Packers reach 13-0, but have concerns
Saints back in postseason; Jets continue resurgence
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers should have been feeling satisfied.
With yesterday’s 46-16 home rout of the Oakland Raiders, the Packers brushed aside a playoff contender by halftime to win their 19th straight, moved a game away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and, at 13-0, kept the possibility of a perfect season squarely in sight.
Instead, Rodgers seemed concerned about the health of star wide receiver Greg Jennings, who left the game with an apparent left knee injury in the third quarter.
“Well, it didn’t look very good,’’ Rodgers said. “So we’ll see what the MRI says tomorrow. And hopefully, we’ve got a bye wrapped up, so he really has close to five weeks before our [playoff] game.’’
Packers coach Mike McCarthy was more guarded, classifying the injury as a sprain and saying that it warranted further evaluation.
Jennings’s injury put a damper on what was otherwise one of the Packers’ most complete performances of the season. Rodgers threw for 281 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in less than three quarters of work, and Ryan Grant had two touchdowns rushing.
McCarthy still isn’t interested in talking about the possibility of the Packers going 16-0, but his level of confidence is clear.
“[If we’re] taking care of things and keeping our focus on improving the quality of play, I don’t think we can be beat,’’ McCarthy said.
Carson Palmer threw for 245 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions for the Raiders (7-6), who looked like anything but legitimate contenders in the AFC West. Oakland committed eight penalties in the first half and 11 overall.
The Raiders finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter when Michael Bush ran for a 2-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 34-7.
Rodgers - who took three sacks and was hit hard several other times - figured his day was done after Packers linebacker Erik Walden scored on a fumble return late in the third quarter to make it 43-7.
“I’m sure tomorrow I’ll be a little sore, and Tuesday as well, but nothing that I’m worried about,’’ Rodgers said.
The Packers can clinch home-field advantage with a win at Kansas City next Sunday.
“There’s still a lot left that we need to accomplish,’’ said linebacker Clay Matthews.
Saints 22, Titans 17
At Nashville, Drew Brees fired two touchdown passes to Marques Colston in the fourth quarter as New Orleans (10-3) battled to its fifth straight victory and clinched a playoff berth with Chicago’s loss in Denver.
Tennessee (7-6) twice had the ball in the final minutes with a chance to win, but the Saints stopped quarterback Jake Locker on fourth and 1 at the New Orleans 24 with 2:18 left, and Jo-Lonn Dunbar sacked a scrambling Locker on third and goal as time expired.
Brees threw for 347 yards and joined Johnny Unitas as the only quarterbacks to throw a touchdown pass in 40 straight games. Locker (13 of 29, 282 yards, TD) replaced Matt Hasselbeck, who hurt his left calf while chasing a tipped pass in the second quarter.
Jets 37, Chiefs 10
Mark Sanchez became the first Jets quarterback to throw two touchdown passes and run for two more scores in a game as New York (8-5) got off to a fast start and took over the AFC’s last wild-card spot by cruising past visiting Kansas City.
Sanchez was 13 of 21 for 181 yards before being pulled with the game in hand. Shonn Greene had a season-high 129 yards rushing, and Santonio Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson each caught touchdown passes for the Jets, who have won three straight.
The Chiefs (5-8) had 4 total yards and one first down in falling behind, 28-3, at halftime. The Jets recorded a season-high five sacks.
Falcons 31, Panthers 23
Matt Ryan threw two of his four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to rookie Julio Jones and visiting Atlanta (8-5) erased a 16-point deficit to remain in contention for an NFC wild-card berth.
Ryan finished with 320 yards and his four TD passes matched a career high. In the second half, he passed for 232 yards and three scores. Jones had 104 yards receiving, and his 17-yard touchdown catch gave the Falcons a 24-23 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers (4-9) lost for the sixth time this season after being ahead or tied in the fourth quarter. Cam Newton (276 yards, 2 TD passes) directed Carolina to a 23-7 lead, but was intercepted twice in the second half.
Lions 34, Vikings 28
Host Detroit (8-5) barely won a game it needed to have to stay relevant in the NFC wild-card race, escaping when Minnesota backup quarterback Joe Webb fumbled deep in Lions territory in the final seconds.
Matthew Stafford threw for two scores in the first quarter to give Detroit a 21-0 lead, but Webb led the Vikings (2-11) to touchdowns on his first two drives after rookie Christian Ponder was benched.
On first and goal from the 1 with nine seconds left, a replay appeared to show Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy grabbing Webb’s facemask, but a flag wasn’t thrown. The ball popped free and was batted back toward midfield by Detroit’s Stephen Tulloch. Webb ran it down and tried to pick it up, but the ball came loose again and Cliff Avril finally fell on it to end the game. Levy was credited with the sack and forced fumble.
Cardinals 21, 49ers 19
John Skelton stepped in for the injured Kevin Kolb and threw for 282 yards and three touchdowns, and resurgent Arizona (6-7) rallied to hand visiting San Francisco (10-3) a rare loss.
Larry Fitzgerald had seven catches for 149 yards, including a 46-yarder for a touchdown and a 53-yarder to set up the go-ahead score as the Cardinals won for the fifth time in six games. Kolb left the game after a blow to the head on Arizona’s third play.
Eagles 26, Dolphins 10
Philadelphia took advantage of three takeaways to score 24 points during a nine-minute span in the second quarter, and Michael Vick returned from a three-game injury absence to throw for 208 yards and a score as the Eagles (5-8) broke a three-game home winning streak by Miami (4-9). Jason Babin had three of the Eagles’ nine sacks.
Ravens 24, Colts 10
Baltimore (10-3) put on a dominating defensive performance at home, holding woeful Indianapolis (0-13) to 53 total yards through three quarters and 167 for the game. Terrell Suggs had three sacks and forced three fumbles. Baltimore is tied with Pittsburgh for the lead in the AFC North, but the Ravens hold the tiebreaker.
Jaguars 41, Buccaneers 14
Maurice Jones-Drew scored four times to set the franchise record for career touchdowns, and host Jacksonville (4-9) put up 41 unanswered points while sending Tampa Bay (4-9) to its seventh consecutive loss. Jones-Drew finished with 136 total yards, including 85 on the ground, and the Jaguars scored on offense, defense, and special teams in the same game for the first time since 1998.
Chargers 37, Bills 10
Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes, two to Antonio Gates, and host San Diego (6-7) won its second straight following a six-game losing streak. With its sixth consecutive defeat, Buffalo (5-8) was eliminated from playoff contention for the 12th straight year.