Steelers and Falcons Pass Tough Tests in Division

A fierce defensive battle turned when Polamalu hit Joe Flacco’s arm on a safety blitz. The loose ball was returned 19 yards by Lamarr Woodley to the Baltimore 9, setting up Pittsburgh’s only touchdown.

After throwing two incomplete passes, Roethlisberger dumped a short toss over the middle to Redman, who broke two tackles on his way to the end zone.

Baltimore’s ensuing drive ended when Flacco bounced a fourth-down pass to Ed Dickson with 33 seconds remaining.

The victory left Pittsburgh (9-3) a game ahead of the Ravens (8-4) in the division.

¶Eric Weems scored on a 102-yard kickoff return and Matt Ryan threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins as the visiting Falcons rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Buccaneers, 28-24. Ryan led his sixth fourth-quarter comeback of the season for the Falcons, the N.F.C. South leaders at 10-2. The Falcons have won six in a row. Tampa Bay (7-5) dropped to 0-5 against teams with winning records.

Contenders Stumble

Jason Campbell ran for one touchdown and threw for another as the visiting stunned the , 28-13. The loss put a serious crimp in the playoff hopes of the Chargers; instead of keeping up with the first-place in the A.F.C. West, San Diego (6-6) is tied with Oakland, two games back.

¶ had two interceptions returned for touchdowns, then threw a fourth in overtime that set up David Buehler for a 38-yard field goal that gave the a 38-35 victory over the . Reggie Wayne had 14 catches for 200 yards, but the loss dropped the Colts (6-6) out of the A.F.C. South lead.


rallied the Saints to a 34-30 win over the Bengals by coaxing Cincinnati’s Pat Sims into jumping offside in the final minute. Trailing by 30-27, the Saints (9-3) had a fourth-and-2 at the Cincinnati 7 with 34 seconds left. Instead of attempting a tying field goal, New Orleans called timeout and ran a play called “No-Brainer Freeze.” In it, the Saints line up as if they are going to snap the ball and Brees tries to draw the opponent offside. To the surprise of the 59,963 fans in Cincinnati, that was exactly what happened. Sims’s mistake gave the shocked Saints a first down, and Brees threw the winning 3-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston on the next play. “What is that guy doing?” Saints defensive lineman Sedrick Ellis said. “You have to be smarter than that.” The Bengals (2-10) have lost nine in a row.

¶Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 186 yards on 31 carries in the Jaguars’ 17-6 victory over the . With their fourth win in five games, the visiting Jaguars (7-5) took over first place in the A.F.C. South, a game ahead of the Colts. Jones-Drew has run for at least 100 yards now in five straight games, but his latest might have been his easiest. Jacksonville ran on 15 of its first 17 plays, picking up 86 yards. “They ran it and we didn’t stop it,” Titans Coach Jeff Fisher said. Tennessee (5-7) has gone 13 quarters without an offensive touchdown.

Revenge for Chiefs

The Chiefs avenged a 20-point loss to Denver three weeks ago with a ragged 10-6 win over the . Jamaal Charles ran for 116 yards and Matt Cassel threw a 3-yard pass to Leonard Pope for the only touchdown as the Chiefs (8-4) improved to 6-0 at home and remained in first place in the A.F.C. West. Denver (3-9) has lost 17 of 22 under Coach Josh McDaniels.

¶The managed to look even more inept than the Browns, who stumbled to a 13-10 win when a last-minute turnover gave them the ball at the 2 and Phil Dawson kicked a 23-yard field goal on the final play. When lineman David Bowens deflected Chad Henne’s final pass with a minute left and the score tied, Mike Adams snatched the ball — Henne’s third interception — and ran 25 yards to set up Dawson’s winning kick.

¶Jay Cutler threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Brandon Manumaleuna one play after a questionable call midway through the fourth quarter, lifting the Bears to a 24-20 victory over the . The referee Ed Hochuli flagged Ndamukong Suh for unnecessary roughness after he seemed to hit Cutler’s shoulder pads, jolting him to the turf from behind when he was running downfield. The Lions (2-10) were livid, perhaps because Detroit also lost its first meeting this season with Chicago (9-3) when Calvin Johnson appeared to catch a winning touchdown only to have the officials rule that he did not complete the play.

In Other Games

Tarvaris Jackson threw two touchdown passes after replacing an injured on Minnesota’s first series, and the rolled over the visiting , 38-14. The Vikings (5-7) will have to wait to see if Favre will be able to extend his record of 297 consecutive starts. Favre was leveled by linebacker Arthur Moats on his first pass play, spraining his throwing shoulder. “He’s played 15,000 games straight now, so he’ll probably play 15,001 next week,” said Jackson, who threw three interceptions. The Bills (2-10) had five turnovers.

¶Donald Driver left a string of befuddled defenders in his dust on a rambling 61-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in the third quarter, providing the most critical play in the ’ 34-16 victory over the 49ers. “I don’t know what happened,” Driver said. “All I know is when I caught it, I just started making moves.” As Driver and the team celebrated, the crowd counted out the tackles he broke as the play was replayed on Lambeau Field’s video screens. Greg Jennings caught 6 passes for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns for the Packers (8-4), who kept pace with the Bears in the N.F.C. North.

¶Marshawn Lynch rushed for a career-high 3 touchdowns, Lofa Tatupu returned an interception 26 yards for a score, and the used a 21-point third quarter to rally past the visiting , 31-14. Seattle (6-6) stayed even with St. Louis in the N.F.C. West race. Carolina is 1-11.

¶Steven Jackson rushed for 102 yards, including 27 on the game’s only touchdown, and the ended an eight-game losing streak against Arizona with a 19-6 victory over the Cardinals. Arizona (3-9) failed to score a touchdown for the second game in a row.

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Falcons Rally for 28-24 Win Over Buccaneers

TAMPA, Fla.. Down 10 points with just over 10 minutes to go, the streaking Atlanta Falcons didn’t flinch.

With Matt Ryan on their side, it’s easy to understand why.

Eric Weems scored on a 102-yard kickoff return and Ryan finished yet another fourth-quarter comeback with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins that gave the Falcons a 28-24 victory over the on Sunday.

The third-year pro has led 13 winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime during his career, six this season.

Atlanta (10-2) retained sole possession of first place in the NFC South over second-place New Orleans (9-3).

The Falcons won despite Ryan throwing two interceptions — the team’s first turnovers in five games — and being outgained 325 yards to 290.

Ryan also led a winning field goal drive in the final minute last week in a three-point win over .

He rejects the notion, though, that Atlanta is playing like a team of destiny.

“I don’t think anybody buys into that too much. We know that in this league, there is a lot of talent on each football team and anything can happen any given Sunday,” Ryan said. “We’re a confident team for sure, and we believe in ourselves, but we always know we’re going to face tough opponents, regardless of who we’re playing against, especially when you’re on the road.”

Matty Ice, as Ryan has come to be known, kept the winning march alive with a 25-yard completion to Roddy White on third-and-20. The Falcons also benefited from a third-down pass-interference call and another costly penalty on the Bucs for a horsecollar tackle.

“The mindset was the same. We felt like we could go down the field and score,” Ryan said. “We’re confident in that situation. We’ve been in those situations a number of times this year. … Nobody panicked because we understand that we can make plays when we need to.”

Rookie LeGarrette Blount rushed for 103 yards and fullback Earnest Graham threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to John Gilmore for Tampa Bay (7-5), which is 7-0 against teams with winning records and 0-5 against opponents with winning marks.

“We felt like we really outplayed them for most of the game, but it’s the NFL,” Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman said. “You have to find a way to win in the fourth quarter nearly every week, and today we weren’t able to do that.”

Ryan completed 18 of 36 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. The pair of interceptions were his first since a 39-32 win over Cincinnati on Oct. 24.

Atlanta built an early 14-7 lead with Michael Turner scoring on a 5-yard run and Ryan throwing a 17-yard TD pass to Ovie Mughelli.

Tampa Bay turned Sean Jones’ interception into a touchdown to pull even in the closing seconds of the first half. Ryan’s second turnover led to another TD — fullback Earnest Graham’s 2-yard pass to John Gilmore — that put the Bucs up 24-14.

Twenty-one seconds later, the Falcons were back in the game.

Weems took the ensuing kickoff 2 yards deep in his own end zone, slipped past two diving tacklers as he made his way to the sideline at about 25, then somehow stayed in bounds as he headed up the sideline in front of the Atlanta bench and ran into the clear.

“That was huge. An unbelievable change of momentum,” Ryan said.

“We played all four quarters,” Weems added. “It’s never over with us.”

Freeman was 19 of 38 for 181 yards and one touchdown for the third-place Bucs, who fell three games behind Atlanta in the division.

Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris didn’t take solace in the NFL’s youngest team playing the Falcons tough for the second time in a month.

“I think a good or great team, they go out and finish games,” Morris said. “We’re not going to wait until we become a veteran team to go out and try to finish games. We’ve got to do it the next four weeks.”

NOTES: The Bucs wore orange throwback jerseys from their expansion days in the late 1970’s, and the team’s first coach, John McKay, was inducted into the franchise’s Ring of Honor at halftime. McKay’s son, Rich, is the Falcons president and was Tampa Bay’s general manager when the club won its only title eight years ago. … Atlanta won an earlier meeting this season, 27-21.

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Falcons Edge Packers to Maintain Lead in N.F.C.

San Diego (6-5) won its fourth game in a row and kept pace in the A.F.C. West race, one game behind Kansas City. Indianapolis (6-5) lost its second in a row but likewise kept pace in the A.F.C. East, where it remained tied with Jacksonville for the lead.

Fans started leaving after the Colts committed their fourth of five turnovers, a fumble by Javarris James early in the fourth quarter. Colts fans had not seen such a debacle since a 31-3 loss to the on Sept. 14, 1997.

Manning finished 31 of 48 for 285 yards with two touchdowns, but he has thrown seven interceptions in the last two weeks — the most over any two-week span in his career.

The Chargers’ Kevin Burnett returned the first interception 29 yards for a score. Eric Weddle matched that with a 41-yarder in the third quarter that broke the game open. San Diego shut out Indianapolis for the final 30 minutes.

Falcons Have Eye on Future

Matt Bryant kicked a 47-yard field goal with nine seconds left to give the Falcons a 20-17 victory over the , one of the teams trying to chase down Atlanta (9-2) in the N.F.C. standings. The host Falcons (9-2) were well aware of the possible ramifications of their victory if the teams meet again. “I have no plans of going to Lambeau Field in January,” Falcons receiver Roddy White said. “I plan on staying right here and sleeping in my own bed in the playoffs.” Aaron Rodgers guided Green Bay (7-4) on a 90-yard drive — twice converting on fourth down — to tie the score with 56 seconds left. But Eric Weems broke loose on the kickoff return and was dragged down by Matt Wilhelm with a flagrant face-mask tackle, giving the Falcons the ball at the Green Bay 49. Matt Ryan completed four straight passes, and Bryant made the winning kick.

¶Jay Cutler tied a career high with four touchdown passes and the Bears beat and the Eagles, 31-26, at Soldier Field. The victory was the fourth straight for the Bears (8-3) and it put them a game ahead of Green Bay in the N.F.C. North. The (7-4) had won three in a row, but they were unable to break off big plays and fell into a tie with the Giants for the N.F.C. East lead. Vick passed for 333 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he also threw his first interception in four years. During the game, authorities said a man died after falling at least 20 feet from a ledge at the stadium.

Escape in Buffalo

Shaun Suisham made a 41-yard field goal with 2 minutes 14 seconds left in overtime to give the Steelers a 19-16 victory over the , but Buffalo receiver Stevie Johnson could not bear to watch. He sat with his head down at the end of the Bills’ bench, upset because he could have ended the game on the previous possession but dropped what would have been a 40-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick. “I had the game in my hands and I dropped it,” Johnson said. Rashard Mendenhall had 151 yards rushing and Suisham made all four of his field-goal attempts for the Steelers (8-3), but Buffalo (2-9) proved feisty in its bid for a third straight win.

¶Facing the coach who never started him in college, Pete Carroll, quarterback Matt Cassel threw four touchdown passes as the visiting remained on top of the A.F.C. West with a 42-24 win over the Seahawks (5-6). Jamaal Charles rushed for 173 yards for Kansas City (7-4).

Haymakers in Houston

A feisty duel between the All-Pros Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan exploded into a full-blown fistfight late in the ’ 20-0 victory over the . Both players were ejected and could face further discipline from the league. Johnson, a Texans receiver who was fined last year after a scuffle with Finnegan, a Titans cornerback, blamed him for their latest fight. “I guess he thought it was funny,” Johnson said. Midway through the fourth quarter, Finnegan charged Johnson at the line of scrimmage, and Johnson responded by pulling off Finnegan’s helmet and landing three punches.

¶Chad Henne returned from a benching and injury to pass for 307 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Dan Carpenter kicked four field goals to help the visiting beat the , 33-17. Davone Bess had 111 yards receiving and ran for 95 yards for the Dolphins (6-5). The Raiders (5-6) started the fan favorite Bruce Gradkowski over Jason Campbell at quarterback, but he threw two interceptions.

Around the League

¶ scrambled 10 yards for a key first down to help the (4-7) seal their 17-13 victory over the and give Leslie Frazier a victory in his first game as Minnesota’s interim coach. Favre had not gained more than 4 yards on a run since 2008. “He looked younger,” Adrian Peterson said of the 41-year-old Favre. “He looked like he was 38.” The Redskins (5-6) rushed for only 29 yards and had an apparent 77-yard punt-return touchdown in the fourth quarter nullified by a penalty.

¶John Kasay’s 42-yard field-goal attempt grazed the left upright as time expired, allowing the Browns to escape with a 24-23 win over the visiting . Kasay got a chance at his 14th career game-winner after the rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen drove the Panthers (1-9) to Cleveland’s 25 with five seconds left. Seven of Cleveland’s games have been decided by 7 points or fewer, but the Browns (4-7) are only 2-5 in them.

¶The rookie Sam Bradford threw three touchdown passes in his first 300-yard game and the visiting (5-6) held on to beat the , 36-33, a little more than a day after the league fined Denver (3-8) and its coach, Josh McDaniels, for a videotaping scandal. There was more than a smattering of boos when McDaniels was introduced, as well as signs in the crowd calling for his firing.

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