The Cleveland Browns are back in the playoffs, qualifying for the first time since 2002 on Sunday by surviving a late Pittsburgh rally for a 24-22 win over the Steelers, who rested quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and several other starters.
The Browns (11-5) nearly blew a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter, but stopped Pittsburgh’s two-point conversion attempt and then recovered an onside kick with 1:22 left to hold on.
A week of Covid-19 disruptions concluded in celebration as the Browns ended what had been the NFL’s longest postseason drought. Their reward: Another game against the AFC North champion Steelers, in Pittsburgh next weekend.
Nick Chubb had a touchdown run, Baker Mayfield threw a TD pass and the Browns hung on as Mason Rudolph brought back the Steelers (12-4), who had the luxury of sitting their best players after clinching the division last week.
The win completes a grueling turnaround for the Browns and their passionate fan base, which endured nearly two decades of dysfunction since the team’s last playoff visit 197 losses, 14 double-digit-loss seasons and seven coaches ago.
Washington 20-14 Philadelphia Eagles
Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes and Washington beat the Philadelphia Eagles 20-14 to capture the lowly NFC East.
The Washington franchise became the first team in the Super Bowl era to reach the playoffs following a 2-7 start. Washington earned the NFC’s No 4 seed and will host Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) in a wildcard game next Saturday night. A loss would have given the New York Giants (6-10) the division title.
It didn’t hurt the visitors that Eagles coach Doug Pederson switched to third string quarterback Nate Sudfeld early in the fourth quarter, which surely couldn’t have gone over well with Giants fans. Sudfeld hadn’t thrown a pass since 2018 and was picked on his second attempt. He also lost a fumble.
Baltimore Ravens 38-3 Cincinnati Bengals
Lamar Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in multiple seasons while leading the Ravens to their third straight AFC playoff berth.
The Ravens (11-5) enter the postseason as a wildcard on a five-game winning streak, while Cincinnati end the season 4-11-1.
Jackson rushed for 97 yards on 11 carries to give him 1,005 yards for the season. He also went 10-for-18 passing for 113 yards and three touchdowns and an interception before being pulled late in the third quarter. The Ravens finished with 404 rushing yards, which was the fourth most by a team since 1950.
Dallas Cowboys 19–23 New York Giants
The New York Giants won, but missed the playoffs. Rookie Xavier McKinney intercepted Dallas’ Andy Dalton in the end zone with 1:15 remaining, giving the Giants a 23-19 victory over the Cowboys and a chance at an unprecedented, six-win playoff berth.
However, were dashed later by Washington’s victory over the Eagles.
Green Bay Packers 35-16 Chicago Bears
Aaron Rodgers threw for four touchdowns to help the Green Bay Packers pull away for a 35-16 win over the host Chicago Bears to clinch the No 1 seed and a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky completed 33 of 42 passes for 252 yards to go along with an interception. David Montgomery scored the lone touchdown for Chicago (8-8), who still sneaked into the playoffs as the No 7 seed by virtue of the Arizona Cardinals’ loss against the Los Angeles Rams.
Miami Dolphins 26-56 Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills placed an emphatic stamp on their breakout season with a 56-26 rout of Miami in a game in which the Dolphins could have clinched a playoff berth with a win.
The Dolphins (10-6) didn’t get results they needed to clinch their third playoff berth in 18 years, after Cleveland beat Pittsburgh and Baltimore routed Cincinnati. They were then eliminated when the Indianapolis Colts beat the Jacksonville Jaguars later in the day.
Jacksonville Jaguars 14-28 Indianapolis Colts
Jonathan Taylor rushed for 253 yards and two touchdowns, Philip Rivers threw for another score and Rodrigo Blankenship kicked two field goals to help the Indianapolis Colts defeat the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars 28-14 to clinch their second playoff berth in three seasons.
Needing a victory of their own as well as a loss from one of four fellow postseason contenders in order to make the playoffs, Indianapolis took the field with the latter part of that equation solved as the Miami Dolphins fell at Buffalo earlier in the day. The Colts (11-5) scored the first 20 points of the game before withstanding rally by the Jaguars (1-15).
Arizona Cardinals 7-18 Los Angeles Rams
John Wolford passed for 231 yards and rushed for 56 more in his NFL debut, and the Los Angeles Rams are headed to the playoffs with victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Troy Hill returned an interception 84 yards for a touchdown to lead yet another dominant defensive performance by the Rams (10-6), who earned their third postseason berth in four years under coach Sean McVay.
Wolford bounced back from an interception on his first career throw with a steady effort in place of Jared Goff for the Rams, who would have gotten into the playoffs even with a loss because Green Bay beat Chicago while a few minutes were left at SoFi Stadium.
Kyler Murray passed for 87 yards after sitting out for most of the first three quarters with an ankle injury for the Cardinals, who missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. Arizona would have clinched a postseason spot with a victory.
Seattle Seahawks 26–23 San Francisco 49ers
Russell Wilson connected on two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Tyler Lockett and the Seattle Seahawks rallied for a 26-23 win over the San Francisco 49ers to end the season on a four-game winning streak.
Seattle (12-4) had a chance to earn the No 1 seed in the NFC playoffs but stayed at No 3 after the Saints and Packers both won. The Seahawks will host their division rival, the Los Angeles Rams, in the wildcard round next weekend.
Tennessee Titans 41-38 Houston Texans
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry ran into the NFL record book on Sunday, becoming just the eighth player in league history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a season.
Henry, who needed 223 yards on Sunday to accomplish the feat, made history with a six-yard run midway through the fourth quarter against the host Houston Texans.
Henry broke his own single-game franchise record with 250 rushing yards on 34 carries in the 41-38 win over the Texans. He rushed for 2,027 yards while earning his second straight rushing title as well as setting a new franchise mark.
New Orleans Saints 33-7 Carolina Panthers
Drew Brees threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns, the Saints had five interceptions and New Orleans defeated the Carolina Panthers 33-7 to wrap up the No 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Saints will host the seventh-seeded Chicago Bears in the wild-card round next weekend.
Ty Montgomery ran for 105 yards on 18 carries for the Saints (12-4), who became the first team to sweep the NFC South by going 6-0 since the division was formed in 2002.
Atlanta Falcons 27–44 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns, helping the playoff-bound Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinch the fifth seed in the NFC with a 44-27 regular season-ending win over the Atlanta Falcons.
The victory, which means the Bucs (11-5) will face Washington on the road in the club’s first postseason game in 13 years, may have come with a steep cost. Star receiver Mike Evans was carted to the locker room with a left knee injury late in the first quarter and did not return.
Los Angeles Chargers 38–21 Kansas City Chiefs
Justin Herbert threw for 302 yards and accounted for four touchdowns against a team of mostly Kansas City backups, and the Chargers rolled to a 38-21 victory as the Chiefs turned their attention to the postseason and Los Angeles to the precarious future of coach Anthony Lynn.
The Chiefs (14-2) already had wrapped up the No 1 seed and the AFC’s lone first-round bye, so coach Andy Reid chose rest over reps by sitting quarterback Patrick Mahomes, safety Tyrann Mathieu and several of his best players.
Meanwhile, reports surfaced earlier in the day that Lynn could be fired as soon as Monday, when he is expected to meet with ownership. The Chargers (7-9) finished the year with four straight wins, and Herbert has emerged as a franchise QB, but Lynn’s fate may have been sealed when they missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
New York Jets 14-28 New England Patriots
Cam Newton had three touchdown passes and caught another, and the New England Patriots rallied to beat the New York Jets.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for New England (7-9), who earned their 10th straight win over the Jets (2-14) but won’t be playing in the postseason for the first time since the 2008 season.
It marked Newton’s first game with multiple passing touchdowns this season. He finished 21 of 30 for 242 yards. He also ran 11 times for 79 yards. New England trailed 14-7 early in the third quarter, but outscored the Jets 21-0 the rest of the way in what was likely Adam Gase’s final game as New York’s coach.
Sam Darnold, whose future with the Jets is also uncertain, was 23 of 34 for 266 yards, a touchdown and two second-half interceptions.
Las Vegas Raiders 32-31 Denver Broncos
Darren Waller caught Derek Carr’s two-point conversion pass with 24 seconds left, and the Las Vegas Raiders rallied to beat the Denver Broncos despite committing four turnovers.
The Broncos (5-11) reached the Las Vegas 45-yard line with nine seconds left and Brandon McManus’ 63-yard field-goal try was blocked by Maxx Crosby, who also blocked McManus’ record 70-yard attempt on the last play of the first half.
Josh Jacobs’ one-yard TD run capped a seven play, 77-yard drive for the Raiders (8-8), who snapped a nine-game losing streak in season finales, and for the second straight year, Jon Gruden went for two and the win instead of a tie.
Minnesota Vikings 37–35 Detroit Lions
Kirk Cousins passed for 405 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score to lead the Minnesota Vikings to a 37-35 season-ending victory over the host Detroit Lions.
Alexander Mattison rushed for 95 yards on 21 carries and also caught three passes for 50 yards and another score. Justin Jefferson caught nine passes for 133 yards and set the NFL rookie record with 1,400 receiving yards on the season.
The Vikings (7-9), who were eliminated from playoff contention last weekend, snapped a three-game losing streak. The Lions (5-11) finished their season with a four-game skid.