Raiders Win 10th Game in a Comeback
Amari Cooper was eight years old the last time the Oakland Raiders had a 10-win season, but his 37-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter was the go-ahead play in a dramatic 38-24 come-from-behind victory over the Buffalo Bills that improved the breakout team’s record to 10-2.
Winners of six consecutive games, the Raiders’ offense has been machine-like, earning quarterback Derek Carr the cover of ESPN The Magazine among other accolades, and has the team tied with the New England Patriots for the best record in the A.F.C.
But with less than six minutes remaining in the third quarter, it looked like the winning streak could be in jeopardy, as the Raiders trailed the Bills 24-9.
The comeback, which included 29 unanswered points, was a total team effort as the offense got two touchdowns from Latavius Murray and one each from Michael Crabtree and Cooper. The go-ahead play by Cooper was a veteran move from a young receiver, as he did a double-fake on a slant-and-go, giving himself plenty of separation against rookie cornerback Kevon Seymour.
But perhaps more importantly, the comeback also featured great play from the team’s defense that had allowed 197 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns through three quarters but suddenly found a way to stop the hard-charging Bills. Khalil Mack, Oakland’s standout linebacker, sealed up the victory with a sack and fumble late in the fourth quarter that ended the only promising drive for Buffalo after Oakland had come alive.
The turnaround on both sides of the ball was remarkable, as prior to the 29-point explosion, all of Oakland’s scoring had come from three field goals by Sebastian Janikowski, the team’s aging place-kicker and only remaining member of the 2002 team that won 11 games and earned a Super Bowl appearance, which was the last time Oakland qualified for the playoffs.
Oakland’s next test will come after a short turn-around, as the team faces the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday in a game that could go a long way to determining which team wins the A.F.C. West.
Chiefs Win on 2-Point Interception
In an emotional return to his hometown, Eric Berry stole the show as the Kansas City Chiefs found creative ways to score, becoming just the second team to win a game as a result of a defensive two-point play. The rare conversion was the difference in a 29-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Atlanta had just scored on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Aldrick Robinson and tried to extend the lead to 30-27 with a 2-point conversion attempt. Ryan dropped back and threw to his left but Berry, Kansas City’s standout defensive back, stepped right in front of the pass, returning it 99 yards for the score.
“It’s what I do, man,” Berry said in a televised interview after the game. “We talk about making plays throughout the week. We just embrace the process. Good things happen when you embrace the process.”
Berry, who worked his way back to N.F.L. stardom after missing most of the 2014 season to get treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, grew up in Fairburn, Georgia and his homecoming game also included a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown. After the scoring play, he ran to the stands and gave the ball to his mother.
“I shed a few tears before the game, I shed a few tears during the game and I shed a few after,” Berry told reporters. “It was just a lot of emotions. I tried to contain them and let it show through my play.”
The odd win for Kansas City also included a fake punt that led to a 55-yard run by Albert Wilson and gave the Chiefs nine wins heading into a huge A.F.C. West matchup on Thursday against the division-leading Oakland Raiders.
The ability to return an extra-point or 2-point conversion attempt for a two-point score has only existed for two seasons, and the Denver Broncos became the first team to win a game with one in Week 10 when Will Parks returned a blocked extra-point for the game-winning score. Berry’s version of the play, already dubbed a “pick-two” by some, was the first time a two-point defensive play has been the result of a failed 2-point conversion attempt rather than a blocked kick.
Patriots Cruise Past Rams
The New England Patriots may have lost some explosiveness on offense with the season-ending injury to Rob Gronkowski, but with the way the team’s defense swallowed Jared Goff whole, a missing piece on New England’s offense hardly seemed to matter as the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams, 26-10.
Goff, who has yet to win a game since being taken with the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, looked every bit the rookie quarterback. He got almost no help from his receivers, who repeatedly dropped catchable passes, and paid the price for his attempts to get something going by throwing two interceptions.
Tom Brady, meanwhile, won the 201st game of his career (including postseason play), breaking a tie with Peyton Manning for the N.F.L. record. He did it with a mostly-conservative approach, but showed he could be explosive when he wanted with a perfect 14-yard pass to Chris Hogan in the corner of the end zone for New England’s second touchdown.
The biggest offensive highlight of the game for the Patriots came from LeGarrette Blount, who did his best impression of an ankle-breaking N.B.A. point guard, juking past a flailing defensive back on his way to the end zone on a 43-yard run.
The total mismatch of a game was the seventh loss in eight games for the Rams, creating an awkward situation as Coach Jeff Fisher was expected to announce a contract extension after the game that will keep him with the team through 2018. Sunday’s loss ensured that the Rams can finish no better than .500 this season, and almost assuredly will have be the team’s fifth consecutive losing season under Fisher, who has produced a winning record in just six of his 20 full seasons. With 164 career losses Fisher is just one short of tying Dan Reeves for the N.F.L. record.
Packers Back to .500 After Snowy Victory
Aaron Rodgers threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns, and the Green Bay Packers pulled away from the Houston Texans with two fourth-quarter touchdowns for a 21-13 win Sunday to get back to .500. The Packers (6-6) weathered snowy conditions at Lambeau Field, making just enough plays on the cold turf to even their record for the first time since they were 4-4 after losing to Indianapolis on Nov. 6.
Brock Osweiler connected with DeAndre Hopkins for a 44-yard touchdown pass with 1:51 left to get within eight for Houston. Nick Novak missed the extra point, with footing slippery at Lambeau.
The Texans (6-6) had one last shot after the Packers failed to run out the clock. But Osweiler’s last-ditch pass-and-lateral play from Houston’s 12 with 4 seconds left failed, handing Houston its third straight loss. — Associated Press
Steelers Stop Giants: Over and over on Sunday, with the Giants’ secondary devoting several defenders to cover the Steelers’ fleet wide receivers deep down the field, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger held the football as he waited for a teammate to break open. Waiting in the passing pocket, Roethlisberger must have had a Cheshire cat grin. He had the perfect countermove for the Giants’ defensive strategy, one the Steelers may have planning all along.
The Steelers never trailed in their 24-14 victory over the Giants, with Pittsburgh’s tight ends and running backs combining for more than 200 receiving yards. Roethlisberger, who threw two touchdown passes, spent most of the game targeting the middle of the field to avoid the Giants elite cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Poor Giants tackling further aided the Steelers cause. — Bill Pennington
Ravens End Dolphins’ Streak: Joe Flacco threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns, and the Baltimore Ravens overwhelmed the Dolphins in the first half of a 38-6 victory Sunday that ended Miami’s six-game winning streak.
Baltimore (7-5) led 24-0 at halftime behind Flacco and a dominant performance from the league’s second-ranked defense. Flacco went 27 for 34 for 258 yards and three scores over the first 30 minutes, and the Ravens yielded only 115 yards and intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass. — Associated Press
Cardinals Top Redskins: Carson Palmer threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, David Johnson scored twice and the Arizona Cardinals held on to beat the Washington Redskins 31-23 on Sunday. The loss by the Redskins (6-5-1) clinched a playoff spot for the 11-1 Dallas Cowboys. Palmer’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Johnson with 11:09 to play put Arizona ahead 24-20, the fourth lead change of the second half. — Associated Press
Denver’s Defense Saves the Day: Bradley Roby returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown, helping the Denver Broncos beat the mistake-prone Jacksonville Jaguars 20-10 on Sunday and gain ground in the AFC playoff picture.
Roby picked off Blake Bortles’ wobbler across the middle in the third quarter and went untouched the other way. Star linebacker Von Miller hit Bortles as he released the ball. It was the 11th pick-6 of Bortles’ three-year career and his third in the last four games. Houston and Detroit also returned interceptions for touchdowns in games the Jaguars lost by less than seven points. — Associated Press
Carson Wentz and the Eagles Moving in Wrong Direction
At one point earlier in the season, Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles appeared to be on the fast track to being named the N.F.L.’s rookie of the year. He led his team to wins in his first three games and was showing a veteran-like ability to avoid interceptions.
That feels like a distant memory as Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys has surpassed Wentz in terms of hype, wins and statistics. In yet another brutal loss, Wentz, who was the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, completed 36 of 60 passes for 308 yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions against the lowly Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, losing 32-14.
Wentz has thrown six interceptions in his last three starts and the Eagles have lost seven of the team’s last nine games.
Prescott, meanwhile, the 135th pick in the draft, has won 11 consecutive games after a loss in Week 1, and has just 2 interceptions to go with 19 touchdowns passes.