Sunday’s NFL roundup: Rams rout Seahawks, control NFC West
Seattle — Todd Gurley caught the pass from Jared Goff, turned up field and once again found no resistance in his sprint to the end zone.
After 2½ quarters and four touchdowns scored, Gurley was no longer needed. The Los Angeles Rams had made their statement.
“This was just one of those wins where everything was clicking for us. Everybody was doing their job. Everybody was out there competing and we didn’t want to let up,” Gurley said.
“These guys been kicking our ass for the last 10, 15 years so you’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to take advantage of a situation like this.”
Led by Gurley’s 152 yards rushing and four total touchdowns, the Rams moved to the cusp of their first division title since 2003 with a 42-7 thumping of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
What was supposed to be a matchup to determine first place in the NFC West turned into the Rams (10-4) embarrassing Seattle into the worst loss of Pete Carroll’s eight seasons.
It was one-sided. It was dominant. And whether the Rams wanted to admit it or not, it was a statement victory.
“Did we expect a game like this? Probably not,” Rams DE Robert Quinn said. “But we did expect to play a great game. We played pretty great.”
The Rams don’t have the division wrapped up, but have a two-game lead with two weeks to play. A win against either Tennessee or San Francisco is enough for their first division title in 14 years.
Perhaps bigger than the division title was the statement made by the Rams. They didn’t just win in Seattle — a place losing its aura as the toughest to play in the league. They completely dominated the Seahawks, making a Carroll-coached team look rarely overmatched in a big game.
Seattle (8-6) is barely alive for the postseason, but it will likely need some help.
“No, there is nothing to be happy about. That was a really dismal performance by us,” Carroll said.
While the Seahawks don’t look playoff ready, the Rams look playoff scary, dominating the line of scrimmage and taking advantage of their first-half opportunities.
The Rams scored on six of seven first-half drives thanks largely to great field position. Six of the Rams seven possessions in the first half started at midfield or inside Seattle territory and they scored on all six.
The surge included a 21-point scoring blitz in the second quarter capped by a 57-yard TD run by Gurley on third-and-20 with less than a minute remaining in the first half to take a 34-0 lead at the break.
Gurley had 144 yards rushing in the first half, twice scoring from the 1. He added a 14-yard TD reception midway through the third quarter for a 40-0 Rams lead and spent the rest of his day watching. The 152 yards rushing were the second-best of his career.
Goff didn’t need to do much, completing 14 of 21 for 120 yards and two TDs. He threw a 1-yard TD to Robert Woods in the second quarter along with his TD to Gurley. The only miscue for the Rams was a questionable fourth-and-1 decision at the Seattle 24 where the Rams called a play-action pass that was tipped and intercepted. It was the one highlight of the first half for Seattle.
“I think our guys understood that this was a big opportunity to try to come in here and take a two-game lead in our division with two left,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
Dallas 20, (at) Oakland 17: Dallas kept its playoff hopes alive by the slimmest of margins after Dak Prescott converted a fourth-down sneak by the width of an index card to set up Dan Bailey’s go-ahead 19-yard field goal, and Derek Carr fumbled the ball inches from the goal line with 31 seconds left to give the Cowboys a victory over the Raiders.
The first key play came when Cowboys coach Jason Garrett decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 39 with about five minutes left in a tie game. Prescott ran into a pile that took officials time to untangle.
Referee Gene Steratore then called for the chains to come out, but even that wasn’t enough. He then tried to slide what appeared to be an index card between the tip of the ball and the end of the chain. When the card didn’t slide through, Steratore gave Dallas (8-6) a first down.
Prescott then hit Dez Bryant with a 40-yard pass that set up Bailey’s short kick with 1:44 to play that gave the Cowboys the lead.
But the game was far from over. The Raiders (6-8) got a gift when Jourdan Lewis committed a 43-yard pass interference penalty on a fourth-and-10 from their own 30. Carr then scrambled on third-and-3 from the 8 and reached out for the end zone. But the ball came loose before crossing the goal line and went out of the end zone for a touchback that all but ended Oakland’s playoff hopes. The Raiders are tied for ninth in the AFC.
Dallas is in a three-way tie for seventh place in the NFC, a half-game behind Atlanta for the final playoff spot. The Falcons beat the Cowboys head-to-head.
The Cowboys got their third straight win without suspended star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who returns from a six-game suspension next week. But Dallas’ three straight losses at the start of the suspension created a hole the team is still trying to escape.
(At) Jacksonville 45, Houston 7: The Jacksonville Jaguars are returning to the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Once the NFL’s poster child for futility and a punchline for potential relocation, the Jaguars (10-4) are now one of the league’s top turnaround stories.
Blake Bortles threw three touchdowns passes, including two to a reserve receiver who slept in his car earlier this season. The Jaguars won for the seventh time in eight games to clinch a postseason berth for the first time since 2007.
Bortles finished with a season-high 326 yards and the best QB rating (143.8) of his career, including 186 yards and a touchdown to rookie Keelan Cole. Primary punt returner Jaydon Mickens, who stepped in for injured starter Marqise Lee in the first quarter, caught four passes for 61 yards and two scores against the Texans (4-10).
The Jaguars were an NFL-worst 22-74 over the previous six years, more a laughingstock than a postseason contender.
(At) San Francisco 25, Tennessee 23: Jimmy Garoppolo led one final scoring drive in the closing seconds to cap a fantastic first home start and Robbie Gould kicked a winning 45-yard field goal as time expired.
Garoppolo threw for a career-high 381 yards and a touchdown to give the 49ers (4-10) a three-game winning streak in a lost season. And Tom Brady’s former backup showed he could do it at home as well as on the road — and against a playoff contender, no less — outdueling Marcus Mariota down the stretch as the teams traded field goals.
Gould kicked three of his six field goals over the final nine minutes: 50, 48 and 45 yards, and has now gone 20 consecutive without a miss.
Gould put the Niners out front on a 48-yarder with 3:08 remaining. Mariota then drove the Titans (8-6) to a lead as Ryan Succop kicked a 50-yard field goal with 1:07 to play, then Garoppolo and the San Francisco offense got one last shot.
Philadelphia 34, (at) N.Y. Giants 29: Nick Foles threw four touchdown passes in his first start replacing the injured Carson Wentz, and the Eagles secured a first-round playoff bye.
Foles hit 24 of 38 passes for 237 yards and no interceptions. The NFC East champion Eagles (12-2) made a late stand on first-and-goal in the final minute in edging the Giants (2-12) for the second time this season, spoiling a three-touchdown, season-high 434-yard passing game by Eli Manning.
Foles hit Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Trey Burton and Nelson Agholor on scoring passes ranging from 3 to 13 yards in filling in for Wentz, who tore an ACL last week and was lost for the season after a brilliant year.
The Eagles also got two field goals from Jake Elliott and three blocked kicks from their special teams, foiling an extra point, a punt and field goal. The block on the punt set up a touchdown.
Manning finished 37 of 57 and hit Tavarres King on two touchdowns and Sterling Shepard on one. It was Manning’s ninth career 400-yard game and his first since last season.
(At) Carolina 31, Green Bay 24: Cam Newton threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns, and the Panthers spoiled Aaron Rodgers’ return from a broken collarbone.
Damiere Byrd had two touchdown catches, and Christian McCaffrey had 136 yards from scrimmage, including a 7-yard touchdown reception as the Panthers (10-4) won their fourth straight home game.
Greg Olsen had his most productive game since returning from a broken foot, catching nine passes for 116 yards and a TD, and the Panthers kept pace with the first-place New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.
Rodgers, making his first appearance since Oct. 15, threw for 290 yards with three touchdowns, but was intercepted three times as the Packers’ playoff hopes took a critical blow.
Green Bay (7-7) had a chance to send the game into overtime for a third straight week. But cornerback James Bradberry stripped wide receiver Geronimo Allison of the ball with 1:48 remaining. Mike Adams recovered to finish off the Packers.
(At) New Orleans 31, N.Y. Jets 19: Mark Ingram ran for two touchdowns and gained 151 yards from scrimmage, including a late 50-yard TD run, and the Saints overcame three turnovers.
Michael Thomas became the second NFL player with at least 90 receptions in his first two seasons. He caught nine passes for 93 yards, including a pivotal fourth-quarter touchdown on a short slant for New Orleans (10-4), which retained its tenuous hold on first place in the NFC South heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
Alvin Kamara turned a short catch into a 10-yard TD in his return from a concussion that knocked him out of the Saints’ loss at Atlanta a week earlier.
Bryce Petty made his first start at quarterback this season for the Jets (5-9), who were eliminated from playoff contention. Petty completed 19 of 39 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice — once on a tipped pass and once on a long, inconsequential throw as the game ended.
His 2-yard touchdown pass to rookie Elijah McGuire cut New Orleans’ lead to 24-19 with 1:51 left. But the Jets’ onside kick failed and Ingram broke loose for his long score while the Saints were trying to run down the clock.
Drew Brees completed 26 of 36 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns, but also was intercepted deep in his own territory to set up a Jets field goal at the end of the first half.
Baltimore 27, (at) Cleveland 10: Joe Flacco threw a touchdown pass, ran for a score and beat Cleveland again as the Ravens stayed on track for the AFC playoffs.
With victories at home over Indianapolis and Cincinnati in its last two games, the Ravens will return to the postseason after a two-year absence.
The Browns are two losses from becoming the NFL’s second 0-16 team.
Flacco scored on a 2-yard run and threw a 33-yard TD pass to Benjamin Watson as the Ravens (8-6) took control with two touchdowns in the final 3:01 of the first half.
Defensive tackle Brandon Williams recovered a fumble and rolled in for a TD in third quarter to put the Ravens up 24-10.
The Browns (0-14) went 0-8 at home — 0-7 in Cleveland, 0-1 in London — for the second time and must win at either Chicago or Pittsburgh to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions in the notorious 0-16 club. Last season, the Browns avoided infamy by winning their final home game and finishing 1-15.
Cleveland is 1-29 in two seasons under coach Hue Jackson, who is expected to be back despite his .033 winning percentage.
(At) Buffalo 24, Miami 16: LeSean McCoy scored twice and surpassed 10,000 career yards rushing, while helping the Bills stay in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt.
Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 9-yard touchdown run and Shareece Wright and Jordan Poyer intercepted Miami’s Jay Cutler on consecutive drives to start the second half. Buffalo never trailed. Rookie Tre’Davious White sealed the win by intercepting Cutler with 28 seconds remaining — and one play after Miami punter Matt Haack recovered an onside kick at Miami’s 37.
The Bills have won three of four and improved to 8-6 to match the team’s best record through 14 games during Buffalo’s 17-year playoff drought — the longest active streak in North America’s four major professional sports. The Bills were 8-6 in both 2004 and 2014, but missed the playoffs with 9-7 finishes.
Buffalo also finished 6-2 at home to match its best finish at Orchard Park since 1999.
Buffalo must now hit the road to continue its playoff pursuit, closing the season at New England, then at Miami on Dec. 31.
The loss all but mathematically eliminated the Dolphins (6-8) from playoff contention.
(At) Washington 20, Arizona 15: Anthony Lanier sacked Blaine Gabbert and forced a fumble that Preston Smith recovered and the Redskins held on to beat the Cardinals in a comedy of errors for each team.
Smith also intercepted Gabbert and Lanier batted down three passes and had two sacks as they gave the Redskins (6-8) a glimpse of their potential as significant pieces of the defense for years to come.
Gabbert was 16 of 41 for 189 yards with the interception and a fumble he recovered himself in the fourth quarter. Arizona (6-8), which got all its points on field goals by Phil Dawson, went 0 for 6 in the red zone and 4 for 19 on third down as it was eliminated from playoff contention.
Washington’s Kirk Cousins was 18 of 26 for 196 yards with touchdown passes to Jamison Crowder and new running back Kapri Bibbs. The Redskins were booed at times in the second half by fans in the announced crowd of 71,026.