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NFL game roundup: Ravens rally to earn AFC wild-card berth

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BALTIMORE — Joe Flacco threw a pair of touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to lead the Baltimore Ravens to a 20-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns, clinching a spot in the AFC playoffs Sunday.

After a disappointing loss to Houston last week, the Ravens (10-6) were able to sneak into the postseason because Kansas City beat San Diego, knocking the Chargers out of the sixth and final spot.

Pittsburgh hosts Cincinnati on Sunday night to determine the AFC North championship and third seed in the conference. The winner of that game hosts North division rival Baltimore in the wild-card round next week and the loser heads to Indianapolis.

New England is locked in as the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the South division champion Colts are the fourth seed, assured a home game Jan. 3 or Jan. 4. The Broncos secured the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a victory over Oakland.

Flacco started slowly but came up big when it mattered most. He completed 22 of 36 passes for 312 yards and set a career high with 27 touchdown passes on the season. Baltimore running back Justin Forsett had 119 yards on 17 carries.

Running back Terrance West, a Baltimore native, got the start and ran for 94 yards on 18 carries for the Browns (7-9).

Panthers 34, Falcons 3

ATLANTA — Quarterback Cam Newton accounted for two touchdowns and the defense dominated in Carolina’s convincing win over Atlanta to claim the NFC South.

The Panthers (7-8-1) won the NFC South for the second straight season and head into the playoffs having won four straight. Carolina, the second team to reach the playoffs with a losing record, earned the No. 4 seed in the NFC and will host the Arizona Cardinals the wild-card round next week.

Panthers safeties Roman Harper and Tre Boston each returned interceptions for touchdowns, and linebacker Thomas Davis returned a fumble deep inside Falcons’ territory to fuel the rout.

The Falcons (6-10) will miss the postseason for the second straight year and head into an offseason that could bring abundant change. Just hours before kickoff, reports surfaced that the Falcons had already hired a search firm to help identify potential replacements for coach Mike Smith. It was odd timing, and the Falcons played like something was on their minds.

49ers 20, Cardinals 17

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Frank Gore rushed for 144 yards on 25 carries, leading San Francisco over Arizona in what was coach Jim Harbaugh’s final game with the 49ers.

The 49ers announced after the game that the team and Harbaugh have mutually agreed to part ways. The organization said it has begun a search for the team’s next head coach, while Harbaugh is now free to consider his next coaching opportunity without any constraints.

Harbaugh, after four seasons with the 49ers, is expected to accept a six-year, $48 million offer to become the next head coach at the University of Michigan, sources close to the negotiations with the university confirmed to The Sports Xchange.

Gore cracked the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the eighth time in his career. He became just the 20th player in NFL history to rush for at least 11,000 yards.

Arizona clinched an NFC wild-card playoff berth earlier this month but entered the game with hopes of winning the NFC West and earning a first-round bye.

The 49ers (8-8) snapped a four-game losing streak.

Seahawks 20, Rams 6

SEATTLE — Two second-half interceptions helped Seattle pull away from St. Louis and into the NFC’s top seed.

The defending champion Seahawks (12-4) scored two touchdowns in a span of less than 2 1/2 minutes early in the fourth quarter to take a 20-6 lead in a game that helped secure a second consecutive NFC West title.

With the win, Seattle earned a first-round bye, at least one postseason home game and the right to host the NFC Championship Game if the Seahawks get that far.

Running back Marshawn Lynch rushed for 60 yards and the go-ahead touchdown on a 9-yard run that came after defensive tackle Jordan Hill’s interception, putting Seattle ahead 13-6 with 12:07 remaining.

Just over two minutes later, Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner broke up a pass that ended up in the arms of linebacker Bruce Irvin, who returned the interception 49 yards for another touchdown and a 20-6 lead.

Packers 30, Lions 20

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay earned a first-round bye and they will need it as quarterback Aaron Rodgers aggravated a calf injury and missed two series but returned to help the Packers beat Detroit to claim a fourth straight NFC North title.

With their record 24th consecutive home victory over the Lions, the Packers (12-4) will enter the postseason as the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

The Lions (11-5) play at the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys in a wild-card game next weekend.

Rodgers was injured while throwing a second-quarter touchdown pass to wide receiver Randall Cobb. Rodgers, who hurt his left calf during the first quarter of last week’s win at Tampa Bay, scrambled to his right on first-and-goal from the 4. He appeared to re-injure the calf just before throwing the ball to Cobb in the end zone for a 14-0 lead.

A raucous Lambeau Field crowd quickly fell silent as the MVP candidate lay on the ground clutching his leg. Backup quarterback Matt Flynn took the final possession of the first half, a handoff to run out the clock, and the first possession of the second half, a three-and-out punt. With Green Bay’s punt unit on the field, Rodgers came out of the tunnel to a loud ovation, walked to the sideline and started warming up.

Chiefs 19, Chargers 7

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There was no more fourth-quarter magic for San Diego, as its chance to make the AFC playoffs ended with a loss to Kansas City.

Led by quarterback Philip Rivers, the Chargers were able to overcome a 21-point deficit last weekend and beat San Francisco in overtime. On this day, they fell 10 points behind the Chiefs in the second quarter and were unable to generate enough points for a winning comeback.

The Chiefs were not lighting up the scoreboard either behind backup quarterback Chase Daniel as numerous chances in the scoring zone ended up as four field goals for Kansas City.

Both teams finished the season with 9-7 records.

Bills 17, Patriots 9

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Buffalo, taking advantage of New England resting players for the upcoming playoffs, won at Gillette Stadium for the first time since 2000 and capped its first winning season since 2004.

With Patriots quarterback Tom Brady playing only the first half and key offensive players missing, the Bills, finishing their 15th straight season out of the playoffs with a 9-7 record, scored a victory over New England.

Kyle Orton threw a touchdown pass and Boobie Dixon ran for a touchdown to lead the Bills, who were eliminated with a loss at Oakland the previous week.

Stephen Gostkowski kicked three field goals for New England, which will have the home-field advantage throughout its stay in the AFC playoffs.

The Patriots, who will sit out next week waiting for the lowest remaining seed of the wild-card round, finished the regular season 12-4 — 10-2 since a rough 2-2 start.

Broncos 47, Raiders 14

DENVER — Running back C.J. Anderson ran for three touchdowns, helping to make up for quarterback Peyton Manning’s second game in a month without a touchdown pass, and Denver beat Oakland to secure the No. 2 AFC playoff seed and a first-round bye.

Anderson rushed for 87 yards, including scoring runs of 11, 1, and 25 yards to carry the Broncos (12-4) past the Raiders (3-13) for the seventh straight time. With Manning struggling to connect in the red zone, Connor Barth added four field goals.

Manning completed 21 of 37 for 273 yards passing but couldn’t find the end zone for the second time since his streak of 51 games with at least one touchdown pass came to an end against Buffalo on Dec. 7.

Cowboys 44, Redskins 17

LANDOVER, Md. — With the NFC East title already clinched and not much chance of earning a first-round bye, Dallas had little riding against Washington.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett didn’t take it easy, playing his starters the whole way despite a quick early margin and ordering an onside kick in the second quarter.

The win finalized the Cowboys’ regular-season record at 12-4 and put the last-place Redskins at 4-12.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was 22 of 34 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was 27 of 41 for 336 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Dallas running back DeMarco Murray had 100 yards on 20 carries and broke the franchise record for rushing yards in a season, passing Emmitt Smith for the team single-season mark. Murray’s 1,845 yards bettered Smith’s 1,773 from 1995.

Eagles 34, Giants 26

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Reserve tight end Trey Burton had a 27-yard touchdown following a blocked punt early in the third quarter and Philadelphia went on to a victory over the New York Giants.

The Eagles (10-6) took a 17-16 lead at halftime and then expanded their lead with 12:34 remaining in the third thanks to their punt coverage unit, which recorded the fourth block punt of the season when James Casey came charging up the middle and got a hand on punter Steve Weatherford’s punt.

The loose ball was quickly scooped up by Burton, who had a clear path to the end zone for the 27-yard score to give the Eagles the 24-16 lead.

Not even the heroics of Giants receivers Odell Beckham Jr., who finished with a career-high 185 yards on 12 catches and a touchdown or Rueben Randle, who finished with 158 yards on six catches, could help the Giants (6-10) pull this one out.

Saints 23, Buccaneers 20

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay will get the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft by losing to New Orleans.

Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, a quarterback at Oregon, is considered the top draft prospect by a number of draft experts.

The Bucs watched their 13-point lead evaporate and the Saints rallied for 16 points in the fourth quarter as Drew Brees shrugged off three interceptions to throw for 281 yards. His 36-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston gave the Saints (7-9) their first lead with 1:57 remaining.

The Bucs and the Tennessee Titans both finished the regular season with a 2-14 record, but Tampa Bay will pick first as a result of its strength of schedule.

Colts 27, Titans 10

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For Indianapolis Colts, it was a successful playoff tune-up. For Tennessee, it was one final Sunday of agony.

Quarterback Andrew Luck threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns in the first half for the AFC South champion Colts. Luck connected on 7- and 1-yard scoring passes to tight ends Cody Fleener and Jack Doyle, respectively, as he went 10-for-16 with a quarterback rating of 135.4. Backup Matt Hasselbeck worked the second half, completing 13 of 19 attempts for 155 yards and an 8-yard touchdown pass to Fleener with 3:16 left in the game.

While the Colts improved to 11-5, Tennessee (2-14) dropped its 10th straight game.

Jets 37, Dolphins 24

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The New York Jets, likely playing their final game under coach Rex Ryan, rallied from a 10-point third-quarter deficit to beat Miami.

Ryan, in his sixth season as Jets coach, is expected to be fired by Monday after a disappointing 4-12 season. The Jets, who missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season, are also expected to fire general manager John Idzik.

The Dolphins (8-8), who have not made the postseason since 2008, finished with the same record as last season. However, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross announced last week that coach Joe Philbin will be retained for next season.

Jets quarterback Geno Smith, who grew up just a few minutes from Sun Life Stadium and played for Miramar High School, passed for 358 yards and three touchdowns.

Texans 23, Jaguars 17

HOUSTON — Case Keenum engineered a critical scoring drive in the fourth quarter and rallied Houston Texans over Jacksonville.

Keenum tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Andre Johnson with 13:34 remaining to put the Texans (9-7) ahead to stay at 21-17.

The Jaguars (3-13) mounted a comeback in the waning moments, with quarterback Blake Bortles completing an 18-yard, fourth-down pass before scrambling 34 yards to the Houston 10-yard line. But Jacksonville stalled at the 5-yard line on a Bortles incomplete pass.

Vikings 13, Bears 9

MINNEAPOLIS — Teddy Bridgewater threw for 209 yards and the only touchdown in the game to lead Minnesota over Chicago.

The victory gave the Vikings seven wins in Mike Zimmer’s first season as head coach, two more than Minnesota had last season.

Chicago dropped to 5-11 and big changes could be on the horizon, as coach Marc Trestman and the Bears won three fewer games in 2014 than they did in his first season there last year. Trestman has a 3-9 NFC North record in two seasons.

Jay Cutler, starting one week after being benched for Jimmy Clausen, was back in as the Bears starter because of Clausen’s concussion and finished 23 of 36 passing for 172 yards.


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