By Milt Northrop
Tribune News Service
Three AFC division races were wrapped up in a nice Christmas bow in Sunday's Week 15 games in the National Football League, but there still is plenty of drama left for the remaining two weeks of the regular season.
New England in the East, Indianapolis in the South and Denver in the West all clinched their titles on Sunday, but the races in the AFC North and the NFC North have virtual ties at the top and just one game separates Arizona and Seattle in the NFC West. New Orleans could pad its slim lead over Atlanta and Carolina in the NFC South by winning at Chicago on Monday night.
A capsule look at Sunday's Week 15 games:
Game of the day
Seahawks 17, 49ers 7
The scoop: Marshawn Lynch rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown, Russell Wilson threw a touchdown pass to rookie Paul Richardson, and Seattle knocked San Francisco from playoff contention. The defending Super Bowl champions remained in contention for a division title and No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Seattle awoke in the final 30 minutes behind the running of Lynch and a defense that held the 49ers to 67 yards. Colin Kaepernick was sacked six times and the 49ers didn't run a play past the Seattle 38 in the second half.
Why the Seahawks won: Thanks to their defense they started their two touchdown drives at their own 40 and at the 49ers' 44.
Patriots 41, Dolphins 13
The scoop: New England clinched the AFC East title for the sixth straight season as Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes in a 24-point third quarter, a team record for points in that period.
Why the Patriots won: They scored on five straight possessions in the second half.
Colts 17, Texans 10
The scoop: Andrew Luck threw two touchdown passes and the Colts won their second straight AFC South title. It wasn't easy. Luck was 18 of 34 with 187 yards and one interception. Houston lost starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick with a left leg injury in the second quarter. Rookie Tom Savage replaced Fitzpatrick and was ineffective, going 10 of 19 for 127 yards.
Why the Colts won: Houston's seven first-half series ended with five punts, a turnover and once on downs.
Broncos 22, Chargers 10
The scoop: Peyton Manning played through a thigh injury and flu-like symptoms and Connor Barth kicked five field goals as Denver clinched a fourth straight AFC West title. Manning came out of the game late in the second quarter after he apparently hurt his thigh while blocking on a run by C.J. Anderson but returned to throw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas for a 16-3 lead in the third quarter. The Broncos' 12th straight division road win tied San Francisco's NFL record set from 1987-90.
Why the Broncos won: The Chargers managed only 56 rushing yards (2.8) average. Rookie Branden Oliver from was 12 for 26 yards (2.2 average).
Cowboys 38, Eagles 27
The scoop: Dallas blew a 21-0 lead, then rallied for second half touchdowns by DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant to take sole possession of first place in the NFC East and avenge a Thanksgiving Day loss to Philadelphia. Murray ran for two scores and Tony Romo passed to Bryant for 4, 26 and 25 yards.
Why the Cowboys won: They outgained the Eagles on the ground, 115-75, and intercepted Mark Sanchez twice.
Ravens 20, Jaguars 12
The scoop: Baltimore sacked Jacksonville rookie Blake Bortles eight times and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. The Ravens gained only 31 yards rushing through three quarters and scored just once with its offense on the field.
Why the Ravens won: They kept the Jaguars out of the end zone and shut them out entirely in the second half. All the Jaguars points came on field goals by Josh Scobee.
Steelers 27, Falcons 20
The scoop: Ben Roethlisberger threw for 360 yards and William Gay returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown as the Steelers (9-5) remained a half-game behind Cincinnati (9-4-1) in the AFC North. The Falcons slipped out of first place in the NFC South. Atlanta made a game of it, pulling within a touchdown on Ryan's 4-yard pass to Roddy White with 10:21 left.
Why the Steelers won: Gay's interception was the difference, but Atlanta didn't play like a desperate team. The Falcons punted once from the Pittsburgh 44 and settled for field goals after reaching the Steelers' 10 and 4.
Bengals 30, Browns 0
The scoop: Johnny Manziel spent his first NFL start being chased and taunted by Cincinnati defenders as the Bengals rudely welcomed the hyped rookie quarterback to the league. Manziel finished 10 of 18 for 80 yards and two interceptions.
Why the Bengals won: The Browns managed only five first downs. The only two first-half possession where they managed to move the ball at all ended in turnovers.
Lions 16, Vikings 14
The scoop: Matt Prater's 33-yard field goal with 3:38 remaining lifted Detroit to victory and pulled the Lions into a tie for first place in the NFC North. Detroit didn't have an easy time, spotting the Vikings a 14-0 lead. Detroit had to sweat out a 68-yard field goal attempt by Minnesota's Blair Walsh on the game's final play. The kick was short.
Why the Lions won: Trailing, 14-13, early in the fourth quarter they blocked a 26-yard field goal try by Walsh, then moved into position for Prater's game-winner.
Panthers 19, Buccaneers 17
The scoop: Derek Anderson, making his second start of the season in place of the injured Cam Newton, threw for 277 yards and a touchdown, Graham Gano kicked four field goals. Anderson was 25 of 40. Greg Olsen tied a career high with 10 catches for 110 yards.
Why the Panthers won: They dominated time of possession, 37:31 to 22:29, mainly because they held the Bucs without a first down on four straight third-quarter possession, and forced three second-half turnovers.
Out of the money
Giants 24, Redskins 13
The scoop: Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes to rookie Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants took advantage of an overturned touchdown at the end of the half. Manning and Beckham combined 12 times for 143 yards, with touchdown passes covering 10, 35 and 6 yards. At the end of the first half, it was ruled after video review that Robert Griffin III had fumbled the ball for a touchback, not a touchdown, while diving over the pylon.
While arguing the call, Redskins receiver Santana Moss bumped an official and was ejected.
Why the Giants won: They allowed the Redskins only one first down and just 10 yards total offense in the fourth quarter.
Jets 16, Titans 11
The scoop: Chris Ivory scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 3:09 left to gain the Jets their first win on the road this season. Geno Smith of the Jets threw for 179 yards and a TD. He also was apparently hit by Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, starting a brawl in the third quarter. Casey was flagged, but not ejected. The Titans lost their eighth straight.
Why the Jets won: They turned back the Titans twice in the red zone.