Bloomberg News

Giants, Jets Win to Boost Playoff Chances as Texans Make History

December 12, 2011

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The New York Giants kept their National Football League playoff chances alive with a 37-34 win against the Dallas Cowboys that vaulted them into a tie atop the division with three regular-season games left.

The Giants scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes, 21 seconds last night at Cowboys Stadium and held on for their first win in five games as Jason Pierre-Paul blocked Dallas’s 47-yard field goal attempt with one second left.

The game featured eight lead changes, the most in the NFL in the past two seasons. The Giants improved to 7-6 and avoided their first five-game losing streak since 2004, while the Cowboys fell to 7-6 with their second straight loss.

“This is huge,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who passed for 400 yards and two touchdowns, said in a televised interview. “It’s good to get that winning feeling again, especially in the division against Dallas.”

A loss would have dropped the Giants two games behind the Cowboys in the NFC East and two games back in the race for an NFC wild-card spot. The rivals are now tied atop the division with three weeks left, including a Jan. 1 matchup in East Rutherford, New Jersey, to end the regular season.

The New York Jets also boosted their prospects of making the postseason.

The Jets routed the visiting Kansas City Chiefs 37-10 yesterday, improving to 8-5 and moving into position for the second of the American Football Conference’s two wild-card playoff berths when Cincinnati, Tennessee and Oakland all lost to fall to 7-6.

Getting Help

“We understand the importance of these games late in the season,” Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez told reporters after throwing two touchdown passes and running for two more scores. “It looks like we’re getting some help from outside, which is huge for us, but we’ve got to control what we can.”

The Denver Broncos stunned the Chicago Bears 13-10 in overtime to push their winning streak to six games and move ahead of Oakland for the AFC West lead with an 8-5 record.

The Broncos rallied from a 10-0 fourth-quarter deficit behind quarterback Tim Tebow, tying the game on a 59-yard field goal by Matt Prater with eight seconds left and then winning on a 51-yard kick by Prater in overtime.

“We’re a team that keeps the faith and keeps believing in one another and that’s something special,” Tebow, who’s 7-1 as a starter, said in a televised interview.

The Houston Texans, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are tied atop the AFC with 10-3 records, with the AFC North’s Ravens or Steelers poised to claim a wild- card berth if the other wins the division.

Postseason Bound

The Texans scored with two seconds remaining to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 20-19, win the AFC South title and qualify for the playoffs for the first time in their 10-year history.

With Houston trailing 19-13 with 2:33 to play, third-string quarterback T.J. Yates drove the Texans 80 yards before finding Kevin Walter on a second-and-goal play to secure a franchise- record seventh straight win.

“I’m happy for our fans, happy for our city, because this is what I got into the NFL for, to bring a championship to Houston,” Texans owner Bob McNair told reporters in the locker room. “This is the first step along that path.”

The Patriots held off the Washington Redskins 34-27 as Rob Gronkowski caught two touchdown passes to bring his season total to 15, an NFL record for a tight end. The Ravens beat Indianapolis 24-10 to keep the Colts winless through 13 games and keep pace in the division with the Steelers, who beat the Cleveland Browns 14-3 on Dec. 8.

Packers Extend Streak

The Bengals fell to 7-6 with their loss at home to the Texans, while the Titans were beaten 22-17 by the New Orleans Saints. The Raiders were routed 46-16 by the Green Bay Packers, who improved to 13-0 and extended their unbeaten run to 19 games, the second-longest in NFL history behind the Patriots’ 21-game streak in 2003-04.

Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes for the Packers to tie Brett Favre’s franchise record of 39 in a season.

While Cincinnati, Tennessee and Oakland stumbled, the Jets were in control throughout against Kansas City, jumping out to a 28-3 halftime lead. New York outgained the Chiefs 253-4 in total offensive yards during the first half at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The Jets trail the Patriots by two games in the AFC East after New England’s win in Washington, the only NFL city where it had previously failed to log a victory.

Drew Brees threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Marques Colston for the Saints, who keep a two-game lead over Atlanta in the National Football Conference South division. The Falcons (8-5) scored 24 unanswered second-half points to beat the Carolina Panthers 31-23.

NFC Wild-Card Race

The Detroit Lions (8-5) ended a two-game losing skid with a 34-28 home win against the Minnesota Vikings, who have lost five straight to slump to 2-11. The Vikings reached the Lions’ 1-yard line before Detroit’s defense forced a fumble and recovered the loose ball with nine seconds left.

“You don’t get style points, but we’ll take it,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said during his postgame news conference.

Detroit and Atlanta are tied for the NFC’s two wild-card spots, pulling one game ahead of the Bears (7-6), who have dropped three straight after their loss in Denver. The Giants and Cowboys are also a game back in the wild-card chase, though one team can make the postseason as the NFC East winner.

“This was a tough loss,” Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said after throwing four touchdown passes in last night’s loss to the Giants. “It was an important game and we’ve got to regroup.”

The San Diego Chargers rolled past the Buffalo Bills 37-10 to improve to 6-7 and remain two games out of first place in the AFC West.

The Philadelphia Eagles beat the Miami Dolphins 26-10 to win for the second time in six games and improve to 5-8.

The Jacksonville Jaguars won 41-14 to snap a three-game losing run and extend the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ winless streak to seven games, while the Arizona Cardinals beat the San Francisco 49ers 21-19. The Seattle Seahawks (5-7) host the St. Louis Rams (2-10) tonight to cap Week 14 of the regular season.

--With assistance from Dex McLuskey in Dallas. Editor: Rob Gloster

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net


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