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Here is a recap of Week 12 of the 2015 NFL Season with a Tuesday Morning QB & thanks again to AP Sports/ Pro 32 for photos & articles.
Eagles 14, Lions 45
DETROIT (AP) — Matthew Stafford dropped back and perfectly lofted the ball where only Calvin Johnson could catch it.
Johnson leaped to come down with the 25-yard pass in the end zone for the first of a career-high matching three touchdown receptions, Stafford tied a personal best with five scoring passes, and the surging Detroit Lions kept the Philadelphia Eagles reeling with a 45-14 rout Thursday.
“When we’re on point like that, it’s hard to stop,” Johnson said.
The Lions (4-7) have won three straight since firing their team president and general manager, and three in a row in their annual Thanksgiving game.
Detroit ran for 108 yards, tied a season high with six sacks and Matt Prater made a 48-yard field goal.
“That’s as complete a victory as we’ve had since we’ve been here,” said Jim Caldwell, who won 11 games last season in his first year as Detroit’s coach.
The Eagles (4-7) have lost three straight. They have allowed at least 45 points in two straight games in one season for the first time, according to STATS, and have lost by at least 28 points in consecutive games for the first time since 1971.
Stafford threw for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns without a turnover by halftime for the second time in his career, according to STATS, to help the Lions lead 24-7. He finished 27 of 38 for 337 yards and threw five TDs for the fourth time in his career.
“Our quarterback is comfortable in this offense,” Caldwell said. “And when that happens, it gives you opportunities for your playmakers to do things.”
Johnson had eight catches for 93 yards and three TDs, matching his career high set in 2010.
After not throwing to Johnson much early in the game, Stafford started connecting with the star receiver. The Eagles couldn’t do much about it, especially when starting cornerback Nolan Carroll left in the second quarter with a broken right ankle and was replaced by rookie Eric Rowe.
The quarterback seems to be clicking with plays called by offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who replaced the fired Joe Lombardi a month ago.
“I love that he’s so aggressive,” Stafford said. “That rubs off on the players because it is fun when he’s giving you chances to make big plays.”
Taking advantage of Johnson in one-on-one coverage, Stafford threw 4- and 3-yard TD passes to Johnson in the third quarter.
Stafford started the scoring barrage with an 8-yard pass to Theo Riddick, who made a sharp move to the inside to get away from linebacker Mychal Kendricks late in the opening quarter. Stafford threw a go-ahead, 2-yard TD midway through the second quarter to Golden Tate, who lined up as a fullback and went to the flat where he caught the ball and stopped, letting safety Walter Thurmond run past him.
Mark Sanchez started in place of Sam Bradford, who was inactive with a shoulder injury. Sanchez completed 19 of 27 passes for 199 yards and two TDs. He connected with Brent Celek early in the second quarter on a 2-yard pass to help Philadelphia pull into a 7-all tie and with Jordan Matthews for a relatively meaningless, 24-yard TD late in the game.
Sanchez was able to connect with receivers when he had time, but that didn’t happen very often.
Detroit’s Ezekiel Ansah had a career-high 3 1/2 sacks, one of which forced a fumble by Sanchez that the defensive end recovered.
NOTES: Eagles WR Josh Huff was evaluated for a concussion during the game. … Lions S Glove Quin left the game with an injured left ankle, which he was protecting with a walking boot. … The game was stopped briefly in the fourth quarter when people ran onto the field with a banner promoting animal liberation.
Panthers 33, Cowboys 14
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Cam Newton sprinted to a corner of the $1.2 billion showplace of the Dallas Cowboys, pointing a camera at celebrating Carolina fans while gesturing to them with a wide smile.
A few minutes later, a somber Tony Romo talked to reporters with his left arm in a sling for the second time this season because of a collarbone injury.
The Panthers are 11-0 after a 33-14 victory in their Thanksgiving debut, and the Cowboys could be facing another long stretch without Romo in what has become a lost season for the defending NFC East champions.
Luke Kuechly and Kurt Coleman returned two of Romo’s three interceptions for touchdowns, and Newton ran for the Panthers’ only offensive score as they pushed their NFL-best winning streak to 15 regular-season games Thursday.
“Well, we got a lot of help from our defense,” Newton said. “Defense went out there and brought their A-game and made our job a lot easier.”
Romo’s first collarbone injury sidelined him for all seven games of a losing streak that severely damaged the chances for another playoff trip by the Cowboys (3-8), who have now lost eight of nine.
The 35-year-old with a surgically repaired back said he would have to wait for more test results Friday before knowing if he broke the collarbone again. He was injured in Week 2 at Philadelphia and said the injury had a similar feel this time.
Coach Jason Garrett wouldn’t rule out Romo returning this season, and said he would play if he was cleared even with the Cowboys unlikely to have a realistic shot to defend their division title.
Kuechly intercepted two straight passes by Romo, returning the first 32 yards for a touchdown. Coleman picked off Romo’s second pass of the game and took it back 36 yards for the score to send the Panthers on their way to becoming the 16th NFL team to win the first 11 games.
“We started fast on defense,” Kuechly said. “Kurt had that big pick and really set the tone.”
Before getting hurt, Romo didn’t look anything like the only quarterback to beat multiple teams with records of 9-0 or better.
He ended up losing for the first time in four starts this season. He had previously beaten Indianapolis at 9-0 in his fourth career start in 2006 and New Orleans at 13-0 three years later.
Newton did his part as well, getting Carolina’s only offensive touchdown on a 4-yard run for a 30-6 lead moments before Romo’s injury. He had 183 yards passing with several key third-down conversions and another 45 yards rushing.
On the second play of Dallas’ possession after Newton’s score, Romo was hit by a blitzing Thomas Davis and went down on his left shoulder, just as he did almost 10 weeks ago in Philadelphia.
Romo went on injured reserve with a designation to return after the first injury, and the Cowboys couldn’t win without him. They were already well on their way to a loss this time a week after Romo ended the seven-game skid in his return last week at Miami.
He was 11 of 21 with 106 yards and a 27.2 passer rating.
“I’m just very disappointed in not giving our team a chance to win today,” Romo said. “They depend on me to go out there and perform at a certain level, and when I let them down, let our team down, our coaches, our fan base, everybody. That’s what I did today, and I have to live with that.”
Carolina led 13-3 when Kuechly and the NFL’s leading defense for takeaways put the Panthers firmly in control.
The league’s top tackler since joining the NFL in 2012, Kuechly dropped into coverage and easily stepped in front of a pass intended for Terrance Williams before churning up the left sideline and pushing Romo away as he crossed the goal line.
On the next play, Kuechly made a nifty over-the-head catch on a ball thrown to Jason Witten. The linebacker looked a little winded on the return, eventually settling for a 17-yarder that led to the third of Graham Gano’s four field goals to put the Panthers up 23-3 at halftime.
It was the fourth time Romo has thrown multiple pick-6s in a game, and the first since a 34-18 home loss in 2012 against a Chicago defense that was among the league’s best in forcing turnovers. Romo actually won his first of those, against Buffalo in 2007.
No such chance this time, because Newton kept the Carolina offense moving when Romo wasn’t throwing interceptions.
Newton had three 24-yard completions on third down, and led the Panthers into the end zone after Dallas’ Byron Jones was penalized for leaping on top of his linemen when Gano made a 48-yard field goal.
NOTES: Dallas defensive end Greg Hardy had a quiet game against his former team, finishing without any tackles and missing most of the second half with an injury Garrett wouldn’t specify. He missed the last 15 games last year with Carolina because of his domestic violence case. Hardy signed with the Cowboys as a free agent and served a four-game suspension to start this season. … Panther WR Jerricho Cotchery had five catches for a game-high 73 yards, and four of them converted third downs.
Bears 17, Packers 13
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Drenched from a soaking rain, Jay Cutler finally walked out of Lambeau Field with a win.
The defense helped make Thursday night a Thanksgiving to remember for the Chicago Bears.
Cutler threw for 200 yards and a score and the Bears held off the Green Bay Packers on fourth-and-goal from the 8 with 22 seconds left for a 17-13 victory.
“It was just really a good team effort defensively,” coach John Fox said.
Aaron Rodgers’ throw to the end zone deflected off receiver Davante Adams’ hands in the cold rain. James Jones couldn’t hang on to a potential touchdown catch on third down.
Cornerback Tracy Porter intercepted Rodgers’ pass with 3:19 left at the Bears 45 on the previous drive.
In his first year in Chicago, Fox has instilled confidence in his team that they can hang tough in close games. Rodgers took a shot to the back of his left arm near the elbow in the third quarter from linebacker Lamarr Houston while the quarterback recovered a high snap. He said he lost feeling for a while in his left hand, gradually regaining full feeling in three fingers by the end of the game.
Cutler was a little better, somewhat of a surprise given how poorly he has played at Lambeau in his career with the Bears.
In his four previous games at Lambeau, all losses, Cutler had thrown 12 interceptions. But with Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Cutler avoided throwing an interception.
Green Bay had won six of its previous seven at Lambeau in the series. And Thursday night seemed to set up perfectly for the Packers faithful on an emotional night with the team honoring former quarterback Brett Favre at halftime. His name and No. 4 joined the franchise’s five other retired numbers on the north facade inside the stadium.
The Bears played spoilers.
“Looking at guys in that locker room that had been here for a minute and maybe not had great success here — Jay included. It was fun to watch,” Fox said.
Chicago (5-6) has won three of its last four. The Packers (7-4) lost a second straight home game.
“Difficult loss this evening, you need to win your home games,” coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Packers caught a break after Cutler mishandled a shotgun snap on third-and-11 to set up a punt.
But McCarthy’s offense couldn’t capitalize, moving quickly up the field on their final two drives only to come up short.
Robbie Gould’s 21-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for Chicago was the only scoring for either team in the second half in a game played dreary conditions.
It put ball security at a premium.
Eddie Lacy fumbled deep in Bears territory in the second quarter after getting hit from behind. Cutler cashed in on Chicago’s next drive by finding Zach Miller for a 3-yard touchdown pass that tied it at 7 with 6:03 left in the half.
Adams dropped another pass in the open on third-and-long in the first quarter that could have led to a big gain.
Lacy ran for 105 yards on 17 carries, and also scored on a 25-yard catch-and-run.
For the Bears, Jeremy Langford had 48 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Matt Forte returned after missing three games with a knee injury and ran for 44 yards on 15 carries.
The Bears also got Alshon Jeffery back, who had seven catches for 90 yards. He has missed five games this season with groin and shoulder ailments.
The defense made the biggest statement.
NOTES: Bears LB Shea McClellin finished with a game-high 10 tackles. … Rookie CB Damarious Randall (knee) and RT Bryan Bulaga (ankle) left the game for the Packers. … WR Randall Cobb finished with six catches for 74 yards.
Bills 22, Chiefs 30
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs kept ignoring questions about the playoffs all week, even though Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills really was a matchup of wildcard contenders.
It’s going to be harder to ignore the postseason chatter now.
Alex Smith threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns, Spencer Ware ran for 114 yards and another score, and the Chiefs beat the Bills 30-22 for their fifth straight victory — one that solidifies their spot in the playoff chase with five games left in the regular season. One thing they don’t have to worry about? The head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bills.
Jeremy Maclin had nine receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown for Kansas City (6-5). Travis Kelce also caught a touchdown pass, while Cairo Santos hit three field goals.
The Bills (5-6) had a chance for a tying touchdown Sunday when they took over at their own 10 with 3:25 left. But after picking up a quick first down, Taylor was knocked out of bounds short of the marker on fourth-and-9 with 2:16 left, allowing the Chiefs to put the game away.
Taylor had 291 yards passing and three touchdowns, but he was mostly held in check in the second half. So was Sammie Watkins, who had all six catches for 158 yards and his two touchdowns over the first 30 minutes.
Both teams sustained a rash of injuries as rain lashed Arrowhead Stadium all afternoon.
All-Pro linebacker Justin Houston was tripped by his Chiefs teammate in the first half and did not return with a knee injury. Left tackle Eric Fisher hurt his neck while center Mitch Morse sustained a concussion, and neither made it back onto the field.
Reid said the extent of all of them would not be known until Monday.
Bills running back Karlos Williams hurt his shoulder, while defensive lineman Alex Carrington — starting with Mario Williams and Kyle Williams out — was carted off with a right knee injury.
The first half amounted to a showcase for Taylor and Watkins.
They connected for a 48-yard reception on the game’s opening drive to set up Dan Carpenter’s 27-yard field goal. Then, two series later, Watkins ran away from coverage for a 28-yard touchdown reception that gave Buffalo a 10-0 lead.
Watkins added a 33-yard reception later in the first half, shucking Chiefs safety Ron Parker in the process, to set up his own 21-yard touchdown reception over Sean Smith’s flailing arms.
“Hey,” Smith said, “those guys get paid, too.”
The Chiefs answered by airing it out themselves.
Alex Smith hit Maclin for 37 yards early in the second quarter to set up Ware’s short TD run, and then found Maclin for a 41-yard touchdown reception to get within 16-14 at the half.
He beat Bills cornerback Ronald Darby, who just returned after undergoing concussion tests.
Kansas City took its first lead on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Kelce early in the second half, and Santos knocked through a 49-yard field goal to make it 24-16, before Taylor answered for Buffalo with a short touchdown pass to LeSean McCoy later in the third quarter.
Santos kicked his second field goal early in the fourth, then capped a 13-play drive that took 6 minutes, 31 seconds with a 37-yarder with 3:30 left that helped put the game away.
NOTES: McCoy had 70 yards rushing and 31 yards receiving for the Bills to surpass 10,000 yards from scrimmage for his career. … Kansas City honored Hall of Fame offensive lineman Will Shields during halftime. … Taylor had 151 yards passing in the first quarter. … Alex Smith has now thrown 283 passes without an interception.
Dolphins 20, Jets 38
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — A neater look sure suits Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The last time Fitzpatrick trimmed his beard, he threw six touchdown passes in leading Houston to victory in 2014. The recently shorn Fitzpatrick wasn’t quite as prolific Sunday for the New York Jets, connecting for a mere four scores in a 38-20 rout of Miami.
It was Fitzpatrick’s best performance since joining the Jets this year, and was punctuated by Brandon Marshall’s most impressive outing in green. The receiver had nine receptions for 131 yards and two TDs.
Fitzpatrick, who cropped his Viking-like beard for his 33rd birthday this week, didn’t seem bothered by the left thumb on which he had ligament surgery on March 13. He also connected with Devin Smith for the rookie’s first NFL touchdown, and with Eric Decker in New York’s fourth win in the last five meetings with Miami. The Jets (6-5) had lost four of their last five.
Fitzpatrick, making the 100th start of his 11-season career, said the Jets sensed the critical nature of this and every game remaining.
“We needed to right the ship,” he said. “This was an important one for us. That said, it makes next week’s more important.”
That would be against the local rival Giants, who at 5-6 will be just as desperate.
Chris Ivory clinched the win with a vintage 31-yard TD run on which he broke four tackles.
Miami (4-7) now has dropped four of five and is 3-4 under interim coach Dan Campbell, who took over after Joe Philbin was fired following the Dolphins’ lopsided loss to the Jets in London.
Ryan Tannehill threw TD passes to Jarvis Landry, Greg Jennings and DeVante Parker — like Smith, the first NFL TD for the rookie — in the second half when the Jets were well ahead.
New York took control in the opening half. Miami’s best threat in the half ended in Tannehill’s poorly thrown attempt to Kenny Stills. Marcus Williams, a backup cornerback who leads the Jets with five interceptions, stepped in front of Stills and returned the pick 21 yards.
Williams, starting for injured Darrelle Revis, sprained his knee on the play and did not return.
The pick set up New York’s first touchdown. Marshall made receptions of 20 and 16 yards before beating Brent Grimes, Miami’s best cover man, for a 17-yard score.
New York outdid that impressive 72-yard drive with a 92-yarder to end the first half. It was one of the Jets’ best possessions of the season, capped by Smith’s post pattern on which he got a step on Jamar Taylor.
Miami gained only 81 yards, 8 rushing, in the opening half, when it lost four players to injury: center Mike Pouncey (right foot), receiver Rishard Matthews (ribs/chest), defensive tackles Earl Mitchell (calf) and C.J. Mosley (calf). The Dolphins finished with 12 yards on nine rushes, the fewest yards on the ground any Jets team has allowed.
Fitzpatrick’s third scoring throw, a 2-yarder to Decker, capped a short third-period drive of 25 yards set up Jeremy Kerley’s weaving 58-yard punt return.
The Dolphins finally converted a third down deep in the third quarter — the Jets had stopped them on 20 in a row, including New York’s victory at London in October. The conversion came as part of a touchdown drive sparked by Grimes’ 28-yard punt return. A 40-yard completion to Landry led to Landry’s 5-yard TD catch to make it 21-7.
But Marshall outjumped Grimes for a 2-yard score and Ivory bulled his way home to put things out of reach. The 38 points were a season high for the Jets.
NOTES: The Jets also had linebacker Calvin Pace leave with an abdominal injury. … Ivory finished with 87 yards rushing. … Landry got much of his career-high 165 yards receiving when the game was out of hand. He made 13 catches, also a career best. … Fitzpatrick went 22 of 37, while Tannehill was 33 of 58 for 351 yards.
Chargers 31, Jaguars 25
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The San Diego Chargers sure know how to end a six-game losing streak.
Just travel 2,000 miles to Jacksonville. It’s worked twice in the last five years.
Philip Rivers threw four touchdown passes, two to Antonio Gates, and the Chargers beat the Jaguars 31-25 on Sunday for their first victory in nearly two months.
Rivers and the Chargers (3-8) also ended a six-game skid in the River City in 2011.
“This was long overdue,” Rivers said. “It feels good. We leaned on each other a lot today. By no means does 3-8 sound wonderful, but winning today sure does.”
Rivers passed Joe Montana (273) and tied Vinny Testaverde (275) for 11th on the NFL’s all-time passing touchdown list. He also became 17th in NFL history to throw for 40,000 yards.
Rivers completed 29 of 43 passes for 300 yards. He was sacked twice and had his left ankle checked in the locker room at halftime. But his four TDs were enough against the Jaguars (4-7), who failed to recover an onside kick in the closing minutes.
Jacksonville also had more red-zone troubles, scoring just once in four trips inside the 20-yard line.
Two of those drives ended with field goals after Blake Bortles scrambled on third down and threw passes beyond the line of scrimmage.
The Chargers (3-8), meanwhile, found the end zone on all three red-zone possessions in the first half. Rivers hooked up with Dontrelle Inman from 2 yards out and then found Gates for a 9-yard score that put San Diego ahead 14-9.
Bortles threw his 13th interception of the season on the ensuing possession, and Rivers and Gates connected for a 12-yard score and a double-digit lead three plays later.
The Chargers made it hold — thanks to Rivers’ fourth TD pass, which followed Bortles’ 21-yard strike to Julius Thomas with about 11 minutes to play.
Rivers had some help. Johnson caught seven passes for 92 yards. Inman had five receptions for 65 yards. Gates hauled in four for 53 yards.
The Jaguars blocked a punt and scored with 1:21 remaining to make it close, but Jason Myers’ onside kick was batted out of bounds.
With Houston and Indianapolis both winning, the Jags lost ground in the muddled AFC South.
Bortles completed 30 of 49 passes for 329 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.
Thomas caught nine passes for 116 yards. Allen Robinson finished with 56 yards receiving and a score.
Fellow Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns left the field on a stretcher with 3:44 remaining and was later ruled out with a concussion. The team said Hurns had movement and feeling before being transported to a local hospital as a precaution. He was later released.
Notes: Chargers have won five in a row in the series. … Rivers now has 40,166 yards passing. … Jaguars FS Josh Evans left the game with a concussion and did not return. … Hurns has played in 27 consecutive games since making the team as an undrafted free agent from Miami.
Raiders 24, Titans 21
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Oakland Raiders found a way to pull out a win on a wet, sloppy day. A quarterback with a little bit of experience certainly helped.
Along with a very timely flag.
Derek Carr threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Seth Roberts with 1:21 left after Oakland appeared to turn it over on downs, and the Raiders stopped a three-game skid by edging the Tennessee Titans 24-21 Sunday.
The Raiders (5-6) blew a 17-6 lead in the third quarter but recovered in time to snap a three-game skid to the Titans, winning for just the second time in seven trips to Tennessee.
The Titans (2-9) lost for the ninth time in 10 games after rallying to take a 21-17 lead. They thought they had a game-saving play when safety Michael Griffin broke up a pass in the end zone on fourth down.
But officials flagged B.W. Webb for holding on the other side of the field.
Del Rio said rookie Amari Cooper was held. Webb tried to find the official, saying later he never held the receiver. Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey said he had no idea where the flag came from and did not agree with the penalty. Carr said he started yelling instantly about the flag. Two plays later, Carr hit Roberts for the winning touchdown. He finished with 330 yards and three TDs in his sixth 300-yard passing game this season. Nate Allen ended the Titans’ last chance by intercepting rookie Marcus Mariota with 43 seconds left. Mariota took the blame for not looking elsewhere.
Roberts finished with six catches for 113 yards and two TDs, and Cooper had seven receptions for 115 yards. Khalil Mack had two sacks for the Raiders, who outgained Tennessee 407-249 and held the ball for nearly 35 minutes.
The Titans now have lost 11 straight on their home field and are tied for the third-worst home skid. Mariota threw for 218 yards and three TDs, but he was intercepted twice, with the last one coming with no receiver in the area.
Oakland’s mistakes helped Tennessee turn a game where the Raiders had been cruising into a frantic finish.
The Raiders were flagged 11 times for 94 yards, with two of those penalties keeping Tennessee TD drives alive, and Carr himself set up the Titans’ go-ahead TD by fumbling a snap. Defensive end DaQuan Jones fell on the ball for the Titans, and Mariota threw a 1-yard TD pass to Jalston Fowler to make it 21-17 with 4:41 left.
Carr briefly left after taking a shot from Jones on the opening series of the game. But the second-year quarterback returned in time to throw for 187 yards and a touchdown by halftime and Oakland led 10-6 at the break.
NOTES: Carr joined Rich Gannon (10 in 2002) and Carson Palmer (six in 2012) as the only Raiders quarterbacks with six or more 300-yard passing games in a season. … Denico Autry blocked Ryan Succop’s first extra-point try for the first miss by the Titans since 2006 and the first missed extra point in Succop’s career. The Titans kicker had been perfect on his first 205 attempts, including all 18 this season. … Crabtree now has a TD catch in five of his past six games. … Oakland is 4-0 when being flagged for 10 or more penalties.
Vikings 20, Falcons 10
ATLANTA (AP) — Adrian Peterson was still miffed about his performance the previous week.
He took it out on the Atlanta Falcons.
Bouncing back from a tough loss to Green Bay, Peterson ran for 158 yards and a pair of touchdowns and the Minnesota Vikings beat the slumping Falcons 20-10 on Sunday. Minnesota (8-3) jumped ahead on Peterson’s 1-yard run in the opening quarter, and clinched it when he got loose on a 35-yard scamper down the sideline with 4:15 remaining in the game. In the 30-13 setback to the Packers, he was held to 45 yards — his lowest output since Week 1. He also had a crucial fumble in the fourth quarter that thwarted any hopes of a comeback. Against the Falcons (6-5), who came in with the league’s top-ranked defense against the run, Peterson ripped off his sixth 100-yard game of the season. He also moved to 18th on the NFL career rushing list with 11,354 yards, passing O.J. Simpson (11,236), Corey Dillon (11,241) and John Riggins (11,352).
For Matt Ryan, it was another disappointing day. The Falcons quarterback threw two more interceptions — he’s got five in the past two games — and heard perhaps the loudest boos of his career from the home crowd after a pick in the end zone.
Atlanta has lost five of its past six games, including four straight, and is in danger of becoming one of the few teams in NFL history to start 5-0 and miss the playoffs.
Teddy Bridgewater completed 20 of 28 for 174 yards, though the Minnesota quarterback did throw an interception in the end zone to take potential points off the board. It didn’t hurt. The Vikings’ defense kept Atlanta out of the end zone until Ryan’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Nick Williams with 1:28 remaining.
Minnesota really clamped down on Atlanta star Julio Jones, held to 56 yards on five catches.
The Vikings reclaimed a one-game lead over Green Bay in the NFC North, taking advantage of the Packers’ loss to Chicago on Thanksgiving night.
Ryan squandered one scoring chance in the second quarter when a deep throw down the middle was picked off by Captain Munnerlyn. The second interception was really costly, coming after Tevin Coleman’s 1-yard scoring run, which would’ve given the Falcons a 10-7 lead in the third quarter, was wiped out by a clipping penalty on tight end Tony Moeaki.
With the Falcons facing third-and-goal from the 14, Ryan scrambled to his left and tried to force a pass to Jacob Tamme in the end zone. Terence Newman grabbed it instead, giving Minnesota a huge stop.
There was plenty of blame to go around.
Coleman, starting for injured running back Devonta Freeman, broke off the longest run of his career in the first quarter. But the 46-yard scamper was wasted when the rookie failed to keep a firm grip on the ball, allowing linebacker Anthony Barr to come up from behind and punch it away. Antone Exum fell on the loose ball at the Minnesota 21, giving Coleman his third lost fumble of the season.
On Atlanta’s last gasp in the fourth quarter, Coleman dropped a deep pass down the right sideline. Then, on fourth-and-1 at midfield, Ryan was hammered by Barr before he could even get off a quick pass, the linebacker blowing right by lineman Andy Levitre.
Notes: Coleman had the first 100-yard game of his career, finishing with 110 yards on 18 carries. … Next up for Peterson on the career rushing list: Steven Jackson at No. 17 with 11,388 yards. … Shayne Graham made a 31-yard field goal in his Atlanta debut. He was filling in for regular kicker Matt Bryant, out with a quadriceps injury. … Jones had a streak of three straight 100-yard receiving games.
Saints 6, Texans 24
HOUSTON (AP) — For the first time in a decade, the New Orleans Saints finished a game without scoring a touchdown.
Credit J.J. Watt and a continually improving Houston Texans defense for that.
Houston’s offense got off to a fast start for a change and the defense did the rest to help the Texans cruise to a 24-6 win over the Saints on Sunday.
New Orleans (4-7) dropped its third straight on a day when the team didn’t score a touchdown for the first time since 2005, snapping a streak of 155 games and Drew Brees’ streak of games with a touchdown pass ended at 45.
The last time the Saints didn’t score a touchdown was Dec. 24, 2005 against Detroit and Brees’ last game without a touchdown pass came on Nov. 29, 2012 against Atlanta. His streak was the fifth-longest in NFL history. Watt had seven quarterback hits and two sacks to push his NFL lead to 13 ½. He would have had another, but Brees threw the ball into the turf as Watt wrapped him up and was penalized for intentional grounding in the second quarter.
Brian Hoyer, who finished with two touchdowns, went 7 for 7 on the opening drive. He capped it with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Griffin to give Houston a score on the opening possession for the first time this season.
The Texans (6-5) have won four in a row for the first time since winning six straight in 2012 and remain tied with Indianapolis for first place in the AFC South. The string of wins came after they were embarrassed in a 44-26 loss at Miami. Brees was 25 of 44 for 228 yards. The Saints converted just 3 of 12 third down attempts.
It was the first game since defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired and replaced by Dennis Allen. But the change didn’t lead to better results and the Saints gave up several big plays.
Hoyer was 21 of 27 with an interception in his return after missing last week’s game with a concussion.
An 8-yard touchdown run by Alfred Blue extended Houston’s lead to 21-6 in the third. Griffin grabbed a short pass in the middle of the field and dashed for a 37-yard gain on that drive.
Kareem Jackson, who returned after missing four games with an ankle injury, intercepted Brees at the goal line in the third quarter and returned it 50 yards. He might have gone all the way, but Jadeveon Clowney, who was downfield blocking, got in his way, allowing the defense to catch up and bring him down.
The Texans pushed the lead to 14-0 when Hoyer threw a shovel pass to Cecil Shorts for a touchdown on Houston’s second drive.
Hoyer completed his first 11 passes before he was intercepted by Jairus Byrd. But the Saints couldn’t move the ball and had to punt.
The Saints cut the lead to 14-3 on a 30-yard field goal in the second quarter. New Orleans trailed 14-6 at halftime after a career-long 57-yard field goal by Kai Forbath.
NOTES: New Orleans WR Marques Colston finished with three receptions for 38 yards to give him 702 receptions in his career. … Houston WR DeAndre Hopkins caught a pass in his 43rd straight game and finished with five receptions for 36 yards.
Giants 14, Redskins 20
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Jay Gruden’s Washington Redskins have not won two games in a row all season. They followed a 33-point victory with a 28-point loss. They are 5-1 at home, 0-5 on the road. They tend to have a hard time running the ball — and stopping the run.
And yet, for all of their deficiencies and inconsistency, the Redskins are right there at the top of the NFC East.
Kirk Cousins connected with DeSean Jackson for a 63-yard touchdown pass and scored on a fourth-down quarterback sneak, Washington intercepted Eli Manning three times, and the Redskins withstood the latest miraculous catch by Odell Beckham Jr. to hold on and beat the New York Giants 20-14 Sunday, pulling into a tie for first place.
“We’re just in the driver’s seat right now,” Redskins defensive end Jason Hatcher said. “We’ve just got to continue winning games and driving the car — right into the playoffs.”
New York trailed 20-0 before making things interesting as Manning threw fourth-quarter TD passes of 40 yards to Rueben Randle and 21 yards to Beckham, who took off from the 2 to make a fantastic diving grab, corralling the ball with his left hand while parallel to the ground. The Giants came in off their bye and with a chance to create space in the standings. Instead, they’re 5-6, just like the Redskins, with five games remaining. The Philadelphia Eagles (4-7) and Dallas Cowboys (3-8), both routed on Thanksgiving Day, are the other members of the mediocre division.
On a chilly, dreary day, New York’s first two possessions ended when passes by Manning went in and out of receivers’ hands and were picked off — first by linebacker Perry Riley Jr., then by cornerback Will Blackmon. And on the Giants’ first drive of the second half, Manning’s throw from the 4 was intercepted in the end zone by rookie Quinton Dunbar.
It was the 20th three-interception game of two-time Super Bowl MVP Manning’s career; he had only six picks all season until Sunday. He wound up 26 for 51 for 321 yards; Beckham had nine catches for 142 yards.
New York’s first 10 drives culminated in three turnovers and seven punts. On the team’s 11th possession, Manning finally put some points on the board, hitting Randle. Then came Beckham’s highlight-reel grab.
But it was too little, too late.
Washington led 17-0 at halftime, thanks in part to Cousins’ 1-yard TD sneak with under 2 minutes to go that generated a full-throated chorus of “Hail to the Redskins!” As the teams headed to the locker rooms soon thereafter, fans gave a standing ovation, a rare salute to a club that has finished last in the NFC East in six of the past seven seasons.
“They done put up with a lot of stuff around here,” Hatcher said.
Cousins was 20 for 29 for 302 yards, including the long TD to Jackson — who taunted the Giants by strutting along the goal line before actually crossing it.
Cousins’ most important stat was probably this: zero interceptions. When the fourth-year QB avoids getting picked off this season, Washington is 5-0; when he throws at least one interception, the team is 0-6.
All part of what’s been a wildly fluctuating Redskins team in Gruden’s second year.
That’s why safety Dashon Goldson said he organized a players’-only meeting Saturday.
“Everybody got stuff of their chest. How they were feeling. What they thought about the team and where we’re at and what we need to do to progress,” Goldson said. “We’re just so much up and down.”
For the moment, at least, they’re on the upswing.
Notes: Giants G Geoff Schwartz fractured his lower left leg. … The Redskins last had a five-game home winning streak during a single season in 1991.
Rams 7, Bengals 31
CINCINNATI (AP) — As the touchdown passes and interceptions piled up, it felt like a throwback game for the Bengals.
Andy Dalton threw three touchdown passes — two of them to A.J. Green — and Cincinnati emerged from its brief skid with an effort reminiscent of its perfect first half of the season, beating the St. Louis Rams 31-7 on Sunday.
After dropping a pair of close prime-time games, the Bengals (9-2) were back in sync against a team that struggles to score and keep up. The 31 points equaled the second-most against St. Louis this season.
In addition to Dalton’s three touchdowns, the Bengals had three interceptions, including one that Leon Hall returned for a touchdown.
The Rams (4-7) have dropped four in a row, in large part because their offense ranks last in the league in passing. They switched quarterbacks last week, but Case Keenum got a head injury during a 16-13 loss in Baltimore and was limited in practice.
Nick Foles, who started the first nine games, returned. The most costly of his three interceptions came when he avoided the rush and floated a pass that Hall picked off and returned 19 yards for a touchdown. The Bengals have limited opponents to 10 points or less in four of the last five games. They were coming off a 34-31 loss at Arizona that was their low point defensively this season.
The longest winning streak in Bengals history ended with losses to Houston on Monday night and Arizona on Sunday night. Back at home in an afternoon game, Cincinnati settled down and pulled away.
Dalton was 20 of 27 for 233 yards. He threw touchdown passes of 9 and 18 yards to Green, who hadn’t caught two in a game since the third week of the season in Baltimore. Tyler Eifert also had a 22-yarder, giving him the league lead with 12 TD catches.
Jeremy Hill ran for a season-high 86 yards. He limped off the field in the fourth quarter and got his left ankle taped.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher intended to stay with Keenum if he was healthy, but the quarterback didn’t have a full practice last week. Foles went 30 of 46 for 228 yards. He has seven touchdowns and nine interceptions this season.
The Rams’ best play came when running back Todd Gurley took a snap in the wildcat formation in the second quarter. He handed off to Tavon Austin, who ran for 60 yards — more than the Rams had managed in all to that point. Austin’s 5-yard run finished the drive.
Austin had a team-high 63 yards on four runs. He also caught six passes for 33 yards. Gurley was limited to 19 yards on nine carries, with the Bengals focused on stopping the run game.
St. Louis has scored 13 or fewer points in each of the last three games.
There was more self-destruction by the Rams. Broken coverage left Green wide open for his first touchdown catch.
“Probably one of my easiest touchdowns ever,” Green said.
A penalty for running into the punter extended Cincinnati’s 14-play drive to a field goal in the second quarter.
NOTES: The Rams came in with 30 sacks, but didn’t get to Dalton once. … Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins had a sack, moving him one ahead of St. Louis’ Aaron Donald for most by an NFL interior lineman with eight. … Dalton is 29 yards away from joining Peyton Manning as the only NFL players to throw for 3,000 yards in each of their first five seasons. … Eifert left in the fourth quarter with a pinched nerve in his neck. … Fisher said kicker Greg Zuerlein strained a hip muscle on Friday, which is why the Rams signed Zach Hocker for the game.
Buccaneers 12, Colts 25
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indy’s golden oldies keep producing hits.
Matt Hasselbeck threw for 315 yards and two more touchdowns, and Adam Vinatieri made four more field goals. The throwback Sunday even included another crucial leaping penalty against Tampa Bay.
The 40-year-old Hasselbeck improved to 4-0 as a starter this season by topping the 300-yard mark for the first time in four years, and the Indianapolis Colts beat the Buccaneers 25-12 to remain on top of the AFC South.
Don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.
Hasselbeck has been playing with the efficiency of a quarterback half his age — and he proved it in Indy’s third consecutive win.
In the first matchup between the oldest and youngest starting quarterbacks in the NFL since December 2010, according to STATS, Hasselbeck easily outplayed Jameis Winston.
Hasselbeck finished 26 of 42 with no turnovers. He had a 100.8 rating and joined Brett Favre and Warren Moon as the only 40-year-old quarterbacks during the Super Bowl era to win four consecutive starts.
Winston was 20 of 36 for 245 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a rating of 74.4. The rookie also was sacked five times.
Hasselbeck kept the Colts poised and in control — even after they settled for field goals on their first three scores.
“He’s not playing like he’s 40,” said T.Y. Hilton, who caught six passes for 95 yards and two TDs. “He’s out there having fun, making sure guys are in the right spot and letting us make plays. He’s fired up and wants to make sure guys are in the right spot so he can make plays.”
The 42-year-old Vinatieri connected from 49, 27 and 26 yards before adding a 44-yarder after Indy (6-5) took the lead for good late in the third quarter. He has made 16 consecutive field goals since missing his first two attempts this season.
Tampa Bay (5-6) was shut out in the second half after carrying a 12-6 lead into the break.
They hurt themselves, too.
A 56-yard run from Doug Martin set up Tampa’s only touchdown, a 20-yard pass from Winston to Cameron Brate that made it 12-6 with 1:54 left in the second quarter. Martin finished with 14 carries for 97 yards.
The Bucs’ defense forced only two punts in the first 55 minutes, and even when it appeared it could change course, Tampa failed.
A potential touchdown pass on third down slipped through the hands of Mike Evans on third-and-6, forcing the Bucs to attempt a 54-yard field goal. Connor Barth missed it to the left and Tampa Bay was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, which gave Indy the ball at the Tampa 41.
Seven plays later, Vinatieri made his fourth kick.
And then there was that leaping call.
Twelve years after that same penalty helped Indy pull off an incredible Monday night comeback in overtime at Tampa, the Colts took advantage of the same call again. This time, they pulled Vinatieri’s field goal off the board and wound up getting the clinching 3-yard TD pass from Hasselbeck to Hilton with 5:53 left. It was a nice finish to a strong day for Hasselbeck, who has done more than just fill in with Andrew Luck recovering from a lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdominal muscle.
NOTES: Martin’s long run put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. … Indianapolis’ Donte Moncrief had eight catches for 114 yards. … Bucs linebacker Bruce Carter left with a concussion. Smith declined to provide updates on any other injured players. … Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman did not return after hurting his hamstring and running back Ahmad Bradshaw left with a wrist injury. … Former Colts players Reggie Wayne and Gary Brackett watched the game together. Former Colts coach and broadcaster Ted Marchibroda also attended the game.
Cardinals 19, 49ers 13
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Give Carson Palmer some style points for punctuating the Cardinals’ latest win, however silly it looked when he tumbled over after spiking the ball.
Even if a few teammates feared he might be hurt.
Palmer ran for a go-ahead 8-yard touchdown with 2:28 left and tumbled after spiking the ball in a telling story of his day, and NFC West-leading Arizona squeaked by the San Francisco 49ers 19-13 on Sunday for its fifth straight win and first road victory in the series since September 2008.
Moments earlier, Palmer fell backward as he released the ball and completed a 34-yard pass to J.J. Nelson to put Arizona on the 1.
Chandler Catanzaro missed the extra-point try, giving Blaine Gabbert and the 49ers (3-8) one more chance with 2:21 left. Anquan Boldin caught an 18-yard pass on fourth-and-20 to clinch the win for Arizona.
t certainly wasn’t the best day for the NFL’s top-ranked offense as San Francisco outgained Arizona 368-337. Coach Bruce Arians’ bunch will take it nonetheless.
With Arizona down two running backs, David Johnson ran for a 1-yard touchdown in the third for the Cardinals (9-2), who have nine wins in their first 11 games in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history and fifth time overall.
Fitzgerald had 10 catches for 66 yards, surpassing Hall of Famer Steve Largent for 16th place on the career list for yards receiving and moving him into 12th place for receptions past Randy Moss.
A diving Fitzgerald dropped the ball in the end zone with 4:04 left in the first quarter, and Arizona settled for Catanzaro’s 26-yard field goal. He added a 41-yarder early in the second.
Palmer was 24 of 40 for 271 yards and improved to 22-4 over his last 26 starts.
On a day when its defense largely stood its ground, San Francisco committed 13 penalties for 81 yards to help the Cardinals’ cause. There was a costly roughing the passer flag on Quinton Dial during the winning drive.
Boldin finished with eight catches for 93 yards against his old team as the 49ers were eliminated from the division race in yet another mistake-filled performance.
San Francisco had two penalties on one play with 7:13 to go, including a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct by wideout Torrey Smith with the defense on the field when he made contact with the side referee. Palmer completed a 48-yard pass to John Brown on the second snap of the third quarter, and then took advantage of five penalties — four pass interference calls and an illegal hands to the face — as Arizona finally scored a touchdown.
Gabbert was 25 of 36 for 318 yards and an 8-yard touchdown pass to Vance McDonald in the third. Gabbert hit Smith for a 41-yard completion and had far more success than predecessor Colin Kaepernick did in a four-interception day back in a 47-7 loss at Arizona in Week 3.
Phil Dawson kicked a 53-yard field goal as the first half expired and a tying 33-yarder in the third for his 18th straight made kick.
Arizona earned its first win on San Francisco’s home field since a 23-13 Week 1 victory on Sept. 7, 2008, at Candlestick Park, snapping a six-game skid. Only three current Cardinals had won previously at San Francisco: Calais Campbell, Fitzgerald and Lyle Sendlein.
NOTES: McDonald made six catches for 71 yards after fellow tight end Garrett Celek was carted off with 3:46 left in the first quarter with a left ankle injury and didn’t return. X-rays were negative. … Arizona CB Jerraud Powers injured his calf in the third, while RB Andre Ellington hurt a foot and RB Chris Johnson a knee.
Steelers 30, Seahawks 39
SEATTLE (AP) — After spending the first half of the season hearing about their late-game failures, the Seattle Seahawks once again controlled the fourth quarter.
And no one had more ownership on Sunday than Russell Wilson.
“That was a lot of fun. It can’t get any more fun,” Wilson said.
Wilson threw a career-high five touchdown passes, including two TDs to Doug Baldwin in the final 8:12, and the Seahawks held on for a wild 39-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wilson threw three touchdowns to Baldwin, including an 80-yard catch-and-run score with 2:01 left after Pittsburgh had trimmed Seattle’s lead to 32-30.
Baldwin caught a crossing route on third-and-10 at the 20, broke two tackles and raced for the clinching score. Baldwin also had a 16-yard TD catch in the first half and caught a 30-yard TD midway through the fourth quarter after Pittsburgh had taken a 27-26 lead.
In all five of its losses this season, Seattle held a fourth-quarter lead at some point. Except there was no crumbling on Sunday, no wondering who was going to make the critical play.
Instead, the list was lengthy of everyone who came through late for the Seahawks (6-5), from Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor grabbing interceptions in the fourth quarter, to the touchdown catches of Jermaine Kearse and Baldwin.
Even rookie Tyler Lockett received praise for his hustle downfield to block on Baldwin’s late TD that gave Seattle a nine-point lead.
But most of the credit falls to Wilson for one of the finest regular-season performances of his career. He was 21 of 30 passing for 345 yards, Wilson’s most in a regular-season game, topped only by a playoff performance at Atlanta in his rookie season. He finished with a 147.9 passer rating and was 7 of 9 for 164 yards and three TDs in the fourth quarter.
The performance came on Wilson’s 27th birthday and started early when he awoke at the team hotel feeling ill. He needed three IVs to make it through the wild game.
The reward for Wilson’s effort was finally getting Seattle above the .500 mark for the first time this season and keeping the Seahawks in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt.
Seattle won for the first time in Wilson’s career when the opponent scored more than 24 points and the Seahawks needed every point with how Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger picked apart Seattle’s defense.
Visiting Seattle for the first time in his career, Roethlisberger ignored the noise of the “12th Man” and put together the best passing performance ever against the Seahawks. He threw for 456 yards, topping the 455 of Philip Rivers in 2010, but that wasn’t enough for Pittsburgh (6-5), which had its two-game win streak snapped.
Roethlisberger was pulled with 2 minutes left and taken to the locker room for concussion protocol. Coach Mike Tomlin provided no update after the game.
Roethlisberger was intercepted twice, including Richard Sherman’s first of the season, and Landry Jones’ attempt at a late rally ended on Chancellor’s pick at the Seattle 6 with 1:37 left.
Antonio Brown was hounded by Sherman most of the game so Markus Wheaton became the beneficiary with nine catches for 201 yards, just the second wide receiver to top 200 yards receiving against the Seahawks.
Brown finished with six catches for 51 yards, but the Steelers couldn’t overcome four turnovers.
The downside for Seattle was the loss of tight end Jimmy Graham for the season to a patellar tendon injury in his right knee that will require surgery.
Graham landed awkwardly as he attempted to reach behind him and catch a pass from Wilson in the end zone early in the fourth quarter. Graham immediately signaled for trainers and was in significant discomfort on the ground. Trainers placed an air cast on Graham’s right leg and he was taken off the field on a cart.
But Seattle’s offense didn’t miss a beat. Wilson hit on his final six pass attempts of the game, three of them for touchdowns.
“It’s about finishing the game and we did that today,” Kearse said.
NOTES: Seattle CB Cary Williams was a healthy scratch and replaced in the starting lineup by DeShawn Shead. Williams was benched in the second half last week and had started 81 straight games. … Wheaton had never had a 100-yard receiving game in his career. … Pittsburgh LB Ryan Shazier, Seattle DL Demarcus Dobbs and FB Will Tukuafu all left the game with concussions.
Patriots 24, Broncos 30 OT
DENVER (AP) — Tom Brady lost yet another one of his trusted targets and this time he also lost a game.
C.J. Anderson scored on a 48-yard run with 12:32 left in overtime, powering the Denver Broncos past the New England Patriots 30-24 on a snowy Sunday night.
Watching from the cozy indoors at field level was Peyton Manning as Brock Osweiler and the Broncos (10-2) overcame a 21-7 fourth-quarter deficit and handed the Patriots (11-1) their first loss since 2014.
Now, the Carolina Panthers (11-0) are the NFL’s only remaining unbeaten team.
Osweiler threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Bubba Caldwell with 1:09 left in regulation to put the Broncos up 24-21. But Brady, playing without injured star tight end Rob Gronkowski, needed just five plays to drive the Patriots 51 yards and into range for Stephen Gostkowski’s 47-yard field goal that tied it at the end of regulation.
New England won the coin toss and elected to receive, but thanks to a sack by Von Miller, Denver forced a three-and-out. Then, on third-and-1 from the New England 48, Anderson raced around the left sideline and into the north end zone.
Gronkowski injured his right knee with 2:49 left in regulation and was carted off. There was no immediate word on his status.
Anderson rushed for 113 yards and two TDs on 15 carries.
Overall, the Broncos ran for 179 yards, particularly impressive given their two-touchdown deficit for much of the first half and their 21-7 hole they found themselves in after Brady threw a 63-yard scoring pass to Brandon Bolden on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Patriots managed just 39 yards on 16 carries, however.
Osweiler improved to 2-0 since taking over for Manning. He completed 23 of 42 passes for 270 yards with one TD and one interception. Brady also was 23 of 42 for 280 yards with three TDs and no interceptions. Both were sacked three times.
Brady’s three TD tosses put him in a tie with Dan Marino for third on the career list. But with Manning sitting this one out in a walking cast on his left foot, the greatest quarterback rivalry was put on hold — perhaps forever.
Instead of a 17th meeting between the QB greats, it was Brady versus Osweiler, which doesn’t have the same Hall of Fame ring to it.
It still had plenty of panache.
Demaryius Thomas, who didn’t catch any of the first 11 balls thrown his way, hauled in a 36-yard pass to midfield just before the 2-minute warning and Osweiler hit Emmanuel Sanders for 39 yards to the 8 before finding Caldwell in the end zone to give Denver its first lead of the night.
Things looked bleak after Bolden’s TD made it 21-7 and New England’s defense forced a punt. But Chris Harper muffed the punt and Shaq Barrett recovered for Denver at the Patriots 36.
That led to Anderson’s 15-yard TD run.
The Broncos again drove downfield and reached the New England 3, but they settled for Brandon McManus’s 21-yard field goal with 6:08 left to make it 21-17.
Both teams went three-and-out and the Patriots were moving downfield when Gronkowski got hurt.
He was carted off with 2:49 left after injuring his right knee on an incompletion when safety Darian Stewart sliced across his body and hit his right knee — a clean hit.
Star pass rusher DeMarcus Ware missed the game with a bad back and Denver lost two more members of the league’s top-ranked defense on one play in the first quarter. Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward and nose tackle Sylvester Williams suffered ankle injuries on New England’s first run when LaGarrette Blount managed 2 yards. Ward and Williams were in walking boots after the game.
Neither returned, nor did right guard Louis Vasquez (groin), who went out in the second quarter.
Without receivers Julian Edelman (foot), Danny Amendola (knee) and Aaron Dobson, who went on injured reserve last week with an ankle injury, Brady relied on his big tight ends.
He hit Gronkowski from 23 yards out and Scott Chandler from 9 yards for a 14-0 lead. Gronkowski, who was held to two harmless catches against Buffalo last week, was single covered and easily scored when safety Darian Stewart went for the swipe instead of the tackle.
Chandler sped past Miller in coverage and scored easily when safety David Bruton Jr. was slow to slide over.
Gronkowski’s TD followed a 25-yard punt that gave Brady’s banged-up bunch great field position at the Denver 47, and Chandler’s came after Chandler Jones’ interception at the Denver 15.
Denver cut the deficit to 14-7 at the half on Ronnie Hillman’s 19-yard TD run with 2:07 left in the second quarter. It came one play after linebacker Dont’a Hightower hobbled off with a knee injury.
Ravens 33, Browns 27
CLEVELAND (AP) — This season of injury upon injury for the Ravens finally includes a break worth celebrating.
Brent Urban blocked Travis Coons’ field-goal attempt and Will Hill returned it 64 yards for a touchdown as time expired, giving Baltimore a stunning 33-27 win Monday night over the luckless Cleveland Browns, who lost their sixth straight game along with starting quarterback Josh McCown.
Coons lined up to kick a potential game-winning 51-yard field goal with 3 seconds to go for the Browns (2-9), but it was deflected by Urban, who was playing his first NFL game after missing the past two seasons with injuries to his knee and right arm.
“It’s surreal,” said a beaming Urban, a fourth-round pick in 2014 who missed all last season and tore his biceps earlier this year. “After being out so long, it’s crazy. I’m almost speechless. It’s just a wonderful feeling.”
Quarterback Matt Schaub, making his first start since 2013, threw two touchdown passes for the Ravens (4-7), who seem to take every game to the wire. All 11 of their games have been decided by less than eight points.
“One of the greatest football games you’re probably ever going to see in terms of excitement,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
McCown injured his collarbone in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Austin Davis, whose 42-yard TD pass to Travis Benjamin tied it with 1:47 remaining. Benjamin got inside Hill, who spent the waning moments hoping for a chance at redemption.
“I was desperate and frustrated at the same time,” Hill said. “I was praying that we could get a block and it bounced my way and I took it to the end zone.”
The Browns appeared to be in position to pull out a comeback win after cornerback Tramon Williams intercepted Schaub with 50 seconds left at Baltimore’s 46.
But as Cleveland attempted to get closer for Coons, Davis wasted valuable time because of a communication issue with the sideline and the QB couldn’t get out of bounds after a scramble, forcing the Browns to call a timeout.
Coons was 18 for 18 this season, but his kick was low, allowing Urban to get a hand on it. As Hill sprinted down the sideline, Browns fans, some of whom came to the game with brown paper bags over their heads, felt more disgust.
Schaub finished 20 of 34 for 232 yards and his first TDs since Dec. 23, 2013.
McCown, who has played hurt most of this season and was only starting because Johnny Manziel got benched, was 21 of 38 for 212 yards and a TD.
Cleveland linebacker Karlos Dansby picked off Schaub and returned it 52 yards for a TD in the third quarter to give the Browns a 20-17 lead, the first time they’ve been ahead in a game since the first half against Arizona on Nov. 1 — a span of more than 173 minutes.
But they weren’t up for long as Schaub countered with his second scoring pass, a 15-yarder to Kamar Aiken to put the Ravens ahead 24-20 with 5:30 left in the third quarter.
McCown took several hard shots in the second half and went to the sideline in obvious pain. He returned to the field, but dropped to the ground after an incompletion, forcing the Browns to turn to Davis, who made eight starts for St. Louis last season but was getting his first action for Cleveland.
Manziel was benched by Browns coach Mike Pettine after the second-year quarterback broke a promise by going out and partying during Cleveland’s bye week. McCown had missed the past two games with injured ribs, and was expecting to be a backup for the final six games before a video of Manziel holding a champagne bottle and rapping vulgar lyrics surfaced while the team was off.
With Manziel on the sideline and both teams struggling this season, the game was a tough sell to a national TV audience and thousands of Browns fans stayed home as well. A group of disgusted Clevelanders arrived at FirstEnergy Stadium wearing brown paper bags over their heads as another season unravels on the shores of Lake Erie.
For others, it’s time to shift attention to the Cavaliers and NBA superstar LeBron James. A bed sheet hanging in one end zone read: “We Still Have LeBron.”
NOTES: The Ravens have blocked a punt or kick in five straight games. … Javorius Allen, playing in place of injured RB Justin Forsett, had 55 yards on 12 carries and a TD reception. … RB Terrance West, traded by the Browns earlier this season, had 37 yards on seven carries. … The Ravens are missing seven starters due to injuries, six on offense.