NFL Notes: Falcons, Steelers clinch
The Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers have clinched playoff berths, and neither team even needed to win.
Atlanta gets in because the Philadelphia Eagles rallied to beat the New York Giants 38-31 on Sunday. With their 34-18 victory at Seattle, the Falcons are 12-2 and first in the NFC South. At worst, they will be a wild card, but they have a two-game lead in the division over New Orleans. A win next week at home over the Saints will give the Falcons the division title.
Despite a 22-17 loss to the New York Jets, the Steelers (10-4) were told by the NFL nearly an hour after the game ended that they secured a playoff spot via a series of complicated strength-of-schedule tiebreakers.
Punter says Vikings’ field ‘unplayable’
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe is calling the field at TCF Bank Stadium “unplayable.” But officials with the team and the University of Minnesota insist it will be safe for tonight’s game against the Chicago Bears.
Crews have been racing to get the on-campus open-air stadium ready for the Vikings’ rare outdoor home game. The Metrodome remains deflated due to a heavy snowstorm last weekend that tore holes in the roof that couldn’t be fixed in time.
There was no media access to coaches or players during their walkthrough, but Kluwe and some other Vikings sounded off on their Twitter accounts. Kluwe tweeted that the field is “hard as concrete.”
Second sideline incident draws fine
For the second time in a week, a fine has been levied for sideline contact during a punt return.
Carolina defensive end Tyler Brayton was fined $15,000 by the NFL for hitting Atlanta’s Chris Owens out of bounds in last week’s game. The fine was levied Friday, but not made public.
Brayton hit Owens in the head after the Falcons player was forced off the field. Fox Sports showed a video of the incident.
Around the league
Kansas City Chiefs running back Thomas Jones has become the 25th player to rush for 10,000 yards, reaching the mark in the third quarter against the St. Louis Rams. … Austin Collie, the second-year receiver for the Indianapolis Colts, left just before halftime after getting hit in the head and suffering his second diagnosed concussion in seven weeks. Collie caught eight passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns before leaving.