Considered the league’s best division heading into the season, the NFC West is not disappointing. The top three contenders from the sector, Arizona, Seattle and San Francisco, all were winners Sunday. The Cardinals also were losers as starting quarterback Carson Palmer injured his left knee.
Palmer was taken to the locker room on a cart after being helped off the field in the fourth quarter with Arizona down by four points. But the Cardinals (8-1) made several big plays down the stretch to beat St. Louis 31-14 and have the NFL’s best mark through nine games. They haven’t had such a strong record since going 11-1 as the Chicago Cardinals in 1948.
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”I think there’s a question mark there because nobody knows what his status is,” backup Drew Stanton said after connecting with rookie John Brown for a touchdown. ”It’s difficult because he is the leader of this team. … We’ll just continue to weather the storm, whatever it is.”
Palmer hurt the same knee he injured Jan. 8, 2006, in a playoff game against Pittsburgh, when he tore his ACL and MCL on his first pass of the game.
Palmer was playing some of the best football of his career and, on Friday, signed a three-year contract extension worth a reported $50 million with $20.5 million guaranteed.
Seattle (6-3) ran all over the New York Giants 38-17 thanks to a record-setting performance by Marshawn Lynch. San Francisco (5-4) needed a fourth-and-10 conversion late in the fourth quarter to force overtime in New Orleans before winning 27-24.
The weekend’s action began Thursday night when Cleveland (6-3) defeated Cincinnati (5-3-1) 24-3. The Browns now lead the AFC North.
On Monday night, Carolina (3-5-1) is at Philadelphia (6-2).
CARDINALS 31, RAMS 14
Stanton and the Arizona defense rallied the host Cardinals with three touchdowns over a span of 3 minutes, 48 seconds.
Brown’s diving grab of Stanton’s 48-yard touchdown pass put the Cardinals (8-1) up 17-14 with 7:40 to play.
Patrick Peterson got his first two interceptions of the season, returning the second 30 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-14. Moments later, Austin Davis fumbled and Antonio Cromartie returned it 14 yards for a score as host Arizona outscored the Rams 21-0 in the fourth quarter.
St. Louis (3-6) was shut out in the second half.
49ERS 27, SAINTS 24
At New Orleans, Colin Kaepernick completed a 51-yard pass on fourth down to Michael Crabtree to sustain a tying drive. Ahmad Brooks sacked and stripped Drew Brees in overtime, and Phil Dawson kicked a 35-yard field goal to win it.
”God smiled down on me today,” Brooks said. ”I was rushing and turning the corner thinking, `Dang, is he going to throw the ball yet?’ But he didn’t, and I was able to make the play.”
It marked the first home loss for the Saints (4-5) in more than a season. The Saints had won their past 11 at home overall, and the past 20 at home including the playoffs when coached by Sean Payton, who was suspended in 2012.
Brees was intercepted twice, but also passed for three scores, the last to Jimmy Graham to give the Saints a 24-21 lead with 1:52 left in regulation.
Graham also caught a desperation pass in the end zone at the end of regulation, but was called for offensive interference.
SEAHAWKS 38, GIANTS 17
At Seattle, Lynch rushed for a season-high 140 yards and career-best four touchdowns.
Russell Wilson threw two interceptions, the Seahawks committed three total turnovers, and Eli Manning picked apart Seattle’s secondary for the first half. It all didn’t matter because of Lynch leading Seattle’s unstoppable run game.
The 350 total yards rushing by Seattle (6-3) were a franchise record and the most by any NFL team since Kansas City had 352 in 2012.
Lynch carried 21 times, but there was plenty of running to go around. Wilson added 107 yards on 14 carries and a 1-yard TD run with 5:19 left. Most of Wilson’s runs were designed as New York (3-6) failed to keep containment.
”You could see the impact Russell’s running was having. … That impact mixing with what Marshawn was doing, it just got to where they couldn’t find us,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ”It was a great job staying with the running game.”
BRONCOS 41, RAIDERS 17
At Oakland, Peyton Manning threw five touchdown passes in less than 17 minutes and the Broncos handed the Raiders their 15th straight loss.
Manning threw a pair of early interceptions that put Denver (7-2) in a hole against the NFL’s only winless team. That all changed with a short pass that C.J. Anderson turned into a spectacular 51-yard catch and run. The touchdowns didn’t stop until Manning’s day was done after three quarters.
Manning added two TD passes to Julius Thomas and two more to Emmanuel Sanders as the Broncos rebounded from last week’s loss at New England by beating up on the Raiders (0-9).
Manning went 31 for 44 for 340 yards. He extended his record with at least two touchdown passes in 15 straight games and his streak of 48 games with at least one TD pass is third longest, breaking a tie with Johnny Unitas.
PACKERS 55, BEARS 14
Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdown passes to tie the team record for a game and match the NFL record for a half. Rodgers was 18 of 27 for 315 yards, throwing scoring passes of 73 and 40 yards to Jordy Nelson. The Packers (6-3) led by four touchdowns early in the second quarter of the 190th meeting of the NFL’s oldest rivalry.
The 55 points tied a Packers record at Lambeau Field.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had another night to forget in Green Bay. He threw two interceptions, giving him 12 in four games in Titletown.
The Bears (3-6) have lost five of their last six. They’ve given up at least 51 points in two consecutive games.
JETS 20, STEELERS 13
Michael Vick threw two touchdown passes and the Jets forced four turnovers while shutting down Ben Roethlisberger to end an eight-game losing streak.
Roethlisberger threw six touchdown passes in each of his last two games, and was playing in front of a MetLife Stadium crowd nearly half-filled with Terrible Towel-waving Steelers fans. But the Jets (2-8) wouldn’t allow Roethlisberger to get into much of a rhythm.
Roethlisberger finished 30 of 43 for 343 yards and connected with Martavis Bryant for an 80-yard TD with 1:16 left. The Steelers (6-4) attempted an onside kick, but Eric Decker recovered to seal it for the Jets – who avoided setting a franchise mark for consecutive losses.
Jaiquawn Jarrett had two interceptions, a sack and a fumble recovery for the Jets, who hadn’t won since beating Oakland in Week 1.
Vick, who became the first quarterback in NFL history to run for 6,000 career yards, threw touchdown passes to T.J. Graham and Jace Amaro.
LIONS 20, DOLPHINS 16
At Detroit, Matthew Stafford threw an 11-yard side-armed touchdown pass to Theo Riddick with 29 seconds remaining.
Calvin Johnson had seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown in his first game back from an ankle injury, and the Lions (7-2) won their fourth straight. Their past three victories have been by a combined six points, all with fourth-quarter comebacks.
The Dolphins (5-4) managed one touchdown – after they blocked a Detroit field goal attempt and Dion Jordan returned it deep into Lions territory. Miami’s Ryan Tannehill threw for 201 yards, but it was Stafford who made the final big play.
CHIEFS 17, BILLS 13
Anthony Sherman recovered a fumble to set up Alex Smith’s 8-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Jamaal Charles also scored on a 39-yard run as the visiting Chiefs (6-3) scored twice in span of 4:31 to overcome a 13-3 deficit. The Chiefs’ defense then made a stand at its 15 by forcing Kyle Orton to throw four consecutive incompletions and turn the ball over on downs.
Kansas City improved to 6-1 since opening the season with two losses.
Smith scored two plays after Sherman punched the ball out of the hands of Bills punt returner Leodis McKelvin and then pounced on the loose ball at Buffalo’s 26. That wasn’t the only Bills miscue in a game Buffalo settled for two field goals on four trips inside the Chiefs 20.
Marcell Dareus had three of six sacks for Buffalo (5-4).
COWBOYS 31, JAGUARS 17
At London, in the third and final game of this year’s International Series, Tony Romo returned after missing last week because of a back injury and helped the Cowboys snap a two-game losing streak by throwing three touchdown passes.
Romo started for Dallas (7-3) and completed 20 of 27 passes for 246 yards against the Jaguars (1-9) at Wembley Stadium.
Romo threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten in the first quarter and then hit Dez Bryant for a pair of TDs in the second, the first from 35 yards and the second from 68. Romo finished with a season-high passer rating of 138.8.
DeMarco Murray ended up with 100 yards rushing on 19 carries and 31 yards receiving for Dallas.
RAVENS 21, TITANS 7
At Baltimore, Justin Forsett ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns to back a strong performance by the Baltimore defense.
The Ravens (6-4) bottled up rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger in his first road start. He was sacked five times.
The Titans (2-7) have lost seven of eight. It was 7-7 at halftime, but Tennessee had three three-and-outs in the third quarter while the Ravens took control.
FALCONS 27, BUCCANEERS 17
At Tampa, Matt Ryan threw for 219 yards and one touchdown, helping the Falcons stop a five-game losing streak that left the Bucs with a five-game skid of their own.
The Falcons (3-6) won for the first time since embarrassing their NFC South rivals 56-14 on Sept. 18, a game in which the Bucs (1-8) lost quarterback Josh McCown to a thumb injury.
McCown returned to Tampa Bay’s starting lineup for the first time since loss, throwing for 301 yards and two TDs. His 1-yard pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins put the Bucs ahead 17-16 early in the fourth quarter. But Ryan drove the Falcons down the field, throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White and a 2-point conversion to Harry Douglas.
Steven Jackson scored on a 1-yard run and Matt Bryant kicked four field goals for the Falcons.
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