KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Against the backdrop of an unthinkable tragedy, the Kansas City Chiefs gave themselves a reason to be proud Sunday — and perhaps the impetus to let the healing begin.
Brady Quinn threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns, and Jamaal Charles ran for 127 yards in the Chiefs’ 27-21 victory over their Carolina Panthers. The win snapped an eight-game losing streak during one of the most difficult seasons the franchise has ever experienced.
The win came just one day after Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend multiple times at a residence near Arrowhead Stadium, then drove to the team’s practice facility and turned the gun on himself as general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel looked on.
Pioli walked through the press box before the game and said he was doing “OK,” though he didn’t stop to talk. Crennel was on the sideline coaching his team to an uplifting victory.
PATRIOTS 23, DOLPHINS 16
MIAMI — Tom Brady had his least efficient game of the year and even threw an interception, but New England took advantage of Miami’s mistakes and clinched their fourth consecutive AFC East title.
A botched punt, roughing-the-punter penalty and fumble by Miami led to 17 New England points, and another penalty negated a Dolphins touchdown.
Brady finished 24 for 40 for 238 yards and was sacked four times. But with the Patriots nursing a 20-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter, he led a 16-play drive that took more than seven minutes and led to a field goal.
The Patriots (9-3) have won six games in a row and are assured of their 12th consecutive winning season. Miami (5-7) lost to New England for the fifth consecutive time.
TEXANS 24, TITANS 10
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Houston Texans clinched their second straight playoff berth and set a franchise record for wins in a season.
Rookie linebacker Whitney Mercilus recovered a fumble and had two sacks, and the Texans (11-1) remain tied with Atlanta for the best record in the NFL with their sixth straight win. After needing overtime the past two games, the Texans forced six turnovers and had six sacks of Jake Locker when they weren’t batting down a handful of other passes.
The Texans swept Tennessee (4-8), the team they replaced in Houston, for only the second time. Matt Schaub threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns, and Arian Foster ran for a TD.
BRONCOS 31, BUCCANEERS 23
DENVER — Peyton Manning threw three touchdowns, including one to defensive tackle Mitch Unrein, to help Denver wrap up the AFC West.
The Broncos (9-3) won their seventh straight and the Tampa Bay (6-6) loss clinched the NFC South for Atlanta, which won on Thursday.
Manning threw for 242 yards. He now has 29 touchdown passes on the season, moving past Jake Plummer and John Elway for the most by a Denver quarterback in a single year.
Manning threw two of the scores to Demaryius Thomas, who finished with eight catches for 99 yards.
Broncos linebacker Von Miller returned an interception for his first NFL score.
The Broncos held Tampa running back Doug Martin to 56 yards on 18 carries.
SEAHAWKS 23, BEARS 17, OT
CHICAGO — Russell Wilson connected with Sidney Rice on a 13-yard touchdown with 7:33 left in overtime to lift Seattle.
Unbeaten in five home games, the Seahawks finally figured a way to win on the road after dropping five of their first six, and knocked off the NFC North leaders in the process.
Seattle took a short-lived lead late in regulation on Wilson’s 14-yard pass to Golden Tate, only to watch the Bears’ Robbie Gould boot a 46-yard field goal as time expired to send it into OT.
The Seahawks (7-5) got their only other road win at Carolina.
COLTS 35, LIONS 33
DETROIT — Andrew Luck threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery with no time left to lift Indianapolis.
With the final seconds ticking away, the rookie quarterback moved up in the pocket, flipped a short pass to Avery, and the receiver ran untouched into the end zone to complete a rally that started with Lions up 12 points midway through the fourth quarter.
The Colts (8-4) stayed in control of the AFC wild-card race with the win. Detroit (4-8) lost for the fourth straight time, including three in a row at home after leading in the final quarter.
PACKERS 23, VIKINGS 14
GREEN BAY, Wis. — James Starks had Green Bay’s first rushing touchdown in almost two months, Morgan Burnett picked off Christian Ponder twice and the Packers overcame a monster day by Adrian Peterson.
Peterson finished with 210 yards, the most he’s had since blowing out his ACL and MCL last December. But the Vikings (6-6) clearly felt the absence of Percy Harvin, who missed his third straight game with a sprained ankle.
Ponder didn’t help matters with his interceptions, one in the end zone and the other around the Green Bay 10. The Packers turned both miscues into field goals, giving them their 10th straight victory against an NFC North opponent.
The win also keeps the Packers’ hopes for the (8-4) division title alive.
STEELERS 23, RAVENS 20
BALTIMORE — Shaun Suisham kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired.
Playing without injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for a third straight week, the Steelers turned to the 37-year-old Batch for the second game in a row. He went 25 for 36 for 276 yards, threw a touchdown and moved the Steelers 61 yards before Suisham’s game-winning kick.
Pittsburgh trailed 13-3 in the first half and 20-13 in the fourth quarter before coming back.
Pittsburgh (7-5) snapped a two-game losing streak and kept alive its slim hopes of overtaking Baltimore (9-3) in the AFC North. The teams have split their games this season.
The Ravens could have clinched a playoff berth with a victory. Instead, Baltimore had its 15-game home winning streak snapped and also lost for the first time in 13 games against division foes.
BENGALS 20, CHARGERS 13
SAN DIEGO — Andy Dalton scrambled up the middle for a 6-yard touchdown with 4:11 left for the go-ahead score and Cincinnati won its fourth straight game.
On second-and-goal, Dalton pump-faked right and then ran up the middle, dived for the end zone and got the ball across.
The Bengals (7-5) remained tied with Pittsburgh in the race for the AFC’s second wild-card berth.
The Chargers (4-8) lost their fourth straight game and for the seventh time in eight games, and remain only mathematically alive in the wild-card chase. Denver won the AFC West with a 31-23 victory against Tampa Bay.
JETS 7, CARDINALS 6
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Third-stringer Greg McElroy stepped in for a struggling Mark Sanchez and led New York to its only score.
With Tim Tebow inactive as he heals from two broken ribs, coach Rex Ryan pulled Sanchez for McElroy — as the crowd at MetLife Stadium cheered wildly — late in the third quarter. McElroy led the (5-7) Jets to their only points of the day with an impressive drive, connecting with Jeff Cumberland on a 1-yard touchdown. That ended up being the winning score.
Fans chanted “Mc-El-roy!” throughout the first three quarters as Sanchez went 10 for 21 for 97 yards and three interceptions.
The sagging Cardinals (4-8) have their own troubles at quarterback. Ryan Lindley was ineffective in his second NFL start as Arizona lost its eighth straight game after a 4-0 start.
BILLS 34, JAGUARS 18
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Ryan Fitzpatrick directed five straight scoring drives in helping Buffalo keep alive its slim playoff hopes.
Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes and scored on a 1-yard plunge in providing a spark to an injury-depleted offense that finished the game minus its top two receivers.
Fred Jackson had 101 yards rushing and C.J. Spiller scored on a 44-yard run that put Buffalo (5-7) up 34-10 early in the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars fell to 2-10.