NFL 2015 Week 17 Recap
Sunday brings football. Then comes Black Monday, where as many as half of the 32 NFL head coaches could be fired. Some teams already started the process.
One week later brings the NFL playoffs. Here were the AFC and NFC playoff scenarios entering the day.
There will be plenty of time to talk about the road to Super Bowl 50, but it starts with making the playoffs. As retired Minnesota Vikings Hall of fame defensive standout John Randle reminds football fans everywhere, “This is when the big dogs come out.”
Here is the NFL 2015 Week 17 Recap.
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons — Neither team us going to the playoffs but the Falcons were playing for a winning season. This may be the last game for Sean Payton and Drew Brees in New Orleans. Early on Shane Graham hit a 51 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Falcons. The Saints moved 70 yards and Tim Hightower got in from the one to make it 7-3 Saints. In the second quarter Matt Ryan hooked up with Moeaki for a 42 yard touchdown to cap an 82 yard drive and make it 10-7 Falcons. The Saints came back 68 yards. Brees hit Ben Watson for a 13 yard touchdown to make it 14-10 Saints.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Graham had a 45 yard field goal try blocked. With 3 1/2 minutes left the Saints faced 4th and 1 at the Atlanta 17. Sean Payton decided to go for it and Brees completed a pass for no gain. The Falcons moved to the Saints on yard line. After a run lost 3 yards, Ryan hit Freeman for a 4 yard touchdown with 26 seconds left in the half for a 17-14 Falcons lead. In the third quarter Kai Forbath hit a 41 yard field goal for a 17-17 tie. With 1:47 left in a tie game from the Atlanta 24, Matty Ice went ice cold. He was intercepted. The Saints took over at the Atlanta 25 and bled the clock. With 3 seconds left Forbath came in for the 30 yarder to win it. He was good. After starting 5-0, Atlanta fell to 8-8. The Saints finished 7-9, but will face swirling questions starting tomorrow. After a decade, it could be the end of an era. 20-17 Saints
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills — Earlier this year in New York, Rex Ryan got revenge against his former team with a 22-17 Bills win. This time the Bills were playing for pride, as a win would get them to 8-8. Sexy Rexy was told before the game that he was coming back next year. The 10-5 Jets needed a win to guarantee a playoff spot. A loss with a Pittsburgh win would eliminate the Jets. A field position game in brutal cold and windy weather had the Jets punting on 4th and 18 from their own 4. A shanked 21 yard punt had the Bills taking over at the Jets 25. On 3rd and 3, Tyrod Taylor scrambled all the way for the 18 yard touchdown, just getting the ball to the pylon for the 7-0 Bills lead.
In the second quarter the Bills moved 70 yards in 13 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. On 4th and 1 from the 2, Rex Ryan decided to go for it. Out of the shotgun, Taylor handed to Williams, who barreled his way just past the plane of the goal. The extra point was no good but the Bills led 13-0. Things got worse for the Jets when Ryan Bullock missed a 40 yard field goal. In a game filled with penalties, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Bills on a punt had the Jets starting at their own 40. Three plays later, Fitzpatrick found Brandon Marshall for a 17 yard touchdown to get the Jets within 13-7. The Bills then held the ball for over 9 minutes, running 15 plays and moving 70 yards. Yet they had to settle for a 20 yard Dan Carpenter field goal with 20 seconds left in the half to make it 16-7 Bills.
Disaster struck the Bills to start the third quarter when they fumbled the ball away. The Jets took over at the Buffalo 23. The Buffalo defense held as the Jets settled for a 39 yard Bullock field goal to trail 16-10. Yet the Bills again responded with a long drive. 66 yards and 14 plays took almost 8 1/2 minutes off the clock. A slant pass to Watkins went for 38 yards. On 4th and 6 from the Jets 28, Taylor found Watkins for 8. This was the third time the Bills converted on fourth down. yet for the second straight time, it only resulted in a field goal. Carpenter hit from 37 to make it 19-10 Bills with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. The Jets came back 77 yards. On 3rd and 10 from the Buffalo 21, Fitzpatrick fired to Eric Decker for the touchdown as the Jets only trailed 19-17 after three quarters.
The Jets got it back at their own 28 to start the fourth quarter and moved to a 1st and 10 at the Buffalo 14. Fitzpatrick went to the end zone and was intercepted by Leodis McKelvin with 11 minutes left. Buffalo ran 13 plays and held the ball for 7 minutes. This was Rex Ryan football. Again Buffalo settled for a field goal as Carpenter hit from 42 to give the Bills a 5 point lead with 4 minutes left. After a touchback, the Jets faced 3rd and 9 at the Buffalo 45 at the 2 minute warning. Fitzpatrick was hit as he threw the ball, and a wobbler was intercepted by Lawson at the Buffalo 34.
The Jets took their timeouts, and on 3rd and 9 Rex took no chances. The clock ticked down and the Jets got it back at their own 18 with 44 seconds left and 0 timeouts. On 2nd and 1 with 17 seconds Fitzpatrick went deep and appeared to have Kenbrell Thompkins for a long gain. Butler then blasted Tompkins, resulting in an incompletion. Had Thompkins held on to the ball, he would have had a miracle touchdown since Butler fell down after he delivered the hit. One play later Fitzpatrick was intercepted and the Jets were done. The Bills finished 8-8 as they beat the Jets twice by the exact same score. Todd Bowles went 10-6 in his first season, but those who want to complain about the same old Jets will do so. Fitzpatrick was intercepted three times in the fourth quarter. The Jets were knocked out of the playoffs when Pittsburgh won. The New York Post headline will be brutal on Monday, as both New York teams not in Buffalo found a way to make Mayor Bill DeBlasio only the third biggest screwup in the state. This might be the only day where the New York football Jets will be downgraded to New Jersey. 22-17 Bills
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears — In a game without playoff implications, Jim Caldwell may be fired after it is over.Matthew Stafford hit Wright for a 9 yard touchdown to cap a 77 yard drive and make it 7-0 Lions. On the last play of the half, Matt Prater drilled a 59 yard field goal to make it 10-0 Lions. In the third quarter, the Bears faced 4th and 1 from the Detroit 31. John Fox opted for the field goal try. Robbie Gould hit from 49 to get the Bears within 10-3. The Lions punted on 4th and 15 from their own 8 and Chicago took over at the Detroit 41. On 3rd and 3 Cutler went deep to Bellamy for a 34 yard touchdown and a 10-10 game.
This time the Lions came back 72 yards. On 3rd and 9 from midfield, Stafford scrambled for 12 and threw a 36 yard touchdown pass to Megatron Calvin Johnson for a 17-10 Lions lead. In the fourth quarter the Bears quickly moved 83 yards. A 23 yard touchdown pass from Cutler to Matt Forte tied the game 17-17. The Lions came right back 80 yards. Stafford hit Eric Ebron for a 1 yard touchdown for a 24-17 Lions lead. A strong kickoff had the Bears starting at their own 47. They moved to a 1st and 10 at the Detroit 16. Cutler incompletions ended the drive. John Fox opted for the field goal. With 5 1/2 minutes left in regulation, Gould hit from 34 to get the Bears within 4 points.
A penalty on the ensuing kickoff had the Lions starting at their own 4. The Bears got it back at their own 43 with 3 1/2 minutes left. On 3rd and 3 from midfield, Forte gained 13. At the 2 minute warning from the Detroit 37, Cutler was intercepted and the Lions ran out the clock. Jim Caldwell was so pleased, he almost made a facial expression. After starting 1-7, the Lions finished 6-2 down the stretch. Owner Martha Ford likes Caldwell personally, so he might survive Black Monday. 24-20 Lions
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals – Baltimore is done for the year. The Bengals clinched the AFC North, but with a win and a Denver loss could move up to the two seed and get a first round bye. They would have to do it with backup quarterback AJ McCarron, in for the injured Andy Dalton. After a scoreless first quarter, Justin Tucker hit 28 and 50 yard field goals in the second quarter to make it 6-0 Ravens. The Bengals finally got going, moving 81 yards. McCarron hit Tyler Eifert for a 22 yard touchdown to make it 7-6 Bengals with 1:45 left in the half. Ryan Mallett quickly moved the Ravens from their 14 to the Cincy 31 and spiked the ball with 3 seconds left. Tucker was good from 49 as the Ravens led 9-7 at halftime.
Mallett started the third quarter by quickly throwing an interception, setting up the Bengals at the Baltimore 33. McCarron hit AJ Green for a 5 yard touchdown and a 14-9 Bengals lead. The Ravens then moved from their 37 to a 4th and 7 at the Cincinnati 42. John Harbaugh decided to punt, but the Bengals were in the neutral zone offsides. For some reason the referees only marked off 4 yards instead of 5. Harbaugh then decided to go for it on 4th and 3 from the 38. Mallett threw incomplete in what was a microcosm of the entire Baltimore season. The Bengals moved to a 3rd and 1 at the Baltimore 38. After McCarron threw incomplete, Marvin Lewis decided to go for it. Jeremy Hill got the carry and ran all the way for the touchdown and the 21-9 Bengals lead.
Mike Nugent added a 52 yard field goal with 4 minutes left for a 24-9 Bengals lead. Mallett quickly moved the Ravens 75 yards. A 2 yard touchdown pass to Juszczyk had the Ravens within 8 with 1:51 to play. The defense held but the Ravens got it back at their own 9 with only 41 seconds. Mallett was intercepted and the Bengals got to 12-4. Marvin Lewis and his players then went to watch the Denver game, knowing a Denver loss would give the Bengals a first round bye. Denver won and the Bengals had to settle for the three seed. 24-16 Bengals
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns — After stumbling last week, the 9-6 Steelers needed to win this game and hope the Jets lose to make the playoffs. The Browns were expected to fire Mike Pettine and Sam Farmer after the game. The Steelers fumbled on their first drive, giving the Browns the ball at the Pittsburgh 39. On 4th and 5, Pettine decided to go for it and Austin Davis completed a pass to Gary Barnidge that came up one yard short. Ben Roethlisberger threw a 2 yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller to cap a 70 yard drive and make it 7-0 Steelers early on. Later on Big Ben was intercepted, setting up the Browns with another short field at the Pittsburgh 24. The Browns settled for a 29 yard Travis Coons field goal to get within 7-3.
The Steelers then faced 4th and 3 at the Cleveland 30. Mike Tomlin went with the field goal, but Chris Boswell from 48 was no good. Coons made a 39 yarder as the Browns were only down 7-6 with 1:56 left in the half. The Steelers moved 80 yards in the blink of an eye. A 17 yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown had the Steelers up 14-6 with only one minute left. After a touchback, the Browns soon faced 3rd and 19 at their own 43 Davis went deep to Terrell Pryor for a 42 yard gain. with 17 seconds left the Browns had 1st and 10 at the 15. Davis then quickly threw 3 incompletions. Coons hit the 33 yard field goal to end the half with the Browns down 14-9.
In the third quarter Roethlisberger was intercepted again, and Robertson returned it 38 yards to give the Browns 1st and goal at the 9. With a chance for the lead, the inept Browns offense did what they do. On 3rd and goal from the 5, Davis was intercepted in the end zone by James Harrison for a touchback. Harrison tried to run it back 100 yards like he did in the Super Bowl. He was 95 yards short this time. Yet on 3rd and 7 from the 8, the Browns jumped offsides. On 3rd and 2, Big Ben went deep to Darrius Hayward-Bey for a 66 yard bomb. Boswell hit a 39 yard field goal for a 17-9 Steelers lead.
The Browns kept fighting. A staggering 17 play, 62 yard drive took nearly 10 minutes off the clock. Yet again the Browns had to settle for a fourth field goal from Coons. The 29 yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter had the Browns within 17-12. The Browns got it bak at their own 1. From their 21, Davis was sacked and fumbled. The Steelers took over at the Cleveland 8. One play later Big Ben hit Wheaton for the touchdown and Toussaint for the two-point conversion to make it 25-12 Steelers. The Browns were in full self-destruction mode, fumbling the ensuing kickoff. Pittsburgh took over at the Cleveland 28. Boswell hit from 21 to complete the scoring. Mike Tomlin can celebrate. The Jets lost, meaning the 10-6 Steelers are in the playoffs. Mike Pettine and Sam Farmer awaited the hammer from Jimmy Hallam on Black Monday, but instead Hallam brought it down on Sunday as soon as the game ended. They were both fired. 28-12 Steelers
Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys — Jason Garrett may be fired after this game that does not have playoff implications. Dallas is done and the 8-7 Redskins have clinched the NFC East and are locked into the four seed. Jay Gruden decided not to rest his starters. A field position game had the Redskins starting just past midfield. Kirk Cousins completed a pass to Crowder that went for a 44 yard gain. On the next play Cousins went to Grant for a 5 yard touchdown and a 7-0 Cowboys lead. Jerry Jones contemplated burning down his stadium for the insurance money. Third string quarterback Kellen Moore was then intercepted, setting up Washington at the Dallas 43. On 3rd and 6, Cousins went deep to Pierre Garcon for a 39 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Redskins. Moore then fumbled to give the Redskins the ball at the Dallas 30. On 3rd and goal at the 3, Cousins found Crowder for the touchdown and the 21-0 Redskins lead.
In the second quarter Dustin Hopkins tacked on a 27 yard field goal to make it 24-0 Redskins. Cousins was done for the day as Colt McCoy finished up the game. Gruden allowed his starter to take the rest of the day off to rest for the playoffs. The Cowboys finally got on the board with an 80 yard drive. Moore hit Jason Witten for the 4 yard touchdown as Dallas trailed 24-7. Dallas got it back at their own 14 with 90 seconds left in the half. Moore took them right down the field. A 5 yard touchdown pass from Moore to Cole Beasley with 20 seconds left in the half had the Cowboys only down 24-14.
To take back momentum, the Redskins moved 74 yards in 14 plays and took 8 1/2 minutes off the clock. They settled for a 33 yard Hopkins field goal and a 27-14 Redskins lead. On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Redskins faced 3rd and 9 at their own 29. Rather than play it safe, Gruden went for the kill shot. McCoy went deep to Ross for a 71 yard touchdown and a 34-14 Redskins lead. Dallas managed a safety and then drove deep into Washington territory before fumbling the ball away. Dallas added one more garbage touchdown. The 9-7 Redskins will host a playoff game while everyone in Big D awaits Jerrah and his decision on Black Monday. 34-23 Redskins
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans — This game did not have playoff implications. Despite another losing season, Gus Bradley was told he is coming back next year. The 8-7 Texans clinched the AFC South and are locked into the four seed. Bill O’Brien decided not to rest his starters, and Bryan Hoyer returned from injury. Nick Novak hit a 29 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Texans. Later on the Texans moved 79 yards. Early in the second quarter, on 3rd and 9 from the 12, Hoyer hit Grimes for the touchdown to make it 10- Texans. Myers would hit a 43 yard field goal to get the Jaguars within 10-3. The Jaguars then fumbled, giving the Texans the ball at the Jacksonville 42. On 3rd and goal from the 3, Grimes got in to make it 17-3 Texans. Novak tacked on a 51 yard field goal to end the half with the Texans cruising 20-3. A dull second half saw Myers hit from 34 in the third quarter for the Jaguars and Novak answer from 51 in the fourth quarter for the Texans. Jackson intercepted a Blake Bortles pass and returned it 27 yards for the final score. Bill O’Brien and his 9-7 Texans host a playoff game next week. 30-6 Texans
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts — Both teams are expected to fire their coaches after this game played between backup quarterbacks that had no playoff implications. Adam Vinatieri hit a 49 yard field goal for a 3-0 Colts lead. Later on the Colts faced 3rd and 9 from their own 9, Freeman was intercepted, setting up the Titans at the Indy 5. One play later Zach Mettenberger ran for the touchdown for a 7-3 Titans lead. Later on Freeman found Coby Fleener for a 57 yard touchdown to make it 10-7 Colts. In the second quarter the Titans moved 80 yards and soon faced 4th and goal at the one. Mike Mularkey with nothing to lose decided to go for it. Cobb got in to make it 14-10 Titans. Vinatieri hit a 52 yard field goal to get the Colts within 14-13. With 1:39 left in the half, the Colts got it back at their own 42. Freeman was out, and fourth string quarterback Ryan Lindley was in. Lindley threw an 18 yard touchdown pass to Andre Johnson with 13 seconds left in the half for a 20-14 Colts lead.
In the third quarter disaster struck the Titans immediately. On 2nd and 15 from their 30, Mettenberger was intercepted and Freeman returned it 23 yards for a touchdown and a 27-14 Colts lead. Mettenberger was sent to the bench and the Titans fourth string quarterback Tanney came in. Tanner sparked the Titans and Ryan Succop hit a 49 yard field goal to get the Titans within 27-17. The Titans got it back at their own 41 to start the fourth quarter. Tanner hit Green-Beckham for a 5 yard touchdown to get the Titans within 27-24 with 11 minutes left in regulation.
The Colts held the ball for 6 minutes. With 2 1/2 minutes left in regulation, Vinatieri hit a 35 yard field goal. Tennessee trailed by 6 but still had a chance to win it. After a touchback, the Titans moved to a 3rd and 7 just past midfield with 1:41 left. Tanner was sacked for a 14 yard loss and then threw incomplete. The Colts got to 8-8, but it will not be enough to save Chuck Pagano. Mike Mularkey might also be gone, although the Titans have the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. 30-24 Colts
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins — The 12-3 Patriots with a win would lock up the top seed in the AFC and home field throughout the playoffs. A loss and a Denver win would knock New England down to the two seed. Miami is done and is expected to fire interim coach Dan Campbell after the game. Franks hit a 38 yard field goal for a 3-0 Dolphins lead. In the second quarter Stephen Gostkowski answered with a 34 yard field goal for a 3-3 tie. With 1:56 left in the half, the Dolphins took over at their own 36. On 3rd and 8 from the New England 46, Ryan Tannehill went deep to Greg Jennings for a 31 yard gain. Tannehill then hit Parker for the 15 yard touchdown to make it 10-3 Dolphins with 30 seconds left in the half.
In the third quarter the Patriots needed only 5 plays to go 80 yards and tie the game. Stephen Jackson got in from the two for a 10-10 game. Yet this was a streetfight. With 10 minutes left in regulation, the Dolphins took over at their own 18. From the Miami 48, Tannehill went deep to Parker for a 46 yard gain. Tannehill hit Cameron for a 2 yard touchdown as the Dolphins had the shocking 17-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Patriots went backward and had to punt on 4th and 26 from their own 4. The Dolphins got it back at the New England 45 knowing one first down and a field goal could put the game away.
On 3rd and 11, Tannehill scrambled for 19 yards. On 3rd and goal at the one, a run failed to get in as the clock hit the 2minute warning. Yet on 4th and goal, it was a no brainer. Franks hit the field goal to lock up the shocking upset win. The ultimate indignity for Tom Brady was to spend the final 2 minutes on the sideline. Jimmy Garroppollo finished the game as Brady was a miserable 12 of 21 for 134 yards. Tannehill was magnificent, going 25 of 38 for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns. Neither quarterback was intercepted. Bill Bellichick has a 12-4 team, but a Denver win would knock the Hoodie and his team out of the top seed. In 2004, the 12-1 Patriots lost at the 2-11 Dolphins. This was the repeat, although it may not be enough to save interim coach Dan Campbell. Later on Denver would win, knocking the Patriots out of the top spot and into the two seed. 20-10 Dolphins
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants — Chip Kelly was fired on Saturday and Tom Coughlin may soon follow in a game without playoff implications. DeMarco Murray broke free for a 54 yard touchdown for a 7-0 Eagles lead. A field position game had the Giants starting at the Philly 47. On 2nd and goal at the 3, Eli Manning threw incomplete twice. Josh Brown hit the 22 yard field goal to get the Giants within 7-3. The Eagles came right back 85 yards. A 6 yard touchdown run by Darren proles had the Eagles up 14-3.
In the second quarter the Giants again moved into the red zone and again could not finish the drive. Brown hit from 30 to get the Giants within 14-6. Sam Bradford was then intercepted, setting up the Giants at the Philly 35. Manning found Tye for the 9 yard touchdown to get the Giants within 14-13. The Eagles then moved 80 yards in 16 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. Bradford hit Matthews for the 4 yard touchdown to make it 21-13 Eagles. The Giants came back 80 yards in 13 plays. on 3rd and goal from the 2 with 15 seconds left in the half, out of the shotgun, Rashad Jennings got in to get the Giants within 21-20.
In the third quarter the Giants faced 4th and 3 at the Philly 39. Tom Coughlin decided to punt and play field position. The Eagles were pinned at their own 3. They were on the move to their own 44 when Murray got the carry and fumbled. The Giants took over at the Philly 45. One play later Manning went deep to Reuben Randle for the touchdown and the 27-21 Giants lead. The Giants got it back and moved from their own 39 to a 1st and 10 at the Philly 14. Looking to extend the lead, Manning was intercepted by Thurmond, who returned it 83 yards for an Eagles touchdown and a 28-27 Eagles lead. At that moment Coughlin thought that maybe he should retire and collect his pension.
The Giants moved from their 20 to a 4th and 7 at the Philly 38. Coughlin again decided to play it safe and punt. The Eagles began the fourth quarter at their own 9. Coughlin does not play defense. Apparently, neither do his players. A 13 play, 91 yard, 6 minute drive culminated with Bradford hitting Matthews for a 3 yard touchdown. With 9 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the Eagles led 35-27. After a touchback the Giants moved to a 4th and 7 at the Philadelphia 30. With 4 1/2 minutes left in regulation, Coughlin opted for the field goal. Brown hit from 48 and the Giants were down by 5 points.
The Giants got it back at their own 20 with 1:43 to play. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, the Giants had 2nd and 10 at their own 42 with 44 seconds left. Manning then threw 3 straight incompletions and the Giants were done. After 12 years and 2 Super Bowl rings, Tom Coughlin may face a brutal Black Monday in New York. Meanwhile, Pat Shurmur is a 1-0 undefeated juggernaut in Philly. 35-30 Eagles.
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals — Both teams are going to the playoffs. The 9-6 Seahawks have the wild card while the 13-2 Cardinals have a first round bye. A win and a loss by Carolina would give the Cardinals home field throughout the playoffs. The Cardinals won in Seattle but faced a different Seahawks team at home. The Seahawks took over after a punt at their own 12 and move 88 yards in 12 plays and 7 1/2 minutes. On 3rd and goal at the one, Brown got in up the gut for a 7-0 Seahawks lead. Carson Palmer was then intercepted, setting up Seattle at the Arizona 41. Steve Hauschka hit a 52 yard field goal for a 10-0 Seahawks lead.
In the second quarter the Cardinals moved 80 yards in 12 plays and 6 minutes. Palmer threw a 17 yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald. The extra point failed as the Cardinals trailed 10-6. The Seahawks came back with an 11 play, 80 yard, 6 minute drive of their own. Russell Wilson hit Tukuafu for the 7 yard touchdown to make it 17-6 Seahawks. Tyler Lockett then returned a punt 66 yards with an extra facemark moving Seattle all the way to the Arizona 8. One play later Wilson hit Coffman for the touchdown and the 24-6 Seahawks lead. It was deja vu all over again as Lockett took his next punt return 42 yards to the Arizona 27. On 3rd and 7, Wilson went deep to Kearse for the 24 yard touchdown. The Seahawks scored the first 5 times they had the ball as they led 30-6 with 2 minutes left in the half. With Carolina winning their game big, it was time for Bruce Arians to consider giving Carson Palmer and his starters the rest of the day off.
Drew Stanton replaced Palmer for the second half. Hauschka tacked on third quarter field goals of 33 and 52, the latter after a Stanton interception. The Legion of Boom did the rest in a quiet second half. The 10-6 Seahawks he’d to playoffs with confidence while the 13-3 Cardinals, despite the loss, will have a first round bye but not home field throughout. 36-6 Seahawks
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers — The Buccaneers are done. The 14-1 Panthers came in knowing that despite their unbeaten season being ruined last week, a win would give them home field throughout the playoffs. A loss and an Arizona win would drop Carolina to the two seed. Connor Barth hit a 39 yard field goal as the Buccaneers led 3-0 after the first quarter. After that reality set in.
In the second quarter Newton capped off a 77 yard drive with a one yard touchdown run to make it 7-3 Panthers. Carolina got it back at their own 40. After a sack meant 2nd and 22, Newton went deep to Finches for a 41 yard gain. Graham Gano hit a 49 yard field goal to make it 10-3 Panthers. Jameis Winston was then intercepted, setting up Carolina at the Tampa Bay 46. Artis-Payne got in from the one to make it 17-3 Panthers. Carolina got it back just past midfield with 2:43 left in the half. Newton went deep to Jerricho Cotchery for a 31 yard touchdown just past the 2 minute warning for a 24-3 Panthers lead. The Bucs did reach inside the Carolina 5 yard line with 7 seconds left in the half, but Winston threw incomplete. With 4 seconds left, Lovie Smith decided against the field goal. Winston threw incomplete again. With Carolina up by 21 and Arizona getting blasted by 24 in their game, Ron Rivera had to decide whether to pull his starters at halftime.
In the third quarter the starters were still in. Carolina punted from their own 32. The Buccaneers fumbled it. Joe Webb picked it up at the Tampa 17 and ran it 14 yards to the 3. Newton got in from one yard out to make it 31-3 Panthers. Winston did get the Buccaneers in the end zone with a 4 yard touchdown run, but Newton threw a 16 yard touchdown pass to Finches to keep it a blowout. Newton was 21 of 26 for 293 yards and 2 touchdowns without big intercepted. Newton staked his case to be NFL MVP. The Carolina starters stayed in way too long, but they are 15-1 and the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Carolina. 38-10 Panthers
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos — Denver came in knowing that New England had lost. A Broncos win at home over eliminated San Diego would give the Broncos the top seed and home field throughout the playoffs. A loss would drop them to the three seed without a first round bye. If Kansas City also won, Denver with a loss would lose the AFC West division and fall all the way to the five seed and play only road playoff games. Mike McCoy was awaiting Black Monday and the Chargers fans wondered if they would even play in San Diego next year. Peyton Manning sat on the Bench as Brock Osweiler started again. the first half was hideous. Osweiler had 222 yards passing by halftime, but also threw 2 interceptions. In the first quarter Osweiler hooked up with Denarius Thomas for a 72 yard touchdown and a 7-0 Broncos lead. Josh Lambo hit from 50 in the first quarter and from 42 in the second quarter as the Chargers trailed 7-6 at halftime.
In the third quarter the Broncos got the ball after a punt at their own 5. From their 15, CJ Anderson fumbled and the Chargers recovered at the Denver 32. On 3rd and 8 from the 13, Philip Rivers hit Antonio Gates for the touchdown and the 13-7 Chargers lead. Gary Kubiak had seen enough and swallowed his ego. After 5 Denver turnovers, he decided that a first ballot Hall of Famer might be a better option than an unknown backup. Osweiler was out and Manning was in. The Broncos moved 80 yards. After twice having a touchdown reversed and taken off the board, CJ Anderson finally got in from the one to make it 14-13 Broncos with 5 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. Brad McManus added a 48 yard field goal with 13 minutes left in regulation to make it 17-13 Broncos.
One play and 11 seconds later, the Chargers had the 20-17 lead as Philip Rivers went bombs away to Williams for an 80 yard touchdown in front of a stunned home crowd. The Broncos got it back at their own 20 and moved to a 3rd and 2 at the San Diego 16. Anderson got the carry and lost a yard. McManus hit the critical 35 yard field goal to tie the game 20-20 with 10 minutes left in regulation. With 5 minutes left the Chargers faced 3rd and 7 at their 25. Rivers was intercepted by Keo, who returned it 22 yards to the San Diego 23. One play later Ronnie Hillman ran all the way for the touchdown as the Broncos led by 7. San Diego kept fighting, and with 1:47 left faced 4th and 7 at the Denver 40. Under heavy pressure, Rivers threw incomplete. Denver then faced 3rd and 7, and Anderson ran for the first down to ice the game. It was far from pretty, but the Broncos have home field throughout the playoffs. They also have Field General Peyton Manning back. 27-20 Broncos
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs — After starting 1-5, the Chiefs won 9 straight and are in the playoffs as a wild card. They would have to travel on the road. If they win here and Denver loses, the Chiefs win the AFC West and move to the three seed to host a wild card game. The Raiders are just trying to get to 8-8. A few weeks ago the Cheifs beat the Raiders in Oakland when the Raiders had a fourth quarter meltdown. Early on it was all Chiefs. Alex Smith threw a short pass to Jeremy Maclin that went for a 25 yard touchdown to cap an 80 yard drive and make it 7-0 Chiefs. The Chiefs got it back at moved 87 yards in 12 plays and 6 minutes. Ware got in from 3 yards out. The Chiefs led 14-0 after the first quarter. It was time for dink and dunk West Coast Offense game manager Alex Smith to go into his shell and not throw anything longer than four yards.
Taiwan Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards to the Chiefs 38. The second quarter began with the Raiders facing 3rd and 1 at the Chiefs 10. Latavius Murray got the carry and lost a yard. Sebastian Janikowski hit from 29 as the Raiders trailed 14-3. With 6 1/2 minutes left in the half from the Chiefs 31, Alex Smith was intercepted. The Raiders took over at the Chiefs 31. On 3rd and 2 from the Chiefs 24 with all the time in the world, Carr went to the end zone and was intercepted for a touchback. One play later, Smith was intercepted again. This time it was Amerson, who returned it 24 yards for a touchdown. The Raiders only trailed 14-10 at halftime.
In the third quarter, a sack of Carr had the Raiders punting on 4th and 13 from their own 7. Marquette King had his punt blocked for a safety and a 16-10 Chiefs lead. The Chiefs took over after the free kick at their own 47. On 3rd and 4, Smith found Maclin for 17, with 15 more tacked on for a roughing the passer penalty on Khalil Mack. He tapped Smith, who flopped. On the next play Smith hit Harris for a 15 yard touchdown to make it 23-10 Chiefs.
With 3 1/2 minutes Cairo Santos hit a 39 yard field goal that appeared to lock up the game. Yet offensive holding meant Santos would have ti try again from 49. The kick would have been blocked, leading to a pass attempt that was stopped well short of the first down. The Raiders had 3:15 to try and pull off a miracle. With 2:01 to play, Carr threw a 31 yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. The Raiders were within 6. The onside kick failed, but the Raiders had all 3 timeouts. They held on defense and got it back at their own 11 with 1:34 to play. 89 yards without a timeout is a lot to ask. With 22 seconds left, a pass to Mychel Rivera was caught near the sideline, but rivera could not get out of bounds. There would be no final Hail Mary or hook and laterals.
The Chiefs at 11-5 have won 10 straight, but will have to settle for the wild card since Denver won their game to wrap up the AFC West. Meanwhile, one year after going 3-13, the Raiders improved to 7-9. Jack Del Rio knows he has a team on the verge of something special next year. For now, Walrus Lite Andy Reid was the one smiling after seeing his 1-5 team run the table. 23-17 Chiefs
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers — Both teams are done for the year. Both Jeff Fisher and Jim Tomsula are expected to survive Black Monday, although only Fisher should. The Rams with a fourth straight win would get to 8-8 while the 49ers are a train wreck. Greg Zuerlein hit a 33 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Rams after the first quarter. In the second quarter Blaine Gabbert threw a 33 yard touchdown pass to Anquon Boldin to make it 7-3 49ers. Phil Dawson tacked on a 26 yard field goal to make it 10-3 Rams. After that, the Rams took over. Zuerlein hit from 32 to get the rams within 10-6. Blaine Gabbert then had an interception returned 42 yards by Sims to the 3 yard line. Tre Mason scored a 4 yard touchdown for a 13-10 Rams lead. With 22 seconds left in the half from the Rams 34, Cunningham ran for a 40 yard gain. Zuerlein hit from 44 to make it 16-10 Rams at halftime.
In the third quarter the 49ers moved 70 yards in 12 plays and 5 1/2 minutes. Yet again the 49ers bogged down deep. Dawson hit from 28 as the 49ers trailed 16-13. The 49ers got it back at their 20 and moved to a 3rd and 1 at the Rams 8. Gabbert fumbled and the 49ers were lucky to retain possession after a 12 yard loss. Dawson hit from 38 as the game was tied 16-16 with 4 1/2 minutes left. The game went to overtime. The Rams held the ball for 7 minutes on their first overtime drive. Zuerlein came in for the 48 yarder to win it. The kick was blocked. From their own 26, the 49ers benefitted from a critical 15 yard facemark against the Rams. From the Rams 38, Gabbert found Patton for a 33 yard gain. With 3 1/2 minutes left, on 1st and goal at the 5, Jim Tomsula took no chances. Dawson came in and hit the 23 yarder to give the 49ers the win. The 7-9 Rams will probably make no changes, while the 49ers organization did not even wait until Black Monday so the tea could enjoy the win. In a low class, bush league move, Tomsula was fired on Sunday after the game. York is no Eddie DeBartolo. 19-16 Rams, OT
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers — This regular season finale was the NFC North showdown. Both teams came in at 10-5 having a clinched a playoff spot. A win meant a home playoff game and a loss meant having to go on the road as a wild card. This was cold weather black and blue football. In the first quarter Blair Walsh hit a 39 yard field goal for the Vikings and Mason Crosby responded from 28 for a 3-3 tie. Despite holding the ball for nearly 9 minutes, Green Bay stalled in the red zone. As for Minnesota, a successful fake punt call by Mike Zimmer set up their first score. Walsh hit from 32 in the second quarter as Minnesota led 6-3 at halftime. Green Bay went for it on 4th and 5 from the Minnesota 40 late in the half, but Aaron Rodgers threw deep incomplete. With 15 seconds left and facing 4th and 2 from the Green Bay 40, Minnesota suffered a costly delay of game penalty and punted.
A shanked 29 yard Green Bay punt had the Vikings taking over in the third quarter at their own 42. After one pass, the running game just took over. Thielen ran for a 26 yard gain. On Peterson did the rest. On 3rd and 2 from the 3, Peterson was just a battering ram, getting into the end zone for a 13-3 Vikings lead. After Teddy Bridgewater threw a careless interception rather than take a sack, the Packers faced 3rd and 2 at the Minnesota 45. A first down run was offset by offensive holding. On 3rd and 12, Rodgers was hit and fumbled. It looked like an incomplete pass, so many players stopped. An alert Captain Munnerlyn picked it up and raced 55 yards for a touchdown. On further review, the touchdown stood. Rodgers batted the ball forward with his hand only after it was already knocked free. The Vikings led 20-3 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.
After a touchback, the Packers finally got going. 90 seconds into the fourth quarter, Rodgers found his non-relative Richard Rodgers for a 16 yard touchdown. The 14 play, 80 yard, 6 minute drive saw Richard Rodgers leap in the air in the face of 2 defenders to just get the ball past the pylon. The Packers still trailed 20-10, but plenty of time remained. Green Bay got it back at their own 16 with 10 minutes left and moved the Packers again. On 3rd and 3 from the Minnesota 18, Rodgers was sacked. Crosby hit from 43 but the Packers still trailed 20-13 with 5 1/2 minutes left in regulation.
Crosby kicked off, and Cordarelle Patterson split the seam for what seemed like a dagger in Green Bay’s heart. Patterson had returned the kickoff 71 yards to the Green Bay 30 before he had the ball chopped out of his hands. Of all people, it was kicker Crosby who forced the fumble after chasing Patterson down. Carlos Hyde recovered the fumble at the Green Bay 23. Rodgers quickly found Randall Cobb for 17 and James Jones for 37 more. A short pass to John Kuhn saw Khn hurdle tacklers for 13 yards to set up 1st and goal at the 10. After a sack, on 3rd and goal at the 13, Rodgers scrambled for his life and fired incomplete. With 2 1/2 minutes left, Mike McCarthy decided to go for it. Green Bay then messed up badly. With the play clock winding down, the Packers called a timeout rather than just take the delay of game penalty. The Packers only had one timeout left. On 4th and goal from the 18, Rodgers fired to the end zone and was intercepted by Xavier Rhodes for a touchback.
The Packers needed another miracle and nearly got one. Trying to run out the clock, Adrian Peterson fumbled. after a mad scramble, Peterson retained possession as the clock hit the 2 minute warning. Peterson got the ball again as the Packers took their final timeout with 1:55 to play. Everything came down to 3rd and 5 from the Minnesota 25. Zimmer played it very safe and handed to Peterson again. The defense held as the clock ticked down. The Vikings punted and the Packers took over at their own 42 with one minute remaining. Three straight incompletions meant 4th and 10 with 43 seconds left. Rodgers then fired to non-relative Rodgers for a 12 yard gain. Rather than spike the ball, Rodgers fired to Adams for 7 and Adams got out of bounds with 24 seconds left. A Hail Mary went out the back of the end zone. Another completion had the clock running. On fourth down, Rodgers snapped the ball just as the gun sounded and launched another Hail Mary. This time it was knocked down incomplete.
This was a gutty win for the Vikings. This was hard-nosed Mike Zimmer football. They just hit Green Bay in the mouth. Had the Packers won, these teams would have played each other again next week in Green Bay. Instead, 11-5 Minnesota as the
NFC North champion hosts the very dangerous 10-6 Seattle. After four consecutive NFC North division championships, this year the 10-6 Green Bay as the five seed wild card will travel to face 9-7 Washington. 20-13 Packers
The playoffs are now set.
Wild Card games:
5.) 11-5 Kansas City Chiefs at 4.) 9-7 Houston Texans, Saturday, 4:30pm EST on ABC ESPN
6.) 10-6 Pittsburgh Steelers at 3.) 12-4 Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, 8:00pm EST on CBS
1.) 12-4 Denver Broncos and 2.) 12-4 New England Patriots have the bye week.
Wild Card games:
6.) 10-6 Seattle Seahawks at 3.) 11-5 Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, 1:00pm EST on NBC.
5.) 10-6 Green Bay Packers at 4.) 9-7 Washington Redskins, Sunday, 4:30pm EST on Fox.
1.) 15-1 Carolina Panthers and 2.) 13-3 Arizona Cardinals have the bye week.