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NFL Week 15 wrap up: Upsets and heartbreaks

By Dave Pitman     Dec 17, 2013 in Sports
With many teams still trying to paint the playoff picture for their club, there were plenty of story lines in the NFL going into week 15.
Surprising upsets, bizarre moments and key injuries were highlighted in this weekend’s action. With just 2 weeks left before playoffs, many teams still need to make the push to secure a spot in the post-season, but it wouldn't come easy for some. Here's how this week shaped up:
San Diego 27, Denver 20
The Denver Broncos entered this game with an 11-2-0 record, good enough for first place in their Division. San Diego, Denver’s division rival, entered 6-7-0 and were considered the under-dog in this week's Thursday night matchup.
Peyton Manning threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns, which aren't terrible numbers, but Manning was clearly in discomfort all game. He took a big hit on a play where he was picked off, and didn't seem to bounce back from it. The big story, however, was how well San Diego dominated the clock with their run game. They managed a whopping 38:49 having possession of the football by pounding it up field where Denver had no answer for Ryan Matthews, who matched his season high with 127 yards on 29 carries. Philip Rivers threw for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
Atlanta 27, Washington 26
In a battle lacking any playoff implications, two of the NFC's worst teams (entering 3-10-0) took the field amidst a Quarterback controversy in Washington.
The Redskins 2nd overall selection in the 2012 draft, Robert Griffin III, was benched by head coach Mike Shanahan for the remainder of the season due to a combination of poor play and injury concern. Washington’s backup quarterback, their 5th round selection in the same 2012 draft Kirk Cousins, would start the remaining three games of the season.
In his season starting debut, Cousins threw for 381 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. Two of those touchdowns, and 247 yards were thrown in the first half where Cousins lit up the Atlanta defense. The second half, however, was a different story. Atlanta would intercept Cousins twice and force seven turnovers on the day. The game came down to a two-point conversion with 18 seconds remaining where Desmond Trufant was able to deflect a pass from Cousins incomplete. Matt Ryan threw for 210 yards and threw a touchdown to Tony Gonzales. Steven Jackson carried the ball fifteen times for 38 yards and two touchdowns.
San Francisco 33, Tampa Bay 14
The now 10-4-0 San Francisco 49ers still sit 2nd place in their Division after a big win over Tampa Bay. They continue to battle for a wild card spot in the very strong NFC conference with division Rivals Seattle clinching the division.
Colin Kaepernick threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 39 yards on seven scrambles. Kaepernick burned the Buccaneers repeatedly with his speed both as a rollout passer and runner. Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree hauled in the touchdowns while Phil Dawson made all four Field goal attempts on the day. Mike Glennon threw for 179 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. The 49ers were simply a better team in all aspects.
Seattle 23, New York Giants 0
The Seattle Seahawks clinched the NFC West on Sunday with their win over the New York Giants. Seattle improved to 12-2-0 with the win.
Russell Wilson threw for 206 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He also ran for 50 yards on the day before being rested by Seattle coach Pete Carroll with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 47 yards and one touchdown but the story of the day was the ability of Seattle’s defense to shutdown Eli Manning. Manning threw for a dismal 156 yards, no touchdowns and five interceptions. Manning leads the NFL in interceptions with 25 on the year.
Minnesota 48, Philadelphia 30
The Eagles failed to clinch the NFC East division Sunday, with a surprising loss to the Vikings without all-star running back Adrian Peterson in the line up. The Vikings loss will not change the fate of the team who are set to miss the post-season with just four wins on the year thus far.
Nick Foles had another massive day, throwing for 428 yards with three touchdowns. He added 41 yards on the ground. Matt Cassell would respond for the Vikings throwing 382 yards for two touchdowns. Matt Asiata, filling in for Adrian Peterson, rushed 30 times for three touchdowns while Cassell would add one rushing touchdown of his own. It was a very high scoring affair, Minnesota showing some very unexpected offensive upside without Peterson.
Miami 24, New England 20
AFC East division rivals New England and Miami battled it out for control over the division Sunday. With a win, New England could have clinched the division, although they still have two wins over Miami with 2 games remaining.
Tom Brady threw for 364 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Late in the fourth quarter, Brady led the Patriots down the field on one last drive for a comeback win. Brady has made a name for himself in these situations, being one of the best late game situation quarterbacks in the NFL. With two seconds on the clock, Brady went for the win in the end zone but it was rookie safety Michael Thomas who was just signed off the 49ers practice squad five days prior who would end the game by intercepting Brady’s pass in the end zone. Ryan Tannehill threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns on the day.
Buffalo 27, Jacksonville 20
Two more AFC teams that won't see any post-season action squared off Sunday.
Following the worst game of his career, rookie Bills quarterback EJ Manuel bounced back with one of his best performances of the season. Manuel threw 193 yards for two touchdowns and also ran the ball for 37 yards and a touchdown. The injury riddled Jaguars struggled to get much of anything going. Chad Henne threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns. Although they won their three games prior to this one, Jacksonville isn't even close to making the post-season.
Indianapolis 25, Houston 3
The Indianapolis Colts have clinched the AFC South division, which isn't saying much. One of the worst divisions in the NFL, the Houston Texans have found themselves at the bottom of the standings in what’s been a disappointing season.
Andrew Luck threw for 180 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a game where Houston simply did not compete. Case Keenum was sacked four times and diagnosed with a sprained right thumb after the game.
Chicago 38, Cleveland 31
Chicago stands atop the NFC North division after their win over the 4-10-0 Cleveland Browns.
Jay Cutler made his return from a high ankle sprain that had him out the last four weeks. He looked to be back in fine form though, as he tossed for 265 passing yards, and three touchdowns. Matt Forte chipped in with 127 rushing yards and Brandon Marshall hauled in 95 receiving yards and a touchdown. Jason Campbell threw for 273 yards and one touchdown for the Browns.
Kansas City 56, Oakland 31
After a surprisingly successful season under new coach Andy Reid and new quarterback Alex Smith, the Kansas City Chiefs are tied for top spot in the AFC West with the Denver Broncos. Both teams have clinched a playoff spot, Oakland however, sit at the bottom of the division and will not see post-season action.
Alex Smith was on fire, throwing for five touchdowns on the day. The Oakland defense could not stop the passing game from Kansas City, with running back Jamaal Charles dominating on the ground and hauling in catches, bringing in four touchdown receptions. It was a historic performance. Matt McGloin threw for two touchdowns and Rashad Jennings rushed for two more for the Raiders but the Kansas City offense were too much for Oakland to handle.
Carolina 30, New York Jets 20
The Carolina Panthers looked to continue their climb to the top of the NFC South on Sunday against the New York Jets. With the win, they are now tied with New Orleans for the division lead, who they just happen to play next week.
Cam Newton threw for 273 yards and a touchdown and the Carolina defense provided some much needed production to lift the Panthers over the Jets. Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn forced two fumbles and returned an interception for a touchdown in the game. Geno Smith threw for 167 yards, and one touchdown.
Green Bay 37, Dallas 36
With Quarterback Aaron Rodgers sidelined with a broken collarbone, Matt Flynn has been given reign of the iconic Packers. Going 1-1-1 in his previous 3 starts, Flynn carried the Packers to victory over the Cowboys, keeping Green Bay's playoff hopes alive. Tied with the Eagles for top spot in the NFC East, the Cowboys blew an opportunity to take control of the division.
Tony Romo threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns in a game where Dallas took the big lead early. Leading 26-3 at half, the Cowboys looked to be in position to coast to the win. Green bay, however, would not lay down that easily. Matt Flynn threw for 299 total yards and four second half touchdowns as the Packers charged their way back into the game Sunday night. Tony Romo would throw two interceptions in the final three minutes of the game, and Eddie Lacy made the winning play with a 1-yard dive into the end zone.
Arizona 37, Tennessee 34
Playing in one of the strongest divisions in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals looked to keep their playoff hopes alive in the NFC West vs. a struggling Tennessee Titans team.
Ryan Fitzpatrick would do everything that he could to keep the Titans in this game. Fitzpatrick threw for just over 400 yards and four touchdowns in an all-star performance. The Cardinals, desperate to win and continue to climb the standings having won six of their last seven games, would push back. Carson Palmer threw for 231 yards for a touchdown while Rashard Mendenhall muscled his way into the end zone twice and this game would need overtime. Jay Feely would be the overtime hero kicking a 41-yard field goal propelling the Cardinals to the win and keeping their playoff hopes alive.
St Louis 27, New Orleans 16
The St Louis Rams refused to let go of their playoff hopes against the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints. The Saints, winning four of their five previous games had the chance to make some room between them and Carolina in the standings, but were shutdown by the St Louis defense.
The Saints' first two possessions led to St Louis interceptions and eventual touchdowns. Grasping the lead early on, the Rams would not let it go, shutting down the offensive threats at Quarterback and Tight end for the Saints. Kellen Clemens threw for 158 yards and two touchdowns and Zac Stacy rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown to lead the Rams to an unlikely win. Drew Brees did everything could, throwing for 393 yards and a touchdown but the two passes he was intercepted on was a sway in the game the Saints could not overcome. All-Star Jimmy Graham was held to just 25 yards on the day.
Pittsburgh 30, Cincinnati 20
With both teams vying for a playoff spot atop the AFC North division, The Steelers and Bengals clashed in a battle that saw the Steelers claw a little bit closer to the playoffs.
Doing his damage in the short passing game, Ben Roethlisberger threw for 191 yards, and one touchdown in Sundays win. Antonio Brown provided offensive aid catching a touchdown pass and returning a punt for a touchdown in the third quarter. Shaun Suisham made three field goals to guarantee victory for the Steelers. Andy Dalton threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns but the Bengals could not recover from the early deficit.
Baltimore 18, Detroit 16
The clutter atop the AFC North and NFC North divisions continues as both the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens are desperate for wins. Having won their last three games, Baltimore would make it four in a row in an exciting last minute win over a Lions team that has struggled to hold its ground.
Stafford threw for 235 yards and a touchdown in the final three minutes of the game, putting Detroit ahead 16-15. But the Lions failed to convert on a 2-point conversion, giving the Ravens one last chance. Joe Flacco threw for 222 yards, leading the Falcons up field in the final minutes. It was Justin Tucker who would play the hero for the Falcons on a career high 61-yard field goal, his sixth of the game, with 38 seconds left to secure the win.
Here's what the playoff picture looks like after week 15:
NFC Week 15 Standings
NFC Week 15 Standings
AFC Week 15 Standings
AFC Week 15 Standings
• [y] Clinched Division Title
• [z] Clinched First-Round Bye
• [x] Clinched Playoff Berth
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