(Reuters) - The Chicago Bears held on to beat the Detroit Lions 26-24 to keep their post-season hopes alive and end the New York Giants’ Super Bowl defense as the National Football League playoff picture came into sharper focus on the final Sunday.
With head coach Chuck Pagano back on the sidelines for the first time in three months after undergoing cancer treatment, the Indianapolis Colts posted a 28-16 win over Houston that may end up costing the Texans a first round bye.
Needing a win over the Philadelphia Eagles and plenty of help from other teams to keep their slim post-season dreams alive, the Giants came out firing on a bitterly cold day at MetLife Stadium, charging to a 35-7 halftime lead then coasting to 42-7 victory.
A sputtering New York offense that scored a total of 14 points the previous two games, scored three times in the opening quarter, Eli Manning finding Rueben Randle with a pair of touchdown strikes and David Wilson for another.
Manning tossed two more in the second half giving the Super Bowl most valuable player five touchdown passes in a game for the first time in his career but it wasn’t nearly enough with the Giants needing the Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys all to lose to extend their season.
The suspense ended early as Chicago beat the Lions with the help of four field goals from Olindo Mare, including a 20-yarder in the fourth quarter that provided the margin of victory.
The Bears immediately took the Giants’ place in the playoff hot seat and in the unusual position of cheering for their bitter North division rivals the Green Bay Packers to beat the Minnesota Vikings later on Sunday in order to clinch an NFC wild card.
The Texans also will be tuned into the television as they could see their hopes of first round bye disappear.
A win over the Colts would have clinched the AFC’s number one seed for Houston but now the Texans could find themselves playing next week if the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos win their final regular season games.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, editing by Gene Cherry