(The Sports Xchange) – Highlights of Sunday’s National Football League games:
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Patriots 27, Steelers 24
Tom Brady led New England to the winning touchdown with 56 seconds left, ruining Pittsburgh’s chance to clinch a first-round playoff bye and potentially homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
A touchdown by Dion Lewis on an eight-yard run capped a 77-yard drive to complete a rally from a 24-16 deficit.
But the Steelers came right back on a 69-yard catch-and-run by rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster. He gave the Steelers the ball at the New England 10 with 34 seconds left.
Tight end Jesse James appeared to have scored the go-ahead touchdown, but his 10-yard reception was reviewed and James was ruled to have not completed the catch. The ball came loose when he impacted the ground.
Ben Roethlisberger scrambled to give the Steelers two more chances at winning , but his final pass was deflected by Eric Rowe and intercepted in the end zone with five seconds left.
The game was marred by a calf injury to Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, who was taken to a hospital for further examination and treatment.
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Panthers 31, Packers 24
Cam Newton threw three of his four touchdown passes in the opening 18 minutes of the second half as Carolina upstaged the return of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Newton completed 20 of 31 passes for 242 yards for the Panthers (10-4).
Rodgers was intercepted three times, all on underthrown balls. He completed 27 of 45 passes for 287 yards, but the Packers (7-7) saw the their postgame aspirations crippled.
Rodgers, 34, had missed seven games. He had not played since suffering the broken collarbone during an Oct. 15 loss at Minnesota.
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Vikings 34, Bengals 7
Minnesota (11-3) clinched the NFC North title with its ninth win in the past 10 games.
Case Keenum passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns, and the Vikings’ defense dominated Andy Dalton and Cincinnati (5-9).
ESPN reported that Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis plans to step down after the season. Lewis has spent 15 years as Cincinnati’s coach.
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Bills 24, Dolphins 16
LeSean McCoy became the 30th player in NFL history to surpass 10,000 career rushing yards, helping Buffalo keep its playoff hopes alive.
McCoy had 96 total yards (50 rushing, 46 receiving) and two touchdowns as the Bills improved to 8-6 for just the third time in the 18 years since the team reached the postseason.
The loss diminished the playoff chances of Miami (6-8).
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Jaguars 45, Texans 7
Jacksonville (10-4) clinched its first playoff berth since 2007.
Quarterback Blake Bortles passed for three touchdowns in the first half as the Jaguars led 31-0 at halftime, the largest margin in franchise history.
Jacksonville (10-4) remained in control of first place over the AFC South.
Houston (4-10) has lost four straight and seven of its last eight.
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Saints 31, Jets 19
Drew Brees threw two touchdown passes and New Orleans overcame three turnovers to defeat New York.
The victory kept the Saints (10-4) in first place in the NFC South. Even though they are tied with 10-4 Carolina, the Saints swept the Panthers in two games this season and own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Jets are 5-9.
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Eagles 34, Giants 29
Quarterback Nick Foles threw four touchdown passes as Philadelphia (12-2) held off New York (2-12) to clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Foles, who was 24 of 38 for 237, took over as the Eagles starting quarterback after they lost Carson Wentz last week to a season-ending knee injury.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning finished 35 of 54 for 427 yards with three touchdowns.
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Rams 42, Seahawks 7
Todd Gurley ran for three touchdowns and caught a scoring pass as Los Angeles took control of the NFC West.
The Rams (10-4) avenged an earlier 16-10 loss to Seattle and opened a two-game lead over the Seahawks (8-6) with two games remaining.
Gurley’s 14-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter made it 40-0. Gurley carried 21 times for 152 yards.
Russell Wilson completed 14 of 30 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown.
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Ravens 27, Browns 10
Ball-hawking Baltimore forced four more turnovers and converted two of them into touchdowns to defeat winless Cleveland.
The Ravens (8-6) kept alive their playoff hopes as a wild-card team.
The Browns (0-14) have lost 16 straight games to division opponents dating back to 2015.
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Redskins 20, Cardinals 15
Kirk Cousins threw a pair of touchdown passes and Washington held off Arizona
The Redskins (6-8) never trailed and stopped Arizona (6-8) on downs at the Washington 21-yard line with 16 seconds left.
Washington snapped a two-game losing streak and won despite rushing for just 32 yards.
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49ers 25, Titans 23
Robbie Gould’s sixth field goal of the day, a 45-yarder on the final play of the game gave San Francisco the win.
Gould’s 20th consecutive successful field goal came 67 seconds after Ryan Succop had nailed a 50-yard field goal to give the Titans (8-6) a 23-22 lead.
The win was the 49ers’ third in a row since promoting Jimmy Garoppolo to starting quarterback.