NFL roundup: Patriots clinch home-field advantage; Redskins fall from playoff contention
By Associated Press
Jan 01, 2017 | 8:05 PM
Tom Brady threw for 276 yards and three scores Sunday at Miami, and the Patriots clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs by beating the Dolphins, 35-14.
New England took a 20-0 lead in the first half, and turned away Miami's comeback bid with the help of a 77-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Julian Edelman and a 69-yard fumble return by linebacker Shea McClellin.
The Patriots (14-2), who were already assured of a first-round bye, became the ninth team since 1972 to go undefeated on the road during the regular season.
The Dolphins (10-6), beaten for only the second time in the past 11 games, had already earned an AFC wild-card berth and will play their first postseason game since 2008 next weekend at Pittsburgh.
Brady completed 25 of 33 passes with no turnovers. Edelman had a career-high 151 yards on eight catches. Miami's Matt Moore, subbing again for injured starter Ryan Tannehill, completed 24 of 34 passes for 205 yards.
Facing an opponent with nothing to play for, the Washington Redskins blew their chance to make the playoffs with an uninspired loss to visiting New York.
The Redskins would have made the playoffs with a win as long as the Green Bay Packers-Detroit Lions night game didn't end in a tie. Instead, Kirk Cousins was intercepted twice in the second half by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Washington (8-7-1) goes into an offseason filled with questions.
The Packers and Lions each qualified as a result of the Redskins' loss to New York (11-5), which will be the first wild card. Eli Manning played the entire game, going 17 of 27 for 180 yards despite the Giants opting for a conservative approach for much of the second half.
Cousins finished 22-of-35 passing for 285 yards and a touchdown, but more importantly the interceptions in the third and fourth quarters. Fittingly the game ended with another Washington turnover when tight end Jordan Reed's attempted lateral turned into a Giants touchdown.
Matt Ryan bolstered his MVP credentials with a brilliant first half Sunday, throwing four touchdown passes to lead Atlanta to a victory over visiting New Orleans while securing a first-round playoff bye.
Ryan completed 17 of 19 passes for 235 yards by halftime, directing the Falcons (11-5) to touchdowns on all five possessions and a commanding 35-13 lead. He finished 27 of 36 for 331 yards, leaving him with a franchise-record 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions this season.
Atlanta is seeded second in the NFC to Dallas.
The Saints (7-9) came into the regular-season finale looking to finish another disappointing season with a three-game winning streak and avoid a third straight losing mark. But they were blitzed early and often by the league's highest-scoring offense.
Tony Romo threw his first touchdown pass in nearly 14 months and playoff-bound Dallas played it safe in a 27-13 loss at Philadelphia.
The Cowboys (13-3) locked up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs when the Eagles (7-9) beat the Giants on Dec. 22. So Dak Prescott played only two series and Ezekiel Elliott watched from the sideline.
Carson Wentz tossed two scoring passes to Zach Ertz to help Philadelphia finish with a two-game winning streak.
Prescott completed four of eight passes for 37 yards before giving way to Romo, who hadn't played in a regular-season game since Thanksgiving 2015 when he broke his left collarbone for the second time in less than three months. Romo broke a bone in his back in the third preseason game against Seattle in August, paving the way for Prescott to have one of the best years by a rookie quarterback in NFL history.
Romo, completed three of four passes for 29 yards, overthrew Terrance Williams on a deep pass on his first play. His first completion was a 16-yarder to Williams on third and 12. After Dez Bryant drew a pass interference penalty on a deep pass at the Eagles 3, Romo connected with Williams for his first TD pass since Nov. 22, 2015 against Miami.
DaQuan Jones recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the first quarter, and Tennessee never trailed in beating visiting Houston to finish with their first winning season since 2011.
The Titans (9-7) also ended a five-game skid to the two-time AFC South champs, who had beaten Tennessee eight of the previous nine games in this series. With their six-win improvement from going 3-13 in 2015, the Titans matched the biggest one-year turnaround in franchise history, previously set in 1967 and 1974.
Matt Cassel also threw for a touchdown in his first start this season in place of an injured Marcus Mariota, and Derrick Henry ran for a TD. Rishard Matthews caught nine passes for 114 yards, and Pro Bowl lineman Jurrell Casey had two of Tennessee's four sacks.
The Texans (9-7) had little at stake except sweeping the AFC South for the first time in franchise history. Hosting a wild-card game next weekend, the Texans deactivated six starters before kickoff and had just one starter still in on defense by midway through the third quarter. Undrafted rookie Joel Heath had two of the Texans' four sacks.
Vikings 38, Bears 10
Sam Bradford concluded his first season with Minnesota with three first-half touchdown passes, helping the Vikings to a 38-10 victory over bumbling Chicago in Minneapolis.
Bradford completed 25 of 33 passes for 250 yards with one interception, finishing with a 71.6% completion rate to set an NFL single-season record. Drew Brees (71.2% for New Orleans) set the league mark in 2011.
Kyle Rudolph caught 11 passes for 117 yards and a score for the Vikings (8-8), who started 5-0 before stumbling out of their bye week and never recovering.
The Bears (3-13) wound up with their fewest wins in a non-strike year since 1973 after turning the ball over five times. Everson Griffen returned one of their three lost fumbles for a touchdown.
Jordan Howard, the lone bright spot, rushed for 135 yards on 23 carries to break Matt Forte's franchise rookie record and finish with 1,313 yards for the season for Chicago.
Bengals 27, Ravens 10
Andy Dalton completed his first 10 passes, one of them for a touchdown, and Rex Burkhead ran for a pair of touchdowns for Cincinnati Bengals, which earned its fifth consecutive win at home over Baltimore.
The Bengals (6-9-1) missed out on the playoffs for the first time in six years, and haven't won a playoff game in 26 years, the sixth-longest streak in NFL history. Coach Marvin Lewis — 0-7 in the postseason — says he'll return in 2017.
Baltimore (8-8) failed to reach the playoffs for the third time in four years. The Ravens played their final game as if they were emotionally hungover from a last-minute loss at Pittsburgh last Sunday that eliminated them.
Ravens receiver Steve Smith caught three passes for 34 yards in what was probably the final game of his remarkable career. The 37-year-old receiver reiterated last week that he's likely retiring. He has 51 games with 100 yards receiving, tied for fourth-most in NFL history.
Colts 24, Jaguars 20
Andrew Luck threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Jack Doyle with nine seconds left to give Indianapolis the win over visiting Jacksonville.
The Colts (8-8) went 75 yards in 84 seconds with no timeouts to avoid their first losing season since 2011, sending retiring linebacker Robert Mathis out with a win in his final NFL game.
Jacksonville (3-13) matched the second-worst record in franchise history after blocking a punt with 1:54 to go and breaking a 17-17 tie with 1:33 left.
Instead, Luck took the Colts right downfield for the score. He finished 24 of 40 with 321 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a game full of milestones.
Mathis extended his league record of strip-sacks to 41 in the fourth quarter, two days after announcing he would retire.
Frank Gore ran 16 times for 62 yards, becoming the fourth player in league history to top 1,000 yards at age 33 or older. He's also the oldest to achieve the milestone since John Riggins in 1984 at age 35, and he's the first Colts to run for 1,000 since Joseph Addai in 2007 — ending the second-longest active streak in the NFL.
Steelers 27, Browns 24 (OT)
Pittsburgh backups assured Cleveland of the top pick in the 2017 draft when Landry Jones hit Cobi Hamilton with a 26-yard touchdown with 2:57 left in overtime for the win in Pittsburgh.
The Browns took a lead on Cody Parkey's 34-yard field goal with 7:17 remaining in the extra session.
Jones, who started while the playoff-bound Steelers rested Ben Roethlisberger, took the Steelers 75 yards in nine plays, the last a pretty lob to the end zone that Hamilton hauled in to give Pittsburgh (11-5) its seventh straight victory after a 4-5 start.
Jones finished with 277 yards passing and three touchdowns and one interception.
The Steelers will host Miami in the wild-card round next weekend. The Dolphins thumped Pittsburgh 30-15 on Oct. 16.
Isaiah Crowell ran for a career-high 152 yards for the Browns (1-15), who finished with the worst record in franchise history. Robert Griffin III passed for 232 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Buccaneers 17, Panthers 16
Jameis Winston threw for 202 yards and one touchdown and Tampa Bay broke up Cam Newton's two-point conversion throw in the closing seconds to hold off the Panthers in Tampa, Fla., for their first winning season in six years.
Winston threw a 10-yard pass to Mike Evans to snap a fourth-quarter tie and became the first player in NFL history to start his career with consecutive 4,000-yard seasons. But the Bucs (9-7) could not secure their first postseason berth since 2007.
Winston's franchise record-setting 28th TD pass put the Bucs ahead 17-10 with 3:10 remaining. Newton, however, moved the Panthers (6-10) right down the field, with help of a 47-yard pass to Kelvin Benjamin and two fourth-down passes to set up a 5-yard scoring pass to trim Carolina's deficit to one with 17 seconds left.
Instead of kicking the extra point to send the game into overtime, the defending NFC champions opted to go for 2 points. Newton's pass intended for tight end Olsen was batted away by safety Bradley McDougald.
Newton completed 18 of 32 passes for 237 yards, but was intercepted three times.
Jets 30, Bills 10
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes in what was likely his final game for New York, which ended a dismal season on a winning note over Buffalo in East Rutherford, N.J.
Despite a 5-11 record, the Jets are making no changes in leadership, meaning both coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan will remain with the team next season. The team announced the moves after the game.
Bowles is 15-17 in his two-year tenure with New York, which hired him in January 2015 after firing Rex Ryan. Maccagnan is also in his second season with the Jets, and had also been criticized for the team's roster, which likely faces an overhaul this offseason.
Fitzpatrick went 20-of-30 passing for 210 yards. He is likely to be among the big names to go because he's a free agent and unlikely to return. It could have also been the final game with New York for cornerback Darrelle Revis (who had his first interception of the season in the game); wide receiver Brandon Marshall (inactive because of a hip injury); and center Nick Mangold (on injured reserve), among others.
The Bills (7-9) also face some uncertainty this offseason after firing coach Rex Ryan earlier in the week and elevating offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn to the interim role. Two other people with direct knowledge of the situation told the AP before the game that Lynn is the clear favorite to take over the job permanently.