Bengals rally past Kansas City, clinch AFC North title

January 2, 2022
Bengals rally past Kansas City, clinch AFC North title
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Evan McPherson kicked a 20-yard field goal as time ran out, and the Cincinnati Bengals earned their first AFC North title and postseason appearance in six years with a wild 34-31 win over the Kansas City on Sunday.

Ja’Marr Chase set an NFL rookie record and Bengals franchise record with 266 yards receiving and three touchdowns on 11 catches, Joe Burrow threw for 466 yards and four scores while outdueling Patrick Mahomes, and the Bengals rallied from three 14-point deficits against the AFC West champs.

Kansas City (11-5) had its eight-game winning streak snapped and fell out of the top seed in the AFC, ceding that spot to Tennessee.

The Bengals’ winning drive was filled with drama.

On fourth-and-inches with under a minute left, the Bengals (10-6) decided to go for a touchdown instead of calling on McPherson for a field goal and giving the Chiefs the ball back with a chance to win.

Burrow threw incomplete in the end zone, but Kansas City cornerback L’Jarius Sneed was flagged for illegal use of hands, giving the Bengals a fresh set of downs. With Burrow limping on the sideline, backup quarterback Brandon Allen was called on to kneel twice before McPherson came on for the game-winner.

Burrow was outstanding again, completing 30 of 39 attempts in a bruising game. He was sacked four times and hit at least six more times but was as accurate as ever, and Chase caught everything that was thrown near him.

In addition to breaking Jerry Butler’s NFL rookie record of 255 yards for Buffalo against the New York Jets on Sept. 23, 1979, Chase set a record for receiving yards in a season by a rookie. He has 1,429 yards with one game left in the league’s first 17-game season, surpassing Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson, who had 1,400 yards in 2020.

Bills maintain AFC East lead with win over Falcons

Buffalo clinched a playoff berth when Devin Singletary scored two touchdowns rushing in the second half to make up for Josh Allen’s sloppiness in a 29-15 victory over Atlanta that eliminated the Falcons from contention.

The AFC East-leading Bills rallied to clinch their third consecutive playoff spot. Buffalo (10-6) did so by beating the Falcons, coupled with the Baltimore Ravens’ 20-19 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

The Falcons (7-9) went down swinging in being eliminated from the NFC race to extend their postseason drought to a fourth year in their first season under coach Arthur Smith. The Falcons forced four turnovers, with an injury and COVID-19-depleted secondary intercepting Allen on three consecutive possessions spanning halftime.

Allen did a much better job running than throwing by scoring two touchdowns rushing on a snow-dusted field, and with temperatures in the low 20s.

Buffalo won its third straight and needs only to beat the New York Jets in its finale next weekend to clinch its second consecutive division title — and assure the Bills home-field advantage for the wild-card playoff round.

Bucs rally to beat Jets

Tom Brady connected with Cyril Grayson for the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds left Sunday to deliver the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a 28-24 win over the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J.

The comeback was almost overshadowed by Antonio Brown’s bizarre exit from the game.

Brown removed his shoulder pads, jersey and undershirt and left the game midway through the third quarter while his team had the ball. According to a Buccaneers sideline reporter, coach Bruce Arians benched the controversial receiver, which set him off, and Brown could not be convinced to stay with the team on the sideline.

Shirtless, Brown stopped in the end zone opposite from the action on the field and threw his jersey into the crowd before leaving.

Tampa Bay trailed at the time, 24-10, and his teammates responded by scoring 18 unanswered points to win the game.

Patriots clinch playoff spot after blowing out Jaguars

Mac Jones passed for 227 yards and three touchdowns as the New England Patriots bounced back from back-to-back losses to clinch a playoff berth with a 50-10 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.

Jones’ second TD pass of the game was his 20th of the season, breaking a tie with Jim Plunkett in 1971 for the most by a rookie quarterback in franchise history. Jones completed 22 of 30 passes in the victory.

Kristian Wilkerson caught his first two NFL touchdown passes and both Rhamodre Stevenson (career-high 107 rushing yards) and Damien Harris added a pair of rushing TDs for New England.

Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson recorded his eighth interception of the season and the 25th of his career, tying Lester Hayes and Everson Walls for the most in a players’ first four seasons in NFL history.

New England (10-6) clinched its 12th playoff berth in 13 seasons following Miami’s loss to Tennessee. Meanwhile, Patriots coach Bill Belichick notched his 20th career 10-win season to tie legendary coach Don Shula for the most in NFL history.

Raiders keep playoffs hopes alive with win over Colts

Daniel Carlson converted a 33-yard field goal Sunday as time expired, lifting the Las Vegas Raiders to a 23-20 win over the host Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts (9-7) tied the score on Michael Badgley’s 41-yard field goal with 1:56 left, but Las Vegas (9-7) drove 60 yards in 10 plays to set up Carlson’s second game-winner during its three-game winning streak that’s kept its AFC playoff hopes alive.

The big play on the winning drive was Derek Carr’s 24-yard completion to Hunter Renfrow that moved the ball to the Indianapolis 24-yard line. Three Josh Jacobs runs ran the clock down to two seconds, setting the stage for Carlson.

Carr completed 24 of 31 passes for 255 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, while Zay Jones caught eight passes for 120 yards. The Raiders outgained the Colts 326-262.

NFL rushing leader Jonathan Taylor did his part for Indianapolis with 108 yards and a touchdown in 20 carries. Quarterback Carson Wentz, who was released out of COVID-19 protocol on Saturday and formally cleared to play on Sunday, hit 16 of 27 passes for 148 yards and a 45-yard touchdown to T.Y. Hilton in the third quarter to give the Colts a 17-13 lead.

Titans win AFC South with victory over Dolphins

Ryan Tannehill threw two touchdown passes as the Tennessee Titans clinched their second straight AFC South title Sunday, snapping the Miami Dolphins’ seven-game winning streak with a 34-3 win.

The Titans (11-5) won their second straight overall and third in four games to clinch their first back-to-back division titles since the start of the AFL when this franchise was the Houston Oilers and won three straight Eastern Division championships. They also won 11 games for a second consecutive season for the first time since 2002-03 — and currently are the AFC’s top seed after Kansas City lost at Cincinnati.

Miami came in as the first team in NFL history to win seven straight after a seven-game skid. That surge helped push the Dolphins into the third and final wild-card spot in the AFC, but this loss seriously damaged their playoff hopes.

On a cold and rainy day, the Titans ran more than they threw. Tannehill was 13 of 18 for 120 yards and a 127.1 passer rating against the team that drafted him eighth overall in 2012 before trading him to Tennessee in March 2019. Tannehill is 31-15 as the Titans’ starter with his third straight playoff berth clinched.

D’Onta Foreman ran for 132 yards and a TD. Dontrell Hilliard ran for a 39-yard TD as the Titans scored 10 points off a pair of turnovers by Tua Tagovailoa.

Rams defeat Ravens

The Los Angeles Rams moved a step closer to an NFC West title Sunday, overcoming miscues, infighting and a desperate opponent to rally for a 20-19 victory Sunday over the host Baltimore Ravens.

Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. had TD receptions, with Beckham’s go-ahead score coming with 57 seconds remaining as Los Angeles extended its winning streak to five games. The Rams would clinch a third NFC West title in the past five seasons if the Arizona Cardinals lose to the Dallas Cowboys later Sunday.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford was 26-of-35 passing for 309 yards and two touchdowns, but also had two interceptions, one of which was returned for a Ravens touchdown. Stafford also fumbled at the Ravens’ 20-yard line on the Rams’ first possession of the second half.

Kupp had six catches for 95 yards to set the Rams’ franchise record for receiving yards in a season with 1,829. Sony Michel had 74 yards rushing for Los Angeles, including a 1-yard score with 12:09 remaining.

Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley returned from the reserve-COVID list to go 20 of 32 for 197 yards and an interception as Baltimore lost its fifth consecutive game to put its playoff hopes on life support. Lamar Jackson remains out with an ankle injury that occurred in Week 14.

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