Bengals back in NFL playoffs, Packers clinch first-round bye

·4-min read

Rookie Evan McPherson kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired on Sunday and the Cincinnati Bengals clinched the NFL's AFC North division title with a 34-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Bengals, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles all secured playoff spots on Sunday, while the Green Bay Packers locked up the NFC top seed and a first-round bye with a 37-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

The Patriots manhandled the Jacksonville Jaguars 50-10 to post their 10th win of the season.

Rookie quarterback Mac Jones completed 22 of 30 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns and the Pats were assured of their first post-season berth since Tom Brady departed for Tampa Bay after the 2019 campaign when Miami fell 34-3 to Tennessee.

That victory saw the Titans secure the AFC South division title for the second successive season.

Buffalo punched their playoff ticket with a 29-15 victory over Atlanta coupled with the Indianapolis Colts' 23-20 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

The penultimate Sunday of the regular season offered plenty of drama.

Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay rallied from a 24-10 third-quarter deficit to beat the New York Jets 28-24.

Brady threw three touchdown passes, connecting with Cyril Grayson on a 33-yard TD pass with 15 seconds remaining to cap the comeback.

But the 93-yard winning drive was overshadowed by Antonio Brown's sideline meltdown that saw the receiver strip off much of his jersey and pads and depart, waving to fans.

Brown's latest antics came less than two weeks after he served a three-game suspension for using a fraudulent Covid-19 vaccination card.

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said after the game that Brown's tenure with the team was over.

"He is no longer a Buc," Arians told reporters in his only comment on the incident. "That's the end of the story."

Brady urged compassion for Brown.

"We all love him," Brady said. "We care about him deeply. We want to see him be at his best. Unfortunately he won't be with our team, but we have a lot of friendships that will last... I think everyone should be very compassionate and empathetic toward some very difficult things that are happening."

Tight end Rob Gronkowski said he wasn't aware of the Brown drama as the Bucs pushed for the comeback.

"Whoever was in the huddle, we just kept fighting," Gronkowski said.

So did the Bengals, who are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

- Stuff to accomplish -

Cincinnati trailed by 14 points on three different occasions, but Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase wouldn't go away.

Burrow hit Chase for a 72-yard touchdown in the first half, one of Chase's three TDs on a day in which his 266 receiving yards set a single-game record for an NFL rookie.

"We've been waiting for this since we started the season," Chase said. "Now that we're here, we've still got a lot of stuff to accomplish."

Burrow threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns as he out-dueled Chiefs counterpart Patrick Mahomes.

In Green Bay, the Packers improved to 13-3 and secured a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs with their blowout win over the Vikings.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers underscored his Most Valuable Player credentials by connecting on 29 of 38 passes for 288 yards with two touchdowns.

Wide receiver Davante Adams had 11 catches for 136 yards and a TD, breaking his own single-season franchise record for receptions.

The Packers win also ensured a playoff berth for the Philadelphia Eagles, who were 20-16 winners over the Washington Football Team earlier in the day.

The game in Washington included a scary moment in which Washington tight end Ricky Seals-Jones collided with a sideline cameraman and had to be stretchered off.

Seals-Jones was ruled out of the game with a neck injury, but coach Ron Rivera said after the contest he was up and walking by halftime. The cameraman was able to return to work.

In Nashville, Ryan Tannehill threw two touchdown passes, D'Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard ran for touchdowns and the Titans scored 10 points off of Miami turnovers.

The only downside to the day was an ugly right ankle injury to Titans tight end MyCoyl Pruitt.


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