Taysom Hill throws 2 TDs as Saints win 9th straight, clinch playoff berth

The New Orleans Saints finally gave up a touchdown but the defence stood tall at the end to preserve their ninth straight victory, 21-16 over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

The Saints (10-2) also clinched a playoff berth with Chicago’s 34-30 loss to Detroit.

Making his third straight start in place of Drew Brees, Taysom Hill threw the first two touchdown passes of his career. But his fumble deep in Atlanta territory sparked a Falcons comeback.

Atlanta drove 85 yards against the Saints, capped by Matt Ryan’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Russell Gage with 7:43 remaining.

The Falcons (4-8) got the ball back and again pushed deep into New Orleans territory. On second-and-2 at the Saints 13, Todd Gurley was stuffed for no gain. He got the ball again on third down, trying a sweep around the left end, but Demario Davis caught him for a 7-yard loss.

The Falcons threw into the end zone on fourth down, but the pass feel incomplete to finish off the home team’s best chance at pulling off an upset.

Hill threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Tre’Quan Smith in the opening quarter — the quarterback’s first scoring throw since his senior year at Brigham Young in 2016. He added another before halftime on an 11-yard toss to tight end Jared Cook.

New Orleans extended the lead to 21-9 on Alvin Kamara’s 11-yard TD run in the third quarter and had a chance to wrap up the game after Ryan fumbled on a play that was initially ruled an incompletion but changed to a fumble after Saints coach Sean Payton challenged the call.

Hill gave it right back. Under heavy pressure, he tried to throw the ball away but wound up fumbling it, giving the Falcons renewed hope.

It was a solid game otherwise for the Saints’ fill-in starter. Hill finished 27 of 37 for 232 yards. He also rushed for 83 yards on 14 carries, including a 43-yard scamper that was the longest run of his career, setting up his first TD pass.

Younghoe Koo kicked three field goals for the Falcons, extending his streak to 24 in a row since his lone miss of the season in Week 3.

New Orleans swept the season series with the Falcons, winning 24-9 two weeks ago at the Superdome in Hill’s first career start.

Rams beat Cardinals, move into tie for NFC West lead

Jared Goff threw for 351 yards, Darrell Henderson ran for a crucial 38-yard touchdown and the Los Angeles Rams moved into a tie for the NFC West lead with a 38-28 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

The Rams (8-4) have won three of four and are tied with the Seahawks, who lost to the New York Giants 17-12.

Los Angeles had a 24-14 lead early in the fourth and looked like it was going to pull away until Nsimba Webster fumbled on a punt return. The Cardinals recovered at the LA 15-yard line and quickly turned the mistake into a touchdown on Kenyan Drake’s 4-yard run that pulled Arizona within 24-21.

The Rams responded on their next drive, moving quickly downfield. Henderson sliced through Arizona’s defence untouched for the 38-yard score that pushed it to 31-21.

Second-year Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray had an inconsistent game, completing 21 of 39 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns. He also lost a fumble midway through the fourth and threw a pick-6 to LA’s Troy Hill, who ran it back 35 yards for a 38-21 lead.

Arizona opened the game with a 59-yard touchdown pass from Murray to tight end Dan Arnold.

The Cardinals didn’t get another first down until late in the second quarter, and Murray finished the first half 3-of-12 passing for 73 yards.

The Rams rallied for a 14-7 halftime lead. They tied it early in the second quarter on a 9-yard touchdown run by rookie Cam Akers and pulled away when Goff hit Tyler Higbee for a 1-yard touchdown with 51 seconds left before halftime.

Giants stun Seahawks

Alfred Morris scored a pair of third-quarter touchdowns, the New York defence shut down Russell Wilson and one of the top offences in the league, and the Giants stunned the Seattle Seahawks 17-12 on Sunday.

Double-digit underdogs, the Giants (5-7) handed Seattle its first home loss of the season, sent the NFC West race into some mayhem, and kept their spot on top of the NFC East for another week.

Following its 0-5 start, New York has won five of its past seven, the last four in a row.

And the Giants did it with starting quarterback Daniel Jones (hamstring) a spectator after getting hurt last week against Cincinnati. Colt McCoy was far from spectacular but made key plays and avoided critical mistakes following a first-half interception.

McCoy was 13 of 22 for 105 yards, and Wayne Gallman rushed for 135 yards on 16 carries.

Meanwhile, alarms will be going off all over Seattle (8-4) after a sloppy, uninspired performance. Seattle’s offence that was once unstoppable couldn’t get started until it was too late. Wilson was 27 of 42 for 263 yards and was often hesitant with his decisions.

The biggest sack came in the closing seconds when Leonard Williams threw Wilson for an 8-yard loss on third down. A fourth-and-18 desperation throw by Wilson was batted down, and the Giants were left to celebrate.

Seattle seemed poised for another of its late rallies after Wilson hit Chris Carson on a 28-yard TD pass with 6:09 left to pull within 17-12, a drive kept alive by a key third-and-long defensive holding penalty on New York.

But McCoy made two big throws on the Giants’ ensuing drive, converting a third-down with a pass to Evan Engram and hitting Darius Slayton for 14 yards into Seattle territory.

Packers outlast Eagles

Aaron Jones rushed for 130 yards and delivered a game-clinching 77-yard touchdown run with 2:36 left as the Green Bay Packers withstood a fourth-quarter comeback attempt to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 30-16 on Sunday.

Aaron Rodgers connected with Davante Adams on two of his three touchdown passes and reached a couple of career milestones to help Green Bay (9-3) hand the Eagles (3-8-1) their fourth consecutive loss.

Green Bay owned a 23-3 lead in the fourth quarter when the Eagles scored two touchdowns in a span of just over a minute. Rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts, who took over for an ineffective Carson Wentz midway through the third quarter, started it by throwing a 32-yard touchdown pass to Greg Ward on fourth-and-18. Jalen Reagor then delivered a 73-yard punt return to cut the lead to 23-16 with 6:30 left.

The Eagles forced a second straight three-and-out, but couldn’t move the ball and punted. That’s when Jones put away the game.

Jones ran through a big hole in the middle of the line, broke an attempted ankle tackle and headed downfield as a second defender made an unsuccessful diving attempt to bring him down. He raced down the left sideline and eluded a third defender inside Philadelphia’s 30-yard line, worked his way through traffic before heading into the end zone.

Rodgers, who went 25 of 34 for 295 yards, increased his career touchdown passes to 400, the seventh NFL player to join that fraternity. The others are Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Dan Marino and Philip Rivers.

Rodgers got to No. 400 in his 193rd career game, faster than any other player. He now has 36 touchdown passes this year and is the first player to throw at least 35 in five separate seasons. He also did it in 2011 (45), 2012 (39), 2014 (38) and 2016 (40).

Rodgers put the Packers ahead for good with a 1-yard pass to Adams on fourth down in the second quarter. Rodgers and Adams connected again on a 9-yarder to cap a 99-yard drive in the third period.

Adams, who caught 10 passes for 121 yards, has scored in seven straight games to tie Hall of Famer Don Hutson’s franchise record. Hutson had a pair of seven-game TD reception streaks in 1941-42 and 1943-44.

Rodgers also threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan in the final minute of the second quarter.

The Eagles showed some signs of life after Hurts took over for Wentz. Hurts was 5 of 12 for 109 yards with an interception to go along with his touchdown pass.

Mayfield leads Browns past Titans

Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns can do more than just run the ball, and the NFL’s longest active playoff drought is moving closer to an end after 18 seasons.

Mayfield threw for a season-high 334 yards with all four of his touchdown passes in the first half, and the Browns scored the first 17 points before holding on to win their fourth straight, 41-35 over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

With both chasing AFC playoff berths, the Browns looked like the team leading a division — they are second in the AFC North behind the unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers — as they improved to 9-3 for the third time in their expansion era.

The Titans (8-4) came in leading the AFC South and left tied after the Colts beat Houston 26-20, though Tennessee still has the better division record.

The Browns had their best-scoring half ever, leading 38-7 at halftime, topping the 35 points scored in the second half at Cincinnati in 2004.

Kenny Vaccaro picked up a fumble by Mayfield and ran it 53 yards with 48 seconds left. Ryan Tannehill hit Cam Batson for an 8-yard TD pass with 28 seconds to go, but Andy Janovich recovered the onside kick to seal the Browns’ longest winning streak since they closed out 2009 with four wins.

Mayfield became the first Browns quarterback to throw four TDs in the first half since Hall of Famer Otto Graham in 1951. Mayfield had 290 yards by halftime, just off his season high of 297 yards.

This time, Mayfield completed a TD pass apiece to Jarvis Landry; backup tackle Kendall Lamm who became the first Browns lineman to catch a TD pass since 2001; a 75-yarder to Donovan Peoples-Jones and a 17-yarder to Rashard Higgins.

Nick Chubb added a 1-yard TD just before halftime.

Tennessee opened the second half scoring back-to-back touchdowns within the first six minutes. First, Tannehill threw a 22-yard pass to MyCole Pruitt. The tight end picked up A.J. Brown’s fumble on a 16-yard catch and ran 3 yards for a TD on the next drive to pull the Titans within 38-21.

Colts defeat Texans

Philip Rivers threw two touchdown passes in the first half and the Indianapolis defence dominated in the second half, lifting the Colts to a 26-20 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday.

The Texans had a chance to take the lead with about 90 seconds left. They were at the Colts 2 when Deshaun Watson fumbled a low snap and Anthony Walker pounced on it to secure the victory.

The Colts (8-4) led 24-20 at the break after Rivers threw TD passes of 21 and 39 yards. Their offence didn’t score after that, but the defence held Houston (4-8) scoreless in the second half and Justin Houston added a safety.

The safety was Indy’s third this season and the fourth of Houston’s career, tying him for the most in NFL history. Houston also had three sacks, three QB hits and forced a fumble.

Watson threw for 341 yards and ran for a score in the first half. But he did not have a touchdown pass for the first time this season and threw an interception after not being picked off in the last six games.

Indianapolis added to its lead when Houston sacked Watson in the end zone to make it 26-20.

Keke Coutee had 141 yards receiving and Chad Hansen 101. Both players set career highs in Houston’s first game since star receiver Will Fuller received a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancers.

The Texans were driving late in the third quarter when Kenny Moore ripped the ball out Brandin Cooks’ hands as he was falling to the ground. The play was reviewed and upheld as an interception, the first pick off Watson since Oct. 11.

The Colts led 7-0 after a 21-yard TD catch by Hilton on their first drive. Houston tied it when Watson scrambled 11 yards for a score later in the first quarter. That score was set up when Watson wriggled out of the grasp of a defender and completed a 64-yard pass to Coutee.

A 52-yard field goal by Fairbairn gave Houston a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter. Nyheim Hines put the Colts up 14-10 on a 5-yard run with less than a minute left in the first.

Indianapolis made it 21-10 on a 39-yard catch-and-run by Taylor. Then Houston got within 21-17 on a 6-yard run by David Johnson, and both teams added field goals to leave Indianapolis up 24-20 at halftime.

Vikings keep playoff hopes alive with OT win

Dan Bailey kicked a 23-yard field goal with 1:49 left in overtime for Minnesota after he missed two extra points and a 51-yard try with 13 seconds remaining in regulation, lifting the Vikings to a 27-24 victory over Jacksonville on Sunday.

Harrison Smith set up Bailey’s redo with a diving interception at the Jacksonville 46, the fourth turnover of the game by the Jaguars. Jacksonville stayed one game ahead of the winless Jets in the overall standings, trailing New York for the top pick in the next draft.

The Vikings (6-6) kept the playoffs well within reach with their fifth win in six games after their bye despite a steady stream of gaffes.

Justin Jefferson topped the 1,000-yard mark for Minnesota just 12 games into his rookie season, finishing with nine receptions for 121 yards. Adam Thielen had eight catches for 75 yards and a score in his return from a one-game COVID-19 quarantine.

 Mike Glennon was picked off twice and lost a fumble in the second half, as did Chris Conley, and the Jaguars had 10 penalties for 83 yards.

Despite all that, James Robinson’s 1-yard run and Glennon’s 2-point conversion pass to Collin Johnson with 1:08 left in regulation capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive to tie it.

Kirk Cousins passed for 305 yards and three touchdowns, producing just enough clutch completions to make up for his throw on the first play of the second half that Joe Schobert returned 43 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Jaguars a 16-6 lead, their largest at any point this season.

Minnesota’s improving defence, which lost 2019 All-Pro linebacker Eric Kendricks to an aggravated calf injury in pregame warmups, made sure that didn’t last.

Ifaedi Odenigbo sacked Glennon for a safety in the fourth quarter after Cousins and Dalvin Cook botched a handoff on first-and-goal from the 2. Cameron Dantzler, who intercepted Glennon earlier in the game, pried the ball loose from Conley at the Jacksonville 44 with 5:39 left to set up Bailey’s 48-yard field goal.

Patriots dominate Chargers

Cam Newton ran for two touchdowns and the New England Patriots scored two TDs on special teams in a 45-0 rout of the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

Newton has four games this season with multiple rushing touchdowns, breaking the league record for a quarterback. He had three such games in 2011, an achievement he shared with five others, and has 10 in his career, three more than any other QB.

Newton’s 1-yard dive on the game’s opening drive and a 2-yard keeper up the middle in the second quarter gave him 11 rushing scores on the year. His most in a season is 14 as a rookie with the Carolina Panthers in 2011.

The Patriots (6-6) have won two straight and four of five to get back into playoff contention in the AFC.

Los Angeles (3-9) suffered the worst loss in franchise history, eclipsing a 49-6 defeat to Kansas City in 1964. It was the first time since 2014 the Chargers were shut out. LA will finish with a losing record for the second consecutive season.

Gunner Olszewski took Ty Long’s punt 70 yards up the right sideline early in the second quarter, putting New England ahead 14-0. The Patriots’ second special teams score came on the last play of the first half, when Devin McCourty returned a blocked field-goal attempt 44 yards to the end zone. New England led 28-0 at halftime.

Newton completed 12 of 19 passes for 69 yards, including a 5-yard pass to N’Keal Henry during the third quarter that extended New England’s lead to 35-0. Jarrett Stidham replaced Newton early in the fourth quarter threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Olszewski.

Rookie Justin Herbert was 26 of 53 for 209 yards for the Chargers. He was intercepted twice.

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