Taking advantage of a special teams stop on a fake punt, Drew Brees threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas with 1:25 left to lift the host New Orleans Saints to a 31-28 comeback victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday and clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
Pittsburgh (8-6-1) led 28-24 with little more than four minutes left when it faced a fourth-and-5 from its own 42. Fullback Roosevelt Nix took the snap and ran up the middle, but linebacker Craig Robertson stopped him a yard short of the first down at the Steelers’ 46.
Given the short field, Brees drove the Saints 46 yards in 10 plays for the decisive score.
The Steelers had one more shot, moving into Saints territory with 41 seconds left. But after catching a pass from Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster lost the ball on a tackle by defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, and the Saints (13-2) recovered to clinch the victory.
Patriots 24, Bills 12
New England pounded out 273 rushing yards to beat visiting Buffalo and clinch the AFC East title for the 10th straight season.
Rookie running back Sony Michel led the way with 116 yards and a touchdown as the Patriots (10-5) found their footing after consecutive losses and extended their unprecedented run of divisional dominance.
With the strong running game, New England didn’t need to rely on Tom Brady against the Bills (5-10). Brady finished 13-of-24 passing for 126 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Brady’s 48.3 quarterback rating was the seventh-lowest of his career.
Seahawks 38, Chiefs 31
Russell Wilson passed for three touchdowns, and Chris Carson rushed for two as Seattle clinched an NFC wild-card berth with a victory against visiting Kansas City.
Wilson completed 18 of 29 passes for 271 yards and did not throw an interception. He also had 57 yards rushing on eight attempts, including a 26-yard scamper on a scoring drive in the fourth quarter that gave Seattle (9-6) a 31-20 lead. Carson rushed for 116 yards on 27 carries, becoming the first Seattle running back to reach 1,000 yards in a season since Marshawn Lynch in 2014.
Patrick Mahomes completed 23 of 40 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns for the Chiefs (11-4), who lost their second in a row and remained tied atop the AFC West with the Los Angeles Chargers. Damien Williams rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries in the loss.
Cowboys 27, Buccaneers 20
Despite losing defensive end Tyrone Crawford to a neck injury on the game’s second play, Dallas got its first defensive touchdown of the season and a touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to beat Tampa Bay in Arlington, Texas, to clinch the NFC East.
Crawford was stretchered off the field less than a minute into the game on what looked like an ordinary play. The team announced early Sunday night that Crawford sustained a neck strain and was released from the hospital.
Without Crawford, the Cowboys (9-6) were able to close out the division crown and earn a home game in the NFC playoffs despite being outgained 383-232. Dallas played turnover-free, unlike Tampa Bay (5-10). The league leader in turnovers entering the game, the Buccaneers committed two more.
Eagles 32, Texans 30
Jake Elliott hit a 35-yard field goal as time expired to deliver host Philadelphia a crucial win over Houston and preserve the defending champions’ playoff hopes.
Nick Foles completed 35 of 49 attempts for a team-record 471 yards and four touchdowns, winning a second consecutive start in subbing for the injured Carson Wentz (back). The game-winning, 72-yard drive came after Deshaun Watson led the Texans (10-5) on two fourth-quarter scoring marches to take a 30-29 lead with 2:04 to play.
Watson finished 29 of 40 for 339 yards and four total touchdowns, including two rushing. Tight end Zach Ertz recorded 12 receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns for the Eagles (8-7), giving him 113 catches to break Jason Witten’s NFL single-season record of 110 receptions by a tight end.
Browns 26, Bengals 18
Baker Mayfield threw three touchdown passes and fellow rookie Nick Chubb rushed for more than 100 yards for the fourth time this season as Cleveland defeated visiting Cincinnati.
Mayfield now has 24 touchdown passes in his rookie season, two shy of the rookie record shared by Peyton Manning (1998) and Russell Wilson (2012). Cleveland (7-7-1) swept the season series from Cincinnati (6-9), with Mayfield throwing for 542 yards and seven touchdowns in the two games.
The Browns’ defense held the Bengals in check until the final five minutes Sunday, when Cincinnati scored a pair of touchdowns two minutes apart to make things interesting. But Cleveland iced the game when Mayfield found David Njoku for 66 yards to the Browns’ 3-yard line just before the two-minute warning.
Colts 28, Giants 27
Andrew Luck threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Chester Rogers with 55 seconds left as Indianapolis rallied for a one-point victory over visiting New York to remain in the thick of the playoff race.
Luck hit Rogers with a pass in the left flat to cap the eight-play, 53-yard drive and knot the score, and Adam Vinatieri kicked the extra point to give Indianapolis (9-6) the lead.
Malik Hooker intercepted Giants quarterback Eli Manning with 23 seconds left to seal the Colts’ eighth victory in their past nine games. New York fell to 5-10 after winning four of its previous six games.
Vikings 27, Lions 9
Tight end Kyle Rudolph caught two touchdown passes from Kirk Cousins, including a Hail Mary on the final play of the first half, and Minnesota pulled away to top host Detroit.
Rudolph caught nine passes for 122 yards while recording his third career two-touchdown game. Cousins completed 21 of 28 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns for Minnesota (8-6-1), which moved closer to a wild-card playoff berth.
Matt Prater kicked three field goals for Detroit (5-10). Matthew Stafford was 18 for 32 for 116 yards before being removed late in the contest. The Lions were held scoreless in the second half.
Jaguars 17, Dolphins 7
Linebacker Telvin Smith intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass and rumbled 33 yards for the game-sealing score as Jacksonville eliminated host Miami from playoff contention.
Miami (7-8) lost its second straight game.
Jacksonville (5-10) went to former starting quarterback Blake Bortles with 42 seconds left in the third quarter, and he led the Jaguars to a go-ahead field goal and finished the game. He completed 5 of 6 passes for 39 yards and also ran four times for 25 yards.
Packers 44, Jets 38 (OT)
Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, in the midst of a lost season, salvaged some pride by rallying past New York in overtime in East Rutherford, N.J.
Green Bay (6-8-1), which avoided the first 0-8 road season in franchise history, won the overtime toss and drove right down the field to win the game. The big play was a 33-yard penalty for pass interference on cornerback Trumaine Johnson on a deep pass attempt to receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Offensive holding wiped out Rodgers’ touchdown run but, on the next play, Rodgers hit receiver Davante Adams for a 16-yard touchdown.
Rodgers finished 37 of 55 for 442 yards with two touchdown passes and two touchdown runs. Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold had another impressive outing in a losing cause for the Jets (4-11), finishing 24 of 35 for 341 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers.
Falcons 24, Panthers 10
Matt Ryan threw for two long touchdowns in the third quarter as visiting Atlanta eliminated Carolina from playoff contention in Charlotte, N.C.
The Panthers (6-9), who have lost seven consecutive games and had only a slim chance of reaching the postseason prior to the game, were playing without quarterback Cam Newton because of a shoulder injury.
Ryan finished 15-for-26 passing for 239 yards and three touchdowns for the Falcons (6-9), who swept the season series from Carolina.
Rams 31, Cardinals 9
C.J. Anderson rushed for 167 yards and a touchdown and Jared Goff threw for 216 yards and a score as visiting Los Angeles ended its two-game losing streak with an easy victory in Glendale, Ariz.
The win, after consecutive defeats to the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, means the Rams (12-3) can lock up a first-round bye in the playoffs with a win at home against the San Francisco 49ers during the final week of the regular season.
Anderson, who was making his Rams debut, was signed earlier in the week for running back depth. Rams starting running back Todd Gurley was scratched against the Cardinals (3-12) with left knee inflammation.
Bears 14, 49ers 9
Jordan Howard scored on a 2-yard run in the third quarter and the Chicago defense pitched a shutout in the second half as the Bears outlasted San Francisco in Santa Clara, Calif., and kept alive their hopes for a first-round playoff bye.
The win allowed the Bears (11-4), who have clinched the NFC North, to stay within one game of the Los Angeles Rams (12-3) in the battle for the No. 2 seed in the NFC. A Chicago win next week at Minnesota coupled with a Los Angeles home loss to San Francisco would give the Bears the second seed and a first-round bye.
The 49ers (4-11) had a two-game winning streak snapped.
—Field Level Media