San Diego secure playoff bye with 42-17 win to become AFC second seeds in postseason.
|Shonn Greene carries the ball for the Jets as they upset the Colts [EPA]|
The New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals clinched division titles and playoff spots but the previously unbeaten Indianapolis Colts lost to the New York Jets in a stunning upset.
On the penultimate weekend of the regular season, the Colts, unbeaten in 14 starts this year and 23 regular season games in total, finally crashed to a 29-15 loss to the Jets in Indianapolis.
It stands as the longest regular season run in the NFL.
New York scored 19 consecutive points after the Colts had taken a 15-10 lead and pulled quarterback Peyton Manning and several other starters.
In other NFL action on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers advanced to the post-season and defending Super Bowl champions Pittsburgh kept their slim playoff hopes alive.
But the playoff-bound New Orleans Saints joined the Colts in posting a surprising home loss, falling to Tampa Bay 20-17.
The Patriots’ Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns, three to Randy Moss, to help his team beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 35-7 at Foxborough, Massachusetts, and wrap up the AFC East title for the seventh time in nine years.
‘One of our best’
“It’s the time of year we really need to start playing good football and I think today was one of our best 60 minutes that we have played all year,” Brady said after completing 23 of 26 passes for 267 yards.
He connected with Moss on touchdown tosses of two, six and 17 yards to stake New England to a 35-0 lead.
Cincinnati needed a six-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Chad Ochocinco with just over two minutes left to claim the AFC North championship with a 17-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
The win was an emotional one for the Bengals, after wide receiver Chris Henry was buried during the week following his death in a fall from a pickup truck.
It also gave them their second division title in five years as they joined fellow AFC champions Patriots, Colts and San Diego Chargers in the playoffs.
A 38-yard field goal by Jeff Reed with five minutes remaining ensured champions Pittsburgh will take their playoff hopes into the final round as the Steelers knocked off the error-prone Baltimore Ravens 23-20.
Both teams remain in the picture for a AFC wildcard into the playoffs.
Houston also kept their slender playoff hopes alive by outlasting the Miami Dolphins 27-20 in Miami.
Green Bay earned a playoff spot thanks to a 48-10 rout of the Seattle Seahawks in Wisconsin and the New York Giants’ 41-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
The Giants’ loss all but eliminated them from the playoffs after they started the season 5-0.
New Orleans stumbled for the second week in a row when Tampa Bay’s Connor Barth kicked a 47-yard field goal in overtime to give the visiting Buccaneers a 20-17 victory, their third in 15 games.
The Saints, who won their first 13 of the season, can still claim the NFC’s top seeding and the home-field playoff advantage by defeating the Panthers at Charlotte next Sunday.
The Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles all clinched NFC playoff berths before the weekend.
Eagles stayed in the lead for the NFC East championship with a 30-27 win over the Denver Broncos on David Akers’ 28-yard field goal with four seconds to play.
The Dallas Cowboys also clash with the Washington Redskins on Sunday, aiming to stay within a game of the Eagles for the NFC East lead.
A Dallas loss would give the title to Philadelphia.
Super Bowl runners up Arizona beat the hapless St. Louis Rams 31-10. The Vikings play the Chicago Bears on Monday.