NFL Sunday: Chargers Clinch AFC West, Lions Go 0-16 - NBC New York

NFL Sunday: Chargers Clinch AFC West, Lions Go 0-16

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    NFL Sunday: Chargers Clinch AFC West, Lions Go 0-16
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    Runningback Darren Sproles of the San Diego Chargers celebrates after scoring a 13-yard touchdown reception against the Denver Broncos during the third quarter at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.

    The American Football Conference West belongs to LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers and the rest of the Chargers after a win over Denver.

    They won the NFL's weakest division with an 8-8 record, becoming the first team to go from 4-8 to the playoffs.

    Mission Valley turned into Mediocre Valley for the evening as the Chargers became the first team to win a division at 8-8 since the Cleveland Browns in 1985.

    Packers 31, Lions 21

    Facing one last chance to avoid their dubious destiny, the Detroit Lions lost Sunday's season finale to the Green Bay Packers 31-21 to complete the league's first 0-16 season.

    The 1976 expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-14) were the last NFL team to complete a season without a victory.

    It didn't come without a fight. After falling behind 24-14 midway through the fourth quarter, Kevin Smith's 9-yard touchdown run put Detroit back within a field goal.

    But Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers responded with a 71-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver and the Lions' Dan Orlovsky threw an interception on fourth-and-27 with 3 minutes left, dooming Detroit to futility of historic proportion.

    The Lions were building toward this for years and now have lost 23 of their last 24 games. Indeed, the Lions haven't won since Dec. 23, 2007, when they beat Kansas City. Green Bay is where this woeful streak began at the end of last season. Since then, the Lions have lost 17 straight and have been outscored 551-281.

    Dolphins 24, Jets 17

    At East Rutherford, New Jersey, Chad Pennington walked off the field where he spent his first eight NFL seasons, surrounded by cameras and jubilant teammates after leading the Dolphins to an improbable AFC East title.

    On the Jets' sideline, a disappointed Brett Favre jogged off the field and into the locker room, maybe for the last time in a storied career.

    Pennington, cut in the offseason by the Jets to make room for Favre, threw two touchdown passes in leading the Dolphins to a division title. A year after going 1-15, the Dolphins completed a remarkable turnaround under first-year coach Tony Sparano, joining the 1999 Indianapolis Colts as the only teams in NFL history to make 10-game improvements.

    Vikings 20, Giants 19

    At Minneapolis, Ryan Longwell's 50-yard field goal as the game ended lifted the Vikings to the National Football Conference North title for their first postseason appearance in four years.They face Philadelphia next weekend.

    David Carr took over at quarterback for Eli Manning after halftime and threw a touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon midway through the third quarter for a 16-10 lead. But New York (12-4), the NFC East winner with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, was on cruise control from there with a bunch of backups on the field.

    Panthers 33, Saints 31

    At New Orleans, John Kasay's 42-yard field goal with a second left locked up the NFC South title and the second seed in the conference for the Panthers (12-4).

    Carolina, the only team to go 8-0 at home this season, will get a first-round playoff bye and then a chance to extend its perfect record in Charlotte in the divisional round.

    Falcons 31, Rams 27

    At Atlanta, Jerious Norwood ran for two touchdowns, including the go-ahead 45-yard run with 3:41 left, as the Falcons held off the Rams to clinch the No. 5 seed in the NFC.

    The Falcons improved to 11-5, completing their improbable run to the playoffs after a 4-12 finish in 2007. they will travel to NFC West champion Arizona for a wild-card game next weekend.

    Eagles 44, Cowboys 6

    At Philadelphia, the Eagles overcame daunting odds to capture an NFC wild-card spot with a dominating victory over Dallas.

    In a game that become do-or-die for both teams shortly before kickoff when Tampa Bay and Chicago lost, the Eagles (9-6-1) thoroughly outplayed the error-prone Cowboys (9-7). Donovan McNabb threw two touchdown passes and ran for another, and Brian Dawkins forced two fumbles that were returned for scores.

    Ravens 27, Jaguars 7

    At Baltimore, Le'Ron McClain ran for two touchdowns in the pivotal first half as Baltimore routed Jacksonville.

    It was 24-7 at halftime, and Baltimore (11-5) never let up against the stumbling Jaguars (5-11), who committed four turnovers and were held scoreless over the final 45 minutes. The seven points were a season low for Jacksonville.Texans 31, Bears 24

    At Houston, Andre Johnson had two touchdowns for the Texans, who finished 8-8 for the second straight year.

    The Bears (9-7) needed a win to keep any postseason hopes alive. The Vikings beat the Giants to take the NFC North title, but Chicago could have gotten in with a wild-card spot by winning and getting help. They blew a 10-0 lead.

    Raiders 31, Buccaneers 24

    At Tampa, Florida, Oakland third-stringer Michael Bush rushed for a career-high 177 yards and scored on a 67-yard fourth-quarter jaunt that helped the Raiders rally to end the Buccaneers' season.

    Even with a win, the Bucs (9-7) would have needed help to make the playoffs and avoid one of the biggest collapses in franchise history. They were 9-3 and tied for first heading into December but finished with four consecutive losses, two at home after going 6-0 at Raymond James Stadium.

    Patriots 13, Bills 0

    At Orchard Park, New York, LaMont Jordan scored on a 2-yard run set up by Matt Cassel's 12-yard completion into the wind on fourth down, and Stephen Gostkowski hit a pair of field goals.

    Then came the hard part for the Patriots (11-5), who had to wait to find out they didn't make the playoffs when Miami and Baltimore both won.

    The Bills managed 276 yards offense but squandered several scoring chances, and wrapped up a season at 7-9 for the third straight year under Dick Jauron.

    Steelers 31, Browns 0

    At Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger gave the playoff-bound Steelers a major scare by sustaining a concussion during an essentially meaningless victory over the embarrassed Browns that likely was Romeo Crennel's last as Cleveland's coach.

    Roethlisberger, expected to play a half to stay sharp before a two-week break, lay on the turf for nearly 15 minutes after being leveled by Willie McGinest and D'Qwell Jackson while delivering a pass late in the second quarter.

    Colts 23, Titans 0

    At Indianapolis, Peyton Manning hit 4,000 yards for a ninth straight season, three more than Dan Marino's previous NFL mark, as Indianapolis yanked its starters early and still managed to win its ninth straight, beating AFC South champion Tennessee.

    It marked the sixth straight season Indy has won at least 12 games, and that wasn't the only big achievement for the Colts.

    Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison moved into second place on the all-time receptions list, and Dallas Clark broke John Mackey's single-season franchise record for most yards receiving by a tight end, a mark that had stood since 1966.

    Bengals 16, Chiefs 6

    At Cincinnati, Cedric Benson ran for 111 yards and a touchdown, putting a little bite into the Bengals' depleted offense, and Cincinnati completed its late-season surge.

    The Bengals (4-11-1) will most likely stay the course after their latest losing season. Coach Marvin Lewis has two years left on his contract, and there is no general manager to replace — owner Mike Brown makes the important decisions.