Patriots down Bengals to seal playoff berth
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Los Angeles (AFP)
Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns as the New England Patriots clinched a playoff berth for the 11th straight season on Sunday with a 34-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The reigning Super Bowl champions showed no sign of being bothered by this week's illegal filming controversy on their way to a clinical win that assures them of a place in the postseason.
Patriots receiver N'Keal Harry -- controversially denied a touchdown in last week's defeat to Kansas City -- provided one of the game highlights, losing his coverage to make a spectacular diving touchdown catch in the third quarter.
Harry's score helped the Patriots into a 20-10 lead which soon became 27-10 when cornerback Stephen Gilmore intercepted Andy Dalton for a pick six shortly afterwards.
Patriots quarterback Brady finished with 128 passing yards as Bill Belichick's team improved to 11-3 at the top of the AFC East.
The win capped a controversial week for the Patriots, who are currently facing an NFL investigation after a team of videographers was caught improperly filming the Bengals during their game against Cleveland last week.
The Patriots, who were sanctioned by the NFL in 2007 for illegally filming teams, have said the film crew was obtaining footage for documentary about a team scout.
In other early games on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers edged closer to the playoffs with a 21-13 win over the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.
Aaron Rodgers threw for one touchdown and 203 yards as the Packers improved to 11-3 at the top of the NFC North with the win.
The Packers will be guaranteed a postseason berth later Sunday if the Dallas Cowboys beat or tie the Los Angeles Rams in Texas.
Elsewhere Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks also closed in on a playoff spot after scoring a 30-24 road victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Quarterback Russell Wilson finished with two touchdowns and 286 passing yards.
The Seahawks, who improved to 11-3 in the NFC West, will seal a playoff place later Sunday in the event of defeats for the Rams or the Minnesota Vikings, who face the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Philadelphia Eagles meanwhile needed a late rally to defeat the Washington Redskins 37-27 to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot in the NFC East.
The Eagles, who will be guaranteed a postseason place if they win their remaining games, sealed victory with just under 30 seconds remaining when quarterback Carson Wentz picked out Greg Ward at the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score at 31-27.
Nigel Bradham then ran 47 yards for a fumble recovery touchdown on the final drive of the game to extend the lead.
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