Patriots 27, Dolphins 24
The New England Patriots emphasize playing well for 60 minutes every game. On Saturday, 30 was enough — barely.
Rallying from their worst half of the season, the host Patriots scored on their next five possessions and clinched a playoff bye with a win over the Miami Dolphins on Saturday.
“You don’t want to, certainly, make a habit of this,” said Tom Brady, who scored on two 1-yard sneaks and threw for a 1-yard touchdown. “We showed some resiliency.”
New England (12-3) won its seventh straight game. After the Houston Texans lost to the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night, the Patriots needed a win or a tie to lock up one of the top two spots in the AFC.
“It’s good to clinch,” said Deion Branch, who caught the touchdown pass from Brady, “but not by the way we played.”
Miami (5-10) lost for the third time in eight games after opening at 0-7 and is 1-1 under Todd Bowles, who took over when Tony Sparano was fired.
The AFC East champions trailed 17-0 at halftime but made the necessary adjustments and went to their no-huddle offense more, keeping the Dolphins from making defensive substitutions. And Brady was on target after a first half in which heavy defensive pressure against a makeshift offensive line affected his accuracy. He completed just 7-of- 19 passes for 87 yards and was sacked three times in the half.
But in the second half, he completed 20-of-27 passes for 217 yards, finishing at 27-for-46 for 304 yards and leading one scoring drive after another.
Lions 38, Chargers 10
The host Detroit Lions made the playoffs for the first time since 1999 as Matthew Stafford threw three touchdown passes in the first half to beat the San Diego Chargers. Detroit (10-5) has won three straight after a seven-game slump to earn a wild-card spot in the playoffs. The Lions held San Diego (7-8) scoreless until midway through the third quarter, when Philip Rivers threw an 11-yard pass to Malcom Floyd to make it 24-7.Detroit, though, closed strong to restore the rout.
Raiders 16, Chiefs 13, OT
Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 36-yard field goal 2:13 into overtime, eliminating host Kansas City (6-9) from the playoff race and keeping Oakland’s AFC West title hopes alive. Carson Palmer threw for 237 yards and a touchdown for the Raiders (8-7). His perfectly thrown 53-yard pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey early in overtime set up Janikowski’s winning kick, allowing Oakland to avoid a second straight late-game meltdown. Kyle Orton threw for 300 yards for Kansas City, his only TD pass going to Dwayne Bowe with 1:02 left to tie the game.
Bills 40, Broncos 14
Jairus Byrd and Spencer Johnson returned Tim Tebow interceptions for touchdowns on consecutive plays in the fourth quarter to help Buffalo snap a seven-game losing streak. Tebow finished with a career-worst four interceptions as the Broncos (8-7) fell into a tie with Oakland for first place in the AFC West. Denver lost its second in a row while squandering a chance to inch closer to its first playoff berth since 2005. Byrd scored on a 37-yard return with 8:03 left and Johnson had a 17-yarder 18 seconds later for Buffalo (6-9).
Eagles 20, Cowboys 7
Michael Vick threw two touchdown passes to lead the Philadelphia Eagles (7-8) over the host Dallas Cowboys (8-7) in a game that had all the intensity of a preseason dress rehearsal. Quarterback Tony Romo left after injuring his throwing hand on the first series and oft-injured running back Felix Jones hit the bench for good after the second series. They came within 7 seconds of getting shut out. Vick threw a touchdown pass on the opening series and again just before halftime.
49ers 19, Seahawks 17
David Akers kicked his way into the NFL record book and moved the San Francisco 49ers closer to a playoff bye. Akers made four field goals to give him 42 this season, most in league history, and San Francisco (12-3) eliminated host Seattle (7-8) from postseason contention by holding off the Seahawks. Larry Grant tackled Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson from behind, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Donte Whitner with 1:07 left to seal it.
Titans 23, Jaguars 17
Matt Hasselbeck threw for 240 of his 350 yards in the first half as host Tennessee tried to keep its faint playoff hopes alive against the Jaguars (4-11). The Titans (8-7) snapped a two-game skid, and head to Houston with a chance at their first winning record since 2008. Rob Bironas kicked three field goals, including a pair of 51-yarders, and Jamie Harper ran for a touchdown. Jared Cook had a 55-yard TD catch and finished with 169 yards receiving, a franchise high for a tight end.
Bengals 23, Cardinals 16
Andy Dalton threw a pair of touchdown passes, and host Cincinnati (9-6) withstood yet another fourth-quarter comeback by Arizona that kept the Bengals in playoff contention. Dalton threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham and a 19-yarder to Jerome Simpson, who did a somersault over a defender and landed on both feet in the end zone. Arizona (7-8) rallied from a 23-0 deficit and had a chance to tie.
Vikings 33, Redskins 26
The visiting Minnesota Vikings (3-12) survived injuries to Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder on back-to-back plays to end a six-game losing streak. Toby Gerhart filled in for Peterson and set up a touchdown with a 67-yard run, and Joe Webb threw for two TDs and ran for another while subbing for Ponder. Webb’s 8-yard pass to Percy Harvin broke a 23-all tie early in the fourth quarter, and rookie Mistral Raymond’s first career interception set up Ryan Longwell’s 23-yard field goal that gave the Vikings a 10-point lead with 4:05 to play against the Redskins (5-10).
Panthers 48, Buccaneers 16
Cam Newton broke Peyton Manning’s rookie record for yards passing in a season and set a franchise record with a 91-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell. Newton threw for 171 yards and three touchdowns and scored on a remarkable 49-yard run up the middle in which he outraced smaller defensive backs to the end zone.The host Panthers (6-9) scored on eight of their first nine possessions and piled up 397 yards in three quarters against the league’s 30th-ranked defense. Tampa Bay (4-11) lost its ninth in a row.
Steelers 27, Rams 0
Rashard Mendenhall ran for 116 yards and a touchdown and backup quarterback Charlie Batch played efficiently in place of an injured Ben Roethlisberger. The host Steelers (11-4) kept their hopes of an AFC North title alive as their defense had little trouble dominating the NFL’s lowest-scoring offense. St. Louis (2-13) managed just 232 yards while getting shut out for the second time this month.
Giants 29, Jets 14
Victor Cruz set two franchise receiving records, and Ahmad Bradshaw ran for two touchdowns as the Giants (8-7) won New York-area bragging rights over the host Jets (8-7). Cruz, who had three catches for 164 yards, broke Amani Toomer’s single-season mark for yards receiving — and the team’s record for longest touchdown reception, a 99-yarder that gave the Giants the lead for good in the second quarter.