0 (and 16) no! Lions’ famine complete
Posted: Monday, December 29, 2008 5:48 pm
By: By The Associated Press
Far from the imperfect abyss into which the Detroit Lions have fallen, the NFL’s latest playoff qualifiers are celebrating.
Shockingly, those party-goers include the Miami Dolphins.
Hours after the Lions became the first team to go 0-16 in a season, the Dolphins, who were 1-15 a year ago, completed a memorable turnaround and won the AFC East at 11-5. That alone should give hope to all of the league’s tailenders.
“I don’t think words can describe it,” running back Ronnie Brown said Sunday after a 24-17 win over the New York Jets. “Earlier in the season, we could only imagine being in this situation.
“It’s a great accomplishment. With it comes more motivation to keep winning games. Obviously, now we’re in a situation where each one counts and if you lose, you go home.”
That begins next Sunday when the Dolphins host the Baltimore Ravens, who earned a wild-card berth with a 27-7 victory over Jacksonville.
“We have an opportunity to prove we’re the best team in the NFL,” said Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, like Miami’s Tony Sparano a rookie head coach. “That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Of course, there are 12 teams looking to prove just that. The playoff qualifiers in the NFC on the final day of the schedule were Minnesota and Philadelphia, joining previous entrants Carolina, Arizona, Atlanta and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
In the AFC, San Diego also got in with a 52-21 romp past Denver to take the West. Already in were Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.
The other games next weekend are Atlanta at Arizona and Indianapolis at San Diego on Saturday, and Philadelphia at Minnesota on Sunday.
On Jan. 10, Tennessee and Carolina will be the hosts. The next day, it will be New York and Pittsburgh.
In other finales, it was Green Bay 31, Detroit 21; Minnesota 20, New York Giants 19; Carolina 33, New Orleans 31; Philadelphia 44, Dallas 6; New England 13, Buffalo 0; Oakland 31, Tampa Bay 24; Atlanta 31, St. Louis 27; Houston 31, Chicago 24; Pittsburgh 31, Cleveland 0; Arizona 34, Seattle 21; San Francisco 27, Arizona 24; Indianapolis 23, Tennessee 0; and Cincinnati 16, Kansas City 6.
Dolphins 24, Jets 17
Chad Pennington, cut in the offseason by the Jets to make room for Brett Favre, threw two touchdown passes at the Meadowlands. Miami joined the 1999 Indianapolis Colts as the only teams in NFL history to make 10-game improvements. Miami, which has won five straight and nine of 10, made the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. It’s also the Dolphins’ first AFC East title since 2000.
Jets’ coach Eric Mangini was fired this morning.
Ravens 27, Jaguars 7
At Baltimore, Le’Ron McClain ran for two touchdowns in the first half and Baltimore (11-5) never let up against the stumbling Jaguars (5-11), who committed four turnovers and were held scoreless over the final 45 minutes. The seven points were a season low for Jacksonville.
A year ago, Baltimore went 5-11 and finished last in the AFC North. This season, with a first-year coach, a dynamic defense and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens finished with nine wins in their last 11 games.
Packers 31, Lions 21
At Green Bay, the Lions earned a distinction no team wants: worst in NFL history.
Facing one last chance to avoid their dubious destiny, the Lions lost for the 23rd time in 24 games. The 1976 expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-14) were the last NFL team to complete a full season without a victory.
Coach Rod Marinelli was 10-38 in three seasons with Detroit. He was fired this morning. Meanwhile, team owner William Clay Ford has decided the leaders of the front office, Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand, will be back in some capacity.
The Packers wound up 6-10.
Vikings 20, Giants 19
Ryan Longwell’s 50-yard field goal as the game ended lifted the host Vikings to the NFC North title for their first postseason appearance in four years.
New York (12-4), the NFC East winner with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, was on cruise control for much of the second half with backups on the field. The Vikings (10-6), who pulled within two points on a 54-yard touchdown pass by Tarvaris Jackson to a wide-open Bernard Berrian after third-string cornerback Terrell Thomas fell down, took advantage.
Derrick Ward, who last week rushed for a career-high 215 yards in a win over Carolina, gave the Giants a pair of 1,000-yard rushers — only the fourth running back tandem in NFL history — by finishing with 77 yards on 15 carries. Brandon Jacobs got there earlier this month.
Chargers 52, Broncos 21
At San Diego, LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers led a romp to the AFC West title, becoming the first team to go from 4-8 to the playoffs. Mission Valley turned into Mediocre Valley for the evening as the Chargers became the first team to win a division at 8-8 since the 1985 Cleveland Browns.
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 team single-season record.
Denver (8-8) completed a monumental collapse, becoming the first team since division play began in 1967 to miss the playoffs after having a three-game lead with three weeks to go. Needing just one win to wrap up the division, the Broncos lost at Carolina, at home to Buffalo and then to the Chargers.