Bucs, Vikes, Panthers win key NFC games

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers remained in a tie atop the NFC South on Sunday and dampened the playoff hopes of two other teams in the process.

Browns lose another QB to injury

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers remained in a tie atop the NFC South on Sunday and dampened the playoff hopes of two other teams in the process.

Both teams are 9-3 after winning see-saw games.

Tampa Bay nearly blew a 10-point lead but held on for a 23-20 win over the New Orleans Saints. Carolina was up by 11 before ultimately prevailing 35-31 over the Green Bay Packers. 
Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia, left, is escorted by centre Jeff Faine on a run during a rainy game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. ((Steve Nesius/Associated Press))

Jeff Garcia threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant and Cadillac Williams ran for a score for the first time in more than 14 months for Tampa Bay. Williams returned to the lineup last week after a year away due to a thigh injury.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw touchdowns to Lance Moore and Pierre Thomas. But Brees also threw three interceptions, including on the team's last two drives in the fourth quarter. The Saints fell to 6-6.

Carolina pounded the ball on the ground in their game in Green Bay, with DeAngelo Williams gaining 72 yards and scoring four touchdowns.

The Panthers were not secure until linebacker Jon Beason intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass with just over one minute left. Beason also had nine tackles in the game.

Rodgers threw touchdowns to Donald Lee, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings but for the second straight week was done in by a porous defence. Green Bay lost to New Orleans last week 51-29.

The Packers are 5-7, and fell two games behind division leaders the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Central.

After an NFL record was established for most points ever on a Sunday last week, several games this time around were hampered by inclement weather in the Northeast. 

It was also a week where 10 road teams emerged victorious in the 12 games.

Vikings 34, Bears 14

Gus Frerotte found former Bear Bernard Berrian on a 99-yard passing play in the second quarter that changed the momentum of the game. Frerotte, Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor also ran in for scores for Minnesota (7-5).

Kyle Orton hooked up with Devin Hester for a 65-yard play that made the score 7-0 but turned the ball over repeatedly in the second half. Orton, who hadn't thrown an interception since September, did so three times in the final half.

Chicago fell to 6-7, losing for the third time in four weeks.

Falcons 22, Chargers 16

Atlanta (8-4) stayed a game behind Tampa Bay and Carolina in the NFC South with the big road victory. Matt Ryan threw touchdowns to Justin Peelle and Harry Reynolds, while Michael Turner gained 120 yards on the ground.

San Diego (4-8) made the AFC championship game last season but will need to win out and hope Denver loses every remaining game to make the playoffs.  LaDainian Tomlinson was limited to 24 yards on 14 carries while quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked three times and committed a crucial grounding penalty from his own end zone, resulting in an Atlanta safety.

Steelers 33, Patriots 10

Pittsburgh (9-3) blew open a close game in the third quarter by forcing turnovers on four consecutive touches by New England. Steelers pivot Ben Roethlisberger combined with Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes for touchdown passes while James Harrison recorded two sacks and twice forced Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel to fumble.

Cassel also threw two interceptions for New England (7-5), who missed out on a chance to pull even with the New York Jets in the AFC East.

Broncos 34, Jets 17

Denver (7-5) rebounded from a bad loss to Oakland last week with a surprisingly easy road victory. The Broncos were never worse than even against the Jets, with quarterback Jay Cutler throwing touchdown passes to Eddie Royal and Brandon Stokley. Peyton Hillis added 129 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Turnovers killed the Jets. Vernon Fox returned Leon Washington's fumble 23 yards for a score, while the Broncos drove down the field for another seven points after Dre Bly intercepted Brett Favre. Thomas Jones rushed for both New York touchdowns, racking up 138 yards.

New York (8-4) lost for the first time in six games.

49ers 10, Bills 3 

In a dreadful offensive showing, neither Trent Edwards nor replacement J.P. Losman could get Buffalo (6-6) into the end zone against the 49ers (4-8).

Rian Lindell hit the upright on two of three field goal attempts, including a 20-yarder, but the kicks still wouldn't have been enough to push the Bills ahead.

The only touchdown of the game came on the opening drive, with Shaun Hill capping a 72-yard march with a 12-yard scoring pass to veteran Isaac Bruce.

Buffalo will play in Toronto next Sunday, taking on AFC East rival Miami. Edwards injured his groin and wasn't certain after the game if he would play.
Rian Lindell, left, and Brian Moorman of the Buffalo Bills react after one of two missed field goals on Sunday. ((David Duprey/Associated Press))

Dolphins 16, Rams 12

Miami (7-5) fended off a pesky St. Louis squad. Ronnie Brown's three-yard run was the only touchdown in a game that featured seven field goals.

Kicker Josh Brown accounted for every point for the Rams (2-10). Starter Marc Bulger had another terrible outing, throwing three interceptions.

Giants 23, Redskins 7

The Giants (11-1) continued their mastery over the Redskins. New York won both games this season and has taken six of the last seven in the series.

Eli Manning hooked up with Amani Toomer early for a 40-yard touchdown pass and Brandon Jacobs punched the ball in from one-yard out. Devin Thomas scored on a 29-yard run for Washington (7-5), who fell a game behind Dallas in the NFC East.

The Redskins inducted the late Sean Taylor into their stadium ring of honour before the game. Taylor, 24, died on Nov. 27, 2007, a day after being shot in his own home.

Colts 10 Browns 6

The Browns held the Colts offence out of the end zone, but unfortunately for Cleveland, quarterback Derek Anderson's fumble was returned 37 yards for the game's only touchdown.

Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning had a five-game touchdown passing streak snapped and threw two interceptions. The Colts improved to 8-4, while Cleveland fell to 4-8.

Anderson later sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Already without Brady Quinn for the rest of the year due to a finger injury, coach Romeo Crennel said after the game the team would likely have to turn to No. 3 pivot Ken Dorsey.  

Ravens 34, Bengals 3

Mark Clayton caught a touchdown pass and threw a 32-yard touchdown on a gadget play to Derrick Mason for Baltimore (8-4). Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco pushed his touchdown pass total up with scores to Clayton and Todd Heap.

Bengals starter Ryan Fitzpatrick was pulled from the game but replacement Jordan Palmer threw an interception that Jim Leonhard returned 35 yards for a touchdown. Cincinnati dropped to 1-10-1.

Chiefs 20, Raiders 13

Larry Johnson was a workhorse, gaining 92 yards and scoring a touchdown on 24 carries for the Chiefs, who improved to 2-10.

Oakland fell to 3-9. JaMarcus Russell completed just 10 of 28 passes, for 132 yards.