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The best team in the AFC improved to 12-2 and clinched the South with a good bounce-back win on Sunday.
The Atlanta Falcons traveled to Qwest field and took the Seattle Seahawks to the woodshed today. The biggest story, though, is that it may have marked the end of the Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle era as we know it.
Hasselbeck was pulled by head coach Pete Carroll in the fourth quarter after struggling with two interceptions. Carroll made it a point to say Hasselbeck is not injured. He had completed 11 of 17 passes for 71 yards when the decision to roll with QB Charlie Whitehurst was made.
Whitehurst did no better at quarterback, completing 8 of 16 passes for 83 yards but rushing for one touchdown.
The real story was the Falcons who killed the Seahawks with big plays. QB Matt Ryan completed 20 of 35 passes for 175 yards (three touchdowns, one interception). RB Michael Turner saw plenty of action and rushed 25 times for 82 yards.
Tim Tebow made his first career NFL start for the Denver Broncos on Sunday, and got off to a very quick start. In the first quarter, Tebow scampered 40 yards on a quarterback draw for a touchdown, and then hit Brandon Lloyd on a gorgeous 33-yard touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone as the Broncos opened up a 14-7 lead on the Oakland Raiders.
From that point forward, it was all Oakland.
As a team, the Raiders rushed for 264 yards and three touchdowns. Jacoby Ford got things started with a 71-yard touchdown rush on a reverse, and Darren McFadden - though held out of the end zone - added 119 yards on 20 carries. Michael Bush scored twice while chipping in 24 rushing yards himself.
In all, Tebow threw for 138 yards on 8-of-16 passing and added eight carries for 78 yards, but Denver's offense could muster only nine points after the first quarter while the Raiders, quite literally, ran away with this one.
Ben Roethlisberger drove the Pittsburgh Steelers down inside the ten-yard line with seconds remaining in regulation, but an incomplete pass as time expired preserved a huge 22-17 road win for the New York Jets.
Mark Sanchez threw for 170 yards and logged a seven-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter, but his biggest contribution was a turnover-free game. The Jets got out to an early lead when Brad Smith returned the game's opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.
The Steelers came back to take a 17-10 lead in the third quarter, powered by touchdowns from Matt Spaeth and Rashard Mendenhall. Sanchez then rushed it in to tie the game, and after Nick Folk kicked a 34-yard field goal to give the Jets a 20-17 lead, the lead increased by two points when Jason Taylor knifed between two defenders to tackle Steelers running back Mewelde Moore in the end zone for a safety.
Roethlisberger (264 passing yards, 25 rushing yards, one touchdown) did all he could on the game's final possession, but missed Spaeth open in the end zone on third down, then threw incomplete again on fourth down to seal New York's win. The Jets improve to 10-4 on the season, while the Steelers fall to 10-4 and in a first-place tie with Baltimore in the AFC North.
On the backs of two touchdown passes by quarterback Kerry Collins (the first, a 3-yard pass, to wide receiver Nate Washington and the second, 1-yard throw, to Justin Gage) and an 11-yard touchdown run by Chris Johnson the Titans went up 21-0 over the Texans in just the first quarter. Johnson ran for 130 yards on 24 carries, with the touchdown, and had a catch for seven yards. His teammate Kenny Britt caught six passes for 128 yards, the most of any wide receiver in the game, in his first game since suffering an injury to his hamstring week eight versus the Sand Diego Chargers.
The Texans finally scored with 5:41 left on the clock in the second quarter. A 37-yard field goal by kicker Neil Rackers made it 21-3 Titans. Titans kicker Rob Bironas would equal Rackers kick with a 30-yard field goal of his own as time expired in the first half.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub started to heart up in the third quarter, connecting with wide receiver Andre Johnson for a 12-yard touchdown. Another touchdown pass, this time to wide receiver Kevin Walter, would bring the Texans within 31-17, which would be as close as the Texans would get (and was the final score).
The two teams are both in West divisions in the NFL but the two could not be any different. The Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) came into today's game against the St. Louis Rams (6-8) needing a win to stay up top of the AFC West. The St. Louis Rams came in tied with the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West lead at 6-7.
Last week the Chiefs were crushed in a game against divisional rivals, the San Diego Chargers, after starting quarterback Matt Cassel was inactive due to an appendectomy. Cassel returned versus the Rams and showed signs of wear from the surgery, completing only 15 of 29 pass attempts for 184 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
After the Rams went up six-to-nothing on two Josh Brown field goals in the first quarter, the Chiefs responded with 20 straight points. Rams running back Steven Jackson ran for a 5-yard touchdown to bring the game within 20-10 with just over four minutes left in the game but Thomas Jones put it all away with a 2-yard touchdown run with under three minutes and thirty seconds left in the game.
Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles had 11 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown.
The Detroit Lions, losers of their last 26 road games, finally picked up a victory away from Ford Field, defeating the host Tampa Bay Buccaneers in overtime, 23-20. It was their first win on the road since October of 2007, when Rod Marinelli was still the team's head coach.
Drew Stanton and Maurice Morris carried the day for the Lions; Stanton threw for 252 yards and a touchdown (152 of those yards going to Calvin Johnson), while Morris ran 15 times for 109 yards and a touchdown. Dave Rayner, signed as a street free agent earlier this season to replace the injured Jason Hanson, hit a 28-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20, then nailed a 34-yarder in overtime to pick up the win.
The loss deals a serious blow to the Buccaneers' playoff hopes. Josh Freeman threw for 251 yards and a touchdown in the contest, and LeGarrette Blount added 110 rushing yards and a touchdown of his own. Tampa led 14-7 in the second quarter, but fell behind 17-14 in the third quarter before Connor Barth kicked two field goals in the fourth quarter to give the Bucs a 20-17 lead. It was all Detroit from that point forward.
The Bucs fall to 8-6 on the season, and while they're still mathematically alive for post-season consideration, they look to be on the outside looking in. Detroit, winners of two straight, is now 4-10. Visit Pride of Detroit and Bucs Nation for more on this contest.
Manning (29-39 for 229 yards) was aided by a big day from running back Donald Brown, who gained 129 yards on 14 rushing attempts. Brown scored a touchdown early in the third quarter to increase the Colts lead to 11 (21-10).
The fist quarter of the game was the quietest one of the game with only a touchdown pass from Manning to wide receiver Austin Collie putting points on the scoreboard. The Jaguars brought the game within four after a 22-yard field goal by kicker Josh Scobee made it 7-3 Colts. Then Manning and the Colts returned fire with a second touchdown pass to Collie (Manning had two on the day, both to Collie), this time a 27-yarder to make it 14-3. Then Mike Thomas took a punt from Pat McAfee 78 yards for a touchdown to send the Jaguars down only 14-10 into the half.
The second half feature more back-and-forth play. In the third quarter the Colts put up 10 points before Garrard found wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker for six yard touchdown. After a 37-yard field goal by Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, the Jaguars were down 27-17 in the fourth quarter but managed to pull back a touchdown - another Garrard to Sims-Walker touchdown - to get within three of the Colts. That's when Colts player Tyjuan Hagler returned the following kickoff 41-yards for a touchdown to put away the Jaguars.
At one point in time this season, the Cincinnati Bengals were 2-1. Entering their Week 15 game against the Cleveland Browns, the Bengals were 2-11, having lost each of their last ten games. That streak came to an abrupt end on Sunday, however, as Cincinnati withstood a late-game Browns rally to hang on for a 19-17 win at home.
Trailing 16-7 entering the fourth quarter, the Browns cut the lead to 16-10 after a short Phil Dawson field goal, but promptly fell behind 19-10 after the Bengals kicked a field goal of their own. Colt McCoy then threw his second touchdown of the game - a 46-yard strike to Brian Robiskie - to cut the Cincy lead to 19-17, but the Bengals held on from that point.
Cedric Benson was instrumental to Cincinnati's success on the day, rushing 150 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. Carson Palmer and the Bengals' passing attack did enough to win - most notably avoiding turnovers - even after losing Terrell Owens for the season early in the game.
It's a good day to be a Carolina Panthers fan. The team knocked off the Arizona Cardinals, 19-12, to earn their second win of the season, but didn't lose their spot atop the current 2011 NFL Draft order thanks to a key win from the Cincinnati Bengals. Double your win total and stay in the hunt for Andrew Luck? Good day, indeed!
Jonathan Stewart had a big day on the ground for Carolina, grinding out 137 yards on 27 carries for the Panthers. Jimmy Clausen was efficient at quarterback, completing 13 of 19 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown - a 16-yard strike to tight end Jeff King in the second quarter. More importantly, Clausen did not commit any turnovers on the day.
Carolina didn't have an answer for Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald (nine receptions, 125 yards), but forced two John Skelton turnovers (one fumble, one interception) to help secure the victory. Steve Breaston recovered a fumble in the end zone for Arizona's only score of the game aside from two Jay Feely field goals.
The game between division rivals began with controversy as Redskins starting quarterback Donovan McNabb, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, was benched in favor of back up Rex Grossman. Previously this season head coach Mike Shannahan pulled McNabb from a game prior to the two-minute warning and put Grossman in the game in his place. The Redskins ended up losing that game, like this one, but Shannahan appears to have made the right choice at quarterback today.
Despite losing 33-30, Grossman threw for four touchdowns, two interceptions and 322 yards, along with a two-point conversion to tie the game at 30. His opponent, Jon Kitna, threw for two touchdowns and no interceptions for the Cowboys.
The 66 point affair was a shootout spurred on by accurate passing and a lack of true running success for either team. The Redskins managed a meager 55 rushing yards on 14 rushes, while the Cowboys ran for 134 total yards on 31 carries. The two teams combined to throw the ball 80 times for 607 yards. Redskin wide receivers Anthony Armstrong and Sanata Moss, along with Cowboys tight end Jason Witten were the other stand out players. Armstrong had five catches for 100 yards, Moss had 8 catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns and Witten had 10 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown of his own.
In a game featuring two playoff-bound teams currently sitting in second place in their respective divisions, the Baltimore Ravens got two late field goals from Billy Cundiff to overcome a New Orleans Saints rally, winning 30-24 at home.
Ray Rice had a huge day for the Ravens, and the Saints had no answer for his dominance all afternoon. Rice rushed 31 times for 153 yards and a touchdown, and also added five receptions, another 80 yards and a second touchdown in the passing game. Both of Rice's touchdowns came in the second quarter as the Ravens opened up a 21-7 first-half lead, and was instrumental as the Ravens put the game on ice late in the fourth quarter.
Drew Brees, however, did his best to get the Saints a big road win after the Ravens went up by two touchdowns. Brees found rookie tight end Jimmy Graham for two scores in the first half (the Saints trailed 21-14 at halftime), then had a tipped pass caught in incredible fashion by Lance Moore to tie the game at 24 in the fourth quarter. Brees threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns on the day, but in the end, the Ravens got enough big plays from Rice and their defense to hang on and win going away.
The Miami Dolphins needed a home win over the Buffalo Bills to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. Home wins have been hard to come by for Miami this season, however, and after dropping a 17-14 decision to Buffalo, the Dolphins are now 1-6 at home and officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Dan Carpenter missed four field goals, including a 48-yard attempt late in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game, in the defeat. His misses - which included a likely-to-be-missed 61-yard attempt at the end of the first half - overshadowed a strong fourth-quarter performance from Chad Henne and Miami's offense. Henne hit Brandon Marshall on a nine-yard TD with seven minutes remaining to make the score 17-14, but Buffalo was able to hold on from that point forward.
Buffalo, playing with a former seventh-round pick (Steve Johnson) and three undrafted rookie free agents at wide receiver, got touchdowns from Johnson and David Nelson in the victory. Ryan Fitzpatrick was the difference between the two clubs, throwing for 223 yards and two touchdowns (along with an interception) and adding 19 rushing yards for Chan Gailey and the Bills.
After being down 31-10 with less than nine minutes left, Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson combined to score four unanswered touchdowns in the last stretch of the fourth quarter, and stunned the Giants, 38-31.
Vick was fantastic with both his arm and his feet, throwing for 242 yards and three touchdowns and running for another 130 yards and a score. But it was Jackson that ultimately won the game, taking a Matt Dodge punt 65 yards for a touchdown with no time remaining.
The Giants' late collapse helped waste a great day from Eli Manning. Throwing against Philadelphia's depleted secondary, Manning had 289 yards and four touchdowns, two to Mario Manningham, who also tallied eight catches for 113 yards. But the Giants defense couldn't contain Vick late, and their special teams imploded in the fourth quarter, allowing Jackson's punt return and an onside kick recovery.
With the win, the Eagles move to 10-4 and all but clinch the NFC East. The Giants fell to 9-5, slipping in the NFC wild card race, and gave the Packers new life in the NFC playoff picture.
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