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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP / USA Today) — Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks after Week 13’s Sunday games.
(Note: Bookmark this page — it will be regularly updated for the duration of the regular season.)
1. Oakland Raiders (10-2): AFC West leader. Strength of victory tiebreaker moves them back ahead of Patriots.
2. New England Patriots (10-2): AFC East leader.
3. Baltimore Ravens (7-5): AFC North leader. Their Week 9 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers currently gives Baltimore the advantage.
4. Houston Texans (6-6): AFC South leader. They could wind up in a three-way division tie with the Tennessee Titans (6-6), who are on bye, and Indianapolis Colts (5-6). But the Texans have beaten both teams, so they’ll remain in field despite Sunday’s loss.
5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3): Wild card No. 1.
6. Denver Broncos (8-4): Wild card No. 2. Their win combined with the Miami Dolphins’ loss moves the defending champions back into the field.
x-1. Dallas Cowboys (11-1): NFC East leader. The Washington Redskins’ loss Sunday allowed Dallas to lock up this season’s first postseason berth.
2. Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1): NFC West leader.
3. Detroit Lions (8-4): NFC North leader.
4. Atlanta Falcons (7-5): NFC South leader. They’re tied with the Bucs but keep the higher seed due to a superior division record (the teams split their season series).
5. New York Giants (8-4): Wild card No. 1.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5): Wild card No. 2. Their fourth consecutive win moves them past Washington.
x-clinched playoff spot
Monday, Dec. 5
Indianapolis (5-6) at New York Jets (3-8), 8:30 p.m. ET. Andrew Luck will be back under center for the Colts after a concussion sidelined him for one game. Ryan Fitzpatrick is starting again for New York despite calls by some fans and media for the Jets to give second-year quarterback Bryce Petty an extended look.
— Tom Brady, Patriots, became the NFL’s career leader in victories by a quarterback, earning his 201st by throwing for 269 yards and a touchdown to lead New England past Los Angeles 26-10.
— Joe Flacco, Ravens, threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns, and had a franchise-record 36 completions on 47 attempts in Baltimore’s 38-6 rout of Miami.
— Carson Palmer, Cardinals, had three touchdown passes while going 30 of 46 for 300 yards in Arizona’s 31-23 win over Washington.
— Andy Dalton, Bengals, threw for 332 yards and two TDs as Cincinnati sent Philadelphia to its most lopsided loss of the season, 32-14.
— Matthew Stafford, Lions, passed for 341 yards and two touchdowns, and Detroit beat New Orleans 28-13.
— Jordan Howard, Bears, ran for 117 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, and the Bears handed San Francisco its 11th straight loss, 26-6.
— LeSean McCoy, Bills, rushed for 130 yards and caught seven passes for 61 yards in Buffalo’s 38-24 loss at Oakland.
— Thomas Rawls, Seahawks, had 106 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in Seattle’s 40-7 rout of Carolina.
— Le’Veon Bell, Steelers, ran for 118 yards on 29 carries to help lead Pittsburgh past the New York Giants 24-14.
— LeGarrette Blount, Patriots, ran for 88 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in New England’s 26-10 win over Los Angeles.
— Latavius Murray, Raiders, rushed for 82 yards and two TDs in Oakland’s 38-24 win over Buffalo.
— Devonta Freeman, Falcons, had two 1-yard touchdown runs in Atlanta’s 29-28 loss to Kansas City.
— Golden Tate, Lions, had eight receptions for 145 yards and a touchdown in Detroit’s 28-13 win at New Orleans.
— Travis Kelce, Chiefs, caught eight passes for 140 yards in Kansas City’s 29-28 win at Atlanta.
— Jordy Nelson, Packers, had 118 yards receiving and a score on eight catches to help Green Bay top Houston 21-13.
— Dennis Pitta, Ravens, caught two of Joe Flacco’s four touchdown passes in Baltimore’s 38-6 win over Miami, his first trips to the end zone since December 2013.
— Ladarius Green, Steelers, had six catches for 110 yards and a score in Pittsburgh’s 24-14 victory over the New York Giants.
— Julio Jones, Falcons, caught seven passes for 113 yards in a losing cause as Atlanta fell to Kansas City, 29-28.
— Matt Prater, Lions, had field goals of 27, 29, 32, 27 and 52 yards in Detroit’s 28-13 win at New Orleans.
— Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots, kicked field goals of 28, 48, 45 and 45 yards in New England’s 26-10 win over Los Angeles.
— Steven Hauschka, Seahawks, booted four field goals in Seattle’s 40-7 rout of Carolina.
— Johnny Hekker, Rams, had a 76-yard punt in the fourth quarter of Los Angeles’ 26-10 loss at New England. It was his third punt this season of 75 or more yards.
— Ra’Shede Hageman, Falcons, blocked Cairo Santos’ first extra-point attempt in Atlanta’s 29-28 loss to Kansas City.
— Eric Berry, Chiefs, returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown, and then brought back another pick 99 yards for a 2-point conversion that gave Kansas City a 29-28 victory over Atlanta.
— Bradley Roby, Broncos, returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown, helping Denver beat Jacksonville 20-10.
— Vontaze Burfict, Bengals, intercepted Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz twice in Cincinnati’s 32-14 victory.
— Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks, Bears. Each had two sacks in Chicago’s 26-6 win over San Francisco.
— Lavonte David and Keith Tandy, Buccaneers. David had a 15-yard interception return for a score in Tampa Bay’s 28-21 win over San Diego. Tandy intercepted Philip Rivers in the end zone with 2:56 left to seal the victory.
STREAKS & STATS
Detroit became the first team in 60 Saints home games to stop Drew Brees from throwing a touchdown pass, as the Lions pulled away from New Orleans, 28-13 on Sunday. It was also the Lions’ first victory in a road game following Thanksgiving since 1974, snapping a streak of 22 losses in such games. … San Francisco (1-11) extended its franchise-record losing streak to 11 games with a 26-6 defeat at Chicago, and set a club low with 6 yards net passing on a day when Colin Kaepernick got lifted for Blaine Gabbert. … Los Angeles entered its game against New England ranked 31st in total offense, averaging just 295 yards per game. Those struggles continued in a 26-10 loss, with the Rams managing 25 yards in the first half, the fewest by a team in a game this season. Los Angeles was outgained 402-162 for the game. … Miami was limited to 62 yards rushing in a 38-6 loss at Baltimore, its lowest output since gaining 51 in a loss to Tennessee on Oct. 9 — also its last loss. The Ravens’ win ended a six-game winning streak for the Dolphins.
Tom Brady became the league’s leader in career victories among quarterbacks, earning his 201st by throwing for 269 yards and a touchdown to lead New England past Los Angeles 26-10. Brady, who was 33 of 46, had tied Peyton Manning last week in a win over the New York Jets. … Atlanta’s Matt Bryant tied the franchise record for longest field goal with a 59-yarder, matching Morten Andersen (1995) in a 29-28 loss to Kansas City. It was the second-longest field goal of Bryant’s career, with a 62-yarder with Tampa Bay in 2006 the only one longer. … Green Bay’s Julius Peppers had a sack against Houston, giving the 15-year veteran 142 1/2 for his career, snapping a tie for fifth on the career list with Michael Strahan. Chris Doleman is fourth on that list with 150 1/2. … Arizona’s David Johnson became the second player in NFL history to top 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the first 12 games of a season. Edgerrin James was the other. Johnson carried the ball 18 times for 84 yards and caught nine passes for another 91 in a 31-23 win over Washington.
Dallas (11-1) became the first team in the league to clinch a postseason berth, due to Washington’s 31-23 loss at Arizona. The Cowboys beat Minnesota 17-15 on Thursday night.
New England (10-2) clinched its 14th consecutive season with at least 10 wins, the second-longest streak in NFL history, with a 26-10 victory over Los Angeles. The 1983-98 San Francisco 49ers (16) are the only franchise with more consecutive seasons of 10 or more wins.
Kansas City safety Eric Berry intercepted a 2-point conversion attempt and returned it for the go-ahead score with 4:32 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Chiefs’ 29-28 victory at Atlanta. It was the first game-winning defensive 2-point conversion scored when his team was trailing since the rule was adopted in 2015. Berry, who also returned an interception 37 yards for a TD, is the first player to return an interception for both a touchdown and a 2-point conversion in the same game.
Neither San Francisco nor Chicago completed a pass in the first quarter of the Bears’ 26-6 win — something that hadn’t happened in an NFL game since the Jets and Patriots did it on Nov. 13, 1988, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. San Francisco set a club low with 6 yards net passing on a day when Colin Kaepernick got lifted for Blaine Gabbert. Kaepernick completed just one of five passes for 4 yards and was sacked five times. He also ran for 20 yards on six attempts before Gabbert replaced him in the fourth quarter. Chicago’s Matt Barkley finished 11 of 18 for 192 yards.
FITZ KEEPS GOING
Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald had 10 catches for 78 yards in the Cardinals’ 31-23 win over Washington, giving him 1,106 for his career. Fitzgerald, the youngest player in NFL history — at 33 years, 95 days — to reach 1,100 career catches, passed Hall of Famers Cris Carter (1,101) and Marvin Harrison (1,102) for the third-most receptions in NFL history. Fitzgerald has also recorded a catch in 191 consecutive games, surpassing Harrison (190) for the third-longest streak in NFL history.
Derek Carr threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns to rally the Oakland Raiders to their biggest comeback in 16 years with a 38-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. After falling behind 24-9 following touchdowns on the first two drives of the second half for Buffalo, the Raiders took the game over with 29 straight points and won their sixth straight. Oakland scored touchdowns on three straight drives, including scoring strikes from Carr to Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper for his sixth fourth-quarter comeback of the season. This was the biggest comeback for the Raiders since overcoming a 21-point deficit to Indianapolis to win 38-31 on Sept. 10, 2000.
Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell ran for 118 yards in a 24-14 victory, becoming the first player to rush for 100 or more against the New York Giants since Adrian Peterson in Week 16 of the 2015 season. Bell touched the ball 35 times — 29 rushes and six receptions — and had his third straight 100-yard rushing performance.
LOTS OF LOSING
Jacksonville’s 20-10 loss to Denver was the seventh in a row for the Jaguars (2-10), who became the fifth team in NFL history to post double-digit defeats in six consecutive seasons, joining Tampa Bay (1983-94), Detroit (2001-06), Oakland (2003-09) and Cleveland (2008-13).
Ben Roethlisberger’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh’s 24-14 victory over the New York Giants marked the 49th time the two have connected for scores. That ties them with Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann for the most TD passes from a quarterback to a receiver in franchise history.
SPECIAL TEAMS WOES
Jacksonville has had special-teams meltdown for seven straight games, including Alex Ellis getting flagged for unnecessary roughness on a punt return in the final minute of the first half in the Jaguars’ 20-10 loss to Denver. The streak includes five muffed punts — including three turnovers — a punt return for a touchdown and two long punt returns that set up scores.
Seattle safety Earl Thomas broke a bone in his lower left leg during a first-half collision with teammate Kam Chancellor while trying to intercept Cam Newton’s pass in the Seahawks’ 40-7 win over Carolina. X-rays revealed a “cracked tibia,” coach Pete Carroll told Seattle’s radio broadcast. … New England wide receiver Danny Amendola left late in the third quarter of the Patriots’ 26-10 win over Los Angeles with an ankle injury and did not return. He was later spotted walking on crutches in the tunnel underneath Gillette Stadium. Cornerback Eric Rowe also did not return after leaving with a hamstring injury. … Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul left in the second quarter of New York’s 24-14 loss at Pittsburgh with a groin injury. New York also lost cornerback Coty Sensabaugh to a rib injury. … Atlanta lost left tackle Jake Matthews to a left knee injury in the first half of the Falcons’ 29-28 loss to Kansas City. … Houston wide receiver Braxton Miller (shoulder) left in the first half of the Texans’ 21-13 loss at Green Bay and did not return. … Tampa Bay wide receiver Cecil Shorts III was taken off the field on a cart after sustaining a knee injury on a hard hit by San Diego’s Jahleel Addae following a catch on the Bucs’ first possession of a 28-21 win.
“I shed a few tears before the game, I shed a few tears during the game and I shed a few after. It was just a lot of emotions. I tried to contain them and let it show through my play.” — Kansas City’s Eric Berry who returned an interception for a score and also brought back another 99 yards for a 2-point conversion that gave the Chiefs a 29-28 victory over Atlanta. Berry, who grew up in suburban Atlanta, was playing in the city for the first time as a professional. It’s where he was treated after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma near the end of the 2014 season.
“That’s a record that I don’t think will ever be broken. He’ll continue to build on it, I’m sure.” — New England running back LeGarrette Blount on Tom Brady’s NFL record of 201 wins by a quarterback.
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Derek Carr threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns to rally the Oakland Raiders to their biggest comeback in 16 years with a 38-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
After falling behind 24-9 following touchdowns on the first two drives of the second half for Buffalo (6-6), the Raiders (10-2) took the game over with 29 straight points and won their sixth straight to remain one game ahead of Kansas City in the tough AFC West.
Oakland scored touchdowns on three straight drives, including scoring strikes from Carr to Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper for his sixth fourth-quarter comeback of the season. This was the biggest comeback for the Raiders since overcoming a 21-point deficit to Indianapolis to win 38-31 on Sept. 10, 2000.
The defense also tightened by forcing three straight three-and-outs and then getting a turnover when Khalil Mack deflected Tyrod Taylor’s pass that Nate Allen intercepted .
SEAHAWKS 40, PANTHERS 7
SEATTLE (AP) — Thomas Rawls ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Tyler Lockett took a reverse 75 yards for a score to open the second half and Seattle routed Carolina.
Another prime-time game in Seattle was clouded with odd story lines right from the outset when Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was benched for the first play, only to watch backup Derek Anderson throw an interception.
The Seahawks (8-3-1) rolled up a season-high 534 yards and kept a three-game lead over Arizona in the division with four remaining.
Rawls finished with 106 yards on 15 carries, quiet in the second half after briefly being checked for a concussion. Russell Wilson was 26 of 36 for 277 yards and a touchdown.
Seattle safety Earl Thomas broke a bone in his lower left leg during a first-half collision with teammate Kam Chancellor while trying to intercept Newton’s pass. X-rays revealed a “cracked tibia,” coach Pete Carroll told Seattle’s radio broadcast.
Carolina dropped to 4-8.
CHIEFS 29, FALCONS 28
ATLANTA (AP) — Eric Berry returned an interception for a touchdown, and then brought back another pick for a 2-point conversion that gave Kansas City an improbable victory over Atlanta.
The Falcons (7-5), rallying from a 27-16 deficit, went ahead 28-27 on Matt Ryan’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson with 4:32 remaining.
Atlanta decided to go for 2, looking to stretch the margin to a field goal. But Berry stepped in front of Ryan’s pass and ran 99 yards the other way to give the Chiefs (9-3) their winning margin. It came after Denver won a game in similar fashion last month, returning a blocked PAT for the winning points at New Orleans.
Berry had another huge play with less than a minute to go in the first half, picking off Ryan’s pass over the middle and bringing it back 37 yards for a touchdown. After reaching the end zone, the suburban Atlanta native handed the ball to his mother sitting in the stands at the Georgia Dome.
Those weren’t the only big plays for the Chiefs.
CARSDINALS 31, REDSKINS 23
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Carson Palmer threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns and David Johnson scored twice.
The loss by the Redskins (6-5-1) clinched a playoff spot for the 11-1 Dallas Cowboys.
Palmer’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Johnson with 11:09 to play put Arizona ahead 24-20, the fourth lead change of the second half.
After a Washington field goal, Palmer’s 42-yard pass to J.J. Nelson with 1:56 padded gave the Cardinals (5-6-1) a 31-23 lead.
Washington drove to the Arizona 28-yard line before Patrick Peterson’s interception of Kirk Cousins’ pass with 41 seconds left sealed the victory.
Johnson, who also scored on a 1-yard run, became the second player in NFL history to top 100 yards from scrimmage in the first 12 games of a season. Edgerrin James was the other.
STEELERS 24, GIANTS 14
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger passed for 289 yards and two touchdowns, Le’Veon Bell rolled up 182 yards of total offense, and Pittsburgh’s resurgent defense harassed Eli Manning into a flurry of mistakes.
Antonio Brown edged good buddy Odell Beckham Jr. in their personal showdown, catching six passes for 54 yards and an acrobatic scoring grab at the back of the end zone. Tight end Ladarius Green added six receptions for 110 yards, both career highs, and a touchdown as the Steelers (7-5) won their third straight to keep pace with Baltimore atop the AFC North.
Manning completed just 24 of 39 passes for 195 yards with two touchdowns and two picks in the red zone for the Giants (8-4), whose six-game run ended with a thud. Beckham was largely a non-factor despite a game-high 10 receptions for 100 yards.
BUCCANEERS 28, CHARGERS 21
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Jameis Winston threw a go-ahead, 12-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Brate midway through the fourth quarter and Keith Tandy intercepted Philip Rivers in the end zone with 2:56 left to give the Buccaneers their fourth straight victory.
Rivers had the Chargers on the move in the final minutes before Tandy got in front of a pass to Dontrelle Inman and picked it off. Tandy’s momentum carried him into the end zone, giving the Bucs the ball on their 20. They ran out the clock.
The Bucs (7-5) pulled into a tie with Atlanta atop the NFC South.
Rivers threw two second-half interceptions, including Lavonte David’s pick-6.
The Chargers (5-7) were trying to get back to .500 for the first time since Week 2.
PACKERS 21, TEXANS 13
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns, and the Packers pulled away with two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
The Packers (6-6) weathered snowy conditions at Lambeau Field, making just enough plays on the cold turf.
Brock Osweiler connected with DeAndre Hopkins for a 44-yard touchdown pass with 1:51 left to get within eight for Houston. Nick Novak missed the extra point, with footing slippery at Lambeau.
The Texans (6-6) had one last shot after the Packers failed to run out the clock. But Osweiler’s last-ditch pass-and-lateral play from Houston’s 12 with 4 seconds left failed, handing Houston its third straight loss and dropping it into a tie with Tennessee atop the AFC South.
Nelson finished with eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown for Green Bay.
LIONS 28, SAINTS 13
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Matthew Stafford passed for 341 yards and two touchdowns.
Golden Tate exploited a coverage breakdown on third-and-long for a 66-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter when Detroit (8-4) was clinging to a six-point lead. The Lions, who’ve won seven of eight, dominated statistically, but four opportunities inside the New Orleans 20 ended with Matt Prater field goals, allowing the Saints (5-7) to stay close until the fourth quarter.
This time, however, the Lions pulled away for their most comfortable victory of the season after seven previous victory margins of one to seven points.
The Lions also became the first team in 60 Saints home games to stop Drew Brees from completing a touchdown pass, although tight end Coby Fleener had a pass bounce off his hands at the goal line.
RAVENS 38, DOLPHINS 6
BALTIMORE (AP) — Joe Flacco threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns, and the Ravens overwhelmed the Dolphins in the first half to end Miami’s six-game winning streak.
Baltimore (7-5) led 24-0 at halftime behind Flacco and a dominant performance from the league’s second-ranked defense. Flacco went 27 for 34 for 258 yards and three scores over the first 30 minutes, and the Ravens yielded only 115 yards and intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass.
That was enough to provide the Ravens with their fourth win in five games. Miami also is 7-5.
Flacco finished with a franchise-record 36 completions in 47 attempts, by far his most impressive outing in an uneven season. He entered with 11 TD passes and 10 interceptions.
PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady became the NFL’s career leader in victories by a quarterback, earning his 201st by throwing for 269 yards and a touchdown. Brady, who was 33 of 46, had tied Peyton Manning last week in a win over the New York Jets.
His lone touchdown came on a 14-yard pass to Chris Hogan in the first quarter. LeGarrette Blount scored the game’s first touchdown , rumbling for a 43-yard, ankle-breaking score in the first quarter while spinning around safety Maurice Alexander in the process. He finished with 88 yards on 18 carries.
The Patriots (10-2) have won seven of their last eight.
On the same day that Los Angeles coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead were given contract extensions, the recently relocated Rams (4-8) proved they still have a long way to go after losing for the seventh time in eight outings.
BRONCOS 20, JAGUARS 10
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Bradley Roby returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown, helping the Broncos gain ground in the AFC playoff picture.
Roby picked off Blake Bortles’ wobbler across the middle in the third quarter and went untouched the other way. Star linebacker Von Miller hit Bortles as he released the ball.
It was the 11th pick-6 of Bortles’ three-year career and his third in the last four games. Houston and Detroit also returned interceptions for touchdowns in games the Jaguars lost by less than seven points.
The latest one resulted in a seventh consecutive loss for Jacksonville (2-10) and secured another miserable milestone for the small-market franchise. The Jaguars became the fifth team in NFL history to post double-digit losses in six consecutive seasons, joining Tampa Bay (1983-94), Detroit (2001-06), Oakland (2003-09) and Cleveland (2008-13).
Jacksonville had a chance to tie in the final minutes, but Bortles fumbled trying to make a play in the pocket.
The Broncos (8-4) rebounded from an overtime loss against Kansas City, and with Miami’s loss at Baltimore, moved into position to get one of the conference’s wild-card spots.
BENGALS 32, EAGLES 14
CINCINNATI (AP) — Andy Dalton threw a pair of touchdown passes and Cincinnati finally got its depleted offense moving without receiver A.J. Green.
The Bengals (4-7-1) got their first win since Oct. 23, beating a team that’s in a swoon of its own. The Eagles (5-7) opened the season with three straight wins, but have dropped seven of nine.
Dalton had completions of 50, 44, 29, 23 and 21 yards. The Bengals scored on each of their first six possessions for a 29-0 lead, reinventing themselves with Green and running back Giovani Bernard sidelined by injuries. The previous time they scored on their first six possessions was 2009 against the Bears.
The only bad moment: Mike Nugent missed another PAT kick wide to the right, his fourth miss in a span of five tries. Nugent made field goals from 32, 33, 26 and 38 yards, the last one deflecting off the left upright.
BEARS 26, 49ERS 6
CHICAGO (AP) — Jordan Howard ran for 117 yards and a career-high three touchdowns and the Bears handed San Francisco its 11th straight loss.
The 49ers (1-11) extended their franchise-record losing streak and set a club low with 6 yards net passing on a day when Colin Kaepernick got lifted for Blaine Gabbert.
The Bears (3-9) finished with a season high in points and picked up a rare win in a matchup between two of the NFL’s worst teams.
Matt Barkley, making his second start with Jay Cutler sidelined by a season-ending shoulder injury, went nearly the entire first half without a completion. But he led a touchdown drive near the end of the second quarter and finished 11 of 18 for 192 yards.
(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today) — After Antonio Brown received yet another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Thanksgiving dismantling of the Indianapolis Colts, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said the wide receiver needed to rein in his touchdown celebrations.
Yet for Pittsburgh, reveling in the reason for those celebrations is a welcome development after a four-game losing streak threatened the season.
Viewed as a potential preseason conference favorite, the Steelers stand at 6-5, putting them a game back for the AFC North lead as well as the final wild-card berth. But the franchise had the same mark and a similarly uncertain outlook last season before reeling off four wins in five games to seal a spot in the playoffs.
To begin a similar push on Sunday, the Steelers likely will lean on Roethlisberger again to push the offense past the New York Giants.
An offseason overhaul has yielded immediate results for New York, which is tied for sixth in scoring defense (19.4 points per game) after ranking 30th in 2016. But the Giants have feasted on sub-par offenses during their six-game win streak, making Sunday’s showdown something of a proving ground.
One of the key battles could be up front, as the Steelers have allowed just 14 sacks this season. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has revitalized New York’s pass rush with 5 1/2 sacks in his past two games, and his showdown with right tackle Marcus Gilbert could set the tone for the day.
The task of containing Brown likely falls on cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who has fared well against top receivers but employs a gambling style that could yield a game-breaking play in either direction. The Giants’ massive defensive tackle tandem of Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins have helped form the league’s fifth-ranked run defense, but running back Le’Veon Bell remains a substantial threat in the passing game for a linebacking corps that has struggled in coverage.
Here are four other matchups that will define Week 13 in the NFL:
Falcons RT Ryan Schraeder vs. Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali
The marquee matchup in this game might be Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones’ showdown with Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters, but Matt Ryan has shown a willingness to look beyond his top option. Kansas City’s best option for short-circuiting the league’s highest-scoring offense likely runs through its pass rush.
Schraeder has held strong this season against some of the league’s best threats off the edge while remaining a stalwart in the run game. Establishing offensive balance with running back Devonta Freeman will be paramount in keeping Kansas City from unleashing its rushers in full force. Ryan could also find big opportunities if his protection holds, as cornerback Phillip Gaines was repeatedly burned last week by the Denver Broncos.
The Chiefs present one of the deepest set of pass rushers in the NFL with Tamba Hali and Dee Ford. But Houston showed why he’s the premiere threat last week, posting three sacks in just his second game back from a knee injury.
Ravens’ run defense vs. Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi
Even with Ajayi’s production slowing down in recent weeks, Miami has strung together a six-game win streak. Baltimore ranks first against the rush, but the defense could be in for a long day if it has any lapses.
Ajayi gained just 45 yards on 18 carries last week against the San Francisco 49ers, who rank last in rushing yards allowed. But the second-year back remains an offensive focal point with at least 19 touches in each of his previous six games.
Baltimore hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, and slipping against Ajayi could cost it the lead in the AFC North. Ryan Tannehill has displayed an increased comfort in Adam Gase’s system, as evidenced by a 67.6% completion rate and just one interception during Miami’s ongoing streak. Ravens linebackers C.J. Mosley and Zach Orr could be difficult for an ailing Dolphins offensive line.
Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham vs. Panthers defense
Graham missed last season’s NFC divisional playoff loss to the Panthers, but he burned them for eight catches and 140 yards in the regular-season matchup. Now the tight end could play a crucial role in helping Seattle’s offensive regain its footing after last week’s unraveling against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Seahawks converted just one of 11 third-down attempts last week, and they rank 25th in the league with a 35% conversion rate on the season. The 6-7 tight end might be the best option for addressing this deficiency. With Russell Wilson likely to remain under constant pressure behind a struggling offensive line and no certainty of improvements in the run game, Graham may need to provide a spark on jump balls and with yards after the catch.
Linebacker Luke Kuechly and safety Kurt Coleman are both sidelined with concussions this week, leaving the Panthers even more vulnerable against Graham. Carolina is tied for third with 31 sacks this season, and it will need its defensive line to corral Wilson and ease the burden for an overextended secondary.
LeSean McCoy vs. Raiders’ front seven
With the No. 1 seed in the AFC within reach, Sunday could serve as a litmus test for Oakland’s playoff readiness. McCoy and the Bills’ second-ranked rushing attack are an imposing matchup for a defense that has given up the most yards per carry (4.62) in the AFC.
Despite its inconsistencies, Buffalo’s offense remains an ever-present big play threat. McCoy had just 5 yards on eight carries in the first half last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he later broke a 75-yard touchdown run and added another score on a 25-yard reception.
Oakland’s defense yielded three rushing touchdowns last week, and its best bet for stopping McCoy might be to force Buffalo into obvious passing situations. Tyrod Taylor has been sacked 30 times this season, and Khalil Mack earned AFC defensive player of the month honors in November after the edge rusher tallied four sacks and two forced fumbles in his last three games.
Monday, Nov. 21
Houston vs. Oakland at Mexico City, 8:30 p.m. ET. It’s the second regular-season game in Mexico City and first since 2005. … Houston’s Brock Osweiler is averaging a league-low 5.6 yards per pass. The Texans have been outscored by 27 points despite 6-3 record. Houston is one of four teams not to allow a 300-yard passer. Raiders DE Khalil Mack sacked Osweiler five times last season when Osweiler played in Denver. Mack has six sacks in his past four games. Raiders QB Derek Carr has 155 consecutive passes without an interception. Oakland is going for its first four-game winning streak since 2002.
—Tom Brady, Patriots, was 24 of 40 for 280 yards and four touchdown passes in New England’s 30-17 win over San Francisco. Brady has 199 victories, tied with Hall of Famer Brett Favre for the second-most in NFL history. Brady needs one win to tie Peyton Manning (200) for the most all time.
—Dak Prescott, Cowboys, finished 27 for 36 for 301 yards and three touchdowns in Dallas’ 27-17 win over Baltimore. He joined Hall of Famer Dan Marino (1983) as well as Russell Wilson (2012) as the only rookie quarterbacks since 1970 to have multiple touchdown passes in five consecutive games.
—Eli Manning, Giants, was 21 of 36 for 227 yards and two touchdowns in New York’s 22-16 win over Chicago.
—Marcus Mariota, Titans, was 25 for 38 for 290 yards and two touchdowns in Tennessee’s 24-17 loss to Indianapolis.
—Jameis Winston, Buccaneers, was 24 for 39 for 331 yards and a touchdown in Tampa Bay’s 19-17 win over Kansas City.
—Andrew Luck, Colts, was 15 of 28 for 262 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in Indianapolis’ 24-17 win over Tennessee.
—Le’Veon Bell, Steelers, had 28 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh’s 24-9 win over Cleveland.
—LeGarrette Blount, Patriots, had 19 carries for 124 yards in New England’s 30-17 win over San Francisco.
—David Johnson, Cardinals, had 22 carries for 103 yards and a touchdown in Arizona’s 30-24 loss to Minnesota.
—Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, had 25 carries for 97 yards in Dallas’ 27-17 win over Baltimore. Elliott’s 1,102 yards rushing are the third-most in NFL history in a player’s first 10 games, trailing only Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (1,223) as well as Adrian Peterson (1,197).
—Rishard Matthews, Titans, had nine receptions for 122 yards in Tennessee’s 24-17 loss to Indianapolis.
—Travis Kelce, Chiefs, had seven catches for 108 yards in Kansas City’s 19-17 loss to Tampa Bay.
—Mike Evans, Buccaneers, had six catches for 105 yards in Tampa Bay’s 19-17 win over Kansas City.
—Doug Baldwin, Seahawks, had four catches for 104 yards in Seattle’s 26-15 win over Philadelphia.
—Steve Smith, Ravens, had eight catches for 99 yards and a touchdown in Baltimore’s 27-17 loss to Dallas. Smith became the 14th player with 1,000 catches.
—Dez Bryant, Cowboys, had six catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns in Dallas’ 27-17 win over Baltimore.
—Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings, returned a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown in Minnesota’s 30-24 win over Arizona.
—Andre Roberts, Lions, returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown in Detroit’s 26-19 win over Jacksonville.
—Roberto Aguayo, Buccaneers, was 4 for 4 on field goals in Tampa Bay’s 19-17 win over Kansas City.
—Xavier Rhodes, Vikings, had two interceptions and returned one of them 100 yards for a touchdown in Minnesota’s 30-24 win over Arizona.
—Rafael Bush, Lions, returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown in Detroit’s 26-19 win over Jacksonville.
—Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants, had 2½ sacks and a forced fumble in New York’s 22-16 win over Chicago.
—Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave, Steelers. Tuitt had 2½ of Pittsburgh’s eight sacks and Hargrave recovered a fumble in the end zone of a 24-9 win over Cleveland.
—Stephon Gilmore, Bills, had two interceptions in Buffalo’s 16-12 win over Cincinnati.
OFF ON THE WRONG FOOT
NFL kickers missed like never before Sunday, setting a record with 12 failed extra point attempts. Kickers missed left, right, had kicks blocked and hit the uprights. Kickers missed in the wind and indoors. Kickers had the most misses in one week since the NFL merger. Cincinnati’s Mike Nugent and Robbie Gould of the New York Giants each missed two extra-point attempts. Chicago’s Connor Barth, Minnesota’s Kai Forbath, Jacksonville’s Jason Myers, Cleveland’s Cody Parkey and New England’s Stephen Gostkowski each missed one. Seattle’s Steven Hauschka and Detroit’s Matt Prater had kicks blocked. At night, Washington’s Dustin Hopkins also hit the upright.
STREAKS & STATS
The Lions scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter of the team’s 26-19 comeback victory over Jacksonville. The Lions, who are the first team in NFL history to have each of its first 10 games decided by seven points or fewer, have trailed in the fourth quarter in all 10 games. Detroit is the first team in NFL history to have six wins when trailing in the fourth quarter in the team’s first 10 games of a season. … The Cowboys set a franchise record with their ninth straight win after beating the Ravens 27-17. … The Giants have won five straight games after Sunday’s 22-16 win over the Bears. The winning streak is New York’s longest in the regular season since 2010. … The Dolphins rallied past the Rams 14-10 for their fifth straight victory. The winning streak is Miami’s longest since 2008. The Dolphins also became the second team this season to win a game after it was scoreless entering fourth quarter. The Jaguars did it against Chicago in Week 6. … The Colts held off the Titans 24-17 and have won 11 straight against Tennessee and still have not lost to the Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium, which opened in 2008. … The Steelers came in with a league-low 13 sacks before racking up eight in a 24-9 win over the Browns. Ben Roethlisberger improved to 20-2 in starts against Cleveland. The Browns fell to 0-11 on the season. Three NFL teams previously went 0-11 before winning a game — the 1975 Chargers, 1984 Bills and 2000 Chargers — while seven had even worse starts. … After a season-opening shutout against the Rams, the 49ers have lost nine in a row. … Jacksonville has dropped five straight after a 26-19 loss to Detroit.
Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison is the club’s career sack leader. Harrison dropped Cleveland’s Cody Kessler in the third quarter to pass Jason Gildon (77) for the most sacks in the Steelers’ storied defensive history. … The Vikings became the first team since the 1962 Dallas Cowboys to have a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 100-plus-yard kickoff return for a TD in the same game. The Cowboys’ Amos Marsh had a 101-yard kickoff return touchdown and Mike Gaechter had a 100-yard interception return touchdown in Dallas’ 41-19 win over Philadelphia. … Steve Smith became the first player in NFL history to have at least 1,000 catches, at least 1,000 punt return yards and at least 2,000 kickoff return yards. … With a 33-yard field goal in the first quarter, San Francisco’s 41-year-old kicker, Phil Dawson, became the 10th player in NFL history to reach 400 field goals. … Dallas’ Dak Prescott is the first rookie in NFL history with at least 300 yards passing, multiple passing TDs and no interceptions in back-to-back games.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green significantly hurt his hamstring in the opening minutes of a loss to the Buffalo Bills. Green got his right foot caught awkwardly while trying for a contested catch on Cincinnati’s first pass of the game. Green grabbed his right hamstring as he hit the ground and stayed down for several minutes. … The Bills lost two of their top offensive players in the first half: receiver Robert Woods injured his knee while being tackled after a catch, and LeSean McCoy hurt his left thumb late in the second quarter. It’s unclear how long each will be sidelined. … Chicago Bears rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd had the day’s scariest injury. The first-round draft pick from Georgia left on a stretcher with less than six minutes remaining in a loss to the New York Giants. Bears coach John Fox said Floyd injured his neck and the team said Sunday night that Floyd was released from the hospital and returned to Chicago. Chicago also lost tight end Zach Miller to a foot injury after he caught three passes for 61 yards and a touchdown. … The Philadelphia Eagles lost two of their top running backs as Ryan Mathews (knee) and Darren Sproles (ribs) were both knocked out against Seattle.
“They have a great organization, they always have. They inspired a lot of kids here in the Bay Area in my time growing up, and I was one of them.” — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was back home in the Bay Area playing on San Francisco’s home field for the first time. Facing the team he cheered as a boy, Brady threw four touchdown passes in the Patriots’ 30-17 victory.
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — This time, Seattle won it at the goal line.
It certainly won’t make up for the Super Bowl loss two seasons back, but the Seahawks’ goal-line stand lifted them to a 31-24 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday night.
Tom Brady couldn’t connect with Rob Gronkowski on a fade pattern on fourth down as New England (7-2) failed four times from inside the 2 in the dying moments.
It was reminiscent of how the Seahawks (6-2-1) lost the 2015 Super Bowl when Malcolm Butler intercepted at the goal line to win the NFL title for the Patriots.
Doug Baldwin caught three touchdown passes, including a 15-yarder for the final margin. Strangely, Seattle went for 2 points and failed on the conversion, leaving the Patriots a chance to tie with a touchdown and an extra point kick.
But LeGarrette Blount, who earlier rushed for three touchdowns, couldn’t get into the end zone from close range, nor could Brady on a pair of sneaks.
BRONCOS 25, SAINTS 23
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Denver’s Justin Simmons used a perfectly timed leap over the offensive line to block an extra-point kick that would have given New Orleans a late lead, Will Parks ran it back 84 yards for a defensive 2-point conversion, and the Broncos pulled out a wild victory.
The decisive play came while the Superdome crowd was still celebrating Brandin Cooks’ twisting, 32-yard touchdown catch between two defenders. That put New Orleans (4-5) in position to take the lead with 1:28 left. Simmons’ block of Wil Lutz’s kick was scooped up by Parks, who nearly stepped out of bounds as he raced down the left sideline.
It was the first such play to provide the winning points in an NFL game. The rule was instituted last year.
The Broncos then recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock.
Safety Darian Stewart intercepted Drew Brees twice and recovered a fumble for the Broncos (7-3), while Trevor Siemian overcame two interceptions by passing for touchdowns to Jordan Taylor and Demaryius Thomas.
COWBOYS 35, STEELERS 30
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ezekiel Elliott ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns — both in the final two minutes — and had an 83-yard catch-and-run for a score as the Cowboys pulled off a thrilling victory for their eighth straight win.
Dak Prescott overcame an early fumble to pass for 319 yards and two scores for Dallas (8-1), which matched the longest single-season win streak in club history behind the two rookies who hardly seem bothered by the stage. Dez Bryant added six catches for 116 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown reception.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns. Antonio Brown caught 14 passes for 154 yards, including a 15-yard score with 42 seconds left after Roethlisberger faked a spike to surprise the Dallas defense.
The heady play — a throwback to Hall of Famer Dan Marino’s move while leading Miami to a victory over the New York Jets in 1994 — gave the Steelers (4-5) a one-point lead.
It also gave Prescott and Elliott too much time.
Dolphins 31, Chargers 24
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Kiko Alonso intercepted Philip Rivers’ pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with 1:01 left to give Miami a fourth straight win. The Dolphins (5-4) intercepted Rivers four times, all in the fourth quarter.
Alonso jumped in front of Tyrell Williams and outraced everybody into the end zone for the winning score.
Two plays into the ensuing drive, Rivers was intercepted again, by Tony Lippett, his second of the game.
Rivers threw three touchdown passes to move past John Elway for eighth place on the career list with 301. Rivers’ 51-yard touchdown pass to Williams with 4:04 left gave the Chargers (4-6) a 24-21 lead.
Miami came right back to get a 27-yard field goal from Andrew Franks to tie it. That was set up by Ryan Tannehill’s 56-yard pass to DeVante Parker and a roughing-the-passer call that put the ball on the San Diego 10.
CARDINALS 23, 49ERS 20
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired. Catanzaro missed twice on winning field goal tries earlier in the season, most memorably a 24-yarder in overtime of a 6-6 tie against Seattle.
But this attempt was right down the middle as Arizona (4-4-1) narrowly averted a devastating loss.
The 49ers (1-8) lost their eighth in a row despite a strong game by Colin Kaepernick, who tied it 20-20 on a 4-yard run with 1:55 to play.
That was enough time for Carson Palmer to gain redemption after three second-half turnovers, the last an interception by Gerald Hodges that led to the tying touchdown. Palmer completed 4 of 7 passes for 64 yards, including a leaping 26-yard grab by Michael Floyd, as the Cardinals drove from their 15 to the San Francisco 16 to set up the winning kick.
CHIEFS 20, PANTHERS 17
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Marcus Peters stripped Kelvin Benjamin with 20 seconds left, Cairo Santos kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired, and the Chiefs overcame a 17-point deficit.
The game was tied when Benjamin caught a pass from Cam Newton, and Peters ripped the ball from his arms. Santos’ fourth field goal of the day split the uprights, lifting the Chiefs (7-2) to their fifth straight victory and 17th win in their last 19 games.
Eric Berry also returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown as Kansas City’s defense came up with big plays when needed. The Chiefs failed to score an offensive touchdown.
Newton threw for 261 yards and a touchdown and ran for 54 yards and a score for the Panthers (3-6).
EAGLES 24, FALCONS 15
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ryan Mathews ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns, while a tenacious defense held down the league’s highest-scoring offense.
Carson Wentz threw for 231 yards and led the Eagles (5-4) to a comeback victory for the first time this season. Caleb Sturgis made three field goals, including a clutch kick from 48 yards to seal the win.
Matt Ryan threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Gabriel in the fourth quarter to give Atlanta (6-4) a 15-13 lead, but Philadelphia answered.
Mathews ran in from the 5 and also converted the 2-point conversion for a 21-15 lead. On Atlanta’s ensuing possession, Julio Jones dropped a pass on third-and-12 and the Falcons punted. Jones couldn’t make a difficult catch on fourth-and-5 on Atlanta’s next drive.
REDSKINS 26, VIKINGS 20
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Kirk Cousins threw for two touchdowns, Preston Smith had two sacks and a game-altering interception in Washington’s first victory in almost a month.
Washington (5-3-1) got all of its second-half points off the foot of Dustin Hopkins, who hit four field goals, including a 50-yarder. The Redskins shut out Minnesota (5-4) in the second half, and Smith sacked Sam Bradford in the final seconds to hand the Vikings their fourth consecutive loss.
Cousins was 22 of 33 for 262 yards with touchdown passes to Vernon Davis and Jamison Crowder. Robert Kelley ran for 97 yards, helping Washington bounce back from a rough 6-minute stretch.
Bradford was 31 of 39 for 307 yards, two touchdowns and the interception that Smith tipped and caught with 5:44 left. Stefon Diggs had 13 catches for 164 yards.
TITANS 47, PACKERS 25
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Marcus Mariota threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns in the rout. Five Titans scored a touchdown in the first half as Tennessee put together its best scoring performance this season with 35 points.
With the win, the Titans (5-5) also matched their five victories over the past two seasons combined.
DeMarco Murray set the tone on the opening play from scrimmage, running 75 yards for a touchdown. He finished with 123 yards and also threw a TD pass, becoming the first non-quarterback to do that for this franchise in the same game since Earl Campbell on Sept. 7, 1980, for the then-Houston Oilers.
Brian Orakpo had two of Tennessee’s five sacks, and the Titans also forced three turnovers.
The Packers (4-5) started a three-game road swing by losing their third straight.
TEXANS 24, JAGUARS 13
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Brock Osweiler threw two touchdown passes and Kareem Jackson returned an interception 42 yards for a score. The Texans (6-3) scored on offense and defense and set up another score with special teams, a complete team effort that led to their first road win of the season. It kept them perfect (3-0) against the AFC South. They won their fifth in a row against Jacksonville.
The Jaguars (2-7) lost their fourth straight and fell to 0-4 at home. Coach Gus Bradley’s team rallied late, with Blake Bortles hitting Allen Robinson for a touchdown and again for a 2-point conversion.
The loss dropped Bradley’s record to 14-43 in four seasons and prompted even the most loyal supporters to question why owner Shad Khan hasn’t made a change.
BUCCANEERS 36, BEARS 10
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Jameis Winston threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns against mistake-prone Chicago.
Winston threw for TDs of 10 yards to Cameron Brate and 43 yards to Freddie Martino, the latter set up by a bizarre highlight-reel play. The No. 1 pick in last year’s draft scrambled 23 yards backward into his end zone before avoiding a safety and launching a 39-yard completion to Mike Evans at the Chicago 38.
Martino, a former practice squad player with two career receptions, scored his first NFL touchdown after a delay-of-game penalty pushed the Bucs (4-5) back to the 43.
Two weeks after returning from injury and helping the Bears (2-7) beat NFC North leader Minnesota, Jay Cutler threw two interceptions and fumbled twice, one resulting in a third-quarter safety that put the Bucs up 29-10.
The Bucs forced four turnovers overall and sacked Cutler four times.
RAMS 9, JETS 6
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Alec Ogletree intercepted Bryce Petty with just under two minutes left to clinch this snoozer. Petty made his first NFL start in place of an injured Ryan Fitzpatrick, but couldn’t get much going against the Rams’ defense.
After getting the ball with 2:55 remaining and down by three, Petty tried to lead the Jets (3-7) downfield. But Petty’s pass to Quincy Enunwa was picked off by Ogletree and Enunwa tried to wrestle it away from the linebacker to no avail.
Greg Zuerlein kicked three field goals, including a go-ahead 34-yarder with 6:52 left, helping the Rams (4-5) snap a four-game losing streak and avoid their first five-game skid since Weeks 9-13 last season.
The game featured 15 punts — eight by the Jets and seven by the Rams.
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It’s not difficult to pinpoint the teams that have unexpectedly prospered or just as stunningly plummeted halfway through the 2016 season.
Yep, we’re looking at you, Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals. Last January, you played for a spot in the Super Bowl. Right now, you’re hanging with the mediocrities (or worse) of the NFL.
Nor is it hard to spot the surprisingly successful teams putting themselves in the championship mix, from the Dallas Cowboys to the Oakland Raiders.
But what about the individuals who are rising or flopping? The Associated Press sports writers who cover the 16 AFC teams suggest the following.
Surprise: LB Zachary Orr leads the team in tackles as a third-year player.
Disappointment: QB Joe Flacco has looked tentative in the pocket and has more interceptions than TDs. Granted, the Ravens have no running game and the left side of the O-Line has been injured, but still …
Surprise: LB Lorenzo Alexander, maybe the most pleasant development in the NFL this season. The free-agent addition, a journeyman in his 10th season, is among the league leaders in sacks.
Disappointment: WR Sammy Watkins (left foot) is hobbled by injury for the third straight season and is on IR, though he could return this month.
Surprise: WR A.J. Green was leading the NFL in receptions when Cincinnati went on its bye despite being the focus of opposing defenses on every passing play.
Disappointment: DT Geno Atkins had 42 tackles and 11 sacks last season. Through eight games, he has only 16 tackles and 3½ sacks, and the Bengals are 3-4-1.
Surprise: WR Terrelle Pryor only made the conversion from quarterback last season and has quickly developed into a playmaker. Through the first nine games, Pryor had 46 catches and four touchdowns.
Disappointment: QB Robert Griffin III. Not his fault, but he broke a bone in his shoulder in the season opener that deprived him of a chance at a comeback and the Browns from seeing if he could be their long-term answer.
Surprise: QB Trevor Siemian was an afterthought when Peyton Manning retired. Now he’s the starting QB on a playoff contender.
Disappointment; OT Russell Okung, who went through a stretch of five holding calls in three games and gave up a sack-strip.
Surprise: DE Jadeveon Clowney, finally healthy after two injury-filled years. His move from outside linebacker has helped the Texans make up for the loss of J.J. Watt.
Disappointment: QB Brock Osweiler got a $72 million contract and has thrown the same number of interceptions (nine) as touchdowns. Houston’s passing game ranks among the worst in the league.
Surprise: TE Jack Doyle, claimed off waivers from Tennessee in 2013, has steadily progressed each season and already surpassed his previous career totals in yards and TD catches.
Disappointment: Coach Chuck Pagano. After signing a four-year deal, being given more authority over some decisions and armed with a healthy Andrew Luck, it looked as if Pagano would take his second chance and run with it. Instead, the Colts have gotten stuck in neutral.
Surprise: DE Yannick Ngakoue, a third-round pick from Maryland who has four sacks and three forced fumbles and has replaced Dante Fowler in the starting lineup.
Disappointment: QB Blake Bortles has been so inaccurate and inconsistent that he brought in a mechanics coach for a two-day refresher course, a last-ditch effort to turn his season around.
Surprise: WR Tyreek Hill, a fifth-round pick expected to be primarily a kick returner, already has 19 catches for 223 yards and four touchdowns.
Disappointment: OLB Tamba Hali signed a three-year, $21 million contract when the Chiefs realized they would be without Justin Houston most of the season, but he’s aging before their eyes.
Surprise: RB Jay Ajayi has turned a weak ground game into a strength by averaging 6.0 yards per play and has six TDs.
Disappointment: WR DeVante Parker, a 2015 first-rounder, has done little to establish himself as a complement to top target Jarvis Landry.
Surprise: RB LeGarrette Blount, whose production over the first four games coming off hip injury last season helped take the pressure off Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett.
Disappointment: CB Cyrus Jones, a second-rounder, has struggled in his limited action returning punts, was ejected at Cleveland and hasn’t played since.
NEW YORK JETS
Surprise: WR Quincy Enunwa, a sixth-rounder in 2014, has blossomed into a legitimate playmaker in Chan Gailey’s offense. With Eric Decker out, Enunwa has stepped up as the No. 2 receiver behind Brandon Marshall.
Disappointment: CB Darrelle Revis, a former shutdown defender, has looked mostly mediocre this season, no longer resembling the guy who left opposing teams’ best receivers stranded on “Revis Island.”
Surprise: RB Jalen Richard, an undrafted free agent, has helped provide depth behind Latavius Murray.
Disappointment: CB Sean Smith, a major free agent addition who got benched in the opener and struggled earlier in the season before showing some improvement of late.
Surprise: WR Sammie Coates led the league in yards per reception (21.3) before injuring his left index finger. He’s been a long-distance threat.
Disappointment: LB James Harrison is hardly the only disappointment on an underwhelming defense, but the 38-year-old got his first two sacks of the season this past weekend. He’s seen his playing time slowly decrease.
Surprise: Top draft pick DE Joey Bosa. After a holdout and hamstring injury that cost him four games, he has become a force on the Chargers’ defense, particularly in opposing backfields.
Disappointment: That the team couldn’t get the rookie defensive end signed in time for training camp. A squabble over money he was due and offset language caused the No. 3 overall pick to miss camp. After signing, Bosa pulled the hamstring and the Chargers went 1-3 without him.
Surprise: RB DeMarco Murray. For a player who looked washed up in Chip Kelly’s offense in Philadelphia last season and cost the Titans only swapping 13 spots in the fourth round of the draft, what a bargain.
Disappointment: Rookie LB Kevin Dodd, the 33rd pick overall, has been a minimal contributor. The Titans could use more pressure from someone who had 12 sacks and 23½ tackles for loss last season at Clemson.
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Latavius Murray ran for 114 yards and three touchdowns and the Oakland Raiders showed they were ready for prime time, beating the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos 30-20 on Sunday night.
In what was being billed as the biggest game in Oakland since the team went to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season, the Raiders (7-2) put together a complete effort to overpower the Broncos (6-3) and take over sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
Derek Carr threw for 184 yards and did not turn the ball over, Khalil Mack had two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery and the Raiders outrushed Denver 218-33.
The performance was to the delight of an energetic crowd at the Coliseum, excited to host a prime time Sunday night game for the first time in more than a decade.
Trevor Siemian looked shaky at times for Denver but did throw two touchdown passes, including a short pass behind the line that Kapri Biggs turned into a 69-yard touchdown catch and run in the fourth quarter.
LIONS 22, VIKINS 16, OT
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Matthew Stafford threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate, who vaulted into the end zone in overtime to lift Detroit past Minnesota.
After Matt Prater kicked a 58-yard field goal as time expired to force overtime, Tate finished the opening drive when he ran through arm tackles by Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith and leaped in for the winning score.
Stafford completed 23 of 36 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the Lions (5-4), who have won four of their past five games. Tate had 11 catches for 79 yards.
Sam Bradford completed 31 of 40 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings (5-3), who started the season 5-0 but have imploded since coming out of the bye. Stefon Diggs had a career-high 13 catches for 80 yards.
GIANTS 28, EAGLES 23
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Eli Manning threw for four touchdowns and New York’s defense had two interceptions and three stops on fourth downs to beat Philadelphia.
The Giants (5-3) won their third straight game, holding off the Eagles (4-4 after a 3-0 start) after Manning was intercepted with less than two minutes to go.
Two of Manning’s touchdowns went to Odell Beckham Jr., with the others to Roger Lewis Jr. and Sterling Shepard.
Manning moved into ninth place in yards passing with 46,428. Manning, in his 13th NFL season, threw for 257 yards against Philadelphia. He passed Vinny Testaverde, who had 46,233 yards through the air.
RAVENS 21, STEELERS 14
BALTIMORE (AP) — Joe Flacco threw a 95-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace, and Baltimore frustrated an ineffective Ben Roethlisberger in a victory over Pittsburgh.
Baltimore (4-4) snapped a four-game losing streak and moved into a tie atop the AFC North with the Steelers (4-4), who have dropped three in a row.
Three weeks after undergoing surgery on his right knee, Roethlisberger returned well ahead of schedule. Playing for the first time since Oct. 16, the 13-year veteran looked out of sync until the fourth quarter, when he directed a 75-yard drive that got the Steelers to 21-7 with 8:38 remaining.
Before that, Pittsburgh’s offense produced only two first downs and was limited to 69 yards. The Steelers finished with 36 yards rushing, 32 by Le’Veon Bell.
Roethlisberger ran for a 4-yard score with 48 seconds left, but Chris Boswell botched the onside kick — barely knocking it off the tee — and Baltimore ran out the clock.
CHARGERS 43, TITANS 35
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Melvin Gordon ran for a career-high 196 yards and scored the go-ahead TD on a 1-yard run, and defensive backs Dwight Lowery and Brandon Flowers scored on turnovers by Marcus Mariota to lead the Chargers over Tennessee, which still hasn’t won in San Diego since 1990.
The Chargers (4-5) won two days before the team will ask voters to approve a billion-dollar subsidy for a new downtown stadium to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium. The measure was polling well short of the two-thirds supermajority needed to pass.
Gordon, who leads the NFL with 11 touchdowns, scored on a 1-yard run with 5:28 left in the third quarter to give the Chargers a 26-21 lead. He ran 32 times, and broke a 47-yard run in the closing minutes. He also caught four passes for 65 yards.
Mariota, who led the Titans to a 21-19 lead by guiding two quick scoring drives on either side of halftime, helped the Chargers surge to a 12-point lead when he fumbled late in the third quarter. Lowery picked up the ball ran 43 yards for a touchdown and a 33-21 lead.
The Titans (4-5) have lost seven straight in San Diego since 1993, when they were the Houston Oilers. The franchise’s last victory in San Diego was in 1990.
COLTS 31, PACKERS 26
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Frank Gore rushed for two touchdowns, Jordan Todman had a tone-setting 99-yard return on the opening kickoff and Indianapolis held on for a win over Green Bay.
Andrew Luck shook off two interceptions in the first quarter to finish with 281 yards passing and a touchdown. The Colts, who had allowed an NFL-worst 31 sacks coming into the game, gave their quarterback decent protection.
Indianapolis (4-5) heads into a bye week with a confidence-building victory after surviving a vintage Aaron Rodgers comeback.
His 3-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with 3:29 left got Green Bay (4-4) within five, capping a 14-point spurt in four-plus minutes.
Rodgers finished 26 of 43 for 297 yards with three scores and an interception.
SAINTS 41, 49ERS 23
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Drew Brees threw a pair of touchdown passes to Michael Thomas and another to Mark Ingram, who also ran for a 75-yard score a week after being benched and New Orleans beat lowly San Francisco.
Ingram, replaced by Tim Hightower during last Sunday’s 25-20 win against Seattle after fumbling for a second straight game, scored his second straight TD for the Saints on a career-long run to answer immediately after DuJuan Harris caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from Colin Kaepernick. Ingram’s run also was the second-longest in Saints history and he wound up with 158 yards rushing as San Francisco allowed an opposing 100-yard runner for the seventh straight game.
The Saints (4-4) have grabbed back some momentum and returned to the race in the NFC South. They won for the fourth time in five games following an 0-3 start and eighth in the past 10 regular-season meetings with San Francisco. The Niners (1-7) didn’t have nearly enough to avoid their seventh straight loss since shutting out the Rams to start the season.
PANTHERS 13, RAMS 10
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cam Newton persevered through five sacks to pass for 225 yards and a touchdown, and Carolina’s defense shut down Los Angeles.
Greg Olsen caught a touchdown pass in the first half and Graham Gano added two fourth-quarter field goals for the Panthers (3-5), who won their second straight after a four-game skid.
Newton’s offense managed just 244 yards against the Rams’ vaunted defense, but the Panthers nearly shut out Los Angeles in a defense-dominated game.
Case Keenum passed for 296 yards for the Rams (3-5), who have lost four straight after a strong start to their homecoming season. Los Angeles’ scoreless streak reached 102 minutes, 12 seconds before Greg Zuerlein’s 25-yard field goal with 8:01 to play.
DOLPHINS 27, JETS 23
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Rookie Kenyan Drake scored untouched on a 96-yard kickoff return with 5:15 left, and Miami won a seesaw battle with New York Jets.
Jay Ajayi rushed for 111 yards and helped to run out the clock after the Dolphins came from behind for the third time.
A botched Dolphins punt led to a touchdown that put New York ahead 23-20. On the ensuing kickoff , New York’s Antonio Allen was called for being offside, so the Jets had to kick again. Drake took the kickoff, found a lane and sped past the final Jet — kicker Nick Folk — into the clear.
The Dolphins (4-4) won their third game in a row, while New York (3-6) fell deeper into last place in the AFC East. The Jets hurt themselves with four personal foul penalties, two interceptions thrown by Ryan Fitzpatrick and numerous missed chances.
COWBOYS 35, BROWNS 10
CLEVELAND (AP) — Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott threw three touchdown passes and kept any talk for Tony Romo unnecessary, leading Dallas over winless Cleveland.
Rookie Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 92 yards and scored twice and durable tight end Jason Witten had 134 yards receiving for the Cowboys, off to their best start since 2007.
Prescott has won seven straight starts since losing the season opener, and with the Cowboys (7-1) leading the NFC East and getting better, there’s no reason for the team to accelerate Romo’s return from a back injury.
The miserable Browns (0-9) dropped their franchise-record 12th straight game going back to last season and are 3-27 in their past 30. They also started 0-9 in 1975.
CHIEFS 19, JAGUARS 14
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City stuffed Jacksonville on fourth down with less than 2 minutes left deep in its own territory, preserving a victory despite finishing without five offensive starters.
Nick Foles threw for 187 yards and a first-half touchdown toss to Albert Wilson, and helped to set up four field goals by Cairo Santos, as Kansas City (6-2) won its 10th consecutive home game.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars (2-6) couldn’t overcome four turnovers — including a fumble at the goal line in the fourth quarter — in their first game with quarterback coach Nathaniel Hackett directing the offense.
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Halfway through his rookie year, Carson Wentz finds himself in a position the Philadelphia Eagles likely wanted to keep him out of at all costs.
The No. 2 overall pick’s promising start has been set off course by protection problems and ball security issues (five fumbles, three interceptions in last four weeks). Doug Pederson’s offense has responded by turning to an approach so low on risk that it may actually be damaging. In last week’s 29-23 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Wentz attempted just one pass more than 15 yards downfield and averaged just 4.7 yards per attempt.
The performance illustrated how far off Wentz’s situation is from the outlook for Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, whose strong play has been boosted by a stellar supporting cast. Now Wentz has to find a way to lift his own group up when facing a promising, albeit inconsistent, New York Giants defense on Sunday.
Philadelphia’s problems are feeding into one another, as the offensive line’s struggles have hindered a wide receiving corps lacking a consistent deep threat. Facing a Giants pass rush that has just nine sacks in seven games, however, might give Wentz the opening he needs to take a few more risks.
New York ranks 22nd against the pass but has allowed just seven touchdowns through the air this season. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins remains a dangerous playmaker, and safety Landon Collins had two interceptions against the Los Angeles Rams in London.
Here are four other matchups that will define Week 9 in the NFL:
Derek Carr vs. Broncos’ pass rush
Solving Denver’s defense remains the towering hurdle for Carr and Oakland in the hunt for AFC West supremacy. Clearing that challenge may mean the difference between a second-half surge and a reality check.
Even with a league-low 2.7% sack rate, Carr has been composed under pressure so far this season. But the Broncos’ defense, which is tied for the NFL lead with 26 sacks, is operating on a different level than the rest of the league. Beyond defensive player of the year front-runner Von Miller and the recently returned DeMarcus Ware, defensive end Derek Wolfe and outside linebacker Shane Ray have combined for 8.5 sacks so far this season.
Carr will have to be decisive yet mindful with his throws, though the Broncos will be without cornerback Aqib Talib. Amari Cooper has the most yards after catch (293) of any receiver, so providing him with opportunities to turn upfield could aid Carr if the deep passing game dwindles.
Titans OTs Taylor Lewan, Jack Conklin vs. Chargers DE Joey Bosa, OLB Melvin Ingram
A revamped running game has Tennessee at 4-4 and in the hunt for the AFC South. Though running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry deserve praise for capitalizing on their opportunities, the Titans’ offensive line might be the biggest catalyst for this season’s revival.
Lewan has been a standout in both pass protection and the run game, while Decker has held down the right side. But Bosa and Ingram might be two of their biggest tests to date.
An extended holdout didn’t slowed Bosa, who has four sacks in as many games and been a disruptive presence in opponents’ backfields. Ingram, meanwhile, has continued to establish himself as one of the best young 3-4 linebackers in the NFL today. Both can make the kind of plays that would derail Tennessee’s rushing attack, though the Titans have proven resilient with a near 50% third-down conversion rate.
Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph vs. Lions’ secondary
Minnesota’s previously resilient offense is in dire straits at midseason. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner stepped down after a nightmarish showing against the Chicago Bears on Monday night. The offensive line is in shambles, and the running game is on pace to have the lowest yards per carry (2.66) of any team since the 1953 New York Giants.
Getting Rudolph going against Detroit could be one of the best options for new coordinator Pat Shurmur to turn the offense around. The Lions have allowed eight touchdowns to tight ends in eight games so far this season.
Of course, Bradford will need improved protection to have time to find Rudolph and wide receiver Stefon Diggs downfield. Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah has been held in check and backup Armonty Bryant is suspended, but Kerry Hyder has been a revelation with five sacks.
Colts QB Andrew Luck vs. Packers LB Nick Perry
Having already taken an NFL-high 31 sacks this season, Luck can’t expect any improvement from his protection. Indianapolis has put an undue burden on him given his surrounding parts, so it will be up to him to find a remedy.
The hits are already starting to take their toll on Luck, as he struggled while taking six sacks and 12 hits in last week’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. T.Y. Hilton’s being cleared after a hamstring injury should help, but it’s unclear how much the Colts’ top weapon will be able to contribute.
Green Bay, meanwhile, is counting on its pass rush to cover for an ailing secondary. Its top two cornerbacks are already out, with two others listed as questionable. Perry is on track for a career year with 5.5 sacks so far, and his importance could be even greater given Clay Matthews’ uncertain status for the game with a hamstring injury.
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Monday, Oct. 31
Minnesota at Chicago, 8:30 p.m. EDT. Sam Bradford and the Vikings (5-1) are coming off their first loss, a 21-10 defeat against Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Jay Cutler is set to return for the Bears (1-6), who are off to their worst start since the 2000 team dropped seven of its first eight.
— Derek Carr, Raiders, threw for a franchise-record 513 yards — completing 40 of 59 passes without an interception — including a 41-yard touchdown pass to Seth Roberts with 1:45 remaining in overtime, leading Oakland past Tampa Bay 30-24.
— Tom Brady, Patriots, went 22 of 33 for 315 yards and threw four touchdowns in leading New England to a 41-25 win over Buffalo.
— Drew Brees, Saints, passed for 265 yards and a touchdown, and scored on a quarterback keeper in New Orleans’ 25-20 win over Seattle.
— Carson Palmer, Cardinals, was 35 of 46 for 363 yards with three touchdowns, including two to J.J. Nelson, in a losing cause as Arizona fell to Carolina 30-20.
— Matt Ryan, Falcons, tossed three touchdown passes and finished 28 of 35 for 288 yards in Atlanta’s 33-32 win over Green Bay.
— Kirk Cousins, Redskins, threw for 458 yards and two TDs on 38-of-56 passing with an INT in Washington’s 27-27 tie with Cincinnati in London.
— Dak Prescott, Cowboys, threw for 287 yards and two scores, including a winning 5-yarder to Jason Witten in overtime, to lead Dallas past Philadelphia 29-23.
— Melvin Gordon, Chargers, rushed for 111 yards on 23 carries in San Diego’s 27-19 loss at Denver.
— Tim Hightower, Saints, ran for 102 yards on 26 carries as New Orleans’ first 100-yard rusher this season after replacing the benched Mark Ingram in a 25-20 win over Seattle.
— Jonathan Stewart, Panthers, ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns in Carolina’s 30-20 victory over Arizona.
— Matt Forte, Jets, rushed for 82 yards and two second-half TDs in New York’s 31-28 win at Cleveland.
— Rob Kelley, Redskins, carried 21 times for 87 yards and his first rushing touchdown, a juking 4-yard carry up the gut on Washington’s opening drive in a 27-27 tie with Cincinnati.
— Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, Raiders. Cooper had 12 catches for 173 yards and a TD in Oakland’s 30-24 overtime win at Tampa Bay, while Crabtree caught eight passes for 108 yards.
— Dez Bryant, Cowboys, caught four passes for 113 yards, including a game-tying 22-yard touchdown, in his return after missing three games with a hairline fracture of a bone in his right knee to help Dallas to a 29-23 overtime victory over Philadelphia.
— A.J. Green, Bengals, caught nine passes for 121 yards in Cincinnati’s 27-27 tie with Washington.
— Rob Gronkowski, Patriots, had five catches for 109 yards and a TD, the 69th of his career to break a franchise record previously held by Stanley Morgan, in New England’s 41-25 win over Buffalo.
— Jamison Crowder, Redskins, caught nine passes for 107 yards and a score in Washington’s 27-27 tie with Cincinnati.
— Tyler Eifert, Bengals, had seven receptions for 102 yards and a TD as Cincinnati and Washington played to a 27-27 tie.
— Wil Lutz, Saints, kicked field goals of 22, 53, 21 and 41 yards in New Orleans’ 25-20 win over Seattle.
— Graham Gano, Panthers, had field goals of 43, 52 and 21 yards in Carolina’s 30-20 win over Arizona.
— Shaq Barrett, Broncos, blocked an extra-point attempt by Josh Lambo in Denver’s 27-19 win over San Diego.
— Dee Ford, Chiefs, had 3 1/2 sacks in Kansas City’s 30-14 win at Indianapolis.
— Star Lotulelei, Panthers, had three of Carolina’s eight sacks of Carson Palmer in a 30-20 victory over Arizona.
— Bradley Roby, Broncos, scored on a 49-yard interception return in Denver’s 27-19 win over San Diego.
— Earl Thomas, Seahawks, returned a fumble forced by Cliff Avril 34 yards for a touchdown in Seattle’s 25-20 loss at New Orleans.
— Thomas Davis, Panthers, returned a fumble 46 yards for a score — the first of his 12-year career — to help Carolina top Arizona 30-20.
— Casey Hayward, Chargers, had a 24-yard interception return for a score in San Diego’s 27-19 loss at Denver.
STREAKS & STATS
New York outgained the Browns 287-133 in the second half and the Jets put together the biggest second-half road comeback in team history, winning 31-28 after trailing 20-7 at halftime in Cleveland. … Tom Brady has 20 regular-season games with four touchdowns throws or more, and six have been against Buffalo — including four TDs in a 41-25 victory Sunday. … Drew Brees has a TD pass in 58 consecutive home games, extending his NFL-record streak with one in a 25-20 win over Seattle. … Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was Green Bay’s leading rusher in a 33-32 loss at Atlanta with a career-high 60 yards on six carries. He broke his previous best of 57 yards in 2012, and posted the highest rushing total by a Packers quarterback since Don Majkowski’s 88-yard effort in 1990. … Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott ran for 96 yards on 22 carries in a 29-23 overtime win over Philadelphia, ending his NFL rookie record of four straight games with at least 130 yards rushing.
Oakland’s Derek Carr became the third player in NFL history with 500 or more yards passing, four or more TD throws and no interceptions in a game, joining Y.A. Tittle (1962) and Ben Roethlisberger (2014). Carr was 40 of 59 for a franchise-record 513 yards — surpassing Cotton Davidson’s 427 in 1964 — with four TDs in the Raiders’ 30-24 overtime win at Tampa Bay. … Rob Gronkowski’s 53-yard touchdown catch in New England’s 41-25 win at Buffalo was the 69th of his career and 68th receiving, breaking the previous marks held by Stanley Morgan. … With two TD runs in New York’s 31-28 win at Cleveland, the Jets’ Matt Forte joined Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk and Herschel Walker as the only players with at least 50 rushing TDs (51), 500 receptions (507) and 20 TD catches (20). … With 458 yards passing in Washington’s 27-27 tie with Cincinnati, Kirk Cousins tied Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen for the most games with 300 yards or more passing in franchise history with 15. … Dallas’ Jason Witten broke Ed “Too Tall” Jones’ franchise record with his 204th start in the Cowboys’ 29-23 overtime victory over Philadelphia.
Cleveland’s 31-28 loss to the New York Jets dropped the Browns to 0-8, their worst start since the 1975 team dropped its first nine games en route to going 3-11. The Browns have lost 11 straight overall dating to Week 14 of last season and are 3-26 over their last 29. Three of the losses this season have come with the Browns ahead at the break.
BRADY CORRALS BILLS
Tom Brady asserted his on-field ownership of the Buffalo Bills again Sunday, matching an NFL record in beating them for the 26th time. Brady went 22 of 33 for 315 yards and threw four touchdowns in leading New England to a 41-25 win. He improved to 26-3 against Buffalo , matching a record set by Brett Favre, who went 26-9 against Detroit.
LOTS OF LAUNDRY
Oakland overcame an NFL-record 23 penalties for 200 yards to remain unbeaten on the road with a 30-24 overtime win at Tampa Bay. The Raiders hurt themselves repeatedly with penalties, including a delay of game on first-and-goal and an offensive pass interference call against WR Michael Crabtree that nullified a touchdown. They wound up settling for Sebastian Janikowski’s 31-yard field goal that trimmed a second-quarter deficit to 10-3. Oakland was penalized four times, twice on third-and-1 for lining up with 12 men on defense, during the fourth-quarter drive Jameis Winston used to put Tampa Bay up 24-17.
Nick Foles threw two touchdown passes in relief of the injured Alex Smith to help the Kansas City Chiefs hold off Indianapolis 30-14 on Sunday. Smith was checked for a concussion in the first half and cleared to return, which he did in the second quarter. He left again early in the third quarter after Clayton Geathers shoved Smith’s head to the turf as the quarterback tried to slide underneath the tackle. Smith was then diagnosed with a concussion and did not return. Foles was 16 of 22 for 223 yards with no interceptions.
ALL TIED UP
The Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals played to a 27-27 draw Sunday in London as the NFL got its second tie game in a season for the first time since 1997. Washington (4-3-1) appeared to have the game won with 2:13 left in overtime, but Dustin Hopkins hooked his 34-yard field goal attempt wide left. Seattle and Arizona tied 6-6 last Sunday. Oddly, the last time the NFL had two ties in a season also happened in back-to-back weeks. In Weeks 12 and 13 of the 1997 season, Baltimore and Philadelphia tied 10-10, followed seven days later by Washington and the New York Giants’ 7-7 draw.
Oakland offensive lineman Donald Penn, who was with Tampa Bay for eight years before being released after the 2013 season, caught a 1-yard TD pass that made it 10-10 early in the third quarter of the Raiders’ 30-24 overtime win at Tampa Bay. The 315-pound tackle crossed his arms and struck a pose for the announced crowd of 61,058. “I had to let them know they made a big mistake in cutting me,” Penn said. “I had to let them know I’m back.”
Washington and Cincinnati’s 27-27 tie in London was marred by penalties, particularly by the Redskins. Washington was flagged 15 times for 106 yards, leading to eight Bengals first downs and damaging Washington’s overtime drives into Bengals turf. Cincinnati had seven penalties for 85 yards.
Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was carted off the field and taken to the hospital for observation Sunday after being upended by a San Diego player who was blocked into the Denver sideline. The team said the 69-year-old coach had movement in all his extremities. Chargers running back Melvin Gordon was blocked into Phillips while trying to catch Bradley Roby during an interception return. … Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith was twice forced out of the game by hits to the head, leaving for good early in the third quarter with a concussion. Running back Spencer Ware was also concussed during the 30-14 victory over the Colts on Sunday. Left guard Parker Ehinger also left the game in the third quarter with a sprained right knee. … The Colts didn’t go unscathed. Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis and right tackle Joe Reitz both left the game with concussions and did not return. … In Buffalo, NFL sack leader Lorenzo Alexander hurt his hamstring during a punt return early in the second quarter and was ruled out for the remainder of the loss to New England. … The NFC championship game rematch won by Carolina over Arizona included the departure of two stars. Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu left in the first half with a shoulder injury, and Panthers center Ryan Kalil also hurt his shoulder.
“Enough is enough. I don’t think there’s a person that can go through what I go through and keep their head, you know what I’m saying? Hits to the head, that’s one thing, but when you’re not protected in the pocket, that’s another thing. It became the story of my life ever since I came in (to the league). It’s always, ‘Oh, we missed that, I’m sorry.’ That’s bull c—.” — Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, criticizing NFL officials for their lack of calls and his perception that he is treated differently from other QBs, after the Panthers’ 30-20 win over Arizona.
“It’s weird. On one hand, you’re mad, because there’s a couple plays that if we make, we can win. But at the same time, we didn’t lose. It’s bittersweet, you know? I’m glad we didn’t take the ‘L,’ but I’m upset we didn’t win.” — Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson after Cincinnati and Washington tied 27-27 in London on Sunday.
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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) —- With Tom Brady back at quarterback, the New England Patriots once again lead the NFL in wins.
And because of that, they also lead the latest AP Pro32 poll , which was released Tuesday.
The Patriots received all 12 first-place votes for 384 points from balloting by media members who regularly cover the NFL.
“Best record in the league, best point differential in the league and the best coach-quarterback tandem in the history of the league. Any questions?” said Ira Kaufman of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Patriots (6-1) have won all three games since Brady’s return from his “Deflategate” suspension to start the season.
And on Sunday, the Patriots face the Buffalo Bills on the road in a rematch of their only loss of the season, a 16-0 shutout in Week 4.
The Dallas Cowboys moved up two spots to No. 2 despite having a bye last week.
And the Seattle Seahawks remained at No. 3 after their 6-6 tie against Arizona on Sunday night.
“They have not averaged under 100 yards rushing per game since Pete Carroll’s first season in Seattle in 2010,” said Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The defending champion Denver Broncos also moved up two spots to No. 4 after their 27-9 win over former teammate Brock Osweiler and the Houston Texans.
“John Elway is right. Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make. Case in point: Brock Osweiler turning down Denver’s offer to take the cash in Houston,” Newsday’s Bob Glauber said.
“The Broncos’ GM watches bargain-basement QB Trevor Siemian get the best of Osweiler in a resounding Monday night win.”
The Minnesota Vikings dropped four spots to No. 5 after suffering their first loss, which came against the Philadelphia Eagles, who jumped six spots to No. 6 after the 21-10 win.
The Eagles face the Cowboys on Sunday night in a key NFC East matchup.
“Dak Prescott vs. Carson Wentz for control of the NFC East, just like the schedule-makers drew it up,” said Jenny Vrentas of The Monday Morning Quarterback.
The Kansas City Chiefs (AFC West) and Green Bay Packers (NFC North) each moved up three spots, to No. 7 and No. 8, after wins last week.
The Oakland Raiders, tied for first place with Denver in the division, jumped four spots to No. 9 to give the AFC West three teams in the top 10.
New England Patriots (12)
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Monday, Oct. 24
Houston at Denver, 8:30 p.m. EDT. Brock Osweiler returns to Denver for the first time since leaving the Super Bowl champs for a four-year, $72 million offer from Houston in the offseason. Osweiler went 5-2 as the starter last season in replacing Peyton Manning. And Osweiler’s coming off his best game as a Texan, leading Houston back from a 14-point deficit for a 26-23 overtime victory over the Colts last week.
—Andrew Luck, Colts, finished 27 for 39 for 353 yards and three touchdown passes in Indianapolis’ 34-26 win over Tennessee.
—Drew Brees, Saints, was 37 for 48 for 367 yards and three touchdown passes and an interception in New Orleans’ 27-21 loss to Kansas City. Brees is the first player in NFL history with 100 300-yard passing games.
—Andy Dalton, Bengals, finished 19 for 28 for 308 yards and two touchdown passes in Cincinnati’s 31-17 win over Cleveland.
—Jameis Winston, Buccaneers, finished 21 for 30 for 269 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception in Tampa Bay’s 34-17 win over San Francisco.
—Philip Rivers, Chargers, was 27 for 44 for 371 yards with a touchdown and an interception in San Diego’s 33-30 overtime win over Atlanta.
—Jay Ajayi, Dolphins, finished with 29 carries for 214 yards and a touchdown in Miami’s 28-25 win over Buffalo. Ajayi totaled 204 yards a week earlier in a win over Pittsburgh and tied the NFL record for consecutive 200-yard games held by O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.
— Jeremy Hill, Bengals, had nine carries for a career-high 168 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown, in Cincinnati’s 31-17 win over Cleveland. It was also the best by a Bengals running back in seven years.
—Jacquizz Rodgers, Buccaneers, had 26 carries for 154 yards in Tampa Bay’s 34-17 win over San Francisco.
—LeGarrette Blount, Patriots, had 24 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns in New England’s 27-16 win over Pittsburgh.
—DeMarco Murray, Titans, had 25 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown in Tennessee’s 34-26 loss to Indianapolis.
—Kevin Hogan, Browns, replaced the injured Cody Kessler at quarterback and had seven carries for 104 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown in Cleveland’s 31-17 loss to Cincinnati. It was the longest TD run by a quarterback in Browns history.
—Matt Forte, Jets, had 30 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown in New York’s 24-16 win over Baltimore. He also joined Marshall Faulk, Marcus Allen, Thurman Thomas and Herschel Walker as the only players with 8,000 yards rushing, 4,000 yards receiving and 20 TD receptions.
—Melvin Gordon, Chargers, had 22 carries for 68 yards and two touchdowns, and added six receptions for 53 yards and another touchdown in San Diego’s 33-30 win over Atlanta.
— A.J. Green, Bengals, had eight catches for 169 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown on a desperation pass on the last play of the first half, in Cincinnati’s 31-17 win over Cleveland. Green has nine games with at least 150 receiving yards and a touchdown catch, the fourth-most among players in their first six seasons. Only Hall of Famers Lance Alworth (13) and Jerry Rice (11), and Randy Moss (10) had more such games in their first six NFL seasons.
—Julio Jones, Falcons, had nine catches for 174 yards in Atlanta’s 33-30 loss to San Diego.
—T.Y. Hilton, Colts, had seven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown in Indianapolis’ 34-26 win over Tennessee.
—Tyrell Williams, Chargers, had seven receptions for 140 yards in San Diego’s 33-30 win over Atlanta.
—Michael Thomas, Saints, had 10 catches for 130 yards in New Orleans’ 27-21 loss to Kansas City.
—Mike Wallace, Ravens, had 10 catches for 120 yards in Baltimore’s 24-16 loss to the New York Jets.
—Josh Huff, Eagles, returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in Philadelphia’s 21-10 win over Minnesota. It was the first time the Eagles have returned kickoffs for touchdowns in consecutive games.
—Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders, was 4 for 4 on field goals in Oakland’s 33-16 win over Jacksonville.
—Landon Collins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Giants. Collins and Rodgers-Cromartie each had two interceptions in New York’s 17-10 win over Los Angeles in London. Collins returned one 44 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. They are the first pair of teammates with multiple interceptions each in a game since 2013 (Seattle’s Byron Maxwell and Richard Sherman) and the first Giants duo to accomplish the feat since Kenny Hill and Terry Kinard on Sept. 14, 1986, against San Diego.
—Chris Moore and Matt Judon, Ravens. Moore recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and Judon had two sacks in Baltimore’s 24-16 loss to the New York Jets.
—Daniel Sorensen, Chiefs, returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown in Kansas City’s 27-21 win over New Orleans.
—Robert Mathis, Colts, returned a fumble 14 yards for a touchdown in Indianapolis’ 34-26 victory over Tennessee.
—Adrian Clayborn, Falcons, returned a fumble 5 yards for a touchdown in Atlanta’s 33-30 loss to San Diego.
—Emmanuel Ogbah, Browns, had two sacks in Cleveland’s 31-17 loss to Cincinnati.
STREAKS & STATS
After failing to score more than 23 points in any of the first six games, the Bengals got their act together against one of the league’s worst defenses, piling up 559 yards — their most since 1990 in a 31-17 win over the Browns. The Bengals have won the past four in the series by scores of 30-0, 31-10, 37-3 and 31-17. … After giving up 171 yards rushing, including 111 to David Johnson, last Monday night at Arizona, the Jets held Baltimore to a franchise-low 6 yards on the ground. … The Dolphins outgained Buffalo 454 yards to 267 and had a 14-minute edge in time of possession, but were hurt by 13 penalties for 116 yards. Miami overcame an 11-point deficit with 16 minutes left to end a four-game winning streak by the Bills and beat them for only the second time in their past seven meetings. … The Raiders pounded the Jaguars 33-16 and improved to 4-0 on the road and moved to 5-2 for the first time since 2001. … The Chiefs won their ninth consecutive home game with a 27-21 victory over the Saints. … The Colts rallied to beat the Titans 34-26 for their 10th straight win against their AFC South rival. … The 49ers’ 34-17 loss to Tampa Bay was their sixth straight loss and their longest losing streak since 2008. … The Seahawks and Cardinals played to a 6-6 tie after Arizona’s Chandler Catanzaro and Seattle’s Stephen Hauschka both missed short field goals in overtime. The tie was the Cardinals’ first since Dec. 7, 1986, a 10-10 draw at Philadelphia when the franchise was based in St. Louis. It was the first for the Seattle since entering the NFL in 1976. The last tie in the NFL came in 2014, when Carolina and Cincinnati tied 37-37.
The Colts’ Adam Vinatieri kicked a pair of field goals, and the second, a 33-yarder with 3:46 left in the third quarter, gave him an NFL-record 43 consecutive field goals made. His first tied him with former Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt, who made 42 straight between 2002 and 2004. … The Chiefs’ Andy Reid coached his 300th game Sunday. Most of those were over his 14 seasons in Philadelphia, where he was 140-102-1. He is 36-21 in his fourth season in Kansas City. Playing in his 100th game, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has 27,890 passing yards, the most by any player in his first 100 games to begin a career.
The Jets honored the late Dennis Byrd with a pregame video tribute after he was killed last weekend in a car accident in Oklahoma.
Byrd was an inspiration to many after he overcame brief paralysis and walked again just a few months after injuring his neck during a play in 1992. The defensive lineman, who played for the Jets for four seasons, died in a two-vehicle collision last Saturday. He was 50.
Geno Smith’s return to the starting lineup came to a premature end on Sunday, with the New York Jets quarterback exiting a 24-16 win over Baltimore with a right knee injury in the second quarter. Smith was hurt while taking a sack from Baltimore’s Matthew Judon. He was taken to the locker room and later returned to the field in street clothes, and he’ll have an MRI this week. … Cleveland’s quarterback woes continued with Cody Kessler suffering a concussion. Kessler was hit hard while throwing a shovel pass on a scramble, and he was replaced by rookie Kevin Hogan. … In Buffalo, LeSean McCoy’s nagging left hamstring issue flared up, with the NFL’s second-leading rusher being forced to leave the Bills’ game at Miami in the third quarter. Bills safety Aaron Williams suffered a head and neck injury when Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry was flagged for unnecessary roughness for a block in the second quarter. … Washington cornerback Josh Norman was forced to leave the Redskins’ game against Detroit, suffering a concussion and appearing to injure his left shoulder while defending a catch by the Lions’ Marvin Jones. … In Philadelphia, Eagles cornerback Ron Brooks was carted off the field after suffering a right knee injury late while making a tackle in the first quarter.
“With (Matthew) Stafford, it’s never in the bag if it’s close. I call him (Brett) Farve Jr. because those are the kind of attributes and intangibles he has.” — Redskins safety Will Blackmon on quarterback Matthew Stafford after the Lions quarterback threw a last-minute TD pass in Detroit’s 20-17 win over Washington.
“We got outplayed, we got outcoached, we got out-everythinged. They were the more physical team today, there’s no doubt about that. They controlled the game.” Buffalo coach Rex Ryan — on his team’s performance in a 28-25 loss to Miami.
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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Their momentum gone and the Pittsburgh Steelers surging behind backup quarterback Landry Jones, the New England Patriots needed something to get them going.
They found inspiration in the usual places: LeGarrette Blount’s churning legs, Tom Brady’s accurate right arm and Rob Gronkowski’s massive hands.
Twice the undermanned Steelers needed one stop to give their offense the ball with a chance to take the lead on Sunday afternoon.
And twice the Patriots instead went right down the field instead, pulling away for a 27-16 victory that left little doubt as to where the balance of power in the AFC sits as the season reaches its halfway point.
The Steelers were within 14-13 when Blount broke runs of 11 and 25 yards to set up a 36-yard touchdown from Brady to Gronkowski early in the third quarter.
When another Pittsburgh field goal brought Pittsburgh within four, the Patriots responded with another long touchdown drive fueled by a 37-yard catch-and-run by Gronkowski that set up Blount’s second touchdown of the game.
“It was good to score like that and good to make plays in the second half that we needed to,” Brady said. “They certainly made it tough on us.”
Maybe, but the Steelers (4-3) also made it tough on themselves. Pittsburgh scored one touchdown in four trips to the red zone and was flagged 10 times for 85 yards, including a holding call in the second quarter that wiped out a touchdown pass that would have tied the game.
Instead, Chris Boswell missed a 42-yard field goal and Pittsburgh never legitimately came close to evening the score again.
“You can’t waste red zone trips, you have to come off blocks and make tackles in the run game, you can’t give up explosion plays, we did,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “That’s why we lost.”
Brady, Blount and Gronkowski had plenty to do with it too. Brady completed 19 of 26 for 222 yards and two touchdowns to improve to 9-2 against Pittsburgh. Gronkowski caught four passes for 93 yards and his 68th touchdown catch, tying Stanley Morgan for the most in club history. Blount finished with 127 yards rushing and two scores against the team he walked away from 2014 .
“His runs were able to settle us down,” New England coach Bill Belichick said of Blount.
New England (6-1) remained perfect since Brady returned from his four-game “Deflategate” suspension and while the Patriots lost a pair of fumbles they also didn’t throw an interception, making them the third team since 1960 to get through the first seven weeks of the season without throwing it to the other team, joining the 1960 Browns and 2008 Redskins.
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley hardly limited the playbook with Jones under center. The fourth-year quarterback did what Roethlisberger likes to do, particularly getting the ball to running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Bell finished with 149 yards of total offense and Brown caught seven passes for 106 yards, but too often Pittsburgh settled for field goals (or field goal attempts) when touchdowns were required.
“We just got to the red zone a lot of times and turned the ball over, you can’t have that,” Bell said. “I mean, it is a small margin for error against a team like that.”
The 39-year-old quarterback who once ran the 40-yard dash at the combine in a not-so fleet 5.28 seconds can still run away from the bad guys. Brady ran for three first downs in the first half, mashing his way on a quarterback sneak and twice escaping pressure and outrunning defenders a decade or more younger for the necessary yardage.
New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a regular season extra point during his rookie year in 2006 and then didn’t miss another one until last week against Cincinnati, an NFL record streak of 479 attempts between misfires (though there was that costly missed kick in last year’s AFC championship game ). Gostkowski didn’t have to wait nearly as long until watching a second one go astray. Gostkowski misfired on a third-quarter extra point that kept the Steelers within seven.
“This is a tough place to kick,” Belichick said. “I’m not making any excuses. The kicker on the other side of the field had trouble too.”
In addition to the 42-yarder he missed, Boswell misfired on a 54-yarder with the Steelers down two scores in the fourth quarter.
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Seattle’s Stephen Hauschka and Arizona’s Chandler Catanzaro missed short field goals that would have won it in overtime and the Seahawks and Cardinals tied 6-6 on Sunday night.
Hauschka’s 27-yard field goal was wide left with seven seconds left after Catanzaro’s 24-yarder bounced off the left upright.
The last tie in the NFL came in 2014, when Carolina and Cincinnati tied 37-37. The tie was the Cardinals’ first since Dec. 7, 1986, a 10-10 draw at Philadelphia when the franchise was based in St. Louis. It was the first for the Seattle since entering the NFL in 1976.
The Cardinals (3-3-1) dominated the game statistically and looked to be in shape to win it after Carson Palmer’s 40-yard pass to J.J. Nelson set up Catanzaro’s short kick.
The Seahawks (4-1-1), stuffed throughout regulation by the Arizona defense, took over and Russell Wilson completed passes of 31 yards to Jermaine Kearse and 27 yards to Doug Baldwin to give Houschka his short attempt. Both kickers made field goals on their teams’ first possession of overtime.
Catanzaro, who kicked field goals of 46 and 45 yards, also had a 39-yard field goal blocked by a stunning play by Bobby Wagner when he hurdled Arizona long snapper Aaron Brewer.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians argued loudly for a penalty and was charged with a timeout when he challenged a play that is not reviewable. That proved significant when the Cardinals couldn’t stop the clock to get off a short field goal attempt as the first half ended.
EAGLES 21, VIKINGS 10
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Josh Huff returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, Carson Wentz outplayed Sam Bradford and Philadelphia handed Minnesota its first loss of the season.
The Eagles (4-2) snapped a two-game slide while the rested Vikings (5-1) hardly looked like an unbeaten team after having a bye.
Bradford returned to Philadelphia for the first time since his trade to Minnesota eight days before the season opener paved the way for Wentz to start. Bradford was 7-7 in his only season with the Eagles and won his first four starts for the Vikings.
But the Eagles pressured and harassed their former quarterback all game, sacked him six times, and forced his first three turnovers this season.
DOLPHINS 28, BILLS 25
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Jay Ajayi tied an NFL record by surpassing 200 yards rushing for the second game in a row. Ajayi rushed for 214 yards in 29 carries after totaling 204 yards a week earlier in a win over Pittsburgh. He scored on a 4-yard run , and busted a 53-yarder when the Dolphins were pinned at their 3 and trailing in the fourth quarter.
The Dolphins (3-4) used an extra lineman much of the time to clear big holes for Ajayi, who tied the NFL record for consecutive 200-yard games held by O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.
Miami overcame an 11-point deficit with 16 minutes left to end a four-game winning streak by the Bills (4-3) and beat them for only the second time in their past seven meetings.
Buffalo RB LeSean McCoy, ranked second in the NFL in rushing, started, but totaled only 11 yards in eight carries before departing with a hamstring problem.
CHARGERS 33, FLACONS 30
ATLANTA (AP) — Josh Lambo’s 42-yard field goal in overtime gave San Diego its first road win of the year as the Chargers rallied from a 17-point deficit.
The Chargers (3-4) trailed 27-10 in the second quarter. They had lost 11 of their past 12 road games.
Linebacker Denzel Perryman delivered two key plays late in the game. Perryman’s interception of Matt Ryan’s pass for Julio Jones set up Lambo’s tying 33-yard field goal with 18 seconds remaining in regulation.
Perryman’s fourth-and-1 stop on running back Devonta Freeman gave San Diego the ball at Atlanta’s 43 for the Chargers’ winning drive. Perryman grabbed Freeman’s feet behind the line for the key tackle on the Falcons’ gamble.
CHIEFS 27, SAINTS 21
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes in another efficient outing, and Daniel Sorensen returned an interception of Drew Brees for another touchdown.
Spencer Ware ran for 77 yards to go with his 46-yard touchdown reception, and Tyreek Hill made an acrobatic 38-yard TD catch to help the Chiefs (4-2) win their ninth straight at home.
Brees got the Saints (2-4) within 24-21 with his touchdown pass to Brandon Coleman with 2:33 left, but the ensuing onside kick went out of bounds. Kansas City added a 41-yard field goal, and the Saints could do nothing in the final 28 seconds.
Brees finished with 367 yards and three TD passes.
RAIDERS 33, JAGUARS 16
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Latavius Murray scored twice in his return from turf toe, and the Raiders gave coach Jack Del Rio a victory against his former team.
Murray, who missed the past two games, finished with 59 yards on 18 carries. Michael Crabtree caught eight passes for 96 yards and a touchdown from Derek Carr, Sebastian Janikowski kicked four field goals, and the Raiders played the kind of defense they’ve been looking for all season.
The result was the team’s most complete win of the season. Oakland improved to 4-0 on the road and moved to 5-2 for the first time since 2001.
The Jaguars (2-4), meanwhile, dropped a third straight at EverBank Field and added more speculation about the future of coach Gus Bradley. Jacksonville fell to 14-40 during Bradley’s four seasons, and the latest loss was filled with poor execution on both sides of the ball and a lack of discipline down the stretch.
LIONS 20, REDSKINS 17
DETROIT (AP) — Matthew Stafford threw a go-ahead, 18-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin with 16 seconds left.
The Lions (4-3) extended their winning streak to three games. The Redskins (4-3) had won four straight.
Stafford, who set up game-winning kicks in the previous two games, led his team to another win in the 100th game of his career. He was 18 of 29 for 266 yards, one TD and no turnovers.
Kirk Cousins scored a go-ahead TD on a 19-yard run with 1:05 left.
The Redskins, though, failed to stop Stafford from throwing or running on his last possession and could not overcome mistakes that included turnovers, a missed field goal and penalties.
GIANTS 17, RAMS 10
LONDON (AP) — The Giants capitalized on four interceptions of Case Keenum in the first NFL game played at London’s home of English rugby, a sold-out and raucous Twickenham Stadium.
Keenum, coming off the best start of his career, had the Rams at the Giants’ 15-yard line with 50 seconds left when he lobbed a pass in the left corner of the end zone that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie easily picked off. Keenum’s intended target, Brian Quick, failed to get the quarterback’s audible and cut off his route early.
Keenum, who finished 32 of 53 for 291 yards and one touchdown, has thrown an interception on the Rams’ final offensive play of the last three games. That likely will fuel debate on a potential quarterback change to overall No. 1 draft pick Jared Goff.
Landon Collins returned his first of two picks 44 yards for a second-quarter touchdown, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also had two interceptions.
BENGALS 31, BROWNS 17
CINCINNATI (AP) — A.J. Green’s one-handed catch in the middle of an end zone scrum highlighted Cincinnati’s day full of big plays.
Green’s 48-yard touchdown catch on the final play of the first half helped the Bengals (3-4) regain their footing in the injury-depleted AFC North. The defending division champions piled up their most points since they beat the Browns 37-3 last December. Jeremy Hill had a 74-yard touchdown run as part of his 168-yard effort, the best by a Bengals running back in seven years.
The Browns (0-7) extended their worst start since 1999, when they were a first-year expansion team. The NFL’s only winless team also lost yet another quarterback — the theme of their season. Cody Kessler got hit hard while throwing a shovel pass in the second quarter, then went to the locker for a concussion evaluation and was ruled out. That left the offense in the hands of undrafted rookie Kevin Hogan, the Browns’ sixth quarterback of the season.
COLTS 34, TITANS 26
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Andrew Luck threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jack Doyle with 1:55 left to put Indianapolis ahead to stay, and the Colts rallied to beat the Titans for their 10th straight win against their AFC South rival.
The Colts (3-4) came in having lost two of three, including blowing a 14-point lead in an overtime loss last week at Houston. But Luck he improved to 8-0 against the Titans with yet another comeback win. He finished with 353 yards passing and three TDs, the last after Tennessee went up 23-20.
T.Y. Hilton caught seven passes for 133 yards, including a 37-yard TD. The Colts shook off 12 penalties for 131 yards in pulling out their 15th win in 16 games against Tennessee.
The Titans (3-4) saw their two-game winning string end.
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri kicked a pair of field goals, and the second, a 33-yarder with 3:46 left in the third quarter gave him an NFL record 43 consecutive field goals made.
JETS 24, RAVENS 16
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced an injured Geno Smith and led the Jets on three scoring drives, and a rejuvenated defense came up with two rare interceptions.
Fitzpatrick came in for Smith in the second quarter and led the Jets on a go-ahead drive capped by a 13-yard touchdown catch by Matt Forte. Fitzpatrick finished 9 of 14 for 120 yards and a touchdown as the Jets (2-5) snapped a four-game losing streak.
Smith injured his right knee while taking a sack from Baltimore’s Matthew Judon. Fitzpatrick was efficient after losing his job earlier in the week.
Joe Flacco started for Baltimore (3-4), loser of four in a row, after being questionable with a sore shoulder. He went a team-record 176 consecutive throws without an interception before Buster Skrine picked off his pass in the third quarter.
BUCCANEERS 34, 49ERS 17
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Jameis Winston threw three touchdown passes and Jacquizz Rodgers ran for 154 yards.
The Bucs (3-3) fell behind by 14 points early before scoring 27 straight to deal the Niners (1-6) their sixth straight loss for San Francisco’s longest losing streak since 2008.
Mike Evans caught eight passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns, Russell Shepard scored on a 19-yard pass from Winston, and Peyton Barber iced the game with a 44-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to help Tampa Bay win its second straight game around its bye week.
Colin Kaepernick struggled in his second start of the season for the 49ers, going 16 for 34 for 143 yards and turning the ball over twice after kneeling once again for the national anthem.
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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Music blared louder than normal in the San Diego Chargers’ locker room, and there was a sense of relief Thursday night after a victory over the Denver Broncos.
The Chargers had actually finished.
Philip Rivers threw for 178 yards and one touchdown, passing Hall of Famer Dan Fouts to become San Diego’s career passing leader, and the Chargers held off the Broncos 21-13.
The victory may have saved embattled coach Mike McCoy’s job .
The Chargers (2-4) were coming off a mistake-filled loss at Oakland, and earlier in the season lost three games in which they led at the 2-minute warning. There has been increasing fan discontent with the conservative McCoy, and the Chargers are trying to convince voters to approve a $1.1 billion public handout for a new downtown stadium in the form of an increase in the hotel occupancy tax.
“There is nothing like winning,” a misty-eyed McCoy said. “Especially beating a good football team in front of are home fans. It was great.”
The victory “meant a ton for Mike,” Rivers said. “It wasn’t talked about a lot on the team but veteran players … I felt it. Not that I expected it if it didn’t go well. I had no idea but you also you are not playing dumb. We knew we had to get this thing going in a hurry.”
The Broncos had the ball in the final seconds, but the Chargers — who had two turnovers on special teams —held.
“You can’t take winning for granted in this league,” defensive end Corey Liuget said. “When I saw it said 0:00 and that guy didn’t catch that ball, I was happy as hell. I got on my damn knee and said, ‘Thank you Lord. It’s over now.'”
What changed from those brutal losses, when the Chargers blew late leads?
“It was a mindset for us to go out there and finish, and everyone knew we were going to finish this game,” Li
The defending Super Bowl champion Broncos were coached by special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis after Gary Kubiak was ordered by doctors to sit this one out because of a migraine condition that mimics strokes.
“You have to give them credit,” DeCamillis said. “We know it would be a tough game because they have played a lot of close games and not won.”
The five-time defending AFC West champion Broncos (4-2) were mostly sluggish behind Trevor Siemian, who was back at quarterback after rookie Paxton Lynch struggled in a loss to Atlanta. They lost their second straight game and had their NFL-record 15 straight divisional road victories snapped.
The Chargers snapped their streak of 10 straight divisional losses dating to 2014.
Rivers, in his 13th season with the Chargers and 11th as starter, has 43,094 career yards passing. Fouts threw for 43,040 yards in 15 seasons with the Bolts.
Rivers threw a 5-yard scoring pass to rookie tight end Hunter Henry to cap the game’s first possession. Rivers finished 18 of 29.
Otherwise, the Chargers had to settle for Lambo’s career-high four field goals, of 37, 21, 31 and 32 yards.
LATE-FIRING BRONCOS: Denver didn’t get across the 50 on its own accord until there were just 2 minutes left in the third quarter. Denver’s first score came after a punt bounced off San Diego’s Travis Benjamin and the Broncos recovered at the San Diego 11. The refs initially ruled that the Broncos downed the punt, but Denver challenged and got the ball. Brandon McManus kicked a 29-yard field goal.
Siemian was 30 of 50 for 230 yards, with a 5-yard scoring pass to Bennie Fowler midway through the fourth quarter.
McManus kicked a 46-yard field goal with 27 seconds left, and Denver recovered the onside kick at its 46. It got to the San Diego 45 with eight seconds to go before Siemian’s desperation pass was batted down by Dexter McCoil.
DEFENSIVE STAND: The Broncos were threatening at the San Diego 20 with less than 5 minutes to go. But on consecutive plays they were whistled for holding, Siemian was sacked by rookie Jatavis Brown and San Diego’s Craig Mager recovered a fumble by Demaryius Thomas.
RIVERBOAT MIKE: McCoy went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Denver 20 early in the second half, with Melvin Gordon going over the top for a 1-yard gain. Rivers misfired on two straight passes and was flushed on third down, forcing the Chargers to settle for Lambo’s 37-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead. McCoy improved to 25-31 overall in four seasons.
NEW HOLDER: Veteran backup quarterback Kellen Clemens took over as holder for the Chargers after rookie Drew Kaser’s misadventure at Oakland on Sunday. Kaser mishandled the snap on a potential tying field goal with 2:07 left in the 34-31 loss. Kaser, who also shanked a punt, kept his job as punter but lost his job as holder.
ANTHEM WATCH: Chargers players Joe Barksdale, D.J. Fluker, Chris Hairston, Joshua Perry and Tyreek Burwell held up their right fists during the national anthem.
INJURIES: The Broncos said T Russell Okung was taken to a hospital with concussion-like symptoms. … Chargers rookie DE Joey Bosa was having his right hand worked on by the trainers after Denver’s first drive. He was back in for the next Broncos possession. … Broncos WR Cody Latimer left with a concussion in the second quarter. … Gordon limped off the field early in the fourth quarter. He had his right ankle taped and returned on San Diego’s next possession.
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills took advantage of sloppy, Tom Brady-less New England to hand the Patriots their first home shutout at Gillette Stadium, winning 16-0 on Sunday.
It was the first loss of the season for New England (3-1), which was playing its final game before Brady returns from his four-game “Deflategate” suspension. The Patriots, who moved into Gillette Stadium in 2002, were last blanked at home 6-0 by the New York Jets in 1993 at Foxboro Stadium.
Tyrod Taylor connected with LeSean McCoy for a 7-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, Dan Carpenter added three field goals for Buffalo (2-2).
It was Buffalo’s second win in its last 16 visits to Foxborough. Including his tenure with the New York Jets, it gave Bills coach Rex Ryan his first regular-season road victory over Bill Belichick in eight tries. The last Bills’ shutout win away From Orchard Park was 23-0 over Washington in a Buffalo “home” game at Toronto on Oct. 30, 2011.
After struggling to maintain drives and finding a run-pass balance, Taylor was spot-on Sunday. He finished 27 for 39 for 246 yards, and directed a unit that was 7 for 15 on third downs. The Bills had been 10 of 36 combined in the first three games.
Buffalo’s defense also carried over its dominant effort from its 33-18 win over Arizona, sacking rookie Jacoby Brissett three times.
STEELERS 43, CHIEFS 7
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdowns passes for the fifth time in his career and Pittsburgh throttled Kansas City.
A week after suffering the franchise’s worst loss in 27 years, the Steelers (3-1) responded by overwhelming the erratic Chiefs (2-2).
Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown — wearing cleats featuring the profile of golf great and western Pennsylvania native Arnold Palmer — for a pair of scores.
Roethlisberger also found Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jesse James for touchdowns as the Steelers emphatically rebounded from a 31-point meltdown in Philadelphia. The quarterback finished 22 of 27 for 300 yards and a rating of 152.5, just shy of a perfect 158.3 rating.
Le’Veon Bell ran for 144 yards on 18 carries and caught five passes for 34 yards in his return from a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
COWBOYS 24, 49ERS 17
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Ezekiel Elliott ran for 138 yards and a touchdown and Dak Prescott threw for two scores to help the Cowboys overcome an early 14-point deficit to beat the 49ers.
The Cowboys (3-1) fell in a 14-point hole early in the second quarter before taking over the game behind a pair of rookies who have helped the team get off to a fast start this season with starting quarterback Tony Romo sidelined by a back injury.
Prescott threw for 245 yards and had a 20-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams and a 4-yarder to Brice Butler to tie the game at the half.
Elliott then took over with 96 yards rushing in the second half, including a 1-yard run that gave Dallas the lead for good late in the third quarter.
Blaine Gabbert got off to a fast start to help San Francisco (1-3) take the early lead but struggled to generate any offense after that.
RAIDERS 28, RAVENS 27
BALTIMORE (AP) — Derek Carr threw four touchdown passes, the last to Michael Crabtree with 2:12 left.
After the Ravens rallied from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter to go ahead with 3 ½ minutes remaining, Carr directed a 66-yard drive that ended with a 23-yard strike to Crabtree in the back of the end zone.
Carr went 25 for 35 for 199 yards. Three of his TD passes went to Crabtree, who finished with seven catches for 88 yards to help Oakland (3-1) to its third road win.
The Ravens (3-1) trailed 14-3 in the second quarter and 21-12 with 11:11 to go before coming back.
A 52-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Steve Smith cut the deficit to 21-19. Ravens defensive tackle Lawrence Guy then forced a fumble by DeAndre Washington, and Baltimore recovered at the Oakland 17.
Four plays later, Terrance West scored from the 3 to give Baltimore its first lead.
FALCONS 48, PANTHERS 33
ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Ryan shredded Carolina’s defense, passing for a team-record 503 yards and four touchdowns, Julio Jones had 12 receptions for a Falcons-record 300 yards. The totals by Ryan and Jones are the most ever allowed by Carolina.
One week after being held to one catch in a win at New Orleans, Jones had a 75-yard scoring catch late in the game as Atlanta solidified its early hold on the NFC South lead.
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, the 2015 league MVP, left in the fourth quarter and was evaluated for concussion symptoms after taking a hit from Deion Jones on a successful 2-point run. There appeared to be helmet-to-helmet contact but there was no penalty on the hit.
The defending NFC champion Panthers (1-3) scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns, including scoring passes from Newton’s replacement, Derek Anderson, to tight end Greg Olsen and Corey Brown. Robert Alford’s 30-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:14 remaining clinched the win for the Falcons (3-1).’
BRONCOS 27, BUCCANEERS 7
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Paxton Lynch made his NFL debut sooner than expected, stepping in for injured starter Trevor Siemian to help the Broncos remain unbeaten with a victory over the Buccaneers.
Siemian left the game with two minutes remaining in the first half with what the defending Super Bowl champions described as an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder. He remained in uniform and watched the second half from the sideline, wearing a baseball cap while Lynch — the 26th pick in this year’s draft— finished the Broncos’ ninth consecutive win.
Siemien threw a touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas, capitalizing on Aqib Talib’s interception and 25-yard return to the Bucs 11 on Tampa Bay’s opening possession. The ex-Buc cornerback also set up another first-half TD with a second interception that led to C.J. Anderson’s 1-yard run for a 14-7 lead.
For the second straight week, play was stopped in the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium because of inclement weather. The game was suspended for 1 hour, 26 minutes with 6:52 remaining Sunday, with only a few thousand fans returning to their seats for the conclusion.
SAINTS 35, CHARGERS 34
SAN DIEGO (AP) —Drew Brees led New Orleans to two touchdowns in the final 4 minutes, 50 seconds to rally the Saints to a stunning victory against Philip Rivers and the Chargers, who blew a 13-point lead by committing two crucial turnovers..
Brees overcome two interceptions to win in his return to San Diego, where he played his first five NFL seasons before being allowed to leave as a free agent. It was also the first win this season for the Saints (1-3).
After the final gun, Brees ran over to the stands and greeted Saints fans.
With the Chargers (1-3) trying to protect a 34-21 lead, Melvin Gordon fumbled and Darryl Tapp recovered at the San Diego 13, setting up Brees’ 5-yard TD pass to Michael Thomas on fourth-and-2 to pull to 34-28 with 4:50 to go.
Travis Benjamin then fumbled after a reception and Nate Stupar recovered at the San Diego 31. Seven plays later, fullback John Kuhn scored his third TD of the game, on a 1-yard run. The PAT made it 35-34.
Rivers, who was Brees’ understudy for his first two NFL seasons, was intercepted by B.W. Webb with 1:10 to go.
RAMS 17, CARDINALS 13
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Tavon Austin returned a punt 47 yards to set up Case Keenum’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Brian Quick with 2:41 to play, and the Rams improved to 3-1 for the first time in a decade with a victory over the Cardinals (1-3).
Arizona’s Carson Palmer threw for 288 yards and a touchdown but left the game to be evaluated for a concussion after his head slammed to the turf on a sack by Aaron Donald with 5:40 to play.
The play forced a Cardinals punt and Austin raced past would-be tacklers to the Arizona 34. A facemask penalty against Ifeanyi Momah moved the ball to the 19 and the Rams went ahead when Quick caught a pass under tight defense for the score.
Arizona backup Drew Stanton was intercepted twice in the final minutes, including on a Hail Mary on the game’s final play.
JAGUARS 30, COLTS 27
LONDON (AP) — Blake Bortles threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as Jacksonville held off a furious Indianapolis Colts rally for the Jaguars’ first win of the season. The victory at a raucous Wembley Stadium elevated Jacksonville into a tie with Indianapolis at 1-3 in the AFC South.
Andrew Luck led the Colts on three fourth-quarter touchdown drives to rattle the Jaguars’ nerves. But his fourth-and-1 pass at the Jacksonville 49 with 1:36 remaining fell from the hands of tight end Dwayne Allen to preserve the victory for under-fire Jaguars coach Gus Bradley.
The Jaguars got a semblance of a running game going for the first time this season. T.J. Yeldon carried 13 times for 68 yards and Bortles added seven scrambles for 36 yards, including a 1-yard run that put Jacksonville ahead 14-6 midway through the second quarter.
The Colts repeatedly self-destructed on offense with dropped balls and another costly Luck interception that led to Jacksonville’s opening touchdown. The Colts proved just as reckless on defense as pass interference and unnecessary roughness penalties extended three Jacksonville scoring drives.
The Jaguars led 23-6 after three quarters before the Colts mounted a tenacious comeback.
SEAHAWKS 27, JETS 17
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Russell Wilson was sharp and efficient despite playing with a sprained knee, throwing three touchdown passes.
Wilson injured the medial collateral ligament in his left knee last week against San Francisco and wasn’t his usual mobile self in this one, but his arm was plenty good. He finished 23 of 32 for 309 yards while wearing a brace on his leg as the Seahawks (3-1) won at MetLife Stadium for the first time since beating the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl in 2014.
Jimmy Graham, questionable with back spasms earlier in the week, had six catches for 113 yards, including an impressive 17-yard one-handed grab in the opening quarter, while giving the Jets (1-3) fits all game.
Wilson missed the first snap of his career due to injury last weekend after getting pulled down by San Francisco’s Eli Harold. The Seahawks quarterback has also dealt with a sprained right ankle from the opener against Miami. He was efficient against the Jets, especially in the first half when he went 10 of 11 for 191 yards and two TDs and a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating. He finished with minus-5 yards on five rushes for Seattle, which has a bye next weekend.
Wilson helped Seattle, making the first of three East Coast trips this season, improve to 8-5 in its last 13 games with a 1 p.m. Eastern start time.
Richard Sherman had two interceptions and Earl Thomas one as Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets couldn’t get much going against the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense.
REDSKINS 31, BROWNS 20
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Kirk Cousins threw three touchdown passes, including two to tight end Jordan Reed, and the Washington Redskins cashed in on several trips to the red zone.
The Redskins (2-2) scored four red zone touchdowns against the Browns (0-4) after going 3 for 14 in their first three games. Cousins connected with Reed for 8- and 9-yard touchdowns, Chris Thompson for a 5-yard score, and running back Matt Jones scored from 1 yard as part of his 117-yard performance.
Jones eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the first time this season, and Cousins finished 21 of 27 for 183 yards and also had an interception.
Browns running back Isaiah Crowell ran for 112 yards and a touchdown, and Cody Kessler was 27 of 38 for 215 yards, one touchdown and one interception. But turnovers on three consecutive second-half possessions cost Cleveland a chance at its first victory.
TEXANS 27, TITANS 20
HOUSTON (AP) — Will Fuller had a tiebreaking 67-yard punt return for a touchdown. It was the first time Houston (3-1) played without its star defensive end J.J. Watt since the 2010 season. Watt, out for the season after back surgery, had started 83 straight games since being drafted in 2011.
Fuller also had 81 yards receiving and a touchdown.
Tennessee (1-3) was driving with less than two minutes remaining, but Marcus Mariota’s pass to former Texan Andre Johnson on fourth down was broken up.
The Texans squandered an early 14-point lead and their offense was struggling in the second half when Fuller took the first return of his career for a touchdown to make it 27-20. Fuller, who ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at the combine, took the punt and quickly made a trio of Titans miss before outrunning everyone else down the sideline for the score.
BEARS 17, LIONS 14
CHICAGO (AP) — Brian Hoyer threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns, and the Bears (1-3) got a win after starting 0-3 for the second time in as many seasons under coach John Fox.
They also stopped a six-game home losing streak as well as a six-game slide against Detroit (1-3), though things got tight near the end.
Chicago was leading 17-6 when Andre Roberts returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown. Golden Tate then caught a 2-point conversion pass from Matthew Stafford to cut it to 17-14 with 1:52 left, but the Bears recovered the onside kick.
Hoyer was on target in his second straight start with Jay Cutler nursing a sprained right thumb. He was 28 of 36 passes against a defense missing the injured Ezekiel Ansah and DeAndre Levy.
Eddie Royal caught seven passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Jordan Howard ran for a career-high 111 yards for Chicago.
The Lions dropped their third straight.
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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today) —- From Week 1 through Week 17, USA TODAY Sports’ NFL staff will be handicapping the race for league MVP.
It’s obviously early, which is why none of our top three finishers in Week 1 — Antonio Brown, Jameis Winston and Drew Brees — even earned a vote in Week 2. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote is worth three, and a third-place vote is worth one.
Our MVP tracker through Week 2’s games:
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1. QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (18 points): For all of his accomplishments, he’s spent most of his career operating in the shadows of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. But right now, Big Ben and his undefeated team are commanding the spotlight. And he leads the NFL with six TD passes through two weeks, the kind of production that should continue to finally cement him as an elite QB and may help him win his first MVP in his 13th season.
2. OLB Von Miller, Denver Broncos (14 points): The reigning Super Bowl MVP has 20 sacks in his last 21 games (including playoffs) and proved to be a closer once again Sunday, when his strip-sack of Andrew Luck led to a game-sealing TD for the 2-0 Broncos.
3. QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (4 points): He’s trying to become the first MVP since Manning in 2009 to win the award in consecutive seasons. Despite taking a beating in Week 1, Newton bounced back with a four-TD effort Sunday and is already reaping the benefits of having WR Kelvin Benjamin back in the lineup.
T4. WR Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings (3 points): The NFL’s receiving leader has 59 more yards than anyone else heading into Week 3. And with RB Adrian Peterson gone for the foreseeable future, Diggs may continue to be the focal point of Minnesota’s offensive attack.
T4. QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (3 points): It seems he’s returning to form after appearing to be off his game for most of 2015. Ryan ranks either first or second in passing yards (730), TDs (5) and QB rating (121.4) to date.
Others receiving votes: DeAndre Hopkins (1 point), Philip Rivers (1), DeAngelo Williams (1)
Dropped out: Antonio Brown, Jameis Winston, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers
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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) —- Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson left in the third quarter against Green Bay with an injured right knee.
Peterson was injured after a 5-yard run late in the third quarter. He was not able to put any pressure on his leg has he hobbled off the field and needed to be helped back to the locker room for further testing. Upon arriving in the locker room, Peterson was quickly ruled out for the rest of Sunday night.
Peterson tore the ACL in his left knee in the second-to-last game of the 2011 season.
He was on crutches after the game, wearing a brace on his right leg. Coach Mike Zimmer said he was told the injury had “calmed down.”
“He might miss a week. I don’t know if he will or not,” Zimmer said.
Peterson finished the game with just 19 yards on 12 carries against the Packers.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was knocked out of New England’s game against Miami with a shoulder injury, meaning the highest-profile replacement in the NFL needed a replacement of his own.
Garoppolo — filling in for suspended quarterback Tom Brady — took a big hit from Miami’s Kiko Alonso in the second quarter of the Patriots’ game against the Dolphins on Sunday and left for further evaluation.
The Patriots did not disclose the severity of the injury, but said Garoppolo was ruled out for the rest of the game. The Patriots held on to beat the Dolphins 31-24.
Garoppolo was 18 of 27 passing for 234 yards and three touchdowns in less than a half, as New England rolled to a 24-3 halftime lead. He was replaced by rookie Jacoby Brissett, a South Florida native who found himself facing essentially his hometown team in his pro debut. New England didn’t need another quarterback, but if it did the likely choice figured to be wide receiver Julian Edelman — who played QB in college at Kent State.
There was a very scary scene in the first half of Sunday’s early games as well.
Cornerback P.J. Williams of the New Orleans Saints needed to be placed on a backboard and taken off on a cart after he took multiple blows to the head while trying to make a tackle in his team’s game against the New York Giants. Fox Sports reported that Williams was moving his extremities at a nearby hospital and was being evaluated for a concussion.
Also, Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware broke his right forearm early in the third quarter against Indianapolis.
Coach Gary Kubiak said the team will see the extent of the injury on Monday morning and “whether we think it’s something he can play with or something that has to be fixed.”
On the play he was hurt, Ware just missed wrapping up Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and appeared to run into a teammate. He walked off holding his right arm.
The 34-year-old Ware had a half-sack in the game.
In other injuries Sunday:
— Cleveland center Cameron Erving left the Browns’ stadium by ambulance as a precaution, the team said. Erving cramped late in the game and had discomfort in his upper body. The Browns said he’s been diagnosed with a pulmonary contusion and he will remain in the hospital overnight for observation.
— Danny Woodhead left in the first quarter of San Diego’s game against Jacksonville with an apparent right knee injury, and was taken off the sideline on a cart on his way to further evaluation. The Chargers lost Keenan Allen last week, so if Woodhead’s injury is serious then San Diego’s offense would take another hit.
— Colts receiver WR Donte Moncrief left in the second quarter with a head and neck injury. Offensive lineman Denzelle Good left in the fourth quarter with a back injury.
— Tampa Bay tight end Luke Stocker (ankle) left in the first quarter. And after a 1-yard gain on Tampa Bay’s first play of the second quarter, running back Doug Martin left with a hamstring injury. Defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. left with an ankle injury late in the second quarter. Finally, wide receiver Cecil Shorts III left with a hamstring injury in the third quarter.
— Redskins nose tackle Kedric Golston injured his right hamstring on the first play from scrimmage and missed the rest of Washington’s 27-23 loss to Dallas. He was replaced by Ziggy Hood.
— Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah left in the first quarter against Tennessee with a left ankle injury. Detroit also lost running back Ameer Abdullah and tight end Eric Ebron in that game, one in which the Lions wasted a 15-3 lead and lost 16-15.
— Jaguars left tackle Kelvin Beachum had a concussion late in the third quarter. The stadium was hushed as he was placed on a back board and lifted onto a cart, which drove him off the field.
— Dolphins running back Arian Foster left the game in New England with a groin injury and was ruled out for the second half. Foster was hampered in the week leading up to this game with a hamstring problem, and is coming off surgery to repair his Achilles as well. Miami also lost linebacker Spencer Paysinger in the first half.
— Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart was taken to the locker room after suffering a hamstring injury in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers, and was eventually ruled out for the rest of the game. Stewart was replaced by Fozzy Whittaker.
— Houston wide receiver Braxton Miller hurt a hamstring and did not return. He’s expected to be further evaluated on Monday.
Monday, Sept. 19
Philadelphia at Chicago, 8:30 p.m. EDT. The Eagles’ Carson Wentz, the No. 2 overall draft pick, looks to build off an impressive NFL debut in which he threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns in his debut against Cleveland, completing 22 of 37 passes in a turnover-free performance. Jay Cutler and the Bears, meanwhile, will try to avoid an 0-2 start for the second straight season.
— Cam Newton, Panthers, threw for 353 yards and four touchdowns in Carolina’s 46-27 win over San Francisco in its home opener.
— Matt Ryan, Falcons, passed for 396 yards and three scores, helping Atlanta past Oakland 35-28.
— Philip Rivers, Chargers, matched his career high with four touchdown passes, including two to Travis Benjamin, in a 38-14 victory over Jacksonville.
— Eli Manning, Giants, had 368 yards passing with no TDs or turnovers in New York’s 16-13 victory over New Orleans.
— Carson Palmer, Cardinals, tossed three touchdown passes and finished with 308 yards in Arizona’s 40-7 rout of Tampa Bay.
— Dak Prescott, Cowboys, ran for a 6-yard TD and went 22 for 30 for 292 yards, helping Dallas beat the Washington Redskins 27-23.
— Sam Bradford, in his Minnesota debut, completed 22 of 30 passes for 286 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers to lead the Vikings to a 17-14 victory over the Packers
— Isaiah Crowell, Browns, ran for 133 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown, on 18 carries in Cleveland’s 25-20 loss to Baltimore.
— LeGarrette Blount, Patriots, had 123 yards rushing and a TD to help lead New England past Miami 31-24.
— Fozzy Whitaker, Panthers, rushed for a career-best 100 yards on 16 carries after Jonathan Stewart left with a hamstring injury in a 46-27 win over San Francisco.
— DeAngelo Williams, Steelers, ran for 94 yards on a career-high 32 carries in Pittsburgh’s 24-16 victory over Cincinnati.
— Melvin Gordon, Chargers, had a career-high 102 yards rushing and a score to help San Diego top Jacksonville 38-14.
— Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers, had seven receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns in Carolina’s 46-27 win over San Francisco, his second game back from ACL surgery that cost him all of 2015.
— Jarvis Landry, Dolphins, caught 10 passes for 137 yards in Miami’s 31-24 loss at New England.
— Travis Benjamin, Chargers, caught six passes for 115 yards and two scores as San Diego topped Jacksonville 38-14.
— Marvin Jones, Lions, had eight catches for 118 yards in Detroit’s 16-15 loss to Tennessee.
— Sterling Shepard, Giants, caught eight passes for 117 yards in New York’s 16-13 win over New Orleans.
— Stefon Diggs, Vikings, caught nine passes for 182 yards and a touchdown in a 17-14 win over Green Bay.
— Tavon Young, Ravens, scooped up the ball after Lawrence Guy got a hand on Patrick Murray’s extra point and returned it for a 2-point defensive conversion in Baltimore’s 25-20 win at Cleveland.
— Greg Zuerlein, Rams, kicked three field goals — the longest a 47-yarder in the fourth quarter — and Los Angeles defeated the Seattle Seahawks 9-3.
— Janoris Jenkins, Giants, returned Johnathan Hankins’ block of a field goal attempt 65 yards for a touchdown in New York’s 16-13 victory over New Orleans. Josh Brown kicked a 23-yard field goal as time expired in his first game after returning from a one-game suspension.
— Nick Novak, Texans, booted field goals of 32, 24, 31 and 43 yards, helping Houston top Kansas City 19-12.
— Von Miller, Broncos, had three sacks, including a sack-strip of Andrew Luck that was recovered by Shane Ray and returned for a touchdown that sealed Denver’s 34-20 win over Indianapolis.
— Marcus Cooper, Cardinals, intercepted two passes and returned one 60 yards for a touchdown in Arizona’s 40-7 rout of Tampa Bay.
— Shaq Thompson, Panthers, scored his first career touchdown when he scooped up Carlos Hyde’s fumble and returned it 9 yards to give Carolina a 7-3 lead in a 46-27 victory.
— Aqib Talib, Broncos, returned an interception 46 yards early in the fourth quarter of Denver’s 34-20 win over Indianapolis.
Victor Cruz, who had a winning fourth-quarter touchdown catch against Dallas last week, hauled in a 34-yard third-down pass from Eli Manning to set up Josh Brown’s winning 23-yard field goal as time expired. The Giants got off to their first 2-0 start since 2009 with a 16-13 win over New Orleans Saints on Sunday. … Indianapolis is off to its third straight 0-2 start after a 34-20 loss at Denver.
New Orleans’ Drew Brees (61,589) threw for 263 yards against the New York Giants and passed Dan Marino (61,361 yards) for No. 3 in NFL history. The Giants’ Eli Manning passed for 368 yards, giving him 44,762 and moving him past Drew Bledsoe (44,611) for 10th place. … Houston’s J.J. Watt finished with 1 1/2 sacks against Kansas City to give him 76 in his 82nd career game. He’s the second fastest in NFL history to reach 75 sacks behind Hall of Famer Reggie White, who did it in 65 games. … Houston rookie receiver Will Fuller finished with four receptions for 104 yards to become the first rookie drafted in the first round with consecutive 100-yard receiving games to start his career. The 21st overall pick in this year’s draft had 107 yards receiving in his NFL debut last week. … Aqib Talib’s interception return for a touchdown in Denver’s 34-20 win over Indianapolis was the ninth score of his career and fifth with the Broncos, a team record.
STREAKS & STATS
New England is 21-1 at home vs. the AFC East since 2009 after beating Miami 31-24. It was the Patriots’ eighth straight home victory over Miami (0-2). … Dallas won for only the second time in its past 16 games without Tony Romo — and both of those victories came at Washington, including a 27-23 win Sunday. … With a 25-20 victory, Baltimore improved to 15-2 against Cleveland under coach John Harbaugh. … Isaiah Crowell’s 85-yard TD run was the second-longest scoring run in Cleveland history, with Bobby Mitchell’s 90-yarder in 1959 the only one to top it. … Jacksonville fell to 2-11 on the West Coast and 0-4 in San Diego. The Jaguars haven’t won on the West Coast since 2004 and have been outscored 260-93 during an eight-game losing streak, falling by double digits in seven of those.
Cleveland took a 20-2 lead against Baltimore, the Browns’ largest lead after one quarter since Dec. 3, 1961, when they led Dallas 21-0 en route to a 38-17 win. But the Ravens rallied back, helped by a returned blocked extra point, and won 25-20. … The usually reliable Stephen Gostkowski missed a 39-yard field goal with 1:08 to play. The 2015 All-Pro was 33 for 36 on field goals last year, making all 17 from 39 yards or closer. Last week, he went 3 for 3 against Arizona.
Jimmy Garoppolo had three touchdown passes before leaving in the second quarter with a right shoulder injury as the New England Patriots outlasted the Miami Dolphins 31-24 on Sunday. Garoppolo was replaced by rookie Jacoby Brissett, who led New England to a touchdown on its first possession of the second half. Brissett was 6 of 9 for 92 yards.
The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Seattle Seahawks 9-3 on Sunday, a game that marked the return of pro football to the nation’s second-largest market for the first time in nearly 22 years. There was an announced crowd of 91,046 on a searing day at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where the Rams marked the long-awaited occasion by wearing blue-and-gold throwback uniforms for their regular-season home debut.
The expected duel between star wide receivers Antonio Brown and A.J. Green never materialized in Pittsburgh’s 24-16 win over Cincinnati. Brown caught just four passes for 39 yards for the Steelers, and even had a rare drop while running free in the middle of the field in the first half. A week after dominating Darrelle Revis for 12 catches and 180 yards and a touchdown against the Jets, Green had just two receptions for 38 yards.
For the first three quarters, it looked as though Tennessee and Detroit might threaten a 65-year-old NFL record. The Lions finished with 17 penalties for 138 yards, and the Titans were flagged 12 times for 83 yards. The record is 37 penalties by Cleveland (21) and Chicago (16) on Nov. 25, 1951. The Lions and Titans were nearly halfway there after two quarters, having combined for 18. They were at 26 by the end of the third.
In 1937, Detroit was called for only 19 penalties for 139 yards all season — two records that still stand. The Lions nearly reached both of those totals in one game Sunday.
Detroit’s Anquan Boldin had a touchdown catch in the Lions’ 16-15 loss to Tennessee, joining Terrell Owens as the only players in NFL history to have at least 1,000 career receptions and a touchdown catch with four teams. Boldin has played for Arizona, San Francisco, Baltimore and Detroit.
In that same game, Tennessee’s Andre Johnson caught the winning touchdown with 1:13 remaining. He has 1,057 career catches and has a TD reception with three teams (Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee), joining Boldin, Owens, Jerry Rice and Cris Carter to accomplish the feat.
Tampa Bay held Arizona’s David Johnson to 45 yards rushing in 12 attempts, but he caught three passes for 98 yards. The longest came on a check-down from Carson Palmer, a play that went for 58 yards.
Carolina’s Greg Olsen had a 78-yard touchdown catch and San Francisco’s Vance McDonald had a 75-yarder in the Panthers’ 46-27 win over the 49ers, marking the first game in NFL history in which a tight end on each team had a touchdown catch of at least 75 yards.
Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson limped off in the third quarter of a win over Green Bay with a right knee injury. He had to be helped to the locker room. … New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was knocked out against Miami on Sunday with a shoulder injury, meaning the highest-profile replacement in the NFL needed a replacement of his own. Garoppolo — filling in for suspended quarterback Tom Brady — took a big hit from Miami’s Kiko Alonso in the second quarter of the game against the Dolphins on Sunday and left for further evaluation. The Patriots did not disclose the severity of the injury, but said Garoppolo was ruled out for the rest of the game. The Patriots held on to beat the Dolphins 31-24. … Cornerback P.J. Williams of the New Orleans Saints needed to be placed on a backboard and taken off on a cart after he took multiple blows to the head while trying to make a tackle in his team’s game against the New York Giants. Fox Sports reported that Williams was moving his extremities at a nearby hospital and was being evaluated for a concussion. … Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware broke his right forearm early in the third quarter against Indianapolis. Coach Gary Kubiak said the team will see the extent of the injury on Monday morning and “whether we think it’s something he can play with or something that has to be fixed.” … Danny Woodhead left in the first quarter of San Diego’s game against Jacksonville with an apparent right knee injury, and was taken off the sideline on a cart on his way to further evaluation. … After a 1-yard gain on Tampa Bay’s first play of the second quarter, running back Doug Martin left with a hamstring injury. … Cleveland center Cameron Erving left the Browns’ stadium by ambulance as a precaution, the team said. Erving cramped late in the game and had discomfort in his upper body. The Browns said he’s been diagnosed with a pulmonary contusion and he will remain in the hospital overnight for observation. … Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah left in the first quarter against Tennessee with a left ankle injury. Detroit also lost running back Ameer Abdullah and tight end Eric Ebron in that game, one in which the Lions wasted a 15-3 lead and lost 16-15. … Dolphins running back Arian Foster left the game in New England with a groin injury and was ruled out for the second half. … Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart was taken to the locker room after suffering a hamstring injury in the first quarter against San Francisco.
“Everybody thinks we’re in the morgue or something. We’re not dead, by no means.” — Washington’s Josh Norman on the Redskins’ 0-2 start.
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Sam Bradford had a Minnesota debut almost as dazzling as the new $1.1 billion building itself, completing 22 of 30 passes for 286 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers to lead the Vikings to a 17-14 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night.
The defense did the rest, sacking Aaron Rodgers five times and producing two turnovers in the fourth quarter that quashed the comeback and sent the crowd of 66,813 into a deafening frenzy in celebration of first regular-season game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Adrian Peterson limped off in the third quarter with a right knee injury, and only 19 yards on 12 carries, but the Vikings (2-0) proved they still have a lot of options. Stefon Diggs caught nine passes for 182 yards a touchdown. They held the Packers (1-1) to 65 total yards in the first half, withstanding an early touchdown pass by Rodgers to Jordy Nelson on a drive aided by two penalties by cornerback Terence Newman.
Trae Waynes, who had two penalties himself, intercepted Rodgers’ pass in Vikings territory in the closing minutes to seal the victory. The previous drive was killed when Brian Robison knocked the ball out of the hands of Rodgers, who ran for 29 yards and a touchdown. He began to find a groove throwing the ball late, but Bradford was the better quarterback on this night.
PATRIOTS 31, DOLPHINS 24
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Jimmy Garoppolo had three, first-half touchdown passes before leaving in the second quarter with a right shoulder injury.
It was the Patriots’ eighth straight home victory over Miami (0-2). It came at a price as New England (2-0) was dealt another blow at quarterback with Tom Brady already out his four-game “Deflategate” suspension.
Garoppolo’s injury came in a flash. On third down with less than five minutes left in the first half, he was chased out of the pocket and got off a completion to Malcolm Mitchell. Garoppolo was driven into the ground on his shoulder by Miami linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Garoppolo initially got up, before going down to one knee and being attended to by the training staff. He ended his day 18 of 27 for 234 yards and the three scores.
He was replaced by rookie Jacoby Brissett, who led New England to a touchdown on its first possession of the second half. Brissett was 6 of 9 for 92 yards. LeGarrette Blount rushed 29 times for 123 yards and a touchdown. Martellus Bennett also had five catches 114 and a touchdown.
Miami rallied in the second half but couldn’t catch up.
STEELERS 24, BENGALS 16
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns to offset a pair of interceptions.
DeAngelo Williams churned out 94 yards on a career-high 32 carries and added a 4-yard touchdown grab. Tight ends Jesse James and Xavier Grimble also caught scoring passes from Roethlisberger as the Steelers (2-0) kept Cincinnati in check at rainy Heinz Field.
Andy Dalton passed for 366 yards and a touchdown, but needed 31 completions to reach that total, working almost exclusively on dump offs to running backs and tight ends while Pittsburgh clamped down on star wide receiver A.J. Green, who had just two receptions for 38 yards.
The rematch of the Steelers’ ugly 18-16 win in the wild-card round in January was downright tame. The teams combined for just 10 penalties and only one personal foul.
RAMS 9, SEAHAWKS 3
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Greg Zuerlein kicked three field goals, the longest a 47-yarder in the fourth quarter, and the Rams marked the return of pro football to Los Angeles for the first time in nearly 22 years with a win.
Plenty of penalties slowed down the game for the announced crowd of 91,046 on a searing day at the Memorial Coliseum, where the Rams commemorated the long-awaited occasion by wearing blue-and-gold throwback uniforms.
The Rams (1-1) are still without a touchdown after losing 28-0 at San Francisco in their s opener. With field goals accounting for all the offense, it was hardly the high-scoring show Los Angeles sports fans are known to crave.
Seattle (1-1) racked up 10 penalties for 114 yards; the Rams had nine penalties for 78 yards.
BRONCOS 34, COLTS 20
DENVER (AP) — Von Miller gave the Denver fans a reminder of his Super Bowl 50 MVP performance, sweeping in for the sack-strip of Andrew Luck that sealed the win.
With the Broncos clinging to a six-point lead with 1:51 remaining, Miller burst past right tackle Joe Reitz and swiped the ball from Luck’s grasp. Fellow linebacker Shane Ray scooped up the ball and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown.
Miller added a sack on the last play as the Broncos (2-0) sent the banged-up Colts limping to their third consecutive 0-2 start.
They did it by rattling Luck, who started 5 for 18 before he engineered a couple of second-half touchdown drives. Luck completed just 21 of 40 passes for 197 yards and was sacked five times.
FALCONS 35, RAIDERS 28
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Justin Hardy caught a deflected 8-yard touchdown pass to break a tie midway through the fourth quarter.
Matt Ryan threw three TD passes, but got lucky on the go-ahead one in the fourth quarter. His third-down throw to Tevin Coleman was broken up, but the ball bounced high in the air and Hardy caught it in the end zone to put Atlanta (1-1) up 28-21.
The Raiders (1-1) appeared to tie on the next drive when Amari Cooper caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr. But officials ruled Cooper went out of bounds voluntarily before making the catch, although the Raiders contended he was pushed by Desmond Trufant.
Oakland coach Jack Del Rio then went on fourth-and-2, but Jalen Richard was stopped on a 1-yard gain.
BUCCANEERS 40, CARDINALS 7
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Carson Palmer threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns and Arizona (1-1) intercepted Jameis Winston four times.
Marcus Cooper, acquired off waivers from Kansas City on Sept. 2, had two interceptions, returning the second 60 yards for a score. Winston also fumbled the ball away once.
Winston, who had four touchdown passes against Atlanta in the opener and was NFC player of the week, threw 51 passes, the most in his two NFL seasons, completing 27 for 243 yards for the Bucs (1-1).
Palmer completed 18 of 31 passes with no interceptions before sitting out most of the fourth quarter. All three of Palmer’s scoring passes came in the first half,— to Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Jaron Brown.
CHARGERS 38, JAGUARS 14
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Philip Rivers matched his career-high with four touchdown passes, including two to Travis Benjamin and Melvin Gordon ran for one score and had his first 100-yard game.
The Chargers (1-1) bounced back from their stunning loss at Kansas City, when they blew a 21-point third-quarter lead and fell 33-27 in overtime.
The Jaguars started 0-2 for the fourth time in five seasons. They crossed midfield only six times and committed three turnovers.
Casey Hayward led the Chargers’ defense with two interceptions of Blake Bortles.
Gordon, a second-year pro, scored on a 3-yard run on the game’s opening drive, his first TD at Qualcomm Stadium. Gordon went in standing up, and then right guard D.J. Fluker lifted him off the ground in celebration. He finished with 102 yards on 24 carries.
COWBOYS 27, REDSKINS 23
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Alfred Morris scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 4-yard run with under five minutes left, leading the Cowboys over his former team.
Washington’s Kirk Cousins threw an end-zone interception that set up a long Dallas drive to the winning score.
With rookie quarterback Dak Prescott looking poised throughout and scrambling for a 6-yard TD run in the second half, Dallas (1-1) won for only the second time in its past 16 games without the injured Tony Romo — and both of those victories came at Washington (0-2).
Prescott finished 22 for 30 for 292 yards.
GIANTS 13, SAINTS 10
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Eli Manning hit Victor Cruz on a third-down 34-yard pass to set up Josh Brown’s winning 23-yard field goal as time expired. The Giants got off to their first 2-0 start since 2009, while New Orleans lost its second straight.
Brown’s third field goal capped an 11-play, 70-yard drive that featured two key third-down passes by Manning and a pass interference call on a throw to Odell Beckham Jr.
The game was also redemption for the Giants’ defense. After allowing Drew Brees to throw for 511 yards and an NFL-tying seven touchdowns, New York limited him to one touchdown, 263 yards passing and 288 yards in total team offense.
RAVENS 25, BRONCOS 20
CLEVELAND (AP) — Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes to Mike Wallace and the Ravens rallied from a 20-point first-quarter deficit.
Justin Tucker kicked three field goals and the Ravens (2-0) withstood Cleveland’s final drive to improve to 15-2 against the Browns under coach John Harbaugh.
C.J. Mosley intercepted Browns quarterback Josh McCown at the goal line with 13 seconds left to seal the win.
Baltimore was a point from trailing by three touchdowns in the opening quarter before blocking an extra point and returning it for two points and igniting the comeback.
McCown stayed in despite an injured left shoulder for the Browns (0-2), who were hurt by a missed field goal and three costly penalties in the fourth quarter.
PANTHERS 46, 49ERS 27
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton threw for 353 yards and four touchdowns, and the Panthers overcame four turnovers.
Newton threw two TD passes to Kelvin Benjamin and one each to Greg Olsen and Devin Funchess to pass Jake Delhomme for most TD passes in franchise history with 122.
Newton showed no ill effects from the four helmet-to-helmet hits he took in Carolina’s season-opening loss to Denver. He took one shot to the head from linebacker Eli Harold late in the game after a pitchout on an option play, but quickly got to his feet.
Newton’s first pass was tipped and intercepted by Antoine Bethea, leading to a 49ers field goal. But the 2015 league MVP locked in after that, completing 24 of 40 passes while running for 37 yards on six carries.
Olsen gave the Panthers the lead for good in the second quarter when he hauled in a career-long 78-yard touchdown pass after the 49ers bit hard on play-action. That left the Pro Bowl tight end wide open on a seam route. Olsen finished with five catches for 122 yards.
TITANS 16, LIONS 15
DETROIT (AP) — Marcus Mariota converted a fourth down with a perfectly lofted 9-yard pass TD pass to Andre Johnson with 1:13 left.
Mariota dropped the pass over linebacker Tahir Whitehead to Johnson just before safety Rafael Bush could get to the veteran receiver.
Tennessee went 93 yards on 13 plays over nearly 6 minutes on the game-winning drive.
The Titans (1-1) ended a five-game losing streak, dating to last December, when Mariota threw two TD passes in the fourth quarter after trailing 15-3.
The Lions (1-1) had an opportunity to drive for a second straight winning field goal, but Matthew Stafford threw an interception to Perrish Cox at midfield in the final minute.
TEXANS 19, CHIEFS 12
HOUSTON (AP) — DeAndre Hopkins had 113 yards receiving and a touchdown and Nick Novak kicked four field goals. Novak connected from 32, 24, 31 and 43 yards for the Texans (2-0).
Cairo Santos made three field goals in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 19-12, but Houston recovered the onside kick with less than a minute left.
The Texans showed that they are a much different team than the one embarrassed in a 30-0 wild-card playoff loss to the Chiefs (1-1) in January.
Houston’s defense set a franchise record by recovering three fumbles in the first half.
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Cincinnati Bengals were so sharp against Jacksonville that Andy Dalton and several teammates were done long before halftime.
Dalton led the Bengals to two touchdowns in three possessions, earning him a little extra rest in a 26-21 loss to the Jaguars in the preseason Sunday night.
“It was a good outing for us,” said Dalton, who completed 6 of 10 passes for 77 yards and a TD. “Two touchdowns in the first half of a preseason game is pretty good, and we got them both ways. … It’s a good feeling to do it both ways.”
The Bengals (1-2) felt good on both sides of the ball, too. Dalton found Giovani Bernard for a 19-yard score on a third-down play, and then Jeremy Hill capped a 9-minute drive with a 1-yard scramble to the pylon. Defensively, the Bengals held Jacksonville to just 90 yards in the first half. Jacksonville’s first three drives: turnover, three-and-out and three-and-out.
Cincy’s only concern in the regular-season dress rehearsal was the health of three Pro Bowlers.
Receiver A.J. Green left in the first quarter with a bruised right knee, but said he’s fine. Cornerback Adam Jones strained his right calf in preseason warmups and did not play. And special teams ace Cedric Peerman broke his left forearm and could be out for the season.
“It’s unfortunate guys have injuries, but you can’t worry about that,” Dalton said. “You’ve got to worry just about the stuff you can control.”
Safety Tashaun Gipson (bruised knee) was Jacksonville’s only injured starter.
The Jaguars (1-2) had bigger problems — the offense and defense both failed to show — that raised questions about what’s supposed to the franchise’s most talented team in nearly a decade.
T.J. Yeldon fumbled on the opening possession. Center Brandon Linder and quarterback Blake Bortles each were flagged for false starts to open drives. And the left side of Jacksonville’s revamped offensive line was mostly manhandled.
“We kind of killed ourselves. We did some stupid things, really, at every position,” Bortles said. “They didn’t do necessarily anything to stop up, which is a good sign because it’s a good defense. … We were comfortable and confident in what we were doing. We just didn’t execute it and get things done.”
VIKINGS 23, CHARGERS 10
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Teddy Bridgewater was sharp in his return from a sore arm, completing 12 of 16 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown in the first half for the Minnesota Vikings in a 23-10 exhibition victory Sunday over the San Diego Chargers in the official unveiling their new stadium.
After sitting out last week, Bridgewater found Kyle Rudolph for a 27-yard score to cap a crisp 2-minute drill and led the Vikings to points on three of five possessions. Bridgewater even juked strong safety Adrian Phillips to further a 22-yard run that set up one of three field goals by Blair Walsh.
“The shoulder’s feeling great,” Bridgewater said. “I had some fun out there playing with the guys, and I can’t wait to get back out there.”
Melvin Gordon, aiming to rebound from a rough rookie season, cruised through the middle of Minnesota’s starting defense for a 39-yard touchdown after Philip Rivers audibled to a run upon sensing a blitz. San Diego lost running back Branden Oliver, though, to an Achilles tendon injury on his right leg that required a cart to take him off. The loss of Oliver, the primary kickoff returner and a contributing backup behind Gordon and Danny Woodhead, left the Chargers in a somber mood.
“I went up there as a friend and just prayed for him,” Woodhead said. “That’s the only thing you can do in that situation.”
With sunlight streaming in from the floor-to-ceiling glass on the west side and through the translucent, space-age roof, the Vikings enjoyed a gleaming debut for U.S. Bank Stadium in front of a sold-out crowd of 66,143.
“It’s a beautiful place,” coach Mike Zimmer said, as purple-clad fans watched his postgame press conference from a lounge area the team walks through to reach the field. “It’s just getting used to everything.”
The Chargers undoubtedly felt some envy, with their decade-and-a-half quest to replace 49-year-old Qualcomm Stadium unfulfilled and a move to Los Angeles a possibility. This game was conveniently scheduled for national broadcast on Fox, in case folks in San Diego were still on the fence about public funding.
Rivers went 5 for 9 for 54 yards and an interception for the Chargers.
With Adrian Peterson resting on the sideline, Jerick McKinnon rushed eight times for 56 yards for the Vikings.
NFL training camp buzz: Romo injury makes rookie Prescott sudden starter for Cowboys
FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott grew up rooting for the Dallas Cowboys in Louisiana. He suddenly finds himself in line to start their opener as a rookie quarterback with Tony Romo sidelined by yet another back injury.
Receiver Brice Butler believes the fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State pictured this years ago.
“He ends up getting drafted here. Now he’s the starting quarterback,” Butler said Sunday. “I don’t know if he thought it was going to happen this soon. But I’m pretty sure when he got here, he was like, I’m going to be the future of this franchise.
“He’s in a situation now where he’s the starter and basically that comment I just said is going to depend on how he plays. And I think he’s ready for it.”
The 23-year-old Prescott was the No. 3 quarterback for the Cowboys going into training camp before backup Kellen Moore broke his right ankle in practice.
Prescott was impressive enough in the first two preseason games to make owner and general manager Jerry Jones comfortable with him as Romo’s backup, rather than bringing in a veteran.
After Romo broke a bone in his back on the third play of the third preseason game at Seattle, Jones is ready to roll with Prescott. Assuming the Cowboys do grab a veteran, it figures to be a backup for now. The current No. 2 is Jameill Showers, a second-year player who hasn’t appeared in a regular-season game.
“I don’t know if this stuff will ever hit me,” said Prescott, set to be the first rookie quarterback to start the opener for Dallas since Quincy Carter 15 years ago. “I feel like I belong here. This is where I’m supposed to be. I just come in every day with the right attitude.”
The Cowboys haven’t said how long Romo will be out following his fourth back injury in less than four years, but it’s likely to be the opener at the very least. Jones and his son, executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones, have said they are comfortable giving Prescott a shot as the starter.
The next question is whether Prescott plays in the preseason finale against Houston on Thursday night. Starters generally sit out that game and turn their focus to the regular season. The Cowboys open Sept. 11 at home against the New York Giants.
Coach Jason Garrett wouldn’t say whether Prescott will be held out against the Texans. Dallas has just the two quarterbacks on the roster, not counting Romo.
“I don’t know if a number of snaps makes a difference if I’m ready or not,” said Prescott, who is 39 of 50 passing for 454 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in three preseason games. “I’m going to be ready. Practice is going to get me ready. We are going to game plan the right way. And I’m going to be focused.”
Dallas went 1-11 without Romo last season when he was twice sidelined by a broken left collarbone, and the Cowboys slumped to 4-12 a year after winning the NFC East at 12-4. Because of that, Jerry Jones opened training camp by declaring Dallas would no longer pin its hopes on star players returning from injuries.
The Cowboys might not have envisioned this severe a test this soon.
“The mentality is different,” said receiver Dez Bryant, who missed seven games last season because of a broken foot. “It ain’t even just with the backup quarterback. It’s like with all the players. It’s just different strategy, believing in one another. Like I said, keeping each other lifted and building real chemistry.”
Prescott, who also has two rushing touchdowns, led a scoring drive in his first full possession against the Seahawks after Romo’s injury. He took the Cowboys to a field goal in the final two minutes of the first half. He has looked comfortable running the offense and made strong throws down the field.
The eighth quarterback taken in the draft with the 135th overall pick, Prescott is likely to be the first of those to start in the regular season.
“How do you create a name for yourself without stepping up on those situations and becoming that guy?” cornerback Brandon Carr asked. “Dak has been in the fire early and often. He has done well. It’s going to take all guys to help each other out.”
A.J, Green injured
The worst-case scenario for the Bengals’ preseason game against Jacksonville looked to be coming true in the first quarter Sunday.
A.J. Green made a cut near the sideline and immediately came up hobbling and signaling to come out of the game. The star receiver ran one more route but then gingerly limped to the sideline with a right knee injury.
After trainers sat him down, Green paced the sideline. Bengals officials stated the injury was not serious and said if this had been a regular-season game, Green would have returned.
It, of course, was not a regular-season game, so Green gave up his helmet and called it a night. Green never went into the locker room to have the injury further evaluated.
— Paul Dehner, Jr., Cincinnati Enquirer
Colts catch a break
Indianapolis Colts guard Jack Mewhort will not miss the 2016 season after fears Saturday night that he’d torn an ACL.
Team owner Jim Irsay tweeted Sunday: “Mewhort 2-4 weeks/No Surgery(Initial test results).”
Mewhort may be the most reliable starter on an offensive line that has too often performed poorly in front of quarterback Andrew Luck.
Blow for Bolts
The San Diego Chargers’ running back depth took a hit Sunday when Branden Oliver tore his right Achilles in a presason game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Oliver is a versatile player, but his loss likely means more work for Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead moving into the season.
Colts add RB
Free agent running back Steven Ridley signed with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
Ridley was cut Thursday by Detroit, which had signed the sixth-year veteran in April.
Ridley, 5-11, 220 pounds, has played in 60 career NFL games with 26 starts. He went to a Super Bowl with New England in 2011, his rookie year, when he was a third-round selection, and again in 2014, when he was hurt.
Indeed, he’s been injury prone, appearing in six games for the Patriots in 2014 and nine for the Jets last year.
He has 685 carries for 2,907 yards and 22 touchdowns in his career.
— The Associated Press
Goldson finds new home
The Atlanta Falcons signed veteran free-agent safety Dashon Goldson on Sunday.
The Falcons will be without rookie starting strong safety Keanu Neal, the first-round pick, for at least the first two regular-season games with a right knee injury. He will have arthroscopic surgery on Monday.
Coach Dan Quinn has said that backup Kemal Ishmael would fill in for Neal as the starting strong safety.
Goldson, a 2012 All-Pro with the 49ers, had 110 tackles in 15 starts with the Redskins in 2015. He spent his first six seasons with San Francisco and played with Tampa Bay in 2013-14.
— The Associated Press
Titans say Walker OK
Delanie Walker needed an hour to catch his breath after leaving the Titans’ 27-14 preseason victory against the Raiders on Saturday night at O.co Coliseum, and the Titans are awaiting the results of blood tests to determine what happened, the Pro Bowl tight end told The Tennessean.
One source indicated Walker is OK, however, and that the incident could have been an “isolated circumstance.” Another source said only Walker’s blood pressure was tested.
On Sunday afternoon, Titans coach Mike Mularkey said Walker was “fine” and should practice on Monday.
“He’s doing good. … He just had congestion in his chest,” Mularkey said. “He just went back and did a little, the kind of thing you do if you have asthma, and it cleared him right up. We just felt at that point, be smart with him. … He should practice tomorrow.”
Walker said he’d never before had a similar experience.
Walker left the game in the second quarter, as the Titans marched 85 yards in 14 plays. The drive lasted nearly 8½ minutes.
He did not return to the sideline.
— Jason Wolf, The Tennessean
Jets keep Marshall out
Sore hips held New York Jets receiver Brandon Marshall out of the team’s third preseason game Saturday night, a 21-20 loss against the Giants, according to Jets head coach Todd Bowles.
Had it been a regular-season game, however, Bowles said that Marshall would have played, and didn’t seem to be concerned with the No. 1 receiver’s health.
“I just need him ready for opening day,” Bowles said in his postgame press conference. “I think he will be.”
Starting inside linebacker David Harris played Saturday, but left the game with a shoulder injury. Bowles said Harris would undergo more tests Sunday to determine the extent of the injury.
Last season, Marshall caught 109 passes for 1,502 yards (a franchise single-season record) and 14 touchdowns (tying a Jets record).
Harris, meanwhile, led the team with 108 tackles in 2015.
Neither is expected to play in the team’s fourth and final preseason game Thursday against the Eagles.
— Lorenzo Reyes
Ravens lose Watson
The Baltimore Ravens are once again dealing with a depleted tight end corps.
Ben Watson, who signed with the team in the offseason after a stellar 2015 campaign with the New Orleans Saints, tore an Achilles during Saturday night’s preseason game against the Detroit Lions. His season is almost certainly over.
Fellow tight end Dennis Pitta, who’s trying to return from a broken hip for the second time, has been sidelined in recent weeks by a broken finger.
Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams should enter the season as the top options at the position in Baltimore.
The Ravens also lost rookie running back Kenneth Dixon to a left leg injury.
Rams lock up Austin
The Los Angeles Rams have extended receiver Tavon Austin’s contract. The team announced a four-year extension Saturday that will keep him in L.A. through the 2021 season.
According to multiple reports, Austin will receive $42 million in new money with $30 million guaranteed. Incentives could boost the entire value to $52 million.
“Tavon has been an integral part of our offense and special teams since we drafted him in 2013,” coach Jeff Fisher said in a statement. “It is important to our organization to retain players we’ve drafted and invested in, and Tavon is an example of that. We’re excited for him to continue his career with the Rams.”
Austin, a first-round pick in 2013, had a career best 907 yards from scrimmage in 2015 (473 receiving on 52 receptions and 434 more on 52 carries) last season. He is also the team’s primary punt returner.
Big return for Browns WR Gordon
Not much went right for the Cleveland Browns on Friday night in the preseason game against Tampa Bay, but the return of Josh Gordon was a bright spot.
Gordon, playing for the first time since 2014, caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from Robert Griffin III and reminded Browns fans of what they had missed while he served his suspension throughout the 2015 season.
Earlier in the game, the two connected for a 44-yard gain.
The Browns denied reports earlier this week they were looking to trade Gordon.
Nelson will not play for Packers
Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson was inactive for the preseason game against the 49ers on Friday night.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is active for the first time this preseason.
Suh, Julio expected to be OK; Falcons rookie out 3-4 weeks
The Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons appear to have averted injuries to their star players on Thursday.
Dolphins Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh sustained an ankle injury but is OK, Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones also left the game with an ankle injury, but coach Dan Quinn said he likely could have returned and will be back in action shortly.
Keanu Neal, the Falcons’ safety and first-round pick, left the game with a knee injury. The team announced Friday he woulld require arthroscopic surgery and miss 3-4 weeks.
Whitner sets visit with Panthers
The Carolina Panthers appear to be weighing whether to add a veteran presence in the secondary.
Safety Donte Whitner will work out for the Panthers, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported.
Whitner, 31, would bring an additional veteran presence to a Carolina defense led by linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. Beyond Bene’ Benwikere, the Panthers’ top options at cornerback are all rookies (James Bradberry, Daryl Worley and Zack Sanchez).
Patriots pull off another trade
One day after dealing center Bryan Stork to the Washington Redskins, the New England Patriots have swung another trade.
The Patriots are acquiring linebacker Barkevious Mingo from the Cleveland Browns, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Mingo was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft but struggled to establish himself in Cleveland. He has just seven career sacks in three years, though he primarily was used as a coverage linebacker the last two seasons.
In NewEngland, he should add depth to the pass rush. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich is recovering from a torn triceps and could miss regular-season games.
Watt expected to practice next week
J.J. Watt could be nearing his return to the Houston Texans.
The defensive end and three-time defensive player of the year is expected to practice next week for the first time since undergoing back surgery in July, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported.
On Wednesday, Watt tweeted a picture of himself with the caption “Soon.”
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SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Chargers didn’t score an offensive touchdown and it didn’t matter against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night.
The Chargers forged ahead early and cruised past the Cardinals, 19-3.
With Carson Palmer limited to three series and Philip Rivers not playing, the first half was mostly a competition between veteran backup quarterbacks Kellen Clemens and Drew Stanton.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was on the sideline for the game.
Arians was released from the hospital on Wednesday after an overnight stay. The 63-year-old coach was taken to the hospital Tuesday night after complaining of stomach pain as the Cardinals prepared for a joint practice.
“I’m fine,” Arians said after the game.
On their way to a 16-0 halftime lead, the Chargers (1-1) took advantage of two turnovers for 10 first-quarter points.
Brandon Flowers intercepted Palmer’s pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.
“The defense started fast and that’s what we wanted to do,” Flowers said.
“You don’t let it frustrate you,” Palmer said. “You just continue to find ways to get better and look at all the areas that are good, look at all the areas that are bad and evaluate then and move forward.”
Stanton was then picked off in his first series by Jahleel Addae. He brought it back 61 yards to the Arizona 9. The Chargers settled for a 20-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead.
Kicker Josh Lambo was the game’s key offensive player. He made four field goals to pace the Chargers.
One week after allowing a league-high 288 rushing yards, the Chargers limited the Cardinals to 63.
Chandler Catanzaro made a 52-yard field goal for Arizona (0-2).
REDSKINS 22, JETS 18
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Even though the Washington Redskins rested several key starters, they couldn’t avoid injuries in their second preseason game.
With quarterback Kirk Cousins, receiver DeSean Jackson and cornerback Josh Norman watching from the sideline, top running back Matt Jones left in the first quarter of the Redskins’ 22-18 victory over the New York Jets with a sprained left shoulder.
Jones couldn’t raise his hand above his head even after the game, but coach Jay Gruden was cautiously optimistic about the situation.
“We’ll continue to get him checked out, get rehab and hopefully it won’t be too long,” Gruden said. “It’s a little upsetting, but I think he’s going to be OK. I don’t think it’s going to be a long injury.”
Jones looked good with 31 yards on seven carries before Calvin Pryor landed on him after pushing him out of bounds. The Redskins (1-1) can ill afford to lose Jones given their lack of experienced depth behind him.
Third-down back Chris Thompson, rookies Robert Kelley and Keith Marshall and second-year player Mack Brown split the bulk of the carries after Jones left. Wide receiver Rashad Ross was among the standouts for Washington with seven catches, including two touchdowns, for 58 yards.
“I thought Ross played outstanding,” said quarterback Colt McCoy, who learned he was starting as he came out of the tunnel before the game and was 13 of 16 for 159 yards. “Ross brings speed to the table, and that’s a big asset. When he uses it that way, it’s good for the offense.”
Having all of the options is better for the offense, but Gruden opted to rest Cousins, Jackson and Pierre Garcon — and Norman, cornerback Bashaud Breeland and linebackers Will Compton and Ryan Kerrigan on defense — to see other players in important spots.
The Jets (1-1) saw good things out of undrafted rookie receiver Robby Anderson, who made six catches for 131 yards. The Temple product hauled in a 50-yard pass from third-stringer Bryce Petty and made a 42-yard touchdown catch.
“He’s got a very, very sneaky way of making hard catches look easy,” Petty said. “He’s made a bunch of those catches in practice, so it’s nice to see that transition to the game.”
Cornerback Darrelle Revis made an impact in his preseason debut, picking off McCoy in the end zone during Washington’s opening drive. Starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was 4 of 9 for 35 yards, and Bilal Powell ran for 23 yards on three carries.
Rookie Nate Sudfeld led Washington on the game-winning drive, completing it with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Kendal Thompson with 29 seconds left.
COWBOYS 41, DOLPHINS 14
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Tony Romo led a touchdown drive in his preseason debut once the Dallas offense stopped committing holding penalties, rookie backup quarterback Dak Prescott had a strong encore and Ryan Tannehill finally got the Miami Dolphins moving.
Alfred Morris finished the second of Romo’s two possessions with a 15-yard scoring run before Prescott ran for two touchdowns and threw for two scores, including another one to Dez Bryant, in the Cowboys’ 41-14 exhibition victory Friday night.
Tannehill had two scoring tosses to Kenny Stills.
Dallas (1-1) had three holding penalties in the first five plays of an opening drive that stalled. Then Romo completed all three passes, including a pair to trusty tight end Jason Witten, before the scoring run from Morris, who had 13 carries for 85 yards.
Romo was 4 of 5 for 49 yards, and the Dallas offense had 300 yards at halftime.
“It was a good start. We needed that,” Witten said. “It’s been a long offseason. We have Tony leading the way. We had a lot of energy.”
Tannehill, who played late into the first half with the Dolphins (1-1) trying to move past a rough opener for the first-team offense last week, had scoring passes of 13 and 3 yards to Stills. Tannehill led another drive inside the 5 that ended on downs and finished 12 of 20 for 162 yards.
“I liked the mentality that he had going into that first half,” first-year coach Adam Gase said. “I liked the fact that the ones wanted to stay in and do another series. That’s what I wanted to see.”
Prescott has two touchdowns passes in each of the two preseason games and is 22 of 27 for 338 yards without an interception after completing his first eight passes following a 10-of-12 showing in his NFL debut against the Los Angeles Rams last week.
The fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State had a 20-yard scoring run and a 1-yard sneak that was held up on review. Prescott tossed a short touchdown pass to Brice Butler the play after a 58-yarder to the speedy wideout.
Prescott had an overthrow for what would have been his first interception in the second quarter, but it was wiped out by a roughing-the-passer penalty against Andre Branch.
“It’s been a great start for him, and he’s excited about it,” Romo said. “You just keep building on it every day, but you can’t ask for a better start.”
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CHICAGO (AP) — For once, the key to the first round of the NFL draft doesn’t belong to the team picking first.
With the Rams and Eagles having traded up to secure the top two spots, where they have said they will take quarterbacks, it’s San Diego that likely will determine the flow on Thursday night. What will the Chargers do with the third selection?
Perhaps defensive back Jalen Ramsey of Florida State, considered one of the best athletes and most NFL-ready players available. Maybe Laremy Tunsil, the Ole Miss offensive tackle who can pile-drive blockers into submission.
Pass rushers Joey Bosa of Ohio State and DeForest Buckner of Oregon could be in the mix, too. Maybe linebacker Myles Jack of UCLA.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco has not been shy about making draft-day deals, either.
“Like Tom talked about last week at his press conference,” coach Mike McCoy said in a web chat with fans, “we were looking at every scenario with trade possibilities. When those two teams traded ahead of us, that settled things down a bit. The phones weren’t ringing quite as often.
“We’re excited to get on the clock at pick No. 3.”
Dallas follows right behind San Diego, and the Cowboys could be thinking defense or even running back if Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott suits their tastes. Their offensive line is strong enough from recent drafts that selecting Tunsil is a long shot.
Then again, some scouts have rated Tunsil the top prospect in the entire crop, and left tackles are a premium commodity. So a bunch of other clubs in need of help on the O-line could be lining up to get the fourth overall pick.
Two other intriguing selections in the top 10 belong to San Francisco and Cleveland. Both could be in the market for a quarterback such as Paxton Lynch; Colin Kaepernick has said he would like out of San Francisco, and the Browns, despite adding Robert Griffin III, always are looking for a QB.
The 49ers have the seventh spot, and the Browns, after trading down from No. 2, will go eighth.
Of course, considering the mega-trades pulled off so far, the top 10 could look very different by the time Los Angeles opens the selection process. Not to mention how the rest of the 31-pick round (New England forfeited its pick in the deflated footballs saga) might go.
1. Los Angeles Rams (from Tennessee Titans) – Jared Goff, QB, California: Everything is in place in Hollywood (including a football team) to serve as a near-ideal supporting cast for a rookie passer – stud RB Todd Gurley, an ascending O-line and defense that could border on elite if paired with a competent offense. Now comes Goff to go atop the marquee. He won’t be slinging the ball like he did at Cal – at least not initially – but his accuracy, decision making and toughness will be welcome on a team that’s only been held back by subpar play at the game’s most vital position.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (from Cleveland Browns) – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State: It’s been 17 years since Philly drafted QB Donovan McNabb second overall. He sat behind Doug Pederson until he was ready to play, and that panned out OK. Like McNabb, Wentz is a strong-armed, mobile passer, and his experience in a pro-style system should ease his transition from the Football Championship Subdivision to the pros. But assuming he’s not NFL-ready by Week 1, Pederson, now the Eagles’ coach, can use vets Sam Bradford – maybe? – or Chase Daniel as a bridge to Wentz.
3. San Diego Chargers – Laremy Tunsil, T, Mississippi: The Bolts could use a jolt on defense, so DB Jalen Ramsey and DL DeForest Buckner should be strong considerations. But when your best player is a 34-year-old quarterback who’s been sacked 155 times over the last four seasons, it might be a good idea to get a new bouncer for Philip Rivers. Tunsil, arguably the top player in this draft, would theoretically keep Rivers on his feet for the remainder of his career while creating operating room for the feet of last year’s first rounder, RB Melvin Gordon, who too often had nowhere to go for the AFC’s worst run game.
4. Dallas Cowboys – Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State: Suspensions and free agency suggest Dallas’ pass rush may be non-existent in 2016, at least for the first month of the season. But it’s an area they should fret over Friday considering they can pick Ramsey, quite possibly the best defender coming out this year. The former track star is a freakish athlete who can play throughout the secondary, able to guard WR Odell Beckham one week and TE Jordan Reed the next. Ramsey and 2015 first rounder Byron Jones would form quite the dynamic DB duo for years to come.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – Myles Jack, LB, UCLA: Dave Caldwell sure doesn’t sound like a general manager who might be spooked by a reportedly questionable prognosis on Jack’s surgically repaired knee. Given Jack’s ability to surgically repair a defense burned for an AFC-worst 448 points in 2015, why shouldn’t Caldwell take a chance? Like most NFL teams, Jacksonville doesn’t have a player who can range from sideline to sideline … and rush off the edge … and cover the slot … and play deep safety … and be a red-zone threat as a tailback … and return kicks …
6. Baltimore Ravens – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon: A perfect fit for a defense trying not to deteriorate. Buckner can close running lanes, get after quarterbacks, tie up blockers so aging edge rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil can get home and, as a last resort, his 6-7, 291-pound frame should get in the way of quite a few passes at the line of scrimmage.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State: Per usual, we’re trying to figure out what’s up in San Francisco, including the future of QB Colin Kaepernick. The Niners could certainly be a suitor for Memphis QB Paxton Lynch and have the lone playbook in the league that might feasibly allow the raw prospect to comfortably start in Week 1. But here’s what we do know: new coach Chip Kelly covets multiple running backs who can capably power his hyperkinetic offense. Elliott is a more explosive and, apparently, more durable player than former Buckeyes teammate Carlos Hyde, currently the 49ers’ starter. And Elliott’s presence would immediately make Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert or whomever is starting a more effective passer.
8. Browns (from Miami Dolphins via Eagles) – Ronnie Stanley, T, Notre Dame: At minimum, he should be an upgrade over departed free agent RT Mitchell Schwartz and bolster the protection for oft-injured QB Robert Griffin III. But Stanley would also provide a succession plan at left tackle and might even help the Browns facilitate a deal of perennial all-pro Joe Thomas, who’s been on the trade block for some time. Thomas might be the last asset Cleveland can divest for the draft picks it continues to stockpile in the franchise’s latest reboot.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State: This scenario represents a bit of a tumble for Bosa, the No. 1 player on some boards heading into the scouting combine. But Tampa Bay might be an ideal home for the native Floridian. Bosa is an excellent technician, doesn’t take plays off and effectively smothers both running backs and quarterbacks. DT Gerald McCoy would certainly welcome him on his flank.
10. New York Giants – Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Georgia: Yes, the Giants already opened their checkbook for DE Olivier Vernon and re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul. But JPP is again in prove-it mode and only under contract for 2016, which would give Floyd time to beef up his 6-6, 244-pound frame. In the interim, he could certainly bring needed fuel to DC Steve Spagnuolo’s coveted NASCAR pass rush packages considering New York had a meager 23 sacks in 2015.
11. Chicago Bears – Jack Conklin, T, Michigan State: One way to prevent another regression by QB Jay Cutler, who’s been forced to endure another offensive coordinator switch, is to fill the vacuum on his blind side.
12. New Orleans Saints – William Jackson III, CB, Houston: Their failed pursuit of CB Josh Norman tells you how the Saints regard a defense that allowed the most points in the NFL (476) last year. Jackson’s height (6 feet) would give him a fighting chance against monstrous NFC South receivers Julio Jones, Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson.
13. Dolphins (from Eagles) – Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida: Tailback seems to be the spot Miami is desperate to fill, but it will have to wait unless they manage to snag Elliott. And Hargreaves is hardly a consolation prize. His ability to defend the slot is an ideal complement to newly acquired CB Byron Maxwell, who’s not as equipped to mirror quicker receivers like Sammy Watkins and Julian Edelman.
14. Oakland Raiders – Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville: He’s on the short side (6-1, 299) but compensates with excellent quickness and would provide three-down interior playmaking ability to a defense that already appears set on the perimeter.
15. Titans (from Rams) – Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State: He’d supply a nice dose of nasty to a line charged with better safeguarding QB Marcus Mariota and opening bigger holes for new RB DeMarco Murray. Decker appears best suited to the right side, which would allow LT Taylor Lewan to stay put.
16. Detroit Lions –Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama: A year after dumping Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, Detroit doesn’t have much inside aside from 32-year-old DT Haloti Ngata. Reed is a plug-and-play type who improves the run defense and should help unleash DE Ziggy Ansah off the edge.
17. Atlanta Falcons – Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State: The biggest deficiency of an improving unit is a linebacker who can run make plays in space and hold up in pass coverage. Problem solved with Lee.
18. Indianapolis Colts – Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama: GM Ryan Grigson is determined not to reach for a player – the blue-chip tackle crop looks rather exhausted here – yet knows he must provide better blocking in front of QB Andrew Luck if he’s going to survive to sign that (minimum) $150 million contract that’s in his future.
19. Buffalo Bills – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson: A high-effort player who consistently invades enemy backfields. Rex Ryan is a lover of all things Clemson but, more importantly, would appreciate a relentless edge presence to replace the disappointment Mario Williams was in 2015 when this defense woefully underachieved.
20. New York Jets – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis: Given the splashy trades that have been a prologue to Thursday night, don’t be shocked to see another one executed by a club that falls in love with Lynch. But if he’s available here, the Jets should pounce given Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a long-term solution (and maybe not a short-term solution); they’re likely to find themselves in a Rams conundrum – too good to draft high, not good enough to seriously contend without a franchise QB; and have a wizened assistant in OC Chan Gailey, who could be the ideal guru for Lynch until he’s prepared to play.
21. Washington Redskins – Andrew Billings, DL, Baylor: Adding Norman last week was an unexpected bonus, but he’s always had the benefit of a strong front seven. So don’t be remotely surprised if GM Scot McCloughan drops a 311-pound anchor into his 26th-ranked run defense. Billings’ athleticism also suggests he could develop into a decent pass rusher.
22. Houston Texans – Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame: Brock Osweiler has a big arm, so why not stretch it with the draft’s fastest (4.32 40 speed) receiver? Keeping opposing secondaries honest with a few fly patterns from Fuller could really soften up the rest of the field for Pro Bowl WR DeAndre Hopkins and speedy RB Lamar Miller.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi: Maybe the draft’s top receiver, Treadwell’s size (6-2, 221) could make him Minnesota’s most productive red-zone target since Randy Moss.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor: His lightning speed would add a new dimension to an offense that’s already fairly diverse with WR A.J. Green, TE Tyler Eifert and a multi-faceted ground game. Cincinnati also needs to reload at wideout after losing its depth behind Green during free agency.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers – Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State: Their first round-strategy? Best. Available. Corner. This is one bad Apple, and his size (6-1, 199) and physical style should get under the skins of AFC North receivers like A.J. Green and Steve Smith while addressing a glaring need for a defense that allowed the most passing yards in the AFC in 2015.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech: Seattle has lost every starting offensive lineman from its Super Bowl title team two years ago, including LT Russell Okung this offseason. The 6-6, 316-pound Clark would be a nice rebuilding block and could become a star under the watchful eye of line coach Tom Cable.
27. Green Bay Packers – A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama: DE Mike Daniels needs some help on the Pack’s three-man front. Robinson, 21, has major upside for a defense that hasn’t finished in the top 10 since Green Bay last won the Super Bowl five years ago.
28. Kansas City Chiefs – Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama: ILB Derrick Johnson will be 34 this year. Ragland, an excellent value here, would certainly benefit by playing alongside the graybeard backer for a year or two before becoming the main man in the middle of K.C.’s D.
29. Arizona Cardinals – Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Mississippi: He fills a hole with loads of ability. Fellow DL Calais Campbell can help hone Nkemdiche’s talent, while coach Bruce Arians and DB Tyrann Mathieu ensure a player with trouble in his past stays squeaky clean off the field.
30. Carolina Panthers – Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia: Yes, they just cut the cord with Norman, something GM Dave Gettleman would not have done if he was worried about the cornerback position. But Carolina also has an issue at safety after opting not to re-sign Roman Harper. Joseph could be a rangier version of Bob Sanders – unfortunately, that includes the injury risk – and is probably too good to pass up.
31. Denver Broncos – Kevin Dodd, DL, Clemson: The champs land at the intersection of ability and need with Dodd, a promising talent who could prove to be better than departed Malik Jackson after an apprenticeship under DC Wade Phillips.
Note: New England Patriots were stripped of their first-round pick for their alleged role in Deflategate
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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) —- Whether in St. Louis or now back in Los Angeles, the Rams are all about big trades.
They made a huge splash in their deal Thursday with the Tennessee Titans, one of the biggest draft-choice transactions in NFL history. Just like the one they pulled off four years ago with the Redskins that landed Robert Griffin III in Washington.
Of the four major pro sports in America, football features the fewest monster trades. Except, that is, when mostly draft choices are involved.
And certainly in recent times, except for when the Rams are involved.
St. Louis’ grab bag for sending the second overall spot in 2012 to the Redskins was plentiful, including No. 6 overall that year, plus two more first-rounders and a second-rounder. St. Louis didn’t exactly turn around the franchise with its selections: defensive tackle Michael Brockers, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, running backs Isaiah Pead and Zac Stacy; linebacker Alex Ogletree; tackle Greg Robinson; receiver Stedman Bailey; and offensive lineman Rokevious Watkins.
Only Brockers, Ogletree and Jenkins made much of an impact, and Jenkins left for the Giants in free agency this year. Meanwhile, the Rams have gone 27-36-1 since that deal.
The Redskins, of course, got an Offensive Rookie of the Year performance and an NFC East title out of RG3 in 2012, but he’s been injured and benched since, and now is with Cleveland.
Tennessee, meanwhile, now has the bevy of picks, something new general manager Jon Robinson, who previously worked in New England, foresees being transformational for the franchise.
“That’s the philosophy and the team-building process I cut my teeth on and that I came up in,” he said Thursday, “and I’m taking that same approach. It’s worked out pretty well for those guys up there.”
How did some other massive draft deals work out for the parties?
DALLAS AND MINNESOTA
Unquestionably the greatest heist in NFL trade annals.
Dallas already was 0-5 in 1989 while shopping star running back Herschel Walker, by far the Cowboys’ most sellable commodity. Minnesota was thinking Super Bowl and that Walker would be the final piece on a championship roster.
Basically, the Cowboys sent Walker, their third-round and 10th-round picks in 1990, and their third pick in 1991 to the Vikings for running back Darrin Nelson, cornerback Issiac Holt, linebackers Jesse Solomon and David Howard, defensive end Alex Stewart and Minnesota’s 1990 first-, second- and sixth-round picks in 1990.
But Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson had no intention of holding onto most of those veterans. Each of them had a draft pick attached so if Dallas released the player before Feb. 1, 1990, it would get those draft choices instead.
Most of the players were, indeed, cut — Nelson never even reported and was dealt to the Chargers for a second-round and a sixth-round selection.
Among those the Cowboys took with the draft choices: career rushing leader Emmitt Smith; stud DT Russell Maryland; ace safety Darren Woodson; solid cornerback Kevin Smith; and special teams standout Clayton Holmes.
Dallas won three Super Bowls in a four-season span after that. Minnesota still hasn’t sniffed another Super Bowl.
NEW ORLEANS AND WASHINGTON
Theater of the absurd, courtesy of Mike Ditka.
In 1999, then coaching New Orleans, Ditka was so enamored of Texas running back Ricky Williams that he moved the Saints up to fifth overall. In return, he sent all seven of the Saints’ selections, beginning with the 12th overall slot, plus a first-round and third-round choice the next year, to Washington. Then Ditka allegedly lit up a cigar and headed for the golf course.
Williams was a good, not great, player for the Saints, hardly worth an entire collection of picks. The Redskins wound up, through other moves, getting cornerback Champ Bailey and linebacker LaVar Arrington.
Who got the best of that one? Washington and Denver: Bailey built Hall of Fame numbers with both franchises.
NEW YORK GIANTS AND SAN DIEGO
This one doesn’t have the quantity, but, boy, the quality.
Eli Manning was top dog in 2004, but his family didn’t want San Diego taking him with the first overall selection. The Chargers seemingly called the Mannings’ bluff and took him anyway, and Eli couldn’t have been more sour or dour when he came on stage at Radio City Music Hall to be greeted by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Three picks later, though, the Giants announced they’d acquired Manning in exchange for another highly regarded college QB, Philip Rivers. Suddenly, Eli was all smiles.
It turned out to be a great deal for New York as Manning has led the Giants to two Super Bowl titles and also could be Hall of Fame material. Rivers has been a long-time star for the Chargers, even though they don’t have a Lombardi Trophy in their possession.
AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report. FILE – In this Oct. 13, 1989 file photo, former Dallas Cowboys running back Herschel Walker smiles as he is introduced at a news conference to announce the trade of five players and seven draft choices by the Minnesota Vikings for the leading NFC rusher, in Bloomington, Minn. The Los Angeles Rams made a huge splash in their deal with the Tennessee Titans on Thursday, April 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)