Giants to the Playoffs, Cowboys Head Home — NFL 2011 Season: Week 17 Recap
The Giants beat the Cowboys to win the NFC East, while the Bengals and Broncos lost, but received help from other teams to slip into the last remaining AFC playoff spots. The playoffs are scheduled to begin next Saturday, when Cincinnati travels to Houston and New Orleans hosts Detroit. On Sunday, Atlanta travels to New York, while Denver hosts Pittsburgh. Here’s a recap of all of the action from the NFL schedule in Week 17:
N.Y. Giants 31 – Dallas 14
Eli Manning passed for 346 yards and three touchdowns, and the New York Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys 31-14 to win the NFC East title. New York (9-7) will host Atlanta in the first round of the NFC playoffs next Sunday, Jan. 8 at 1 p.m. (ET). Dallas (8-8) finished its season with four losses in its last five games. The Giants sprinted out to a 21-0 halftime lead, due in part to a 74-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Victor Cruz in the first quarter. The Cowboys narrowed the deficit to 21-14 early in the fourth quarter, before New York pulled away. The Giants sacked Dallas quarterback Tony Romo six times and held the Cowboys to 49 net yards rushing on the game.
Cruz had six receptions for 178 yards and a score for New York. Hakeem Nicks caught five passes for 76 yards and a touchdown for the Giants. Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 57 yards and a score for New York. Romo threw for 289 yards, an interception and two touchdowns to Laurent Robinson, who finished with 61 yards receiving for the Cowboys.
Kansas City 7 – Denver 3
Kyle Orton threw for 180 yards to help defeat his former team, and the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos 7-3. Despite the loss, Denver (8-8) won the AFC West title via the NFL’s tiebreaker system when Oakland lost to San Diego. The Broncos will host Pittsburgh next Sunday, Jan. 8 at 4:30 p.m. (ET). Kansas City (7-9) scored the only points they would need when Dexter McCluster ran for a 21-yard touchdown late in the first quarter. McCluster finished with 61 rushing yards and the score, while teammate Dwayne Bowe caught six passes for 93 yards. Willis McGahee led Denver with 145 yards on 28 carries. Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow completed just six of 22 passes for 60 yards. He had just 16 yards rushing.
Green Bay 45 – Detroit 41
Starting in place of a resting Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn threw for a team-record 480 yards and six touchdowns, and the Green Bay Packers beat the Detroit Lions 45-41. Having already secured a first-round bye and home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs, Green Bay (15-1) rested MVP-candidate Rodgers and gave Flynn the start. He responded with his record-setting day, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jermichael Finley with 1:10 left that gave the Packers the win. Atlanta’s victory over Tampa Bay, coupled with the Lions’ loss, dropped Detroit (10-6) to the No. 6 seed in the NFC. The Lions will travel to New Orleans next Saturday, Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. (ET)
Jordy Nelson had nine receptions for 162 yards and three touchdowns for the Packers, while teammate James Jones caught six passes for 89 yards. Ryan Grant ran for 48 yards for Green Bay and also caught an 80-yard touchdown pass from Flynn. Matthew Stafford threw for 520 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions for Detroit. Calvin Johnson caught 11 passes for 244 yards and a score, while Brandon Pettigrew added 116 yards on seven catches and Titus Young caught two touchdowns for the Lions.
Baltimore 24 – Cincinnati 16
Ray Rice ran for 191 yards and two long touchdowns, and the Baltimore Ravens beat the Cincinnati Bengals 24-16. The win gave Baltimore (12-4) its third AFC North title and a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. Despite the loss, Cincinnati (9-7) heads to the AFC playoffs as the final AFC wild card, as a result of losses by both the Jets and Broncos. The Bengals will play at Houston on Saturday, Jan. 7 at 4:30 p.m. (ET). It’s only the third playoff appearance for Cincinnati in the last 21 years.
Baltimore’s Rice had touchdown runs of 51 and 70 yards. Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco passed for 130 yards and a touchdown to Dennis Pitta, who had six catches for 62 yards. Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton passed for 232 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions. Cedric Benson led Cincinnati with 51 rushing yards, while Jermaine Gresham caught five passes for 72 yards for the Bengals.
Atlanta 45 – Tampa Bay 24
Julio Jones caught two touchdown passes and Michael Turner ran for two scores, as the Atlanta Falcons routed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 45-24. Atlanta (10-6) clinched the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs as a result of the victory and Detroit’s loss. The Falcons will travel to New York for the first round of the playoffs next Sunday, Jan. 8 at 1 p.m. (ET). Tampa Bay (4-12) lost its 10th straight game.
Turner ran for 172 yards for Atlanta, which broke out to a 42-0 lead in the first half. Jones had 76 receiving yards, including his two scores. Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan passed for 106 yards and two touchdowns, before he was pulled for Chris Redman with the game very much in hand. Tampa’s Josh Freeman passed for 274 yards and two scores, but he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. Preston Parker led the Buccaneers with 74 receiving yards on four catches, while Dezmon Briscoe caught eight passes for 53 yards and two touchdowns.
Tennessee 23 – Houston 22
Matt Hasselbeck threw a tie-breaking, 23-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington in the fourth quarter, and the Tennessee Titans beat the Houston Texans 23-22. Washington’s score gave Tennessee (9-7) a 23-16 lead, but the Texans scored a touchdown with 14 seconds left to close to within a point. However, the snap of the ensuing two-point conversion went over the head of Houston quarterback Jake Delhomme, securing the win for Tennessee. Despite the win, the Titans were later eliminated from playoff contention when Denver lost to Kansas City. AFC South champion Houston (10-6) will host Cincinnati in the first round of the playoffs next Saturday, Jan. 7 at 4:30 p.m. (ET).
Hasselbeck passed for 297 yards and two touchdowns, while Washington had four receptions for 92 yards and the score for Tennessee. Chris Johnson ran for 61 yards for the Titans. Delhomme, who was inserted into the Houston lineup after starter T.J. Yates sustained a bruised shoulder in the first quarter, threw for 211 yards and the late touchdown to Bryant Johnson. Ben Tate ran for 97 yards and a score for the Texans, while James Casey caught seven passes for 91 yards for Houston.
Pittsburgh 13 – Cleveland 9
Playing in place of the injured Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman ran for a touchdown, and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns 13-9. Redman’s 7-yard run in the third quarter secured the win for Pittsburgh (12-4), which lost a tiebreaker for the AFC North title with Baltimore because the Ravens beat them twice during the season. The Steelers will now travel to Denver next Sunday, Jan. 8 at 4:30 p.m. (ET). Cleveland (4-12) had an opportunity to win on the game’s final play, but Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu batted Seneca Wallace’s pass away in the end zone.
Pittsburgh’s Redman ran for 92 yards and the only touchdown of the game, but he also fumbled twice. Playing with a severely sprained left ankle, Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed for 221 yards. Antonio Brown caught six passes for 90 yards to lead Pittsburgh. Wallace threw for 177 yards and an interception for the Browns. He added 44 yards rushing. Joshua Cribbs caught seven passes for 91 yards for Cleveland.
New Orleans 45 – Carolina 17
Drew Brees finished his record-breaking season by throwing for 389 yards and five touchdown passes, and the New Orleans Saints routed the Carolina Panthers 45-17. Brees finished the regular season with 5,486 passing yards, 468 completions and a 71.6 completion percentage, all NFL records. The five touchdown passes brought his season total to 46, the most in the NFL this year. Despite the victory, New Orleans (13-3) remains the No. 3 seed in the NFC after San Francisco won its game on Sunday. The Saints will host Detroit in a first-round playoff game next Saturday, Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. (ET). Carolina (6-10) quarterback Cam Newton threw for 158 yards, with a touchdown and an interception in the defeat.
Christopher Ivory ran for 127 yards and a touchdown for the Saints, while Marques Colston caught seven passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns for New Orleans. Saints’ tight end Jimmy Graham caught eight passes for 97 yards and a score. He finished with a then NFL-record 1,310 yards receiving by a tight end. The mark was broken later in the day by New England’s Rob Gronkowski. Jonathan Stewart ran for 79 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers. Carolina’s Steve Smith caught six passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.
San Diego 38 – Oakland 26
Philip Rivers passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns and Richard Goodman had a 105-yard kickoff return for another score, as the San Diego Chargers beat the Oakland Raiders 38-26. As a result of Denver’s loss to Kansas City, Oakland (8-8) could have won the AFC West with a victory, but they could not prevail. Ahead 31-26, San Diego (8-8) put the game out of reach when Rivers threw for a 43-yard score to Malcom Floyd with 6:49 to play.
Floyd caught seven passes for 127 yards, including the final touchdown for San Diego. Chargers’ tight end Antonio Gates had five receptions for 106 yards and another score. Mike Tolbert ran for 58 yards to lead San Diego. Raiders’ quarterback Carson Palmer passed for 417 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Michael Bush ran for 66 yards for Oakland. Raiders’ receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey nabbed nine receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown, while teammate Denarius Moore added 101 yards on three catches.
Miami 19 – N.Y. Jets 17
Marvin Mitchell intercepted Mark Sanchez with three minutes remaining to help set up a decisive field goal, and the Miami Dolphins beat the New York Jets 19-17 to knock them out of the playoff chase. Miami (6-10) led 16-10 when Mitchell picked off a Sanchez pass deep in Dolphins’ territory and returned it 55 yards into field goal range. Miami’s Dan Carpenter hit a 44-yarder four plays later. Sanchez then led the Jets on a drive that culminated with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Turner with 1:15 left, but New York (8-8) was unable to get the ball back. Matt Moore passed for 135 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for Miami, which got four field goals from Carpenter. Sanchez threw for 207 yards and two scores for the Jets. LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 56 yards for New York, while Jeremy Kerley caught four passes for 71 yards.
New England 49 – Buffalo 21
Tom Brady passed for 338 yards and three touchdowns, and the New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills 49-21. New England (13-3) locked up home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs by rallying from a 21-0 first-quarter deficit. Brady finished the regular season with 5,235 passing yards, the second-most in NFL history to the 5,486 passing yards accumulated by the Saints’ Drew Brees this year. Buffalo (6-10) finished with a 10-loss season after starting 5-2.
Stevan Ridley ran for 81 yards for the Patriots, while teammate BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for two touchdowns. New England tight end Rob Gronkowski had eight receptions for 108 yards and two scores, while Aaron Hernandez caught seven passes for 138 yards for the Patriots. Gronkowski finished with 1,327 yards receiving on the season, an NFL record for a tight end. Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 307 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. Bills’ running back C.J. Spiller ran for 60 yards and added four catches for 40 yards and a touchdown. Derek Hagan caught seven passes for 89 yards for Buffalo.
San Francisco 34 – St. Louis 27
David Akers kicked two field goals and threw a touchdown pass on a fake field goal attempt, and the San Francisco 49ers beat the St. Louis Rams 34-27. NFC West champion San Francisco (13-3) secured the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs and a first-round bye with the victory. St. Louis (2-14) will have the second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Alex Smith passed for 219 yards and a touchdown for the 49ers. Vernon Davis caught eight passes for 118 yards for San Francisco, while teammate Michael Crabtree caught nine passes for 92 yards and two scores. Kendall Hunter ran for 76 yards in place of Frank Gore, who was rested by 49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh. Kellen Clemens threw for 226 yards, a touchdown and an interception for the Rams. He also ran for a score. St. Louis receiver Brandon Lloyd caught six passes for 100 yards, including a touchdown. Rams’ running back Steven Jackson added 76 yards rushing.
Chicago 17 – Minnesota 13
Charles Tillman returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown, and the Chicago Bears beat the Minnesota Vikings 17-13. Chicago (8-8) broke a five-game losing streak, but it saw linebacker Brian Urlacher sprain a knee ligament late in the game, the latest in a long line of injuries to Bears’ star players. Minnesota (3-13) had seven sacks, including 3 1/2 by Jared Allen, but it could not record a victory. Luke McCown threw for 160 yards, a touchdown and an interception for Chicago, while Roy Williams had four receptions for 60 yards and a score for the Bears. Joe Webb passed for 200 yards and two interceptions for the Vikings, while receiver Percy Harvin caught 10 passes for 115 yards and added a 5-yard run for a touchdown. Minnesota running back Toby Gerhart ran for 67 yards.
Philadelphia 34 – Washington 10
Michael Vick threw for 335 yards and three touchdown passes, and the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Washington Redskins 34-10. The win was the fourth straight for Philadelphia (8-8), which was eliminated from playoff contention last week. Washington (5-11) finished last in the NFC East for the fourth year in a row.
Jeremy Maclin caught eight passes for 105 yards for the Eagles. Dion Lewis ran for 58 yards and a score for Philadelphia. Lewis started for injured running back LeSean McCoy. The Eagles’ DeSean Jackson added 86 yards receiving, including a 62-yard touchdown catch. Rex Grossman passed for 256 yards, a touchdown and an interception for the Redskins. Washington rookie running back Evan Royster ran for 113 yards and added another 52 yards on five receptions.
Arizona 23 – Seattle 20 (OT)
Jay Feely kicked a 28-yard field goal in overtime, and the Arizona Cardinals beat the Seattle Seahawks 23-20. Arizona (8-8) recorded its fourth overtime victory at home this season. Seattle (7-9) rallied to tie the game after trailing 20-10, but it couldn’t complete the comeback. Larry Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 149 yards for Arizona, including a phenomenal one-handed catch in overtime to set up Feely’s game-winning kick. Quarterback John Skelton completed 22 of 40 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown with one interception for the Cardinals. LaRod Stephens-Howling ran for 91 yards for Arizona. Seattle’s Tarvaris Jackson passed for 222 yards and a touchdown with one interception. Marshawn Lynch ran for 86 yards for the Seahawks.
Jacksonville 19 – Indianapolis 13
Maurice Jones-Drew ran for a season-high 169 yards to capture the NFL rushing crown, and the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts 19-13. The win gave Jacksonville (5-11) a season sweep of the Colts. The loss assured Indianapolis (2-14) of the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft in April, with Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck as the favorite to be the first player selected. Josh Scobee kicked four field goals for the Jaguars. Dan Orlovsky threw for 264 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for the Colts. Austin Collie caught nine passes for 96 yards and a score for Indianapolis.