El­liott, Cow­boys bounce back, top Bucs 26-20

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

AR­LING­TON: Ezekiel El­liott cel­e­brated a short touch­down run by jump­ing into an over­sized Sal­va­tion Army red ket­tle and the Dal­las Cow­boys closed in on home-field ad­van­tage in the play­offs with a 26-20 vic­tory over the Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers in the NFL on Sun­day night. The Cow­boys (12-2) bounced back af­ter their fran­chise-record 11-game win­ning streak ended, hang­ing on af­ter what looked to be a fes­tive night following El­liott’s an­tics turned tense when Jameis Win­ston ral­lied the Bucs from a 17-3 deficit to a 20-17 lead. Mak­ing his de­but in the Sun­day night spot­light, Win­ston threw for 247 yards and two touch­downs but had four turnovers, in­clud­ing an in­ter­cep­tion that led to Dan Bai­ley’s 38-yard field goal that gave Dal­las a 23-20 lead early in the fourth quar­ter.

Tampa Bay (8-6) had its five-game win­ning streak snapped and fell a game be­hind At­lanta in the NFC South. Dal­las stayed two games ahead of the New York Giants in the NFC East and needs a win with­out any help to clinch the home field through­out the NFC play­offs. El­liott, the NFL’s rush­ing leader, had a ca­reer-high 159 yards, in­clud­ing a 42-yard run to set up Bai­ley’s fourth field goal for the six-point lead.

Fel­low rookie Dak Prescott bounced back from his worst game as a pro, go­ing 32 of 36 for 279 yards a week af­ter com­plet­ing less than 50 per­cent of his passes in a 10-7 loss to the New York Giants. El­liott had NFL ca­reer rush­ing leader and for­mer Dal­las star Em­mitt Smith and plenty of other peo­ple laugh­ing when he jumped into the ket­tle and dis­ap­peared when he crouched down following a 2-yard touch­down in the se­cond quar­ter. He drew a 15-yard penalty.


Ryan Suc­cop kicked a 53-yard field goal into the wind as time ex­pired Sun­day to give the Ten­nessee Ti­tans a vic­tory on a frigid af­ter­noon at Ar­row­head Sta­dium. Suc­cop, who spent the first part of his ca­reer with Kansas City, came up short on his first try at the win­ner, but Chiefs coach Andy Reid had called a time­out just be­fore the snap. Given a se­cond chance, Suc­cop knocked it through with a cou­ple of feet to spare as the Ti­tans poured off the bench to cel­e­brate. Ten­nessee ral­lied from a 17-7 hole, and Der­rick Henry’s se­cond touch­down got the Ti­tans (8-6) within 1716 with just over three min­utes left. But Ti­tans coach Mike Mu­larkey went for the 2-point con­ver­sion and the lead. Mar­cus Mar­i­ota was pres­sured im­me­di­ately and his pass never reached the end zone. But the Chiefs (10-4), try­ing to clinch a play­off spot, were un­able to run out the clock and Ten­nessee got the ball back with a minute left. With no time­outs, Mar­i­ota calmly found Rishard Matthews for 19 yards and De­lanie Walker twice to set up Suc­cop’s field-goal at­tempt. Ten­nessee is tied for the AFC South lead with Hous­ton.


Se­bas­tian Janikowski kicked a 44-yard field goal with 2:40 left, his fourth of the game, as the Raiders beat the Charg­ers in the Re­lo­ca­tion Bowl to clinch a play­off berth for the first time since 2002. Play­ing be­fore what looked like a home crowd at 70,000seat Qual­comm Sta­dium, the vis­it­ing Raiders (11-3) earned a play­off nod on the same field where they made their last post­sea­son ap­pear­ance, an em­bar­rass­ing 48-21 loss to Tampa Bay in the Su­per Bowl on Jan. 26, 2003. There was a sur­real at­mos­phere to the game, which might be the Charg­ers’ se­cond-to-last in San Diego. Team chair­man Dean Spanos seems al­most cer­tain to move the Bolts (5-9) to the Los An­ge­les area af­ter fail­ing to get a big public sub­sidy to help him re­place ag­ing Qual­comm Sta­dium. The Raiders could be on the move, too, with owner Mark Davis eye­ing Las Ve­gas, al­though they’d still play in Oak­land un­til a new sta­dium is built in Sin City.


Tom Sav­age threw for 260 yards af­ter Brock Osweiler was benched in the se­cond quar­ter, and La­mar Miller scored Hous­ton’s only touch­down with less than three min­utes re­main­ing. The win was Hous­ton’s 10th straight in the divi­sion and left the Tex­ans (8-6) tied with Ten­nessee for the AFC South lead. But Hous­ton con­trols its play­off fu­ture with a 5-0 mark in the divi­sion. Osweiler threw in­ter­cep­tions on con­sec­u­tive drives in the se­cond quar­ter to help Jack­sonville build a 13-0 lead. Coach Bill O’Brien had in­sisted all sea­son he hadn’t thought about bench­ing Osweiler, but he’d seen enough af­ter that and brought in Sav­age. The move was met with a huge ova­tion from the home fans, who’d been boo­ing Osweiler most of the day. The Jaguars got the ball back twice af­ter fall­ing be­hind, but failed on a fourth-down con­ver­sion the first time and Blake Bor­tles was in­ter­cepted the se­cond time. Bor­tles threw for 92 yards and ran for a touch­down for the Jaguars (2-12), who dropped their ninth straight.


Tom Brady over­came a slow start to lead the Pa­tri­ots to a rare win in Den­ver, deal­ing a crush­ing blow to the Bron­cos’ play­off hopes. Brady missed his first six passes for just the se­cond time in his ca­reer; the first was way back on Oct. 12, 2003, against the Giants. But he came back to lead the Pa­tri­ots (12-2) to a record eighth con­sec­u­tive divi­sion ti­tle and a first-round bye. Brady re­turned to the site of his worst beat­ing, a 20-18 loss in the AFC cham­pi­onship 11 months ago when he was hit a ca­reer-high 23 times. This time, he brought a power run game and a muchim­proved O-line with him. The re­sult was just his third win in Den­ver in 10 tries, and it was the Bron­cos’ hopes of de­fend­ing their Su­per Bowl ti­tle that took a beat­ing. The Bron­cos (8-6) lost for the third time in four games and were sup­planted by the Dol­phins for the sixth and fi­nal play­off spot in the AFC race with two weeks re­main­ing.


Aaron Rodgers hit Jordy Nel­son with a 60-yard pass to set up Ma­son Crosby’s 32-yard field goal as time ex­pired in one of the cold­est games ever played in Chicago. Wide re­ceiver-turned-run­ning back Ty Mont­gomery ran for a ca­reer-high 162 yards and two touch­downs, and the Pack­ers (8-6) earned their fourth straight vic­tory de­spite blow­ing a 17-point lead in the fourth quar­ter. They also moved ahead of Min­nesota for se­cond place in the NFC North and pulled within a game of divi­sion leader Detroit. The Bears (3-11) tied it on a field goal by Con­nor Barth with 1:19 left. The Pack­ers took over at their 27, and on third down at the 26, Rodgers un­leashed a deep pass down the mid­dle of the field to Nel­son, who got be­hind Cre’Von LeBlanc. With no time­outs, the Pack­ers downed the ball be­fore Crosby booted his win­ner. The game-time tem­per­a­ture was 11 de­grees with a mi­nus-4 wind chill. Chicago hosted the Pack­ers in 3-de­gree tem­per­a­ture and a mi­nus-15 wind chill - the low­est ever for a Bears home game - on Dec. 18, 1983. The Bears’ cold­est home game, tem­per­a­ture-wise, was against Green Bay on Dec. 22, 2008, when it was 2 de­grees with a mi­nus-13 wind chill.The Pack­ers tied the NFL’s old­est ri­valry for the first time since 1933 at 94-94-6.


The bum­bling Browns are two losses short of be­com­ing the NFL’s se­cond team to go 0-16 in one sea­son. LeSean McCoy had a sea­son-best 153 yards rush­ing and scored twice, and the Bills kept their slim play­off hopes alive. The Browns dropped to 0-14, match­ing the se­cond-worst start to a sea­son set by the 1976 Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers and 1980 New Or­leans Saints. The 2008 Detroit Lions are the NFL’s only team to go with­out a win in a 16-game sea­son. Cleve­land has also lost 17 straight dat­ing to last year, mov­ing into a tie with the St. Louis Rams (2008-09) and Hous­ton Oil­ers (198283) for the league’s sixth-long­est skid. The Browns have now gone a cal­en­dar year since their last win, a 24-10 vic­tory over San Fran­cisco on Dec. 13, 2015. The Browns have been so bad they haven’t had a lead in 17-plus quar­ters, dat­ing to a 7-6 edge in the third quar­ter of a 28-7 loss at Baltimore on Nov. 10.


Chris Boswell tied the club record with six field goals, and Ben Roeth­lis­berger threw a touch­down pass in the fourth quar­ter. The Steel­ers (9-5) have won five straight and can clinch the AFC North ti­tle with a vic­tory at home next Sun­day against Baltimore (8-6). As a first step, they ral­lied from a 14-point deficit - kick by kick and elim­i­nated Cincin­nati at a place where they’re right at home. They beat the Ben­gals (5-8-1) in the open­ing round of the play­offs 18-16 last Jan­uary, get­ting the win­ning field goal with the help of penal­ties on Von­taze Bur­fict and Adam “Pac­man” Jones. Bur­fict and Jones each got a per­sonal foul on Sun­day - Pitts­burgh’s Mar­cus Gil­bert had one as well - as the an­i­mos­ity con­tin­ued. So did the Steel­ers’ dom­i­nance at Paul Brown Sta­dium, where they’ve won four in a row. Boswell ac­counted for Pitts­burgh’s first 15 points with kicks from 45, 49, 49, 40, 49 and 30 yards. In the end, there was an­other Ben­gals melt­down. They had penal­ties on four con­sec­u­tive plays - in­clud­ing Pat Sims’ per­sonal foul - that set up Roeth­lis­berger’s 24-yard touch­down pass to Eli Rogers for a 24-20 lead.


The Ravens sur­vived a des­per­ate come­back bid by the Ea­gles, stop­ping a 2-point con­ver­sion with 4 sec­onds left. On a wet and windy day, the Ravens main­tained con­trol of their play­off pos­si­bil­i­ties. If Baltimore de­feats Pitts­burgh on Christ­mas Day and Cincin­nati in the reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale, the Ravens will en­ter the post­sea­son as AFC North cham­pi­ons. Baltimore (8-6) led 27-17 with just over six min­utes left when Joe Flacco threw an in­ter­cep­tion in­side the Philadel­phia 10 to give the Ea­gles (5-9) an­other chance. Rookie Car­son Wentz di­rected a drive that pro­duced a field goal with 2:22 re­main­ing. The Ea­gles got the ball back at their 41 with 1:39 to go. A 24-yard com­ple­tion to Zach Ertz and a pass in­ter­fer­ence call against rookie Tavon Young set up a 4-yard touch­down run by Wentz that got Philadel­phia within a point. First-year coach Doug Ped­er­son went for the win. Wentz threw over the mid­dle to Jor­dan Matthews, who couldn’t get his hands on a ball that ap­peared to be tipped. Philadel­phia has lost five straight and seven of eight.


Odell Beck­ham Jr. made an­other one-hand touch­down catch to de­light replay fa­nat­ics, the de­fense turned in an­other sti­fling per­for­mance and the Giants inched closer to their first play­off berth since 2011. NFC North-lead­ing Detroit (9-5) had won five in a row. The win was the eighth in nine games for the Giants (10-4) and it gave them their best record through 14 games since 2008, when they were 11-3. The for­mula was the one the team has fol­lowed in Ben McA­doo’s first sea­son: just enough of­fense and a tough stingy, pass-rush­ing de­fense. That unit has come up with big back-to-back per­for­mances against two divi­sion lead­ers in Dal­las (11-2) and Detroit, giv­ing up 13 to­tal points. Eli Man­ning (20 of 28 for 201 yards) threw a 6-yard touch­down pass to Ster­ling Shep­ard on a 75-yard open­ing drive. He then iced the game with a 4-yarder that Beck­ham caught with his left hand and then pranced into the end zone for an 11-point lead with 5:20 to play.

FAL­CONS 41, 49ERS 13

Devonta Free­man ran for three touch­downs, Matt Ryan passed for two more and the Fal­cons clinched their first win­ning sea­son since 2012. Free­man rushed for 139 yards and capped his big day with a 34-yard touch­down run. Ryan com­pleted 17 of 23 passes for 286 yards, in­clud­ing a pair of 9-yard scor­ing tosses to Taylor Gabriel and Austin Hooper. Aldrick Robin­son, step­ping up with At­lanta star Julio Jones miss­ing his se­cond straight game with a toe in­jury, had a ca­reer-best 111 yards on four re­cep­tions. The Fal­cons (9-5) made sure they didn’t over­look the 49ers (1-13), mov­ing a step closer to get­ting back to the play­offs af­ter a three­sea­son ab­sence.

The 49ers have fallen apart since that trip to the Su­per Bowl. They ex­tended a fran­chise record with their 13th straight loss, keep­ing the heat on first-year coach Chip Kelly.


Drew Brees snapped out of a two-game funk to throw for 389 yards and four touch­downs in the high­est-scor­ing game in the NFL this sea­son. Brees, who had no TDs and six in­ter­cep­tions his pre­vi­ous two games, com­pleted 37 of 48 with no picks. Brandin Cooks caught seven passes for a ca­reer-best 186 yards for the Saints (6-8), in­clud­ing touch­down plays of 65 and 45 yards. David John­son rushed for 53 yards and caught four passes for 55 yards for Ari­zona (5-8-1). The se­cond-year back be­came the first player in NFL his­tory to have at least 100 yards from scrim­mage in the first 14 games of a sea­son. John­son rushed for two touch­downs, giv­ing him 17 TDs this sea­son and 30 in the first 30 games as a pro. The teams amassed 913 yards, 488 by New Or­leans, 425 by Ari­zona, which fin­ished 4-3-1 at home.


An­drew Luck threw for 250 yards and two touch­downs, Robert Turbin rushed for two touch­downs, Mike Adams forced a fum­ble and added an in­ter­cep­tion for the Colts (7-7). Frank Gore rushed for 101 yards and In­di­anapo­lis won on the road for the fourth time this sea­son, dom­i­nat­ing a Vik­ings de­fense that has been among the best in the league. Adrian Peter­son had just 22 yards on six car­ries and lost a fum­ble in his first game back from a knee in­jury for the Vik­ings (7-7). The Vik­ings be­lieved they needed to win the fi­nal three games to make the play­offs. Sam Brad­ford threw for 291 yards with one in­ter­cep­tion and one lost fum­ble for Min­nesota. Af­ter a crit­i­cal home loss to Hous­ton last week, the Colts trail the Tex­ans and Ti­tans by one game in the AFC South. — AP


AR­LING­TON: Dez Bryant #88 of the Dal­las Cow­boys runs af­ter catch­ing a pass dur­ing the se­cond quar­ter against the Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers at AT&T Sta­dium on Sun­day in Ar­ling­ton, Texas.

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