Falcons edge Bills in Toronto in wild OT finish: NFL roundup
Broncos seize control of AFC West, Panthers win 8th straight
TORONTO — Matt Bryant booted a 36-yard field goal as Atlanta Falcons snapped a five-game losing streak with a wild 34-31 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills at Rogers Centre on Sunday.
Atlanta's first possession in overtime was at the Buffalo 47 after William Moore stripped Bills' tight end Scott Chandler of the ball and it was recovered by Robert Alford, who then lateralled to Desmond Trufant. The Falcons (3-9) then drove to the Buffalo 17, setting up Bryant's game-winning boot.
Atlanta forced overtime with Steven Jackson's one-yard TD run with 1:28 remaining in regulation. It came after Buffalo's Nickell Robey was called for pass interference in the endzone, putting the Falcons at the Bills' one-yard line.
Buffalo took over at its 24-yard line and was driving when E.J. Manuel hit Stevie Johnson with a completion. But Johnson was stripped of the ball and it was recovered by Moore, allowing the Falcons to run out the clock and create the first-ever overtime game in the Bills Toronto Series.
The lost tarnished a solid performance by Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller, who ran for149 yards and a TD. His 36-yard touchdown run at 3:12 of the fourth snapped a 24-24 deadlock.
The Bills (4-8) lost coming off the bye and fell to 1-5 during the regular season here as part of the Bills Toronto Series, which began in 2008 and was renewed in January for another five years. Buffalo is also 0-4 in December contests here.
Even with The Beach Boys performing at halftime, the game drew a series-low 38,969 spectators, including Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who wore a No. 22 Fred Jackson jersey. Last month, 35,418 — including Ford — watched the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeat the Toronto Argonauts 36-24 in the East Division final at Rogers Centre.
As has been the case since the series' inception, the crowd was a mix of NFL fans. Spectators wore a myriad of different jerseys but got solidly behind the Bills and voiced their support loudly each time Atlanta faced a third-down conversion.
Ryan gave Atlanta a 24-17 lead with an 11-yard TD strike to Tony Gonzalez at 6:47 of the third. But E.J. Manuel's 21-yard touchdown pass to Fred Jackson at 8:59 — after the Bills recovered Ryan's fumbled snap at the Falcons' 21 — made it 24-24.
Even with the roof closed — good considering the rainy, wet conditions outside — spectators weren't nearly as loud and rabid as fans in Orchard Park, N.Y. can be. And playing indoors robbed Buffalo of its biggest home advantage, the cold windy conditions that are the norm this time of year at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Buffalo came in off a 37-14 win over the New York Jets on Nov. 17. Manuel finished 20-of-28 passing for 245 yards and two TDs and also did a fine job of spreading the wealth as nine different receivers caught passes. The Bills' defence did its part, forcing four turnovers.
Buffalo's roster featured two Canadians: rookie defensive lineman Stefan Charles, a Toronto native who grew up in Oshawa, Ont., and veteran linebacker Jamaal Westerman, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but grew up in Brampton, Ont. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff grew up in Guelph, Ont., and played at the University of Guelph.
Fred Jackson, with two, and Manuel scored Buffalo's other touchdowns. Dan Carpenter added the converts and a field goal.
Antoine Smith and Steven Jackson also had touchdowns for Atlanta. Bryant booted the converts and another field goal.
Bryant's 49-yard field goal to end the second quarter made it 17-17 at half-time. It came after Smith's 38-yard touchdown run at 10:11 as Buffalo did the bulk of its damage offensively early, scoring on its first two possessions.
After Atlanta failed to convert a game-opening 50-yard kickoff return off a reverse, Buffalo responded with a four-play, 85-yard march that Manuel capped with a one-yard TD run at 4:06. It included Spiller's career-best 77-yard run.
Then Fred Jackson scored on a four-yard run at 10:00 to end a smart nine-play, 63-yard drive.
Atlanta responded with a five-play, 81-yard march that saw Steven Jackson rumble the final 27 yards for the TD at 12:30. Carpenter's 29-yard field goal at 7:36 of the second put Buffalo ahead 17-7.
The Bills Toronto Series was unveiled as an attempt to show Toronto was a viable NFL city. Rogers Communications Inc. paid $78 million US to stage eight games — five regular season, three exhibition — expecting southern Ontario fans to flock to Rogers Centre.
But high-priced tickets — initially averaging over $180 each, compared to roughly US$51 at Orchard Park — and struggling Bills teams have made it a tough sell. Tickets have been reduced to roughly an average price of $99 to make the game more affordable, but that's not yet resulted in a sellout.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Peyton Manning threw for 403 yards and five touchdowns, four of them to Eric Decker, and the Denver Broncos held off a furious rally to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-28 Sunday and seize control of the AFC West.
Decker had eight catches for a career-high 174 yards for the Broncos (10-2), who moved a game clear of the Chiefs (9-3) in the division. With four games left, Denver also holds the tiebreaker by virtue of two wins over Kansas City in the last three weeks.
Jamaal Charles had 93 yards rushing for the Chiefs, and capped a 17-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 6:32 left in the game to close within a touchdown.
After forcing a punt with 3:32 remaining, Kansas City used three long pass plays to move deep into Broncos territory. But Alex Smith's pass to Dwayne Bowe in the end zone on fourth-and-4 with 1:45 left fell incomplete, allowing the Broncos to run out the clock.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cam Newton threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score, and the Carolina Panthers defeated Tampa Bay 27-6 Sunday for a franchise-record eighth straight regular-season victory.
Newton threw touchdown passes to Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. and "Superman" leaped over the pile for another score as the Panthers (9-3) outgained the Buccaneers 426-206.
The Carolina victory sets up a huge showdown next Sunday night with New Orleans with first place in the NFC South on the line.
Newton ran for 68 yards and overcame two interceptions. The third-year quarterback has thrown 13 touchdown passes and run for five scores during the Panthers' current win streak.
Carolina's defence, which came in allowing the fewest points in the league, forced two turnovers and sacked rookie Mike Glennon four times to snap a three-game winning streak for Tampa Bay (3-9).
HOUSTON — Tom Brady threw for 371 yards and two scores, and Stephen Gostkowski made two long field goals in the fourth quarter as New England Patriots rallied for a 34-31 win over Houston.
The Texans' franchise-record skid reached 10 games.
The Patriots (9-3) trailed by 10 at halftime and the lead changed five times in a wild second half. New England tied it with a 53-yard field goal and took a 34-31 lead with another one from 53 with about three minutes left.
The Texans (2-10) had a chance late, but the offence stalled. On fourth-and-13, Case Keenum threw an incompletion as he was being hit.
Ben Tate ran for 102 yards and three touchdowns for the Texans, who haven't won since Sept. 15.
SAN FRANCISCO — Anquan Boldin caught nine passes from Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree made his long-awaited season debut six months after Achilles tendon surgery, and the San Francisco 49ers beat the St. Louis Rams 23-13 on Sunday.
Kaepernick threw for 275 yards and Frank Gore ran for a 3-yard touchdown as the reigning NFC champion Niners (8-4) boosted their position in the playoff picture. Crabtree had a 60-yard catch, while Vernon Davis hurdled into the end zone on a 17-yard reception.
With Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in the house, Boldin made six of his receptions in the first half on the way to his second-most productive game of the year behind his 13-catch performance in the opener against Green Bay.
Phil Dawson kicked three field goals, and San Francisco's swarming defence rattled Kellen Clemens and the Rams (5-7) all day.
MINNEAPOLIS — Blair Walsh's 34-yard field goal with 1:43 left in overtime gave the Minnesota Vikings a 23-20 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday after both teams missed kicks in the extra period.
Adrian Peterson rushed 35 times for 211 yards for the Vikings (3-8-1), who tied Green Bay the previous week. Peterson had two 11-yard runs on the final drive to get well within range for Walsh, who missed a 57-yard try earlier in overtime.
Walsh had to kick that one because Rhett Ellison was called for a 15-yard face-mask penalty to wipe out a 39-yard make by Walsh that would've ended the game.
The Bears (6-6) then reached the 29-yard line, but coach Marc Trestman called for a field goal on second-and-7. Robbie Gould's 47-yarder went wide right.
PHILADELPHIA — Nick Foles threw three touchdown passes and the Philadelphia Eagles held on for a 24-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Zach Ertz had two TD catches, LeSean McCoy ran for 79 yards and the Eagles (7-5) won their fourth straight game to remain tied with Dallas for first place in the NFC East.
Carson Palmer threw for 302 yards and three TD passes, but also had two interceptions and lost a fumble as the Cardinals (7-5) had their four-game winning streak snapped.
Foles picked up where he left off in November, when he was the NFC's Player of the Month and tied an NFL record with seven TDs in a game. Foles finished 21 of 34 for 237 yards against a defence that came in ranked eighth in the league.
Foles set a team record for most passes without an interception (233), breaking Michael Vick's mark of 224 set in 2010.
He also moved within one TD pass of tying Peyton Manning's record of 20 TD passes and zero interceptions to start a season.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Ryan Tannehill threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns, leading Miami to a 23-3 victory over the listless New York Jets on Sunday that kept the Dolphins' playoff hopes alive.
With the AFC East rivals approaching the game as a must-win, the Dolphins (6-6) played with more of a sense of urgency while sending the Jets (5-7) to their third straight loss.
New York also has a quarterback controversy on its hands as Geno Smith was benched in favour of Matt Simms after a dismal first half.
Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace had touchdown receptions for Miami, while Tannehill finished 28 for 43 with an interception.
Smith was 4 for 10 for 29 yards with an interception and an 8.3 quarterback rating before being replaced by Simms, who went 9 for 18 for 79 yards and an INT as New York's post-season hopes were severely damaged.
INDIANAPOLIS — Adam Vinatieri tied a career high with five field goals and Donald Brown scored on a 4-yard touchdown run with 1:56 left Sunday, giving the Colts a 22-14 victory over Tennessee.
Indianapolis (8-4) now has a three-game lead in the AFC South and the tiebreaker after sweeping the season series. The Colts can wrap up their eighth division crown in 11 seasons with one win, one Titans loss or if either team ties.
Indy's offense struggled again, failing to get in the end zone until Brown's late plunge sealed it. Until then, the Colts relied on Vinatieri's reliable right foot.
He made four field goals in the first half and gave Indy the lead for good with a 49-yarder with 2:33 left in the third quarter. That erased the 14-12 lead Tennessee (5-7) took with a 1-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Chris Johnson early in the half.
CLEVELAND — Cecil Shorts caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Chad Henne with 40 seconds left, rallying the Jacksonville Jaguars to a 32-28 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
On 3rd-and-9, Henne lofted a perfect pass to the left corner for Shorts, who had beaten cornerback Joe Haden to get open. Shorts got both feet down in the end zone before tumbling out of bounds. It was a dream moment for Shorts, who grew up in Cleveland.
Henne drove the Jaguars (3-9) 80 yards in nine plays for the winning TD.
The Browns (4-8) had taken a 28-25 lead on Brandon Weeden's 95-yard TD pass to Josh Gordon with 3:55 remaining.
Gordon returned from a head injury and finished 10 catches for a team record 261 yards. According to STATS, Gordon is the first player in NFL history to have consecutive 200-yard games. He had 237 in a loss last week against Pittsburgh.
LANDOVER, Md. — Eli Manning completed 22 of 28 passes for 235 yards, and Justin Tuck had four sacks to help shut down Robert Griffin III in the second half Sunday night, leading the New York Giants to a 24-17 win over the Washington Redskins.
Andre Brown had a pair of touchdown runs, including a 1-yarder early in the fourth quarter that put the Giants ahead for good.
Griffin was 16 for 17 at halftime, but he went 8 for 15 in the second half, and the Redskins managed only 95 total yards after halftime.
The win keeps the Giants (5-7) two games behind NFC East leaders Dallas and Philadelphia with four to play, while the Redskins (3-9) were mathematically eliminated from the post-season for the 17th time in 21 years.