Bengals and Colts claim playoff berths

Updated 25 December 2012
0

Bengals and Colts claim playoff berths

SEATTLE, Washington: The Cincinnati Bengals edged the Pittsburgh Steelers to reach the NFL playoffs, and the Indianapolis Colts joined the postseason party by capping their remarkable turnaround in pressure-packed action on Sunday.
The advancement of Cincinnati (9-6), 13-10 winners over their bitter AFC North rivals, and Indianapolis (10-5), who beat the Kansas City Chiefs 20-13, completed the playoff list in the American Football Conference, though seeding issues remained.
The Houston Texans (12-3) failed to capitalize on a chance to clinch top seeding in the AFC by losing 23-6 to the Minnesota Vikings (9-6), who stayed alive for an NFC playoff berth.
AFC North title honors went to the Baltimore Ravens (10-5), who ended a three-game losing streak by dominating the New York Giants 33-14.
Playoff hopes for the Super Bowl champion Giants (8-7) hung by a thread after losing their last two games by an aggregate score of 67-14.
Playoff berths remain up for grabs in the NFC, with the East Division title and a wildcard spot still at stake.
The Seattle Seahawks grabbed one of the NFC wildcard berths with a crushing 42-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers as quarterback Russell Wilson threw a career-high four touchdowns.
The Washington Redskins (9-6) maintained the upper hand in their quest for the NFC East title by hanging on for a 27-20 win against the Philadelphia Eagles (4-11), while the Dallas Cowboys (8-7) suffered a 34-31 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Next week the Redskins, riding a six-game winning streak, host the Cowboys with the winner capturing the division title.
In Pittsburgh, it was a doubly satisfying result for the Bengals whose three-point victory on Josh Brown’s 43-yard field goal with four seconds left to play not only put them in the playoffs but also knocked the Steelers (7-8) out of contention.
It was the first victory for the visiting Bengals over their bitter AFC North rivals in six meetings.
For the Colts, victory over the Chiefs gave them their 10th playoff trip in 11 years but first in that span without Peyton Manning as quarterback.
This postseason berth came one season after a woeful 2-14 record that put them in position to take quarterback Andrew Luck from Stanford with the first pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Luck led the Colts to victory over the Chiefs (2-13) by hitting a leaping Reggie Wayne in the back of the end zone for the winning touchdown with 4:08 left in the game.
That connection capped a 73-yard drive that marked their NFL record-tying seventh fourth-quarter comeback victory.
“I’m very proud to be a part of this team, to be associated with a playoff team. What a great win for us,” Luck told reporters.
Luck set the league record for passing yards in a season for a rookie, finishing the game with 4,183 yards to eclipse the mark of 4,051 yards last season by Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers with one regular season game still to play.
Houston slowed down league-leading rusher Adrian Peterson, but the Minnesota Vikings held the Texans to just a pair of field goals in their road victory.
Peterson was held to 86 yards, but quarterback Christian Ponder threw a touchdown pass, Toby Gerhart rushed for a score and Blair Walsh kicked three field goals to lift the Vikings.
Peterson, who had a streak of eight 100-yard games snapped, finished the game with 1,898 yards this season and still needs 208 yards to break the NFL single-season rushing record set by Eric Dickerson in 1984.
Washington, who welcomed rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III back to the lineup after being sidelined a week with a knee injury, escaped a scare when Philadelphia had a first-and-goal at the five-yard line with 11 seconds left but failed to score a touchdown that would have sent the game to overtime.
“Winning always cures all ills. It was just good to be back out there with the guys,” said Griffin.
“We’re playing the best ball we’ve played all year at the right time. We’re rolling. We know that we can win any kind of game we have to, whether it’s a high-scoring game or a low-scoring game or a gut-wrencher at the end.”
Dallas rallied with 14 points in the last four minutes to send their game against the Saints into overtime, but they failed to mount a threat with their first possession in extra time and New Orleans (7-8) won on a 20-yard field goal.
The Chicago Bears (9-6) stayed in playoff contention with a 28-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals (5-10).
NFC North champion Green Bay Packers (11-4) maintained their strong form with a 55-7 thrashing of the Tennessee Titans as Aaron Rodgers threw for three touchdowns and 342 yards.
Tom Brady threw a pair of interceptions in the first quarter but recovered to lead the AFC East champion New England Patriots (11-4) to a 23-16 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13).


Gabriel Jesus fires twice as Manchester City snatch top spot from Liverpool by beating Everton

Updated 46 min 45 sec ago
0

Gabriel Jesus fires twice as Manchester City snatch top spot from Liverpool by beating Everton

MANCHESTER: Pep Guardiola welcomed Gabriel Jesus’s return to form as the Brazilian struck twice in a 3-1 win over Everton as Manchester City leapfrogged Liverpool back to the top of the Premier League.
Jesus hadn’t scored a Premier League goal for four months before opening the scoring midway through the first-half and bulleted home a header to double City’s lead early in the second-half.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin briefly gave Everton hope, but Raheem Sterling came off the bench to make the game safe with his first touch and move City two points ahead of Liverpool, who host Manchester United on Sunday.
“Strikers need to score goals,” said Guardiola of Jesus’s man-of-the-match performance. “The difference today was that he scored as he was in better positions.”
Guardiola could even afford the luxury of leaving Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero on the bench on their return from injury as the Catalan coach again shuffled his pack for the busy festive period.
But fears in recent weeks that City lack a predator in front of goal when Aguero is absent were quashed by two fine finishes from Jesus.
“My confidence is back because my family is here and it helps me a lot. I needed my family in this moment,” said the Brazilian international.
“This year it (the title) will be more difficult because the (other) clubs will play better. I think it is very important we have come back to first position.”
With temperatures approaching freezing in Manchester, City were nearly caught cold by a rare Everton break early on when Richarlison fired the first big chance of the game over from Lucas Digne’s cross.
“The biggest chance was our chance with Richarlison,” Everton boss Marco Silva said.
“Against these teams we have to be effective when we create opportunities to score.”
And Everton also played a big part in their own downfall at the other end when Jesus opened the scoring.
Yerry Mina’s hopeful punt gifted away possession and the Colombian then played Jesus onside as the Brazilian ran onto Sane’s pass to fire low past Pickford.
The England number one handed Liverpool victory in the Merseyside derby earlier this month, but Pickford wasn’t so charitable to City as he made an excellent save to prevent Riyad Mahrez doubling the hosts’ lead just before half-time.
The champions had to wait just five minutes after the break to make it 2-0, when a patient build-up again found Sane on the left and the German’s cross was met by a powerful header from Jesus.
Everton had barely offered any threat in the second period before they got back into the game 25 minutes from time, Calvert-Lewin’s header from a high-hanging Digne cross flicking off Fabian Delph and past the helpless Ederson.
Guardiola responded by sending on Sterling for Sane and in a week when the England international has bravely spoken out about the alleged racist abuse he suffered last weekend by Chelsea fans, he also made his mark on the field by scoring immediately.
“I think Raheem has handled the last few years in terms of situations and rumors, about him or his family or the color of his skin very calmly,” added Guardiola.
“I admire him and appreciate that it’s not easy for him. He’s loved by all staff and in the locker room.”
Jesus was involved again as he freed Fernandinho inside the area and his cross picked out the unmarked Sterling to score a rare header.
De Bruyne then made his first appearance for six weeks — just his fourth in the Premier League all season, all of which have come as a substitute — after lengthy absences for two knee injuries.
Other than defeat to Chelsea last weekend, City have barely missed a beat without the Belgian, but the return of their player of the year in last season’s record-breaking campaign is an early Christmas present for Guardiola ahead of Liverpool’s visit to the Etihad on January 3.