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Chiefs win ninth straight

LANDOVER: Running back Chris Carson #32 of the Seattle Seahawks is tackled by strong safety Kamren Curl #31 and outside linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton #51 of the Washington Football Team in the first half at FedExField on December 20, 2020. – AFP

LOS ANGELES: Patrick Mahomes tossed three touchdown passes as the Kansas City Chiefs improved to an NFL best 13-1 with a 32-29 victory over Drew Brees’ New Orleans Saints on Sunday in Louisiana. Mahomes completed 26 of 47 passes for 254 yards as the defending Super Bowl champions won their ninth straight game in front of a pandemic-limited crowd of 3,000 at the Superdome arena. “We did a great job of running the ball and when we get the opportunity to throw the ball we are executing,” Mahomes said.

Brees, who was playing his first game since missing four contests with rib injuries, looked out of sorts completing 15 of 34 passes for 234 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. New Orleans dropped to 10-4 on the season losing their second straight after a nine-game winning streak. Brees’ first three passes were incomplete and his fourth was intercepted by L’Jarius Sneed, leading to Mahomes’ touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill and a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

On the first play of the second quarter, Mahomes threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce for a 14-0 lead. “It feels awesome to win by 20 or 30 points but when you have a team that finds ways to win no matter what the score is, those are the teams that win championships,” Mahomes said. With two weeks remaining in the season and the quest for playoff seeding hitting a key stage, the Chiefs took another step toward home-field advantage while the Saints missed a chance to wrap up the NFC South. “We played their hearts out,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “I’m proud of the effort.”

Elsewhere, the Seattle Seahawks punched their playoff ticket on Sunday, rushing for 181 yards and thwarting a late Washington rally in a 20-15 victory. Seattle are back in the post-season for the ninth time in 11 seasons under coach Pete Carroll. The Seahawks appeared to be cruising toward victory when they took a 20-3 lead early in the third quarter. Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde and quarterback Russell Wilson all topped 50 yards rushing.

Hyde scored one of the Seahawks’ two touchdowns on a 50-yard run and Wilson connected with tight end Jacob Hollister on the other. But a turnover and a spell of offensive doldrums opened the door to Washington backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who engineered two fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Sacks by Seattle defenders LJ Collier and Carlos Dunlap helped the Seahawks escape. Seattle improved to 10-4, notching a second straight victory as they look ahead to next week’s NFC West showdown with the Los Angeles Rams.

One day after the Buffalo Bills locked up their first AFC East division title in a quarter of a century, the New England Patriots-winners of the past 11 division titles-were officially eliminated from playoff contention. The Pats lost 22-12 to the Miami Dolphins, falling to 6-8. They are assured of a record of no better than .500 for the first time since 2000. “Disappointed,” coach Bill Belichick said of failing to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. “But we didn’t deserve to win today.”

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by former Pats quarterback Tom Brady, kept their bid for a first playoff berth since 2007 alive as they rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 31-27. Brady and the Bucs offense, forced to punt on their first four drives, came alive in the second half, scoring touchdowns on their first three drives. Receiver Antonio Brown’s first TD catch as a Buccaneer with 6:19 remaining made it 31-27 and Tampa Bay’s defense held firm down the stretch.

Brady, who won six Super Bowl titles in 20 seasons with the Patriots before landing in Tampa Bay, now has seven career comeback victories when trailing by 17 or more points. It was another bitter defeat at the hands of Brady for the Falcons. In the 2017 Super Bowl, Brady rallied the Patriots from a 28-3 deficit to a 34-28 overtime victory over Atlanta. But Brady said the Bucs need to avoid digging themselves such big holes. “We’re going to have to do it for 60 minutes, and that’s a big point of emphasis for us,” he said. “Everyone loves winning, but we also want to play better. We want to play our best.”

In Nashville, Ryan Tannehill threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more as the Tennessee Titans overpowered the Detroit Lions 46-25. The Titans remained tied atop the AFC South with the Indianapolis Colts, who defeated the Houston Texans 27-20. Elsewhere Sam Darnold threw for 207 yards and the New York Jets earned their first victory of the season, defeating the Los Angeles Rams 23-20 in Los Angeles. – AFP

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