Redskins, Vikings nab last playoff berths
With quarterback Robert Griffin III and fellow rookie Albert Morris leading the way, the Washington Redskins beat Dallas 28-18 to capture the last NFL playoff berth.
In the final game of the regular season, Morris rushed for a career-best 200 yards and three touchdowns to help the Redskins claim the NFC East division crown in a must-win game against their bitter division rivals.
Sunday's victory was Washington's seventh straight, and their post-season berth was the reward for a remarkable turnaround since they opened the season with just three victories in their first nine games.
Morris finished the regular season with 1,613 rushing yards, surpassing the Redskins' single-season record of 1,516 set by Clinton Portis.
"My goal wasn't to break the record. My goal was to make the playoffs," Morris said. "I couldn't have imagined to come in here in my rookie year and do what I've been able to do."
Griffin, still hampered by the lingering effects of a knee injury, completed just nine of 18 passes for 100 yards, but still rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed 20-of-37 passes for 218 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions as Dallas missed the playoffs for the third successive season.
Next Sunday the Redskins will host the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs.
Seattle closed the season with a 20-13 victory over St. Louis, with their rookie quarterback Russell Wilson completing 15 of 19 passes for 250 yards and rushing for the game-winning touchdown.
The Seahawks secured the NFC's fifth seed, while the NFC West crown went to division rivals San Francisco -- who beat Arizona 27-13 and gained a first-round bye.
Green Bay were also trying for that bye, but fell short in Minneapolis, where Adrian Peterson narrowly missed the NFL's single-season rushing record but played a key role in a thrilling 37-34 Vikings victory over the Packers.
Peterson ran for 199 yards -- nine less than he needed to break the rushing record of 2,105 yards set by Eric Dickerson in 1984.
Peterson, a year removed from a career-threatening knee injury, admitted it was "bittersweet" to miss the record, but rejoiced in accomplishing the "ultimate goal" of reaching the playoffs.
He ran for two touchdowns and delivered a 26-yard spurt on the final drive that set the stage for Blair Walsh's game-winning field goal.
The Vikings will face the Packers again in the first round on Saturday, in Green Bay.
Minnesota's victory spelled the end of Chicago's playoff hopes, after the Bears' win had extinguished the slim chances of reigning Super Bowl champions the New York Giants.
The Giants did what they could, routing Philadelphia 42-7. Shortly after they walked off the field, Chicago knocked them out of playoff contention with a 26-24 victory over Detroit -- then the Bears saw their hopes end with the Vikings' win.
Atlanta went into their season finale assured of the top seed and a first-round bye in the NFC. But they won't carry the momentum of a win into the playoffs, falling 22-17 to Tampa Bay.
In Denver, Peyton Manning threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns as the Broncos secured the top seed in the AFC, a bye and home field advantage with a 38-3 rout of lowly Kansas City.
Denver entered the day lying second in the conference behind Houston, but got the chance to seize the No.1 spot when the Texans fell 28-16 to the playoff-bound Indianapolis Colts.
It was an emotional regular-season finale for a Colts team that welcomed head coach Chuck Pagano back to the sideline after his treatment for leukemia.
The New England Patriots also snuck past the Texans in the AFC seedings, seizing the No.2 spot and a first-round bye with a 28-0 thumping of Miami.
While Denver and New England rest next weekend, the Texans will host Cincinnati, who closed out the regular season with a 23-17 win Baltimore.
The Ravens, who rested most of their starters, will host the Colts in the first round next Sunday.
In other games, Buffalo beat the New York Jets 28-9, Carolina downed New Orleans 44-38, Pittsburgh beat Cleveland 24-10, Tennessee downed Jacksonville 38-20 and San Diego edged Oakland 24-21.