- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2008

From combined dispatches

CHARGERS 52, BRONCOS 21: The mild, mild AFC West belongs to LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers and the rest of the San Diego Chargers.

The Chargers won the NFL’s weakest division with an 8-8 record, becoming the first team to go from 4-8 to the playoffs by routing visiting Denver on Sunday night.

The Chargers became the first team to win a division at 8-8 since the Cleveland Browns did it in 1985. Tomlinson, who didn’t return after straining an abdominal muscle in the third quarter, had his first three-touchdown game of the season. Rivers threw his 33rd and 34th touchdown passes to break Hall of Famer Dan Fouts’ 1981 single-season franchise record.

STEELERS 31, BROWNS 0: Ben Roethlisberger gave playoff-bound Pittsburgh a major scare by suffering a concussion during an essentially meaningless game, a victory against visiting Cleveland that likely was Romeo Crennel’s last as the Browns’ coach.

Roethlisberger, expected to play a half to stay sharp before a two-week break, lay on the turf for nearly 15 minutes after being leveled by Willie McGinest and D’Qwell Jackson while delivering a pass late in the second quarter.

Unless follow-up tests unexpectedly reveal additional problems, the injury probably won’t sideline Roethlisberger for the second-seeded Steelers’ AFC playoff game, which won’t be until the second round.

DOLPHINS 24, JETS 17: Chad Pennington walked off the field where he spent his first eight NFL seasons, surrounded by cameras and jubilant teammates after leading Miami to an improbable AFC East title.

On the New York sideline, a disappointed Brett Favre jogged off the field and into the locker room, maybe for the last time in a storied career.

Pennington, cut in the offseason by the Jets to make room for Favre, threw two touchdown passes in leading the Dolphins to a division title with a victory over New York in East Rutherford, N.J.

PANTHERS 33, SAINTS 31: John Kasay’s 42-yard field goal with a second left lifted Carolina to a road victory over New Orleans, locking up the NFC South title and the second seed in the conference.

Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams rushed for 178 yards to set the franchise single-season record. His 1,515 yards eclipsed Stephen Davis’ 1,444 in 2003.

Drew Brees, meanwhile, came up just short in his bid to top Dan Marino’s 1984 single-season NFL record of 5,084 yards passing.

RAIDERS 31, BUCCANEERS 24: Oakland’s Michael Bush broke two tackles, rambled through a gaping hole in the right side of the defense and headed upfield to put a dagger in Tampa Bay’s slim playoff hopes.

The 245-pound third-string running back rushed for a career-high 177 yards and scored on a 67-yard fourth-quarter jaunt that helped the Raiders rally to end the Buccaneers’ season in Tampa, Fla.

TEXANS 31, BEARS 24: Chicago’s playoff chances ended against a team long eliminated from postseason contention.

Andre Johnson had two touchdowns, and host Houston got a win over the Bears to knock them out of the playoff picture. The Bears (9-7) needed a win to keep any postseason hopes alive.

PATRIOTS 13, BILLS 0: A nasty wind strong enough to tilt the goal posts was no match for Matt Cassel and New England, who did their part to remain in playoff contention.

But the win over Buffalo in Orchard Park, N.Y., wasn’t enough to get the Patriots into the playoffs after the Dolphins beat the Jets and the Ravens took care of the Jaguars. New England became the fifth 11-5 team to miss the playoffs and first since the Broncos in 1985.

FALCONS 31, RAMS 27: After a wild ending to its improbable regular season, Atlanta is headed to a wild card playoff game.

Jerious Norwood ran for two touchdowns, including the go-ahead 45-yard run with 3:41 left, and the Falcons held off visiting St. Louis to clinch the No. 5 seed in the NFC.

VIKINGS 20, GIANTS 19: With New York already comfortably in, Minnesota pushed its way into the playoffs.

Ryan Longwell’s 50-yard field goal as time expired lifted the host Vikings to a victory over the resting Giants, making Minnesota the NFC North champion for its first postseason appearance in four years.

COLTS 23, TITANS 0: Indianapolis achieved everything it wanted.

Peyton Manning reached 4,000 yards. Marvin Harrison became the NFL’s No. 2 all-time receiver. Dallas Clark broke a 42-year-old franchise record. And the Colts won their 12th game for a sixth straight season, extending their own NFL record as Indianapolis crushed Tennessee.

Former Maryland running back Lance Ball ran for 83 yards on 13 carries for the Colts.

CARDINALS 34, SEAHAWKS 21: Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald sent Arizona into the playoffs as a winner.

Warner threw four touchdown passes, his most in seven years, then sat out the fourth quarter, and the Cardinals beat Seattle in Glendale, Ariz., to spoil the final game of Mike Holmgren’s decade as Seahawks coach.

BENGALS 16, CHIEFS 6: Coach Herm Edwards watched his team’s season - and perhaps his days in charge of Kansas City - end with another dismal showing.

Cedric Benson ran for 111 yards and a touchdown, putting a little bite into Cincinnati’s depleted offense, and the Bengals completed their late-season surge with a home victory.

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