Jaguars beat Bills 10-3 in ugly, sometimes unwatchable game

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Blake Bortles put together one decent drive all day, doing as much with his legs as his arm, and the defensive-minded Jacksonville Jaguars eked out an ugly and sometimes unwatchable 10-3 victory against the Buffalo Bills in an AFC wild-card game Sunday.

In the postseason for the first time since January 2008, the third-seeded Jaguars (11-6) advanced to play at No. 2 seed Pittsburgh next week.

The sixth-seeded Bills (9-8) will head home after ending the longest, current playoff drought in North American professional sports.

Bortles was a big reason Jacksonville won the game and a big reason it was so close.

This was far from a passing clinic. It was more like a painful exercise in overcoming poor passing.

Bortles was off most of the day, misfiring short and long, but made up for it with 88 yards rushing. He scrambled for a long first down run after fumbling the ball late, prompting a Bills assistant to slam a clipboard and eliciting a huge grin from Bortles.

“We weren’t sharp, we made some bad plays and did some stupid stuff, but we found a way to win and that’s all that matters,” Bortles said.

He completed 12 of 23 passes for 87 yards, with a touchdown. His TD pass to backup tight end Ben Koyack late in the third quarter was his best throw of the game. It also was a gutsy call on fourth-and-goal from the 1.

Bortles did the rest on the ground, scrambling for first downs and helping Jacksonville win its first playoff game at home since the 1997 season.

“You know, when we got beat last week at Tennessee, I didn’t run at all, so I thought we got beat without kind of shooting all of our shots, so I said it made it difficult, so let’s find some ways to move the ball and do some different stuff,” Bortles said.

The Bills had plenty of chances down the stretch, but a huge penalty against Charles Clay and then a tackle that knocked quarterback Tyrod Taylor out of the game ended any threat of a comeback.

Taylor slammed his helmet hard against the ground after getting thrown down by Dante Fowler Jr. He had to be helped off the field and forced backup Nathan Peterman into the game with 1:27 remaining. All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey tipped and then intercepted Peterman’s third pass, and the Jaguars ran out the clock.

“We prepare hard and we study a lot of tape, we practice hard,” Jaguars defensive lineman Calais Campbell said.

“We’re battle-tested, so we know that if we just keep playing ball, good things will happen.”

The Bills finished with 263 yards, with 119 of those coming from hobbled running back LeSean McCoy (ankle).

The Jags had a measly 230 yards. Leonard Fournette ran 21 times for 57 yards.

RUNNING PASSERS

Bortles is the second starting quarterback in the past 25 seasons to win a playoff game with more rushing yards than passing yards (88 rushing, 87 passing). The other was Atlanta’s Michael Vick in the 2004 divisional round against the Rams (119 rushing, 82 passing).

HUGE SWING

Trailing 10-3 with about six minutes to play, the Bills looked as if they picked up a first down on an 11-yard pass from Tyrod Taylor to Clay. Jacksonville players standing on the sideline pointed to Clay’s feet, and coach Doug Marrone threw the challenge flag. Officials overturned the completion, saying Clay was out of bounds and setting up a third-and-10 play from the Jacksonville 48-yard line. Linebacker Myles Jack sacked Taylor on the next play, forcing a punt.

INJURIES

Bills: Safety Micah Hyde left the game in the third quarter and was being evaluated for a concussion. Cornerback Tre'Davious White went to the locker room in the fourth to be treated for cramps. Safety Colt Anderson injured his right shoulder in the fourth trying to make a diving interception. Guard Richie Incognito (shoulder) and Clay (hamstring) left briefly in the first half but returned.

Jaguars: Linebacker Paul Posluszny left the game with a hip injury, tried to return and then headed to the locker room for further evaluation. He was listed as questionable and returned to the sideline after halftime. Receiver/punt returner Jaydon Mickens left with a hamstring injury and did not return.

UP NEXT

The Jaguars will play at second-seeded Pittsburgh next Sunday, a rematch from Week 5. Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions, and Jacksonville won 30-9. The Steelers have won 10 of 11 since, the lone loss coming against New England.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Bears fire coach John Fox after a 5-11 season

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Bears fired John Fox on Monday after a 5-11 season, ending one of the least successful coaching stints in team history.

The Bears announced the dismissal one day after a loss at NFC North champion Minnesota.

Chicago has had four consecutive losing seasons – each with 10 or more losses. The Bears haven’t finished above .500 since they let Lovie Smith go following a 10-6 finish in 2012. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2010.

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Fox was 14-34 in his three years with Chicago, a .292 winning percentage that ranks as the second lowest for the Bears. Only Abe Gibron was worse – 11-30-1 (.274) from 1972-74.

Fox likes to say that this is a “results-based business,” and the Bears clearly did not have much to show on that count. Fox’s conservative approach and some questionable decisions during games were also sore spots.

He is 133-123 in 16 seasons as a head coach and is one of six coaches to lead two teams to Super Bowl appearances, joining Don Shula, Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves, Dick Vermeil and Mike Holmgren.

Fox helped orchestrate quick turnarounds while leading Carolina and Denver to a combined six division titles and seven playoff appearances in 13 years before he took over Chicago in January 2015. But his time with the Bears was forgettable.

Hired shortly after the Bears brought in general manager Ryan Pace, Fox helped restore some of the professionalism in the locker room that was missing under former GM Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman.

The Bears went from six wins in 2015 to three in 2016 to five. They were 3-15 against the NFC North and dropped all six division games this year.

Injuries exposing a lack of depth have been a major issue since the regime change.

The Bears have had some big hits in the draft such as star running back Jordan Howard (2016, fifth round) and notable misses such as oft-injured receiver Kevin White (2015, first round). They have had a shaky record in free agency and struggled to replace some key players no longer with the team such as receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, tight end Martellus Bennett and kicker Robbie Gould.

Mike Glennon – signed to take over for Jay Cutler as the starting quarterback – was benched after struggling through the first four games this season. That forced Chicago to go with No. 2 overall draft pick Mitchell Trubisky and abandon the plan to use this as sort of a redshirt season for a player with just 13 college starts at North Carolina.

The Bears beat AFC North champion Pittsburgh in September and posted consecutive wins against Baltimore and Carolina in October. But it was a rough season overall. While Trubisky showed some promise, he also struggled at times. It didn’t help that he had no reliable receivers and was playing behind a banged-up line.

A loss to Green Bay following a bye really turned up the heat. Not only were the Packers missing the injured Aaron Rodgers, Fox had an ill-advised replay challenge near the goal line backfire into a turnover by the Bears.

Fox also left himself open to second-guessing in a 15-14 loss at home to San Francisco. Fox could have given his team a chance to win with a late touchdown drive by letting the 49ers score with 1 1/2 minutes remaining. It would have put San Francisco up by five and left Chicago with time.

Instead, Gould made a 24-yard field goal in the final seconds to give the 49ers their second win.

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Vikings get to 13-3 for playoff bye by beating Bears 23-10

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Minnesota’s defense turned in another dominant performance and Latavius Murray rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Vikings secure a first-round bye for the playoffs with a 23-10 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Stefon Diggs caught six passes for 65 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings (13-3), who reached 13 wins for only the second time in the history of the 57-year-old franchise after holding a second straight opponent without an offensive touchdown.

Mitchell Trubisky finished his rookie season with a turnover-free game, completing 20 of 36 passes for 178 yards. He failed, however, to guide the Bears (5-11) across the goal line despite 11 plays from the 10-yard line or closer in the fourth quarter.

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Trubisky also took a safety in the second quarter on an intentional grounding call when Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph closed in on a sack in the end zone and he side-armed a throw between the two pass rushers.

In what could have been the final game for coach John Fox, who’s 14-34 in three seasons, the Bears didn’t cross midfield until the fourth quarter and totaled only 30 yards rushing. They were penalized 10 times for 116 yards and went 1 for 14 on third and fourth down conversions.

The Bears are 1-5 against each of their three NFC North foes under Fox.

After a 31-24 loss at Carolina on Dec. 10, the Vikings took advantage of teams playing out the string in the last three games to get set for the playoffs.

Murray has rather quietly been one of their most productive players down the stretch, helping the Vikings move the chains and work the clock while the defense holds the lead.

Over the past two years, only Ezekiel Elliott (22 for Dallas) has more rushing touchdowns in the NFL than Murray (20, including 12 for Oakland last season).

SNEAKY SPECIAL TEAMS

The Bears stopped a streak of 90 minutes and 32 seconds by the Vikings without allowing a score, when Bryce Callahan returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown with 5:50 left in the second quarter. Callahan knelt near the sideline while Tarik Cohen lined up on the opposite side as the expected returner, before sprinting for a sliding catch of the kick that hung over the middle of the field. He leaped to his feet and veered left past the confused Vikings and untouched for the score.

The Bears pulled a pair of fast ones on the Vikings in their matchup earlier this season, when Benny Cunningham caught a pass from Pat O'Donnell on a fake punt for a 38-yard touchdown and Trubisky scored on a 2-point conversion play when the ball changed hands four times.

VIKINGS RECORD BOOK LOOK

The Vikings finished 12-2 four times with a 14-game schedule (1969, 1970, 1973 and 1975), but the only other time they’ve topped 12 victories was their 15-1 record in 1998. … Diggs became the fastest player in Vikings history to reach 200 receptions, in 40 games. … Adam Thielen had six catches for 61 yards and finished with 91 receptions for 1,276 yards for the season, finishing seventh and ninth in team history. Randy Moss and Cris Carter are the only ones ahead on either list.

LINE SHUFFLE

Vikings quarterback Case Keenum took his share of hits and never quite found the rhythm in the passing attack he was able to establish in most of his starts this season, behind an offensive line that has shown some wear down the stretch as the injury list has increased.

Joe Berger, who switched from right guard to center with Pat Elflein shelved for a shoulder injury for the second time in four weeks, was the only original starter to play in all 16 games. Mike Remmers moved from right tackle into Berger’s spot. Jeremiah Sirles started at left guard for Nick Easton, who will miss the playoffs because of a broken ankle.

INJURY REPORT

Bears: Two starting offensive linemen, LT Bobby Massie and RG Josh Sitton, did not suit up.

Vikings: FB C.J. Ham hurt his neck and was ruled out early in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

The Vikings enter the NFC playoffs with a bye for only the fourth time since the current format began in 1990. They’ll host one of the wild-card round winners on Jan. 13 or 14.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL