The New England Patriots pounded out 273 rushing yards to beat the Buffalo Bills 24-12 on Sunday at Gillette Stadium to clinch the AFC East title for the 10th straight season.
Dec 23, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer (2) throws against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
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, who 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.
Rookie quarterback Josh Allen was 20-of-41 passing for 217 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for Buffalo (5-10). Allen also rushed for 30 yards in his first game against Bill Belichick and the Patriots. He threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones after the outcome had been decided in the fourth quarter.
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 good news was that Crawford appeared to be moving an arm and both legs while being treated on the field. He was taken to a local hospital with a neck sprain and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said later that, “Everything checks out, really good.”
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 subbing for the injured Carson Wentz (back). The game-winning, 72-yard drive came after Deshaun Watson led the Texans (10-5) on two four-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.
After two late touchdowns made the game interesting, Cleveland took the ball and 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 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 Jacksonville eliminated host Dolphins 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.
—Field Level Media