NFL: Sunday’s capsules
Published 4:21 am Monday, December 21, 2020
Miami back Salvon Ahmed
By The Associated Press
DOLPHINS 22, PATRIOTS 12
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Undrafted rookie Salvon Ahmed and veteran Matt Breida combined for 208 yards rushing Sunday to lead the Miami Dolphins to a 22-12 victory over the New England Patriots, who were eliminated from playoff contention, ending their NFL-record run of 11 consecutive postseason appearances.
The Dolphins entered the game last in the league in yards per carry, and Ahmed became their first 100-yard rusher since 2018, totaling 122 yards and scoring a 2-point conversion on a trick play.
Breida added 86 yards and the Dolphins totaled a season-high 250 against the Patriots, who were gashed for more than 150 on the ground for the fifth time this year.
The Dolphins (9-5) bolstered their wild-card chances and are assured of a winning record for only the second time since 2008.
The Patriots (6-8) will finish at .500 or worse for the first time since 2000, the year they drafted Tom Brady. They fall one year short of matching the Dallas Cowboys’ NFL record of 20 consecutive winning seasons.
Buffalo clinched the AFC East title with a win Saturday.
BUCCANEERS 31, FALCONS 27
ATLANTA (AP) — Tom Brady did it again to the Atlanta Falcons.
This time, he didn’t even need overtime.
Rallying Tampa Bay from a pair of 17-point deficits, Brady recreated his Super Bowl miracle by leading the Buccaneers on five straight scoring drives in the second half for a victory over the stunned Falcons.
The stakes weren’t nearly as high and the deficit wasn’t quite as daunting, but Brady’s latest blow to Atlanta took the Bucs (9-5) to the brink of their first playoff berth since 2007.
It sure didn’t look that way when Atlanta raced to 17-0 by halftime, or when the Falcons (4-10) restored their margin to 24-7 after Brady finally guided the Bucs to a touchdown on the first possession of the second half.
Turns out, the 43-year-old was just getting warmed up.
He certainly had plenty of experience to fall back on when it came to breaking Atlanta’s heart.
In the 2017 Super Bowl, Brady famously led the greatest comeback in championship game history, rallying New England from a 28-3 deficit late in the third quarter to a 34-28 overtime victory that secured his fifth of six titles with the Patriots.
SEAHAWKS 20, WASHINGTON 15
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Russell Wilson and the Seahawks built a big lead, and Seattle’s suddenly opportunistic defense held on to beat Washington and clinch a playoff spot.
Wilson threw for a touchdown, Carlos Hyde ran 50 yards for a score, and the Seahawks (10-4) picked off Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins twice. Shaquill Griffin and D.J. Reed each had an interception as the league’s worst passing defense played strong until the fourth quarter.
After a Haskins-led comeback from a 20-3 deficit fell short, Washington (6-8) had its winning streak snapped at four with Alex Smith out because of a calf injury. Haskins finished 38 of 55 for 295 yards, a TD pass and the two interceptions.
Wilson threw for 121 yards and a 10-yard TD pass to Jacob Hollister and ran for 52 on six carries. Hyde’s 50-yard TD run was Seattle’s longest rushing play of the season.
CHIEFS 32, SAINTS 29
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Patrick Mahomes had his full repertoire of side-arm throws, basketball-style push passes and underhanded flips on display while passing for 254 yards and three touchdowns, and Kansas City extended its winning streak to nine games.
The Kansas City defense did its part to spoil Drew Brees’ return from rib fractures and a punctured lung that had kept the record-setting passer out four games.
While Brees passed for 234 yards and three TDs, he completed less than half of his passes and was intercepted for just the fourth time this season.
The victory kept the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs (13-1) in pole position to capture the AFC’s lone playoff bye as a No. 1 seed. The Saints (10-4), meanwhile, missed a chance to clinch the NFC South for a second straight week and now are longshots to capture the NFC’s top seed.
Mahomes’ scoring passes went for 5 yards each to Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman, the latter coming as the Chiefs’ agile QB back-peddled toward the left sideline to avoid pressure and released a throw to the back corner of the end zone, where Hardman was able to snag it in traffic while narrowly getting two feet inbounds.
CARDINALS 33, EAGLES 26
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Kyler Murray threw for a career-high 406 yards, DeAndre Hopkins had 169 yards receiving and a stellar touchdown catch, and Arizona improved its position in the playoff race by beating Philadelphia.
Arizona (8-6) won its second straight game as it tries to make the postseason for the first time since 2015. The Cardinals are in third place in their division behind the Rams and Seahawks and would currently be the No. 7 and final seed in the NFC playoffs.
The Eagles (4-9-1) trailed 16-0 in the first quarter, but rallied to tie the game at 26 in the third quarter after quarterback Jalen Hurts ran for a 7-yard touchdown.
Arizona responded with its go-ahead touchdown drive capped by Hopkins’ spectacular 20-yard grab. Cornerback Michael Jacquet was playing tight defense on the play, but Hopkins wrestled the ball away and held on with one hand as he fell past the pylon into the end zone.
Murray completed 27 of 36 passes, with three touchdowns and one interception.
Hurts, making his second career start, completed 24 of 44 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns. He had a lot of good moments, but couldn’t lead the Eagles to any points on their last two offensive drives.
JETS 23, RAMS 20
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Sam Darnold passed for 207 yards and New York finally earned the first victory of its miserable season, holding on for a win that erased the possibility of the third winless 16-game season in NFL history.
Frank Gore rushed for an early touchdown and made a decisive third-down reception with 2:05 left for the Jets (1-13), who also ended the longest losing streak in franchise history with a strong start and a gritty finish at SoFi Stadium.
Embattled coach Adam Gase got his first win of the year only after New York blew most of a 17-point lead in the second half. The Jets’ defense stopped the Rams on downs at midfield with 3:54 to play before Darnold hit Gore with a short pass over the middle to convert a third down that allowed the Jets to run out the clock.
New York might have ruined its chances at the No. 1 overall pick in the draft because Jacksonville (1-13) is likely to win a tiebreaker based on strength of schedule. But possibly missing the chance to draft Trevor Lawrence meant nothing to the celebrating Jets, who were thrilled to avoid the ignominy of a winless year.
Darnold, the Jets’ embattled third-year quarterback, looked right at home in his first pro game in his native Southern California. The former USC Trojans star went 22 of 31 with a touchdown pass and no interceptions.
New York had a 13-3 lead at halftime after holding the Rams to 97 yards, and the Jets led 20-3 midway through the third quarter. Los Angeles chipped the deficit down to three points.
Of the nine teams in NFL history to start 0-13, the Jets were the fourth to win in Week 15.
Robert Woods and Tyler Higbee caught TD passes for the Rams (9-5) in the most humiliating loss of coach Sean McVay’s largely successful four seasons in charge.
Jared Goff passed for 209 yards for Los Angeles, which could have clinched a playoff berth with a victory over the NFL’s worst team after an extra-long week of rest. The Rams had won four of five to surge to the top of the NFC West, but their inconsistent offense was inept, while their elite defense wasn’t sharp, allowing the Jets to convert seven third downs.
The Rams still can win the division if they can beat the Seahawks in Seattle next week, but their task got exponentially harder.
COLTS 27, TEXANS 20
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Philip Rivers threw a late, tiebreaking touchdown to Zach Pascal and Indianapolis’ defense recovered a fumble in the end zone with 19 seconds left to seal a victory over Houston.
Indy (10-4) has won three straight to retain a share of the AFC South lead with Tennessee, winners over Detroit. Houston (4-10) has lost three straight and five of six in this series.
The Colts won this one in similar fashion to the teams’ meeting two weeks ago. The Texans had a chance to win that one in the final minute but Indy jumped on a bad snap to quarterback Deshaun Watson inside the red zone.
This time, Pascal caught a pass in the flat, turned up the field and stretched his arms across the goal line while hitting the pylon to give Indy a 27-20 lead with 1:47 to go.
Rivers was 22 of 28 with 228 yards and two scores. Jonathan Taylor had 16 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Watson was 33 of 41 with 373 yards and two touchdowns. Coutee had five catches for 53 yards and one score before the fumble, and David Johnson had 11 receptions for 106 yards.
TITANS 46, LIONS 25
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ryan Tannehill ran for two touchdowns and threw three more, and Derrick Henry ran for 147 yards and a score to move Tennessee closer to clinching its third playoff berth in four seasons as it routed Detroit.
The Titans (10-4) did their part with their second straight victory and fourth in five games to stay atop the AFC South. With Indianapolis beating Houston 27-20, the Titans still hold the tiebreaker in the division over the Colts with two games remaining.
The Lions (5-9) lost their second straight after winning their first game under interim coach Darrell Bevell even with quarterback Matthew Stafford shaking off a rib injury to start. Stafford threw for 252 yards and a TD before being pulled for Chase Daniel after Tennessee went up 39-18 with 9:00 left.
RAVENS 40, JAGUARS 14
BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore built a 26-point halftime lead against helpless Jacksonville and rolled to a victory that boosted their playoff chances and extended the Jaguars’ losing streak to 13 games.
Lamar Jackson threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score to carry the Ravens (9-5) to their third straight win following a three-game skid. Hopeful of reaching the postseason for the third year in a row, Baltimore is among several AFC teams vying for three wild-card spots.
After Jackson returned from a bout with cramps to deliver a thrilling 47-42 win in Cleveland on Monday night, the Ravens had no desire for any drama at home against Jacksonville (1-13). Baltimore got the desired result, taking a 26-0 lead in the second quarter before cruising to the finish.
Rookie J.K. Dobbins ran for 64 yards and a score, and 32-year-old receiver Dez Bryant celebrated his first touchdown since 2017 late in the first half. It added up to the kind of confidence-building blowout the Ravens were looking for as they head into the final two weeks of a harrowing season in which they’ve fought through an outbreak of COVID-19 that forced two games to be rescheduled.
BEARS 33, VIKINGS 27
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — David Montgomery rushed for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns and Chicago trampled Minnesota’s depleted defense and hung on for a victory to stay in the hunt for the expanded playoffs.
The Bears (7-7), who entered the afternoon one game behind Arizona for the new third wild-card spot in the NFC, never trailed in winning at Minnesota for a third straight year. Coach Matt Nagy improved to 5-1 against the Vikings (6-8), whose postseason chances all but vanished.
Chicago punted only once, on the opening possession. It did just about whatever it wanted with the ball until Cameron Dantzler intercepted Mitch Trubisky’s third-and-goal pass into a crowd in the end zone with 2:57 left and a 30-27 lead.
But the Bears, who were plenty vulnerable on defense themselves, delivered their second fourth-and-1 stop in Minnesota territory to get the ball right back for a field goal.
Dalvin Cook rushed for 132 yards and a score, but he was stuffed on third-and-1 before a pivotal incompletion by Kirk Cousins throwing off his back foot. Cairo Santos, who converted all four of his kicks, stretched his streak to 22 straight field goals made.
The Bears then intercepted a last-snap heave by Cousins into the end zone to drop the Vikings to 3-5 at home this year.
COWBOYS 41, 49ERS 33
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Tony Pollard ran for two touchdowns with Ezekiel Elliott sidelined by an injury for the first time in the two-time rushing champion’s career, and Dallas beat San Francisco.
Four of the seven Dallas scores were set up by turnovers from the 49ers (5-9), who guaranteed themselves becoming the second Super Bowl runner-up in the past 13 seasons to finish with a losing record the next year.
The Cowboys (5-9) kept faint playoff hopes alive in a matchup of longtime rivals with a rich playoff history that was moved out of prime time with both teams starting the day in last place in their divisions.
Andy Dalton threw for two touchdowns, and Greg Zuerlein kicked a tiebreaking field goal early in the fourth quarter after the second interception by Nick Mullens, who was replaced by C.J. Beathard.
Beathard handled the last two possessions and threw a 49-yard touchdown to Kendrick Bourne on the final play on a desperation pass.
BROWNS 20, GIANTS 6
In East Rutherford, N.J., Baker Mayfield led two 95-yard touchdown drives and Cleveland moved closer to ending its 17-year playoff drought.
Mayfield was sharp all night, helping the Browns (10-4) bounce back from a 47-42 loss to Baltimore last Monday night. The Cleveland quarterback finished 27 of 32 for 297 yards with scoring passes to Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper.
Nick Chubb had a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter as the Browns became the first team this season to have two 95-yard TD drives in a game.
Cleveland, vying for its first playoff spot since 2002 — the NFL’s longest drought — also matched its highest win total (10-6 in 2007) since the team’s 1999 expansion rebirth.
Colt McCoy was 19 of 31 for 221 yards for the Giants, who are tied with Dallas a game behind Washington for first place in the NFC East.