And Detroit snapped a five-game losing streak and a 19-game skid against the NFC North.
Patriots secure play-off berth
Tom Brady threw for 369 yards and two touchdowns, and the New England Patriots locked up their eighth play-off berth in 10 years with a 36-7 pounding of the Chicago Bears on a snowy, blustery, bone-chilling Sunday.
The win was the fifth straight for the Patriots (11-2), and this one was no less impressive than their 45-3 rout of the New York Jets on Monday night. They wasted little time blowing it open, grabbing a 33-0 halftime lead and sending coach Bill Belichick to his 174th career win. That put him in a tie for 10th place with Mike Holmgren.
Brady was brilliant again despite the brutal conditions, picking apart the league’s third-ranked defence. He completed 27 of 40 passes and went without an interception for the eighth straight game.
Lions 7 // Packers 3
Drew Stanton’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Will Heller midway through the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers, who could not come back without an injured Aaron Rodgers, has taken the Detroit Lions to a 7-3 win.
Detroit (3-10) snapped a five-game losing streak and a 19-game skid against the NFC North, the NFL’s worst slump within a division since the merger four decades ago.
Green Bay (8-5) lost Rodgers and a game it desperately needed to win for play-off positioning. The star quarterback was knocked out in the second quarter with his second concussion this season.
Matt Flynn got Green Bay to the Detroit 31 before turning the ball over on downs with an incomplete pass into the end zone just past a diving Greg Jennings in the final minute.
Jaguars 38 // Raiders 31
David Garrard threw three touchdown passes, Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings each topped 100 yards rushing in a game filled with big plays.
The Jaguars overcame a 10-point deficit to win for the fifth time in the last six games, setting up a critical AFC South game at Indianapolis next week.
Jacksonville (8-5) stayed a game ahead of the Colts and can clinch the division title next week with a victory and a loss by Houston. The Raiders (6-7) lost for the third time in four weeks and faded from postseason contention.
The Jaguars can thank Garrard, Jennings, Jones-Drew and a huge defensive stand late for getting in position to clinch. There were six scoring plays of at least 30 yards in the game, including three by Oakland’s Darren McFadden.
Buccaneers 17 // Redskins 16
A flubbed extra point attempt with 9 seconds to play kept Washington from tying the game.
The Redskins pulled within a point on Santana Moss’ 6-yard touchdown catch, but Nick Sundberg’s slightly high snap on a wet field went through holder Hunter Smith’s hands.
The Buccaneers improved to 8-5 and broke a two-game losing streak. It was also the fifth time this season Josh Freeman has won a game with a fourth-quarter comeback. He hit Kellen Winslow for a 41-yard scoring pass with 3:47 to play.
Ryan Torain ran for 172 yards for Washington, 158 in the first half. The Redskins fell to 5-8 and have dropped four straight at home.
Steelers 23 // Bengals 7
Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley returned interceptions by Carson Palmer for touchdowns as Cincinnati dropped a franchise record 10-th straight game.
The Steelers (10-3) could not get into the end zone on offence despite dominating time of possession - a 9-minute drive produced no points - but it did not matter as they closed in on a play-off spot by playing well enough to beat the Bengals (2-11).
Palmer threw three interceptions, two to Polamalu, as Cincinnati matched the David Shula-coached 1993 Bengals by losing 10 consecutive games in the same season. The overall franchise record is 11 consecutive defeats from 1992-93.
Bills 13 // Browns 6
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to David Nelson, Leodis McKelvin made a late interception for Buffalo.
Rian Lindell hit field goals of 30 and 19 yards to help the Bills (3-11) snap a three-game losing streak against Cleveland.
The Browns (5-8) were eliminated from play-off contention. McKelvin intercepted Jake Delhomme’s pass with under 4 minutes left at the Bills 32, and Buffalo was able to run out the clock.
Delhomme also lost a fumble on the previous possession, which led to Lindell’s second field goal.
The Browns’ offense was so inept, it did not cross midfield in five second-half possessions.
Falcons 31 // Panthers 10
Michael Turner ran for 112 yards and three touchdowns, Matt Ryan threw for another and Atlanta held onto the best record in the NFC.
The Falcons (11-2) built a 17-0 halftime lead, survived a brief hiccup to start the third quarter, and cruised to their seventh straight win. John Abraham and Kroy Biermann each had two sacks as the Falcons became the latest team to shut down the NFL’s worst offence.
Jonathan Stewart rushed for a season-best 133 yards, but lost a fumble on Carolina’s first play from scrimmage to set up Atlanta’s first TD. Things did not get much better for rookie Jimmy Clausen and the NFL-worst Panthers (1-12), who dropped their seventh straight.
49ers 40 // Seahawks 21
Alex Smith threw for 255 yards and three touchdowns in a triumphant return to the starting lineup following a five-game absence, and San Francisco improved its play-off hopes.
The Niners muddled up the ugly West race even more with a surprisingly lopsided win.
San Francisco (5-8) moved within a game of division leaders Seattle (6-7) and St. Louis. The 49ers looked much more like the team that was predicted to win the division after an unbeaten preseason.
Matt Hasselbeck went 27 for 42 for 285 yards and two TDs, but threw four interceptions and lost a fumble as Seattle had turnovers in five of six possessions during one stretch.
Dolphins 10 // Jets 6
The Miami Dolphins turned two early turnovers into their only points in winning Sunday at the rainy Meadowlands.
Much of the game was played in a downpour, which made for inept offence in the sloppy conditions. The Dolphins gained 132 yards, with Chad Henne passing for only 55, yet improved to 7-6.
The Jets moved the ball better, picking up 286 yards. But Mark Sanchez’s fumble led to the only touchdown, Brandon Marshall’s six-yard reception in the first quarter.
Earlier, Nolan Carroll’s interception set up Dan Carpenter’s 47-yard field goal.
By far the most effective player on the wet field was Dolphins punter Brandon Fields. He finished with 10 kicks for a 50-yard average.
Nick Folk kicked field goals of 35 and 42 yards for New York (9-4).
Saints 31 // Rams 13
Drew Brees threw for three scores, Malcolm Jenkins returned one of his two interceptions 96 yards for his first career touchdown, and New Orleans Saints won its sixth straight game.
Marques Colston had a pair of touchdown catches in traffic as New Orleans (10-3) raced to a 14-0 lead and never trailed. Lance Moore made a 31-yard touchdown catch. Brees finished 25 of 40 for 221 yards and was intercepted twice.
Rams rookie Sam Bradford scored the only St. Louis touchdown on a short keeper. He passed for 231 yards and was intercepted twice, both times near the Saints’ goal line.
Bradford’s first interception was especially costly, giving the Saints a 21-6 lead when it appeared the Rams (6-7) were about to pull within one score late in the second quarter.
Chargers 31 // Chiefs 0
Philip Rivers threw two touchdown passes to Malcom Floyd and San Diego remained alive in the AFC West race.
The Chiefs played without quarterback Matt Cassel, who did not travel after having an emergency appendectomy on Wednesday.
The four-time defending division champion Chargers (7-6) pulled within one game of the Chiefs (8-5). Cassel’s backup Brodie Croyle completed 7 of 17 passes for 40 yards and was sacked four times in his first start since the 2009 opener.
Rivers was 18 of 24 for 226 yards and the Chargers outgained the Chiefs 426 yards to 67. Kansas City had only five first downs.
It was San Diego’s first regular-season shutout against the Chiefs.
Cardinals 43 // Broncos 13
Jay Feely became the fourth kicker in 40 years to run for a touchdown and added a career-best five field goals to help Arizona end a seven-game losing streak.
Arizona rookie quarterback John Skelton completed 14 of 36 for 141 yards with no interceptions and had at least four passes dropped in his first NFL start.
The Broncos (3-10) had six turnovers, including three interceptions by Kyle Orton, in their eighth loss in nine games. It was an uninspired debut under interim coach Eric Studesville, promoted from running backs coach when Josh McDaniels was fired last Monday.
The Cardinals’ Tim Hightower rushed for 148 yards, including fourth-quarter scoring runs of 5 and 35 yards. Arizona is 4-9.