NFL Roundup: Manning leads Broncos to win, Panthers secure No. 1 seed in NFC
DENVER — Peyton Manning replaced Brock Osweiler in the third quarter Sunday and led the Broncos a 27-20 win over the San Diego Chargers that clinched the top seed in the AFC playoffs for Denver.
Combined with New England's loss at Miami, the Broncos (12-4) secured the No. 1 seed even as they head into the playoffs with a quarterback quandary on their hands.
The Chargers (4-12) wrapped up what might have been their final season representing San Diego as ownership tries to move the team to L.A.
The Broncos were facing the possibility of tumbling into the wild-card round because of Kansas City's 10th consecutive win, 23-17 over Oakland, when Manning came to the rescue.
STEELERS 28, BROWNS 12
CLEVELAND >> Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes, Pittsburgh's defense dominated and the Steelers slipped into the AFC playoffs with the win over Cleveland, which fired coach Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer after the game.
The Steelers (10-6) had to win and needed Buffalo to knock off the New York Jets to make the postseason. Pittsburgh did its part, then earned a wild-card berth when the Bills beat the 22-17. Pittsburgh will play at Cincinnati next weekend.
Roethlisberger threw for 349 yards, 187 to Antonio Brown, who had 13 catches and a TD.
The Browns finished 3-13.
TEXANS 30, JAGUARS 6
HOUSTON >> J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus led the defense and Jonathan Grimes scored twice to help the Texans clinch the AFC South.
Houston will host Kansas City next weekend in the a wild-card game.
Grimes had a 12-yard touchdown reception and added a 3-yard rushing score in the second quarter to help Houston take a 20-3 lead by halftime. Kareem Jackson added a score on an interception return in the fourth quarter to pad the lead.
Watt, playing without a cast for the first time since breaking his left hand Dec. 9, had had three sacks, forced a fumble and recovered another one to help the Texans (9-7) to their first division title and playoff berth since 2012.
Blake Bortles threw for 239 yards with two interceptions for the Jaguars (5-11)
BENGALS 24, RAVENS 16
CINCINNATI >> AJ McCarron overcame a rough start and threw a pair of touchdown passes.
The Bengals (12-4) matched the best record in franchise history — they also won 12 games during the 1981 and 1988 seasons when they reached the Super Bowl.
Cincinnati will host Pittsburgh next weekend in a wild-card game.
The AFC North champions wasted a chance to clinch the No. 2 seed when they lost in Denver 20-17 on Monday night.
The Ravens finished 5-11.
PANTHERS 38, BUCCANEERS 10
CHARLOTTE, N.C. >> Cam Newton ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more, and Carolina captured the NFC's No. 1 seed for the first time.
Newton tied Steve Young's NFL record for most career TDs rushing by a quarterback with 43. Young took 15 seasons to reach that plateau; Newton did it in five.
Newton completed 21 of 26 passes for 293 yards as Carolina (15-1) overcame a slow start to build a 31-3 lead in the third quarter.
Rookie Devin Funchess had seven catches for 120 yards and a touchdown and Cameron Artis-Payne ran for 44 yards and a score as Carolina won its 11th straight home game.
Jameis Winston was intercepted twice, and the Bucs (6-10) finished last in the NFC South for the fourth time in five years.
CHIEFS 23, RAIDERS 17
KANSAS CITY, MO. >> Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes, Kansas City sacked Derek Carr six times, and the Chiefs collected a franchise-best 10th straight win.
The Chiefs are headed to Houston for a wild-card game next weekend after Denver won the AFC West with its win over San Diego.
Regardless, the Chiefs (11-5) are somehow in the dance after a 1-5 start.
The Raiders (7-9), who accounted for two of those victories, had the ball with 1:34 left. But Carr was sacked one last time, and the clock expired before they came close to a go-ahead touchdown.
SEAHAWKS 36, CARDINALS 6
GLENDALE, ARIZ. >> Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes in a second-quarter outburst and Seattle snapped Arizona's nine-game winning streak.
Seattle will play at either Washington or Minnesota in the wild card round next weekend, depending on the outcome of Sunday night's game between the Vikings and Green Bay.
The Seahawks (10-6) dominated from their opening possession and led 30-6 at the half.
It was a sour end to the regular season for the NFC West champion Cardinals (13-3), who already had clinched the NFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye.
Tyler Lockett set up three of Seattle's four first-half touchdowns — with punt returns of 66 and 42 yards and a 36-yard reception.
REDSKINS 34, COWBOYS 23
ARLINGTON, TEXAS >> Kirk Cousins threw for three touchdowns before leaving late in the first half of a playoff tuneup.
Cousins broke Jay Shroeder's franchise record for yards passing in a season, finishing with 4,166. Had the game mattered, he might have threatened Sonny Jurgensen's 48-year-old team record of 31 touchdown passes, instead settling for 29.
The Redskins (9-7) won four straight to finish the season, their longest streak since winning the last seven the last time they made the playoffs in 2012. The NFC East champions will be the No. 4 seed on wild-card weekend.
Kellen Moore had 435 yards passing and three touchdowns after throwing an interception and losing a fumble on a snap to help dig a quick 21-0 hole for the Cowboys (4-12).
COLTS 30, TITANS 24
INDIANAPOLIS >> Recently signed Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley each threw a touchdown pass in the first half and Jerrell Freeman scored on a 23-yard interception in the second for the Colts.
The Colts (8-8) won their last two games to avoid the first losing season since 2011, but didn't get the help they needed — a Houston loss and seven other games to go the right way — to make the postseason.
Josh Freeman was 15 of 28 for 149 yards and one interception while running Indy's regular offense. Lindley ran the 2-minute offense and gave Indy a 20-14 halftime lead with an 18-yard TD pass.
Tennessee (3-13) clinched the No. 1 draft pick by losing its fourth straight. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger fell to 0-10 as a starter.
SAINTS 20, FALCONS 17
ATLANTA >> Jamarca Sanford's interception at the Atlanta 25 with less than two minutes remaining set up Kai Forbath's 30-yard field goal as time expired.
Sanford cut in front of Devonta Freeman for the interception with 1:47 remaining.
It was the Saints' sixth sweep of the season series with the Falcons in 10 years under coach Sean Payton. Payton is 15-5 against Atlanta.
The loss denied the Falcons (8-8) their chance to give first-year coach Dan Quinn a winning record. The Saints (7-9) avoided giving coach Sean Payton his first 10-loss season.
Drew Brees threw for 323 yards, including a touchdown pass to Ben Watson.
Julio Jones had nine catches for 149 yards for Atlanta.
LIONS 24, BEARS 20
CHICAGO >> Matthew Stafford threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns, Calvin Johnson had 137 yards receiving for the Lions.
Detroit (7-9) avoided a last-place finish in the NFC North with its sixth win in eight games. Whether the Lions bring back coach Jim Caldwell for a third season remains to be seen.
He led them to a rare playoff appearance last year, but a 1-7 start put his future in doubt.
Caldwell survived a midseason purge that saw offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi get fired and ownership drop the ax on president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew the following week.
The Lions intercepted Jay Cutler three times.
49ERS 19, RAMS 16 OT
SANTA CLARA, CALIF. >> Phil Dawson kicked a 23-yard field goal 11:33 into overtime for his fourth of the game to lift San Francisco in what might have been Jim Tomsula's last game as coach.
Dawson came through after Greg Zuerlein's 48-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Dontae Johnson, giving San Francisco the ball back with 4:49 to play.
Blaine Gabbert passed for 354 yards and a 33-yard touchdown for the 49ers (5-11), who avoided their worst finish since 4-12 in 2005.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher finished 7-9 for his fourth straight losing season running the team.
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