NFL roundup: Aaron Rodgers returns to rally Packers past Bears and into playoffs

CHICAGO —  Aaron Rodgers fired a 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the final minute, and the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears 33-28 to capture the NFC North championship.

Back after missing seven games with a broken left collarbone, Rodgers found a wide open Cobb on fourth-and-8 at the 48 to wipe out a one-point deficit with 38 seconds left.

Green Bay will host San Francisco in the playoffs next weekend.

The Bears had one final drive, but Jay Cutler’s deep pass to Alshon Jeffery was intercepted by Sam Shields on the final play.

That gave the Packers (8-7-1) their third straight division title and fifth postseason appearance in a row. It also kept the Bears (8-8) out of the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.

BRONCOS 34, RAIDERS 14

OAKLAND, Calif. — Peyton Manning set the NFL single-season record for yards passing and threw four first-half touchdown passes to help the Denver Broncos clinch the top seed in the AFC playoffs with a win over the Oakland Raiders.

Manning needed just one half to add the yards record to the touchdown mark he set last week and assure that the Broncos (13-3) won’t have to leave home again until the Super Bowl if they make it that far. He threw touchdown passes to Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno in the first quarter and added two to Demaryius Thomas in the second quarter. He broke Drew Brees‘ record of 5,476 yards set in 2011 with a 5-yard pass to Thomas with 13 seconds left in the half to make it 31-0.

That ended Manning’s day having completed 25 of 28 passes for 266 yards. He finished the season with 5,477 yards and 55 touchdown passes.

The Raiders (4-12) ended their 11th straight non-winning season with six straight losses and big questions about the future of second-year coach Dennis Allen.

SAINTS 42, BUCCANEERS 17

NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees passed for four touchdowns and ran for another score, and New Orleans clinched a wild-card spot with a victory over Tampa Bay.

Three of Brees‘ scoring strikes were longer than 40 yards — 76 to Kenny Stills, 44 to Lance Moore and 41 to Robert Meachem. Brees passed for 381 yards, eclipsing 5,000 yards in a season for an unprecedented fourth time. He finished the season with 5,162 yards to go with 39 touchdowns.

Brees‘ other TD was a 10-yard pass to tight end Jimmy Graham, and the Saints (11-5) finished 8-0 in the Superdome.

Mike Glennon passed for 219 yards and two TDs for Tampa Bay (4-12). With doubts swirling about the future of second-year Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano, the Bucs closed the season with losses in their last three games, and four of their last five.

CHARGERS 27, CHIEFS 24, OT

SAN DIEGO — Nick Novak kicked a 36-yard field goal with 5:30 left in overtime, ending the San Diego Chargers’ three-year playoff drought with a victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chargers (9-7) needed help for weeks, and everything fell into place on Sunday, with the last piece being their win over a Chiefs team that already had clinched the AFC’s No. 5 seed and rested 20 of 22 starters.

The Chargers, who trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter, held the Chiefs on downs to win it after they reached the San Diego 41.

Earlier in the day, the Chargers got the help they needed when Miami and Baltimore both lost. San Diego has won four straight and five of six heading into a wild-card game next weekend at AFC North champion Cincinnati.

The Chiefs (11-5) go into the playoffs having lost five of seven. They play at AFC South champion Indianapolis.

SEAHAWKS 27, RAMS 9

SEATTLE —  Malcolm Smith returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown, Marshawn Lynch added a 2-yard scoring run and the Seahawks clinched the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the St. Louis Rams.

Seattle (13-3) matched the franchise record for wins in a season and finally wrapped up the No. 1 seed after losses to San Francisco and last week to Arizona, which snapped a 14-game home winning streak.

Russell Wilson finished 15 of 23 for 172 yards. Seattle capped the victory with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Golden Tate early in the fourth quarter that lacked the unsportsmanlike wave that got Tate flagged on a similar TD reception in St. Louis earlier this season.

The Rams (7-9) were penalized a season-high 12 times for 87 yards. Kellen Clemens finished 21 of 30 for 157 yards and two interceptions. Zac Stacy, who needed 42 yards rushing to reach 1,000 on the season, was held to 15 yards on 15 carries.

JETS 20, DOLPHINS 7

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.  — The Dolphins were eliminated from the scramble for the AFC’s final wild-card berth by the Jets, who thrived in the role of spoilers against their archrivals.

Then owner Woody Johnson said coach Rex Ryan would return despite the Jets (8-8) sitting out the postseason themselves for the third year in a row.

Geno Smith led three long scoring drives, ran for a touchdown and threw for 190 yards, while two interceptions by rookie Dee Milliner and one by 35-year-old Ed Reed prevented a Miami comeback.

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.

49ERS 23, CARDINALS 20

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Phil Dawson made a 40-yard field goal as time expired to lift the San Francisco 49ers to a win over the Arizona Cardinals that clinched the NFC’s No. 5 playoff seed.

San Francisco will visit Green Bay in the wild-card round next weekend.

Dawson had matched his career best with a 56-yarder to put the 49ers (12-4) up 20-17 with 1:45 to go. Jay Feely’s 43-yard field goal then tied it for Arizona with 34 seconds left. LaMichael James’ 45-yard kickoff return and two quick completions by Collin Kaepernick set up Dawson’s game winner.

Arizona (10-6) rallied from a 17-0 first-quarter deficit to tie it on Carson Palmer’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts with 3:20 remaining.

COLTS 30, JAGUARS 10

INDIANAPOLIS  — Andrew Luck threw for 282 yards and one touchdown, Robert Mathis reclaimed the NFL sacks lead and Adam Vinatieri joined the 2,000-point club.

The AFC South champs have won three straight, matching their longest streak of the season. Indy (11-5) finished with a 6-0 mark against division foes and has outscored its last three opponents 78-20.

Jacksonville (4-12) lost its third straight.

Luck was 26 of 37 and became the first player in league history to top 8,000 yards in his first two NFL seasons. Mathis retook the sacks lead in the first half and added another in the second half, giving him 19½. Vinatieri moved into fifth on the career scoring list with 2,006 points, passing George Blanda and Matt Stover.

TITANS 16, TEXANS 10

NASHVILLE, Tenn.  — Chris Johnson ran for 127 yards and a touchdown in what might be his last game with the Titans, a win that may help coach Mike Munchak’s argument to stay on the job in 2014.

With their 14th straight loss, the Texans (2-14) clinched the No. 1 selection in next May’s draft for the next head coach owner Bob McNair hires.

The Titans (7-9) scored 16 straight points in snapping a five-game home skid that was their longest since leaving Houston for Tennessee in 1997. They also won a second straight game for the first time since September, when they started 3-1.

Rob Bironas kicked three field goals, including a season-long 55-yarder. Linebacker Akeem Ayers intercepted a pass and forced a fumble as the Titans got four turnovers they turned into 10 points.

VIKINGS 14, LIONS 13

MINNEAPOLIS —  Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson scored two more touchdowns, including the go-ahead catch in the end zone in the fourth quarter, and the Vikings won their final game at the Metrodome after 32 seasons.

With the Vikings (5-10-1) and the Lions (7-9) out of the playoffs, both coaches also faced the possibility of their last full day with their teams. Jim Schwartz fell to 29-52 in five years with the Lions. Leslie Frazier raised his record with the Vikings in three-plus years to 21-33-1. Each of them has reached the playoffs once.

The building will be torn down next month to make room for a new domed stadium on the same site.

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