Kickers Win for Cowboys, Browns, Titans
Monday, December 4th 2006, 6:34 am
News On 6
The Chicago Bears' clinching of the NFC North was kicked out of the spotlight by _ who else? _ a bunch of kickers.
Martin Gramatica, Rob Bironas, Phil Dawson and Josh Brown provided the heroics Sunday with winning field goals, pushing the Bears' 23-13 victory over Minnesota for the division crown to the side.
Gramatica, signed by Dallas last week when the high-priced-but-inconsistent Mike Vanderjagt was cut, nailed a 46-yard field goal with 1 second left to give the Cowboys (8-4) a 23-20 win over the Giants (6-6) and a two-game lead in the NFC East. Gramatica's boot went straight through the uprights with plenty of power, more than making up for his wide-right miss from 44 yards to end the Cowboys' opening drive.
``I've got to thank the Cowboys for giving me a second chance,'' Gramatica said. ``It's been a rough couple of years for me, being out all last year and then not making any teams this year.''
Bironas has been around all season and, for the second straight week, staged the dramatics. He became only the sixth kicker to make a 60-yarder, hitting from that distance with 7 seconds left to lift Tennessee over Indianapolis 20-17. Bironas made a 49-yarder with 6 seconds remaining the previous week to cap another comeback and beat the Giants.
``Apparently they had good confidence in me and knew I was going to put it through,'' Bironas said. ``That was the same way I felt, so I was glad I got the opportunity to do that.''
Dawson had to wait until overtime for his starring role. The Browns got two touchdown passes in the final 9 minutes of regulation from backup quarterback Derek Anderson, who also ran 33 yards in overtime to set up Dawson's 33-yard field goal for a 31-28 win over Kansas City.
``I told the guys all year, whether I make or miss, I just want to win,'' Dawson said. ``This one is for the fans. We haven't given them a lot to cheer about, but this one is for all those die-hards who came out.''
Also Sunday, it was San Diego 24, Buffalo 21; New England 28, Detroit 21; New Orleans 34; San Francisco 10; Seattle 23 Denver 20; Jacksonville 24, Miami 10; the New York Jets 38, Green Bay 10; Atlanta 24, Washington 14; Pittsburgh 20, Tampa Bay 3; Houston 23, Oakland 14; and Arizona 34, St. Louis 20.
On Monday night, it's Carolina at Philadelphia.
The week's slate of games began Thursday night, when Cincinnati (7-5) beat Baltimore (9-3) 13-7.
Cowboys 23, Giants 20
The winning score was set up by a 42-yard pass by Tony Romo to Jason Witten and came just over a minute after the host Giants tied the game on a 5-yard pass from Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress.
It was the fourth straight loss for the Giants and the fourth win in five games for Dallas since Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe at quarterback at halftime of a 36-22 loss to New York on Oct. 23. He finished 20-of-34 for 257 yards.
Titans 20, Colts 17
At Nashville, Tenn., Bironas' 60-yarder was the franchise's longest ever, and the Titans (5-7) beat the Colts (10-2) for the first time since December 2002.
The Titans were down 14-0 in the first half before starting this comeback just before halftime. They intercepted Peyton Manning twice, and Young threw for two touchdowns and used his legs to help keep the ball away from the two-time NFL MVP.
Manning did throw for 351 yards.
Browns 31, Chiefs 28
At Cleveland, Anderson had never thrown an NFL pass and had taken only one snap before Sunday. However, he replaced injured starter Charlie Frye and rallied the Browns (4-8) to only their second December win at home since 1999.
Dawson's winning kick with 7:25 remaining in OT came after the gangly Anderson scrambled right, broke a tackle and lumbered his way down the sideline to the Kansas City 12.
Trent Green threw four TD passes _ two to Tony Gonzalez _ for the Chiefs (7-5). Green was 24-of-32 for 297 yards.
Bears 23, Vikings 13
Devin Hester had his fourth kick return for a TD, a 45-yard punt runback. Ricky Manning Jr. returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown, and host Chicago (10-2) claimed its second straight NFC North title.
The Bears overcame another shaky performance by quarterback Rex Grossman in frigid conditions. Grossman was 6-of-19 for 34 yards and threw three interceptions for the second straight week. He has 14 interceptions in the last seven games.
Brad Johnson was 11-of-26 with 73 yards and four interceptions for Minnesota (5-7) before being lifted for Brooks Bollinger late in the third quarter.
Chargers 24, Bills 21
LaDainian Tomlinson had 178 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns, helping visiting San Diego (10-2) win its sixth straight. It was Tomlinson's sixth straight 100-yard game and seventh of the season.
With a 51-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, Tomlinson joined Eric Dickerson as the second NFL player to reach 1,200 yards rushing in each of his first six NFL seasons. The two scores gave Tomlinson 26 for the year, inching him within two of matching the single-season record set by Seattle's Shaun Alexander last year.
The Bills (5-7) had a two-game win streak snapped.
Patriots 28, Lions 21
Corey Dillon had three short touchdown runs and the host Patriots (9-3) overcame 10 penalties, four turnovers and a safety. The Patriots didn't lead in the second half until Dillon scored on a 4-yard run with 2:33 left. New England had five turnovers.
Mike Vrabel's interception, his second of the game, sealed the victory against the Lions (2-10), who have the NFL's worst record over the last six years at 23-69.
Saints 34, 49ers 10
At New Orleans, Reggie Bush had the breakout game the Saints (8-4) were waiting for. Bush tied Joe Horn's franchise record by scoring four touchdowns and gained 168 total yards.
Most of Bush's gains were modest, but his stunning acceleration, fancy footwork and leaping ability were evident in all of his touchdowns and numerous drive-sustaining plays. He finished with 131 yards on nine receptions and 37 yards on 10 rushes.
San Francisco (5-7) got as close as 14-10 early in the third quarter after Alex Smith connected with Antonio Bryant for a 48-yard score. However, Smith was also intercepted twice on passes intended for Bryant.
Seahawks 23, Broncos 20
At Denver, Brown tied an NFL single-season record with his fourth winning field goal in the final minute, nailing a 50-yarder with 4 seconds left.
Rookie defensive lineman Darryl Tapp returned Jay Cutler's first interception 25 yards for a touchdown and the Seahawks (8-4) took advantage of five turnovers to send the Broncos (7-5) to their third straight loss.
Jaguars 24, Dolphins 10
At Miami, David Garrard did his best work on the run, throwing for 229 yards and two scores. The Jaguars (7-5) won for only the second time on the road and ended a four-game winning streak by the Dolphins (5-7), likely ensuring Miami will miss the playoffs for the fifth year in a row.
Garrard led Jacksonville on touchdown drives of 95 and 91 yards, while Miami's Joey Harrington threw two costly interceptions and was sacked four times.
Matt Jones made six catches for 128 yards and a score.
Jets 38, Packers 10
At Green Bay, Chad Pennington and the Jets took apart the Packers' defense in the first half. Pennington put together three touchdown drives of 70 yards or more in the second quarter and the Jets (7-5) cruised.
New York built a 31-0 halftime lead as snow flurries floated to the ground and boos showered down from the stands. Pennington, who was 25-of-35 for 263 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, connected with eight receivers. Cedric Houston carried 22 times for a career-high 105 yards and two touchdowns.
Brett Favre's season-long struggles with passing accuracy continued for the Packers (4-8) as the three-time MVP was 24-of-47 for 214 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Falcons 24, Redskins 14
The visiting Falcons staged a 24-point rally, highlighted by a pair of big plays in the open field. Defensive lineman Chauncey Davis and rookie running back Jerious Norwood did the damage.
Davis' 41-yard rumble after his first career interception set up one touchdown, and Norwood's moves embarrassed several would-be tacklers on a 69-touchdown run.
The victory put the Falcons (6-6) back in the serious hunt for a playoff berth. The Redskins (4-8) have lost three of four.
Steelers 20, Buccaneers 3
At Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger bounced back from one of the worst games of his three-season career to throw touchdown passes to two tight ends _ both times after the Bucs (3-9) turned over the ball.
The Steelers (5-7) began the game with a league-high 30 turnovers, but this time limited themselves to one giveaway, while Tampa Bay gave away the ball four times in losing its sixth in seven games. The Bucs have scored only five touchdowns in losing all six road games this season.
Texans 23, Raiders 14
At Oakland, the Texans didn't complete a pass in the second half, finished the game with negative yards passing and somehow found a way to win. Demarcus Faggins scored on a 58-yard fumble return and Houston (4-8) used two long returns and a pair of fumbles by Randal Williams to set up 16 more points in the second half.
In the first game since John Shoop took over the play-calling duties from Tom Walsh, Oakland (2-10) turned the ball over five times, missed three field goals, allowed five sacks and had only one offensive score.
David Carr finished 7-of-14 for 32 yards, failing to complete a pass in the final 32 minutes for the Texans. He was sacked five times for 37 yards, leaving Houston with negative-5 yards passing _ its fewest ever and the fewest allowed by the Raiders.
Cardinals 34, Rams 20
At St. Louis, Marcel Shipp scored three touchdowns, Edgerrin James had 115 yards rushing, and Leinart won for the second time in seven pro starts, capitalizing on the Rams' season-high 126 yards in penalties.
Marc Bulger threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns, but also had three interceptions in a sixth loss in seven games for the Rams (5-7). Bulger has three touchdown passes and six interceptions the last four games.
Two of the 10 calls against the Rams led to scores by Arizona (3-9) on the next play.