Brady leads Bucs’ rally past Panthers for NFC South title

January 2, 2023 GMT
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady passes during the first half of an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady passes during the first half of an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady threw for 432 yards and three long touchdowns to Mike Evans, helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinch their second straight NFC South championship with a 30-24 come-from-behind win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

Evans finished with 10 catches for 207 yards, scoring on receptions of 63, 57, and 30 yards and becoming the first player in NFL history to begin a career with nine consecutive seasons with 1,000-plus yards receiving.

The Panthers (6-10) led 14-0 early and 21-10 after Sam Darnold’s third TD pass of the day, 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.

It was all Bucs from there, with Evans beating cornerback C.J. Henderson for touchdowns twice and Darnold losing a fumble on a sack inside his own 10. That turnover set up Brady’s 1-yard TD sneak, which put the game out of reach with 1:58 left.

The Bucs (8-8) can finish the regular season with a winning record by beating Atlanta on the road next weekend. As division champs, they are assured of beginning the playoffs with a home game in two weeks.


Darnold threw for 341 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also lost two fumbles while falling to 3-2 since becoming Carolina’s starter on Thanksgiving weekend.


GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score, and Green Bay continued its improbable playoff push by shutting down Justin Jefferson and Minnesota.

Keisean Nixon scored on a 105-yard kickoff return and Darnell Savage had a 75-yard pick-6 of Kirk Cousins — one of four turnovers by the Vikings QB — to help Green Bay build a 27-3 halftime lead. Aaron Jones rushed for 111 yards on 14 carries and A.J. Dillon had a 2-yard touchdown run as the Packers won their fourth straight.

Green Bay (8-8) will reach the playoffs if it beats division rival Detroit at home in its regular-season finale. A fourth straight postseason berth seemed out of the question after a 1-7 stretch dropped the Packers to 4-8, but they haven’t lost since and have benefited from favorable results around the league.

Rodgers went 15 of 24 for 159 yards and the Packers’ defense made life miserable for Cousins and Jefferson, the NFL’s leading receiver who was held to one catch for 15 yards.


Savage, Adrian Amos and Rudy Ford each intercepted passes by Cousins, while Kenny Clark recovered a fumble on a strip sack. The Packers converted each of Cousins’ turnovers into touchdowns.

Cousins went 18 of 31 for 205 yards for the NFC North champion Vikings (12-4). His only touchdown pass came in garbage time. Dalvin Cook was held to 27 yards on nine carries.


BALTIMORE (AP) — Kenny Pickett threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Najee Harris with 56 seconds remaining to give Pittsburgh the win over Baltimore.

It was the first touchdown allowed by Baltimore at home in four games, and the Steelers (8-8) needed it to avoid elimination from the playoffs. Pittsburgh can now make the postseason by beating Cleveland next weekend — if Miami and New England both lose. And Steelers coach Mike Tomlin can still avoid his first losing record in 16 seasons.


Down 13-9, Pickett drove the Steelers 80 yards in 3:20 against their rivals with the season on the line. On third-and-8 from the 10, the rookie scrambled away from pressure and threw a perfect pass to Harris, who had slipped behind linebacker Roquan Smith along the left sideline.

The playoff-bound Ravens (10-6) now need Buffalo to beat Cincinnati on Monday to keep their hopes of winning the AFC North alive.

Tyler Huntley threw a touchdown pass to Isaiah Likely late in the first half for the game’s only other touchdown.


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Daniel Jones threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more, and New York routed Indianapolis to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Landon Collins, one of two players from the ’16 team, broke the game open late in the second quarter with a 52-yard pick-6 as the Giants (9-6-1) put a final stamp on a surprising playoff run under first-year coach Brian Daboll.


The Colts (4-11-1) lost their sixth straight and ninth in 10 games.

New York’s point total was a season high and its first time scoring 30 or more since a 37-34 loss to Dallas on Oct. 11, 2020.

Jones threw touchdown passes of 6 yards to Richie James and 6 yards to Isaiah Hodgins in the first half and scored on runs of 18 and 10 yards in the second half. He finished 19 of 24 for 177 yards and had 11 rushes for 91 yards.

Colts quarterback Nick Foles was injured late in the second quarter when he was sacked by Giants rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux. He was taken to the locker room on a cart. Sam Ehlinger played the second half and threw his first NFL TD pass, a 6-yarder to Michael Pittman.


SEATTLE (AP) — Geno Smith threw two first-half touchdown passes, Kenneth Walker III rushed for 133 yards and Seattle remained in playoff contention while ending New York’s postseason chances.

Seattle (8-8) snapped a three-game losing streak and ensured its Week 18 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams will be meaningful. The Seahawks must win and hope for a loss or tie by Green Bay against Detroit to reach the postseason.


New York’s playoff hopes ended with a thud after its fifth straight loss and extended the longest active playoff drought in the NFL to a franchise-record 12 seasons. The Jets (7-9) last reached the postseason in 2011 and will finish with a losing record for the seventh straight year.

Smith finished 18 of 29 for 183 yards and added the Jets to the list of victories against former employers that already included wins over the Chargers and Giants.

Smith was especially good in the first half, throwing touchdowns of 12 yards to Colby Parkinson on the first possession of the game and 7 yards to Tyler Mabry early in the second quarter. Mabry’s touchdown was the first catch of his career.

Mike White returned at quarterback for the Jets after missing two games with fractured ribs, but offensive success was fleeting for the Jets. White was 23 of 46 for 240 yards and threw two interceptions.


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) —Kyle Dugger intercepted Teddy Bridgewater and returned it 39 yards for a go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter, and New England rallied to beat skidding Miami and stay in playoff contention.

Mac Jones had touchdown passes to Tyquan Thornton and Jakobi Meyers to help the Patriots (8-8) snap a four-game losing streak to their AFC East rivals. Jones finished 20 of 33 for 203 yards, and his 1-yard pass to Meyers put New England ahead 23-14 late in the fourth quarter.

The Dolphins (8-8) entered with a chance to clinch a postseason berth. Instead, Miami lost its fifth straight game and will need to win next week against the Jets and have Buffalo beat New England to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2016.

Miami played without quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who’s in the concussion protocol for the second time this season. Bridgewater completed 12 of 19 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown before leaving late in the third quarter with an injured right ring finger after being picked off by Dugger.

Bridgewater was replaced by Skylar Thompson. The third-stringer had an interception and a late TD pass to Mike Gesicki.


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Marshon Lattimore returned an interception 11 yards for a late touchdown, and New Orleans put a serious dent in Philadelphia’s bid for the top seed in the NFC.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts missed a second straight game with a sprained right shoulder. Philadelphia (13-3) now needs to beat the New York Giants next weekend to secure the conference’s top seed. A loss would give Dallas a shot at the division crown.

The Saints (7-9) won their third straight game but were later eliminated from playoff contention when Green Bay beat Minnesota. Taysom Hill had a 1-yard TD run in New Orleans’ surprising first half.

Andy Dalton, who threw for 204 yards, completed his first 13 passes, including a 58-yard reception by Rashid Shaheed. That play set up one of two field goals by Wil Lutz in the first half that gave the Saints a 13-0 lead.

Gardner Minshew had a pass intercepted by Lattimore late in the fourth that wrapped up a dreadful game for Hurts’ backup. Minshew was 18 of 32 passing for 274 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his second straight start.

The Eagles were shut out in the first half for the first time this season and finished with a season low in points. Minshew connected with A.J. Brown for a 78-yard touchdown late in the third quarter that made it 13-10. But the backup QB failed to convert on a fourth-down dive late in the fourth.

49ERS 37, RAIDERS 34, OT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Tashaun Gipson intercepted Jarrett Stidham in overtime and returned it 56 yards to set up Robbie Gould’s 23-yard field goal, and San Francisco beat Las Vegas to extend its winning streak to nine games.

The 49ers (12-4) can clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a win against Arizona next week or a loss by Minnesota. San Francisco also has a shot at the No. 1 seed and a bye if Philadelphia loses to the Giants in Week 18.

San Francisco allowed its most points since its most recent loss — 44-23 to Kansas City on Oct. 23.

Christian McCaffrey rushed for 121 yards and caught six passes for 72 yards. He surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the third season and has scored touchdowns in five consecutive games.

The Raiders (6-10) have lost three of four and were eliminated from playoff contention.

Stidham, who replaced Derek Carr after the nine-year starter was benched earlier in the week, completed 23 of 34 passes for 365 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Davante Adams had seven catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns.

San Francisco’s Brock Purdy finished 22 for 35 for 284 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Brandon Aiyuk had nine catches for 101 yards and a TD.


DETROIT (AP) — Jared Goff threw three touchdown passes, including two in the first half to Brock Wright, and Detroit beat Chicago to remain in the playoff chase.

The Lions (8-8) have won seven of nine to give themselves a shot at earning a postseason spot for the first time since 2016 going into their regular-season finale at Green Bay. Detroit needs a win and a loss by Seattle to the Los Angeles Rams.

The Justin Fields-led Bears (3-13) took two leads in the opening quarter before collapsing and losing a franchise-record ninth straight game.

Goff completed passes to 10 receivers, went 21 of 29 for 255 yards and did not throw an interception for an eighth consecutive game. Jamaal Williams had a career-high 144 yards rushing on 22 carries — including his 15th rushing TD this season — and D’Andre Swift added 117 yards from scrimmage and two scores.

Fields rushed for 105 yards in the first quarter and finished with 132 yards on the ground, giving him 1,143 this season. The NFL record for rushing yards by a QB is 1,206 by Lamar Jackson in 2019.

But Fields was only 7 of 21 passing for 75 yards, and Detroit’s Aidan Hutchinson forced two turnovers by the Bears QB.


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Jerick McKinnon, and Kansas City overcame another sloppy start to hold off Denver.

Isiah Pacheco and Blake Bell also scored for the Chiefs (13-3), who overcame a 17-13 third-quarter deficit to beat the Broncos for the 15th consecutive time while keeping alive their hopes for the AFC’s No. 1 seed and lone postseason bye.

The Chiefs began the day tied with the Bills, who play Cincinnati on Monday night, for the conference’s best record.

For a while, the Broncos (4-12) looked as if they would cap a chaotic week that began with the firing of first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett in a stunning victory. But a late letdown by one of the league’s best defenses, and another interception by embattled quarterback Russell Wilson, resulted in the first loss for interim coach Jerry Rosburg.

Wilson threw for 222 yards and a touchdown while also running for a pair of scores, the second of them pulling Denver within 27-24 with 6:14 left in the game.

The Broncos got the ball back with just under four minutes to go and picked up a quick first down. But the Kansas City defense stiffened near midfield, and Chris Jones sacked Wilson on fourth-and-2 to effectively end the game.


HOUSTON (AP) — Travis Etienne ran for 108 yards and a touchdown before halftime, Tyson Campbell returned a fumble for a score and Jacksonville won its fourth straight while snapping a nine-game skid against Houston.

The AFC South-leading Jaguars (8-8) need to beat slumping Tennessee at home next weekend to win the division for the first time since 2017.

Trevor Lawrence threw for 152 yards, but played just one possession in the second half, and Etienne didn’t carry the ball after halftime with the Jaguars up 28-3 on the way to their first win over the Texans since 2017.

The Texans (2-13-1) failed to win a game at home for the first time in franchise history. Davis Mills threw for 202 yards and lost the fumble that Campbell returned for his first career touchdown. That made it 21-0.

JaMycal Hasty scored the Jags’ first TD on a 5-yard run. Jacksonville made it 14-0 when Etienne dashed 62 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter.


LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Carson Wentz threw three interceptions after getting the starting quarterback job back, defensive miscues added up and Washington lost to Cleveland.

The Commanders (7-8-1) were later eliminated from playoff contention when Green Bay beat Minnesota.

Wentz was 16 of 28 for 143 yards, and the offense gained just 261 yards — 96 on Washington’s only touchdown drive. Fans booed and chanted early on for Taylor Heinicke multiple times after Wentz missed open receivers or lobbed the ball into the hands of a Cleveland defender.

But Wentz remained in the game and struggled to move the ball beyond handing it to rookie running back Brian Robinson Jr., who rushed for 87 yards on 24 carries. The Commanders’ fourth-ranked defense allowed a handful of big plays, including a 46-yard pass from Deshaun Watson to Amari Cooper that became a touchdown when top cornerback Kendall Fuller missed an open-field tackle.

Watson also connected with Cooper on a 33-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter that sent fans to the exits.

Cooper had three catches for 105 yards, Nick Chubb ran 14 times for 104 yards and Watson finished 9 of 18 for 169 yards and the TD passes to Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones for the Browns (7-9), who were already out of the AFC playoff race.


INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Austin Ekeler rushed for 122 yards, scored two touchdowns and became the fifth running back with 100 receptions in a season as the Chargers won the matchup of Los Angeles teams.

Ekeler, who has an NFL-leading 18 touchdowns (13 rushing, five receiving), also had a career-best 72-yard TD run midway through the second quarter to extend the Chargers’ lead to 14-3.

It was the third 100-yard rushing game in Ekeler’s six-year career and his second this season.

Justin Herbert passed for 212 yards and two touchdowns as the playoff-bound Chargers (10-6) won their fourth straight. Mike Williams had seven receptions for 94 yards, including a one-handed, toe-tapping 18-yard grab along the left sideline late in the second quarter.

The Rams (5-11) surpassed the 1999 Denver Broncos for most defeats by a defending Super Bowl champion. Cam Akers had his second straight 100-yard game with 19 carries for 123 yards. Baker Mayfield was 11 of 19 for 132 yards.


ATLANTA (AP) — Younghoe Koo made a 21-yard field goal on the final play and Atlanta beat Arizona to end a four-game skid.

In a matchup of teams eliminated from playoff contention, Atlanta rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder got his first career victory. He was 19 of 26 for 169 yards and no interceptions in his third start as he auditions for a starting job next season.

The Falcons (6-10) improved to 5-8 in one-possession games. They were 7-2 in such games last season.

The Cardinals (4-12), playing with their fourth starting quarterback in four weeks, have lost six straight and eight of nine. David Blough completed 22 of 40 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown filling in for Colt McCoy, who is sidelined with a concussion.

Ridder drove Atlanta 72 yards in 12 plays in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter. The Falcons reached the red zone with 1:49 to play and ticked down the clock to set up Koo’s game-ending kick.

Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson combined for 125 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 29 carries.


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