Ryan Tannehill tied a career-high with four touchdown passes to help the Tennessee Titans clinch the top seed in the AFC with a 28-25 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday.
The 12-5 Titans, who secured their second straight AFC South title last week, have the No 1 seed in the AFC for the third time since leaving Houston in 1997 and first since 2008. They also have a first-round bye.
Tannehill threw three touchdown passes in the second quarter to put the Titans up 21-0 at halftime.
But the Texans (4-13) came alive in the second half, scoring 18 unanswered points to get within 3 before Julio Jones caught his first touchdown pass of the season on a three-yard grab that made it 28-18 with about seven minutes remaining.
Houston cut the lead to three again when Danny Amendola’s second touchdown reception of the game made it 28-25 with four and a half minutes to go. Tennessee got a first down on third-and-2 with about three minutes left and ran out the clock to secure the victory.
Tannehill’s big day came after he threw a career-high four interceptions in a 22-13 loss the first time Tennessee played Houston this season on 21 November. On Sunday, he was 23 of 32 for 287 yards.
Houston’s Davis Mills threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns to give him 2,604 yards passing this season to move past David Carr (2,592) for most yards passing by a rookie in franchise history.
Amendola had seven receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns in his first game since 28 November.
In the fourth quarter, the Texans capped an eight-play, 82-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown catch by Amendola early in the fourth quarter. Mills connected with Amendola again on the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 21-18.
Indianapolis Colts 11-26 Jacksonville Jaguars
The Indianapolis Colts badly botched a chance to secure an AFC wild-card spot by losing at Jacksonville 26-11 Sunday in the “clown game”, their seventh consecutive road loss to the Jaguars.
The Colts got clowned.
NFL rushing champion Jonathan Taylor was held to 77 yards, Carson Wentz turned the ball over twice – leading to 10 points – and Indy (9-8) did little to stop the woeful Jaguars (3-14).
The Colts looked more like the ones who should have been decked out in giant bow ties, face paint and colorful wigs and suspenders.
With a playoff berth on the line, Indianapolis was a no-show on an 80F day in Jacksonville.
The 15-point outcome could have been a bigger blowout had the Jags scored touchdowns instead of settling for two chip-shot field goals from inside the 5-yard line. Nonetheless, Jacksonville experienced breathing room in a game for the first time all season.
And they still managed to lock up the No 1 pick in the NFL draft for the second straight year because Detroit stunned Green Bay.
The Colts still could land a playoff spot despite the loss, but they needed Baltimore to beat Pittsburgh, Las Vegas to defeat the Los Angeles Chargers and New England to knock off Miami.
It’s an unlikely trio of events. Indy is more likely to end the season on a two-game skid when one victory would have put it in the postseason.
Pittsburgh Steelers 16-13 Baltimore Ravens (OT)
Ben Roethlisberger delayed his retirement for a few hours and probably longer, guiding Pittsburgh to a 16-13 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday that left the Steelers on the verge of an improbable playoff berth.
Chris Boswell made a 36-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining to win the game for the Steelers, who will now make the postseason as long as Sunday night’s Chargers-Raiders game doesn’t end in a tie. Roethlisberger set up the winning kick when he completed a 10-yard pass over the middle to Ray-Ray McCloud on fourth-and-8 from the Baltimore 41.
The Steelers (9-7-1) and Ravens (8-9) would have both been eliminated if this game had ended in a tie.
After the winning field goal, Roethlisberger held up his right fist in celebration and went slowly to the middle of the field to commiserate with Ravens linebacker Justin Houston.
Both Baltimore and Pittsburgh had slim playoff hopes coming in. The Steelers needed to win and have Indianapolis lose to Jacksonville to have any chance of extending Roethlisberger’s career with a postseason appearance. The Ravens needed a win, a loss by the Colts – and losses by the Dolphins and Chargers later in the day.
The most unlikely part of those scenarios – Indianapolis losing to lowly Jacksonville – actually happened. The crowd in Baltimore, which included plenty of towel-waving Pittsburgh fans, roared its approval when highlights of that game were shown.
Latavius Murray put the Ravens ahead 10-3 with a 46-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but Baltimore lost its sixth straight game to end the season. Five of the losses in that skid were by three points or fewer.
San Francisco 49ers 27-24 Los Angeles Rams (OT)
The San Francisco 49ers clinched a playoff spot with a 27-24 overtime victory over the NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams on Sunday thanks to Robbie Gould’s 24-yard field goal with 2:45 left in overtime and a game-ending interception by Ambry Thomas.
Jauan Jennings caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo with 26 seconds left in regulation for the 49ers (10-7), who are postseason-bound for only the second time in eight years.
San Francisco rallied from a early 17-point deficit for their sixth consecutive win over the playoff-bound Rams (12-5), who won the division title anyway thanks to Seattle’s victory over Arizona.
Sixth-seeded San Francisco will play at Dallas next week, while the fourth-seeded Rams will host the Cardinals in the first playoff game in SoFi Stadium history.
Deebo Samuel rushed for a touchdown and threw a scoring pass to Jennings for the Niners, who made a deliberate 69-yard drive to open overtime. The Rams got the ball back, but Thomas picked off Matthew Stafford’s long throw down the Rams’ sideline.
San Francisco now have their longest winning streak in this rivalry since the 1990s.
Cincinnati Bengals 16-21 Cleveland Browns
Case Keenum got his second win, filling in for Baker Mayfield on Sunday as the Cleveland Browns ended their dismal season with a 21-16 win over the playoff-bound Cincinnati Bengals, who left quarterback Joe Burrow at home and played their backups.
Keenum threw touchdown passes to Jarvis Landry and Demetric Felton as the Browns (8-9) completed a sweep of the surprising AFC North champions. D’Ernest Johnson rushed for 123 yards, and star running back Nick Chubb only had nine carries and finished the season with with 1,259 yards.
Keenum, who replaced Mayfield and beat Denver earlier this season, connected with Landry on a 26-yard scoring pass in the first quarter. He later dumped a pass to Felton, who weaved his way to the end zone to make it 21-10.
Meanwhile, the Bengals played their ‘B’ team. Burrow stayed in Cincinnati to get treatment on a sore right knee so he’s ready to play next week when the Bengals (10-7), who went from last place to first in the division, host a postseason game.
Burrow said he would have played if there was more on the line, but Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor wasn’t taking any chances and started Brandon Allen, who threw a 4-yard TD pass to Chris Evans with 2:26 left.
The Bengals also sat wide receiver Tee Higgins, and running back Joe Mixon was out after testing positive for Covid-19 earlier this week.
Carolina Panthers 17-41 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady topped 5,000 yards passing for the second time in his career and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers set a franchise record for regular-season victories with a 41-17 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Brady completed 29 of 37 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns before taking the last half of the fourth quarter off, finishing with a career-best 5,316 yards passing and a Bucs single-season record 43 TD passes for the defending Super Bowl champions.
Mike Evans caught two of Brady’s TD passes, giving him a club-record 14 scoring receptions this year. He also became the first player in NFL history to begin a career with eight consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards receiving.
Tampa Bay (13-4) broke the club record for victories in a regular season set in 2002 and also earned the No 2 seed in the NFC with the Rams losing to the 49ers in overtime. The Bucs will host the Philadelphia Eagles next week.
Carolina (5-12) finished on a seven-game losing streak that leaves coach Matt Rhule’s future in question. The Panthers are 10-23 in two seasons under the former Temple and Baylor coach, who signed a seven-year contract to move to the NFL in 2020.
Washington Football Team 22-7 New York Giants
Antonio Gibson ran for a career-high 146 yards, scored a touchdown and capped his first 1,000-yard rushing season by leading Washington to a 22-7 victory over New York on Sunday in what might have been Dave Gettleman’s final game as the Giants’ general manager.
Bobby McCain returned the first of his two interceptions 30 yards for a touchdown, and Joey Slye kicked three field goals as Washington (7-10) finished a season in which it went from division winners a year ago to an also-ran.
Third-stringer Jake Fromm threw a 22-yard fourth-quarter touchdown to Darius Slayton as the Giants (4-13) finished a miserable second season under Joe Judge with a six-game losing streak.
Gettleman’s four-year tenure as GM is likely over after a fourth-straight double-digit losing season. This one was marked by injuries, including one that sidelined quarterback Daniel Jones the last six weeks.
Judge’s status depends on what co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch want. He has a group that plays hard, but just doesn’t have enough talent – particularly on the offensive line.
Washington never trailed as Slye kicked field goals of 23 and 43 yards in the first half for a 6-0 lead. McCain’s interception of Fromm’s pass and jaunt into the end zone in the third quarter made it 12-0. Washington failed on a two-point try.
Fromm’s first NFL TD pass got New York within 12-7 early in the fourth quarter, but Washington came right back behind its running game (226 yards). Gibson highlighted his day with an 18-yard romp up the middle for his touchdown.
Green Bay Packers 30-37 Detroit Lions
Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes in the first half and sat out the second half with nothing at stake as the Detroit Lions beat the top-seeded Green Bay Packers 37-30 Sunday.
Backup Jordan Love threw two interceptions late in the game, sealing a defeat that didn’t affect Green Bay’s playoff positioning.
The NFC North champion Packers (13-4) rolled into the Motor City after already clinching the conference’s No. 1 seed and its only first-round bye.
Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP who may win the award for a fourth time, was 14 of 18 for 138 yards.
He threw a one-yard pass to Allen Lazard to cap a 13-play, 74-yard drive that took 7:18 off the clock to open the game and a 29-yard pass to the fourth-year receiver late in the second quarter for another score.
Rodgers replaced his helmet with a baseball cap at halftime and watched the rest of the game from the sideline out of harm’s way.
The Lions (3-13-1) closed coach Dan Campbell’s first season with plenty of pride and some nothing-to-lose plays.
With the win, though, they lost a shot at having the No 1 pick in the NFL draft that was possible because Jacksonville toppled Indianapolis.
Chicago Bears 17-31 Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins passed for 172 yards and three touchdowns in the second half to lead a Minnesota Vikings comeback to beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday in a matchup of two eliminated teams with a head coach in danger of being fired.
Justin Jefferson had the tying score and KJ Osborn caught the go-ahead touchdown for the Vikings (8-9), who gave coach Mike Zimmer plenty to cheer in this pad-the-stats game while outscoring the Bears 28-3 after halftime.
Bears coach Matt Nagy elected to go for it on fourth down six times, failing on all but one of them. Andy Dalton took three sacks and threw an interception, and Patrick Peterson picked him off late in the fourth quarter and turned it into a 66-yard touchdown return.
Darnell Mooney had 12 catches for 126 yards to pass the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the Bears (6-11), who are 30-35 in four seasons under Nagy without a win in the playoffs.
DJ Wonnum and Anthony Barr each had two of Minnesota’s seven sacks of Dalton, who went 33 for 48 for 325 yards and a touchdown pass to Damien Williams that gave the Bears a 14-0 lead just before halftime. The victory gave Zimmer a 72-56-1 record in eight years, including 2-3 in the playoffs. The Vikings have missed the postseason in three of the past four years.
New York Jets 10-27 Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills clinched their second consecutive AFC East title after Devin Singletary scored twice in the final 8:21 in a 27-10 win over the New York Jets on Sunday.
The Bills (11-6) enter the playoffs as the conference’s third seed, but had to await the outcome of the late game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders to determine who they’ll host in the wild-card playoff round next weekend.
Buffalo would face the Chargers if LA beat Las Vegas. If the Raiders win, Buffalo would face the division-rival Patriots.
The Bills actually moved up a spot in the conference standings, jumping ahead of Cincinnati after the Bengals (10-7) lost to Cleveland earlier in the day.
The Bills limited the the Jets to a franchise-low 53 yards of total offense and four first downs – the fewest allowed by Buffalo in franchise history. Buffalo also sacked Jets rookie Zach Wilson nine times, the most by Buffalo since getting 10 in a 23-0 win over Washington on Oct. 20, 2011.
New England Patriots 24-33 Miami Dolphins
Jaylen Waddle had a touchdown grab and set the NFL record for receptions in a rookie year, Duke Johnson rushed for 117 yards and the Miami Dolphins finished their season by defeating the playoff-bound New England Patriots 33-24 on Sunday.
Xavien Howard returned an interception for a touchdown and Johnson had a touchdown run for Miami (9-8), which finished with a winning record for the second consecutive season and once again didn’t have a playoff berth to show for it.
Brandon Bolden two touchdowns – one rushing, one receiving – for the Patriots (10-7), who are headed to the playoffs as a wild card. But they were swept by the Dolphins for the first time since 2000 and the outcome handed the AFC East title to the Buffalo Bills, whose game against the New York Jets had not gone final when the Patriots-Dolphins game ended.
New England needed a win over Miami to keep AFC East hopes alive. The Patriots have played in wild-card games before under coach Bill Belichick — but have never been to the playoffs in the Belichick era as a wild card. All 17 of the previous playoff appearances in his years there have come after a division title.
Seattle Seahawks 38-30 Arizona Cardinals
Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes, Rashaad Penny ran for 190 yards and a touchdown, and the Seattle Seahawks spoiled a shot at the NFC West title for the Arizona Cardinals by beating them 38-30 on Sunday.
It was a back-and-forth game supplemented by a healthy dose of scoreboard watching. The Cardinals (11-6) were still in the running for the NFC West title with a win, especially when the 49ers beat the Rams.
In the end, the scoreboard’s results were moot. The Cardinals couldn’t take care of business against the Seahawks and will settle for the No. 5 seed after starting the season with a 7-0 record.
Arizona is 4-6 since that hot start, including losing four of its last five. The Cardinals will play at the Rams in the wild-card round.
Seattle finishes 7-10 and won’t be in the postseason for just the second time in the past 10 years. Wilson, playing potentially his final game with the Seahawks, finished with 238 yards passing.
New Orleans Saints 30-20 Atlanta Falcons
The New Orleans Saints just missed making the playoffs on Sunday, despite beating the Atlanta Falcons 30-20.
The Saints (9-8) needed the Los Angeles Rams to beat the San Francisco 49ers in order to get a wild-card spot and a fifth consecutive playoff berth, but the Rams won 27-24 in overtime.
Trevor Siemian led back-to-back scoring drives following two Atlanta turnovers late in the first half, and the Saints overcame the loss of quarterback Taysom Hill to an injury.
The Falcons (7-10) were hurt by three turnovers, including two fumbles by running back Mike Davis.
With about six minutes left in the first half, the Saints were up 7-6 when Hill left the game a left-foot injury that happened on a 1-yard run. Hill went into the Saints medical tent on the sideline before being escorted to the locker room.
Siemian took over and threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Tre’Quan Smith.