A frigid Christmas Eve in the NFL saw some red-hot performances as the Dallas Cowboys handed the Philadelphia Eagles just their second loss of the season.
The Minnesota Vikings created more NFL history with yet another close victory, while the San Francisco 49ers made it eight in a row in their storming end to the season.
The Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs remain locked in a battle for top spot in the AFC after they both earned 12th wins of the season.
Dallas down Eagles as historic Vikings close the gap
The Philadelphia Eagles, who were without injured star quarterback Jalen Hurts, missed the chance to secure top spot in the NFC after fierce rivals the Dallas Cowboys came from behind to win 40-34.
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott threw three touchdown passes to erase a 10-point lead opened up by Eagles back-up Gardner Minshew, who threw two TDs but came up just short of a last-second winner.
The Eagles still lead the way in the NFC at 13-2 and need to win one of their last two to be absolutely certain of earning a precious first-round bye in the play-offs, but they’ll want to see Hurts back on the field as soon as possible.
The Minnesota Vikings are just a game behind Philadelphia after they proved to be the undisputed kings of the close game with their 11th one-score win of the season – the most ever in one season in NFL history.
It was always going to be a close call against the New York Giants, who have won eight one-score games themselves this season so it was predictably unpredictable at the end as the Vikings followed up last week’s biggest comeback in NFL history with another league record.
Saquon Barkley’s touchdown pulled the Giants level ahead with just two minutes left, but Kirk Cousins had enough time to lead a drive to set up kicker Greg Joseph to land a team-record 61-yard field goal as time expired.
It’s the fifth game-winning kick Joseph has made this season as the Vikings improved to 12-3 with a 27-24 success that again highlighted how tough they are to beat in close games.
“You don’t blink. You don’t flinch. You don’t waver,” said Joseph. “Because we know where we’ve been, and we know what we’re capable of.”
Bills & Chiefs remain in battle to be AFC top dogs
Over in the AFC, the Buffalo Bills remain top seeds after a second-half blitz saw off the Chicago Bears 35-13 and won them the AFC East title for the third straight year after previously going 23 years without one.
The Bills weren’t at their best for their sixth win in a row, but a clinical second half in a freezing Chicago means two more will clinch the top seed, a week off and even more crucially, home field advantage throughout the play-offs.
The win, though, was not enough to earn the team the chance to wake up at home on Christmas morning as blizzard conditions back in Buffalo closed the airport, meaning the Bills had to stay the night in Chicago before trying to fly out to another airport.
“Yes, it’s a shame we can’t get home,” said Bills coach Sean McDermott. “But there are a lot of people who have got it a lot worse than we do out there, including some people back home right now.”
Buffalo hold the tiebreaker over the Kansas City Chiefs, who are also 12-3 after a comprehensive 24-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in yet more frigid conditions across the Midwest of America.
The Chiefs and Bills played out one of the best play-off games ever last season, and look set to battle it out again for top seeding and possibly the venue of the rematch.
Patriots shoot themselves in the foot… again
For the second week running, the New England Patriots produced an uncharacteristic huge late mistake to cost them a possible victory after responding from 22-0 down to just lose out to the Cincinnati Bengals 22-18.
Bill Belichick’s teams are usually the most well-drilled in the league, but last week a failed attempt at a trick in the last play of the game cost them at the Las Vegas Raiders while this week a Rhamondre Stevenson fumble just outside the end zone condemned them to a fourth loss in five.
“I was trying to make something happen, probably doing more than I was supposed to do. Probably should have just went down,” said Stevenson, after his fumble left New England’s play-off chances hanging by a thread.
It should have been a much easier seventh win in a row for the Bengals after going in 22-0 at half-time, but with a play-off spot locked up they are still fighting for the AFC North title as they look to get back to the Super Bowl for the second year running.
“We’ve got to do a better job on offense of putting teams away,” said Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. “Teams that want to win the Super Bowl put them away a little earlier.”
New England’s defeat meant the Baltimore Ravens belatedly booked their play-off spot while coach John Harbaugh was doing his post-match press conference after their 17-9 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Baltimore are still a game behind Cincinnati in the AFC North and will want QB Lamar Jackson back as soon as possible to spark something in attack, but their defence has excelled of late as they’ve only allowed over 14 points once in seven games.
San Francisco make it eight in a row
The San Francisco 49ers made it eight wins in a row with rookie Brock Purdy continuing to impress with another two TD throws in their 37-20 win over the Washington Commanders.
Purdy has slotted right in and played at a far higher level than many suspected the rookie picked last in the NFL Draft would do when he stepped in as San Francisco’s third-choice starter after injuries to Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo.
“I don’t really think about getting more and more comfortable or anything like that,” said Purdy. “I still have that same fire and drive as before when I wasn’t playing. I want to go in and I want to prove to my teammates and earn the respect every play, every snap, every drive.”
Elsewhere on Christmas Eve, the Detroit Lions saw their resurgent run halted by a 37-23 defeat at the Carolina Panthers, while the New Orleans Saints won 17-10 at the Cleveland Browns and the Houston Texans upset the Tennessee Titans 19-14.