In a battle of 6-3 teams, the Baltimore Ravens held their ground just long enough to fend off Cincinnati, the surprise of the AFC North, in a tough divisional battle Sunday, 31-24. Still alive despite quarterback Andy Dalton's three interceptions, the Bengals didn't fold until Dalton's failed fourth-and-goal pass with 28 seconds to play. Yet it will be the disputed call against Cincinnati tight end Jermaine Gresham, whose apparent 9-yard touchdown pass was overturned by officials with just over five minutes to go, that will sting the longest for the Bengals.
The win elevated the Ravens to a first-place divisional tie with Pittsburgh, but because Baltimore swept the season series against the Steelers, the Ravens own first place outright. Baltimore's diversified attack squeezed 104 yards rushing from Ray Rice and wide receiver Torrey Smith added 165 receiving yards, including an electrifying 38-yard fourth-quarter scoring reception that helped the Ravens to a 31-14 fourth quarter lead. But Dalton, even with the trio of picks, threw for 373 yards and brought Cincinnati back to the brink of victory before just falling short.
SURPRISE, SURPRISE: Miami leaped to the top of the league's latest surprises. It's now three wins and counting for the Matt Moore-led Dolphins, who dominated Buffalo, 35-8. The Bills lost NFL rushing leader Fred Jackson to a leg injury in the third period...Philadelphia quarterback Vince Young flashed his old fourth-quarter comeback form that originally made him a name with the Tennessee Titans, in guiding the Eagles Sunday night to a surprise 17-10 win over the New York Giants at The Meadowlands. The former Maxwell Trophy winner from Texas completed seven of nine passes in a late fourth-quarter drive that consumed nearly nine minutes.
ANGLING FOR THE CORNER: For those who missed it, Sunday's CBS broadcast of the Cincinnati-Baltimore game showed Jerome Simpson's jaw-dropping pre-game warm-up exercise. The Bengals' tight end palms a football in each hand, holding them out at arms' length, waist high, before letting go of both at the same time. Incredibly, Simpson then snatches both balls single-handedly in mid-fall from above the ball, in a ridiculous display of grip strength and athleticism...Run of the day was provided by Tampa Bay's LeGarrette Blount, who shed seven tacklers en route to a bull-rushing 54-yard touchdown run in the Bucs' 35-26 loss to Green Bay...Packers kicker Mason Crosby missed his first field goal of the season, when his late-fourth-quarter 29-yarder hit the right upright and bounced off...Chicago will feel the sting of the loss of ace QB Jay Cutler, who suffered a broken thumb on his passing hand in Sunday's 31-20 win over San Diego. The Bears' standout had been enjoying his best season as a pro...Cam Newton's 6-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown against Detroit was a thing of beauty. Last year's Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn rocketed through a hole between center and guard that completely fooled the Lions' defense and put the Panthers up 27-14 at the time, though Carolina eventually lost.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Detroit's Matthew Stafford threw for 335 yards and five touchdowns in Detroit's 49-35 victory over Carolina Sunday, but it was another mark that earned the Lions' strong-armed quarterback this week's honor. For the third time this season, Stafford directed Detroit to victory from a 17-point deficit, the first NFL team to achieve that feat since the 1950s.
Alan Ross is the author of 32 books, including Away from the Ball: The NFL's Off-the-Field Heroes. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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