For three quarters, the Ravens' defense stifled Ben Roethlisberger and held one of the NFL's best offenses in check. The Steelers couldn't get anything going offensively for much of Sunday afternoon, with the Ravens controlling both the ball and the clock for most of the game.
Two Baltimore linebackers (first Zachary Orr, then C.J. Mosley) capitalized on poor throws from Roethlisberger, picking him off deep in his own territory twice during the third quarter. Orr's pick led to a touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Steve Smith; Mosley's led to a field goal.
At that point, Baltimore led 20-10. Then the Steelers went to work, scoring 21 points in the final 13:26 to wrap up a division title.
Check out all our takeaways from the Steelers' massive victory here. Want to know how we graded each team's performance, as well as every team that played this weekend? Read on.
Pittsburgh 31-27 over Baltimore
The Ravens really should have won this game. The defense played well for most of the game but just didn't have enough gas to keep the dangerous Pittsburgh offense at bay for 60 minutes. The Ravens can look to their offense for a share of the blame as well. Baltimore reached Pittsburgh territory on all five first-half possessions, and reached the red zone twice, but came away with only six points. They did better with their red zone opportunities after halftime (three red zone drives, two touchdowns and a field goal), but the early struggles ultimately came back to haunt them.
The Steelers deserved a "D" for their first three quarters of play on Sunday and then an "A" for rallying multiple times in the fourth quarter. They say that big-time players make big-time plays, and for the Steelers, that definitely held true. Big Ben finished 24 of 33 for 279 yards and three scores, overcoming his two interceptions to lead the Steelers to a win. Antonio Brown was held in check through three quarters, but he ultimately finished with 10 grabs for 96 yards and the game-winning score. Le'Veon Bell's final line: 122 yards on 20 carries, 15 more on three catches, and two total scores -- one in the air and one on the ground. Yeah. He's good. They all are.
Kansas City 33-10 over Denver
The Broncos played like they got coal in their stocking. Denver's usually reliable defense is starting to look like it's already checked out for the season. The Chiefs ran up 484 yards in total offense on the Broncos, which is something that hadn't been done against Denver since 2013. Offensively, the Broncos might have been even uglier: Their leading rusher (Devontae Booker) finished with 27 yards and their quarterback (Trevor Siemian) finished 17 of 43, which means he threw nine more incomplete passes (26) than completed passes (17). The Broncos likely won't be looking back on this Christmas with fond memories.
The Chiefs' offensive tandem of Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill played the role of Santa on Sunday and delivered a much-needed win for a Kansas City team that all of the sudden looks unstoppable. Kelce racked up a career-high 160 receiving yards, while Hill continued to wow everyone who watches him with a 70-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The rookie rushed for 95 yards in the game. The win gave the Chiefs their first sweep of the Broncos since 2000. This is a Christmas that they'll probably be talking about in Kansas City for years to come.
Saturday: The Browns are longer winless and it legitimately qualifies as a Christmas miracle.
This isn't an exaggeration. The Browns came into their Week 16 meeting with the Chargers with an 0-14 record and no real hopes of winning a game this season.
In fact, the last time the Browns scored more points than an opponent? December 13, 2015, back when Johnny Manziel was still a thing; Cleveland outpaced San Francisco, 24-10, and Manziel was a serviceable 21 of 31 for 270 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
In the 54 weeks since, the Browns were winless in 17 straight games. There was little reason for optimism -- they rank dead last in efficiency, according to Football Outsiders, well clear of the next worst team, the Jets. Their quarterback situation is a mess, only surpassed by the league's worst defense.
This was all part of the latest rebuilding effort, one that this time included hiring a former Los Angeles Dodgers executive in Paul DePodesta and a quarterback guru in coach Hue Jackson, and then accumulating a boatload of draft picks in an effort to stockpile some talent on a roster desperate for it.
Predictably, the results have been humbling -- hey, it's Cleveland -- though all the credit in the world to Jackson and his players for hanging in there. No one would have blamed them if they just threw up their hands and quit, even metaphorically, but it never came to that.
And their reward? After nearly four months of football, a single solitary victory is their Super Bowl. Yes, it comes against the five-win Chargers, but if "beggars can't be choosers" has ever applied, it's right at this very moment.
The Browns wouldn't care if they had beaten the one-win 49ers (again) or the 12-win Cowboys. It all counts the same, and now they can avoid the ignominy of joining the 2008 Lions, the only other team to go 0-16.
But perhaps the win shouldn't be that big of a surprise. We wrote last week that while the Browns' chances of winning their final three games were just one percent, according to SportsLine's Stephen Oh, those chances skyrocketed to 36 percent when we considered just the Chargers game.
There's still plenty to work out. The aforementioned quarterback situation looms large. Rookie third-round pick Cody Kessler has been serviceable under trying circumstances, while offseason signing Robert Griffin III has been ... well, bad. Griffin left Saturday's game early in the fourth quarter, after taking seven sacks and one big hit to the head.
Ironically, this was Griffin's best game of the season -- he finished 17 of 25 for 164 yards and no turnovers -- though it's unclear if he'll be available for the season finale in Pittsburgh, or what the organization's plans might be for him in 2017.
None of that matters now, in the minutes and hours after a Browns win:
God bless us, everyone ... except the Chargers, a team beset by injuries and bad luck, neither of which is an excuse for what happened at FirstEnergy Stadium on Saturday. Philip Rivers, who has seen just about everything in his 13-year career, finished 23 of 45 for 322 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.
But it was kicker Josh Lambo who leaves Cleveland as the goat. He honked two field goals, including a potential game-tying effort with seconds to go that was blocked:
There's an argument to be made that the Chargers didn't leave enough time on the clock for the kicking unit, but really, does it matter where you place the blame? San Diego lost to Cleveland.
Which brings us to this: How long until Mike McCoy is looking for work? We can't imagine that the Chargers give him the Gus Bradley treatment and fire him in the locker room but force him to take the team plane back home, but we wouldn't be shocked if, like Bradley, McCoy's celebrating Christmas with his family with no place to go on Monday.
Cleveland 20-17 over San Diego
There's not much to say: You just lost to the Browns. Mike McCoy's job status is the big question, and there's no guarantee he'll be around for the season finale against the Chiefs. If you're looking for the silver lining ... well, there isn't one, but tight end Antonio Gates finished with eight receptions for 94 yards and a score, leaving him just one shy of Tony Gonzalez's record for most career touchdowns by a tight end, and the defense finished with nine sacks. And yet, they still lost. So yeah.
Yes, there are those nine sacks allowed, and yes, it was about as ugly a win as you'll ever see, but it was a win. At this point in the proceedings, that's all that matters, because if it didn't happen on Saturday, the Browns would have had to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh next week to avoid joining the 2008 Lions as the only two teams to go 0-16.
Miami 34-31 over Buffalo
Credit to the Dolphins for finding a way to win in a hostile environment without their franchise quarterback. A year ago, the Jets were in a similar predicament, needing only a Week 17 victory in Buffalo to qualify for the playoffs ... and they Jets'd it. They lost, and a 10-win season was wasted. Well, Adam Gase's Dolphins aren't going down like that, and it's one of many reasons Gase, in his first season in Miami, deserves serious consideration for Coach of the Year honors. After a 1-4 start, the Dolphins are now 10-5, and remain firmly entrenched as a wild-card team with a Week 17 matchup against the Patriots looming.
We were ready to give the Bills' defense an F -- they allowed myriad big plays that allowed the Dolphins to jump out to an early lead -- but quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back LeSean McCoy had huge days (26 of 39, 329 yards, three TDs for the QB; 24 rushes for 128 yards and one TD for Shady). The Bills overcame a 28-14 deficit, took the game to overtime and only lost after -- wait for it -- the defense allowed a 57-yard Jay Ajayi scamper that set up the winning field goal.
New England 41-3 over New York
The good news: Coach Todd Bowles was on the sidelines. The second-year coach was hospitalized Friday for an unknown illness, but he felt well enough to fly to Foxborough and join the team on Saturday. He probably wishes he stayed home. It was clear early that the Jets, now 4-10, weren't interested in playing football. They trailed 41-0 before finally converting possibly the most meaningless field goal of the season. Real questions remain about Bowles' job security, even though he led the team to 10 wins a season ago. The team also has to figure out its quarterback situation; Ryan Fitzpatrick is all but gone, but who knows if Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg are answers.
This is how quickly things got out of hand: Bill Belichick, who is known to keep his starters in from start to finish, pulled Tom Brady in the third quarter. Brady was an efficient 17 of 27 for 214 yards and three scores, and Julian Edelman led all receivers with 89 yards on five catches.
Jacksonville 38-17 over Tennessee
On Saturday morning, the Titans were our favorites to win out and make the playoffs. The Jaguars, who fired their coach last week, had different ideas. They dominated the Titans for much of the afternoon, and led 25-10 when Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota suffered a broken leg late in the third quarter. The injury effectively ended the Titans' season, one that was in stark contrast to last year's 2-14 effort.
Here's all you need to know: Not only did Blake Bortles avoid an interception (stupid or otherwise), but he completed nearly 70 percent of his passes (26 of 38) for 325 yards and a touchdown -- and he even caught another touchdown pass, which led to the best tweet we saw Saturday, even if it wasn't entirely true given Bortles' stat line:
The Jags, who were 14-48 under the just-fired Gus Bradley, are now 1-0 under interim coach Doug Marrone.
Green Bay 38-25 over Minnesota
It really feels like the football gods have turned their backs on Minnesota. The 2016 season got off to a promising start for the Vikings. After losing Teddy Bridgewater in late August and trading for Sam Bradford days later, Minnesota won five straight and sat alone in first place in the division, Bradford looked like a legit franchise quarterback, and the defense was among the best in the league. That was in early October. Then the Vikings had their bye and in the weeks and months since, they've gone 2-8, coach Mike Zimmer almost lost an eye, and then, on Friday night hours before they faced Green Bay in one of the most important games of the season, their plane ran off the runway and got stuck. Luckily, no one was injured, but the incident serves as a metaphor of the last three months of the season.
Remember when we were all talking about Aaron Rodgers being over the hill? Turns out, that may have been an overreaction because Rodgers is just fine. Better than fine, in fact, as evidenced by his recent performances, including what he perpetrated against the Vikings. Rodgers finished 28 of 38 for 347 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. We'll join the chorus chattering heads in saying that nobody wants to see this team in the playoffs.
Washington 41-21 over Chicago
Nice bounce-back win by the Redskins on the road after no-showing against the Panthers last Monday night. Whether it's a case of too-little-too-late remains to be seen -- Washington, now 8-6-1, will need some help to get into the playoffs -- but it's always encouraging to have your offense play well. Kirk Cousins was 18 of 29 for 270 yards and a touchdown; Mack Brown had eight carries for 82 yards, and DeSean Jackson had five catches for 114 yards.
It's hard to really pass judgment on a team mired in injuries, without their franchise quarterback, and talking about his replacement, Matt Barkley, like he could possibly be the short-term answer to whomever ends up becoming the Bears' next franchise quarterback. By the way, Barkley had two touchdowns, which is nice, but he also had five picks ... which is not. Jordan Howard rushed for 119 yards on 18 carries and Cameron Meredith added 135 yards on nine catches.
Atlanta 33-16 over Carolina
The Falcons are a step closer to wrapping up the NFC South and returning to the postseason for the first time since 2012. Their latest win gives them 10 on the season, and quarterback Matt Ryan (27 of 33, 277 yards, two TDs) continues to make a strong case for NFL MVP honors. If this all looks familiar it should; Ryan threw for 503 yards and four touchdowns when these two teams met earlier this season
The Panthers go as Cam Newton goes. That goes a long way in explaining the latest loss; Newton struggled with accuracy (again), completing just 18 of 43 passes for 198 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Silver lining: Greg Olsen became the first tight end in league history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Dark cloud: This will be the Panthers' fourth losing season under Ron Rivera in his six years as coach.
New Orleans 31-24 over Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers are fighting for a playoff spot and lost a game against a team that has nothing to play for. There's no excuse for that. Jameis Winston deserves blame for throwing two picks in the loss. So does the Buccaneers' defense, which failed to get a stop on the final possession. That would've given Winston a chance to tie the game at the end of regulation. But he didn't get that opportunity, and the Buccaneers might've blown their chance to earn a postseason spot.
Kudos to the Saints for playing the role of spoiler. Drew Brees was magnificent as always at home, throwing for 299 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas combined for 196 receiving yards. And the defense actually held its own for a change, forcing the turnovers it needed. The Saints are not in the playoff hunt, but they played well for a sub-.500 team.
Oakland 33-25 over Indianapolis
The Colts needed a win to have a chance to win the AFC South. They lost. Luck turned the ball over twice, but he's not the reason why the Colts sealed their second straight playoff-less season. Blame the defense, which couldn't force a stop until late in the game when Derek Carr departed with a broken fibula. The Colts let Carr throw three touchdowns in just over three quarters of actions and failed to force a turnover. They also allowed 210 yards on the ground. Don't be fooled by the final score -- the Colts were outplayed by the Raiders all game long.
The Raiders won the game, but they ultimately lost the battle that counted. In the fourth quarter, Carr left with a broken fibula, which means they likely won't have him during the postseason. Before he left, Carr was brilliant, throwing three touchdowns and posting a 122.6 passer rating. So was the running game, which racked up 210 yards (5.7 yards per carry). And the defense did well to limit the Colts -- especially if you take away the 10 points they scored in garbage time. This would've been an A-type of performance, but losing Carr (which isn't their fault, of course) lowers their grade one full letter. It also sucks for the entire league, as the playoffs just lost one of the best quarterbacks in the game.
Arizona 34-31 over Seattle
The Cardinals went into Seattle and won. The Seahawks might not be the juggernaut they once were, but beating them in Seattle is still a tough task. The Cardinals had nothing to play for but pride, and they still managed to pull it off. To do that, they got stellar performances out of David Johnson (136 yards from scrimmage) and Carson Palmer (10.9 YPA and a 111.7 passer rating). The defense also shut down the Seahawks until the fourth quarter. And, of course, give credit to Chandler Catanzaro. In a tough season, Catanzaro booted the game-winning field goal at the buzzer. The Cardinals beat one of the league's best teams in one of the league's toughest environments. They blew a 13-point fourth quarter lead, but they still pulled out a win in the end.
Oh, where to begin. For three quarters, the offense was anemic. In the first half, they failed to punch the ball in during a goal-line series. They failed to run the ball throughout the entire game, averaging 2.9 yards per carry as a team. Defensively, they failed to stop anything. Their only turnover came when Johnson just dropped the ball entirely on his own. And let's not forget about the botched extra-point, which would've given them a lead in the final minute. The Seahawks avoided an "F" because of their valiant fourth-quarter comeback. And Russell Wilson overcame a shaky start to throw four touchdowns. That's good, but not good enough.
San Francisco 22-21 over Los Angeles
The 49ers won a game they shouldn't have wanted to win. After the Browns lost, the 49ers just needed to lose their last two games to clinch the top pick in next year's draft. Instead, they won. But ... let's give them credit for winning a game, even if it came against the Rams. Colin Kaepernick led a game-winning drive in the final minute of the game, throwing a 10-yard touchdown to Rod Streater and running in the two-point conversion. Also, the 49ers finally didn't let an opposing team gouge them on the ground. They held Todd Gurley to 2.9 yards per carry. Progress!
The Rams' running game is so bad they couldn't get Gurley going against the league's worst rushing defense. Jared Goff is so bad he averaged 3.8 yards per pass. The Rams' defense is so bad they let Kaepernick engineer a game-winning eight-point drive -- without Carlos Hyde, who left with an injury. The Rams are so bad they lost to a 49ers team that hadn't won a game since Week 1 ... when they beat the Rams. The Rams are bad.
Houston 12-10 over Cincinnati
The Bengals get an "F" for mustering 10 points over the course of the game, losing to Tom Savage, and missing a field goal on the final play of the game. Their season is already lost, so they had no incentive to win, and it showed. The running game averaged 2.6 yards per carry. Andy Dalton averaged 6.5 yards per pass -- a figure that is only that high because of Brandon LaFell's 86-yard touchdown (most of those yards came after the catch). Like the Texans, the Bengals didn't deserve to win. Unlike the Texans, they didn't win.
The Texans needed to beat the lowly Bengals to win the AFC South. They got the win, but the game that they won was one of the worst games of the season. They only came out on top because Randy Bullock -- their former kicker -- missed a 43-yard field goal as time expired. If Bullock had made that kick, the Texans would've lost because their kicker, Nick Novak, had a blocked extra point in the fourth quarter. Tom Savage no longer looked like an upgrade over Brock Osweiler. He went 18 of 29 for 176 yards and a 79.1 passer rating. That's what kind of game the Texans won. But we'll still see them in the postseason. Yay.