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Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski take another step up the all-time touchdown list

Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady became the second most prolific quarterback-receiver combination in NFL history on Sunday.Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski teamed up for more history Sunday in Atlanta. Rarely have two guys had such a connection.

Brady threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns — two of them to his longtime favorite target — in Tampa Bay’s 30-17 victory over the Falcons in Atlanta. The 44-year-old Brady completed 38 of 51, including touchdowns of 27 and 11 yards to Gronkowski, their first scoring passes since Week 2 against the Falcons.

The prolific duo has combined for 90 regular-season TDs, passing Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates for No. 2 in NFL history. Only Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison have more, hooking up for 112 scoring passes.

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Counting the playoffs, Brady has thrown 104 TD passes to Gronk.

Tampa's Rob Gronkowski finds the end zone for the second time Sunday.Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com/Associated Press

“Tom knows what he’s thinking before he does,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Tom threw a couple of balls before Gronk was ready, because he knew where he was going. There’s great chemistry out there.”

Gronkowski missed four games this season after a devastating hit against the Rams left him with fractured ribs and a punctured lung. But he’s going to keep catching passes from Brady as long as he can.

“We keep each other going," Gronkowski said.

Added Brady, “He makes it easy for the quarterback.”

Brady’s first TD to Gronkowski had the Bucs on the verge of a blowout. But Tampa Bay got greedy in the final minute of the first half, when 278-pound defensive lineman Marlon Davidson picked off a screen pass and glided 3 yards into the end zone for a touchdown that cut the lead to 20-17 at the break.

But the Falcons were held scoreless in the second half, and Brady improved to 10-0 in his career against them.

“He's just been on a better team for a long time,” Arians said bluntly.

Winless no more: Lions get a breakthrough

Jared Goff dropped back, looked left, and let the football loose that Amon-Ra St. Brown squeezed tight as he sat in the end zone. That set off a roar in Ford Field loud enough it might’ve been heard on Motor City streets.

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Detroit finally found a way when Goff threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to St. Brown as time expired, lifting the previously winless Lions to a 29-27 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

“It feels good to stand in front of you now,” Goff said to reporters before answering a question. Before Sunday, he had lost 12 straight starts going back to his time with the Rams — the longest skid for a quarterback taken first in the common draft era that started in 1967.

Not only was the finish dramatic, it was stunning. Goff led the Lions on a 75-yard decisive possession without a timeout, delivering a sharp pass without pressure against a three-man rush to a rookie receiver, who took advantage of the Vikings secondary playing too deep in the end zone.

“It was actually crazy,” St. Brown said. “They were 3 or 4 yards in the end zone.”

The Lions (1-10-1) ended a 15-game winless streak that lasted 364 days since winning at Chicago last season, giving first-year coach Dan Campbell his first victory with the franchise.

“You want this so bad for the players because they’re the ones who put in all the hard work, the sweat, the tears,” Campbell said. “When you lose, it hurts, but it’s also why winning is so great, because it isn’t easy to do.”

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Detroit's Jared Goff celebrates with head coach Dan Campbell after the Lions won their first game of the season Sunday.Rey Del Rio/Getty

Goff finished 25 of 41 for 296 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He fumbled when Campbell chose to go on fourth-and-1 from the Detroit 28 with 4:08 left and the play-action pass didn’t fool the defense.

“I felt like I needed to be aggressive,” Campbell said.

Panthers fire offensive coordinator

The Carolina Panthers relieved offensive coordinator Joe Brady of his duties on Sunday. Offensive assistant Jeff Nixon will take his place for the rest of the season.

“I met with Joe this morning and informed him that I have decided to make a change,” coach Matt Rhule said in a statement. “I’m very grateful to him for his time and effort in helping us get established over this past year and a half.”

The Carolina Panthers have relieved offensive coordinator Joe Brady of his duties.Doug Murray/Associated Press

Brady was considered a major hire by Rhule before the 2020 season. He was the coordinator of LSU’s prolific offense with quarterback Joe Burrow in 2019 when the Tigers won the national title. Then 30 years old, Brady was the NFL’s youngest coordinator.

But the offense has struggled in Carolina. Entering their bye this week, the Panthers (5-7) ranked 28th with 308.7 yards per game, and 23rd in scoring 19.7 points each game. They started the season 3-0, but star running back Christian McCaffrey then was injured and the team has spiraled since. McCaffrey is hurt again and done for the season.

Rhule recently brought in Cam Newton at quarterback with Sam Darnold injured. Neither has done particularly well, but it’s Brady who was let go.

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Jets’ Mosley claims disrespect

⋅ New York’s C.J. Mosley felt the disrespect when the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t shake hands at midfield during the pregame coin toss. The New York Jets linebacker saw it when he said Fletcher Cox laughed at Robert Saleh as the coach argued with officials about a call.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about respect,” Mosley said after a 33-18 loss dropped New York to 3-9. “And right now, teams are not respecting us. That’s well-deserved, whether it’s by self-inflicted wounds or the history of the Jets. . . . It was all over the field. As a competitor, as a warrior, when you fight with your brothers, that pisses you off.”

⋅ Kickers combined to miss eight extra points. That was spread among seven kickers, with the Jets’ Alex Kessman missing his first two extra point attempts during his NFL debut after he signed from the practice squad Saturday to replace the struggling Matt Ammendola.

⋅ The Rams’ Cooper Kupp wasn’t aware after LA’s thrashing of Jacksonville he had reached 100 catches. His 8-yard reception from Matthew Stafford early in the fourth quarter made him the first player in NFL history with at least 100 and 10 TDs receiving in his team’s first 12 games of a season. He leads the league in receptions (100), receiving yards (1,366), and receiving TDs (11).

⋅ San Francisco reserve running back Trenton Cannon was taken off the field on a backboard after a scary collision on the opening kickoff against Seattle. Cannon was attempting to make a tackle on DeeJay Dallas when his head hit the leg of a teammate. He was seen moving his arm as he was being loaded into the ambulance. The team said he was out for the game with a concussion.

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