Demarus Dye|BKD TV Insiders
Here is a recap of Week 13 of the 2016 NFL Season with a Tuesday Morning QB & thanks again to AP Sports/ Pro 32 for photos & articles.
Bye: Browns, Titans
Cowboys 17, Vikings 15
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Dez Bryant sashayed through the Dallas locker room with an unmistakable swagger and had nothing but good things to say about his adversary this time around.
It was a stark change from a week ago, when he sparred with Washington cornerback Josh Norman on Thanksgiving. The trash talking Dez and the polite Dez share one thing in common: they both win.
Bryant caught four passes for 84 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, helping the Cowboys win their 11th straight game with a 17-15 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night.
In a hard-fought battle with cornerback Xavier Rhodes, Bryant’s 56-yard catch set up Ezekiel Elliott’s 1-yard TD in the first half. Bryant caught an 8-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter after a fumbled punt by Minnesota’s Adam Thielen.
“I knew coming into this game it was going to be a tough match and I had to be on my ‘A’ game,” Bryant said. “Because if I wasn’t, he can get the best of you. We had a good battle. We shared our thoughts throughout the game. It was good thoughts. It’s nice playing games like that.”
Elliott rushed for 86 yards on 20 carries for the Cowboys (11-1). They have the longest single-season winning streak in franchise history.
Sam Bradford threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jerick McKinnon with 25 seconds to play, but the 2-point conversion pass failed. Bradford argued for a penalty after he was hit in the face by a defender, but there was no call for the Vikings (6-6). Minnesota played without coach Mike Zimmer after he had emergency eye surgery Wednesday night.
“I’m sick and tired of the reffing in this league right now,” Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said. “I’m sick and tired of it. You’ve got holding calls all over the place that people don’t want to call. Bradford gets hit in the face at the end of the game and you don’t call it. I’m not laying this loss on reffing, but at some point it’s got to get better.”
Bradford completed 32 of 45 passes for 247 yards, Danielle Hunter had two sacks and Kai Forbath kicked three field goals for Minnesota, which has last six of the last seven games after a 5-0 start.
Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was elevated to head coach for the game and it remains unclear how long Zimmer will be out. Minnesota’s third-ranked defense did their fiery leader proud, holding the explosive Cowboys offense to season lows in points, yards (264) and first downs (13).
“It’s not the best game we played, but we showed up when we needed to and made the plays at the end,” Elliott said.
With Dallas’ offense doing nothing, Kyle Wilber made the play of the game when he punched the ball out of Thielen’s hand, then pulled the ball away as the two rolled to the turf. Officials initially did not catch the fumble, but a heads-up challenge by Jason Garrett got the call overturned and Prescott found Bryant on the next play.
CATCHLESS IN MINNEAPOLIS
Cowboys tight end Jason Witten did not catch a pass, snapping a team-record streak of 130 straight games with a reception dating to 2008.
A TD TO TIE TD
Elliott’s 1-yard plunge in the second quarter gave Dallas a 7-3 lead. It was his 12th touchdown rushing this season, tying him with Tony Dorsett for most by a rookie in Cowboys history.
BRADFORD UNDER SEIGE
Playing behind a patchwork offensive line that included center Nick Easton making his first career start in place of the injured Joe Berger (concussion), Bradford was under pressure all night long from a Cowboys defense that has often struggled in that area this season.
Bradford was sacked three times and had to leave the game on the final drive of the second quarter after taking a helmet from Maliek Collins to his rib cage. After getting some medical attention during halftime, Bradford was able to remain in the game.
“I had to take a deep breath,” he said. “After that they were fine.”
The bad news on the injury front for the Vikings came for safety Harrison Smith, who left the locker room on crutches with a walking boot on his left foot. He has been fighting through an ankle injury over the last several weeks.
Before the game, the Vikings played a short video of Zimmer addressing the team during a practice. Zimmer’s primary message: “Do your job.”
That has been a common theme during his three seasons in Minnesota, and the organization likely wanted the players to hear it one more time before taking the field. After the video, a picture of Zimmer was put on the big screen with a “Get Well Soon” message attached.
“They fought to the bitter end, and I know coach Zimmer would’ve been very, very proud of them,” Priefer said.
Cowboys: Dallas heads to New York on Dec. 11 to face the Giants, the only team to have beaten the Cowboys this season.
Vikings: Minnesota will travel to Jacksonville on Dec. 11 to face the Jaguars, hoping the extra time off will be enough for Zimmer to recover and return to the sideline.
Lions 28, Saints 13
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Detroit safety Glover Quin recognized a deep route by Brandin Cooks just in time to make a diving breakup of a long pass down the middle of the field.
A few plays later, Quin intercepted Brees along the sideline.
“Obviously Drew Brees is a great player with great talent around him; we knew it was going to be a challenge, so we locked in — all week,” Quin said.
That much was evident in the Lions’ 28-13 victory over the Saints on Sunday in the Superdome, where Brees had a touchdown pass in 60 straight home games before Detroit derailed that streak.
If there was ever an outing that could embolden a defense as the stakes rise for the NFC North Division-leading Lions (8-4) late in the season, that was it.
After all, the Saints (5-7) had scored seven TDs in the Superdome one week earlier in a blowout victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
This week, the Lions intercepted Brees three times — once each by Quin ,Tavon Wilson and Miles Killebrew .
“We just did what we do. That’s what great defenses do,” Quin said. “They put up 49 points in this building last week, so for us to come in here and not allow (Brees) to throw a touchdown, to get three turnovers, to hold them to 13 points, 50 yards rushing … against an offense like this, I think it was a good performance.”
While Brees finished with 326 yards passing, he had only had 94 yards at halftime and didn’t get his last 75 yards until New Orleans’ final drive, when Detroit led by 15 and was giving up underneath routes in an effort to reduce the chances of a quick strike.
The more productive quarterback on the day was Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, who completed 31 of 44 passes for 341 yards, two touchdowns and did not turn the ball over.
His only regret was that Detroit failed to score touchdowns on four trips inside the New Orleans 20. This time, though, the Lions didn’t need those points.
“Our defense, giving up 13 to that group, is pretty incredible,” Stafford said.
Detroit’s suffocating defense emerged as one key story line from the Lions victory in New Orleans. Here are some others:
The Saints regretted several chances to make game-changing plays which slipped through their fingers. Cornerback Sterling Moore dropped what had the makings of a certain interception of a tipped pass with the potential for a long return.
Tight Coby Fleener had a pass bounce off his hands at the goal line. Cameron Jordan made a strong play to bat one of Stafford’s passes into the air in the fourth quarter when the Saints trailed by six, but he couldn’t pick up the ball in time to catch it before it dropped right next to him. Brees also failed to handle a shotgun snap on third-and-1.
Saints coach Sean Payton said his team looked, “sluggish, like we came off a short week or something.”
Stafford connected with Golden Tate eight times for 145 yards , and the pair was particularly in synch on a third-and-10 play early in the fourth quarter.
With the Superdome crowd roaring in hopes of disrupting the Lions’ communication at the line of scrimmage, Stafford recognized safety Kenny Vaccaro’s impending blitz, checked into a different play and rifled a pass to a wide-open Tate for a 66-yard TD pass that gave the Lions a 25-13 lead.
While the Lions consolidated their perch atop their division with a seventh victory in eight games, the Saints slid closer to the brink of elimination. New Orleans was only fortunate that NFC South leader Atlanta lost, as did the Redskins, who entered the day holding the last wild-card slot. The results left the Saints two games out of a playoff spot with four games left.
“It’s nice to have something that we’re still playing for,” Saints right tackle Zach Strief said. “We’re not out. We’re not done, and yet, if you thought your back was against the wall before, look now.”
Detroit is trying to win its first division crown since 1993, when it played in the NFC Central. The Lions have a two-game lead over second-place Minnesota and Green Bay.
KEEPING IT CLEAN
With his latest game without a turnover, Stafford has thrown just one interception in his past eight games.
As he has done regularly this season, Stafford mixes in a few timely scrambles rather than force throws. He rushed three times for 22 yards, including an 11-yard run for a first down, giving him 30 rushes for a career-high 178 yards, an average of 5.9 yards per carry.
Rams 10, Patriots 26
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady now stands alone when it comes to career wins by an NFL quarterback.
Brady became the league’s leader in victories among QBs, earning his 201st by throwing for 269 yards and a touchdown to lead the New England Patriots past the struggling Los Angeles Rams 26-10 on Sunday.
Brady, who was 33 of 46, had tied Peyton Manning last week in a win over the New York Jets.
“It’s always been about winning, and I’ve been very fortunate to be on a lot of great teams,” Brady said of reaching the milestone. “I’m just really grateful.”
His lone touchdown pass came on a 14-yard pass to Chris Hogan in the first quarter. LeGarrette Blount scored the game’s first touchdown , rumbling for a 43-yard, ankle-breaking score in the first quarter while spinning around safety Maurice Alexander in the process. He finished with 88 yards on 18 carries.
The Patriots (10-2) have won seven of their last eight as they prepare for a tough stretch against three teams with winning records over their final four regular-season games.
On the same day that Los Angeles coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead were given contract extensions, the recently relocated Rams (4-8) proved they still have a long way to go after losing for the seventh time in eight outings.
The Rams entered the game ranked 31st in total offense, averaging just 295 yards per game. Those struggles continued Sunday. They managed just 25 yards in the first half, the fewest by a team in a game this season.
Los Angeles was outgained 402-162 for the game.
In his third career start, rookie Jared Goff was picked off twice, completing 14 of 32 passes for 161 yards.
“That’s a record that I don’t think will ever be broken. He’ll continue to build on it, I’m sure.” — Blount on Brady’s wins mark.
“I kind of made a point to watch his first drive.” — Goff on watching Brady, whom he congratulated postgame on setting the wins record.
RAMS FUTILITY: How bad was the Rams’ offense in the first half? The Patriots had more fourth-down conversions (two), than the Rams had total first downs (one). New England had 12 total first downs. Los Angeles also ran just 18 offensive plays, compared to 42 for the Patriots.
FORCING TURNOVERS: After not forcing a turnover for 44 straight possessions, with interceptions by cornerback Malcolm Butler in the first quarter and linebacker Kyle Van Noy in the third marked four takeaways for the Patriots’ defense over the past two games.
BIG FOOT: Rams P Johnny Hekker had a 76-yard punt in the fourth quarter. It was his third punt this season of 75 or more yards. He had boots of 75 and 78 yards last month against the Panthers and Jets.
Rams: CB E.J. Gaines sustained quad injury in the second quarter.
Patriots: WR Danny Amendola left late in the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. He was later spotted walking on crutches in the tunnel underneath Gillette Stadium. CB Eric Rowe also did not return after leaving with a hamstring injury.
Rams: Host the Falcons on Sunday.
Patriots: Host the Ravens next Monday night.
Eagles 14, Bengals 32
CINCINNATI (AP) — Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick put on a Bengals hat that he got from a young fan on his way off the field, enjoying the moment.
For the first time in 42 days, it was fun again in Cincinnati.
The Bengals put together their best all-around game of the season on Sunday, beating the Eagles 32-14 . The offense scored on its first six possessions — something Cincinnati hadn’t done since 2009 — as Cincinnati sent Philadelphia to its most lopsided defeat of the season.
So what if it probably makes no difference in the long run? The Bengals (4-7-1) needed a win to soothe their souls.
“We’ve lost a lot of close games, and we’ve been tied,” rookie receiver Cody Core said. “Now everybody in the locker room is enjoying themselves, happy and smiling.”
Same old, same old for the Eagles (5-7) , who have dropped seven of nine after their 3-0 start. They couldn’t get to Andy Dalton, and they couldn’t get much out of an injury-depleted offense led by rookie quarterback Carson Wentz as Cincinnati pulled ahead 29-0.
“It’s my ninth year of supposedly not going to the playoffs,” cornerback Leodis McKelvin said. “How do you think we feel about this situation? Our goal is to get into the playoffs. As you can see right now, it’s not happening right now.”
The Bengals appear to have finally found their footing after losing receiver A.J. Green and running back Giovani Bernard to injuries. Dalton threw to nine receivers, spreading the ball around in a reconfigured offense. He finished 23 of 31 for 332 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a season-high passer rating of 130.
“We were in a better rhythm today,” Dalton said. “It just comes with time. We’ve got new guys in there. It was definitely a big improvement this week.”
Some takeaways from the Bengals’ lopsided win:
DALTON EMERGES: Dalton’s solid showing ended his streak of subpar games while he was under pressure. In the past four games, he threw four touchdowns and four interceptions. He also got sacked 10 times as the Bengals went 0-3-1.
“We gave him time and space, and he operated,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “When we give him the opportunity to find people, he always pays off.”
NUGENT’S STRUGGLES CONTINUE: Mike Nugent missed another point-after-touchdown kick wide to the right, his fourth miss in a span of five PAT tries. Nugent made field goals from 32, 33, 26 and 38 yards, the last one deflecting off the left upright. After he missed the extra-point kick, he was booed when he came on the field again for another kick. The Bengals have been patient with him to this point, noting there’s no other proven kicker available.
WENTZ’S GROWING PAINS: The second overall pick in the draft, Wentz became the first rookie in league history to throw at least one touchdown pass without an interception in each of his first three games. In the past five games, he has three touchdowns and eight interceptions.
“Teams have film on us and film on Carson,” coach Doug Pederson said. “They’ve attacked differently. It just all begins to kind of snowball. It gets us obviously in the situation we’re in.”
NO SACKS AGAIN: The Eagles came into the game determined to get to Dalton, but he wasn’t sacked. The Eagles got 20 sacks in the first six games, but have only six sacks in the past six games. This showing was especially frustrating because Dalton has been among the league leaders in getting sacked.
“We aren’t getting to the quarterback the way we should,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said.
“When teams have success at dinking and dunking us, they see the previous teams. It’s a copycat league. Teams are going to do that and get rid of the ball quick.”
LACK OF ENTHUSIASM: The Bengals sold only 55,456 tickets for the game, leaving more than 10,000 empty seats. It was by far their smallest crowd of the season.
A banner in the upper deck summed up the mood in Cincinnati: “Watch. Wince. Repeat.”
49ers 6, Bears 26
CHICAGO (AP) — Matt Barkley had a quick chat with his old coach after picking up his first career victory.
It was a sweet moment for a veteran quarterback — and not just because it came against Chip Kelly.
“We’re on good terms,” Barkley said. “I’m grateful for the fact that he brought me into this league. No hard feelings at all.”
Barkley shook off a slow start to throw for 192 yards, Jordan Howard ran for 117 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, and the Chicago Bears handed San Francisco its 11th straight loss, beating the 49ers 26-6 on a snowy Sunday.
The 49ers (1-11) extended their franchise-record losing streak and set a club low with 6 yards net passing on a day when Colin Kaepernick got lifted for Blaine Gabbert.
The Bears (3-9) finished with a season high in points and picked up a rare win in a matchup between two of the NFL’s worst teams.
Here are some things to know about the 49ers and Bears:
CONFIDENT QB: Barkley has not played much in the NFL. But he’s taking advantage of his opportunity with Jay Cutler out for the remainder of the season because of a shoulder injury and backup Brian Hoyer on injured reserve.
Barkley led a late comeback that ultimately fell short in last week’s loss to Tennessee. He got off to a rough start in this one, going nearly the entire first half without a completion. But he adjusted his arm angle because of the conditions, led a touchdown drive near the end of the second quarter and finished 11 of 18 without an interception.
“I thought he improved,” coach John Fox said.
It was a decent showing by a quarterback who was drafted by Philadelphia in 2013 when Kelly was coaching the Eagles. Barkley wasn’t a great fit for Kelly’s offense because he lacks mobility, and he wound up getting dealt to Arizona in 2015.
Now, his confidence is soaring.
“Probably at an all-time high in this league,” Barkley said. “Just knowing that I can play, that we can make plays as an offense.”
QUARTERBACK CHANGE: The 49ers benched Kaepernick for Gabbert early in the fourth quarter. Whether that was a temporary switch or a more long-term move isn’t clear.
The 49ers play the New York Jets next week, and Kelly wasn’t about to tip his hand.
Kaepernick, meanwhile, said the switch caught him off guard.
“It’s not my place to really argue on the sideline,” said Kaepernick, who found out from quarterbacks coach Ryan Day. “I want to make sure I do what I can to help this team win and that was the decision that was made so I am going to support my teammates.”
Kaepernick completed just 1 of 5 passes for 4 yards and was sacked five times. He also ran for 20 yards on six attempts before Gabbert replaced him in the fourth quarter.
Gabbert was 4 of 10 for 35 yards and sacked for a safety near the end of the game.
DRAFT BOARD: If there was one positive for the 49ers, it’s that they gave their odds of landing the No. 2 draft pick a boost. They also remain in the running for the No. 1 spot. Only the winless Browns have a worse record.
STINGY DEFENSE: Despite a long line of injuries and inconsistent play, the Bears’ defense has ranked among the top half in the NFL all season. And against the struggling 49ers, that group was nothing short of dominant.
The Bears got six sacks — two each from Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks — and gave up their lowest point total since a 41-3 romp over Jacksonville on Oct. 7, 2012.
RUNNING WITH IT: Howard continues to impress as a rookie.
The fifth-round draft pick out of Indiana has five 100-yard games and his three rushing TDs tied for the second most by a Bears rookie in a game. Willie Galimore (1957) and Rashaan Salaam (1995) also did it. The only Bears rookie to rush for more in a game was Hall of Famer Gale Sayers in 1965.
Howard, who came in with two rushing touchdowns, scored on a 1-yard run near the end of the first half. He added a 2-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the third and a 5-yard run midway through the quarter.
Broncos 20, Jaguars 10
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Denver Broncos designed the perfect game plan around rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch.
The Jacksonville Jaguars might want to try something similar with Blake Bortles.
Lynch played turnover-free football in his first road start, which is exactly what the Broncos (8-4) needed to beat the mistake-prone Jaguars 20-10 on Sunday and gain ground in the AFC playoff picture.
Bortles can’t say the same. His three turnovers were pretty much the difference in a defensive game that featured 19 punts and two offensive touchdowns.
Bradley Roby picked off Bortles’ wobbly pass over the middle and returned it 51 yards for a score and a 17-3 lead in the third quarter. Bortles also fumbled in the final minutes, essentially ending any chance the Jaguars (2-10) had of tying the game.
“It’s the biggest nightmare possible,” said Bortles, whose 37.9 quarterback rating was the worst of his career. “But what are you going to do about it? You can’t sit there in a corner and pout. You can’t blame people. You can’t feel sorry for yourself because I think all that’s going to do is affect the way I play. … All you can do is put your head down and continue to play as hard as you can and prepare each week.”
The Jaguars dropped their seventh consecutive game and fell to 0-5 at home, one reason EverBank Field was filled with orange jerseys. Coach Gus Bradley’s team will try to end the slide next week against Minnesota.
The Broncos rebounded from an overtime loss against Kansas City, and with Miami losing at Baltimore, moved into position to get one of the conference’s wild-card spots. With games against New England, Kansas City and Oakland looming, coach Gary Kubiak’s team probably needs to win at Tennessee next week to bolster its postseason chances.
Starting quarterback Trevor Siemian hopes to return against the Titans.
If not, the Broncos know they can win with Lynch. He completed 12 of 24 passes for 104 yards and was sacked twice. His only really questionable throw was a deep ball to Emmanuel Sanders that safety Tashaun Gipson should have intercepted.
“We came into the game knowing we had a shot if we didn’t turn the ball over, especially when you have a defense as good as you have on the other side of the ball,” Lynch said. “You always have a chance to stay in the game as long as you don’t hurt yourself, and that’s what we did. It wasn’t pretty, but we still came out with the win.”
The Broncos scored all 20 points with help from Jacksonville, including 10 points off turnovers and 10 points thanks partly to two 15-yard penalties.
Denver was 1 for 13 on third downs and finished with just 206 yards, the fewest allowed in Bradley’s four-year tenure. It was the franchise’s fewest since giving up 146 yards in a victory against Baltimore in 2011.
Here are some other things to know about the Broncos and Jaguars:
SELF-DESTRUCTION: Bortles now has more pick-6s (11) than victories (10) in his NFL career. It’s a huge problem for the Jaguars, who continue to be ultra-loyal to the 2014 first-round draft pick. It was his third pick-6 in the last four games. Houston and Detroit also returned interceptions for touchdowns in games the Jaguars lost by less than seven points.
“He scrambled for a touchdown, so you can see how elusive he is,” Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. “I was more worried about him running out of the pocket than throwing the ball.”
CLUTCH BRONCOS: Denver was gouged on the ground for 154 yards, but the defense made several game-changing plays. Roby’s interception was the dagger. It was huge for the third-year pro who gave up a late touchdown to New Orleans two weeks ago, and surrendered an 11-yard catch on fourth-and-10 last week against the Chiefs.
“There was no way we were going to lose this game late like we did last week,” Roby said.
MISERABLE MILESTONE: The Jaguars became the fifth team in NFL history to post double-digit losses in six consecutive seasons, joining Tampa Bay (1983-94), Detroit (2001-06), Oakland (2003-09) and Cleveland (2008-13). Bradley’s career record fell to 14-46, the second-worst winning percentage for any NFL coach with at least 50 games of experience.
GOOD COMPANY: Chris Harris Jr.’s interception was his second of the year, giving him five consecutive seasons with multiple picks. He’s the fifth cornerback in the NFL to accomplish the feat, joining teammate Aqib Talib, Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, New York Giants’ Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Seattle’s Richard Sherman.
Texans 13, Packers 21
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — With snow falling at Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers were back in their element.
The Packers are back at .500 after beating Houston 21-13 on Sunday for their second straight win as they try to keep pace with Detroit in the NFC North.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns, Jordy Nelson had 118 yards receiving and a score, and Green Bay pulled away from the Texans with two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“Well, that was a good bad-weather win,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “A lot of fun to play in that type of atmosphere in Lambeau Field.”
The Packers (6-6) weathered wintry conditions, making just enough plays on the cold turf to even their record for the first time since they were 4-4 after losing to Indianapolis on Nov. 6. They’re two games back of division-leading Detroit after the Lions beat New Orleans on Sunday.
Brock Osweiler connected with DeAndre Hopkins for a 44-yard touchdown pass with 1:51 left to get within eight for Houston. Nick Novak missed the extra point, with footing slippery at Lambeau.
The Texans (6-6) had one last shot after the Packers failed to run out the clock. But Osweiler’s last-ditch pass-and-lateral play from Houston’s 12 with 4 seconds left failed, handing Houston its third straight loss.
“There’s not much a margin for error with our team, and we’ve got to do a better job in the fourth quarter,” coach Bill O’Brien said.
The Texans are tied with idle Tennessee and a half-game ahead of Indianapolis, which plays the New York Jets on Monday night, for the AFC South lead.
The Packers broke a 7-all tie when Rodgers found Nelson open in the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 12:42 left after Texans cornerback Charles James slipped on the turf.
Nelson, who missed last season with a knee injury, finished with eight catches.
“I don’t know how much more Jordy needs to prove,” McCarthy said. “He’s going through what every great player goes through in that first year back from major injury.”
Rodgers was 20 of 30. He looked OK after being limited in practice with a left hamstring injury, taking off for a couple runs, though he didn’t seem to have his usual mobility on the slippery turf.
Rodgers didn’t face much pressure in the first half against a Houston defense minus injured end Jadeveon Clowney. The Texans started getting more pressure on Rodgers in the second half.
“I don’t know if you ever come out better than you did coming in, but I feel good about where I’m at,” Rodgers said. “I had decent movement and didn’t do anything to create a major setback.”
Osweiler has faced heat for the Texans’ offensive struggles this season. He was composed in the second half in leading Houston on 10-play, 63-yard drive that ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Griffin on fourth-and-1 to tie it at 7 with 7:32 left in the third quarter.
Osweiler finished 22 of 35 for 202 yards.
“We’re tired of being close, we really are as a team. We’re all able to see it on the film every single week that we’re so close to turning that corner,” Osweiler said. “And if you’re tired of seeing it, we’re tired of living it.”
Randall Cobb had fun in the snow. The wide receiver did a snow angel in the end zone after a sliding, 9-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter that gave the Packers a 7-0 lead. In the third quarter, Ryan Griffin did a Lambeau Leap into the waiting arms of a group of Texans fans after his 6-yard touchdown catch on fourth-and-1 finished a 10-play, 63-yard drive to tie the game at 7.
Julius Peppers still packs a pass-rushing punch for the Packers. A sack of Osweiler on second-and-1 at the Houston 41 with 56 seconds left in the second quarter gave the 15-year veteran 142 1/2 for his career, snapping a tie for fifth on the career list with Michael Strahan. Chris Doleman is fourth on that list with 150 1/2.
Texans: WR Braxton Miller left with a shoulder injury after being driven to the cold turf by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the second quarter.
Packers: LB Jake Ryan left for a few series in the first half after appearing to aggravate an ankle injury that kept him out the previous two weeks. … LB Nick Perry, who leads the team with eight sacks, returned with his left hand heavily wrapped after missing most of the first half with the injury.
Chiefs 29, Falcons 28
ATLANTA (AP) — What a homecoming for Eric Berry.
A pick-6, a pick two and a victory he’ll never forget.
After Atlanta grabbed the lead with less than 5 minutes to go, Berry intercepted a 2-point conversion pass by Matt Ryan and returned it 99 yards to give Kansas City an improbable 29-28 triumph over the Falcons on Sunday.
There were plenty of tears, to be sure.
Berry grew up in suburban Atlanta and was playing in the city for the first time as a pro. His mother was in the stands at the Georgia Dome, cheering him on. But, most poignantly, this was where he returned for treatment after a mass found his chest near the end of the 2014 season turned out to beHodgkin’s lymphoma .
“The last time I came home during the season it was to get chemotherapy,” Berry said. “I take pride in a lot of things that people take for granted, so when opportunities come my way I just cherish them and try to make the most of them.”
Boy, did he ever.
In the final minute of the first half, Berry stepped in front of Ryan’s throw over the middle and returned that pick 37 yards for a touchdown that gave the Chiefs their first lead. After scoring, Berry found his mom — wearing his No. 29 jersey— and delivered her the ball. She blew him back a kiss.
“I just handed it to her and told her I’d be back,” he said.
“I shed a few tears before the game, I shed a few tears during the game and I shed a few after,” Berry added. “It was just a lot of emotions. I tried to contain them and let it show through my play.”
The Falcons, rallying from a 27-16 deficit, went ahead 28-27 on Ryan’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson with 4:32 remaining.
Atlanta decided to go for 2, looking to stretch the margin to a field goal. But Berry read it all the way , stepped in front of the tight end and took off the other way with no even close to him, providing the Chiefs with their winning margin.
It came after Denver stole a game in similar fashion last month, returning a blocked PAT for the winning points at New Orleans.
Atlanta is now tied atop the NFC South with Tampa Bay.
Ryan was clearly down after the game, knowing this was one that got away from the Falcons (7-5).
“A poor play on my part,” the quarterback said. “I was expecting combination coverage to the outside. Eric Berry did good job coming down off and going onto the tight end.”
Those weren’t the only backbreaking plays given up by the Falcons. On fourth-and-2 from their own 45, Kansas City faked a punt and snapped the ball directly to Albert Wilson , who played his college ball in the same stadium for Georgia State. Wilson burst up the middle for a 55-yard touchdown that extended Kansas City’s lead in the third quarter.
“I had a sense it would come down to the end, and it did,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “But I reminded the team that it never comes down to one play.”
Alex Smith completed 21 of 25 passes for 270 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown to Spencer Ware. Travis Kelce was Kansas City’s top receiver, hauling in eight passes for 140 yards.
Ryan was 22 of 34 for 297 yards, but his two huge mistakes doomed the NFC South-leading Falcons. Julio Jones hauled in seven passes for 113 yards, while Devonta Freeman had a couple of 1-yard touchdown runs.
Forty-one-year-old Matt Bryant closed out the first half with the second-longest field goal of his career for the Falcons, a 59-yarder that easily cleared the crossbar.
Bryant’s only longer field goal was a 62-yarder with Tampa Bay in 2006. He also tied Atlanta’s franchise record for longest field goal, first set by Morten Andersen in 1995.
The Falcons lost left tackle Jake Matthews to a left knee injury in the first half.
Trainers put a sleeve over the knee, and Matthews tested it out on the sideline with some runs and cuts. But he headed to the locker room just before halftime and didn’t return. Tom Compton finished out the game protecting Ryan’s blind side.
Kansas City’s leading receiver, Jeremy Maclin, missed his fourth straight game with a groin injury.
Chiefs: Return home for a huge Thursday night game against AFC West rival Oakland, the first of three straight games at Arrowhead Stadium before the season finale at San Diego.
Falcons: Travel to Los Angeles next Sunday to take on the Rams.
Dolphins 6, Ravens 38
BALTIMORE (AP) — John Harbaugh had been waiting the entire season for the Baltimore Ravens to put it all together in one memorable, outstanding performance.
His patience was rewarded Sunday.
The Ravens combined a record-setting passing day by Joe Flacco with a rugged defensive effort in a 38-6 rout of the Miami Dolphins.
“It was just a heck of a team victory,” Harbaugh said. “It’s something that’s been in our minds, our vision of how we played today as a team. It’s what we’re working for, and it’s nice to see it happen.”
Flacco threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns, and the Ravens (7-5) made it apparent early that Miami’s six-game winning streak would not make it to seven.
Baltimore built a 24-0 halftime lead behind the league’s second-ranked defense and Flacco, who went 27 for 34 for 258 yards and three scores.
That was enough to provide the Ravens with their fourth win in five games and at least a share of first place in the AFC North.
Flacco finished with a franchise-record 36 completions in 47 attempts, by far his most impressive outing in an uneven season. He entered with 11 TD passes and 10 interceptions.
“It feels good to throw four touchdown passes,” Flacco said, “but at the end of the day, what does it really matter? As long as we win, that’s what matters.”
Miami (7-5) didn’t score until Ryan Tannehill threw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter following a fumble recovery that started the drive at the Baltimore 8.
That made it 24-6, and Flacco answered with a 53-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman with 12:49 left.
Two of Flacco’s TD passes went to tight end Dennis Pitta, who’s enjoying a fine season in his return from a second hip surgery. Pitta had nine catches for 90 yards and leads Baltimore with 61 receptions, but he hadn’t reached the end zone since December 2013.
Tannehill went 29 for 40 for 226 yards and three interceptions. He was picked off only once during Miami’s six-game streak.
The Ravens scored a touchdown on their first possession for the second week in a row, moving 75 yards before Flacco connected with Terrance West for a 3-yard score.
Unlike last week, when Baltimore managed just one TD in a win over Cincinnati, the Ravens immediately built on their early advantage. Following a missed field goal by the Dolphins, Flacco deftly took Baltimore downfield before throwing a 13-yard touchdown pass to Pitta.
The drive was extended by Kenneth Dixon’s 10-yard run on a fourth-and-1.
Flacco capped an 18-play drive in the second quarter with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Pitta. The methodical march took up 8 minutes, 57 seconds.
Dolphins: “This was not one of our best performances,” coach Adam Gase said. “You can’t waste opportunities early in the game, especially on offense. We had nothing that really jump-started us. We just couldn’t make any plays.”
Ravens: “I thought Joe just played phenomenally well,” Harbaugh said. “Joe and the offensive line got the game balls in the locker room. I thought (Flacco’s) vision was phenomenal. He moved around and made plays on the run, guys made catch-and-run plays. It looked like we wanted it to look.”
NOWHERE TO RUN
Dolphins: Miami was limited to 62 yards rushing, its lowest output since gaining 51 in a loss to Tennessee on Oct. 9 — its last loss. Jay Ajayi was held to 61 yards on 12 carries.
Ravens: The Ravens split the handoffs. Dixon gained 56 yards on six attempts and West had 10 carries for 50 yards, including a 9-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker connected on a 55-yard field goal to end the first half. He’s 28 for 28 this season, with eight FGs of at least 50 yards. He’s also hit 35 in a row over two seasons.
Gase used a timeout an instant before Tucker banged his field goal try through the uprights. After the timeout, Tucker duplicated the feat.
Dolphins: LB Kiko Alonso (hand) missed part of the first half. … CB Tony Lippett was evaluated for a concussion and cleared in second quarter.
Ravens: CB Tavon Young (shoulder) left in the second quarter but returned after halftime.
Dolphins: Miami hosts Arizona next Sunday. The Dolphins have won three straight in the series after losing the first eight.
Ravens: A Monday night game in New England looms for the Ravens, 1-7 against the Patriots in the regular season. Harbaugh called it “our toughest challenge of the year.”
Bills 24, Raiders 38
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — In a dizzying 15-minute stretch of the second half, Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders took a big step toward ending their long playoff drought with a comeback that extend Buffalo’s stretch of futility yet another season.
Carr threw two touchdown passes to help Oakland rally from 15 points down with four straight touchdowns that gave the Raiders their sixth straight win, 38-24 over the Bills on Sunday.
The Raiders (10-2) scored 29 points in a span of 15:27 to climb out of a 24-9 hole, while the Bills went three-and-out on three straight possessions and then threw an interception by Tyrod Taylor that was forced by Khalil Mack.
Oakland outgained Buffalo 212-8 during that stretch behind its two big young stars Mack and Carr. The team’s top two picks in the 2014 draft have the Raiders positioned to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
“We feed of each other, that’s for sure,” Carr said. “You can always tell when someone makes a play, the stadium gets going, the momentum starts swinging. It’s a great thing. I say it all the time, but I’m glad they took him first. I’m glad he’s on my team. I’m glad we can help lead this team together, it’s really fun.”
The Bills’ playoff drought is the only active one longer than Oakland’s. Buffalo (6-4) hasn’t been to the postseason since 1999 and could have used a road win over a top team to strengthen its cause.
Instead, Buffalo is now two games behind Denver for the final wild-card spot in the AFC with only four games remaining.
“It’s pretty obvious we have to win the rest of them to even have a chance, so we’ll see what happens,” coach Rex Ryan said. “Thank goodness we have the next three at home. We have to win every one of them and we understand that.”
Here are some other takeaways:
GIVE IT AWAY: The Bills have been on a record pace protecting the ballbefore committing two key turnovers in the second half. After taking over at their own 4 midway through the fourth quarter trailing by six, Taylor was hit by Mack on the first play, leading to an interception by Nate Allen . Mack then sealed the game with a sack and fumble recovery with Buffalo driving late that was Buffalo’s eighth turnover of the season.
“I just felt like this is a game that we had in our hands that we let slip away,” running back LeSean McCoy said. “People will look at the scoreboard on their phone and they’ll think, ‘Wow. The Bills are the Bills. They lost.’ The game was closer than that. The game was in our hands, we just lost it.”
DANCING PUNTER: Raiders punter Marquette King took his dancing routine a step too far . King, who likes to show off following successful punts, celebrated after drawing a roughing the kicker penalty in the fourth quarter. He picked up the flag, did a few steps and tossed it to the ground, drawing his own personal foul for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“It’s definitely a teachable moment,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s not mean-spirited in what he’s doing. He’s having fun. He enjoys himself. He had the Pee Wee Herman out there today. I saw that. I got a giggle. He’s enjoying himself. Now, right there, he just didn’t realize you can’t do that. He was like, ‘Really? I couldn’t do that? Oh man. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Mr. Ref.'”
QUOTABLE: “Reminds me a little bit of a guy I played against named Barry Sanders. Just because he makes so many people miss. He has that ability to kind of hover a little bit and then accelerate. Not a lot of guys can do that.” — Del Rio on McCoy, who ran for 130 yards and added 61 more receiving.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Raiders have a quick turnaround before a division showdown at Kansas City on Thursday night. The Chiefs trail Oakland by one game in the division, but already beat the Raiders once this season and can control the tiebreaker with another win. The Bills host Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Giants 14, Steelers 24
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers have dished the flash of September for a decidedly more pragmatic approach in December.
Heavy doses of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
A dash of tight end Ladarius Green.
A defense that looks competent and maybe even a bit dangerous.
The Steelers will gladly sacrifice the style points for the substance they showed in a 24-14 win over the New York Giants on Sunday.
The result emphatically ended New York’s six-game winning streak and sent a message that Pittsburgh’s midseason funk appears to be firmly in the rearview mirror.
“I just think we’re finding our rhythm,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after his team allowed just 234 yards and picked off Eli Manning twice.
“I think we’re gaining continuity with the mix of guys who are playing. The young guys are growing up.”
A pivotal development for the Steelers (7-5), who have won three straight, each one a step up in class.
Two weeks ago it was a simple slump-buster in Cleveland.
On Thanksgiving, it was a decisive victory on the road in Indianapolis, albeit against a backup quarterback.
This time it was one of the league’s hottest teams, though New York (8-4) hardly looked like it at times while spoiling first-year coach Ben McAdoo’s homecoming.
McAdoo grew up an hour east of Heinz Field in Homer City, Pennsylvania. The team he faced on Sunday looked a bit like the one he idolized as a kid.
The Steelers dominated the line of scrimmage at times behind Bell’s 182 yards of total offense and prevented Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from ever really getting comfortable.
“We are who we are right now,” McAdoo said. “We need to go back to work. You can’t just flip a switch and have things change.”
The Steelers have reinvented themselves on the fly following a four-game slide that took all the shine off their high-flying 4-1 start.
Rather than try to overwhelm opponents with firepower they have put the ball in Bell’s hands and let him lead the way.
Bell touched the ball 35 times — 29 rushes and six receptions — and went over 100 yards rushing for the third straight game by churning for 118.
He did so against a defense that hadn’t allowed an opponent to reach the century mark since Adrian Peterson in Week 16 of last season.
“I just wanted to make sure that I kept running hard,” Bell said. “Then, in the fourth quarter, holes got a little bigger.”
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 289 yards and two touchdowns for Pittsburgh and Brown caught six passes for 54 yards, including an acrobatic scoring grab in the back of the end zone that put the Steelers up 11-0.
“It’s that time of year that we have to be our best self, offense, defense, special teams,” Roethlisberger said. “Everybody needs to just do their job, and I thought they did that tonight.”
Pittsburgh splurged in free agency on Green, hoping the 6-foot-6 tight end could fill the void left by Heath Miller’s retirement.
After a shaky start in which Green spent the first two months of the season recovering from various health concerns, he’s starting to look like money well earned. Green caught six passes for 110 yards and his first touchdown of the season .
“I’m not close to where I thought I would be, but I’m getting closer,” Green said. “I’m building a little more confidence every game.”
Beckham won the statistical battle with his good buddy Brown, catching 10 passes for 100 yards.
Yet Beckham was baffled by an exchange with an unspecified official after he drew an offensive pass interference flag in the first quarter, a call that eventually set up a Pittsburgh safety. Beckham said when he approached the official for clarity on why the call was made, he was told “get out of my face.”
“I don’t really understand that,” Beckham said. “That’s not really how I was raised.”
Giants: Played the second half without defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who left in the second quarter with a groin injury. Pierre-Paul said afterward he’s not sure of the severity of the injury and will be examined on Monday. New York also lost cornerback Coty Sensabaugh to a rib injury.
Steelers: Rookie nose tackle Javon Hargrave left in the first half because of a concussion. Safety Shamarko Thomas, recently recovered from a groin injury, sustained a concussion while covering a kickoff return in the first half.
Giants: host NFC East-leading Dallas next Sunday night. New York beat the Cowboys 20-19 in Week 1. Dallas has not lost since.
Steelers: head north to Buffalo next Sunday.
Buccaneers 28, Chargers 21
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are firmly in the playoff picture.
It’s been a long time since that’s happened.
“I’ve been here for five years and this is the first time we’ve been playing meaningful football in December, so I can’t lie to you, it is a great feeling,” Keith Tandy said after his interception sealed the Bucs’ fourth straight victory, 28-21 against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
“But we also know we have a lot of work to do, so we’ll take 24 hours to enjoy it and get back to work.”
The Bucs (7-5) pulled into a tie with Atlanta atop the NFC South.
Jameis Winston threw a go-ahead, 12-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Brate midway through the fourth quarter and Tandy intercepted Philip Rivers in the end zone with 2:56 left.
Tampa Bay hosts the Saints next Sunday. They finish with games at New Orleans, at Dallas and at home against Carolina.
As well as winning four straight, the Bucs have won four straight on the road.
Tandy was already past this one and ready for the next game.
“I’ve never played meaningful football in December, so I’m ready to get on and see how it feels,” he said.
Here are some takeaways from the Bucs’ win:
Since winning the Super Bowl here in January 2003 with a rout of the Oakland Raiders, the Bucs have been back to the playoffs only twice, losing in the wild-card round both times. They’ve missed the playoffs the last eight years.
“We’re having fun, and when you have fun good things happen,” rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves said. “Hopefully we can keep this streak going and see where it takes us.’
Rivers threw two second-half interceptions, including Lavonte David’s pick-6.
Hargreaves had a hand in both pickoffs.
He tipped the ball that David plucked out of the air and returned 15 yards for a 17-14 lead late in the third quarter.
After Winston’s go-ahead TD pass to Brate and a 2-point conversion pass to Mike Evans, Rivers had the Chargers on the move in the final minutes. Hargreaves hollered out what route to look for. Tandy got in front of a pass to Dontrelle Inman along the right sideline and picked it off.
Tandy’s momentum carried him into the end zone, giving the Bucs the ball on their 20. They were able to run out the clock.
Tandy said the defense made adjustments at halftime and came out fired up.
“We didn’t have the energy we had the last couple of weeks. So that’s all we kept talking about,” Tandy said. “You could hear guys going, ‘Let’s get the energy back. Let’s get the energy back and let’s keep punching.’ ”
The Chargers (5-7) were trying to get back to .500 for the first time since Week 2. They remain buried in the AFC West basement and have all but assured themselves of missing the playoffs for the third time in coach Mike McCoy’s four seasons and for the sixth time in seven seasons.
In his last home game, Rivers was intercepted four times in the fourth quarter of a 31-24 loss to Miami.
“We’ve had a handful like this, not necessarily exactly losing them this way, but we have had our chances to win and we haven’t gotten it done,” Rivers said.
“You can’t turn it over twice. Can’t turn it over, one for a touchdown and the other in that situation.”
Tampa Bay benefited from a short punt by Drew Kaser to start the winning drive on its 46. Winston found Brate for the TD on the fourth play of the drive, with 9:01 to play, and then hit Evans on a conversion pass for a 28-21 lead.
Winston was 20 of 30 for 280 yards, with one TD and one pickoff.
Winston was intercepted by Casey Hayward on Tampa Bay’s first possession, but Josh Lambo was wide left on a 53-yard field goal try. Winston then led the Bucs on a drive capped by Doug Martin’s 2-yard touchdown run on a great second effort.
Tampa Bay wide receiver Cecil Shorts III was taken off the field on a cart after sustaining a knee injury on a hard hit by San Diego’s Jahleel Addae following a catch on the Bucs’ first possession. Shorts was tended to for a few minutes and then put on the cart. The entire Buccaneers team came out near the cart, and several of the players slapped hands with the wide receiver. Shorts pumped a fist toward his teammates as he was driven off.
Tampa Bay also lost WR Adam Humphries with a concussion and tight end Luke Stocker with an ankle injury.
Redskins 23, Cardinals 31
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — “No risk it, no biscuit” was back for the Arizona Cardinals.
So was the big play.
The result was a much-needed 31-23 victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
Carson Palmer threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns and David Johnson scored twice on another dynamic afternoon for the second-year running back.
“I think he’s the best player in the NFL,” Palmer said. “Point blank.”
The loss by the Redskins (6-5-1) clinched a playoff spot for the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys (11-1).
Palmer’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Johnson with 11:09 to play put Arizona ahead 24-20, the fourth lead change of the second half.
The big gamble came when, leading 24-20, Arizona went for it on fourth-and-1 at its 34-yard line.
“I was shocked,” Palmer said. “I was ready to jog off the field.”
But Johnson ripped off a 14-yard run and, moments later, when most teams would just try to run out the clock, Palmer threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to J.J. Nelson that gave the Cardinals (5-6-1) a 31-23 lead with 1:56 to play.
“I’ve had a few drops,” Nelson said. “And with that opportunity to ice the game and get in the end zone, I thought ‘I can’t miss this opportunity.'”
Such long passes have been few and far between for an Arizona team that routinely pulled them off in its 13-3 season a year ago.
“We finally found a big play at the end that we needed desperately,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said, “because I didn’t want to play for a three-point game. We wanted to play for that eight-point win. And sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but if you don’t try, you don’t ever win.”
Washington drove to the Arizona 28-yard line before Patrick Peterson’s interception of Kirk Cousins’ pass with 41 seconds left sealed the victory.
Johnson, who also scored on a 1-yard run, became the second player in NFL history to top 100 yards from scrimmage in the first 12 games of a season. Edgerrin James was the other.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be around two pretty good backs,” Arians said. “Actually three, but Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James aren’t too shabby when they were young, and he reminds me a lot of those two guys.”
Johnson carried the ball 18 times for 84 yards and caught nine passes for another 91.
Cousins completed 21 of 37 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown. His 59-yard pass to DeSean Jackson on the first series of the second half set up his 1-yard touchdown sneak.
In the third quarter, Cousins was stripped of the ball by Calais Campbell, and Markus Golden returned the fumble 20 yards to set up Palmer’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd.
“I don’t know if it is my job to really put a grade on my performance,” Cousins said. “It is up and down. Each play has its own reason on why things happen. It is hard to give a blanket statement to summarize it.”
That gave Arizona a 17-13 lead. The Redskins came right back. Cousins threw to a wide-open Jamison Crowder on a 26-yard touchdown to put Washington back on top, 20-17, with 1:06 left in the third quarter.
The Cardinals avoided what would have been the team’s first three-game losing streak since Arians came to the desert four seasons ago.
“We came out flat to start the game,” Washington defensive end Chris Baker said. “They go down and have a 15-play drive and then we get the ball back on offense and have two false starts. Against a good team like Arizona, you can’t come out flat like that.”
Palmer, in one of his best games of the season, completed 30 of 46 for 300 yards despite constant pressure behind a patchwork offensive line .
Josh Norman saved one touchdown by breaking up a pass intended for Floyd.
Larry Fitzgerald caught 10 passes for 78 yards, moving past Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison into third on the NFL’s career receptions list.
“It’s great,” Fitzgerald said. “The most thing I’m happy about is it came in a winning effort. … It’s always nice to climb up a little bit higher, but it’s humbling to know that I’m still 400 catches behind Jerry Rice.”
He also became the youngest player in NFL history to top 1,100 catches.
Redskins center Spencer Long left the game early to be evaluated for a concussion and did not return.
Washington was without standout tight end Jordan Reed and Arizona didn’t have do-everything defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. Both have shoulder injuries.
Redskins: Washington returns to NFC East play with a game at Philadelphia next Sunday.
Cardinals: Arizona travels across the country to face Miami on Sunday.
Panthers 7, Seahawks 40
SEATTLE (AP) — Behind Thomas Rawls bouncing off and through tacklers and a big-play punch from Tyler Lockett, the Seattle Seahawks rediscovered their offensive star power on Sunday night.
It came at a significant cost to their defense.
Rawls ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Lockett took a reverse 75 yards for a score to open the second half and the Seahawks routed the Carolina Panthers 40-7 on Sunday night.
The victory was clouded by the loss of standout safety Earl Thomas for the rest of the regular season at least to a broken tibia in the first half. While coach Pete Carroll did not have a timeline, he expected the injury to be six weeks at the minimum.
“Earl’s been a fixture here for a long time. He’s missed two games in his life playing football in the last couple of weeks. We’re going to miss him enormously,” Carroll said.
Another prime-time game in Seattle was provided with odd story lines right from the outset when Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was benched for the first play, only to watch backup Derek Anderson throw an interception . It was the start of miserable night for Carolina (4-8) and a laugher that moved Seattle (8-3-1) one step closer to the NFC West title.
“I think there was a lack of communication on my part. I think I have to be accountable to know certain things,” Newton said.
Rawls and the run game set the tone for Seattle, gashing the second-best run defense in the NFL for 240 yards. Carolina entered the week giving up less than 80 yards per game on the ground.
Rawls finished with 106 yards on 15 carries, quiet in the second half after briefly being checked for a concussion. He was just the second 100-yard rusher for the Seahawks, who have struggled on the ground this season. Rawls’ 8-yard run gave Seattle an early 10-0 lead and his 45-yard sprint early in the second quarter pushed it to 17-7.
“I have to let it come to me and then take it after I get past those big boys,” Rawls said. “The guys up front did a tremendous job. They were phenomenal.”
Russell Wilson was 26 of 36 for 277 yards and a 1-yard scoring pass to Jimmy Graham in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks rolled up a season-high 534 yards and kept a three-game lead over Arizona in the division with four games remaining.
Thomas broke the bone in a first-half collision with teammate Kam Chancellor while trying to intercept Newton’s pass. Thomas hobbled off, putting no weight on the leg, and X-rays revealed the fracture.
“You can’t really tell where people are. We were both trying to make a play,” Chancellor said. “It’s hard to see your brother go down like that.”
On the play after Thomas’ injury, Newton hit Ted Ginn Jr. on a 55-yard touchdown pass to pull the Panthers to 10-7. It would be the only highlight for Carolina.
Rawls immediately answered, darting through the Carolina defense for a45-yard touchdown run and a 17-7 lead. Steven Hauschka added two more field goals before halftime and Lockett raced 75 yards on a reverse on the first play of the second half. In less than 10 minutes of game time, Seattle extended the lead to 30-7.
“I think I finally got to hit that extra gear that I’ve been waiting on,” Lockett said.
Newton’s benching was for a dress code violation — he did not have a necktie for the team flight — and the single play he missed could not have gone worse. Anderson rolled out to throw a pass to Mike Tolbert. It bounced off Tolbert’s hands and into the arms of Mike Morgan, a disastrous result for that only added to questions about coach Ron Rivera’s intention with the punishment.
Newton finished 14 of 32 for 182 yards.
“I treat him like I do all the other players on the team and he didn’t start,” Rivera said.
It was seventh meeting in the past five years between the Seahawks and Panthers, playoffs included. It was the first time of the seven the game was decided by more than 14 points. Five of the previous six were decided by seven points or fewer. The biggest win during the stretch was Seattle’s 31-17 win in the 2014 playoffs.
Carolina’s injury list grew again.
The Panthers were already without starters Kurt Coleman and Luke Kuechly (concussions) and defensive end Mario Addison (foot) on defense, and right tackle Daryl Williams (ankle) on offense. Carolina then lost cornerback Daryl Worley and linebacker David Mayo to concussions against the Seahawks.
One of the most emotional players on Seattle’s roster, Thomas hinted at retirement in a tweet sent just before halftime.
“This game has been so good to me no regrets. A lot is running through my mind including retirement thanks for all the prayers,” Thomas tweeted from the Seattle locker room.
Thomas missed the first game of his career last week at Tampa Bay due to a hamstring injury.
Panthers: Carolina returns home and hosts San Diego.
Seahawks: Seattle travels to Green Bay.
Colts 41, Jets 10
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Andrew Luck was nearly perfect in his return from a concussion, throwing for four touchdowns, three to Dwayne Allen, in the Indianapolis Colts’ 41-10 romp Monday night past the inept New York Jets.
Not that Luck had to work very hard against the hosts, who were booed by a much-less-than-filled MetLife Stadium almost from the outset.
Luck missed last week’s loss to Pittsburgh, cleared the NFL’s concussion protocol on the weekend, and came back in style with a prime-time performance. He lifted Indianapolis (6-6) into a tie for the lead in the AFC South with Tennessee and Houston.
Allen and T.Y. Hilton were his main targets as he went 22 of 28 for 278 yards, and they received little opposition from the Jets (3-9).
This one couldn’t have come easier for Indianapolis. The Colts toyed with the lifeless Jets from the beginning, when New York’s Jeremy Ross got to only his 11-yard line with the opening kickoff return. A three-and-out gave Luck the ball, and seven plays later, he hit a wide-open Allen for a 7-0 edge.
Indy needed only four plays on its next series, with Allen even more open for a 21-yard reception to make it 14-0. At that juncture, the Colts had gained 120 yards, the Jets 6.
Those figures wound up 421 to 250. Indy scored its most points since Week 13 of 2014; the Jets allowed their most since Week 8 of that season.
The Jets (3-9) finally found some spark after Pat McAfee’s punt was downed at their 3. Matt Forte turned a short pass into a 40-yard gain with a nasty move on Rashaan Melvin, but that drive stalled and Nick Folk made a 38-yard field goal.
That temporarily quieted the boobirds in the stadium. But Luck hit Hilton for 23 yards on Indy’s next play, Gore ran for 19 and Adam Vinatieri kicked a 53-yard field goal to make it 17-3.
And when Allen set a career best with this third TD reception on a perfect 23-yard throw from Luck, the rout was on.
Donte Moncrief added a 3-yard touchdown, the sixth straight game he has caught one. Hilton continually victimized cornerback Darrelle Revis and other Jets DBs, making nine catches for 146 yards. Hilton went over 1,000 yards for the fourth time in his five pro seasons.
New York has lost four in a row and is 1-5 at home. Its performance Monday night can’t be of any help to coach Todd Bowles, who led the Jets to a 10-6 mark a year ago in his first season in charge.
The Colts barely missed being up 31-3 at the half. Jack Doyle lost the ball while reaching for the pylon late in the second quarter, resulting in a touchback.
WHO’S THE QB?
Bowles replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick (5 for 12, 81 yards, one interception) with Bryce Petty to start the second half. Didn’t matter at all.
VP IN THE HOUSE
Vice President-elect Mike Pence was a guest of Jets owner Woody Johnson. He didn’t see much of a game.
MOMENT OF SILENCE
The Jets held a moment of silence before the game to honor former running back Joe McKnight, killed last Thursday in Louisiana. Authorities said McKnight, 28, was shot during a road rage incident.
McKnight had a 107-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in 2011, and it stands as the longest play in Jets history.
Colts: LB D’Qwell Jackson left in the fourth quarter with a neck injury. RG Denzelle Good left in the first half with a concussion.
Jets LB Julian Stanford hurt his ankle in the third quarter and S Antonio Allen sustained a head injury in the final period. C Nick Mangold returned from a four-game hiatus because of a sprained ankle.
The Colts host Houston in a first-place division showdown.
The Jets visit San Francisco, quite possibly with Petty as their starting quarterback.