NEW ORLEANS — Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore corralled an unusual, momentum-turning interception off his back, New Orleans made two defensive stands from inside its 2-yard line, and the Saints clinched their first playoff berth since 2013 with a 23-13 victory over the rival Atlanta Falcons.
Ted Ginn caught a 54-yard pass for a touchdown, which came a few plays after Lattimore's interception and shortly before halftime. Mark Ingram used a sharp cutback to break loose for a 26-yard touchdown for New Orleans ( 11-4), which kept its tenuous hold on first place in the NFC South heading into the final week of the season.
While the loss eliminated the Falcons (9-6) from the NFC South race, Atlanta can clinch a wild-card berth by beating Carolina in the final regular-season game on New Year's Eve.
The Falcons entered the game with a second straight division crown in their grasp, but they needed to beat the Saints. They squandered chances spectacularly, much to the delight of a deafening Superdome crowd — and certainly to the chagrin of scattered fans wearing Falcons red. The Falcons were taunted on their way to the game by a plane towing a banner that read "28-3 Merry Xmas," a reference to Atlanta's Super Bowl collapse.
Atlanta trailed 6-0 when Lattimore's interception of Matt Ryan set the Saints up to double their lead.
But early in the third quarter, Atlanta linebacker Deion Jones intercepted a passed that deflected off of Ginn's hands and returned it 41 yards to the New Orleans 2. Devonta Freeman fumbled on a hit by Tyeler Davison two plays later and linebacker Manti Teo recovered.
Drew Brees completed 21 of 28 passes for 239 yards. Brees became the third quarterback in NFL history to eclipse 70,000 career yards passing, joining Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.
Ryan was 22 of 36 for 288 yards. He was sacked five times, twice by Cameron Jordan.
PANTHERS 22, BUCCANEERS 19
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cam Newton scored on a 2-yard run with 35 seconds remaining to lift the Panthers into the NFC playoffs.
The Panthers (11-4) trailed most of the second half, but Newton drove them 59 yards, completing 4 of 7 passes for 52 yards in the final three minutes before scoring on a what could have been a game-ending play. Newton fumbled the snap from the shotgun, alertly picked it up and then dived across the goal line for the go-ahead score.
Newton celebrated the score by using the football as a prop, pretending to light a candle on a cake in celebration of his son Chosen's 2nd birthday.
Carolina can clinch the NFC South championship with a win over Atlanta and a New Orleans loss to Tampa Bay.
The Panthers sealed the game when Kawann Short sacked Jameis Winston on Tampa Bay's final drive, and forced a fumble that Julius Peppers recovered. Winston threw for 367 yards and a touchdown but was sacked six times and fumbled three times. The Bucs are 4-11.
SEAHAWKS 21, COWBOYS 12
ARLINGTON, Texas — Justin Coleman put Seattle in front for good with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown and the Seahawks won a playoff elimination game against Dallas, beating the Cowboys in Ezekiel Elliott's return from a six-game suspension.
Dak Prescott threw two interceptions and the Dallas offense didn't score a touchdown despite the reunion with his backfield mate, the one he shared a remarkable rookie season with a year ago when Cowboys had an NFC-best 13 wins.
Now Dallas (8-7) is eliminated from the postseason with the end of its three-game winning streak, and the Seahawks (9-6) still have a chance to keep their five-year playoff streak alive after Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns despite a career-low 93 yards passing.
Coleman gave Seattle a 14-9 lead in the third quarter when he reached down to catch Prescott's badly overthrown pass to Elliott and ran untouched 30 yards for a touchdown.
It was the fourth pick-six of the season for Prescott, who threw just four interceptions last season when he was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He has 13 interceptions for the season.
RAMS 27, TITANS 23
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jared Goff threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp in the fourth quarter and the Rams held off Tennessee to clinch their first NFC West title since 2003.
The Rams (11-4) came in needing a win or a loss by Seattle to secure the division. They took care of business themselves, with Todd Gurley and Goff leading the way again.
Gurley bolstered his argument for NFL MVP with 118 yards rushing and 158 yards receiving with two TDs. Goff finished with four touchdowns and 301 yards passing.
The Titans (8-7) lost their third straight game, damaging their chances of ending their own playoff drought stretching to 2008.
The Titans had the ball and a chance to win late in the game. On fourth-and-4 at the Rams 44, Marcus Mariota rolled right and chucked the ball incomplete under pressure from Connor Barwin.
CHIEFS 29, DOLPHINS 13
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Alex Smith threw for 304 yards and a touchdown, Kareem Hunt ran for 91 yards and a score and the Chiefs clinched back-to-back AFC West titles for the first time in franchise history.
Tyreek Hill had six catches for 109 yards, and Harrison Butker converted five field goals, as the Chiefs (9-6) dashed what faint postseason hope the Dolphins (6-9) still harbored.
Jay Cutler threw for 286 yards and a touchdown, but a chunk of that came on a 65-yard toss to Jakeem Grant late in the first half. Otherwise, Miami struggled against a defense that has been stingy and opportunistic the past two weeks.
That's coincided with the return of Marcus Peters from his disciplinary suspension.
The Chiefs' star cornerback had two interceptions and forced a fumble against the Chargers last week, a win that pushed them to the brink of the playoffs. He recovered a fumble and forced another on Sunday, giving Peters a hand in five turnovers the past two weeks.
PATRIOTS 37, BILLS 16
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady passed for a pair of touchdowns and the Patriots stayed on track to claim home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Dion Lewis caught a touchdown pass and rushed for a 4-yard score. He carried 24 times for a career-high 129 yards. It was just his second-career 100-yard game. Mike Gillislee, active for the first time in six games, added a 1-yard rushing touchdown
New England (12-3) can lock up first-round bye with either a Pittsburgh or Jacksonville loss.
Even with the loss, the Bills (8-7) remain in contention to break their 17-year playoff drought. It is longest active streak in North America's four major professional sports. It is the longest postseason absence since NFL merger in 1970.
New England has won at least 12 games in eight straight seasons — an NFL record.
Buffalo stayed close throughout and went into halftime locked in a 13-13 tie. But the Bills managed just three points in the final 30 minutes, after a touchdown at the end of the first half was taken away.
Trailing 13-10, Buffalo was in position to take the lead, but an apparent 4-yard touchdown pass from Tyrod Taylor to Kelvin Benjamin in the corner of the end zone was overturned after an official review.
NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron said in a Twitter post Benjamin was juggling the ball and was only able to get one of his feet down before completing the catch.
CHARGERS 14, JETS 7
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Philip Rivers threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Gates and Melvin Gordon ran for a score, and the Chargers stayed alive in the AFC playoff race.
The Chargers (8-7) entered the weekend needing to win both of their remaining games — including next Sunday at home against Oakland — and get lots of help elsewhere to remain in the mix. Rivers & Co. held up their end of things, but barely.
Los Angeles, which started the season 0-4, had a tough time getting much going against a spirited effort by the defense of the Jets (5-10). Rivers finished 22 of 40 for 290 yards.
Gordon had 81 yards on 19 carries, but left late in the game with an ankle injury. He remained standing on the sideline as the Chargers tried to run out the clock.
Bryce Petty, making his second start this season in place of the injured Josh McCown, struggled all game. He missed open receivers and repeatedly flexed his right hand, which he banged up early in the game. But he remained in, going 15 of 28 for 119 yards and an interception.
Bilal Powell was the bright spot for the Jets' offense, rushing for 145 yards, including a 57-yard TD, on 19 carries.
BENGALS 26, LIONS 17
CINCINNATI — Giovani Bernard ran for 116 yards and a clinching touchdown in the closing minutes that eliminated the Lions from playoff contention and gave Marvin Lewis a good moment in what was possibly his final home game as Bengals coach.
Matthew Stafford and the Lions (8-7) couldn't take advantage of an injury-depleted team that gave indifferent performances the last two games. It was a fitting finish for Detroit, which opened the season 3-4 and repeatedly wasted chances to move to the forefront of the playoff chase.
Tion Green's 5-yard touchdown drive put the Lions ahead 17-16 early in the fourth quarter, but defensive penalties extended Cincinnati's drive that led to Randy Bullock's go-ahead kick with 4:42 left.
Given one last chance, Detroit self-destructed with a holding penalty, a false start and a short punt, allowing the Bengals (6-9) to finish it off in front of a half-empty stadium.
BEARS 20, BROWNS 3
CHICAGO — The Browns got pushed to the brink of a winless season, hurt by two more interceptions by DeShone Kizer and two turnovers in the red zone against Chicago.
One more loss and the Browns will join the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to go 0-16. Last year, Cleveland was 0-14 before getting its only victory on Dec. 24.
And the Browns will wrap up the season at AFC North leader Pittsburgh next week. Then again, the Browns (0-15) keep racking up losses no matter whom they're playing.
They're 1-30 in two seasons under coach Hue Jackson.
Rookie QB Kizer threw for 182 yards and ran his league leading-interception total to 21. One of those was to a wide-open Kyle Fuller in the end zone in the second quarter.
Defensive end Myles Garrett had what looked like a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter wiped out because Carl Nassib was offside.
Rashard Higgins lost a fumble near the goal line that Chicago (5-10) recovered in the end zone.
49ERS 44, JAGUARS 33
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Jimmy Garoppolo threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score against one of the NFL's stingiest defenses and the 49ers won their fourth straight behind their new quarterback, beating the Jaguars.
The day wasn't a total loss for the Jaguars (10-5), who clinched their first division title since 1999 earlier in the afternoon when Tennessee lost at home to the Rams. But the defeat dealt a big blow to Jacksonville's hopes for a first-round bye. The Jaguars need to win next week and hope Pittsburgh loses twice to get a bye.
The 49ers (5-10) saw their playoff hopes die a long time ago during an 0-9 start but the mood and play around the team changed dramatically after Garoppolo was inserted into the starting lineup earlier this month following a midseason trade from New England.
He has led San Francisco to four straight wins but this one might have been the most impressive, considering the quality of Jacksonville's defense. The Jaguars came into the game having allowed the fewest points and yards passing in the league, while recording the most sacks.
REDSKINS 27, BRONCOS 11
LANDOVER, Md. — Kirk Cousins threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns in what could be his final home game for the Redskins.
Cousins was 19 of 37 with TD passes to Jamison Crowder , Josh Doctson and Vernon Davis and an interception. He became the first quarterback in Washington history with three seasons of 25 or more TD passes, and needs 65 yards for his third in a row with 4,000-plus yards.
Washington's 386 offensive yards are third most by a Denver opponent this season, behind only Philadelphia and New England. The Broncos came in giving up an average of 276.8 yards a game.
The Redskins (7-8) came 78 seconds from not allowing a touchdown for a second consecutive game for the first time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Washington had allowed a combined 68 points in its previous two games before clamping down against Arizona and Denver.
After a week of uncertainty, Brock Osweiler started at QB over Paxton Lynch for the Broncos (5-10) and was 22 of 38 for 193 yards with a fumble and an interception