Steelers wrap up AFC North title, set up showdown with Pats

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The Steelers (11-2) blew an early 14-point lead and found themselves trailing by 11 going into the fourth quarter before exploding for 19 points over the final 15 minutes.
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Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker TJ Watt causes Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to fumble to end their NFL game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on December 10, 2017. The Steelers won 39-38.

Ben Roethlisberger's record-setting day finished with a carry just as valuable as any of the franchise-record 66 passes he threw.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers poured onto the Heinz Field turf to celebrate a frantic 39-38 victory over Baltimore that wrapped up their third AFC North title in four years, Roethlisberger grabbed the familiar No. 50 jersey of injured linebacker Ryan Shazier and joined in the party.

An emotionally draining week for the Steelers ended with Shazier recovering from spinal surgery in a nearby hospital but still very much in the middle of things. Just like always.

"We love our brother," Roethlisberger said. "We wanted to get this one for him, and I'm glad we did."

Barely.

The Steelers (11-2) blew an early 14-point lead and found themselves trailing by 11 going into the fourth before exploding for 19 points over the final 15 minutes, the last three coming on Chris Boswell's 46-yard field goal with 42 seconds left.

"I think championship teams find ways to win," Roethlisberger said.

Having an offense that is starting to peak after a sleepy start certainly helps. Roethlisberger threw for 506 yards and two scores to become the first player in National Football League history to go over 500 yards passing three times in his career. Antonio Brown caught 11 passes for 213 yards to fuel an MVP candidacy that no longer feels so far-fetched, including gains of 57 and 34 yards in the fourth to spark Pittsburgh's comeback and running back Le'Veon Bell finished with 125 total yards and three scores.

"It's an amazing feeling, especially for Ryan Shazier," Brown said. "One of our brothers couldn't be out here today. Obviously, he is watching."

Shazier suffered his injury in the first quarter of a victory over Cincinnati last Monday. He underwent surgery on Wednesday and Roethlisberger visited him on Thursday.

"When you walk in and see him and see the smile and give him a hug, it really has taken that weight off and let us breathe a little easier," Roethlisberger said.

The Steelers have done their best to let Shazier know is very much a part of their run. Linebacker James Harrison borrowed a page from Shazier's pregame routine and warmed up shirtless even with the temperature hovering around freezing. Shazier's helmet and jersey spent the game on the bench and several Steelers wore cleats with a special design featuring Shazier's face and the popular #Shalieve hashtag.

"It was very emotional," linebacker Arthur Moats said. "Any time you can bring something to him that brings him some type of joy, some type of happiness, that's good. At the end of the day we're just trying to make sure he's good."

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Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell scores a fourth-quarter touchdown as Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce gives chase at Heinz Field during their NFL game on December 10, 2017.

Baltimore (7-6) meanwhile, saw its surge back to contention blunted after its defense spent the fourth quarter fruitlessly chasing Brown from one side of the field to the other.

"This is going to sting for a while," Ravens safety Eric Weddle said. "Especially the guys on defense because we care so much and we hold ourselves to a high standard."

The Ravens certainly didn't meet it after giving up 545 yards to the Steelers. Pittsburgh scored on its last four possessions. It's not like the Steelers were taking advantage of a short field. All eight of their scoring drives went at least 50 yards, including two of 80 or more.

"I think in the fourth quarter the defense dropped the ball tonight," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "That's kind of been our thing all year, consistency."

The win sets up the AFC game of the year next Sunday when Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions New England Patriots visit. New England beat the Steelers twice last season, including a lopsided 36-17 blowout in the AFC title game.

"We're going to give respect where respect is due now," Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey said. "But they're not Superman. They lost this season, right?"

In Los Angeles, Carson Wentz threw for 291 yards and four touchdowns before leaving with a knee injury, and Jake Elliott kicked the go-ahead 33-yard field goal with 3:45 left as the Eagles clinched the NFC East title with a 43-35 win over the Rams.

Two sources familiar with the injury said that doctors believe Wentz has torn his left anterior cruciate ligament and will miss the rest of the season and playoffs.

Wentz needs an MRI to confirm the severity of the injury. Both people spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.

Wentz was hit hard as he scrambled into the end zone on a play that was called back because of holding. He stayed in the game and threw a 3-yard TD pass to Alshon Jeffery four plays later to give the Eagles the lead.

Foles replaced Wentz on the next drive for Philadelphia (11-2).

The NFC West-leading Rams (9-4) then went up 35-31 on Todd Gurley's second short TD run.

Elliott kicked a 41-yard field goal to pull the Eagles to 35-34. His go-ahead field goal was set up when Chris Long, a second-round draft pick of the then-St Louis Rams in 2008, had a strip-sack of Jared Goff, with Rodney McLeod recovering.

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Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy runs with the ball while being defended by Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo during the first half of their NFL game at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York, on December 10, 2017. The Bills won 13-7.

In Orchard Park, New York, LeSean McCoy scored on a 21-yard run with 1:33 left in overtime to secure the Buffalo Bills' 13-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in a wintry, white-out setting best suited for snow shoes and sled dogs.

McCoy finished with 156 yards rushing and topped the 1,000-yard mark for the sixth time in his career on a slick, snow-covered field.

The Bills' sideline erupted after McCoy's TD, with numerous players running on to the field to either make snow angels or engage in celebratory snowball fights.

Buffalo (7-6) stayed alive in the AFC playoff picture, while the Colts (3-10) were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

The game began in nearly white-out conditions with a major lake-effect storm blowing in off nearby Lake Erie. The snow fell so hard a half-hour before kickoff it was nearly impossible to see New Era Field's west-end scoreboard from the east-end stands.

McCoy's TD came on Buffalo's second possession of overtime. Facing third-and-2, McCoy found a crease up the middle and had enough footing to cut to his left and scamper into the end zone untouched.

It was a topsy-turvy game played in a snow-globe setting, with a regular parade of work crews taking the field with snow blowers on their backs to clear the yard lines.

Early in the third quarter, fans were even treated to a rare meteorological event of "thunder snow," as lightning flashed over the stadium. The game was not stopped.

So much snow accumulated on the roof of the first-level suites that fans began building snowmen.

Elsewhere in the NFL, it was: Jaguars 30, Seahawks 24; Packers 27, Browns 21; Panthers 31, Vikings 24; Bears 33, Cowboys 30, Giants 10; Bengals 7; 49ers 26, Texans 16; Lions 24, Buccaneers 21; Broncos 23, Jets 0; Chiefs 26, Raiders 15; Cardinals 12, Titans 7; and Chargers 30, Redskins 13.


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