x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Steelers and Patriots in play-off scramble after narrow defeats

Two of the pre-season favourites to challenge for the Super Bowl suffered defeats which leave them in tight races to secure a play-off spot.

Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, scrambles past  the Oakland Raiders defensive end Jay Richardson.
Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, scrambles past the Oakland Raiders defensive end Jay Richardson.

Two of the pre-season favourites to challenge for the Super Bowl suffered defeats which leave them in tight races to secure a play-off spot. The Pittsburgh Steelers were beaten 27-24 by the Oakland Raiders (4-8), which leaves the defending champions with a 6-6 record and in a real battle for a wild card spot.

The Raiders' Louis Murphy caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Bruce Gradkowski with nine seconds remaining to win the game for Oakland. "I can't even describe how frustrating it is right now to be 6-6," the Steelers' linebacker James Farrior said. "We thought we'd be doing a lot better at this point. But we are what our record says we are." Meanwhile, the New England Patriots (7-5) lead their division by only one game after losing 22-21 to their AFC East rivals the Miami Dolphins (6-6).

Chad Henne threw for a career-high 335 yards and directed a 51-yard drive which allowed Dan Carpenter to kick the winning field goal with 62 seconds left as Miami came from 14 points down to stun the Pats, who lost a fourth-quarter lead on the road for the third time this season. "You have to be mentally tough to win on the road," said the Patriots' safety Brandon Meriweather. "Right now, our team isn't mentally tough like it's supposed to be."

Elsewhere, Kurt Warner threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns as the Arizona Cardinals (8-4) upset the Minnesota Vikings (10-2) 30-17. The Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre set an NFL record with his 283rd consecutive appearance but it was no night to remember as he was intercepted twice and sacked three times. "They played like they were in the Super Bowl last year, and we obviously have to play better if we want to be the team that's in the Super Bowl this year," said Favre.

The Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick passed for one touchdown and ran in another as he made a winning return to the Atlanta Falcons (6-6). The Eagles (8-4) won 34-7 and moved joint top of the NFC North following the New York Giants' 31-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys (8-4). And the Giants' (7-5) running back Brandon Jacobs, who ran for one TD, savoured the victory.

"It's extra special against Dallas." he said. "That's absolutely a team I can't stand. I've been hating Dallas ever since I knew anything about football." * With agencies