Gamble haunts Patriots
INDIANAPOLIS — A stunning gamble by Bill Belichick set up a stunning win for Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
After the New England Patriots were stopped short on fourth down deep in their own territory, Manning took advantage by throwing a 1-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left that rallied the unbeaten Colts to a 35-34 win Sunday night.
Manning's toss to Reggie Wayne completed the Colts' comeback from a 17-point deficit. A decision by the Patriots coach put them in position for their 18th straight regular-season win.
Belichick decided to go for it on fourth-and-2 from their own 28 with 2:08 to go. Tom Brady threw to Kevin Faulk, who made a juggling catch but was pushed backward and came up just short.
Manning needed just four plays before hooking up with Wayne for the winning score.
"We were preparing to go 60, 70 yards," Manning said. "It was a great play by the defense, shortened our field."
It was the most improbable victory for the Colts (9-0) in their winning streak, tied for the second-longest in NFL history with New England. It was the first time Belichick's Patriots had lost when leading by at least 13 in the fourth quarter.
Belichick had a dazed look as he ran across the field for a lightning-quick, postgame handshake with Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell.
The Colts trailed 34-21 with four minutes left and seemed all but written off — just as they have in several other prime-time games this decade.
Manning threw four touchdown passes and Brady had three in the matchup of AFC division leaders, and longtime rivals for the conference title.
While it was another magical comeback for Manning, this one was set up by Belichick's play-calling.
Belichick called two timeouts on that key series, the second to set up the fourth-down play. Faulk came up about a half-yard short of the first-down marker, giving Manning the ball at the New England 29 with 1:57 left and all three timeouts — an eternity for the three-time MVP.
Manning ran three plays before finding Wayne for the winning score and left New England with virtually no chance to rally.
New England (6-3) has now lost five of the last six in this series.
This wasn't the first time this season that Belichick gambled. In late September against Atlanta, he went for it on fourth-and-1 on his own 24 with the Patriots up by six midway through the third quarter. New England made it, and wound up winning 26-10.
Manning passed Fran Tarkenton on the career victory list with No. 126, a win that Manning certainly will remember for a long time and many reasons.
"Well, it's a great win. It's just one win. We're still in the regular season. It tells us about our team. As much adversity as we've faced in a couple years," Manning said. "Defense finally made some stops. Offense finally got some touchdowns."
Bengals 18, Steelers 12
At Pittsburgh, the Bengals beat the Steelers at their own game in their own stadium, relying on a defense that smothered Ben Roethlisberger and the Super Bowl champions by holding them to four field goals, and using one big special teams play that put them in control of the AFC North.
Shayne Graham kicked four field goals in the second half even as the Bengals (7-2) failed to convert opportunity after opportunity to take control. Bernard Scott's 96-yard kickoff return in the first quarter proved pivotal as Cincinnati, despite playing the second half without ace running back Cedric Benson and failing to convert on the extra point after Scott's score, followed up a 23-20 win over the Steelers (6-3) on Sept. 27.
By sweeping the season series for the first time since 1998, the Bengals effectively lead the division by two games because they own the tiebreaker and, for the first time in their history, a 5-0 division record.
Dolphins 25, Bucs 23
At Miami, Chad Henne directed a 77-yard scoring drive in the final 1:10, and Dan Carpenter kicked a 25-yard field goal with 10 seconds left.
Henne spoiled the Bucs' comeback led by Josh Freeman, who rallied his team in the fourth quarter for the second time in two NFL starts. The rookie shook off an awful first half and led his team to a pair of late touchdowns.
Saints 28, Rams 23
At St. Louis, Reggie Bush helped the unbeaten New Orleans Saints overcome another bundle of mistakes and get off to the best start in team history.
Bush scored twice for the first time in more than a year and Drew Brees compensated for two interceptions with two touchdown passes.
Courtney Roby opened the second half with a 97-yard kickoff return and Robert Meachem's 27-yard grab early in the fourth quarter gave New Orleans (9-0) just enough breathing room to tie the franchise record with nine straight wins.
Panthers 28, Falcons 19
At Charlotte, N.C., Jake Delhomme went turnover-free for the third straight game, finding Steve Smith for two touchdowns.
Matt Ryan twice seemed poised to lead Atlanta on the winning drive. First, his kicker let him down. Then his sophomore troubles popped up again.
The Panthers (4-5) built a 21-10 halftime lead, but the win wasn't sealed until Richard Marshall picked off Ryan, setting up former Oregon standout Jonathan Stewart's 45-yard touchdown run with 2:07 left.
Vikings 27, Lions 10
At Minneapolis, Brett Favre passed for a season-high 344 yards, 201 to Sidney Rice, and Detroit lost for the 31st time in 33 games.
The Lions (1-8) joined the Houston Oilers, from Nov. 21, 1982 through Nov. 4, 1984, as the only NFL teams to lose 31 games in a 33-game stretch, according to STATS.
Redskins 27, Broncos 17
At Landover, Md., the Washington Redskins broke the 17-point barrier for the first time this season and ended a four-game losing streak.
The Broncos lost their third straight and had to play the second half with Chris Simms at quarterback after Kyle Orton left with an ankle injury.
Ladell Betts scored on a 1-yard run with 2:44 to play. With Clinton Portis sidelined after suffering a concussion in last week's loss at Atlanta, Betts made his first start since 2006 and ran for 114 yards on 26 carries.
Titans 41, Bills 17
At Nashville, Tenn., Chris Johnson ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns, and he caught nine passes for 100 more.
The Titans (3-6) are on a roll since opening the season 0-6, and they can thank Johnson, the NFL's leading rusher and the league's first back to top 1,000 yards this season.
Young also threw for a touchdown and finished with 210 yards passing in winning his seventh straight start. He also ran five times for 29 yards.
Buffalo (3-6) rookie Jairus Byrd, a former Oregon defensive back, picked off a pass in a fifth straight game.
Jaguars 24, Jets 22
At East Rutherford, N.J., Josh Scobee kicked a 21-yard field goal as time expired after the Jaguars passed up a touchdown in order to drain the clock.
With the Jaguars facing second-and-6 from the 10, Maurice Jones-Drew took a handoff up the middle and went to a knee at the 1 to give Jacksonville first and goal with just over a minute left. New York had no timeouts left.
David Garrard knelt the ball twice, giving Scobee the opportunity to kick the game winner for the Jaguars (5-4).
Chargers 31, Eagles 23
At San Diego, LaDainian Tomlinson scored twice to continue his climb up the career rushing and scoring lists, and San Diego pulled into a tie atop the AFC West.
Tomlinson gained a season-high 96 yards on 24 carries to pass Thurman Thomas and Franco Harris and move into 12th place all-time with 12,145 yards. His two touchdowns gave him 146 and moved him past Marcus Allen and into third place on the all-time list.
Donovan McNabb threw for a season-high 450 yards, completing 35 of 55, and two late touchdowns for Philadelphia (4-5). He was intercepted in the end zone by Antonio Cromartie on the game's last play.
Chiefs 16, Raiders 10
At Oakland, Calif., Jamaal Charles scored on a 44-yard run for Kansas City's first rushing touchdown of the season and the Chiefs used a late interception to win their seventh straight game in Oakland.
The Chiefs (2-7) have managed to win just five of their past 35 games. But three of those wins have come at the Oakland Coliseum, where Kansas City has the longest winning streak ever by a visiting team.
Cardinals 31, Seahawks 20
At Glendale, Ariz., rookie Beanie Wells had second-half touchdown runs of 10 and 13 yards, and Arizona rallied from an early two-touchdown deficit for its second home win in five tries.
Kurt Warner completed 29 of 38 for 340 yards and two touchdown passes as the Cardinals (6-3) stayed two games up on San Francisco in the NFC West. Warner also became the 29th player in NFL history to throw 200 touchdown passes, and had his 51st 300-yard passing game, tying Dan Fouts for fourth on the NFL career list.
Packers 17, Cowboys 7
At Green Bay, Wis., Charles Woodson helped Green Bay's defense finally play up to its potential against a big-time opponent, forcing two fumbles and picking off a pass by Tony Romo on the goal line.
It wasn't a pretty win for the Packers (5-4), but it might have saved their season after back-to-back demoralizing losses.
The Packers sacked Romo five times and held him to 251 yards passing in a momentum-killer for the Cowboys (6-3), who had won four straight.