John Harbaugh went for the win. The gamble cost the Baltimore Ravens, kept the Pittsburgh Steelers in the mix in the AFC North, and lifted the Patriots back to the top spot in the AFC.
Pittsburgh topped Baltimore, 20-19, on Sunday, thwarting a 2-point conversion attempt after Lamar Jackson’s touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins got the Ravens within one with 12 seconds to go.
Rather than turn to star kicker Justin Tucker for an almost automatic 35-yard extra point, the Ravens (8-4) went for the knockout punch. Baltimore tight end Mark Andrews couldn’t haul in a flip by Jackson. The Steelers (6-5-1) recovered an onside kick to seal it.
Harbaugh said his decision was due to Baltimore being just about out of cornerbacks, with Marlon Humphrey to have an MRI for an unspecified injury suffered in the loss.
“It could be a while,” said Harbaugh, suggesting the Pro Bowler’s ailment was significant.
The result pushed the Patriots (8-4) to the No. 1 spot in the AFC based on their 6-1 conference record, pending their Monday night game against Buffalo. The Ravens dropped to No. 3 behind Tennessee (8-4).
Pittsburgh ended a three-game winless streak behind the 39th fourth-quarter comeback engineered by Ben Roethlisberger.
The 39-year-old quarterback threw for 236 yards and two second-half touchdowns to Diontae Johnson, the final one a 5-yard catch-and-run with 1:48 to play that gave the Steelers a 20-13 lead.
It was enough. Barely.
Jackson took the Ravens 60 yards in eight plays, the last six coming on a tumbling grab by Watkins in the back of the end zone. The offense stayed on the field for the 2-point conversion, opting to do it even after a surprised Pittsburgh called timeout to reset.
The Steelers brought pressure on Jackson — a constant for three-plus hours — and his hurried throw was too far out in front for Andrews to bring it in.
Jackson passed for 253 yards with the touchdown and an interception in the end zone in the first quarter. He added a team-high 55 yards rushing, but also absorbed seven sacks, including 3½ by star outside linebacker T.J. Watt after he did not practice during the week. He had been placed on the COVID-19 list.
A day after ESPN cited anonymous sources to report Roethlisberger was telling some on the team it may be his final season, he fought off a sluggish first half to add one more chapter in his long history with the Ravens.
A 29-yard throw to a wide-open Johnson pulled Pittsburgh within 10-9 early in the fourth and after the teams traded field goals, he gave the Steelers their first lead when he hit an open Johnson to finish an 11-play, 69-yard drive.
Johnson atoned for a rare drop in the first half that would have resulted in a touchdown by finishing with eight receptions for 105 yards and the two scores.
The Ravens dominated the first half — including a 99-yard drive that chewed up more than 10 minutes — but only had a 7-3 lead to show for it.
The Steelers hung in there behind a defense that failed to let Jackson get comfortable, buying enough time for Roethlisberger to summon a little bit of the magic that’s defined the vast majority of his stellar career.
Chiefs 22, Broncos 9 — Kansas City (8-4) held Teddy Bridgewater to 257 yards passing, Daniel Sorenson returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown, and the Chiefs beat Denver (6-6), their fifth straight win overall and 12th straight over the Broncos keeping them atop the AFC West. Things went haywire for the visitors early in the game, when a 20-play, 83-yard drive ended with a failed fourth-down play rather than an easy field goal, and they didn’t get a whole lot better when Bridgewater threw a pair of second-half interceptions. Patrick Mahomes, meanwhile, had 184 yards passing with a touchdown run and an interception as Andy Reid improved to 20-3 after a bye.
Chargers 41, Bengals 22 — Justin Herbert passed for three touchdowns and Tevaughn Campbell returned a Joe Mixon fumble 61 yards for a score as Los Angeles (7-5) bounced back from its loss at Denver last weekend, building a 24-0 lead on Cincinnati (7-5) and holding on. Herbert was 26 of 35 for 317 yards. Mike Williams had five receptions for 110 yards, and Keenan Allen caught two of Herbert’s TD passes. The Bengals stormed back, with Mixon’s 7-yard TD run making it 24-22 with 7:10 left in the third, but Mixon was stuffed on the 2-point conversion try and Campbell’s fumble return in the fourth helped close it out for Los Angeles. The Bengals committed four of the game’s seven turnovers. Battling a hand injury for much of the day, Joe Burrow threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.
Buccaneers 30, Falcons 17 — Tom Brady threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns, two of them to longtime favorite target Rob Gronkowski, and Tampa Bay (9-3) moved to the brink of clinching the NFC South title, their lead four games over the division’s other three teams, including Atlanta (5-7). The 44-year-old Brady completed 38 of 51 passes, including touchdowns of 27 and 11 yards to Gronkowski — their first scoring passes since Week 2 against the Falcons. He also overcame a blunder in the final minute of the first half, when 278-pound defensive lineman Marlon Davidson picked off a short pass and glided 3 yards into the end zone for a touchdown to cut Atlanta’s deficit to 20-17. It was the final Falcons points, as Matt Ryan was sacked five times.
Seahawks 30, 49ers 23 — Russell Wilson played his best game since returning from finger surgery, throwing for 231 yards and two touchdowns, and Seattle (4-8) made a late goal-line stand to snap a three-game losing streak. Not that San Francisco (6-6) didn’t have myriad chances, with Gerald Everett fumbling at the Niners’ 2-yard line with 4:03 remaining and Seattle on the cusp of a clinching score. Jimmy Garoppolo led the 49ers 95 yards to the Seattle 3, but his third-down pass for Trent Sherfield was broken up by Sidney Jones and his fourth-down pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage by Carlos Dunlap. Newly signed running back Adrian Peterson moved into a tie with Jim Brown for 10th all-time with 126 career touchdowns, scoring on a 1-yard run in the second quarter for Seattle.
Dolphins 20, Giants 9 — Tua Tagovailoa threw a pair of short touchdown passes to Isaiah Ford and Mack Hollins, and host Miami (6-7) extended its winning streak to five games. Jaylen Waddle had nine catches for 90 yards for the Dolphins, and rookie Jaelan Phillips had two more sacks — giving him five in his past two games. Tagovailoa completed 30 of 41 passes for 244 yards and the two scores. Mike Glennon started at quarterback for New York (4-8) in place of Daniel Jones, who was sidelined with a neck injury. Glennon completed 23 of 44 throws for 187 yards, diagnosed postgame with a concussion, and Saquon Barkley had 55 rushing yards on 11 carries. Graham Gano had three field goals for the Giants, who didn’t find the end zone against a defense that has yielded only 55 points during its win streak.
Lions 29, Vikings 27 — Jared Goff threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown as time expired to cap a 75-yard march without a timeout, lifting previously winless Detroit (1-10-1) in a stunner. Goff threw two touchdown passes in the first half to put Detroit ahead by 14 points, but turned over the ball twice in the second half to help Minnesota (5-7) reel off 16 points in the first 18 minutes after halftime. Kirk Cousins put the Vikings ahead with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Justin Jefferson with 1:50 left, but failed on a 2-point conversion for the third time. Goff finished 25 of 41 for 296 yards with three touchdowns, an interception, and a fumble. St. Brown had 10 receptions for 86 yards, while Jefferson had 11 for a career-high 182 yards, taking advantage when Adam Thielen injured his left ankle.
Cardinals 33, Bears 22 — Kyler Murray threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more in his return from an ankle injury, and visiting Arizona (10-2) intercepted Andy Dalton four times. The Cardinals got back Murray and three-time All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins after both players missed three games because of injuries, then improved to 7-0 on the road, with each win by 10 points or more. Murray completed 11 of 15 passes for 123 yards, giving him 10,092 in three seasons, while Hopkins caught two passes for 32 yards. Dalton, making his second straight start with Justin Fields sidelined because of broken ribs, matched a career high for interceptions.
Rams 37, Jaguars 7 — Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, and Odell Beckham Jr. caught touchdown passes from Matthew Stafford, and host Los Angeles (8-4) rebounded from a winless November with a solid all-around effort against abysmal Jacksonville (2-10), which has lost four straight. Stafford passed for 295 yards, while Sony Michel rushed for 121 yards and a score as the featured back, and Kupp had his 100th reception of a remarkable season among his eight catches for 129 yards. Rookie Trevor Lawrence passed for 145 yards for the Jaguars; Jacksonville turned the ball over twice and managed just 197 total yards. The Rams took control after halftime with two long touchdown drives capped by Kupp’s 29-yard TD grab and Jefferson’s 2-yard scoring catch in the back of the end zone.
Eagles 33, Jets 18 — In East Rutherford, N.J., Gardner Minshew led clock-eating Philadelphia (6-7) to scores on its first seven possessions in relief of Jalen Hurts, who was out with an ankle injury. The former Jacksonville starter was 20 of 25 for 242 yards and two touchdowns to Dallas Goedert. Kenneth Gainwell ran for a score, and Jake Elliott kicked four field goals as the Eagles improved to 12-0 all-time against New York (3-9), though it might have come at a cost as running back Miles Sanders left in the fourth quarter with his own ankle injury. The Jets scored touchdowns on their first three possessions as well, but held the ball for only 70 seconds in the third quarter — just three plays for 3 yards.
Washington 17, Raiders 15 — Taylor Heinicke threw two touchdown passes and set up new kicker Brian Johnson’s game-winning 48-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining to lead Washington (6-6) to its fourth straight win. That despite Las Vegas (6-6), held to just two field goals in the first three quarters, going ahead with points on successive fourth-quarter drives, taking a 15-14 lead on Daniel Carlson’s 37-yard field goal that was set up by Nate Hobbs’ interception. Coordinator Jack Del Rio’s defense sealed it to give him the win in his first game against the Raiders since being fired by the team following the 2017 season, Derek Carr’s desperation heave from his 43 falling incomplete.
Colts 31, Texans 0 — Jonathan Taylor ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns, and Indianapolis (7-6) grabbed two takeaways in the first quarter, never challenged by host Houston (2-10). Taylor, who leads the NFL in yards rushing, has 16 rushing touchdowns and at least one in 10 straight games, the longest streak in the NFL since LaDainian Tomlinson did it in 18 straight in the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Carson Wentz threw for 158 yards and a touchdown for the Colts, while Houston’s Tyrod Taylor was benched in the third quarter either due to injury — he hyperextended his wrist and the trainers weren’t sure that he could grip the ball — or ineffectiveness, as he was 5 for 13 for 45 yards before being replaced.