Sunday's NFL: Rams clinch West, win with 'Flair'
Nashville, Tenn. — The Los Angeles Rams and first-year coach Sean McVay saved the real celebration for the locker room.
That’s where McVay, the youngest coach in modern NFL history, channeled wrestler Ric Flair after the Rams clinched the franchise’s first NFC West title since 2003 by beating the Tennessee Titans 27-23 on Sunday.
“When you find a way to come on the road and finish up your road record 7-1 and win a division title, there’s only one thing you can say. Woooo! One more: Woooo!” McVay said before giving the Rams off until Wednesday.
Los Angeles trailed 23-20 before Jared Goff threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp with 11:41 left. The Rams (11-4), who came in needing a win or a loss by Seattle to secure the division, took care of business themselves, with Todd Gurley II and Goff leading the way again.
Gurley bolstered his argument for NFL MVP with 118 yards rushing and 158 yards receiving with two TDs, including a screen he took 80 yards for the longest reception of his career. He became only the third in NFL history to put together such a performance in the same game, joining Ollie Matson (1954) and Herschel Walker (1986). Goff finished with four touchdowns and 301 yards passing.
“He is in my book,” Goff said, vouching for Gurley for MVP. “If there’s anyone out there that’s a running back that deserves it, he’s the guy.”
The Titans (8-7) lost their third straight, damaging their chances of ending their own playoff drought stretching to 2008. The loss handed the AFC South title to the Jaguars, and Tennessee hosts Jacksonville in the regular-season finale needing a win to reach the postseason.
“We still have an opportunity to get into the playoffs, and that is the next objective,” coach Mike Mularkey said.
(At) New England 37, Buffalo 16: Tom Brady passed for a pair of touchdowns and the Patriots stayed on track to claim home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Dion Lewis caught a touchdown pass and rushed for a 4-yard score. He carried 24 times for a career-high 129 yards. It was just his second-career 100-yard game. Mike Gillislee, active for the first time in six games, added a 1-yard rushing touchdown
New England (12-3) can lock up first-round bye with either a Pittsburgh or Jacksonville loss. Even with the loss, the Bills (8-7) remain in contention to break their 17-year playoff drought. Buffalo stayed close throughout and went into halftime locked in a 13-13 tie. But the Bills managed just three points in the final 30 minutes, after a touchdown at the end of the first half was taken away.
Trailing 13-10, Buffalo was in position to take the lead, but an apparent 4-yard touchdown pass from Tyrod Taylor to Kelvin Benjamin in the corner of the end zone was overturned after an official review.
NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron said in a Twitter post Benjamin was juggling the ball and was only able to get one of his feet down before completing the catch.
(At) Chicago 20, Cleveland 3: The Browns got pushed to the brink of a winless season, hurt by two more interceptions by DeShone Kizer and two turnovers in the red zone. One more loss and the Browns will join the 2008 Lions as the only teams to go 0-16.
And the Browns will wrap up the season at AFC North leader Pittsburgh next week.
Then again, the Browns (0-15) keep racking up losses no matter whom they’re playing.
Rashard Higgins lost a fumble near the goal line that Chicago (5-10) recovered in the end zone.
(At) Washington 27, Denver 11: Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns in what could be his final home game for Washington. Cousins was 19 of 37 with TD passes to Jamison Crowder , Josh Doctson and Vernon Davis and an interception. He became the first quarterback in Washington history with three seasons of 25 or more TD passes, and needs 65 yards for his third in a row with 4,000-plus yards.
Washington’s 386 offensive yards are third most by a Denver opponent this season, behind only Philadelphia and New England. The Broncos came in giving up an average of 276.8 yards a game.
Washington (7-8) came 78 seconds from not allowing a touchdown for a second consecutive game for the first time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Washington had allowed a combined 68 points in its previous two games before clamping down against Arizona and Denver.
After a week of uncertainty, Brock Osweiler started at QB over Paxton Lynch for the Broncos (5-10) and was 22 of 38 for 193 yards with a fumble and an interception. C.J. Anderson scored a late touchdown and was the game’s leading rusher with 16 yards on 88 carries.
(At) Carolina 22, Tampa Bay 19: Cam Newton scored on a 2-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds remaining to lift the Carolina Panthers to a spot in the NFC playoffs. The Panthers (11-4) trailed most of the second half, but Newton drove the Panthers 59 yards completing 4 of 7 passes for 52 yards in the final 3 minutes before scoring on a what could have been a disastrous play.
Newton fumbled the snap from the shotgun, alertly picked it up and then raced across the goal line for the go-ahead score.
Newton celebrated the score by using the football as a prop, pretending to light a candle on a cake in celebration of his son Chosen’s second birthday.
Carolina can clinch the NFC South championship with a win over Atlanta and a New Orleans loss to Tampa Bay.
The Panthers sealed the game when Kawann Short sacked Jameis Winston on Tampa Bay’s final drive, and forced a fumble that Julius Peppers recovered. The Bucs are 4-11.
(At) Kansas City 29, Miami 13: Alex Smith threw for 304 yards and a touchdown, Kareem Hunt ran for 91 yards and a score and the Chiefs clinched back-to-back AFC West titles for the first time.
Tyreek Hill had six catches for 109 yards, and Harrison Butker converted five field goals, as the Chiefs (9-6) dashed what faint postseason hope the Dolphins (6-9) still harbored.
L.A. Chargers 14, (at) N.Y. Jets 7: Philip Rivers threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Gates, Melvin Gordon ran for a score, and the Chargers stayed alive in the AFC playoff race. The Chargers (8-7) entered the weekend needing to win both of their remaining games — including next Sunday at home against Oakland — and get lots of help elsewhere to remain in the mix. Rivers & Co. held up their end of things, but barely.
Los Angeles, which started the season 0-4, had a tough time getting much going against a spirited effort by the defense of the Jets (5-10). Rivers finished 22 of 40 for 290 yards.
Seattle 21, (at) Dallas 12: Justin Coleman put Seattle in front for good with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown and the Seahawks won a playoff elimination game in Ezekiel Elliott’s return from a six-game suspension. Dak Prescott threw two interceptions and the Dallas offense didn’t score a touchdown despite the reunion with his backfield mate, the one he shared a remarkable rookie season with a year ago when Cowboys had an NFC-best 13 wins.
Now Dallas (8-7) is eliminated from the postseason with the end of its three-game winning streak, and the Seahawks (9-6) still have a chance to keep their five-year playoff streak alive after Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns despite a career-low 93 yards passing.
(At) San Francisco 44, Jacksonville 33: Jimmy Garoppolo threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score against one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses and the 49ers won their fourth straight behind their new quarterback. The day wasn’t a total loss for the Jaguars (10-5), who clinched their first division title since 1999 earlier in the afternoon when Tennessee lost at home to the Rams. But the defeat dealt a big blow to Jacksonville’s hopes for a first-round bye.