year with a home win over Jacksonville in Week 17, but wasn’t able to repeat the feat this time. The short-handed Titans played without quarterback Marcus Mariota (stinger, plantar fascia) and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (knee), and their absences were clearly felt.
Casey’s injury left a massive gap in the interior defense that Indianapolis exploited with consistency. Besides Luck’s passing, the Colts also pounded out 158 yards on 36 carries, enabling them to possess the ball for more than 40 minutes.
Patriots 38, Jets 3
Tom Brady tossed a season-high four touchdowns and became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to complete 6,000 career passes as New England clinched the No. 2 seed in the AFC by cruising past visiting New York.
New England (11-5) clinched a bye for the 13th time in the Bill Belichick-Brady era since 2001 and the ninth straight season. The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Oakland Raiders later Sunday to clinch the top seed in the AFC playoffs and lock the Patriots in to the No. 2 seed.
The Jets (4-12) finished the season by losing nine of their last 10 games and fired coach Todd Bowles with two years remaining on his contract. The Jets were 24-40 under Bowles, who took over in 2015 following Rex Ryan.
Eagles 24, Redskins 0
Nick Foles tied an NFL single-game record with 25 straight pass completions and visiting Philadelphia found a way into the NFC playoffs with a blowout win at Washington.
The Eagles (9-7) clinched the second wild card spot when the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Chicago Bears 24-10. Philadelphia will visit Chicago, the NFC’s third seed, Saturday afternoon.
After throwing an interception on the opening drive, Foles recovered to finish 28 of 33 for 221 yards, two touchdowns and the pick before leaving with a chest injury in the fourth quarter. He was perfect in a stretch that began in the first quarter and ended late in the third. Washington (7-9) lost six of its final seven games as it was forced to use four different starting quarterbacks.
Bears 24, Vikings 10
Jordan Howard had 21 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns and Chicago held on to eliminate host Minnesota from playoff contention.
Tarik Cohen also had a rushing touchdown for Chicago (12-4), which finished with its best regular-season record since 2006. The Bears locked up the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs and will host the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday afternoon.
Stefon Diggs scored the lone touchdown for Minnesota (8-7-1). The Vikings could have earned a wild-card playoff berth with a victory — which would have created a rematch in Chicago next week — but instead will go home early for the third time in five seasons under head coach Mike Zimmer.
Ravens 26, Browns 24
Lamar Jackson rushed for two touchdowns and accounted for 269 all-purpose yards as Baltimore clinched the AFC North title with a narrow win over visiting Cleveland.
The Ravens (10-6), who went 6-1 with Jackson at quarterback after veteran Joe Flacco was injured midseason, will host the Los Angeles Chargers next Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in the wild-card round. Baltimore dumped Los Angeles 22-10 on Dec. 22 in Carson, Calif.
Jackson completed 14 of 24 passes for 179 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions while rushing 20 times for 90 yards. Kenneth Dixon piled up 117 yards on 12 carries and Gus Edwards chipped in 76 yards on 12 attempts as the Ravens finished with 296 yards on the ground against the Browns (7-8-1). Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield set a new NFL record for rookie touchdown passes with his 27th.
Steelers 16, Bengals 13
Rookie kicker Matt McCrane’s third field goal, from 35 yards with 1:56 left, gave Pittsburgh a win over visiting Cincinnati, but it was not enough to ensure the Steelers’ season would continue.
With Baltimore beating Cleveland, the only way Pittsburgh (9-6-1) could make the playoffs was if the Tennessee-Indianapolis game Sunday night ended in a tie. The Colts won 33-17.
The Steelers played without receiver Antonio Brown, who has a knee injury. Without a double threat, JuJu Smith-Schuster faced stiff coverage, with five catches for 37 yards and a tying touchdown against the Bengals (6-10).
Chiefs 35, Raiders 3
Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes became the second quarterback in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a season as the Chiefs bashed visiting Oakland to lock up the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
An 89-yard scoring bomb to Demarcus Robinson with 8:33 left in the third quarter was Mahomes’ 50th TD strike of the season and pushed the first-year starter past the 5,000-yard plateau. The only other quarterback to reach both milestones in the same season was Denver’s Peyton Manning in 2013, when he set records for touchdown passes (55) and passing yardage (5,477) in a season.
Mahomes punctuated his MVP candidacy with 281 yards against the Raiders (4-12), going 14 of 24 with two touchdowns and one interception. Tyreek Hill led the Chiefs (12-4) with five receptions for 101 yards and scored touchdowns on a 67-yard reception and 15-yard rush.
Chargers 23, Broncos 9
Philip Rivers passed for 176 yards and a touchdown, linebacker Kyle Emanuel returned a fumble for another score and Los Angeles beat host Denver Broncos to end the regular season.
With Kansas City’s win over Oakland on Sunday, the Chargers (12-4) are locked into the No. 5 seed and will play at Baltimore next Sunday at 1:05 ET on CBS.
Mike Williams had 65 yards receiving and a score and Austin Ekeler ran for 58 yards and a touchdown for Los Angeles, while Case Keenum was 31-for-48 passing for 292 yards, a touchdown and an interception for Denver (6-10).
Rams 48, 49ers 32
The Los Angeles defense set the tone with four first-half turnovers and a touchdown on the way to a victory over visiting San Francisco that earned L.A. a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The Rams (13-3) clinched the No. 2 seed in the NFC with the victory over their longtime rival and finished undefeated against the NFC West in the process. The opening-round bye is the first for the Rams since the 2003 season when the team was in St. Louis.
Jarred Goff passed for 199 yards and four touchdowns and C.J. Anderson rushed for 132 yards and a score against the 49ers (4-12) as the Rams were without starting running back Todd Gurley for a second consecutive week as he works his way through knee inflammation.
Seahawks 27, Cardinals 24
Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give Seattle a win against visiting Arizona.
Chris Carson rushed 19 times for 122 yards and a touchdown for the Seahawks (10-6), who had already clinched an NFC wild-card berth but cemented the No. 5 seed. Seattle will play at Dallas on Saturday night.
Arizona (3-13) clinched the league’s worst record and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
Texans 20, Jaguars 3
Deshaun Watson capped his second season with a unique statistical accomplishment and host Houston claimed its third AFC South title in four seasons with a victory over woeful Jacksonville, becoming the second team to earn a division title after starting a season 0-3.
With 234 passing yards plus another 66 yards on the ground with a touchdown, Watson is the first quarterback in NFL history to total 4,000 yards (4,165) and at least 25 touchdowns (26) passing while rushing for 500 yards (551) with another five touchdowns on the ground.
Led by defensive end J.J. Watt, the Texans (11-5) harassed Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles throughout what likely was his last appearance with the Jaguars (5-11). Watt recorded 1 1/2 of the three sacks of Bortles, closing his season with 16. Watt and Hall of Fame member Reggie White are the only players in NFL history with four 15-plus sack seasons.
Cowboys 36, Giants 35
Dak Prescott threw four touchdowns passes and completed a two-point conversion to Michael Gallup with 1:12 left to lift Dallas Cowboys past host New York.
Prescott, who threw for 387 yards, completed a 32-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to Cole Beasley on fourth-and-15 to set up the two-point conversion. Originally, Beasley was called out of bounds on the field, but after review was ruled to have gotten his knee down before his elbows landed out of bounds.
Though running back Ezekiel Elliott sat out the game, Dallas played most of its starters and heads into the postseason having won seven of eight games. The Cowboys (10-6) earned the fourth seed in the playoffs and will host Seattle at AT&T Stadium next weekend. The Giants finish the season 5-11.
Lions 31, Packers 0
Detroit blasted listless Green Bay, ending the season on a positive note and earning back-to-back victories at Lambeau Field for the first time since the 1990-91 seasons.
Matthew Stafford, throwing passes to the likes of Brandon Powell, Andy Jones and T.J. Jones instead of Kenny Golladay (inactive), Marvin Jones (injured reserve) and Golden Tate (traded), threw for 266 yards and a pair of touchdowns to T.J. Jones for the Lions (6-10).
His counterpart, Aaron Rodgers, exited following the third series with a concussion. A week after rallying three times from two-touchdown deficits to beat the New York Jets, interim coach Joe Philbin’s Packers (6-9-1) showed no fight against the Lions.
Bills 42, Dolphins 17
Josh Allen passed for three touchdowns and ran for two more as Buffalo defeated Miami in Orchard Park, N.Y.
Zay Jones caught two touchdowns from Allen, who completed 17 of 26 passes for 224 yards with an interception. Allen also ran nine times for 95 yards. Buffalo forced four turnovers and enjoyed its highest-scoring game of the season.
The game was the season finale for two teams out of playoff contention. Buffalo (6-10) finished 4-3 in its final seven games. Miami (7-9) concluded its season on a three-game losing streak, dropping nine of its final 13.
Panthers 33, Saints 14
Undrafted rookie quarterback Kyle Allen threw two touchdowns passes before leaving the game with a fourth-quarter shoulder injury as visiting Carolina won in New Orleans.
With the Saints (13-3) secure in their No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, they rested several starters. Drew Brees missed only his third start since coming to the Saints in 2006. He finished the season with an NFL-record 74.4 completion percentage (364 of 489) with 3,992 yards, 32 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Carolina (7-9) scored touchdowns on its first three possessions, with Allen driving the Panthers 75, 89 and 90 yards — mostly against the Saints’ starting defense — to forge a 20-0 lead, and it climbed to 30-0 late in the third quarter.
Falcons 34, Buccaneers 32
Matt Bryant made a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give visiting Atlanta a victory in what turned out to be Dirk Koetter’s final game as Tampa Bay’s head coach.
The field goal was Bryant’s second of the game after a 49-yarder in the third quarter and gave the Falcons (7-9) a three-game winning streak to end the season despite trailing 17-0 late in the first half.
The Bucs (5-11) lost eight of their last 10 games, including the final four, and fell to 19-29 under Koetter, whom the team fired shortly after the game. Jameis Winston had four touchdown passes for the Bucs, including a score with five minutes remaining, and was 22 of 35 for 345 yards and an interception.
–Field Level Media