0

Colts now far from perfect

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts won't go undefeated this season.

The Colts (14-1) pulled Peyton Manning and a handful of other starters with a 15-10 lead and 5:36 left in the third quarter, and the New York Jets took advantage to rally for a 29-15 victory that ended the NFL's longest regular-season winning streak at 23.

Brad Smith opened the second half with a 106-yard kickoff return to give New York (8-7) a 10-9 lead. The Colts regained the lead at 15-10 when Donald Brown scored on a 1-yard run.

But after Manning left, Marques Douglas returned a fumble from Manning's replacement, Curtis Painter, 1 yard for a score. The Jets sealed it with a 43-yard field goal and Thomas Jones' 1-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. They will make the playoffs if they beat Cincinnati next Sunday.

It was the Colts' first loss since Oct. 27, 2008 at Tennessee, and it ended a franchise-record 13-game winning streak at home.

On the second series the starters sat out, fans started booing. The boos grew louder with each play, reaching a crescendo when Manning's replacement was hit by Calvin Pace while setting to throw and lost the ball. Douglas fell on it and rolled into the end zone for the go-ahead score with 1:29 left in the third quarter.

During the rest of the game, players like Manning and Wayne could be seen with dejected looks.

PATRIOTS 35, JAGUARS 7: Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes, three to Randy Moss, and the young defense put together its third straight solid game, clinching the AFC East and further dimming the Jaguars' slim postseason chances.

For the Patriots (10-5), it was another encouraging outing in what had been an inconsistent season. They took the division after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2002 despite an 11-5 record. And they did it in a one-sided manner, just like most of their games in the 2007 season when they lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants 17-14 on a last-minute touchdown.

Brady bounced back after throwing for just 307 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his previous two games. He completed 23 of 26 passes for 267 yards, reminiscent of his brilliance the last time the teams met: 26 of 28 for 262 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 31-20 divisional playoff win on Jan. 12, 2008.

Jacksonville dropped its third straight game and fourth in its last five after going 6-4. New England won its third straight -- outscoring the opposition 72-27 -- after losing three of four.

BENGALS 17, CHIEFS 10: Carson Palmer's touchdown pass to Chad Ochocinco completed a 98-yard drive in the closing minutes, sending Cincinnati to the AFC North championship at the end of a rough week.

The Bengals (10-5) moved into the playoffs for only the second time in the past 19 years after dealing with the death of receiver Chris Henry. The teary practices and locker-room grief seemed to show against the Chiefs (3-12), who stayed close in a mistake-filled game.

One good drive at the end was enough.

Cincinnati took over at its 2-yard line with 9:21 to go and put together its longest drive of the season. On the 14th play, Palmer threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Ochocinco, who ran to the stands and touched a poster of Henry.

Fans chanted "Who Dey!" after Matt Cassel's final pass was intercepted and a burst of snow fell on a cold, raw day that matched the mood. Palmer threw for a pair of touchdowns, and Cedric Benson ran for 133 yards in an offense that managed only two drives all day.

PACKERS 48, SEAHAWKS 10: The Packers are going back to the playoffs, forcing four interceptions by Matt Hasselbeck, then getting a big boost from the Carolina Panthers.

Sunday's victory, combined with the New York Giants' blowout loss to Carolina, put the Packers (10-5) back in the postseason after going 6-10 last season and getting off to a disappointing 4-4 start this year.

It was Hasselbeck's second straight four-interception game in what is shaping up as a miserable season for the Seahawks (5-10), who have scored a total of 24 points in three straight losses. Hasselbeck also was picked off four times in a loss to Tampa Bay last week.

Several Packers players, including Charles Woodson and Greg Jennings, acknowledged fans during a lap around the stadium after the game.

PANTHERS 41, GIANTS 9: Matt Moore and the Panthers turned the Giants' farewell to Giants Stadium into one of their ugliest moments in franchise history.

Playing in front of Lawrence Taylor -- possibly their greatest player -- and knowing they still had a shot at a fifth straight playoff berth, the Giants (8-7) embarrassed themselves against the Panthers, a team with nothing at stake. Moore threw three touchdown passes, Jonathan Stewart rushed for a career-best 206 yards and the Panthers (7-8) shredded New York's defense with scores on six of their first seven possessions before a disgusted final sellout crowd Sunday.

The Giants' postseason chances are microscopic. After stating the season 5-0, New York would have to beat Minnesota next week and hope Dallas lost its final two games, starting on Sunday night against Washington.

Moore found Carolina's Steve Smith for a 27-yard TD on the opening possession of the third quarter, but Smith hurt his left arm and had to leave.

EAGLES 30, BRONCOS 27: David Akers kicked a 28-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining, lifting the Eagles.

Kyle Orton rallied the Broncos from a 27-10 deficit in the third quarter, but Donovan McNabb led the Eagles on a winning drive in the final minutes.

Rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin set up Akers' kick with an outstanding 27-yard catch along the sideline to the Broncos 13. The catch initially was ruled incomplete, but it was overturned after replays showed Maclin kept both feet in bounds while making a diving reception.

The Eagles (11-4) can clinch their sixth NFC East title this decade if Dallas loses at Washington in the Sunday night game. If the Cowboys beat the Redskins, the Eagles will play at Dallas for the division title next Sunday. A victory over the Cowboys coupled with one loss by Minnesota would give Philadelphia a first-round bye.

The Broncos (8-7) are trying to avoid a major collapse after starting 6-0. They are tied with four other teams for the final two wild-card spots in the AFC and do not control their chances.

McNabb threw for 322 yards and three TDs, tight end Brent Celek had 121 yards receiving and one TD and Philadelphia won its sixth straight game. The Eagles have set a franchise record for most points in a season, surpassing the 416 they scored last year. They have 429 points, an average of 28.6 per game.

STEELERS 23, RAVENS 20: Jeff Reed's 38-yard field goal put Pittsburgh ahead with 5:25 remaining and the Steelers finally managed to hold a fourth-quarter lead to remain in playoff contention and further jumble the AFC postseason race.

The Steelers (8-7), their season seemingly ended by a late-season five-game losing streak, won their second in a row. They go into the final weekend with a chance to sneak into the playoffs if they win at Miami and get some help.

Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes to Todd Heap, but the Ravens (8-7) -- who could have clinched a wild-card spot with a victory and losses by two other contenders -- now face a win-or-else game at Oakland next Sunday,although they retain the tiebreaker against the Steelers.

BUCCANEERS 20, SAINTS 17: Carnell Williams had 129 yards rushing and Connor Barth kicked a 47-yard field goal in overtime, lifting the Buccaneers to a stunning victory that prevented New Orleans from securing home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

New Orleans was heavily favored, but instead dropped a second straight game at home after opening the season 13-0.

Williams had a 23-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and Micheal Spurlock's 77-yard punt return tied it, completing a comeback from 17 points down in the first half.

The Saints had a chance to win in the final seconds of regulation, but Garrett Hartley missed a 37-yard field goal. Tampa Bay (3-12) then won the coin toss to open overtime and scored soon after.

TEXANS 27, DOLPHINS 20: Houston raced to an early 27-point lead Sunday, then held on to remain in the AFC playoff scramble.

The Texans (8-7) scored on their first five possessions and won despite being outscored 20-0 in the final 31 minutes. Houston kept alive its slim hopes of making the playoffs for the first time, while defending AFC East champion Miami (7-8) was all but eliminated.

Given the stakes, Miami seemed shockingly listless at the outset. The ball bounced off Dolphins receivers, Texans bounced off Miami tacklers, and Houston's Matt Schaub repeatedly found receivers wide open.

Boos began midway through the first quarter, and the Texans made sure the jeers grew louder. At one point Houston enjoyed advantages of 15-2 in first downs and 307-46 in yards.

Miami linebacker Jason Taylor stood in front of the bench screaming at several teammates, and maybe the rant helped. The Dolphins rallied, and a field goal cut the deficit to 27-20 with 2:30 left before Houston recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock.

Houston remained the only NFL team the Dolphins have never defeated. The Texans' other four wins in the series were decided by a field goal or less.

CARDINALS 31, RAMS 10: Kurt Warner threw for 196 of his 313 yards in the second quarter and the Cardinals beat the Rams for the seventh time in a row.

The Cardinals (10-5) reached 10 regular-season wins for the first time since 1976, 12 years before the franchise moved from St. Louis to Arizona.

The Rams (1-14), ravaged by injuries all season, were without the league's second-leading rusher Steven Jackson because of a sore lower back. It was the first game missed this season by Jackson, one of four St. Louis starters out because of injuries.

Although Kyle Boller was active, the Rams went with rookie Keith Null at quarterback for the third straight game. Null completed 20 of 31 for 171 yards and one touchdown. He was intercepted three times.

With his sack of Null with 1:52 to play, Adrian Wilson became the 10th player in NFL history to have 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in a career. He got his 23rd interception earlier in the game.

The Cardinals clinched their second straight NFC West title the previous week.

49ERS 20, LIONS 6: Frank Gore scored on a 1-yard run and topped the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth straight year. Alex Smith threw a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis and the Niners (7-8) forced six turnovers to close out the home season with a victory.

San Francisco was eliminated from playoff contention with a loss last week at Philadelphia, but still can end its string of six losing seasons by winning at St. Louis.

Drew Stanton struggled in his first career start for the Lions (2-13), throwing for just 130 yards and three interceptions before being pulled for Daunte Culpepper midway through the fourth quarter. Detroit lost its fifth straight game and 20th in a row on the road, failing to score after the first drive of the game.

Gore ran for 71 yards on 28 carries. He has 1,013 yards rushing, becoming the first Niners player to reach 1,000 four times in a career.

BROWNS 23, RAIDERS 9: Jerome Harrison had 148 yards rushing and the Browns won their third straight, extending a surprising streak that Eric Mangini can use to strengthen his case to Mike Holmgren that he deserves to remain Cleveland's coach.

With consecutive wins over Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Oakland, the Browns (4-11) have their first three-game winning streak since 2007 and only their third since 1999. Holmgren, expected to be introduced as Cleveland's team president this week, may have to factor Cleveland's late-season surge into whether he retains Mangini, once given little chance of staying after a 1-11 start.

The Browns have shown improvement. They've cut down on turnovers, penalties, showed imagination on offense and had backups emerge as playmakers -- none more so than Harrison, who followed a 286-yard game last week by scoring the second time he touched the ball and setting a team record with 39 carries.

The Raiders (5-10) were reckless. They committed 13 penalties for 126 yards, had two players ejected and failed for the fifth time this season to win two straight games.