Overtime turnover dooms Dixon
BALTIMORE — Third-string quarterback Dennis Dixon was doing a fine job for the Pittsburgh Steelers in his first NFL start — until he was forced to work overtime.
An interception by rookie Paul Kruger set up a 29-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff with 6:42 left in the extra session, giving the Baltimore Ravens a 20-17 victory Sunday night.
Dixon, a former quarterback at Oregon, started because Ben Roethlisberger was sidelined with a concussion and backup Charlie Batch had a broken left wrist. Dixon had thrown only one pass in two seasons before getting the nod against the Ravens.
For much of the game, Dixon did his best impersonation of Roethlisberger. He threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes, and even added a personal touch, running for a 24-yard touchdown to put Pittsburgh up 17-14 in the fourth quarter.
But in overtime, Dixon's lone turnover provided the Ravens (6-5) a much-needed win and sent the Steelers (6-5) to their third straight defeat — their longest skid since a three-game run in 2006.
"We will not go gently," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We won't go in a shell. We're going to go into attack mode, because that's what's required."
Kruger picked off the pass and returned it 26 yards to the Pittsburgh 28, and six plays later Cundiff delivered the game-winner in Baltimore's first overtime win since November 2005 (against the Steelers).
"To be a part of that victory is huge for me," said Kruger, who was playing in only his fourth game. "It was a designed blitz. I was the dropper. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time."
Pittsburgh's past two defeats have come in overtime. Dixon went 12 for 26 for 145 yards, and Rashard Mendenhall gained 95 yards on 24 carries.
"Please don't talk to me about moral victories and things of that nature," Tomlin said. "That would be disrespectful to those guys in the room. We didn't get the job done; we came up short. We accept responsibility for that."
Joe Flacco completed 23 of 35 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown to keep Baltimore in the thick of the playoff hunt.
"You have to be ready to play 60 minutes. Today we played more than that," Flacco said. "It feels good. It's what we needed. Against these guys, it's even bigger."
With Roethlisberger in full uniform looking on from the sideline as the third quarterback, Dixon ran around the right end for a touchdown on a third-and-5 from the Baltimore 24 to give the Steelers their first lead, 17-14, with 6:24 left.
Colts 35, Texans 27
At Houston, Peyton Manning threw for three touchdowns and the Colts rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to clinch the AFC South.
It was their 20th straight regular-season victory. Indianapolis (11-0) is one win shy of the New England Patriots' NFL-record 21-game run from 2006-08. The Colts can tie the record if they beat Tennessee at home next weekend.
Manning threw two first-half interceptions, but had a pair of second-half TD passes, including a 4-yarder to Dallas Clark that gave the Colts a 21-20 lead with about nine minutes left.
Clint Session stretched the lead to 28-20 when he returned an interception by Matt Schaub 26 yards for a touchdown seconds later. Schaub fumbled on Houston's next possession and Chad Simpson's touchdown run put the game out of reach.
Titans 20, Cardinals 17
At Nashville, Tenn., Vince Young hit a leaping Kenny Britt for a 10-yard touchdown as time expired, and the Titans rallied for their fifth straight victory.
Young won his ninth straight start and improved to 23-11 in his career by driving the Titans 99 yards in the final 2:37. He converted three fourth downs on the drive, two to Britt. He threw for a career-high 387 yards in outdueling Matt Leinart in their first meeting as professionals.
The Titans (5-6) have not lost since Young replaced Kerry Collins as the starter. They are the first team to win five in a row after starting 0-6.
Chargers 43, Chiefs 14
At San Diego, the Chargers turned four turnovers into touchdowns, including a 40-yard fumble return for a score by safety Paul Oliver, and ran their winning streak to six games.
LaDainian Tomlinson scored two touchdowns and moved into 10th on the NFL's career rushing list. Philip Rivers threw two touchdown passes to Antonio Gates as the Chargers improved to 8-3.
The Chiefs (3-8) lost a week after stunning the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime.
Tomlinson began the day 12th on the all-time list with 12,218 yards. He passed Marcus Allen (12,243) on a 5-yard carry in the first quarter and Edgerrin James (12,246) on an 8-yard run in the second.
Tomlinson had 39 yards on 13 carries, giving him 12,257 for his career. Up next is Marshall Faulk in ninth with 12,279 yards.
Vikings 36, Bears 10
At Minneapolis, Brett Favre passed for a season-high 392 yards and three touchdowns, and the Vikings intercepted Jay Cutler twice.
Favre went 32 for 48 without a turnover and was 10 yards off his career best, throwing touchdowns to Visanthe Shiancoe, Chester Taylor and Percy Harvin, the unflappable rookie who had his best game yet.
The Vikings (10-1) outgained the Bears by a whopping 537 yards to 169 and breezed to their fifth straight win despite two more fumbles and a pedestrian 85 yards on 25 carries by Adrian Peterson.
49ers 20, Jaguars 3
At San Francisco, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith threw short touchdown passes to Frank Gore and Vernon Davis in the kind of mistake-free day San Francisco coach Mike Singletary has sought for weeks.
Smith threw for 232 yards with no interceptions and no sacks in his best game since taking over as starter in late October. Joe Nedney kicked field goals of 46 and 27 yards for San Francisco (5-6), which snapped the Jaguars' three-game winning streak and spoiled the Bay Area homecoming of Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio and running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jones-Drew, a prep star at powerhouse De La Salle High School on the other side of San Francisco Bay, ran for 75 yards to become a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time in his career. Jones-Drew had his streak of five straight games with a TD run snapped.
Bengals 16, Browns 7
At Cincinnati, newcomer Larry Johnson rushed for 107 yards in Cincinnati's conservative approach, and the Bengals completed their first division sweep.
The Bengals (8-3) went 6-0 in the division with a retooled run-first offense and a stout defense that has carried them into first place. They rushed for 210 yards, with Johnson — signed less than two weeks ago as insurance — subbing for Cedric Benson, out for the second straight week with an injured hip.
The Browns (1-10) reached double-digit losses for the eighth time in their 11 years as an expansion team. Cincinnati now has the longest stretch of domination in the series' history, winning nine of the past 11 games.
Eagles 27, Redskins 24
At Philadelphia, David Akers kicked a 32-yard field goal with 1:48 remaining and the Eagles rallied. A week ago, Donovan McNabb led the Eagles (7-4) to a late touchdown in a 24-20 win at Chicago. It was the first time Philadelphia came from behind in the final quarter and won since a 33-25 victory at Washington on Nov. 11, 2007.
Akers made all four of his field goals, extending his streak to 16. Asante Samuel had two interceptions and McNabb threw for 260 yards and one TD.
Already playing without star running back Brian Westbrook, the Eagles lost big-play receiver DeSean Jackson in the second half to head and neck injuries.
Falcons 20, Buccaneers 17
At Atlanta, Chris Redman threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White with 23 seconds remaining, and the Falcons pulled out a victory after losing offensive stars Matt Ryan and Michael Turner to injuries.
The Falcons (6-5) were in deep trouble after Jason Elam missed another field goal try, from 43 yards, and the Bucs (1-10) drove into Atlanta territory.
But Connor Barth just missed on a 51-yard try with 2:30 left, giving the Falcons one more chance. Redman, who took over after Ryan injured his right big toe on Atlanta's first series, calmly directed a 59-yard drive that may have saved the season.
On fourth-and-goal at the 5, Redman hit White on a slant while cornerback Derrick Roberson made a futile swipe at the ball.
Bills 31, Dolphins 14
At Orchard Park, N.Y., a 56-yard field goal by Rian Lindell and a 51-yard touchdown catch by Terrell Owens in the final minutes propelled the Bills, who scored 24 points in the fourth quarter. The win was the first for interim coach Perry Fewell, who replaced the fired Dick Jauron two games ago.
Lindell's career-best field goal with 3:35 left put the Bills (4-7) ahead for the first time at 17-14. Just 72 seconds later, Ryan Fitzpatrick teamed up with Owens on their scoring play and Fred Jackson's second TD of the game, a 7-yard run with 1:20 left, closed out the scoring as the Bills ended a three-game losing streak. Jackson ran for 73 yards and scored on a 3-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
Ricky Williams had 115 yards rushing and a touchdown, but the Dolphins (5-6) couldn't overcome Chad Henne's three interceptions — on Miami's final three possessions.
Jets 17, Panthers 6
At East Rutherford, N.J., Darrelle Revis got the Jets' defense in the end zone for the first time this season. Revis returned one of the Jets' four interceptions 67 yards for a touchdown and New York overcame an injury scare to quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Thomas Jones had a 3-yard touchdown run as the Jets (5-6) won at home for the first time since beating Tennessee in Week 3, sending the Panthers (4-7) to their second straight loss.
Carolina had a chance late to make it a one-score game, but Dwayne Jarrett's 28-yard touchdown catch was wiped off the scoreboard when he was called for offensive pass interference. Kerry Rhodes, demoted in favor of Eric Smith, picked off Jake Delhomme on the next play for his second interception of the game.
Seahawks 27, Rams 17
At St. Louis, Justin Forsett set career highs with 130 yards and two touchdowns and the go-ahead score came on the Seahawks' third defensive touchdown of the season.
Seattle (4-7) had been 0-5 on the road but ended the drought against the Rams (1-10), who have lost 11 in a row at home.
Olindo Mare added field goals of 29 and 38 yards, tying the franchise record of 16 straight shared by Josh Brown, now with the Rams. The Seahawks had been outscored 161-73 during an 0-5 road start, and kept the Rams down by intercepting Kyle Boller twice and sacking him four times.
The announced attendance of 47,475 was the Rams' worst in 15 seasons in St. Louis.
Former Oregon State's Steven Jackson was the lone bright spot for the Rams with 89 yards rushing on 23 carries and a late score after missing three days of practice due to back spasms. He fell short of a fifth straight 100-yard game.