Posts Tagged ‘Thursday Night Football’

Stephon Gilmore batted away Russell Wilson’s pass to Courtland Sutton in the end zone on fourth-and-1 from the 5 to give the Indianapolis Colts a 12-9 overtime victory over the Denver Broncos on Thursday night.

Gilmore also intercepted Wilson’s pass in the fourth quarter to help set up Chase McLaughlin’s tying field goal.

McLaughlin connected from 47 yards 4:10 into overtime to give the Colts (2-2-1) the lead in the first game in NFL history that pitted quarterbacks with at least four Pro Bowl appearances each, but it featured zero touchdowns.

The Broncos (2-3) decided against a tying chip-shot field goal by Brandon McManus, and Wilson lined up in the shotgun next to running back Melvin Gordon, then threw incomplete over the middle.

Matt Ryan grinded out the victory despite throwing two interceptions into the hands of safety Caden Sterns, fumbling for the 10th time this season and getting sacked six times, giving him 21 so far.

McLaughlin sent it to overtime with a 31-yarder with 5 seconds left in regulation after Gilmore intercepted Wilson’s pass to Jerry Jeudy in the end zone on third-and-4 from the 13.

That kick capped the Colts’ longest drive of the night, 68 yards in 10 plays.

The Colts won the overtime coin toss and Ryan drove them into field-goal range again.

Many fans were wondering if this game would be one of revenge — Phillip Lindsay returning to his hometown to beat the Broncos — or redemption — Gordon atoning for his big fumble Sunday that was returned 68 yards for a touchdown by the Raiders.

It turned out to be neither.

Lindsay ran for 40 yards on 11 carries ad Gordon had 54 yards on 15 carries, but he was flipped by safety Rodney McLoyd Jr. at the 6e on his way to the end zone when it appeared he had an open path to the winning touchdown.

Sterns picked off two of Ryan’s passes, the second one leading to a 45-yard field goal and a 9-6 lead with 3:19 left in the third quarter. But the boobirds were out again at Empower Field after Andrew Beck dropped a touchdown pass two plays after Sterns’ second interception.

The prime-time game was a streaming snooze-fest pitting veteran quarterbacks struggling with their new teams, both of whom were missing their best running back and several key defenders.

It looked like neither team practiced much during the week because neither team did as they worked in new running backs and replaced key defenders on a short work week.

And as is common on Thursday nights, there was a rash of injuries with the most serious to Indy’s Kwity Payne (leg) and Denver’s Garett Bolles (right knee), both of whom were carted oft.

The only scoring before halftime came on field goals of 33 and 44 yards by McManus and a 52-yarder by McLaughlin with 12 seconds left before the break.

McLaughlin’s 51-yarder tied it in the third quarter, and Grover Stewart preserved the tie by blocking McManus’ attempt from 34 yards after Courtland Sutton’s 51-yard catch in which he wrested the ball from teammate Montrell Washington.

With reigning NFL champion Jonathan Taylor (ankle, toe) out for Indy and the Broncos lamenting the loss of Javonte Williams to a shredded right knee, the grind-it-out nature of the game was entirely expected.

The Colts came in averaging 14.3 points a game, the lowest in Ryan’s 16-year career, and the Broncos entered the night averaging 16.5 points, the worst in Wilson’s 11-year career.

Nyheim Hines got the start for Indy, but he went out with a head injury after his third snap when D.J. Jones knocked him down and Hines’ helmet bounced on the ground. He wobbled as he tried to leave the field on his own and had to be guided to the sideline, where he was evaluated for a concussion.

INJURIES

Paye was carted off in the fourth quarterback with a leg injury. He was injured on Rodney Thomas II’s 35-yard interception return. When Hines wobbled after getting to his feet, the medical personnel rushed onto the field and helped him to the sideline, taking no chances of a repeat of what happened to Tua Tagovailoa and Cameron Brate last week. Starting C Ryan Kelly left with a hip injury in the second quarter. WR Austin Dulin (foot) left in the third quarter.

The Broncos lost two starting defenders to knee injuries just before halftime, ILB Josey Jewell and CB Ronald Darby. Wilson was evaluated for a head injury after his interception but was cleared and didn’t miss any snaps. DE Dre’Mont Jones also was evaluated for a concussion in the fourth quarter. LB Baron Browning injured a wrist in the fourth quarter, as well, before Bolles was carted off with a leg injury.

UP NEXT

The Colts host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Oct. 16, and the Broncos visit the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night, Oct. 17.

Behind an overhauled offensive line coalescing in front of quarterback Joe Burrow and a defense forcing turnovers, the Cincinnati Bengals are looking more like the defending AFC champions.

After losing their first two games, the Bengals have reeled off two wins in a span of five days.

They beat the New York Jets on Sunday, then turned around and took down Miami 27-15 in a Thursday night game marred by the horrific sight of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa being taken off the field on a stretcher.

Tagovailoa was taken to a hospital, but was expected to be released and fly home with the team. Coach Mike McDaniel said the QB sustained a concussion.

Burrow tossed a late a 2-yard touchdown pass to Hayden Hurst to seal the win after Cincinnati safety Vonn Bell picked off Miami backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with three minutes left in the game.

“All day the protection was awesome,” said Burrow, who was 20 for 31 for 287 yards and two touchdowns. “I had all the time I needed in the pocket to find the guys I needed.”

Tee Higgins caught seven passes for 124 yards and a TD for Cincinnati (2-2)

Evan McPherson kicked two fourth-quarter field goals — including a 57-yarder — when the Bengals’ drives stalled.

“Joe was lights out,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “You had to beat man coverage. We had the guys to do it and the protection to match it and the quarterback who, that’s what he wants to see.”

Bridgewater threw an incomplete pass on Miami’s final drive to turn the ball over on downs with 57 seconds left.

Tagovailoa was 8 for 14 for 110 yards and an interception before his injury. Bridgewater finished 14 for 23 for 193 yards, a touchdown and an interception in relief.

“It’s a tough loss,” Bridgewater said. “It’s tough walking away, especially under the circumstances.”

Tyreek Hill paced the Dolphins with 10 catches for 160 yards. Jason Sanders kicked three field goals and had one blocked. He also missed a point-after attempt.

“You’re going to lose games to very good teams if you lose the turnover battle and you’re kicking field goals instead of trying for touchdowns,” Miami coach Mike McDaniel said. “We had been executing. We didn’t today. You don’t get free passes against good teams.”

‘SCARY MOMENT’

The Bengals handed Miami its first loss of the season. The Dolphins departed Cincinnati with uncertainty surrounding the future of their starting quarterback.

Tagovailoa was chased down and thrown to the turf by Cincinnati’s Josh Tupou with about six minutes left in the first half. He remained down for more than seven minutes before being taken to a hospital with reported head and neck injuries.

His teammates gathered around as they worked on him.

“Very scary moment,” McDaniel said. “He was evaluated for a concussion. He’s in the concussion protocol, but he’s being discharged. It’s an emotional moment. It’s not a part of the deal you sign up for.”

The 24-year-old Tagovailoa was suffering from a sore back and was listed as questionable for most of the week ahead of the game.

Tagovailoa briefly left Sunday’s 21-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills after appearing to be disoriented by what the team originally said was a head injury after taking a hard hit from Bills linebacker Matt Milano late in the first half. He missed just three snaps and returned after halftime.

The team and Tagovailoa said after Sunday’s game the quarterback had a back injury that caused his awkward stumble and fall after he was slammed into the turf in the second quarter. The team said Monday that Tagovailoa was not in concussion protocol. He said he “hyper-extended” his back after getting his legs caught under someone on a quarterback sneak.

CHEERS

At halftime, the Bengals added two players to their fledgling Ring of Honor at Paycor Stadium.

Isaac Curtis is regarded as one the team’s all-time great receivers. The four-time Pro-Bowler played in Cincinnati in 1973-84 and still holds the Bengals record for average yards per reception (17.07).

Tackle Willie Anderson was considered one of the best offensive linemen of his era. Anderson played in 182 games (regular and postseason) for Cincinnati in 1996-2007 and went to the Pro Bowl four times.

They join last year’s Ring of Honor inaugural class: team founder/coach Paul Brown, quarterback Ken Anderson, tackle Anthony Munoz and cornerback Ken Riley.

INJURIES

Dolphins: CB Xavien Howard left in the second half after suffering a groin injury.

Bengals: TE Devin Asiasi left in the second half with an ankle injury.

UP NEXT

Dolphins: At New York Jets on Sunday, Oct. 9.

Bengals: At Baltimore on Sunday, Oct. 9.

An unimaginable collapse still fresh in their minds, the Browns managed to avoid a second one in four days.

Jacoby Brissett threw two touchdown passes, Nick Chubb ran for a score and Cleveland bounced back from its epic meltdown by finishing off the rival Pittsburgh Steelers 29-17 on Thursday night.

“We had the right men in that room to be able to get past it,” Brissett said, “and I think we answered that call. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. The guys answered the bell.”

The Browns (2-1) built a nine-point lead early in the fourth on Chubb’s 1-yard run and then held on for dear life.

The Steelers (1-2) pulled within 23-17 on Chris Boswell’s 34-yard field goal with 1:48 left before Pittsburgh attempted an onside kick. But unlike in Sunday’s 31-30 loss, when the New York Jets overcame a 13-point deficit in the final 1:55 helped by a recovery, the Browns batted the ball out of bounds.

For a split second, it looked like Sunday all over again.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski was asked what he was thinking as the ball bounced around near Pittsburgh’s sideline. He paused for six seconds before answering.

“A lot,” he said.

Cleveland fans could finally exhale when cornerback Denzel Ward fell on a Steelers fumble in the end zone on the final play for a meaningless touchdown.

Brissett connected with Amari Cooper and David Njoku for TDs, and finished 21 of 31 for 220 yards. The 29-year-old had his second straight solid game as he fills in while Deshaun Watson serves an 11-game suspension.

Chubb had 113 yards and pushed and twisted across the goal line on fourth-and-goal with 9:29 left to put the Browns ahead 23-14.

Mitch Trubisky and the Steelers’ stagnant offense showed signs of life in the first half, but bogged down after halftime, punting on their first three possessions while gaining just 54 yards.

Criticized for not throwing deep the first two weeks, Trubisky launched a few long balls but didn’t connect nearly enough.

“I think Mitch made some plays, but we all collectively came up short,” said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who said he has no plans to switch to rookie QB Kenny Pickett. “Winning is our business. I wasn’t looking to be impressed, I was looking to win the game.”

Pittsburgh’s defense is missing star end T.J. Watt, but tackle Cameron Heyward said that wasn’t the issue.

“When you try to arm-tackle Nick Chubb, he’s going to make you pay,” Heyward said. “We need to do a lot better.”

The win smoothed over a rough few days for Cleveland.

Sunday’s debacle was followed by Myles Garrett criticizing fans for booing the Browns as they left the field, and a fan was arrested on charges he threw a plastic bottle in the direction of owner Jimmy Haslam on the sideline.

But there was little drama this time, just a win over their hated neighbors from Pennsylvania.

“That’s not an easy thing to bounce back from,” Stefanski said. “We talked about it on Sunday. We talked about it on Monday. What I’m proud of with those guys is you can’t let a loss linger, and we won’t let this win linger either. But I’m proud of how they responded. You’ve got to be resilient.”

Although there was little time to recover, Garrett was confident the Browns would be able to shake off Sunday’s loss.

“I didn’t have a doubt in my mind knowing this team and the guys who are on it,” he said. “I know everybody was anxious to get back on that field and get that taste out of our mouths and play a complete football game, and that’s what we did.

“Everybody did their job and all the teams came together to make it a really special win.”

Rookie Cade York’s 34-yard field goal gave the Browns a 16-14 lead in the third quarter, when Cleveland lost four players, including starting linebackers Anthony Walker Jr. and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, to injuries.

Brissett’s 7-yard TD pass to Njoku put the Browns up 13-7 with 8:58 left before halftime. But for the second straight week York missed an extra point.

Trubisky led the Steelers on a 75-yard scoring drive — 51 yards coming on the ground — before the QB rolled right and scored from the 1. Boswell’s PAT put Pittsburgh ahead 14-13.

Steelers rookie receiver George Pickens expressed frustration about not getting the ball during a loss to New England last week, saying he was open “90% of the time.” He wasn’t joking, either.

Trubisky finally hit him with a long ball, but it took a spectacular, one-handed catch by Pickens for a 36-yard gain.

BLOCK PARTY

Garrett failed to record a sack and remains just shy of Clay Matthews’ team record of 62. The Browns All-Pro defensive end was double-teamed, chipped and was credited with just assisted tackles.

DIFFERENT GUARDS

Cavaliers All-Star guards Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland served as the Browns’ honorary captains. Mitchell, recently acquired in a trade from Utah, smashed a fake guitar during pregame festivities.

INJURIES

Steelers: CB Ahkello Witherspoon (right hamstring) limped off in the third quarter and didn’t come back.

Browns: Walker was carted off with his left leg immobilized. Stefanski said Walker has a sprained knee and will undergo further tests. Walker appeared to get hurt when he was bent back awkwardly trying to fight off a block. … Owusu-Koramoah (groin) didn’t return. … LT Jedrick Wills Jr. (knee) went out briefly but returned. … DT Taven Bryan (hamstring) also was hurt in the third. … S Ronnie Harrison injured his hamstring during warmups and didn’t play.

UP NEXT

Steelers: Host the New York Jets on Oct. 2.

Browns: Visit Atlanta on Oct. 2.

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is day-to-day after suffering a fracture to his rib cartilage in Thursday’s 27-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, head coach Brandon Staley announced Friday, according to ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry.

Herbert sustained the ailment late in the fourth quarter after taking a hit from Mike Danna. He was able to return to the game after missing one snap, but he was visibly in pain. The superstar passer finished the night with 334 yards and three touchdowns against one interception.

The 24-year-old was taken for X-rays after the game and was seen with his left arm tight to his side. His X-rays were negative, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.

“We got good news in terms of what the CT scan expressed. I think that is good news,” Staley said Friday, according to USA Today’s Tyler Dragon. “Playing quarterback, you don’t want it to be a fracture to the bones. The fact that it’s cartilage is a good sign.”

Herbert, the 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year, is off to a hot start to the 2022 season after completing 76% of his passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns in a Week 1 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.

The 1-1 Chargers host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Sept. 25.

Patrick Mahomes threw two touchdown passes, rookie Jaylen Watson returned an interception 99 yards for the go-ahead fourth-quarter score, and the Kansas City Chiefs held on to beat the Los Angeles Chargers 27-24 on Thursday night.

Mahomes finished with 235 yards passing, and Jerick McKinnon and Justin Watson hauled in the TD passes for the Chiefs (2-0), who fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter and spent most of the game playing catch-up.

Jaylen Watson finally put the Chiefs ahead after the Chargers (1-1), answering Matt Ammendola’s tying field goal, marched to the Kansas City 3. Justin Herbert was eyeing tight end Gerald Everett when Watson, a seventh-round pick making his first start, stepped in front of the pass with 10:29 to go and ran nearly untouched the other way to the end zone.

Things became worse for the Chargers (1-1) two series later when Herbert was drilled by Mike Danna delivering a throw. He left the field clutching his side, returned one play later, then threw an incompletion that forced the Chargers to punt.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire promptly split the defense on a 52-yard run to set up a field goal for Kansas City.

Herbert, who finished with 334 yards and three touchdown passes, gamely tried to keep the Chargers alive. He threw a 36-yard dart on fourth down to extend their ensuing possession, then found Joshua Palmer in the back of the end zone on fourth-and-goal to pull Los Angeles within 27-24 with just over a minute to go.

Kansas City recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock on a crucial AFC West win.

The highly anticipated showdown between two of the league’s prolific young quarterbacks, each surrounded by premier playmakers, turned out early on to be a defensive slugfest.

The Chargers held the Chiefs to 13 yards in the first quarter, thanks to relentless pressure from Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack and the fact that Derwin James Jr. was just about everywhere, and kept a team that scored 44 points last week in Arizona off the scoreboard until Mahomes slung a sidearm pass to McKinnon early in the second quarter.

The Chargers fared better offensively, even though go-for-broke coach Brandon Staley opted to play conservatively, twice punting on fourth-and-2 near midfield. Dustin Hopkins kicked an early field goal before Mike Williams, dominating smaller Chiefs defensive backs, put the Chargers in position for Zander Horvath to catch a short TD pass.

Staley finally went for it on fourth down on the opening drive of the second half. And one play after Austin Ekeler picked it up, Williams made a one-handed grab around Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed to give the Chargers a 17-7 lead.

The game appeared to be getting away from the Chiefs when Mahomes was intercepted by Asante Samuel Jr. on their next possession. But replays showed Samuel didn’t control the ball and the call was overturned, and Mahomes capitalized on his second chance by throwing a 41-yard strike to Justin Watson for a touchdown.

The Chiefs tied it 17-all on the first play of the fourth quarter when Ammendola, who was signed earlier this week to replace the injured Harrison Butker, knocked through a chip shot on fourth down at the goal line.

That set up Jaylen Watson’s pick-6 and the first lead that Kansas City had all night.

PRIME TIME

The game was the first in the $13 billion, 11-year deal between the NFL and Amazon Prime to exclusively stream Thursday night games. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos joined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the sideline before kickoff.

INJURIES

Chargers C Corey Linsley (knee) and RT Trey Pipkins III (ankle) left in the third quarter. … Chiefs WR Mecole Hardman hurt his ankle in the third quarter but returned to the game. Danna left in the fourth quarter with a calf injury.

UP NEXT

The Chargers return home to face Jacksonville on Sept. 25. The Chiefs visit Indianapolis the same day.

The Buffalo Bills have fallen short in enough playoff games in recent years to know the season is long and the opener doesn’t mean much in January.

They still felt justified in their championship aspirations after going into the Super Bowl winners’ home stadium and completely wrecking their banner-raising party on the NFL’s opening night.

“We’re going to make the plane do backflips on the way home tonight,” Von Miller said. “We’re going to celebrate this win, because you have to, but then we’re going to go back to the lab.”

Josh Allen passed for 297 yards while accounting for four touchdowns, Miller had two of Buffalo’s seven sacks, and the Bills stamped themselves as a clear contender for the Rams’ crown with a 31-10 victory over Los Angeles on Thursday night.

Gabe Davis, Isaiah McKenzie and Stefon Diggs caught TD passes as the two-time defending AFC East champions began the NFL’s 103rd season by overcoming four turnovers and running away with a blowout win in the same arena where the Rams won it all nearly seven months ago.

Allen went 26 for 31 despite two interceptions. He also rushed for 56 yards, scrambling for a 4-yard TD when he stretched the ball over the line with 13:27 to play.

The star quarterback took his share of hits, but he also dished them out and showed off a mean stiff-arm while Buffalo’s offense under new coordinator Ken Dorsey largely dominated the champs. The Bills went 9 for 10 on third downs and racked up 413 total yards, eventually pulling away after three first-half turnovers kept it close early.

“There’s a lot to learn, but that second half, that’s who we want to be, going out there and executing that way,” Allen said. “We were 90% on third down. That’s a recipe for success.”

Matthew Stafford passed for 240 yards with one TD and three interceptions on a bruising night for the Rams, who lost a season opener and fell below .500 for the first time in coach Sean McVay’s six seasons in charge.

“Very humbling night, but one where you look yourself in the mirror and say you have to be better,” McVay said. “We weren’t ready to go. That’s on me. … There were a lot of decisions I made that didn’t put us in the best position to succeed. It was a very humbling night.”

The Bills’ seven sacks were the most allowed in McVay’s tenure with the Rams, who lost two starters from last year’s offensive line and attempted to replace them internally. Miller came through, but he was just one contributor on a night when Buffalo didn’t even need to blitz once to keep Stafford in check.

Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp had 13 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown, but the Rams’ night went quickly downhill. Los Angeles could not keep up with Allen’s creative playmaking or the Bills’ pass rush, and its only major offseason addition on offense — receiver Allen Robinson — had one catch on two targets.

Los Angeles trailed 17-10 after three quarters, but Buffalo ran away with two lengthy TD drives early in the fourth. The Rams even got shut out in the second half, ending a streak of 89 consecutive halves with a point since November 2019.

“We could play a whole lot better than that, no doubt,” Stafford said. “The one thing that gives me a good feeling is knowing the guys in that locker room and knowing we’re going to band together.”

Miller made an immediate impact in his debut for the Bills, who signed him away from the Rams after he won a ring in his half-season in LA. But he was just one part of a defense that yielded only 177 yards before Los Angeles’ final, meaningless drive.

Aaron Donald made his 99th career sack in the first half, but the seven-time All-Pro had just two tackles as the Rams became only the second defending champions in the last 10 years to lose the following season opener. They also lost by the second-biggest margin in league history for a Super Bowl winner beginning its next season; Baltimore lost by 22 to Denver in 2013.

After falling behind 10-0 despite two Bills turnovers, Los Angeles finally scored on its fourth drive when Kupp made an exceptional toe-tapping TD catch three minutes before halftime. After Allen threw his second interception, Matt Gay hit a 57-yard field goal to pull the Rams even at the halftime gun.

And Los Angeles never scored again.

PUNCTUATION

Diggs capped the domination with a 53-yard TD catch with 9:25 to play, talking trash to Rams All-Pro defensive back Jalen Ramsey afterward.

“You’ve got the two top guys in the NFL competing against each other,” Davis said of Diggs and Ramsey. “Both going to be talking back and forth, and we’re going to see who comes out on top, you know. And 14 came out on top today, and that’s what I expect from him.”

50K

With a long third-down pass to Kupp on his opening drive, Stafford became the 12th quarterback in NFL history to pass for 50,000 career yards. He tied Drew Brees as the fastest to the mark, doing it in 183 games.

TO THE RAFTERS

Along with the banner to celebrate last February’s title, the Rams also hung a banner in the south rafters at SoFi Stadium honoring the 1999-2000 Super Bowl champions from the St. Louis era. The brief pregame ceremony included owner Stan Kroenke, retired left tackle Andrew Whitworth — and free agent Odell Beckham Jr., who held aloft the Lombardi Trophy.

INJURIES

Bills DL Ed Oliver injured his ankle in the first half and tried to play through it, but couldn’t do much. … Rams rookie RB Kyren Williams injured his ankle in the opening minutes. … The Rams played without WR Van Jefferson, who had knee surgery early in training camp after starting 21 games last season including playoffs.

UP NEXT

Bills: Host Tennessee on Monday, Sept. 19.

Rams: Host Atlanta on Sunday, Sept. 18.

Hall of Fame broadcaster Al Michaels is joining Amazon Prime Video to serve as play-by-play commentator for Thursday Night Football, according to the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand.

Amazon Prime Video is set to take over the NFL’s Thursday package in 2022 after successfully bidding for its exclusive rights in the league’s last slate of media deals. Thursday Night Football has bounced between networks since its introduction in 2006; it most recently aired on Fox.

Michaels became available after Super Bowl LVI once his contract with NBC Sports expired. The 77-year-old had been with NBC Sports since 2006, serving as the voice of Sunday Night Football. Mike Tirico, the former voice of Monday Night Football, is set to take over NBC Sports’ Sunday broadcasts.

Amazon Prime Video previously landed Kirk Herbstreit to serve as its color commentator for Thursday Night Football. Herbstreit will continue to cover college football on ESPN in addition to his new NFL duties.

Dalvin Cook rushed for 205 yards and two touchdowns in his faster-than-expected return from a shoulder injury, and the Minnesota Vikings held on to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-28 by forcing an incomplete pass in the end zone on the final play Thursday night.

Ben Roethlisberger’s throw to Pat Freiermuth was on target, but Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith sandwiched the rookie tight end at just the right moment to dislodge the ball and give the Vikings (6-7) a critical victory after they nearly squandered a 29-0 late-third-quarter lead.

All but one of Minnesota’s games this year have been decided by eight points or less.

Roethlisberger had touchdown passes to Najee Harris, James Washington and Freiermuth in the second half, and Harris ran for a score, too, as the Steelers (6-6-1) recovered from their abysmal start. The Vikings had a 300-66 advantage in total yards in the first half, but Ahkello Witherspoon intercepted Kirk Cousins twice after halftime to fuel the rally.

Just as vital as all the turf he tore up on the ground was the 17-yard catch Cook made on a seam route on third-and-9 from the Minnesota 26 with 2:38 left. That forced the Steelers to use all their timeouts, leaving Roethlisberger 96 yards and 2:16 to go after Jordan Berry pinned a punt deep against his former team.

Roethlisberger hit Chase Claypool for 48 yards while Bashaud Breeland was committing pass interference to reach midfield. Claypool pulled in a fourth-and-2 slant to reach the Minnesota 34. Diontae Johnson set up the last play from the 12 by taking a crossing route 12 yards out of bounds, but Roethlisberger and the Steelers, who failed on a 2-point conversion try earlier in the fourth quarter, wound up just short.

INSTANT COOKING

Just 11 days after Cook dislocated his shoulder, keeping him out of last week’s loss at previously winless Detroit, he lined up in the backfield and enjoyed the most running room he’s seen all season. Cook set a franchise record with 153 rushing yards in the first half, and he needed only 14 carries to do it.

The Vikings trampled the Steelers with their zone blocking scheme, creating gaping holes for Cook to burst through and minimizing the contact with his still-healing shoulder. The Vikings averaged more than 10 yards per play in the first quarter.

JUST WIDE

The only speed bump for the Vikings came when Greg Joseph pulled a 53-yard field goal left and sent his first extra point try wide right. Chris Boswell also hooked a 49-yard attempt left, just his second missed field goal of the season for the Steelers to end a streak of 20 straight makes. This was the first NFL game since at least 1991, as far back as Sportradar data goes for this research, with two missed field goals and a missed extra point in the first quarter.

INJURY REPORT

Steelers: CB Joe Haden (foot) missed his fourth straight game. … John Leglue made his first NFL start, filling in at left guard for B.J. Finney (back). Leglue became the fourth starter at LG this year, with Kevin Dotson and J.C. Hassenauer on injured reserve. … OLB Alex Highsmith (knee) was hurt in the third quarter and did not return.

Vikings: LT Christian Darrisaw (ankle) sat out for the second straight game. Oli Udoh took Darrisaw’s place, and Mason Cole played right guard for Udoh. … Backup LB Ryan Connelly appeared to seriously injure his knee covering the second half kickoff.

UP NEXT

The Steelers host Tennessee on Dec. 19. They’re 4-0-1 in their last five home games.

The Vikings visit Chicago on Dec. 20, giving them 10 full days between games.

CeeDee Lamb had 122 yards from scrimmage, Tony Pollard had a 58-yard touchdown run and the Dallas defense produced timely sacks and turnovers in the Cowboys’ 27-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.

The Cowboys intercepted Saints quarterback Taysom Hill three times in the final 6:32 of the game, including defensive tackle Carlos Watkins’ pick-6 on a screen pass that made it 27-10 with 2:52 left.

The Saints gave the dual threat Hill his first start this season in hopes that he could help New Orleans end a four-game skid. He was effective in spurts, passing for 264 yards and two touchdowns — and running for 101 yards — but he threw four interceptions.

Dak Prescott passed for 238 yards and a 1-yard touchdown to Michael Gallup as Dallas (8-4) won without coach Mike McCarthy and five assistants because of positive COVID-19 tests. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was the Cowboys’ acting head coach.

Prescott was intercepted by Marshon Lattimore in the middle of the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys canceled that turnover out when Jourdan Lewis hit Hill’s arm as he released the ball and Damontae Kazee intercepted.

That was the first of Dallas’ three late interceptions. The Saints’ next drive stalled on a pick by Trevon Diggs, his league-leading ninth. And Watkins’ interception came on the drive after that.

Deonte Harris turned a short pass into a late 70-yard TD for New Orleans (5-7), but the Saints could not recover an onside kick and the Cowboys ran out the clock.

The game was close into the third quarter, when Pollard gave Dallas a 20-10 advantage by slipping an arm tackle in the backfield and speeding away from everyone else.

The Saints were trying to close within one score early in the fourth quarter. Rookie outside linebacker Micah Parsons squelched the life out of that drive when he sacked Hill for an 11-yard loss back to the New Orleans 40-yard line on fourth down.

The 10th sack of the season for Parsons, drafted 12th overall out of Penn State, forced a punt.

The Saints have started slowly throughout their skid and this game was no exception as they failed to score in the first quarter for the fifth game in a row.

The Saints’ first scoring threat came on their second drive, but Brett Maher’s 56-yard field goal attempt drifted wide right.

Dallas broke through on its third possession, highlighted by Prescott’s 41-yard pass over the middle to Cooper and a lateral pass to Lamb that went for 33 yards to the New Orleans 1. Prescott then tossed a fade to the right corner, where Gallup made a leaping, twisting catch over cornerback Bradley Roby and narrowly touched both feet in bounds.

The Saints tied it on Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s 24-yard TD catch early in the second quarter, but never led.

After Greg Zuerlein’s 55-yard field goal put Dallas up 10-7, the Saints threatened late in the second half when they drove to the Dallas 26. But Hill’s pass toward the left sideline was tipped by receiver Kenny Stills and intercepted at the 5 by Jayron Kearse, who dived to snag the fluttering ball while dragging his toes on the turf before falling out of bounds.

INJURIES

Dallas did not report any injuries during the game.

Saints: Hours before the game, the Saints placed defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon on injured reserve after he’d missed the previous two games with an ankle injury. … Juwan Johnson hurt his neck after making a leaping 27-yard catch near the end of the first quarter.

UP NEXT

Cowboys: Visit Washington on Dec. 12.

Saints: Visit the New York Jets on Dec. 12.

Josh Allen and the mercurial Buffalo Bills swung back to a better version of themselves against the reeling New Orleans Saints.

Allen passed for 260 yards and four touchdowns, and the Bills throttled New Orleans’ short-handed offense in a 31-6 victory Thursday night that sent the injury-ravaged Saints to their fourth straight loss.

“Coach always talks about playoff caliber and that’s the team we want to be,” Allen said. “We want to be the best versions of ourselves … every time we step on the field.”

Dawson Knox caught two touchdown passes, giving him a franchise-best seven TDs in a single season by a tight end. His second score gave the Bills (7-4) a 24-0 lead.

Stefon Diggs had seven receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown, and running back Matt Breida turned a short pass into a 23-yard score in a dominant victory that came just four days after a 26-point home loss to Indianapolis.

“To come up short the way we did (last weekend), sometimes it can be demoralizing,” said defensive end Mario Addison, who had one of Buffalo’s two sacks of Trevor Siemian. “You’ve just got to flush that and do it all over again. Everybody had a great mindset going into this game and we were just ready.”

The Saints (5-6), playing without dynamic running back Alvin Kamara for a third straight game, were shut out for three quarters. They finally scored on Siemian’s 11-yard pass to tight end Nick Vannett on the first play of the fourth.

Buffalo outgained New Orleans 361-190 and the Bills possessed the ball for 34:38 to the Saints’ 25:22.

The game illustrated how limited the Saints’ offense has become, in part because of injuries to Kamara and star receiver Michael Thomas, who has not played all season, and also due to significant changes at quarterback.

New Orleans went 5-2 in games started by QB Jameis Winston, who took over this season for the retired Drew Brees. But Winston went out for the season with a knee injury during New Orleans’ most recent victory on Oct. 31 and the Saints have lost every game Siemian has started.

Saints coach Sean Payton’s urgency to sustain drives against the high-powered Bills was evident in his decision to call a running play on fourth-and-2 near midfield and to later run a fake punt. Both failed, with the run losing yards and punter Blake Gillikin’s pass sailing high and wide of intended receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey.

“Going in, we felt like we had to be a little bit more aggressive,” because of how capable the Bills are offensively, Payton said. “We weren’t going to be able to win a game scoring 14 points or 17 points against a team like this.”

Siemian finished 17-of-29 passing for 163 yards, one TD and one interception. Taysom Hill, who is coming off a foot injury, was active as New Orleans’ backup quarterback but did not play.

Incidentally, Brees was working the game as a broadcaster and the raucous reception he received from the crowd when he was honored on the field at halftime contrasted sharply from the collective groans of frustration when one New Orleans drive after another stalled.

Most fans had filed out of the dome by early in the fourth quarter, leaving a solid traveling contingent of fans wearing Buffalo blue to close out Thanksgiving on a celebratory note.

The result left Payton foreshadowing changes as the Saints try to figure out how to end their worst losing streak in a season since 2015.

“We’ll look at everything right now. Obviously, we have to,” Payton said. “We’ve got to look closely at everything we’re doing and who we’re doing it with.”

TURNOVER TREND

The result could have been more lopsided had the Saints not intercepted Allen twice — once deep in New Orleans territory when defensive end Cameron Jordan hit Allen as he threw and linebacker Kwon Alexander made a diving catch of the fluttering ball.

It was Allen’s third game in four in which he had multiple turnovers. The previous two were losses, but this time it only prevented the Bills from winning by even more.

Saints cornerback Bradley Roby had New Orleans’ first interception near midfield in the first half.

Allen has thrown seven interceptions and lost a fumble in his past four games.

INJURIES

Bills: CB Tre’Davious White, a former LSU star playing in his home state for the first time as a pro, appeared to hurt his left knee in the second quarter. He was able to limp off the field on his own, but slammed his helmet down near the bench and then walked to the locker room with a towel over his head and did not return.

Saints: LB Kaden Ellis left the game with a hamstring injury. … Rookie cornerback Paulson Adebo was helped to the sideline after a heavy collision in the fourth quarter.

UP NEXT

Bills: Host the New England Patriots in a Monday night showdown for first place in the AFC East on Dec. 6.

Saints: Host the Dallas Cowboys next Thursday night.