Pittsburgh 14, Cleveland 3
Trench Counter: Steelers +9.7, Browns -9.7
The Cleveland Browns (4-9) hung with the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3), but they ultimately fell at Heinz Field on Thursday night. The Browns got on the board first with a 20-yard field goal by Phil Dawson a little more than five minutes into the first quarter, but they did not score again. Cleveland gained 19 first downs and had 304 total yards, but they committed two costly turnovers.
Ben Roethlisberger returned from a left leg injury to help lead the Steelers to victory. He went 16-for-21 with 280 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Pittsburgh had 416 total yards, but fumbles by Hines Ward and Heath Miller stunted drives. Roethlisberger averaged 11.7 yards per pass. The game garnered a number of headlines because of a questionable hit by linebacker James Harrison on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy.
Philadelphia 26, Miami 10
Trench Counter: Eagles +8, Dolphins -8
Michael Vick returned and the Philadelphia Eagles (5-8) got back into the win column against the Miami Dolphins (4-9). The Dolphins led 7-0 after the first quarter, thanks to a 16-yard touchdown pass by Matt Moore to Brandon Marshall, but the Eagles scored the next 24 points to take control of the game. Philadelphia scored three touchdowns and a field goal in the second quarter, including a pair of runs by LeSean McCoy.
Dan Carpenter kicked a 22-yard field goal in the third quarter and the Philadelphia defense rounded out the scoring in the fourth quarter with a safety on a tackle of J.P. Losman. Moore was replaced by Losman because of a head injury. The Eagles had nine sacks and an interception of Moore. Vick played well in his return from a rib injury, going 15-for-30 with 208 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He scrambled just twice for nine yards.
Houston 20, Cincinnati 19
Trench Counter: Texans -0.6, Bengals +0.6
The Houston Texans (10-3) rebounded from a 16-3 deficit against the Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) to notch their first-ever playoff berth. A few minutes after their win, they clinched the AFC South title thanks to a Tennessee loss. T.J. Yates, the teamís rookie quarterback, led them on a game-winning drive and connected with Kevin Walter for a six-yard score with two seconds less to ensure victory. Houston scored 17 of the teamís final 20 points.
The Texans had 25 first downs and 412 total yards, but four turnovers stalled extended drives. Yates threw an interception and lost a fumble, while Arian Foster and Ben Tate both dropped the football. Cincinnati sacked Yates five times, had seven tackles for loss and seven pass deflections. Andy Dalton, another rookie signal-caller, went 16-for-28 with 189 yards and a touchdown.
Detroit 34, Minnesota 28
Trench Counter: Lions +1.9, Vikings -1.9
The Detroit Lions (8-5) jumped out to a 21-0 lead against the Minnesota Vikings (2-11) and held on late for an important late-season win. Detroit scored 21 points in the first 10 minutes of the game, but Minnesota refused to go down without a fight. The Vikings had 29 first downs, 425 total yards and went 8-for-14 on third down. However, six turnovers doomed a possible comeback. Christian Ponder threw three interceptions and the team also surrendered three fumbles.
Matthew Stafford tossed two touchdowns in the first quarter and he finished with 227 yards on 20-for-29 passing. Vikings backup quarterback Joe Webb had the team within a yard of a potential game-winning touchdown, but he fumbled as Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy tugged on his facemask. No foul was called and Detroit was victorious. Webb broke a 65-yard run in the third quarter to bring the Lions to within 10 points and he connected with Toby Gerhart on a two-yard touchdown with 7:54 left in regulation to keep the team within striking distance.
New Orleans 22, Tennessee 17
Trench Counter: Saints -2.4, Titans +2.4
The New Orleans Saints (10-3) needed two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to ensure a victory over the Tennessee Titans (7-6) at LP Field. After trading field goals over the first 40-plus minutes, Jake Locker scored on a six-yard run to give Tennessee a 10-9 edge. After the score, Drew Brees led the Saints on back-to-back touchdown drives with both ending in touchdown passes to Marques Colston.
Locker found Nate Washington for a 40-yard touchdown with less than six minutes left in regulation to bring Tennessee to within five points, but they turned the ball over on downs on their next possession. The Saints held onto the football for 37:33 and amassed 437 yards of total offense. They were also 11-for-19 on third down, compared to just 1-for-10 by Tennessee.
N.Y. Jets 37, Kansas City 10
Trench Counter: Jets +22.5, Chiefs -22.5
The New York Jets (8-5) rode three second-quarter touchdowns to an easy win over the Kansas City Chiefs (5-8) to improve their playoff hopes. The Jets had the edge in first downs (24 to 13), total yardage (314 to 221), third-down conversions (4-for-12 to 2-for-12) and time of possession (37:42 to 22:18). Over a span that stretched from the second quarter to the third, New York scored touchdowns on four of five possessions.
With Tyler Palko starting, the Chiefs scored just twice -- on a first-quarter field goal and a touchdown early in the fourth quarter when the outcome of the game had long been decided. The Jets sacked Palko five times and held the Chiefs to just 3.8 yards per offensive snap. Shonn Greene starred for New York for the second-straight week, rushing for 129 yards and a touchdown and grabbing three passes for 58 yards.
New England 34, Washington 27
Trench Counter: Patriots +2.8, Redskins -2.8
The New England Patriots (10-3) narrowly edged the Washington Redskins (4-9) in a surprisingly close contest on Sunday afternoon. The Patriots led 14-3 with less than two minutes left in the first quarter, but they trailed in the second period and needed a late defensive stop to avoid overtime. Washington had the edge in first downs, total yards and time of possession and they had the ball on New Englandís nine-yard line with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
Rex Grossman was intercepted by Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo at the five-yard line to end the teamís comeback bid. With a chance to record an upset, Washington punted, punted and then suffered the turnover on their final three possessions of the game. A sideline argument between Tom Brady and his offensive coordinator midway through the fourth quarter earned a lot of attention.
Atlanta 31, Carolina 23
Trench Counter: Falcons +0.1, Panthers -0.1
Trailing 23-7 at halftime, the Atlanta Falcons (8-5) scored 24 unanswered points against the Carolina Panthers (4-9) to record a comeback win. Matt Ryan tossed a trio of touchdown passes in the second half to lead the comeback and the Atlanta defense clamped down on Cam Newton and the Panthers. Both teams flirted with 400 yards of total offense, but Carolina committed a pair of turnovers.
After scoring on three of their six possessions in the first half, the Panthers finished the game with possessions as follows: punt, interception, interception, punt, punt, missed field goal and turnover on downs. Meanwhile, the Falcons went field goal, touchdown, missed field goal, touchdown, punt and touchdown after a horrid first half.
Jacksonville 41, Tampa Bay 14
Trench Counter: Jaguars +17, Buccaneers -17
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9) led 14-0 early in the second quarter, but the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9) exploded for four touchdowns over a seven-minute span in the period to seize control of the game. Jacksonville scored the final 41 points of the game and Tampa Bay committed an unsightly seven turnovers (three interceptions and four fumbles). The Jaguars used those miscues to score two touchdowns -- an eight-yard fumble return and another recovered in the end zone.
Maurice Jones-Drew joined the party late, rushing for a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter. He rushed 27 times for 85 yards in the victory. The point total was a season-high for Jacksonville, who hadnít scored 40 or more points since Week 16 of the 2007 season.
Baltimore 24, Indianapolis 10
Trench Counter: Ravens +9.8, Colts -9.8
The Baltimore Ravens (10-3) improved their standing in the AFC playoff race while keeping the Indianapolis Colts (0-13) from the win column at M&T Bank Stadium. The Colts were held to just a field goal until Dan Orlovsky found Jacob Tamme for a 13-yard touchdown pass as time expired in the fourth quarter. Indianapolis was held to 12 first downs, 167 total yards and just two conversions on third down.
Ray Rice helped the Ravens control the clock as he ran 26 times for 103 yards and a touchdown. Joe Flacco was more than serviceable as well, going 23-for-31 with 227 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Baltimore scored in every quarter but the fourth, while Indianapolis was horrible on the ground. They rushed 16 times for 50 yards (3.1-yard average).
Denver 13, Chicago 10 (OT)
Trench Counter: Broncos +6.4, Bears -6.4
The legend of Tim Tebow lives on. The Denver Broncos (8-5) earned their sixth straight win on Sunday, beating the Chicago Bears (7-6) in overtime in Colorado. After an ugly first half offensively, Tebow led the Broncos on two scoring drives in the fourth quarter and the defense forced a key turnover in the extra frame. Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas for a 10-yard touchdown with 2:08 left in regulation and then the defense forced a three-and-out.
Matt Prater forced overtime with a 59-yard field goal and he won the game with a 51-yarder following a fumble by Chicago running back Marion Barber. The Broncos may have only gotten on the scoreboard late, but they were far better over the course of the entire game. Denver had the edge in first downs, third down conversion rate and total yards.
Arizona 21, San Francisco 19
Trench Counter: Cardinals -1.5, 49ers +1.5
The Arizona Cardinals (6-7) used a late defensive stop to record an upset win over the San Francisco 49ers (10-3) in Glendale. Trailing 19-7 midway through the third quarter, the Cardinals ended the game with a pair of unanswered touchdowns and a stunning defensive performance. After Frank Gore scored on a 37-yard run, Arizona held San Francisco to just 51 yards over the final 27 minutes of the game.
John Skelton led the Cardinals to the comeback win after Kevin Kolb was knocked out with a head injury in the first quarter. Skelton finished 19-for-28 with 282 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Larry Fitzgerald had a very productive afternoon with seven catches for 149 yards and a score. Alex Smith was inaccurate for San Francisco, going 18-for-37 with just 175 passing yards.
Green Bay 46, Oakland 16
Trench Counter: Packers +23.3, Raiders -23.3
The Green Bay Packers (13-0) remained perfect and embarrassed the Oakland Raiders (7-6) in the process at Lambeau Field. The Packers led 31-0 at halftime and cruised to an easy win against a potential playoff club. Aaron Rodgers had 281 yards, two touchdowns and an interception before giving way to Matt Flynn. Ryan Grant had perhaps his best effort of the season, rushing 10 times for 85 yards and two scores.
Carson Palmer tossed four interceptions against just one touchdown on 42 passing attempts. Oakland moved the ball very well, but three of their five turnovers came in Green Bay territory. The Raiders have dropped their last two games, putting them a game back of the Broncos in the AFC West race.
Chargers 37, Buffalo 10
Trench Counter: Chargers +6.3, Bills -6.3
The San Diego Chargers (6-7) kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a thumping of the slumping Buffalo Bills (5-8). The loss eliminated the Bills from postseason contention. The Chargers led 16-0 at halftime, but the Bills scored the first 10 points of the third quarter. Philip Rivers and San Diego then kicked into gear again with a pair of touchdown passes and a 26-yard interception return for the score by Steve Gregory.
The Chargers totaled 366 yards of offense and had the ball for more than 35 minutes. In addition to three interceptions, Buffalo was 0-for-2 on fourth down. With the game already lost, the Bills sent Tyler Thigpen out for their final offensive series. Thigpen attempted just three passes, but his final one was an interception.