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Giants, Cowboys, Redskins win in tight NFC East

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Giants, Cowboys, Redskins win in tight NFC East

Winning was required to keep pace in the NFC East playoff race.

Losing was all that was needed in the AFC North.

The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants beat New Orleans with an offensive eruption fueled by David Wilson's record-setting performance. That 52-27 romp kept the Giants one game in front of Washington, which rallied to beat Baltimore 31-28 in overtime despite a knee injury to outstanding rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Dallas also remained a game behind New York with a comeback 20-19 victory at Cincinnati.

Pittsburgh completed the futility for AFC North contenders, falling at home to San Diego, 34-24.

Baltimore (9-4) kept its two-game lead in the division, but has jeopardized getting a bye for the playoffs if it wins the AFC North.

Also, NFC West leader San Francisco beat Miami 27-13, while runner-up Seattle set a franchise record for points in a 58-0 rout of Arizona.

Green Bay's 27-20 victory over Detroit, along with Chicago losing 21-14 at Minnesota, means the Packers take the NFC North with a win at Soldier Field next Sunday.

Indianapolis took a stronger hold on the top AFC wild card with a comeback 27-23 victory over Tennessee.

NFC South winner Atlanta blew a chance to clinch a first-round bye as it fell at Carolina, 30-20.

Also, it was Philadelphia 23, Tampa Bay 21; St. Louis 15, Buffalo 12; the New York Jets 17, Jacksonville 10; and Cleveland 30, Kansas City 7.

Monday night's matchup has two division leaders, with AFC South front-runner Houston (11-1) at AFC East champion New England (9-3).

The action began Thursday night when AFC West winner Denver (10-3) defeated Oakland (3-10), 26-13.

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REDSKINS 31, RAVENS 28 OT

At Landover, Md., with Griffin sidelined with a sprained right knee, the Redskins (7-6) rallied behind backup Kirk Cousins to tie the game in the final minute of regulation. Kai Forbath kicked a 34-yard field goal in overtime for the Skins' fourth consecutive victory.

Griffin was hurt at the end of a 13-yard scramble on the tying drive with the Redskins trailing 28-20. He left for one play, returned for four, then was no longer able to continue.

Cousins stepped in and hit Pierre Garcon for an 11-yard touchdown pass, then ran in the 2-point conversion with 29 seconds to play.

``He's ice. Like they used to say about Larry Bird, he got ice water in his veins. That's the best thing you can say about Kirk,'' receiver Joshua Morgan said. ``He was coming like nothing was even going on.''

Griffin was able to joke about his injury after the game.

``I knew as soon as I got hit. I screamed. Like a man, of course,'' Griffin said with a laugh. ``It hurt really bad.''

The Ravens (9-4) lost back-to-back games for the first time since 2009.

``We've had a tough run here,'' said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, whose team had won after each of its previous 15 losses.

COWBOYS 20, BENGALS 19

At Cincinnati, the grieving Cowboys rallied for a win on Dan Bailey's 40-yard field goal as time ran out. Dallas (7-6) overcame a nine-point deficit in the closing minutes behind Tony Romo, who held his hand over his heart during a moment of silence to honor teammate Jerry Brown before the kickoff.

Brown died in an auto accident early Saturday. Dallas defensive lineman Josh Brent, who was driving, remained in jail in Irving, Texas, charged with intoxication manslaughter.

The Cowboys (7-6) learned about Brown's death on their flight to Cincinnati on Saturday.

``It's a hard, hard situation we're in,'' Romo said. ``There's no playbook for this sort of thing in life.''

The Bengals (7-6) had won four straight.

CHARGERS 34, STEELERS 24

At Pittsburgh, Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes, two to Danario Alexander, and San Diego won for the first time in 15 regular-season visits to Pittsburgh.

The Chargers (5-8), who snapped a four-game losing streak, dominated from the outset. They never let Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger get comfortable in his first game in nearly a month.

Roethlisberger completed 22 of 42 passes for 285 yards and three second-half touchdowns. But he also threw an interception and had a botched screen pass turn into an easy San Diego score as Pittsburgh (7-6) hardly played like a team ready for a postseason run.

GIANTS 52, SAINTS 27

At East Rutherford, N.J., rookie Wilson was unstoppable. He returned a kickoff 97 yards for one touchdown, ran for two more scores and piled up 327 all-purpose yards. He is the first NFL player with 200 yards on kickoff returns and 100 yards rushing in a game.

``To come up and have a breakout game like this is an excellent feeling,'' Wilson said. ``You want to have a good game every game.''

Manning threw four touchdown passes to lead the Giants (8-5) as they maintained their NFC East lead.

Manning had TD passes of 6 yards to Martellus Bennett, 5 yards to Domenik Hixon, 25 yards to Hakeem Nicks and 10 yards to Victor Cruz. Wilson scored on runs of 6 and 52 yards and finished with 100 yards on 13 carries on the biggest day of his career.

The loss all but ended the playoff hopes of Drew Brees and the Saints (5-8), who turned the ball over four times in losing their third straight.

49ERS 27, DOLPHINS 13

At San Francisco, Frank Gore ran for a 1-yard touchdown and reached 1,000 yards rushing for the sixth time in his career. Gore finished with 63 yards.

Anthony Dixon also had a 1-yard scoring run and Colin Kaepernick ran for a late 50-yard touchdown and threw for 185 yards in his fourth straight start since being promoted over Alex Smith.

NFL sacks leader Aldon Smith added two to his total for 19 1/2, passing Fred Dean's franchise-best single-season mark of 17 1/2 set in 1983. Smith moved within three sacks of the single-season record Michael Strahan set in 2001 with the New York Giants.

Michael Crabtree had nine catches for 93 yards and rookie LaMichael James ran for 30 yards in a solid NFL debut for the 49ers (9-3-1). Miami is 5-8.

SEAHAWKS 58, CARDINALS 0

At Seattle, Marshawn Lynch had three touchdown runs and Seattle set a franchise record for points. The Seahawks forced eight turnovers. Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner each had two interceptions.

Seattle (8-5) kept firm grasp on the final NFC wild-card spot and kept alive slim chances of catching San Francisco in the NFC West. The Seahawks also picked up their first division victory and assured coach Pete Carroll of his first eight-win season in three years with the team.

The 58-0 victory was the biggest shutout in Seattle's history.

Arizona (4-9) was shut out for the first time since 2003 against Seattle. The effortless performance will only raise questions about Ken Whisenhunt's future as coach. Arizona lost its ninth straight overall.

``I apologize to our fans and everyone associated with our organization. That was embarrassing,'' Whisenhunt said.

PACKERS 27, LIONS 20

DaJuan Harris rushed for a score in his first game for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers added the longest TD run of his career, and Mike Daniels returned a fumble 43 yards as the Packers (9-4) opened that one-game lead over Chicago.

The Packers have won 22 straight at home against the Lions, the longest streak in the NFL.

The loss was the fifth straight for Detroit (4-9). Though this wasn't quite as excruciating as the previous three, when the Lions gave up fourth-quarter leads and fell by a total of nine points.

VIKINGS 21, BEARS 14

At Minneapolis, Adrian Peterson rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns and Harrison Smith returned an interception for a score.

Peterson topped 100 yards before the first quarter was over, helping the Vikings (7-6) remain viable in the NFC wild-card picture.

``The guy's unbelievable. I don't know if he's human or not,'' Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder said of Peterson, who wrecked his left knee last December, yet leads the NFL in rushing.

Jay Cutler threw for 260 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and couldn't finish the game for the Bears (8-5), who have lost four of their last five. He took a wicked hit to the head from Everson Griffen in the fourth quarter and hurt his neck.

COLTS 27, TITANS 23

At Indianapolis, Andrew Luck led the Colts (9-4) back from a 13-point second-half deficit and Adam Vinatieri made two fourth-quarter field goals. Luck has now engineered six fourth-quarter comebacks for Indy, which has a two-game edge in the AFC wild-card race and still can win the AFC South.

Delone Carter cut the deficit to 20-14 with a 1-yard run on Indy's opening possession of the second half. And after Pat McAfee's 52-yard punt went out of bounds at the Titans 1-yard line, Cassius Vaughn jumped in front of Nate Washington, picked off Jake Locker's pass and scored on a 3-yard interception return to make it 21-20.

Rob Bironas gave the Titans (4-9) a 23-21 lead with a 25-yard field goal, but Vinatieri hit from 53 yards to retake the lead and from 40 to seal it.

PANTHERS 30, FALCONS 20

At Charlotte, Cam Newton threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns and scored on a 72-yard run. Newton piled up a career-high 116 yards on the ground, becoming the first NFL player with 250 yards passing, 100 rushing, a TD pass and a TD run.

The Panthers (4-9) racked up 475 total yards to avenge an early season loss to the Falcons. Matt Ryan, who they felt disrespected them after Atlanta's 30-28 come-from-behind win in September, threw for 342 yards and two scores and had a costly fourth-quarter interception for Atlanta (11-2).

EAGLES 23, BUCCANEERS 21

At Tampa, Nick Foles threw two touchdown passes in the final 4 minutes, including a 1-yarder to Jeremy Maclin with no time remaining. The Eagles (4-9) ended an eight-game losing streak - their longest in 42 years.

Foles completed 32 of 51 passes for 381 yards in his fourth start in place of the injured Michael Vick. The rookie threw an 11-yard TD pass to Clay Harbor with 3:55 remaining, then led the Eagles on a 64-yard winning drive.

Doug Martin rushed for 128 yards for Tampa Bay (6-7), which damaged itself in the NFC wild-card chase.

RAMS 15, BILLS 12

At Orchard Park, N.Y., Sam Bradford threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson with 48 seconds left, capping an 84-yard drive. St. Louis (6-6-1) continued its late-season resurgence by winning its third straight for the first time since closing the 2006 season with three victories.

The Bills (5-8) blew a lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter for the second time this season.

JETS 17, JAGUARS 10

At Jacksonville, Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell ran for short touchdowns and the Jets (6-7) kept their slim postseason hopes alive. Mark Sanchez, benched last week in a 7-6 win against Arizona, was hardly a factor. Neither was backup Tim Tebow, who spent his homecoming on the sideline.

Greene scored on a 1-yard plunge in the third quarter, and Powell added a 4-yarder early in the fourth. Greene finished with 77 yards rushing. Powell added 78 yards on the ground against the Jaguars (2-11).

BROWNS 30, CHIEFS 7

At Cleveland, rookie Travis Benjamin's 93-yard punt return touchdown sparked the Browns to their third straight win. The Browns (5-8) have one more win than last season, and their longest winning streak since 2009.

Trent Richardson had a pair of 1-yard TD runs for Cleveland. Jamaal Charles ran for 165 yards, breaking off an 80-yard TD run on the game's first play for Kansas City (2-11).

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Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson made Ravens quarterback change as low-drama as a move like that could be

Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson made Ravens quarterback change as low-drama as a move like that could be

Lamar Jackson has every reason to have a big ego.

In the past two years he's won a Heisman Trophy, was a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and just beat out a Super Bowl MVP in the middle of the season for the starting quarterback job.

Who wouldn't have a bit of extra confidence after all of that? 

On Wednesday, the 21-year-old took to the podium at the Under Armour Performance Center to answer questions as the Ravens' newest leader in 11 seasons. He was the exact opposite of cocky. 

 “It’s ‘our’ team – all of us together," Jackson said on if he's able to call the Ravens his team now. "It’s our team. I don’t go out there and block. I don’t go out there and catch the ball. I don’t make tackles. I just do my part. It’s all of our team.”

The response should be of no surprise. Since arriving in Baltimore and slowly earning his way to the starting job, Jackson has been appreciative as has let his performance on the field do all the talking. 

“I pretty much didn’t really have a reaction to when [coach Harbaugh] was telling me. All it made me do was … I know I have to focus on everything a lot more – just bettering myself and trying to join with everybody around me even more. That’s about it.”

Since filling in for an injured Joe Flacco, Jackson is 52 of 89 for 600 passing yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in addition to 67 rushing attempts for 336 yards and two touchdowns. He's also led the Ravens to a 3-1 record in those starts and back into playoff contention. 

The decision to switch starters mid-season could have led to an uncomfortable locker room. Each player who spoke on the matter gave off the vibe that it was no big deal.

And when Flacco spoke to the media on Wednesday for the first time in five weeks, the 33-year-old faced what every starting quarterback fears with nothing but kind words about Jackson. 

“I thought he’s done a great job," Flacco said on how Jackson is handling himself. "I’m really happy for what he’s been able to go out there and do. We’re winning football games. He and this team have put themselves, and ourselves, in position to go out there and do some big things for the rest of the year, and that’s definitely exciting.”

“Joe’s been handling it great," wide receiver John Brown added. "He’s been in Lamar’s corner. I’ve seen him the whole time. Every time he comes off the sideline, Joe is talking to him, telling him what he sees, trying to help him out. He’s been a great teammate.”

Jackson refraining from calling the Ravens "my team" is a rarity in a league where players are constantly trying to prove their authority, and even more so  for those with a title that only 32 guys hold. 

Possibly the class Flacco has had for 11 seasons as the leader of the Ravens has projected itself onto the rookie now in control. 

"Joe [Flacco] is still part of the team," Jackson said. "It’s his team still – just like it’s mine. It’s all of our team. We’re brothers. We’re here together, each and every day. We’ve been here since camp putting our life on the line. It’s still his team, man – nothing [has] changed.”

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Joe Flacco disappointed about losing starting job, but decision wasn't a surprise

Joe Flacco disappointed about losing starting job, but decision wasn't a surprise

It's been a lingering question around the Under Armour Performance Center over the last five weeks as rookie Lamar Jackson has filled in for an injured Joe Flacco.

At some point this season we knew that Flacco would be healthy enough to get back to football.

We also knew at some point this season the Ravens would have to make the tough decision on who their starting quarterback would be in the aftermath of Jackson leading the team to three straight wins.

That question was finally answered Wednesday when head coach John Harbaugh announced Jackson would be starting Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Flacco would be the backup for the first time in his 11 NFL seasons.

"Obviously disappointed that I can't be apart of this team in the same capacity that I have been for a long time," Flacco said Wednesday on learning the news.

"It's out of my hands. I got hurt. They drafted Lamar in the first round. At some point something was going to happen between the two of us. Who knows what that was going to be. This is just what it is at this point. I've obviously had five weeks to think about it and prepare myself for this situation and the possibility of it. I'm disappointed that, like I said, I can't be in that locker room in the same capacity that I've always been. But this is my situation right now and I'm going to do my best to handle it the right way."

The news, however, shouldn't come as a surprise to many.

In his first four games as the starter, Jackson is 52 of 89 for 600 passing yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in addition to 67 rushing attempts for 336 yards and two touchdowns. His 30 rushing first downs ranks second among NFL QBs behind Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton (33), and his 475 rushing yards in 2018 ranks second behind Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen (490).

Prior to suffering the hip injury in their Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Flacco was 232 of 379 for 2,465 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. The Ravens had lost their last two games under him and it looked like another playoff-less season could be on the horizon for the fourth year in a row.  

When the weeks continued to pass without Flacco and the Ravens record continued to improve with Jackson, the writing to many was already on the wall. 

"It's part of the game," Flacco said on losing the starting job after his injury. "I've talked about it plenty of times. Every time you take the field, there's obviously the risk of something like that happening and it just is what it is."

"I can't say I was surprised. The bigger thing is just even though I'm disappointed, like I said about I guess my different role and all that, is just trying to stay excited about what my role is and the possibilities that they bring."

The leader of this team for 11 years, Flacco had missed just six games and started in his last 41 appearances before Week 10. While Flacco is admittedly not a sentimental guy and many have criticized him for his lack of emotion over the years, standing on the sideline the last four weeks has not been easy.

"It was really tough for me," Flacco said. "It wasn't even about the possibilities of something like this happening, you know, as a starting quarterback — which I've been for a long time for this team— you play through things throughout a course of a 10-year career. I definitely wanted to get out there and be there for my guys that next week, and it's definitely one of the hardest things I've done in my career is standing on the sidelines, being inactive and not being apart of it the way you want to." 

There was no denying the resurgence the Ravens experienced under Jackson. His 336 rushing yards in his first four starts is the most by a quarterback in the Super Bowl Era and his running back-like speed continues to be tough for defenses to stop.

What Jackson offers in speed Flacco can compliment in the passing game. Ever since the first-round pick rushed for 119 yards in his first start against the Cincinnati Bengals, the narrative has been that Jackson will never be able to sustain that in the NFL. Now with two quarterbacks to use at their discretion, the Ravens' last three games could get very interesting even though Harbaugh would not divulge how much the team would utilize the Super Bowl MVP in Sunday's game. 

"Anything can happen in this league very quickly and were right in the middle of a really good playoff run and we have a lot of important games ahead of us," Flacco said. "I'd firstly be doing my team a big disservice by not preparing the same way I always do, and after that I would be doing myself a big disservice, too, because you never know what's going to happen and when you're going to have to be called on."

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