Steelers steamroll Bengals: NFL roundup
The Pittsburgh Steelers needed just 15 minutes to provide the Cincinnati Bengals a refresher course on what it takes to win in December.
Run the ball. Create turnovers. A big play or two on special teams helps. So does having a quarterback who knows what he's doing when the games dwindle to a precious few.
It's a formula the defending AFC champions have used for years. It has rarely looked as effective as it did in a 35-7 win Sunday.
Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes to Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall ran for two more and the Steelers used an explosive second quarter to crush error-prone Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh (9-3) swept the season series from Cincinnati (7-5) for the second straight year to end any realistic hopes the Bengals have of winning the AFC North.
Patriots 31, Colts 24
Rob Gronkowski scored three more touchdowns. Chances are the New England Patriots are thinking more about the three touchdowns they allowed in the fourth quarter.
Against the winless Colts, no less.
The Patriots needed Deion Branch to recover an onside kick in the final minute to hold off Indianapolis. Trailing 31-3, the Colts rallied with a touchdown run by Donald Brown and two scoring passes from Dan Orlovsky to Pierre Garcon, the last with 36 seconds to go.
Tom Brady took a knee on the final play to complete the victory. The Patriots (9-3) have won four straight and are tied for the AFC's best record. Indianapolis (0-12) must beat Baltimore, Tennessee, Houston or Jacksonville to avoid becoming the second NFL team to go 0-16.
Texans 17, Falcons 10
Rookie T.J. Yates threw a touchdown pass in his first NFL start, Arian Foster rushed for 111 yards and Houston overcame another hamstring injury to Andre Johnson to beat Atlanta.
The Texans (9-3) have won a franchise-record six straight games, a remarkable feat considering they're down to their third-string quarterback and have played the bulk of their streak without their star receiver. Johnson left in the third quarter after hurting his left hamstring. He injured his right hamstring in Week 4 and sat out six games.
The Falcons (7-5) sputtered offensively much of the day and lost for the second time in seven games. Houston's top-ranked defence knocked down two Matt Ryan passes in the end zone in the closing seconds.
Dolphins 34, Raiders 14
Reggie Bush rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown and the once-woeful Miami Dolphins won for the fourth time in the past five games Sunday by beating Oakland.
Matt Moore had a hand in two TDs for Miami, and Kevin Burnett returned an interception 34 yards for a score.
The surge by the Dolphins (4-8) comes after they lost their first seven games. In the past five games they've outscored opponents 139-54, with the lone loss a one-point defeat at Dallas on Thanksgiving.
For the Raiders (7-5), who began the day leading the AFC West, the drubbing ended a three-game winning streak. They fell to 6-25 in regular-season games in the Eastern Time Zone since December 2002.
The Dolphins put the game away with a 21-point third quarter.
49ers 26, Rams 0
Jim Harbaugh delivered exactly what the San Francisco 49ers hired him for back in January: a playoff berth and NFC West title in his first season running the show. So much for the lockout slowing him down.
Left tackle Joe Staley delivered the celebratory Gatordade dousing on Harbaugh's head in the closing moments of the win over the St. Louis Rams that wrapped up that long-awaited division title for a once-proud franchise determined to return to the glory days of Jerry Rice and Joe Montana, Steve Young and Roger Craig.
Frank Gore helped run San Francisco (10-2) right into the postseason, becoming the 49ers' career rushing leader by passing late Hall of Famer Joe Perry and finishing with 73 yards.
Alex Smith threw second-half touchdowns of 52 and 56 yards to Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams and David Akers kicked four field goals to help Harbaugh join George Seifert (1989) and Steve Mariucci (1997) as the only rookie coaches in franchise history to win the division.
Cardinals 19, Cowboys 13 (OT)
LaRod Stephens-Howling caught a short pass from Kevin Kolb and zipped 52 yards for a touchdown in overtime to give the Arizona Cardinals a victory over Dallas, snapping the Cowboys' four-game winning streak.
It marked the third time since 2008 that the Cowboys have lost in Arizona in excruciating fashion.
Stephens-Howling dodged a host of would-be Cowboys tacklers to scamper in with the score. Kolb completed 16 of 25 for 247 yards in his first game in five weeks.
Tony Romo was 28 for 42 for 299 yards for the Cowboys.
Dan Bailey missed a 49-yard field goal at the end of regulation that would have won it for Dallas. He also missed a 53-yarder. The rookie kicker came into the game with one miss all season.
Ravens 24, Browns 10
Ray Rice rushed for a career-high 204 yards, breaking loose on a game-changing 67-yarder in the third quarter, and the Baltimore Ravens kept pace with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North by pounding the Cleveland Browns.
Rice and Ricky Williams had short touchdown runs and Lardarius Webb returned a punt 68 yards for a TD for the Ravens (9-3), who toyed with the Browns (4-8). Baltimore racked up 290 yards rushing.
The Ravens turned to Rice on a blustery, rainy day, when Joe Flacco had trouble throwing and kicker Billy Cundiff missed a pair of field goal attempts.
Cleveland lost for the fifth time in six games, and the Browns have just three days to prepare for the Steelers.
Titans 23, Bills 17
Chris Johnson rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns, and the Tennessee Titans remained in the playoff hunt with a 23-17 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Johnson scored on runs of 48 and 4 yards to match his season touchdown total. It was his third 100-yard rushing game in four outings.
Rob Bironas did the rest, hitting three field goals, including a 44-yarder midway through the fourth quarter to put the Titans (7-5) ahead 23-10.
C.J. Spiller had a career-best 83 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Bills (5-7), who continue to spiral out of playoff contention after losing their fifth straight. Stevie Johnson made the game close with a 2-yard touchdown catch with 2:58 left.
Jets 34, Redskins 19
Another shaky performance for three quarters by Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets. And then, another fourth-quarter comeback.
Sanchez hit Santonio Holmes for a 30-yard touchdown pass with 4:49 to play Sunday, and Shonn Greene added a pair of insurance scores to give the Jets a 34-19 win over the Washington Redskins, keeping New York in the realistic hunt for an AFC playoff berth.
It was Sanchez's 10th career fourth-quarter comeback or overtime victory, including the playoffs, and his second in as many weeks. The Jets (7-5) scraped by the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, the first step in the team's stated mission to win out and make the post-season for a third straight year.
Chiefs 10, Bears 3
Tyler Palko shook off two miserable starts and threw for 157 yards and a touchdown even though he was briefly lifted for Kyle Orton, and the Kansas City Chiefs beat Chicago on a day when the Bears lost Matt Forte to a right knee injury.
Orton came on to start the second quarter and immediately left the game with an injured finger on his right hand. Palko connected with Dexter McCluster on a wild 38-yard pass to end the first half on a ball that got deflected by Brian Urlacher and Chris Conte, giving the Chiefs a 7-3 lead and their first touchdown in three games.
Kansas City (5-7) got a 21-yard field goal from Ryan Succop in the third quarter, and Jon McGraw intercepted struggling backup Caleb Hanie in the end zone in the fourth. The Chiefs also recorded seven sacks — three by Justin Houston.
Panthers 38, Buccaneers 19
Cam Newton ran for three touchdowns to set the NFL single-season record for rushing TDs by a quarterback, leading the Carolina Panthers to a rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner scored the 11th, 12th and 13th TDs of his career on a trio of 1-yard runs. The rookie also had a reception to set up a touchdown and threw a pass to Legedu Naanee to finish one of Carolina's three scoring drives of 80-plus yards.
The Panthers (4-8) have doubled their victory total for last season. Tampa Bay (4-8) has lost six straight and seven of eight following a 3-1 start.
The Bucs played without quarterback Josh Freeman, who sat out with an injury to his throwing shoulder.