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Here is a recap of Week 13 of the 2014 NFL Season with Tuesday Afternoon QB. Thanks again to the AP Sports/Pro 32 for photos & articles.
Bears 17, Lions 34
DETROIT (AP) — After a week of questions about his limited production of late, Calvin Johnson lifted Detroit’s offense with an emphatic reminder that he’s still one of the game’s most dynamic players.
Johnson caught 11 passes for 146 yards with a pair of first-half touchdowns, and the Lions boosted their postseason hopes with a 34-17 victory over the Chicago Bears on Thursday. Johnson had been held under 60 yards in two of three games since returning from an ankle injury, and there were rumblings that the 29-year-old receiver was slowing down, but he quieted a lot of those concerns with perhaps his best game of the season.
After losing at Arizona and New England and falling out of first place in the NFC North, the Lions (8-4) spotted Chicago a 14-3 first-quarter lead before rallying with relative ease in the second. Detroit finished with a season-high 474 yards in its highest-scoring game since a 35-14 victory over the New York Giants in its opener.
Joique Bell ran for two touchdowns for the Lions, and Jay Cutler threw two TD passes for Chicago (5-7). Detroit’s Matthew Stafford went 34 of 45 for 390 yards with the two touchdown passes to Johnson.
The Lions have now won back-to-back games on Thanksgiving after losing their previous nine. They beat Green Bay 40-10 last year.
That victory over the Packers was Detroit’s only win in its final seven games last season as the Lions frittered away a playoff spot. They are again in mix for the postseason this year, and Thursday’s game was their first of three in a row at home — all against teams with losing records.
Detroit came in with the league’s top-ranked run defense, and Chicago barely even tried to test it. Matt Forte was a non-factor on the ground, finishing with 6 yards on five carries. Cutler went 31 of 48 for 280 yards with two fourth-quarter interceptions.
Chicago’s imbalanced game plan came only a few days after New England relied heavily on the pass in its victory over the Lions last weekend.
The Bears opened the scoring on Cutler’s 10-yard scoring pass to Alshon Jeffery, and they scored again after Jared Allen sacked Stafford, forced a fumble and recovered it at the Detroit 5. Cutler’s 6-yard scoring pass to Jeffery made it 14-3 with 3:35 remaining in the first quarter.
Stafford, however, was brilliant in the second. Johnson made a leaping catch for a 25-yard touchdown, holding on despite a hit from defensive back Kyle Fuller. That was the first time Detroit had reached the end zone since Nov. 9 against Miami — and a sign that the Lions were shaking off some of the problems with their passing game.
Bell put the Lions ahead with a 1-yard scoring run on fourth down — leaping toward the goal line and extending the ball just far enough for a touchdown. Stafford’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Johnson made it 24-14 with 24 seconds left in the half.
Stafford went 22 of 26 for 275 yards in the first half, and Johnson set a record as the fastest to 10,000 yards receiving, surpassing that milestone in the second quarter of his 115th game.
Bell’s 1-yard run in the fourth was the only touchdown of the second half.
Detroit C Dominic Raiola became the first Lions player to start 200 games. Lions WR Corey Fuller caught a 21-yard pass in the first half, and his brother Kyle — the Chicago CB — came over and playfully knocked the ball out of his hands after the play.
Eagles 33, Cowboys 10
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — LeSean McCoy threw open his arms just before crossing the goal line on a touchdown run that essentially put away another big win over the Dallas Cowboys.
While Philadelphia didn’t walk off with a playoff berth in hand after beating the Cowboys 33-10 on Thursday, it was a sweet Thanksgiving for McCoy, Mark Sanchez and the Eagles.
McCoy ran for 159 yards and a touchdown, Sanchez had his first scoring run in almost three years and the Eagles rolled in a matchup of NFC East co-leaders on the field where McCoy clinched last season’s rushing title and Philadelphia won a playoffs-or-bust finale.
Tony Romo wasn’t around for that game because he was two days removed from back surgery. This time he was trying to play a quick turnaround for the first time, and after yet another back injury. He looked ragged as the Cowboys (8-4) lost their third straight home game.
The Eagles (9-3) opened with quick drives of 80 and 88 yards for touchdowns. They took sole possession of the division lead with four games remaining, including a rematch in less than three weeks.
McCoy, who led the NFL with 1,604 yards last season, had his fourth 100-yard game in the past seven after going without one the first five weeks and secured his fourth 1,000-yard season since 2010.
Although his deficit to Dallas’ DeMarco Murray in the rushing race is probably insurmountable, McCoy outgained Murray, who was held under 100 yards for just the second time this season.
Murray finished with 73 yards and Dallas’ only touchdown on 20 carries, the last a 6-yard loss when he was dropped by Mychal Kendricks on fourth-and-1 early in the fourth quarter.
Making his fourth start since Nick Foles was sidelined by a broken collarbone, Sanchez was 9 of 11 for 99 yards in the first quarter. That included a 27-yard scoring pass to Jordan Matthews when Sanchez hit the rookie in stride on a crossing route for a 14-0 lead.
Sanchez finished 20 of 29 for 217 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions two years after he was the starter for the New York Jets and infamously ran into the back side of one of his offensive linemen for a fumble that New England returned for a touchdown in a 49-19 Thanksgiving rout.
This time, had his first scoring run since Dec. 24, 2011, with the Jets — a 2-yarder after faking the handoff to McCoy in the zone read. McCoy set up the game’s first touchdown with a 38-yard run.
The Cowboys looked a little sluggish following a kickoff that came about 90 hours after their dramatic 31-28 victory at the New York Giants on Sunday night.
Murray had room to run at times but couldn’t break one longer than 9 yards. Romo had plenty of time early in the game, but one time in the first half tossed a third-down pass to nobody in particular, giving the ball back to the Eagles when the Cowboys were having trouble stopping them.
Romo looked skittish at times, essentially sitting down in the pocket with nobody in position to sack him on a third-down play after Jeremy Mincey recovered McCoy’s fumble at the Philadelphia 13 on the second play of the second half.
The Cowboys had to settle for a field goal, and Philadelphia answered immediately on McCoy’s 38-yard scoring run, putting the Eagles up 30-10 on their third touchdown drive of at least 80 yards.
Jeremy Maclin secured his first career 1,000-yard season with 108 yards, including a 58-yarder to set up one of Cody Parkey’s three second-quarter field goals.
Seahawks 19, 49ers 3
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Richard Sherman provided the moment of the game against the 49ers once again, a mere 10 months after his touchdown-saving deflection in the NFC championship that sent the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl.
Sherman set up the only touchdown with another key defensive play in this heated rivalry, then made a second interception with the 49ers driving late, and the Seahawks ended a five-game losing streak on San Francisco’s home field with a 19-3 win Thursday night.
The brash cornerback offered plenty without opening his mouth this time: Blowing kisses to the crowd, then putting a finger to his lips to make the hush sign before waving goodbye.
Steven Hauschka kicked four field goals and the Seahawks’ stout defense held Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree in check as Seattle (8-4) overcame 14 penalties for 105 yards, including an offensive pass interference that negated a touchdown.
Russell Wilson passed for 236 yards and thoroughly outplayed Kaepernick, who had one of his worst performances for the 49ers (7-5) in a game with high stakes for the teams’ playoff hopes.
After his second pick, Sherman looked at those fans still remaining in half-empty stadium on a Thanksgiving night and waved. The Seahawks won by the identical score they beat first-place Arizona five days earlier.
Kaepernick was 16 for 29 for 121 yards and the 49ers were outgained 379-164.
Sherman and Crabtree were at the center of the decisive play in January’s NFC title game, when Sherman deflected a pass headed his way in the end zone and Malcolm Smith intercepted it with less than a minute remaining to seal the Seahawks’ 23-17 victory. Sherman later called Crabtree “mediocre.”
San Francisco’s offense might have earned that distinction after its latest dud snapped the Niners’ three-game winning streak.
In the waning moments with thousands of red seats already empty, 49ers CEO Jed York posted on Twitter: “Thank you (hashtag)49ersfaithful for coming out strong tonight. This performance wasn’t acceptable. I apologize for that.”
The 49ers were held to three points or fewer for the first time since a 29-3 Week 2 loss at Seattle last year.
Sherman got things started when he intercepted Kaepernick’s deep third-down pass on the right sideline in the first quarter to help set up Wilson’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Robert Turbin. A wide-open Turbin easily took the ball down the left sideline on a pretty catch-and-run before beating cornerback Chris Culliver into the end zone.
Hauschka kicked field goals of 21, 36, 35 and 46 yards.
Phil Dawson provided San Francisco’s lone points on a 40-yard field goal late in the third.
Sherman had the fourth two-interception game of his career with his 22nd and 23rd picks since 2011, most in the NFL. It was 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh who turned him into a defensive back at Stanford.
Sherman nearly had another late in the first half, when Seattle outgained San Francisco 202-71. The 49ers were held to 23 yards rushing and shut out in the first half for the first time this season.
Bengals 14, Bucs 13
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Andy Dalton and the sloppy Cincinnati Bengals somehow found a way to extend their slender lead in the AFC North.
Dalton ran for one touchdown and threw to A.J. Green for another Sunday, helping the Cincinnati Bengals overcome numerous mistakes to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14-13.
Dalton shrugged off three first-half interceptions, and the Bengals (8-3-1) weathered 10 penalties and an ill-advised onside kick that cost them momentum after taking the lead in the second half to win on the road for the third consecutive week.
That’s a franchise first that seemed improbable following a lopsided home loss to Cleveland a month ago.
The Bengals lead the tightest division race in the NFL, with a 1½-game lead over each of their AFC North rivals.
Tampa Bay (2-10) threatened in the closing minutes. However a 21-yard completion that would have put it in field goal range was overturned after a replay review confirmed the Bucs had 12 men on the field.
Josh McCown’s throw to Louis Murphy appeared to give the Bucs a first down at the Cincinnati 20 with 12 seconds remaining.
As Tampa Bay scrambled to line up and spike the ball, an animated Bengals coach Marvin Lewis came off the sideline and threw the red flag to challenge the previous play.
Officials initially announced the Bengals could not challenge, because coaches are not allowed to request any in the final two minutes. The replay official, however, had already decided to look at the play, and found the Bucs indeed lined up with 12 players.
The ball was moved back to the 46, an additional 14 seconds were added to the clock, and Tampa Bay turned the ball over on downs.
Dalton ran for a 5-yard TD in the second quarter, then threw 13 yards to Green to put the Bengals ahead 14-10 late in the third.
But just as the Bengals looked as if they were taking control, Cincinnati tried an onside kick that Tampa Bay’s Orie Lemon not only recovered, but returned to the Bengals 31.
An unnecessary roughness penalty for Brandon Thompson’s hit on McCown moved the ball to the 16, but Tampa Bay settled for Patrick Murray 42-yard field goal to pull within 14-13.
McCown completed 15 of 29 passes for 190 yards and one interception. He was sacked once.
Dalton finished 19 of 27 for 176 yards and was sacked twice. The Bengals rushed for 112 yards, with Giovani Bernard gaining 49 on 10 carries and Jeremy Hill adding 40 on 13 attempts.
Johnthan Banks intercepted Dalton on the first play from scrimmage and returned the ball 32 yards to the Bengals 9 to set up a field goal for a 3-0 lead. Another Cincinnati miscue — a penalty on defensive tackle Geno Atkins for grabbing McCown’s face mask on a third-down sack — extended the drive Doug Martin finished with his TD run to put the Bucs up 10-0.
Both of Dalton’s other first-half interceptions were costly, too.
The quarterback threw into double coverage when Brandon Dixon picked off a throw intended for Green in the end zone. His third interception also thwarted a possible scoring opportunity, coming two plays after Cincinnati’s Terence Newman intercepted McCown’s sideline throw to give the Bengals the ball at the Tampa Bay 40 with 46 seconds and three timeouts remaining in the opening half.
Browns 10, Bills 26
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Quarterback Kyle Orton and defensive end Jerry Hughes helped the Buffalo Bills build a lead so big that not even Johnny Manziel could overcome.
Orton threw a 3-yard touchdown pass and Hughes returned Terrance West’s fumble 18 yards for a score 10 seconds apart midway through the third quarter in leading the Bills to a 26-10 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon.
Dan Carpenter then sealed the win by hitting four of his five field goals in the fourth quarter as Buffalo (7-5) stayed in a tightly contested AFC playoff picture. The Bills also matched their best start to since 2000, when their 14-year playoff drought began.
The Bills were back home after a severe snowstorm forced them to relocate to Detroit, where they routed the New York Jets 38-3 on Monday night. With temperatures in the mid-50s on Sunday, there were only a few remnants of the 6-plus-feet of snow that fell on the Buffalo region.
The Browns (7-5) had their postseason hopes dented in a game that Manziel enjoyed his most significant playing time of the season. They trail first-place Cincinnati by 1 1-2 games in the AFC North.
The rookie quarterback took over with 12:01 left after Brian Hoyer threw his second interception, which set up Carpenter’s 34-yard field goal that put Buffalo ahead 20-3.
The rookie first-round pick provided an initial spark in getting his first appearance since a 23-21 loss to Baltimore in Week 3.
Manziel went 3 of 4 for 54 yards and added 13 yards rushing in capping an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a 10-yard run to cut Buffalo’s lead to 20-10 with 8:47 left.
The Bills responded with a 5-plus minute drive that ended with Carpenter hitting another 34-yard field goal. The Browns then went nowhere on their next possession. They gave up the ball on downs at the Browns 29, after Manziel threw a 5-yard pass to Miles Austin on fourth-and-6.
Manziel, whose first NFL completion was a 12-yard completion to Austin on his first attempt of the game, finished 5 of 8 for 63 yards, and added 13 yards rushing on two carries.
Hoyer had a sloppy outing in going 18 of 30 for 192 yards and two interceptions.
The quarterback switch leaves open questions as to who will get the start next week, when the Browns host Indianapolis.
Hoyer has now thrown six interceptions in his past three starts, including a season-worst three in a 26-24 win at Atlanta last weekend.
For Buffalo, Orton overcame a sloppy start, and got plenty of help from an opportunistic defense.
After throwing two interceptions on Buffalo’s first seven possessions, Orton finally found a rhythm on the Bills’ second series of the third quarter.
He engineered an efficient eight-play, 79-yard drive that included Orton completing a 34-yard pass to Robert Woods on fourth-and-3 from the Browns 37. A play later, Orton rolled to his right and found a wide-open Hogan for the touchdown.
The Bills defense shined in front of its former coordinator, Mike Pettine, who left Buffalo to take over the Browns in January.
Hughes’ fumble recovery came when West was stood up by Hughes and linebacker Preston Brown near the left sideline. Hughes got his hands on the ball and pulled it out before West tumbled out of bounds. Hughes then scooped up the loose ball and ran it in untouched.
Safety Da’Norris Searcy had two interceptions, while Kyle Williams and Nigel Bradham each had a sack to up the Bills’ NFL-leading total to 48.
Browns defensive back Joe Haden had an interception and blocked Carpenter’s 53-yard field-goal attempt at the end of the second quarter. Safety Jim Leonhard intercepted Orton’s pass into the end zone early in the second quarter.
Josh Gordon had seven catches for 75 yards in his second game since serving a 10-game NFL suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Raiders 0, Rams 52
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Everything was ridiculously easy for the St. Louis Rams, a team that’s had more than its share of struggles.
They just kept getting into the end zone Sunday against the hapless Raiders.
Tre Mason scored two long touchdowns and Shaun Hill accounted for three TDs in an out-of-nowhere 38-point first half that tied for second-most in franchise history in the Rams’ 52-0 rout.
The Rams had zero hangover from a stinging three-point loss at San Diego last week. Hill was intercepted by Marcus Gilchrist at the goal line in the final minute of that defeat.
Mason had 113 yards rushing on six carries in the half with an 89-yard score, plus a 35-yard jaunt on a screen pass that opened the scoring. Hill was 12 for 15 for 178 yards and two TDs and ran for a 2-yard score.
The Rams (5-7) scored touchdowns on their first five possessions, then got a field goal on the sixth midway through the second quarter to top their previous-best scoring total for a game this season. The 38-point halftime lead was the largest in franchise history, one more than against Green Bay in 1980.
The Raiders (1-11) had three extra days of rest after knocking off the Chiefs but were never competitive and committed five turnovers. Derek Carr threw two interceptions in the opening half, resulting in the Rams’ final 10 points before the break.
The St. Louis defense was dominant, forcing five turnovers and getting six sacks, three by Robert Quinn. The shutout was the Rams’ first since 2006 , 20-0 at Oakland.
The Rams outgained the Raiders 203 yards to 34 in the first quarter. Oakland opened the game with three straight three-and-outs.
Trumaine Johnson had two interceptions for St. Louis, returning the second, against Matt Schaub, for a 44-yard score that made it 52-0 in the fourth period.
In an apparent show of solidarity for Ferguson, Missouri protesters five St. Louis players stood with their arms raised before trotting onto the field for pregame introductions. A Rams spokesman said the team was not aware the gesture had been planned.
After Tre Mason scored on an 8-yard run in the fourth quarter, he and Britt raised their hands together.
Additional security measures at the game included members of the National Guard toting firearms.
Chargers 34, Ravens 33
BALTIMORE (AP) — Playing from behind the entire game, Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers finally took the lead when it counted most.
Rivers capped a frantic drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Royal with 38 seconds to go, giving the Chargers a 34-33 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
The Chargers (8-4) trailed 30-20 with 6:13 remaining and 33-27 with 2:22 left before Rivers brought them back.
Following a pass interference call against Anthony Levine in the end zone, Rivers hit Royal to conclude an 80-yard march and give the Chargers their third straight win.
Baltimore (7-5) lost at home in November for the first time since 2009. The Ravens were 11-0 all-time at home against West Coast teams. The Ravens fell 1 1-2 games behind AFC North leader Cincinnati.
Rivers went for 34 for 45 for 383 yards and three touchdowns, two to Keenan Allen.
Joe Flacco threw for two scores for Baltimore, which wasted four field goals from Justin Tucker and 106 yards rushing from Justin Forsett.
It was 23-20 before Flacco directed a 12-play march that seemingly provided the Ravens with some breathing room. A 31-yard completion to Jacoby Jones, followed by a pass interference call against Shareece Wright, led to the third-down quarterback sneak that made it a 10-point game.
Rivers responded with a 77-yard drive to a 23-yard touchdown pass to Allen with 3:40 remaining.
Jones took the kickoff 72 yards to the San Diego 30, setting up Tucker’s fourth field goal. It wasn’t enough for the Ravens, who hadn’t lost at home since the season opener.
Rivers’ longest completion of the year, a 59-yarder to Malcolm Floyd, led to a 26-yard field goal by Nick Novak to bring the Chargers to 16-13 early in the third quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Flacco misfired from the San Diego 39. But Eric Weddle inexplicably pushed Flacco to the ground, drawing a roughing-the-passer penalty. Five plays later, Flacco connected with Torrey Smith on a 10-yard pass for a 23-13 lead.
San Diego’s only punt came with two minutes left in the third quarter. The Ravens’ lone punt occurred with 23 seconds to go in the period.
The Chargers converted all seven third-down tries in the first half, but Baltimore took advantage of two turnovers and scored on all four of its possessions for a 16-10 lead.
After Smith made a sprawling catch of a 13-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to complete the game’s opening drive, Rivers threw an interception on the Chargers’ second play from scrimmage. Elvis Dumervil hit Rivers’ arm as he threw, and Darryl Smith picked off the pass at the San Diego 19 to set up a field goal.
It was the first time this season the Chargers allowed more than seven points in the first quarter.
Rivers brought back San Diego, converting four third downs and firing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Allen, whose diving catch of the low throw survived a lengthy replay review.
After Tucker made it 13-7, the Chargers moved deep into Baltimore territory before Royal lost a fumble at the 16. Tucker then ended a 73-yard march with his third field goal.
Rivers responded with a beat-the-clock march that produced a 52-yarder by Nick Novak with :02 left in the half.
Titans 21, Texans 45
HOUSTON (AP) — In just his second season, DeAndre Hopkins is establishing himself as the go-to receiver on a Houston team long led by Andre Johnson.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for a franchise-record six touchdowns, and Hopkins had a career-best 238 yards receiving and two scores as the Texans set a team-record for points, rolling to a 45-21 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Hopkins, a first-round pick in 2013, leads the team with 1,041 yards receiving and six touchdowns.
“I’m just happy to see the kid grow as a player,” Johnson said. “Comparing this year to last year, it’s amazing. It’s fun to watch.”
Fitzpatrick started after being benched for two games for Ryan Mallett, who sustained a season-ending chest injury last week.
Hopkins caught a 58-yard touchdown pass to extend Houston’s lead to 24-0 just before halftime. The second score by Hopkins made it 31-14 later in the third quarter.
He said learning from Johnson, a seven-time Pro Bowler, has helped his improvement this year.
“I develop from sitting there talking to him every day,” Hopkins said.
Fitzpatrick passed for 358 yards and came up one short of tying the NFL record by throwing touchdown passes of 8, 7, 58, 34, 4 yards to his receivers before ending his day with a 1-yard TD toss to J.J. Watt.
The quarterback raved about Hopkins.
“He makes plays,” Fitzpatrick said. “He is a pretty special player. We’ve got two great ones on the outside, so they’ve got to figure out (Sunday) what the matchup was.”
Watt had his third touchdown reception, two sacks, forced and recovered a fumble for Houston (6-6).
Tennessee’s Zach Mettenberger injured his right shoulder playing behind a makeshift offensive line missing three starters. Jake Locker took over in the third quarter and threw for 91 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for the Titans (2-10), who have lost six straight.
Saints 35, Steelers 32
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The New Orleans Saints looked like a first-place team on the field, not just in the standings.
Drew Brees threw five touchdowns for the ninth time in his career as New Orleans dominated the sloppy Pittsburgh Steelers 35-32 on Sunday.
Kenny Stills caught five passes for a career-high 162 yards and a score as the Saints (5-7) ended a three-game losing streak by restoring a little bit of respectability and a sense of order to the NFC South.
The Steelers (7-5) kept New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham in check with no catches, but it hardly mattered. Brees worked Pittsburgh’s secondary over anyway. Ben Watson, Marques Colston, Erik Loring and Nick Toon hauled in touchdowns as New Orleans romped.
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 435 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions for the Steelers. Le’Veon Bell caught eight passes for a career-high 159 yards and also added 95 yards and a touchdown on the ground, but Pittsburgh was never really in it over the final three quarters.
New Orleans hardly looked like the team that slouched its way through a three-game skid at home, including a 34-27 loss to Baltimore on Monday night. Six days and 1,100 miles north later, the Saints looked reborn.
Pittsburgh opted to focus on Graham, often double-covering one of the NFL’s biggest weapons. No biggie. Brees completed 19 of 27 passes to nine different receivers. Loring, Watson and Toon hadn’t scored all season but found themselves celebrating in the end zone thanks to some typically sublime play by Brees, who avoided the miscues that have cost New Orleans during its sporadic fall.
Mark Ingram ran for 122 yards as the Saints effectively counterpunched with touchdowns while the Steelers piled up field goals.
Signs of life from one of the league’s most maligned defenses helped. New Orleans forced Roethlisberger into a series of uncharacteristic mistakes. The Pittsburgh quarterback hardly looked like the player who tossed a combined 12 touchdowns in his last two home starts.
The passes that zipped so crisply to open receivers during his record-breaking run sailed high and out of reach and occasionally into the arms of New Orleans defenders. Roethlisberger’s problems started early and were exacerbated when he smacked his right hand off the helmet of Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton late in the first quarter.
The Steelers, now 1 1-2 games behind first-place Cincinnati in the AFC North, relied heavily on Bell to take and early 6-0 lead before Brees got it going late in the first half. The Saints put together two long touchdown drives in the second quarter, the first ending with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Watson and the other with a 4-yard toss to the little-used Lorig to make it 14-6 at the half.
New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan tipped a pass by Roethlisberger early in the third quarter and caught it for his first career interception to give the Saints the ball at the Pittsburgh 15. It took Brees two plays to hit Toon for an 11-yard score. The Steelers responded with a 13-play, 83-yard drive that ended with Bell sprinting around left end for his third score of the year.
Pittsburgh’s momentum lasted 2:31, or the time it took New Orleans to go 89 yards. Stills covered the last 69 all by himself, badly beating Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor on a double move. He raced across the goal line to make it 28-16 and Brees completed his best day of the season with a 3-yard lob to Colston.
Giants 24, Jags 25
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Blake Bortles’ first game-winning drive capped off the largest comeback in franchise history.
Bortles completed four passes and used two keepers to put Jacksonville in field-goal range, and Josh Scobee delivered a 43-yarder that helped the Jaguars beat the Giants 25-24 on Sunday.
The Jaguars (2-10) rallied from a 21-point deficit. They also ended a four-game losing streak and dealt the Giants (3-9) a seventh consecutive loss.
It’s one that could raise more questions about the future of New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin.
The Giants dominated the first half, scoring 21 points in the second quarter and looking like they would notch their first victory since early October.
But Jacksonville played like a different team after the break, especially on defense. Veteran defensive end Chris Clemons may have ignited the turnaround with a fiery tirade on the sideline.
His teammates certainly responded. Geno Hayes forced Eli Manning to fumble early in the third, and teammate J.T. Thomas recovered in the end zone.
Rookie Aaron Colvin returned Larry Donnell’s fumble 41 yards for a touchdown in the fourth. It was the first time in franchise history that Jacksonville scored two defensive touchdowns in the same game.
Josh Brown’s 33-yard field goal put the Giants ahead 24-22 with 3:26 to play.
But Bortles took over after that, driving the Jags 55 yards while taking all but 28 seconds off the clock. Bortles used identical keepers to hurt the Giants for 11 and 20 yards.
The Giants had one final chance to win, but Manning fumbled on first down. New York managed just 75 yards in the second half.
Injuries were a factor. Right tackle Geoff Schwartz, playing in place of starter Justin Pugh, injured his left ankle and left on a cart. His replacement, James Brewer, also left the game with a concussion. Running back Rashad Jennings also left with an ankle injury.
Jennings, returning to the place where he spent his first four NFL seasons, ran 26 times for 91 yards.
Manning completed 24 of 34 passes for 247 yards, with a touchdown. He was sacked four times. Odell Beckham Jr., a week after his spectacular, one-handed catch against Dallas, caught seven passes for 90 yards.
New York’s defense played its best game in weeks, allowing 258 yards and sacking Bortles seven times.
But the unit faltered down the stretch — a recurring theme for Coughlin this season.
The game was tied at 17 heading into the fourth quarter at Seattle three weeks ago before losing by 21. They trailed 16-10 late in the fourth the following week against San Francisco and had first-and-goal at the 4-yard line before Manning threw an interception in the end zone.
Last week’s loss was equally tough to handle. The Giants took a 28-24 with three minutes remaining, but then allowed an 80-yard touchdown drive.
Coughlin challenged his players to start closing out games.
They responded with another meltdown.
Bortles completed 21 of 35 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown. He also ran five times for a team-high 68 yards. His performance capped “Alumni Weekend,” where the Jaguars recognized nearly 50 former players, including retired stars Mark Brunell, Jimmy Smith, Fred Taylor and Tony Boselli.
Panthers 13, Vikings 31
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings swatted away Carolina’s improbable hope of making the playoffs.
Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen each returned blocked punts by Minnesota for touchdowns, the first time in 24 years one team had two in the same game, and the Vikings beat Carolina 31-13 on Sunday to hand the Panthers their sixth straight loss.
Teddy Bridgewater threw for two scores without a turnover, and Griffen had two of the four sacks by the Vikings (5-7) against Cam Newton.
Despite entering the week just a half-game out of first place in the struggling NFC South, the Panthers (3-8-1) again stumbled out of their bye. They’re 0-4 under coach Ron Rivera following the annual in-season week off.
This was the seventh-coldest game in Vikings history, with a kickoff temperature of 12 degrees and a wind chill well below zero. They’re playing outside this year for the first time since 1981.
In an otherwise-ordinary late-season game between two losing teams, the home team’s punt coverage unit made this a must-see first half.
Thielen, a reserve wide receiver who played at NCAA Division II Minnesota State, was so far in the backfield that when he leaped at Brad Nortman’s attempt, the ball hit him around the thigh. Thielen landed on the turf and picked up the prize on his way for a 30-yard touchdown.
Then after the first of two field goals by Graham Gano, Nortman came out to punt again with the Panthers facing fourth-and-5 at midfield. This time, Jasper Brinkley charged up the middle to swat the ball down. Griffen snatched it up and went 43 yards to the end zone for a 21-3 lead.
The last time a team scored on two blocked punts in the same NFL game was on Sept. 30, 1990, when Kansas City did it against Cleveland. This was the fifth time it happened in league history, according to STATS research dating to 1940.
Lost a little in the hubbub was one of the better performances Bridgewater has put together in his eight-game career. He led the Vikings on just their third opening-drive touchdown of the season and their first since his debut on Sept. 28, a bootleg throw to Kyle Rudolph from 4 yards out.
Late in the second quarter, Bridgewater guided an 11-play, 80-yard drive to push the lead to 22 points. Greg Jennings caught a short pass near the sideline and slipped through the secondary for a 17-yard score with 16 seconds left.
Newton hit Philly Brown for a 32-yard touchdown with a heave on fourth-and-4 in the third quarter to bring the Panthers within 28-13, but the former first overall draft pick had another unremarkable game for the defending division champions who went 12-4 last year.
Newton was intercepted in the fourth quarter by Josh Robinson, who was beaten by Brown for the earlier score, and finished 18 for 35 for 194 yards. He gained 49 yards on nine runs, and Jonathan Stewart had a season-high 85 yards rushing on 12 attempts.
But Xavier Rhodes broke up pass after pass from Newton for Kelvin Benjamin, limiting the star rookie to 56 yards on five catches, and the patched-together Panthers offensive line was shaky at times with the protection.
Bridgewater went 15 for 21 for 138 yards. Matt Asiata had 52 yards on 14 rushes, and Blair Walsh tacked on a 39-yard field goal with 8:55 remaining to give the Vikings another three-score lead.
Redskins 27, Colts 49
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck made all the big plays for the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. Robert Griffin III could only watch from the Washington Redskins’ sideline.
Luck threw for 370 yards, a career-best five touchdowns and broke another one of Peyton Manning’s franchise records as he led the Colts past the Redskins 49-27.
For Luck, it was a milestone day.
He finished 19 of 27, joined Manning and Dan Marino as the only NFL players to top 4,000 yards in two of their first three NFL seasons and broke Manning’s franchise mark for 300-yard games in one season. He now has 10 this year with four games left.
Luck also became the fifth NFL player since 1970 to win 30 or more regular season games in his first three seasons, leading Indy (8-4) to its eighth win in 10 games.
And he did all that just days after Griffin, who was selected No. 2 behind Luck in the 2012 draft, was benched.
Griffin’s replacement, Colt McCoy, struggled early but finished strong. He was 31 of 47 for a career-best 392 yards and three TDs, also a career high. It was McCoy’s first 300-yard game since October 2011, but wasn’t quite enough to get Washington turned around. The Redskins have lost four straight.
Throughout the game, Griffin played the loyal teammate, studying plays on his tablet, cheering on teammates, bemoaning the penalties and miscues and sometimes moved so close to the field he was instructed to move back.
But Griffin never made it in, and was instead relegated to watching Luck’s show-stopping plays.
The Colt quarterback threw TD passes of 30, 3, 48, 73 and 79 yards, and Daniel “Boom” Herron scored on a 49-yard run in the second quarter. D’Qwell Jackson scored the Colts’ other touchdown on a 35-yard fumble return as Indy produced its highest points total since November 2004.
McCoy and Luck turned a 21-10 into a shootout in the third quarter.
The Redskins got it started when McCoy scrambled away from two tacklers and hooked up with Logan Paulsen on a 16-yard TD pass.
Three plays later, Luck found a wide-open Donte Moncrief down the seam for a 48-yard TD that made it 28-17. McCoy’s fourth-down fumble on the ensuing series was scooped up by Jackson, who sprinted to the end zone to make it 35-17.
And after DeSean Jackson caught a 42-yard TD pass from McCoy, Luck answered with a 73-yard touchdown pass to Coby Fleener to make it 42-24 with 4:45 left in the third.
Luck sealed it with a 79-yard scoring play to Moncrief early in the fourth.
Moncrief had three catches for 134 yards, while Fleener finished with four catches for 127 yards and two scores.
Jordan Reed had nine catches for 123 yards, and Jackson finished with five catches for 84 yards before leaving late with a bruised right leg.
Cardinals 18, Falcons 29
ATLANTA (AP) — Fighting for a division title even with a losing record, the Atlanta Falcons knew they couldn’t afford another defeat.
Not after the New Orleans Saints won earlier in the day.
Led by Julio Jones, the Falcons came up with the matching victory Sunday to stay tied for first in the anemic NFC South.
Nothing weak about this showing by Atlanta, which got a career day from Julio Jones, piled up 500 yards of offense and cruised to a 29-18 victory over the punchless Arizona Cardinals, who suddenly find themselves in a bit of desperation mode.
Jones hauled in 10 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown. Matt Ryan completed 30 of 41 for 361 yards with a couple of scores. Matt Bryant set a career high with five field goals, though most of them weren’t much longer than extra points.
The Falcons (5-7) dominated against a team that had given up less than 300 yards in each of its four previous games.
Arizona (9-3) still leads the NFC West after its second straight loss, but now by only one game over defending Super Bowl champion Seattle. More troubling for the Cardinals, they had gone more than 11 quarters without an offensive touchdown until a meaningless score with just over a minute remaining.
Asked about his team’s struggles, coach Bruce Arias said, “Each man has to look in the mirror and find that answer.”
Steven Jackson broke off a 55-yard run — his longest since 2009 — on the Falcons’ opening possession to set up Ryan’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Levine Toilolo on fourth-and-goal.
Jones hauled in a 32-yard scoring pass for Atlanta’s other TD.
Bryant handled the rest of the scoring.
The Falcons remained tied for first with the Saints, who won 35-32 at Pittsburgh, and hold the tiebreaker edge. It was Atlanta’s first win outside the division (they are now 1-7) and their first over a team with a winning record.
Arizona’s Patrick Peterson said earlier in the week that he was looking forward to going against Jones, the cornerback claiming he had won the “majority” of the battles since their days as Southeastern Conference rivals.
Not on this day.
Jones eclipsed his previous career best of 182 yards receiving and made sure the Falcons didn’t miss their other top receiver, Roddy White, who was out with an ankle injury.
The Falcons lost a touchdown when Devin Hester’s 70-yard punt return was wiped out by an offensive facemask penalty just short of the goal line. The odd call came as he was trying to ward off Cardinals punter Drew Butler, who appeared to have an even tighter grip on Hester’s facemask.
It didn’t matter.
Not the way the Cardinals are struggling on offense with Drew Stanton at quarterback instead of Carson Palmer, who is out for the season.
It sure didn’t help that star receiver Larry Fitzgerald missed his second straight game with a strained left knee, and running back Andre Ellington went out in the first half with a hip injury.
About the only Arizona highlight came with the Falcons looking to build on their 17-0 lead after the first quarter. Rashad Johnson intercepted a pass from Ryan and went 88 yards the other way for a touchdown.
That was the Cardinals’ lone trip to the end zone until Stanton’s 3-yard pass to Stepfan Taylor with 1:05 remaining.
Patriots 21, Packers 26
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers made trademark pinpoint passes. Eddie Lacy powered out tough yards on the ground. The defense held firm in a frantic fourth quarter.
This could be one super combination for the Green Bay Packers.
Rodgers threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns, and Green Bay fended off the New England Patriots 26-21 Sunday in a high-profile matchup between Super Bowl contenders.
He bested Tom Brady in the first meeting between the star quarterbacks as starters. They were the main attractions in a down-to-the-wire thriller.
Rodgers connected with Richard Rodgers and Jordy Nelson for long touchdowns in the first half.
Leading by five, the defense made a late stand for the Packers (9-3). With Green Bay back in zone coverage, Mike Daniels and Mike Neal combined to sack Brady on third down for a 9-yard loss, and kicker Stephen Gostkowkski pushed a 47-yard field-goal attempt wide right with 2:40 left.
The Packers sealed it after Rodgers converted to Cobb on third-and-4 with the Patriots out of timeouts.
Not quite the ending Brady had in mind.
Brady finished 22 of 35 for 245 yards and two touchdown passes to Brandon LaFell for New England (9-3), which had its seven-game winning streak snapped. The second score came from 15 yards early in the fourth quarter to get within 23-21.
The lead could have been wider for the Packers if not for some hiccups in the red zone.
Green Bay settled for four field goals from Mason Crosby of 35 yards or less, including a 28-yarder to make it a five-point lead with 8:41 left. That kick came after rookie Davante Adams dropped a potential touchdown pass on third-and-5 from the New England 10.
On his knees, a frustrated Rodgers buried his helmet into the turf in frustration.
But he was celebrating at the end. Green Bay has won four in a row and eight of nine.
Rodgers finished 24 of 38, while Lacy had 98 yards on 21 carries, including 26 on the ground in the fourth-quarter drive that led to Crosby’s field goal. Adams had a career-best 121 yards on six receptions.
Rodgers extended his NFL-record streaks to 360 consecutive passes at home and 31 touchdown passes in a row at home without an interception. His last interception at home came nearly two years ago on Dec. 2, 2012.
The Packers had been blowing past opponents at home with big early leads, turning the final 30 minutes of games at Lambeau Field into glorified practices. But this game had the feel of a championship fight down to the final minutes.
New England punched back after falling behind 13-0 in the first quarter.
Brandon Bolden twisted his way up the middle for a 6-yard scoring run early in the second quarter to get New England on the board. LaFell’s 2-yard catch with 1:09 left in the quarter drew New England within 16-14.
But the quick-strike Packers were at their best late in the first half. Rodgers found Nelson in stride over the middle, and the receiver beat standout cornerback Darrelle Revis for a 45-yard touchdown, outracing safety Devin McCourty and tagging the front pylon before falling out of bounds.
Six-foot-6 tight end Rob Gronkowski had 98 yards on seven catches, proving to be a matchup nightmare once again for a defense.
Green Bay made the biggest stop in the end after sacking Brady.
Broncos 29, Chiefs 16
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — C.J. Anderson proved that his performance against Miami wasn’t a fluke.
The unheralded running back got the start because of injuries to Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman and ran for 168 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs, pulling in one of two touchdown passes from Peyton Manning and leading the Denver Broncos to a 29-16 victory on Sunday night.
Connor Barth was also perfect on five field-goal attempts for the Broncos (9-3), who remained a game up on San Diego in the bunched-up AFC West with their sixth straight win over the Chiefs.
Kansas City (7-5) is now two games back after losing to Oakland a week ago.
It certainly wasn’t the kind of performance expected of the Chiefs, who emerged in a frenzy before the game wearing all-red uniforms for the third time in franchise history.
The Chiefs were honoring veteran safety Eric Berry, who will miss the rest of the season after a mass suspected to be lymphoma was found in his chest. Berry has professed his love for the red-on-red look, which the Chiefs wore last year against Dallas and this year versus New England.
While the Chiefs won both of those games, they hardly gave themselves a chance on Sunday.
Manning capped an effortless 74-yard drive with a 23-yard third-down pass to Thomas in the first quarter. Then, after the Broncos forced a second consecutive three-and-out, Manning found Anderson out of the backfield on third down for a 15-yard touchdown strike to make it 14-0.
Even when the Chiefs’ porous defense stopped the Broncos, they were usually within range for Barth, who was signed to replace ineffective kicker Brandon McManus.
Meanwhile, very little was going right for the Chiefs. They had minus-10 yards in the first quarter and were still at 66 yards through the third quarter.
After recovering a fumble deep in Denver territory early in the second half, they managed three yards before kicking a field goal. On their next possession, Smith had a pass batted at the line and intercepted by Ware, the first pick he had thrown in 179 attempts. On the Chiefs’ next possession, Smith was sacked by Ware on third-and-1 to force another punt.
The Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles had a touchdown reception but he was held to 35 yards on 10 carries. “We didn’t play hard enough,” he said. “We played on national TV and we just didn’t play well. We have to play better.”
Dolphins 16, Jets 13
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins found the right formula to stay in the AFC playoff race: Simply let the Jets run the ball all night, and wait for New York to make mistakes.
It worked effectively in an old-fashioned — some might say dull — slugfest.
Caleb Sturgis’ third field goal, from 26 yards with 1:57 remaining, gave Miami (7-5) a comeback 16-13 victory over its archrival.
New York (2-10) rushed for 277 yards on 49 carries, but made enough key errors in the second half to lose. The Dolphins remained a factor in the wild-card race thanks to special teams; rookie Jarvis Landry’s eight receptions; Lamar Miller’s 4-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter; and plenty of defense when the Jets needed to pass.
New York’s Geno Smith threw only 13 times, fewest in the NFL this season, and gained 49 yards. The usually reliable Nick Folk missed two field goals.
All of that offset a season high on the ground as Chris Johnson had his best performance for the Jets with 105 yards.
Sturgis also made field goals of 43 and 44 yards.
“Can’t believe we’re 2-10,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said, shaking his head and pausing. “It’s a joke.”
After trailing most of the way, Miami tied it on Miller’s run with 10:24 remaining. That brought the loudest cheers of the night; thousands of Dolphins fans at MetLife Stadium braved the wet, windy conditions.
Jets problems with penalties on special teams hurt them all night, and a holding call against Saalim Hakim set up the Dolphins at New York’s 39 on the tying drive. On the winning possession, backup tight end Dion Sims had catches of 18 and 17 yards.
The Jets kept pounding the ball effectively. They even got into field goal position after Miami made it 13-13. But Koa Misi’s sack pushed New York back to the Miami 27 and Folk missed wide left for the second time. Folk had made 18 of 20 entering the game.
That’s the way the Jets’ season has gone, of course.
“I feel sick,” Ryan said. “We can’t buy a win.”
Early on, Greg Salas, with his fourth team in four pro seasons, scored his first career touchdown. But the receiver didn’t get it through the air, instead scoring on a well-conceived reverse on which the Dolphins had no one close to him until he reached the 2. He dived into the end zone to cap an 85-yard drive, but that ended his night; Salas hurt a hamstring.
Sturgis missed a 43-yard field goal on the next possession for Miami, further boosting New York’s confidence. The Jets took the ball into Dolphins territory for the third successive series, and got more points on Folk’s 40-yard field goal.
As New York kept grinding away on the ground — it had 210 yards rushing in the opening half — it also ate up the clock. But Folk missed from 48 yards and Miami took advantage on Sturgis’ 43-yard field goal to end the half.
Sturgis added his 44-yarder to start the second half, and Folk followed with a 45-yarder that bounced off the crossbar and through, making it 13-6.
Then came two huge plays that led to, well, nothing.
Dion Jordan partially blocked Ryan Quigley’s punt, resulting in a 6-yard kick to the New York 41. It was the second straight week an opponent got a piece of a Quigley punt.
On the next play, though, Miller bobbled Ryan Tannehill’s short pass and the ball squirted into cornerback Darrin Walls’ hands. Walls slipped, got up and returned the interception 25 yards to the Dolphins 30. But Wake got a sack — he leads Miami with 9 1-2 — and that forced a punt.
“Scratch, claw, bite, kick, whatever you have to do make a play and win,” Wake said.
Tannehill was 25 of 35 for 235 yards. Smith threw for 65 yards on his seven completions, but also was sacked twice for minus-16 yards