By The Associated Press
The Latest from Week 18 of the NFL (all times Eastern):
The San Francisco 49ers have pulled even with the Los Angeles Rams after falling behind by 17 in a game it looks like they’ll need to win to get into the playoffs.
Deebo Samuel has thrown a 24-yard touchdown pass to fellow receiver Jauan Jennings on a trick play for a 17-17 tie late in the third quarter.
San Francisco either needs a win or a loss by the New Orleans Saints to make the playoffs for the second time in eight seasons. The Saints are up big in the second half at Atlanta.
The Rams are 45-0 under Sean McVay when leading at halftime, including the postseason. But McVay has lost five straight to his good friend, the Niners’ Kyle Shanahan.
Los Angeles has clinched a playoff spot and needs a win/tie or an Arizona loss/tie to secure the NFC West title.
Matt Haack is finally getting a chance to punt for the Buffalo Bills, who have kept on punting.
Haack’s 42-yarder midway through the second quarter against the New York Jets was his first since hitting a 40-yarder with 10 minutes remaining in a 31-14 win over Carolina on Dec. 19.
The Bills went the next two games not attempting a punt and were in position to become the NFL’s first team since at least 1945 to go three consecutive games without attempting a punt.
Instead, Buffalo had three consecutive punts on three straight three-and-outs.
It has turned in to kind of a rough day for Haack. His average on the three punts is 28.7 yards. His second and third punts went 21 and 23 yards into a strong wind. It was forecast to be between 20 and 30 mph.
New Orleans quarterback Taysom Hill has left a game against Atlanta midway through the second quarter with a left foot injury.
Trevor Siemian took his place and quickly finished the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Tre’Quan Smith to give the Saints a 14-6 lead.
Hill was injured when he was tackled by Shawn Williams on a 1-yard run. Hill walked to the locker room carrying his left shoe. He is 6-2 as the New Orleans starter this season. Hill completed seven of his first nine passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
The Saints can make the playoffs with a win and a San Francisco loss at the Los Angeles Rams.
Tom Brady has surpassed 5,000 yards passing for the season, joining Drew Brees as the only players in NFL history with multiple 5,000-yard seasons.
The Tampa Bay star began the day with a league-leading 4,990 yards. Brady reached 5,000 on his second completion, a 5-yarder to Cameron Brate early in the second quarter against Carolina Panthers.
The seven-time Super Bowl winner threw for a career-best 5,235 yards with the New England Patriots in 2011. Brees had five 5,000-yard seasons in 15 years with New Orleans.
The Rams are controlling the ball early while building a 17-0 lead in the second quarter against San Francisco.
Los Angeles has scored on each of its first three drives, with tight end Tyler Higbee making two scoring catches for his second career multi-TD game.
The 49ers dominated possession in the NFC West rivals’ first meeting, holding the ball for over 39 minutes. LA has had the ball for nearly 17 minutes already in the rematch.
The Rams can win the NFC West title for the third time in five seasons with a victory. The Niners need a win to guarantee their second playoff appearance in eight years.
Jaylen Waddle has more catches than any rookie in NFL history.
The Miami Dolphins wasted no time getting Waddle the mark They went to him on three of their first four plays against New England in the finale of the NFL’s first 17-game regular season.
Waddle’s third catch was his 102nd of the season. He surpasses the rookie mark set by Anquan Boldin in 2003.
Waddle went in with 99 catches for 988 yards and five touchdowns. He quickly got touchdown No. 6, catching a pass from Tua Tagovailoa to cap the 13-play, 77-yard opening drive with a 7-yard scoring grab.
The former Alabama player is the 22nd rookie in NFL history to have a 1,000-yard receiving season.
The previous Dolphins’ rookie marks were 84 catches by Jarvis Landry in 2014 and 883 receiving yards by Chris Chambers in 2001.
Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers are all but in the playoffs in what the star quarterback says is “most likely” his final season.
The only thing that can keep Pittsburgh out of the postseason is a tie between the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders in the final game of the NFL’s first 17-game regular season.
The Steelers have stayed alive with a 16-13 overtime victory that eliminated Baltimore. The Ravens finish with six consecutive losses.
Pittsburgh’s win meant elimination for Indianapolis even though the Colts entered their final game needing only a victory over last-place Jacksonville to get into the playoffs. The Jaguars dominated in a 26-11 upset for just their third win.
The combination of a Pittsburgh win and Indianapolis loss clinched a postseason berth for the Raiders. It’s their first since moving to Las Vegas and just the second in the past 19 seasons.
Roethlisberger’s interview with his former coach, Bill Cowher, was aired before the game. The 39-year-old said “most likely” when asked if he was playing his final regular-season game. This was a week after what had the feel of Roethlisberger’s final home game.
The Tennessee Titans have clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a 28-25 victory over the Houston Texans.
Ryan Tannehill threw four touchdown passes as the Titans held on after taking a 21-0 halftime lead.
Two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City will be the second seed followed by Cincinnati and Buffalo.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank has tested positive for COVID-19 and is not at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the season finale against the New Orleans Saints.
This is the first regular-season Falcons game, home or away, Blank has not attended since purchasing the team in 2002.
The Falcons say Blank is fully vaccinated and “is doing well and in great spirits.” The team says Blank encourages others to get their vaccinations.
The Falcons say the 79-year-old Blank has mild symptoms. He plans to watch the game from his home.
The Falcons say Blank is still within the CDC’s recommended quarantine period.
Green Bay did not start Aaron Rodgers in the second half against Detroit with the Packers already set as the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
The reigning NFL MVP was 14 of 18 for 138 yards with two touchdowns in the first half. The Lions were leading 17-13 at the break.
Backup quarterback Jordan Love replaced Rodgers in the third quarter.
The Tennessee Titans are closing in on the AFC’s top seed, and the Jacksonville Jaguars have a chance at an upset that could create an intriguing playoff scenario.
Ryan Tannehill had three touchdown passes in the first half to to give the Titans a 21-0 lead over the four-win Houston Texans. Tennessee clinches the No. 1 spot and a first-round bye with a victory.
Trevor Lawrence and the two-win Jaguars have taken a 16-3 lead over Indianapolis in the third quarter. The Colts are in with a victory.
If the Jaguars win and Pittsburgh beats Baltimore in a game that was tied 3-3 at halftime, the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders would both get into the playoffs if they tied in the night game.
The Chargers and Raiders are playing the final game of the NFL’s first 17-game regular season.
Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt has tied Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s single-season NFL sacks record.
Watt now has 22½ sacks after bringing down Baltimore’s Tyler Huntley late in the first half.
Strahan had 22½ in 2001 for the New York Giants in a 16-game season. The NFL is finishing its first 17-game season, although Watt missed two of them.
The Steelers and Ravens are tied at 3 at halftime.
The New York Giants got pinned inside their 10-yard late in the first half of last week’s game against Chicago and gave up five points in the final minute on a safety and field goal after the free kick.
This week, coach Joe Judge didn’t take a chance with less than six minutes to go in the first half against Washington after Tress Way punt was downed at the New York 3.
After third-string quarterback Jake Fromm missed an open pass, fullback Eli Penny was called for illegal procedure. That put the Giants at their 2. Fromm then ran two quarterback sneaks and gained 3 yards to give Riley Dixon room to punt.
The Giants have had not offense since Daniel Jones sustained a neck injury against Philadelphia on Nov. 28. They have not scored a touchdown in three of their last five games. They trailed 6-0 at the half.
Detroit has used a little trickery to get even with Green Bay in an NFC North finale with nothing at stake.
Receiver Tom Kennedy took a reverse pitch and pulled up to throw to a wide-open Kalif Raymond for a 75-yard touchdown. Raymond was 10 yards behind the defense when he made the catch and ran the final 50 yards untouched.
The Lions pulled even at 7-7 late in the first quarter. The tricky TD pulled the Lions pulled even at 7-7. They went ahead on Amon-Ra St. Brown’s 2-yard scoring catch from Jared Goff.
Last-place Detroit has long since been eliminated from the playoffs. Green Bay wrapped up the NFC’s top seed last week.
MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers did make the start for the Packers even though the game can’t change anything for the playoffs. Rodgers led a 13-play drive to a touchdown on the game’s first possession.
Cincinnati Bengals rookie Ja’Marr Chase’s record-setting season rolls on.
With a 24-yard reception in the first quarter at Cleveland, Chase passed Chad Johnson’s team record (1,440) for the most yards receiving in a single season. Chase came in 11 yards shy of Johnson’s mark.
He’s also on the verge of setting the NFL rookie record in a single season. Houston’s Bill Groman, who had 1,473 for the Oilers in 1960.
Chase’s record comes in the NFL’s first 17-game season.
The Bengals wrapped up the AFC North title last week and are sitting several regulars, including quarterback Joe Burrow, in the regular-season finale. Cincinnati will host a playoff game next week.
The NFL’s first 17-game regular season is set to wrap up, and the final game will be a playoffs-or-bust meeting between the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders.
The AFC West rivals are chasing one of the AFC’s two remaining postseason spots in the night game.
Ben Roethlisberger still has playoff hopes in his final season, a week after the star quarterback’s farewell in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have to beat Baltimore and hope Indianapolis loses at two-win Jacksonville. With those two outcomes in the early games, the only thing that could keep Pittsburgh out is a Chargers-Raiders tie.
The Colts are in with a win or tie against the Jaguars. The Ravens need a victory and quite a bit of help.
San Francisco has the inside track to the last of the seven playoff spots in the NFC. It will be decided during the late games.
The 49ers are in with a victory over the Los Angeles Rams, who have already qualified and can clinch the NFC West with a win. New Orleans gets in with a victory over Atlanta and a San Francisco loss.
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