NFL Nation: rapid reaction 11

Posted by's Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills are in last place.

The team that jumped out to a 4-0 start and became a fashionable pick to win the AFC continued to tumble Monday night with a wrenching 29-27 loss at home to the Cleveland Browns.

Rian Lindell missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt that would have won it, but the Bills shouldn't have been proud of the effort had they pulled out a victory.

The Bills are 5-5, have lost four straight and five of their past six. They're only two games behind the first-place New York Jets, but with only six games remaining, the hole is substantial.

Wild card? Tiebreakers aren't the Bills' friends. They're already 0-3 against the rest of the AFC East. They've forfeited home-field advantage against the Miami Dolphins, opting to grab the money and move the Dec. 7 game to Toronto, where they'll play in a dome and not the blustery Western New York elements. Video
 Highlights of the Browns' victory over the Bills.

Bills quarterback Trent Edwards was a detriment from the start. He threw three interceptions in the first quarter -- on his first, third and sixth passes of the night.

He finished with 148 yards and a touchdown -- a dump to Marshawn Lynch, who made a brilliant 18-yard run. Edwards also scored from a yard out on a sneak, but his performance will not be met with favorable reviews by Bills fans.

He failed to complete a single pass to top target Lee Evans and connected with a wide receiver only four times all night.

If not for Cleveland's inability to stop a running game that had slowed to a crawl and Buffalo's return units, the game wouldn't have been close.

Lynch finally had a triple-digit game, going for 119 yards.

Rookie Leodis McKelvin brought back a kickoff 98 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown. Roscoe Parrish returned a punt 34 yards inside the final five minutes and with the game on the line.

Posted by's James Walker

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Cleveland Browns held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter for the third consecutive game.

This time the Browns held on -- barely.

In what could be a sign that Cleveland will not pack it in for the remainder of the season, Browns kicker Phil Dawson made a career-best 56-yard field goal late to seal a 29-27 victory over the Buffalo Bills. The game marked the first career victory for quarterback Brady Quinn, who led the Browns down the field in the final two minutes for the victory.

Cleveland (4-6) is far behind in the playoff race and likely doesn't have much to play for the rest of the season. But it still could be a dangerous team to play down the stretch.

The Browns outplayed the Bills (5-5), who are in the playoff hunt, for most of the game. Despite another shaky fourth quarter, Cleveland also showed poise in key moments for the first time in a while.

Posted by's Matt Mosley

LANDOVER, Md. -- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted before Sunday's game that his team needed to beat the Redskins to save its season. And for at least one week, that's exactly what the Cowboys did with a 14-10 victory in front of 90,830 at FedEx Field.

The Redskins couldn't put the game away when they had the chance, in part, because the Cowboys' defense refused to cooperate. DeMarcus Ware's second sack of the game forced Washington to try a 46-yard field goal that fell short.

Before that, cornerback Terence Newman ended a Redskins drive when he broke in front of a short pass to Santana Moss to make an interception. The Cowboys' offense finally delivered by riding the powerful legs of Marion Barber. And quarterback Tony Romo came up with two huge throws early in the fourth quarter. On a third-and-7, he called upon his improvisational skills to shovel a pass to Miles Austin on the run.

On the next play, he found rookie tight end Martellus Bennett for a 25-yard touchdown. The Redskins drove the ball to the Cowboys' 37-yard line, but couldn't convert on third- and fourth-and-4. Newman, who returned after missing five games with a sports hernia, had Moss blanketed on the fourth-down play.

Early in the game, it looked like Clinton Portis' return from a knee injury would inspire the Redskins offense. Portis had five carries for 29 yards on the Redskins' first possession, and fullback Mike Sellers finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown catch.

The hero for the Cowboys, though, was Barber. He completely took over the game in the fourth quarter. And for the first time in over a month, the offensive line took over the line of scrimmage.

Facing a fourth-and-1 deep in Redskins territory, Wade Phillips chose to dial up Barber one more time. It worked, and the Cowboys' playoff hopes received a serious shot in the arm. Both teams are now 6-4, which leaves 5-4-1 Philadelphia in the NFC East cellar.

Much more to come in my game column.

Posted by's Matt Mosley

For the first time since 2002, an NFL game ended in a tie. And it turns out quarterback Donovan McNabb and some of his teammates were the last to know. McNabb admitted after the game that he wasn't aware that the league only had one overtime period.

The Eagles were fortunate to salvage the tie. Bengals kicker Shayne Graham pushed a 47-yard attempt wide right at the end of regulation. But even if they'd somehow won the game, the Eagles were once again exposed as being horribly flawed team.

When you're 3-of-18 on third-down conversions, you don't even deserve a tie. And once again, the Eagles were awful in third- and fourth-and-1 situations. They converted only once in those situations, which might be the reason Andy Reid shied away from going for it in overtime.

Once again, the Eagles' inability to have anything resembling a running game led to their undoing. All-Pro running back Brian Westbrook had 3 yards or less on nine of his 14 carries. He finished with a combined 71 yards rushing and receiving.

McNabb had another awful outing. For the second consecutive week, he didn't even complete half of his passes. He had a career-high 58 attempts and he threw three interceptions for the first time since 2006. At this rate, Reid and McNabb are both campaigning to lose their jobs.

The defense played reasonably well, collecting eight sacks.

Much more to come on this game throughout the week.

Posted by's Kevin Seifert

Hopefully, Detroit coaches and players are smart enough. Hopefully, they won't pat themselves on the back after holding Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme to 98 passing yards Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

After all, the Panthers had little reason to throw the ball when two members of their backfield were putting together 100-yard days. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for 250 yards, and overall Carolina rushed for 262.

The Lions have now given up at least 150 rushing yards in six of their 10 games this season. If you're consistently giving up huge chunks of rushing yards, it means you can't stop opponents from accomplishing the most basic task in football: Pushing you out of the way.

As a result, an early lead can be a mirage. The Lions were ahead 10-0 and 13-7 before the Panthers outscored them 24-9 the rest of the way. No matter what other areas they try to shore up, the Lions are going to have a hard time breaking their losing streak if they can't muscle up against the run.

Posted by's James Walker

The game was as ugly as the weather. But the Pittsburgh Steelers will take a big November win any way they can get it.

Steelers kicker Jeff Reed's 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining capped an 11-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers Sunday. The win broke a two-game losing streak at Heinz Field, where home fans were uneasy all evening with the way the Steelers played.

Pittsburgh committed 13 penalties for 115 yards. The offense also failed to get into the end zone because sloppy play and mental errors often stalled drives.

But despite the negatives, Pittsburgh improved to 7-3 and gained a game on the Baltimore Ravens (6-4) in the AFC North following Baltimore's 30-10 loss to the New York Giants.

The Steelers hope to clean up their mistakes quickly with a Thursday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals (1-8-1), who are suddenly playing their best football of the season.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The San Diego Chargers just lost another game in the final minute as Pittsburgh kicked a short field goal in the waning seconds.

These close calls could very likely keep San Diego out of the playoffs.

Couple the Chargers' loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday with Denver's victory in Atlanta and the Chargers are now two games behind Denver in the AFC West race with six games to go. Yes, they are running out of time.

San Diego played decently against the Steelers, and it could have easily won the bad weather game. San Diego's defense made good improvement and was much more aggressive than it was earlier in the season.

But the Chargers' biggest problem is that these close calls are going the other way. It is the third San Diego loss in the final minute of the game. In the first two weeks of the season, against Carolina and Denver, San Diego lost in a similar fashion.

Mix San Diego's overall inconsistency with the last-minute failures and it's no surprise that the Chargers are floundering at 4-6. The preseason Super Bowl favorite may simply be running out of time.

Posted by's Mike Sando

The 49ers are starting to find an identity on offense. It's the one San Francisco ditched upon hiring Mike Martz as offensive coordinator.

The organization remains unsettled on a coach and quarterback for next season. But by setting up the offense to feature running back Frank Gore instead of Martz's flashy passing game, the 49ers have a chance to better analyze their personnel over the final half of the season.

They also have a better chance to win games -- not that St. Louis presented much of a challenge.

The Rams are a mess. They've scored 20 points or more only once all season. Jim Haslett's quest to return as head coach in 2009 took another hit with yet another blowout defeat.

Posted by's Kevin Seifert

Minnesota had four possessions in the fourth quarter Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Here's how they ended:

  • Punt (from Tampa Bay's 39-yard line)
  • Fumble
  • Loss of downs
  • Fumble

Based on that rundown, it's no surprise that Tampa Bay made two fourth-quarter field goals hold up in a 19-13 victory. The Vikings played tough in a historically difficult venue for them, but ultimately they didn't give themselves a chance when it counted.

The loss dropped the Vikings into a three-way tie for first in the NFC North, but it was particularly damaging when you consider it might be their last full-strength game for a while. Defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are scheduled to appeal their suspensions this week; if the punishments are upheld, they will miss four of the Vikings' final six games.

For that reason, you would have to consider the Vikings the least likely of the division's top three teams to emerge as champion.

Posted by's Paul Kuharsky

JACKSONVILLE - Tennessee was completely outplayed in the first half. The Titans might have concluded they'd finally come up with a flat Sunday and reluctantly accepted a dud.

Instead, they worked and fought and clawed their way out of it -- in large part because of two Kerry Collins-to-Justin Gage deep balls, no less -- and moved to 10-0 by flipping the game inside-out.

A rematch on the road against a familiar opponent and a bitter divisional rival wasn't enough to wash away the basics: The Titans are better than the Jaguars, who fell to 4-6 and will be hard-pressed to hold together, recover and make a bid for a wild card spot.

The Titans have frequently talked this season about how they've yet to play a complete game, and this certainly wasn't one.

For those of us who countered that they haven't played their worst game yet either... Well, they probably played their worst half, and that wasn't nearly enough to throw them off track.

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

When the Carolina Panthers joined the NFL in 1995, the league thought it was giving the Atlanta Falcons the rival they never had.

Proximity aside, the rivalry never truly took hold. That's largely because the Falcons and Panthers were rarely good at the same time.

That may be about to change. Although Atlanta lost to Denver for its first home defeat of the season, next Sunday's game in the Georgia Dome is going to be huge.

The Panthers are coming to town, holding on to sole possession of first place in the NFC South. At 6-4, the Falcons remain in a playoff race that no one ever expected them to be in.

Upstate South Carolina, which lies between Atlanta and Charlotte, isn't exactly New England dividing its loyalties between the Yankees and the Red Sox. But, at least for a day, the Clemson faithful actually might have a reason to care about the Falcons and Panthers.

Posted by's Mike Sando

SEATTLE -- Detractors will certainly find flaws in the Cardinals following another closer-than-it-should-have-been victory, but to dwell on those flaws is to miss the point.

The Cardinals are 7-3 and high-stepping their way to the NFC West title and a home playoff game. They'll face some bumps in the weeks ahead, perhaps as soon as when the Giants visit University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 12, but the organization has unquestionably moved forward this season.

The Seahawks are much better with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback. They can build on his performance if the passing game continues to improve. But their defense was overmatched without top pass rusher Patrick Kerney and the offense won't improve enough for Seattle to make a meaningful rally over the second half of the season.

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

As bad as it's been -- and it's been horrible at times -- the New Orleans Saints' season isn't over.

The team that seems to pull out a win every time the bottom seems to be ready to fall out has done it again. The Saints are 5-5.

Sure, they might have to win at least five of their final six games to have any shot at the playoffs. But the fact they still have that shot is something of an accomplishment. This team's been through a ton of injuries, a brutal road trip to London and had the possibilities of some key suspensions hanging around for a while.

They won on the road for the first time all season and, now, they have a chance to catch a break. For the first time in 42 days, the Saints will play in the Superdome when they host Green Bay in a Monday night game Nov. 24.

At least for the moment, that game still matters.

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

When the Panthers drafted Jonathan Stewart in the first round in April, the popular assumption was DeAngelo Williams was headed for the bench.

At best, Williams would be a third-down back. At worst, he'd officially become a former first-round (2006) pick who became a bust.

What everyone overlooked is it doesn't work that way in coach John Fox's system. Fox has a long history of deferring to veterans -- Stephen Davis over DeShaun Foster and Foster over Williams -- for the past couple of years.

Fox has held true to that pattern and it's paying off with a running back situation that's better than he's ever had. Williams is starting and Stewart's playing a key role. Stewart, who had stumbled a bit after a fast start, bounced back Sunday with 130 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Williams had 14 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns, including a 56-yard run.

Williams' speed and Stewart's power make a strong combination. It's the kind of combination Fox always has said he wanted. He sort of had it with Davis and Foster in 2003, the year the Panthers went to the Super Bowl.

But Williams and Stewart have the potential to be better than that combination and to be together for a while.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The Kansas City Chiefs did not blow this game. They never had a chance to blow it.

The Chiefs squandered leads in their last three games going into Sunday's matchup against the Saints. Kansas City could have won all three of the games. It entered Sunday's game with confidence.

This week, Chiefs quarterback Tyler Thigpen said the team was playing at a high level, but it had to find a way to win. That was the next step, Thigpen said. Kansas City did not take that step Sunday. But this team continued to be competitive, and that's key for Kansas City, which fell to 1-9.

The Chiefs are playing better than what their record indicates. Even Sunday, there were good signs. Kansas City was playing without four defensive starters, and it stayed in the game against the Saints' high-powered offense. Thigpen continued to play well and show that perhaps he could be the future at quarterback for Kansas City.

The Chiefs still can't find a way to win, but they competed. At this point that says something about this young team.