LOS ANGELES: The New England Patriots are back in the NFL playoffs after a 16-3 victory at Denver on Sunday (Monday in Manila) that dimmed the reigning Super Bowl champion Broncos’ post-season hopes.
“It was no masterpiece, but it was what it needed to be,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the New England victory, in which Tom Brady engineered four scoring drives and the Pats defense kept the Broncos out of the end zone and forced two turnovers that led to scores.
LeGarrette Blount ran one yard for a touchdown and Stephen Gostkowski booted three field goals for the Patriots in a game that was largely a defensive struggle.
While the Patriots claimed their eighth straight division title—and held on to the American Football Conference’s top seed with two regular-season games remaining—the Oakland Raiders were celebrating their first post-season berth since 2002.
Derek Carr completed 19 of 30 passes for 213 yards with a touchdown for the Raiders who defeated the Chargers 19-16 in San Diego.
Oakland took the lead on Sebastian Janikowski’s fourth field goal of the game from 44 yards out with 2:40 remaining.
Carr kept the drive alive by running for a first down on a third-and-eight on the San Diego 29 yard line as Oakland moved to one game ahead of Kansas City atop the AFC West, with the Broncos third in the division at 8-6.
Denver need victories in their final two games, both tough clashes with division rivals the Chiefs and the Raiders to have a chance of defending their Super Bowl crown.
The Dallas Cowboys inched closer to the top seed in the National Football Conference with a 26-20 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott amassed a season-high 159 rushing yards and a touchdown and quarterback Dak Prescott completed 32 of 36 passing attempts for 279 yards and also ran for a score.
Dan Bailey kicked four field goals for the Cowboys, who rebounded from last week’s loss to division rivals the New York Giants.
In Kansas City, Ryan Succop kicked a 53-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Tennessee Titans to a 19-17 upset of the Chiefs.
The Titans improved to 8-6, tied atop the AFC South with the Houston Texans, who edged the Jacksonville Jaguars 21-20.
Backup quarterback Tom Savage replaced mis-firing Brock Osweiler in the second quarter and led the Texans’ fourth-quarter rally.
Shortly after their ninth straight defeat the 2-12 Jaguars sacked head coach Gus Bradley.
Steelers, Ravens win
The Pittsburgh Steelers rallied to beat the Bengals 24-20 in Cincinnati, eliminating the Bengals from playoff contention.
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 286 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown to Eli Rogers with seven minutes remaining, as the Steelers set up rallied to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 24-20.
Chris Boswell kicked a career-best six field goals for the Steelers, who set up an AFC North showdown next week with the Baltimore Ravens, who edged the Philadelphia Eagles 27-26.
Philadelphia had pulled within 27-26 with four seconds remaining on a four-yard run by rookie quarterback Carson Wentz.
But Baltimore’s defense thwarted the Eagles’ two-point conversion attempt to escape with the victory.
Elsewhere, Eli Manning threw two touchdown passes to lead the New York Giants to a 17-6 victory over the Detroit Lions, and Drew Brees passed for four touchdowns and 383 yards with no interceptions in the New Orleans’ Saints 48-41 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
The combined 89 points scored made it the highest-scoring game in the NFL this season.