Rodgers’ late pick seals loss to Lions, playoffs for Seattle
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers was intercepted by Kerby Joseph on the final pass of what might be his last game, and the Green Bay Packers lost 20-16 to the Detroit Lions on Sunday night to miss the playoffs.
After winning four straight and receiving plenty of help from other teams, the Packers had control of their postseason fate heading into the final game of the NFL regular season. But they fell short against the Lions, who had been eliminated from the playoffs earlier Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks beat the Los Angeles Rams 19-16 in overtime.
Seattle instead earned the NFC’s last playoff spot. The Packers (8-9) missed the playoffs for the first time in Matt LaFleur’s four seasons as coach.
Rodgers went 17 of 27 for 205 yards with one touchdown in what may be the final appearance at Lambeau Field for the four-time MVP. Although he is under contract for next season, the 39-year-old Rodgers has said he doesn’t know whether he will continue playing.
Jamaal Williams’ second 1-yard touchdown run of the night against his former team put the Lions (9-8) ahead with 5:55 remaining. Williams finished with 17 rushing TDs runs to break the Lions’ single-season record that Barry Sanders had set in 1991.
Green Bay only got as far as its own 33 on its next series before Joseph picked off Rodgers’ deep throw on third-and-10 with 3 1/2 minutes left. Detroit held onto the ball for the remainder of the game, converting a fourth-and-1 to put it away.
BILLS 35, PATRIOTS 23
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Nyheim Hines ignited an emotionally charged atmosphere celebrating injured Bills safety Damar Hamlin by returning two kickoffs for touchdowns, and Buffalo beat New England to clinch the AFC’s second playoff seed.
The loss, coupled with Miami beating the New York Jets, eliminated the Patriots (8-9) from the playoffs for the second time in three years and just the fourth time in 23 seasons under coach Bill Belichick. Buffalo will host the division rival Dolphins in the wild-card round next weekend.
With the game in hand, Bills players held up three fingers in honor of Hamlin’s number with the crowd chanting “Hamlin! Hamlin!”
The Bills (13-3) closed their season by winning their final seven games and overcame an emotional week in which Hamlin collapsed after going into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated on the field in Cincinnati on Monday night.
Stefon Diggs, who visited Hamlin at the hospital immediately after that game, sealed the victory on Sunday with a 49-yard touchdown catch from Josh Allen to put Buffalo ahead 35-23 with 8:51 remaining.
Allen finished 19 of 31 for 254 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
The Patriots needed only a win to clinch a playoff berth, but wound up closing the season with five losses in seven games. Mac Jones finished 26 of 40 for 243 yards and three touchdowns, including two to DeVante Parker, and three interceptions — all in the second half.
DOLPHINS 11, JETS 6
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Jason Sanders kicked a go-ahead 50-yard field goal with 18 seconds left, and Miami beat New York to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
The banged-up Dolphins (9-8) snapped a five-game losing streak and then had to wait a few minutes for Buffalo to defeat New England to make their postseason appearance official. Seventh-seeded Miami will play at second-seeded Buffalo next weekend. The AFC East rivals split the season series with each winning at home.
Neither team scored a touchdown with rookie Skylar Thompson starting at quarterback for the Jets and veteran Joe Flacco under center for the Dolphins.
But Thompson did enough on the Dolphins’ final possession, moving them 36 yards in eight plays to set up Sanders’ decisive kick. Thompson completed 20 of 31 passes for 152 yards.
The Jets (7-10) ended the season with six straight losses. New York failed to score a touchdown in its final three games.
On the Jets’ last play, they lateraled the ball a few times before Elijah Moore fumbled and the ball ultimately went out of bounds in the end zone for a safety.
SEAHAWKS 19, RAMS 16, OT
SEATTLE (AP) — Jason Myers kicked a 32-yard field goal midway through overtime and Seattle beat Los Angeles.
A few hours later, the Seahawks secured a playoff berth when Detroit beat Green Bay. Seattle (9-8) eliminated Detroit from playoff contention, then got the help it needed from the Lions to become the No. 7 seed in the NFC. The Seahawks will open the playoffs at San Francisco next weekend.
Myers missed from 46 yards when he hit the upright on the final play of regulation, but given another shot in overtime, the Pro Bowler connected on his fourth field goal of the game.
Geno Smith had a shaky performance, throwing two interceptions to Jalen Ramsey. But he threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett in the third quarter and made several key lays late to put Seattle in position to win.
Smith finished 19 of 31 for 214 yards and rookie Kenneth Walker III rushed for 114 yards for Seattle.
Baker Mayfield was 13 of 26 for 147 yards and was intercepted on the only possession of overtime for the Super Bowl champion Rams (5-12), whose nightmarish, injury-riddled title defense mercifully came to an end.
EAGLES 22, GIANTS 16
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jalen Hurts returned from a sprained right shoulder and threw for 229 yards as Philadelphia beat New York to clinch the top seed in the NFC.
Hurts was back for the first time in three weeks — and now so are the Eagles (14-3) as a Super Bowl threat. Philadelphia rebounded from two straight losses behind backup QB Gardner Minshew.
Hurts was 20-of-35 passing in a game that had a preseason feel — the Eagles scored one touchdown in five trips to the red zone. Jake Elliott kicked five field goals for Philadelphia.
Hurts completed a 35-yard pass to A.J. Brown on the Eagles’ first play and showed no ill effects from the sprained right shoulder suffered three weeks ago. The Eagles played at half-speed against the Giants backups and refused to risk Hurts’ health — they did not call any rushing plays for him.
The Giants (9-7-1) had already secured the No. 6 seed in the NFC and rested the bulk of their starters, including quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley.
Davis Webb, in his first career start, rushed for a 14-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that made it 19-9 and tossed a 25-yard TD pass to Kenny Golladay late in the fourth that made it 22-16. He threw for 168 yards on 23-of-40 passing.
49ERS 38, CARDINALS 13
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Brock Purdy threw three touchdown passes for his sixth straight game with multiple TDs and San Francisco beat Arizona to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
Purdy overcame two sacks by J.J. Watt in the final game of the star defensive end’s career and connected with George Kittle twice and Christian McCaffrey once on TD passes to lead the Niners (13-4) to their 10th straight win.
San Francisco beat out Minnesota on a tiebreaker for the second seed, assuring the 49ers won’t have to go on the road before the NFC title game. The Niners weren’t able to secure a first-round bye because Philadelphia beat the New York Giants.
The Cardinals (4-13) ended the season going in the opposite direction with seven straight losses to tie a franchise record for defeats in a season.
The game started well for Arizona when fourth-string quarterback David Blough connected on a 77-yard TD pass to A.J. Green off a trick play on the second play from scrimmage.
About the only other highlight for the Cardinals was the two sacks by Watt, giving the three-time Defensive Player of the Year 120 1/2 in the regular season and playoffs in his 12-year career.
BENGALS 27, RAVENS 16
CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Burrow threw for a touchdown and Joe Mixon ran for another as Cincinnati took advantage of four Baltimore turnovers to set up a rematch in the first round of the playoffs next week.
The AFC North champion Bengals (12-4) — playing on the same field where Buffalo’s Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest in a horrifying scene six days ago — beat a Ravens team that rested some key players ahead of the postseason. Cincinnati closed the regular season with eight straight wins.
Cincinnati also avoided a coin flip to determine the site of its playoff game against Baltimore. The Bengals were unhappy with the prospect of a coin flip costing them a home playoff game and mocked the rule change with a coin-flip celebration after Mixon’s TD.
Cincinnati’s chances at the No. 2 seed in the AFC ended when Buffalo beat New England.
The Ravens (10-7) fought gamely behind rookie third-stringer Anthony Brown, who got the start after throwing just five passes all season. But rather than go all-out for the slim chance of getting a home playoff game, Ravens coach John Harbaugh ensured the Bengals will see a somewhat different team when sixth-seeded Baltimore returns to Paycor Stadium next weekend.
Ravens starting quarterback Lamar Jackson (knee) and backup Tyler Huntley were inactive, and the Ravens rested two of their biggest offensive weapons, Mark Andrews and J.K. Dobbins.
Brown threw two interceptions and lost a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown.
STEELERS 28, BROWNS 14
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Najee Harris ran for 84 yards and a touchdown and Pittsburgh beat Cleveland but was eliminated from the playoffs when Miami edged the New York Jets.
The Steelers (9-8) will have to settle for a 16th straight non-losing season under coach Mike Tomlin, fueled by a 7-2 finish. Pittsburgh’s ugly 2-6 start included an injury to star linebacker T.J. Watt and rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett’s ascension to the starting job at halftime of a Week 4 loss to the Jets.
Pickett completed 13 of 29 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown and avoided an interception for the sixth time in his last seven appearances.
Pittsburgh’s defense sacked Deshaun Watson seven times to assure the Steelers of finishing ahead of the Browns (7-10) in the standings for the 34th consecutive time.
Cleveland has had 17 seasons of 10 losses or more since the franchise rebooted in 1999.
Watson, who was suspended for the first 11 games of the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, connected on 19 of 29 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, both of which the Steelers turned into points. Nick Chubb ran for 77 yards and caught a touchdown pass to join Jim Brown as the only players in Browns history to exceed 1,500 yards rushing in a season.
TEXANS 32, COLTS 31
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Davis Mills threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Akins on fourth down with 50 seconds left and then connected with Akins on the 2-point conversion as Houston beat Indianapolis to cost itself the first pick in April’s draft.
Houston (3-13-1) won twice in the final three weeks to finish second to the Chicago Bears in draft positioning.
Indy (4-12-1) lost its seventh straight under interim coach Jeff Saturday, assuring itself of a top-five draft selection.
Sam Ehlinger threw two touchdown passes and led the Colts to scores on three consecutive late drives to erase a 10-point deficit and give Indy a 31-24 lead with 3:33 to play.
Mills answered with a 30-yard completion on fourth-and-12 to move Houston to the Indy 18-yard line with 1:26 left. And after throwing two incompletions and getting sacked on third down, Mills’ throw to the end zone went through the hands of Colts safety Rodney Thomas II and into the hands of Akins.
Mills finished 22 of 38 for 298 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Brandin Cooks caught five passes for 106 yards.
Ehlinger was 23 of 35 for 209 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions as he fell to 0-3 as a starter. Zack Moss rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown for Indy.
VIKINGS 29, BEARS 13
CHICAGO (AP) — Kirk Cousins threw for 225 yards and a touchdown in the first half and watched the rest of the way as NFC North champion Minnesota tuned up for the playoffs by beating Chicago.
Cousins led three scoring drives as the Vikings (13-4) grabbed a 16-6 halftime lead. They remained in control the rest of the way.
The Bears (3-14), who held out star Justin Fields, set a franchise record with their 14th loss and extended one by dropping their 10th game in a row. With Houston winning 32-31 at Indianapolis, Chicago gets the No. 1 pick in the draft for the first time since 1947.
Cousins completed 17 of 20 passes while posting a 130.2 rating. He hit K.J. Osborn for a 66-yard completion on Minnesota’s first possession, setting up a 4-yard touchdown to Adam Thielen, and led two more scoring drives.
Nick Mullens came on in the third quarter and was 11 of 13 for 116 yards and an interception. Alexander Mattison ran for 1-yard touchdowns in the second and third quarters. Osborn had 117 yards on five catches.
Chicago’s Nathan Peterman completed 11 of 19 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown in his fifth career start and first since 2018 with Buffalo.
COMMANDERS 26, COWBOYS 6
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Dak Prescott completed just 14 of his 37 passes for 128 yards and threw another interception that was returned for a touchdown as playoff-bound Dallas lost to Washington in its regular-season finale.
Despite playing their starters with coach Mike McCarthy pledging they were playing to win, the Cowboys (12-5) limped into the playoffs and a wild-card showdown at Tampa Bay next weekend with Prescott on a career-long seven-game interception streak.
Beyond getting picked off by Kendall Fuller on the pick-6, Prescott was wildly inaccurate and the Dallas offense had just 169 total yards before he was replaced by Cooper Rush in garbage time.
The Cowboys’ slim chance of winning the NFC East ended when Philadelphia beat the New York Giants.
Rookie Sam Howell threw a touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin and ran for another in his first start for the Commanders (8-8-1). The fifth-round pick out of North Carolina became the first Washington rookie QB to throw and run for a TD in a game since Robert Griffin III in 2012.
The Commanders ended a four-game winless stretch and avoided a third consecutive losing season in as many years with Ron Rivera coaching and in charge of football operations.
FALCONS 30, BUCCANEERS 17
ATLANTA (AP) — Rookie Desmond Ridder’s first two career touchdown passes powered Atlanta past playoff-bound Tampa Bay after Tom Brady broke his own NFL record for completions in a season.
Brady left the game late in the first half with the score tied at 10. He had been 11-0 in his career against Atlanta, including New England’s 34-28 win over the Falcons in the Super Bowl following the 2016 season.
The Falcons can now claim to be responsible for Brady’s first losing final record in a regular season.
Brady and Tampa Bay’s other healthy regulars started even though the Buccaneers (8-9) had secured the NFC South title and were locked in as the NFC’s No. 4 seed in the playoffs.
Brady began the day needing nine completions to top his 2021 single-season record of 485. He set the mark on a 5-yard pass to Russell Gage, the former Falcons receiver, early in the second quarter. Brady finished with 490 completions.
Rookie Tyler Allgeier rushed for 135 yards on 24 carries to end the fifth consecutive losing season for Atlanta (7-10), which finished with back-to-back wins under second-year coach Arthur Smith.
Ridder completed 19 of 30 passes for 224 yards.
PANTHERS 10, SAINTS 7
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Eddy Pineiro kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired and Carolina beat New Orleans.
The Saints finished with some wide statistical advantages, outgaining Carolina 304 yards to 203, but the game remained tight until the end because of New Orleans’ inability to score on four possessions inside the Panthers 40-yard line.
The Saints (7-10) were in position to win when safety Daniel Sorensen intercepted Sam Darnold near midfield and returned it to the Carolina 35 with 1:36 to go. But New Orleans failed to move the ball on three plays and Wil Lutz missed a 55-yard field goal attempt — his second miss of the game.
Darnold then moved Carolina (7-10) into field goal range with a first-down scramble, followed by just his fifth completion of the game — a 21 yarder to former LSU receiver Terrace Marshall Jr.
Darnold finished 5 of 15 for 43 yards and was intercepted twice, winning despite having a quarterback rating of 2.8. But the Panthers rushed for 171 yards, led by Chuba Hubbard’s 69 yards on 21 carries.
Carolina scored its only TD on a fumble by Darnold that was recovered in the end zone by Panthers lineman Michael Jordan.
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