Reckoning day for AFC leaders

Broncos, Dolphins, Colts move closer to playoff contention with key victories

Posted: Monday, December 16, 2002

MIAMI -- Ricky Williams ran for a modest 101 yards, but Miami's defense limited the NFL's top-ranked offense to a mere 218 yards, beating the Raiders 23-17.

Jason Taylor had three sacks, giving him at least one in a team-record seven consecutive games, and Patrick Surtain's interception ended Oakland's last bid. With the victory, Miami (9-5) tied the Raiders (9-5) for the best record in the AFC with two games remaining.

Chris Chambers caught seven passes for a career-high 138 yards, and Cris Carter made his first touchdown reception since coming out of retirement. Jay Fiedler, 7-1 as a starter this season, threw for 237 yards and directed a 97-yard touchdown drive, the Dolphins' longest since 1989.

By snapping the Raiders' five-game winning streak, Miami took the lead in the AFC East, a half-game ahead of New England, which plays Monday night at Tennessee. The Dolphins often played with six defensive backs, even on first down, and the approach limited Rich Gannon and the NFL's top passing attack to 162 yards.

Broncos 31, Chiefs 24

DENVER -- Clinton Portis overcame two first-half fumbles and tied a team record with four touchdowns. Portis ran for three touchdowns and 130 yards, and had a spectacular 66-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

Denver (8-6) ended a three-game losing streak to tie San Diego and stay within a game of Oakland in the AFC West. The Chiefs (7-7) all but assured themselves of missing the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

Morten Andersen hit a 21-yard field goal with 2:25 left to cut Denver's lead to 31-24, then the Chiefs stopped Denver in three plays, and got the ball back at their 39 with 1:50 left. Kansas City's drive reached Denver's 15 with 25 seconds left, then fizzled.

Priest Holmes had 161 yards on 18 carries, his fifth straight 100-yard game, but limped off with a right hip injury early in the fourth quarter.

Seahawks 30, Falcons 24

ATLANTA -- Shaun Alexander's 27-yard touchdown run Sunday gave Seattle a 30-24 victory after Atlanta's Jay Feely missed a 36-yard field goal in a history-making overtime session. It was the 22nd overtime game of the season, breaking the NFL record set in 1995.

Michael Vick helped the Falcons tie the game with a 12-yard TD pass to Trevor Gaylor with 17 seconds left in regulation. Vick then drove Atlanta (8-5-1) to the Seattle 18, but Feely missed to the right, and the Seahawks (5-9) quickly made Atlanta pay.

Matt Hasselbeck completed a 21-yard pass to Koren Robinson on third-and-6. Then Alexander broke through the middle and easily outran the defense to hand the Falcons their second straight loss.

Vick was 21-of-38 for 240 yards, and he ran for 40 yards on 13 carries. He injured his throwing hand in the second quarter, hitting a helmet on his follow-through, but stayed in the game. Hasselbeck finished 22-of-31 for 298 yards and a touchdown.

Colts 28, Browns 23

CLEVELAND -- Marvin Harrison broke an NFL record for receptions in a season with 127 -- including two touchdown passes from Peyton Manning in the second half -- as Indianapolis rallied to take the lead in the AFC South.

James Mungro, filling in for Edgerrin James, had two TD runs as the Colts moved a half-game ahead of Tennessee.

The Colts (9-5) trailed 16-0 at halftime before storming back behind the speedy Harrison, who finished with nine catches for 172 yards. Harrison's sixth catch, on a fourth-down play in the third quarter, moved him past Herman Moore, who caught 123 passes for Detroit in 1995.

Eagles 34, Redskins 21

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia clinched the NFC East for the second year in a row as A.J. Feeley passed for two touchdowns.

The Eagles (11-3) can clinch home-field advantage in the NFC by beating Dallas and the New York Giants on the road. Washington (5-9) was sloppy as ever in Steve Spurrier's dismal first season as coach.

On the second play from scrimmage, Stephen Davis fumbled after breaking loose toward midfield. Michael Lewis recovered for Philadelphia, and Davis separated his right shoulder on the play.

Giants 37, Cowboys 7

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tiki Barber scored on a 1-yard run and set up another touchdown in a 21-point first quarter with a 60-yard dash, helping the Giants (8-6) stay alive in the NFC wild card chase.

Defensive end Kenny Holmes scored on a 50-yard fumble return, Ron Dayne had two short TD runs and Matt Bryant kicked three field goals.

Bucs 23, Lions 20

DETROIT -- Martin Gramatica's 38-yard field goal with 3:04 left put Tampa Bay into the NFC playoffs for the fourth straight season.

Detroit was without rookie quarterback Joey Harrington after the first drive because of an irregular heartbeat. The team doctor said Harrington's heart returned to a normal rhythm before he was hospitalized, but he was to stay overnight at Henry Ford Hospital as a precaution.

Packers 20, 49ers 14

SAN FRANCISCO -- Brett Favre passed for 201 yards in a steady downpour, and the Green Bay defense stopped one last drive at its 11 with 22 seconds left.

Ahman Green ran for 90 yards and a touchdown, and Donald Driver caught a TD pass as the Packers (11-3) shrugged off the pelting rain and swirling wind to score 17 points in the second half.

Green Bay won its third straight while limiting the Niners to 263 yards. Jeff Garcia drove the 49ers (9-5) from their 26 to the 11 before throwing three incompletions, including a low throw under pressure to Eric Johnson on fourth down.

Both teams already clinched their divisions and playoff berths.

Ravens 23, Texans 19

HOUSTON -- Jeff Blake threw two touchdown passes and Matt Stover kicked three field goals as Baltimore kept alive its slim playoff hopes.

The Ravens (7-7) have games remaining against AFC North opponents Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

The Ravens led 13-7 at the half on a pair of 22-yard field goals by Stover and Blake's 26-yard touchdown pass to Travis Taylor. Blake's 11-yard TD pass to Chester Taylor with 3:33 left in the third quarter made it 20-7.

Steelers 30, Panthers 14

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh bounced back from a humiliating loss to Houston and turned two Carolina fumbles into touchdown runs by Jerome Bettis to seize control of the AFC North. The victory, only their third in six games, boosted the Steelers' division lead to 1 1/2 games over Cleveland and Baltimore.

The week before, the expansion Texans scored three defensive touchdowns in a 24-6 upset of the Steelers. On Sunday, the Steelers (8-5-1) forced four turnovers by Carolina (5-9).

Bills 20, Chargers 13

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Travis Henry ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner from 26 yards with 52 seconds remaining to spark the Bills over the Chargers and former Buffalo quarterback Doug Flutie.

The victory kept the Bills (7-7) barely alive in the AFC playoff chase. San Diego (8-6) has lost five of its last seven.

Vikings 32, Saints 31

NEW ORLEANS -- Daunte Culpepper, who accounted for four touchdowns, fumbled the snap on a 2-point conversion with 5 seconds left, picked up the ball and lunged into the end zone to give Minnesota its first road victory in more than two years.

With 5:21 left, Culpepper drove the Vikings (4-10) 73 yards, hitting a double-teamed Randy Moss for a 13-yard touchdown. Culpepper's conversion run ended Minnesota's 16-game road losing streak.

Bears 20, Jets 13

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Chris Chandler completed 23 of 28 passes for 177 yards, and Chicago severely damaged New York's playoff hopes.

The Jets (7-7) are still mathematically alive. But they simply didn't have the punch to overcome their mistakesSunday, three days after they got into three fights during practice.

Jaguars 29, Bengals 15

CINCINNATI -- Mark Brunell threw a season-high three touchdown passes, the last one set up by another Cincinnati bungle, and Jacksonville won before the smallest crowd ever at Paul Brown Stadium -- 42,092.

Brunell threw touchdown passes of 12 yards to Kevin Lockett, 9 yards to Pete Mitchell and 26 yards to Jimmy Smith, who put Jacksonville ahead to stay after another inexplicable lapse by the NFL's worst team.

Rams 30, Cardinals 28

ST. LOUIS -- Marc Bulger stayed unbeaten, returning from a sprained index finger that sidelined him for three games and throwing two touchdown passes. Thanks to Jeff Wilkins' game-winning 26-yard field goal with 20 seconds to go, he's 6-0 as the starter for the Rams, who are 0-6 with MVP quarterback Kurt Warner.

But Bulger also threw two interceptions and struggled in the second half as the Rams (6-8) barely snapped a three-game losing streak that knocked the defending NFC champions out of playoff contention.

Marcel Shipp scored three touchdowns and Jake Plummer's 1-yard touchdown pass to Steve Bush gave the Cardinals, down by 17 points at halftime, a 28-27 lead with 7:56 to go.

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