Bengals keep Browns winless despite Griffin’s return from injury
CLEVELAND | Robert Griffin III returned from injury but couldn’t keep Cleveland from falling closer to infamy as the Cincinnati Bengals built a big early lead and held off the winless Browns 23-10 on Sunday in the snow.
Andy Dalton threw two touchdown passes to Tyler Eifert as the Bengals (5-7-1) kept their playoff chances pulsating for another week.
Griffin started for the first time since getting hurt in the opener. He couldn’t produce a win for the Browns (0-13).
RG3 did score on a 1-yard sneak in the third quarter, but the Browns lost their 16th straight dating to Dec. 13 last season. Cleveland has lost 23 of 24 and 31 of 34 since the end of 2014.
The Browns have three games left to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the NFL’s only 0-16 teams. They are making history with every loss. They are the seventh team since 1962 to start 0-13, joining the ‘08 Lions, 1980 Saints, 1976 Buccaneers, 2011 Colts, 2007 Dolphins and 1962 Raiders.
Griffin finished 12 of 28 for 104 yards. Isaiah Crowell was a bright spot for Cleveland, rushing for 113 yards on 10 carries. Dalton, who has had some of his best games against Cleveland, connected twice in the first half with Eifert as the Bengals bullied the NFL’s worst team for 30 minutes.
Buccaneers 16, Saints 11
TAMPA, FLA. | Streaking Tampa Bay bolstered its playoff hopes by building an early lead and holding off Drew Brees and New Orleans for its fifth straight victory.
Doug Martin scored on a 1-yard run, Roberto Aguayo kicked three field goals and an improving defense intercepted Brees three times while holding the NFL passing leader without a touchdown pass.
Brees began the day leading the league in completions, attempts, completion percentage, passing yards and TD passes, but failed to throw for a touchdown for the second straight week, the first time he’s done that in consecutive games since 2009.
Safety Keith Tandy picked off the quarterback’s final pass on fourth-and-1 from near midfield in the final minute.
The Bucs (8-5) have won five straight for the first time since 2002, the season they went on to win their only Super Bowl.
Titans 13, Broncos 10
NASHVILLE, TENN. | DeMarco Murray ran for 92 yards and a touchdown, and the Titans held on to and keep a piece of first place in the AFC South. With the win, the Titans (7-6) also climbed above .500 for the first time all season.
The Titans came in with the NFL’s third-best rushing offense and the AFC’s top runner in Murray, and they ran right over a Denver defense that came in 28th in that category. By halftime, the Titans ran 26 times for 138 yards — the second-most rushes by any team in the first half this season and most allowed in the first half by Denver since 2014.
Tennessee then had to hold on as Trevor Siemian tried to rally Denver (8-5) despite a sprained left foot that kept him out last week. He threw a 3-yard TD pass to Emmanuel Sanders with 9:58 left and drove the Broncos to first-and-goal at the Tennessee 7 before rookie Aaron Wallace sacked him.
Coach Gary Kubiak settled for a 34-yard field goal by Brandon McManus on fourth-and-goal at the 16 with 4:28 left.
Siemian was driving the Broncos again when A.J. Derby fumbled after a catch. Safety Daimion Stafford recovered with 53 seconds left, and the Titans finished off their biggest win in years.
Packers 38, Seahawks 10
GREEN BAY, WIS. | Aaron Rodgers passed for 246 yards and three touchdowns and Green Bay routed Seattle.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson threw a career-high five interceptions and the Packers (7-6) won their third straight game to keep their playoff hopes alive.
They’re two games back of first-place Detroit in the NFC North, but play division opponents in the last three weeks of the season.
Green Bay gained more than 300 yards in the first game for the Seahawks (8-4-1) without former AllPro safety Earl Thomas, who is out for the season with a broken leg.
Rodgers set the tone on the opening drive after connecting with receiver Davante Adams on a perfectly-thrown pass down the right sideline for a 66-yard touchdown. Cornerback Jeremy Lane slipped on the play.
Steelers 27, Bills 20
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. | Le’Veon Bell scored three times and set a franchise record with 236 yards rushing in finding traction on a slick, snow-covered field.
The Steelers overcame three interceptions thrown by Ben Roethlisberger to win their fourth straight and improve to 8-5 and keep pace in the AFC playoff race. The loss all but mathematically eliminated the Bills (6-7) from contention, and puts them in jeopardy of extending the NFL’s longest active playoff drought to 17 years — the longest since New Orleans ended a 20-year drought by reaching the postseason for their first time in 1987.
After scoring in the first half on 3- and 7-yard runs, Bell put the game away on the opening drive of the third quarter. He had nine rushes for 72 yards alone and capped the 82-yard drive by waltzing into the end zone from 5 yards
Bell also had 62 yards receiving to account for 298 of the 460 yards gained by Pittsburgh. It was the second three-TD game of his career, and first in which he scored three times rushing. Bell broke the franchise rushing record set by Willie Parker, who had 223 yards against Cleveland on Dec. 7, 2006
Falcons 42, Rams 14
LOS ANGELES | Matt Ryan passed for 237 yards and three touchdowns and Atlanta forced five turnovers to beat the Los Angeles.
Deion Jones returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown, and Vic Beasley forced a fumble by Jared Goff and returned it for another TD during Atlanta’s comprehensive pummeling of the Rams (4-9), who have lost four straight and eight of nine in their increasingly miserable homecoming season.
Tevin Coleman caught a TD pass and rushed for another score for the Falcons (8-5), who opened up a 42-point lead in the third quarter and stayed atop the NFC South with their fourth win in six games.
Vikings 25, Jaguars 16
JACKSONVILLE, FLA. | Matt Asiata scored on a short touchdown run, Kai Forbath kicked four field goals and the Vikings won for just the second time in nine weeks.
Asiata had a chance to score three times, but he was stopped on a fourth-and-goal run in the second quarter and fumbled at the goal line in the fourth. Those mistakes hardly hurt against the hapless Jaguars (2-11), who dropped their eighth consecutive game and fell to 0-6 at EverBank Field this season.
Minnesota (7-6) hadn’t won on the road since Sept. 25 at Carolina. A loss to the Jaguars would have weakened their playoff chances.
Sam Bradford completed 24 of 34 passes for 292 yards and a touchdown. His 3-yard TD toss to Kyle Rudolph with 2:13 remaining sealed the victory.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer returned after a one-game absence and was on the sideline. Zimmer missed last week’s game against Dallas because of a detached retina and was unsure earlier in the week whether he would be on the field or in an upstairs box. Zimmer, who needed a doctor’s clearance to fly to Jacksonville, was wearing a patch over his right eye. He also had protective glasses on beforehand, but ditched those when the game started.
Texans 22, Colts 17
INDIANAPOLIS | Lamar Miller scored Houston’s only touchdown and the Texans defense stopped Andrew Luck on Indy’s final drive. Houston (7-6) retained a share of the AFC South lead with Tennessee by ending its three-game losing streak.
The Texans won for the second straight year in Indy, have won nine straight against division foes and got their first sweep of the Colts in franchise history. Luck drove the Colts (6-7) to the Texans 42-yard line with 1:24 left. But on fourth-and-1, a blitz forced an errant screen pass to Robert Turbin.
Panthers 28, Chargers 16
CHARLOTTE, N.C. | Carolina’s defense forced five turnovers by Philip Rivers and had five sacks and a safety.
Cam Newton was a pedestrian 10 of 27 for 160 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception for Carolina (5-8), which snapped a two-game losing streak and kept its slim playoff hopes alive. Jonathan Stewart ran for 66 yards and a touchdown and Graham Gano had four field goals.
But it was Carolina’s defense that set the tone early — and later put the game away.
Despite playing without middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive end Charles Johnson, the Panthers had four sacks on Rivers and forced three turnovers in the first half to build a 23-7 lead.
Dolphins 26, Cardinals 23
MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. | Ryan Tannehill threw three touchdown passes before being sidelined with a knee injury, and Andrew Franks kicked a 21-yard field goal as time expired.
Tannehill limped to the locker room late in the third quarter after being hit around the legs by defensive tackle Calais Campbell as he released a completion. The Dolphins led 21-9 when Tannehill departed, and backup Matt Moore failed to lead Miami to a first down in his first three series.
Lions 20, Bears 17
DETROIT | Matthew Stafford ran for a go-ahead, 7-yard touchdown with 3:17 left after throwing two interceptions in the fourth quarter, one that was returned for a score on the previous possession.
Matt Barkley completed two passes that put the Bears in a position to at least attempt a tying field goal in the final minute, but both were negated by penalties, before Chicago turned over the ball on downs from the Detroit 44.
Jets 23, 49ers 17
SANTA CLARA, CALIF. | Bilal Powell ran for 145 yards, including the game-ending 19-yard touchdown in overtime, to help Bryce Petty and New York rally from 14 points down.
Petty threw an interception on his first pass of the game and the Jets (4-9) trailed 14-0 less than 5 minutes into the game. San Francisco (1-12) led 17-3 at halftime, but fell flat after that and lost a franchise-worst 12th straight game.
Powell took over from there and scored his second TD of the game on New York’s first possession of overtime after Petty’s scramble and 26-yard pass to Robby Anderson put the Jets in field goal range.
Cleveland quarterback Robert Griffin III started for the first time since getting hurt in the season opener, but the Browns remained winless with a 23-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.