Big D wins division titles for Steelers, Panthers Print
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Sunday, 14 December 2008 23:32
NFL Headline News

 The Pittsburgh Steelers asserted themselves as the NFL's top defense to win the AFC North. The Carolina Panthers took their division title with another outburst of offense.
In a meeting of the league's top two defenses, Pittsburgh got a late touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to grit out a 13-9 win Sunday - the Steelers' first in Baltimore since 2002.
``They got a big sack when they had to at the end of the game ... then took the ball down the field and scored,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ``That's the way they've won games.''
It was by the slimmest of margins. Holmes' catch was reviewed because it appeared that while Holmes' feet were in the end zone, the ball was not.
Later, referee Walt Coleman said, ``He had two feet down. When he gained control of the ball, the ball was breaking the plane.''
Smith had nine catches for 165 yards and a TD.
In Sunday's other NFL games, it was: Dallas 20, the New York Giants 8; Indianapolis 31, Detroit 21; Houston 13, Tennessee 12 Minnesota 35, Arizona 14; Miami 14, San Francisco 9; the New York Jets 31, Buffalo 27; New England 49, Oakland 26; Atlanta 13, Tampa Bay 10, overtime; Cincinnati 20, Washington 13; San Diego 22, Kansas City 21; Jacksonville 20, Green Bay 16; and Seattle 23, St. Louis 20.
Pittsburgh (11-3) won its second division title in a row by limiting the Ravens (9-5) to a season-low 202 yards. The Steelers have gone 14 straight games without yielding 300 yards, tying the 1973 Los Angeles Rams for the longest streak to start a season since the NFL merger in 1970.
The Steelers were down 9-6 before moving 92 yards in 13 plays. Roethlisberger went 7-for-11 for 89 yards on the drive, sealing Pittsburgh's fourth comeback in the fourth quarter this season, including last week against Dallas, when the Steelers scored 17 points in the final 8 minutes of a 20-13 win.
``We make the plays when they count,'' Holmes said. ``It doesn't matter how the game goes through the course of three quarters. It always comes down to playing four quarters of football.''
Carolina (11-3) improved to 8-0 at home in front of owner Jerry Richardson, who is awaiting a heart transplant.
layers didn't know Richardson - the first ex-NFL player to own a team since George Halas - was at the game until he was shown on the video board in the second half.
Williams' long TD run was the biggest play for Carolina's two-headed running game. While Williams and Jonathan Stewart (140 combined yards) weren't as impressive as six days earlier when they rushed for 301 yards and four touchdowns against Tampa Bay, it was enough to avoid any letdown a week before the Panthers visit the New York Giants with the No. 1 seed in the NFC on the line.
The Panthers kept Denver (8-6) from clinching the AFC West, but only because Kansas City blew an 18-point lead and lost to San Diego, keeping the 6-8 Chargers mathematically alive.
Of course, despite their scoring outburst, the Panthers needed some defense to clinch no worse than a tie for the NFC South title. Up against the NFL's No. 2 offense, led by Jay Cutler, Carolina held Denver to 279 yards.
``They pressured us a little bit,'' said Cutler, who threw for 172 yards and one touchdown and was fortunate to have only one interception. ``We weren't able to run the ball as well as we wanted to.''
Cowboys 20, Giants 8
At Irving, Texas, DeMarcus Ware added three sacks to his NFL-leading total and Dallas took down Eli Manning eight times on the way to a crucial victory.
Tony Romo threw touchdowns to third receiver Patrick Crayton and seldom thrown-to fullback Deon Anderson.
Then, with 2:16 left and Dallas trying to manage the clock, rookie Tashard Choice broke off a victory-sealing 38-yard touchdown run to put Dallas (9-5) back in control of its wild-card chances.
The Giants (11-3), who locked up the NFC East title when Dallas lost last Sunday, lost consecutive games for the first time since starting 0-2 last season.
Colts 31, Lions 21
At Indianapolis, The Lions (0-14) were victimized in the fourth quarter by Peyton Manning and the Colts and stayed on track for a winless season.
Despite a litany of missed tackles and two lost fumbles, Manning kept the Colts (10-4) on track for a playoff run.
The win was Indy's seventh in a row and assured the Colts of a seventh straight season with double-digit victories.
Texans 13, Titans 12
At Houston, Andre Johnson had a career-high 207 yards and a touchdown to lead the Texans to their fourth consecutive win.
Kris Brown kicked two field goals for Houston.
It was an uninspired showing for the Titans (12-2), who have already clinched the AFC South and a first-round playoff bye. The Texans (7-7) are shooting for the first winning season in franchise history.
Vikings 35, Cardinals 14
le, Ariz., Tarvaris Jackson threw four touchdowns to keep the Vikings alone atop the NFC North.
Adrian Peterson rushed for 165 yards, his franchise record ninth 100-yard game of the season for the Vikings (9-5), who won their fourth in a row. They can clinch the division title with another victory or a loss by Chicago.
Bernard Berrian scored Minnesota's first two touchdowns.
Arizona (8-6) fell flat a week after clinching its first division title in 33 years.
Dolphins 14, 49ers 9
At Miami, the Dolphins had possession for less than 22 minutes, but held their opponent without a touchdown for the third game in a row.
Chad Pennington threw a 61-yard TD pass to David Martin and a 19-yarder to rookie Joey Haynos, making the first reception of his career.
The surprising Dolphins (9-5) won for the seventh time in eight games. They can earn their first playoff berth since 2001 by sweeping their final two games, which would be remarkable for a team that went 1-15 last year.
The 49ers (5-9) fell short in their bid to beat an AFC East team for the third week in a row.
Jets 31, Bills 27
At East Rutherford, N.J., Abram Elam sacked J.P. Losman and Shaun Ellis picked up the fumble and took it 11 yards into the end zone with 1:54 left for the go-ahead score.
st with victories in their final two games, against Seattle and Miami.
With Buffalo (6-8) nursing a 27-24 lead and appearing close to wrapping up its first win against a division opponent, Losman was hit from behind by a blitzing Elam. The ball squirted out and bounced around before Ellis grabbed it.
Patriots 49, Raiders 26
At Oakland, Calif., Randy Moss caught two of Matt Cassel's career-high four touchdown passes in his first game against the Raiders since his trade to New England last season.
Cassel's sterling performance just six days after the death of his father kept the Patriots (9-5) in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East with Miami and the Jets. Cassel left the team briefly during the week to be with his family, but looked sharp Sunday.
The Raiders (3-11) fell behind 35-14 less than 18 minutes into the game, allowing the most first-half points against them since the merger in 1970. They also became the first team ever to lose at least 11 games in six straight seasons.
Falcons 13, Buccaneers 10, OT
At Atlanta, Michael Turner ran for 152 yards, John Abraham had three sacks and Jason Elam kicked a 34-yard field goal in overtime.
an 3 minutes left in regulation. That set up Matt Bryant's tying field goal with 48 seconds left.
But the Falcons (9-5) stuffed Tampa Bay on the first possession of overtime as Abraham sacked fill-in quarterback Brian Griese on third down. After the punt, Atlanta drove for Elam's winning kick, handing the Bucs (9-5) their second straight loss and tightening the NFC South.
Bengals 20, Redskins 13
At Cincinnati, the Redskins lost for the fifth time in six games, unable to keep up with one of the NFL's lowliest teams. Ryan Fitzpatrick ran for a touchdown and threw for another.
The main intrigue was how the Redskins (7-7) would react to injuries on the offensive line and grumbling by running back Clinton Portis that rippled through the locker room.
The Bengals (2-11-1) put the finishing touch on Washington's week of acrimony and attrition.
Chargers 22, Chiefs 21
At Kansas City, Mo., Philip Rivers rallied San Diego from a 21-3 third-quarter deficit, throwing two touchdown passes in the final 73 seconds.
The Chiefs (2-12), helped by a delay-of-game penalty against the Chargers, tried a 50-yard field goal on the final play, but Connor Barth's kick was wide left.
g to New England in last year's AFC title game.
Rivers, who came in with an NFL-best 102.0 passer rating, was 34-for-48 for 346 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Jaguars 20, Packers 16
At Jacksonville, Fla., David Garrard threw two touchdown passes, Maurice Jones-Drew scored twice and the Jaguars snapped a four-game losing streak.
The Packers (5-9) lost on a late drive for the third consecutive week. Green Bay entered the fourth quarter with a 13-7 lead, poised to snap a three-game slide, but Garrard directed two scoring drives that gave Jacksonville (5-9) its second win in eight games.
Seahawks 23, Rams 20
At St. Louis, Olindo Mare's 27-yard field goal as time expired stopped the Seahawks' six-game slide. Seattle (3-11) tied it on T.J. Duckett's 1-yard run with 2:47 to go.
The Rams (2-12) scored 17 points in the first half, more than in all but two entire games, while rolling up 243 yards. They reverted to bumbling form the rest of the way while losing to an injury-ravaged team without Matt Hasselbeck and tackle Walter Jones.
 

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