Kansas City routs stumbling Steelers to clinch AFC West

Patrick Mahomes threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns, Byron Pringle caught two of the TD passes, and Kansas City beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-10 on Sunday to clinch their sixth consecutive AFC West title.

Kansas City (11-4) remained a game ahead of Tennessee for first place in the AFC with their eighth straight win. That would give them the conference’s lone first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a touchdown run for Kansas City before leaving early in the second half with a collarbone injury. Darrel Williams and Derrick Gore carried the load the rest of the way with Williams running for 55 yards and Gore adding 43 yards on the ground and three catches for 61 yards.

Meanwhile, the Steelers became the first team in NFL history to trail by at least 23 points at halftime in three straight road games, and they have failed to score a touchdown in the first half of five straight games for the first time since 1940.

Already on the playoff bubble, Pittsburgh (7-7-1) dropped further behind the Bengals (9-6) in the AFC North.

Kansas City was crushed by a COVID-19 outbreak early in the week, but they managed to get Tyreek Hill and several other players cleared in time for kickoff.

They were still missing Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce and two other starters, though, after the trio was unable to test out of protocols Sunday morning.

Bears get late magic from Nick Foles to top Seahawks

Jimmy Graham caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Nick Foles with 1:01 remaining, Damiere Byrd made an acrobatic reception for the 2-point conversion, and the Chicago Bears beat the Seattle Seahawks 25-24 on Sunday.

Making his first start since last season, Foles led the Bears 80 yards in the closing minutes, capping the drive with his TD toss to Graham, who spent three seasons with the Seahawks. Graham posted up a pair of smaller defensive backs to make the catch in the corner of the end zone, his third TD of the season.

On the 2-point attempt, Foles threw late, but Byrd got his knee down in the end zone with multiple Seattle defenders trying to push him over the back line.

It was a stunning conclusion to rare snow game in Seattle that eliminated the Seahawks (5-10) from the NFC playoff picture. Seattle was already assured of a losing season, and coach Pete Carroll reached double-digit losses for the first time in his tenure.

Foles finished 24 of 35 for 250 yards, and David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert each had rushing touchdowns. Montgomery had 21 carries for 45 yards and seven receptions for 61 yards. The Bears (5-10) had lost three straight and seven of their previous eight.

Russell Wilson was 16 of 27 for 181 yards and two touchdowns, including the first TD for DK Metcalf since Oct. 31, a 41-yarder in the first quarter. Gerald Everett caught a 24-yard TD late in the third quarter that gave Seattle a 24-14 lead.

Raiders defeat Broncos, cling to playoff hopes

Josh Jacobs rushed for 129 yards and the Las Vegas Raiders came from behind to defeat the Denver Broncos 17-13 on Sunday to stay relevant in the AFC playoff picture.

With the win, the Raiders (8-7) severely damaged the postseason chances for AFC West rival Denver (7-8), which dropped its third game in the last four.

Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr completed 20 of 25 passes for 201 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Carr completed at least one pass to all seven of his targets, led by Zay Jones, who had six receptions for 50 yards. Hunter Renfrow had three catches for 40 yards and one touchdown, while Foster Moreau and DeSean Jackson each had four receptions.

After controlling much of the first half, the Raiders turned over the ball on consecutive drives spanning just three plays, and allowed the Broncos to take a 13-7 lead at halftime.

But the Raiders took the opening drive of the second half 75 yards over nine plays, led by Jacobs’ 57 yards on seven attempts. Denver took the lead for good on Peyton Barber’s 5-yard TD run.

Jacobs’ performance on the ground marked his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.

Bills take control of AFC East with crucial win over Patriots

Josh Allen threw for three touchdowns and the Buffalo Bills hung on to beat the New England Patriots 33-21 on Sunday to vault themselves back into first place in the AFC East title race.

With the victory, Buffalo (9-6) now holds tiebreakers over the Patriots and Dolphins, and is in the driver’s seat to win its second straight division title.

Allen finished 30 of 47 passes for 314 yards, and he also rushed 12 times for 64 yards.

Isaiah McKenzie stepped up in place of Bills receivers Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis, who were both on the reserve/COVID-19 list, notching a career-high 11 catches, 125 yards and a touchdown. McKenzie’s big day came after the Bills shied away from using him even to field kickoffs during blustery conditions in Buffalo during their Week 13 loss to the Patriots.

The Bills were aggressive, going for it on fourth down three times in the first half, including a fourth-and-2 that helped set up a 12-yard pass from Allen to Stefon Diggs for a 17-7 lead. That grew to 26-14 early in the fourth quarter after running back Devin Singletary’s 2-yard touchdown run; Buffalo was denied on its 2-point conversion attempt.

The Patriots (9-6) got it to 26-21 with 7:37 to play on Damien Harris’ 8-yard TD run, his second of the game, but rookie quarterback Mac Jones struggled to find openings against the Bills’ top-ranked defence, ending his day making 14 of 32 passes for 145 yards and two interceptions.

Bucs rout Panthers to clinch NFC South title

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won their first NFC South title since 2007 on Sunday when Tom Brady threw for 232 yards and a touchdown and Antonio Brown made a grand return to the NFL in a 32-6 rout of the Carolina Panthers.

In his first game since Oct. 13 after missing eight games, Brown saw a prominent role on offence with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin sidelined by injuries, catching 10 passes for 101 yards while being targeted 15 times by Brady. Brown has been plagued by an ankle injury and was suspended three games for breaking COVID-19 protocols prior.

Ronald Jones carried 20 times for 65 yards and a touchdown filling in for the injured Leonard Fournette. Tampa Bay also got big offensive contributions from unheralded players Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Cyril Grayson.

Vaughn broke two tackles and rambled for a 55-yard first quarter touchdown. Grayson, a COVID-19 replacement player elevated to the active roster this week, hauled in a 62-yard reception to set up Brady’s only TD pass, a 4-yarder to Cameron Brate.

The Bucs (11-4) put up 391 yards on offence after being shut out 9-0 by the New Orleans Saints last week.

Texans stun Chargers

Rex Burkhead ran for a career-high 149 yards and two touchdowns, and the Houston Texans took advantage of three turnovers to beat the Los Angeles Chargers 41-29 on Sunday with both teams missing more than a dozen players because COVID-19 protocols.

The Chargers’ playoff chances took a serious blow with the loss to the lowly, if recently improved, Texans. Outside linebacker Joey Bosa, running back Austin Ekeler, receiver Mike Williams and centre Corey Linsley were among the major contributors on the COVID-19 list for LA (8-7), which entered in second place in the AFC West.

Houston (4-11) had 16 players miss the game on the COVID-19 list but managed to win consecutive games for the first time this season. The Texans beat Jacksonville last week.

Burkhead had TD runs of 25 yards and 1 yard as the Texans, who entered the game ranked last in the NFL in yards rushing, ran for a season-high 189 yards. Rookie Davis Mills threw for 254 yards and two touchdowns.

The Chargers’ Justin Herbert threw for 336 yards with garbage-time touchdown and two interceptions. Justin Jackson ran for 64 yards and two touchdowns and had 98 yards receiving filling in for Ekeler, but his fourth-quarter fumble led to a Houston field goal that hurt LA’s comeback bid.

Rams hold off Vikings

Brandon Powell returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to lift Los Angeles into the playoffs as the Rams pulled out a 30-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

The victory also sent the Rams’ NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals into the post-season.

Sony Michel rushed for a season-high 131 yards and a score, Matt Gay made three field goals, and the Aaron Donald-led defence did its part, keeping the Vikings out of the end zone on two first-half trips inside the 10-yard line.

Matthew Stafford had his first three-interception game since Sept. 10, 2018, when he was picked off four times for Detroit against the New York Jets. But the Rams (11-4) still had more than enough to win their fourth straight game and pass Arizona (10-5) for first place in the NFC West.

Kirk Cousins had 315 yards on 27-for-38 passing with a touchdown to K.J. Osborn with 8:21 remaining that cut the lead to 27-20. But his interception in the end zone in the first quarter loomed large all afternoon.

Alexander Mattison filled in for COVID-19-absent Dalvin Cook and had 70 total yards and a score for the Vikings (7-8), who failed for the fourth time this season to push their record above .500. They lost control of the third and final NFC wild-card spot.

Burrow’s 525 yards, 4 TDs power Bengals past Ravens

Joe Burrow’s franchise record-breaking 525-yard passing performance clearly meant something to the Cincinnati Bengals, who continued calling deep throws for him late in the fourth quarter with a 20-point lead against division rival Baltimore until the mark was secured.

Burrow was more interested in what the final score ā€” 41-21 over the Ravens ā€” meant for his team, which took over first place in the AFC North with two games left.

Burrow, who snapped Boomer Esiason’s team record of 522 yards, was 37 of 46 with two touchdown passes to Tee Higgins and one each to Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon as the Bengals swept the Ravens for the first time since 2015. Cincinnati won 41-17 at Baltimore on Oct. 24.

The Bengals are having their best season since 2015, when they last reached the playoffs and were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Steelers in a wild-card game.

Tee Higgins had 12 receptions for a career-high 194 yards. Ja’Marr Chase caught seven for 125 yards, and Boyd had three catches for 85 yards.

Wilson, Jets hold on to edge Jaguars 

Zach Wilson threw a touchdown pass and ran for another to outduel Trevor Lawrence, and the short-handed New York Jets used a goal-line stand at the end of the game to hold on and beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 26-21 on Sunday.

It was the fourth matchup of rookie quarterbacks taken with the first two picks in the draft ā€” and the No. 2 selection came out on top.

Barely.

After Eddy Pineiro’s 20-yard field goal gave the Jets (4-11) a five-point lead with 1:47 remaining, Lawrence and the Jaguars (2-13) got the ball back ā€” and had a chance to win.

A 26-yard run by the No. 1 pick got the ball to the 5, and he followed with a 4-yard pass to Marvin Jones. Lawrence spiked the ball to stop the clock to make it fourth-and-the-game.

But Lawrence’s pass to Jones fell incomplete ā€” and the Jaguars were called for an illegal shift that the Jets declined, turning the ball over on downs. The Jets had 20 players on the COVID-19 list and played without coach Robert Saleh because he didn’t clear protocols after testing positive earlier in the week.

Wilson set a Jets record for a quarterback with 91 yards rushing, highlighted by a 52-yard score ā€” the longest run by a QB in franchise history. He was 14 of 22 for 102 yards passing, including a TD pass to offensive lineman Conor McDermott.

Braxton Berrios returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown, and Michael Carter ran for 118 yards on 16 carries for New York, which was led by tight ends coach Ron Middleton in Saleh’s absence.

Oluokun’s last-minute pick saves Falcons’ win over Lions

A last-minute interception by Foye Oluokun showed again the Atlanta Falcons are learning to win close games.

Matt Ryan threw a tie-breaking, 12-yard touchdown pass to Hayden Hurst early in the fourth quarter and the Falcons held on late to beat the Detroit Lions 20-16 on Sunday to preserve their slim playoff hopes.

The Falcons improved to 7-2 in one-possession games, including four wins by no more than four points.

Oluokun’s interception of Lions fill-in quarterback Tim Boyle’s pass at the Atlanta 1 with 33 seconds remaining preserved the win. Boyle’s pass was intended for Kalif Raymond.

It was the first interception of the game for Boyle, who made his second career start as Jared Goff remained on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Boyle acknowledged he made the wrong read on Atlanta’s defence.

Eagles beat Giants to remain in playoff race

Jalen Hurts threw a touchdown to lineman Lane Johnson, linebacker Alex Singleton returned an interception for a score and the Philadelphia Eagles continued their late-season playoff push with a 34-10 win over the New York Giants on Sunday.

The Eagles (8-7) have won six of eight after opening the season losing five of seven and moved into the seventh playoff spot in the NFC. They could clinch a playoff berth with a win and some help next week.

The Eagles can only hope they don’t have to play the final two games without running back Miles Sanders after he left the game with an unspecified hand injury.

Hurts shook off a dismal first half and threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns to push the Eagles over .500 for the first time since they won the season opener.

The Eagles scored 31 points in the second half, none quite as cool as the 4-yard pass from Hurts to Johnson early in the fourth that made it 27-3. Johnson, the standout right tackle, reported as eligible and was left all alone when Hurts hit him for the easy score. Johnson, who had missed three games this season to address depression and anxiety, became the first Eagles lineman to score a TD since 2010.

Original article: https://www.cbc.ca/sports/football/nfl/nfl-recap-week-16-dec-26-1.6298553?cmp=rss

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