Manning keeps Colts in race
Peyton Manning put Indianapolis in the lead with his arm and sealed the game with his legs. No matter what happened against the Oakland Raiders, Manning knew he’d need one more big game to get the Colts back into the postseason.
Manning threw three touchdown passes and iced the game with a 27-yard keeper to help the Colts beat the Raiders, 31-26, yesterday in Oakland, Calif., in a game that turned out to have little playoff meaning.
“All we did was win today,’’ Manning said. “We have to find a way to win again next week.’’
The Colts (9-6) allowed Jacoby Ford to return the opening kick for a touchdown, overcame a pair of interceptions by Manning in the second half, and survived four field goals from Sebastian Janikowski, including two from more than 50 yards, to move within a win of clinching the AFC South title for their ninth straight playoff berth.
But when Jacksonville lost to Washington in the early game yesterday, the Colts knew that no matter what happened in this game they could clinch the division with a win at home next week against the Titans or a Jaguars loss at Houston.
The results in the early games also robbed this game of any real meaning for the Raiders (7-8), who were eliminated from playoff contention when Kansas City wrapped up a 34-14 win against Tennessee early in the first quarter of this game.
The Raiders hung close with the Colts for much of this game but were unable to score an offensive touchdown until Jason Campbell’s 6-yard pass to Zach Miller with 1:51 to play.
Manning took advantage of a 31-yard pass interference call against Stanford Routt to throw a 4-yard TD pass to Blair White to give the Colts a 24-16 lead late in the third quarter.
But little came easy for Manning against Oakland’s defense. He threw a pair of interceptions in the second half, giving him 17, his most since 2002.
He responded from the second interception by leading the Colts on a 68-yard drive that was capped by a 7-yard TD pass to Pierre Garcon on third down to give Indianapolis a 31-19 lead.
Bengals 34, Chargers 20 Carson Palmer threw four touchdown passes in swirling snow — two to Jerome Simpson — and the Bengals snapped San Diego’s streak of four straight playoff appearances with a win in frigid Cincinnati.
The Chargers (8-7) froze up in their coldest game in nearly three years, repeatedly self-destructing on a raw, windy evening. The loss gave the AFC West title to Kansas City, which beat Tennessee earlier in the day.
This one will leave San Diego chilled to the bone for a long time. The West Coast team was one of the league’s best finishers, having won 20 of its last 21 games in December. The Chargers were out of their element yesterday — and now, out of the playoffs as well.
The Bengals (4-11) are ending one of their worst seasons with a few satisfying moments.
Palmer led them to their second straight win with a cast of reserve receivers. His 59-yard touchdown to Simpson — playing in place of the injured Chad Ochocinco — highlighted a 21-point fourth quarter against the league’s top-ranked defense.
Palmer finished with a career-best passer rating of 157.2, just shy of a perfect 158.3. He completed 16 of 21 for 269 yards without an interception.
After losing 10 in a row, the Bengals have won back-to-back games. No surprise there: Cincinnati has won 18 of its last 23 home finales.
Ravens 20, Browns 10 Ed Reed was on fire, and not because of his two interceptions.
Trying to cope on a biting, blustery day, Baltimore’s star safety moved too close to a sideline heater and had his oversized jacket ignite. “Someone yelled, ‘Reed, you’re on fire,’ ’’ he said.
There was no panic, no alarm, no worries. The Ravens were moments away from a playoff-clinching win in Cleveland.
Reed picked off rookie Colt McCoy twice and damaged Browns bruising running back Peyton Hillis with a hard hit on Cleveland’s second play as the Ravens (11-4) clinched a postseason berth for the third straight season and stayed tied atop the AFC North.
Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes, Ray Lewis and the rest of Baltimore’s tenacious defense bottled up Hillis, and the Ravens remained tied with Pittsburgh with one game left.
McCoy threw three interceptions and the Browns (5-10) did little to help embattled coach Eric Mangini, who fell to 10-21 in two seasons and is awaiting a postseason review by president Mike Holmgren.
Redskins 20, Jaguars 17 Kevin Barnes intercepted David Garrard’s second pass in overtime, setting up Graham Gano’s 31-yard field goal that gave Washington a win in Jacksonville and snapped a four-game losing streak.
The Jaguars (8-7) dropped their second in a row and need help to make the playoffs. They need to win at Houston next week and have Tennessee upset Indianapolis to win the AFC South.
Garrard, asked to do more with Maurice Jones-Drew sidelined with a right knee injury, came up short. He completed 22 of 38 passes for 299 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions. He ran for a score, but also took four sacks and fumbled twice.
His last error was the most troublesome. Under heavy pressure, Garrard floated a pass to the sideline. Barnes stepped in front and put the Redskins (6-9) in position for Gano’s winning kick. Gano drilled it through a swirling wind on third down.
Washington (6-9) made just enough plays. Rex Grossman had a touchdown pass early, and Ryan Torain added a 1-yard plunge on fourth down late. The win was Washington’s third in four overtime games this season.
Rams 25, 49ers 17 The St. Louis defense kept both of the Smiths on the run while keeping the franchise’s drive to end a five-year playoff drought alive.
While Sam Bradford (28 for 37, 292 yards, 1 TD) ended a three-game slump and set an NFL rookie record for season completions, both Troy Smith and Alex Smith had tough days in the Rams’ victory in St. Louis.
The Rams (7-8) need to win at Seattle next week to secure the NFC West title and their first playoff berth since 2004.
St. Louis finished 5-3 at home, the franchise’s first winning record since 2004. It was 2-22 combined the previous three seasons.
Troy Smith (7 for 19, 153 yards) was benched in the fourth quarter of a loss that eliminated the 49ers (5-10) from playoff consideration in the NFC West.
Buccaneers 38, Seahawks 15 Josh Freeman threw for 237 yards and a career-best five touchdowns to help host Tampa Bay keep its playoff hopes alive with a rout of struggling Seattle.
Kellen Winslow and rookie Mike Williams each had a pair of TD receptions for the Bucs (9-6), who guaranteed themselves a winning record after going 3-13 a year ago in their first season under coach Raheem Morris.
Seattle (6-9) played most of the game without injured quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (hip) and lost for the seventh time in nine games.
Broncos 24, Texans 23 Tim Tebow passed for 308 yards and rallied Denver past Houston when he scored on a 6-yard scramble with three minutes left in his first home start, capping a comeback from a 17-point halftime deficit.
Matt Schaub was driving the Texans for a go-ahead score when rookie cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson picked off a pass deflected by Justin Bannan at the Broncos’ 27 with just over a minute remaining.
The Broncos (4-11) won for the first time since Nov. 14 and avoided a franchise record 12th loss in handing the Texans (5-10) their eighth loss in nine games.