Lions reach playoffs, Patriots get first-round bye
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey - Reuters
Detroit Lions corner back Alphonso Smith and Eric Wright bring down San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Brown during the second half of their NFL game in Detroit. REUTERS photoThe Detroit Lions have sealed their spot in the National Football League (NFL) playoffs by beating the San Diego Chargers while the New England Patriots have clinched a first-round bye in the postseason with a comeback win over the Miami Dolphins.
Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns as the Lions wrapped up one of the two NFC wildcards and advanced to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade after a 38-10 victory on Saturday over the Chargers, who still have a mathematical chance of grabbing one of the four remaining places in the postseason.
The Atlanta Falcons can join the eight teams already through if they beat the New Orleans today.
Quarterback Tom Brady led the Patriots back from a 17-point deficit to beat the Dolphins 27-24 on
Saturday and earn a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Brady rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another as the Patriots clawed their way back after trailing 17-0 at halftime to improve to 12-3 with just one week of the regular season to go.
The win ensured New England would get a rest in the first week of next month’s playoffs and a home game in the second week, though the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens could overtake them for the top seeding in the AFC if the Patriots lose their last game at home next week to the Buffalo Bills.
The Steelers and the Ravens, who are already assured of their spots in the playoffs, both won on Christmas Eve to improve to 11-4.
Pittsburgh, last season’s Super Bowl runners-up, thrashed the struggling St. Louis Rams 27-0 despite
resting their injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Baltimore, who hold the tie-breaker on the Steelers in the AFC North division, raced away to a 20-0 lead then survived a late comeback from the Cleveland Browns to win 20-14.
David Akers kicked a field goal with less than three minutes left on the clock to give the San Francisco 49ers a 19-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers will lock up a first-round bye if they win their last game, against St Louis next week, or the Saints lose either of their remaining two.
Tim Tebow’s Denver Broncos missed their chance to secure a spot in the postseason when they were beaten 40-14 by the Bills and were then joined at the top of the AFC West standings by the Oakland Raiders after Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 36-yard field goal in overtime to seal a 16-13 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Giants won their New York showdown against the Jets 29-14 to set up a sudden-death clash with the Dallas Cowboys next week for the top spot in the NFC East division after Eli Manning’s 99-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz.
The defeat all but ended the Jets’ prospects of making the playoffs when they fell one game behind Cincinnati in the race for the AFC wildcard after the Bengals beat the Arizona Cardinals 23-16.
With nothing to play for, the Cowboys rested some of their key players against the Philadelphia Eagles and lost 20-7.
Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck passed for 350 yards in the Titan’s 23-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars that kept alive their playoff hopes, while Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton broke Peyton Manning’s NFL record for the most passing yards in a rookie season.
The 22-year-old Newton surpassed Manning’s mark of 3,379 yards, set in 1998, in his team’s 48-16 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, adding yet another record to his impressive start in the NFL.