Twelve games on the hectic Week 15 schedule had playoff
implications as teams jockeyed for positions with just two weeks'
worth of games left on the regular season calendar.
Seattle, who have already reached the playoffs with an NFC-best mark
of 12-2, cut down the hosting New York Giants 23-0 at the
winter-weather site of Super Bowl 48.
The Seahawks coolly closed in on securing a first-round bye as West
Division winners as their top-rated defense stole the show,
intercepting two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Eli Manning
five times in shutting down the hosting Giants (5-9).
Seattle are aiming to return to the Meadowlands for a Super Bowl
appearance on February 2.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who completed 18 of 27 passes
including a touchdown and ran eight times for 50 yards, notched his
23rd win — a record for a quarterback in his first two seasons. He
said Sunday's win could pay further dividends.
"I think the biggest thing that we can learn from playing here and
getting a win is we'll just have a great feel for the stadium," said
Wilson. "We've been here before, we were successful here. That's a
Also in a cheery mood were the Kansas City Chiefs, who clinched a
berth in the playoffs with a 56-31 road victory over the Oakland
The Chiefs improved to 11-3 as quarterback Alex Smith tossed five
touchdown passes in completing an economical 17 of 20 against AFC
West rival Raiders (4-10).
Smith hit running back Jamaal Charles for four of his TD passes.
Charles, who also scored on a one-yard plunge, totaled a remarkable
195 receiving yards on eight catches.
Kansas City, playing their first season with signal caller Smith and
head coach Andy Reid, began the campaign with nine wins in a row
before losing three straight, twice to Denver and once to San Diego.
The New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints failed to take
advantage of opportunities to clinch playoff positions.
New England (10-4) appeared poised to notch a fourth straight
come-from-behind win and claim the AFC East title before quarterback
Tom Brady's fourth-down pass was intercepted by newly signed safety
Michael Thomas in the end zone with two seconds left to preserve a
24-20 win for the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins (8-6), desperately needing a win to stay in the thick
of the AFC wildcard race, recovered from a 20-17 deficit when
quarterback Ryan Tannehill hit Marcus Thigpen with a 14-yard
touchdown pass with 1:15 left in the game.
Miami snapped a string of seven consecutive losses against the
Patriots, who lost ground in their quest to snare the top seeding in
"We had plenty of chances all day," said Brady, who held a terse
post-game media session. "We made some good plays, and we made some
(expletive) plays. Thank you."
Also squandering a chance to book a playoff berth were the New
Orleans Saints, who lost to the St. Louis Rams 27-16.
The visiting Saints fell behind 24-3 by intermission and could not
recover as they dropped to 10-4 and into a tie for first place in
the NFC South with the Carolina Panthers.
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Carolina moved up with a 30-20 victory over the Jets (6-8),
that crippled the New Yorkers' playoff chances.
The San Francisco 49ers firmed up their hold on an NFC wild card
spot by walloping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33-14.
San Francisco (10-4) dominated possession, outgaining Tampa Bay
(4-10) by 187 yards to 39 on the ground while quarterback Colin
Kaepernick completed 19 of 29 passes for two TDs.
The Arizona Cardinals (9-5) stayed in the NFC wild card chase by
scraping by the Tennessee Titans (5-9) in overtime 37-34 on a
41-yard field goal by Jay Feely.
Arizona built a 34-17 lead in the fourth quarter before the
Titans charged back with 17 consecutive points, tying the game
on an eight-yard TD pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Michael
Preston with 10 seconds left.
The Philadelphia Eagles suffered what looked to be a damaging
defeat when they fell 48-30 to the Minnesota Vikings (4-9-1),
who were playing without Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson
and his back-up Toby Gerhart.
Philadelphia entered the contest with a one-game lead over the
Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East before slipping to 8-6 as Vikings
quarterback Matt Cassell completed 26 of 35 passes for 382 yards
and two touchdowns.
But the Cowboys (7-7) followed suit, losing to the Green Bay
Packers 37-36 after leading by 23 points as Dallas quarterback
Tony Romo threw two interceptions in the final three minutes.
The victory kept the Packers (7-6-1), who scored 20 points in
the fourth quarter, alive in the playoff picture.
The Chicago Bears looked in danger of losing ground in the tight
NFC North race before battling back to beat the Cleveland Browns
38-31 in a winning return by quarterback Jay Cutler.
Cutler, who missed the previous four games due to a sprained
ankle, shook off some early rust and tossed three touchdown
passes for Chicago, who trailed 24-17 after three quarters.
Taking the reins back from back-up Josh McCown, Cutler connected
on 22 of 31 throws for 265 yards.
The Bears, who began the day tied with the Detroit Lions for the
division lead, improved their record to 8-6.
AFC South champions the Indianapolis Colts took out their
frustrations over a 42-28 loss last week to the Cincinnati
Bengals by thumping the woeful Houston Texans (2-12) 25-3.
The victory improved the Colts to 9-5 and fueled their hopes of
improving their seeding for the playoffs.
(Reporting by Larry Fine, editing by Gene Cherry)
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