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Reggie Bush Scores! Saints Beat Bucs 24 - 21

Bush's heroics give Saints a 24-21 victory

NFL.com wire reports

NEW ORLEANS (Oct. 8, 2006) -- With a few waves, Reggie Bush beckoned the crowd to its feet as he awaited a critical punt. Soon, he would have all of them in ecstasy.

Shut out of the end zone in his first four games as a pro, Bush took the punt 65 yards with under five minutes to lift the New Orleans Saints to a 24-21 victory over Tampa Bay.

Bush escaped the Buccaneers' initial pursuit by scampering across the field to his right, then accelerating quickly as he cut upfield, leaving several defenders grasping for air as bedlam erupted in the Louisiana Superdome. He pointed at the fans in the end-zone seats as he scored.

"When you see Reggie take those high steps, you know he's bound to make something happen," Saints defensive end Charles Grant said. "I knew he was gone."

The celebration was interrupted briefly while referees sorted out a flag thrown against the Buccaneers, then fans jubilantly chanted "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" as the score was made official. Bush was hugged by numerous teammates as he made his way back to the sideline.

While it was only his fifth game as a pro, his first touchdown seemed a long time coming for a player drafted with immense fanfare after winning the Heisman Trophy at USC. After all, rookie receiver Marques Colston, drafted in the seventh round and making millions of dollars less, already had three scores.

"Once I turned that corner I was just trying to turn on the jets," Bush said. "It was so wide open the slowest guy in the world probably could have scored that touchdown. The monkey's off my back now."

Peppered with questions recently about whether he was frustrated or pressing, Bush responded he did not care about scoring as long as the surprising Saints, now 4-1 and atop the NFC South, kept winning. They may not have beaten Tampa Bay if not for him.

"He's a guy who can change games -- and today he changed one," Saints coach Sean Payton said.

The runback spoiled a valiant effort by winless Tampa Bay (0-4), which rallied from a 10-point deficit to take the lead in the second half.

"I tip my hat to Reggie Bush," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "He lived up to his expectations today. Shame on him."

Tampa Bay might have regained the lead if not for an untimely penalty that often goes uncalled.

Deuce McAllister was the Saints' workhorse with 123 yards on 14 carries and a TD.
Joey Galloway, the Bucs' top receiver on the day, was flagged for setting a pick on defensive back Jason Craft, wiping out a long pass to Ike Hilliard that would have set up a first-and-goal. The drive stalled and the Saints ran the clock down to under 30 seconds before giving the ball back to the Buccaneers.

Craft had seen the Bucs get away with a similar pick earlier in the game and specifically asked the referees to look for it. As soon as he ran into Galloway and lost track of Hilliard, Craft turned to the referee with his hand out.

"Before I knew it I just got cracked and I'm looking for a flag," Craft said. "Luckily, the ref was watching out for it ... because I couldn't do anything about it. It was over with for me."

Gruden was seething with a scrunched face and spittle-spewing shouts of anger immediately after the call. He was more diplomatic after the game.

"I couldn't see it from where I was," Gruden said. "It's a play we've used a lot in certain situations. We'll see the tape. All I can say is that it's unfortunate."

Bucs quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, pressed into service because of Chris Simms ' ruptured spleen, made only one costly mistake, fumbling while being sacked near his 20-yard line -- a turnover that led to a New Orleans touchdown.

Otherwise, he hardly looked like a rookie making his first NFL start on hostile ground.

He completed 20 of 31 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns. He hooked up with Galloway four times for 110 yards, once for an 18-yard TD and once on a 52-yard pass that set up Mike Alstott 's 1-yard touchdown run.

"There is a lot of promise in that young guy. He played his brains out," Gruden said. "I like everything about him."

Gradkowski's 3-yard touchdown pass to Alex Smith on third-down gave Tampa Bay a 21-17 lead.

"It's a tough one to swallow," Gradkowski said. "There's a lot of good that came out of this game. Guys made great plays, the receivers, tight ends, offensive linemen were blocking their butts off ... running the ball well."

Deuce McAllister helped the Saints take a 10-7 lead into the half with a tackler-shedding, 57-yard carry that set up a field goal. He added a 24-yard touchdown run, had 117 yards rushing in the first half and finished with 123.

Drew Brees was 21 of 33 for 171 yards and one touchdown, to tight end Ernie Conwell from 9 yards that gave the Saints a 17-7 lead in the third quarter.

But Tampa Bay roared back behind big plays from Gradkowski and the running game. Cadillac Williams had 111 yards rushing on 20 carries. His 34-yard carry to the New Orleans 6 set up the Buccaneers' final touchdown.

SF 34 - Oakland 20 - Raiders 0 and Five - NFL.com

SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 8, 2006) -- For the last three miserable seasons, the Bay Area has been home to two bad NFL teams.

At least the San Francisco 49ers can prove they're getting better.

Arnaz Battle caught two touchdown passes from Alex Smith, and the 49ers overcame Randy Moss ' 100th career TD reception with a strong second half in a 34-20 victory over the winless Oakland Raiders.

Frank Gore rushed for a career-high 134 yards and third-string running back Maurice Hicks scored on a 33-yard screen pass for the rebuilding 49ers (2-3) as they rebounded emphatically from last week's 41-0 loss at Kansas City. They also overcame a halftime deficit against the Raiders (0-4), who added another discouraging loss to their streak of 10 straight.

"It's big to win the Battle of the Bay, but it's bigger to get our season back on track," said Battle, who had just three TDs in his previous 36 NFL games.

Walt Harris made three of San Francisco's four interceptions, and the Niners scored 24 straight points after halftime to roll past their cross-water rivals in just the iconic franchises' 11th regular-season meeting.

Such a rare occasion should be cause for excitement in Northern California, where pro football is the most popular sport. But these bragging rights aren't worth much.

The teams are at perhaps the lowest collective point in their histories, with three straight losing seasons apiece and slow starts to this campaign -- including the longest losing skid in Al Davis' decades with the club.

But this meeting was entertaining even while Smith, Gore and the 49ers' defense took charge in the second half.

"We're improving almost every week, and I think this is just the start," Harris said. "You can see us learning and getting better. We've had a lot of adversity, and we continue to work."

The 49ers also won for offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who spent the last two years as Oakland's head coach. Turner's game plan worked well against his former Raiders, wearing down the defensive front with steady rushing before hitting a handful of big passes.

Melvin Oliver scored a defensive touchdown as the 49ers rolled.
"I'm human, and I really (know) that the team always comes first, but there are personal things that come in, and it feels good," said Turner, who got the game ball from coach Mike Nolan.

The Raiders added another awful week to their streak, struggling on offense and getting beaten physically on defense. They were finished off by another of the boneheaded mistakes that have occurred constantly during their second 0-4 start since 1964.

With 10 1/2 minutes to play, LaMont Jordan dropped a lateral pass from Andrew Walter and then stood watching as rookie lineman Melvin Oliver returned the free ball 12 yards for the score, putting San Francisco up 31-13.

"Yes, I'm disappointed. No, I did not expect to be at this particular point in the season," said Raiders coach Art Shell. "I expected that we'd be much better and competing within our division. We're not doing that right now."

Walter threw two interceptions in his second career start and backup Marques Tuiasosopo added two more. Moss had five catches for 52 yards despite rarely running hard.

"I don't see any improvement with what we're doing," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "We don't make a play. We don't make an adjustment to get momentum back on our side."

Smith went 15 of 19 for 165 yards in the 2005 No. 1 pick's fourth victory as a starter in the Niners' last seven games. Gore had another outstanding game, also picking up 38 yards on three catches -- and for the first time this season, he didn't fumble.

Moss dropped a pass in the end zone after Stanford Routt intercepted Smith's first throw of the second quarter. The Raiders had to settle for Sebastian Janikowski 's second field goal.

Oakland went ahead 13-7 late in the second quarter, with Walter coolly directing an 81-yard drive ending in Moss' 22-yard TD catch between two defenders 51 seconds before halftime. Moss, who has ripped the Raiders' desire and speculated about being traded this season, is the seventh receiver in NFL history with 100 TD catches.

But rookie linebacker Manny Lawson blocked Shane Lechler's punt on Oakland's first possession of the second half, and the Niners went ahead for good on Battle's second TD catch.

"There's too many missed tackles," said Oakland safety Stuart Schweigert, who made nine tackles. "The running back is going down the field, and I have to make the tackle 8 yards downfield. You can't have that. ... You can't have your free safety leading the team in tackles."

Eagles' Beat Cowboys 38-24; T.O. Not Effective - NFL.com

McNabb shines as Eagles foil T.O.'s return

NFL.com wire reports

PHILADELPHIA (Oct. 8, 2006) -- With Terrell Owens watching from the sideline, Donovan McNabb turned ordinary receivers into big-time playmakers.

As for T.O., the most overhyped homecoming in recent memory was totally ordinary: three catches, 45 yards, 0 drama.

McNabb threw touchdown passes of 40 yards to Reggie Brown and 87 yards to Hank Baskett, and Lito Sheppard returned an interception 102 yards in the final minute to seal the Eagles' 38-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Owens' return to Philadelphia dominated the headlines this week, with Philly fans planning a hostile welcome. But Owens was merely a decoy for most of the game, and those fans were too dazzled by McNabb to fixate much on the erstwhile Eagles receiver who helped them reach the Super Bowl in 2004 before last year's bitter departure.

"It's frustrating," Owens said. "Opportunities were there and we didn't make them. I'm a competitor. I do not like to lose. Maybe I need to work harder."

Not only did Owens not score, he didn't catch a pass until the third quarter -- then dropped the next one thrown to him, much to the delight of a frenzied crowd that showered Owens with derisive chants, insults and boos.

"I was surprised Terrell didn't have more catches. That was not our plan," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after chatting with Owens in the locker room.

The Eagles (4-1) took the lead for good when McNabb connected with Brown on a flea-flicker pass with 9:13 left that made it 31-24. Brown, a second-year pro who replaced a suspended Owens in the starting lineup last year, beat rookie safety Pat Watkins and caught the ball deep in the end zone.

Donovan McNabb insisted the win over the Cowboys wasn't personal.
The Cowboys (2-2) drove to the Eagles 33 on the ensuing drive. But Sheppard intercepted Drew Bledsoe's badly underthrown pass -- intended for an open Owens.

Owens angrily snapped at his chin strap, walked off the field and took his usual spot at the end of the bench.

The Cowboys had one more chance after a pass interference penalty on Michael Lewis allowed them to convert a fourth-and-18 from their 37.

But from the Eagles 6, Sheppard stepped in front of Bledsoe's pass and raced the other way to put the game away. Bledsoe threw three interceptions and was sacked seven times.

For a while, the Cowboys were doing just fine without getting Owens involved. DeMarcus Ware scored on a 69-yard fumble return and Bledsoe ran in from the 7 to give Dallas a 21-17 halftime lead.

But Philadelphia's struggling offense turned it around with one big play.

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McNabb took a deep drop, eluded a sack, stepped up and heaved a pass downfield. Baskett ran past Watkins, caught the ball in stride, broke a tackle near the 30 and streaked into the end zone for his first career touchdown.

Baskett, acquired in a trade after he was signed by Minnesota as a rookie free agent, was starting for the injured Donte' Stallworth. He finished with three catches for 112 yards.

Dallas tied it at 24 on a 39-yard field goal by Mike Vanderjagt early in the fourth quarter. Then McNabb took over.

"This is a total team game," said McNabb, who was 18-of-33 for 354 yards and two TDs. "It's not T.O. vs. Donovan. All of us play together."

Owens was a non-factor in the first half as the Cowboys relied on their running game. Bledsoe finally looked Owens' way on the Cowboys' 17th offensive play, but he was hit on the throw and Brian Dawkins intercepted.

Owens' first catch -- on Dallas' 41st play -- was a short pass that he turned into a 9-yard gain. He then looked toward the Eagles' sideline and spun the ball on the ground in their direction while gesturing.

Perhaps distracted by the Owens' hoopla, both teams were sloppy at the start.

Eagles running back Brian Westbrook, who didn't practice all week because of a knee injury, looked fine on a 24-yard screen pass on the first play from scrimmage. But he fumbled on the next play, giving Dallas the ball at its 38.

Cowboys punter Mat McBriar later fumbled a snap and Shawn Barber recovered at the 12. Westbrook ran in from the 5.

Darwin Walker sacked Bledsoe on Dallas' first play on the ensuing possession, forcing a fumble Trent Cole recovered at the Cowboys 14. But the Eagles settled for David Akers' 27-yard field goal that made it 10-0.

Marion Barber's 2-yard TD run made it 10-7.

In the second quarter, Greg Ellis hit McNabb and the ball popped. Ware caught it and, with no one in front of him, raced 69 yards for a touchdown.

The Eagles answered quickly, taking a 17-14 lead on McNabb's sneak from the 1. McNabb connected with L.J. Smith on a 60-yard pass to set up the score.

Bledsoe, not known for his scrambling, scored on a 7-yard run to give the Cowboys a 21-17 lead.

"We came out in the second half, showed a lot of character," said linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. "I think we really took a great step forward."

Chicago Bears Crush Bills 40-7

Bears roll over Bills, stay unbeaten

NFL.com wire reports

CHICAGO (Oct. 8, 2006) -- Calling the Chicago Bears an offensive juggernaut might seem to defy logic, tradition and the lineage of gritty defenders from Butkus to Singletary to Urlacher.

Believe it.

Getting a huge boost from their trademark defense, the Bears scored the first five times they had the ball Sunday and ruined the homecoming of former coach Dick Jauron with a 40-7 drubbing of Jauron's Buffalo Bills to go 5-0 for the first time in 20 years.

Rex Grossman threw two touchdown passes, Cedric Benson scored his first two NFL touchdowns and the Bears capitalized on five Buffalo turnovers as they piled up their biggest points total since 1993.

Suddenly, the team that always counted on its defense to make up for an anemic offense in recent seasons is averaging 31 points a game, outscoring even the high-flying Indianapolis Colts through five games.

"That was a fun game," said Grossman, who sat out the fourth quarter after going 15-of-27 for 182 yards and the two touchdowns.

"Anytime you execute like that -- offense, defense, special teams -- anytime you play like that, it's so much fun."

That was the operative word for Brian Urlacher, too, enjoying his team's newly resurgent offense.

"It's fun to watch," he said. "Rex is throwing the ball pretty much wherever he wants to."

Robbie Gould aided the cause with four field goals, improving to 17-for-17 for the season, as the Bears ran their scoring margin to an eye-opening 156 points scored and 36 allowed.

Tough defense was the Bears' hallmark during Jauron's tenure from 1999-2003, but a shaky offense kept Chicago out of the playoffs every season but 2001. His teams managed 30 points just four times in five years, and never more than 37.

The 'D' remains as stingy as ever, or more so. Chicago yielded just 145 total yards to the Bills, and the last-minute touchdown it gave up was only the second TD the defense has allowed all season.

The Bears' offensive showcase included two TDs from Cedric Benson.
But an injury-free Grossman and the high-powered passing game have made the NFC's only unbeaten team more dangerous on offense than it has been in years.

The Bills compounded that by giving the ball away frequently after going three of their first four games without any turnovers.

"It was a long day for us, obviously," Jauron said. "We knew they were an outstanding football team coming into the game. ... All the things that we couldn't have happen, happened."

The outmanned Bills found themselves in trouble early and often against a speedy, aggressive defense. They dug themselves a hole on the opening drive when Brian Moorman fumbled the snap on a fake punt and Brendon Ayanbadejo recovered at the Buffalo 40. Six plays later, Gould kicked a 42-yard field goal to open the scoring.

Following a 43-yard field goal, the Bears blew open the game with three touchdowns in a nine-minute span of the second quarter.

Grossman hit Bernard Berrian for an 8-yard score to make it 13-0 after Thomas Jones carried five times for 35 yards on the scoring drive.

Bills quarterback J.P. Losman was intercepted by Lance Briggs on the ensuing drive. Five plays later, Benson bulled in from 1 yard for his first TD.

"It was really cool, especially on the first one," Benson said. "It's neat stuff."

Following a 62-yard bomb to Berrian on Chicago's next drive, Grossman found Rashied Davis in the end zone for a 15-yard score that made it 27-0 at halftime.

The Bears extended the rout in the second half with Gould's field goals of 32 and 41 yards, and Benson's second 1-yard TD late in the fourth quarter following a fumbled kickoff recovered by Israel Idonije.

Buffalo scored on a 5-yard TD pass from Losman to Lee Evans with 1:06 remaining.

Jones had his first 100-yard game after rushing for 1,335 a year ago, finishing with 109 yards on 22 carries. Benson ran for 48 yards on 14 attempts.

Losman was 14-of-27 for 115 yards and was sacked three times.

Willis McGahee, who came in leading the NFL in rushing, was held to 50 yards on 14 carries.

"We gave them a lot of stuff," cornerback Terrence McGee said. "They are probably one of the best teams in football, if not the best team in football, but I thought we gave them a lot of opportunities and it hurt us."

The bad news for opponents is that coach Lovie Smith thinks they will get better.

"We like what we see right now," he said. "But I don't think you can peak after five games."

Green Bay Drops One To St. Louis Rams, 23-20 - NFL.com

Rams hold on to win in Green Bay, 23-20

NFL.com wire reports

GREEN BAY, Wis. (Oct. 8, 2006) -- The St. Louis Rams used to be the most stylish team in the NFL. Now they're winning ugly -- to the tune of a surprising 4-1 start.

The Rams staved off a fourth-quarter comeback attempt by Brett Favre and the Packers, walking away with a 23-20 victory at Lambeau Field after a big defensive play in the final minute.

"I don't think anyone would have predicted it," Rams quarterback Marc Bulger said.

What used to be the "Greatest Show on Turf" under former coach Mike Martz isn't much of a show at all under new coach Scott Linehan. But so far, Linehan's more conservative offensive approach is a hit.

"It's still a learning process, but it's working," wide receiver Torry Holt said. "We've got enough pros on the offensive side of the football that understand we want to win. It's not about the stats, the numbers you can put up on a weekly basis or what record chart you're moving up. It's about putting wins in the win column as the season goes."

They might be lacking style points, but the Rams have won three straight close games.

"We've had some emotional rollercoaster-type games, and they are all like that in this league," Linehan said. "Fortunately for us, we have been able to come out on the better end."

The Rams made plenty of mistakes, including a few rare slip ups by Bulger. But the Packers couldn't make them pay until it was too late.

Favre was relatively quiet for three quarters before rallying the Packers for a fourth-quarter touchdown to rookie Greg Jennings that cut the Rams lead to three with 6:42 remaining.

Favre then got the ball back with 2:46 remaining, and drove the Packers to the Rams 11-yard line with 44 seconds left.

Jeramatrius Butler seals the win by falling on Brett Favre's fumble with under a minute left.
But Favre was pressured by defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy, and Leonard Little poked the ball away from Favre. The ball bounced around before landing in the hands of Rams defensive back Jerametrius Butler.

Little, who needed three IVs after the game, was prodded to make a play on the sideline by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett earlier in the game. He finally did, but watched as the ball nearly was recovered by Packers offensive lineman Daryn Colledge.

"It rolled and it seemed like it took forever, like the ball was going in slow motion," Little said. "I was just hoping that someone would jump on it, and hopefully it would be one of our guys, and it ended up being one of our guys."

What looked like another dose of Favre magic instead became another loss for the Packers (1-4).

"This is not a lot of fun," Favre said. "Losing is not a lot of fun. Not that it ever has been, but more so now."

Bulger threw for two first-half touchdowns and extended his league-best interception-free streak to 214 attempts -- thanks in large part to Packers cornerback Al Harris.

With the Rams leading 17-13 and driving late in the third quarter, Bulger threw Harris' way at the Green Bay 14, an errant pass that hit Harris in the numbers. But instead of running 95 yards down a clear path for a go-ahead touchdown, Harris dropped the ball.

Would he have gone all the way?

"You never know," Harris said.

Bulger seemed pretty certain.

"That would have been for 100 yards," he said. "I never would have caught him."

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Harris' drop was one of several chances the Packers had to make a play, but didn't.

"You need to make those," McCarthy said. "It was an opportunity for us."

Bulger finished 18 of 28 for 220 yards, as Packers defensive back Charles Woodson and linebacker A.J. Hawk also whiffed on potential interceptions to keep his streak alive.

"You can't worry about it," Bulger said. "I've been fortunate. We're not fumbling the ball, either."

Favre was 22 of 39 for 220 yards and didn't throw an interception either. After the game, he said he would be watching the team's young players to see how they respond to a poor start.

"You've got to try to find positives in all these negatives," Favre said. "I wonder, sometimes, what I'm doing here."

The Packers did find one positive in third-string running back Noah Herron, who ran for 106 yards and a touchdown. Starter Ahman Green was inactive for the second straight week for the Packers with sore hamstrings, and second-string back Vernand Morency fumbled twice, losing one, in the Packers' first two series of the game.

Vince Young Effective; Titans Scare Colts But Lose 14-13

Colts escape Titans with 14-13 win

NFL.com wire reports

INDIANAPOLIS (Oct. 8, 2006) -- Peyton Manning has mastered the great escape.

Now the Indianapolis Colts want to make things a little easier for their quarterback.

For the third straight week, the two-time MVP led Indianapolis on a late touchdown drive, this time throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne with 5:10 left to give the Colts a 14-13 victory -- and avoid Tennessee's improbable upset bid.

"You can't end up relying on that, falling back on it," coach Tony Dungy said. "We've just got to play better and I think we will."

Manning used an unorthodox strategy, scoring twice on touchdown runs, to beat Jacksonville and the New York Jets the previous two weeks.

Against winless Tennessee (0-5), Manning used a more conventional method. He connected with Marvin Harrison and Wayne for second-half scores that rallied the Colts from a 10-point deficit. The win kept the Colts (5-0) unbeaten and in control of the AFC South, even if it was far from perfect.

Manning finished 20 of 31 for 166 yards with one interception.

When it mattered most, Mr. Reliable pulled another one out.

Indy has won seven straight in this series, 12 straight over division teams and completed another sweep of its three home division games.

"It really just comes down to execution," Manning said. "They executed better than us in the first half, and in the second half, I thought our offense did a better job."

Most expected this one to be a rout.

But with rookie quarterback Vince Young making his second career start, coach Jeff Fisher decided to play it safe by attacking the Colts' porous defense the same way every opponent has this season -- running inside.

As usual, it worked.

By grinding out 214 yards rushing, Manning and Co. spent much of the game on the sideline. It also prevented Young from making any disastrous rookie mistakes.

Young threw only two passes in the first quarter when the Titans piled up 100 yards rushing, and Travis Henry, who was inactive last week against Dallas, carried 19 times for 123 yards, his first 100-yard game with Tennessee.

The Titans finished with 214 yards rushing, and Young even gave fans a glimpse of his mobility on a nifty 19-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

Reggie Wayne caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
It was nearly perfect.

"It came down to us executing a play in the fourth quarter," coach Jeff Fisher said. "They did everything we asked during the week and nearly everything we asked today."

Even without defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who was serving the first game of his five-game suspension, running back Chris Brown, who was inactive and a makeshift offensive line, the Titans looked like they would pull off one of the most shocking upsets in the NFL for three and a half quarters.

Young marched Tennessee 88 yards on its opening possession and finished the drive by eluding several Colts tacklers to make it 7-0.

He took advantage of good field position midway through the second quarter, too, using Keith Bulluck 's fumble recovery near midfield to set up Rob Bironas ' 22-yard field goal.

Meanwhile, the Colts' offense was stuck in neutral with only seven first-downs and Manning out of sync. He couldn't even complete a pass to his favorite target, Marvin Harrison.

"We knew by watching film that we had a lot of creases we could run through," Henry said. "We did that. We still left a lot of plays out on the field."

But Manning produced in the second half, as did Harrison.

After forcing a Tennessee punt, Manning methodically moved the Colts and hooked up with Harrison on a 13-yard TD pass to make it 10-7.

Tennessee answered with a 47-yard field goal from Bironas to make it 13-7 late in the third quarter.

Manning still had too much time to work his magic and eventually rescued the Colts with a 2-yard TD pass to Wayne just inside the end zone with 5:10 left.

Young's final desperation pass was knocked down near the Colts 10.

He finished 10 of 21 for 63 yards with one interception, but Manning got the win.

"To be 5-0 and not playing your best football is a good thing as long as you improve," Manning said. "If you stay the same way and don't improve, it's going to eventually bite you."

Vikings Comeback From 14 Down And Beat Lions 26-17 - NFL.com

Opportunistic fourth quarter lifts Vikings

NFL.com wire reports

MINNEAPOLIS (Oct. 8, 2006) -- Trailing by 14 points to start the fourth quarter against hapless Detroit, somebody on the Minnesota Vikings had to put the ball in the end zone.

The offense sure wasn't having much luck, so the defense took over, delivering an effort that would make the old Purple People Eaters proud.

The Vikings scored two defensive touchdowns in the fourth quarter to rescue the struggling offense, turning a 17-3 deficit into a 26-17 victory.

"Every time we take the field, we try to score or get the ball back," defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin said. "That's our personality. That's how we play defense."

Ben Leber returned Jon Kitna's fumble 1 yard for a touchdown to cut Detroit's lead to 17-16, and Ryan Longwell made a 20-yard field goal to give the Vikings a 19-17 lead with three minutes left.

Kitna, trying to bring Detroit back, was flushed out of the pocket and corralled by Ray Edwards before desperately shoveling the ball toward the line of scrimmage. The pass landed right in E.J. Henderson's hands, and the linebacker raced 45 yards to seal the win.

Minnesota's defense has scored three touchdowns this season, one fewer than the offense through the first five weeks, conjuring memories of the unit that led the Vikings to four Super Bowl appearances in the 1970s.

"That's unbelievable," center Matt Birk said. "They're keeping us in games."

It was a stunning, but not surprising, turnaround that kept the Lions (0-5) winless and continued their misery against the Vikings. They have lost nine straight to Minnesota (3-2), dating to 2001.

Detroit hired coach Rod Marinelli and jettisoned first-round bust Joey Harrington for the steady veteran Kitna in the offseason, hoping the changes would finally turn around a team that has the worst record in the NFL (21-64) since 2001. But the Lions keep finding ways to give away games, and this one was ripe for the taking.

"You've got to be able to do a better job in that fourth quarter to secure and hold the lead, protect the football and do the things I talked about all week," Marinelli said. "We weren't able to do that today, and we've got to go back to work."

Of course it didn't help when receiver Roy Williams (back stinger) and guard Damien Woody (left leg) left the game on the first possession with injuries, but the Lions are used to being on the short end these days.

"We're struggling right now," said Kitna, who sat at his locker with his head down and eyes glazed over, contemplating the latest loss in a season full of them. "We're a beat-up team, but nobody gives a crap. We have to find a way to win."

Jon Kitna's fourth-quarter fumble that was scooped up for a Vikings TD was just one mistake.
In a first half filled with penalties, dropped passes and turnovers, the Lions took a 10-3 lead on the strength of Kitna's 8-yard TD run.

Minnesota's second turnover of the game, a fumble by Travis Taylor close to midfield, set up Kitna's 12-yard touchdown pass to Dan Campbell that gave the Lions a 17-3 lead midway through the third quarter.

With the Lions defense dominating a struggling Vikings offense, the game looked well in hand.

Brad Johnson completed his first eight passes, but most were dinks and dunks in the West Coast offense that got the Vikings nowhere. He was booed heavily through the first three quarters and looked every bit his 38 years of age while one-hopping passes to open receivers.

As they have all season, the Vikings leaned heavily on running back Chester Taylor and a stingy defense to keep things close.

Taylor rushed for 123 yards in another workhorse effort and the Vikings defense sacked Kitna five times, intercepted him on three occasions and held the Lions to 217 total yards, 16 on the ground. The Vikings offense finally got in the end zone at the start of the fourth quarter after a 68-yard drive that was aided by a roughing-the-passer call on Shaun Rogers.

Johnson, 26 of 34 for 201 yards, hit Travis Taylor on a 3-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 17-10.

After a block-in-the-back penalty on Donte Curry nullified Eddie Drummond's kick return for a touchdown, the Lions put the Vikings right back in it. On second-and-6 from the Detroit 14, Pat Williams burst through the line untouched and engulfed Kitna, forcing a fumble that Leber scooped up at the goal line for a touchdown.

Jared DeVries blocked Longwell's extra point to hold the Lions' lead at 17-16, but it was all downhill from there for Detroit.

"It was over for them after that," Williams said. "They basically could've called it quits."

Broncos Defense Outplays Ravens 13-3 -- NFL.com

Denver's offense held to under 200 yards, but they win from three interceptions.

Denver's 'D' dominant in win over Ravens

NFL.com wire reports

DENVER (Oct. 9, 2006) -- If being disrespected means Champ Bailey gets more lob passes thrown his way in the end zone, then the Denver Broncos won't complain anymore about their dominant defense being dissed.

The Broncos (3-1) intercepted three of Steve McNair 's passes -- including a leaping end-zone pick by Bailey just before halftime -- to hand the Ravens (4-1) their first loss with a 13-3 win.

Bailey was as surprised as anyone that McNair went after him with a lob pass to wide receiver Clarence Moore in the right corner.

"A little," Bailey said with a smile. "And they paid for it."

All Baltimore coach Brian Billick had to say about the ill-advised call that loomed so large on a cold and rainy night was: "That play was one of the options we had and it didn't turn out for us."

Denver defensive coordinator Larry Coyer was glad to see somebody finally challenge his perennial Pro Bowl cornerback: "I was glad to see them throw one at him. That'll work for me, yeah. Yeah. Yeah."

A cold rain and two stingy defenses turned the Baltimore-Denver showdown into a kicking competition for much of the night, and Jason Elam bested Matt Stover with two long field goals.

But with a 6-3 lead and 1:55 left in the game, Denver put the kick-fest to rest. Deep in Ravens territory, Denver took a chance at the end zone, icing the game on Jake Plummer 's 4-yard touchdown pass to Rod Smith. It was Smith's first touchdown this season and also the first TD the Ravens have surrendered in a second half this year.

"We stuck together tonight," Plummer said. "It was ugly, ugly for a while, but in the end we came and put together some drives when it counted."

The touchdown was set up by Darrent Williams ' interception at midfield with 6:47 left and Tatum Bell 's 12-yard gain on third-and-10 from the 17 in which he carried linebacker Ray Lewis for the final 5 yards.

"It wasn't a big deal," Bell said, "but it was a big deal because it was Ray."

Elam connected from 43 and 44 yards, the second one breaking a 3-3 tie with eight minutes remaining and capping a drive that was set up by Sam Koch's 10-yard punt.

Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce, who was quiet all week about his return to Denver -- which dumped him and his $10 million salary in the offseason -- was even quieter Monday night, assisting on just one tackle.

"The loss hurts, but I don't really care who it is against," Pryce said. "They are just another football team. The thing is, they are a great football team. They always have been, they were before I got there and they are now that I'm gone."

Steve McNair could hardly find room to roam against Denver's pesky defense.
The teams were tied 3-3 at halftime, and the rain only got heavier during a scoreless third quarter in which the Ravens avoided a big momentum-shifter when center Mike Flynn smothered McNair's fumble at the Baltimore 12.

Flynn saved the touchdown after McNair's third interception, by Domonique Foxworth in the final minute while safety John Lynch (neck) was on the sideline.

The Ravens and the rain combined to limit Denver to 9 yards of offense in the first quarter, tying a franchise low since Mike Shanahan became the Broncos coach in 1995.

The Broncos turned the ball over on their first two possessions.

Denver's first turnover resulted in a 24-yard field goal by Stover that gave Baltimore a 3-0 lead. It followed cornerback Chris McAlister 's nifty tightrope walk along the right sideline after he gathered the loose ball that Terrell Suggs punched out of Bell's hands.

Plummer, wearing a glove on his throwing hand to get a better grip, wildly overthrew Walker on the Broncos' next possession and cornerback Samari Rolle hauled in the long pass at the Baltimore 34.

The Broncos tied it at 3 on Elam's 43-yarder following Williams' 33-yard punt return to the Baltimore 42. It was the second big return by Williams, who ranked dead last in the NFL going into the game with an average of less than a yard per punt return.

The Ravens were driving for the go-ahead score just before halftime when Bailey intercepted McNair's lob pass with 30 seconds left.

"It's always the difference in the game: that red zone," Shanahan said. "What were they, one for two? ... Kept them from getting a field goal, kept them from getting a touchdown. Obviously, that was a big play at the time."

It was a bit of instant redemption for Bailey, who had just been burned for a 26-yard gain on third-and-7 when he appeared to bite on a fake by McNair and Derrick Mason zipped past him and hauled in the pass along the right sideline. Safety Nick Ferguson saved the touchdown by knocking Mason out of bounds at the 11.

"We heard all the hype about them," Bailey said. "We've got a good defense, too, and I think we proved that tonight."