Sunday's NFL: Packers survive wild finish, secure playoff spot
Green Bay, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers’ wait to see if a long-time foe would help them clinch a playoff spot was a whole lot easier than the lateral-filled final play they had to survive to beat the Chicago Bears in the rivals’ 200th game.
Leading by eight points with just 1 second remaining, Tramon Williams fell on Jesper Horstead’s fumble at the 2-yard line to end Green Bay’s 21-13 victory over the Bears Sunday. A few hours later, the Packers were playoff bound, when the Dallas Cowboys beat the Los Angeles Rams.
“I think I blacked out there for a second,” Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur said. “There was so many laterals. I couldn’t tell. I was just hoping that someone was going to make the tackle.”
With the win, Green Bay (11-3) swept the Bears for the 15th time in the last 26 seasons and the seventh time in 11 seasons. The Packers defeated Chicago 10-3 in the season opener. Green Bay now leads the series 99-95-6.
“I think we have a bunch of guys that are going to fight for every inch out there and that are resilient and that care about each other,” LaFleur said. “This is what I told the team last night, ‘What I love about this team is these guys have embraced their roles.’”
The Packers improved to 19-5 against the Bears with Rodgers as the starting quarterback. Rodgers completed just 16 of 33 passes for a pedestrian 203 yards. The two-time MVP entered the day with a 103.2 career passer rating against the Bears, the highest in league history of quarterbacks with at least 250 passes against Chicago. He had a 78.2 rating on Sunday.
“I love being 11-3,” Rodgers said. “I think the performance was a little up and down but I thought we did some really good things. We just gotta be a little more opportunistic when we have opportunities.”
Mitchell Trubisky completed his first five pass attempts for the Bears (7-7) but for only 18 yards. Chicago’s offense opened the game with three straight punts and a turnover on downs. Trubisky finished 28 of 53 for 321 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, and the Bears had their three-game win streak end.
“Obviously, not the outcome that we wanted,” Chicago coach Matt Nagy said. “We wanted to come here and play four quarters. I thought the way that our guys fought back there at the end to give us a chance to win is good, but obviously the outcome’s not good. Got to pick up the pieces and get better.”
The Packers got on the board first on a 29-yard strike from Rodgers to Davante Adams in the first quarter. Adams beat Buster Skrine off the line for his fourth touchdown in the last four weeks. Adams finished with 103 yards on seven catches.
“I think what Matt did today was great, moving Davante around,” Rodgers said. “We had a number of snaps with him in the slot. And he was playing both Z and X. We’re going to have to do that.”
Eddy Piñeiro knocked in a 30-yard field goal late in the first half for the Bears.
The Packers opened the second half with an impressive five-play, 73-yard drive that featured a 34-yard reception to Adams, a season-long 17-yard scamper by Rodgers, and a 21-yard touchdown run by Aaron Jones, his 13th rushing TD of the season.
“I just think it’s so imperative in this league, especially when you’re playing against a good defense, you gotta get those chunk plays,” LaFleur said. “You gotta find ways to come up with and find ways to create some explosives. If you’re able to do that, you’re able to score points. … Third down has not been very good to us, so we’ve gotta find ways to create those chunk plays and stay out of third-down situations.”
After another stalled possession by Chicago, Rodgers and Jake Kumerow linked up for a 49-yard gain, Kumerow’s longest reception of the season. The play helped set up another score for Jones from 2 yards and the Packers took a commanding 21-3 lead in the third quarter.
Piñeiro added a 27-yard field goal at the start of the fourth and Trubisky found Anthony Miller for a 2-yard score to cut it to 21-13 with 8:09 to go. Miller had nine catches for 118 yards and the score.
“All in all, big picture, we don’t get the win,” Nagy said. “We could have played better in all three phases, and I could point to a lot of different things. But I’m going to stay positive with our guys, because I appreciate their fight.”
Defensive lineman Dean Lowry picked off Trubisky with 6:33 left, Lowry’s first career interception.
Kenny Clark had two sacks and Rashan Gary had another for the Packers. Nick Kwiatkoski had the lone sack for Chicago.
Allen Robinson had seven catches for 125 yards for the Bears, who saw their three-game winning streak end.
►Houston 24, (at) Tennessee 21: The Texans grabbed control of the AFC South by beating the Titans.
The defending division champs are looking for Houston’s fourth AFC South title in six years under coach Bill O’Brien. The Titans haven’t won this division since 2008, and Mike Vrabel is Tennessee’s third coach since then.
Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked a 29-yard field goal with 3:26 left for the winning points.
The Texans (9-5) nearly blew a 14-0 halftime lead. Deshaun Watson threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns, but Tennessee also intercepted him twice inside the Titans 1.
The Titans (8-6) snapped a four-game win streak with only their second loss in seven games. Now they will need help in the final two games to earn their second playoff berth in three seasons.
►Buffalo 17, (at) Pittsburgh 10: Josh Allen threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Kroft with 7:55 to play and Buffalo clinched a playoff spot, beating Pittsburgh.
The Bills secured their second playoff berth in three seasons under coach Sean McDermott. Buffalo trailed 10-7, but scored on two possessions in the fourth quarter, as Allen rallied the Bills for a comeback win for the fifth time this season. Consecutive interceptions by Jordan Poyer and Levi Wallace on Pittsburgh’s last two possessions sealed the victory.
The surging Steelers had an opportunity to leapfrog the Bills for the top AFC wild card spot, but Buffalo snapped Pittsburgh’s three-game win streak.
Buffalo won for the fourth time in five games and recorded its first 10-win season since 1999. The Bills also beat the Steelers for the second time ever in Pittsburgh.
Allen completed 13 of 25 passes for 139 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Allen, who also rushed for a score, has only lost consecutive games once in his career. Kroft scored his first touchdown since 2017 when he played for Cincinnati. Devin Singletary rushed for 87 yards and John Brown caught seven passes for 99 yards. He became Buffalo’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2015.
Devlin Hodges completed 23 of 38 passes for 202 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions.
►New England 34, (at) Cincinnati 13: Tom Brady threw a pair of touchdown passes to move within one of the NFL career record, Stephon Gilmore returned one of his two interceptions 64 yards for a score, and the Patriots clinched a playoff berth.
A week that started with intrigue — a Patriots crew videotaping the Bengals’ sideline in Cleveland — concluded with more New England history. The Patriots have made the playoffs 11 consecutive seasons, extending their NFL record.
Brady had touchdown passes of 23 and 7 yards that left him with 538 for his career, one shy of Peyton Manning’s record.
The Patriots (11-3) haven’t been as overwhelming in this playoff push, getting just enough out of the 42-year-old Brady and more than enough out of the league’s top-ranked defense.
►(At) Dallas 44, L.A. Rams 21: Dak Prescott threw two touchdown passes and Ezekiel Elliott ran for two scores. The Cowboys (7-7) ended their second three-game losing streak of the season, and the defending NFC East champions stayed even with Philadelphia atop the division with a showdown looming next week.
The defending NFC champion Rams (8-6), who already needed help to get into the playoffs, didn’t help themselves with another poor showing a week after their most impressive game of the season in a win over Seattle. Their loss clinched playoff berths for Seattle, San Francisco and Green Bay.
After rushing for a franchise playoff-record 273 yards in a 30-22 divisional win over the Cowboys last January, the Rams were held to 22 while Dallas churned out a season-high 263. Todd Gurley had 11 carries for 20 yards.
Coming off two of his better games of the season, Rams quarterback Jared Goff had a rough outing that looked better because of his fourth-quarter numbers with the outcome decided. He finished 22 of 51 for 284 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
The Cowboys’ No. 1-ranked offense kept rolling with a season high in points to go with 475 yards, including scoring drives of 90 and 97 yards.
►Atlanta 29, (at) San Francisco 20: Matt Ryan teamed with Julio Jones on a 5-yard pass that was ruled a touchdown after a replay reversal with 2 seconds left. Jones was called short of the goal line with the Falcons (5-9) trailing 22-17. But a replay showed the ball breaking the plane with the Jones in the air while being tackled by Jimmie Ward.
When things couldn’t get crazier, they did: On the final kickoff, Atlanta scored another touchdown when Olamide Zaccheaus came up with the ball as the 49ers were tossing it around in desperation.
The 49ers (11-3) still clinched their first playoff berth since a 2013 run to the NFC championship game with the Rams’ loss at Dallas.
In an afternoon when Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense hardly shined, San Francisco’s other units did their best to hold off Ryan until the quarterback exhibited the poise of a former MVP in a dramatic final minute — or, make that 12 seconds.
Facing his former team and now in his third year as 49ers coach, Kyle Shanahan’s high-powered offense fizzled much of the day.
►Minnesota 39, (at) L.A. Chargers 10: Dan Bailey kicked four field goals and Ifeadi Odenigbo scored Minnesota’s second defensive touchdown in three games.
Los Angeles led 10-9 midway through the second quarter before Minnesota scored 30 unanswered points. The Chargers (5-9), who have dropped four of their last five, committed seven turnovers, their most since having seven against the Giants in 1986. The seven turnovers resulted in 20 Minnesota points.
Mike Boone ran for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and Kirk Cousins threw for 207 yards and a TD for the Vikings (10-4), who have won four of their last five to remain in possession of the NFC’s last playoff spot.
Melvin Gordon fumbled twice and Philip Rivers threw three interceptions. Rivers, who threw for 307 yards, has been picked off 10 times in the past five games.
LA appeared to be in field goal range at the Vikings 26. But on second-and-2, Rivers fumbled when he was sacked by Danielle Hunter. Austin Ekeler recovered it at the 38 and tried to make a play but also fumbled. Odenigbo then scooped up the loose ball and went 56 yards for a touchdown to give Minnesota a 19-10 lead.
Boone, who had 49 yards on 13 attempts, had most of his carries in the second half after Dalvin Cook was injured. He had touchdown runs of 8 and 2 yards in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
►Seattle 30, (at) Carolina 24: Russell Wilson threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns, Chris Carson ran for 133 yards and two scores.
The Seahawks (11-3) wrapped up a postseason berth for the seventh time in the last eight seasons with a Rams loss at Dallas. They also tied San Francisco for the NFC West lead.
It was the 100th regular season win for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Seattle scored on its first three possessions as Wilson completed 8 of 10 passes for 175 yards, with 19-yard touchdown passes to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett for a perfect 153.8 QB rating. Chris Carson added a 16-yard TD run as the Seahawks built a 20-7 lead at halftime.
But Seattle had to hold on after nearly surrendering a 30-10 lead with 7:28 left in the game as Carolina (5-9) got two touchdowns. Christian McCaffrey scored on a 15-yard run and Kyle Allen found Curtis Samuel for a 5-yard score to make it a one-possession game with 3:19 left. But the Seahawks overcame two holding penalties and Wilson connected on a 14-yard pass to Lockett on a third-and-11 to help the Seahawks run out the clock.
►Philadelphia 37, (at) Washington 27: Carson Wentz recovered from a late fumble by leading a 75-yard, go-ahead scoring drive and throwing his third touchdown pass of the day to keep the Eagles’ NFC East hopes on track.
Wentz threw TD passes to running back Miles Sanders, tight end Zach Ertz and receiver Greg Ward and was 30 of 43 for 266 yards. The 4-yard pass from Wentz to Ward with 26 seconds left put Philadelphia up for good and electrified a stadium full of green-clad Eagles fans.
Wentz’s ability to bounce back from some accuracy issues and a turnover means the Eagles (7-7) are tied with Dallas in the division race with a game against the Cowboys coming next week.
Of course, Wentz didn’t do it by himself. Sanders rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown and caught six passes for 50 yards. The Eagles defense that struggled to stop Washington’s Dwayne Haskins most of the afternoon got him to fumble for a touchdown return by Nigel Bradham on the game’s final play.
Coming off an overtime victory against Eli Manning and the New York Giants, a loss to Washington (3-11) could’ve had the Eagles facing elimination next week.
►(At) Arizona 38, Cleveland 24: Kenyan Drake ran for four touchdowns, Kyler Murray threw for 219 yards and a score and the Cardinals snapped a six-game losing streak.
Murray got the best of a much-anticipated showdown with Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield. The two were teammates in college at Oklahoma and both won Heisman Trophies before being selected with the No. 1 overall picks by their respective teams in back-to-back years.
Murray completed 19 of 25 passes and also ran for 58 yards. Drake, acquired midseason in a trade with the Dolphins, ran for a season-high 137 yards and scored a touchdown in every quarter. He’s the first Cardinals player to score four rushing touchdowns in a game since 1993.
Arizona pushed ahead 28-17 late in the third quarter when Drake scored his third touchdown on a 1-yard run, one play after the Cardinals won a pivotal challenge. Cleveland’s Damarious Randall was called for defensive pass interference after a review, reversing the no-call on the field.
Cleveland’s Nick Chubb — who came in as the NFL’s leading rusher — finished with 127 yards on the ground. Mayfield completed 30 of 43 passes for 247 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
►Jacksonville 20, (at) Oakland 16: Gardner Minshew threw two TD passes to Chris Conley in the final 5:15 of the game and the Jaguars spoiled the final scheduled game at the Oakland Coliseum.
The Raiders (6-8) broke out to a 16-3 lead and appeared comfortably ahead before falling apart in the closing minutes to put a damper on an already somber day in Oakland.
The Jaguars (5-9) drove 79 yards to draw within 16-13 on Minshew’s 6-yard TD pass to Conley.
The Raiders tried to run out the clock and got a pair of first-down runs from Josh Jacobs and another from Derek Carr. But Carr was ruled out of bounds with 2:05 to play after sliding down, sparing the Jaguars from using a timeout.
Oakland then got a delay of game in the confusion and Tyrell Williams dropped a third-down pass. Daniel Carlson then missed a 50-yard field goal, only to get another chance after Parry Nickerson was called for running into the kicker.
Carlson missed again from 45 yards and the Jaguars took over at the 35 with 1:44 to go. Minshew moved them downfield and connected with Conley on the 4-yard score with 31 seconds left.
►(At) N.Y. Giants 36, Miami 20: Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning threw two touchdowns in what might have been his final home start for the Giants and New York snapped a franchise record-tying nine-game losing streak.
Saquon Barkley ran for 112 yards and scored two walk-in touchdowns and New York’s much-maligned defense added a safety as the Giants (3-11) handed the Dolphins (3-11) their second loss in as many weeks at MetLife Stadium.
Manning, who lost his starting job to first-round draft pick Daniel Jones in Week 3 and got it back last week when the rookie sprained an ankle, threw a 51-yard scoring pass to Golden Tate in the second quarter. He threw a go-ahead 5-yarder to Darius Slayton on the opening series of the second half. The 38-year-old also threw three interceptions, two of which set up by field goals by Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders.
With 1:50 left, Manning (20 of 28 for 283 yards) was taken out by coach Pat Shurmur and replaced by Alex Tanney, drawing his second standing ovation from those left in the crowd. He walked to the sideline and was congratulated by teammates while the crowd chanted “Eli Manning.’’ He even smiled.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, whose game slipped after taking a big hit on a third-quarter scramble, threw two touchdowns to DaVante Parker, the second one with the game out of reach.