Leaping Le’Veon sets Steelers single game rushing record in win over Bills
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Le’Veon Bell had no issues with traction in establishing the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rushing record on a slick, snow-covered field.
Whether it was rushing to his left, right or up the middle, the Steelers running back scored three times and gained 236 yards rushing in a 27-20 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Bell broke the franchise rushing record set by Willie Parker, who had 223 yards against Cleveland on Dec. 7, 2006.
For Bell, the wintry conditions were nothing more than what it was like growing up in suburban Columbus, Ohio.
“It was never a thing that bothered me, being cold or if there’s snow. It never fazed me,” Bell said, noting that goes for the cold-weather Steelers, too. “Our guys embrace playing in the snow.”
The Steelers (8-5) overcame three interceptions thrown by Ben Roethlisberger to win their fourth straight and improve to 8-5 and keep pace in the AFC playoff race.
It’s the Bills (6-7) who were unable to get a hand on Bell in having their playoff chances all but mathematically slip away. Buffalo is in jeopardy of extending the NFL’s longest active playoff drought to 17 years — the longest since New Orleans ended a 20-year drought by reaching the postseason for their first time in 1987.
“It’s very hard to swallow,” cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said. “I don’t know how to take this right now. But it’s going to take some time.”
After scoring in the first half on 3- and 7-yard runs, Bell put the game away on the opening drive of the third quarter. He had nine rushes for 72 yards alone and capped the 82-yard drive by waltzing into the end zone from 5 yards to put the Steelers ahead 21-7.
Bell also had 62 yards receiving to account for 298 of the 460 yards gained by Pittsburgh. It was the second three-TD game of his career, and first in which he scored three times rushing.
“You set a franchise record in a snow game in December,” guard David DeCastro said. “I mean, come on. Of course it was fun.”
The mood was entirely different for the Bills.
The loss raised questions about coach Rex Ryan’s job security and quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s future .
Ryan was defiant when asked about whether he deserved a shot to continue on the job beyond his second season.
“What do you think I’m going to say? You’re dang right I do,” Ryan said. “It hasn’t gone exactly the way I wanted it to go, that’s obvious. But we have three games left and we’ll try to win every one of them.”
Ryan, however, was noncommittal in saying, “we’ll see,” when asked whether Taylor will remain his starter.
Taylor oversaw an offense that sputtered through much of three quarters.
The Bills combined for seven first downs and 87 yards net offense on their first nine possessions. That included Sammy Watkins’ 8-yard touchdown catch set up by Stephon Gilmore returning Roethlisberger’s second interception to the Pittsburgh 7 midway through the second quarter.
Down 24-7, the Bills scored twice in the final 7:27 on Charles Clay’s 40-yard catch and LeSean McCoy’s 3-yard run with 1:25 left.
Taylor finished 15 of 25 for 228 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Ryan’s prized defense continued to struggle a week after Buffalo squandered a 24-9 third-quarter lead in a 38-24 loss at Oakland. Buffalo has now surrendered more than 200 yards rushing twice this season, including 256 in a 28-25 loss at Miami on Oct. 23, when Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi had 214 of those yards.
Roethlisberger finished 17 of 31 for 220 yards in continuing his struggles on the road. He has a 4-3 record away from Pittsburgh this season, when he’s thrown eight touchdown passes and eight interceptions. Roethlisberger’s numbers are far better at home, where he’s 4-1 and thrown 17 TDs versus three interceptions.
Buffalo linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown, on a pass intended for tight end Jesse James in the end zone, also had interceptions.
The Bills had minus-1 yards through two series in the first quarter, becoming the NFL’s first team this season to have negative yards through the first 15 minutes. Buffalo didn’t get into positive yardage until its first snap of the second quarter, when McCoy had a 9-yard run.
The start of the second half was delayed for nearly 10 minutes because of a buildup of rubber pellets that accumulated along the sidelines. The piles of pellets, which are part of the artificial turf, gathered up when tractors swept the field of a dusting of snow during halftime. Workers were required to use blowers and shovels to push the pellets further off the field.
Steelers: At Cincinnati on Dec. 18
Bills: Host Cleveland on Dec. 18.
CLEVELAND (AP) — Robert Griffin III returned from injury but couldn’t keep Cleveland from falling closer to infamy as the Cincinnati Bengals built a big early lead and held off the winless Browns 23-10 on Sunday in the snow.
Andy Dalton threw two touchdown passes to Tyler Eifert as the Bengals (5-7-1) kept their playoff chances pulsating for another week.
Griffin started for the first time since getting hurt in the opener. He couldn’t produce a win for the Browns (0-13).
RG3 did score on a 1-yard sneak in the third quarter, but the Browns lost their 16th straight dating to Dec. 13 last season. Cleveland has lost 23 of 24 and 31 of 34 since the end of 2014.
The Browns have three games left to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the NFL’s only 0-16 teams. They are making history with every loss. They are the seventh team since 1962 to start 0-13, joining the ’08 Lions, 1980 Saints, 1976 Buccaneers, 2011 Colts, 2007 Dolphins and 1962 Raiders.
Griffin finished 12 of 28 for 104 yards. Isaiah Crowell was a bright spot for Cleveland, rushing for 113 yards on 10 carries.
BUCCANEERS 16, SAINTS 11
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Streaking Tampa Bay bolstered its playoff hopes by building an early lead and holding off Drew Brees and New Orleans for its fifth straight victory.
Doug Martin scored on a 1-yard run, Roberto Aguayo kicked three field goals and an improving defense intercepted Brees three times while holding the NFL passing leader without a touchdown pass.
Brees began the day leading the league in completions, attempts, completion percentage, passing yards and TD passes, but failed to throw for a touchdown for the second straight week, the first time he’s done that in consecutive games since 2009.
Safety Keith Tandy picked off the quarterback’s final pass on fourth-and-1 from near midfield in the final minute.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — DeMarco Murray ran for 92 yards and a touchdown, and the Titans held on to and keep a piece of first place in the AFC South. With the win, the Titans (7-6) also climbed above .500 for the first time all season.
The Titans came in with the NFL’s third-best rushing offense and the AFC’s top runner in Murray, and they ran right over a Denver defense that came in 28th in that category. By halftime, the Titans ran 26 times for 138 yards — the second-most rushes by any team in the first half this season and most allowed in the first half by Denver since 2014.
Tennessee then had to hold on as Trevor Siemian tried to rally Denver (8-5) despite a sprained left foot that kept him out last week. He threw a 3-yard TD pass to Emmanuel Sanders with 9:58 left and drove the Broncos to first-and-goal at the Tennessee 7 before rookie Aaron Wallace sacked him.
Coach Gary Kubiak settled for a 34-yard field goal by Brandon McManus on fourth-and-goal at the 16 with 4:28 left.
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers passed for 246 yards and three touchdowns and Green Bay routed Seattle.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson threw a career-high five interceptions and the Packers (7-6) won their third straight game to keep their playoff hopes alive.
They’re two games back of first-place Detroit in the NFC North, but play division opponents in the last three weeks of the season.
Green Bay gained more than 300 yards in the first game for the Seahawks (8-4-1) without former All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, who is out for the season with a broken leg.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Chris Thompson’s 25-yard touchdown run with 1:54 remaining lifted Washington. Kirk Cousins threw two touchdown passes, including an 80-yard toss to DeSean Jackson, and had a pick-6.
The Eagles took a 22-21 lead when Caleb Sturgis hit a 41-yard field goal with 4:59 left after holder Donnie Jones got the high snap from third-string long snapper Trey Burton down in time.
Carson Wentz drove Philadelphia to the Redskins 14 in the final minute, but Ryan Kerrigan sacked him to force a fumble and seal the win for Washington (7-5-1), which remained in the middle of a jumbled playoff race.
The Eagles (5-8) have lost four in a row and eight of 10 after a 3-0 start.
Jackson made a twisting, over-the-shoulder catch and spun away from Leodis McKelvin before slowing down and jogging into the end zone to give the Redskins a 14-13 lead in the third quarter.
McKelvin intercepted Cousins and returned it 29 yards for a TD early in the fourth quarter, but Wentz’s pass to Jordan Matthews was knocked down on the 2-point conversion.
FALCONS 42, RAMS 14
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Matt Ryan passed for 237 yards and three touchdowns and Atlanta forced five turnovers to beat the Los Angeles.
Deion Jones returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown, and Vic Beasley forced a fumble by Jared Goff and returned it for another TD during Atlanta’s comprehensive pummeling of the Rams (4-9), who have lost four straight and eight of nine in their increasingly miserable homecoming season.
Tevin Coleman caught a TD pass and rushed for another score for the Falcons (8-5), who opened up a 42-point lead in the third quarter and stayed atop the NFC South with their fourth win in six games.
Even without injured receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta had little trouble from the opening kickoff, which was fumbled by Rams rookie Michael Thomas and recovered at the Los Angeles 3.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Matt Asiata scored on a short touchdown run, Kai Forbath kicked four field goals and the Vikings won for just the second time in nine weeks.
Asiata had a chance to score three times, but he was stopped on a fourth-and-goal run in the second quarter and fumbled at the goal line in the fourth. Those mistakes hardly hurt against the hapless Jaguars (2-11), who dropped their eighth consecutive game and fell to 0-6 at EverBank Field this season.
Minnesota (7-6) hadn’t won on the road since Sept. 25 at Carolina. A loss to the Jaguars would have weakened their playoff chances.
Sam Bradford completed 24 of 34 passes for 292 yards and a touchdown. His 3-yard TD toss to Kyle Rudolph with 2:13 remaining sealed the victory.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer returned after a one-game absence and was on the sideline. Zimmer missed last week’s game against Dallas because of a detached retina and was unsure earlier in the week whether he would be on the field or in an upstairs box.
TEXANS 22, COLTS 17
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Lamar Miller scored Houston’s only touchdown and the Texans defense stopped Andrew Luck on Indy’s final drive. Houston (7-6) retained a share of the AFC South lead with Tennessee by ending its three-game losing streak.
The Texans won for the second straight year in Indy, have won nine straight against division foes and got their first sweep of the Colts in franchise history.
Luck drove the Colts (6-7) to the Texans 42-yard line with 1:24 left. But on fourth-and-1, a blitz forced an errant screen pass to Robert Turbin.
Miller finished with 21 carries for 107 yards, while Brock Osweiler was 14 of 24 for 147 yards with one interception.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Carolina’s defense forced five turnovers by Philip Rivers and had five sacks and a safety.
Cam Newton was a pedestrian 10 of 27 for 160 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception for Carolina (5-8), which snapped a two-game losing streak and kept its slim playoff hopes alive. Jonathan Stewart ran for 66 yards and a touchdown and Graham Gano had four field goals.
But it was Carolina’s defense that set the tone early — and later put the game away.
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Ryan Tannehill threw three touchdown passes before being sidelined with a knee injury, and Andrew Franks kicked a 21-yard field goal as time expired.
Tannehill limped to the locker room late in the third quarter after being hit around the legs by defensive tackle Calais Campbell as he released a completion. The Dolphins led 21-9 when Tannehill departed, and backup Matt Moore failed to lead Miami to a first down in his first three series.
The Cardinals mounted touchdown drives of 99 and 50 yards to tie the game, but Miami forced a punt to start at the Arizona 47 with 1:29 left. Moore threw a 12-yard completion to Kenny Stills for a first down, and then threw long to Stills for 29 yards to set up Franks’ winning kick.
LIONS 20, BEARS 17
DETROIT (AP) — Matthew Stafford ran for a go-ahead, 7-yard touchdown with 3:17 left after throwing two interceptions in the fourth quarter, one that was returned for a score on the previous possession.
Matt Barkley completed two passes that put the Bears in a position to at least attempt a tying field goal in the final minute, but both were negated by penalties, before Chicago turned over the ball on downs from the Detroit 44.