Washington—Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers threw for 240 yards and four touchdowns Sunday to give the Packers a 35-16 victory at Chicago, a home-field edge in the NFL playoffs, and a first-round bye.
Rodgers completed 19-of-24 passes with second-quarter touchdown tosses of 3 yards to Robert Tonyan, 13 yards to Dominique Dafney, and 72 yards to Marquez Valdes-Scantling plus a late 6-yarder clincher to Davante Adams as the Packers finished 13-3 with the National Conference (NFC) top seed.
“It was a good win for us. We had a lot to play for,” Rodgers said. “Very happy with our guys. Excited about the post-season. Excited to be the number one seed.”
The paths to next month’s Super Bowl in Tampa run through frigid Green Bay and American Conference (AFC) top seeded defending champion Kansas City (14-2). But Rodgers won’t ponder that.
“We can’t think about that yet,” he said. “We’re going to enjoy this week off, see who we play, and wait for a cold and possibly snowy game.”
The regular season came to a dramatic conclusion as the Cleveland Browns reached the playoffs for the first time since 2002, edging Pittsburgh 24-22 to snap the NFL’s longest active playoff drought.
Half the NFL’s 14 playoff berths were decided Sunday with Cleveland joined by the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts for the post-season chase that opens Saturday.
Washington (6-9) met Philadelphia in a late game needing a victory to win the woeful NFC East division for the last playoff spot over the New York Giants (6-10).
AFC games next weekend find Indy at Buffalo, Baltimore at Tennessee, and Cleveland again facing the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
NFC games find the Rams at Seattle, Chicago at New Orleans, and Tampa Bay at Washington or the Giants.
Cleveland’s Nick Chubb and Jarvis Landry each ran for a touchdown and Baker Mayfield threw for another as the Browns sealed their first playoff appearance since 2002.
“We wanted this. I could see that determination,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “It’s not over. We’ve got work left to do. I like how this team responds when their back is up against the wall.”
Lamar Jackson threw for 113 yards and three touchdowns and ran 11 times for 97 yards to spark Baltimore over Cincinnati 38-3.
Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons while J.K. Dobbins ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns in the Ravens’ romp.
The Titans secured a playoff spot when the Miami Dolphins were routed 56-26 at Buffalo and took the AFC South division crown by beating host Houston 41-38 on Sam Sloman’s last-play 37-yard field goal that struck the right upright and bounced through the posts for the triumph.
NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry of the Titans became the eighth player to run for 2,000 yards in a season, rushing 34 times for 250 yards and two touchdowns to finish on 2,027 while Ryan Tannehill ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in the victory.
Indianapolis took the final AFC berth by beating league-worst Jacksonville 28-14 to end Miami’s hope. The 10-win Dolphins missed the playoffs and were without starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick due to Covid-19 issues.
The Giants, who started 1-7, beat visiting Dallas 23-19 to end the Cowboys’ playoff dreams.
‘Crazy season’ ends
The season finished on time despite multiple game postponements due to Covid-19.
The Browns, three years after an 0-16 campaign, withstood a disrupted week of preparation with a facility closed three of the past four days with Covid-19 issues.
Defensive plays sparked the Rams over visiting Arizona 18-7, including an 84-yard Troy Hill interception return touchdown. That eliminated the Cardinals and allowed Chicago to advance despite the loss to Green Bay.
The Saints, whose entire set of running backs were out due to Covid-19 safety measures, ripped Carolina 33-7 to grab a second seed ahead of Seattle, which edged san Francisco 26-23.
“One of those crazy seasons,” Saints star Drew Brees said. “It was a great way to cap off the regular season with a win without our running backs. We had to step up and play different roles.
“We’ll see how it shakes out,” he said. “Just happy with the position we’re in.”
Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans became the first player with more than 1,000 reception yards in each of hifirst seven NFL seasons with a 20-yard catch in the first quarter but departed on the next play with a left knee injury in the Buccaneers’ 44-27 triumph over Atlanta. AFP