Painful win for Texans
QB Leinart injured in first start; Green, Bengals top Browns again
Matt Leinart and Matt Schaub stood next to each other for the final few snaps, Leinart in a sling and Schaub in a walking boot.
The scene spoke volumes about Houston’s quarterback situation and playoff chances.
If the Texans are going to make the postseason for the first time in franchise history, they probably will have to do it with a third-string quarterback.
Leinart injured his throwing shoulder yesterday at Jacksonville, overshadowing Houston’s 20-13 win over the offensively inept Jaguars. Leinart believes he broke his collarbone, but coach Gary Kubiak said initial X-rays were inconclusive.
“There’s a pretty strong possibility I probably won’t be coming back this season,’’ Leinart said. “It’s pretty disappointing. It’s tough to swallow, but we’ll just move forward. Everything that’s happened to me, this was a great opportunity . . . It’s unfortunate, but I’m not going to give up. It’s not my nature. I’ll just keep moving forward and figure this thing out one step at a time.’’
Assuming Leinart is done for the season, it would be a serious setback for a team that is closing in on its first AFC South title. The Texans (8-3) have one of the league’s best running games, but as Jacksonville showed, Arian Foster and Ben Tate will have a tough time carrying the load against eight- and nine-man fronts.
Foster ran for 65 yards and a score. Tate added 26 yards on the ground. Together, along with Leinart’s perfect touchdown pass to Joel Dreessen and a defensive effort that included seven sacks, it was enough for Houston to win its fifth consecutive game.
But with Schaub (foot) and Leinart out, the Texans are down to T.J. Yates and newly signed Kellen Clemens.
Yates completed 8 of 15 passes for 70 yards in relief of Leinart, doing just enough to help the Texans beat the Jaguars (3-8). Houston led, 20-10, at halftime, but managed just 47 yards and two first downs in the second half.
Jacksonville’s quarterback situation was a mess, too. Coach Jack Del Rio benched rookie Blaine Gabbert in the fourth quarter, after six sacks and an interception. Luke McCown led the team to a late field goal, but his fourth-down pass with about a minute remaining fell incomplete.
Del Rio said Gabbert remains the team’s starter.
Leinart, making his first start in two years, was hit hard by defensive end Jeremy Mincey late in the second quarter. He went to the sideline, headed to the locker room for tests and did not return. Leinart completed 10 of 13 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown, a 20-yard pass to Dreessen under heavy pressure. He got hurt on the next possession.
Bengals 23, Browns 20
A.J. Green did it to Cleveland again.
Green made a leaping catch for a 51-yard gain in the final minute, setting up a field goal that rallied host Cincinnati past the Browns.
The surprising Bengals (7-4) stayed right behind Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the AFC North with another second-half comeback forged by their rookie big-play combination.
The Browns blitzed on third-and-8, and Andy Dalton threw it down the middle just before he got hit. Green adjusted, leaped high above cornerback Joe Haden for the catch at the 30-yard line, then kept going until he was pushed out at the 2. The Browns forced Cincinnati to settle for Mike Nugent’s 26-yard field goal with 38 seconds left - the Bengals’ first lead of the game.
Cincinnati’s turnaround season started in Cleveland, where the Browns failed to line up promptly and were surprised by a quick snap that led to Green’s uncontested 41-yard touchdown catch.
For the second time in three games, a botched snap cost Cleveland (4-7) an opportunity to take a late lead. Phil Dawson was short on a 55-yard try with 1:51 left after the snap skipped along the ground, giving Cincinnati its last chance.
Raiders 25, Bears 20
Playing against a fill-in quarterback making his first career NFL start, Oakland managed to beat Chicago despite struggling to punch the ball into the end zone.
Sebastian Janikowski kicked a team-record six field goals and the host Raiders took advantage of three interceptions from Chicago’s Caleb Hanie to beat the Bears.
Carson Palmer threw for 301 yards and Michael Bush iced the game with a touchdown run in the fourth quarter to lead the Raiders (7-4) to their third straight win against a Bears team missing starting quarterback Jay Cutler. The Raiders settled for field goals on their first six trips inside the Chicago 30 before Bush’s 3-yard run made it 25-13 with 3:47 to play.
Shane Lechler controlled field position for the Raiders with a 49.2-yard net average, pinning Devin Hester and the Bears inside the 20 on three of five punts and booming the team-record 80-yarder over his head in the fourth quarter.
Hanie struggled in his first career start for the Bears (7-4) in place of Cutler, who broke his right thumb last week in Chicago’s sixth straight win to put a major obstacle into what had been a promising season. Hanie, who nearly led a comeback in last season’s NFC title game, had thrown only 14 regular-season passes since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2008. He finished 18 for 35 for 254 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions.
Steelers 13, Chiefs 9
Ben Roethlisberger threw a short touchdown pass to Weslye Saunders and visiting Pittsburgh took advantage of four turnovers by Tyler Palko to beat Kansas City.
Roethlisberger was 21 of 31 for 193 yards and an interception for the Steelers (8-3), whose defense lost All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu to a head injury in the first quarter yet still kept the bumbling Chiefs (4-7) from scoring a touchdown. Kansas City hasn’t reached the end zone since the third quarter against Denver three weeks ago, a span of 45 offensive drives - including the final one Sunday night.
The Chiefs marched across midfield to the Pittsburgh 37 when Palko threw high to Dwayne Bowe and Keenan Lewis hauled in the interception with 29 seconds left to keep Pittsburgh tied atop the AFC North with Baltimore.
Falcons 24, Vikings 14
Matt Ryan tossed three touchdown passes and the Atlanta defense came through with a goal-line stand after Percy Harvin’s 104-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter, preserving a win over visiting Minnesota.
Atlanta (7-4) raced to a 17-0 lead by halftime on Ryan TD passes to Harry Douglas and Roddy White. The Vikings (2-9), playing without star running back Adrian Peterson (ankle), had only two first downs and 38 yards until their final possession of the first half.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder finished 17 of 25 for 186 yards but was sacked four times and Toby Gerhart, filling in for Peterson, managed only 44 yards.
Cardinals 23, Rams 20
Patrick Peterson tied the NFL record with his fourth punt return for a touchdown this season, Beanie Wells set a franchise mark with 228 yards rushing on 27 carries, and Arizona won its seventh in a row in St. Louis.
Wells’s career day included gains of 71 and 53 yards, the latter setting up Jay Feely’s go-ahead 22-yard field goal with 4:12 remaining. That was enough for Arizona (4-7) to overcome another awful outing by John Skelton, who threw two interceptions and finished with only 114 yards passing.
Brandon Lloyd’s 16-yard TD catch from Sam Bradford tied it at 20 midway through the fourth quarter. Nick Miller had an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter for the Rams (2-9) only three days after he re-signed with the team.
Redskins 23, Seahawks 17
Rex Grossman threw a 50-yard TD pass to Anthony Armstrong on third and 19 midway through the fourth quarter to cap Washington’s rally from 10 points down and the Redskins beat host Seattle to end a six-game losing streak.
Grossman (26 of 35, 314 yards) was brilliant early, shaky in the middle, and then great again in the fourth quarter for Washington (4-7). He threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Fred Davis as part of Washington’s nearly perfect first quarter, threw a pair of interceptions in the second and third quarters, then led two touchdown drives in the fourth after Seattle took a 17-7 lead.
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 111 yards and caught a 20-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, but Seattle (4-7) saw its chance at the first three-game win streak under coach Pete Carroll crumble under too many mistakes.
Titans 23, Buccaneers 17
Chris Johnson ran for a season-high 190 yards, Matt Hasselbeck threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Damian Williams on fourth and 2 with 3:01 left, and host Tennessee beat Tampa Bay to stay alive in the AFC playoff race.
The Titans (6-5) forced five turnovers and overcame four turnovers of their own. But the Titans got the ninth and final turnover of the game when rookie linebacker Colin McCarthy intercepted Josh Freeman with 2:19 left.
The Bucs (4-7) lost their fifth straight, even with LeGarrette Blount running for 103 yards.