Jaguars edge Titans for playoff spot after Chiefs thump Raiders for AFC’s top seed | NFL

Jaguars edge Titans for playoff spot after Chiefs thump Raiders for AFC’s top seed | NFL

The Jacksonville Jaguars are AFC South champions for the first time in five years, a title secured when Josh Allen returned a punt 37 yards for a touchdown that helped them seal a 20-16 victory over Tennessee on Saturday night.

Rayshawn Jenkins forced Josh Dobbs to fumble and Allen took the jumper and ran, untouched, the other way for a lead that held against the Titans in a game-and-one in the regular-season finale for both.

Dobbs punted again on the ensuing possession and the Jaguars (9-8) began celebrating their most important regular-season win in franchise history.

“This was one of those games where our defense had to win it for us,” Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. “Us guys on offense, we’re a little bit frustrated because we gave up a lot, but in these games, you just win. Our defense got us today. They played great.”

Jacksonville earned the No. 4 seed in the conference playoffs and will host either the Los Angeles Chargers or Baltimore in the wild-card round next weekend.

It is the 18th time in the last 20 seasons that at least one NFL team has won its division after finishing last or tied for last the previous year.

Jacksonville ended the regular season with their fifth straight win and became the fifth team in NFL history to enter the playoffs with a five-game losing streak and a five-game winning streak in the same season.

“We just kept believing,” Lawrence said. “No one has ever lost faith. Everyone believed in each other. We never started pointing fingers. “We lost five games in a row and just got tighter.”

Tennessee (7-10) has lost its last seven games, a skid that almost all but wiped them out before Saturday’s finale.

The Titans rested several starters last week and essentially created a 10-day layoff to get healthy. They reverted to their bruising brand of football and looked like they would pull off an unlikely turnaround – until Dobbs’ turnover changed the game.

The Jaguars were six-and-a-half-point favorites and a near-sellout crowd was on hand to witness what many thought would be more of a coronation than a scratch-and-claw nail-biter.

The Titans did nothing spectacular. With quarterback Ryan Tannehill (ankle) out for the season, they relied on Dobbs — an aerospace engineer who has bounced around the league — to be smart with the ball and Derrick Henry to dish out tough yards. And they relied on a defense that has been stout against the run all year.

It worked for 37 minutes – and then it crashed.

Henry finished with 109 yards on 30 carries. Dobbs completed 20 of 29 passes for 179 yards, with one touchdown, one interception and one touchdown.

Lawrence completed 20 of 32 passes for 212 yards, with one touchdown and one touchdown. Lawrence had two potential touchdowns in the second half that fell short. He overthrew Zay Jones in the end zone and overthrew Christian Kirk.

Kansas City Chiefs 31-13 Las Vegas Raiders

The Kansas City Chiefs don’t believe in locking up the AFC title. They want to have fun doing it.

Late in the first half Saturday against the Las Vegas Raiders, the Chiefs huddled and spun in a circle, burst into the shotgun with Jerick McKinnon running in for a direct hit. He faked a handoff to Kadarius Toney and returned it to quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who then threw Toney for a nine-yard touchdown.

But it didn’t count. A blocked penalty brought the game back. The Chiefs then scored anyway to take full control of what became a 31-13 win.

The show is called the Snow Globe or the Arctic Circle, depending on who you ask. But even if it didn’t count, it underscored the Chiefs’ creativity and willingness to have fun, even when playing for playoff positioning and a bye week.

“We talked about it from the other side, ‘Let’s see if we can have some confusion and throw something back,'” Mahomes said. “It worked. We just had the holding penalty. We’ve got some good stuff going into the playoffs and anything we run should work.”

That, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, was the bottom line.

“You want to (make it fun), but you also want to score,” Reid said. “It’s not fun when you don’t.”

Almost missing was the NFL record for total yards in a season that Mahomes set. He passed for 202 yards and rushed for 29 against the Raiders, giving him 5,608 total yards this season. That surpassed the record of 5,562 yards set by Drew Brees in 2011 with the New Orleans Saints.

“Pat was on fire,” Reid said. “He’s throwing these (stats) out there like they’re nothing.”

More than setting the mark, Mahomes helped secure the top seed for the Chiefs (14-3) and a bye in the first round of the playoffs, which begin next weekend. Kansas City, however, is not assured of home field advantage throughout the postseason.

Because Monday night’s Buffalo-Cincinnati game was canceled, the Chiefs could end up playing the Bills or Bengals in the AFC Championship at a neutral site. The Buffalo-Cincinnati game was originally postponed after Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest. Hamlin remains in critical condition but is improving.

This was the first NFL game played since Hamlin was hospitalized. Both teams wore black jerseys in the warm-up that read “LOVE FOR DAMAR” with his number 3 in the middle. Mahomes also wore a hoodie that had a drawing of the player with “HAMLIN STRONG” underneath it.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) runs the ball as Raiders defensive end Clelin Ferrell (99) goes in during the first half Saturday at Allegiant Stadium. Photo: Gary A Vasquez/USA Today Sports

Instead of a moment of silence before the game, the Allegiant Stadium public address announcer asked fans to cheer for Hamlin’s recovery.

“It was definitely weird,” Mahomes said of being back on the court. “It’s a game you love, you play your whole life. It has brought you many great things. But obviously, with the situation that happened Monday night with Damar, that’s still in the back of your mind. You want to be there for it, and there’s a lot bigger than football.”

The Chiefs matched their franchise record for regular-season wins, set in 2020, and they set a team mark with their 17th straight game of at least 300 yards of offense.

The Raiders (6-11) finished their first season under coach Josh McDaniels with three straight losses and four losses in five games. They made the playoffs a year ago, but now face serious questions at quarterback, on the offensive line and throughout the defense.

Jarrett Stidham started his second straight game in place of the sidelined Derek Carr, and this appearance didn’t go as well as the first. Stidham completed 22 of 36 passes for 219 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked six times.

A week earlier, he threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-34 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Stidham said he hasn’t given much thought to trying to keep the starting job next season with the Raiders.

“Do I feel like I’m that caliber of player in this league?” he said. “Absolutely. I just tried to be ready for my opportunity these last two weeks and try to take full advantage of it.”

Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, who was dealing with hip and oblique injuries as well as a reported family emergency, was a game-day decision but played. He rushed for 45 yards and could possibly win the NFL rushing title with 1,653 yards.

But Jacobs fell short of the franchise rushing record of 1,759 yards set by Marcus Allen in 1985. That was potentially Jacobs’ last game as a member of the Raiders because his fifth-year option was not picked up. His performance this season has given Las Vegas officials plenty to consider.

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