AFC’s (home)r will be Patriots
Posted: Monday, December 27, 2010 3:17 pm
By: By The Associated Press
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are staying home throughout the AFC playoffs.
They secured the AFC’s top seed and home-field advantage through the first three rounds with a 34-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. It’s the third time the Patriots (13-2) have finished first in the conference since 2003, and the eighth time in 10 years they’ve won the AFC East.
“It never gets old,” Brady said. “We never get tired of winning.”
Brady hasn’t lost in Foxborough in the regular season since 2006, although the Patriots were routed at home by Baltimore in the playoffs last season. Still, it will be a tough task for any team to win at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots are unbeaten in 16 consecutive regular-season games since losing to Pittsburgh on Nov. 30, 2008, with Matt Cassel in for an injured Brady.
“This football team is getting better,” nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. “We’re not where we want to be by any means, but we’re definitely moving forward.”
So are the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets, who also clinched spots in the postseason in opposite ways. The Ravens (11-4) won at Cleveland 20-10, while the Jets (10-5) lost 38-34 at Chicago but got in when Jacksonville lost to Washington 20-17 in overtime.
Kansas City (10-5) earned its first AFC West championship since 2003 when it beat Tennessee 34-17 and San Diego lost at Cincinnati.
Philadelphia (10-4) clinched the NFC East without even playing when the New York Giants lost 45-17 at Green Bay. The Eagles’ night game against Minnesota was moved to Tuesday night because of blizzard conditions in Philadelphia.
And Sunday night, Mike Singletary was fired as San Francisco’s coach after two disappointing seasons. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula was elevated to interim coach and will run the 49ers — 25-17 loser at St. Louis — next week against Arizona.
At Buffalo, Brady threw three touchdown passes, including two to tight end Rob Gronkowski, and extended his streak of attempts without an interception to 319.
On Saturday, the Arizona Cardinals edged the Dallas Cowboys 27-26 in the Christmas Day game.Packers 45, Giants 17
At Green Bay, Wis., Aaron Rodgers threw for 404 yards and four touchdowns in his return from a concussion to lead the Packers (9-6), who need to beat Chicago next week to make the playoffs.
Colts 31, Raiders 26
At Oakland, Calif., Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes and iced the game with a 27-yard keeper.
The Colts (9-6) allowed Jacoby Ford to return the opening kick for a TD, overcame a pair of interceptions by Manning in the second half and survived four field goals from Sebastian Janikowski, including two from more than 50 yards, to move within a win of clinching the AFC South title for their ninth straight playoff berth.
Broncos 24, Texans 23
At Denver, Tim Tebow scored on a 6-yard scramble with 3 minutes left in his first home start to cap the Broncos’ comeback from a 17-0 halftime deficit.
Matt Schaub was driving the Texans for a go-ahead score when Syd’Quan Thompson picked off a pass deflected by Justin Bannan at the Broncos 27 with just over a minute remaining. The Broncos (4-11) won for the first time since Nov. 14 and avoided a franchise record 12th loss in handing the Texans (5-10) their eighth loss in nine games.
Rams 25, 49ers 17
At St. Louis, Sam Bradford set an NFL record for completions in a rookie season and his first touchdown pass in four games helped put the Rams a win from a playoff berth. The Rams (7-8) need to win at Seattle (6-9) next week to clinch the NFC West and secure their first postseason spot since 2004.
In one of his last moves, Singletary benched quarterback Troy Smith in the fourth quarter of the loss that eliminated the 49ers (5-10) from playoff consideration in the weak NFC West. Ted Ginn Jr. scored on a 78-yard punt return for San Francisco, his fourth career touchdown return.
Bucs 38, Seahawks 15
At Tampa, Fla., Josh Freeman threw for 237 yards and a career-best five touchdowns to help the Buccaneers keep their playoff hopes alive.
Kellen Winslow and rookie Mike Williams each had a pair of TD receptions for the Bucs (9-6), who guaranteed themselves a winning record after going 3-13 a year ago in their first season under coach Raheem Morris.
Seattle (6-9) played most of the game without injured quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and lost for the seventh time in nine games.
Bengals 34, Chargers 20
At Cincinnati, Carson Palmer threw four touchdown passes during a near-perfect performance in the swirling snow, ending the Chargers’ run of four straight AFC West titles.
The Chargers (8-7) froze up in their coldest game in nearly three years, losing for only the second time in their last 22 games in December.
Palmer led the Bengals (4-11) to their second straight win with a cast of reserve receivers. Two of his touchdown passes went to Jerome Simpson, including a 59-yarder in the fourth quarter. Palmer finished with a career-best passer rating of 157.2 — perfect would be 158.3.
Redskins 20, Jaguars 17, OT
At Jacksonville, Fla., Kevin Barnes intercepted David Garrard’s second pass in overtime, setting up Graham Gano’s 31-yard field goal.
Rex Grossman had a touchdown pass early, and Ryan Torain added a 1-yard plunge on fourth down late as the Redskins (6-9) ended a four-game losing streak.
The Jaguars (8-7) have lost two in a row and need to win at Houston next week and have Tennessee upset Indianapolis to win the AFC South.
Lions 34, Dolphins 27
At Miami, Detroit took advantage of two interceptions to score 17 points in the final 4:37. With the comeback, the Lions (5-10) have won three consecutive games for the first time since 2007.
The Dolphins (7-8), eliminated from the playoff race last week, finished 1-7 at home to match a franchise low.