December 16, 2002
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Bills were prepared for anything, even Doug Flutie.
Travis Henry ran for 144 yards and scored two touchdowns, including a 26-yard run with 52 seconds left, for Buffalo.
The Bills also got a poised effort from their defense, thwarting any emotional boost the Chargers hoped to get from Flutie's first appearance of the season.
Flutie, who spent three years in Buffalo before being released in February 2001, got a mixed reaction when he entered in place of starter Drew Brees with eight minutes left. He set up Steve Christie's 53-yard field goal that tied the score at 13 on his first possession.
"When Flutie came in, I knew we had to stay in our lanes because he can make things happen," Bills linebacker London Fletcher said. "He's been a terrific player in this league for a number of years."
Flutie was 3-of-11 for 64 yards. The game ended on Buffalo's 37 when Flutie failing to complete two desperation passes into the end zone in the final 11 seconds.
Brees went 13-of-24 for 148 yards and appeared to have difficulty passing into a sturdy wind blowing in off Lake Erie.
Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer doused any quarterback controversy.
"We will address one issue right at the outset," Schottenheimer said. "Drew Brees is our starting quarterback."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Wayne Chrebet and the Jets couldn't hurdle the banged-up Bears.
Needing a win to enhance its playoff chances, New York didn't look like the feisty team that fought each other in practice three days earlier. Veteran Chris Chandler gave Chicago's erratic offense some stability, and the Bears allowed one touchdown.
"It just stinks all around. I feel horrible," said Chrebet, who fumbled after a reception as he hurdled Chicago's Larry Whigham and Mike Green, ending a 22-yard play and killing a final Jets drive.
Bears rookie Roosevelt Williams recovered at the 14 with 1:10 left.
"It's not something I sit around and think about doing. That was my natural reaction. It's not the smartest thing to do. But if it works, we tie it up," Chrebet said.
"I had a good head of steam going. I thought, 'If I could slice and get through there ' Next thing I know, I'm higher in the air, I'm facefirst on the ground and I didn't know what happened. It's my fault we didn't have chance to tie it up."
Chrebet's fumble was one of many mistakes for the Jets, who are mathematically alive.
"If he hurdles me and keeps running, it's a great play," Whigham said. "He couldn't get out of bounds. I think he was just trying to make a play."
CLEVELAND -- Peyton Manning called audibles on four plays that all turned into Indianapolis touchdowns. Twice, the Colts quarterback checked off to plays he knew would work.
The ones to Marvin Harrison.
Harrison broke a league record for catches in a season and probably broke Cleveland's playoff hopes by catching two touchdowns in the second half.
The Colts trailed 16-0 at halftime before storming back with a no-huddle offense and behind the speedy Harrison.
"That man had three catches in the first half," Browns cornerback Corey Fuller said, "and then we let him explode."
Then Cleveland's comeback came up 5 yards short. The Browns couldn't score the go-ahead touchdown as Couch's fourth-down pass went off the hands of Andre' Davis.
James Mungro, filling in for Edgerrin James, had two touchdown runs.
Harrison's 25-yard TD catch brought the Colts within 16-14 late in the third quarter. After the Browns countered with a 2-yard score by William Green, the Colts came right back as Manning connected with Harrison on a 3-yard score with 11:30 remaining.
After the Browns punted, Manning hit Harrison for 34 yards to the Cleveland 10. Three plays later, Mungro plowed through the middle to make it 28-23.
HOUSTON -- Jeff Blake and Matt Stover helped Baltimore keep its faint playoff hopes alive.
Blake threw two touchdowns and Stover kicked three field goals, the last with 6:48 to play, for the Ravens.
"You have to do what it takes and we came out and did it today," Blake said.
The Ravens, who won the 2001 Super Bowl, finish with two AFC North opponents. They host Cleveland on Sunday and close out the regular season Dec. 29 at the Steelers.
"We went on the road in a playoff hunt, and executed what you have to do to win a game," coach Brian Billick said. "They did an outstanding job. I like the way they answered some situations. It bodes well for this team now and in the future."
The Ravens led 13-7 at halftime on Stover's two kicks of 22 yards each. Blake's 26-yard touchdown to Travis Taylor and his 11-yarder to Chester Taylor with 3:33 left in the third quarter made it 20-7.
"We're getting better all the time," Travis Taylor said. "We've really been coming along lately, but we have no choice. This is crunch time. This is playoff time."
The Texans kept it close when Avion Black, subbing for injured Jermaine Lewis, returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown with four seconds left in the third quarter.
PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles are two wins from having homefield advantage at Veterans Stadium, something teams such as Green Bay and Tampa Bay don't want to see.
Philadelphia clinched the NFC East. With victories at Dallas and the Giants, the Eagles will be home for the playoffs.
"If you go around the league and ask people where they don't want to play, this is at the top of the list," coach Andy Reid said.
A.J. Feeley, who began the season as the third-string quarterback, threw two touchdowns as Philadelphia won its fourth straight without quarterback Donovan McNabb, who broke his right ankle Nov. 17.
This one was played in swirling winds in front of a noisy crowd. Along with the reputation for bad turf, the crumbling Vet is a nightmare for visiting teams.
But getting to the Super Bowl for the first time since the Dick Vermeil-led Eagles got there after the 1980 season might not be so easy. They likely will need a healthy McNabb.
"I like the way this team plays," Washington coach Steve Spurrier said of Philadelphia. "They don't play giveaway. They get a lot of loose balls. We're not as alert as the Eagle team."
On the second play from scrimmage, Stephen Davis broke loose toward midfield but had the ball knocked away by Brian Dawkins. Michael Lewis recovered for Philadelphia.
DENVER -- With seconds ticking down and another opponent driving in a close game, the Broncos were expecting the worst. After three straight close losses, two in overtime, who could blame them?
But this time it had a different ending as Denver held on to boost its playoff hopes.
Clinton Portis overcame two first-half fumbles and tied a Broncos record with four touchdowns.
Oakland's loss allowed Denver to close within a game of the AFC West lead, but it wasn't easy.
The Broncos dominated early, allowed Kansas City to score 17 points in the final 15 minutes, then held on as Trent Green's desperation pass fell incomplete in the end zone as time expired.
The Chiefs took over at their 39 with 1:50 left and drove to Denver's 15 with 25 seconds left. But a penalty for a leg-whip by lineman John Tait dropped the Chiefs back to the 25, then Green failed on a pass attempt with five seconds left.
Portis, who had the flu, ran for three touchdowns and 130 yards, his third-straight 100-yard game. He also had a 66-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter that put the Broncos up 28-7.
"I wouldn't tell the coaches that I was sick," Portis said. "I knew I could run and give them whatever I had."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Giants are right back in the playoff race.
Tiki Barber scored on a 1-yard run and set up another touchdown with a 60-yard run in a season-best 21-point first quarter to lead New York.
The Giants moved within half a game of Atlanta for the last NFC wild-card spot with two weeks to go.
"This game was huge," said Barber, who had 81 yards on 11 carries and three catches for 51 more. "Our playoff hopes are still alive. We have to win out, otherwise all the talk about sneaking into the playoffs is null and void."
The scenario is better than a week ago, when it seemed the Giants needed a miracle. They finally started looking like a playoff team in dominating Dallas.
"This has been a crazy season," said Giants middle linebacker Mike Barrow, who helped break the game open with a sack and forced fumble that defensive end Kenny Holmes returned 50 yards for an early 14-0 lead.
Barrow led a defense that allowed 241 total yards, forced three turnovers and held Chad Hutchinson to 16-for-40 for 161 yards.
Ron Dayne scored the first of two touchdowns and Matt Bryant kicked the first of three field goals as the Giants opened a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter.
ST. LOUIS -- Marc Bulger stayed unbeaten, even if he didn't exactly stake his claim to the Rams' quarterback job.
The former third-stringer threw two touchdowns in his return from a sprained index finger that sidelined him for three games.
Thanks to Jeff Wilkins' winning 26-yard field goal with 20 seconds to go, Bulger is 6-0 as the starter for the Rams, who were 0-6 with MVP quarterback Kurt Warner.
But Bulger threw two interceptions and struggled in the second half as the Rams barely snapped a three-game losing streak that knocked the defending NFC champions out of playoff contention.
Marcel Shipp scored three touchdowns. Jake Plummer's 1-yard touchdown to Steve Bush gave the Cardinals, down by 17 points at halftime, a 28-27 lead with 7:56 to go.
Plummer came close to his 22nd come-from-behind victory in six seasons, including all five wins this year for Arizona.
Plummer produced two first downs, one with a sneak and another with a 7-yard draw, before giving St. Louis the ball with 1:51 to go and no timeouts remaining. Bulger made good on the Rams' final chance, moving them 72 yards in five plays over 1:31, the big play a 58-yarder to Torry Holt on the first snap.
Travis Fisher sealed the win by intercepting Plummer's throw with three seconds left.
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