NFL roundup -- Pats rally for win
By HOWARD ULMAN
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady erased a 24-point deficit. Peyton Manning's touchdown pass forced overtime.
The game was in the hands of two great quarterbacks.
Then a punting duel ensued and a live ball hit the leg of a backup cornerback.
Tony Carter ran into Ryan Allen's punt after it bounced, Nate Ebner recovered for the Patriots at the Broncos 13-yard line and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 31-yard field goal with 1:56 left in overtime to give New England a 34-31 win over Denver on Sunday night.
"What a crazy game and what a fun finish," Gostkowski said.
The Patriots lost fumbles on their first three possessions and they were booed several times in the first half.
But Brady threw for three touchdowns to lead the Patriots (8-3) from a 24-0 halftime deficit against the NFL's best offense for a 31-24 lead as New England scored on its first five possessions of the second half.
Then Manning threw an 11-yard scoring pass to Demaryius Thomas for the Broncos (9-2), tying it at 31.
"You can't move the ball when you're losing it," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "You've got to hang onto it."
But Carter's gaffe was the third lost fumble for the Broncos in the second half.
"It was really a tale of two halves," Denver interim coach Jack Del Rio said. "We forced turnovers and jumped on them early. They forced turnovers and jumped on us at the end.
"We just had a fluke play at the end."
The game marked the return of former Patriots receiver Wes Welker, who signed with Denver in the offseason. He was a non-factor with four catches for 31 yards. The crowd even chanted "Wel-ker, Wel-ker," when he went back to return the final punt. Then he waved his hands to warn his teammates to stay away from the ball when it bounced.
Carter didn't and the Broncos remained tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC West lead. The Patriots lead the AFC East by three games.
"I was running to get away from the ball and it took a bounce right into me," Carter said.
The early turnovers helped Denver to a big halftime advantage, but the Patriots took the lead when Brady hit Julian Edelman for a TD early in the fourth. Gostkowski's 31-yard field goal made it 31-24 midway through the fourth.
"We had some plays in the first half that didn't go our way so it was nice to get a good bounce and we needed it," Brady said.
But Manning, who had thrown for only 73 yards in the first 3.5 quarters, led the Broncos on an 80-yard drive. Twice the Broncos were rescued by penalties: First when a defensive holding penalty negated an interception, and again when a pass interference on third-and-7 from the Patriots 17 gave Denver a first down.
On the next play, Manning lobbed one to Thomas in the left corner of the end zone to tie it.
Manning had his worst game of the season, completing 19 of 36 passes for 150 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He is 4-10 in his career against Brady.
"Hated the way that ended, not getting a chance to get our hands on the ball," Manning said. "We helped them with some short fields. It's hard to do that to our defense."
Brady had one of his best games, connecting on 34 of 50 passes for 344 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
PACKERS 26, VIKINGS 26
At Green Bay, backup quarterback Matt Flynn threw for 218 yards to help the Packers storm back from a 16-point deficit, but Minnesota (2-8-1) and Green Bay (5-5-1) could only muster field goals in overtime.
Mason Crosby hit from 20 yards at 10:28 of the extra period and Blair Walsh connected from 35 with 3:54 left.
One last chance for the Vikings went nowhere with 1 second left, and the teams walked off with the first tie in the NFL since the Rams and 49ers ended 24-24 on Nov. 11, 2012. It was the first game under the tiebreaking rules instituted in 2012 that ended in a tie after both teams kicked field goals to begin the extra period. It was the second time a game had each team make field goals to open overtime; Houston won the other last November over Jacksonville.
"It's an empty feeling. You go out there and didn't lose the game," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "But you feel like you didn't accomplish what you set out to do."
BUCCANEERS 24, LIONS 21
At Detroit, Matthew Stafford's fourth interception went in and out of Calvin Johnson's hands to rookie Johnthan Banks inside the Tampa Bay 5 in the final minute, allowing the Buccaneers to hold on. Tampa Bay (3-8) has won three straight after losing its first eight, joining the 1978 St. Louis Cardinals as the only team to do that.
Tampa Bay rookie Mike Glennon was 14 of 21 for 247 yards and threw two touchdowns to Tiquan Underwood, whose second score was an 85-yarder early in the fourth quarter.
The Lions (6-5) have lost two straight for the first time this season. They can blame five turnovers for throwing away a chance to improve their playoff position because no one in the NFC North won Sunday. They are tied with Chicago atop the division.
Johnson had seven receptions for 115 yards, but he and the Lions didn't take advantage of the Bucs playing the second half without cornerback Darrelle Revis (groin).
RAMS 42, BEARS 21
At St. Louis, Tavon Austin's 65-yard touchdown run -- his fourth straight this season from beyond midfield -- jump-started a 21-point first quarter. The Rams (5-6) followed a 30-point rout of Indianapolis in front of their largest crowd of the season, about half of them clad Bears orange, with another big win. Late scores by rookie backup running back Benny Cunningham and defensive end Robert Quinn helped finish off the Bears (6-5), who remained tied for the NFC North lead with Detroit.
Josh McCown passed for 352 yards and two touchdowns with an interception for Chicago, which had won four straight in the series.
The Long brothers -- Chicago guard Kyle and St. Louis defensive end Chris -- lined up close to each other all day and were the focal point of one skirmish in the first half. After McCown threw an incomplete pass to fullback Tony Fiammetta in the second half, Fiammetta and Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson squared off, causing players from both teams to rumble.
Kyle Long raced down the field get to Rams end William Hayes, and had him down before his big brother intervened. Chris Long, who had taken the play off, raced off the sideline to corral Kyle Long and drag him from the fight to the sideline.
At Miami, the Panthers won their seventh in a row, with two consecutive late drives led by Cam Newton.
The Panthers quarterback converted a fourth-and-10 at his 20 with a completion to keep alive the winning drive, and Carolina scored a touchdown with 43 seconds left. Newton hit Greg Olsen with a 1-yard pass to cap a 12-play drive.
Carolina also rallied past the New England Patriots with a late drive last Monday night.
"We didn't play our best early on," Newton said. "We couldn't get it going. But we just find ways to win."
The Panthers (8-3) overcame a 16-3 first-half deficit to extend their longest winning streak since 2003. Miami (5-6) fell to 2-2 since tackle Jonathan Martin left the team and the Dolphins' bullying scandal began to mushroom.
COWBOYS 24, GIANTS 21
Tony Romo came through with clutch plays to lift the visiting Cowboys (6-5) into the NFC East lead, tied with Philadelphia. Romo threw for two touchdowns and led a drive that set up Dan Bailey' 35-yard field goal on the final play. Dallas ended the Giants' four-game winning streak and most of their playoff hopes.
Romo hit two crucial third-down passes on the 14-play drive that covered the final 4:45 after New York (4-7) tied the game on a 4-yard pass from Eli Manning to Louis Murphy Jr. and a 2-point conversion run by Andre Brown.
Romo hit Jason Witten on TDs of 20 and 2 yards, and Dallas got a defensive touchdown on a 50-yard fumble return by Jeff Heath.
CARDINALS 40, COLTS 11
Carson Palmer threw two touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby returned an interception 22 yards for a score and the Host Cardinals (7-4) won their fourth in a row to strengthen their wild-card playoff chances.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians beat the team that propelled him to coaching prominence last season, when he took over as Colts interim coach while Chuck Pagano fought leukemia. Arians was the NFL's Coach of the Year for 2012.
"The emotions of this game were gone way before kickoff," Arians said. "I saw a lot of friends, a lot of dear guys on that team. But once the whistle blows, it's just you and your brother in the backyard."
Fitzgerald caught five passes for 52 yards, becoming the youngest player in NFL history to reach 11,000 yards receiving.
RAVENS 19, JETS 3
At Baltimore, Joe Flacco threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones and Justin Tucker kicked four field goals. Jones had four catches for 103 yards and returned five punts for 108 yards.
The defending Super Bowl champion Ravens (5-6) had lost four of five before bouncing back to beat New York (5-6) and keep their playoff hopes alive. Baltimore won on the strength of its defense as the Jets committed three turnovers and went 1 for 12 on third-down conversions. Rookie Geno Smith completed nine of 22 passes for 127 yards and two interceptions, both by Corey Graham.
STEELERS 27, BROWNS 11
At Cleveland, the Steelers (5-6) continued their climb back into AFC wild-card contention as Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes. Roethlisberger connected on a 41-yard TD pass to Antonio Brown and hit Emmanuel Sanders on a 4-yarder for the Steelers, who have turned their season around following an 0-4 start.
Roethlisberger finished 22 of 34 for 217 yards and improved to 16-1 against the Browns (4-7), who have lost five of six.
Browns quarterback Jason Campbell sustained a concussion in the third quarter when he was sacked by cornerback William Gay. Campbell was struck in the helmet by Gay and his head snapped back and banged the turf.
Gay later picked off Brandon Weeden and returned it 21 yards for a TD.
TITANS 23, RAIDERS 19
At Oakland, Ryan Fitzpatrick's 10-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Wright with 10 seconds remaining capped a mistake-free performance that put the Titans back in playoff contention.
Fitzpatrick also threw a 54-yard TD pass to Justin Hunter and Rob Bironas added three field goals for Tennessee (5-6), which is in a six-way tie for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC with five weeks left in the regular season.
The Raiders (4-7) missed a chance to get into that group as Sebastian Janikowski missed two field goals.