NFL Roundup: Cardinals rally past Eagles, Packers earn pivotal win over Vikings

Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner pushes through Philadelphia Eagles defenders while scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Cardinals won 35-31. (Matt Slocum/AP)

PHILADELPHIA — James Conner ran for a 2-yard touchdown with 32 seconds remaining, Kyler Murray threw three TD passes, and the Arizona Cardinals rallied from a 15-point deficit to stun Philadelphia 35-31 on Sunday and disrupt the Eagles’ playoff path.

Former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon returned to Philly and got his biggest win yet as Arizona’s coach. Granted, there haven’t been many of them for the Cardinals (4-12). But the playoff-bound Eagles’ fourth loss this month — and second at home — was a huge setback to their standing in the NFC.

The Eagles (11-5) could have won the NFC East with wins against Arizona and the New York Giants next week. Now, Dallas can win the division with a win next week at Washington, and San Francisco has locked up the top seed in the conference.

Jalen Hurts, who threw three touchdown passes, was picked off in the end zone on a desperate heave to end the game.

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PACKERS 33, VIKINGS 10

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jordan Love threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score to put the Green Bay Packers in control of a spot in the playoffs with a 33-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night.

Aaron Jones rushed for 120 yards and Jayden Reed had two touchdown catches for the Packers (8-8), who can get the NFC’s last wild-card spot by beating Chicago at home next week. They moved above the cut when Seattle lost earlier in the day.

Love went 24 for 33 for 256 yards in what might have been the finest game in his first season as the Packers’ starter in the post-Aaron Rodgers era.

The Vikings (7-9) benched another turnover-prone quarterback after an interception and a fumble by Jaren Hall in the first half were converted into touchdowns by the Packers. Nick Mullens took over for Hall for the second half, the fifth time the Vikings have switched quarterbacks since Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter of a 24-10 win at Green Bay on Oct. 29.

Detroit clinched the NFC North by beating Minnesota here last week, marking just the second time in 13 seasons the division wasn’t won by either the Packers or the Vikings, but a prime-time game between these border-state rivals always generates plenty of energy in the stadium.

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JAGUARS 26, PANTHERS 0

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Travis Etienne scored twice, including one on his longest run of the season, and the Jacksonville Jaguars ended a four-game skid with a 26-0 shutout of the woeful Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

The Jaguars (9-7) won for the first time in December — and with quarterback Trevor Lawrence (shoulder) watching from the sideline — to set up a regular-season finale at Tennessee that will help decide the AFC South.

The Panthers (2-14) dropped to 0-9 on the road and were held scoreless for the first time since losing to Atlanta in Week 12 in 2002.

Jacksonville now can clinch the division with a victory next weekend. A loss to the Titans would hand the AFC South to the winner of the Houston-Indianapolis game.

Lawrence missed the game with a sprained throwing shoulder, ending his consecutive starts streak at 51. C.J. Beathard completed 17 of 24 passes for 178 yards in his first start since 2020 and played turnover-free football.

The Jaguars had 10 giveaways in their losing streak.

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TEXANS 23, TITANS 3

HOUSTON — C.J. Stroud threw for 213 yards and a touchdown in his return from a concussion and the Houston Texans rolled to a 26-3 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday to boost their playoff chances.

Houston (9-7), Indianapolis and Jacksonville all won Sunday to leave the three teams with identical records in the AFC South and keep the Texans in contention for both the division title and a playoff spot.

A victory next week at Indianapolis will guarantee the Texans, who won just three games last season, their first postseason berth since 2019.

Stroud, the second overall pick in the draft, hadn’t played since hitting the back of his head hard on the turf in a loss to the Jets on Dec. 10. He picked up right where he left off before the injury, moving the offence effectively and throwing his 21st touchdown pass of the season in the second quarter.

The Texans had a 17-point lead at halftime with some help from a touchdown on defence after Sheldon Rankins returned a fumble by rookie quarterback Will Levis for a score in the second quarter.

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49ERS 27, COMMANDERS 10

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LANDOVER, Md. — Brock Purdy bounced back from the worst game of his NFL career to throw two touchdown passes, and the San Francisco 49ers clinched the top seed in the NFC by beating the Washington Commanders 27-10 Sunday.

Philadelphia’s stunning home loss to Arizona, combined with Detroit’s defeat at Dallas on Saturday, allowed the 49ers (12-4) to sure up a first-round bye and home-field advantage before Week 18. A large cheer erupted from the visiting locker room when the Eagles lost.

Washington (4-12) wasn’t much of an obstacle for the Niners, whose only concern coming out of the victory could be the status of Christian McCaffrey. Their do-it-all running back left the game in the third quarter with a right calf injury after gaining 91 scrimmage yards on 18 touches, but he and the starters will now get plenty of time off to rest.

That was one of many offensive contributions for San Francisco, which got touchdown catches from Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and a rushing TD from Elijah Mitchell. Purdy, coming off throwing four interceptions in a humbling home loss to Baltimore, was 22 of 28 for 230 yards to reach 4,280 and break Jeff Garcia’s season franchise record of 4,278 set in 2000.

The defence, also looking to atone for some struggles against the Ravens, intercepted Sam Howell twice — once each by Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir.

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RAVENS 56, DOLPHINS 19

BALTIMORE — In what may have been his final bid for the MVP award, Lamar Jackson threw for 321 yards and five touchdowns, finishing with a perfect passer rating and helping the Baltimore Ravens clinch the top seed in the AFC with a 56-19 rout of the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Isaiah Likely caught two TDs for the Ravens, who won their sixth straight game and also wrapped up their first AFC North title since 2019, Jackson’s first MVP season. Now Baltimore (13-3) can rest Jackson — and anyone else it chooses — in the regular-season finale against Pittsburgh.

Miami (11-5) is also postseason bound, but now the winner of next weekend’s Dolphins-Bills game will take the AFC East. Miami was without two offensive stars in receiver Jaylen Waddle (ankle) and running back Raheem Mostert (knee, ankle).

And now the Dolphins face another potentially significant injury. Linebacker Bradley Chubb — with his team down 30 points — had to be carted off with 3:05 remaining after hurting his knee.

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BILLS 27, PATRIOTS 21

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Josh Allen ran for two touchdowns, cornerback Rasul Douglas returned one of his two interceptions for a score and the Buffalo Bills maintained their clear path to the playoffs with a 27-21 win over the New England Patriots on Sunday.

The three-time division champion Bills (10-6) now prepare for a season-ending showdown at Miami (11-5) next weekend that will decide the AFC East title. Buffalo has already defeated the Dolphins this year, and Miami blew a chance at clinching the division title with a 56-19 loss to Baltimore on Sunday.

The Bills have yet to clinch a playoff berth but could do so Sunday with a Pittsburgh loss or tie at Seattle and a Cincinnati loss or tie at Kansas City.

Buffalo won its fourth straight and fifth in six games by overcoming an inconsistent offense which settled for a touchdown and two field goals off three defensive takeaways inside the Patriots 30 in the first half. The Bills also responded after the Patriots opened the game with Jalen Reagor’s 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Allen converted three third-down opportunities on Buffalo’s final drive to run out the final 5:02. He capped the time-consuming drive by lowering his head on a 4-yard run on third-and-3 from the Patriots 16.

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COLTS 23, RAIDERS 20

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INDIANAPOLIS — Gardner Minshew threw one touchdown pass, Jonathan Taylor ran for another score and two late defensive penalties helped the Indianapolis Colts stay in the AFC playoff chase Sunday with a crucial 23-20 victory over Las Vegas.

Indy (9-7) now heads into its regular-season finale with three straight home wins. The Colts host Houston next week with both teams tied atop the AFC South.

Defending division champ Jacksonville also holds a share of the division lead and visits Tennessee.

The loss ended Las Vegas’ two-game winning streak and eliminated the Raiders (7-9) from postseason play.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Colts played effective ball control. Minshew finished 15 of 23 with 224 yards. Taylor had 21 carries for a season-high 96 yards.

Aidan O’Connell was 30 of 47 with 299 yards and two TDs, both to Davante Adams who had 13 receptions for 126 yards.

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RAMS 26, GIANTS 25

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Kyren Williams ran for 87 yards and a career-best three touchdowns and the Los Angeles Rams inched closer to returning to the playoffs with a much harder-than-expected 26-25 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday.

Matthew Stafford threw for 317 yards and a touchdown but also had his first two interceptions in the last five games as the Rams (9-7) won their third straight and sixth in the last seven games. They could clinch a playoff spot later Sunday with a loss by Seattle or a tie between Green Bay and Minnesota.

The Giants (5-11) had a chance to pull off an upset when Gunner Olszewski scored on a 94-yard punt return to get New York within a point with 3:27 to play. After an encroachment penalty on the extra point attempt, coach Brian Daboll elected to go for a 2-point conversion —but Tyrod Taylor missed a wide-open Saquon Barkley on a rollout to the right.

Later, a 31-yard run by Taylor allowed Mason Crosby to attempt a game-winning 54-yard field goal, but it was short.

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BEARS 37, FALCONS 17

CHICAGO — Justin Fields threw for 268 yards with a touchdown pass and a rushing TD in what could be his final home game for Chicago, and the Bears dealt Atlanta’s postseason hopes a big blow, beating the Falcons 37-17 on a snowy Sunday.

D.J. Moore finished with nine catches for 159 yards and a touchdown, and Khalil Herbert ran for 124 yards and a score.

With little wiggle room to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017 — and coach Arthur Smith’s future in question — the Falcons (7-9) got overwhelmed by Chicago (7-9).

The Bears grabbed a 21-7 halftime lead with Fields and Moore leading the way and rolled to their fourth win in five games.

Fields completed 20 of 32 passes. He also ran for 45 yards with his future as murky as ever. The Bears acquired Carolina’s first-round pick in the trade for Moore last March and could be in position to draft Caleb Williams or Drake Maye if they decide to move on from the former Ohio State star.

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SAINTS 23, BUCCANEERS 13

TAMPA, Fla. — Derek Carr threw for 197 yards and two touchdowns to help the New Orleans Saints stop Tampa Bay’s four-game winning streak and climb back into a tie for first place in the NFC South with a 23-13 victory over Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers on Sunday.

Carr tossed TD passes of 4 yards to Juwan Johnson and 22 yards to Taysom Hill in the first half. The Saints defence did its part to keep the Bucs (8-8) from clinching their third consecutive division title, too, by intercepting Mayfield twice and forcing a pair of fumbles.

Tampa Bay can still repeat as NFC South champions by winning at division rival Carolina in next week’s regular-season finale. The Saints (8-8) close with a division game at home against Atlanta.

Carr completed 24 of 32 passes without an interception to outshine Mayfield, who played some of the best ball of his career during the four-game winning streak that carried the Bucs to the brink of clinching a fourth straight playoff berth.

The No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 draft, who’s with his fourth team in six seasons, threw for nine touchdowns vs. one interception during the four-game surge that followed a stretch in which Tampa Bay lost six of seven.

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STEELERS 30, SEAHAWKS 23

SEATTLE (AP) — Najee Harris rushed for a season-high 122 yards and bullied his way into the end zone for a pair of touchdowns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers kept their playoff hopes alive into Week 18 with a 30-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

Using a punishing running attack that faced little resistance from Seattle, the Steelers (9-7) pushed their way into the final week of the regular season with a chance at the postseason and ensured that Mike Tomlin’s team would yet again avoid a losing record.

Harris had not hit the century mark rushing this season, his closest coming when he ran for 99 yards against Cincinnati. But he combined with Jaylen Warren for a running punch that Seattle struggled to stop.

Harris averaged 4.5 yards per carry and reached the 100-yard mark for the first time since Week 17 of last season against Baltimore. Warren added another 75 yards rushing and scored on an 18-yard run in the first quarter.

Harris scored on a 9-yard touchdown run in the second quarter breaking several tackles on his way to the goal line before a final lunge to break the plane. In the third quarter, Harris scored on a 4-yard run with a big assist from his linemen pushing the pile into the end zone to give the Steelers a 24-17 lead.

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CHIEFS 25, BENGALS 17

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Harrison Butker was a career-best 6-for-6 on field-goal attempts, Kansas City held the Bengals scoreless over their final seven possessions, and the Chiefs rallied to beat Cincinnati 25-17 on Sunday to clinch their eighth straight AFC West title.

Patrick Mahomes had 245 yards passing and a touchdown for Kansas City (10-6), which also secured at least the No. 3 seed and one home playoff game. Isiah Pacheco ran 18 times for 130 yards while Rashee Rice had five catches for 127 yards.

The Bengals (8-8), fighting for their own playoff lives, led by 10 early but found themselves trailing 25-17 when Butker hit the last of his field goals — a 46-yarder through blustery wind — with 2:59 remaining in the game.

With one last chance, Jake Browning hit Tyler Boyd to convert a long fourth down and get into Kansas City territory, but back-to-back sacks by George Karlaftis and Chris Jones gave the Chiefs eight on the day and ended the Bengals’ comeback hopes.

Browning finished with 197 yards passing and a touchdown. Joe Mixon ran for 65 yards and had the TD reception.

Butker converted from 54, 43, 27, 24, 48 and 46 yards, accounting for the game’s final 18 points.

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BRONCOS 16, CHARGERS 9

DENVER (AP) — Jarrett Stidham threw for 224 yards and a touchdown in an uneven performance in his first start in place of a benched Russell Wilson as the Denver Broncos beat the Los Angeles Chargers 16-9 on Sunday.

Stidham earned his first career NFL win as a starter thanks to some timely plays such as a nifty 54-yard catch-and-run for a score by Lil’Jordan Humphrey and a stellar defensive performance. The Broncos (8-8) forced one turnover and allowed two third-down conversions on 11 attempts.

Despite the win, the Broncos saw their playoff chances end with Kansas City beating Cincinnati. The Broncos haven’t been to the playoffs since winning the Super Bowl following the 2015 season.

It was a matchup of backup against a backup, with Stidham supplanting Wilson in an effort to try to spark a sporadic offence. The Chargers (5-11) went with Easton Stick for a third straight start after the injury to Justin Herbert.

Stidham was shaky in stepping in for Wilson, who saw the team average 21.7 points a game under his watch.

Los Angeles made it 16-9 with 1:17 left on a 52-yard field goal from Cameron Dicker and tried an onside kick. It was recovered by Alex Singleton. Stidham took two knees to end the game.

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