Bolts buck Broncos to win division
The Chargers won the NFL’s weakest division with an 8-8 record, becoming the first team to go from 4-8 to the playoffs by routing the Denver Broncos 52-21 at San Diego.
The Chargers became the first team to win a division at 8-8 since the Cleveland Browns did it in 1985.
LaDainian Tomlinson, who didn’t return after straining an abdominal muscle in the third quarter, had his first three-touchdown game of the season. Philip Rivers threw his 33rd and 34th touchdown passes to break Hall of Famer Dan Fouts’ 1981 team single-season record.
Denver (8-8) completed a monumental collapse, becoming the first team since division play began in 1967 to miss the playoffs after having a three-game lead with three weeks to go. Needing just one win to wrap up the division, the Broncos lost at Carolina, at home to Buffalo and then to the Chargers.
Falcons 31, Rams 27: Jerious Norwood ran for two touchdowns, including the go-ahead 45-yard run with 3:41 left, and the Falcons held off St. Louis at Atlanta to clinch the No. 5 seed in the NFC.
Texans 31, Bears 24: Andre Johnson had two touchdowns and the Texans got a win over Chicago at Houston to knock the Bears out of the playoff picture. Long out of the playoff picture themselves, the Texans finished with their second straight 8-8 record.
Vikings 20, Giants 19: Ryan Longwell’s 50-yard field goal with five seconds left lifted the Vikings to a victory over the resting Giants at Minneapolis, making Minnesota NFC North champions for its first postseason appearance in four years.
Panthers 33, Saints 31: John Kasay’s 42-yard field goal with a second left lifted Carolina to a victory over the Saints at New Orleans, locking up the NFC South title and the second seed in the conference for the Panthers.
Steelers 31, Browns 0: Ben Roethlisberger gave the playoff-bound Steelers a major scare by suffering a concussion during an essentially meaningless game, a victory over the embarrassed Browns at Pittsburgh that likely was Romeo Crennel’s last game as Cleveland’s coach.
Patriots 13, Bills 0: LaMont Jordan scored on a 2-yard run and Stephen Gostkowski hit a pair of field goals to secure a win for New England over Buffalo at Orchard Park, N.Y. But the Patriots (11-5) didn’t get the help required to clinch a sixth straight playoff berth. The defending AFC champions needed Miami to lose or tie to clinch the AFC East, or Baltimore to lose or tie to clinch a wild-card berth.
Raiders 31, Buccaneers 24: Oakland’s Michael Bush rushed for a career-high 177 yards and scored on a 67-yard fourth-quarter jaunt that helped the Raiders rally to end Tampa Bay’s season with a victory at Tampa, Fla. The Bucs were 9-3 and tied for first heading into December but finished with four consecutive losses.
Colts 23, Titans 0: Yanking starters early, the Colts still managed to win their ninth straight, beating AFC South champion Tennessee at Indianapolis. It marked the sixth straight season Indy has won at least 12 games. Peyton Manning hit 4,000 yards for a ninth straight season, three more than Dan Marino’s previous NFL mark.
Bengals 16, Chiefs 6: Cedric Benson ran for 111 yards and a touchdown and the Bengals completed a late-season surge with a victory over the Chiefs at Cincinnati, ending the worst season (2-14) in Kansas City history.
Ravens 27, Jaguars 7: Le’Ron McClain ran for two touchdowns in the pivotal first half, and the Ravens routed Jacksonville at Baltimore to earn an AFC wild-card berth.
49ers 27, Redskins 24: Joe Nedney kicked a 39-yard field goal as time expired, and the 49ers finished their season under interim coach Mike Singletary by beating Washington at San Francisco. Shaun Hill passed for 245 yards and drove the 49ers (7-9) 51 yards in 60 seconds to set up the final kick by Nedney. San Francisco won five of its final seven games under Singletary, who signed a four-year, $10 million contract after the game.
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