NFL@L.A.: 2011 Week 16 coverage

Wrap-up: Lions 38, Chargers 10

December, 24, 2011
12/24/11
5:36
PM PT
A few thoughts on a momentous day and evening in Detroit:

What it means: The Detroit Lions clinched their first playoff berth since 1999 in convincing fashion, jumping on the San Diego Chargers for 24 first-half points and finishing strongly as well. The victory caps a three-year overhaul from the franchise's darkest moment, the 0-16 season in 2008, and cements the status of a new set of heroes for Detroit sports fans. For those asking, we don't yet know if the Lions will be the No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs.

Turning point: The Chargers threatened to make a game of it the third quarter, recovering an onside kick moments after closing the gap to 24-7 midway through the quarter. But on third-and-goal at the 4-yard line, cornerback Chris Houston broke up a pass intended for receiver Malcom Floyd in the end zone. The Chargers were forced to kick a field goal, a clear momentum swing that they never recovered from. Kudos to Houston for his play, which also included an interception and a total of four defensed passes.

StaffordWatch: There's no other way to say it: Matthew Stafford and the entire Lions passing offense were dealing all game long. From the opening play, a 46-yard jump ball that receiver Calvin Johnson caught against double coverage, the Lions had their way with the Chargers' defense. Stafford's final numbers: 29 completions in 36 attempts for 373 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 137.6 passer rating. In his past three games, Stafford has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. Obviously, that's how you want a franchise quarterback to respond in the playoff push. In the process, he set a new Lions record for the most passing yards in a season. It now stands at 4,518 yards.

Composure: Circumstances conspired to whip the team into a frenzy, and center Dominic Raiola was among those who let his pregame emotions get the best of him. I saw Raiola's pushing and shoving before the game and wondered if we were in for another penalty-filled, out-of-control performance. But the Lions appear to have put that phase of their season behind them. They were called for only three accepted penalties, losing a total of eight yards, and kept their composure throughout the afternoon. There was a moment when I thought tight end Tony Scheffler was going to go after a Chargers player post-whistle, but he smartly held back. Coach Jim Schwartz's no-tolerance policy has worked.

Rewards: I'm sure many Lions fans were thinking Saturday of friends and loved ones who suffered through years and years of substandard, playoff-less years of football. I couldn't help but marvel at how much bad football that longtime Lions beat writer Tom Kowalski covered in his 30-plus years on the job. Kowalski passed away last August, just before this wild season kicked off. Beat writers don't root for the teams they cover, but take it from experience, covering a playoff team is a lot more interesting than the alternative.

What's next: The Lions will close out the regular season -- and turn their attention TO THE PLAYOFFS -- next Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers.

Wrap-up: Steelers 27, Rams 0

December, 24, 2011
12/24/11
5:35
PM PT

Thoughts on the Steelers' 27-0 win over the Rams:

What it means: By routing the Rams (2-13), the Steelers (11-4) kept their hopes of an AFC North title alive and secured no worse than the No. 5 seed in the playoffs. Pittsburgh still needs the Ravens to lose in next weekend's regular-season finale to have any shot at the division title and a top-two seed. It was the Steelers' fifth win in six games.

No Roethlisberger, no sweat: The Steelers kept injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) active in case of an emergency, but there was nothing to worry about in this one. Charlie Batch was 15-of-22 for 208 yards in a workmanlike fill-in performance. His 46-yard pass to Mike Wallace in the fourth quarter set up a touchdown to increase the lead to 20-0 and essentially sealed the win.

Pound and ground: As expected, the Steelers hammered the NFL's worst run defense by gaining 169 yards on the ground on 28 attempts. Rashard Mendenhall recorded his second 100-yard game of the season with 116 yards and one touchdown. He almost had 100 yards by halftime. Mendenhall's longest run was 52 yards.

Dominating defense: The Steelers delivered their second shutout of the season and both times came against an NFC West team at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh limited the NFL's lowest scoring team to 232 yards. This was the second time in December that the Rams got shut out. The defense sacked Kellen Clemens three times.

Quiet yet impressive: Antonio Brown was a non-factor in the game with three catches for 34 yards. But Brown set a new franchise record with 2,048 all-purpose yards on the season. The second-year wide receiver broke the record of Barry Foster, who had 2,034 yards in 1992.

What's next: The Steelers wrap up the regular season at the Cleveland Browns. Pittsburgh beat the Browns, 14-3, earlier this month.

Wrap-up: Raiders 16, Chiefs 13 (OT)

December, 24, 2011
12/24/11
5:34
PM PT

A look at a thrilling 16-13 Oakland win:

What it means: The Raiders are still alive. The Chiefs are not. When Sebastian Janikowski’s 36-yard field goal went through the uprights, the Raiders became 8-7 and tied with Denver for first place in the AFC West. Denver owns the tiebreaker and can win the division title with a home win against the Chiefs next Sunday. Oakland will win the division with a home win against San Diego and a Kansas City win at Denver. If the Chargers lose at Detroit on Saturday, and if Denver and Oakland both lose in Week 17, Denver will win the division. Oakland is a game out in the wild-card race. It will need to win next week and hope for some help to make it as a wild card. Kansas City fell to 6-9 and was eliminated from playoff contention. It won the AFC West last year. It was Oakland’s fifth straight win at Kansas City, which is a team record. The Chiefs have gone eight straight games in which it has scored 19 points or less.

Big arm at the right time: After winning the coin flip to open overtime, Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 53-yard reception deep in Kansas City territory to set up the game-winning field goal. Palmer was decent on Saturday, but he came up big when he was most needed.

Seymour is a chip off the old block: Oakland defensive lineman Richard Seymour blocked two Ryan Succop 49-yard field goal attempts, including one at the end of regulation. Succop had tied a team record of 22 straight field goals made before the first block.

No shame for Romeo: I wouldn’t think this loss severely damaged Romeo Crennel’s hope to become the permanent head coach. Kansas City beat Green Bay last week to help Crennel’s chances. The Chiefs played hard on Saturday under Crennel and that will go a long way in helping his cause when the Chiefs evaluate the situation after the season.

Orton not great: In his second start as the Chiefs’ quarterback, Kyle Orton was just OK as he compiled 21 of 36 passes for 300 yards. Orton, though, threw two interceptions with the Chiefs driving that ending up killing Kansas City. The Chiefs are 2-for-9 in the red zone with Orton.

Penalties pile up: There were 26 penalties for 180 yards. Oakland was penalized 15 times for 92 yards. The Raiders are on pace to set an NFL record for penalties and penalties yardage in a season.

Wasting a fake: A penalty wiped out an Oakland touchdown on a fake field goal. That’s terrible. Sooner or later, opponents are going to catch onto Hue Jackson’s penchant for fakes. To waste a touchdown on a penalty is horrible.

Good defense: Both defenses failed late, but they both hung in for the most part. Oakland came into the game allowing 13 touchdowns in the past three games.

Bowe comes up big when it counts: Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe was great at the end of the game and he tied the game with a short touchdown reception; it was his first score in 53 catches.

What’s next: Oakland hosts San Diego and Kansas City plays at Denver.

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TEAM LEADERS

PASSING
Philip Rivers
ATT COMP YDS TD
544 378 4478 32
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
R. Mathews 285 1255 4.4 6
D. Woodhead 106 429 4.0 2
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
K. Allen 71 1046 14.7 8
A. Gates 77 872 11.3 4