Demarus Dye| BKD TV Insiders
Here is a recap of Week 9 of the 2015 NFL Season with a Tuesday Morning QB & thanks again to AP Sports/ Pro 32 for photos & articles.
Bye: Cardinals, Ravens, Lions, Texans, Chiefs, Seahawks
Browns 10, Bengals 31
CINCINNATI (AP) — Three touchdown catches on three different routes. Tight end Tyler Eifert got a lot of attention with his latest impressive game.
So did the rest of his team.
Eifert caught three touchdown passes from Andy Dalton on Thursday night, leading the unbeaten Bengals to a 31-10 victory over the Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns that put Cincinnati in totally new territory.
The Bengals are 8-0 for the first time. The eight straight wins are a club record for one season. And they’re in control of the AFC North at the season’s midpoint.
For the Browns (2-7), it’s become monotonous. They’ve lost six of seven and can’t even get out of their own way at pivotal times.
“Our mistakes just caught up to us,” coach Mike Pettine said.
Dalton made hardly any of those in a game that had special significance. Last year, he also faced the Browns at Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday night and had his worst game, throwing three interceptions and finishing with a passer rating of 2.0.
This time, he was nearly flawless. Dalton went 21 of 27 for 234 yards with a passer rating of 139.8. When he arrived for his postgame interview, he didn’t even wait for the first question.
“A little different from last year, huh?” Dalton said, his eyes widening.
The quarterback also played lead blocker on Mohamed Sanu’s 25-yard reverse for a touchdown, although the play worked so well that there was nobody for him to touch.
By contrast, Manziel managed only one good half. He led the Browns on a 92-yard touchdown drive — their longest since 2013 — just before halftime, cutting the lead to 14-10. In the second half, the Browns managed only 32 yards and two first downs.
Five things to take away from the Bengals’ win:
RARE AIR: The Bengals became the 33rd team in NFL history and the 22nd during the Super Bowl era to open 8-0. Their next game is Monday night at home against Houston (3-5), followed by a trip to Arizona (6-2) for a Sunday night game.
“It’s huge to put ourselves in the position we’re in, to stay undefeated,” Dalton said. “Not a lot of teams have been 8-0 before. We understand that. It’s hard to do.”
TOUGH TIGHT END: Eifert finished with five catches for 53 yards and scored on catches of 9, 2 and 19 yards. His nine touchdown catches tie the club record for a tight end and give him the NFL lead in that category.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Eifert, who’s second on the team with 35 catches for 434 yards. “I can’t control how many balls I get thrown or anything like that, but I can put myself in the best position.”
MANZIEL’S DAY: Johnny Football got a rematch against the team that taunted and then tormented him in his NFL debut last December, a 30-0 Bengals win. Coach Marvin Lewis referred to him as “a midget” leading up to the game, and several players mocked his “money-rubbing” gesture while frustrating him. Instead of mocking him this time, they chased him around before ultimately shutting him down in the second half.
“I think it was just inconsistent,” Pettine said of his performance. “I thought he did some good things, but I just thought in the second half, especially after we fell behind, he was trying to make too many big plays instead of just taking completions.”
BAD SERIES: Browns defensive end Randy Starks got a 15-yard penalty for taunting after making a tackle and was offside on Cincinnati’s failed fourth-down pass play during a Bengals touchdown drive that made it 14-3.
BURFICT’S DAY: Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict hurt his left knee — the one that was operated on twice last season — but returned the next series. He also ran into a scoreboard video camera in the back of the end zone while defending one play, knocking it over. The camera operator was examined, returned to his post and finished the game.
Jaguars 23, Jets 28
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The New York Jets were in big trouble, facing an embarrassing loss at home and a midseason crisis.
Then, the Jacksonville Jaguars bailed them out.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes while playing with a torn ligament in his left thumb, Chris Ivory ran for two scores and the Jets took advantage of late mistakes by the Jaguars to squeeze out a 28-23 win Sunday.
“We won,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said flatly. “That’s the biggest thing. Obviously, there were some sloppy things that we’ve got to clean up.”
The Jets (5-3) certainly needed to hold their breath in this one.
Brandon Marshall had a diving 20-yard TD catch after the Jets recovered a fumbled punt return late in the fourth quarter, and New York ended a two-game skid in a ragged performance by both sides.
The banged-up Jets have a quick turnaround to prepare for former coach Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills at home on Thursday night.
Blake Bortles was 24 of 40 for 381 yards and two touchdowns, including a 20-yard pass to Bryan Walters with 2:16 left for Jacksonville, which was coming off a bye-week break.
But Marcus Williams came up with his second interception of the game on Jacksonville’s next possession as the Jets sent the Jaguars (2-6) to their 13th straight road loss.
Ivory’s 1-yard touchdown run with 2:02 left in the third quarter gave the Jets a 21-13 lead.
The Jaguars were driving in the fourth quarter, but after a holding call on Jacksonville, Calvin Pace had a strip-sack of Bortles and recovered the fumble.
The Jets couldn’t do anything on the ensuing possession and were forced to punt — but Jacksonville’s Nick Marshall fumbled it and Kellen Davis recovered to give New York the ball at the 25.
Three plays later, Marshall made his big grab in the back of the end zone that made it 28-16 with 2:41 left.
Marshall, who had four catches for 44 yards, also recovered an onside kick and a fumble by Ivory.
Fitzpatrick had no issues with his thumb, which was injured last week at Oakland. He finished 21 of 34 for 272 yards, including touchdowns to Marshall and Eric Decker.
During the CBS broadcast of the game, a sideline reporter said Fitzpatrick told them during a production meeting that he probably wouldn’t wait to have surgery to repair the thumb, and the reporter speculated that Friday could make sense since the Jets play Thursday night.
While Fitzpatrick said things are still “up in the air,” he acknowledged after the game that Friday is a possibility.
The Jets are also dealing with some new key injuries. Kicker Nick Folk was lost to a strained right quadriceps during pregame warmups and was replaced on kickoffs and field goals by punter Ryan Quigley, who made all four of his extra-point attempts. Folk will have an MRI on Monday.
Not having Folk might have come into play on a fourth-and-3 for the Jets from the Jaguars 25 in the first quarter, when New York went for it rather than try for a field goal. Decker caught a 15-yard pass, setting up the first of Ivory’s two TD runs — with this one putting the Jets up 14-3 with 43 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Center Nick Mangold left with a neck injury, saying it didn’t respond well in the game after he was initially hurt at New England on Oct. 25.
Wesley Johnson, who started in Mangold’s place last weekend, replaced him again in the second quarter. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie also left with a thigh injury, and safety Dion Bailey has an ankle injury.
With time winding down before halftime, New York curiously ran on three straight plays and then got just a 31-yard punt from Quigley that put the ball at the 50 for the Jaguars with 26 seconds left.
Bortles hit Allen Hurns for 20 yards and then found him again streaking away from Cromartie for a 30-yard touchdown that made it 14-10 with 14 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
With the play, Hurns increased his franchise record to six straight games with a TD reception.
NOTES: The Jaguars’ previous road win came on Dec. 1, 2013, at Cleveland. … The Jets had six sacks, including the first two of rookie LB Lorenzo Mauldin’s career. … Ivory was held to 26 yards on 23 carries. … Hurns had five catches for 122 yards and Allen Robinson caught six passes for 121 yards. … Jaguars DT Michael Bennett left with a strained hamstring.
Dolphins 17, Bills 33
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Bills receiver Sammy Watkins had nothing to apologize for Sunday.
Shrugging off a sprained left ankle and critics accusing him of an unwillingness to play through injuries, the second-year star responded with eight catches for a career best 168 yards and a momentum-turning touchdown in a 33-17 win over the Miami Dolphins.
The fans responded by chanting “SAM-MY!” as Watkins and the Bills exited the field after Buffalo (4-4) snapped a two-game skid, and its sputtering offense rediscovered its big-play identity in both its running and passing attack.
Rookie running back Karlos Williams had 110 yards rushing and scored twice, while LeSean McCoy had 112 yards rushing and scored on a 48-yard run.
Now that’s more like it, said McCoy, referring to an offense that combined for 420 yards, including 266 rushing.
The offense also found its rhythm with quarterback Tyrod Taylor back as starter after missing two games with a sprained left knee. Taylor finished 11 of 12 for 181 yards and a touchdown.
The Bills beat Miami for the fourth straight time at Orchard Park and routed their AFC East rivals for a second time in six weeks, following a 41-14 win at Miami.
The Dolphins (3-5) are once again showing signs of regression. Coming off a 36-7 loss to New England, Miami has lost two straight since winning its first two games with interim coach Dan Campbell, who took over after Joe Philbin was fired.
Miami also dropped to 0-4 against division rivals.
Lamar Miller scored twice on 1-yard runs and finished with 44 yards.
The Ryan Tannehill-led passing attack was sloppy and lacked finish. The troubles began on Miami’s first play from scrimmage when Tannehill — lined up in the shotgun at his goal line — had Mike Pouncey’s snap go through his hands and through the end zone for a safety.
Tannehill finished 27 of 36 for 309 yards with two lost fumbles.
Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes had an even tougher outing: He was burned deep twice by Watkins.
Grimes lost his footing while covering Watkins, who made a juggling 63-yard catch up the left sideline in the second quarter. That set up Williams’ 11-yard run that put the Bills ahead 19-7.
Then, after the Dolphins closed to 19-14, Watkins had Grimes beaten by a step and didn’t break stride in catching Taylor’s perfectly placed pass in the right corner of the end zone. The play came on third-and-14, and three plays after the Bills’ defense forced a turnover. Linebacker Jerry Hughes stripped the ball loose from Tannehill and recovered the fumble.
The Bills’ defense came up big at the end of the first half. The Dolphins ran a play from Buffalo’s 1 with 2 seconds left rather than kick a field goal. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore knocked down Tannehill’s pass intended for Charlie Sims a few steps into the end zone.
NOTES: Watkins’ 168 yards were the most by a Bills player since Terrell Owens had 197 on Nov. 22, 2009. … Williams, who returned after missing three games with a concussion, became just the NFL’s seventh player to score a touchdown in each of his first five games. The record is by New England’s Robert Edwards, who scored in his first six games in 1998. … Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry had 11 catches for 69 yards, four runs for 18, and completed a 9-yard pass to Tannehill.
Raiders 35, Steelers 38
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers keep insisting they can absorb the endless string of injuries to their most vital parts, that they have the depth necessary to push for a playoff spot no matter who is — or isn’t — in the lineup.
Good thing, because they keep having to find out.
Pittsburgh escaped with a 38-35 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, winning it on Chris Boswell’s 18-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining. Yet even as Boswell’s kick sailed through the uprights, franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was heading for an MRI on his injured left foot, the outcome of which might determine the fate of his team’s increasingly star-crossed season.
Pittsburgh (5-4) survived for an afternoon at least, overcoming a late rally by the Raiders behind another steady performance in relief by backup Landry Jones and a franchise-record day by wide receiver Antonio Brown, who set club marks with 17 catches for 284 yards, including a 57-yard sprint on the final drive that set up Boswell’s winner.
The Steelers were left at a loss themselves. The sight of your unquestioned leader hopping off the field midway through the fourth quarter will do that. Roethlisberger was in the midst of a spectacular second half when Oakland defensive end Aldon Smith landed on Roethlisberger’s foot during a sack.
Roethlisberger laid on the turf for several minutes then gingerly made his way to the sideline, careful not to put any pressure on the same leg that forced him to miss a month earlier in the year with a sprained left knee. He was taken to the trainer’s room on a cart then whisked away for further evaluation, his locker empty by the time his teammates piled in after nearly four exhausting hours.
The Steelers are already without running back Le’Veon Bell, center Maurkice Pouncey and starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum. Those losses they may be able to survive. Roethlisberger, however, is another matter.
Having Brown and DeAngelo Williams around should help. The two combined for 531 of Pittsburgh’s 597 total yards. Williams filled in spectacularly for Bell, running for 170 yards and two scores and adding 55 yards receiving. Not bad for a 32-year-old considered expendable by Carolina last spring after a decade in the backfield for the Panthers.
The Raiders (4-4) were trying to reach the halfway point with a winning record for the first time since 2001. Derek Carr nearly did it, throwing for 301 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. The second-year quarterback hit Michael Crabtree for a 38-yard score to wipe out a 14-point deficit and tie the game with 1:15 left.
Jones, who stepped in against Arizona three weeks ago to spark a second-half comeback, then found Brown over the middle and the All-Pro did the rest, spinning back toward the sideline before stepping out at the Oakland 15. Two runs by Williams brought the ball to the Raiders’ 1 and Boswell atoned for an earlier miss by drilling his 11th field goal in 12 tries.
It’s a run the Steelers might have to do without Roethlisberger, who passed for 334 yards with two touchdowns and a pick during an afternoon in which he moved past Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana and into 13th on the NFL list for career yards passing.
NOTES: Raiders RB Latavius Murray ran for 96 yards on 17 carries before leaving in the third quarter with concussion-like symptoms. … Crabtree finished with seven catches for 108 yards and two scores. Amari Cooper had seven grabs for 88 yards and a touchdown. … The Steelers converted their fourth 2-point conversion of the season. The NFL record for conversions in a year is six.
Titans 34, Saints 28 OT
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Interim Tennessee Titans coach Mike Mularkey paused for a moment and took a deep breath while he regained his composure.
The clutch play of rookie Marcus Mariota and the relentless effort of his beat-up defense meant that much to him.
Mariota passed for a personal-best 371 yards and four touchdowns, including a 5-yard scoring pass to Anthony Fasano in overtime, and Tennessee snapped a six-game skid with a 34-28 victory over New Orleans on Sunday. The Saints (4-5), who had won three in a row, led 21-10 but could not put away the Titans (2-6), who turned in a feisty performance in their first game since coach Ken Whisenhunt was fired and replaced by Mularkey.
Sunday also marked Mariota’s return from a knee sprain that sidelined him for two games. He completed 28 of 39 passes, at times converting quick, decisive throws under pressure. He was not sacked, sometimes rolling away from pressure to buy more time, and did not turn the ball over.
Mariota said he didn’t want to overstate the significance of one victory, but added, “After this hectic week of ours, to pull out this win is huge.”
Brees was 28 of 39 for 387 yards and three touchdowns. He also scored on a short keeper.
However, he was sacked four times and intercepted on a third-quarter pass to the end zone that was intended for Mark Ingram. Instead, it found Tennessee’s B.W. Webb, who had been moved up from the practice squad a day earlier because of injuries to defensive backs Jason McCourty (groin) and Blidi Wreh-Wilson (hamstring).
Both teams missed go-ahead field goal attempts in the last two minutes of regulation. Tennessee’s Ryan Succop hit the cross bar on a 55-yard try that would have been a career long. Then Kai Forbath, who a week earlier had kicked a game-winning field goal, had his 46-yard attempt partially blocked by Coty Sensabaugh.
The Saints had won four of five to get back to .500 after an 0-3 start. But like last season, when they also climbed back to 4-4 after a poor start, they lost a fourth-quarter lead at home — and then the game in overtime.
Tennessee had to overcome its own lack of discipline. One roughing-the-passer flag wiped out an interception in the first half, while two others gave the Saints first-and-goal on a pair of touchdown drives. Tennessee also was called for unsportsmanlike conduct several times for arguing with officials.
The Saints took a 28-20 lead on Brees’ short pass to tight end Michael Hoomanawanui shortly after Brian Orakpo was called for a double unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing a flag thrown against teammate David Bass for a high hit on a sack.
The Titans responded with Mariota’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Justin Hunter, followed by a 2-point conversion to Delanie Walker, who also caught a pair of touchdown passes and finished with seven receptions for 95 yards.
Brees completed eight of his first 10 passes for 150 yards and touchdowns of 10 yards to Josh Hill and 38 yards to Brandin Cooks.
The Titans did not gain a first down on their first two possessions and gained only 29 yards on their first 10 plays, but Marcus Murphy’s fumble on a Saints punt return set up Succop’s 51-yard field goal.
Later, the Saints essentially gifted Tennessee a touchdown when defensive backs Jairus Byrd and Keenan Lewis fought over what looked like a certain interception. The ball popped into the arms of Walker, who ran free for a 61-yard touchdown.
NOTES: Mariota’s 13 TDs this season are the most ever by a Titans rookie. … Cornerback Perrish Cox left in the second half. Mularkey said his hamstring was tightening up.
Packers 29, Panthers 37
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton was determined to protect the Carolina Panthers’ house on Sunday at all costs.
That meant the fifth-year quarterback tearing down a large Green Bay Packers banner before the game that was hanging over the inside wall of the stadium — and later taking down the Packers by throwing for three touchdowns and running for another in a 37-29 win.
Newton threw for 297 yards as the Panthers (8-0) took an important step toward securing home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Every other NFC team has at least two losses, including the Packers (6-2).
Carolina has now won 12 straight regular-season games, including seven straight at home.
Carolina led by 23 points in the fourth quarter before Aaron Rodgers rallied Green Bay and nearly gave the Packers a chance to extend the game into overtime.
Rodgers threw for 369 yards and four TDs, but couldn’t take advantage of one of Newton’s few mistakes: an interception with 3:38 left in the game that gave the Packers the ball at the Carolina 22. Down by 8, Rodgers fourth-and-goal pass from the Carolina 4 was intercepted by linebacker Thomas Davis.
It capped a frustrating day for the Packers. Rodgers was so annoyed he threw his tablet on the ground on the sideline after watching the replay.
Earlier in the game, Julius Peppers refused to give the ball back to Newton after the quarterback scored a touchdown, instead electing to toss the ball down the field in the opposite direction. Newton retrieved the ball and gave it to a fan.
And, down by 37-14 in the fourth quarter, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix began jawing at Peppers, who was seated on the bench. Peppers stood up and talked back before B.J. Raji stepped in, shoving Clinton-Dix backward. It was the second straight game the Panthers nearly surrendered a commanding fourth quarter lead. Carolina lost a 17-point lead on Monday night to Indianapolis before rallying to win 29-26 in overtime.
Coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers can’t put themselves in that position.
“When you have somebody down you have to make plays and put them away,” Rivera said.
Carolina outscored Green Bay 24-0 in the second period to open a 27-7 halftime lead behind three Newton scores.
The dual-threat quarterback was dominant in the first half, throwing for 209 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 37 yards and another score.
The Packers opened the game in man coverage and Newton made them pay right away by finding huge holes to run through for big gains.
Carolina also had a bevy of big plays in the passing game.
Carolina’s first score was set up by a 59-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery. Newton gave Carolina the lead for good at 10-7 with a 52-yard pass to rookie Devin Funchess leading to a 7-yard TD pass to Greg Olsen. Later, he came back with a 39-yard touchdown strike to Philly Brown with 41 seconds left in the half.
He also scored his 38th career TD rushing in the first half, moving into a tie for second place all-time among quarterbacks with Kordell Stewart. Only Steve Young (43) has more.
Newton repeatedly went after rookie cornerback Damarious Randall, and the Panthers, despite playing without top defensive end Charles Johnson, kept pressure on Rodgers all day.
Still, Rodgers wouldn’t give in.
His 29-yard TD pass to James Starks and a 2-point conversion toss to Davante Adams cut the lead to 15. Then, on fourth-and-14, Rodgers rolled to his left evading three pass rushers and fired over the middle on the run to James Jones for a 36-yard completion to keep Green Bay’s hopes alive. Rodgers completed the drive with 3-yard pass to Richard Rodgers, his second touchdown of the game, to cut the lead to 37-29.
“He is a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback who doesn’t quit,” Rivera said.
NOTES: The Panthers sacked Rodgers five times. … The Panthers ran for 130 yards, marking the 19th straight game they have gained at least 100 yards on the ground. … Eddie Lacy was a nonfactor and left with an ankle injury. He had 10 yards on five carries.
Redskins 10, Patriots 27
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — It was a little more than 10 minutes into the game and the score was already lopsided.
New England touchdowns: 2. Washington total plays from scrimmage: 1.
Julian Edelman and LeGarrette Blount had already scored by the time the Redskins snapped the ball a second time, and the Patriots remained unbeaten with a 27-10 victory over Washington on Sunday.
Despite being held to a season low in points, New England’s chance at another 16-0 regular season was never threatened. The Patriots took advantage of an onside kick and an interception to open a 14-0 lead before the Washington defense could catch its breath.
Tom Brady completed 26 of 39 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns, including an 8-yard TD to Edelman on the opening drive. New England (8-0) then pulled off a surprise onside kick, but that drive stalled when Edelman fumbled.
Washington could manage only a single play: Kirk Cousins’ pass that bounced off Pierre Garcon and was intercepted by Logan Ryan. New England then marched down the field to make it 14-0 on Blount’s 5-yard score.
Washington (3-5) managed just 15 total yards in the first — most of it, and their only first down, on a 9-yard pass on the final play of the quarter. But the Patriots weren’t done, tying an NFL record by scoring in 31 straight quarters — every one this season except the first quarter of the first game.
Cousins was 22 for 40 for 217 yards, but he was hurt early by seven dropped passes. Washington managed only a second-quarter field goal before Cousins hit Jordan Reed for a 3-yard touchdown with 25 seconds left.
At least it wasn’t as bad as the Redskins’ last visit to Foxborough: New England won 52-7 in 2007, the last time the Patriots started a season 8-0. They won all 16 regular-season games and then two more in the playoffs that year before losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
But while Washington held the Patriots to a season-low 27 points, defensive back Will Blackmon said that was little consolation.
Blount carried 29 times for 129 yards for New England, which won easily even though Brady threw his second interception of the season. The Patriots also lost a fumble at home for the first time since 2013 — and lost the coin toss, too, for just the seventh time in their last 26 games.
New England also lost tackle Sebastian Vollmer from an already depleted offensive line, and running back Dion Lewis on what appeared to be a serious knee injury.
Washington had two weeks to celebrate its comeback from a 24-point deficit against Tampa Bay on Oct. 25. But even the bye week didn’t give coach Jay Gruden enough time to prepare for the defending Super Bowl champions.
With 37 rushing plays and 39 passes, the Patriots had their most balanced offense of the season.
After the Patriots’ first touchdown, they lined up for what seemed like a routine kickoff, but Stephen Gostkowski pulled back and dribbled it to the right, where it bounced off Washington’s Ryan Grant and was recovered by Johnathan Freeny.
The Patriots were moving again when Edelman fumbled. But on Washington’s first play from scrimmage — already more than 8 minutes into the game — Ryan intercepted the deflected pass at the Washington 28.
The Patriots needed just six plays to make it 14-0 on Blount’s 5-yard run.
Notes: Patriots DE Chandler Jones had a sack, giving him 9.5 for the season. … Robinson left the game briefly with a “stinger” but returned. … The Patriots are an NFL-best 44-10 against the NFC East since 2002. … Washington has not won consecutive games in a year. … Washington has not allowed a 300-yard passer this season. Brady missed the milestone by 1 yard, but he did have his eighth straight game with at least two TD passes.
Rams 18, Vikings 21 OT
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Angered by a hit to Teddy Bridgewater’s head that knocked the quarterback out of the game, the Minnesota Vikings kept their composure and steered their feelings toward another steely victory.
Then they let the St. Louis Rams have it.
Adrian Peterson rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries, helping set up Blair Walsh’s 40-yard field goal in overtime that gave the Vikings a 21-18 victory over the Rams on Sunday.
In a predictably grind-it-out game between similarly constructed teams, the Vikings (6-2) ended Todd Gurley’s streak with 125-plus yards rushing at four straight games. Gurley gained 89 yards and a touchdown on 24 attempts for the Rams (4-4), who took the overtime kickoff at Zimmer’s deferral but quickly went three-and-out.
Marcus Sherels tiptoed along the sideline for a 26-yard return of Johnny Hekker’s 63-yard punt, and Peterson ran the ball well into Walsh’s range to give the Vikings their seventh straight win at home.
Greg Zuerlein made four field goals for the Rams, including a 53-yarder with 17 seconds left in regulation to make up for the 48-yarder that went wide right a few minutes before.
With Green Bay’s loss at Carolina, the Vikings forged a tie for the NFC North lead, taking momentum into a tough second-half schedule. Bridgewater greeted his teammates as they ran through the stadium tunnel after the game, clapping and slapping their backs.
On a 5-yard scramble early in the fourth quarter, Bridgewater slid to protect himself when cornerback Lamarcus Joyner dived at him shoulder-first. Bridgewater appeared to be out cold, before walking slowly off the field and eventually jogging to the locker room for evaluation.
Asked if he felt the Rams played dirty, Zimmer said simply: “Yes.”
“If we were out on the street,” he said, “we probably would’ve had a fight.”
Zimmer’s postgame handshake with Rams coach Jeff Fisher was rather icy, but both Fisher and Joyner expressed regret about the play and wished Bridgewater well.
Zuerlein had a career-long 61-yarder among three field goals in the second quarter, the first from 60-plus yards in the NFL in nearly two years. Zuerlein became the second kicker in NFL history with multiple field goals from 60-plus yards, joining Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski.
Bridgewater, who was replaced by former Rams backup Shaun Hill, finished 13 for 21 for 144 yards with one interception. He ran for a touchdown in the third quarter to regain the lead for the Vikings, and then had a bootleg rollout for a 2-point conversion.
Late in the third quarter, Rams defensive end William Hayes drew the ire of the Vikings and the crowd with a low hit on Bridgewater, who grabbed his right knee. That was not penalized.
Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended by the NFL for an entire season for his oversight of a bounty system while in the same role with New Orleans. The Saints were found to have been paid bonuses for hard hits that hurt the other team, including Brett Favre and the Vikings in the NFC championship game after the 2009 season.
Nick Foles completed 18 of 33 passes for 168 yards for the Rams, who punted eight times and were penalized 12 times for 87 yards. They rallied from being down 10-0 less than 10 minutes into the game, but Fisher, wary of the wind, called for a 2-point conversion after Gurley’s touchdown run. The relentless rookie was stuffed for no gain.
NOTES: Only six field goals longer than 61 yards have been made in NFL history. Matt Prater (64 yards in Denver on Dec. 8, 2013) has the record. … In five games for the Vikings, Stefon Diggs has 11 catches covering 20-plus yards.
Falcons 16, 49ers 17
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Jim Tomsula’s team had just pulled off a hard-to-come-by victory against a contender and still found himself noncommittal about his starting quarterback for the next game.
Blaine Gabbert or Colin Kaepernick, who has played some of his worst games against Seattle? Sure, the first-year coach might need to run it by the big bosses first.
And with a bye week, he does have some time to keep the rival Seahawks guessing for more than a week.
“I’m not commenting on it. I’m not going to get into it, because I’m going to go back and watch tape,” Tomsula said. “Blaine had a great day today.”
Gabbert certainly gave the Niners (3-6) a lift — and put them in the end zone after two straight games and three in five without a touchdown.
Whatever happens next, there’s a good feeling for this team heading into the week off.
Gabbert threw a pair of second-quarter touchdowns to Garrett Celek, and the defense stood its ground down the stretch to hold off the Falcons (6-3).
Celek took on a bigger role this week after Vernon Davis was traded to Denver.
Matt Ryan and Atlanta missed a key chance down the stretch after Gabbert threw an interception and the Falcons got the ball back with 7:14 left, settling for a field goal.
“Anytime you don’t play up to your standards, we’re all going to evaluate what we need to do differently,” Ryan said.
Here are some things to take from Sunday’s game:
QUINN’S CALL: First-year Falcons coach Dan Quinn went for a late field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1 rather than trying for the lead. His team ended up with consecutive losses for the first time this season and their third defeat in four games since beginning 5-0.
“It’s certainly disappointing any time you have back-to-back losses,” Quinn said. “When we’re not playing at our best, it makes it tough on us, and we didn’t play as well as we’re capable today.”
HIGH-FLYING D: San Francisco’s defense looked like its old stout self, led by NaVorro Bowman. Tony Jerod-Eddie batted down passes and the Niners stuffed the run, holding Devonta Freeman to 12 yards on 12 carries after he came into the game second in the league for yards rushing, and Atlanta had 17 yards on the ground total.
“It was a great overall defensive performance. Bo was out there flying around being NaVorro Bowman,” Jerod-Eddie said. “It just felt good flying around, having fun. It feels good to get a win again.”
Freeman did catch a 17-yard touchdown pass from Ryan that pulled Atlanta within 17-13 at halftime.
“They have nice schemes, stop the run, and they just did their job. They did a hell of a job actually,” Freeman said.
GABBERT’S GAME: A first-round bust in Jacksonville, Gabbert made his first start in more than two years and didn’t take a sack while quickly getting the ball out behind an offensive line that has faced heavy scrutiny all year.
Gabbert ended a 10-game losing streak as a starter since beating Indianapolis on Sept. 23, 2012, improving to 6-22. He went 15 of 25 for 185 yards.
“All I know is we got the victory today, we’ve got a bye week coming up and we’re going to prepare for Seattle. That’s our next game up there, so whatever 11 guys we march out on the field we’re going to go up there and expect a victory,” Gabbert said.
ATLANTA INJURIES: Falcons rookie wideout Justin Hardy was active for the second straight week and made four catches for 17 yards in place of Leonard Hankerson, inactive because of a hamstring injury. Atlanta nose tackle Paul Soliai suffered a head injury and safety Robenson Therezie injured a hamstring late in the first quarter and didn’t return.
SUPPORTIVE KAEPERNICK: Gabbert appreciated Kaepernick’s help throughout the game even though he would have rather been on the field as the starter.
Kaepernick did play two snaps when Gabbert left briefly to be examined after he took a hard blow to the head from linebacker Philip Wheeler early in the fourth quarter.
“Colin’s a stand-up guy. This is a hard situation for him, I could imagine,” left tackle Joe Staley said. “He’s a professional, he really cares about this football team. He wants to see success for everybody. He’s not a selfish person.”
Giants 32, Buccaneers 18
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Eli Manning and a resilient New York Giants defense answered one last charge by Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Manning threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Giants rebound from last weekend’s debacle at New Orleans with a 32-18 victory over the mistake-prone Buccaneers on Sunday.
“At times we didn’t play as well as we’re capable of playing, and then we kind of boosted it up at the end to make sure that we were going to win,” New York coach Tom Coughlin said.
“We always preach about finishing,” he added, “and tonight we did.”
Manning threw first-half TD passes of 8 yards to Reuben Randle and 4 yards to Shane Vereen. The star quarterback did some of his best work on third down, including a crucial 9-yard throw to Odell Beckham Jr. to extend a late drive that produced a field goal while exhausting most of the final five minutes of the clock.
The defense, bolstered by the return of Jason Pierre-Paul, did its part by keeping the Winston-led Tampa Bay offense out of the end zone until the rookie scrambled 10 yards for a TD that made it 20-18 with 9:25 remaining.
Josh Brown booted four field goals for the Giants (5-4), including fourth-quarter kicks of 53 and 44 yards that gave New York some breathing room after the Bucs (3-5) pulled within two points. The victory on the heels of a 52-49 loss to the Saints moved NFC East-leading New York back over .500.
After Winston scored, the rookie’s 2-point conversion pass to the rear of the end zone was caught out of bounds. The Giants sealed the victory with Brown’s fourth field goal at the end of a 4-minute, 34-second drive, and Trevin Wade had a fumble recovery for a touchdown on the game’s final play.
Winston completed 19 of 36 passes for 247 yards. The rookie went a fourth straight game without a turnover, but running backs Doug Martin and Charles Sims hurt Tampa Bay’s chances of winning consecutive games for the first time in two years by losing fumbles.
Manning, who threw for six TDs the previous week against the Saints, completed 26 of 40 passes and was intercepted twice. Beckham had nine receptions for 105 yards.
Meanwhile, the Giants defense got a lift from the season debut for Pierre-Paul, who played 46 of 63 defensive snaps (73 percent), according to the team.
A week after allowing 608 yards, including 505 yards and a record-tying seven touchdowns passing to Drew Brees, the NFL’s last-ranked defense held the Bucs to three first-half field goals — one after Manning threw an interception on the first play of the game and another after Winston and Mike Evans teamed on a 68-yard catch and run to the New York 12.
Evans had eight receptions for 152 yards, but also hurt the Bucs with several dropped passes.
Pierre-Paul had two tackles and two quarterback hits in his first action since the July 4 fireworks accident that sidelined him for training camp and the first eight games.
The sixth-year pro lost his right index finger and suffered other damage to the hand in the accident. He returned to practice two weeks ago and was believed to be on track to return next week against the New England Patriots.
But he progressed enough during workouts that the Giants decided to activate him against the Bucs.
“I just know I’m happy that I’m back out here doing what I love to do. I got a second opportunity,” Pierre-Paul said.
NOTES: The game was a homecoming of sorts for Pierre-Paul, who played in college at South Florida. The Bulls play home games in Raymond James Stadium, which is also home to the Bucs. … New York DT Jonathan Hankins left in the second quarter with a torn pectoral muscle. … Tampa Bay S Bradley McDougald (concussion) and G Ali Marpet (ankle) also were injured during the first half and did not return.
Broncos 24, Colts 27
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck finally reverted to his old form Sunday — and the Colts finally looked like the team everyone expected.
Now they just have to keep playing this way.
Luck threw two touchdown passes and set up Adam Vinatieri for a tie-breaking 55-yard field goal with 6:13 left, giving the Colts a 27-24 victory over Denver that ruined Peyton Manning’s homecoming.
The Colts (4-5) ended a three-game losing streak, won for the first time in six tries outside the horrible AFC South, and retained their division lead.
Manning, meanwhile, fell 3 yards short of becoming the NFL’s career passing leader — after his second interception and two late defensive penalties — allowed Indy to run the final six minutes off the clock.
Denver’s quarterback heads into next week’s game against Kansas City with 71,836 career yards; Brett Favre had 71,838.
But that was not the record Manning really wanted to break in a venue many credit him with helping build. He’ll also have to wait to break Favre’s career record for most career regular-season wins (186) by a quarterback after going 21 of 36 with 281 yards, two TDs and two interceptions.
The Broncos (7-1) were the only unbeaten team to lose this weekend.
A team that that was mired in turmoil.
Just five days after firing offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and giving the play-calling duties to Rob Chudzinski — and four days after Luck wound up on the injury report again — Manning’s successor played like the best young quarterback in football. The Colts followed his lead:
—They started fast and finished strong.
—They had no turnovers.
—They committed only four penalties, and the 17-0 lead they took in the first half was their largest of the season. They even ended Denver’s first-quarter scoreless streak at seven games when Frank Gore scored on a 7-yard run.
That’s exactly what Indianapolis needed, and precisely what coach Chuck Pagano had spent weeks preaching.
“We really feel we’ve competed with the best football teams in the league — Denver, New England, Carolina,” team owner Jim Irsay said. “We still feel we can go the places we dream of going.”
They could — if Luck continues playing this way.
He was 21 of 36 for 252 yards and led the Colts on two tie-breaking drives in the fourth quarter.
The first ended with an 8-yard TD pass to Ahmad Bradshaw that gave Indy a 24-17 lead. Then after Manning tied the score again a 1-yard TD pass to Owen Daniels, Luck took the Colts back down the field and set up Vinatieri for his longest field goal since coming to Indy in 2006.
Luck could have made it three straight scoring series had he not taken a knee on the final play at Denver’s 1-yard line.
“We had to start like we finish, Pagano said. “We finish as good as anybody in football. But we had to put it all together, 60 minutes, and we did.”
Denver closed to 17-7 on Omar Bolden’s 83-yard punt return on the last play of the first half. Manning started the second half with a 64-yard TD pass to Emmanuel Sanders and the Broncos tied it on a 29-yard field goal from Brandon McManus.
But they never got the lead.
“We dug ourselves a hole in the first half and showed a lot of character getting out of that hole,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “We just weren’t able to close the deal after battling our way back. They (Colts) finished it, we didn’t.”
Daniels caught six passes for 102 yards, and Sanders had six receptions for 90 yards and a TD for Denver.
NOTES: Colts Pro Bowl safety Mike Adams (ankle) and defensive tackle Henry Anderson (sprained right knee) left the game. … Bolden’s return for the TD was only the second to end a half since 1970 (DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia, 2010). … DeMarcus Ware moved into a tie for 10th on the NFL’s career sacks list with one in the first half. He now has 133½. … Former Colts running back Edgerrin James attended the game.
Eagles 33, Cowboys 27 OT
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — DeMarco Murray put Philadelphia in position to win in his return to Dallas. Sam Bradford and Jordan Matthews finished off the Cowboys.
Bradford threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Matthews in overtime and the Eagles sent the Cowboys to their longest losing streak in 26 years with a 33-27 victory Sunday night.
Matthews broke away from rookie defensive back Byron Jones and ran past safety J.J. Wilcox on the first possession of overtime to hand Dallas (2-6) its sixth straight loss. The last time Dallas lost that many in a row was in 1989 when it dropped eight straight and finished 1-15.
Jordan Hicks had a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown for the Eagles (4-4) in just the second overtime game for teams that have met 114 times.
The Cowboys have lost every game without quarterback Tony Romo, who will miss at least one more with a broken left collarbone.
Murray had 161 total yards — 83 rushing and 78 receiving — in his first game on his old home field after winning the NFL rushing title with the Cowboys last season.
“They’re a tough opponent. They’re like family to me,” said Murray, who broke Emmitt Smith’s Dallas franchise record with 1,845 yards last season and is starting to churn out yardage after a slow start this year. “This one’s special. A lot of emotion.”
Dallas All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant had his first touchdown catch of the season in his second game back after missing five with a broken right foot.
Dallas defensive lineman Greg Hardy had a sack and two penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct call, a day after he tweeted “regret” in response to the release of pictures of his bruised ex-girlfriend from his domestic violence case.
“Greg has a commitment to us,” Dallas owner Jerry Jones said. “He has a commitment to do the right thing. We expect him to do the right thing.”
It was the second time during the skid that Dallas lost by giving up a touchdown to start overtime. New Orleans’ Drew Brees threw an 80-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the extra period in Week 4.
This time, Murray had a 20-yard run to get the drive going. Bradford’s winning toss on his 28th birthday came a play after officials originally ruled a fumble at the end of a run by Ryan Mathews. But replays showed his knee was down before the ball came out.
The Cowboys forced overtime with a 54-yard drive to Dan Bailey’s 44-yard field goal that caromed off the left upright and went through. Byron Maxwell was called for pass interference twice against Bryant on the drive.
Bryant had 104 yards on five catches, and Cole Beasley had career highs with nine catches for 112 yards with two touchdowns, which matched his total from a win against Chicago last year.
Matt Cassel threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns, including an 18-yarder to Bryant in the end zone when he threw up a jump ball after a Romo-like spin out a potential sack. But the big mistake to Hicks left him with the same 0-3 record Brandon Weeden had filling in for Romo.
Hicks stepped in front of a pass in the flat for Darren McFadden and sprinted 67 yards untouched. Cassel hung his head as he slowed up, realizing he had no chance to catch the former Texas linebacker.
It was the 20th takeaway for the Eagles, who went into the game leading the NFL, and it extended their with at least one to 14 games.
Philadelphia stayed even in the loss column with the NFC East-leading New York Giants (5-4), while the Cowboys are running out of chances to stay in contention to defend their division title before Romo returns.
Bradford was 25 of 36 for 295 yards, with the one touchdown to Matthews. He directed an offense that didn’t score in the first quarter for the sixth time in eight games, but scored four times in five full possessions in the second half and overtime.
NOTES: Dallas lost linebackers Sean Lee (concussion) and Anthony Hitchens (ankle) on Philadelphia’s 95-yard scoring drive to start the second half. Lee went out after tackling Murray on a short pass on the first play, and Hitchens was injured on Mathews’ 6-yard scoring run. … Mathews had 67 yards rushing and the Eagles had 172 as a team. It’s the fourth straight week they’ve had at least 158 yards rushing. … With the retractable roof at AT&T Stadium open, light rain fell briefly in the second half.
Bears 22, Chargers 19
Zach Miller leaped, snagged Jay Cutler’s pass with his right hand and tumbled into the end zone.
A big-time play in another close finish for the Chicago Bears, who beat the staggering San Diego Chargers 22-19 on Monday night.
“Jay made a great throw and I was able to go up and get it. After that, I went unconscious,” Miller said about his game-winning catch with 3:19 left.
Miller’s TD reception and a 2-point conversion run by rookie Jeremy Langford, subbing for the injured Matt Forte, gave the Bears (3-5) their first lead of the night.
Cutler calmly led the Bears on the winning 10-play, 80-yard drive after the Chargers opened a 19-14 lead on rookie Josh Lambo’s 22-yard field goal. Two plays before the TD throw to Miller, Cutler was hit and still completed a 12-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery on third-and-6.
Here are some things that stood out in the Bears’ victory:
ANOTHER CLOSE ONE: Chicago’s last five games have been decided by three points or fewer, including consecutive losses to Minnesota and Detroit before the trip to San Diego.
Cutler, who had an interception returned 68 yards for a touchdown by Jason Verrett and lost a fumble, kept attacking San Diego’s depleted secondary, completing 27 of 40 passes for 345 yards.
“We have got to figure out how to win in the fourth quarter,” Cutler said. “We have talked about it. We’ve won games in the fourth quarter, we’ve lost in the fourth quarter. That’s what the NFL is about. You have to play your best in the fourth quarter, and that’s what coach (John) Fox has talked about. It’s good that it happened today, but we have to continue it.”
RECORD: Cutler’s two TD passes broke the franchise record, giving him 139 with the Bears. He had been tied with Hall of Famer Sid Luckman.
Cutler broke the franchise record for touchdown passes when he found Martellus Bennett for a 1-yard score midway through the second quarter.
Cutler had been tied with Luckman with 137 with the Bears. Cutler began his career with the Broncos. Luckman threw his final touchdown pass as a member of the Bears on Sept. 17, 1950.
BAD BOLTS: San Diego (2-7) lost its fifth straight game for its longest skid since dropping six straight in 2011. It’s the longest losing streak in coach Mike McCoy’s three seasons.
San Diego’s Philip Rivers was 26 of 42 for 280 yards. It was the first time in six games that he didn’t throw for more than 300.
“When you lose five in a row it’s pretty sickening,” Rivers said. “When it’s like this you kind of want to dig a hole and hid for a little while.”
OOPS: Rivers threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates in the fourth quarter but it was nullified when right guard D.J. Fluker was whistled for being an ineligible receiver downfield. The Chargers had to settle for Lambo’s 22-yard field goal.
Earlier in that drive, wide receiver Stevie Johnson spiked the ball after making a catch for a first down at the 4 and was whistled for delay of game.
INJURIES: Verrett hurt his groin one play after his pick-six and came out, but remained on the sideline. Cornerback Patrick Robinson left with a neck injury.
Wide receiver Malcom Floyd, who is playing his last season, injured his left shoulder while diving trying to make a catch. Eight days earlier, San Diego’s Keenan Allen, one of the NFL’s leading receivers, suffered a season-ending lacerated kidney when he landed hard at the end of a spectacular touchdown catch in a loss at Baltimore.