ATLANTA, Dec 28, (AP): Carolina’s bid for an undefeated season ended Sunday when Julio Jones’ dramatic 70-yard touchdown reception powered the Atlanta Falcons to a 20-13 victory over Cam Newton and the Panthers.
Carolina (14-1) got the ball with 90 seconds left and no timeouts remaining. Newton completed a 19-yard pass to Corey Brown on first down but fumbled when stripped by Vic Beasley Jr on the following play. Adrian Clayborn recovered for the Falcons, wrapping up the win.
Matt Ryan threw for 306 yards and one touchdown for the Falcons (8-7), and Devonta Freeman ran for 73 yards with a touchdown.
Newton threw for 142 yards and ran for 46 yards, including an 8-yard scoring run to cap the Panthers’ opening drive.
Jets 26, Patriots 20, OT
In East Rutherford, NJ, Eric Decker’s 6-yard touchdown catch on the first drive of overtime — after New England chose to kick off — lifted the Jets into position to make the playoffs.
A win next week at Buffalo gives the Jets a wild-card berth.
New England (12-3) won the OT coin toss and surprisingly elected to give the ball to the Jets (10-5). New York used a career-long 48-yard reception by Quincy Enunwa and a 20-yard pass to Brandon Marshall to move into scoring position. And then, Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Decker on a fade behind Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler for New York’s fifth straight victory.
Marshall had two TD catches and also became the first NFL player with 100 receptions in six seasons.
Tom Brady hit James White for a 9-yard score with 1:55 to go, forcing OT.
Cardinals 38, Packers 8
In Glendale, Ariz, Arizona sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times and returned two of his fumbles for touchdowns to clinch a first-round playoff bye.
Carson Palmer threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns for Arizona (13-2).
In all, the Packers were sacked nine times in their most one-sided loss of the season. Dwight Freeney had three and Calais Campbell 2 1/2. Cory Redding rambled 36 yards with one of the fumbles for a score, Jerraud Powers took another 5 yards for a touchdown.
Green Bay (10-5) is home against Minnesota in its regular-season finale next Sunday night, with the NFC North title at stake.
Vikings 49, Giants 17
In Minneapolis, Adrian Peterson ran for 104 yards and a touchdown over three quarters, Harrison Smith took one of Eli Manning’s three interceptions into the end zone and Minnesota clinched a playoff spot with a victory over New York Giants on a frigid night.
Teddy Bridgewater turned in another sharp December performance, and Blair Walsh made five field goals for the Vikings.
With Peterson relaxing on the sideline, Jerick McKinnon rushed for two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including a 68-yard romp through a disinterested defense with the temperature down to 11 degrees.
The Giants (6-9) played with suspended receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Rams 23, Seahawks 17
In Seattle, Todd Gurley scored on a 2-yard TD run with 10:34 left, Akeem Ayers returned a fumble 45 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter as St Louis ended Seattle’s five-game winning streak.
St Louis swept the season series from the Seahawks (9-6) having won 34-31 in overtime in Week 1. The Rams (7-8) flustered quarterback Russell Wilson.
Gurley rushed for 85 yards on 19 carries. Case Keenum won his third straight start for the Rams, completing 14 of 23 passes for 103 yards and a 28-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Britt in the second quarter.
Chiefs 17, Browns 13
In Kansas City, Missouri, Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes for Kansas City, and the game clock finally stopped Johnny Manziel as the Chiefs won a team record-tying ninth consecutive game.
Smith threw for 125 yards and ran for 54, helping Kansas City (10-5) clinch a playoff berth when Pittsburgh lost to Baltimore moments later.
The Chiefs jumped to a 17-3 halftime lead, but the offense cooled off and Manziel pumped some life into the Browns (3-12).
The Heisman Trophy winner led Cleveland to 10 straight points, then took over at his 30 with 1:52 left and no timeouts. The Browns picked up three first downs, and Manziel hit Darius Jennings on fourth-and-10 from the Chiefs 32. But time expired before Manziel could get another snap off. He spiked his helmet in frustration.
Ravens 20, Steelers 17
In Baltimore, Ryan Mallet threw for a career-high 274 yards in his first start with Baltimore in leading the Ravens to one of the biggest upsets of this contentious rivalry.
The Ravens (5-10) had lost three straight, the last two by a combined 69-20 score. In this one, however, they turned back a team riding a three-game winning streak and striving for a playoff berth.
Baltimore swept Pittsburgh (9-6) for the first time since 2011. The Steelers remain in playoff contention.
Making his seventh career start, Mallett went 28 for 41 with a touchdown and no interceptions. Signed by the Ravens on Dec. 15, he was the fourth quarterback to start for Baltimore in a span of six weeks.
Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions and was sacked three times.
Texans 34, Titans 6
In Nashville, Tenn, Brandon Weeden scored his first career rushing touchdown and threw for two more as Houston took a big step toward clinching the AFC South.
Houston (8-7), which wraps up the regular season by hosting Jacksonville, couldn’t clinch outright when Indianapolis beat Miami 18-12.
The Texans forced four turnovers and turned them into 17 points. Quintin Demps returned a fumble 33 yards for a touchdown less than two minutes into the game.
The Texans scored a season high in points despite starting their fourth different quarterback this season.
The Titans (3-12) did nothing to hurt their chances at the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Colts 18, Dolphins 12
In Miami Gardens, Fla, Third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst came off the bench again for Indianapolis, which made a last-minute defensive stand to keep alive their faint playoff hopes.
The Dolphins had a first-and-goal at the 5 with 40 seconds left, but after three consecutive incompletions, rookie center Jamil Douglas appeared to snap the ball prematurely, and Tannehill was sacked by three Colts.
Indy backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck departed with an injury for the fourth game in a row, and Whitehurst did just enough after entering in the second quarter, completing two scoring drives.
The Colts (7-8) would have been eliminated from the playoff race with a loss. The Dolphins (5-10) were eliminated two weeks ago.
Bills 16, Cowboys 6
In Orchard Park, NY, Buffalo rookie Mike Gillislee ran 50 yards for a touchdown with 2:25 remaining to secure the win for the Bills.
Gillislee finished with 93 yards rushing and led a ground attack that totaled 236 yards. Karlos Williams scored on a 1-yard run as the Bills overcame an injury-depleted offense playing without running back LeSean McCoy.
Rookie linebacker A.J. Tarpley had an interception and sealed the win by forcing Lucky Whitehead to fumble on the kickoff return that followed Gillislee’s touchdown.
Buffalo (7-8) snapped a two-game skid and won for just the second time in six games. The Cowboys (4-11) lost in quarterback Kellen Moore’s first career start.
Bears 26, Buccaneers 21
In Tampa, Fla, Ka’Deem Carey caught a touchdown pass from Jay Cutler and the third-string running back also scored on a 1-yard run to help Chicago Bears end a three-game losing streak.
Carey’s 1-yard scoring reception put the Bears (6-9) ahead for good early in the fourth quarter. The second-year pro teamed with Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford to spearhead a rushing attack that produced 174 yards and kept Jameis Winston off the field for long stretches.
The victory was only the second in the past six games for the Bears. Tampa Bay (6-9) has lost four of five, including three straight after rebounding from a slow start.
Lions 32, 49ers 17
In Detroit, Matthew Stafford threw for two touchdowns, including one to Calvin Johnson early in the fourth quarter for Detroit.
The Lions (6-9) have won five of their last seven games, perhaps giving coach Jim Caldwell a chance to keep his job for a third season. The 49ers (4-11) have lost three straight and five of six under first-year coach Jim Tomsula.
Stafford’s 1-yard TD pass to Johnson gave Detroit a 12-point lead one play after Tramaine Brock was called for pass interference in the end zone. During the drive, the 49ers were flagged for being offside or in the neutral zone for the seventh time to set a single-game high by an NFL team this year, according to STATS.
Saints 38, Jaguars 27
In New Orleans, Drew Brees passed for 412 yards and three touchdowns despite his injured right foot.
Brees, who tore his plantar fascia ligament during a loss to Detroit last Monday, showed no ill effects of the normally painful injury while completing 25 of 36 passes.
Running back Tim Hightower, who missed the previous three seasons because of a knee injury and subsequent complications, consolidated his recent resurgence with 122 yards and two touchdowns rushing for New Orleans (6-9).
Blake Bortles passed for 368 yards and four TDs for Jacksonville (5-10).