Archive for the ‘SPORTS’ Category

NFL 2017-2018 Pro Bowl Recap

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

NFL 2017-2018 Pro Bowl Recap

The NFL could have played the Pro Bowl in gorgeous Honolulu, Hawaii, but nooooooo, they had to choose rain soaked Orlando, Florida. The Pro Bowl is supposed to be a party. Instead it was a football game played in terrible weather. This is fine if its a Conference Title Game, but not for an over glorified scrimmage. Drives were taking 7 minutes. In a fun Pro Bowl, drives sometimes take barely more than 7 seconds. In the first quarter the NFC moved 75 yards in 13 plays and 7 minutes. Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw an 8 yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen for a 7-0 NFC lead. In the second quarter the AFC moved 52 yards in 12 plays and 7 minutes. They settled for Steelers kicker Chris Boswell hitting a 41 yard field goal to get the AFC within 7-3. After that, turnovers killed the AFC.

The AFC fumbled a punt to set the NFC up at the AFC 21. The NFC lost 4 yards and Panthers kicker Graham Gano hit a 43 yarder to make it 10-3 NFC. The game’s first exciting play came when the AFC decided to go for it on 4th and 7 at their own 41. Steelers quarterback Ben Rowthlisberger threw a bomb that was intercepted by Vikings defender Harrison Smith. After some pathetic attempts at tackling, smith stumbled his way into the end zone for a 79 yard interception touchdown return and a 17-3 NFC lead. After a touchback, the AFC moved to a 3rd and goal at the 7. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith went to the end zone and was intercepted for a touchback at the 2 minute warning. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson moved the NFC to the AFC 22, and Lions kicker Matt Prater hit a 40 yard field goal for a 20-3 NFC lead at halftime.

In the third quarter the AFC moved 75 yards. Alex Smith hit Colts receiver TY Hilton for a 44 yard gain. Smith went to Titans receiver Delanie Walker for a 4 yard touchdown to get the AFC within 20-10. Russell Wilson from the AFC 43 went deep and was intercepted by Chris Hayward, followed by a couple of laterals to get the AFC at their own 47. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr went deep to TY Hilton for a 39 yard gain down to the NFC 2 yard line. On the next play Bills running back LeSean Shady McCoy ran it up the middle for the score to get the AFC right back in it down 20-17.

From the NFC 25, Rams quarterback Jared Goff came in and moved the NFC to a 3rd and 7 at the AFC 12 to start the fourth quarter. Goff was sacked by Chris Heyward and Mark Ingram. Graham Gano hit the 38 yard field goal for a 23-17 NFC lead. From the AFC 45, Derek Carr went deep and was intercepted by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson at the NFC 9. The NFC held the ball for 6 minutes but got no points out of their drive. On 4th and 3 from the NFC 47,  Jared Goff threw incomplete.

The AFC had a short field and 3:44 left to try and win the game. On 4th and 7, Derek Carr hit Jarvis Landry for 12 yards. Carr hit Delanie Walker for an 18 yard touchdown as the AFC had their first lead of the game up by a point with 90 seconds to play. With the NFC facing 3rd and 6 at their own 29, Jared Goff was hit and fumbled. Broncos linebacker Von Miller recovered to lock up the win as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin led his team to comeback win over Saints coach Sean Payton’s squad. Miller was the game’s defensive MPV and Walker was the game’s offensive MVP. 24-23 AFC

NFL 2017-2018 Conference Title Games Recap

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

NFL 2017-2018 Conference Title Game Recap

The Conference Title Games were played on Sunday, January 21, 2018.

AFC Title Game: Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots was the morning game.

When teams say nobody gives them a chance, it is normally hyperbolic nonsense. When the Jaguars say it, they mean it. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady had the Patriots in their 7th straight AFC Title Game. The Patriots were expected to easily dispatch Jacksonville to get to another Super Bowl. Tom Brady supposedly had an injured hand, which nobody believed. Early on the Patriots made it look as easy as everyone expected them to. On the second p[lay of the game, Brady went deep to Brandon Cooks for a 31 yard gain. The Patriots moved 62 yards in 10 plays and 5 1/2 minutes. On 4th and 1 from the Jacksonville 30, Brady went deep to Danny Amendola for 20 yards. Yet on 1st and goal at the 10, a pair of sacks of Brady ended the drive. Stephen Gostkowski hit the 31 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Patriots. Yet after that first drive, the game changed. The Jacksonville defense was for real, and they took over.

The Jaguars moved 76 yards and began the second quarter at the New England 28. Blake Bortles went to Grant for 24 yards and then to Marcedes Lewis for the 4 yard touchdown to make it 7-3 Jaguars. New England went 3 and out and the Jaguars soon faced 1st and 10 at their own 18. Bortles hit Grant for 15 and Alex Hurns for 27 more. On 3rd and 2 from the New England 32, Leonard Fournette banged ahead for 4 yards.On 3rd and 1 from the 6, Fournette bulled ahead for 2 yards and then ran for the 4 yard touchdown to make it 14-3 Jaguars.

With 2:02 left in the half the Patriots took over at their own 15. With 90 seconds left in the half and the Patriots at their own 40, Brady threw incomplete. Yet a roughing the passer call gave New England 15 yards. Brady then went deep incomplete, but a 32 yard defensive pass interference call kept the drive going. Brady then hit Cooks for 12 yards and White ran in the last yard for the touchdown as the Patriots only trailed 14-10 at halftime. Most football fans figured that Jacksonville had done their best, but that reality would take over in the second half. In the second half Jacksonville’s defense continued to play with heart and guts. Josh Lambo drilled a 54 yard field goal in the third quarter and a 43 yarder at the start of the fourth quarter as the Jaguars held a 20-10 lead.

New England fumbled the ball away on their next drive, but Jacksonville’s offense went 3 and out. New England took over at their own 15 and Brady went to Cooks for  18 yards. A sack of Brady had the Patriots facing 3rd and 18 at their own 25. Brady went deep to Amendola for a 21 yard gain. and to Dorsett for 31 more yards. Brady hit Amendola for 14 more and then again to Amendola for the 9 yard touchdown. With 9 minutes to play the Patriots were within 20-17. Jacksonville’s defense did all it could but when it mattered the offense could not get it done. New England took a short punt 20 yards and took over at the Jacksonville 30 with 5 minutes left in regulation. Brady hit White for 15, Amendola for 8, and again to Amendola for a 4 yard touchdown. With 2:48 the Patriots had a 4 point lead. There was no way Blake Bortles was going to win this game.

After a touchback, Bortles hit Lee for 8 and then went to Westbrook for a 29 yard gain. However a sack of Bortles led to a fumble. Jacksonville retained possession, but at the 2 minute warning they faced 3rd and 17 at the New England 45. On 4th and 14, Bortles threw incomplete. With 1:47 left, the Jaguars still had all 3 timeouts. On 3rd and 9, with the Jags needing one more stop, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels played it safe. Dion Lewis got the carry, got around the end, and ran for an 18 yard gain. Jacksonville was game, but the Evil Empire of football will be going to another Super Bowl. 24-20 Patriots

NFC Title Game: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles was the afternoon game.

Early on the Vikings made it look easy, moving 75 yards. Case Keenum threw a 25 yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph to make it 7-0 Vikings. The tying touchdown bomb never happened because it was dropped. The Vikings soon faced 3rd and 8 at their own 43. Keenum got hit as he threw, and he was intercepted by Patrick Robinson at midfield. Robinson criss-crossed the entire field, picked up some fantastic blocks, and got to the end zone. Keenum had thrown a touchdown pass to each team for a 7-7 ballgame.

The Eagles got it back at their own 25 and Jay Ajayi quickly ran for a 13 yard gain. On 3rd and 10 from the Minnesota 47, Foles hit Zac Ertz for 11 yards. The second quarter began with the Eagles facing 3rd and 1 at the Minnesota 17. Foles hit Ertz for 6 yards and LaGuerrette Blount ran for an 11 yard touchdown to make it 14-7 Eagles. The Vikings held the ball for  minutes and moved from their 15 to a 3rd and 5 at the Philly 16. Keenum was sacked and fumbled to kill the drive. The Eagle soon faced 3rd and 6 at their own 28. Foles hit Clement for 8 yards. With 1:18 left in the half the Eagles faced 3rd and 10 at their own 47. Foles somehow avoided a sack and threw a 53 yard touchdown bomb to Alshon Jeffery for a 21-7 Eagles lead.

Minnesota could not even make it to the half. The Eagles got it back with 30 seconds left at their own 20 yard line. Foles hit Ajay for 11, Ertz for 36 more, and Ajayi again for 13. Jake Elliott hit the 38 yard field goal to end the half with the Eagles up 24-7. After a touchback to start the second half, the Eagles kept rolling. On 3rd and 6 from the Minnesota 48, Foles hit Smith for a 7 yard gain. On the next play Foles went deep to Torry Smith after a perfectly executed flea flicker for a 41 yard touchdown and a 31-7 Eagles lead. The Vikings moved from their 25 to a 1st and goal at the 7. After Keenum threw 3 straight incompletions, Mike Zimmer decided to go for it. Keenum went to Adam Thielen, who appeared to make a juggling circus catch for the touchdown. Replay showed that the ball clearly hit the ground, and officials properly overturned the score.

On 3rd and 4 from their own 14, Foles hit Ertz for 6 yards. On 3rd and 5 from their own 25, Foles went deep to Nelson Agholor for a 42 yard gain. From the Minnesota 35, Foles hit Burton for 12 and Clement for 14 more. The fourth quarter began with the Eagles facing 3rd and goal at the 4. Foles fired over the middle to Jeffery in the back of the end zone. Somehow Jeffery held on to the high throw and somehow maintained control of it for the touchdown. The 93 yard drive against what was supposed to be the league’s best defense had the Eagles winning a laugher. The supposed slugfest saw only one team slugging as the  game was a blowout. The rest of the game was going through the motions. Case Keenum had a great season, but he finished this game 28 of 48 for 271 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Nick Foles was magnificent, finishing 26 of 33 for 352 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. The Eagles are back in the Super Bowl for the first time in 13 years last time. the Eagles lost to the Patriots team led by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Now, they face them again.

In one week we play the Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida, rather than Honolulu, Hawaii.

In two weeks we play Super Bowl LII (52) between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots.

eric

NFL 2017-2018 Conference Title Games Prequel

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

NFL 2017-2018 conference Title Games Prequel

The Evil Empire goes for Number Six: NFL 2017-2018 Conference Title Games Prequel

NFL 2017-2018 Divisionals Recap

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

NFL 2017-2018 Divisionals Recap

Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles was the Saturday afternoon game. With Reggie White and Jerome Brown watching from heaven, the Eagles tried to get it done without Carson Wentz. On the first play from scrimmage, Nick Foles threw a bomb and drew a defensive pass interference penalty. On the second play from scrimmage, Jay Ajayi fumbled the ball away. The Falcons moved 59 yards in 11 plays and 5 1/2 minutes. Matt Bryant snuck a 33 yard field goal inside the upright for a 3-0 Falcons lead. In the second quarter the Eagles moved 86 yards in 14 plays and 7 minutes. On 4th and goal at the one, Doug Pederson decided to go for it. LaGuerette Blount got in to make it 6-3 Eagles. The extra point doinked off the upright no good. The Falcons got a break when the Eagles fumbled a punt and the Falcons fumbled at the Philadelphia 18. On 3rd and goal 6, Matt Ryan hit Devontae Freeman for the touchdown to make it a 10-6 Falcons lead.

For the rest of the game, everyone on went to sleep except Philadelphia kicker Jake Elliott and the Philadelphia defense. Despite his missed extra point, his field goals were the difference. Elliot hit from 53 to end the half, from 37 in the third quarter, and from 21 in the fourth quarter to cap a 14 play, 8 minute, 80 yard drive and give the Eagles a 5 point lead. The last one came when Doug Pederson decided not to gamble on 4th and 1 from the Atlanta 3 with 6 minutes left. With 3 1/2 minutes left the Falcons faced 4th and 6 at their own 42. Ryan hit jones for 20 yards. With one minute left everything came down to one play, 4th and goal at the 2. Ryan went to Jones, who slipped and fell as the pass was incomplete. The Eagles survived on defense and will host next week’s NFC Title Game. 15-10 Eagles

Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots was the Saturday night game. This was supposed to be the men against the boys.The Patriots were supposed to easily dispatch the overmatched Titans. Early on the Titans moved 95 yards in 11 plays and 5 1/2 minutes. Marcus Mariota hit Davis for a 15 yard touchdown as the Titans actually led 7-0 after the first quarter. Then reality set in. In the second quarter Tom Brady hit White for a 5 yard touchdown to cap a 73 yard drive to tie the game. A short punt had the Patriots taking over at the Tennessee 48. White ran for a 6 yard touchdown and a 14-7 Patriots lead they would not relinquish. New England got back and had a staggering 16 play, 91 yard drive that took 5 1/2 minutes. Brady hit Chris Hogan for a 4 yard touchdown for a 21-7 Patriots halftime lead. Last week Tennessee overcame a 21-3 halftime deficit, but this game was the men against the boys.

In the third quarter the Patriots quickly put the game away on a 56 yard drive. Bolden ran for a 2 yard touchdown to make it 28-7 Patriots. In the fourth quarter the Patriots had another 90 yard drive, needing 15 plays and 7 minutes. Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a 4 yard touchdown to make it 35-7 Patriots. Tennessee would finally get in the end zone again, but this game was expected to be a blowout and it was. New England is in the AFC Title Game for the 7th straight year, an NFL record. They have had 17 straight winning seasons, and 15 straight double digit seasons and playoff appearances. 35-14 Patriots

Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers was the Sunday morning game. Earlier in the season Jacksonville went into Pittsburgh and shocked them 30-9, as Sacksonville intercepted Ben Roethisberger 5 times. Yet in cold weather, surely the Steelers would make amends. To quote uber-announcer Chris Berman, “That’s why they play the games.” Jacksonville came out with three straight play-action passes that all worked. On 3rd and goal at the 2, Blake Bortles threw incomplete. Doug Marrone showed major cojones by deciding to go for it on 4th and goal at the 2 on the road. Even more gutsy was a decision to run the ball. Leonard Fournette got the carry and went airborne like Marcus Allen and broke the plane of the goal for a touchdown and a 7-0 Jaguars lead. Then Jacksonville unleashed its defense. With Pittsburgh facing 3rd and 11 at its own 10, a short pass by Big Ben was deflected and then intercepted by Myles Jack. The acrobatic interception by Jack, who somehow got both feet down inbounds, set up Jacksonville at the Pittsburgh 18. One play later, Fournette took a handle off right tackle and got all the way past the pylon again for another touchdown and a 14-0 Jaguars lead in front of a shellshocked home crowd.

The Steelers then drove to a 4th and inches at the Jacksonville 20. We then saw the difference between the two teams in terms of players and coaching. Jacksonville jumped offside, but the Pittsburgh center never snapped the ball, allowing the defender to get back onside. Jacksonville smartly called timeout to try and resolve their confusion. Mike Tomlin decided to go for it. Rather than have Big Ben sneak across, offensive coordinator Todd Haley called a pitchout. The lateral run was blown up in the backfield by 3 Jacksonville defenders for a 5 yard loss. Jacksonville kept rolling, going 75 yards in 11 plays. TJ Yeldon ran for a 4 yard touchdown in the second quarter as the Jaguars built a 21-0 lead.

Pittsburgh finally got a spark when Toussaint returned the ensuing kickoff 34 yards to the Pittsburgh 36. On 3rd and 7 from the Jacksonville 33, Roethlisberger hit Rogers for a 10 yard touchdown. On the next play Roethlisberger went deep to Antonio Brown. Despite being well covered, Brown made the great catch for the touchdown to get the Steelers on the board down 21-7. Pittsburgh got it back and with 2 1/2 minutes left in the half had the ball at the Jacksonville 47. Roethlisberger went back to pass and was hit and fumbled. The ball was picked up at midfield by Smith, who raced for a defensive touchdown and a 28-7 Jaguars lead.

A taunting penalty on the Jaguars after the touchdown meant a short kickoff and a 22 yard return that had the Steelers taking over just shy of midfield. With 30 seconds left in the half, the Steelers faced 4th and 11 at the Jacksonville 36. A 54 yard field goal try in the cold is not easy so Mike Tomlin decided to go for it. Roethlisberger went for it all and Martavius Bryant made the touchdown catch as the Steelers were only down 28-14 at halftime. The Steelers took the second half kickoff and soon faced 3rd and 1 at their own 32. Roethlisberger hit Vance McDonald for 2 yards. On the next play a terrible personal foul call on Jacksonville had Pittsburgh at the Jacksonville 47. Contact was made, but Juju Smith-schuster shoved the defender into the receiver and officials missed that. On 3rd and 9 from the Pittsburgh 19, Roethlisberger went to LeVeon Bell for the touchdown. 3 great catches had the Steelers right back in it down 28-21 after three quarters.

The Steelers had all the momentum and the home crowd exploded at the start of the fourth quarter when the Steelers partially blocked a Jacksonville punt. Pittsburgh took over at the Jacksonville 48. Bell gained 6 and 3 but on 3rd and 1 got stopped. Mike Tomlin again went for it on 4th and 1 from the Jags 39 and another awful play call by Todd Haley doomed the Steelers. Rather than bang it ahead, Big Ben threw deep incomplete. On 3rd and 8 from the Jacksonville 41, Bortles found Marques Lee for 11 yards. On the next play Bortles went for it all deep, and Cole out-jumped double coverage for a 45 yard gain to set up 1st and goal at the 3. On the next play Fournette ran it up the gut for the score to make it 35-21 Jaguars with 10 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

Every time it looked like the Steelers would tie it, Jacksonville broke free. Yet every time it looked like Jacksonville would put the game away, Pittsburgh came back. After a touchback, Roethlisberger hit Brown for 27 yards. On 2nd and 5 from the Jags 43, twice Big Ben threw incomplete and was lucky not to be intercepted. Again Mike Tomlin decided to go for it and again Todd Haley had a terrible play call. Yet this time it worked as Roethlisberger avoided a sack and threw it deep again. Brown caught it in the end zone for a 43 yard touchdown. Again, the defense was good. Again, the Pittsburgh receivers caught a perfectly thrown ball. Roethlisberger’s 4th touchdown pass had the Steelers within 35-28 with a full 9 minutes remaining.

Last week at home Jacksonville’s defense won an hideously ugly 10-3 slugfest. This week their offense was up to the challenge on the road. On 3rd and 5 from their own 30, Bortles found Yeldon for a swing pass that went for a 40 yard gain. On 3rd and 4 from the Pittsburgh 24, Bortles hit Westbrook for an 8 yard gain. In easy field goal range and expected to just grind down the clock, a perfectly executed play action pass allowed Bortles to hit a wide open Bohanon for a 14 yard touchdown. With 4:24 to play, the Jaguars led 42-28.

Pittsburgh soon faced 3rd and 10 at their own 25. Roethlisberger hit McDonald fro 15 yards. On 3rd and 10 from the Pittsburgh 40, Roethlisberger scrambled for 15 yards. On 3rd and 5 from the Pittsburgh 18, Roethlisberger, scrambled for 9 yards. From the 9, Roethlisberger scrambled, crossed the line of scrimmage, pitched the ball to Bell, and Bell took it 8 yards for the score. Because Roethlisberger’s pass was a backward lateral, it was perfectly legal. With 2:18 to play the Steelers were within 42-35. Despite 2 timeouts and the 2 minute warning, Mike Tomlin went for the onside kick, sowing zero confidence in his defense.

The onside kick only went 5 yards and Jacksonville recovered. On 4th and 1 from the Pittsburgh 27, Josh Lambo came in for a 45 yard field goal to ice the game. Lambo was good, and the Jaguars led 45-35 with 1:45 left. Pittsburgh soon faced 4th and 10 at their own 25. Roethlisberger hit McDonald for 12 yards. A 42 yard completion to Bryant set up 1st and goal at the 5 with 47 seconds left. Intentional grounding on the next play cost the Steelers a 10 second runoff. Needing 2 scores, the Steelers could have kicked the field goal because they needed an onside kick anyway. Instead, Todd Haley called a West Coast Offense sideways pass that gained 11 yards but kept the clock running. On 3rd and goal from the 4, a pass to the end zone bounced off the fingertips of Xavier Grimble. On 4th and goal, Big Ben hit Smith-Schuster for the score but only one second remained. One failed onside kick later, Jacksonville finally had the stunning upset to earn the right to travel to New England for the AFC Title Game. Bortles finishes a pedestrian 14 of 26 for only 214 yards and one touchdown, but he did not thrown an interception. Roethlisberger threw 58 passes and completed 37 of them for a staggering 469 yards, 5 touchdowns, and the early interception. Yet it was the Jaguars that had the win, courtesy of their offense. 45-42 Jaguars

New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings was the Sunday afternoon game. The Saints brought the offense and the Vikings brought the defense. The Saints went 3 and out and a 19 yard punt return by Sherels had the Vikings starting at their own 45. Latavius Murray ran for 4 and 5 and on 3rd and 1 appeared short of the sticks. Yet he got a very generous spot and Sean Payton did not challenge it. On 3rd and 3 from the Saints 38, Case Keenum went deep to Wright for 22 yards. McKinnon got around the end for a 14 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Vikings. Minnesota got it back and soon faced 3rd and 7 at their own 23. Keenum hit Diggs for 17 yards. Then Keenum threw deep incomplete twice, and both times drew defensive pass interference calls of 20 and 34 yards. Yet on 3rd and goal at the one, rather than play smash mouth, Keenum lined up in the shotgun and threw incomplete. Mike Zimmer decided to play it very safe. Kai Forbath hit the 20 yard field goal to make it 10-0 Vikings. With one minute left in the opening quarter the Saints took over at their own 15. Brees went deep and a leaping interception by Sendejo had the Vikings at their own 42.

In the second quarter the Vikings faced 3rd and 8 at the Saints 28. Keenum hit Adam Thielen for an 11 yard gain. On 3rd and 8 from the 15, Keenum hit Diggs for 11 yards. Form the one, Murray got the call and stretched the ball over the plane of the goal for the touchdown to make it 17-0 Vikings. After a touchback the Saints moved to a 1st and 10 at the Minnesota 30. From the 29, Brees went deep to Ted Ginn Jr. for the touchdown. Yet an illegal shift nullified the score. From the 15, Brees then had his pass deflected at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Anthony Barr. Barr returned it 18 yards with 15 more tacked on for a horse collar tackle as the Vikings took over at their own 43.

The Saints got it back at their own 9 with 3 minutes left in the half and moved to a 1st and 10 at the Minnesota 30 with 43 seconds left in the half. On 3rd and 10 Brees was sacked. A 58 yard field goal try was hooked wide no good. The Viking took over at their own 48 with 21 seconds left and 0 timeouts. Keenum threw incomplete but roughing the passer gave the Vikings 15 yards. Forbath tried a 49 yard field goal to end the half also hooked wide no good. After a touchback to start the third quarter, the Vikings moved to a 2nd and 3 at the Saints 29. A run lost a yard. On 3rd and 4, Keenum was sacked for a 10 yard loss to take the Vikings out of field goal range. Despite 7 minutes with the ball, Minnesota came up empty.

The Saints from their 20 finally put a drive together. On 3rd and 1 from their own 43, Brees snuck for 2 yards. A short pass to Thomas went for 28 yards. On 3rd and 1 from the Minnesota 19, a low throw to Willie Snead was somehow caught for a 5 yard gain. Brees went to the end zone to Thomas for a 14 yard touchdown. The 12 play, 80 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive finally got the Saints on the board down 17-7 with one minute left in the third quarter. After a touchback, Keenum erred terribly. Trying to avoid a sack, he threw a wounded duck that was intercepted by Williams. The Saints took over at the Minnesota 30. Brees threw a 3 yard touchdown pass to Thomas as the Saints were only down 17-14 with 13 minutes left in regulation.

After a touchback, Murray ran for 14 yards and Keenum went deep to Collins for a 27 yard gain. On 3rd and 7 from the Saints 31 Keenum almost made the same mistake again. On the verge of being sacked out off field goal range, as he was going to the ground he threw an incomplete pass. He was not called for intentional grounding. Sean Payton challenged that Keenum’s knees were down before he threw it. Payton lost the challenge. He had lost an earlier challenge as well, leaving the Saints without challenges and only one timeout with 10 minutes left to play. Forbath drilled the 49 yard field goal dead center to make it 20-14 Vikings.

The Saints soon faced 3rd and 1 at their own 36 and Sean Payton went into his bag of tricks. Brees threw a backward slant to Snead, who then threw to a wide open Alvin Kamara. The option pass was overthrown and incomplete. The Saints punted and Minnesota had to punt it back from their own 40 with 5 1/2 minutes left. The punt was blocked and the Saints took over at the same spot. Brees scrambled all over the place and threaded the needle for a 15 yard completion to Ginn. Brees went to Kamara for a 14 yard touchdown. With 3 minutes left, the Saints had come all the way back for a 21-20 lead as Minnesota fans wondered if this was 1998 all over again.

The Vikings faced a critical 3rd and 1 from their own 34. McKinnon got the carry up the gut and got 2 yards as the clock hit the 2 minute warning. Keenum then threw another pass under pressure that should not have been thrown. Despite defensive pass interference, Thielen came down with it for a 24 yard gain to the Saints 40. On 3rd and 5 from the Saints 35, another dangerous pass fell incomplete. Forbath came in with just over 90 seconds to play for a 53 yard field goal try. From Gary Anderson to Blair Walsh, Minnesota fans now had to await Forbath. He drilled it and the Vikings led 23-21. Now it was up to the NFL’s high octane offense against the league’s best defense as the Saints took over after a touchback with one timeout left.

Brees went to Hill for 18 yards and Ginn for 11 more to the Minnesota 46 with one minute left. 3 straight incompletions left 4th and 10 with 45 seconds left. A 64 yard field goal try was not an option, even indoors. Minnesota needed one more stop, and they did not get it. Brees went to Snead for a 13 yard gain. A couple of short passes left 3rd and 1 at the Minnesota 24 as the Vikings took their first timeout on defense to stop the clock with 33 seconds left. Kamara got the carry and lost a yard as the Vikings took their second timeout with 29 seconds left. Now it was up to Will Lutz from 43 yards out. He was also good as the Saints were back on top 24-23 with 25 seconds remaining.

After a touchback, the Vikings had one timeout and needed 40 yards for a 53 yard field goal try. The Vikings started with a false start. Keenum went to Diggs for 19 yards as the Vikings took their last timeout with 18 seconds left. A pair of incompletions left 10 seconds. The Vikings needed a miracle. Keenum threw a deep ball near the sideline that was caught by Stephan Diggs at the Saints 35 yard line. The defender took a bad angle and completely missed the tackle. Rather than run out of bounds to set up the field goal, Diggs saw that there was nothing in front of him but green. Diggs raced to the end zone for the touchdown as the clock read double zeroes. Minnesota was on their way to Philadelphia for the NFC Title Game. Forget Gary Anderson. Forget Blair Walsh. Forget Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson. Forget Brett Favre’s interception. 8 years after these teams had a playoff classic for the ages, they did again. Somebody buy that 100 year old Vikings fan at the game her beverage of choice. Pacemakers for the rest of us. Finally, miracles exist in Minnesota. 29-24 Vikings

The Conference Title Games are set. Both games are played on Sunday, January 21, 2018. All times Eastern.

AFC Title Game: (3) Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) at (1) New England Patriots (13-3)(-9) at 3pm on CBS.

NFC Title Game: (2) Minnesota Vikings (13-3) at (1) Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) at 6:30pm on FOX.

NFL 2017-2018 Divisionals Prequel

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

NFL 2017-2018 Divisionals Prequel

13-3 teams are rested and ready: NFL 2017-2018 Divisionals Preview and Bettor’s Guide

NFL 2017-2018 Wildcard Recap

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

NFL 2017-2018 Wildcard recap

5) Tennessee Titans at 4) Kansas City Chiefs was the AFC Saturday afternoon game. The Titans started 8-4, lost three straight, and eked into the playoffs. The Chiefs started 5-0, collapsed to 6-6, and won 4 straight. after an exchange of punts the Chiefs took over and faced 3rd and 3 at their own 26. Alex Smith went to Tyreeq Hill for a 45 yard gain and then to Travis Kecle for 27 yards down to the 2 yard line. Kareem Hunt got the last yard for a 7-0 Chiefs lead. The Chiefs got it back at their own 24. Smith went to Hill for 26 yards. From the Tennessee 29, Hunt ran for 16 and Smith hit Kelce for a 13 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Chiefs atfter the first quarter. With 6 minutes left in the half the Titans took over at their own 21. Mariota hit Delanie Walker for a 22 yard gain. On 3rd and 4 from the Chiefs 22, Mariota was sacked. Ryan Succop hit a 49 yard field goal to get the Titans on the board with 2 1/2 minutes left in the half. With 1:25 left in the half the Chiefs faced 3rd and 6 at their own 25. Smith hit Robinson for 13 yards and again for 15 more. With 30 seconds left in the half from the Titans 29, Smith went to Robinson for 15 and then for the 14 yard touchdown as the Chiefs led 21-3 at halftime. The second half was a completely different story.

The Titans began the third quarter at their own 9 yard line. Derrick Henry ran for 6 and 4 yards. On 3rd and 9 from their own 20, Mariota scrambled for 11 yards. From their own 45, Mariota hit Henry for 29 yards. On 3rd and goal at the 6, Mariota tried to pass but had the ball batted down. Yet it was deflected back to Mariota, who caught his own pass and ran to the corner pylon for the throw, the reception and the touchdown to get the Titans within 21-10. The Chiefs got a break when the Titans fumbled a punt and the Chiefs recovered at the Tennessee 28. Yet the Chiefs lost 2 yards and Harrison Butker missed a 48 yard field goal try. Tennessee took over at their own 38. On 3rd and 10 just past midfield, Mariota hit walker for 14 yards as the third quarter ended. The fourth quarter began with Henry running for a 35 yard touchdown. The 2 point try failed but the Titans were right back in it down 21-16. Tennessee got it back and soon faced 3rd and 3 at their own 27. Mariota hit Walker for 9 yards. On 3rd and 8 at the Tennessee 38, Mariota scrambled for 17 with 5 more tacked on for defensive holding. On 3rd and 2 from the Chiefs 32, Mariota hit Smith for 10 and then fired over the middle to Eric Decker for a 22 yard touchdown. The 2 point try again failed but 19 unanswered points had the Titans up 22-21 with 6 minutes to play.

Kansas City took over at their ow 27. Smith hit Harris for 13. On 3rd and 9 from their own 41, the Titans jumped offside. On 3rd and 4, Smith hit Harris for 9 yards. with 2:15 to play the Titans took a timeout on defense as the Chiefs faced 4th and 9 at the Tennessee 44. Smith went deep for a ball that was catchable but incomplete. The Chiefs still had all 3 timeouts. Henry got the carry and poor tackling let him bounce to the outside for a 13 yard gain at the 2 minute warning. Craziness ensued on the next play. Henry got the carry, got belted, fumbled, and the Chiefs returned it for a touchdown. The home crowd erupted. It was a miracle. Except it was not. Henry was clearly down before the ball was ripped out. With 1:57 left, officials properly reversed the call to down by contact as the Chiefs took their first timeout. With 1:53 left the Chiefs took their second timeout as everything came down to 3rd and 10 from the Chiefs 44. Mike Mularkey played it smart by not risking an incomplete pass. Henry got the carry, bounced to the outside, and gained 22 yards. One week after almost getting fired, Mularkey led his team to a stunning road playoff win. It was another bitter home loss for the Chiefs under Andy Reid and Alex Smith and their dink and dunk West Coast Offense. The Titans played smash mouth, and Henry ran for 156 yards on 23 carries. 22-21 Titans

6) Atlanta Falcons at 3) Los Angeles Rams was the NFC Saturday night game. Neither team could move the ball early on, but the Rams fumbled a punt and the Falcons recovered at the Rams 17 yard line. Yet the rams held on defense and Atlanta settled for a 29 yard Matt Bryant field goal to make it 3-0 Falcons. Atlanta got it back and soon faced 3rd and 3 at their own 17. Matt Ryan hit Mohammed Sanu for 6 yards. Ryan then went Julio jones for 27 yards to midfield. Jones then took an end around 13 yards. Despite 2nd and 6 from the Rams 33, Ryan threw incomplete twice. Bryant nailed the 51 yard field goal to make it 6-0 Falcons. The Rams fumbled away the ensuing kickoff and the Falcons took over with another short field at the Rams 32. Th second quarter began with atlanta facing 3rd and 2 at the Rams 24. Ryan hit Sanu for 6 yards. On 3rd and 4 from the 12, Ryan hit Hooper for 5 yards. From the 3, Devontae Freeman got the carry up the middle and appeared stopped. Yet a big assist from the offensive line practically carried him into the end zone for a 13-0 Falcons lead.

With 5 minutes left in the half the rams faced 2nd and 6 at their own 25. Todd Gurley broke free for a 26 yard gain with 15 more tacked on for unnecessary roughness. Goff then hit Cooper Kupp for 15 yards. On 3rd and 5 from the Atlanta 14, Goff went to Kupp for the touchdown. With 2 1/2 minutes left, the Rams were right back in it down 13-7. The Rams got it back at their own 16 with 1:15 left in the half. Rather than run the clock down, Sean McVay got very aggressive. Goff hit Kupp for gains of 5 and 10 and Woods for 8. Defensive pass interference on an incompletion added 16 more yards to the Atlanta 45 with 43 seconds left in the half. Goff then went deep to Woods for a 38 yard gain. After a ton of confusion, 14 seconds remained. After an incompletion left 8 seconds, Sam Fickens came in for a 35 yard field goal try. The kick was good and the Rams only trailed 13-10 at the break.

The Rams had the momentum but the Falcons began the third quarter at their own 17 playing out of the hurry up offense. Terrible tackling by the rams kept the Atlanta drive going. Freeman ran for a 22 yard gain. On 3rd and 9 from their own 41, Ryan hit Coleman for 14 yards. On 3rd and 1 from the Rams 21, Coleman got stopped. Yet Dan Quinn decided to go for it as the Falcons hurried up to the line. The Rams did not call a timeout on defense, and Ryan snuck across for the first down. On 3rd and goal from the 7, Ryan went to the end zone incomplete. The staggering 16 play, 76 yard drive took 8:15 off the clock, but the Falcons settled for a 25 yard Bryant field goal and a 16-10 lead. Atlanta got it back at their own 19. Ryan hit Jones for 12 and again for 16 to midfield. On 3rd and 6 from the Rams 36, Ryan threw incomplete. Bryant drilled a 54 yard field goal as the Falcons led 19-10 after three quarters.

The Rams took over at their own 20 and Gurley lost 5 yards. The fourth quarter began with the Rams facing 3rd and 15 at their own 15. Goff went deep to Woods for 18 yards. Gurley ran for 14 yards and then ripped off a 33 yard gain. The drive died in the red zone with a sack of Goff, but Ficken hit a 32 yard field goal to get the Rams within 19-13 with 11 minutes left in regulation. Atlanta took over at their own 17 and they got aggressive as well rather than just run down clock. Ryan hit Jones for 12 and Coleman for 8. On 3rd and 3 from the Atlanta 36, Ryan hit Hooper for 5 yards. On 2nd and 13 from the Atlanta 38, A swing pass to Sanu saw him split the seams for a 52 yard gain. On 2nd and goal at the 8, Ryan threw a fade to the end zone that was caught by Jones for the touchdown. For some reason Dan Quinn decided not to try a 2 point conversion as the Falcons led by 13 points rather than 14 with 5 1/2 minutes remaining.

The Rams took over at their own 22 and Goff led a furious rally. Goff hit Kupp for 14 yards. On 2nd and 19 from their own 27, Goff hit Sammy Watkins for 23 yards to midfield. Goff hit Woods for 13. On 3rd and 1 from the Atlanta 20, Goff hit Gurley for 3 yards. On 4th and 3 from the Atlanta 13, Goff hit Woods for 8 yards. On 3rd and goal from the 5, Goff fired to the end zone for the touchdown with 2:11 left. Yet on further review, officials ruled the ball hit the ground. On 4th and goal at the 5, Goff with all kinds of time avoided the pressure and fired to the end zone to Watkins. Watkins had it in his body but didn’t secure it and it was knocked away incomplete. Two dropped passes were the difference between hope and death. The Rams took two timeouts on defense and got the ball back just past midfield. They took their final timeout while facing 4th and 4 at the Atlanta 43. One more dropped pass later and the rams were officially done. The Rams have talent and are built for the future, but Atlanta won this game because of their experience. 26-13 Falcons

6) Buffalo Bills at 3) Jacksonville Jaguars was the AFC Sunday morning game. Buffalo at 9-7 made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. Jacksonville in only their second year of existence in 1996 shocked the Bills 30-27 in the playoffs in Buffalo and ended Jim Kelly’s career. The 2017 version of these teams played a hideously unwatchable first half. Neither team could move the ball, and even when an interception set up Jacksonville at the Buffalo 35, no points came out of it. Jacksonville had only 2 first downs in the first 28 minutes. Buffalo had a mind-numbing 18 play, 71 yard drive that took 8 minutes. Yet despite 1st and goal at the one, the Bills moved backwards to the 15. With 1:53 left in the half, Steve Hauschka hit a 31 yard field goal to finally break the scoreless tie. With wind a factor, Blake Bortles kept missing open receivers. However, with less than one minute left in the half and Jacksonville starting at their own 47, Bortles finally got it done with his legs. Bortles ran for 20 and then again for 12 to the Buffalo 21 with 19 seconds left in the half as the Jaguars took their last timeout. Bortles was then sacked, and without a timeout the Jaguars hurried back to the line of scrimmage so Bortles could spike the ball to stop the clock with 7 seconds left. Josh Lambo hit the 44 yard field goal as the teams went to the locker rooms tied 3-3 in a half that should never be replayed again.

In the third quarter the Jaguars mounted a 15 play, 86 yard drive that took 9 minutes off the clock. On 3rd and goal at the one, Fournette tried to go over the top and got rocked back by an inspired Buffalo defense. On 4th and goal at the one in a game where nobody could score, Doug Marrone made the surprising decision to go for it rather than kick the field goal. On 4th and goal at the one, a play action pass saw Bortles fire over the middle to Koyack, who caught it for the touchdown and the 10-3 Jaguars lead as the third quarter was ending. With 6 1/2 minutes left in regulation the Bills faced 2nd and 10 at the Jacksonville 48. Taylor found Clay for 11 yards, but Doug Marrone challenged the catch. Replay showed the receiver stepped out of bounds, and the call was overturned. On 3rd and 10 Tyrod Taylor was sacked. Buffalo got it back, went 3 and out, and with 3 minutes left and all one timeout, Sean McDermott again decided to punt and trust his defense. The Bills got it back with 1:50 left at their own 37. On 3rd and 5, Taylor scrambled for 2 yards but got taken down hard by Dante Fowler. Taylor stayed down. Nathan Peterman played one half of football in the regular season and threw 5 interceptions. Now he had to come in on 4th and 3 with the season on the line. Peterman somehow avoided a sack and scrambled for 4 yards. However, on 2nd and 20, Peterman had a pass deflected and intercepted. Buffalo is done and Jacksonville heads to Pittsburgh, who they throttled earlier this season. Captain Grumpy Tom Coughlin was so pleased with the hideously ugly playoff win that he almost smiled. 10-3 Jaguars

 

5) Carolina Panthers at 4) New Orleans Saints was the NFC Sunday afternoon game. These teams both went 11-5 during the regular season but the saints won the division due to having swept Carolina. Greg Olsen was injured for both games, and he returned for Carolina in this game. Sean Payton has given pinball wizard Drew Brees a strong running game while Ron Rivera as usual has a tough Carolina defense. In the first quarter the Panthers moved 63 yards in 14 plays and took 7 1 /2 minutes off the clock. Yet on 3rd and 2 from the Saints 7, an easy touchdown pass from Cam Newton was dropped by Clay. It was right in his hands. Graham gang had missed only one field goal all year, but he missed a 25 yarder as a stunned Panthers team saw the game stay scoreless. Brees quickly went for the kill shot. A bomb to former Carolina receiver Ted Ginn Jr. went for an 80 yard touchdown. The 14 point swing had the Saints leading 7-0 rather than trailing.

After a touchback, Newton went to Olsen for 22 yards and then threw a bomb that ended up in a 39 yard defensive pass interference penalty as the first quarter ended. Yet on 3rd and 6 from the 9 to start the second quarter, Newton threw incomplete. This tie Gano hit from 27 as the Panthers trailed 7-3. After a touchback, Brees hit Ginn for 5 and Alvin Kamara for 19 more. He hit Ingram for 8. On 1st and 20 from the Carolina 32, Brees hit Kamara for 10 and Thomas for 13 more. Brees hit Hill for the 9 yard touchdown to make it 14-3 Saints. After a touchback the Panthers got stopped on 3rd and 1 just past midfield. Riverboat Ron Rivera decided to go for it, and on 4th and inches Newton snuck for enough. On 3rd and 7 from the Saints 24, a short pass left 4th and 4. Gano hit the 39 yard field goal as the Panthers were within 14-6 with 2:45 left in the half. That was more than enough time for Brees. He hit Thomas for 10, Coleman for 18 and Hill for 25. Zine got in from the one as the Saints led 21-6 with 43 seconds left in the half. After a touchback that was just enough time for Newton to hit Funchess for 24 yards. Gano drilled a 58 yarder to end the half. The Panthers were within 21-9, but they were kicking field goals while the Saints were scoring touchdowns.

The game slowed considerably in the third quarter. The Panthers moved from their own 25 to a 3rd and goal at the 4. Yet Newton was then sacked to kill another drive. Gano hit his 4th field goal in 5 tries from 29 yards out to get the Panthers within 21-12. After a touchback, the Saints moved to a 3rd and 5 at the Carolina 22. Brees threw incomplete, but was called for intentional grounding. The penalty made it 4th and 22 from the Carolina 39. Sean Payton gambled on a 57 yard field goal try, and Will Lutz delivered to make it 24-12 Saints. Carolina took over at their own 32 late in the third quarter. The fourth quarter began with the Panthers facing 3rd and 1 at the Saints 42. Newton hit Olsen for a 24 yard gain. On 3rd and 6 from the 14, Newton went to Olsen in the end zone, and the Panthers finally had a touchdown to get within 24-19 with 13 minutes left in regulation.

With 9 minutes left, Newton tried to avoid a sack and got belted. Derek Anderson came in with the Panthers facing 3rd and 17 at their own 10. Anderson tried to throw a pass but it was batted down incomplete. The Saints took over at their own 38 with 8 minutes left and a chance to put the game away. From just shy of midfield, Brees went deep to Thomas for a 46 yard gain down to the Carolina 5. Kamara got in from 2 yards out as the Saints led 31-19 with 5 minutes left. Newton came back in and the Panthers struck quickly. After a touchback, Newton hit Funchess for 19 yards and then fired a laser to Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey split the seams and raced for a 56 yard touchdown. 4 minutes still remained and the Panthers were right back in it down by 5 points With 3:22 left the Panthers took their first timeout on defense with the Saints facing 3rd and 6 at their own 39. With everything on the line, Brees fired to Thomas for an 18 yard gain. With 2 1/2 minutes left, the Panthers took their final timeout. The Saints faced 3rd and 2 at the Carolina 47. A first down would end things. Kamara got the carry and ran into a Carolina brick wall as the clock hit the 2 minute warning. After failing to get the Panthers to jump offsides, the Saints had to punt and the Panthers would have a chance.

Instead, Sean Payton decided to really go for it. Under heavy pressure, Brees was intercepted at the Carolina 31. Had the defender dropped the ball, the Panthers would have taken over at their own 47. Nevertheless, Sean Payton and his cojones of steel would soon find out if his major gamble would blow up in his face with 1:51 left. Newton hit Funchess for 19 to midfield. Newton then went to Clay for 21 yards to the Saints 26. Defensive holding moved the ball to the 21. A pass to the goal line should have been intercepted but was dropped. On 2nd and 10, Newton threw the ball away under heavy pressure and was called for intentional grounding. The 10 second runoff left 24 seconds as the Panthers faced 3rd and 23 from the Saints 34. A pass to the end zone was very catchable but fell incomplete with 11 seconds left. Now it was time for the Hail Mary. Newton never had a chance. A pair of defenders bull-rushed Newton and belted him to the ground. The ball never left his hand as the Saints defense saved Coach Payton from a lifetime of criticism. Newton finished 24 of 40 for 349 yards without being intercepted. Brees was 23 of 33 for 376 yards with the one late interception. Each quarterback threw 2 touchdowns as the Saints survived a thriller. They travel to Minnesota for the Divisional round. 31-26 Saints

Bye weeks:

AFC: 1) New England Patriots and 2) Pittsburgh Steelers

NFC: 1) Philadelphia Eagles and 2) Minnesota Vikings

 

The Divisional Playoffs are now set (all times Eastern):

Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018:

4:30pm: NFC: (6) Atlanta Falcons (10-6) at (1) Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) on NBC

8:00pm: AFC: (5) Tennessee Titans (9-7) at (1) New England Patriots (13-3) on CBS

Sunday, Jan. 14

1:00pm: AFC: (3) Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) at (2) Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3) on CBS

4:30pm: NFC: (4) New Orleans Saints (11-5) at (2) Minnesota Vikings (13-3) on Fox

NFL 2017-2018 Wildcard Prequel

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

NFL 2017-2018 Wildcard Prequel

Bomb Cyclone Bowl: NFL 2017-2018 Wildcard Preview and Bettor’s Guide

NFL 2017 Week 17 Recap

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

NFL 2017 Week 17 Recap

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions — Both the 7-8 Packers and 8-7 Lions are out of the playoffs. The Lions have not swept the Packers since 1991. Mike McCarthy started the game with a successful surprise onside kick. However,a  quick throw by Brett Hundley bounced right off the receiver’s hands and was intercepted by Jamal Williams. Green Bay got it back and Mason Crosby hit a 41 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Packers. A perfectly executed play action pass had Matthew Stafford go deep to Marlin Mack for a 56 yard gain. Matt Prater hit a 28 yard field goal for a 3-3 game. The Packers moved to the red zone but fumbled the ball away at the Detroit 15. In the second quarter the Lions moved 88 yards. Stafford went to Kenny Golladay for a 54 yard touchdown to make it 10-3 Lions. With 3 minutes left in the half the Packers fumbled a punt and the Lions took over at the Green Bay 14. Stafford threw a perfect 3 yard fade to the corner for Marvin Jones, who out jumped the defender for the touchdown and the 17-3 Lions lead. Earlier the Packers punted on 4th and 18 from their own 2. Now they were punting on 4th and 23 from their own one. The Lions took over at the Green Bay 35 with 1:41 left in the half. Prater hit from 30 as a close game was now a 20-3 Lions romp at the half.

One play in the third quarter was enough for Stafford to throw a 71 yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate to make it 27-3 Lions. Green Bay did get a garbage touchdown, but Amir Abdullah responded with a 7 yard touchdown for the Lions to extend the blowout. On the 2 point try, Stafford handed to Tate, who threw it back to Stafford in the end zone to complete the blowout win. The loss dropped the Packers to 7-9 while the Lions finished 9-7. Despite 3 winning seasons in 4 years, the Lions are actually thinking of firing Jim Caldwell. New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is the leading candidate. Mike McCarthy is safe, but Green Bay may fire longtime defensive coordinator Dom Capers despite his having to deal with an injury-riddled defense. 35-11 Lions

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts — The least important game of the day saw Fairbairn hit a 52 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Texans. The Colts came back 75 yards in 15 plays and 8 1/2 minutes. Jacoby Brissett hit Doyle for a 6 yard touchdown to make it 7-3 Colts. The Texans moved 75 yards in 13 plays and 8 minutes. Alfred Blue ran for a 2 yard touchdown to make it 10-7 Texans. Fairbairn tacked on a 46 yard field goal in the second quarter to make it 13-7 Texans. In a game where both coaches were at risk of being fired after the game, Chuck Pagano literally had nothing to lose. He tried a surprise onside kick to start the second half. It was a good kick, but the Texans recovered it. The Colts got it back at their own 17. On 3rd and 6 from the Houston 29, Brissett threw incomplete but defensive holding kept the drive going. Marlin Mack bulled in from the one to complete the 13 play, 83 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive and make it 14-13 Colts. The Texans got it back at their own 8 yard line with 12 minutes left in regulation. TJ Yates was sacked in the end zone for a safety to make it 16-13 Colts. After the free kick Adam Vinatieri drilled a 54 yard field goal to make it 19-13 Colts with 9 minutes left. The Colts got it back with 6 1/2 minutes left, took almost all the time off the clock, and wrapped it up when Vinatieri hit from 22 with 30 seconds left. Both teams ended 4-12 as Bill O’Brien and Chuck Pagano awaited Black Monday. Pagano didn’t have to wait. Right after the game on Sunday he was Chuck Be-Gone-O. 22-13 Colts

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings — The 12-3 Vikings with a win would secure a first round bye although home field throughout the playoffs was out of reach. On the second play of the game a roughing the passer penalty on Chicago had the Vikings on the move. Case Keenum hit Sean Diggs for a 26 yard gain. Latavius Murray ran up the gut for a one yard touchdown to cap the 70 yard drive and make it 7-0 Vikings. In the second quarter the Vikings moved 71 yards in 11 plays and 6 minutes. Murray again got in from the one to make it 14-0 Vikings. The Bears had no offense and little defense, but special teams got them back in it. Brice Callahan returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown to get the Bears within 14-7. The Bears actually faked who had the ball on the return. Chicago got it back and faced 2nd and 13 at their own 9. Mitchell Trubisky was called for intentional grounding in the end zone and the safety with 2 1/2 minutes left in the half made it 16-7 Vikings. In the third quarter the Vikings moved 63 yards and Keenum hit Diggs for a 15 yard touchdown to complete the scoring. Mike Zimmer’s defense did the rest as the 13-3 Vikings secured their first round bye and John Fox awaited his Black Monday fate. 23-7 Vikings

New York Jets at New England Patriots — With a win the Patriots would lock up home field throughout the playoffs. New England went right to work, moving 75 yards in 13 plays and 5 1/2 minutes. Dion Lewis from the 3 yard line got the carry and got the ball just over the plane of the goal to make it 7-0 Patriots. Early on the expected blowout did not materialize. Chandler Catanzaro hit a 48 yard field goal to get the Jets within 7-3. In the second quarter, Catanzaro missed from 40 yards out. The Patriots soon faced 3rd and 10 at their own 27. Tom Brady threw his 3rd straight incompletion but defensive holding kept the drive going. On 3rd and 1 from the New England 41, Lewis got the yard. A defensive pass interference penalty on a deep ball tacked on 42 yards to the 14 yard line. Brady threw a 5 yard touchdown to Brandon cooks to cap the 10 play, 73 yard drive and make it 14-3 Patriots with 4 minutes left in the half. New England got it back with 2:01 left in the half at their own 42. On 3rd and 5 from the Jets 31, Brady threw incomplete but defensive holding kept the drive going. Earlier the Jets jumped offsides on this drive. Brady hit Lewis for a 5 yard touchdown as the Patriots got the kill shot to take a 21-3 halftime lead. The uneventful second half saw each team kick a field goal and the Patriots added a safety as they locked up home field with a 13-3 record. The Jets were 5-7 before ending with 4 straight losses but they overachieved all year for Todd Bowles. 26-6 Patriots

Washington Redskins at New York Giants — Neither team is going to the playoffs. 17 seconds into the game and the Giants were on the board as Orleans Darkwa took a handoff and raced 75 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was no good as the Giants led 6-0. Washington quickly faced 3rd and 7 at their own 28. Kirk Cousins was intercepted, and the Giants took over at the Washington 19. Eli Manning went to Sharp for a 16 yard touchdown. The 2 point try failed but the Giants led 12-0 barely more than 2 minutes into the game. Eli Manning was quickly intercepted when the Giants got it back, setting up the Redskins at the Giants 20. Cousins ran for a 12 yard touchdown to get the Redskins within 12-7. After a touchback the Giants moved to a 1st and goal at the 6. On 3rd and goal from the 5, Manning fired over the middle to a wide open Adams. Adams just dropped it. Aldrick Rosas hit a 23 yard field goal to make it 15-7 Giants, The final 3 quarters were a hideous slog. With 18 seconds left in the half the Giants punted from their own 21. Crowder returned the punt 29 yards to the Giants 31 with 4 seconds left in the half. Dustin Hopkins to hit a 49 yard field goal to get the Redskins within 15-10. Midway through the third quarter Hopkins missed from 47. Early in the fourth quarter Rosas hit from 29 to put the Giants back up by 8 points.With 3 minutes left Cousins was intercepted. Despite the win, the 3-13 Giants still have the number 2 pick in the Draft while the 7-9 Redskins will go into 2018 with everyone on the hot seat. 18-10 Giants.

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles — Despite clinching home field throughout the playoffs, Doug Pederson had his starters play in this game. The Eagles are 13-2 but looked shaky in their last 2 wins. They faced an 8-7 Cowboys team eliminated from playoff contention. After a scoreless first quarter in which Nick Foles did not look good, Pederson pulled the starters. The game remained scoreless after three quarters. The Cowboys were pinned at their own one yard line. but by the fourth quarter had moved to their own 37. Dan Prescott then hit Ezekiel Elliott for 22 yards. On 3rd and 9 from the Philly 28, Prescott threw incomplete but illegal contact kept the drive going. on 3rd and 7 from the Dallas 20, prescott went to Brice Butler for the touchdown with 12 1/2 minutes left. Dan bailey missed the extra point. A chip shot field goal try by Bailey to lock up the win was also no good. With one second left from the Philly 40, the Eagles actually took a delay of game penalty. The hook and laterals failed. The Cowboys finished 9-7 and Jerry Jones insisted Jason Garrett is coming back next year. The Eagles are 13-3 but the fans will complain until and unless they “bring it home for Jerome.” The offense is very shaky. 6-0 Cowboys

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers — The 12-3 Steelers played all their backups against the winless Browns. Mike Tomlin concluded that there was no way the Jets would go on the road and beat New England. Tomlin conceded home field advantage throughout the playoffs before the games even started. Landry Jones started in place of ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers moved 72 yards and Darrius Hayward-Bey took an end around 29 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Steelers lead. DeShone Kizer barely avoided a safety as he was sacked for losses of 8 and 12 and the Browns punted on 4th and 30 from their own 2 yard line. Yet Landry Jones was intercepted by Jabril Peppers to set up the Browns at their own 37 in a game that was expected to be this ugly. Pittsburgh got it back and made it look easy. A short pass from Jones to Juju Smith-Schuster followed by terrible tackling turned a gain of nothing into a 34 yard gain. Stephen Ridley then ran for 21 more yards. On 4th and 3 from the Cleveland 9, a 27 yard field goal was good. Yet Cleveland lined up in the neutral zone. Mike Tomlin took the points off the board. On 2nd and goal from the one, a pair of runs got stopped. Mike Tomlin decided to go for it. On 4th and goal at the one, Nix got the carry and got stopped cold. The winless Browns run defense celebrated the goal line stand.

They would not be celebrating for long. Punting out of their own end zone again, the punt was partially blocked to set the Steelers up at the Cleveland 28. Jones found a wide open Smith-Schuster for a 20 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Steelers.The Browns got a ray of hope when Kizer threw a 56 yard touchdown bomb to Josh Gordon to get the Browns on the board. Replay showed Brown was out of bounds at the 2 yard line, and Tomlin successfully challenged the call. On 1st and goal at the 2 a low but catchable ball to a wide open receiver was dropped. Duke Johnson ran it in and the call stood and the Browns were finally within 14-7. Yet after a touchback, defensive penalties killed the Brown. From the Cleveland 38, a defensive facemask had Pittsburgh at the Cleveland 16. On 3rd and 3 form the 9 Landry threw incomplete but roughing the passer on Myles Garrett kept the drive going. Ridley ran for a 4 yard touchdown to make it 21-7 Steelers. Cleveland did not give up. Kizer zipped a pass over the middle to Rashard Higgins, who split the seams and raced for a 56 yard touchdown to get the Browns within 21-14.

In the third quarter the Browns moved 68 yards. Kizer hit Njoku for a 34 yard gain. on 3rd and goal at the 5, Kizer hit Higgins for the touchdown. The winless Browns had tied the game 21-21. 12 seconds later the winless Browns were losing again. Juju Smith-Schuster, who is still not Jewish, returned the kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-21 Steelers. The Browns soon face 3rd and 15 at their own 7. Kizer scrambled for 16 and Browns were alive. On 3rd and 17 from the Pittsburgh 41, Kizer hit Coleman for 18 yards. On 3rd and 10 from the Pittsburgh 23, Kizer ran for 7 but offensive holding killed the drive. Gonzalez hit a 51 yard field goal as the Browns only trailed by 4 points after 3 quarters. The fourth quarter summed up the entire Browns season.

With 13 minutes left in regulation the Browns faced 3rd and 15 at their own 31. Kizer found Johnson for a 39 yard gain, but Johnson fumbled the ball away. With 7 minutes left in regulation from the Cleveland 31, Kizer was intercepted. With 4 1/2 minutes left the Browns took over at their own 15. They moved to a 4th and 2 at the Pittsburgh 27 with 1:54 left. Kizer miraculously avoided a sack and fired a pass to Coleman inside the Pittsburgh 10 yard line. Coleman dropped it. It was right in his hands and he just dropped it. The 13-3 Steelers survived to spare Mike Tomlin answering ridiculous questions about playing his backups. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said a couple weeks ago he was not firing Hue Jackson. An 0-16 season is forever, and that could change the calculation. The Browns are 1-31 the last 2 years, the worst stretch in NFL history. The 1976-1977 Buccaneers started 0-26 but won 2 straight. 28-24 Steelers

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons — The 11-4 Panthers had locked up a wildcard but could win the division with a win and a New Orleans loss. Atlanta at 9-6 would make the playoffs with a win but would miss the playoffs with a loss if Seattle also won. Early on the Falcons moved 75 yards in 10 plays. Matt Ryan hit Devonta Freeman for a 19 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Falcons. In the second quarter the Panthers had a staggering 16 play, 78 yard drive that took 8 1/2 minutes off the clock. Cam Newton hit Devon Funchess for a 7-7 ballgame. In the third quarter the Falcons moved 68 yards in 13 plays and 7 minutes. The drive died in the red zone as Matt Bryant hit a 30 yard field goal to make it 10-7 Falcons. An interception of Newton led to a 42 yard Bryant field goal to make it 13-7 Falcons. In the fourth quarter the Falcons moved 60 yards and Bryant hit from 30 to make it 16-7 Falcons. The Panthers came back 51 yards and Graham Gano hit from 42 to get the Panthers within 16-10. After a touchback Ryan went to Julio Jones for a 27 yard gain. With 6:43 to play Bryant came in for a 56 yard field goal knowing a miss would set up Carolina well. Dan Quinn’s trust paid off as Bryant drilled it to make it 19-10 Falcons.

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens — The 9-6 Ravens are in the playoffs with a win. They could still get in with a loss and a lot of help. Marvin Lewis is resigning after the game after 15 seasons with the Bengals. Early on the Bengals moved 78 yards and Red Rifle Andy Dalton hit Kroft for a one yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Bengals. In the second quarter the Bengals fumbled and the Ravens recovered at the Cincy 34. The defense held Baltimore to a 46 yard field goal as the Ravens trailed 7-3. Late in the second quarter the Bengals faced 3rd and 6 at their own 32. Dalton hit LaFell for 13 yards. From the Baltimore 30, Dalton hit Kroft for 20 yards. On 3rd and goal at the 5, Dalton hit Kroft for the touchdown to make it 14-3 Bengals with 4:15 left in the half. The Bengals for it back less than one minute later and moved from their 23 to a 1st and 10 at the Baltimore 14. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Dalton threw incomplete twice. Bullock hit a 32 yard field goal as the Bengals led 17-3 with just 22 seconds left in the half.

That was enough time for Moore to return the kickoff 87 yards to the Cincinnati 6 yard line with 8 seconds left. Flacco fired over the middle to Moore for the touchdown as the Ravens were back in down 17-10. In the third quarter the Ravens moved from their 23 to a 2nd and 5 at the Cincy 22. Flacco threw a short pass to Moore. Yet Moore juggled the easy throw and it was intercepted by Dennard. Dennard had a convoy of blockers and he followed them perfectly for an 89 yard touchdown. Rather than a 17-17 game, the Bengals led 24-10 in front of a shellshocked home crowd that saw their team’s playoff chances evaporating.

The Ravens came back 61 yards. On 4th and 3 from the Cincy 17, Alex collins took a handoff to the left, reversed his field, and made it all the way to the right pylon for a touchdown to get the Ravens within 24-17. Baltimore got it back and moved 62 yards in 14 plays and 6 minutes. Despite 1st and 10 at the Cincy 15, the drive died there. With 13 minutes left in regulation Tucker hit from 34 as the Ravens trailed 24-20. An unnecessary roughness penalty on a punt gave the Ravens the ball back at the Cincinnati 45. Joe Flacco hit Mike Wallace for 10 and Campanaro for 11 more. On 3rd and 5 from the Cincy 6, Flacco went to Wallace for the touchdown. With nearly 9 minutes left in regulation, 17 unanswered points and the Ravens storm back for a 27-24 lead.

After an exchange of punts, the Bengals took over at their own 10 with 2:43 to play. At the 2 minute warning the Bengals faced 2nd and 10 at their own 33. Dalton threw incomplete, but defensive pass interference meant a 10 yard gain. With 1:23 left the Bengals faced 3rd and 5 at their own 48. Dalton threw deep and was intercepted as the Bengals celebrated a return to the playoffs. They celebrated too early as defensive holding negated the turnover. With 53 seconds left and the Bengals out of timeouts, they faced 4th and 12 at the Baltimore 49. One more stop and the Ravens were in the playoffs. Instead, in front of a shocked and disbelieving home crowd, Dalton went deep to Boyd for a 49 yard touchdown. Just like that, Baltimore dropped to 9-7 and their playoff hopes went down in flames. The 7-9 Bengals will most likely see Marvin Lewis walk away after 15 seasons, but he went out in style with consecutive road wins that knocked two good teams out of the playoffs. 31-27 Bengals

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins — The 8-7 Bills needed a win and help to make the playoffs. Jay cutler played one series and then was benched for backup Fales, who played the rest of the game. Early on the Bills moved 72 yards. Tyrod Taylor hit Nick O’Leary for a 26 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Bills. In the third quarter the Bills just missed out on another touchdown. The 11 play, 80 yard drive took 5 minutes but had them settle for a 23 yard Steve Hauschka to make it 10-0 Bills. Huaschka hit from 49 in the third quarter to make it 13-0 Bills. The Dolphins then went for it on 4th and 8 from the Buffalo 37. Fales was called for intentional grounding on a 13 yard loss. On 3rd and 6 from the Miami 32, Tyrod Taylor went deep incomplete but defensive pass interference meant 1st and goal at the one. Williams got in to make it 19-0 Bills. The Dolphins finally got on the board with a 36 yard Cody Parkey field goal. In the fourth quarter Buffalo answered with a 33 yard Hauschak field goal to make it 22-3 Bills.

Miami went 75 yards in 10 plays and 5 1/2 minutes and got a one yard touchdown run from Jarvis Landry. The 2 point try failed but the Dolphins were within 22-9. Miami got it back and moved 68 yards. Fales got the last yard and the Dolphins were within 6 points. Miami even recovered the onside kick and had a chance to win the game. With 90 seconds left from the Miami 46, Fales threw a pass over the middle and was intercepted. The Dolphins finished 6-10 while the 9-7 Bills won the tie-breakers with other teams. The longest NFL playoff drought of 17 seasons is now over. In Sean McDermott’s first season at the helm, the Bills are going to the playoffs. 22-16 Bills

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Despite being 4-11, the Buccaneers announced after failing to rehire Jon Gruden that Dirk Koetter will return in 2018. The 11-4 Saints with a win would lock up the NFC South but with a loss and a Carolina win would fall to the Wildcard. The Buccaneers moved 75 yards in 14 plays and 5 1/2 minutes. Patrick Barber ran for a one yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Buccaneers. 13 seconds later the game was tied as Alvin Kamara returned the ensuing kickoff 106 yards for a touchdown and a 7-7 game. The Saints got it back and moved 65 yards. Brees went deep to Thomas for a 43 yard gain. Kamara ran for a 7 yard touchdown to make it 14-7 Saints. In the second quarter the Buccaneers moved 75 yards in 12 plays and over 6 minutes. Jameis Winston got in from the one. The extra point was no good as the Buccaneers trailed 14-13.

In the third quarter the Buccaneers moved to the Saints 23. Winston went to the end zone and was intercepted for a touchback, From the Saints 35, Brees went deep to Kamara for a 40 yard gain. Will Lutz hit a 48 yard field goal to make it 17-13 Saints. The fourth quarter began with the Buccaneers punting. The Saints fumbled it and Johnson recovered it for the Buccaneers and rumbled 7 yards for the touchdown to make it 20-17 Buccaneers. The Saints came back 92 yards in 13 plays and 7 minutes. Brees hit Line for a 3 yard touchdown to put the Saints back in front 24-20 midway through the fourth quarter. After a touchback the Bucs moved to a 1st and 10 at the Saints 24. 3 straight incompletions were followed by Dirk Koetter opting for the field goal. With only 4 1/2 minutes left, Koetter had faith in his defense. Patrick Murray hit from 42 and the Buccaneers trailed 24-23.

After a touchback, a 23 yard completion from Brees to Ted Ginn Jr. had the Saints with 1st and 10 at the Tampa 40 with 3 minutes left. Another first down would all but ice things as the Buccaneers took their final timeout. On 3rd and 10 a sack of Brees would give the Bucs won more chance. With 1:58 to play the Bucs took over at their own 5 yard line. 95 yards and 0 timeouts is not an easy feat, but a field goal would win it. After 3 straight Winston incompletions, the Bucs were down to their last gasp. On 4th and 10 from their own 5, Winston found Brate for 12 yards. On 3rd and 1 from their own 26 with one minute left, Winston hit Evans for 9 and then again for another 16 more. A 10 yard completion was followed by a surprise timeout on defense by Sean Payton with 15 seconds left. With the game on the line, Winston went deep to Evans for a 39 yard touchdown with 9 seconds left. With 2 seconds left from the Saints 26, a short pass came up 67 yards of the end zone. The Buccaneers finished 5-11. The Saints ended up 11-5, but because Carolina also lost, the Saints still won the NFC South and will host a Wildcard game next week. 31-24 Buccaneers

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans — The 10-5 Jaguars are locked into their spot as AFC North champions and the three seed, but Doug Marrone is not resting his starters. The Jaguars lost earlier this year to the 8-7 Titans. The Titans with a win are in the playoffs and with a loss are most likely out. So The Jaguars would love to knock Tennessee out. Mike Mularkey once had an 8-4 squad, so a fourth straight loss could cost him his job. In the second quarter of a scoreless game the Titans took over at their 18. From their own 34, Marcus Mariota hit Derrick Henry, who split the seams and raced for a 66 yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked as the Titans led 6-0. Josh Lambo got the Jaguars on the board with a 41 yard field goal. At the 2 minute warning the Titans punted on 4th and 1 from their own 29. The Jaguars fumbled the punt and the Titans recovered at the Jacksonville 12. The Jaguars held on defense as Ryan Succop hit a 25 yard field goal to make it 9-3 Titans. On the ensuing play from scrimmage the Jaguars fumbled and the Titans recovered at the Jacksonville 29. Succop hit from 39 to make it 12-3 Titans at halftime. Succop hit again from 38 to make it 15-3 Titans.

With 11 minutes left in regulation, the Titans were in total control as they moved to the Jacksonville 26 after an interception of Blake Bortles. Mariota fumbled and Ngakoue returned it 67 yards for a defensive touchdown. Just like that, the Jaguars were right back in it down by 5 points. With 2:13 to play the Titans faced 3rd and 5 at their own 44. Mariota avoided pressure and scrambled for a 13 yard gain. By the time the Jaguars got the ball back, only 18 seconds remained with the Jaguars at their own 18. Bortles went deep and was intercepted. In a stunner, the Titans got to 9-7. Rather than get their coach fired, they are going to the playoffs. The Jaguars at 10-6 enter the playoffs with 2 straight losses. Jacksonville won the division, but Tennessee swept the season series. 15-10 Titans

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos — The 9-6 Chiefs wrapped up the AFC West and Walrus Lite Andy Reid rested his starters. Patrick Mahomes started his first NFL game as Alex Smith rested. Early on the Chiefs moved 86 yards. Kareem Hunt ran for a 35 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Chiefs. Mahomes would later throw his first NFL interception. The Broncos had Paxton Lynch start this game. Denvermoved 72 yards in 12 plays and 6 1/2 minutes, settling for a 36 yard Brandon McManus field goal to trail 7-3. In the second quarter the Broncos moved 80 yards in 10 plays and over 5 1/2 minutes. Lynch went to Henderson for a 299 yard touchdown to make it 10-7 Broncos. The Chiefs came back 73 yards and Sherman ran for a one yard touchdown to make it 14-10 Chiefs.

In the third quarter the Chiefs had a mind-numbing 18 play drive that went 90 yards and took 9 minutes off the clock. Despite 2nd and goal at the one, a run lost a yard and Mahomes then threw incomplete. Andy Reid played it safe and Harrison Butker hit a 20 yard field goal to make it 17-10 Chiefs. Lynch was then sacked and fumbled. Wilson recovered it and ran 11 yards for a defensive touchdown to make it 24-10 Chiefs. Denver moved from their 20 to a 1st and 10 at the Chiefs 11. On 4th and 15 from the 16, Lynch was intercepted and the Chiefs took over at their own 42. The game appeared over. However, on the next play Bray fumbled and Anderson returned it 38 yards for a defense touchdown. The Broncos were right back in it down 24-17 midway through the fourth quarter. Denver got it back at their own 38 and Lynch went to Bennie Fowler for 22 yards. On 3rd and 7 from the Chiefs 37, Lynch found Booker for 12 yards. With 3 minutes left, on 4th and 4 from the 6, Lynch hit Denarius Thomas for the touchdown for a 24-24 tie.

The Chiefs took over at their own 21 and a sack of Mahomes meant 2nd and 17 at their own 14 at the 2 minute warning. On 3rd and 4 Mahomes threw incomplete but the Broncos jumped offsides. Mahomes then went to Robinson for 12, Wilson for 13, and Wilson again for 14. With 4 seconds left, Butker came in for a 30 yard field goal try to win it. Butker was good and the 5-11 Broncos will find out soon if rookie Vance Joseph returns in 2018. The Chiefs started 5-0, dropped to 6-6, and then went 4-0 down the stretch. They won the AFC West at 10-6 and will host a Wildcard matchup next week, making Andy Reid a Happy Walrus Lite. 27-24 Chiefs

Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers — The 8-7 Chargers need a win and help to get in. A loss and they are out. The 6-9 Raiders give games away, and one year after going 12-4, rumors are swirling that Jack Del Rio will be fired and Jon Gruden will return. Mark Davis is rumored to be offering Chucky coaching power and even minority ownership in the team. The Raiders moved from their own 11 to the Chargers 31. Offensive holding then killed the drive in a scoreless first quarter. Late in the first quarter the Chargers took over at their own one yard line. Early in the second quarter they faced 3rd and 16 at their own 30. Philip Rivers threw incomplete but defensive pass interference meant a 30 yard gain. On the next play from the Oakland 40, Melvin Gordon ran for 14 yards, fumbled the ball right into the arms of teammate Keenan Allen. Allen raced the remaining 26 yards for a 7-0 Chargers lead. The Raiders soon faced 3rd and 22 at their own 13. Carr went bombs away to Amari Cooper for an 87 yard touchdown and a 7-7 ballgame. Plays like that are how offensive coordinator Todd Downing can lobby to keep his job.

After a touchback, the Chargers moved to a 3rd and 2 at the Oakland 27. Rivers threw incomplete and then tried to go for it on 4th and 2. A false start instead meant a field goal try of 50 yards for Nick Rose. The kick was blocked, and the Raiders took over at the Chargers 30. On 4th and 2 from the 22, Georgio Tavecchio came in to try and give the Raiders the lead from 40 yards out. The kick was good and the Raiders led 10-7. Yet in a season gone wrong, the Raiders stopped playing and took the rest of the game off. The Chargers faced 1st and 20 at their own 28. A run gained only one yard. Yet a tricky tack unnecessary roughness penalty on khalil Mack gave the Chargers 1st and 10 at their own 44. On the next play Rivers went deep to Williams for a 56 yard touchdown and a 14-10 Chargers lead. The Raiders moved to a 1st and at the Chargers 43 at the 2 minute warning. Carr went to the end zone and was intercepted. With 1:48 left from their own 23, Rivers went to work. He hit Melvin Gordon for 12 and Keenan Allen for 17. With 38 seconds left from the Oakland 26, Rivers hit Gates for 20 yards and Allen for the 6 yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked bu the Chargers led 20-10 at halftime.

In the third quarter after a touchback, the Chargers moved to a 1st and goal at the 7. The defense held and Rose hit a 25 yard field goal. The Chargers led 23-10, but the Raiders were not out of it. After a touchback they moved to a 4th and 2 at the Chargers 18. With 6 minutes still left in the third quarter a field goal would have made it a 10 point game. Jack Del Rio decided to go for it which was fine. Yet Todd Downing dialed up a dreadful play call. Rather than pass it or have Marshawn Lynch bang up the gut, a pitchout to Lynch had him running laterally. The play failed and the Raiders came up empty. With one minute left in the third quarter the Chargers faced 3rd and 13 at their own 38. Rivers went deep to Travis Benjamin for a 62 yard touchdown bomb. Although the entire fourth quarter remained, the game was now essentially over.

Late in the fourth quarter the Raiders moved from their own 8 to 2nd and goal at the Chargers 5 with 4 minutes left. Forgetting they ere down by 20 rather than winning, the Raiders ran down the clock and on 4th and goal at the 5, Carr threw incomplete. The 1992 Chargers are the only team to start 0-4 and make the playoffs, winning their division a 11-5. The 25th anniversary team of 2017 started 0-4 and fought back to 9-7, but they were one game back in the division. Due to a stunning result in another playoff game, the Chargers lost the tie-breaker to other teams and were out of the playoffs. The Raiders immediately fired Jack Del Rio after the game. Last year the Raiders were 12-4. This year they were 6-6 and tied atop the AFC West. 4 straight losses and a 6-10 team still would not have been enough to sack Del Rio. If the Raiders do indeed have Jon Gruden coming back, Mark Davis is a hero. If the Raiders do not land Gruden, Mark Davis will be seen as a bumbling imbecile. The Raider Nation will know soon whether to celebrate or cry. The Raiders regressed this year, but blowing up the entire coaching staff is not the answer unless Gruden returns. 30-10 Chargers

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams — The 49ers started 1-10 but have won 4 straight under Jimmy Garoppollo. The 11-4 Rams clinched the NFC West and Sean McCoy rested all starters. Early on Robbie Gould hit a 33 yard field goal for the 49ers. San Francisco got it back and moved 82 yards. Garoppollo hit Goodwin for an 8 yard touchdown to make it 10-0 49ers. With Sean Mannion in for Jared Goff, it was tough going. However, an interception of Garoppollo had the Rams at the san Francisco 22. Despite 2nd and goal at the 5, Mannion threw incomplete twice. Ficken is the backup kicker and he hit from 23 to get the Rams within 10-3. In the second quarter the 49ers moved 67 yards in 11 plays from their own 4 to a 3rd and 3 at the Rams 29. Garoppollo threw incomplete, but Gould hit from 48 to make it 13-3 49ers. The 49ers got it back at their own 43. Garoppollo went to Kittle for 35 yards. Carlos Hyde ran for an 8 yard touchdown to make it 20-3 49ers.

After the teams traded turnovers, the Rams took over at their own 47 with 9 seconds left in the half. The Hail Mary was caught by the Rams for a 50 yard gain, but they were still 3 yards short. One second remained and Ficken hit the 21 yard field goal as the Rams trailed 20-6 at halftime. In the third quarter the 49ers moved 60 yards and Hyde ran for a 5 yard touchdown to make it 27-6 49ers. In the fourth quarter the 49ers moved 53 yards and Garoppollo hit Robinson for a 12 yard touchdown to make it 34-6 49ers. The Rams got a garbage touchdown to complete the scoring. The 49ers ended the year with 5 straight wins. The 1980 49ers went 6-10 and then Joe Montana in 1981 led them to the beginning of a dynasty. 2018 will see the 49ers with high expectations. As for the 11-5 Rams, there is nothing to learn from or worry about this game. They played their backups, and will host a playoff game next week. Sean McVay is a legitimate coach of the year candidate. 34-13 49ers

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks — Rumors were swirling that Bruce Arians, Larry Fitzgerald, and the injured Carson Palmer would all retire after this game. Meanwhile, the 9-6 Seahawks needed a win and an Atlanta loss to make the playoffs. Early on the Cardinals moved 73 yards in 10 plays and 6 minutes. Drew Stanton went to Brown for a 25 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Cardinals. 12 seconds later Tyler Lockett’s 99 yard kickoff return on the ensuing kickoff made it 7-7. Foster returned the ensuing kickoff 55 yards to the Seattle 43. Phil Dawson hit a 49 yard field goal to make it 10-7 Cardinals. Seattle then punted on 4th and 19 from their own 11 and a shanked 32 yard punt had the Cardinals taking over at the Seattle 36. In the second quarter Penny ran it in from 4 yards out to make it 17-7 Cardinals. With 2 1/2 minutes left in the half the Cardinals faced 3rd and 9 at their own 27. Drew Stanton hit Fitzgerald for 12 yards. Defensive pass interference added 22 more yards. Dawson hit from 46 as the Cardinals led 20-7 at halftime in front of a stunned home crowd.

In the third quarter, the Seahawks finally got going. They moved 80 yards in 10 plays and 6 minutes. On 4th and 6 from the Arizona 35, Russell Wilson found Jimmy Graham for 20 yards. Wilson hit Doug Baldwin for an 18 yard touchdown and the Seahawks were within 20-14. On 1st and 15 from the Arizona 20, Stanton was quickly intercepted on a deep ball. Yet the Arizona defense held and a short 28 yard punt had the Cardinals at their own 46. That was enough for Dawson to nail a 53 yard field goal to make it 23-14 Cardinals. The Seahawks got a punt back and took over at their own 40 and began the fourth quarter with 3rd and 4 at their own 46. Wilson hit McKissic for 14 yards. On 3rd and 1 from the Arizona 31, Wilson threw incomplete. With 13 minutes left in regulation, Pete Carroll opted for the field goal. Blair Walsh hit the 49 yarder to get the Seahawks within 23-17.

A 27 yard punt return by Lockett had the Seahawks taking over at their own 40. They struck right away as Wilson ran for 31 yard and then threw a 29 yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin. With 10 1/2 minutes left the Seahawks had come back for a 24-23 lead. After an exchange of punts, the Cardinals soon faced 3rd and 7 at their own 17. Stanton threw incomplete but roughing the passer kept the drive going. On 3rd and 2 just past midfield, Stanton hit Foster for 17 yards. With 2 1/2 minutes left, Dawson came in for a 42 yarder to give the Cardinals the 2 point lead. Dawson was good. After a touchback, Wilson hit Baldwin for 23 yards and Graham for 21 more. With 37 seconds left, Walsh came in for a 48 yard field goal to give the Seahawks the one point lead. Walsh has missed some big kicks in his day, and he missed this one as well. The Seahawks with a win would have missed the playoffs anyway, but the loss at 9-7 was the exclamation point. The Cardinals finished 7-9. If this was Bruce Arians’s final game, he went out in style. 26-24 Cardinals

The 2018 Wildcard Playoff games (all times Eastern) are set:

Saturday, January 6:

4:30 pm: AFC: 5) Tennessee Titans at 4) Kansas City Chiefs

8:15 pm: NFC: 6) Atlanta Falcons at 3) Los Angeles Rams

Sunday, January 7:

1:00 pm: AFC: 6) Buffalo Bills at 3) Jacksonville Jaguars

4:30 pm: NFC) 5) Carolina Panthers at 4) New Orleans Saints

Bye weeks:

AFC: 1) New England Patriots and 2) Pittsburgh Steelers

NFC: 1) Philadelphia Eagles and 2) Minnesota Vikings

eric

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