Ravens edge closer to playoff berth; Vikings shut out Packers

AFP
The Ravens' workmanlike performance may have been short on aesthetics, but was effective and allowed them to maintain control of their postseason destiny.
AFP
Reuters

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett is tackled by Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Michael Pierce  in the fourth quarter of their NFL match at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, on December 23, 2017. The Ravens won 23-16.

The Baltimore Ravens continued their march towards their first National Football League playoff berth since 2014 with a 23-16 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday.

The Ravens' workmanlike performance may have been short on aesthetics, but was effective and allowed them to maintain control of their postseason destiny.

The Ravens improved to 9-6 and overtook the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills in the AFC wildcard race.

Buffalo takes on Super Bowl champions New England on Sunday (Monday China time) and the Titans host the Los Angeles Rams.

Regardless of other results, the Ravens can clinch a wildcard berth with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals in their regular-season finale next week.

"Next week will be a test, too," said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. "The Bengals play us tough all the time."

Flacco tossed a pair of touchdowns and was 29 of 38 for 237 yards for the Ravens, who seized the sixth playoff spot in the American Football Conference.

"This was a big test for us," said Flacco. "I was nervous on the sideline. I felt like I was in my living room watching a team that I was rooting for."

Baltimore was able to move the ball against the Colts' 30th-ranked defence, but struggled to find the end zone and too often had to settle for field goals.

Justin Tucker's third field goal of the game increased their lead to 16-7 to open the second half.

Colts linebacker Anthony Walker blocked a punt with 2:36 left in the game, giving his team the ball on the Ravens' 27-yard line. However, on fourth-and-10, Baltimore cornerback Maurice Canady knocked down a pass from Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett to seal the win.

Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri kept his team in the game with 48- and 38-yard field goals and Indianapolis trailed just 13-16 with 1:34 left in the third quarter.

Vinatieri's 30-yard field goal pulled the Colts to within 23-16 with 4:33 left in the game.

Reuters

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs catches a touchdown pass against Green Bay Packers cornerback Josh Hawkins in the first quarter at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on December 23, 2017.

In Green Bay, Wisconsin, the Minnesota Vikings shut out an opponent for the first time in nearly a quarter-century, beating the injury-depleted Green Bay Packers 16-0 to stay in the hunt for a first-round playoff bye.

Stefon Diggs caught a 4-yard pass from Case Keenum just inside the back line of the end zone in the first quarter for the only touchdown. The Vikings (12-3) have already clinched the NFC North and can secure a bye if Carolina loses or ties against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

The Vikings forced an incompletion into the end zone on fourth-and-4 from the 14 early in the fourth quarter to turn away the Packers' last best effort to get into the end zone. Safety Harrison Smith ended another Green Bay drive with an interception at the Minnesota 5 late in the second quarter.

Minnesota left frigid Lambeau Field with its first shutout since a 13-0 win over Detroit on December 5, 1993. It was the first shutout over the Packers (7-8) since November 14, 1971.

The Packers managed to hold a 239-236 edge in total yards. They were still shut out twice in a season for the first time since 2006.

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