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Adrian Peterson 9 yards shy of record, but Vikings make playoffs
MINNEAPOLIS — Adrian Peterson picked up the Minnesota Vikings and gave them a thrilling ride to the playoffs, where the next stop on this improbable journey is, yes, Green Bay.
This game was so full of action, intrigue and tension they're going to stage it again next weekend.
Peterson finished 9 yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, but he still powered the Vikings past the Packers 37-34 Sunday with 199 yards to set up a rematch at Lambeau Field in a first-round playoff game.
"I told myself to come into this game focused on one thing, and that's winning," Peterson said.
Peterson rumbled around the left side of the line for a 27-yard gain in the closing seconds, his career-high 34th carry exactly one year after reconstructive surgery on his left knee. That set up Blair Walsh's 29-yard field goal as time expired and put the Vikings (10-6) in the postseason after consecutive last-place finishes.
"For our guys to be as resilient as they were, it has you swelling with pride," coach Leslie Frazier said.
The division champion Packers (11-5) dropped to the NFC's No. 3 seed. Their five-game winning streak against the Vikings ended.
"I had a feeling that we had the game in the bag the whole game," Vikings cornerback Chris Cook said. "It was just a vibe that I had on the sideline, in how we were carrying ourselves."
Aaron Rodgers completed 28 of 40 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions, connecting with Jordy Nelson from 2 yards to tie the game with 2:54 remaining. But Christian Ponder threw for three scores, including one to Peterson.
Ponder went 16 for 28 for 234 yards, including a 65-yard zinger in stride to Jarius Wright midway through the fourth quarter that set up Ponder's third touchdown toss.
"It's disappointing. A lot of us wanted that extra week," Rodgers said.
Peterson finished with 2,097 yards, becoming the seventh player in NFL history to reach the 2,000 mark. He had to work for it, pulling out all the cutbacks, stutter-steps and spins he could find in his exceptional skill set. His longest run was only 28 yards against a defense geared to slow him down, and the first contact often came at, near or behind the line of scrimmage.
"It wasn't meant to happen, or it would've happened. Not to say it doesn't hurt, because it does," Peterson said of Dickerson's 28-year-old record. "But we came in here tonight and accomplished the ultimate goal, and that was getting a win and punching our ticket to the playoffs."
Bears 26, Lions 24
DETROIT — Jay Cutler threw for 257 yards and a touchdown and helped seal the game with a late scramble, and Chicago outlasted Detroit.
Calvin Johnson fell short in his attempt to become the first player with 2,000 yards receiving in a season. Johnson, who broke Jerry Rice's record of 1,848 yards receiving the previous weekend, finished at 1,964 after catching five passes for 72 yards.
Buccaneers 22, Falcons 17
ATLANTA — Josh Freeman threw a touchdown pass to Mike Williams, Doug Martin ran for 142 yards and Tampa Bay defeated Atlanta. The Falcons (13-3) had little to play for as they already have home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs.
Defensive end John Abraham, Atlanta's best pass rusher, left with an apparent left ankle injury in the fourth quarter. Abraham couldn't put his weight on the ankle as he was helped off the field. Starting cornerback Dunta Robinson suffered a head injury in the first quarter and did not return.
Seahawks 20, Rams 13
SEATTLE — Russell Wilson tied Peyton Manning's record for most touchdown passes by a rookie with 26, and his 1-yard TD run with 1:39 left gave Seattle a win over St. Louis Rams and an 8-0 home mark.
The Seahawks (11-5) will be the No. 5 seed in the NFC and face the NFC East champion -- either Washington or Dallas -- in the opening round next weekend.
Patriots 28, Dolphins 0
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes, and New England Regained its dominance after a rare slump, earning a playoff bye by shutting out Miami.
Stevan Ridley ran for two touchdowns as the Patriots (12-4) used a ball-control offense and a defense that racked up a season-high seven sacks. Now, seeded second in the AFC, they have an extra week to prepare for their postseason opener.
Bengals 23, Ravens 17
CINCINNATI — Carlos Dunlap returned an interception 14 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, sending Cincinnati over Baltimore in a game that didn't much matter to either playoff-bound team.
The Ravens (10-6) had clinched their second straight AFC North title, putting them in line to host Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts next weekend. The Bengals (10-6) were locked into the sixth seed as the final wild-card team and will face Houston in the first round.
49ers 27, Cardinals 13
SAN FRANCISCO — Michael Crabtree caught touchdown passes of 49 and 7 yards and finished with a career-high 172 yards, leading San Francisco past Arizona to clinch a second straight NFC West title. Colin Kaepernick throew for a career-best 276 yards and two TDs for the Niners (11-4-1). Frank Gore ran for a 2-yard touchdown for his franchise-best 51st TD rushing.
Panthers 44, Saints 38
NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees made more NFL history for New Orleans (7-9), but Carolina rallied to win. DeAngelo Williams rushed for 210 yards, including touchdown runs of 54 and 12 yards, for the Panthers (7-9). Brees passed for 396 yards for the Saints, giving him 5,177. That makes him the first player to eclipse 5,000 yards three times. His four TD passes gave him 43 in 2012, and he's the first player with 40 TD passes in consecutive seasons.
Steelers 24, Browns 10
PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger threw three short touchdown passes, and Pittsburgh avoided its first losing season in nearly a decade by beating Cleveland. Antonio Brown, Leonard Pope and Plaxico Burress scored for the Steelers (8-8), who for just the second time in the last six weeks.
Giants 42, Eagles 7
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Eli Manning threw a career-high five touchdown passes, and New York routed Philadelphia in what likely was Andy Reid's final game as the Eagles' coach. Manning's five-TD game came despite completing just 13 of 21 passes for 208 yards, and Ahmad Bradshaw rushed 16 times for 107 yards and a score for the Giants (9-7).
Bills 28, Jets 9
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — C.J. Spiller scored on a 66-yard catch and run in helping underachieving Buffalo end its season with a win over New York. Safety Bryan Scott also returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown for the Bills (6-10), who snapped a three-game skid.
Chargers 24, Raiders 21
SAN DIEGO — Micheal Spurlock returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, and San Diego beat the Oakland Raiders 24-21 on a wet, gloomy day in what's expected to be Norv Turner's final game as Chargers coach. Spurlock became the first Chargers player to have a kickoff and punt return for touchdowns in consecutive weeks.
Titans 38, Jaguars 20
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee became the first team in NFL history with two players scoring twice on returns in a game in a rout of Jacksonville in the season finale. Darius Reynaud scored on two punt returns and rookie linebacker Zach Brown returned two interceptions for touchdowns.
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