Mark Sanchez may have pulled off a miracle by remaining in the New York lineup for 12 weeks, but it appears his reign as starter may be over after being replaced in the 2nd half of Sunday’s game. Surprisingly, without “butt fumble” in there, the Jets got a win. So did 15 other teams.
The Saints traveled to Atlanta to take on the division-leading Falcons on Thursday night in a game that they had to have to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Drew Brees, however, threw FIVE interceptions and saw his NFL-record streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass end at 54 in a row. This was the first time since Oct. 4, 2009 that Brees did not throw a touchdown pass in a game and the first time he, or any Saints quarterback, has ever thrown five picks. Roddy White had no catches in the 1st half for the first time in his last 78 games. His first catch came with less than two minutes left in the 3rd quarter. With four on the night, tight end Tony Gonzalez now has at least 70 receptions in 10 straight seasons, tying the NFL record, and 13th season overall, tying that record as well. Matt Bryant made a 55-yard field goal in the 4th quarter and has now been good on his last seven kicks of 50 yards or more. Atlanta improved to 11-1 with the 23-13 win and has won 46 of 47 games when holding a lead at any point in the 4th quarter. The Falcons converted on just one 3rd down in the game (1-11). With the Tampa Bay loss to Denver, the Falcons clinched the NFC South for the second time in three seasons.
Stevan Ridley scored a rushing touchdown in his fifth straight game as the Patriots improved to 9-3 and won the AFC East, beating the Dolphins 23-16 in South Florida. Tom Brady did throw his first interception in his last 202 passing attempts in the 1st quarter – that had been the longest active streak in the NFL. He also threw a touchdown pass in his 44th straight game – the longest active streak in the NFL since Brees’ was snapped on Thursday night. With a second quarter reception, Wes Welker went over 1,00 yards receiving for the fifth time in his career, extending his Patriots record and he tied Jerry Rice‘s all-time record with 17 10-reception games. He had 10 catches for 89 yards…in the 1st half! If that wasn’t enough his 12 catches for 103 yards got him to the 10-catch, 100-yard mark for the 16th time in his illustrious career – the most all-time. Ridley became the 12th Patriot to run for 1,000 yards in a season. The Patriots clinched the AFC East for the fourth straight year and have won 20 straight games in the second half of the season. Brady became the first QB in NFL history to win 10 division titles. Finally, the Pats have won 12 straight regular season December games, dating back to 2009 and are currently on a six-game winning streak.
Something had to give in the Meadowlands as the 4-7 Jets hosted the 4-7 Cardinals – losers of seven straight following their undefeated start. It certainly was not a pretty thing to watch. Sanchez gave Brees a run for his money, throwing three interceptions in a game that ended 7-6 in their favor. He was finally pulled by Rex Ryan, but not for Tim Tebow – for Greg McElroy, who promptly threw a TD pass. Tebow was inactive for the game with a rib injury. The Cardinals have lost eight straight following this ugly game. New York improved to 4-111 in their history when scoring seven points or less in a game. Arizona did not convert on a 3rd down the entire day (0-15). The Jets improved to 1-6 all-time in games that Sanchez has thrown three or more interceptions. The two teams combined for more punts (16) than points.
With a chance to clinch a playoff spot, the 10-1 Texans took on the disappointing Titans in Nashville. With the 24-10 win, Houston clinched a playoff berth for the second straight year after none in their first 10 years as a franchise. Arian Foster registered his lowest totals in rushing attempts (14) and yards (38) on the season, but did score his 13th rushing touchdown. Tennessee committed six turnovers on the day, including three interceptions and two fumbles from Jake Locker.
Adrian Peterson reached the 8000-yard rushing plateau in the Vikings‘ 23-14loss to the Packers in Green Bay. AP became the sixth-fastest to get there in 85 career games. He finished with 84 yards, the 12th time he has run for more than 150 yards in a game. That’s most among active players. It was also his third career 200-yard game and just the third time since 1990 that someone has rushed for 200 yards in a loss. The Pack haven’t lost back-to-back games since Weeks 14 and 15 in 2010.
The 49ers‘ Aldon Smith recorded another sack in his team’s overtime loss against the Rams. He now holds the all-time record for the most sacks in a players first two seasons with 31.5. Janoris Jenkins scooped up an errant Colin Kaepernick pitch in the final minutes of regulation and returned it two yards for a score. Jenkins, a rookie, had two return touchowns for the Niners last week (both interceptions). The game looked like it might be the second tie between these two teams this year until Greg Zuerlein hit a 54-yard field goal with less than 30 seconds left to give the Rams the 16-13 win. He also tied the game on the final play of regulation. His seven field goals of 50 yards or more this year are one shy of the NFL record. Kaepernick would have become the first 49ers quarterback to win his first three starts with the team. He has, however, posted a QBR of 70 or more in three straight starts – something that Alex Smith has never done.
San Diego continues to falter, now having dropped eight of 10 since their 2-0 start with a 20-13 loss to the Bengals. Andy Dalton ran the ball in from six yards out with just over four minutes left to give the Bengals the lead for good. A.J. Green, after having caught a touchdown pass in nine straight games, went without one for his second week in a row. Cincy outrushed San Diego 128-46 and the Chargers threw the ball 48 times as opposed to just 11 rushes. BenJarvus Green-Ellis went over 100 yards for the third straight week (only times this season).
A last-ditch effort in the final 20 seconds to force overtime wasn’t enough for the Bears, who fell to the Seahawks, 23-17 in overtime when Russell Wilson hit Sidney Rice for the game-winning 13-yard touchdown pass. The Bears drove 86 yards in the final 20 seconds and Robbie Gould hit a 46-yard field goal as time expired to send the game to overtime. With the loss, Chicago fell to an interesting 2-6 all-time against the Seahawks at Soldier Field.
Cecil Shorts caught a touchdown pass in his fourth straight game in the Jaguars 34-18 loss to the Bills. Each team ran an identical 63 plays, but the Bills gained 108 more yards than their opponent. Chad Henne threw 23 incompletions to only 18 completions. Buffalo outrushed the Jags, who were again without Maurice Jones-Drew, 232-50. Justin Blackmon returned to his early season form, catching only one ball for nine yards. The Jags went 0-3 on 4th down attempts and fell to 2-10, while the Bills improved to 5-7.
In perhaps the game of the week, Andrew Luck led the Colts to their eighth win of the year in another 4th quarter comeback. In a win that was more dramatic than the others, Luck hit Donnie Avery from 14 yards out as time expired to cap off a 75-yard drive in 1:07 to stun the Lions 35-33. Detroit has lost three straight games, all at home, and have led in the 4th quarter of all of them. Luck became the first rookie drafted No. 1 overall in the common draft era to win eight games in his rookie year. Reggie Wayne caught three or more balls for the 60th consecutive game, adding to his NFL record. This is the Colts’ first four-game win streak against the Lions since 1958-59. Sunday marked the first day in NFL history that two rookies threw game-winning touchdown passes in the final minute of a game or overtime with Luck and Wilson accomplishing the feat. Luck’s five game-winning drives in the 4th quarter or overtime are tied for the most by a rookie quarterback since the merger. Calvin Johnson tied a career high with 13 catches in the game and added a touchdown to go along with his 171 yards. He was also just the second receiver in NFL history to record 125 yards in five straight games.
The Chiefs took the field with heavy hearts following the controversial murder-suicide involving starting linebacker Jovan Belcher just one day earlier. Although they got the win – 27-21 over the Panthers – it certainly cannot replace the life of a teammate. With 78 yards on the ground, to go along with 232 yards and three passing touchdowns, Cam Newton became the first NFL quarterback in history to rush for 500 yards in each of his first two seasons. Jamaal Charles rushed for 127 yards in the win.
Doug Martin set the single-season record for yards from scrimmage by a Buccaneers player as he now has 1,480 on the year. Not to be outdone, Peyton Manning tied and broke the Broncos single-season touchdown record when he threw his 27th and 28th TD passes of the year. The win clinched the Broncos the AFC West title for the second straight year; it’s the first time winning back-to-back division titles for them snce 1986 and 1987. Their seven-game winning streak is the team’s longest since a 14-gamer in 1997-98. Manning reached 3,500 passing yards for the 14th time in his career, tying him with Brett Favre for the most in history and he also became just the second QB to ever win 150 games along with Favre.
The Browns, believe it or not, won their second straight game, beating the Raiders 20-17 and improving to 4-8 on the year. Tight end Brandon Myers caught 14 balls for 130 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort. Trent Richardson‘ scored the seventh rushing touchdown of his rookie season as he is on pace to go over 1,000 yards in the next couple of weeks. Oakland has now lost five games in a row. It was the first road win for the Browns this year.
The Steelers, with third-string quarterback Charlie Batch, snapped the 16-game home winning streak and 12-game division winning streak of rival Baltimore with a last-second 23-20 win. After three straight scores in the 2nd quarter, the Ravens were held scoreless in the fourth and dropped to 9-3 on the year. Batch went 25-36 and his late touchdown pass to Heath Miller helped sew up the victory for the visitors. Emmanuel Sanders fumbled for the third time in his last two games – in the open field with no one around him and nothing but green grass in front of him. Ed Reed recovered the fumble and picked off his 61st career pass.
Desperately trying not to lose their eighth straight game, the Eagles flew into Dallas on Sunday night, but a late mistake cost them the game as they fell 38-33. Bryce Brown became just the second player since the merger with 100 yards and two or more rushing touchdowns in each of his first two career starts (Arian Foster). He did, however, fumble in the last few minutes of the game with the Eagles down by four. The fumble was recovered by the Cowboys and returned for a touchdown and 11-point lead. Tony Romo broke the record for the most touchdown passes in Cowboys’ history with 166 and was 10-10 with three TD’s in the 2nd half. DeMarco Murray scored his first rushing touchdown since Week 3. Alex Henery has made 20 consecutive field goals as he added two more for the Eagles. Damaris Johnson returned a punt 98 yards with 31 seconds left to cut the Dallas lead to five as they failed on the two-point conversion. The return was the longest in Philly history and their first return TD of the season. It is the first time the Eagles have lost eight straight games since 1968. The Cowboys had lost eight straight Sunday Night Football games, which was tied for longest streak in NFL history.
Monday night featured another matchup of NFC East teams as last year’s Super Bowl MVP took on one of this year’s most promising rookies. The Redskins, behind 235 total yards from Robert Griffin III, beat Eli Manning and the Giants, 17-16 to pull within one game of them in the division. Washington had lost 10 straight home games on Monday Night Football before the victory. New York fell to 16-20 in December games under coach Tom Coughlin. Alfred Morris became only the second rookie running back for the Redskins to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Washington also became the first team in NFL history with a 2000-yard rookie passer and a 1000-yard rookie rusher. Griffin also set the rookie QB rushing record, with 714, passing Cam Newton’s mark set last year. The win marked the first time that the Redskins got the best of their division rivals on Monday Night Football since 1985. The Giants had won 26 straight road games when leading at the half, according to Elias. They also fell to 0-5 this season when scoring 20 points or fewer and have lost three of four since winning four in a row.
With four weeks left in the regular season, the NFC East, North and West are all tight races, while the battle for the two-seed in the AFC is heating up.
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