2014 NFL Week 15 Tuesday Afternoon QB

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Here is a recap of Week 15 of the 2014 NFL Season with Tuesday Afternoon QB. Thanks again to the AP Sports/Pro 32 for photos & articles.

Cardinals 12, Rams 6

Michael Floyd, Janoris Jenkins

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd (15) makes a catch against St. Louis Rams’ Janoris Jenkins (21) during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals know all too well the feeling of seeing their quarterback leaving the field in pain.

It happened the last time the Cardinals (11-3) faced the St. Louis Rams, then again in the rematch Thursday night.

The only silver lining: They found a way to win both times and are on the verge of clinching a playoff berth after slugging out a 12-6 win behind Chandler Catanzaro’s four field goals.

Drew Stanton hopped off the field after getting sacked by Aaron Donald in the third quarter, and coach Bruce Arians wasn’t sure about the extent of the injury to his right knee. Stanton, who became the starter after Carson Palmer suffered a season-ending injury in the last game against the Rams last month, was expected to get an MRI on Friday.

Stanton’s injury forced Ryan Lindley into his first playing time since 2012. He completed his first pass to set up a 51-yard field goal by Catanzaro, then had a 14-yard pass to John Brown on third-and-7 to spark a drive that led to Catanzaro’s 44-yarder and a 12-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Lindley started four games for Arizona as a rookie in 2012 and was cut by the Cardinals in training camp this year. He was signed off San Diego’s practice squad after Palmer got hurt, but has hardly practiced with the team’s top players.

Some things to know from the Cardinals’ win over the Rams (6-8) that officially eliminated St. Louis from the playoff race:

SHUTOUT STREAK SNAPPED: The Rams hadn’t allowed a point in nine straight quarters before Arizona’s Larry Foote recovered Tre Mason’s fumble at the St. Louis 27, leading to a second-quarter field goal. The back-to-back shutouts against Washington and Oakland had been the franchise’s first since 1945.

“The difference in this ballgame was the ability to get the ball in the end zone. I thought our defense played well enough for us to win,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “But in situations like this when your offense is struggling against a good defense, somebody’s got to make a play.”

The Rams still haven’t given up a touchdown since the fourth quarter of a Nov. 23 loss at San Diego.

ARIANS UNPLUGGED: In his postgame news conference, Arians made it known that he was none too happy about the last-place Rams being favored against his first-place Cardinals.

“I love it when nobody says you’re going to have a chance to win. There’s an 11-3 team and a team that’s always 8-8,” Arians said. “You figure it out.”

Arians stuck it to the Rams’ offensive line while praising his D-line: “I thought that our defensive line whipped their offensive line pretty solid. When they were making tackles behind the line of scrimmage, there was usually an offensive lineman holding onto their legs but somehow those flags never got called. But we were tackling them for losses, so it didn’t matter.”

And about that Rams’ defense?

“Everybody talking all that stuff about how great their defense is, they saw a good defense tonight. It was in red and white.”

LARRY LEGEND: With his fourth catch of the game, coming in the second quarter, Fitzgerald became the youngest player in NFL history to reach 900 career receptions. Fitzgerald, 31, is more than a full year younger than Andre Johnson was when he reached the milestone.

Bengals 30, Browns 0

Jeremy Hill, Paul Kruger

Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill runs away from Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger (99) in the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

CLEVELAND (AP) — They chased him. They taunted him. They made him look scared.

The Cincinnati Bengals dismantled Johnny Manziel.

Woe, Johnny.

Manziel spent his first NFL start being tormented and taunted by Cincinnati defenders as the Bengals rudely welcomed the rookie quarterback to the league with a 30-0 drubbing of the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Manziel didn’t come close to living up to the exhausting expectations surrounding his overhyped debut as the AFC North-leading Bengals (9-4-1) built a 20-point halftime lead and rolled to their fourth straight road win.

“Everything was all about Manziel all week,” Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga. “We just focused on us. We just focused on what we needed to do to stop the kid.”

Promoted earlier this week over the slumping Brian Hoyer to spark the Browns (7-7), Manziel finished 10 of 18 for 80 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked three times, under pressure all afternoon and had Bengals players imitating his signature “money-rubbing” gesture more than once.

“Every time we hit him, every time we got him on his back,” said defensive tackle Domata Peko. “So it was a lot of money signs thrown out today.”

Manziel took the pasting in stride.

Bengals rookie Jeremy Hill rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns, backing up his postgame trash talk of the Browns following a loss to them last month.

The Bengals overwhelmed the Browns on the field and on the stat sheet, recording their first shutout since Dec. 21, 2008 — in Cleveland.

Cincinnati had 347 yards to Cleveland’s 107. The Bengals picked up 24 first downs to five for the Browns, who went just 1 of 10 on third down.

Mike Nugent, who missed practice time this week after his father died, kicked two 44-yard field goals and added a 34-yarder for the Bengals.

Manziel didn’t look ready for the big stage, panicking in the pocket and failing to deliver any of the magic that made him a college football star.

Johnny Football has some work to do.

The Bengals put together a complete game to strengthen their grip on the division lead, maintaining their half-game lead over Baltimore and Pittsburgh, who both won.

Cincinnati set the tone with a time-consuming, 81-yard touchdown drive to start the game and atoned for a 24-3 loss last month when they were dominated at home by the Browns.

Cincinnati led 20-0 at halftime, and spent the next two quarters making sure Manziel never got going.

The shutout capped a week in which Manziel was called a “midget” by Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, a comment that shows professionals aren’t ready to let him come in and “wreck the league” like he boasted he would do before the Browns selected him with the No. 22 overall pick.

The Browns were blanked for the first time since a 16-0 loss to Baltimore in 2009.

Manziel’s first half couldn’t have gone much worse.

He was intercepted twice and was lucky that a third pick was nullified by a penalty. The Browns managed just 58 total yards in the opening half and their best scoring chance ended when Manziel scrambled and forced a pass to the end zone that was intercepted by Adam “Pacman” Jones.

Hill gave the Browns motivation with his postgame comments after last month’s loss, saying “they’re probably worse than I thought” despite Cleveland’s dominant performance. His 2-yard TD run gave the Bengals a 7-0 lead.

After Nugent’s first field goal, Hill scored again, breaking several tackles on a 16-yarder. Hill tried to celebrate by leaping into the stands, but was turned back by a Browns fan wearing a Joe Haden jersey. It was one of the few times Cleveland stopped Cincinnati all day.

Browns star CB Joe Haden sustained a shoulder injury and CB Justin Gilbert got a concussion. Pettine said Haden will have an MRI on Monday.

Packers 13, Bills 21

Eddie Lacy, Nigel Bradham

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) is tackled by Buffalo Bills’ Nigel Bradham (53) in the end zone for a safety during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Bills won the game 21-13. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills’ defense has a dynamic duo: “Super Mario” and a newcomer named Rambo.

Credit them for helping rattle Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Bacarri Rambo came off the bench to replace injured backup safety Duke Williams to intercept Rodgers on consecutive drives in the second half. And veteran end Mario Williams put the finishing touches on a 21-13 victory Sunday by forcing Rodgers to fumble into the end zone for a safety with 1:51 left.

“It’s a testament to what we do,” defensive tackle Kyle Williams said, assessing how a dominating defensive effort contributed to keeping the Bills (8-6) in a jumbled playoff picture. “We’ve played against great quarterbacks, so the only expectation that we had was to play well and win a football game.”

Marcus Thigpen scored on a 75-yard punt return, while Dan Carpenter hit all four field-goal attempts, including three in the second half.

The Bills are assured their first eight-win season since going 9-7 in 2004.

A week after ending Peyton Manning’s consecutive game touchdown streak at 51 in a 24-17 loss at Denver, the Bills came away with a victory by putting the clamps on one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses.

The defense made up for a sputtering Kyle Orton-led offense, which was limited to 253 yards and 13 first downs. Orton finished 14 of 27 for 158 yards and an interception.

In the process, Buffalo put a halt to the Packers’ five-game winning streak, and prevented Green Bay (10-4) from inching closer to securing a sixth consecutive playoff berth.

Rodgers went 17 of 42 for 185 yards, with two interceptions. He had been picked off just three times this season, and none since throwing two in Green Bay’s last loss, 44-23 at New Orleans on Oct. 26.

It wasn’t all on Rodgers, either, as he had little support from his receivers. That includes the usually reliable Jordy Nelson, who had a key drop late in the third quarter.

From his 6, Rodgers found Nelson wide open running up the right side. The pass hit Nelson in stride, but the ball glanced off the receiver’s fingers. The Packers were limited to Eddie Lacy’s 1-yard touchdown run and two field goals by Mason Crosby.

This from a team coming off a 43-37 win over Atlanta and that had outscored its past five opponents by 201-113. Rodgers combined for 1,580 yards passing with 16 touchdowns and no turnovers in his previous five games.

It all came to a halt against a defense ranked among the NFL’s top 10 in nearly every measurable category.

Rambo set the tone upon taking over after backup Duke Williams was escorted off the field experiencing concussion-like symptoms early in the third quarter. The Bills were already down starting safety Da’Norris Searcy (hamstring).

Rambo’s first interception came on the Packers’ second play from scrimmage after Dan Carpenter hit a 35-yard field goal to put Buffalo ahead 16-10.

Rambo sprinted 10 yards from midfield to make a sliding interception of Rodgers’ pass intended for Randall Cobb at the Green Bay 45. His second came on the Packers’ next drive when Rodgers’ passed for Jarrett Boykin over the middle. It tipped off the receiver’s hands and to Rambo. That set up Carpenter hitting a 48-yard field goal.

The Packers weren’t done until their first play on their final possession. From his 10, Rodgers dropped back and had the ball knocked out of his hand by Mario Williams, who burst in from the left side and outmuscled backup lineman JC Tretter. The play was whistled dead once Lacy recovered the fumble, because only Rodgers was allowed to advance the ball with under 2:00 remaining. The Packers fell to 0-6 at Orchard Park. … The Bills went 4-0 against the NFC North.

Buccaneers 17, Panthers 19

Josh McCown, Charles Johnson

Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Josh McCown (12) fumbles the ball as Carolina Panthers’ Charles Johnson (95) closes in during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. McCown recovered his own fumble. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Greg Olsen has a date with his television set Monday night.

Carolina’s veteran tight end plans to stay up a little later and watch the New Orleans-Chicago game — one that suddenly has major playoff implications for the upstart Panthers.

Despite a 5-8-1 record after a 19-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Panthers are in first place in the NFC South and positioned themselves to become only the second team in NFL history to reach the postseason with a losing record in a non-strike-shortened season if the Saints lose.

Derek Anderson threw for 277 yards and a touchdown, Graham Gano kicked four field goals and the Panthers defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-17 on Sunday for their second straight win. The victory, coupled with Atlanta’s loss to Pittsburgh, left the Panthers ahead of New Orleans in the division by percentage points. The Saints (5-8) play Chicago on Monday night.

Anderson completed 25 of 40 passes and improved to 2-0 as a starter in place of Cam Newton, who missed the game while recovering from a car accident Tuesday that left him with two fractures in his lower back.

Both of his wins have come against Tampa Bay. Anderson acknowledged he had trouble sleeping Saturday night.

Olsen tied a career high with 10 catches for 110 yards, and rookie Kelvin Benjamin had eight grabs for 104 yards. Anderson doesn’t bring the same mobility as Newton.

In fact, on two read-option plays, the Bucs completely ignored Anderson. But he got the crowd pumped when he eluded pressure and rambled for a 9-yard gain in the first quarter and signaled for a first down.

Newton, dressed in black sweats and a long-sleeve black shirt, roared his approval on the sideline, clapping and smiling as he watched the replay on the video board.

Josh McCown threw for one touchdown and ran for another to lead the Bucs (2-12). He fumbled twice and was intercepted once by Luke Kuechly on a last-second heave from deep in his own territory.

Carolina won despite another week of settling for field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.

The Panthers, ranked 27th in red zone offense coming in, reached or started in Tampa Bay territory on all 10 drives, but managed just one touchdown and settled for five field-goal attempts.

The game turned on the opening drive of the second half when Carolina defensive ends Charles Johnson and Mario Addison converged to sack McCown at the Tampa Bay 4, jarring the ball loose. Kawann Short recovered, setting up a 2-yard touchdown pass from Anderson to Jerricho Cotchery to give Carolina a 16-10 lead they would never relinquish.

The Panthers had plenty of chances of build on that lead in the third quarter, but struggled to do so.

Jonathan Stewart fumbled at the Tampa Bay 3-yard line on Carolina’s next possession and Akeem Spence recovered, keeping it a one-possession game. Two other Carolina drives faltered just outside of field-goal range.

The Panthers eventually got a 38-yard field goal from Gano to push the lead to 19-10.

The Bucs were limited to a combined minus-2 yards on their first four possessions in the third quarter.

Tampa Bay finally broke through late in the fourth quarter. McCown led an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, rambling 16 yards for the score with 3:11 left in the game.

Doug Martin ran for 96 yards on 14 carries, most of those coming on a 63-yard jaunt in the first half. … Tampa Bay entered without three defensive starters and lost defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to a hyperextended knee late in the first quarter. He did not return. … Stewart’s fumble was his first since 2010.

Redskins 13, Giants 24

Odell Beckham, E.J. Biggers

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) takes the ball for a touchdown as Washington Redskins free safety E.J. Biggers (30) pursues during the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — If rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. keeps playing like this, the New York Giants won’t be in many more meaningless games in years to come.

Beckham caught three touchdown passes and came within one reception of tying the team’s single-game record. The Giants took advantage of an overturned touchdown at the end of the half to defeat Washington 24-13 Sunday.

Beckham and Eli Manning combined 12 times for 143 yards, with touchdown passes covering 10, 35 and 6 yards. He has a team-high nine touchdowns and his 972 yards receiving are a team record for a rookie, beating Jeremy Shockey’s 894.

That’s scary. After missing the first four games of the season, Beckham has 71 catches, including 61 in his last seven games.

The win was the second straight for the Giants (5-9) after seven consecutive losses that eliminated them from playoff contention for the third straight season.

The Redskins (3-11) are finding all sorts of ways to lose, and this one was hard to believe. They blew a touchdown and command of the game on a fumble by Robert Griffin III as time expired at the end of the first half.

Griffin scrambled for an apparent 8-yard touchdown for a 17-7 lead, diving over the pylon, then running on to the field and spiking the ball with emphasis.

It wasn’t to be.

The video review by referee Jeff Triplette showed that Griffin lost control of the ball diving over the pylon and the play was ruled a touchback.

The call incensed veteran Redskins receiver Santana Moss so much that he stormed after the officials and was ejected. Triplette said Moss was ejected for inappropriate language directed first at him and then at field judge Alex Kemp.

Instead of a 10-point lead, the Redskins led 10-7 with the go-ahead points a 9-yard pass from Griffin to Chris Thompson midway through the second quarter.

New York, however, controlled most of the second half.

Moss was called for two 15-yard penalties and the Giants went with onside kick from the Washington 35 to start the second half. They recovered at the Redskins 17, setting up a tying 32-yard field goal by Josh Brown.

The 35-yard TD by Beckham gave the Giants a 17-13 lead late in third quarter. The 6-yarder with 4:41 to go sent the Redskins (3-11) to their sixth consecutive loss.

Washington’s only points in the second half came on a 38-yard field goal by Kai Forbath.

Manning (23 of 34 for 250 yards) drove the Giants 81 yards on four plays on the ensuing series, combining for the final 35 on a crossing pattern to Beckham. The rookie’s catches were one shy of the Giants’ single-game record held by Tiki Barber.

New York iced the game with a 76-yard drive that featured five catches by Beckham.

Griffin, benched for Colt McCoy as the starting quarterback, finished 18 of 27 for 236 yards. He also ran five times for 46 yards in an impressive performance, but was sacked seven times. There were moments late in the game when the oft-injured quarterback had trouble getting up.

McCoy led the Redskins to a field goal before leaving after aggravating a neck injury on the opening series.

Manning got New York on the scoreboard late in the first quarter with a 10-yarder to Beckham.

Texans 10, Colts 17

Hakeem Nicks, D.J. Swearinger

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, right, is tackled by Houston Texans defensive back Darryl Morris after a catch during the first half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Reggie Wayne finally got the postgame party he wanted. The 36-year-old Colts receiver is going back to the playoffs as a division champion.

It also means he’ll get another game in front of his favorite fans.

Andrew Luck threw two touchdown passes, Adam Vinatieri made a late field goal and Indianapolis’ defense shut down Houston’s offense Sunday in a 17-10 victory that clinched the AFC South and gave Wayne two franchise records.

“This never gets old. This feeling never gets old,” Wayne said, referring to the division title as he downplayed the milestones. “At training camp we made some goals. Taking care of the division was our first goal so we were able to check that one off.”

Wayne wasn’t the only one hooting and hollering after the Colts’ fourth straight win.

Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and return specialist Josh Cribbs, longtime Browns, couldn’t believe they were finally heading into the postseason for the first time. Jackson was so excited he started toward the showers still wearing his championship hat.

Luck, meanwhile, reminded everyone the playoffs can’t be taken for granted — even though he’s never missed out in his three NFL seasons.

Nobody understands this situation better than Wayne, who has reached the playoffs in 12 of his 14 NFL seasons. Three years ago, many thought his days in Indy numbered after the Colts went 2-14. But Wayne gave Indy a hometown discount and has spent the last three years chasing a second Super Bowl ring and Peyton Manning’s records.

With 209 career games and 142 career wins, Wayne now holds both records, something that was not lost on teammates or coaches, who sent Wayne back into the game for the final snap.

Wayne couldn’t have done it without some help and he had plenty Sunday.

Luck was 18 of 34 for 187 yards, throwing for two second-quarter touchdowns that turned a 7-0 deficit into a 14-7 halftime lead. Daniel “Boom” Herron ran 11 times for 60 yards including five straight times on the game sealing drive that consumed 5 minutes, 3 seconds. Vinatieri finished it with a 29-yard field goal with 2:11 to go.

The defense dominated the short-handed Texans (7-7), too.

After deactivating receiver Andre Johnson and tight end Garrett Graham before the game, Houston lost starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick early in the second quarter with a left leg injury. Fitzpatrick was carted off the field with an air cast covering the leg.

Coach Bill O’Brien would not confirm reports that Fitzpatrick’s leg was broken.

Without Fitzpatrick, the Texans turned to rookie Tom Savage. He completed his first NFL pass for a first down, then struggled. Savage finished 10 of 19 for 127 yards with two fumbles and two turnovers.

Arian Foster ran 26 times for 99 yards, but the Texans managed only 289 total yards and had their best play of the game — a 25-yard TD run from Foster on fourth-and-1 — nullified by a holding call. Houston wound up settling for a 53-yard field goal to make it 14-10 early in the fourth quarter, its only offensive points of the day. Kendrick Lewis returned an interception 27 yards for touchdown to give the Texans a 7-0 lead.

Luck tied it with a 26-yard TD pass to Hakeem Nicks early in the second quarter.

Then when it looked as if the Colts would blow another scoring chance following Wayne’s second-quarter fumble, Savage gave it right back on a botched handoff. Three plays later, Luck hooked up with Dwayne Allen on a 3-yard TD pass to take a 14-7 lead.

The Colts never trailed again. Indy is 13-0 all-time at home against the Texans and has won 12 straight over AFC South foes.

Jaguars 12, Ravens 20

Terrell Suggs, Blake Bortles

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) is sacked by Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) during the second half of an NFL football game in Baltimore, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. The Ravens defeated the Jaguars 20-12. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

ALTIMORE (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars may be hitting the wall in a season long past the point of repair.

Many of the Jaguars wore a look of resignation after they failed to score a touchdown in a 20-12 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

Blake Bortles was wearing more than a frown. The rookie quarterback, who was sacked eight times, had been fitted for a walking boot after spraining his right foot in the fray.

Jacksonville’s 2-12 record is far more of an issue.

Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley understands the sentiment, and he’s OK with it.

“Frustration’s OK, because it shows you’ve got investment, you’re invested into it,” Bradley said.

Jacksonville tried just about everything in its bid to pull off an upset, including an onside kick and a fake punt. Both worked, but it wasn’t enough to earn the Jaguars their first win on the road.

Joe Flacco went 20 for 30 for 221 yards and a touchdown for the Ravens, who blanked the Jaguars over the final 30 minutes.

Bortles completed 21 of 37 passes for 210 yards and an interception in the game’s final minute. He threw under pressure for most of the game — Baltimore’s season-high eight sacks increased the number Jacksonville has yielded this season to 62.

The Jaguars’ points came on four field goals by Josh Scobee.

After leaving to jeers on its first series of the second half, the Ravens mounted an 80-yard drive to take a 17-12 lead with 8:34 left in the third quarter. Flacco went 5 of 5 for 65 yards, including a 27-yard completion to Owen Daniels and a 3-yard touchdown pass to the tight end.

The Jaguars were then poised for a three-and-out, but punter Bryan Anger flipped a pass to Will Ta’ufo’ou for 19 yards to extend the drive. Five plays later, however, Jacksonville punted.

From that point, neither team had much success moving the ball until the Ravens put together a 49-yard march that produced a field goal and an eight-point cushion with 1:11 remaining.

The victory kept Baltimore (9-5) in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt.

The Ravens scored just once with their offense on the field and gained only 31 yards rushing through three quarters. The usually reliable Justin Tucker missed two field goal tries, and all three units made enough mistakes to keep a football coach up late at night — even after a win.

Terrell Suggs was credited with 2 1/2 sacks and rookie Timmy Jernigan, starting for the suspended Haloti Ngata, had two.

Baltimore trailed 12-10 at halftime after gaining only 13 yards on the ground and going 0 for 6 on third-down conversions.

Three straight plays during the game’s opening series showed why Jacksonville came to town with only two wins. After tight end Marcedes Lewis dropped a second-down pass, Bortles missed connecting with a wide-open Cecil Shorts.

On fourth down, Baltimore’s Darian Stewart burst through the line to block Anger’s punt. Kamar Aiken scooped up the ball and went 11 yards for a touchdown, Baltimore’s first score on a blocked punt since Ed Reed did it against Seattle in 2003.

From there, the only scoring in the first half came on field goals.

Dolphins 13, Patriots 41

LeGarrette Blount

New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) runs for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady was upset that his New England Patriots hardly looked like a division champion in the first half.

So upset that the slow-footed quarterback made a rare scramble for a first down that sparked them to a big third quarter and their sixth consecutive AFC East title Sunday.

“I wasn’t in the best mood at that time,” Brady said after a 41-13 win over the Miami Dolphins.

He and his teammates were feeling better after the Patriots became the first team in NFL history with 11 division titles in 12 years. They missed only in 2008, when Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener and Miami won the AFC East.

Leading 14-13 at halftime, Brady threw two scoring passes in the third quarter and plodded for 17 yards, the third-longest run of his career, to set up LeGarrette Blount’s 3-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the second half.

New England (11-3) scored on its four series of the third quarter and piled up 24 points, a team record for that period.

Miami (7-7) saw its slim postseason hopes dwindle further as it gave up a touchdown on a blocked field goal and Ryan Tannehill threw two interceptions.

The Patriots started the season with a 33-20 loss in Miami that snapped their winning streak in openers at 10 games.

Now they can secure home-field advantage with wins in their remaining games against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.

The Patriots waited a while to take control Sunday.

A horrendous final minute of the first half — three runs that gained 2 yards, a 32-yard punt return by Miami’s Jarvis Landry and a 32-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to Wallace with five seconds left — cut the Patriots lead to one point.

“We didn’t play very well in the first half,” New England coach Bill Belichick said. “We just took some not very good football and made it worse and then were able to do things a lot better in the second half.”

On the first play of the second half, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a 34-yard gain down the middle.

The Patriots kept rolling with 10 points in 13 seconds.

Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 35-yard field goal, giving him a team record 1,160 points, two more than Adam Vinatieri. After Patrick Chung intercepted Tannehill’s pass, Brady connected with Gronkowski for a 27-yard touchdown with 4:30 left in the third quarter.

Just over three minutes later, New England boosted the lead to 38-13 on Brady’s 6-yard pass to Julian Edelman. Gostkowski made it five straight scoring possessions with a 36-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

Brady completed 21 of 35 passes for 287 yards and one interception. Tannehill was 29-for-47 for 346.

The scoring began when Jamie Collins blocked Caleb Sturgis’ 41-yard field goal attempt on Miami’s first possession and Kyle Arrington returned the ball 62 yards for a touchdown.

Sturgis kicked the first of two field goals late in the first quarter before the Patriots capitalized on another turnover.

Duron Harmon returned an interception 60 yards to the Miami 8 and Shane Vereen scored on a 3-yard run three plays later.

The Patriots sixth consecutive division titles are one short of the NFL record since 1970 set by the Los Angeles Rams from 1973-79, according to STATSPASS.

Raiders 13, Chiefs 31

Knile Davis, Charles Woodson, T.J. Carrie

Kansas City Chiefs running back Knile Davis (34) runs for a touchdown ahead of Oakland Raiders free safety Charles Woodson (24) and cornerback T.J. Carrie (38) during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — When Tony Sparano took over as interim coach in Oakland, one of his priorities was to make sure that the Raiders stopped beating the Raiders.

They’d been doing a better job of that until Sunday.

Beaten up by Kansas City’s pass rush and plagued by a plethora of penalties, the Raiders fell 31-13 to the Chiefs in a game that spiraled out of control in the final 20 minutes.

Derek Carr was just 27 of 56 for 222 yards, his only highlight a TD pass in the final minute. The rookie was sacked four times and fumbled a snap that led to a Kansas City touchdown.

Latavius Murray, who ran for 112 yards and two scores in a win over Kansas City last month, was held to just 59 yards on 12 carries Sunday by a Chiefs defense that had struggled against the run.

The Raiders (2-12) have lost 10 straight on the road, and still have not won back-to-back games since Weeks 7 and 8 of the 2012 season. That includes a pair of duds in the appropriately named Show-Me State — they were routed 52-0 at St. Louis two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Alex Smith threw for 297 yards and two scores for Kansas City (8-6), which ended a three-game skid that began with its loss to the Raiders. Knile Davis accounted for touchdowns running and receiving, and De’Anthony Thomas returned a punt 81 yards for another score.

Both teams got off to slow starts in a penalty-filled matchup, but Kansas City finally got a jolt of energy when Thomas fielded a punt at the 19-yard line and headed up the sideline. He picked up a nice block from Kelcie McCray before somersaulting over the goal line for the score.

Chiefs kicker Cairo Santo atoned for missing his first field-goal attempt since Week 2 early in the second quarter by knocking through a 41-yarder later in the half. Sebastian Janikowski then matched him with a 53-yarder as time expired to get Oakland within 10-3 at the break.

Oakland had a chance to make the game interesting in the third quarter when Travis Kelce fumbled and the C.J. Wilson recovered. But in a fitting summation of the Raiders’ season, Wilson ended up hurt on the play, and the Raiders went nowhere before Janikowski kicked another field goal.

The Chiefs took advantage of the opening — and a roughing the passer penalty on Justin Tuck — to go 70 yards on their next possession. Davis finished it off with a short touchdown run.

Running back Jamaal Charles took a vicious hit near the goal line on the drive. He was checked for a concussion on the sideline and was cleared to continue, returning to the game only briefly. But when the outcome was in hand, coach Andy Reid decided to hold him out.

That point came just a few minutes later.

Carr fumbled a snap deep in his own territory, Kansas City recovered and Smith hit Kelce from 20 yards for a touchdown. The Chiefs then forced three-and-out, and Smith’s throw to Davis a few minutes later capped their three-TD spurt and gave Kansas City a 31-6 lead.

Kansas City improved to 6-1 when leading at halftime. … Carr now has 313 completions, becoming the sixth rookie QB to surpass 300 in a season.

Steelers 27, Falcons 20

Steelers Falcons Football

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) celebrates in the endzone after scoring a touchdown in the final minute of the first half of the NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton)

ATLANTA (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers are no longer stuck on eight wins.

Ben Roethlisberger made sure of that.

Roethlisberger threw for 360 yards, pushing his season total to a career high, and capped his performance with a third-down pass to Heath Miller that clinched the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 27-20 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

William Gay scored off an interception return for the Steelers (9-5), who remained a half-game behind Cincinnati in the AFC North with their second straight win. The Bengals stayed on top of the division by routing Cleveland 30-0.

With Roethlisberger, they always seem to have a fighting chance.

He’s on a mission to get Pittsburgh back to the playoffs after they missed the last two years, going 8-8 each time. This was his third straight game with more than 300 yards passing, and eighth of the season.

The Falcons (5-9) slipped out of first place in the abysmal NFC South and ensured themselves a second straight losing season. But Atlanta can still make the playoffs by winning its final two games against division rivals New Orleans and Carolina.

Pittsburgh led 13-0 after Gay picked off Matt Ryan’s pass over the middle on the first play of the second quarter, returning it for a 52-yard TD. The Steelers extended the lead to 27-13 with Le’Veon Bell’s second touchdown, a 13-yard run in the opening minute of the fourth period.

The Falcons made a game of it, pulling within a touchdown on Ryan’s 4-yard pass to Roddy White.

But the Steelers wrapped up the victory by running the final 4:34 off the clock. They converted twice on third down, the clincher coming when Roethlisberger found Miller all alone for a 25-yard completion on third-and-1 from the Atlanta 39.

Roethlisberger completed 27 of 35 and increased his season total to 4,415 yards, surpassing his previous franchise record of 4,328 from 2009 with two games to go. Bell also scored on a 1-yard run, but fell short of becoming the first player in NFL history with four straight 200-yard games in total yardage.

The back finished with 47 yards rushing and 72 yards receiving, leaving him and Walter Payton as the only players with three straight 200-yard games.

Antonio Brown had 10 receptions for 123 yards, also setting a franchise record for catches in a season: 115, eclipsing the 112 by Hines Ward in 2002.

Ryan threw for 310 yards, completing 26 of 37 even though he didn’t have his top receiver. Julio Jones sat out with a hip injury sustained in the closing minutes of a 259-yard performance against Green Bay.

Early on, Ryan looked out of sync, most noticeably on a pass over the middle intended for Harry Douglas. Gay stepped in to grab it — and kept right on running until he reached the end zone.

The Steelers were up 20-7 at the half, but Atlanta put together a pair of impressive drives in the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they couldn’t get to the end zone, settling for short field goals by Matt Bryant.

That was crucial when Roethlisberger guided the Steelers on an 80-yard drive, completing a 26-yard pass to Miller, then a 30-yarder Markus Wheaton to start the fourth quarter. On the next play, Bell took it around left end for the score.

After Ryan’s touchdown pass to White with 10:21 remaining, Atlanta got the ball only one more time. The Falcons went three-and-out, and the Steelers ran out the clock.

Starting in place of Jones, Douglas had 10 catches for a season-high 131 yards. The Steelers were held to 45 yards rushing, their second-lowest total this season. … Bell pushed his total yards for the season to 2,043, eclipsing Barry Foster’s team record of 2,034.

Broncos 22, Chargers 10

Julius Thomas

Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, left, hauls in a pass under pressure from San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Chargers are struggling on offense. If they keep playing this way, they will fall short of the playoffs.

Philip Rivers threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates in the fourth quarter for San Diego’s only touchdown in a 22-10 loss to Denver on Sunday. Peyton Manning played through a thigh injury and flu-like symptoms and Connor Barth kicked five field goals, sending the Broncos to their fourth straight AFC West title.

The Chargers have scored just two offensive touchdowns in their last two games. They were shut out in the second half of a 23-14 loss to New England last Sunday. Rivers completed 24 of 41 passes for 232 yards with two interceptions.

Asked about the passing game struggles, he said: “If you saw a lot more guys open, let me know.”

The Chargers (8-6) began the day as the AFC’s No. 6 seed and saw their wild-card chances diminished.

Manning was sick coming into the game and then came out late in the second quarter with a thigh injury he said he got while scrambling on a passing play.

He returned for the start of the third quarter and on Denver’s second possession threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas to give the Broncos a 16-3 lead.

The Broncos (11-3) won their fourth straight game and are tied with New England for the AFC’s best record. New England beat the Broncos 43-21 on Nov. 2.

Denver’s 12th straight division road win tied San Francisco’s NFL record set from 1987-90.

Manning completed 14 of 20 passes for 233 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

San Diego pulled within six on Gates’ TD with 10:13 left. Gates joined Rob Gronkowski as the only tight ends in NFL history with four seasons with at least 10 touchdown catches.

Then Manning led the Broncos on a drive capped by Barth’s 49-yard field goal with 4:53 to play. After Aqib Talib intercepted Rivers, Barth kicked a 44-yarder to give the Broncos a 12-point lead.

Barth also kicked three field goals in the first half, lifting Denver to a 9-0 lead when he connected from 19 yards out with 1:50 to go. His third field goal came after Denver had a touchdown wiped out by a replay review.

On third-and-goal from the San Diego 1, C.J. Anderson started right but then cut back. Manning stepped up and blocked inside linebacker Donald Butler. Officials initially ruled Anderson scored, but the review showed his knee was down.

Manning headed to the locker room. Butler was spun around on Manning’s block and injured an elbow.

The Broncos forced the Chargers to punt, and Manning’s backup, Brock Osweiler, trotted out. After an incompletion on first down, Osweiler was whistled for intentional grounding after being pressured by Dwight Freeney.

Denver punted and a 58-yard return by Eddie Royal, a former Broncos player, helped set up Nick Novak’s 30-yard field goal.

The Broncos got inside the Chargers 10 on consecutive drives in the first half but had to settle for field goals each time.

Novak had a 46-yard attempt blocked by Derek Wolfe. Thomas had six catches for 123 yards and Anderson ran 29 times for 85 yards. Rahim Moore intercepted Rivers in the end zone and returned it to the 14 with 1:53 left in the game.

Jets 16, Titans 11

Chris Johnson, Derrick Morgan

New York Jets running back Chris Johnson (21) carries the ball past Tennessee Titans defender Derrick Morgan (91) in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Rex Ryan’s tenuous future with the New York Jets isn’t stopping the coach from trying to win as much as he can on his way out the door.

No matter how much fans want a top draft pick.

Chris Ivory scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 3:09 left, and the Jets beat the Tennessee Titans 16-11 on Sunday in a game marked by a brawl between teams playing only for pride with the loser hoping for better draft position.

Now, actually three as the Jets (3-11) also won their first road game this season and snapped a three-game skid in the first NFL game to end with a 16-11 score.

Geno Smith threw for 179 yards and a TD. He also was apparently hit by Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, starting a brawl in the third quarter. Casey was flagged, but not ejected.

The Titans (2-12) now have lost eight straight and 11 of 12 in their worst skid since 1994 when home was in Houston. They got the ball twice late, and reached the Jets 9 after three laterals on the final play came up short. Ryan said he thought the play should have been whistled dead on the third, which he said went forward.

The Jets trailed 11-10 when Chris Johnson, playing against the team that cut him in April, ran 37 yards out of the wildcat to the Titans 4. Ivory capped the drive running wide left for the TD. The Jets went for the 2-point conversion, but Jeremy Kerley couldn’t hold onto Smith’s pass keeping it a 16-11 lead.

The Titans got to the Jets 22 with 2 minutes left before turning it over on downs with a sack by Quinton Coples and three incompletions.

They got it back with 21 seconds and were near midfield for the final play. Whitehurst, playing with Jake Locker out with an injured left shoulder, threw to Dexter McCluster, who lateraled to Nate Washington. The receiver threw back to Whitehurst, who lateraled to Delanie Walker — who was tackled by Dawan Landry to seal the Jets’ win.

This game nearly got out of hand in the third quarter as referee John Parry was reviewing an 81-yard pass to Eric Decker.

After Casey appeared to hit Smith, the teams started pushing and shoving with Casey also hitting Jets right tackle Breno Giacomini twice. Casey’s helmet knocked off in the melee before officials broke it up. The review turned Decker’s TD to a 48-yard completion, and Casey stayed in the game despite being flagged for a personal foul.

Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said he thought a couple of Jets came off the bench in the melee. Ryan thought his quarterback took a punch in the face.

Smith finished the drive with a 9-yard TD pass to John Conner on fourth-and-1. Ryan Succop kicked three field goals for Tennessee, the last a 51-yarder with 2:02 left in the third quarter for an 11-10 lead.

Locker was starting with rookie Zach Mettenberger out with his own sprained shoulder. He was hurt when hit by Coples late in the first half, sending him straight to the locker room holding his arm against his body. Coples also helped knock Locker out of the game the last time these teams met last season.

Johnson, the Titans’ third all-time leading rusher, finished with 55 yards on 10 carries. … The Jets came in last in the NFL in red zone offense, scoring 37.8 percent scored TDs on two trips. … Walker finished with 93 yards and set the Titans’ yards receiving record in a season for a tight end with 793 yards, passing Frank Wycheck, who had 768 in 1998.

Vikings 14, Lions 16

Matthew Stafford, Brian Robison

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) outruns Minnesota Vikings defensive end Brian Robison (96) during the first half of an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

DETROIT (AP) — It was the type of kick that always seems to go through the uprights against the Detroit Lions.

Nobody has ever made a field goal from 68 yards in an NFL game, but when Minnesota’s Blair Walsh lined up at that distance on the final play Sunday, there were some nervous folks at Ford Field.

Walsh’s kick came up short and wide to the left, and Detroit held on for a 16-14 victory over Minnesota.

Matt Prater’s 33-yard field goal with 3:38 remaining gave the Lions their first lead of the game, and Detroit withstood two more tense possessions for the Vikings.

Detroit (10-4) pulled into a first-place tie in the NFC North with Green Bay, which lost to Buffalo earlier Sunday. The Lions are now agonizingly close to a playoff spot.

And agonizing is a pretty good way to describe this latest victory.

Detroit spotted Minnesota a 14-0 lead before slowly rallying with the help of two second-quarter interceptions. The Lions have won three in a row, and Detroit can clinch a playoff spot with a win at Chicago next weekend.

Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater was 31 of 41 for 315 yards with a touchdown, and the Vikings (6-8) held Detroit to 11 first downs, but after Jason Jones blocked Walsh’s 26-yard field goal attempt with 7:43 left, the Lions drove 65 yards to set up Prater’s third short field goal of the game.

Trailing for the first time all day, the Vikings had a good chance to take the lead again after Cordarrelle Patterson returned the ensuing kickoff to the Minnesota 49. But a holding call pushed the Vikings back, and Bridgewater eventually threw incomplete on fourth down.

The Vikings got the ball again at their 30 with 45 seconds left, but could only make it far enough to set up Walsh’s long attempt at a game winner. Coach Mike Zimmer decided to go for the field goal instead of a last-ditch pass.

The Lions lost to Baltimore last year on a 61-yard field goal, and to Buffalo this October on a 58-yarder. They were also on the losing end of Tom Dempsey’s 63-yarder for New Orleans in 1970.

But Walsh couldn’t convert. He also missed from 53 yards earlier in the game.

Matthew Stafford threw for 153 yards and a touchdown for the Lions.

In its last home game of the regular season, Detroit looked flat in the first half, falling behind by two touchdowns and drawing boos from the crowd at Ford Field. The Lions couldn’t manage a first down until the second quarter, on their fifth offensive possession.

Matt Asiata opened the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown run. Bridgewater added an 8-yard TD pass to Greg Jennings in the second quarter, and the Vikings were in Detroit territory again when Glover Quin intercepted Bridgewater and returned it 56 yards to the Minnesota 11.

Stafford threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate, and Bridgewater’s next pass was behind Jennings and intercepted by Darius Slay, giving the Lions the ball at the Minnesota 32.

Prater’s field goal made it 14-10 at halftime.

Prater, who helped stabilize Detroit’s terrible kicking game when he joined the Lions in October, connected from 30 yards in the third quarter to cut the deficit to one. Jones’ block in the fourth meant Detroit only needed a field goal to take the lead.

NOTES: The Lions went 7-1 at home during the regular season. The previous time that happened was 1995, when the team still played at the Silverdome.

49ers 7, Seahawks 17

Paul Richardson

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Paul Richardson (10) pulls down a reception for a touchdown ahead of the defense of San Francisco 49ers free safety Eric Reid, right, in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SEATTLE (AP) — Doug Baldwin was caught. Not in the sense of getting tackled, but caught being an observer.

Baldwin couldn’t help himself. When Seattle’s wide receiver saw that Green Bay had lost, he gave a little fist pump knowing what that meant for the Seahawks.

The NFC playoffs could be routed through the Pacific Northwest again.

The Seahawks knocked their most heated rival out of contention Sunday behind another stingy defensive effort and Marshawn Lynch’s 91 yards rushing and a touchdown in Seattle’s 17-7 win over San Francisco.

Gone are the 49ers from the postseason conversation. Now the question is whether Seattle (10-4) can win its final two games — at Arizona and vs. St. Louis — and potentially land the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the second straight season.

The opportunity at home-field advantage was implausible four weeks ago when the Seahawks were 6-4 and teetering in the NFC playoff picture. After four straight wins and the Packers’ loss at Buffalo on Sunday, the Seahawks have the chance at more than just a postseason berth.

After a sluggish, sloppy first half filled with penalties and missed assignments, Seattle awoke in the final 30 minutes behind the running of Lynch and a defense that shut out the 49ers, holding them to 67 yards. Colin Kaepernick was sacked six times and the 49ers didn’t run a play past the Seattle 38 in the second half.

Lynch scored on a 4-yard run late in the third quarter and the Seahawks took advantage of a short field on their next drive, capped by Russell Wilson’s 10-yard touchdown strike to rookie Paul Richardson.

Wilson was 12 of 24 for 168 yards and rushed for another 27 yards.

Losing to Seattle for the fifth time in six meetings, and Detroit’s win over Minnesota, eliminated San Francisco (7-7) from making the postseason. It’s the first time in Jim Harbaugh’s four seasons the 49ers won’t be playing in January, and will only heighten questions about Harbaugh’s future with the club.

In a season filled with key injuries, the 49ers lost two more players late in the first half and another in the third quarter. Running back Frank Gore, who scored on a 10-yard run in the second quarter, left with a concussion. Middle linebacker Chris Borland, the NFC defensive rookie of the month in November, hurt his ankle on the final play of the first half. He attempted to return, but was mostly a spectator and replaced by Nick Moody.

Gore’s backup, Carlos Hyde, was bent backward and appeared to injure his right leg late in the third quarter. Kaepernick threw for 141 yards and rushed for another 46, but was constantly under pressure behind an offensive line missing starters Marcus Martin and Anthony Davis.

The absence of Borland was significant. Seattle rushed for 90 yards in the third quarter alone after having just 47 in the first half. Lynch had runs of 13 and 15 yards on his touchdown drive that he capped by strolling the final yard into the end zone.

San Francisco went three-and-out on the next possession, including Hyde’s injury on first down. Seattle took possession at the 49ers 44 and Wilson immediately went for 19 yards on a designed keeper.

The drive was kept alive by a debated third-down roughing-the-passer call against Moody and two plays later, Richardson caught the first TD of his career. Referee Ed Hochuli told a pool reporter after the game he believed Moody hit Wilson with the hairline of his helmet and not the facemask, thus drawing the penalty.

Cowboys 38, Eagles 27

Dez Bryant, Bradley Fletcher

Dallas Cowboys’ Dez Bryant (88) pulls in a touchdown against Philadelphia Eagles’ Bradley Fletcher (24) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Dez Bryant went after Malcolm Jenkins in warmups and ran away from the rest of Philadelphia’s secondary and into the end zone the rest of the night.

Bryant caught a career-best three touchdown catches from Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys rallied to beat the Eagles 38-27 on Sunday night after wasting a 21-0 lead.

DeMarco Murray had a pair of TD runs to help the Cowboys (10-4) move ahead of the Eagles (9-5) into first place in the NFC East. The Eagles dominated the Cowboys in a 33-10 road win on Thanksgiving, but Dallas takes control of the division with two weeks left.

The NFC-leading Arizona Cardinals (11-3) clinched a playoff berth because the game didn’t end in a tie.

The Cowboys took a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter before Philadelphia rallied behind Mark Sanchez.

Chris Polk had TD runs of 1 and 5 yards and Darren Sproles ran in from the 1 to give the Eagles a 24-21 lead late in third quarter. But Romo and the Cowboys answered quickly with two touchdowns in a 2:51 span.

Murray scored on a 2-yard run to cap a 78-yard drive. After J.J. Wilcox intercepted Sanchez’s pass, the Cowboys started the fourth quarter at the Eagles 42. Romo then hit Bryant in stride for a 25-yard scoring pass.

Bryant couldn’t wait for this game after being held to 73 yards on four catches in the first meeting. After that game, he called Philadelphia’s secondary “cheap” and he had a heated exchange with Jenkins before the game. Bryant came back twice after Jenkins walked away and it wasn’t known why they argued.

Bryant finished with six receptions for 114 yards. He beat cornerback Bradley Fletcher on each of the TDs.

Romo threw for 265 yards and Murray ran for 81 on 31 carries. Sanchez had 252 yards passing and two interceptions. LeSean McCoy was held to 64 yards rushing.

Sanchez completed a 72-yard catch-and-run pass to Jeremy Maclin on third-and-12 to the Cowboys 1 before Polk ran in to get the Eagles to 21-17.

Vinny Curry then sacked Romo and forced a fumble that was recovered by Fletcher Cox at the Cowboys 14. Sproles scored to give Philadelphia a brief 24-21 lead.

The Eagles had won 10 straight regular-season games at home before losing to Seattle and Dallas for their first consecutive losses since Weeks 7 and 8 in 2013.

After Romo threw a 26-yard TD pass to Bryant early in the second quarter, the Cowboys had outscored the Eagles 21-0 and outgained them 167-0. Curry sacked Romo on third down two plays before the TD pass, but a holding call on Cary Williams kept the drive going.

The Cowboys recovered what ended up being an onside kick to start the game. A short kickoff bounced between deep returner Josh Huff and short man Brad Smith at the 15 and was recovered by C.J. Spillman at the Eagles 18.

Murray then ran in from the 1 to make it 7-0.

Bryant caught a 4-yard TD pass to put Dallas up 14-0.

The start was the opposite of the first meeting when the Eagles steamrolled the Cowboys on their way to a convincing win. The Cowboys bounced back from that loss with a win at Chicago last Thursday night and had three extra days to prepare for the rematch.

The Eagles beat the Cowboys last year in a winner-take-division game at Dallas in Week 17. Romo missed that game after having back surgery.

Dallas had 364 yards and held the Eagles to 294 for Philadelphia. The Cowboys held the ball for 41:55. Sanchez was sacked four times.

Saints 31, Bears 15

Marques Colston, Demontre Hurst

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston (12) makes a touchdown catch against Chicago Bears cornerback Demontre Hurst (30) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

CHICAGO (AP) — Drew Brees and the Saints found a cure for their problems — playing the Bears.

Brees threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns, and New Orleans beat Chicago 31-15 on Monday night to grab the NFC South lead.

The Saints (6-8) moved into first place ahead of Carolina (5-8-1) and Atlanta (5-9) after losing four of their previous five games. They also rebounded from a 41-10 loss to the Panthers.

Brees completed 29 of 36 passes and reached the 4,000-yard mark for the ninth straight year. He threw two touchdown passes to Josh Hill and another to Marques Colston.

Pierre Thomas had five catches for 83 yards. David Hawthorne had three of New Orleans’ seven sacks and the Saints intercepted three of Jay Cutler’s passes to bring his NFL-leading turnover total to 24.

For the Bears (5-9), the loss comes after a week in which they were again engulfed in controversy. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer admitted he was a source behind a critical report by the NFL Network about Cutler, owning up to it in public Friday after earlier asking players and coaches for forgiveness.

Cutler completed 17 of 31 passes for 194 yards, and the Bears couldn’t get anything going. They managed only 278 yards against one of the league’s worst defenses on a soggy night in which thousands of seats went unused.

There were 10,749 no-shows, and that might not have been a bad thing for the Bears, the way they played.

The Saints went ahead in the second quarter after wasting several opportunities in the opening period. Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller was called for a 17-yard pass-interference penalty trying to defend Jimmy Graham, setting up New Orleans with a first down at the 8.

Brees then rolled to his right on the first play of the second quarter and found an open Hill, who lunged across the goal line.

The first half was so bad for Chicago that its best play of the first two quarters might have been Patrick O’Donnell’s 56-yard punt that went out of bounds at the New Orleans 5 with about four minutes left in the second. But the Saints responded with a 10-play, 95-yard drive.

Brees threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Colston with 38 seconds left, giving the Saints a 14-0 lead. Cutler’s pass was then picked off by Pierre Warren on the final play in the half.

Brees and Hill connected for a 7-yard TD on their first possession in the third on a similar play as their first score, making it 21-0. It was 24-0 early in the fourth when Cutler hit Marquess Wilson with a 1-yard touchdown pass, denying New Orleans its first shutout since 2012.

The Saints wasted a big scoring opportunity in the early going.

New Orleans took over at the Chicago 24 after Patrick Robinson intercepted a pass that went off Martellus Bennett’s hands on the game’s third play from scrimmage. Rather than grab the lead, the Saints quickly gave the ball back.

Nick Toon got stripped by Brock Vereen after a 10-yard reception and Jared Allen made the recovery at the 3.

The Saints came away empty-handed on their next possession when Shayne Graham’s 51-yard field-goal attempt fell short.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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