|Saints coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees didn't help their playoff hopes by losing to the Eagles. (Bill Haber/Associated Press)|
Playing the kind of hard-nosed, harder-hitting defense that fallen teammate Sean Taylor was famous for, the Washington Redskins shut down Adrian Peterson and set up two early touchdowns with interceptions to take control of their playoff fate with a 32-21 victory over the sloppy Minnesota Vikings last night.
Todd Collins was 22 for 29 for 254 yards and two touchdowns and Clinton Portis had 124 total yards, threw a TD pass, and ran for another score for the Redskins (8-7), who can clinch the final NFC playoff spot with a win over Dallas next Sunday.
"Sean's definitely looking down on this team," offensive tackle Chris Samuels said.
Peterson had nowhere to go all night, gaining just 27 yards on nine carries. Tarvaris Jackson's rebound from a disastrous start came too late for the Vikings (8-7), who could have clinched a playoff berth with a win. With the top seed already locked up, the Cowboys could rest many of their key players, paving the way for Washington.
Taylor died on Nov. 27 after being shot by burglars at his Florida home. His death rocked the organization and the Redskins suffered a crushing last-second loss to Buffalo days later - their fourth in a row - to fall to 5-7.
Yet, here are the Redskins, winners of three straight thanks to an unrelenting defense and the steady play of Collins, who started his second consecutive game after spending most of the previous 10 years on the bench.
Jackson threw two early interceptions and failed to move the offense as the Vikings fell behind, 25-0. He threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jim Kleinsasser in the third quarter and scored on a 6-yard run with just over 10 minutes to go in the game that cut the lead to 25-14.
The Vikings appeared to have new life when Collins fumbled a snap and Kevin Williams recovered near midfield, but Redskins coach Joe Gibbs challenged the play and Washington retained possession when replays showed Minnesota had 12 men on the field.
Eagles 38, Saints 23
Donovan McNabb accounted for 300 total yards and tossed three touchdown passes, helping visiting Philadelphia deal a devastating blow to New Orleans's playoff hopes.
"A lot of people ask a lot of questions about Donovan," said Eagles running back Brian Westbrook, who gained 100 yards on 17 carries. "I've said all along, it's going to take a full year for him to recover [from knee surgery] and be totally back. You see the way he's running the ball down the field. He's rounding back into being his old self and these last two weeks are proof of that."
The Eagles (7-8) have won two straight, building on their upset of the Cowboys in Dallas a week earlier. Their triumph snapped a two-game winning streak for the Saints (7-8), who stayed alive (barely) for playoff contention when the Vikings lost.
McNabb had 263 yards passing, giving him more than 25,000 for his career.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 289 yards and a touchdown, but lost his best receiver when Marques Colston left the game in the first half with a chest contusion.
Bears 35, Packers 7
Brett Favre was at his worst, and now, Green Bay can forget about the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Brian Urlacher returned an interception for a touchdown for the first time in his career, Adrian Peterson ran for 102 yards, and host Chicago routed the Packers (12-3) on a frigid afternoon, wiping out the Packers' shot at home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Instead, Dallas locked up the top seed.
Favre passed for just 9 yards in the first half and 153 overall, giving him 4,058 this season and putting him over the 4,000-yard mark for the fifth time. He finished 17 for 32 and threw two interceptions.
"I've been playing 17 years, and that was the worst condition I've ever played in," Favre said. "Excuse? No excuse. It was, but they handled it better than we did. We have historically handled it well. It's kind of our ace in the hole, but today, obviously, it wasn't."
The Bears (6-9) had little to celebrate this season, but they got some consolation by knocking off their archrivals twice. And the 35 points were their most against Green Bay since a 61-7 win on Dec. 7, 1980.
Colts 38, Texans 15
Peyton Manning looked sharp, the running game was efficient, the defense forced three turnovers, and there was no letdown as host Indianapolis scored on six of its first eight possessions and had 38 consecutive points in its blowout of Houston.
The Colts (13-2) had a season-high 458 yards, tied the second-most first downs in a game in franchise history (33), and three running backs helped produce Indy's first 100-yard rushing day since Thanksgiving. Joseph Addai, Kenton Smith, and Clifton Dawson ran 31 times for 120 yards, with Dawson, the former Harvard star, getting his first NFL touchdown on a 4-yard run.
For Houston (7-8), trying to win a franchise-record eighth game, it was downright ugly. Sage Rosenfels was 22 of 36 for 233 yards with two TDs and three interceptions, including one in the Colts' end zone. He closed out the scoring with a 6-yard TD pass to Andre Johnson with 1:07 left.
Seahawks 27, Ravens 6
Matt Hasselbeck shook off two interceptions to throw two touchdown passes and Shaun Alexander had his biggest rushing day since Week 4 as host Seattle clinched the No. 3 seed in the NFC.
Hasselbeck's scores gave him a career-high 27 TD throws this season. One went to Alexander, on a screen pass of 14 yards. That gave Seattle (10-5) a 21-0 lead late in the first half. Alexander turned a season of being booed at home into holiday cheers by gaining 73 yards on 13 carries.
The Ravens (4-11), with 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith completing 16 of 33 passes in his first NFL start, extended their franchise-record losing streak to nine games. It took Smith's 79-yard TD pass to Derrick Mason with 4:41 left for Baltimore to avoid its first shutout since Sept. 15, 2002.
49ers 21, Buccaneers 19
Shaun Hill passed for 123 yards and three touchdowns to remain unbeaten as an NFL starter, and host San Francisco beat a team with a winning record for the first time this year, even if Tampa Bay began resting most of its playmakers late in the first half.
Bucs receiver Michael Clayton landed out of bounds with his catch on a 2-point conversion attempt with 1:20 left, giving the win to the 49ers (5-10), who won consecutive games for the first time. Luke McCown passed for 185 yards in relief for NFC South champion Tampa Bay (9-6), which hasn't won in San Francisco in 27 years.
Cardinals 30, Falcons 27
Neil Rackers kicked a 29-yard field goal as the fourth quarter ended to force overtime, then booted one from 31 yards on the first possession of the extra session to lift host Arizona (7-8) past Atlanta.
The Falcons (3-12), who had rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to take the lead, lost their sixth in a row, even though Chris Redman passed for a career-high 315 yards and two scores.
Lions 25, Chiefs 20
T.J. Duckett ran for a season-high 102 yards and a touchdown and linebacker Paris Lenon returned an interception 61 yards for another score, helping host Detroit snap a six-game losing streak. The Lions (7-8) surpassed the most victories they've had in seven seasons under team president Matt Millen.
Kansas City (4-11) has dropped eight straight, the franchise's worst skid since losing nine in a row in 1987.