The Dolphins (8-8) squandered a shot at their first playoff berth since 2008 by losing their final two games. It was a dismal end to a roller-coaster season that included a four-game losing streak and a bullying scandal that drew national scrutiny.
STEELERS 20, BROWNS 7
PITTSBURGH — Le’Veon Bell ran for 90 yards and a touchdown as the Steelers drubbed the Cleveland Browns, though Pittsburgh’s bid to become the second team in NFL history to go winless in September and make the playoffs ended when San Diego edged Kansas City.
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 179 yards and a touchdown against two interceptions as the Steelers (8-8) won their third straight to avoid the franchise’s first losing season since 2003. The victory also continued a furious second-half rally by the Steelers, who went 6-2 over the season’s final eight weeks to fuel an improbable run at the AFC’s final postseason spot.
Jason Campbell completed 23 of 40 passes for 240 yards with a touchdown, but the Browns (4-12) lost their seventh straight, fueling speculation first-year coach Rob Chudzinski’s job could be in jeopardy.
PANTHERS 21, FALCONS 20
ATLANTA — Cam Newton threw two touchdown passes, Greg Hardy had a team-record four sacks and the Panthers clinched the NFC South.
The Panthers (12-4) earned a first-round bye and home-field advantage for at least one game as the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
Carolina, which won 11 of its final 12 games, set a team record by sacking Matt Ryan nine times. The defense also produced a touchdown on Melvin White’s 7-yard interception return in the second quarter.
Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez had four catches for 56 yards and was honored at halftime in his final regular-season game. He has announced plans for retirement.
PATRIOTS 34, BILLS 20
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — LeGarrette Blount rushed for a career-high 189 yards and two touchdowns and had two long kickoff returns as the New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills and clinched a first-round AFC bye.
Tom Brady was content to hand the ball off during a steady downpour against a team leading the NFL in sacks and second in interceptions. And Blount responded, leading the charge into the playoffs. Stephen Gostkowski helped make sure the Patriots (12-4) wouldn’t have a game next weekend with four field goals.
While the Patriots earned their eighth bye in Bill Belichick’s 14 seasons as coach, the Bills (6-10) missed the playoffs for the 14th straight year, the league’s longest current streak.
New England won its 13th straight home game against Buffalo, including 12-0 since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002.