Patriots 41 – Ravens 7 – A highly-anticipated rematch from last year’s AFC Championship game turned into a rout as New England annihilated Baltimore to cement their eleventh divisional crown under the Brady/Belihcick era. The Pats took a seventeen-point lead into halftime and never looked back as they completed perhaps their most impressive victory this season. The Pats rushed for 142 total yards and the defense recorded four sacks and forced four turnovers.
New England’s running back-by committee philosophy was in evidence again as they took a two-touchdown first quarter lead behind a one-yard run by LeGarrette Blount and four-yard reception by Shane Vereen. The Pats added a pair of FGs before Baltimore finally got on the scoreboard early into the fourth after Joe Flacco snuck into the endzone from a yard out to cut their deficit to 20-7.
Then New England suddenly exploded for a dizzying amount of points in seemingly no time at all. The Pats stormed to three straight TDs in the game’s final two minutes, including two defensively–one a Chandler Jones fumble recovery in the endzone and the other a 74-interception return from Tavon Wilson–to balloon their already respectable lead into a one-sided drubbing.
Giants 23 – Lions 20 OT – After being bounced from playoff contention last week, the Giants re-paid the favor by eliminating Detroit with their overtime victory. New York took a 13-3 advantage into the half behind a 20-yard TD strike from Eli Manning to Jerrel Jernigan. The Lions climbed back into the game in the second half following a one-yard Joique Bell TD run and safety recorded by Nick Fairley to trim the Giants’ lead to 13-12.
A two-yard plunge by Theo Riddick and subsequent two-point conversion from Matthew Stafford to Joseph Fauria put the Lions up a touchdown early into the fourth before Stafford threw a deflected 38-yard pick six to Will Hill to knot the contest at 20 with just under five minutes remaining. Manning converted a fourth and seven on the Giants FG-winning drive in overtime.
Steelers 38 – Packers 31 – Le’Veon Bell’s 124 rushing yards and a timely strip sack by Troy Polamalu late in the fourth combined for Pittsburgh to all but end Green Bay’s fading playoff hopes. Both teams traded slim leads back-and-forth throughout the day before the Steelers appeared to finally have earned some breathing room with a pair of late third quarter TDs in only eighteen seconds An eleven yard Ben Roethlisberger TD pass and 40-yard INT return from Cortez Allen gave the Steelers a 31-21 lead heading into the final frame.
Green Bay rallied to tie the game at 31 midway through the fourth following a one-yard burst from John Kuhn, but after Polamalu stripped Matt Flynn Pittsburgh recovered on the Packers17-yard line and ground out the winning score in just 26 seconds.
Panthers 17 – Saints 13 – New Orleans continued their disappointing play on the road this season and dropped a playoff-clinching match-up with surging Carolina, who made the playoffs with the win for the first time since 2008. DeAngelo Williams burst through the middle for a 43-yard gallop to give Carolina a narrow 7-6 halftime edge.
The Saints appeared on the verge of stealing the game late after Drew Brees connected with Jimmy Graham for a five-yard go-ahead TD with just over six minutes to play, but Cam Newton and the Carolina offense engineered a crucial scoring drive on their final possession. Newton found Domenik Hixon with a diving catch in the corner of the end zone with just twenty-six seconds remaining.