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  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    49ers 17, Redskins 13
    By The Sports Xchange

    SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Wide receiver Anquan Boldin caught nine passes for a season-high 137 yards and a touchdown Sunday, leading the San Francisco 49ers to a 17-13 victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday at Levi's Stadium.

    • The 49ers drove 75 yards in eight plays for the game-winning touchdown, a 4-yard burst by running back Carlos Hyde with 2:59 to play, putting them ahead 17-13.

      Quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed 20 of 29 passes for 256 yards and one touchdown with one interception for the 49ers (7-4), who won their third consecutive game. San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree caught five passes for 58 yards.

      Running back Alfred Morris rushed for a season-high 125 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries for Washington (3-8), which lost its third straight game.

      Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III had a rough day, completing 11 of 19 passes for just 106 yards and no touchdowns. He was sacked five times.

      Facing fourth-and-1 from their 34 with 5:36 remaining, the 49ers went for it, and running back Frank Gore pounded up the middle for 3 yards and a first down.

      On the next play, Kaepernick fired a dart to Boldin down the right seam. Boldin made the catch, broke a tackle and gained 29 yards. Safety Ryan Clark was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness -- a blow to Boldin's head -- moving the ball to Washington's 19.

      Hyde gained 5 yards on first down. Kaepernick drilled a 10-yard pass to Boldin, and then Hyde scored standing.

      Washington's next possession ended with a punt. The Redskins' final drive died when 49ers defensive end Justin Smith sacked Griffin, forcing a fumble that linebacker Ahmad Brooks recovered at the Washington 8-yard line.

      After trailing 10-7 at halftime, Washington pulled even on Kai Forbath's 27-yard field goal with 31 seconds left in the third quarter. The Redskins marched 69 yards in seven plays, including a 32-yard pass from Griffin to wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

      The Redskins capitalized on a fumble by Gore to take a 13-10 lead with 7:42 left to play as Forbath drilled a 46-yard field goal. Defensive end Trent Murphy stripped Gore, and safety Phillip Thomas recovered at the 49ers' 37. Four plays later, Forbath gave Washington its first lead of the game.

      The Redskins suited up only five cornerbacks for the game as starter David Amerson was inactive after reportedly violating a team rule. Backup cornerback E.J. Biggers' day ended in the first quarter due to a concussion, and Tracy Porter, who replaced Amerson, left the game for good in the third quarter with a right shoulder injury.

      That makeshift Redskins secondary held Kaepernick in check for most of the day.

      The 49ers built a 10-7 halftime lead on the strength of Kaepernick's 30-yard touchdown pass to Boldin in the first quarter and Dawson's 41-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter.

      On their first drive of the game, the 49ers marched 59 yards in five plays for a touchdown, taking a 7-0 lead with. Kaepernick's 18-yard pass to Boldin on third-and-3 from the 49ers' 48 kept the drive alive. Two plays later, Boldin lined up in the right slot, got behind safety Brandon Meriweather and hauled in Kaepernick's pass near the front right corner of the end zone.

      The Redskins pulled even on Morris' 1-yard touchdown plunge with 5:33 left in the first half, capping a 10-play, 61-yard drive. Griffin completed a 24-yard pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon and an 11-yard strike to tight end Niles Paul on the drive, while Morris busted an 11-yard run.

      San Francisco drove 70 yards in 12 plays, setting up Dawson's tiebreaking field goal. On fourth-and-2 from Washington's 48 with 11 seconds left, Crabtree made an acrobatic catch along the right sideline good for 25 yards. Dawson came on to put the 49ers ahead.

      NOTES: Rookie LT Morgan Moses made his first career start for Washington, replacing Trent Williams (knee, ankle), who was inactive. ... San Francisco RT Anthony Davis (concussion) and CB Tramaine Brock (hamstring) were inactive. OT Jonathan Martin started for Davis, while CB Perrish Cox replaced Brock.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Chargers 27, Rams 24
    By The Sports Xchange

    SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Chargers won their second straight game by defeating the visiting St. Louis Rams 27-24 on Sunday.

    • St. Louis quarterback Shaun Hill had a pass intercepted by safety Marcus Gilchrist at the Chargers' goal line with less than a minute left to preserve the victory.

      With the win San Diego (7-4) tied the Kansas City Chiefs for second place in the AFC West.

      The Rams (4-7) failed to follow up on last week's upset of the Denver Broncos.

      Chargers running back Ryan Mathews rushed for a touchdown and game-high 102 yards.

      Quarterback Philip Rivers was 29 of 35 for 291 yards and a touchdown, with an interception, for the Chargers.

      Hill struggled, completing but 18 of 35 passes for 198 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

      Wide receiver Keenan Allen's 29-yard scoring reception gave the Chargers a 27-17 cushion with eight minutes left.

      But wide receiver Steadman Bailey's 7-yard touchdown catch pulled the Rams to within 27-24 with two minutes remaining.

      The Rams then drove to the San Diego 4-yard line before Gilchrist intercepted a second-down pass with 55 seconds remaining.

      Earlier, the Rams had converted a turnover into a touchdown and climbed back into the game, 20-17, midway through the third quarter on Tavon Austin's 6-yard run.

      San Diego coughed up possession when punt-returners Allen and Chris Davis collided and lost the football at the Chargers' 21-yard line.

      San Diego defensive end Corey Liuget forced a fumble by Hill, which was scooped up by linebacker Andrew Gachkar for a 13-yard touchdown and a 20-10 Chargers lead.

      The Rams led 10-6 at halftime, but the Chargers forged ahead, 13-10, on Mathews' 32-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter. It was his first score since returning last week from a knee injury suffered on Sept. 14.

      In the final minute of the first half, the Chargers cut the deficit to 10-6 on Nick Novak's 48-yard field goal.

      Just before Novak's kick the Chargers were nearly looking a 17-3 hole. But a 51-yard touchdown pass to wide out Kenny Britt was nullified because of holding penalty.

      Earlier in the half the Chargers blocked a 46-yard field goal attempt to keep more points off the board.

      The Rams took the lead, 10-3, on a pick-six by Janoris Jenkins. He snatched a Rivers' pass intended for Allen near the goal line and raced the length of the field for the score.

      The Chargers had scored first on Novak's 23-yard field goal, but Greg Zuerlien tied the score 3-3 when he kicked a 22-yard field goal late in the first quarter.

      NOTES: Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Chargers owner Dean Spanos had a long conversation before the game along the St. Louis sidelines. Both teams are among those mentioned as candidates to move to Los Angeles. ... CB Brandon Flowers, the team's top free-agent pickup, collected his team-high third interception. ... NT Ryan Carrethers, a rookie who had played well of late, was inactive with an elbow injury. ... Rams tight end Jared Cook now has a reception in 43 consecutive games.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Vikings-Packers: What we learned
    By The Sports Xchange

    MINNEAPOLIS -- Facing third down and 2 with a chance to close out the game, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a big decision to make. McCarthy gave Rodgers the option to throw or hand off to running back Eddie Lacy, expecting the All-Pro quarterback to air it out.

    • Rodgers chose to hand off to Lacy, and the decision paid off, as the Packers closed out a 24-21 win over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium to climb into first place in the NFC North.

      After starting the season 1-2, Green Bay won its third consecutive game and for the seventh time in their last eight games. Combined with Detroit's loss Sunday in New England, the Packers (8-3) claimed sole possession of first place in the division.

      "Normally, in those situations, Aaron and I will talk about two plays and that was the play he preferred," McCarthy said. "I just kind of chuckled because it's usually the other way around. It was the right call in that situation."

      Trailing 24-13 following a 15-yard touchdown reception by Lacy, Minnesota drove 79 yards in 14 plays, capped by a five-yard scoring pass from Teddy Bridgewater to receiver Greg Jennings. The two-point pass from Bridgewater to Charles Johnson was good, making it only a field goal game.

      But instead of attempting an onside kick from midfield following a roughing the passer call on the two-point try, the Vikings kicked deep, giving Green Bay the ball at the 20. The Packers fed Lacy the ball five straight times, picking up one first down at the two-minute warning and then another on a 10-yard run after the Vikings called their final timeout.

      Lacy finished with 25 carries for 125 yards and two touchdowns despite playing through what was later described as an illness.

      "It's going to take a lot to keep him out of a game," said Packers right guard T.J. Lang, who played through an injury of his own sustained in the first half.

      "He's a tough son of a (expletive)," added left guard Josh Sitton.

      In four career games against Minnesota, Lacy now has 434 yards to go with six touchdowns.

      What the Packers said:

      "It was a very good division win. One of our focuses all week was the importance of getting that fourth division win and what it means to your season. We needed this game. You have to win close games this time of year." -- Packers coach Mike McCarthy

      What the Vikings said:

      "Proud of the way the guys fought today. We fell short, we didn't make enough plays to win this game but the effort was there. We just have to continue to get better each week, be a consistent football team." --Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater

      What we learned about the Packers:

      1. The Packers can win all kinds of different ways. Green Bay has been exploiting teams all season with a lethal passing attack featuring quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. On Sunday, the Vikings did their best to take away those receivers. Enter running back Eddie Lacy, who overcame an illness to rush 25 times for 125 yards and a touchdown. He also scored on a 15-yard shovel pass from Rodgers in the fourth quarter. "It's important for us to learn how to win these kinds of games," Rodgers said. "It's great to score 50 points and blow teams out, but these are character wins right here."

      2. Green Bay's defense is as good as its been in years. Safety Micah Hyde's second-quarter interception kept alive a remarkable streak so far: The Packers now have forced at least one turnover in every game this season. "That's the biggest stat we care about; turnovers," said Packers linebacker Julius Peppers. "If we continue to do those things, I think we'll be pretty good." Green Bay's front also sacked Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater twice, pressured him six times and hit him six others.

      --RB Eddie Lacy rushed 25 times for 125 yards and a touchdown Sunday. He also caught a 10-yard passing touchdown. In four career games against Minnesota, Lacy now has 434 yards to go with six touchdowns.

      --S Micah Hyde had an interception in the second quarter. Green Bay now has forced at least one turnover in every game this season. For Hyde, the pick was the first of his NFL career.

      --WR Jordy Nelson led Green Bay with eight catches for 68 yards but did not score a touchdown Sunday, snapping a two-game streak with at least one score. It was only the second time in the past eight games Nelson has not scored.

      --WR Randall Cobb had five catches for 58 yards. He did not score for the second consecutive game. Prior to that, Cobb had gone scoreless in only one other game this season. He leads NFL wide receivers with 10 touchdowns this season.

      What we learned about the Vikings:

      1. Minnesota needs better consistency from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The rookie from the University of Louisville shows glimpses of the type of player he can be, but hasn't been able to show he can do it over the course of an entire game. Bridgewater went 8 for 10 for 69 yards and a touchdown on Minnesota's final offensive drive of the game, also pulling the Vikings within a field goal on a two-point conversion pass. But he was only 13 of 27 for 141 yards with a touchdown and a pick in the more than three quarters prior. "There were a ton of plays left on the field," Bridgewater said. "When you're playing a team as good as the Green Bay Packers, you want to make sure you're making all those plays."

      2. The Vikings might have something in receiver Charles Johnson. A seventh round pick of the Packers in 2013, Johnson is with his third team in two years after spending last season with Cleveland. Slowly but surely, Johnson has seen his playing time increase in Minnesota. Sunday, he caught three passes for a team-high 52 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown where he beat Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams. Johnson was targeted 11 times. "I just go in there whenever I can and try to make a play," Johnson said. "I know what type of player I can be, I know what type of player I am. It's all about opportunity." Johnson had six catches for 87 yards last week against Chicago and has established himself as a Bridgewater favorite.

      --QB Teddy Bridgewater was 21 of 37 passing for 210 yards and two touchdowns and one interception. Bridgewater has now thrown a touchdown pass in five consecutive games.

      --WR Charles Johnson led the team with three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown. The 11 targets were the most this season and established a new career high.

      --RB Jerick McKinnon rushed 15 times for 54 yards Sunday. He has not topped 54 yards in any of the past three games. His long run of 10 yards was the shortest in the past five games.

      --TE Kyle Rudolph caught three passes for 50 yards Sunday, his first receptions since Week 3. Rudolph, who missed six games after having hernia surgery, has 13 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Seahawks 19, Cardinals 3
    By The Sports Xchange

    SEATTLE -- The Seattle Seahawks overcame seven sacks and a quiet day from running back Marshawn Lynch to beat the Arizona Cardinals 19-3 while keeping the NFC West race alive.

    • Seattle (7-4) moved to within two games of the division-leading Cardinals, who had a six-game winning streak snapped. Arizona (9-2) had just 204 total yards in the loss.

      Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed 17 of 22 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown, while kicker Steven Hauschka made good on 4 of 5 field-goal attempts. Wilson added a team-high 73 rushing yards but was also sacked a season-high seven times.

      Arizona defensive lineman Calais Campbell had three sacks, all of which came before halftime.

      Lynch was held to just 39 rushing yards on 15 carries on an afternoon when he missed action with a sore back. It marked his lowest total since San Diego held Lynch to 36 rushing yards in a Week 2 win over the Seahawks.

      The Seahawks took control of a game made up of field goals when tight end Cooper Helfelt scored the game's first touchdown on a 20-yard pass from Wilson in the final minute of the third quarter. The touchdown gave Seattle a 19-3 lead.

      Arizona quarterback Drew Stanton struggled in his second start since Carson Palmer suffered a season-ending injury. He completed 14 of 26 passes for 149 yards and an interception, then limped off the field midway through the fourth quarter and watched Seattle's offense run out the clock. Rookie Logan Thomas was warming up on the sideline while the Seahawks closed out the game with a long drive that led to two kneel-downs inside the Arizona 5-yard line.

      Three Hauschka field goals gave the Seahawks a 9-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Arizona finally got on the board when kicker Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 23-yard field goal with 14 seconds left before halftime, pulling the Cardinals within 9-3.

      Catanzaro's field goal came one play after Arizona wide receiver Jaron Brown dropped an easy touchdown pass in the end zone.

      Lynch was limited by a sore back in the first half, keeping him off the field for a long stretch. Lynch had just 14 yards on seven carries at halftime.

      NOTES: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) had his streak of 110 consecutive games snapped when he was inactive. Fitzgerald, who hadn't missed a game since 2007, was nursing a sore knee all week and was listed as questionable before the game. ... Arizona was the only visiting team to win at Seattle's CenturyLink Field last season. ... The Cardinals had five sacks at halftime, with DE Calais Campbell collecting three of them.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    NFL roundup: Zimmer thinks Peterson will return to Vikings
    By The Sports Xchange

    Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer believes that running back Adrian Peterson will return to the team once he is reinstated, ESPN reported Sunday.

    • Peterson has said that he may go to a different team for a change of scenery, but Zimmer thinks differently.

      Last week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Peterson for the remainder of the season in connection with child abuse allegations in Texas earlier this season. Peterson will not be considered for reinstatement until at least April 15, 2015, for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

      Peterson pleaded no contest on Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault for injuring his 4-year-old son while disciplining him a tree branch. He has not played since the season opener in September. His suspension appeal is Dec. 2.

      "I think Adrian wants to be back here," Zimmer told ESPN. "You have to ask him. I don't know. But I know he does have an awful lot of people here who have supported him, and I don't know who he's speaking of who doesn't."

      Peterson told USA Today on Thursday that he may play for a different team once he is reinstated because he believes some within the Vikings organization do not support him.

      --Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola perceived the New England Patriots to be running up the score with a last-minute touchdown, and he admitted following the 34-6 loss that he went at the knees of a defensive lineman in retaliation.

      Raiola said he intentionally launched himself at the knees of a defender, trying to cut-block Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore on the Lions' final offensive play of the game.

      "I cut him," Raiola said, per the Detroit Free Press. "We took a knee, so I cut the nose (tackle). They went for six (a touchdown). They went for a touchdown at 2 minutes. They could have took three knees and the game could have been over. It's football. He wants to keep playing football, let's play football. Not a big deal. It's football."

      ---Buffalo Bills president Russ Brandon said the team will practice in Buffalo this week and host the Cleveland Browns at Ralph Wilson Stadium next Sunday.

      The team is in Detroit for Monday night's game against the New York Jets. The game was originally scheduled to be played in Buffalo on Sunday, but a snow storm forced the game to be relocated and rescheduled. The storm prevented the team from practicing in Buffalo and many were needed to help remove excess snow from the venue during the week.

      --Denver Broncos president Joe Ellis and vice president Mac Freeman spoke with the team's scoreboard operator about using more appropriate guidelines, ESPN reported.

      The talks stem from the Broncos' last home game against the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 23, which Denver won 35-21.

      Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was critical of the scoreboard operator after the game, blaming the video boards' technical crew for a false start penalty by causing distractions.

      ---Cincinnnati Bengals right tackle Andre Smith left Sunday's game against the Houston Texans with a torn triceps. The injury could end his season.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Lions C Raiola admits ill intent
    By The Sports Xchange

    Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola perceived the New England Patriots to be running up the score with a last-minute touchdown, and he admitted following the 34-6 loss that he went at the knees of a defensive lineman in retaliation.

    • Raiola said Sunday night that he intentionally launched himself at the knees of a defender, trying to cut-block Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore on the Lions' final offensive play of the game.

      "I cut him," Raiola said, per the Detroit Free Press. "We took a knee, so I cut the nose (tackle). They went for six (a touchdown). They went for a touchdown at 2 minutes. They could have took three knees and the game could have been over. It's football. He wants to keep playing football, let's play football. Not a big deal. It's football."

      Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork called Raiola's play "dirty" but he was not penalized.

      "You're taking a knee," Wilfork said. "They'd get mad if we were just to blow up one of their players, so I mean, it's just uncalled for. But at the same time, you always have to protect yourself, so you always have to play with your neck on a swivel and being alert for 60 minutes, and it came down to it today on a bonehead play like that."

      The Patriots lined up for a field goal following the two-minute warning with the Lions out of timeouts.

      Lions defensive tackle C.J. Mosley was called for roughness for hitting long-snapper Danny Aiken, giving the Patriots a first down. Rather than kneeling to run out the clock, the Patriots handed off to running back LeGarrette Blount for his second touchdown of the game.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Bears-Bucs: What we learned
    By The Sports Xchange

    CHICAGO -- Lovie Smith saw a familiar sight on his return to Soldier Field on Sunday. The problem was, this time he was on the wrong side of it.

    • Smith, the coach who led the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006 and built a dominating defense that was known for forcing turnovers, is now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach. Since he was fired following the 2012 season, the Bears' defense has gone from one of the best in the NFL to one of the worst.

      Nonetheless, at least for a day, Chicago played defense like it used to.

      The Bears, who had just 14 takeaways in 10 games, took the ball from the Buccaneers four times -- including three times on consecutive possessions in the third quarter. That was the difference in the Bears' 21-13 victory over the Buccaneers.

      Chicago's last two touchdowns, both scored on short runs by running back Matt Forte, followed takeaways on successive Tampa Bay offensive plays. The two touchdown drives totaled just 28 yards and five plays.

      In fact, the Bears were held to a season low 204 yards total offense but nonetheless won their second straight game -- both by the same score and both after trailing 10-0 -- to move within a game of .500 and facing a critical Thanksgiving Day matchup at Detroit.

      "Defense won the game today," said Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

      Cutler had one of his poorer games, completing 17 of 27 passes for 130 yards, but he was much better than his former backup, Bucs quarterback Josh McCown, who frequently seemed totally unaware of backside pressure, overthrew open receivers, and wound up getting sacked five times, throwing two interceptions and fumbling twice, losing one.

      McCown led the Buccaneers to a first-quarter touchdown and a field goal just before halftime for a 10-0 lead; Chicago went scoreless in the first quarter for the sixth game in a row.

      "Marc (Trestman, the Chicago coach) challenged us, and the players challenged each other (at halftime)," Cutler said. "We knew if we continued down this road, we were going to lose."

      "Verbally, we questioned guys ... and made sure when we left the locker room, everybody's minds were on what we were trying to accomplish."

      Trestman admitted the Bears "were very fortunate" to start the second half with only a 10-0 deficit.

      What the Bears said:

      "It was certainly not the way we want to start offensively (but) we'll take the win." -- Coach Marc Trestman.

      "We all took our turns messing up and we had to find a way to come together, and that's what we did." -- Offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod.

      What the Bucs said:

      "We (shut the Bears down) for the first half. We have to do it the whole game. We didn't do it enough. We have to be more consistent and do it the entire game." -- Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

      "It's tough to win football games when you lose the turnover ratio." -- Coach Lovie Smith.

      What we learned about the Bears:

      1. If nothing else, Chicago appears able to control teams with poor quarterbacks. Last week it was Minnesota and rookie Teddy Bridgewater, this time it was the Bucs and Josh McCown. In their last two games against established NFL starters, the Bears were torched for more than 50 points by Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.

      2. Some of the young players on the defense may be showing signs of stirring. Although the Bears lost rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller, their top draft pick, at halftime with a minor knee injury, they got two sacks and frequent pressure from fourth-year defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who also forced a fumble, and they got sacks from second-year defensive linemen David Bass and Cornelius Washington. Para credited teammates for pressure on his sacks, saying, "Those O-lines, sometimes they don't even look at me."

      --RB Matt Forte may be one of the most underrated players in the NFL and perhaps the best player on the Chicago roster. He carried 23 times for 89 yards rushing and caught a team-high five passes for 23 yards. Forte now has 1,532 yards from scrimmage, on a pace to finish with 2,228. No Bears player ever has gained 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a season.

      --DT Stephen Paea now has six sacks, matching his career total for three previous seasons in the NFL.

      --With one interception apiece in the third quarter, SS Ryan Mundy and FS Chris Conte now have three apiece, tying CB Kyle Fuller for the team lead.

      What we learned about the Bucs:

      1. Josh McCown was a good backup quarterback for the Bears who filled in admirably for an injured Jay Cutler last year, but he is in over his head as a regular starter. It was painful to watch McCown frequently unaware that a big defensive lineman was chasing him, ultimately to catch him and a couple of times to force fumbles on sacks.

      2. There is some good young talent if the Bucs can get the quarterback issue solved. McCown couldn't get the ball often enough to rookie wideout Mike Evans but rookie Charles Sims showed some flashes running with the ball.

      --WRs Wideouts Louis Murphy and Vincent Jackson both exceeded 100 yards receiving against the Bears. Murphy's 113 yards on six catches was nearly half his season's previous total of 242 yards receiving. Jackson had five catches for 117 yards.

      --DT Gerald McCoy is a load in the middle of the line and he was a disruptive force in the first quarter while the Bucs were making three sacks, one which was his.

      --Rookie WR Mike Evans is tough to cover. But he managed only three catches (including one touchdown) for 47 yards even though Josh McCown threw to him 11 times, largely because too many of the passes were either too high or too low.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Patriots-Lions: What we learned
    By The Sports Xchange

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The seventh consecutive win was in the books, and Vince Wilfork had a message to get across to the people who doubted his New England Patriots early this season.

    • "So many people saying how bad we were ... everything possible negative that people could say they said about us," the nose tackle said after Sunday's 34-9 rout of the Detroit Lions. "Our No. 1 job was to block out all the noise, ignore it, and just concentrate on what we need to do to get better. That was our No. 1 goal and that's still our No. 1 goal.

      "Now you look ... we're one of the best teams in the league. So the same people that were saying we were the most terrible team in the league now are patting us on the back. We don't have no room for them. We don't have no room for bandwagons."

      Quarterback Tom Brady, playing on the 14th anniversary of his first NFL snap, handled the Lions' top-ranked defense in the league, throwing for 348 yards and two first-half touchdowns to tight end Tim Wright.

      Brady, who relieved Drew Bledsoe at the end of the Detroit rout on Thanksgiving Day almost a decade-and-a-half ago, registered the 63rd 300-yard game of his career, tying him with Dan Marino for third place on the NFL's all-time list.

      "I thought we got off to a good start and then played from ahead," said Brady.

      Running back LeGarrette Blount, re-signed by the Patriots on Tuesday after his release by the Pittsburgh Steelers, also scored two touchdowns, both on short runs and the first on his first carry. He added a 23-yard run in the third quarter and a 33-yarder in the fourth and finished with 78 yards on 12 carries.

      "It's good to see him back," said Wilfork. "You know how we do things around here. He's never been a problem and I don't see him being a problem for us."

      The win was the Patriots' 15th straight at home, including six this season, and was also New England's 14th straight over a AFC North opponent, the longest current streak by any team against any division. It also ensured the Patriots (9-2) of their 14th straight winning season, third most ever by an NFL team.

      The Lions, who came in No. 1 in the league in total, scoring and rush defense, failed to score a touchdown for the second straight week and fell to 7-4 with their second straight loss, following last week's defeat against Arizona.

      "I don't know how you can call yourself a competitor if you are going to chalk it up and say we just aren't good enough," said Lions center Dominic Raiola. "I don't look at it like that. There is stuff we could have done better, period."

      Brady, who finished 38 of 53, was picked off at the Detroit goal line by safety James Ihedigbo in the third quarter -- only the third red-zone interception of Brady's career to go with 140 red-zone touchdown passes.

      He has 20 touchdown passes and two interceptions during the winning streak -- and on Sunday he became the sixth quarterback in NFL history with 7,000 pass attempts.

      Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell caught 11 and nine passes, respectively, while running back Shane Vereen had eight catches, as the Patriots rolled up 439 yards of offense.

      LaFell was banged up and moving gingerly in the locker room after the game.

      Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford was 18 of 46 for 264 yards and an interception -- to go with a 49.5 passer rating.

      "I think we missed some opportunities to make some big plays, got behind the chains a couple times, some untimely penalties, a couple sacks, a couple negative plays," said Stafford, who was sacked twice and has gone down 33 times this season. "So, (we) threw the ball a decent amount in the first half, didn't come away with touchdowns. That's big when you play a team like that."

      Matt Prater was three of four on field goals for the Detroit scoring, while Stephen Gostkowski kicked two field goals for New England.

      Danny Amendola had an 81-yard kickoff return after the Lions made it 7-6 in the second quarter to set up New England's second touchdown. The Patriots also got a 70-yard punt return, for an apparent touchdown, by Edelman called back for a penalty.

      What the Patriots said:

      "Yeah, we have a turnover bag. When somebody gets a turnover on defense, we bring the ball back to the sidelines and put it in the turnover bag. Logan (Ryan) got one today." -- Cornerback Darrelle Revis.

      "You got to give credit to the whole defense. They played an unbelievable game, and on offense we just did our job and got a good victory." -- Tight end Rob Gronkowski.

      "I didn't see anything. I just heard what happened, but that was stupid." -- Nose tackle Vince Wilfork, on Lions center Dominic Raiola throwing a hard block as his team took a knee to end the game.

      What the Lions said:

      "We just didn't finish and they were scoring touchdowns. It just comes down to making plays." -- Center Dominic Raiola.

      "We just got outplayed today, and they beat us." -- Safety Glover Quin.

      "They did well in all three phases, and when it was our turn, we didn't do the same." -- Wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

      What we learned about the Patriots:

      1. If opponents double-team tight end Rob Gronkowski, quarterback Tom Brady will wear them out by throwing to other receivers. Gronkowski wound up with five catches Sunday, but wide receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell combined for 20 catches, running back Shane Vereen grabbed eight and tight end Tim Wright five, two for touchdowns.

      2. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork loves proving a point to the critics who doubted the Patriots after they fell to 2-2 with an embarrassing lost at Kansas City. "So many people saying how bad we were ... everything possible negative that people could say they said about us," Wilfork said. "Our No. 1 job was to block out all the noise, ignore it, and just concentrate on what we need to do to get better. That was our No. 1 goal, and that's still our No. 1 goal. Now you look ... we're one of the best teams in the league. So the same people that were saying we were the most terrible team in the league now are patting us on the back. We don't have no room for them. We don't have no room for bandwagons."

      --QB Tom Brady, playing on the 14th anniversary of his NFL debut -- also against Detroit, in a late relief role -- threw for 349 yards and two first-half touchdowns in Sunday's win over the Lions. It was his 63rd career 300-yard game, tying him with Dan Marino for six on the all-time list. He also became the sixth NFL quarterback with 7,000 pass attempts. During New England's seven-game winning streak, he has thrown 20 touchdown passes and two interceptions. The pick he threw near the goal line Sunday was only his third career red-zone interception, to go with 120 touchdown passes. Brady relieved Drew Bledsoe at the end of a 34-9 Thanksgiving Day loss at Detroit in 2000. On Sunday, he engineered a 34-9 win over the same franchise.

      --RB LeGarrette Blount, who was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers after leaving the field early last Monday night and re-signed by the Patriots on Tuesday, scored on a 3-yard run on his first carry back with his old team. It came on his second play from scrimmage. He went on to score another touchdown and reel off runs of 23 and 33 yards in the second half. Blount gained 78 yards on 12 carries. "It's good to see him back," NT Vince Wilfork said. "You know how we do things around here. He's never been a problem, and I don't see him being a problem for us."

      --RB Jonas Gray went from being a star and on the cover of Sports Illustrated to not playing a down Sunday. The SI cover jinx? He reportedly was sent home from practice after arriving late Friday. Gray dressed Sunday but didn't get in the game. Earlier this season, CB Darrelle Revis was late to practice and was sent home, but he played in the next game. Ah, being a first-year player. "We do what we think's the best, that's what we did today," coach Bill Belichick said. Gray said he was disappointed he didn't play but happy the team got the win. Revis talked to Gray after the game.

      --WR/KR Danny Amendola set up New England's second touchdown with a dazzling 81-yard kickoff return in the second quarter. His career-long kick return is 84 yards, for the Rams in 2010. Later in Sunday's game, Julian Edelmen ripped off what looked like it a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown, but it was called back because of a penalty.

      --TE Tim Wright, acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in late August, hauled in his fifth and career-high sixth touchdown catches in the first half Sunday. He finished with five receptions for 36 yards.

      What we learned about the Lions:

      1. Detroit is a good team, but nothing more than that. Playing two quality opponents the past two weeks, the Lions failed to produce a touchdown and were outscored by a combined 48-15. Quarterback Matthew Stafford posted a 49.5 passer rating Sunday, and the Lions wasted chances to score, settling for field-goal attempts.

      2. Stats can be deceiving. The Lions came into the game leading the NFL in team defense, points allowed and rushing defense, yet the Patriots had their way most of the day. New England, which did have trouble in the third quarter, piled up 439 yards, 90 on the ground, and scored 34 points in the easy win.

      --QB Matthew Stafford didn't have a great day Sunday in the Lions' loss to the New England Patriots. He finished 18 of 46 for 264 yards, an interception and a 49.5 passer rating. He is a combined 36 of 76 for 447 yards and two picks the past two weeks, and the Lions failed to get into the end zone in both games.

      --WR Golden Tate got off to a great start with two catches for 41 yards on the first series of Sunday's game. However, playing against Patriots CB Darrelle Revis, he caught only two more passes the rest of the game. He also had a 13-yard end-around run in the loss. Tate did go over the 1,000-yard season receiving mark for the first time in his career.

      --S James Ihedigbo intercepted a pass from former teammate Tom Brady at the goal line and dropped what would have been pick No. 2. The interception was only the third of Brady's career inside the red zone and only his second during New England's seven-game winning streak. Ihedigbo has two interceptions in the past three games, his only two of the season.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Browns-Falcons: What we learned
    By The Sports Xchange

    ATLANTA -- Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer rated his play as horrible. But he'll take it.

    • Hoyer shook off two ugly interceptions in the final five minutes to lead a last-minute game-winning drive in the Browns' thrilling 26-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

      Cleveland kicker Billy Cundiff's 37-yard field goal as time expired was the difference and capped a frantic finish to a game that was mostly dominated by the Browns, but came down to the wire, mainly due to Hoyer's miscues.

      Leading by two with five minutes to play, Cleveland was at the Atlanta 6-yard line, looking to put the game away. But on first-and-goal, Hoyer rolled to his right and threw a pass to the back of the end zone that was intercepted by Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant.

      Cleveland coach Mike Pettine said Hoyer was trying to throw the ball away. Luckily for the Browns, the Falcons were unable to capitalize.

      But the Browns' quarterback gave the ball right back to Atlanta on the next possession, with safety Dezmen Southward picking off Hoyer near midfield.

      This time the Falcons took advantage, driving to the Browns' 36 to set up a Matt Bryant 53-yard field goal that put Atlanta ahead 24-23 with 44 seconds to play. The Falcons had a chance to take more time off the clock, but couldn't convert on a third-and-2.

      Cleveland took over on its own 20-yard line. Hoyer completed four of five passes, the last two to wide receiver Miles Austin, to move down to the Falcons' 19-yard line with 10 seconds to play. Hoyer rushed the team to the line and spiked the ball to stop the clock to set up Cundiff's game-winner.

      "We worked a lot of situational football through this spring and training camp," Pettine said. "That was just our mayday spike."

      Hoyer finished 23-for-40 for 322 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions, while Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was 27 of 43 for 273 yards, two touchdowns and one pick.

      The game marked the return of Cleveland's top offensive weapon in wide receiver Josh Gordon. After leading the NFL in receiving last season, Gordon missed the first 10 games serving a suspension for another failed drug test. Gordon caught eight passes for 120 yards.

      Cleveland running back Isaiah Crowell rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns, including a 24-yard run that put the Browns up 23-14 late in the third quarter.

      The Falcons answered with 14-play, 80-yard drive and cut the Browns' lead to 23-21 on a short touchdown run by running back Steven Jackson with 9:31 to play.

      What the Browns said:

      "Defense did a great job, but I've got to play a lot better. If we want really do something with this thing, I can't play like that. I mean, I can't believe we still won." - Quarterback Brian Hoyer.

      What the Falcons said:

      "It's very frustrating when you don't play consistent football. You train all week; these guys work extremely hard. The players, the coaches, we train and we have an opportunity to play once a week. When you don't play consistently, you're not going to get the outcome that you want." - Coach Mike Smith.

      What we learned about the Browns:

      1. The release of running back Ben Tate looks like a smart move. The tandem of Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West combined to rush for 150 yards, with Crowell scoring two touchdowns. Tate, the team's biggest offseason acquisition, had struggled and was eventually cut, giving way to Crowell and West, who took advantage of the move Sunday.

      2. The return of wide receiver Josh Gordon is huge. Gordon, who led the NFL in receiving last season, looked like he was in midseason form. He caught eight passes for 120 yards and could have had more, if quarterback Brian Hoyer had been more accurate with his throws.

      --WR Josh Gordon returned from a 10-game suspension due to a failed drug test and immediately sparked the Browns' offense. Gordon eight passes for a 120 yards. He was targeted a team-high 16 times and even made a heady play on what could have been a disaster. After bobbling a handoff on an attempted reverse, Gordon scooped up the ball, collected himself and was able to launch a pass out of bounds to avoid what would have been a big loss.

      --QB Brian Hoyer must have been looking over his shoulder after throwing his second and third interceptions in the final five minutes. But rookie backup Johnny Manziel never saw the field and cheered on Hoyer as he led the game-winning drive. Still, Hoyer's struggles are a concern for the Browns as they head into the final six weeks of the season. He completed 23 of 40 passes for 322 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. He missed several open receivers that could have resulted in big plays.

      --RB Isaiah Crowell rushed for 88 yards on 12 carries and scored two touchdowns. Crowell, along with Terrance West, will get the bulk of the workload going forward, after the Browns released running back Ben Tate last week. Tate, the team's top offseason acquisition, struggled the past month, before being released.

      What we learned about the Falcons:

      1. The defense continues to be a major issue. The Browns racked up 475 yards and easily marched 61 yards in 40 seconds to set up Billy Cundiff's game-winning field goal as time expired. Atlanta entered the game allowing the most yards in the league.

      2. The Falcons' running game was non-existent against Cleveland. Running backs Steven Jackson, Jaquizz Rodgers and Devonta Freeman combined for 57 yards. As a team, the Falcons averaged 2.7 yards per carry against a Cleveland defense that entered the game ranked 30th in the league against the run.

      --WR/KR Devin Hester caught four passes for 50 yards and very nearly changed the complexion of the game right before halftime. After Cleveland kicker Billy Cundiff's 59-yard field goal attempt came up short, Hester fielded the ball and took off down the right side. He broke into the clear and appeared to be headed for what would have been a momentum-shifting touchdown, only to be tripped up by the last Browns defenders.

      --WR Julio Jones had five catches for 68 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown, but continues to struggle with drops. Blanketed by Cleveland's top corner, Joe Haden, Jones was unable to bring in several passes that were within his grasp.

      --QB Matt Ryan completed 27 of 43 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw an interception, lost a fumble and was sacked three times.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Bears' defense stymies former coach and his Buccaneers
    By The Sports Xchange

    CHICAGO -- Lovie Smith saw a familiar sight on his return to Soldier Field on Sunday. The problem was, this time he was on the wrong side of it.

    • Smith, the coach who led the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006 and built a dominating defense that was known for forcing turnovers, is now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach. Since he was fired following the 2012 season, the Bears' defense has gone from one of the best in the NFL to one of the worst.

      Nonetheless, at least for a day, Chicago played defense like it used to.

      The Bears, who had just 14 takeaways in 10 games, took the ball from the Buccaneers four times -- including three times on consecutive possessions in the third quarter. That was the difference in the Bears' 21-13 victory over the Buccaneers.

      Chicago's last two touchdowns, both scored on short runs by running back Matt Forte, followed takeaways on successive Tampa Bay offensive plays. The two touchdown drives totaled just 28 yards and five plays.

      In fact, the Bears were held to a season low 204 yards total offense but nonetheless won their second straight game -- both by the same score and both after trailing 10-0 -- to move within a game of .500 and facing a critical Thanksgiving Day matchup at Detroit.

      "Defense won the game today," said Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

      Cutler had one of his poorer games, completing 17 of 27 passes for 130 yards, but he was much better than his former backup, Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown, who frequently seemed totally unaware of backside pressure, overthrew open receivers, and wound up getting sacked five times, throwing two interceptions and fumbling twice, losing one.

      McCown led the Buccaneers to a first-quarter touchdown and a field goal just before halftime for a 10-0 lead; Chicago went scoreless in the first quarter for the sixth game in a row.

      "Marc (Trestman, the Chicago coach) challenged us, and the players challenged each other (at halftime)," Cutler said. "We knew if we continued down this road, we were going to lose."

      "Verbally, we questioned guys ... and made sure when we left the locker room, everybody's minds were on what we were trying to accomplish."

      Trestman admitted the Bears "were very fortunate" to start the second half with only a 10-0 deficit.

      "Finishing strong, that's what it's about for us," said Smith. "The first series of the second half (three plays, minus-4 yards, a punt barely past midfield), we lost momentum there."

      The Bears, who had just 68 yards of offense and three first downs at halftime, drove 58 yards to a touchdown the first time they had the ball in the third quarter and then began to feast on the Tampa Bay turnovers.

      First, McCown, running out of the pocket on a 2nd-and-8 play, was unaware of defensive end David Bass bearing down on him. Bass knocked the ball loose from behind, rookie linebacker Christian Jones recovered, and, one play later, Forte scored on a 13-yard run for a 14-10 Chicago lead.

      On the first play after the kickoff, McCown threw another of his too-high passes, running back Charles Sims leaped but it went off his hands and was intercepted by safety Ryan Mundy at the Tampa Bay 15-yard line. Forte ran the ball four straight times, scoring from the one for a 21-10 lead.

      "We have to score on defense," said Gerald McCoy, the Bucs' standout defensive tackle. "Who cares where they get the ball? The great defenses are made with getting stops in the red zone and forcing them to kick a field goal, and we didn't do that. So we have to be better with staking the ball away."

      McCown's statistics weren't bad -- 25 of 48 for 341 yards, with a pair of 100-yard receivers -- but he was rarely able to connect with 6-foot-5 wideout Mike Evans despite a big height edge and injuries that left the Bears without cornerback Kyle Fuller or linebacker Lance Briggs in the second half.

      Chicago's two straight victories, which have left the Bears with a 5-6 record, have come against Minnesota and Tampa Bay teams who are a combined 6-16. But the Bears will take anything that seems like a lifeline.

      "We'll take two straight versus anybody, regardless of record," Cutler said.

      NOTES: The Bucs had to play without LB Lavonte David (hamstring), who shared the league lead in tackles -- with more than twice as many as any other player on the Bucs -- including a team-high 14 tackles for losses. ... With RT Jordan Mills (ribs) unable to play, the Bears have had their season-opening offensive line available for only one other game this year. ... Bucs FB Javorskie Lane was knocked out of the game with a right ankle injury early in the second quarter. ... The Bears had to play the second half without two defensive starters who sustained first-half injuries -- LB Lance Briggs (groin) and CB Kyle Fuller (knee).

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Cundiff rescues Browns, Hoyer with late FG
    By The Sports Xchange

    ATLANTA -- Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer rated his play as horrible. But he'll take it.

    • Hoyer shook off two ugly interceptions in the final five minutes to lead a last-minute game-winning drive in the Browns' thrilling 26-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

      Cleveland kicker Billy Cundiff's 37-yard field goal as time expired was the difference and capped a frantic finish to a game that was mostly dominated by the Browns, but came down to the wire, mainly due to Hoyer's miscues.

      Leading by two with five minutes to play, Cleveland was at the Atlanta 6-yard line, looking to put the game away. But on first-and-goal, Hoyer rolled to his right and threw a pass to the back of the end zone that was intercepted by Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant.

      Cleveland coach Mike Pettine said Hoyer was trying to throw the ball away. Luckily for the Browns, the Falcons were unable to capitalize.

      But the Browns' quarterback gave the ball right back to Atlanta on the next possession, with safety Dezmen Southward picking off Hoyer near midfield.

      This time the Falcons took advantage, driving to the Browns' 36 to set up a Matt Bryant 53-yard field goal that put Atlanta ahead 24-23 with 44 seconds to play. The Falcons had a chance to take more time off the clock, but couldn't convert on a third-and-2.

      Cleveland took over on its own 20-yard line. Hoyer completed four of five passes, the last two to wide receiver Miles Austin, to move down to the Falcons' 19-yard line with 10 seconds to play. Hoyer rushed the team to the line and spiked the ball to stop the clock to set up Cundiff's game-winner.

      "We worked a lot of situational football through this spring and training camp," Pettine said. "That was just our mayday spike."

      Hoyer finished 23-for-40 for 322 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions, while Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was 27 of 43 for 273 yards, two touchdowns and one pick.

      The game marked the return of Cleveland's top offensive weapon in wide receiver Josh Gordon. After leading the NFL in receiving last season, Gordon missed the first 10 games serving a suspension for another failed drug test. Gordon caught eight passes for 120 yards.

      "I held up pretty good," Gordon said. "The adrenaline will keep you going."

      Cleveland running back Isaiah Crowell rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns, including a 24-yard run that put the Browns up 23-14 late in the third quarter.

      The Falcons answered with 14-play, 80-yard drive and cut the Browns' lead to 23-21 on a short touchdown run by running back Steven Jackson with 9:31 to play.

      The Browns (7-4) began the day in the thick of the competitive AFC North. Cleveland has only two division games remaining, against Cincinnati (Dec. 14) and at Baltimore (Dec. 28).

      Despite a losing record, the Falcons (4-7) began Sunday in first place in the downtrodden NFC South. They begin a difficult stretch in their schedule, though, with games against Arizona, Green Bay and Pittsburgh up next.

      "When you're not consistent, you're not going to make the plays when you need to," Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. "That was the case in point today"

      The Browns outgained the Falcons 475-315 and had multiple opportunities to take control in the first half. Twice, though, they settled for field goals on drives that began in Atlanta territory. Hoyer's first interception ended another scoring threat late in the second quarter.

      Atlanta capitalized with a seven-play scoring drive, capped by a short touchdown pass from Ryan to running back Jacquizz Rodgers that put the Falcons ahead 14-13 at halftime.

      "It's great to win, but I'm really disappointed in myself," Hoyer said. "I feel like I let me team down, even though we won. That's not how I play."

      Ryan turned it over twice, an interception and a fumble, in the first half, but also threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Julio Jones to open the scoring.

      "This was a tough loss for our team, because it felt like it was our game to win," Trufant said. "Our defense was solid, but we just couldn't stop them from scoring the last-second field goal. But somehow we have to put this loss behind us and start preparation for the opponent next week."

      NOTES: Cleveland LB Karlos Dansby (sprained knee) was inactive, but outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard was active. Sheard injured his foot last week against Houston, and some feared that he would be lost for the season. ... Atlanta CB Robert McClain started in place of Robert Alford. ... The Falcons' defense entered the game allowing a league-high 403.4 yards. ... Cleveland DB Tashaun Gipson injured his knee on a collision with a teammate in the fourth quarter and had to be carted off the field. ... Falcons DT Corey Peters and defensive line coach Bryan Cox got into a heated exchange on the sidelines during the first half. ... According to the Falcons, 70,046 tickets were distributed.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Eagles beat Titans, look ahead to Cowboys
    By The Sports Xchange

    PHILADELPHIA -- This game was barely over before the Philadelphia Eagles started looking ahead to the next one.

    • The Eagles cruised to a 43-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field to set up a Thanksgiving showdown with the Dallas Cowboys for first place in NFC East.

      "I'm going to enjoy this win for about five more minutes, and then I'm focused on Dallas,'' Eagles center Jason Kelce said. "We did a good job focusing on this game all week because we knew it was an important one and that any team can beat you in this league if you're not ready to play. Well, we were ready.''

      The Titans (2-9), who fell behind 14-0 less than four minutes into the game, have now lost nine of 10 games after upsetting Kansas City in the season-opener.

      Fans who were late getting to their seats missed the biggest play of the game, as Eagles rookie Josh Huff took the opening kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown. Huff broke through a seam on the right side and found running room down the sideline. Two Titans had a chance at tackling him, but Huff stiff-armed kicker Ryan Succop and then Brandon McGhee before finishing off the scoring play, the longest kickoff return in Eagles history. The previous best was 105 yards, by Timmy Brown vs. Cleveland in 1961.

      "That's what you live for on special teams, to make a big play and give your team a lift,'' Huff said. "We work hard every week on that part of the game, and it's definitely a great feeling when all your hard work pays off like that.''

      Then, after Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin recorded sack No. 11 1/2 to force a punt and give his offense good field position on the Titans 49, the Eagles (8-3) quickly drove for another TD, this time on a 4-yard run by running back Darren Sproles. That gave the Eagles a 14-0 lead less than four minutes into the game. The Eagles added a 36-yard field goal by rookie Cody Parkey and took a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

      "It was a tough day for us, on a lot of fronts,'' Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "On the road, in a place like this, against a team that can score some points, that's not the way you want to start the game.''

      But Tennessee did fight back, and on the first play of the second quarter an underthrown pass by Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger was tipped by safety Malcolm Jenkins right into the hands of wide receiver Justin Hunter, who finished the 40-yard scoring play to make it 17-7 just nine seconds into the period.

      After the Eagles added another field goal, the Titans took advantage of a long pass (68 yards to tight end Delanie Walker) and a costly penalty (a facemask call against Eagles' defensive end Vinny Curry on a third-down sack that gave the Titans first-and-goal from the 4) to pull within six points, 20-14, on running back Shonn Greene's 2-yard run with 8:22 left in the second quarter.

      "Even after we fell behind by so much in the first quarter, we knew there was a lot of game left to play and we did a good job getting back into it in the second quarter,'' Walker said. "But we made too many mistakes in the second half and you can't make mistakes against a good team like Philadelphia, especially on the road. We could have played better, but you have to give them credit, too.''

      The Eagles gave themselves some breathing room before halftime, scoring a TD on running back LeSean McCoy's 2-yard run. The 69-yard drive was keyed by two third-down conversions, including a 21-reception by wide receiver Riley Cooper on third-and-6 that put the ball on the Titans' 2. McCoy, who rushed for 130 yards on 21 carries, scored on the next play to give the Eagles a 27-14 lead with 4:35 left in the first half.

      Then the Eagles opened the second half by scoring a quick TD thanks to an unorthodox play. A pass by Mettenberger was tipped and then caught by center Brian Schwenke, who tried to pick up some extra yardage. But he ended up fumbling the ball away and the Eagles took over on the Titans 33. Three plays later, Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez connected with tight end James Casey in the end zone for a 34-17 lead and the Titans never came close after that.

      Notes: Andrew Gardner replaced Matt Tobin at RG for the Eagles, giving them a different starting offensive line for the eighth time in 11 games. LT Jason Peters is the only offensive lineman to start every game. ... For the Titans, Mike Martin started at DE for Robert Pitoitua (coach's decision) and Coty Sensabaugh started at CB for Blidi Wreh-Wilson (back). ... The Titans came into the game averaging 16.8 points per game, 30th in the NFL, and they surpassed that in the first half, when they scored 17. ... Adding injury to insult, the Titans had an extensive injury list, including C Brian Schwenke (knee), LT Taylor Lewan (ankle) and RBs Bishop Sankey and Dexter McCluster (both with concussion symptoms).

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Hilton goes from delivery room to leading Colts over Jags
    By The Sports Xchange

    INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton likely never will forget Nov. 23, 2014.

    • Early Sunday morning, Hilton's wife gave birth to the couple's third child -- a daughter -- and in the afternoon, he caught a 73-yard, third-quarter touchdown pass from Andrew Luck that broke open a close game in the Colts' 23-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Lucas Oil Stadium.

      Hilton finished the game with four catches for a team-leading 122 yards.

      "His day started really early ... I got a call at 5:30," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "He told me that he was on his way to the hospital and that his wife had gone into labor. Everybody is good and everybody is healthy.

      "Then to come out and play the way he played was a heck of a day. He was pretty emotional afterwards. It is God's greatest gift. He now has two little boys and a girl, and when I asked him if he was done, he said yes. His celebration in the end zone after the TD was pretty cool. We didn't get a flag for it, but had we, it's pretty special."

      While the first half left lots to be desired, Indianapolis used a dominating third quarter to defeat the Jaguars.

      Trent Richardson's 1-yard touchdown run with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter, and Luck's touchdown pass to Hilton at the 6:08 mark extended a 6-3 halftime lead to 20-3 against the offensively challenged Jaguars (1-10), who lost their fourth in a row.

      Indianapolis (7-4) began another third-quarter drive that culminated with Adam Vinatieri's 32-yard field goal on the fourth quarter's first play for a 23-3 advantage.

      Luck finished 21 of 32 for 253 yards and the third-quarter TD to Hilton.

      "When I was out there, I wanted it to be special," Hilton said. "I was going to play every play for her -- just give it my all. When I get back to the hospital I will take her the football."

      Luck said he thought Hilton would play after his wife gave birth.

      "If he didn't play, that is personal, family stuff, and there are some things more important than a football game on a Sunday afternoon," Luck said. "Everybody is super, super stoked for T.Y, and I am sure he is going to sleep about 24 straight hours after this. But what a wonderful day for he and his family."

      With the victory, the Colts have won 11 consecutive AFC South games and continue to lead second-place Houston in the division.

      While Indianapolis' offense needed two quarters to find any kind of rhythm, the Colts' defense limited Jacksonville to 92 yards of total offense through three quarters and 194 for the game.

      It was an important victory for an Indianapolis team that was soundly beaten 42-20 on Nov. 16 by the red-hot New England Patriots in Lucas Oil Stadium. For the first two quarters Sunday, the Colts appeared to battling the remnants of that defeat, even drawing several rounds of boos from their crowd.

      Despite the fact Luck lost two fumbles and was sacked five times during the first two quarters, Indianapolis managed to seize a 6-3 halftime lead on Vinatieri's 20-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining before intermission.

      "Our coaches made some nice adjustments at halftime, and we came out in the second half and generated some offense," Pagano said. "Our defense today was outstanding. In the first half, Jacksonville got after us pretty good. We have to do a better job taking care of the football. Finally, our quarterback made some plays with his feet like he always does."

      Luck's 26-yard completion to Hilton moved the ball to the Jacksonville 18-yard line, setting up Vinatieri's second field goal of the half.

      "We refocused and kind of re-huddled up in the second half," Luck said. "But the way are defense was playing, we knew we didn't need too many points to get a win. We do understand that there is a lot of stuff we need to clean up.

      "It's tough to win in your own division, especially against a good Jacksonville team that caused a lot of our problems in the first half. They are the No. 1 red zone defense in the NFL."

      Vinatieri's 46-harder with 10:32 left in the first quarter gave Indianapolis an early 3-0 lead after cornerback Vontae Davis intercepted a Blake Bortles pass and returned it 42 yards to the Jaguars 23.

      Bortles finished 15 of 27 for 146 yards. He was sacked four times for losses totaling 32 yards.

      "Today was hard," Bortles said. "Our defense played really well. They stood up when we put them in some bad situations. They got some turnovers, but obviously, we weren't able to capitalize on those turnovers.

      "The Colts are good, yet we had opportunities and did not take advantage."

      Jacksonville pulled into a 3-3 tie with 4:17 to go in the opening quarter on Josh Scobee's 28-yard field goal, which was set up when defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks recovered a Luck fumble at Indianapolis 13-yard line.

      NOTES: K Adam Vinatieri now is 25 of 25 this season in field-goal accuracy. ... TE Dwayne Allen, CB Greg Taylor, G Lance Louis, C/G Khaled Holmes, DT Kelcy Quarles, T Gosder Cherlius and NT Zach Kerr were inactive for the Colts. ... WR Mike Brown, CB Teddy Williams, RB Storm Johnson, LB Jeremiah George, G Tyler Shatley, T Sam Young and DE Andre Branch were inactive for the Jaguars ... Jacksonville DE Chris Clemons sacked QB Andrew Luck three times for losses totaling 15 yards during first-half play. ... Indianapolis completed a two-game season series sweep of the Jaguars, also winning 44-17 on Sept. 21 in Jacksonville. ... The Colts have beaten the Jaguars five consecutive times. ... Colts starting RG Hugh Thornton suffered a knee injury during the third quarter and did not return. ... Indianapolis improved to 4-2 in Lucas Oil Stadium with home games against Washington and Houston remaining. ... Jacksonville fell to 0-6 on the road with trips to Baltimore and Houston remaining.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Defense carries Bengals past Texans
    By The Sports Xchange

    HOUSTON -- The Cincinnati Bengals exorcised their NRG Stadium demons.

    • Buoyed by a second consecutive strong defensive effort on the road, the Bengals churned out a 22-13 victory over the Texans on Sunday to move beyond two postseason defeats in Houston that reflected Cincinnati's stagnated progress.

      "It's bittersweet for myself. I've lost twice here," Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga said, referencing postseason setbacks after the 2011 and '12 seasons. "It hurts and it sucks coming into this locker room and everyone's head is down. To get off that field with a 'W,' it meant a lot for myself, and I think I speak on behalf of everybody on this team that we're just excited."

      One week after limiting the Saints to one touchdown in a win at New Orleans, Cincinnati (7-3-1) kept the Texans' offense out of the end zone.

      The Bengals' defensive might, particularly in the fourth quarter with Cincinnati clinging to a one-possession lead, served as a perfect complement to the two-headed ground attack fashioned by running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, plus a career day from fourth-year receiver A.J. Green.

      Green finished with 12 receptions for 121 yards while serving as the primary threat for quarterback Andy Dalton (24-for-35, 233 yards, one touchdown, one interception). Dalton targeted Green on 16 occasions. Bernard and Hill combined for 35 carries, 132 yards and a touchdown.

      "All day long, they got the ball out of their hands extremely quickly," Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said of the Bengals' plan to neutralize his influence. "It doesn't matter what you do up front when they get the ball out that quick. So give credit to them. They put together a good game."

      The Texans (5-6) amassed just 248 total yards and only 64 on the ground after rushing for 213 yards the previous week in a win at Cleveland. Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett finished 21 of 45 for 189 yards, posting a miserable 49.2 rating totaling 4.2 yards per attempt.

      "Holding them to field goals when they got into the scoring zone, those were big plays not giving up touchdowns," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said

      A pair of interceptions, one from each quarterback, swung momentum in contrasting directions in the third quarter.

      On the first play from scrimmage out of the intermission, Mallett had his errant toss toward receiver Keshawn Martin picked off by Maualuga. Cincinnati needed just six plays to capitalize on the short field, with Hill darting in from the 2-yard line for a touchdown that capped the 22-yard drive and extended the lead to 16-3 with 11:48 left in the third quarter.

      Just over four minutes later, Dalton returned the favor, staring down Green on third down and delivering a ball that Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph snagged and returned 60 yards for a touchdown. Joseph effectively wove his way through potential tacklers and received a key downfield block from safety D.J. Swearinger, whose pressure on Dalton helped force the hurried throw that yielded the interception.

      The Texans mustered next to nothing following the Joseph return. Whether by ground or through the air, Houston proved inept.

      "Not good enough," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "Didn't play good enough, really in all three phases."

      NOTES: With his first catch of the game, Texans WR Andre Johnson moved into 10th place on the NFL all-time list with 983 career receptions. Johnson, who entered play tied with Randy Moss, managed just three catches for 36 yards against Cincinnati. ... Bengals RT Andre Smith departed with a left arm injury midway through the first quarter and did not return. Smith was inactive each of the previous two games due to an ankle injury. ... Texans CB Johnathan Joseph recorded his first interception of the season against his former team and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Joseph spent five seasons with the Bengals before signing with the Texans in 2011. ... Bengals WR A.J. Green recorded a career-high 12 receptions for 121 yards. Green entered play with just 29 receptions this season after having missed three-plus games due to injury.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Packers ride Lacy to top of NFC North
    By The Sports Xchange

    MINNEAPOLIS -- Facing third down and 2 with a chance to close out the game, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a big decision to make. McCarthy gave Rodgers the option to throw or hand off to running back Eddie Lacy, expecting the All-Pro quarterback to air it out.

    • Rodgers chose to hand off to Lacy, and the decision paid off, as the Packers closed out a 24-21 win over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium to climb into first place in the NFC North.

      After starting the season 1-2, Green Bay won its third consecutive game and for the seventh time in their last eight games. Combined with Detroit's loss Sunday in New England, the Packers (8-3) claimed sole possession of first place in the division.

      "Normally, in those situations, Aaron and I will talk about two plays and that was the play he preferred," McCarthy said. "I just kind of chuckled because it's usually the other way around. It was the right call in that situation."

      Trailing 24-13 following a 15-yard touchdown reception by Lacy, Minnesota drove 79 yards in 14 plays, capped by a five-yard scoring pass from Teddy Bridgewater to receiver Greg Jennings. The two-point pass from Bridgewater to Charles Johnson was good, making it only a field goal game.

      But instead of attempting an onside kick from midfield following a roughing the passer call on the two-point try, the Vikings kicked deep, giving Green Bay the ball at the 20. The Packers fed Lacy the ball five straight times, picking up one first down at the two-minute warning and then another on a 10-yard run after the Vikings called their final timeout.

      Lacy finished with 25 carries for 125 yards and two touchdowns despite playing through what was later described as an illness.

      "It's going to take a lot to keep him out of a game," said Packers right guard T.J. Lang, who played through an injury of his own sustained in the first half.

      "He's a tough son of a (expletive)," added left guard Josh Sitton.

      In four career games against Minnesota, Lacy now has 434 yards to go with six touchdowns.

      "He is hard-nose, downhill runner," Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. "You just have to get on top of him. One man can't tackle him because he is just going to move his feet and he is going to fall forward every time."

      Rodgers credited Lang, Sitton and the rest of Green Bay's offensive line, which dominated Minnesota's defensive front. Green Bay averaged nearly five yards per rush and limited the Vikings to one sack.

      On the third and two, Rodgers said he listened to the big fellas up front.

      "You have to give the line a voice," Rodgers said. "Those guys know the pulse of the game, especially late in the game. They felt a run was something we could get."

      "Give credit to the Packers," lamented Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. "They made the plays in the ballgame when they needed to. We did some good things, we just didn’t do enough."

      Rodgers was 19 of 29 passing for 209 yards and two scores, connecting on a wild one-yard pass to tight end Richard Rodgers in the second quarter where the quarterback's pass actually went about 30 yards in the air.

      Facing a first and goal, Aaron Rodgers rolled to his right. Richard Rodgers ran a delayed corner pattern on the left. Aaron rolled outside the numbers then threw a jump pass across his body to the far corner of the end zone to the wide open tight end. There wasn't a Viking within 20 yards of him.

      "That was a little bit of freestyling there," Aaron Rodgers said. "That wasn't exactly how the play is designed. It's a play action with (Andrew Quarless) as a first option in the right back. There's only two guys in the route and Richard is the other option."

      "I was just standing there waiting," Richard Rodgers said. "It definitely felt like it took forever, but I was just open with nobody covering me."

      Minnesota responded with an 11-play drive before halftime, setting up kicker Blair Walsh for a 39-yard field goal to narrow the deficit to 14-10 at the break.

      The teams traded field goals late in the third quarter to make it 17-13 before Lacy took Rodgers' shovel pass 15 yards for Green Bay’s final score.

      Bridgewater finished with 210 yards through the air and two scores, hitting Johnson in stride with a 22-yard scoring pass early in the second quarter, tying the game at 7-7.

      "There were a ton of plays left on the field," Bridgewater said. "When you’re playing a team as good as the Green Bay Packers, you want to make sure you're making all those plays."

      Johnson was targeted 11 times but caught only three passes for 52 yards. Jennings caught four passes for 38 yards and the score against his former team.

      Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson had a game-high eight catches and 68 yards.

      "This is a very good November win," McCarthy said. "You've got to be balanced this time of year."

      NOTES: Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson injured his left knee and ankle on a kick return in the third quarter. He returned to play in the fourth quarter. ... Vikings OT Phil Loadholt suffered a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter and did not return. He got an MRI after the game. ... Packers S Micah Hyde had an interception in the second quarter. Green Bay has forced at least one turnover in all 11 games this season.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Patriots crush Lions for seventh straight win
    By The Sports Xchange

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The seventh straight win was in the books, and Vince Wilfork had a message to get across to the people who doubted his New England Patriots early this season.

    • "So many people saying how bad we were ... everything possible negative that people could say they said about us," the nose tackle said after Sunday's 34-9 rout of the Detroit Lions. "Our No. 1 job was to block out all the noise, ignore it, and just concentrate on what we need to do to get better. That was our No. 1 goal and that's still our No. 1 goal.

      "Now you look ... we're one of the best teams in the league. So the same people that were saying we were the most terrible team in the league now are patting us on the back. We don't have no room for them. We don't have no room for bandwagons."

      Quarterback Tom Brady, playing on the 14th anniversary of his first NFL snap, handled the Lions' top-ranked defense in the league, throwing for 348 yards and two first-half touchdowns to tight end Tim Wright.

      Brady, who relieved Drew Bledsoe at the end of the Detroit rout on Thanksgiving Day almost a decade-and-a-half ago, registered the 63rd 300-yard game of his career, tying him with Dan Marino for third place on the NFL's all-time list.

      "I thought we got off to a good start and then played from ahead," said Brady.

      Running back LeGarrette Blount, re-signed by the Patriots on Tuesday after his release by the Pittsburgh Steelers, also scored two touchdowns, both on short runs and the first on his first carry. He added a 23-yard run in the third quarter and a 33-yarder in the fourth and finished with 78 yards on 12 carries.

      "It's good to see him back," said Wilfork. "You know how we do things around here. He's never been a problem and I don't see him being a problem for us."

      The win was the Patriots' 15th straight at home, including six this season, and was also New England's 14th straight over a AFC North opponent, the longest current streak by any team against any division. It also ensured the Patriots (9-2) of their 14th straight winning season, third most ever by an NFL team.

      The Lions, who came in No. 1 in the league in total, scoring and rush defense, failed to score a touchdown for the second straight week and fell to 7-4 with their second straight loss, following last week's defeat against Arizona.

      "I don't know how you can call yourself a competitor if you are going to chalk it up and say we just aren't good enough," said Lions center Dominic Raiola. "I don't look at it like that. There is stuff we could have done better, period."

      Brady, who finished 38 of 53, was picked off at the Detroit goal line by safety James Ihedigbo in the third quarter -- only the third red-zone interception of Brady's career to go with 140 red-zone touchdown passes.

      He has 20 touchdown passes and two interceptions during the winning streak - and on Sunday he became the sixth quarterback in NFL history with 7,000 pass attempts.

      Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell caught 11 and nine passes, respectively, while running back Shane Vereen had eight catches, as the Patriots rolled up 439 yards of offense.

      LaFell was banged up and moving gingerly in the locker room after the game.

      Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford was 18 of 46 for 264 yards and an interception -- to go with a 49.5 passer rating.

      "I think we missed some opportunities to make some big plays, got behind the chains a couple times, some untimely penalties, a couple sacks, a couple negative plays," said Stafford, who was sacked twice and has gone down 33 times this season. "So, [we] threw the ball a decent amount in the first half, didn't come away with touchdowns. That's big when you play a team like that."

      Matt Prater was three of four on field goals for the Detroit scoring, while Stephen Gostkowski kicked two field goals for New England.

      Danny Amendola had an 81-yard kickoff return after the Lions made it 7-6 in the second quarter to set up New England's second touchdown. The Patriots also got a 70-yard punt return, for an apparent touchdown, by Edelman called back for a penalty.

      NOTES: Patriots rookie RB Jonas Gray, who ran for 201 yards and a club-record four touchdowns last Sunday night at Indianapolis before being sent home from practice Friday, reportedly for being late, was in uniform but did not play. "We do what we think's the best, that's what we did today," said coach Bill Belichick. ... Since 2010, the Patriots are 22-3 in the second half of seasons. ... RB Reggie Bush was inactive for Detroit because of an ankle injury and the Lions lost LB Ashlee Palmer to a head injury in the first half. ... Lions WR Golden Tate reached 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career. ... The 14 straight winning seasons by the Patriots trail only the 16 recorded by the San Francisco 49ers (1983-98) and Dallas Cowboys (1970-85). ... The Lions host the Bears on Thanksgiving Day, while the Patriots have a big game at Green Bay next Sunday. ... Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount worked out a deal with S Don Jones for his No. 29, Blount's number before he left. Jones wore No. 31.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    NFL game roundup: Brady, Patriots roll over Lions
    By The Sports Xchange

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady, playing on the 14th anniversary of his first NFL snap, handled the top-ranked defense in the NFL and led the New England Patriots to their seventh straight win, a 34-9 rout of the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

    • Brady, who relieved quarterback Drew Bledsoe at the end of the Detroit rout on Thanksgiving Day almost a decade-and-a-half ago, threw for 349 yards and two first-half touchdowns to tight end Tim Wright. It was the 63rd 300-yard game of Brady's career, tying him with Dan Marino for third place on the NFL's all-time list.

      Running back LeGarrette Blount, re-signed by the Patriots on Tuesday after his release by the Pittsburgh Steelers, also scored two touchdowns, both on short runs and the first on his first carry. He added a 23-yard run in the third quarter and a 33-yarder in the fourth and finished with 78 yards on 12 carries.

      The win was the Patriots' 15th straight at home, six of the wins this season, and was also New England's 14th straight over the AFC North, the longest current streak by any team against any division. It also ensured the Patriots (9-2) of their 14th consecutive winning season, third-most ever by an NFL team.

      The Lions, who came in No. 1 in the league in scoring and rush defense, failed to score a touchdown for the second straight week and fell to 7-4 with their second straight loss.

      Brady, who finished 38 of 53, was picked off at the Detroit goal line by safety James Ihedigbo in the third quarter -- only the third red-zone interception of Brady's career to go with 140 red-zone touchdown passes. He has 20 touchdown passes and two interceptions during the winning streak -- and Sunday became the sixth quarterback in NFL history with 7,000 pass attempts.

      Packers 24, Vikings 21

      MINNEAPOLIS -- Eddie Lacy rushed for 125 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead Green Bay over Minnesota.

      After starting the season 1-2, Green Bay won its third consecutve game and for the seventh time in their last eight games. Combined with Detroit's loss in New England, the Packers (8-3) claimed sole possession of first place in the NFC North.

      Lacy scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter and a 15-yard shovel pass from Aaron Rodgers midway through the fourth quarter, giving Green Bay an 11-point lead with 8:29 to play.

      On the following drive, the Vikings (4-7) drove 79 yards in 14 plays, capped by a 5-yard scoring pass from Teddy Bridgewater to receiver Greg Jennings. Bridgewater connected with receiver Charles Johnson for the two-point conversion to trim Minnesota's deficit to a field goal.

      Rodgers was 19 of 29 passing for 209 yards and two scores, connecting on a 1-yard pass to tight end Richard Rodgers in the second quarter.

      Browns 26, Falcons 24

      ATLANTA -- A remarkable five-minute stretch saw Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer go from the biggest of goats to hero in a thrilling win over Atlanta.

      Hoyer threw two ugly interceptions in the final five minutes to give up the lead, but shook it off and led a last-minute drive to set up Billy Cundiff's game-winning 37-yard field goal as time expired.

      The Falcons took advantage of the last of Hoyer's picks and drove for Matt Bryant's 53-yard field goal with 44 seconds remaining to seize the lead.

      Starting at the Browns' 20-yard line, Hoyer completed 4 of 5 passes and marched the Browns (7-4) to the Falcons 19-yard line to put Cundiff in position to win the game.

      The Falcons (4-7) had their two-game winning streak stopped.

      Bengals 22, Texans 13

      HOUSTON -- Buoyed by a second consecutive strong defensive effort on the road, Cincinnati churned out a victory over Houston,

      One week after limiting the Saints to one touchdown in New Orleans, the Bengals (7-3-1) kept the Texans' offense out of the end zone.

      Cincinnati's defensive might, particularly in the fourth quarter while clinging to a one-possession lead, served as a perfect complement to the two-headed ground attack fashioned by running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, plus a career day from fourth-year receiver A.J. Green.

      Green finished with 12 receptions for 121 yards while serving as the primary threat for quarterback Andy Dalton (24-for-35, 233 yards, one touchdown, one interception). Bernard and Hill combined for 35 carries, 132 yards and a touchdown.

      The Texans (5-6) amassed just 248 total yards and only 64 on the ground.

      Colts 23, Jaguars 3

      INDIANAPOLIS -- The first half left lots to be desired, but Indianapolis used a dominating third quarter to defeat Jacksonville.

      Trent Richardson's 1-yard touchdown run with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter, and Andrew Luck's 73-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton at the 6:08 mark extended a 6-3 halftime lead to 20-3 against the offensively challenged Jaguars (1-10).

      Indianapolis (7-4) began another third-quarter drive that culminated with Adam Vinatieri's 32-yard field goal on the fourth quarter's first play for a 23-3 advantage.

      Luck finished 21 of 32 for 253 yards and the third-quarter TD to Hilton.

      Eagles 43, Titans 24

      PHILADELPHIA -- Rookie Josh Huff returned the opening kickoff a team record 107 yards for a touchdown to springboard Philadelphia over Tennessee.

      The victory sets up a showdown for first place in NFC East when the Eagles (8-3) travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. The Titans (2-9) have lost nine of 10 games after upsetting Kansas City in the season opener.

      Fans who were late getting to their seats missed the most explosive play of the game. Huff took the opening kickoff, broke through a seam on the right side and found running room down the sideline. Two Titans had a chance to tackle him, but Huff stiff-armed kicker Ryan Succop and then Brandon McGhee before finishing off the scoring play, the longest kickoff return in Eagles history.

      Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez threw for 307 yards and one touchdown in his third start for the injured Nick Foles.

      Bears 21, Buccaneers 13

      CHICAGO -- Chicago awoke after a lethargic first half, scoring three third-quarter touchdowns -- two of them on runs by Matt Forte following takeaways -- to come from behind and defeat Tampa Bay.

      It was the second straight game in which the Bears (5-6), who haven't scored in the first quarter in six games in a row, spotted an opponent a 10-0 lead and rallied to win by the same 21-13 score.

      The Chicago formula of winning with takeaways was familiar to Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith, who led the Bears to the NFC championship in 2006 but was fired following the 2012 season. Under Smith, the Bears' defense worked hard at forcing turnovers and was always among the league leaders.

      Until Sunday, it was not that way this season -- the Bears had forced just 14 takeaways in 10 games before getting four against the Bucs (2-9).

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Bengals RT Smith, Browns S Gipson lost to injuries
    By The Sports Xchange

    Cincinnnati Bengals right tackle Andre Smith left Sunday's game against the Houston Texans with a torn triceps. The injury could end his season.

    • Smith was injured with the Bengals ahead 9-0 and replaced by Marshall Newhouse.

      An MRI exam will tell the story of the rest of Smith's season. If tendon damage is detected, Smith would require surgery and face months of rehab.

      If there is no tendon damage, Smith could return in 8-10 weeks, which means he could potentially play in the postseason.

      Cleveland Browns standout safety Tashaun Gipson was carted off the Georgia Dome field in the third quarter with a right knee injury. Gipson collided with teammate Joe Haden -- who was also slow to get to his feet but trotted off the field -- in the endzone. Running back Steven Jackson scored a 1-yard touchdown on the play.

      Chicago Bears weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs (groin) was hurt in the first half and declared out at rain-soaked Soldier Field, where Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (back) was also hurt.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Report: Cardinals WR Fitzgerald ruled out
    By The Sports Xchange

    Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will not play Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks, according to NFL Media.

    • Fitzgerald did not practice last week because of an MCL sprain and was listed on Friday's injury report as questionable.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Broncos talk to scoreboard operator about antics
    By The Sports Xchange

    Denver Broncos president Joe Ellis and vice president Mac Freeman spoke with the team's scoreboard operator about using more appropriate guidelines, ESPN reported Sunday.

    • The talks stem from the Broncos' last home game against the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 23, which Denver won 35-21.

      Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was critical of the scoreboard operator after the game, blaming the video boards' technical crew for a false start penalty by causing distractions.

      "I got a problem with our scoreboard operator; I've got to have a little talk with him," Manning said after the game. "I'm not sure what he's doing. He's playing music and showing players dancing, getting the crowd fired up and we have the ball. I don't think we should be doing that."

      Manning also said the crew was "disrespectful" to Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in how it portrayed him on the video boards during the second half.

      Ellis reportedly called Chargers president Dean Spanos to apologize for the incidents and assured him that it would not happen again.

      The Broncos host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Report: Broncos TE Thomas ruled out
    By The Sports Xchange

    Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas will not play Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins, Fox Sports reported.

    • Thomas is out with an ankle injury. He was listed as questionable on the team's injury report Friday.

      The injury is not considered serious but he was reportedly not deemed healthy enough to play this week.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Lions RB Bush ruled out
    By The Sports Xchange

    Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush is not active for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots with an ankle injury.

    • Bush was listed as questionable on the Lions' injury report on Friday but downgraded to out before Sunday's kickoff.

      Defensive tackle Nick Fairley and guard Larry Warford were ruled out on Friday. Both players have knee injuries.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Brandon: Bills will practice in Buffalo, host Browns
    By The Sports Xchange

    Buffalo Bills president Russ Brandon said Sunday morning that the team will practice in Buffalo this week and host the Cleveland Browns at Ralph Wilson Stadium next Sunday.

    • The team is in Detroit for Monday night's game against the New York Jets. The game was originally scheduled to be played in Buffalo on Sunday, but a snow storm forced the game to be relocated and rescheduled. The storm prevented the team from practicing in Buffalo and many were needed to help remove excess snow from the venue during the week.

      There are concerns about flooding in the Buffalo area due to the melting snow and another storm is expected Tuesday. However, Brandon said there are no major issues and that the team will fly home after Monday's game in Detroit.

      Brandon said there were only minor concerns and that the practice facility has passed inspections so far. He also said the players have no family members in distress and they will be able to commute to and from the practice facility this week with no problems.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Report: Griffin could get quick hook
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Washington Redskins could pull quarterback Robert Griffin III if he struggles early Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, according to ESPN.

    • Coach Jay Gruden was critical of Griffin last week, even saying that he has been coddled.

      If Griffin is taken out of the game, he would be replaced by Colt McCoy, who is 2-0 this season. It is possible the team could re-evaluate the starting quarterback position this week.

      Gruden said that Griffin has had a breakdown in fundamentals and has been unable to overcome adversity.

      It is not clear how team owner Dan Snyder feels about the situation. He handpicked Griffin to be the team's franchise quarterback.

      Griffin has passed for 763 yards with two total touchdowns and three interceptions in four games. The team is 0-2 since he returned from a dislocated left ankle.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Texans RB Foster inactive
    By The Sports Xchange

    Houston Texans running back Arian Foster is inactive for Sunday's game against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals.

    • Foster will miss his second straight game due to a groin injury. He was injured Nov. 2.

      Rookie Alfred Blue will start in place of Foster again. Last week, the sixth-round draft pick rushed for 156 yards on a franchise-record 36 carries against the Cleveland Browns.

      Foster will miss his third game this season. He also missed a game with a hamstring injury earlier this season.