Jets 37, Bengals 0
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – Rex Ryan’s top-ranked defense shut down the Cincinnati Bengals, and rookie Mark Sanchez efficiently led a clock-eating offense as the New York Jets clinched their first playoff berth in three seasons with a 37-0 victory at a frigid Meadowlands on Sunday night.
Needing a win to keep their season alive, the Jets (9-7) set up a rematch against the Bengals (10-6) in the first round of the playoffs Saturday at Cincinnati.
It was the Jets’ first shutout at home since beating Pittsburgh 6-0 on Dec. 14, 2003.
Sanchez was 8 for 16 for 63 yards with no turnovers before being replaced by Kellen Clemens late in the fourth quarter with the game in hand. Thomas Jones ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns and do-it-all Brad Smith had 92 yards rushing, including a 32-yard TD run, as the Jets set a record for rushing yards in a season.
The Bengals opened with most of their starters – running back Cedric Benson was the only healthy starter to not play – but pulled Carson Palmer early in the third quarter. Palmer was ineffective when he was in, going 1 for 11 for no – yes, zero – yards before J.T. O’Sullivan replaced him.
Texans 34, Patriots 27
HOUSTON (AP) – Rookie Arian Foster scored two touchdowns, Bernard Pollard recovered a fumble for a touchdown and had a key interception as the Texans (9-7) briefly kept their slim playoff hopes alive before the Jets snatched it away.
The Texans, who finished with a winning record for the first time in team history, needed the Jets to lose against Cincinnati in Sunday’s night game to earn the team’s first postseason appearance in its eight-year history.
The Texans trailed by 14 points in the fourth quarter before ending the game with three unanswered touchdowns. Foster scored the go-ahead TD on a 3-yard run with about 2 minutes remaining.
Tom Brady played most of the game despite New England (10-6) having already clinched its playoff spot. League receptions leader Wes Welker started but was carted off the field with a left knee injury in the first quarter.
The Patriots will play wild card Baltimore next Sunday.
Cowboys 24, Eagles 0
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – Tony Romo threw a pair of early touchdown passes and the defense took over from there, sending Dallas to the NFC East title and setting up a rematch against the Eagles at their new palace Saturday.
The Cowboys (11-5) earned their third straight impressive win, and the shutout also made for a major milestone in the club’s storied history: First-ever back-to-back blankings. Only twice in the previous 49 seasons had they even had two shutouts the entire season.
Donovan McNabb was 20 of 36 for 223 yards, and Philadelphia (11-5) finished with 228 total yards. The Cowboys had 291 yards at halftime on their way to gaining 474.
Romo was 24 of 34 for 311 yards, with the two touchdowns and an interception. He also capped the most productive season of his career and in franchise history, setting club records for attempts, completions and yards passing.
Ravens 21, Raiders 13
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Willis McGahee ran for a career-high 167 yards and three touchdowns and the Ravens clinched an AFC wild-card berth.
The Ravens (9-7) went into the regular season finale knowing a win would put them in the playoffs and a loss would send them home for an early winter. The Raiders (5-11) provided a stiff challenge for much of the game but were unable to pull it out in the end behind former starter JaMarcus Russell.
Dannell Ellerbe intercepted a pass from Russell late in the third quarter to set up McGahee’s third touchdown that made it 21-13. Ellerbe then recovered a fumble by Russell at the Ravens 23 with 9:42 to go to end a possible scoring threat by Oakland.
Baltimore will open the playoffs next Sunday at New England.
Titans 17, Seahawks 13
SEATTLE (AP) – Chris Johnson became the sixth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, then scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard run with 4:33 remaining.
Johnson ran 36 times – three short of Earl Campbell’s franchise record set in 1981 against Seattle – for 134 yards and both touchdowns for the Titans (8-8).
Justin Forsett ran 10 times for 74 yards for the Seahawks (5-11). Matt Hasselbeck was 15 for 30 with a touchdown, but he threw an interception at the Titans 27 on fourth down with 1:19 remaining.
Johnson, the second-year dynamo, joined Eric Dickerson, Jamal Lewis, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis and O.J. Simpson in the 2,000-yard club.
Chiefs 44, Broncos 24
DENVER (AP) – Josh McDaniels’ first season as Denver coach ended the same way Mike Shanahan’s last one did: with a late-season flop and an embarrassing blowout that wasted a strong start and kept the Broncos out of the playoffs.
Jamaal Charles ran for a Chiefs-record 259 yards on 25 carries and linebacker Derrick Johnson returned two Kyle Orton interceptions for touchdowns in Kansas City’s first victory in nine tries at Invesco Field.
For Denver it was eerily reminiscent of last season’s finale, when they were routed 52-21 by San Diego with a playoff berth on the line, a loss that led to Shanahan’s departure.
Charles, who had a 56-yard TD run, bested Larry Johnson’s franchise record of 211 yards set in 2005.
The Chiefs looked nothing like a 4-12 team against the Broncos (8-8), who lost eight of 10 after a sizzling 6-0 start.
Steelers 30, Dolphins 24
MIAMI (AP) – A swarming Steelers defense sent two Miami quarterbacks to the sideline, including Pat White with a scary head injury, but the reigning Super Bowl champions were eliminated from the playoff chase.
The Dolphins (7-9), who won the AFC East in 2008, were also eliminated with 2 minutes left in the game when Houston beat New England. Pittsburgh (9-7) needed losses or ties by the Ravens, Broncos and Jets to reach the playoffs, but they were eliminated when Baltimore beat Oakland.
Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes, but the stadium grew silent when White was carted off the field with a head injury following a helmet-to-helmet collision with cornerback Ike Taylor.
White moved his arms and legs before leaving the field after an eight-minute delay. A team spokesman said White “seems to be OK in terms of movement,” but he still went to the hospital.
Vikings 44, Giants 7
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Brett Favre passed for 316 yards and four touchdowns without a turnover in less than three quarters against the barely there Giants (8-8).
The NFC North champion Vikings (12-4) cruised into the locker room to start watching the Philadelphia-Dallas game with an eye on their seed for the NFC playoffs. With the Eagles’ loss, the Vikings earned the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye.
Sidney Rice caught six passes for 112 yards and two scores, and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe had seven receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown, all in the first half. Adrian Peterson scored his 18th touchdown.
Bills 30, Colts 7
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) – Despite near whiteout conditions in the first half, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three touchdown passes for Buffalo (6-10), including a 41-yarder to Terrell Owens.
Fred Jackson had 212 yards rushing to reach 1,000 for the first time in his career.
The Colts (14-2) rested numerous starters, including Peyton Manning, in the second quarter. They have a two-week break before opening the playoffs as the AFC’s top-seeded team.
The Colts squandered a chance to become the sixth NFL team to win 15 games in one season and also had a franchise-best 11-game road win streak snapped.
Dallas Clark became the NFL’s second tight end to have a 100-catch season, joining Tony Gonzalez, and Reggie Wayne had five catches to reach 100 for the second time in his career.
Packers 33, Cardinals 7
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) – The Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers knew well before kickoff that they would be playing each other again on the same field in a few days.
The Cardinals can only hope this wasn’t a preview of next Sunday’s first-round playoff matchup.
Aaron Rodgers, playing mostly against the Arizona reserves, shredded the Cardinals in three quarters, completing 21 of 26 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown.
Charles Woodson returned an interception 45 yards for another score as the Packers (11-5) won for the seventh time in eight games.
It was the most one-sided home loss for Arizona in coach Ken Whisenhunt’s three seasons with the Cardinals.
Arizona (10-6) sat quarterback Kurt Warner after one quarter. Backup Matt Leinart completed 13 of 21 passes for 96 yards and was intercepted twice.
Panthers 23, Saints 10
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Saints backups gave an ugly performance that sends the No. 1 seed in the NFC into the postseason on a three-game losing streak.
Jonathan Stewart rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown, and the Panthers (8-8) won their third straight. Stewart surpassed Pro Bowl pick DeAngelo Williams for the team rushing lead as they became the first teammates since the AFL-NFL merger to each rush for over 1,100 yards.
Williams (1,117 yards) sat out his second straight game because of a sprained ankle, while Stewart (1,133 yards) left in the third quarter after aggravating his chronic left Achilles’ tendon injury.
The Saints (13-3) rested many starters, including quarterback Drew Brees, who broke the NFL record for completion percentage in a season.
Chargers 23, Redskins 20
SAN DIEGO (AP) – The Washington Redskins couldn’t even hold off San Diego’s backups in Jim Zorn’s last game as coach.
Billy Volek threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to fullback Mike Tolbert with 35 seconds left to rally the playoff-bound Chargers to their 11th straight victory.
The Redskins (4-12) plan to fire Zorn on Monday, an official within the NFL told The Associated Press on Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no formal announcement has been made. Zorn’s dismissal has been expected for months.
The AFC West champion Chargers (13-3) already clinched the conference’s No. 2 playoff seed and a first-round bye and had nothing to play for except to avoid injuries.
Browns 23, Jaguars 17
CLEVELAND (AP) – Jerome Harrison rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown, and Josh Cribbs ran for a TD, giving Cleveland its first four-game winning streak since 1994. That pushed coach Eric Mangini into an uncertain offseason with momentum to fight for his job.
While the Browns (5-11) ended their season on a high, they ended Jacksonville’s razor-thin AFC playoff hopes. The Jaguars (7-9), who had to win and needed four other teams to lose just to qualify, dropped their last four games.
Team president Mike Holmgren is scheduled to take over the Browns on Monday, and the former Green Bay and Seattle coach said he intends to meet with Mangini soon after his arrival.
Falcons 20, Buccaneers 10
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Matt Ryan threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Falcons finish with consecutive winning records for the first time in franchise history.
Standing in for injured leading rusher Michael Turner, Jason Snelling ran for 147 yards on 25 carries for Atlanta (9-7).
Tampa Bay (3-13) concluded its first season under coach Raheem Morris with its worst record since 1991. The Bucs upset Seattle and New Orleans on the road the previous two weeks. However, it’s uncertain whether that will be enough to save the 33-year-old Morris’ job.
49ers 28, Rams 6
ST. LOUIS (AP) – Vernon Davis tied the NFL record for touchdown receptions for a tight end with his 13th of the season, helping the 49ers finish strong and the lowly Rams clinch the No. 1 overall draft pick.
Frank Gore added 107 yards rushing on 23 carries and two late TDs for the 49ers (8-8), who pulled away after a desultory first half in which they mustered only 52 yards and trailed 3-0.
San Francisco ended a string of six consecutive losing seasons and closed a six-game road losing streak, while the Rams (1-15) wrapped up their first winless home schedule since going 0-6 in 1959 and only the third in franchise history.
Bears 37, Lions 23
DETROIT (AP) – Jay Cutler matched a career high for a second straight week with four touchdown passes.
The Bears (7-9) won their final two games and three of the first four. The problem: Chicago lost eight of 10 games between its strong start and finish.
Detroit (2-14) was bad again after becoming the NFL’s first team to finish 0-16 last season.
Cutler was 22 of 36 for 276 yards and didn’t throw an interception against Detroit for the second time this season and for the fourth game this season.