Seahawks, Bengals, Colts win to reach playoffs
SEATTLE, Washington - Agence France-Presse
Green Bay Packers' Mike Neal (96) tackles Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) in the first quarter of an NFL football game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., on Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. AP photoIndianapolis, Cincinnati and Seattle qualified for the National Football League playoffs with victories Sunday while Minnesota's post-season bid was boosted with a surprise win over Houston.
Seattle joined Atlanta, San Francisco and Green Bay as National Conference qualifiers while Cincinnati and Indianapolis completed the American Conference playoff lineup that also includes Houston, Denver, Baltimore and New England.
Minnesota can capture one vacant spot with a victory next week at Green Bay while Dallas, despite an over-time loss Sunday, will travel to Washington next week to decide the other playoff spot for the NFC East division champion.
Rookie Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes to help Seattle to a 42-13 win over San Francisco, keeping the Seahawks (10-5) in the hunt for the NFC West crown and hurting the 49ers (10-4-1) in the race for a first-round playoff bye.
"It's unbelievable," Wilson said. "We've had a great year so far but it's only one step. We have a lot more to look forward to achieving." Josh Brown's 43-yard field goal with four seconds remaining gave Cincinnati a 13-10 victory at Pittsburgh that clinched a playoff berth for the Bengals and left the Steelers sitting home after a fifth loss in six games.
The Bengals are in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1981 and 1982.
"Huge team win," Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said. "It's exactly what we needed. Our defense played great, giving us good field position. Obviously there are areas we can improve, but it feels good to get the win." Indianapolis rookie star Andrew Luck, the 2012 NFL Draft top pick, flipped a seven-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne to give the Colts a 20-13 win at Kansas City to secure a playoff spot.
The Colts were set to welcome back coach Chuck Pagano on Monday after he missed almost all of the season for leukemia treatments.
"Mission accomplished," interim Colts coach Bruce Arians said. "It's a fantastic feeling. Without getting emotional again, knowing that he's going to be back Monday, the work week shouldn't be as stressful." Minnesota shocked host Houston 23-6, dropping the Texans to 12-3 and keeping them from clinching a home-field edge in the American Conference.
Adrian Peterson, the NFL season rushing leader, ran 25 times for 86 yards for the Vikings, leaving him 207 yards shy of the one-season NFL rushing record of 2,105 yards set by Eric Dickerson with the Los Angeles Rams in 1984.
If the Vikings falter, the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants and Chicago would have a chance to claim the playoff spot.
The Washington Redskins won their sixth game in a row with a 27-20 triumph at Philadelphia, improving to 9-6 to stay atop the NFC East division entering next weekend's showdown with Dallas, which lost 34-31 in over-time to visiting New Orleans to fall to 8-7.
Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III completed 16-of-24 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns despite playing with a brace on his sprained right knee after missing last week's victory at Cleveland.
Garrett Hartley's 20-yard field goal gave New Orleans a victory after Tony Romo threw two touchdown passes in the final 3:35 to lift Dallas level and force over-time.
The Redskins would claim their first division crown since 1999 with a home triumph over the Cowboys next Sunday.
A Dallas victory would leave both clubs 9-7 but Dallas would take the division on a tie-breaker of best record among common opponents. A loss would end the Cowboys' playoff hopes.
Charles Tillman returned an interception 10 yards for a touchdown and Zack Bowman scored on a one-yard fumble recovery return to power Chicago over Arizona 28-13, keeping the Bears in playoff contention.
Baltimore clinched the AFC North division crown with a 33-14 home triumph over the Giants, with Joe Flacco throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns to dim New York's playoff hopes.
Peyton Manning threw for a season-high 339 yards and three touchdowns to lead Denver over Cleveland 34-12, stretching the Broncos' winning streak to 10 games.
Denver (12-3) and New England (11-4) remain within reach of Houston (12-3), but the Texans would take an American Conference home-field playoff edge by winning next week at Indianapolis.
The Broncos would claim a first-round bye with a victory over Kansas City.