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Week 13 NFL Recap: The Cowboys Made the Playoffs Without Playing on Sunday

Dallas Cowboys v Minnesota Vikings
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Two long win streaks were snapped, and NFL playoff spots started to fill up in Week 13 of the 2016 NFL season. Here’s what we learned this week:

The Redskins’ Loss Put the Cowboys in the Playoffs

Washington Redskins v Arizona Cardinals
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Carson Palmer passed for 300 yards and three touchdowns, and the Arizona Cardinals beat the Washington Redskins, 31-23, on Sunday. The loss by Washington (6-5-1) clinched a playoff spot for Dallas (11-1). The NFC East-leading Cowboys won on Thursday in Minnesota.

David Johnson scored two touchdowns for Arizona (5-6-1), which stayed in the NFC playoff hunt as a result of the victory.
The lead changed hands four times in the second half on Sunday, but the Cardinals prevailed thanks to Palmer, Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, who caught 10 passes for 78 yards as he vaulted into third on the NFL’s career receptions list.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins was 21 of 37 for 271 yards and a touchdown for the Redskins. Washington can still make the playoffs, but they likely don’t feel great about Dallas clinching a postseason berth as a result of their loss.

The Giants Had No Answer for the Steelers Defense

New York Giants v Pittsburgh Steelers
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Pittsburgh’s defense allowed just 234 yards, and the Steelers dominated the New York Giants, 24-14, on Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 289 yards and two scores as Pittsburgh (7-5) won its third consecutive game.

Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell had 182 yards of total offense, including 118 on the ground. Teammate Ladarius Green caught six passes for 110 yards with a touchdown.

Eli Manning threw for 195 yards with two touchdowns and two costly interceptions for New York (8-4), which saw its six-game winning streak end. Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. caught 10 passes for 100 yards.

The Chiefs Are the Luckiest Team in the NFL

Kansas City Chiefs v Atlanta Falcons
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Eric Berry returned a 2-point conversion for a game-winning 2-point score, and the Kansas City Chiefs shocked the Atlanta Falcons, 29-28, on Sunday.

After Atlanta (7-5) surged ahead 28-27 on Matt Ryan’s five-yard TD pass to Aldrick Robinson with 4:32 left, the Falcons went for two points to prevent potentially being beaten by a late field goal. Berry, who returned an interception for a touchdown earlier in the game, again picked off Ryan to give the win to Kansas City (9-3). It was the first time in NFL history a player returned a conversion attempt for a score; all the others have been on blocked extra points.

The Chiefs had additional, late improbable wins over San Diego, Carolina and Denver this season on their way to one of the four best records in the NFL. Kansas City may not be that good, but they have been this lucky.

Alex Smith completed 21 of 25 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown for the Chiefs. Travis Kelce caught eight passes for 140 yards.

Julio Jones had seven catches for 113 yards for the Falcons.

The Ravens Stopped the Dolphins’ Win Streak

Miami Dolphins v Baltimore Ravens
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Joe Flacco threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns, and the Baltimore Ravens crushed the Miami Dolphins, 38-6. Baltimore (7-5) snapped a six-game winning streak by Miami (7-5) and won the yardage battle over the Dolphins, 386-215.

Playing with a lead for most of the game, the Ravens defense — the league’s second best — bottled up Miami running back Jay Ajayi (12 carries for 61 yards) and forced Ryan Tannehill to throw. That meant disaster for the Dolphins. Tannehill was 29 for 40 for 226 yards and three interceptions, with one meaningless touchdown in garbage time.

Baltimore led 24-0 at halftime. The Ravens stayed tied with the Steelers at the top of the AFC North.

No QB Has Won More Games Than Tom Brady

Los Angeles Rams v New England Patriots
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Tom Brady passed for 269 yards and a touchdown, and the New England Patriots easily beat the punchless Los Angeles Rams, 26-10, on Sunday. As a result of the win — his 201st as a quarterback — Brady surpassed Peyton Manning to become the NFL’s career leader in victories under center.

New England (10-2) remained tied with Oakland for the best record in the AFC. The Pats will face a gauntlet of contenders down the stretch, including Baltimore and Denver. They will have to win without All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had season-ending back surgery earlier this week.

Los Angeles (4-8) looked awful on the same day they announced a two-year extension for head coach Jeff Fisher. The Rams had just 25 yards of offense in the first half.

Colin Kaepernick Got Benched, but Nearly Everyone Played Badly

San Francisco 49ers v Chicago Bears
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Jordan Howard ran for 117 yards and three touchdowns, and the Chicago Bears gave the inept San Francisco 49ers their 11th straight loss, 26-6, on Sunday.

Niners’ head coach Chip Kelly benched quarterback Colin Kaepernick for Blaine Gabbert early in the fourth quarter, maybe because Kelly couldn’t bench himself.

Other than Howard, no offensive player had a great game for the two struggling teams. Neither Chicago (3-9), nor San Francisco (1-11) completed a pass in the first quarter on Sunday, tying a 28-year-old NFL record.

Kaepernick was just 1 for 5 for 4 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions when he was pulled. He was also sacked five times. Gabbert was 4 for 10 passing for 35 yards in Kaepernick’s place. (Yes, they both sucked.)

Matt Barkley was 11 for 18 for 192 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions for the Bears. No word on whether the Niners will offer him a multi-year deal this off-season.

Other Scores

Thursday, Dec. 1
Dallas 17, Minnesota 15

Sunday, Dec. 4
Green Bay 21, Houston 13
Detroit 28, New Orleans 13
Cincinnati 32, Philadelphia 14
Denver 20, Jacksonville 10
Oakland 38, Buffalo 24
Tampa Bay 28, San Diego 21
Seattle 40, Carolina 7

Bye Week
Cleveland, Tennessee

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