|Patriots move to 13-0; Colts, Cowboys, Seahawks and Packers clinch divisions|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 10 December 2007 00:24|
Indianapolis qualified for the postseason, and Dallas, Seattle and Green Bay won their divisions Sunday, big news in those cities, for sure. Still, the achievements of the Patriots continued to overshadow everything else in the NFL as they moved to 13-0 with a 34-13 romp past Pittsburgh.
After struggling in their last two games against weak teams, the Patriots blew out an opponent they just might see again in the postseason. Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes, shattering Steelers safety Anthony Smith's guarantee of a victory, with Randy Moss catching two of them.
The Patriots became the fifth team with a 13-0 record, joining the 1934 Bears, 1972 Dolphins, 1998 Broncos and 2005 Colts. They can become the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to finish a regular season undefeated; those Dolphins were 14-0, then won three postseason games for the NFL's only perfect season.
The victory clinched a first-round playoff bye, and the Patriots should be big favorites to take a 15-0 record into their season finale at the New York Giants.
``This is the point in the year when we're going to have to start playing our best football,'' Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light said. ``I don't think anyone can say we've been doing that the past couple of weeks. It's good to be back on track.''
The Colts routed Baltimore 44-20 to secure a playoff berth for the sixth consecutive year. The Cowboys rallied past Detroit 28-27 to win the NFC East, and the Seahawks beat Arizona 42-21 for the NFC West crown. The Packers' 38-7 victory over Oakland secured the NFC North title.
Miami remained winless by falling to Buffalo 38-17.
Elsewhere, it was San Diego 23, Tennessee 17 in overtime; Houston 28, Tampa Bay 14; the New York Giants 16, Philadelphia 13; Minnesota 27, San Francisco 7; Cleveland 24, the New York Jets 18; Denver 41, Kansas City 7; and Cincinnati 19, St. Louis 10.
The weekend began with Washington beating Chicago 24-16 on Thursday night.
On Monday night, it's New Orleans at Atlanta.
Patriots 34, Steelers 13
The Patriots had a short week to prepare for the Steelers (9-4) after beating the Ravens on Monday night on a touchdown with 44 seconds left. Didn't matter.
New England was sparked by Smith's guarantee.
``We've played against a lot better safeties than him,'' coach Bill Belichick noted.
Brady is four scoring passes shy of Peyton Manning's record of 49 set in 2004. Moss caught touchdown passes of 4 and 63 yards in a span of 1:59 midway through the first half and has 19 to move into second place for a season. Jerry Rice's record of 22 is in sight.
The visiting Steelers would have clinched a playoff berth with a victory, but still lead the AFC North.
Colts 44, Ravens 20
At Baltimore, the Colts (11-2) strolled back into the playoffs for the sixth straight year. Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes, including the 300th of his career.
Baltimore (4-9) has lost a franchise-record seven straight. Coming off an inspired effort in a 27-24 loss to the unbeaten Patriots, the Ravens committed five turnovers, had a punt blocked and managed only 57 yards of offense through the first 30 minutes.
In the playoffs last January, Indianapolis failed to score a touchdown in a 15-6 victory that eliminated the Ravens. In the rematch, the Colts scored three TDs in the first quarter and two more in the second.
Cowboys 28, Lions 27
At Detroit, Jason Witten caught a 16-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass with 18 seconds left after his fumble at the Lions 1 nearly cost Dallas (12-1) a chance to win. The tight end had career highs with 15 receptions and 138 yards.
``I was excited to have the ball back after thinking I lost the game for us,'' Witten said.
Tony Romo was 35-of-44 for 302 yards and two TDs, helping the Cowboys win 12 of their first 13 games for the first time in franchise history.
Detroit (6-7) has lost five straight. Kevin Jones ran for 92 yards and two scores, T.J. Duckett had a 32-yard TD run and Detroit led 27-14 after three quarters. Detroit outgained Dallas 390-368, had 152 yards rushing against one of the NFL's best teams against the run and allowed only one sack after giving up the most in the league.
Seahawks 42, Cardinals 21
At Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck threw four touchdown passes, his most this season, and the Seahawks (9-4) clinched their fourth consecutive NFC West title. Seattle led 24-0 midway through the second quarter and cruised to its fifth consecutive victory, its longest streak since a team-record 11 two seasons ago that helped the Seahawks reach their only Super Bowl.
Hasselbeck completed 22 of 33 throws for 272 yards and no interceptions; he's completing 63 percent and has 11 touchdowns with just three interceptions during this winning streak.
Arizona (6-7) got a career-high five interceptions from a rattled Kurt Warner, who also was sacked five times. Patrick Kerney had his third three-sack day in four games. He leads the NFL with 13 1/2 sacks.
Packers 38, Raiders 7
At Green Bay, the Packers (11-2) assured an end to their two-year absence from the postseason with three games left. Will Blackmon, a backup cornerback who has missed most of the season because of a broken foot, returned a punt 57 yards for a touchdown and recovered a muffed punt by Raiders returner Tim Dwight in the end zone.
Ryan Grant, acquired in a trade with the Giants just before the season, rushed for a career-high 156 yards and a touchdown, his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season.
Brett Favre extended his quarterback-record consecutive starts streak to 250 regular-season games despite leaving last week's loss at Dallas because of a sore left shoulder and right elbow. Favre threw for 266 yards with two touchdowns and an interception against Oakland (4-9). His biggest play went to Greg Jennings for an 80-yard touchdown.
Bills 38, Dolphins 17
Rookie Trent Edwards' four touchdown passes, two each to Lee Evans and Robert Royal, led host Buffalo (7-6) over the woeful Dolphins.
Miami (0-13) is off to the third-worst start to a season in NFL history, joining Oakland (1962) and Indianapolis (1986). And the Dolphins, who host Baltimore next weekend, are one loss short of matching the 0-14 record set by Tampa Bay, as an expansion team in 1976, and New Orleans in 1980.
Miami has lost 16 straight dating to last season, matching the eighth-longest streak in NFL history.
``They're all frustrating. And they all weigh on you more and more,'' Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor said. ``You lost another game. You wish it was the other way around.''
The Bills' running attack produced two 100-yard rushers for the first time since 1996, with Fred Jackson going for 115 and Marshawn Lynch adding 107.
Buffalo's defense did its part, racking up a season-high five sacks and forcing four turnovers, including safety George Wilson returning rookie quarterback John Beck's fumble 20 yards for a score.
Chargers 23, Titans 17, OT
LaDainian Tomlinson scored on a 16-yard run in overtime after the Chargers rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter for their third straight victory and seventh in nine games.
Tennessee (7-6) had a chance to run out the clock in a game the Titans desperately needed to stay close to Cleveland and Jacksonville for the AFC's two wild-card berths. But they gave the ball back to San Diego (8-5) with 2:24 left in regulation and went three-and-out in overtime.
The loss wasted a strong performance by the Tennessee defense, which had five sacks and three interceptions. But Philip Rivers started the rally with a 7-yard TD pass to Tomlinson with 7:29 left. Then Rivers moved the Chargers 80 yards in 2:15, throwing down the middle on fourth-and-5 to Chris Chambers for 20 yards. He hit Antonio Gates for a 2-yard score with 9 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to force OT.
Tomlinson finished with 26 carries for 146 yards.
Texans 28, Buccaneers 14
At Houston, Sage Rosenfels threw for three touchdowns to lead the Texans (6-7) and has won both games he's started in place of the injured Matt Schaub. Rosenfels lost two fumbles, but Tampa Bay (8-5) was only able to convert one into points.
Greg White sacked Rosenfels three times.
The Buccaneers could have secured the NFC South title with a win, but instead saw their four-game winning streak snapped due to miscues and ineffectiveness. Luke McCown started as Jeff Garcia missed his second straight game with a bruised back. McCown was sacked four times and harassed for most of the day, going 25-of-38 for 266 yards with no touchdowns and a fumble.
Rosenfels had two touchdown passes of 4 yards and one for 8, and Andre' Davis added a score on a 97-yard kickoff return.
Giants 16, Eagles 13
At Philadelphia, Eli Manning threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress, Lawrence Tynes made three short field goals and the Giants moved closer to a wild-card berth.
David Akers hit the right upright on a 57-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds after Donovan McNabb drove the Eagles 50 yards in the final minute.
The Giants (9-4) are almost locked into the No. 5 seed in the NFC. Meanwhile, the defending division champion Eagles (5-8) are all but eliminated from contention following their third straight loss.
McNabb led the Eagles into the end zone on their first possession, but they managed just a pair of field goals the rest of the game.
Jaguars 37, Panthers 6
At Jacksonville, Fred Taylor ran for 132 yards and a touchdown and Jacksonville (9-4) had its most complete game on defense since consecutive wins at Denver and Kansas City early in the season.
Taylor's 80-yard TD run with 9:48 to play was the longest run from scrimmage in the NFL this season until Minnesota's Chester Taylor surpassed it with an 84-yarder later in the day.
Taylor outran several defenders on his way to the end zone and ended up passing Eddie George (10,441) and Tiki Barber (10,449) on the NFL's career rushing list. Taylor now ranks 18th with 10,457 yards. He would have had more yards, but ended up losing 21 yards on a fumble in the second quarter.
The Panthers (5-8) lost for the sixth time in seven games.
Vikings 27, 49ers 7
At San Francisco, rookie sensation Adrian Peterson had his worst game, but Chester Taylor made up for it. So did 311-pound defensive lineman Kevin Williams, who returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown on the game's first play in the Vikings' fourth straight victory.
Robert Ferguson caught a 19-yard TD pass from Tarvaris Jackson as the Vikings (7-6) moved into the sixth spot in the NFC playoff picture by jumping to a 27-0 halftime lead.
Peterson finished with a career-low 3 yards on 14 carries, as 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis won the meeting of two high-profile rookies.
Frank Gore rushed for 68 yards and lost two fumbles for San Francisco (3-10) , which has yet another injured quarterback after its 10th loss in 11 games. Trent Dilfer went out with a concussion shortly before halftime.
Browns 24, Jets 18
Derek Anderson threw two touchdown passes and Joe Jurevicius recovered two late onside kicks as Cleveland (8-5) strengthened its playoff chances.
Jamal Lewis had a touchdown catch and added a 31-yard TD run with 1:22 left, and the Browns moved a game in front of Tennessee and Buffalo in the wild-card race.
Kellen Clemens scored on a 1-yard sneak with 2:59 left to get host New York within 17-12, but the 2-point conversion pass to Chris Baker fell incomplete.
New York (3-10) then pulled off a successful onside kick recovered at the Browns 43. Mike Nugent kicked a 38-yard field goal that made it 17-15 with 1:43 left.
The Jets tried another onside kick that Jurevicius recovered. Three plays later, Lewis broke a number of tackles and rumbled into the end zone for a 24-15 lead. Lewis finished with 118 yards rushing on 21 carries.
New York then drove for a 35-yard field goal by Nugent with 32 seconds remaining. On another onside kick Jurevicius again came up with the ball to seal the win.
Broncos 41, Chiefs 7
At Denver, Jay Cutler threw a career-best four touchdown passes, Selvin Young rushed for a career-high 156 yards on 17 carries and Elvis Dumervil had three sacks and forced a fumble that led to a touchdown. Cutler completed 20 of 27 passes for 244 yards, no interceptions and a passer rating of 141.0.
The Broncos (6-7) remain two games behind San Diego in the AFC West with three to go.
The Chiefs (4-9) went three-and-out eight times and had three turnovers in losing for the sixth straight time.
Bengals 19, Rams 10
At Cincinnati, Rudi Johnson ran 1 yard for a touchdown, Shayne Graham kicked four field goals on a nasty day, and the Bengals took advantage of Brock Berlin, the novice quarterback starting for the injury-plagued Rams (3-10).
A steady, often driving rain on a 38-degree afternoon made it tough to throw, catch or hold onto the slick footballs. Berlin, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent, played because injuries wiped out the Rams' top two options. Marc Bulger (concussion) sat out a second straight game, and backup Gus Frerotte was sidelined by an injury to his passing shoulder.
That made it easier on the Bengals (5-8).