Fish squish Patriots in regular-season finale
MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. >> A whipsaw hit sent Tom Brady's legs one direction and his upper body the other, leaving him face down in the turf.
Brady rose slowly but the hits kept coming from the Miami Dolphins, who beat New England 20-10 Sunday and prevented the Patriots from clinching the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
With the Patriots eager to protect Brady's health, he threw a season-low 21 passes, and even so he was lucky to make it through the game in one piece. He was sacked twice and endured at least half a dozen knockdowns, including three on one series.
For the second week in a row, the Patriots (12-4) missed a chance to earn the top playoff seed by winning. Their last shot at the No. 1 seed hinged on Denver losing its regular-season finale to San Diego.
The Patriots, who came into the game assured of a first-round bye, rested several injured starters. Brady's afternoon ended when he was buried on a third-down sack with five minutes left, and he watched the Patriots' final offensive series from the sideline along with teammate Rob Gronkowski.
Brady finished 12 for 21 for a season-low 134 yards, and was held without a touchdown pass for the first time this season.
He spent most of the first half handing off, with the Patriots running the ball on 16 of their first 18 plays. Brady threw only five passes in the first half, the lowest halftime total in any game he has started, according to STATS.
Brady tweaked his right ankle in the second quarter when Ndamukong Suh rolled into his legs on a third-down incompletion, but the quarterback was back for the next series.
In the second half he came out throwing, and running back James White turned a short pass into a 68-yard gain to set up New England's touchdown. It was scored on a 2-yard run by Steven Jackson his first TD since joining New England on Dec 22.
DeVante Parker won a jump-ball battle for a long pass to make a 46-yard catch, setting up the touchdown that put Miami ahead to stay with seven minutes left. The rookie first-round pick had five catches for 106 yards, both season highs.
Miami scored the game's first touchdown on Ryan Tannehill's 15-yard pass to Parker with 36 seconds left in the first half. Tannehill finished 25 for 38 for 350 yards and two scores.
Bills 22, Jets 17
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw interceptions on each of New York's final three drives and the Jets' playoff hopes were dashed with a 22-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The Jets (10-6) would have made the postseason for the first time since 2010 with a win, but the defeat combined with Pittsburgh's win at Cleveland ended those hopes. New York had a five-game winning streak stopped, and the loss came against former Jets coach Rex Ryan — fired by New York and hired by the Bills (8-8) last January.
Fitzpatrick, who had thrown just one interception in the Jets' winning streak, was picked off by Leodis McKelvin in the end zone early in the fourth quarter with New York driving.
The game was decided when Fitzpatrick's side-arm pass over the middle was intercepted by A.J. Tarpley with 11 seconds remaining.
STEELERS 28, BROWNS 12
Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes, Pittsburgh's defense dominated and the Steelers slipped into the AFC playoffs with the win over Cleveland, expected to fire coach Mike Pettine.
The Steelers (10-6) had to win and needed Buffalo to knock off the New York Jets to make the postseason. Pittsburgh did its part, then earned a wild-card berth when the Bills beat the 22-17.
Roethlisberger threw for 349 yards, 187 to Antonio Brown, who had 13 catches and a TD.
The Browns (3-13) ended another losing season in disarray and doubt. Owner Jimmy Haslam, who vowed in August that he wouldn't "blow things up" will likely clean house, ousting Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer. Pettine went 10-22 in two seasons, losing 18 of his final 21 games.
TEXANS 30, JAGUARS 6
J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus led the defense and Jonathan Grimes scored twice to help the Texans clinch the AFC South.
Grimes had a 12-yard touchdown reception and added a 3-yard rushing score in the second quarter to help Houston take a 20-3 lead by halftime. Kareem Jackson added a score on an interception return in the fourth quarter to pad the lead.
Watt, playing without a cast for the first time since breaking his left hand Dec. 9, had had three sacks, forced a fumble and recovered another one to help the Texans (9-7) to their first division title and playoff berth since 2012.
Mercilus tied a career high with 3 1/2 sacks and forced a fumble and recovered one.
Blake Bortles threw for 239 yards with two interceptions for the Jaguars (5-11)
BENGALS 24, RAVENS 16
AJ McCarron overcame a rough start and threw a pair of touchdown passes.
The Bengals (12-4) matched the best record in franchise history — they also won 12 games during the 1981 and 1988 seasons when they reached the Super Bowl — and left their playoff seeding up to the later games.
The AFC North champions wasted a chance to clinch the No. 2 seed when they lost in Denver 20-17 on Monday night.
The Ravens (5-11) completed a season that went sour early with close losses and more injuries than any other team in the league.
Jeremy Hill ran for 96 yards and put the Bengals in control by breaking through the line for a 38-yard score on a fourth-and-1 play in the third quarter.
EAGLES 35, GIANTS 30
The New York Giants suffered another tough loss in what may have been Tom Coughlin's final game.
Former Giant Walter Thurmond scored on an 83-yard interception return in the third quarter and Philadelphia added to Coughlin's season-long frustrations.
It was the third straight loss for the Giants (6-10) and finished a third straight losing season and a fourth straight year out of the playoffs.
After meeting with Eagles interim coach Pat Shurmur at midfield, Coughlin walked off the field, waving to the crowd just before walking into the tunnel.
Coughlin, who led the Giants to two Super Bowl titles in his 12 seasons, has a year left on his contract. His future is expected to be decided soon by co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch.
The 69-year-old might retire and end his 20-year NFL head coaching career.
REDSKINS 34, COWBOYS 23
Kirk Cousins threw for three touchdowns before leaving late in the first half of a playoff tuneup.
Cousins broke Jay Shroeder's franchise record for yards passing in a season, finishing with 4,166. Had the game mattered, he might have threatened Sonny Jurgensen's 48-year-old team record of 31 touchdown passes, instead settling for 29.
The Redskins (9-7) won four straight to finish the season, their longest streak since winning the last seven the last time they made the playoffs in 2012. The NFC East champions will be the No. 4 seed on wild-card weekend.
Kellen Moore had 435 yards passing and three touchdowns after throwing an interception and losing a fumble on a snap to help dig a quick 21-0 hole for the Cowboys (4-12).
COLTS 30, TITANS 24
Recently signed Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley each threw a touchdown pass in the first half and Jerrell Freeman scored on a 23-yard interception in the second for the Colts.
The Colts (8-8) won their last two games to avoid the first losing season since 2011, but didn't get the help they needed — a Houston loss and seven other games to go the right way — to make the postseason.
Josh Freeman was 15 of 28 for 149 yards and one interception while running Indy's regular offense. Lindley ran the 2-minute offense and gave Indy a 20-14 halftime lead with an 18-yard TD pass.
Tennessee (3-13) clinched the No. 1 draft pick by losing its fourth straight. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger fell to 0-10 as a starter.
SAINTS 20, FALCONS 17
Jamarca Sanford's interception at the Atlanta 25 with less than two minutes remaining set up Kai Forbath's 30-yard field goal as time expired.
Sanford cut in front of Devonta Freeman for the interception with 1:47 remaining.
It was the Saints' sixth sweep of the season series with the Falcons in 10 years under coach Sean Payton. Payton is 15-5 against Atlanta.
The loss denied the Falcons (8-8) their chance to give first-year coach Dan Quinn a winning record. The Saints (7-9) avoided giving coach Sean Payton his first 10-loss season.
Drew Brees threw for 323 yards, including a touchdown pass to Ben Watson.
Julio Jones had nine catches for 149 yards for Atlanta.
LIONS 24, BEARS 20
Matthew Stafford threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns, Calvin Johnson had 137 yards receiving for the Lions.
Detroit (7-9) avoided a last-place finish in the NFC North with its sixth win in eight games. Whether the Lions bring back coach Jim Caldwell for a third season remains to be seen.
He led them to a rare playoff appearance last year, but a 1-7 start put his future in doubt.
Caldwell survived a midseason purge that saw offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi get fired and ownership drop the ax on president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew the following week.
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