Chiefs send coach Vermeil out a winner
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs gave Dick Vermeil a near-perfect goodbye gift.
They couldn't give him what they really wanted, though — one more game as their head coach.
The Chiefs were unstoppable on offense and stifling on defense in yesterday's 37-3 victory over the playoff-bound Cincinnati Bengals. But Pittsburgh's 35-21 victory over Detroit kept the Chiefs (10-6) from reaching the AFC playoffs, meaning Vermeil's decision to retire at the end of the season takes effect immediately.
"I think they've demonstrated that they are a playoff-caliber football team," Vermeil said. "We just didn't get some things done that we had to get done at the time we needed to get them done."
Only Shayne Graham's first-quarter field goal kept the Bengals (11-5) from being shut out for the first time since 2001, and the AFC North champions take a two-game losing streak into their first playoff appearance in 15 years.
But at least they get to go, as the No. 3 seed hosting Pittsburgh in the first round Sunday.
"This game is over with, and we've got to move on," Bengals defensive end Justin Smith said. "It really doesn't mean anything."
The Chiefs' Larry Johnson ran for 201 yards and a career-high three scores on 21 carries, his ninth straight 100-yard game, and broke Kansas City's single-season rushing record.
Johnson, who scored two touchdowns 40 seconds apart late in the second quarter, finished with 1,750 yards rushing to break Priest Holmes' club record of 1,615 yards.
JAGUARS 40, TITANS 13
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville avoided another slow start and gained some much-needed momentum for the postseason. The Jaguars did it in surprising fashion, too, not needing a comeback thanks to the early work of David Garrard, who was 10 of 16 for 128 yards, filling in for Byron Leftwich.
The Jaguars scored 27 points in the first half for their eighth win in the last nine games.
"Two different things happened: We came out and executed real well from the start and they basically gave up and started looking ahead," tight end Kyle Brady said.
Jacksonville (12-4) had trailed in the second half in each of the past four games.
Tennessee finished 4-12.
BROWNS 20, RAVENS 16
CLEVELAND — Dennis Northcutt's 62-yard punt return helped Cleveland (6-10) win its sixth game under first-year coach Romeo Crennel.
Earlier this season, Northcutt twice brought back punts for TDs that were nullified by penalties. After his third-quarter jaunt, he checked to be certain there were no penalty flags and waved his arms like an official.
"I got one," Northcutt said. "No flags. Finally."
Baltimore fell to 6-10.
JETS 30, BILLS 26
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Justin Miller returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown with 5:58 remaining, and Ty Law had three interceptions.
After Buffalo (5-11) went ahead on Rian Lindell's 36-yard field goal, Miller took the ensuing kickoff and tiptoed down the sideline, finally providing the special teams score New York (4-12) lacked all season.
"We've been through a horrific season," Jets coach Herman Edwards said. "It's not fun for the players, it's not fun for the organization."