Colts win for Pagano; Week 17 NFL roundup
Head coach Chuck Pagano of the Indianapolis Colts talks with Antoine Bethea #41 after returning to the sidelines following treatment for leukemia for a game against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 30, 2012, in Indianapolis, Indiana. / Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS The Indianapolis Colts made Chuck Pagano a winner in his return to the sideline.
Andrew Luck threw for two touchdowns and Deji Karim swung the game with a 101-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, giving the Colts a 28-16 victory over Houston. It was Pagano's first game back as coach since starting treatment for leukemia Sept. 26.
Indianapolis (11-5) heads into the playoffs as the No. 5 seed and on a roll. The Colts will open the postseason next weekend against the Baltimore Ravens.
Slumping Houston (12-4) won't know its playoff seed until later Sunday. The Texans lost three of their last four games, and J.J. Watt failed to break Michael Strahan's single-season sacks record.
The game turned on two big plays: Karim's kickoff return, which wiped out a 16-14 Houston lead, and Luck's 70-yard TD pass to T.Y. Hilton.
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BENGALS 23, RAVENS 17
CINCINNATI Carlos Dunlap returned an interception 14 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens (10-6) had already clinched their second straight AFC North title, and they will open the playoffs at home against Indianapolis, which defeated Houston on Sunday.
The opponent for the Bengals (10-6) was to be determined later Sunday.
The Ravens let quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice play only two series. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green sat out the second half.
BRONCOS 38, CHIEFS 3
DENVER Peyton Manning threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns to lift Denver into the No. 1 seed for the AFC playoffs.
Manning finished the season with 4,659 yards, 41 short of his career high. He finished with 37 touchdown passes, and none will be more memorable than the last two circus catches by Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas that turned the game into a blowout.
Denver (13-3) won its 11th straight and leaped past Houston for the top seed after the Texans lost to Indianapolis 28-16 earlier in the day.
The Chiefs gained only 119 yards all day and finished their season 2-14. They will get the top pick in April's draft.
VIKINGS 37, PACKERS 34
MINNEAPOLIS Adrian Peterson came within 9 yards of Eric Dickerson's rushing record, finishing with 199 yards and powering Minnesota into the playoffs.
The result forced a rematch with the Packers next weekend in a wild-card game this time at Lambeau Field.
Peterson rushed for 36 yards on the last drive, plenty for rookie Blair Walsh's 29-yard field goal as time expired to put the Vikings (10-6) in the postseason. The Packers (11-5) fell to the NFC's No. 3 seed.
Aaron Rodgers completed 28 of 40 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns and no turnovers, connecting with Jordy Nelson from 2 yards to tie the game with 2:54 remaining. But Christian Ponder threw for three scores, including one to Peterson.
49ERS 27, CARDINALS 13
SAN FRANCISCO Michael Crabtree caught touchdown passes of 49 and 7 yards as the 49ers won a second straight NFC West title.
Colin Kaepernick threw for a career-best 276 yards and two TDs as the Niners (11-4-1) earned a No. 2 seed thanks to Green Bay's loss to Minnesota.
Frank Gore ran for a 2-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter for his franchise-best 51st touchdown rushing.
Brian Hoyer went 19 of 34 for 225 yards and a late TD toss in his first career NFL start as Arizona's fourth quarterback. The Cardinals (5-11) lost for the 11th time in their last 12 games in what might have been Ken Whisenhunt's final game as coach.
SEAHAWKS 20, RAMS 13
SEATTLE Russell Wilson tied Peyton Manning's record for most touchdown passes by a rookie with 26, and his 1-yard TD run with 1:39 left allowed Seattle to finish as the only unbeaten team at home.
Seattle (11-5) entered the day with hopes of still winning the NFC West and getting a home playoff game, but those dreams were dashed when San Francisco beat Arizona. Seattle will be the No. 5 seed and face the NFC East winner Washington or Dallas next weekend.
The Rams (7-8-1) sacked Wilson six times, but couldn't come up with their first winning record since 2003.
PATRIOTS 28, DOLPHINS 0
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes and New England earned a playoff bye.
Stevan Ridley ran for two touchdowns as the Patriots used a ball-control offense and a defense that racked up a season-high seven sacks.
Now, seeded second in the AFC, they have an extra week to savor the win and prepare for their postseason opener.
The Patriots (12-4) led 21-0 at halftime on Brady's 9-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker and Ridley's runs of 1 and 2 yards, capping drives lasting 14 and 13 plays. They ended the scoring on Brady's 23-yard scoring pass to Rob Gronkowski, who missed the previous five games after breaking his left forearm.
The Dolphins (7-9) finished with a losing record for the fourth straight season.
BUCCANEERS 22, FALCONS 17
ATLANTA The Falcons couldn't follow through with their plan to gain momentum for the playoffs as Josh Freeman threw a touchdown pass to Mike Williams and Doug Martin ran for 141 yards.
The Falcons (13-3) had little to play for as they already have home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs. Coach Mike Smith said he wanted to "finish the regular season the right way," and he stayed with his starters through the game.
The danger to Smith's strategy was losing a top starter to an injury. Defensive end John Abraham, Atlanta's best pass rusher, left with an apparent left ankle injury in the fourth quarter. Cornerback Dunta Robinson suffered a head injury in the first quarter and did not return.
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