Demarus Dye| BKD TV Insiders
Here is a recap of Week 15 of the 2018 NFL Season with a Tuesday Morning QB & thanks again to AP Sports/ Pro 32 for photos & articles.
Chargers 29, Chiefs 28
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Arrowhead Stadium was already emptying by the time Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers jogged to the locker room, triumphantly waving his hand as a satisfying cascade of boos washed over him.
He had finally beaten the Kansas City Chiefs.
It sounded perfect.
Rivers led Los Angeles on a feverish fourth-quarter comeback Thursday night, capped by a debatable pass-interference call, a tense video review of the last touchdown and the gutsy decision to try a 2-point conversion. And for the first time in years against Kansas City, everything turned out perfectly for Rivers and the Chargers in a 29-28 victory that clinched their playoff spot.
“This was big. Here or at home, whatever,” Rivers said, “we needed to beat these guys.”
The Chargers (11-3) trailed 28-14 when Justin Jackson’s touchdown run with 3:49 to go gave them a chance. They quickly got the ball back from Patrick Mahomes and the NFL’s highest-scoring offense, and Rivers led a tense final drive that included a fourth-down dart to Travis Benjamin to keep it alive.
That crucial penalty on Kendall Fuller in the back of the end zone gave the Chargers the ball at the 1, and Rivers found Mike Williams along the sideline on the next play. And when his TD catch with 4 seconds left was confirmed, coach Anthony Lynn sent his offense back onto the field.
Williams hauled in the conversion to end five years’ worth of frustration.
“We didn’t come here to tie. We came here to win. So to me it was a no-brainer,” said Lynn, whose team became the first since Minnesota in Week 15 of the 2002 season to win with a 2-point conversion in the final 10 seconds of regulation.
The comeback allowed Los Angeles to forge a first-place tie in the AFC West, though the Chiefs (11-3) hold the tiebreaker with a better division record. More satisfying was the simple fact that Rivers and the Chargers had finally snapped their nine-game losing streak against Kansas City.
They hadn’t beaten the Chiefs since 2013, the last year they made the playoffs.
“Oh, it’s satisfying,” Benjamin said. “We talked about it. We knew it had been a couple years and we wanted to go into this game and change that and we did.”
Rivers threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions, and Williams had seven catches for 76 yards and two scores while adding another on the ground. Jackson ran for 58 yards and a touchdown in place of the injured Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler.
Mahomes was held to just 243 yards and two touchdowns for Kansas City, and his inability to pick up a first down in the closing minutes proved costly. The Chiefs forced the Chargers to burn two timeouts on their last drive, but Mahomes was sacked by Isaac Rochell and Kansas City had to punt.
The Chiefs never got the ball back on offense.
“They found a way to win and we didn’t,” Mahomes said. “You have to find a way in this league.”
Hyped by the return of star safety Eric Berry, it looked for a while as if the Chiefs would simply resume their vexation of Rivers at Arrowhead. Steven Nelson leaped to snag a jump ball for a pick on the second play of the game, and Rivers tossed another just before halftime.
Mahomes and Co. took advantage of their early momentum.
Kansas City breezed downfield after Nelson’s interception, and the young MVP candidate threw a dart to Demarcus Robinson — while in the grasp of Chargers safety Adrian Phillips — for a 7-0 lead.
Then after a punt, Darrel Williams took a screen pass for his first career touchdown.
The Chargers finally reached the end zone in the second quarter, when Mike Williams caught a short TD pass. But it came moments after wide receiver Keenan Allen hurt his hip while trying to make a leaping grab in the corner of the end zone — he briefly returned before sitting out the rest of the game.
Mike Williams continued to pick up the slack the rest of the game.
After the Chiefs pushed their lead to 21-7 on Damien Williams’ touchdown run, the Chargers’ big, rangy wide receiver answered with a 19-yard end-around for a score. And when then Chiefs went on another methodical scoring drive to take a 28-14 lead with just over 8 minutes left in the game, Mike Williams helped to lead the Chargers to an answering touchdown to stay in the game.
He made two more big catches in the final seconds to put them over the top.
“Everybody needed to come together and make plays,” Mike Williams said, “and that’s what we did.
TONY G’S AWARD
The Chiefs added TE Tony Gonzalez to their Hall of Fame at halftime. The six-time All-Pro played his first 12 seasons with the Chiefs before finishing his career in Atlanta. His name was unveiled next to that of WR Carlos Carson on the ring of honor inside Arrowhead Stadium.
Gordon (knee) tried to warmup before telling Lynn he couldn’t play, joining Ekeler (concussion) on their inactive list. The Chiefs were missing RB Spencer Ware (hamstring) and WR Sammy Watkins (foot).
Chargers: Allen received treatment on the sideline after nearly making his spectacular TD catch, and he returned briefly before slowly walking off. He left for the locker room and did not return.
Chargers: Return home for a prime-time game against the Ravens on Dec. 22.
Chiefs: Visit the Seahawks for another prime-time game Dec. 23.
Texans 29, Jets 22
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Houston Texans were trailing late and facing a second straight loss after a nine-game winning streak.
Deshaun Watson wasn’t having it.
The cool-headed, playmaking quarterback threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins with 2:15 left, lifting the Texans to a 29-22 victory over Sam Darnold and the New York Jets on Saturday night.
“It doesn’t surprise me that he’s able to stay controlled in those situations,” Hopkins said about Watson. “He’s done that before in big games in his career. On the sideline, everyone was composed. Nobody panicked.”
And no one was more in control than Watson.
“The game is never over for me,” he said. “The plays are never over sometimes. I just go out there with the ball in my hands, put the load on my shoulders and lead the team to victory. I’ve been doing that my whole life and I have to continue to do that at this level.
“Every game comes down to a final drive. You’ve got to be able to block out all the noise, lock in and try to lead the team to victory.”
After Darnold and the Jets took their first lead of the game on Elijah McGuire’s 2-yard touchdown run, the Texans (10-4) answered right back.
A holding call on cornerback Morris Claiborne on third down prolonged the drive, and Watson completed passes of 20 and 3 yards to Demaryius Thomas and 7 yards to Hopkins to get to New York’s 14. Watson then found Hopkins streaking down the left sideline and launched a pass that the receiver somehow came down with despite being tightly covered by Claiborne.
“I wouldn’t want any other quarterback in this entire universe other than him,” Hopkins said. “The things he can do, staying in the pocket after taking hits and deliver balls on the money — not a lot of quarterbacks can do that.”
Hopkins rolled an ankle on the play, and Watson and Alfred Blue helped him to the sideline as the Texans celebrated. The receiver was OK, though, and finished with 10 catches for 170 yards and two TDs.
Watson finished 22 of 28 for 294 yards and the two scores to Hopkins.
Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 40-yard field goal — his fifth kick of the game — made it 29-22 with 54 seconds left. Darnold and the Jets (4-10) had one more opportunity to try to tie —or win— but Houston held on.
“To go out there against a good Texans team, it would’ve been awesome to be able to get that win,” Darnold said, “but we just came up short.”
The loss ruined what was a terrific night for Darnold, who made plays with his arm and legs all game. The No. 3 overall pick was 24 of 38 for 253 yards and touchdown passes to Robby Anderson and Andre Roberts. He set up an impressive 15-play, 73-yard go-ahead drive late during which he converted three third-down plays and a fourth-down opportunity.
On third-and-10 from the 19, Darnold took off for 14 yards — and a holding call on Aaron Colvin put the ball on the 2. After Darnold was stopped for no gain on a quarterback draw, he handed the ball to McGuire who pushed up the middle — surrounded by a surging mass of blockers who helped shove him all the way into the end zone for the score.
It set off a wild celebration by the Jets. But Watson and the Texans still had their own comeback in store.
“Thank God he’s our quarterback,” coach Bill O’Brien said.
With New York trailing 16-3, Darnold gave the Jets some life just before halftime with a terrific drive during which he made plays with his legs — a 10-yard run on third-and-3 — and arm — passes of 16 yards to Chris Herndon and 26 to Anderson. On first-and-goal from the 5, Darnold scrambled a bit before stepping up in the pocket and zipping a pass to Anderson for a touchdown to make it a 16-9 game.
But, Jason Myers then missed his second extra point of the season — and 14th of his career.
Darnold picked up where he left off in the first half, leading the Jets on another touchdown drive, capping another impressive possession with a 13-yard toss to Andre Roberts. Darnold kept the drive alive on third-and-10 from the Jets 40 with a laser-like throw to Anderson for 20 yards.
Myers followed by missing his second straight extra point as Houston remained ahead 16-15.
“The first one, I just pushed a little bit,” Myers said. “The second one, I thought I hit it good, but just kind of fell left on me.”
Texans: RB Lamar Miller left with an ankle injury in the second quarter and didn’t return, but O’Brien didn’t think “it’s major.” Miller was initially hurt early in the first quarter when he went down after a 1-yard run. He returned on Houston’s next possession, but left again early in the second quarter. He had 8 yards on three carries. … NT Brandon Dunn left with an ankle injury and didn’t return.
Jets: RT Brandon Shell was carted off the field early in the third quarter with a knee injury. He was blocking during a passing play when left guard Spencer Long rolled into his left leg. Coach Todd Bowles said Shell would have an MRI on Sunday. … WR Rishard Matthews left with a hamstring injury.
GETTING TO THE QB
Henry Anderson had three of the Jets’ six sacks of Watson. It marked the first time New York had six or more since it had seven against Buffalo on Nov. 2, 2017.
Texans: at Philadelphia on Dec. 23.
Jets: home vs. Green Bay on Dec. 23.
Browns 17, Broncos 16
DENVER (AP) — Whether it was “The Fumble” or “The Drive” in the playoffs in the 1980s or the 11 consecutive times Denver had dumped Cleveland, the Broncos always served as the Browns’ biggest bugaboo.
With John Elway watching from his suite at Mile High Stadium, Baker Mayfield capitalized on Denver’s depleted cornerback corps and dubious coaching decisions in leading the Browns past the Broncos 17-16 on Saturday night.
Mayfield’s 2-yard TD toss to Antonio Callaway with just under 12 minutes left provided the winning margin for the Browns (6-7-1), who kept alive their slim hopes of ending the NFL’s longest playoff drought.
The Browns still have a shot at their first winning season since 2007 and even their first playoff berth since 2002 thanks to their first win over Denver (6-8) since 1990.
“I think the tough environment, winning on the road’s the most important thing,” Mayfield said. “If we don’t take care of business tonight — and obviously we have to move on and take care of business next week — none of that matters.
“So, being able to win on the road is something we’ve got to take pride in.”
Combined with their win at Cincinnati last month, the Browns have multiple road victories for the first time since 2014.
Callaway’s touchdown made it 17-13 and came with safety Justin Simmons in coverage because the Broncos were down five cornerbacks.
The Broncos responded with a 13-play drive that ate up more than seven minutes, but after Phillip Lindsay was stuffed for no gain on third-and-1 from the Cleveland 6, Broncos coach Vance Joseph sent in kicker Brandon McManus for a field goal instead of going for it on fourth down.
Jabrill Peppers, for one, was surprised the Broncos didn’t try for the first down or the end zone.
“Absolutely. Absolutely. But, hey, it worked out in our favor,” Peppers said. “We’d been stopping them all day and they didn’t want to come away with nothing.”
“I wanted points there,” Joseph explained. “We had about 4:35 left. We had one timeout and the 2-minute warning. I trust our defense to get a stop there.”
It didn’t happen, at least not right away.
Nick Chubb reeled off a 40-yard run on the first play.
“We can’t let that happen,” Von Miller said.
But the Broncos came up with a big stop on fourth-and-1 from the Denver 10 when Cleveland interim coach Gregg Williams went for it — and Chubb was dropped for a 2-yard loss by Adam Gotsis.
“We came up here to win a ballgame,” Williams said. “I don’t think anybody’s worried about me not being aggressive and we came up here to win it. Offensively we were going to win it right there. If not, defensively we’re going to come back and do it. Pretty similar going all-out blitz the last several plays. That’s the aggressive nature of the team.”
The Broncos got the ball back at their 13 with 1:49 remaining and reached the 50-yard line with 52 seconds left. But a spike, two incompletions and a sack by defensive back Peppers of Case Keenum all but ended Denver’s playoff hopes.
Keenum said he wanted the Broncos to go for it on fourth down at the Cleveland 6 but added that ultimately, Joseph’s decision worked out, despite the loss.
“I can’t complain,” Keenum said, “because I’ve got the ball back in my hands with a chance to win the game. So, that’s all I can ask for.”
The Broncos began the night with cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Isaac Yiadom sidelined and they lost Brendan Langley to a concussion in the first half and newly signed Jamar Taylor to an ejection in the second half on the same play Bradley Roby went out with a laceration in his mouth. Roby later returned.
With safety Dymonte Thomas, who had his first career interception in the first half, subbing at cornerback, Miller broke Simon Fletcher’s franchise record of 103½ sacks, including playoffs.
Denver’s depleted defense, however, was forced right back out onto the field when Keenum’s first-down heave was easily picked off by T.J. Carrie at the Broncos 48, after just eight seconds had ticked off the game clock.
“I didn’t see the corner,” Keenum acknowledged. “And it’s not an excuse. But it’s ultimately what lost us the football game because they went out and scored right after that.”
Six plays later, Mayfield put the Browns ahead for good.
Langley went out in the first half and Roby in the second. Combined with Taylor’s ejection — he was signed after Harris fractured his right fibula two weeks ago — and the Broncos were left scrambling in their secondary.
Browns: Host Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 23.
Broncos: Visit Oakland Raiders on Christmas Eve.
Dolphins 17, Vikings 41
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Dalvin Cook had a career-high 136 yards and two touchdowns on a season-high 19 carries for Minnesota as the Vikings recommitted themselves to running the ball. They stayed in control of a spot in the playoffs with a 41-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
Latavius Murray added 68 rushing yards and a score on 15 of the team’s season-high 40 attempts. The Vikings (7-6-1) converted each of their first three drives under interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski into touchdowns before turning the game over to the defense.
Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter each had two of the nine sacks of Ryan Tannehill, totaling 71 lost yards for the Dolphins (7-7). Miami came crashing down from the euphoria of defeating New England with that double-lateral 69-yard score on the final play last week.
Minkah Fitzpatrick returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and Kalen Ballage scored on a 75-yard run on the first snap of the second half to bring the Dolphins within 21-17. But on their next five possessions they netted a staggering minus-27 yards on 16 plays.
Tannehill finished 11 for 24 for 108 yards as the Dolphins took just their fifth loss in the last 17 games he has started and saw their wild-card bid in the AFC take an even bigger hit. New England clinched the AFC East with the Miami loss.
Though Chicago won the NFC North by beating Green Bay, the Vikings moved a critical step closer to returning to the postseason. With enough help, they could clinch the second wild-card spot next week.
Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes to Stefon Diggs and Aldrick Robinson while going 14 for 21 for 215 yards for the Vikings. Miami gave up 30-plus points for a sixth game this season and 400-plus yards for the ninth time this year.
The Vikings were held under 285 total yards at Seattle last week for the fourth time in their last five games and limped home with their record back to even. So coach Mike Zimmer made a last-ditch move to try to salvage the season by firing first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and promoting Stefanski to replace him.
The spark Zimmer was seeking was immediate, with the Vikings settling in nicely at home after two rough weeks on the road. They needed only 19 plays, keeping the ball on the ground 12 times, to cross the goal line on each of their first three possessions. Cousins, who has operated out of the shotgun for the majority of the season, was mostly under center while completing his first seven passes with a heavy dose of play-action.
With 202 yards, the Vikings gained the highest first-quarter total in the NFL in a season filled with prolific production nearly everywhere. It was their most points in the opening 15 minutes since a 28-point output on Oct. 9, 2011, against Arizona.
The special teams were sharp as ever for Minnesota, too, with Dan Bailey making all five of his extra points and both field-goal tries. Marcus Sherels set up one of those kicks with a 70-yard punt return and totaled 116 yards on five returns.
Dolphins: Frank Gore, the NFL’s active rushing leader, hurt his left ankle on the second-to-last play of the first quarter and didn’t return. … Fitzpatrick, the first-round pick who was drafted as a safety, started at CB for Xavien Howard for the second straight game. Howard, who entered the week tied for the league lead with seven interceptions, has a knee injury. … Backup DT Ziggy Hood (hamstring) limped off the field at the end of the third quarter.
Vikings: Backup TE David Morgan (knee) returned from a four-game absence. CB Trae Waynes (concussion) was back after missing the last game.
Dolphins: Host Jacksonville (4-10) next Sunday.
Vikings: Play at Detroit (5-9) next Sunday.
Titans 17, Giants 0
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Bruising halfback Derrick Henry had his second straight big game with a career-high 33 carries for 170 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The Tennessee Titans kept their late-season playoff push alive and ended the New York Giants’ postseason hopes with a 17-0 victory on Sunday.
Henry, who had a franchise-record 238 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Jacksonville on Dec. 6, scored on 1-yard runs in the first and third quarters.
That was all the Titans’ defense needed on a wet and rainy day at MetLife Stadium as it shut down Saquon Barkley (31 yards on 14 carries) in helping Tennessee win its third straight game, matching its season high.
The defense limited New York to 260 yards, had three sacks, a third-quarter interception that stopped a New York drive inside the red zone with the score 7-0, and a forced fumble that set up Henry’s second TD.
The shutout was the Titans’ first since a 31-0 win over the Cowboys on Christmas Day in 2000. It needed a late stand to make it happen.
It was the first time New York was blanked since Arizona posted a 23-0 win last Dec. 24.
Eli Manning finished 21 of 44 for 229 yards as New York lost for only the second time in six games since the bye week.
Marcus Mariota hit 13 of 20 passes for 88 yards as the Titans ground it out against New York, rushing 42 times for 216 yards.
After Ryan Succop missed a 48-yard field goal on the opening series, the Titans got the ball back and went 75 yards in 15 plays with Henry powering in from 1 yard. He seemingly had scored two plays earlier, but a video review determined he was just short.
Linebacker Kamalei Correa forced a Manning fumble in the third quarter that Jurrell Casey recovered at the 14. New York seemed to have the Titans stopped at its 3 on third down, but a facemask penalty on a sack of Mariota gave them first-and-goal.
Succop added a 22-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
The Titans were hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taking two consecutive delay-of-game penalties in row on a fourth-and-6 at the Giants 35 late in the first half. The Giants declined the first one and Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel had his team do it again. He seemed surprised by the second call.
Titans S Kenny Vaccaro left in the first half with a concussion. LB Sharif Finch left in the second half with a shoulder injury.
Giants C Spencer Pulley left in the second half with a calf injury, along with special teams Antonio Hamilton, who had a quadriceps injury. Star WR Odell Beckham Jr., missed his second straight game with a quad problem.
Titans: host Washington on Saturday in finishing with two games at home.
Giants: at Indianapolis on Sunday in the final road game of the regular season.
Redskins 16, Jaguars 13
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Josh Johnson’s first NFL start in more than seven years ended with a 16-13 victory for Washington against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, snapping the Redskins’ four-game losing streak and keeping them on the fringe of the NFC playoff picture.
Johnson and Adrian Peterson drove the Redskins (7-7) into field-goal range in the closing minutes, and Dustin Hopkins made a 36-yard field goal on the final play to win it.
Washington had lost every game since quarterback Alex Smith sustained a season-ending leg injury.
The Jaguars (4-11) have dropped nine of 10, raising more questions about the future of coach Doug Marrone, decision-maker Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell.
Jacksonville managed 192 yards, another anemic performance under Marrone.
Washington was better, especially late.
Johnson, the team’s fourth starting quarterback in as many weeks, threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Sprinkle with 5:47 remaining that tied it. He completed 16 of 25 passes for 151 yards and the score. He also ran for 49 yards.
Peterson edged him on the final drive, finishing with 51 on the ground.
Cody Kessler was 9 of 17 passing for 57 yards with an interception. He was sacked six times behind a makeshift offensive line and was Jacksonville’s leading rusher. He had 68 on the ground, 22 more than Leonard Fournette, who was on the sideline late.
Kessler’s interception — a high pass that Dede Westbrook tipped — led to the winning score. Westbrook returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown, providing one of the few highlights for Jacksonville.
Smith was released from the hospital Sunday after multiple surgeries to his broken right leg. His wife, Elizabeth Smith, posted an update on Instagram and said she was grateful to have her husband home.
She wrote, “HOME…This last month has been a difficult ride. Our family is beyond happy to have this man with us and home. This experience has given us great perspective and gratitude for all the people and blessings in our lives. We couldn’t have gotten through it without our amazing family, friends and community. A special thank you to the relentless doctors, nurses, techs, hospital administrators, the Snyder family and the Washington Redskins.”
Smith sustained a spiral fracture to his right leg when he was sacked in a game against Houston on Nov. 18. He underwent surgery the following day to repair his fibula and tibia. Two media outlets reported that a leg infection complicated his recovery and required further procedures.
Jaguars running back Carlos Hyde was a healthy scratch, a clear sign his days in Jacksonville are done. The Jags traded a fifth-round pick to Cleveland for Hyde in October. He has 40 carries for 129 yards. He’s due to make $4.75 million in 2019, a salary Jacksonville seems unwilling to pay for an unproductive backup. Jacksonville made a similar move by waving safety Barry Church earlier this week.
Redskins tight end Vernon Davis was evaluated for a head and neck injury and cleared to return, then left to be re-evaluated for a concussion in the fourth. … Jaguars rookie safety Ronnie Harrison injured his left knee on Washington’s first series, limped to the sideline and did not return. Jarrod Wilson replaced Harrison and had two pass breakups before leaving with a leg injury. … Redskins offensive lineman Ty Nsekhe injured a knee in the second half and was ruled out. … Redskins cornerback Joshua Holsey injured his left knee in the fourth quarter and was ruled out. … Redskins cornerback Danny Johnson injured a finger but returned.
Redskins: stay in the AFC South and play at Tennessee on Saturday.
Jaguars: remain in the Sunshine State and play at Miami next Sunday.
Raiders 16, Bengals 30
CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Mixon had another big game , rushing for 129 yards and a pair of touchdowns Sunday, and the Cincinnati Bengals held on for a 30-16 victory over the Oakland Raiders that ended one of their longest losing streaks under coach Marvin Lewis.
The Bengals (6-8) had dropped five straight — their third-worst slump during Lewis’ 16 seasons — before finding a team struggling as much as them. Mixon’s 15-yard touchdown with 4:04 left clinched the Bengals’ first win since October and capped his second straight 100-yard game.
“I feel like it’s been a loooooong time since we were able to do that,” Mixon said.
Cincinnati wrapped up its home season before another sparse crowd, with 44,568 tickets distributed. The Bengals had the second-smallest season attendance in Paul Brown Stadium’s 19 seasons as fans showed frustration with another disappointing season under Lewis.
“I’ve never dealt with losing my whole life, even back to grade school,” said rookie defensive end Sam Hubbard, who had two sacks and forced a fumble. “To come out with a win really feels great.”
The Raiders (3-11) are already in next-year mode. They fired general manager Reggie McKenzie on Monday and had little on the line against the Bengals.
Oakland was trying to win two in a row for the first time this season, and Derek Carr was closing in on a club record for avoiding interceptions. Carr got his record, but the sloppy Raiders lost again with a nondescript performance.
“I ain’t got much to talk about, guys,” tight end Jared Cook said.
With Mixon the focal point, the Bengals put together their biggest first half since their previous victory, 37-34 over Tampa Bay on Oct. 28. Lewis went for it twice on fourth down and produced a pair of touchdown drives. Mixon surged into the end zone on fourth down from the 1-yard line for a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.
Jeff Driskel struggled in his third start replacing the injured Andy Dalton, repeatedly overthrowing receivers. He had a 7-yard touchdown to Tyler Boyd for Cincinnati’s first score, but Driskel finished 14 of 33 for 130 yards with an interception.
Carr was 21 of 38 for 263 yards and a touchdown and no interceptions for the ninth straight game. With his 14th pass, Carr broke Rich Gannon’s club record for the longest stretch without throwing an interception — 277 in 2001. He was lucky to get that far: Bengals safety Shawn Williams dropped a ball thrown directly to him on Oakland’s first possession.
BOYD HITS 1,000
Boyd reached 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career before hurting his right knee late in the first half. He didn’t return. Afterward, he said the injury isn’t serious. With A.J. Green out for the season with a toe injury, Boyd is the leading receiver with 1,028 yards on 76 catches.
“That’s something I wanted to accomplish since got to the NFL,” Boyd said. “Now that I’ve done it, it’s on to the next one. I think have to think about, let it marinate.”
MIXON ALMOST THERE
Mixon’s big game left him 5 yards shy of 1,000 for the first time in his two-year career.
In a play that symbolized the Raiders’ day, Carr spiked the ball at midfield trying to stop the clock as the first half wound down, but took too long and there was no time left when the ball hit the ground.
Raiders: LG Kelechi Osemele was out for the second straight game with a toe injury. CB Gareon Conley got a concussion.
Bengals: LB Vontaze Burfict missed his second straight game with a concussion.
Raiders host Denver on Monday night. They lost at Denver 20-19 in the second game of the season.
Bengals play at Cleveland on Sunday. The Browns won at Paul Brown Stadium 35-20 on Nov. 25.
Cowboys 0, Colts 23
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Marlon Mack rushed for a career-high 139 yards and two scores and the Indianapolis Colts defense shut out one of the league’s hottest offenses, rolling to a 23-0 victory Sunday.
The Colts (8-6) stayed in the AFC playoff hunt with their seventh win in eight games and their first shutout since a 27-0 victory over Cincinnati on Oct. 19, 2014.
Dallas (8-6) failed to clinch the NFC East as its five-game winning streak ended.
But Mack starred in Sunday’s big show.
He set the tone by running through a tackle for a 19-yard gain on his first carry, wound up carrying 22 times and matching a career high with the two scoring runs — all against the league’s No. 3 rushing defense.
It marked the first time since Week 9 that Dallas allowed a team to top the 100-yard mark, and the Cowboys were shutout for the first time in more than 15 years. New England was the previous team to achieve the feat with a 12-0 victory on Nov. 16, 2003.
Mack even outperformed Ezekiel Elliott, who came into the weekend as the NFL’s leading rusher. Elliott had 18 carries for 87 yards and caught seven passes for 41 yards.
But every time the Cowboys got near scoring position, Indy’s defense stymied them.
Denico Autry blocked a 44-yard field-goal attempt on Dallas’ first possession, Elliott lost 2 yards and fumbled on fourth-and-1 from the Colts 3 on their next possession and the Cowboys were knocked out of field-goal range on Tyquan Lewis’ sack on the Cowboys’ final chance in the first half.
It was more of the same in the second half.
Pierre Desir broke up a third-down pass to force a punt, Darius Leonard broke up another pass on fourth-and-1 from the Colts 39 to start the fourth quarter and George Odum capped the day with an interception deep in Colts’ territory on fourth down in the waning minutes.
Indy’s offense, meanwhile, repeatedly took advantage of Dallas miscues.
Mack scored on a 1-yard plunge following the blocked field goal and Andrew Luck used a defensive holding call against Anthony Brown on third down to set up Adam Vinatieri for a 43-yard field goal to close out the half with a 10-0 lead.
Mack started the second half with a 6-yard scoring run to make it 17-0 and Vinatieri made two more field goals to seal it.
Luck was 16 of 27 for 192 yards and T.Y. Hilton caught five passes for 85 yards despite not practicing all week because of an ankle injury.
Dak Prescott finished 24 of 39 with 206 yards and the one interception. Amari Cooper had four receptions for 32 yards.
Cowboys: Right guard Zack Martin missed the first game of his career with an injured left knee. Dallas improvised by moving left guard Connor Williams to right guard and inserting Xavier Su’a-Filo at right guard. But Su’a-Filo left early in the second quarter with an eye injury and did not return.
Colts: Veteran backup Joe Haeg replaced right guard Mark Glowinski (ankle) in the starting lineup and defensive tackle Al Woods left in the third quarter with an injured leg and did not return. Starting center Ryan Kelly returned from a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee after missing the previous three games and the Colts did not allow a sack.
Cowboys: Will try to wrap up the NFC East next Sunday when they host Tampa Bay.
Colts: Close out their home schedule next Sunday when Eli Manning and the New York Giants return to Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time since winning their most recent Super Bowl.
Packers 17, Bears 24
CHICAGO (AP) — Mitchell Trubisky threw for two touchdowns, Eddie Jackson ended Aaron Rodgers’ NFL-record streak without an interception and the Chicago Bears clinched the NFC North with a 24-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
The Bears (10-4) secured their first playoff appearance since the 2010 team won the NFC North, and clinching with a rare victory over their heated rivals made it all the more sweet.
The loss coupled with Minnesota’s 41-17 victory over Miami keeps the Packers out of the postseason for the second year in a row.
Chicago had dropped nine of 10 against Green Bay (5-8-1). But the Bears secured their first trip to the playoffs in eight years with their seventh win in eight games.
For a team that came into the season with four straight last-place finishes, it’s quite a turnaround. But with the hiring of coach Matt Nagy and trade for Khalil Mack in a busy offseason, the Bears made a huge jump.
Trubisky gave them a 21-14 lead early in the fourth quarter with a 13-yard pass to Trey Burton in the left side of the end zone.
After stopping the Packers, Tarik Cohen returned a punt 44 yards to the 15. But he stepped out of bounds a yard short on a third-and-5 at the 10 when he easily could have gotten the first down.
That forced the Bears to settle for a field goal by Cody Parkey, making it 24-14 with 6:43 remaining.
The Packers then drove to the 9, but on third down, Jackson picked off Rodgers, ending his streak at 402 passes.
The throw over the middle was intended for Jimmy Graham near the goal line. But the ball got tipped to Jackson, who had to be helped off the field when his right leg bent awkwardly as he tried to slide on the return.
The interception was Jackson’s sixth of the season.
Mason Crosby kicked a field goal in the closing seconds to make it a seven-point game. But Chicago recovered the onside kick.
The Packers are 1-1 since offensive coordinator Joe Philbin replaced fired coach Mike McCarthy on an interim basis.
Mack led another strong effort by the defense after the Monsters of the Midway shut down Jared Goff and the NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams the previous week.
Mack had 2½ sacks and Leonard Floyd added two.
Trubisky was 20 of 28 for 235 yards with a 120.4 rating. It was a big improvement over the previous week when he matched a career high with three interceptions after missing back-to-back games because of a right shoulder injury.
Cohen caught a touchdown pass. Jordan Howard ran for a TD, and the Bears improved to 7-1 at home for the first time since 2005.
Rodgers was 25 of 42 for 274 yards with his second interception of the season. It was also the first game this year in which he failed to throw a touchdown pass.
Davante Adams had eight receptions for 119 yards.
The Packers fell to 0-7 on the road with their ninth straight loss away from home, and their eight-game win streak at Soldier Field, counting the postseason, came to an end.
Packers: RT Bryan Bulaga (knee) missed his second game in a row, while DL Kenny Clark sat out with an elbow injury. … RB Aaron Jones left the game with a knee injury in the first quarter. … WR Randall Cobb was evaluated for a concussion following a hard hit by Jackson late in the game.
Bears: LB Aaron Lynch left with an elbow injury in the third quarter. He walked off the field clutching his right arm after he was hurt fighting a block on a run by Jamaal Williams.
Packers: Visit New York Jets on Dec. 23.
Bears: Visit San Francisco on Dec. 23.
Buccaneers 12, Ravens 20
BALTIMORE (AP) — Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson picked apart the Tampa Bay defense on a soggy field, running for 95 yards and throwing for 131 to carry the Baltimore Ravens to a 20-12 victory Sunday.
Anointed the starter over veteran Joe Flacco earlier in the week, Jackson justified the decision with a riveting performance. Slipping between and sliding around potential tacklers, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner operated the run-pass option in much the same fashion as during his glory days at Louisville.
Jackson directed two drives that lasted more than seven minutes before closing out the game with a drive that consumed the final 7:08. He carried 18 times and completed 14 of 23 passes, one of them for a touchdown.
The Ravens held the ball for more than 37 minutes compared to 22:50 for Tampa Bay.
“You’ve got to stay on the field on offense,” coach John Harbaugh said. “If you do that, you have a chance to generate some points.”
Baltimore (8-6) is 4-1 since Jackson took over for the injured Flacco, the only loss in overtime at Kansas City. Jackson has rushed for 427 yards in those five games.
Tampa Bay (5-9) simply couldn’t find a way to stop Jackson and the running game, which amassed 242 yards on 49 attempts.
“He makes you play 11-on-11 football instead of 11 on 10,” Bucs coach Dick Koetter said of Jackson, the 32nd overall pick in the NFL draft. “We had him wrapped up a couple of times and he squirted out of there and was able to extend plays.”
Baltimore is the first team since the 1976 Steelers to rush for at least 190 yards in five straight games, according to the Ravens.
Baltimore’s second-ranked defense did its part, holding the Buccaneers to one touchdown and 241 yards. In the fourth quarter, the Ravens picked off Jameis Winston’s pass and forced an incompletion on fourth down from the Baltimore 33 with 7 minutes left.
The Ravens went up 17-9 by opening the second half with a 78-yard drive that lasted nearly five minutes. Jackson extended the march with a 17-yard completion to Mark Andrews and peeled off a 22-yard run before Gus Edwards scored on a 10-yard burst up the middle.
“I seen ’em coming,” Jackson said of his pivotal run. “I just had to make a play, make a bad play good. It was a success.”
Baltimore then forced a punt, but return man Cyrus Jones inexplicably touched the bouncing ball. Tampa Bay recovered and turned the miscue into a field goal.
Jackson answered with a 15-play drive that covered 38 yards and produced a field goal for a 20-12 lead. The game ended with Jackson taking a knee three times in succession inside the Tampa Bay 10.
Baltimore squandered its first promising drive late in the first quarter when Jackson botched a handoff and the Bucs recovered the loose ball at their 49. A 23-yard pass to Mike Evans set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Peyton Barber.
On the conversion, the wet football slithered through the hands of holder Bryan Anger.
The Ravens responded with the kind of drive that showed why Harbaugh picked Jackson over Flacco, who’s now healthy following a right hip injury. Jackson contributed 19 yards rushing to a 73-yard march that used 16 plays, lasted more than eight minutes and ended with a shovel pass from Jackson to Chris Moore, who scooted around right end for a 5-yard TD.
Winston then burned the Ravens with a third-and-20 scramble-and-launch 64-yard pass to Evans on a third-and-20 that produced a field goal.
Bucs: TE Alan Cross left with a shoulder injury in the second quarter and did not return.
Ravens: OLB Matt Judon hurt his left knee in the third quarter but returned. … TE Nick Boyle left with a concussion.
Bucs: Final road game against Cowboys next Sunday. Dallas leads the series 14-4 (including playoffs).
Ravens: Face Chargers on road Saturday night, first meeting between the teams on the West Coast since 2012.
Cardinals 14, Falcons 40
ATLANTA (AP) — Julio Jones made an acrobatic touchdown catch on a pass from Matt Ryan, Deion Jones returned an interception for an early score, and the Atlanta Falcons snapped a five-game losing streak with a 40-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
The Falcons (5-9) forced three turnovers and sacked Arizona’s Josh Rosen seven times, a single-game season high for both teams. Arizona (3-11) has dropped two straight and five of six under first-year coach Steve Wilks.
Julio Jones caught six passes for 82 yards, all in the first half. His 22-yard score in the closing seconds before intermission put the Falcons up 26-7. Jones beat Patrick Peterson’s bump-and-run coverage down the left sideline, turning the cornerback around and twisting around him to make a diving catch.
Ryan ran for a 1-yard score early the second quarter and finished with 231 yards passing. Matt Bryant added two short field goals and Tevin Coleman had a 43-yard TD run in the third quarter as Atlanta won for the first time since Week 9 at Washington.
Grady Jarrett had two of the Falcons’ season-high seven sacks, and Arizona’s run defenses allowed 215 yards to the NFL’s worst rushing attack.
Playing behind a makeshift offense line that has lost six players to injured reserve, Rosen was under duress all afternoon and finished with a 38.4 passer rating.
He got the Cardinals off to a fast start with running back David Johnson catching two long passes to set up a short TD run that made it 7-0, but Arizona was essentially done after Deion Jones scored a touchdown for the third time in eight career interceptions. In his fourth game back after spending most of the season sidelined by a foot injury, Jones forced a 7-all tie in the first quarter, snagging Vic Beasley’s batted ball from the air and running 41 yards for Atlanta’s second defensive TD of the season.
The third-year linebacker spent the first part of the game covering Johnson and was in the left flats shading the running back when Beasley tipped Rosen’s pass.
QUESTIONS IN THE DESERT
It feels like a couple of months have passed since Arizona enjoyed a season highlight under Wilks, a 20-17 win at Green Bay two weeks ago.
The Cardinals were flat last week at home against Detroit and gave themselves almost no chance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Even with so many injuries, the performance was so uninspiring that Wilks might be wondering if he will return for a second season.
Arizona showed why it began the day with the league’s worst scoring offense, worst passing attack and second-worst ground game.
Julio Jones injured his ribs on the TD catch and only played a few snaps in the third with the outcome all but assured. Jones missed practice one day this week with flu-like symptoms.
Cardinals cornerback David Amerson left the game with concussion symptoms and didn’t return after colliding with Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu in the first.
Injured Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman likely won’t return this season, but he was on the sideline cheering on his teammates. Tight end Austin Hooper did not catch a pass and was only targeted once as he played through a sore knee he hurt last week at Green Bay.
Johnson ran 11 times for 33 yards as he played with a sore quadriceps.
EYES ON THE PRIZE
Falcons coach Dan Quinn got a respite from his team’s poor season of creating takeaways. Brian Poole had an interception and combined with Jarrett on a strip-sack fumble recovery. Bruce Irvin had his best game with Atlanta, finishing with 1 ½ sacks and three QB hits.
Cardinals: Host the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday.
Falcons: Visit Carolina next Sunday.
Lions 13, Bills 14
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Josh Allen threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Robert Foster early in the fourth quarter Sunday to rally the Buffalo Bills to a 14-13 win over Detroit that eliminated the Lions from playoff contention.
Allen also scored on a 3-yard run and finished 13 of 26 for 204 yards passing and no turnovers. Foster had four catches for 108 yards to top 100 for the third time in five games since being promoted from the practice squad.
With Buffalo (5-9) trailing 13-7, Allen stayed patient in the pocket and waited for Foster to complete an up-and-out to the right side of the field. Foster was wide open as he reached the right hash mark and caught Allen’s pass in stride, and then beat a defender to the pylon with 10:56 remaining.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford responded by marching the Lions 45 yards on the next possession only to have kicker Matt Prater miss a 48-yard field goal wide right.
Special teams also cost the Lions a point after Stafford hit Andy Jones for a 4-yard touchdown to open the scoring. A bad snap by veteran Don Muhlbach led to Prater throwing the ball away on a failed extra-point attempt.
The game wasn’t decided until Allen jumped over the pile for a 2-yard gain to convert a fourth-and-1 at Detroit’s 41 with 1:47 remaining. The Bills snapped a two-game skid.
The Lions (5-9) lost despite rookie Kenny Golladay finishing with a career-best 146 yards receiving. Stafford finished 22 of 29 for 208 yards passing.
Detroit will finish with a losing record in its first season under rookie coach Matt Patricia, ending under .500 for the first time since going 7-9 in 2015.
Allen won for the third time this season when the Bills are behind or tied in the fourth quarter.
Allen led the Bills to victory by using his arm rather than his legs. He finished with just 16 yards rushing after becoming just the second quarterback in NFL history to top 95 yards rushing in three consecutive games.
And the Bills won despite an injury-depleted lineup.
Buffalo opened the game minus starting running back LeSean McCoy (left hamstring) and backup Chris Ivory (left shoulder), after both were hurt in a 27-23 loss to the New York Jets last weekend. The Bills then lost running back Marcus Murphy, who hurt his left arm late in the second quarter.
STAFFORD TO GOLLADAY
Stafford bounced back after managing just 101 yards passing — the second-fewest in his career — in Detroit’s 17-3 win at Arizona last week. He topped that number in the first half alone against the Bills with 137 yards passing, with Golladay leading the way with four catches for 115 yards.
Stafford went at the strength at the Bills secondary in beating Buffalo’s top cornerback Tre’Davious White.
Golladay was falling backward to make a 33-yard catch even though White was flagged for pass interference to set up Detroit’s first scoring drive, capped by Stafford’s 4-yard pass to Andy Jones.
Trailing 7-6, Stafford floated a pass up the right sideline which Golladay caught by outjumping White for a 40-yard completion. The Lions scored three plays later on Zach Zenner’s 1-yard plunge.
Bills: A hip injury that bothered kicker Stephen Hauschka came into play on Buffalo’s first possession, and after Allen was sacked for a 9-yard loss on third-and-9 at Detroit’s 29. Rather than have Hauschka attempt a 50-plus-yard field goal, the Bills punted. Hauschka was hurt when being blindsided by Jets defensive lineman Henry Anderson last week.
Lions: Close home schedule against Minnesota next Sunday.
Bills: Close road schedule at New England next Sunday.
Seahawks 23, 49ers 26 OT
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — As if the San Francisco 49ers needed any reminder about how Seattle has dominated this once fierce NFC West rivalry of late, Kyle Shanahan and his coaching staff spent the night before the game reminding the players with highlights from the Seahawks’ 27-point blowout just two weeks ago.
Robbie Gould kicked a 36-yard field goal with 3:06 left in overtime after San Francisco’s defense delivered three straight stops against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks to help the 49ers snap a 10-game losing streak against Seattle with a 26-23 victory on Sunday.
“It (emotionally) touched a part of guys that needs to be touched sometimes,” said cornerback Richard Sherman, who was on the winning side of nine of those games with Seattle before joining the 49ers this season.
“Sometimes you need to touch guys’ pride. You need to have some pride. You’re a grown man. They went out there and embarrassed you. How are you going to respond? We responded today.”
Nick Mullens threw for 275 yards and a touchdown to help the 49ers (4-10) win consecutive games for the first time this season. Richie James Jr. returned a kick 97 yards for a touchdown and Gould kicked four field goals to give San Francisco its first win in the rivalry since 2013 when Jim Harbaugh was still coach.
DeForest Buckner added two sacks against Wilson as the defense stepped up after being on the wrong side of a 43-16 beating just two weeks ago.
“We took it personally,” Buckner said. “They flat out embarrassed us two weeks ago. Everybody from top to bottom wasn’t happy about it. We knew it would be a dog fight coming into this week. We just played them two weeks ago. It was a long two weeks for sure.”
The Seahawks (8-6) had their four-game winning streak snapped and missed a chance to clinch a playoff berth with the loss to the Niners.
Russell Wilson threw for 237 yards with two TD passes to Doug Baldwin and Chris Carson ran for 119 yards and a score for Seattle. But Wilson was unable to generate any points on his final three drives, leading to the loss.
“We kept ourselves in the game, but we shot ourselves in the foot a bunch of times,” offensive lineman Duane Brown said. “We had plenty of opportunity to take it over, but we set ourselves back. We have to find a way to fix it. It’s not going to get any easier.”
Carson tied the game early in the fourth quarter when he scored on fourth-and-goal from the 1. He appeared to be stuffed at the line by D.J. Jones, but managed to get out of that tackle and then fight through another attempt by Elijah Lee before diving over the goal line for the score that made it 20-all.
The teams then traded field goals later in the fourth to set up the overtime.
The 49ers forced a punt on the opening drive thanks in part to a holding penalty on Ethan Pocic that wiped out a third-down conversion.
Mullens then drove San Francisco into position for the game-winning kick with help from a pass interference call against Shaquill Griffin and a 16-yard run by Jeff Wilson Jr.
Gould then made his kick in the wind and rain, to give 49ers a rare celebration in a rough season.
“I know how much this one means for Sherm and how much this means for our fans,” Gould said. “For us just to be able to get a win and have some positivity going to the end of the season with a lot of young guys will help us for next year.”
The Seahawks committed three personal fouls on one drive in the third quarter to help the 49ers move the ball into the red zone. But San Francisco had to settle for a field goal after Wilson Jr. committed a personal foul, tossing the ball in the face of a Seahawks defender.
Seattle finished with 14 penalties for 148 yards.
Seattle rookie punter Michael Dickson downed consecutive punts at the San Francisco 1 and then 2-yard line in the first half. The Niners managed to score following the second kick with Mullens finding Garrett Celek on a 41-yard score. The 98-yard drive was the longest for San Francisco since a 99-yarder against Seattle in 2002.
TO THE HOUSE
James took a kickoff back 97 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter for San Francisco’s first return touchdown on a kick or punt since Ted Ginn Jr. did it in the 2011 opener against the Seahawks. Seattle’s 40-year-old kicker Sebastian Janikowski made only a half-hearted effort at a tackle as the last line of defense on the play.
It was a rough sequence for Janikowski, who also missed the extra point before the kickoff.
Seahawks: S Bradley McDougald (knee) left the game in the first half. … OL Jordan Simmons (knee) left in the second half.
49ers: CB Ahkello Witherspoon (knee) left the game in the first half.
Seahawks: Host Kansas City on Sunday night.
49ers: Host Chicago on Sunday.
Patriots 10, Steelers 17
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger didn’t want to use the word “crossroads.” He did anyway.
His team mired in a three-game losing streak and with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on the other sideline Sunday — a sight that typically signals doom for Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers — the longtime quarterback understood his team’s enigmatic season had reached a tipping point.
“Are we going to step up and play? Are we going to divide each other? Who knows?” Roethlisberger said after a taut 17-10 victory. “This was going to be a great challenge for us against a team that is always one of the best. I thought we answered the bell today.”
In so many ways.
Rookie running back Jaylen Samuels ran for a season-high 142 yards in his second NFL start. The defense that looked so vulnerable in the late going during Pittsburgh’s recent slide figured out a way to slow Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Embattled kicker Chris Boswell drilled a critical 48-yard field goal in the final minutes, and the Steelers (8-5-1) gave their playoff hopes a welcome jolt.
“I knew it was a big game, it was a redemption game for last year,” said Samuels, a senior at North Carolina State last fall when Pittsburgh collapsed late in a loss to the Patriots. “I just wanted to go out there and give them my all.”
Forced into action with James Conner missing his second straight game due to a sprained left ankle, Samuels said he’s never been a feature back. Funny, the fifth-round pick considered a bit of a project certainly looked like one against New England (9-5). Samuels ran 19 times and caught two passes for 30 yards, including a leaping 20-yard grab on third-and-9 on Pittsburgh’s penultimate possession that helped set up Boswell’s field goal.
“I was just staying relaxed, didn’t want to stay too tensed up,” Samuels said. “Just do what I do. We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game … it was a pretty good outcome.”
One that helped Pittsburgh preserve its half-game lead over Baltimore (8-6) in the AFC North with two weeks to go. It also exorcised some demons. The Steelers had dropped five straight to New England and only beaten Brady twice in his storied career. Despite never trailing, their third win over him wasn’t assured until Morgan Burnett knocked down Brady’s heave to the end zone intended for Julian Edelman with 20 seconds to go.
“It’s a big win for us,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s that time of year. We need to win this football game.”
Roethlisberger threw for 235 yards with two first-half touchdowns and two interceptions. Boswell, who has struggled so badly this season the team held open tryouts during the week in search of a possible replacement, atoned for a 32-yard miss in the third quarter by drilling a 48-yarder with 2:30 remaining that provided the final margin.
“He’s our kicker from start to finish and I liked that way he came back and banged that next opportunity, and that’s what this thing is about,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “You are going to be tested, we are going to be tested. Sometimes you are going to fail, but you better pass enough of them.”
A victory would have given the Patriots their 10th straight AFC East title. While they still have two shots at it while finishing the regular season at home, the road issues don’t appear to be going away. New England finished 3-5 away from Gillette Stadium, the first time the Patriots have a losing road record since 2009.
“We haven’t played very well on the road,” Brady said. “Obviously what we’re doing isn’t good enough.”
Brady finished 25 of 36 for 279 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Pittsburgh held tight end Gronkowski to two receptions for 21 yards. Brady flung a jump ball to Gronkowski deep in Pittsburgh territory midway through the fourth quarter that was picked off by cornerback Joe Haden, just Brady’s fifth pick in 14 games against the Steelers.
“I was just trying to flick it out of bounds,” Brady said. “Didn’t want to take a sack. It shouldn’t have happened.”
The uncharacteristically sloppy Patriots were flagged 14 times for 106 yards, including a handful of offensive holding calls that blunted momentum. The Patriots had a second-and-5 at the Pittsburgh 11 with 37 seconds to go when right guard Shaq Mason was hit with a holding penalty that pushed the ball back to the Pittsburgh 21. The Patriots would get no closer.
“There’s holding on every play in the NFL,” Brady said. “It’s what we do, we hold. … If they’re calling it, we’ve got to do a little bit less of it.”
HE SAID IT
“Sometimes you got to cut your eyelids off when you want to blink when it gets thick, and we talk openly about that.” Tomlin when talking about his team’s ability to deal with adversity.
Patriots: Host Buffalo next Sunday. New England is unbeaten at home this season (6-0).
Steelers: Visit New Orleans next Sunday. Pittsburgh’s last road victory against the Saints came in 1990.
Eagles 30, Rams 23
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles hope they’re about to make another late-season run that begins with another big road win over the Rams.
Foles took over for Carson Wentz and passed for 270 yards, and Wendell Smallwood rushed for two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 30-23 victory over Los Angeles on Sunday night.
Rookie Josh Adams also rushed for a score as the Eagles (7-7) kept their playoff hopes quite viable with a gritty victory over the Rams (11-3), who lost consecutive regular-season games for the first time in coach Sean McVay’s tenure.
“It’s very satisfying,” Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson said. “Our backs have been against the wall for the last few weeks. Hopefully this gives us momentum for the rest of the season. Our goals are still in front of us.”
The Eagles still trail NFC East leader Dallas (8-6) and sit even with Washington (7-7), so they will need help to get back into the postseason. But they’ll get an enormous boost from this performance against the powerhouse Rams, who fell too far behind to catch up.
The Eagles scored 17 consecutive points in the third quarter and then survived the Rams’ late rally. They got help from Los Angeles returner JoJo Natson, who fumbled a punt return that D.J. Alexander recovered with 2:51 to play.
After Philadelphia’s Jake Elliott missed a field goal with 1:08 left, Jared Goff got the Rams to the Philadelphia 18 with 4 seconds to play — but he couldn’t connect with Josh Reynolds on a pass to the goal line as time expired.
Foles went 24 of 31 in his first game action since Week 2 in place of Wentz, who sat out with a back injury that could sideline him for the rest of the season. Foles also took over the Eagles at the Coliseum last December, relieving Wentz during a division-clinching 43-35 win and riding that wave all the way to the Super Bowl MVP award and Philadelphia’s first NFL championship since 1960.
“That’s a guy with true character,” Smallwood said of Foles. “We’re just comfortable with him back there. We don’t feel like anything has fallen of. We know he’s going to step up there and do the job. We rode that guy and we stuck with him (last year), and he went out and played for us tonight.”
Goff passed for 339 yards with two interceptions in the Rams’ first loss at the Coliseum this season. Todd Gurley rushed for two touchdowns — giving him an NFL-best 21 TDs this season — while catching 10 passes for 76 yards, but the superstar running back also failed to get out of bounds on a catch in the final 20 seconds, depriving the Rams of likely two additional shots at the end zone.
Philadelphia is the only team to beat the Rams twice in McVay’s two seasons in charge.
“We have to be able to figure this out and fast,” McVay said. “We are doing things that are uncharacteristic of us. Guys are making decisions and mistakes we typically haven’t seen. This wasn’t good enough, and it’s a tough pill to swallow.”
The Rams already have won the NFC West title, and they still control their destiny for a first-round playoff bye with Chicago (10-4) right behind them.
But Los Angeles also has produced three straight pedestrian performances since that epic 54-51 Monday night win over Kansas City last month and an ensuing bye week. The Rams scratched out a win at Detroit two weeks ago before they were held without a TD last week by the Bears.
“It’s good to go through some adversity at some point,” Goff said. “Going through it now, and in the position we are in with the playoffs, we (still) have to be urgent about getting these things fixed. These things are very fixable.”
Although the Rams made a 13-play scoring drive that consumed nearly half of the first quarter, Foles and the Philadelphia offense had three scoring drives in the first half, including a 75-yard march culminating in Adams’ TD run shortly before halftime.
The Eagles took a 20-13 lead shortly after halftime with a two-play, 59-yard drive ending in Smallwood’s first TD run since Week 3. After a Philadelphia field goal, Goff stumbled with a snap and basically handed the ball to a rushing Corey Graham, who returned the interception to set up a drive ending in another scoring run by Smallwood, who had the first multi-TD game of his career.
Los Angeles finally mounted an 84-yard drive capped by Gurley’s second TD run with 4:06 left, and the defense got a stop — but Natson simply lost control of the ball after catching the punt and making an initial juke.
Foles repeatedly connected with Alshon Jeffery, who had eight catches for 160 yards in the third-biggest game of his career. Zach Ertz had three receptions to become the fourth tight end in NFL history with 100 catches in a season.
Eagles: DT Fletcher Cox went to the locker room on a cart during the first half with a hip injury, but returned to the field before halftime.
Rams: Gurley missed several snaps in the second half with a knee injury, but returned. His longtime backup, Malcolm Brown, is out for the season, leaving inexperienced Justin Davis and John Kelly as Los Angeles’ only other ball-carrying options.
Eagles: Host the Houston Texans on Sunday, Dec. 23. Houston can wrap up the AFC South with a victory.
Rams: Visit the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Dec. 23. LA shut out the Cardinals at the Coliseum in September.
Saints 12, Panthers 9
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints still have one of the league’s top-scoring offenses, but lately it’s the defense that’s been carrying the NFL’s most complete team.
On a night when Brees and the offense couldn’t get much going and made some uncharacteristic mistakes, New Orleans put the clamps on Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in a 12-9 victory on Monday night, moving the Saints into position to lock up home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
“I believe in us, game in and game out, first quarter to fourth quarter,” defensive end Cam Jordan said. “If it comes down to a crucial play, I believe in us.”
The Saints (12-2) held an opponent to 17 points or fewer for a sixth straight game. They limited Newton to 131 yards passing, sacked him four times and forced two turnovers. Carolina (6-8), which lost its sixth straight, had just 247 yards and 13 first downs. The Panthers’ only scores came on a trick play on fourth down and an interception return on a 2-point conversion attempt.
“So proud of the defense,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “I thought they were outstanding. It’s tough to win a division game on the road and we were able to do that.”
Alvin Kamara had 103 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, and Brees had 203 yards passing for the Saints, who took a one-game lead in the NFC over the Rams. The Saints close the season at home against Pittsburgh and Carolina; the Rams visit Arizona and host San Francisco.
Newton struggled throwing the ball more than 10 yards downfield because of a lingering sore right shoulder. He said after the game he’s unsure what the injury is, but he mentioned his labrum and rotator cuff as possible issues. He has been limited in practice for weeks and doesn’t have the zip on the ball he normally has.
So much for his boast that the Panthers were bringing a cup to steal the “juice” from the Saints.
“(Newton) said something along the lines of they brought their own cup, a juice box or something, I don’t know what it was,” Jordan said. “But I do know that he’s got to go back to the refrigerator and pull out a bigger cup.”
The Saints swept three games from the Panthers last season and knocked them out of the playoffs, prompting Jordan to send Newton a bottle of red wine in the offseason, while some other teammates gave him a broom. This loss likely ended Carolina’s playoff hopes again.
Newton said his shoulder simply isn’t getting better — or worse — and he refused to blame the injury, saying, “I have to be better.”
“Our defense played a hell of a game and we have to reward them,” Newton said. “We had two turnovers in the red zone and that comes down to execution.”
The Panthers struck first after offensive coordinator Norv Turner dug into his bag of tricks.
On a fourth-and-2 from midfield, Christian McCaffrey got a handoff, took a step toward the line, then stepped back and lofted a perfect pass over the middle to tight end Chris Manhertz, who was 15 yards behind the defense. Manhertz trotted into the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. It was McCaffrey’s first career pass attempt, although he threw two TD passes while at Stanford. He became the first non-QB to throw a TD pass in Panthers history.
Eli Apple intercepted Newton in the end zone with 10 seconds left in the first half.
“I knew they were going to take a shot,” Apple said. “They ran a fade route. I just tried to get my head around and make a play on the ball.”
The Panthers held the Saints in check for most of the third quarter, but the game changed when Panthers receiver D.J. Moore fumbled on an inside handoff. The Saints pounced, capping an 84-yard drive with a 16-yard TD run by Kamara to make it 12-7 early in the fourth quarter. The Saints went for 2, but Brees’ toss was intercepted by Donte Jackson, who took it back nearly 100 yards.
That wasn’t the only time the Saints cost themselves a scoring opportunity. New Orleans was on the verge of taking the lead late in the second quarter, but James Bradberry intercepted Brees’ tipped pass and returned it to Saints territory.
And New Orleans whiffed on a potential game-sealing touchdown when Tommylee Lewis fumbled near the goal line, leading to a touchback that gave Carolina one last chance to tie the game with 1:44 remaining. But the Panthers couldn’t move the ball and turned it over on downs.
McCAFFREY SETS MARK
McCaffrey broke DeAngelo Williams’ single-season franchise record of 1,636 yards from scrimmage with a rush in the first quarter. He finished with 110 yards rushing and receiving.
The loss extended the Panthers’ streak of never having posted back-to-back winning seasons since joining the NFL in 1995.
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen had surgery on his right foot Monday, his second procedure on the foot in the last 16 months. “Surgery went well and I am on my way towards a full recovery,” Olsen wrote on Instagram.
Saints center Max Unger left the game in the first half after being evaluated for a concussion and did not return. He was replaced by Cameron Tom.
Saints: Host the Steelers on Sunday.
Panthers: Host the Falcons on Sunday.