Weekend In Review: NFL Playoff Picture More In Focus As Pats Beat Steelers, Eagles Clinch First-Round Bye

NFL Playoff Picture Getting Clearer The game of the season proved to be exactly that. With a controversial catch/no-catch replay call taking away a touchdown followed by an interception...

NFL Playoff Picture Getting Clearer

The game of the season proved to be exactly that. With a controversial catch/no-catch replay call taking away a touchdown followed by an interception in the end zone, the New England Patriots’ 27-24 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers had a bit of everything.

Tom Brady led the Patriots (11-3) to the go-ahead score with 56 seconds left and completed a pass to Rob Gronkowski for the two-point conversion. The Steelers drove down the field and Ben Roethlisberger’s pass to Jesse James appeared to be a touchdown. But the officials ruled James did not have a firm grasp of the ball as he fell and hit the goal line, making it incomplete, and Roethlisberger threw an interception in the end zone on the next play. Pittsburgh is 11-3, its eight-game win streak a memory.

In another odd finish, Oakland quarterback Derek Carr tried to reach the ball over the pylon for the go-ahead touchdown but instead fumbled it through the end zone and the Dallas Cowboys (8-6) hung on for a 20-17 win over the Raiders (6-8).

The Minnesota Vikings (11-3) clinched the NFC North with a 34-7 demolition of the Cincinnati Bengals (5-9). The Philadelphia Eagles (12-2) blocked three kicks on their way to a 34-29 win over the New York Giants (2-12) that clinched a first-round playoff bye.

And … As an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior heats up, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, 81, announced he would sell the team.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Mount Union defeated Mary Hardin-Baylor 12-0 to win its 13th NCAA Division III championship. The Purple Raiders (15-0) also snapped MHB’s 29-game winning streak. MHB finished 14-1.

ELSEWHERE: In the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fifth straight, beating the Washington Wizards 106-99. … In college basketball, Oklahoma upset No. 3 Wichita State 91-83, Clemson downed No. 22 Florida 71-69 and Rutgers beat No. 15 Seton Hall 71-65 to rattle the AP Top 25 that will be released on Monday. … CC Sabathia signed a one-year, $10 million contract to continue pitching for the New York Yankees. … The Los Angeles Dodgers traded four players and cash to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Matt Kemp.

 
 
Post By: Larry Weisman, a longtime sportswriter for USA TODAY, blogs for Twistity.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman

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