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Vikes earn opening bye

Falcons, Bills, Titans claim final playoff spots

Falcons cornerback Robert Alford (23) intercepts a pass in the end zone in front of Panthers receiver Devin Funchess (17) in the final minute to seal the Falcons’ 22-10 win Sunday in Atlanta. (David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS)
Falcons cornerback Robert Alford (23) intercepts a pass in the end zone in front of Panthers receiver Devin Funchess (17) in the final minute to seal the Falcons’ 22-10 win Sunday in Atlanta. (David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS)

Minnesota’s defense turned in another dominant performance, and Latavius Murray rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Vikings secure a first-round bye for the playoffs with a 23-10 win over the Bears on Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.

Stefon Diggs caught six passes for 65 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings (13-3), who reached 13 wins for only the second time in the history of the 57-year-old franchise after holding a second straight opponent without an offensive touchdown.

Mitch Trubisky finished his rookie season with a turnover-free game, completing 20 of 36 passes for 178 yards. But the Bears (5-11) failed to cross the goal line despite 11 plays from the 10-yard line or closer in the fourth quarter.

“I just got more comfortable as the weeks went on,” Trubisky said. “Just to play my game, be a leader on this team and help the offense grow and get better, but we’ve got to find a way to have a chance to win at the end of games.”

Trubisky also took a safety in the second quarter on an intentional grounding call.

The Bears didn’t cross midfield until the fourth quarter, and totaled only 30 yards rushing. They were penalized 10 times for 116 yards, and went 1-for-14 on third- and fourth-down conversions.

Lions 35, Packers 11: Matthew Stafford threw three touchdown passes as Detroit win at home over turnover-prone and short-handed Green Bay in a matchup of teams out of the playoff race.

Stafford was 20-for-29 for 323 yards without a turnover. He caught a 2-point conversion pass after Ameer Abdullah, who had just run for a TD, took a direct snap and pitched it to Tate, who easily connected with Stafford in the end zone to put Detroit up 35-11 midway through the fourth quarter.

Green Bay, without several banged-up players, gave away its chances to close with a win with three first-half turnovers to help the Lions lead 20-3 at halftime.

“The way we took care of the football today was unacceptable, and obviously had a big impact on the game,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

Brett Hundley was 14-for- 24 for 172 yards with a touchdown, two interceptions and a fumble. He was replaced by Joe Callahan late in the game.

“We had a lot of opportunities,” Hundley said. “We just stopped

Falcons 22, Panthers 10: Matt Bryant kicked five field goals, including a 56-yarder, for all of Atlanta’s second-half points, and the Falcons clinched a playoff spot by beating Carolina in Atlanta.

After the teams played to a 7-7 halftime tie, the 42-year-old Bryant kicked field goals of 30, 42, 30, 56 and 33 yards without a miss to send the Falcons to the No. 6 seed in the NFC.

The loss by the Panthers gave the NFC South title to the Saints, despite their 31-24 loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa.

Bills 22, Dolphins 16: Buffalo snapped the
longest current non-playoff drought in North American pro sports with a win in Miami, coupled with the Bengals’ win in Baltimore.

Buffalo, which hadn’t made the playoffs since 1999, will travel to Jacksonville next weekend in a wild-card game.

The Ravens were knocked out of the postseason when Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton threw a 49-yard TD pass to Tyler Boyd with 44 seconds left for a 31-27 victory.

Titans 15, Jaguars 10:
Marcus Mariota threw for 134 yards and a touchdown, and ran a season-high 10 times for 60 yards to help the Titans win at home and end an eight-season playoff drought by clinching an AFC wild-card berth.

Derrick Henry took a screen pass from Mariota 66 yards for a TD in the second quarter, and Ryan Succop kicked three field goals.

The Titans also sacked Blake Bortles twice and forced four turnovers, two interceptions by Kevin Byard.

Steelers 28, Browns 24: The Browns joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams in NFL history to go 0-16 when they failed to find a way to beat the backup-laden Steelers in Pittsburgh.

Cleveland had a chance late in the fourth quarter, but DeShone Kizer’s fourth-down pass to Corey Coleman bounced off Coleman’s hands and fell incomplete.

Kizer finished with 314 yards passing and two touchdowns to Rashard Higgins, but also threw a fourth-quarter pick, his NFL-leading 22nd of the season.

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