Tom Brady did it again to the Atlanta Falcons.
This time, he didn’t even need overtime.
Rallying Tampa Bay from a pair of 17-point deficits, Brady recreated his Super Bowl miracle by leading the Buccaneers on five straight scoring drives in the second half Sunday for a 31-27 victory over the stunned Falcons.
The stakes weren’t nearly as high and the deficit wasn’t quite as daunting, but Brady’s latest blow to Atlanta took the Bucs (9-5) to the brink of their first playoff berth since 2007.
It sure didn’t look that way when Atlanta raced to 17-0 by halftime, or when the Falcons (4-10) restored their margin to 24-7 after Brady finally guided the Bucs to a touchdown on the first possession of the second half.
Turns out, the 43-year-old was just getting warmed up.
He certainly had plenty of experience to fall back on when it came to breaking Atlanta’s heart.
In the 2017 Super Bowl, Brady famously led the greatest comeback in championship game history, rallying New England from a 28-3 deficit late in the third quarter to a 34-28 overtime victory that secured his fifth of six titles with the Patriots.
Now, it looks like he’ll get a shot at another with his new team. The Bucs are on the cusp of wrapping up a wild-card berth, which is just what Brady had in mind when he left snowy Massachusetts for sunny Florida.
Brady capped his latest rally with a 46-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown with 6:19 remaining. The league’s oldest player finished 31 of 45 for 390 yards and two TDs.
Tampa Bay scored on five straight possessions after halftime — four touchdowns and a field goal.
Leonard Fournette had a pair of 1-yard TD runs, Brady hooked up with Chris Godwin on a 4-yard scoring pass, and Ryan Succop connected on a 27-yard field goal.
Sunday was Tom Brady’s 7th career win when trailing by 17+ points, including playoffs. <br><br>That’s tied with Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers for the most by a starting QB in NFL history.<br><br>h/t <a href=”https://twitter.com/EliasSports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@EliasSports</a> <a href=”https://t.co/mJPYigHSUa”>pic.twitter.com/mJPYigHSUa</a>
Matt Ryan was 34 of 49 for 356 yards and three touchdowns for the Falcons, but he did little after connecting with Hayden Hurst on a 7-yard TD throw midway through the third quarter.
The Bucs suddenly starting getting pressure on the Atlanta QB, who was sacked three times— all of them credited to Devin White.
Atlanta failed to pick up a first down on four of its last five possessions, the only exception being a drive that ended with Younghoe Koo’s 52-yard field goal with 8:22 remaining, giving the Falcons a 27-24 lead.
It didn’t hold up.
It never does against Brady, who improved to 7-0 against the Falcons in his long career.
The Falcons took another demoralizing loss in a season filled with them. They already became the first in NFL history to blow fourth-quarter leads of at least 15 points in two straight games.
Now, this — which may have hurt even worse because of the guy who led the comeback.
Brady did it to the Falcons again.
Seahawks clinch playoff spot against Washington
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks built a big lead, and Seattle’s suddenly opportunistic defence held on Sunday to beat Washington 20-15 and clinch a playoff spot.
Wilson threw for a touchdown, Carlos Hyde ran 50 yards for a score, and the Seahawks (10-4) picked off Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins twice. Shaquill Griffin and D.J. Reed each had an interception as the league’s worst passing defence played strong until the fourth quarter.
After a Haskins-led comeback from a 20-3 deficit fell short, Washington (6-8) had its winning streak snapped at four with Alex Smith out because of a calf injury. Haskins finished 38 of 55 for 295 yards, a TD pass and the two interceptions.
Wilson threw for 121 yards and a 10-yard TD pass to Jacob Hollister and ran for 52 on six carries. Hyde’s 50-yard TD run was Seattle’s longest rushing play of the season.
Dolphins eliminate Patriots from playoff hunt
The Miami Dolphins’ grinding ground game sent the New England Patriots into full retreat and out of the playoff picture for the first time in 12 years.
Undrafted rookie Salvon Ahmed and veteran Matt Breida combined for 208 yards rushing Sunday to lead the Dolphins to a 22-12 victory over the Patriots, who were eliminated from post-season contention.
The Dolphins entered the game last in the league in yards per carry, and Ahmed became their first 100-yard rusher since 2018, totalling 122 yards and scoring a 2-point conversion on a trick play.
Breida added 86 yards and the Dolphins totalled a season-high 250, the most allowed by New England in seven years.
The Patriots (6-8) will finish at .500 or worse for the first time since 2000, the year they drafted Tom Brady. Their NFL-record run of 11 consecutive playoff appearances will end, and they’ll fall one year short of matching the Dallas Cowboys’ NFL record of 20 consecutive winning seasons.
Buffalo clinched the AFC East title with a win Saturday.
The Dolphins (9-5) bolstered their wild-card chances and are assured of a winning record for only the second time since 2008.
With their three most productive pass catchers sitting out the game because of injuries, the Dolphins kept it on the ground. They were shut out in the first half, but mounted a 14-play, 90-yard touchdown drive midway through the second half to take the lead for good.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa ran it in from the 3 on third down after he couldn’t find an open receiver.
The Dolphins then sprang a hook-and-ladder for the 2-point conversion, with receiver Isaiah Ford flipping a lateral to Ahmed, who ran into the end zone untouched. That put the Dolphins ahead 15-9, and they sealed the victory by mounting a grinding 75-yard touchdown drive on their next possession.
Ahmed became the first undrafted rookie in Dolphins history to rush for 100 yards.
Cam Newton finished 17 for 27 for 209 yards, but for the second consecutive week he failed to get New England into the end zone.
Four times the Patriots settled for a field goal after driving inside the Miami 30. Nick Folk made kicks of 45, 36, 45 and 42 yards.
Colts beat Texans, retain share of AFC South lead
Philip Rivers threw a late, tiebreaking touchdown to Zach Pascal and the Indianapolis Colts defence recovered a fumble in the end zone with 19 seconds left Sunday to seal a 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans.
Indy (10-4) has won three straight to retain a share of the AFC South lead with Tennessee, winners over Detroit. Houston (4-10) has lost three straight and five of six in this series.
The Colts won this one in similar fashion to the teams’ meeting two weeks ago. The Texans had a chance to win that one in the final minute but Indy jumped on a bad snap to quarterback Deshaun Watson inside the red zone.
This time, Pascal caught a pass in the flat, turned up the field and stretched his arms across the goal line while hitting the pylon to give Indy a 27-20 lead with 1:47 to go.
Watson answered by moving the Texans to the Colts 21. But after finding Keke Coutee for 14 yards on third-and-11, Colts linebacker Darius Leonard punched the ball out at the 2-yard line and Bobby Okereke beat Texans tight end Kahale Warring to the ball as it bounced in the end zone.
Rivers was 22 of 28 with 228 yards and two scores. Jonathan Taylor had 16 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Watson was 33 of 41 with 373 yards and two touchdowns. Coutee had five catches for 53 yards and one score before the fumble, and David Johnson had 11 receptions for 106 yards.
Ravens dominate Jaguars, boost playoff hopes
The Baltimore Ravens built a 26-point halftime lead against helpless Jacksonville and rolled to a 40-14 victory Sunday that boosted their playoff chances and extended the Jaguars’ losing streak to 13 games.
Lamar Jackson threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score to carry the Ravens (9-5) to their third straight win following a three-game skid.
Hopeful of reaching the post-season for the third year in a row Baltimore is among several AFC teams vying for three wild-card spots.
Ravens rookie J.K. Dobbins ran for 64 yards and a score, and 32-year-old receiver Dez Bryant celebrated his first touchdown since 2017 late in the first half.
Tannehill, Titans roll past Lions
Ryan Tannehill accounted for a career-high five touchdowns passing and running, and Derrick Henry ran for 147 yards and a score to move the Titans closer to clinching their third playoff berth in four seasons Sunday routing the Detroit Lions 46-25.
The Titans (10-4) did their part with a second straight victory and fourth in five games to stay atop the AFC South. With Indianapolis beating Houston 27-20, the Titans hold the divisional tiebreaker over the Colts with two games remaining.
The second straight loss after Darrell Bevell won his first as interim coach officially eliminated the Lions (5-9) from playoff contention. Quarterback Matthew Stafford shook off a rib injury to start, throwing for 252 yards and a TD before being pulled for Chase Daniel after Tennessee went up 39-18 with 9:00 left.
Tennessee became the fifth team in NFL history with five straight games piling up at least 420 yards total offence and 30 points. The Titans scored a season-high with their fourth game of at least 42 points.
Tannehill had the first five-TD game of his career. He ran for two TDs and finished with 273 yards passing and three more TDs, giving him a career-high 31 TD passes. He became the first Titans player to account for five TDs on the ground and through the air in the same game since Billy Volek did it 16 years ago against the Raiders.
Coach Mike Vrabel wasn’t happy Tannehill dove for the pylon. Otherwise, the Titans scored on every drive except for when Tannehill was sacked in the end zone for a safety and when they knelt to run out the clock.
Ryan Tannehill became the first Titans player ever to record 3+ pass TD and 2+ rush TD in the same game…<br><br>He is the fifth player to accomplish the feat since 2010, joining Josh Allen (2018), Drew Brees (2018), Aaron Rodgers (2011) and Michael Vick (2010)<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Titans?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Titans</a>
Henry capped the opening drive with a 3-yard TD run, his 15th this season. That made him the fourth player in NFL history to run for at least 1,500 yards and 15 TDs in consecutive seasons, joining Terrell Davis (1997-98), Shaun Alexander (2004-05) and Larry Johnson (2005-06).
The Titans led 21-7 after a 75-yard TD pass from Tannehill to Corey Davis and a 17-yard TD run by Tannehill.
Romeo Okwara sacked Tannehill two plays later for the Lions’ first safety in 75 games, also against Tennessee on Sept. 18, 2016. Swift capped Detroit’s ensuing drive with a 2-yard run, but Matt Prater’s extra point was wide left.
The Lions managed a 53-yard field goal by Prater in the third, tying the NFL record held by Sebastian Janikowski with his 58th career kick of 50 yards or longer.
The Titans put it away with 22 points in the fourth quarter with Tannehill’s second TD run and two more TD passes.
Bears remain in the hunt with win over Vikings
David Montgomery rushed for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns as the Chicago Bears trampled Minnesota’s depleted defence and hung on for a 33-27 victory on Sunday to stay in the hunt for the expanded playoffs.
The Bears (7-7), who entered the afternoon one game behind Arizona for the new third wild-card spot in the NFC, never trailed in winning at Minnesota for a third straight year. Coach Matt Nagy improved to 5-1 against the Vikings (6-8), whose post-season chances all but vanished.
Chicago punted only once, on the opening possession. It did just about whatever it wanted with the ball until Cameron Dantzler intercepted Mitch Trubisky’s third-and-goal pass into a crowd in the end zone with 2:57 left and a 30-27 lead.
But the Bears, who were plenty vulnerable on defence themselves, delivered their second fourth-and-1 stop in Minnesota territory to get the ball right back for a field goal.
Dalvin Cook rushed for 132 yards and a score.
Cairo Santos, who converted all four of his kicks, stretched his streak to 22 straight field goals made.
The Bears then intercepted a last-snap heave by Cousins into the end zone to drop the Vikings to 3-5 at home this year.
Cousins connected with tight end Tyler Conklin for his first career touchdown catch, a 20-yard score off a play-action rollout that pulled the Vikings within three points with 8:05 remaining.
Justin Jefferson had eight receptions for 104 yards and set the single-season franchise rookie record held by Randy Moss with 73 catches and counting. But steady pressure on Cousins produced too many short completions — or worse — for the Vikings to catch up.