The Indianapolis Colts suffered a shock overtime defeat to the rejuvenated Dallas Cowboys while the defending NFL Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints needed a late touchdown to beat struggling Cincinnati.
Cowboys upset Colts while Saints scrape late win
The Indianapolis Colts suffered a shock overtime defeat to the rejuvenated Dallas Cowboys while the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints needed a late touchdown to beat struggling Cincinnati on Sunday.
The Atlanta Falcons now have the NFL's best record at 10-2 following their impressive 28-24 win at Tampa Bay while the Jacksonville Jaguars are surprise leaders of the AFC South after pulling off a win at Tennessee.
Brett Favre suffered a shoulder sprain in his throwing arm and watched replacement Tarvaris Jackson throw two touchdowns while Adrian Peterson ran for three touchdowns as the Minnesota Vikings trounced the Buffalo Bills 38-14.
Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning had a rare sloppy day throwing four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, and the Colts, who erased a 17-0 second-quarter deficit, lost their third straight and slipped to 6-6.
Manning's third-down pass in overtime was deflected by Mike Jenkins and caught by linebacker Sean Lee to set up Dallas's game-winning field goal a few plays later.
"They got 20 points off turnovers and obviously that is one area we want to get sorted out," said Colts head coach Jim Caldwell.
The Bengals (2-10) entered Sunday's game on the back of eight straight losses but were less than 30 seconds away from upsetting the Saints (9-3).
Cedric Benson rushed for two touchdowns to help lift the Bengals into the lead but Saints quarterback Drew Brees found Marques Colston with a three-yard touchdown pass to cap a seven-play, 68-yard drive and a 34-30 victory.
The touchdown pass came after the Bengals were lured into an offside on a Saints fourth down and two at the Bengals seven yard line.
"We battled in there and we were fortunate to pull that one out," said Saints head coach Sean Payton who was critical of some of his team's penalties.
"We have got to do a better job with coaching, a better job with executing and it starts with me. But I was proud that we hung in there."
Jacksonville's (7-5) unexpected season continued as explosive running back Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for a career-best 186 yards in a 17-6 victory at Tennessee (5-7).
Rashad Jennings and quarterback David Garrard also ran for touchdowns as the Jags grabbed sole possession of first place in the AFC South given the Colts loss.
Jones-Drew made a franchise-record 53 rushing attempts as the Jags showed just how much they have improved since their 30-3 defeat to the Titans in October.
"We feel like we are getting better," said Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio, "Maurice was special today. We rode Maurice hard."
The Falcons proved that they can win on the road against tough opponents pulling out a victory with a fourth-quarter rally after they trailed Tampa Bay (7-5) by 10 points.
A superb score on a 102-yard kickoff return by Eric Weems brought the Falcons back into the game and quarterback Matt Ryan threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins for the winning play.
The Vikings (5-7) have only a mathematical shot at making the playoffs but it will be interesting to see what role, if any, Favre plays in their remaining four games.
The 41-year-old Favre, in what he says will be his last season, was hit as he threw an interception on what was his first attempted pass of the game. [ID:nN05175619]
Favre, who has made 297 consecutive appearances, could now be in danger of ending that run if he is not fit or selected for next week's game at home to the New York Giants.
In the NFC North, the Chicago Bears (9-3), held on for a 24-20 win over the Detroit Lions (2-10) to maintain a one-game lead over the Green Bay Packers (8-4), who raced to a 34-16 win over the San Francisco 49ers (4-8) with quarterback Aaron Rodgers throwing for 298 yards and three touchdowns.
Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw had two running touchdowns each as the New York Giants (8-4) romped to a 31-7 over the Washington Redskins (5-7) that kept them on pace with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. The Oakland Raiders (6-6) upset the San Diego Chargers (6-6) with quarterback Jason Campbell running for one touchdown and throwing for another in a 28-13 victory.