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Packers, Texans clinch; NFC East all jumbled

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Packers, Texans clinch; NFC East all jumbled

The Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans clinched their divisions, while the Baltimore Ravens earned a playoff spot despite another lousy loss.

The jumbled NFC East? Well, that will come down to the final week of the season.

The New York Giants were humiliated 34-0 by the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, falling into a first-place tie with the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, who both won to improve to 8-6.

The Redskins did it without Robert Griffin III, who sat out with a sprained right knee and wasn't happy about having to stand on the sideline and watch his teammates play. But fellow rookie Kirk Cousins stepped in and threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns, leading Washington to its fifth straight win, 38-21 over the Cleveland Browns.

``We're in first place in our division now, and it was a great business trip for us,'' Griffin said. ``I got healthier by not playing, we won the game and put ourselves in position to control our own destiny.''

Cousins connected with Leonard Hankerson for both TDs in his first career start and the Redskins barely missed a beat without the talented and multi-dimensional RG3. Last week, Cousins came off the bench after Griffin got hurt, and delivered a performance in this one that extended Washington's longest winning streak since 2007.

``I talked to him about being cool, calm and collected and not to freak out,'' Griffin said. ``He did a good job of staying poised and staying confident in there.''

Rookie Trent Richardson had a pair of TD runs for the Browns (5-9).

At Arlington, Texas, Dallas' Brandon Carr intercepted a pass by Ben Roethlisberger in overtime, returned it 36 yards to the 1, and Dan Bailey kicked a 21-yard field goal for a 27-24 win over Pittsburgh.

``Those are the plays you dream about in the backyard, making the game-winning interception or touchdown,'' Carr said.

Bailey's kick - 1:24 into OT - won a game for the second straight week since Dallas practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was killed in a one-car accident that led to manslaughter charges against teammate Josh Brent. After Carr's interception, Tony Romo took a 2-yard loss to put the kicker in better position for the Cowboys.

The Steelers (7-7) lost for the fourth time in five games and trail AFC North rival Cincinnati by a game for the conference's second wild-card spot. They host the Bengals next week. Roethlisberger is 0-2 since returning from a three-game absence with shoulder and rib injuries.

``There won't be any quit from us, especially from me,'' Roethlisberger said. ``This one is going to sting real bad. It will hopefully make me and make us better.''

At Atlanta, Matt Ryan threw three touchdowns passes in a 34-0 win and the Falcons' defense handed the Giants their first regular-season shutout since 1996.

``We love the haters, man,'' said Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel, who had the first of two interceptions against Eli Manning. ``The haters keep us going. So keep your hate coming. We love it. It makes us play with a chip on our shoulder.''

Julio Jones caught a couple of scoring throws from Ryan, who broke his own franchise records for completions and passing yards in a season. He finished 23 of 28 for 270 yards.

The Falcons (12-2), who have already clinched the NFC South, moved a step closer to home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

Manning had his lowest-rated game since 2007 for New York (8-6), which went 0-for-3 on fourth down and missed a short field goal.

``Atlanta was very, very good. We were very, very bad,'' New York coach Tom Coughlin said. ``There's no excuse for what happened here.''

PACKERS 21, BEARS 13

At Chicago, the Packers clinched their second straight NFC North title with a victory over the archrival Chicago Bears.

James Jones caught all three touchdown passes thrown by the Packers' Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay has now won six straight in the NFL's oldest - and fiercest - rivalry. The Packers (10-4) have won 12 straight against NFC North opponents, the longest streak in the NFL.

Brandon Marshall had a 15-yard TD catch for the Bears (8-6), who have lost five of six and are in danger of missing the playoffs after beginning the year 7-1.

TEXANS 29, COLTS 17

At Houston, Andre Johnson had 151 yards receiving and a touchdown, Bryan Braman scored on a blocked punt and Shayne Graham kicked five field goals to clinch the AFC South for the second straight year.

J.J. Watt had three sacks for the Texans (12-2) as Houston's defense got back on track a week after a 42-14 loss to New England.

The Colts (9-5) had won three straight and needed a win to clinch a playoff berth a year after going 2-14.

BRONCOS 34, RAVENS 17

At Baltimore, Chris Harris returned an interception 98 yards for a momentum-turning touchdown, and Denver won its ninth straight.

Peyton Manning threw for 204 yards and a score in his ninth consecutive win against Baltimore, the first with the Broncos (11-3).

The Ravens (9-5) were playing their first game under offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who replaced the fired Cam Cameron. Baltimore clinched a playoff spot by virtue of Pittsburgh's overtime loss to Dallas.

49ERS 41, PATRIOTS 34

At Foxborough, Mass., San Francisco earned a playoff berth by withstanding a stunning comeback by Tom Brady and New England from a 28-point deficit to beat the Patriots.

Michael Crabtree took a short pass from Colin Kaepernick and sped around cornerback Kyle Arrington for a 38-yard touchdown with 6:25 to go, then David Akers made a 28-yard field goal to clinch it. San Francisco (10-3-1) owns at least a wild-card spot and plays at Seattle next week with a chance to win the NFC West.

AFC East champion New England (10-4), which had won seven in a row, trailed 31-3 at one point and lost for the first time at home in December in 21 games. The Patriots also had won 21 in a row in the second half of the schedule before San Francisco somehow regrouped late in a game it seemingly had clinched long before.

VIKINGS 36, RAMS 22

At St. Louis, Adrian Peterson ran for a season-best 212 yards, including an 82-yard touchdown.

Peterson has 1,812 yards rushing for the Vikings (8-6), leaving him 294 shy of breaking the NFL's single-season record of 2,105 by Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams in 1984. Peterson, less than a year removed from a serious knee injury, has two games left - at Houston and home against Green Bay - to top Dickerson.

The Rams fell to 6-7-1.

SEAHAWKS 50, BILLS 17

At Toronto, Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson ran for three touchdowns and threw for another in leading the Seahawks to their second straight rout.

Wilson scored on runs of 14, 25 and 4 yards and then hit Zach Miller for a 4-yard touchdown in helping the Seahawks (9-5) score 31 points on their first five possessions. The defense forced three consecutive turnovers to start the second half, including Earl Thomas scoring on 57-yard interception return.

The Bills (5-9) were knocked out of playoff contention for a 13th consecutive season.

CARDINALS 31, LIONS 10

At Glendale, Ariz., Greg Toler returned an interception 102 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown as Arizona ended a nine-game losing streak.

The Cardinals (5-9) intercepted Matthew Stafford three times, returning two for touchdowns and setting up a TD with the other.

The Lions (4-10) lost their sixth straight. Rashad Johnson brought back a pick 53 yards for a touchdown to cap Arizona's 21-point second quarter. Patrick Peterson's interception set up another score.

Detroit's Calvin Johnson became the first player in NFL history with consecutive 1,600-yard receiving seasons and tied an NFL record with his seventh straight 100-yard receiving game.

PANTHERS 31, CHARGERS 7

At San Diego, Mike Tolbert scored twice against his former team and DeAngelo Williams turned a tipped pass from Cam Newton into a 45-yard touchdown reception.

Carolina (5-9) won consecutive games for the first time since last December. The loss knocked the Chargers (5-9) out of playoff contention for the third straight year, and clinched their first losing season since 2003, when they were an NFL-worse 4-12.

SAINTS 41, BUCCANEERS 0

At New Orleans, Drew Brees passed for 307 yards and four touchdowns, and New Orleans posted its first shutout since 1995.

Brees connected on his scoring passes with tight end David Thomas, running back Darren Sproles and receivers Lance Moore and Joe Morgan. Mark Ingram added an 11-yard touchdown run for the Saints (6-8).

Josh Freeman endured one of his worst outings of the season for Tampa Bay (6-8), throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble.

DOLPHINS 24, JAGUARS 3

At Miami, the Dolphins (6-8) kept former teammate Chad Henne out of the end zone, made three fourth-down stops deep in its own territory and benefited from an odd penalty.

The Dolphins turned back three scoring threats, and a go-ahead touchdown for the Jaguars (2-12) came off the board because of an illegal-substitution penalty.

RAIDERS 15, CHIEFS 0

At Oakland, Calif., Sebastian Janikowski kicked five field goals and Darren McFadden rushed for 110 yards.

The Raiders (4-10) overwhelmed the Chiefs (2-12) to snap a six-game losing streak.

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Did you know Bill Belichick has deep ties to Navy football?

Did you know Bill Belichick has deep ties to Navy football?

Sports Uncovered is a six-part weekly podcast series that explores the stories that took the national sports world by storm. The newest episode, The Bill Belichick You Don't Know, explores the lesser-known side of the New England Patriots head coach.

On the outside, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick seems pretty easy to read. A man of few words -- at least to the media -- Belichick has made it clear that he has two things he cares about above all else: football and winning.

However, there is another side to the six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach that most may not be aware of. On the latest Sports Uncovered podcast by NBC Sports, 'The Bill Belichick You Don’t Know’ takes a look at some lesser-known stories, facts and passions that Belichick has.

Among them all, one thing many may not know about the Patriots head coach is that he has deep ties -- and a strong love -- for Navy football. Yes, despite his longtime rivalry with the Baltimore Ravens, Belichick does indeed have a soft spot for some football in the state of Maryland.

Belichick's connection to the Naval Academy football team stems from his father's history of coaching at the program. Steve Belichick, who passed away in 2005, spent 30 years as an assistant coach while also teaching classes at Navy.

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During that time, Bill Belichick became embedded in his father's world of football. Spending time so close to the team, he carried a close personal connection to the team and school. Being the football genius that he is, the head coach can still recall specific moments, players and uniforms from games that took place over 40 years ago.

Though Belichick now resides in New England, his relationship with Navy Football is as strong as ever. As NBC Sports' Peter King showed in 2019, Belichick and his father's legacy will remain in Annapolis forever as the school has a special archive named the "Belichick Collection."

RELATED: SPORTS UNCOVERED: SEAN TAYLOR, THE NFL SUPERSTAR WE DIDN'T GET TO KNOW

There, football books dating back 100 years can be found, and read. For a family dedicated to football, it's the perfect touch.

For as long as he is the head coach of the Patriots -- and even after -- Belichick may not be the most popular person in the state of Maryland. However, his lesser-known side shows that he does have at least one positive connection to football in the state. 

To never miss an episode, subscribe to Sports Uncovered and get every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. Sports Uncovered is also available on the MyTeams app, as well as on every major podcasting platform: AppleGoogle PodcastiHeartStitcherSpotify, and TuneIn

Stay connected with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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The most memorable moments between Bill Belichick and the Ravens organization

The most memorable moments between Bill Belichick and the Ravens organization

Sports Uncovered is a six-part weekly podcast series that explores the stories that took the national sports world by storm. The newest episode, The Bill Belichick You Don't Know, explores the lesser-known side of the New England Patriots head coach.

Bill Belichick and the Ravens have been attached at the hip for longer, and more deeply, than people might assume. 

Perhaps the NFL’s best coach of all time, Belichick has had a great impact on Baltimore football, even when he’s not been actively on the team’s staff. 

He was an assistant coach for the Baltimore Colts and coach Ted Marchibroda in 1975, his first ever coaching job in the NFL. After a few stints as an assistant coach, he moved on to the Giants where he led one of the most successful defensive teams in NFL history to two Super Bowls. 

There’s no shortage of memorable moments between the famed coach and the Ravens, and here are a few that stand out: 

The 1996 NFL Draft

Belichick was the head coach for the Cleveland Browns from 1991-1995 before the Browns’ move to Baltimore. Even with Art Modell’s assurances that he’d be the head coach in Baltimore too, where Belichick started his career, he was fired in early 1996. 

But while the Ravens’ first draft in the NFL was one of the best drafts of any team in NFL history, it couldn’t have happened without Belichick. 

He made a trade in the 1995 season, still as the coach of the Browns, with the 49ers that gave the Ravens two first round picks in 1996. The Ravens’ first pick ever, their own pick, went to the selection of Jonathan Ogden at fourth overall. 

Later in the first round, with the pick Belichick had traded for, the Ravens selected linebacker Ray Lewis. 

 

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Ed Reed

Belichick perhaps had no greater admiration for a Ravens player than Ed Reed. That manifested itself on one play against the Colts. 

Reed had studied Peyton Manning’s tendencies and found out that a pump fake indicated where Manning wanted to throw the football. He intercepted a would-be touchdown in that week’s game. 

Reed’s play still sticks out in his mind.

“Best play I’ve ever seen a free safety make,” Belichick said.

Tom Brady was understandably worried about Reed in his career, and both he and Belichick have marveled at Reed’s ability for years. 

Brady once had “Find 20 on Every Play” written on his quarterback armband.

2007 Ravens/Patriots

The Ravens nearly ended the perfection of Belichick’s best team of all time. 

On Monday Night Football late in the 2007 season, Belichick took his unbeaten Patriots to M&T Bank Stadium to face the Ravens. There, one of the wildest finishes in the storied rivalry took place. 

The Ravens thought they had the Patriots stopped on 4th down on three separate occasions as the Patriots drove for the game-winning touchdown, but each time had to replay the down. 

Belichick’s Patriots escaped with the win as the end of the Brian Billick era in Baltimore was set in motion, which led to John Harbaugh’s hiring as coach.

2012 Justin Tucker winner

In one of the least proud moments of the rivalry, the Ravens knocked off the Patriots 31-30 on a last-second field goal by Justin Tucker early in the 2012 season. 

Late in the game, Harbaugh was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after coming onto the field, while yelling, “I was trying to call timeout!” That led to a “manure” chant by Ravens fans that Al Michaels noted on the NBC broadcast. 

The Ravens got the ball back and marched into Patriots territory, where Tucker’s game-winning kick sailed seemingly directly over top of the right upright. As Vince Wilfork ran screaming toward the officials, Belichick ran off the field and tried to grab the arm of an official who was running off the field.

At the time, the NFL’s referees were in the midst of a lockout and replacement referees were the biggest story of the season.

“Deflategate”

The Ravens, at least publicly, denied any involvement in their role in the “Deflategate” controversy. But according to documents released in August of 2015, the Ravens were the ones who let the Colts know about deflated footballs. 

After a 35-31 loss in the divisional round, Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg called Chuck Pagano, then the coach of the Colts, to warn him about the condition of the footballs in New England.

RELATED: SPORTS UNCOVERED: SEAN TAYLOR, THE NFL SUPERSTAR WE DIDN'T GET TO KNOW

2019 Lamar

In what was the future of the rivalry, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens handed the Patriots their first loss of the 2019 season. 

Jackson threw for 163 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 61 yards as the Ravens won 37-20. It was the Ravens’ most notable win of the season to that point and the win that propelled them to a 14-2 finish.

And, as it turns out, it was Belichick’s last game against the Ravens with Brady at the helm and the turning of the page in the rivalry to the next chapter.

To never miss an episode, subscribe to Sports Uncovered and get every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. Sports Uncovered is also available on the MyTeams app, as well as on every major podcasting platform: AppleGoogle PodcastiHeartStitcherSpotify, and TuneIn

Stay connected with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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