NFL

Final games determine NFL playoffs

2012-12-31T11:00:00Z Final games determine NFL playoffsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
December 31, 2012 11:00 am  • 

The final piece of the NFL playoff puzzle came together Sunday night, when Washington beat Dallas 28-18 to win the NFC East.

The wild-card round will begin Saturday afternoon with Cincinnati (10-6) at Houston (12-4), which fell from No. 1 to third in the AFC seedings when it lost to Indianapolis 28-16.

Saturday night will be a rematch of the finale between Minnesota and Green Bay, won 37-34 by the Vikings. This time, they will meet at Lambeau Field.

On Sunday, Indianapolis is at Houston, followed by Seattle at Washington.

Atlanta and San Francisco have byes in the NFC, Denver and New England in the AFC.

Colts 28, Texans 16: At Indianapolis, the Colts (11-5) made Chuck Pagano a winner in his return to the sideline.

Andrew Luck threw for two touchdowns and Deji Karim swung the game with a 101-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. It was Pagano’s first game back as coach since starting treatment for leukemia Sept. 26.

“Guys really did not want to lose in his first game back and heading into the playoffs,” the rookie Luck said. “To get a win, I think means the world to him.”

Slumping Houston (12-4) lost three of the last four games, and J.J. Watt failed to break Michael Strahan’s single-season sacks record.

The game turned on two big plays: Karim’s kickoff return, which wiped out a 16-14 Houston lead, and Luck’s 70-yard TD pass to T.Y. Hilton.

Vikings 37, Packers 34: At Minneapolis, Adrian Peterson came within 9 yards of breaking Eric Dickerson’s rushing record, finishing with 199 yards and powering Minnesota into the playoffs.

“It wasn’t meant to happen, or it would’ve happened. Not to say it doesn’t hurt, because it does,” Peterson said of Dickerson’s 28-year-old record. “But we came in here tonight and accomplished the ultimate goal, and that was getting a win and punching our ticket to the playoffs.”

Peterson rushed for 36 yards on the last drive, plenty for rookie Blair Walsh’s 29-yard field goal as time expired to put the Vikings (10-6) in the postseason. The Packers (11-5) fell to the NFC’s No. 3 seed.

Aaron Rodgers completed 28 of 40 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns and no turnovers, connecting with Jordy Nelson from 2 yards to tie the game with 2:54 remaining. But Christian Ponder threw for three scores, including one to Peterson.

Broncos 38, Chiefs 3: At Denver, Peyton Manning threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns to lift Denver into the No. 1 seed.

Manning finished the season with 4,659 yards, 41 short of his career high. He had 37 touchdown passes.

“It’s been a gratifying regular season,” Manning said. “I will admit that. It is certainly more than I expected. I’m grateful and humble for it.”

Denver (13-3) won its 11th straight.

The Chiefs gained only 119 yards all day and finished their season 2-14. They will get the top pick in April’s draft.

Patriots 28, Dolphins 0: At Foxborough, Mass., Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes, Stevan Ridley ran for two scores as the Patriots (12-4) used a ball-control offense and a defense that racked up a season-high seven sacks.

Now, seeded second in the AFC, they have an extra week to savor the win and prepare for their postseason opener.

The Patriots (12-4) led 21-0 at halftime on Brady’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker and Ridley’s runs of 1 and 2 yards, capping drives lasting 14 and 13 plays. They ended the scoring on Brady’s 23-yard scoring pass to Rob Gronkowski, who missed the previous five games after breaking his left forearm.

The Dolphins (7-9) finished with a losing record for the fourth straight season.

49ers 27, Cardinals 13: At San Francisco, Michael Crabtree caught touchdown passes of 49 and 7 yards as the 49ers won a second straight NFC West title.

Colin Kaepernick threw for a career-best 276 yards and two TDs for the Niners (11-4-1). Frank Gore ran for a 2-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter for his franchise-best 51st touchdown rushing.

Brian Hoyer went 19 of 34 for 225 yards and a late TD toss in his first career NFL start as the Cardinals (5-11) lost for the 11th time in their last 12 games in what might have been Ken Whisenhunt’s final game as coach.

Seahawks 20, Rams 13: At Seattle, Russell Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s record for most touchdown passes by a rookie with 26, and his 1-yard TD run with 1:39 left allowed Seattle to finish as the only unbeaten team at home.

“It definitely gave us an example of what to expect in the playoffs,” Seattle defensive end Red Bryant said of the tight game. “I would have rather had a game like this in the regular season than to get in the playoffs and not be able to respond like we were able to respond today.”

The Rams (7-8-1) sacked Wilson six times, but couldn’t come up with their first winning record since 2003.

Bengals 23, Ravens 17: At Cincinnati, Carlos Dunlap returned an interception 14 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens (10-6) had already clinched their second straight AFC North title, and they will open the playoffs at home against Indianapolis. Cincinnati (10-6) will be at Houston.

“I think it will be good,” said Bengals QB Andy Dalton, who grew up in suburban Houston. “We played there last year (in a playoff loss) and know the atmosphere and what it’s going to be like. The experience last year will definitely help us.”

The Ravens let quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice play only two series. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green sat out the second half.

Bears 26, Lions 24: At Detroit, Jay Cutler threw for 257 yards and a touchdown, but Chicago (10-6) needed a Minnesota loss to reach the postseason after starting 7-1.

The game turned out to be the end of Lovie Smith’s tenure as head coach for the bears.

The Lions (4-12) lost their last eight games and turned over the ball four times in the finale. Calvin Johnson fell short in his attempt to become the first player with 2,000 yards receiving in a season.

Giants 42, Eagles 7: At East Rutherford, N.J., Eli Manning’s career-high five touchdown passes weren’t enough to keep the Giants (9-7) in the playoff hunt. The defending Super Bowl champions were eliminated by Chicago’s win.

That means that it will be seven straight seasons that the Super Bowl champion has failed to win a playoff game the following year.

Eagles coach Andy Reid is out after 14 years at Philadelphia. Reid was fired by the team today.

Philadelphia closed the season 4-12.

Buccaneers 22, Falcons 17: At Atlanta, Josh Freeman threw a touchdown pass to Mike Williams and Doug Martin ran for 141 yards.

The Falcons (13-3) had little to play for as they already have home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs. The danger of coach Mike Smith’s strategy to play hard was losing a top starter to an injury against Tampa Bay (6-10). Defensive end John Abraham, Atlanta’s best pass rusher, left with an apparent left ankle injury in the fourth quarter. Cornerback Dunta Robinson suffered a head injury in the first quarter and did not return.

Panthers 44, Saints 38: At New Orleans, DeAngelo Williams rushed for 210 yards, including touchdown runs of 54 and 12 yards, for Carolina (7-9), which closed the season with four straight wins. His 65-yard gain set up the first of three 1-yard scoring runs by Mike Tolbert.

Drew Brees passed for 396 yards, giving him 5,177 this season, the first player to eclipse 5,000 yards three times. His four TD passes gave him 43 in 2012, and he’s the first player with 40 TD passes in consecutive seasons.

The Saints (7-9) also gave up 530 yards, raising their season total to 7,042 to break the record of 6,793 allowed by the 1981 Baltimore Colts.

Steelers 24, Browns 10: At Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger threw three short touchdown passes, and Pittsburgh avoided its first losing season in nearly a decade.

Antonio Brown, Leonard Pope and Plaxico Burress scored for the Steelers (8-8). Pittsburgh’s top-ranked defense forced four turnovers.

Cleveland’s third-string quarterback, Thaddeus Lewis, passed for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his first NFL start. But the Browns (5-11) dropped their third straight in what was coach Pat Shurmur’s final game.

Titans 38, Jaguars 20: At Nashville, Tennessee became the first NFL team with two players scoring twice on returns. Darius Reynaud scored on two punt returns and rookie linebacker Zach Brown returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

The Titans finished 6-10 and await owner Bud Adams’ decision on whether to keep coach Mike Munchak, who has two years left on his contract.

The Jaguars (2-14) wrapped up their worst season with their 12th loss in 13 games.

Bills 28, Jets 9: At Orchard Park, N.Y., C.J. Spiller scored on a 66-yard catch and run in helping underachieving Buffalo, while Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez had two more turnovers.

Safety Bryan Scott also returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown for the Bills (6-10), who have not made the playoffs for 13 seasons and fired coach Chan Gailey.

Sanchez may have started his final game for the Jets (6-10), who closed the season with three consecutive losses amid all sorts of turmoil.

Chargers 24, Raiders 21: At San Diego, Micheal Spurlock returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in what’s expected to be Norv Turner’s final game as Chargers coach.

Turner and general manager A.J. Smith are expected to be fired because the Chargers (7-9) missed the playoffs for the third straight season. The Raiders finished 4-12.

Spurlock became the first Chargers player to have a kickoff and punt return for touchdowns in consecutive weeks. He returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown a week earlier in a victory against the New York Jets.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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