The Washington Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys 28-18 in the final game of the regular season to win their first division title since 1999 and claim the last of the National Football League’s 12 playoff berths.
The Minnesota Vikings also claimed the final wild-card playoff berth with a 37-34 win over the Green Bay Packers yesterday, when the Cowboys, Chicago Bears and defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants all fell short of the postseason.
Rookie Alfred Morris rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns last night at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, as the Redskins (10-6) finished the season with a seventh straight win to complete the playoff lineup.
Washington will host the Seattle Seahawks (11-5) on Jan. 6 in the first round of the NFL postseason. The Redskins are listed 2 1/2-point underdogs, according to the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book, even though Seattle is 3-5 on the road this season.
Minnesota (10-6) will face the Packers again to open the postseason on Jan. 5, with Green Bay favored by 7 1/2 points. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson ran for 199 yards yesterday to finish nine yards shy of the NFL single-season rushing record of 2,105 set by Eric Dickerson in 1984.
The Houston Texans (12-4) host the Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) the same day in the American Football Conference, while the Indianapolis Colts (11-5) visit the Baltimore Ravens (10-6) the following day. The Texans are 4 1/2-point favorites and the Ravens are listed as 6 1/2-point favorites at home.
The Atlanta Falcons (13-3) and San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) earned the top two seeds in the NFC and get a week of rest during the first round of the playoffs.
The Denver Broncos (13-3) and New England Patriots (12-4) got first-round byes in the AFC.
The Giants are the first Super Bowl champions since the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers to miss the playoffs, leaving New York without a team in the postseason for the first time since 2003.
The Giants routed the Philadelphia Eagles 42-7 yesterday to finish 9-7, yet needed the Bears, Vikings and Cowboys to all lose. They were eliminated from postseason contention minutes after their win in East Rutherford, New Jersey, as Chicago held on for a 26-24 victory in Detroit.
“You never rely on anyone else in this business,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin, whose team had lost five of its previous seven games, told reporters. “You have to take care of your own business and we certainly had our chances.”
The Bears were eliminated from playoff contention when the Vikings ended the Packers’ four-game winning streak on a 29-yard field goal by rookie Blair Walsh as time expired. The winning kick was set up by a 26-yard run by Peterson, who finished with the second-highest rushing total in NFL history.
“I told myself to come to this game and focus on one thing, winning and doing my job to contribute,” said Peterson, who had a career-high 34 carries. “If it happened, it would have come to me, but I didn’t want to focus on it at all. I went out and played my game and accomplished what we wanted to. We’re in the playoffs. We get to fight another week.”
The Redskins then completed the playoff lineup behind Morris, who broke Clinton Portis’s franchise record for rushing yards in a season. Morris finishes with 1,613 yards on the season and had touchdown runs of 17 and 32 yards before clinching the win with a 1-yard scoring plunge with 1:15 left.
“I could have never imagined coming here during my rookie year and doing what I’ve been able to do,” Morris said. “It’s humbling. It’s better than my wildest dreams.
Fellow rookie Robert Griffin III passed for 100 yards and rushed for 63 yards and a score for Washington, which becomes the fifth team to make the NFL playoffs after a 3-6 start and the first since the 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Broncos locked up the No. 1 playoff seed in the AFC with a 38-3 rout over the Kansas City Chiefs coupled with the Texans’ 28-16 loss in Indianapolis. Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes for the Broncos, who get a chance to play postseason games at home until the Super Bowl.
The Colts’ win came as coach Chuck Pagano was on the sideline for the first time since being diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia about three months ago.
The Patriots clinched the AFC’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye by beating the Miami Dolphins 28-0, while the Bengals beat the Ravens 23-17 yesterday.
The 49ers captured the NFC West title with a 27-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, a win that also locked up a first-round bye with the Packers’ loss. The Seahawks, denied a chance at the division title with the 49ers’ win, defeated the St. Louis Rams 20-13 on Russell Wilson’s 1-yard touchdown run with 1:45 remaining.
The Falcons, who had already gained the top seed in the NFC, finished the regular season with a 22-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Also in Week 17 it was Buffalo 28, the New York Jets 9; Tennessee 38, Jacksonville 20; Carolina 44, New Orleans 38; Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 10; and San Diego 24, Oakland 21.
The Giants stormed to a 35-7 lead against the Eagles as Eli Manning threw four of his five touchdown passes in the first half in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It might have been the final game for Eagles coach Andy Reid, who NFL.com reported was told he’d be fired after the season.
The win wasn’t enough for the Giants, whose season ended when the Bears held on for a victory in Detroit after having their 17-point lead cut to two in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings controlled their playoff fate -- not needing losses by any other clubs to reach the postseason -- and withstood a 365-yard, four-touchdown performance by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Green Bay twice rallied to tie the game in the fourth quarter before a 26-yard run by Peterson set up the winning field goal. Peterson, who a year ago underwent surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his left knee, finishes with the second-highest rushing total in NFL history.