The Cleveland Browns are back in the playoffs, qualifying for the first time since 2002 on Sunday by surviving a late Pittsburgh rally for a 24-22 win over the Steelers, who rested quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and several other starters.
The Browns (11-5) nearly blew a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter, but stopped Pittsburgh’s two-point conversion attempt and then recovered an onside kick with 1:22 left to hold on.
A week of Covid-19 disruptions concluded in celebration as the Browns ended what had been the NFL’s longest postseason drought. Their reward: Another game against the AFC North champion Steelers, in Pittsburgh next weekend.
Nick Chubb had a touchdown run, Baker Mayfield threw a TD pass and the Browns hung on as Mason Rudolph brought back the Steelers (12-4), who had the luxury of sitting their best players after clinching the division last week.
The win completes a grueling turnaround for the Browns and their passionate fan base, which endured nearly two decades of dysfunction since the team’s last playoff visit 197 losses, 14 double-digit-loss seasons and seven coaches ago.
Baltimore Ravens 38-3 Cincinnati Bengals
Lamar Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in multiple seasons while leading the Ravens to their third straight AFC playoff berth.
The Ravens (11-5) enter the postseason as a wildcard on a five-game winning streak, while Cincinnati end the season 4-11-1.
Jackson rushed for 97 yards on 11 carries to give him 1,005 yards for the season. He also went 10-for-18 passing for 113 yards and three touchdowns and an interception before being pulled late in the third quarter. The Ravens finished with 404 rushing yards, which was the fourth most by a team since 1950.
Dallas Cowboys 19–23 New York Giants
The New York Giants won. Now they wait. Rookie Xavier McKinney intercepted Dallas’ Andy Dalton in the end zone with 1:15 remaining, giving the Giants a 23-19 victory over the Cowboys and a chance at an unprecedented, six-win playoff berth.
New York’s postseason chances hang on the Philadelphia Eagles, who play Washington on Sunday night. Washington would claim the NFC East with a win or tie. Otherwise, the Giants will take it for the first time since 2011.
Miami Dolphins 26-56 Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills placed an emphatic stamp on their breakout season with a 56-26 rout of Miami in a game the Dolphins could have clinched a playoff berth with a win.
Miami’s postseason hopes now rest on whether the 1-14 Jacksonville Jaguars can upset the Indianapolis Colts later in the day. With a win or a tie, the Colts would clinch a playoff berth and eliminate Miami. The Dolphins (10-6) didn’t get results they needed to clinch their third playoff berth in 18 years, after Cleveland beat Pittsburgh and Baltimore routed Cincinnati.
Nothing went right for the Dolphins in what proved to be an utter collapse in all three phases. Rookie Tua Tagovailoa finished 35 of 58 for 361 and three interceptions, and didn’t have Ryan Fitzpatrick to bail him out as the veteran backup did in rallying Miami to a last-second 26-25 win at Las Vegas last weekend. Fitzpatrick didn’t travel with the team after testing positive for Covid-19 on Thursday.
Atlanta Falcons 27–44 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns, helping the playoff-bound Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinch the fifth seed in the NFC with a 44-27 regular season-ending win over the Atlanta Falcons.
The victory, which means the Bucs (11-5) will face the NFC East champions on the road in the club’s first postseason game in 13 years, may have come with a steep cost.
Star receiver Mike Evans was carted to the locker room with a left knee injury late in the first quarter and did not return.
New York Jets 14-28 New England Patriots
Cam Newton had three touchdown passes and caught another, and the New England Patriots rallied to beat the New York Jets.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for New England (7-9), who earned their 10th straight win over the Jets (2-14) but won’t be playing in the postseason for the first time since the 2008 season.
It marked Newton’s first game with multiple passing touchdowns this season. He finished 21 of 30 for 242 yards. He also ran 11 times for 79 yards. New England trailed 14-7 early in the third quarter, but outscored the Jets 21-0 the rest of the way in what was likely Adam Gase’s final game as New York’s coach.
Sam Darnold, whose future with the Jets is also uncertain, was 23 of 34 for 266 yards, a touchdown and two second-half interceptions.
Minnesota Vikings 37–35 Detroit Lions
Kirk Cousins passed for 405 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score to lead the Minnesota Vikings to a 37-35 season-ending victory over the host Detroit Lions.
Alexander Mattison rushed for 95 yards on 21 carries and also caught three passes for 50 yards and another score. Justin Jefferson caught nine passes for 133 yards and set the NFL rookie record with 1,400 receiving yards on the season.
The Vikings (7-9), who were eliminated from playoff contention last weekend, snapped a three-game losing streak. The Lions (5-11) finished their season with a four-game skid.