And so we come to the last Post-Mortem of the regular season. So many of these carcasses -- Houston, Atlanta, Washington, Tampa -- seem thoroughly picked over at this point, but they still found ways to lose yet again. Maybe one day we'll live in a just world, where once an NFL team loses 10 games it just gets to be done for the year. (The owners will still charge fans for the full season, of course, because the owners hate you and want you to be poor forever.)
Atlanta 20, Carolina 21
Time of Death: The Falcons had the ball at their own 43 with 35 seconds left, looking very capable of driving far enough to give Matt Bryant a chance to win the game. And then they got REAL Atlanta with it. (Don't ever get REAL Atlanta, unless you're looking to rob a weave store. Then go as Atlanta as you can.)
Cause of Death: Carolina sacked Matt Ryan NINE times, the highest total the Falcons have given up in a game since 2001. Ryan finishes the season having been sacked 44 times; before 2013, the most he'd taken in a year was 28 sacks. That's not all a product of Atlanta's pass-heavy offense either, as Ryan only threw the ball 36 more times this season than he did in 2012 but saw his sack percentage jump almost two full points.
Baltimore 17, Cincinnati 34
Time of Death: Down 10 points. Four minutes left. A playoff spot in the balance. Truly, this was time for the NFL's highest-paid quarterback to prove his worth, and prove it he did, throwing an interception that was run back for a touchdown to end Baltimore's season.
Cause of Death: I think we're all better off not having to watch Baltimore attempt to run the ball anymore. After finishing with 47 yards on 14 carries against the Bengals, the Ravens will wind up 32nd in the league in yards per carry, a fact that gets even sadder when you realize they rank 18th in rushing attempts. Never say the Ravens were quitters, even when they should have been.
Houston 10, Tennessee 16
Time of Death: There's a certain poetry to the last offensive play of Houston's season being a Matt Schaub interception. A boo-able poetry, sure, but poetry all the same.
Cause of Death: Eleven Texans games this year were decided by seven points or less, but Houston only went 2-9 in those games. That's the team's worst winning percentage in close games since 2005, when the Texans also finished 2-14 and fired the head coach. Finally, proof that progress is an illusion and we are all doomed to repeat our failures!
Jacksonville 10, Indianapolis 30
Time of Death: Leading by 17 at halftime, Indianapolis got the ball first in the second half and drove 80 yards in seven plays. Did we mention the Colts were the only team to finish with a perfect divisional record this year? Surely that has nothing to do with the state of the AFC South. Surely.
Cause of Death: It's a mathematical inevitability that one team will finish last in the league in total touchdowns every year, and, this year, that team is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who only reached the end zone 25 times. Six teams had more than double that, but two of them, Chicago and Dallas, aren't in the playoffs, so maybe Jacksonville just understands the value of conservation.
Miami 7, New York Jets 20
Time of Death: Miami still had a chance to come back from a 10-point deficit with four minutes left until Ryan Tannehill threw a pick on the first play of the drive, ensuring the Dolphins would not finish above .500 for the fifth straight year. The only other teams who haven't had a winning season over that stretch? The aforementioned Jaguars, Browns, Bills, Rams and the Raiders.
Cause of Death: Turnover on downs, interception, punt, interception, interception. Those are the results of Miami's drives in the second half, and also what a football suicide looks like.
Detroit 13, Minnesota 14
Time of Death: Three straight kneel-downs by Matt Cassel. That will end up being the last thing Jim Schwartz saw as head coach of the Lions, and it could only have been more perfect if Schwartz had called timeouts his team didn't have.
Cause of Death: You could pretend that you care that the Vikings ran for 174 yards (their third-best ground game of the year) on only 20 carries (8.7 yards per attempt, their most efficient game of the year). You could claim to be upset that they did so without Adrian Peterson. You could insist that it's unacceptable for Minnesota to average over 12 yards a carry on first down.
But those would all be lies. You are a Detroit fan in Week 17, and you do not feel feelings anymore.
Washington 6, New York Giants 20
Time of Death: On the last play of the third quarter, Giants wideout Jerrel Jernigan took a handoff and ran 49 yards to put New York up by 11 points.
Cause of Death: Keeping in mind that this was one of the worst seasons in Washington history, you have to appreciate that Kirk Cousins wrapped it up with the worst quarterbacking performance for the team all year. His 38.8 completion percentage and 3.45 yards per passing attempts were both season lows for a Washington starter, so maybe let's all just chill on the "RGIII IS A HEAD CASE WHO CAN'T PLAY ANYMORE" thing.
Cleveland 7, Pittsburgh 20
Time of Death: Cleveland had a chance to make things interesting on its first drive after halftime, when the Browns drove inside the Pittsburgh 35, but Jason Campbell couldn't find his receiver on fourth-and-3 and the Steelers made it a three-score game after they got the ball back.
Cause of Death: Including that one, six offensive possessions by the Browns made it inside Pittsburgh's 35-yard line, but Cleveland only managed points on one of those drives. The Browns struggled to finish drives all year, averaging less than 3 yards per play once they got inside an opponent's 35 and scoring on just 61 percent of drives that ended inside the opponent's 40, the worst rate in the league.
Chicago 28, Green Bay 33
Time of Death: Avert your eyes now, Bears fans.
Cause of Death: The Packers were the ninth opponent to run for 150 yards against the Bears, and nearly 100 of those came in the third and fourth quarters. Chicago didn't find a run defense all season, giving up 2,500 yards on the ground for the first time since the NFL went to the 16-game season and allowing the most yards per carry (5.35) of any team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Oakland 14, Denver 34
Time of Death: Matt Prater's 54-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter was the icing on a cake of 34 unanswered points for the Broncos, so do not pretend that Oakland's two touchdowns after that mattered.
Cause of Death: This was the 260th start of Peyton Manning's career and wound up being his most accurate, as Manning completed 89.3 percent of his passes. Despite only playing in the first half, Manning had more touchdowns than incompletions for the third game in his career, a feat that is so embarrassing for the opposing defense that it should require every member of the defeated secondary to retire immediately.
Buffalo 20, New England 34
Time of Death: The Bills pulled to within a touchdown with 3:30 to go but, having already used all their timeouts, decided to try an onside kick, which they didn't recover, and LeGarrette Blount ran for 45 yards and a touchdown on two plays to put the game out of reach.
Cause of Death: Blount was a monster all game for the Patriots, piling up 189 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Most of his damage was done on first down, where he averaged 8.64 yards on 14 rushes. Thirteen of Blount's carries went for 6 yards or more; by comparison, he was stopped short of gaining 3 yards only six times.
Tampa Bay 17, New Orleans 42
Time of Death: Facing fourth-and-10 from the New Orleans 25 at the end of the first half, Tampa Bay (and noted Mensa applicant Dave Wannstedt) lined up in a field goal formation and then did whatever the hell this is.
Cause of Death: In his tenure with the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees has played just over one season's worth of games against the Bucs -- 17, to be exact. Across those 17 games, Brees has thrown 38 touchdowns and gained 4,715 yards through the air. That would be the 20th-best season by a quarterback in NFL history yardage-wise and the 16th-best season touchdown-wise.
(Note to league: please do not give the Saints a 16-game schedule against the Bucs. That's indecent.)
Arizona 20, San Francisco 23
Time of Death: Thanks to Tampa's ineptitude, Arizona already wasn't going to make the playoffs, but at least the fault didn't lie entirely with the Bucs after Phil Dawson kicked a game-winning 40-yard field goal at the end of regulation.
Cause of Death: Arizona's defense had a terrible first quarter, giving up 17 points and 9.5 yards per play to the Niners, and 117 of San Francisco's 152 yards in the quarter went to Anquan Boldin. Despite finishing with a top-five passing defense, the Cardinals struggled to stop the 49ers through the air in both meetings this year, allowing 8.4 yards per 49ers pass.
Kansas City 24, San Diego 27
Time of Death: After the Chiefs missed a 41-yard field goal that shouldn't have counted because of an uncalled penalty against San Diego, the Chargers got a field goal on the first drive of overtime and then stopped Kansas City from matching it.
Cause of Death: Considering Kansas City sat pretty much every starter for this game and San Diego STILL needed help to win, it feels wrong to find a fault with the Chiefs. Instead, let's remind Chargers fans that a) they almost lost to Chase Daniel and b) the remaining AFC quarterbacks are Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck and Alex Smith. That's FOUR quarterbacks who are definitely better than Chase Daniel. And Alex Smith.
St. Louis 9, Seattle 27
Time of Death: Seattle's first offensive touchdown didn't come until 12 minutes into the third quarter, but it gave the Seahawks a 17-point lead as they secured home field throughout the playoffs.
Cause of Death: The Rams finished with 13 yards on 18 rushing attempts and, if you can believe it, that number is actually padded with fourth quarter stats -- through three quarters, St. Louis was averaging negative 0.7 yards per carry.
Dallas 22, Philadelphia 24
Time of Death: Come on. You know what happened. We all know what happened.
Cause of Death: Fate.