December 9, 2002
Patriots 27, Bills 17
FOXBORO, Mass. -- For the second straight season, Tom Brady is pushing Drew Bledsoe toward a disappointing finish.
Bledsoe threw four interceptions, and his former understudy threw two touchdowns as the Patriots beat the Bills. New England leads Miami by a half-game in the AFC East, with Buffalo two back.
Sunday's game was Bledsoe's first at New England since he was traded last offseason.
"Every game I've ever played I've taken personally, this one more than most," Bledsoe said. "With the turnovers, it falls heavily on my shoulders."
Bledsoe, who got a standing ovation before the game, threw his most interceptions in 33 games. The Bills have lost four of five.
"We figured we could put pressure in his face," Patriots cornerback Otis Smith said.
Brady downplayed his matchup with his friend, Bledsoe.
"Once the game starts, I don't even think about it," Brady said. "I am always enjoying when the (defensive) team is picking the other quarterback over."
New England led 20-0 at halftime on the way to its fifth win in six games.
The Patriots scored on all four of their first-half possessions and could have had more, but two apparent touchdown passes were nullified by penalties.
IRVING, Texas -- Terrell Owens caught two touchdowns in the fourth quarter -- including the winner with 12 seconds left -- and rubbed it in with his words and his wardrobe Sunday after the 49ers clinched the NFC West.
Although Jeff Garcia led San Francisco back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and guided the final scoring drive with no timeouts, Owens stole the scene with an 8-yard catch in the back of the end zone.
"The play worked to perfection," said Garcia, who went 36-for-55 for 276 yards with no interceptions and three TDs, all in the fourth quarter. Garcia also led his team in rushing with 50 yards, including a 21-yard TD run.
On the final drive he went 6-for-10, including a spike, and twice ran for first downs.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer wasn't surprised the 49ers went to Owens with the game on the line. But he was upset his players weren't as aware.
"My 10-year-old daughter knew it was going to 81," Zimmer said.
Owens showed up at Texas Stadium wearing a leather jacket, leather pants and shoes all colored Cowboys blue.
Why? "Because I knew all eyes were going to be on me," he said.
It was Dallas' seventh loss when tied or leading in the fourth quarter.
LANDOVER, Md. -- The Giants nearly ran out of people to play defense, so they used a castoff from the opposing team to force the game-clinching turnover.
Backup safety Kato Serwanga, released Monday from the Redskins' injured reserve list and signed by New York on Wednesday, stopped a potential winning drive when he stripped the ball from receiver Darnerien McCants at the Giants 30 with 3:59 to play.
Cornerback Ralph Brown had an interception and a fumble recovery in the first half. The Giants forced five turnovers despite playing without five defensive starters to keep their playoff hopes alive.
"I was looking on the backs of the jerseys of a few guys to figure out what the heck, who is this?" defensive end Michael Strahan said. "Without those guys, we wouldn't have won."
Brown had two runbacks to set up two touchdowns, Kerry Collins completed 17-of-31 for 212 yards and two TDs and Cornelius Griffin had three sacks and forced a fumble.
"Everybody's counting us out, but we're still alive," Giants coach Jim Fassel said.
The two second-half turnovers were huge tide-turners. The Giants led 17-14 when Washington's Champ Bailey fumbled a punt. Two plays later, the Giants scored on Tiki Barber's 1-yard run, and a 36-yard field goal by Matt Bryant added more cushion.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Bill Gramatica kicked a 42-yard field goal with 10:48 left in overtime as the Cardinals snapped a six-game losing streak Sunday. The Lions lost their fifth consecutive game and 15th straight on the road.
Gramatica also had field goals of 29 and 41 yards. The 41-yarder tied it at 20 with 3:20 left in regulation. The Cardinals never led until his final field goal.
"I love it," Gramatica said. "That's why I play. You can't ask for anything more."
Jake Plummer completed 24 of 43 for 228 yards and two touchdowns, despite missing his top four receivers. It was the 21st time Plummer brought his team back from a tie or a deficit in the fourth quarter.
Arizona's primary wideouts were rookie fifth-round draft pick Jason McAddley, Kevin Kasper, signed off waivers from Seattle on Nov. 21, and Nathan Poole, who was cut twice from the practice squad.
The game was the 21st this season to go to overtime, tying the 1995 league record.
Trailing 20-17 late in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals went for it on fourth and 1 at the Detroit 39, and Marcel Shipp barely got the first down. Freddie Jones' reception moved it to the 26 to set up Gramatica's tying field goal.
The crowd, announced at 28,640, was Arizona's smallest of the season and its fourth under 30,000.
SEATTLE -- Third-stringer A.J. Feeley was good enough at quarterback, and the Eagles defense was solid again.
Duce Staley ran for 100 yards and Feeley threw for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Philadelphia, which would have homefield throughout if the playoffs started today, intercepted Matt Hasselbeck three times.
"We played a solid game," linebacker Levon Kirkland said. "A lot of people counted us out when (quarterback) Donovan McNabb went down, but this team has proven we can win without him if we need to."
Feeley's 20-yard touchdown pass to Todd Pinkston early in the third gave Philadelphia a 27-6 lead, and the Eagles held on for their fourth straight victory. They're 3-0 without McNabb, who has a broken right ankle.
The Seahawks trimmed it to 27-20 on Hasselbeck's 11-yard pass to Jerramy Stevens with 45 seconds left, but the Eagles recovered Seattle's onside kick and ran out the clock.
The Seahawks outgained Philadelphia 367-316, but that was aided by a late push. Hasselbeck threw for two TDs in the last 17 minutes, and for the second straight week Seattle made things interesting.
"We can't finish a game. Why is that?" Seahawks defensive tackle Chad Eaton said. "We've had two games coming down to an onside kick. We just don't win."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On a day of individual milestones, the Jets wanted to talk about collective achievement.
Such as winning their fifth game in the past six. And rallying to win for the first time with Chad Pennington at quarterback. And staying alive in the AFC East despite being outplayed for much of the game.
"This is a total team win," said Pennington, who hit Laveranues Coles with a 28-yard touchdown pass into the wind to put the Jets in front 17 seconds into the fourth. "The offense came through and grabbed the lead and the defense held it."
Coles, who went over 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career, beat Tyrone Poole's single coverage to make a diving catch at the 2, then rolled untouched into the end zone for a 16-13 lead. Coles, a former FSU standout, had six catches for 126 yards.
Curtis Martin became the 16th player with more than 10,000 career yards rushing and scored the Jets' other touchdown.
The Broncos lost their third straight despite gaining 369 yards. They were in position to win in the final minutes, but Jon McGraw intercepted Brian Griese at the New York 2.
"I don't think we deserve it right now," said Griese, who finished 28-for-37 for 266 yards. "Any team that has lost three in a row doesn't deserve to be a playoff team."
SAN DIEGO -- Jerry Rice wasn't having a good day, a 40-year-old receiver losing the battle to a rookie cornerback.
With one catch by the future Hall of Famer, it all changed. Rice beat Quentin Jammer for a 56-yard gain and the momentum was all Oakland's en route to a win that gave the Raiders sole possession of first in the AFC West.
"In a game of this magnitude, you want to do something big," Rice said. "I think I was pressing too much. That one jump-started us."
The Raiders and Chargers came in tied for the division lead, and Oakland turned the showdown into a knockdown, thanks to Rice, quarterback Rich Gannon and a defense that bottled up LaDainian Tomlinson and handed San Diego's Drew Brees his first career three-interception game.
Gannon set a record with his 10th 300-yard game of the season, throwing for 328 yards and breaking a tie with Dan Marino, Warren Moon and Kurt Warner. He was 26-of-41, with no touchdowns and no interceptions, and crossed the 300-yard mark with a 9-yard pass to Rice midway through the fourth.
"This was definitely one of our best games because no matter what they did out there, no matter what running play, no matter what passing play, we always felt like we were in control," linebacker Bill Romanowski said.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- For all but the final few minutes, the Vikings looked like the ones accustomed to freezing conditions.
But Tony Fisher's 14-yard touchdown run with 1:06 left gave the Packers their first lead and a victory over Minnesota. On the winning drive, an interception by Jack Brewer with 2:12 left was negated by Corey Chavous' pass interference on Donald Driver.
Darren Sharper picked off Daunte Culpepper's desperation pass as time expired and returned it 66 yards, going down at the 16.
Minnesota tight end Jim Kleinsasser then shoved Packers safety Marques Anderson near the Vikings bench.
As players from both teams converged, Minnesota defensive tackle Chris Hovan jawed with Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre near the Packers' tunnel. Hovan made several obscene gestures as he was escorted from the field to a chorus of boos.
This was the latest in the season a night game was scheduled in Green Bay, and the temperature at kickoff was 11 degrees.
Fisher, a rookie free agent from Notre Dame who was making his first career start in place of Ahman Green (knee), finished with a career-high 96 yards on 25 carries.
Robert Ferguson also set career highs with six receptions for 105 yards and the first two-touchdown game of his career.