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Bengals, Pats into play-offs as post-season picture sharpens

By AFP - Jan 03,2022 - Last updated at Jan 04,2022

Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase carries the ball in the Bengals’ NFL victory over the Kansas City Chiefs (AFP photo)

LOS ANGELES — Rookie Evan McPherson kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired on Sunday as the Cincinnati Bengals clinched the NFL’s AFC North division title with a 34-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Bengals, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots all secured play-off spots in Sunday’s early games.

The Patriots manhandled the Jacksonville Jaguars 50-10 to post their 10th win of the season.

Rookie quarterback Mac Jones completed 22 of 30 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns and the Pats were assured of their first post-season berth since Tom Brady departed for Tampa Bay after the 2019 campaign when Miami fell 34-3 to Tennessee.

That victory saw the Titans secure the AFC South division title for the second successive season.

Buffalo punched their playoff ticket with a 29-15 victory over Atlanta coupled with the Indianapolis Colts’ 23-20 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

The penultimate on Sunday of the regular season offered plenty of drama.

Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay rallied from a 24-10 third-quarter deficit to beat the New York Jets 28-24.

Brady threw three touchdown passes, connecting with Cyril Grayson on a 33-yard TD pass with 15 seconds remaining to cap the comeback.

But the 93-yard winning drive was overshadowed by Antonio Brown’s sideline meltdown that saw the receiver strip off much of his jersey and pads and depart, waving to fans.

Brown’s latest antics came less than two weeks after he served a three-game suspension for using a fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination card.

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said after the game that Brown’s tenure with the team was over.

“He is no longer a Buc,” Arians told reporters in his only comment on the incident. “That’s the end of the story.”

Brady urged compassion for Brown.

“We all love him,” Brady said. “We care about him deeply. We want to see him be at his best. Unfortunately he won’t be with our team, but we have a lot of friendships that will last... I think everyone should be very compassionate and empathetic towards some very difficult things that are happening.”

Tight end Rob Gronkowski said he wasn’t aware of the Brown drama as the Bucs pushed for the comeback.

“Whoever was in the huddle, we just kept fighting,” Gronkowski said.

 

So did the Bengals, who are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

 

Stuff to accomplish 

 

Cincinnati trailed by 14 points on three different occasions, but Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase wouldn’t go away.

Burrow hit Chase for a 72-yard touchdown in the first half, one of Chase’s three TDs on a day in which his 266 receiving yards set a single-game record for an NFL rookie.

“We’ve been waiting for this since we started the season,” Chase said. “Now that we’re here, we’ve still got a lot of stuff to accomplish.”

 

Burrow threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns as he out-dueled Chiefs counterpart Patrick Mahomes.

In Nashville, Ryan Tannehill threw two touchdown passes, D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard ran for touchdowns and the Titans scored 10 points off of Miami turnovers.

The only downside to the day was an ugly right ankle injury to Titans tight end MyCoyl Pruitt in the second quarter.

There was a frightening moment in Washington, where Washington Football Team tight end Ricky Seals-Jones was stretchered off with a neck injury after colliding with a sideline cameraman in the team’s 20-16 loss to Philadelphia.

Although he was ruled out of the game, Washington coach Ron Rivera said after the contest that Seals-Jones was up and walking by halftime. The cameraman was able to return to work.

In other games, the Los Angeles Rams edged the Baltimore Ravens 20-19 despite three turnovers from quarterback Matthew Stafford to inch toward the NFC West division title.

But the Arizona Cardinals stayed in the hunt for the NFC West crown with a 25-22 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

 

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