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NFL round-up: Browns win for first time in a year; Titans lose Mariota for season

The Browns are winless no more. Cleveland avoided that fate on Saturday by beating the San Diego Chargers 20-17 for their first victory in more than a year

The Browns are winless no more. Cleveland avoided that fate on Saturday by beating the San Diego Chargers 20-17 for their first victory in more than a year. San Diegos Josh Lambo missed a 45-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Browns (1-14) their first win in 377 days.

When the kick sailed right, Clevelands small crowd erupted in celebration and Browns players poured off their sideline as if they had just won the Super Bowl. The Browns avoided becoming the second team to go 0-15, and no longer have to worry about joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to lose all 16 games.

Cleveland built 10-point lead in the third quarter and hung on defensive tackle Jamie Meder blocked a potential tying field goal with 3:49 left to give coach Hue Jackson his first win with the Browns.

NFL (@NFL)

The @Browns blocked the FG!

The @Browns blocked the FG!

The @Browns blocked the FG! https://t.co/v2BG3vvfRZ

December 24, 2016

The win also snapped Clevelands 17-game losing streak dating to last season. The Chargers (5-10) lost their fourth straight and one that could sting for a while.

— Aaron Rodgers threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns, Jordy Nelson shredded Minnesotas secondary for 154 yards and two scores, and the resurgent Green Bay Packers beat the Vikings 38-25.

The Packers fifth straight win set up a winner-take-all showdown next week with Detroit for the NFC North title, while extinguishing the Vikings faint postseason hopes.

Green Bay (9-6) built a 28-13 lead at halftime, with Rodgers accounting for all four scores in the half. He finished 28 of 38, and shrugged off his right calf injury after scrambling for a six-yard touchdown late in the second quarter and making a rare Lambeau Leap.

Rodgers and Nelson connected for scores from 21 and 2 yards in the first half. The veteran receiver found seams in Minnesotas defense, despite the return of safety Harrison Smith from an ankle injury.

Playing again without running back Adrian Peterson, the Vikings (7-8) had success through the air after Sam Bradford threw for 382 yards and three touchdowns, including a 71-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen in the second quarter.

Thielen had a career-high 202 yards and two scores. But the Vikings made too many other mistakes to catch up to the Packers.

— Blake Bortles best game of the season helped the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Tennessee Titans 38-17 and end a nine-game losing streak.

Bortles threw for 325 yards and a touchdown, and was on the receiving end of a 20-yard trick play that sealed the win with 5:25 remaining. Rookie Jalen Ramsey returned an interception 30 yards on the ensuring play to set off a raucous and long-awaited celebration in Jacksonville.

Bortles and the Jaguars (3-12) played inspired football from the opening kick and won for the first time this season at EverBank Field. Their last victory at home came Dec. 13, 2015, against Indianapolis.

Maybe they rallied around interim coach Doug Marrone. Maybe they played for ultra-popular ex-coach Gus Bradley, who was fired six days earlier. Maybe they just wanted to avenge an embarrassing loss to the Titans (8-7) on national television in late October.

NFL (@NFL)

The @Jaguars get TRICKY!

Blake Bortles TD CATCH from Marqise Lee! WOW. #TENvsJAX https://t.co/fcRUnngmM7

December 24, 2016

Either way, it caused a lot of head-scratching and thoughts of Where has then been all year?

It was a debacle for the Titans, who had won three in a row. Tennessee needed a victory to set up an AFC South title game next week against Houston. Now, coach Mike Mularkeys team needs the Texans to lose at home to Cincinnati later Saturday to stay in the division race.

It might not even matter because Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is done for the season.

Mariota left late in the third quarter with an air cast on his right lege. Rookie Sheldon Day sacked Mariota as he scrambled on a first-down throw, grabbing him around the ankles. Mariota stayed on the ground and signaled to the sideline. He pounded the ground several times as trainers rushed to his side. It was later confirmed he had fractured his fibula.

Tom
Tom Brady hugs New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick after their game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots won 41-3. Photograph: David Butler II/USA Today Sports

— Tom Brady passed for 214 yards and three touchdowns , and the Patriots moved a step closer to securing home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a 41-3 win over the New York Jets.

A loss or tie by the Raiders against the Colts later Saturday would officially give New England the AFCs top seed. Malcolm Butler added two interceptions and a fumble recovery, and LeGarrette Blount had a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs.

New England (13-2) took advantage of New York miscues all day, scoring on three of its first four possessions. The Jets (4-11), who have lost six of seven, had four turnovers. It all helped make for a short day of work for Brady, who sat out the entire fourth quarter.

— Jay Ajayi ran for 206 yards and broke loose for a 53-yarder in overtime to set up Andrew Franks 27-yard field goal with 47 seconds left to lead the Miami Dolphins to a 34-31 win over the Buffalo Bills.

In winning for the ninth time in 10 games, the Dolphins (10-5) inched closer to their first playoff berth since 2008. Miami can secure the AFCs final wild-card berth as early as Sunday if Denver loses to Kansas City.

Denver needs to win its final two games to make the postseason and Baltimore is eliminated from the wild-card race and can only make the playoffs as the AFC North champion.

The Bills (7-8) were eliminated from contention and extended the NFLs longest active playoff drought to 17 seasons.

Buffalos drought is tied for the fifth longest in NFL history, and longest since the New Orleans Saints went 20 years before qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 1987.

Ajayi is the fourth player in NFL history to have at least three games with at least 200 rushing yards in a season. Earl Campbell, OJ Simpson, Tiki Barber are the others.

— Matt Ryan threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns, Tevin Coleman had 135 yards from scrimmage, including a pivotal 55-yard fourth-quarter TD run, and the Atlanta Falcons wrapped up a postseason berth with a 33-16 win over the Carolina Panthers.

The Falcons (10-5) clinched clinch a playoff berth with Oaklands victory over Indianapolis, thanks to a strength of schedule tiebreaker over the Lions.

A few straggling Falcons fans chanted MVP! at Ryan in the games closing minutes while most Panthers fans had already headed for the exits.

The Panthers (6-9) were officially eliminated from playoff contention after making the Super Bowl last season.

Ryan torched the Panthers for the second time this season. He threw for 503 yards and four TDs in Atlantas win over Carolina earlier this season at the Georgia Dome, a victory that set the stage for the Falcons playoff push.

— Kirk Cousins threw for a touchdown and ran for two more, and Washington gave their fading playoff hopes a boost with a 41-21 victory over the Chicago Bears.

DeSean Jackson added 114 yards receiving, and Washington (8-6-1) intercepted Matt Barkley five times. It added up to an easy win for Washington after they relinquished control of the second wild card with a loss to Carolina on Monday night.

Eighth in the NFC behind Green Bay and Tampa Bay coming in, Washington scored 14 points in the first quarter after struggling early in recent games and never really was threatened by the struggling Bears (3-12).

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/dec/24/nfl-round-up-browns-win-for-first-time-in-a-year-titans-lose-mariota-for-season

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