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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Improbable rallies by New Orleans and Oakland accent the day

Saints remain unbeaten and Raiders hand the Steelers another loss. Indianapolis also keeps its perfect season alive.

December 07, 2009|Sam Farmer
  • Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski tries to escape the grasp of Pittsburgh's Lawrence Timmons during a 27-24 victory on Sunday.
Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski tries to escape the grasp of Pittsburgh's… (Gregory Shamus / Getty Images )

Reporting from New York — One was playing to maintain perfection. The other to salvage pride.

And in the end Sunday, the New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders -- teams with very little in common this season -- each pulled off remarkable come-from-behind victories.

The undefeated Saints faced three 10-point deficits at Washington before rallying to beat the Redskins in overtime, 33-30.

The three-win Raiders scored three late touchdowns -- the last with nine seconds left -- to stun the Steelers at Pittsburgh, 27-24, and deal a devastating blow to the postseason hopes of the defending Super Bowl champions.

In a day that again underscored the unpredictability of the NFL, franchises from opposite ends of this season's spectrum found some common ground.

"That was so exciting, I can't even put into words how I feel," said Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, a Pittsburgh native who won the game with an 11-yard touchdown pass to rookie Louis Murphy.

The Raiders, who were two-touchdown underdogs, pulled off their third jaw-dropper of the season, having already beaten heavily favored Philadelphia and Cincinnati in Oakland.

It was the fourth loss in the row for the Steelers, their longest streak of futility since 2003. Making matters worse for Pittsburgh, it led in the fourth quarter in five of its six losses.

"I can't even describe how frustrating it is right now to be 6-6," linebacker James Farrior said. "We thought we'd be doing a lot better at this point."

As for the Saints and Indianapolis Colts, each 12-0, they're doing as well as you can do. They remain the league's only unbeaten teams, each with four very winnable games remaining. This is the first time two teams have gotten this far without a loss.

Indianapolis plays Denver (8-4), at Jacksonville (7-5), the New York Jets (6-6) at home, and finishes at Buffalo (4-8). New Orleans plays at Atlanta (6-6), Dallas (8-4) and Tampa Bay (1-11) at home, and finally at Carolina (5-7).

Whereas the Colts' unbeaten status was never really threatened Sunday in their 27-17 victory over Tennessee, the Saints looked doomed at Washington. It wasn't until the Redskins' Shaun Suisham gagged on a 23-yard field-goal try inside of two minutes, and Drew Brees responded with a tying 53-yard touchdown pass to Robert Meachem, that the momentum finally swung in favor of the Saints.

"I don't know about the voodoo, but I definitely believe in destiny," Brees said. "I believe in karma, and what goes around comes around. We've been on the other side of this deal probably too many times, and maybe it's our time, that we start catching some of the breaks."

Mind if I pass?

San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson was miffed at Hall of Fame member Jim Brownbefore this season for touting Minnesota's Adrian Peterson as, hands down, the best running back in the NFL.

Whether that's a debatable point, it had to be a sweet moment for Tomlinson on Sunday when he passed Brown for eighth place on the league's career rushing list. The Chargers star ran for 64 yards to give him 12,321 -- nine more than Brown -- and needs 419 to pass Tony Dorsett for seventh.

"Yeah, a perfect day," Tomlinson said after the game. "I've thought a long time about this day. If I was going to pass Jim, I wanted to do it here in Cleveland, and I wanted to talk to him in the locker room after the game."

"He's a class guy," Brown said. "We love each other. I came back here because I wanted to show my respect. My position in history doesn't matter to me, but the respect that I get and the respect I give is highly important."

Tuck and roll

Those New York headline writers have to love the plain-speaking Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck, who got into a scrape with Flozell Adams at the end of the first half after the Dallas left tackle knocked him to the ground with a post-whistle shove in the back.

"It just proves what kind of dirtbag he is," Tuck said.

The two have a history. When the Giants and Cowboys played in Week 2, Adams kicked Tuck in the knee and tripped him, causing the pass rusher to take a hard fall that injured his shoulder. Adams was flagged, as he was after Sunday's shove.

"They blew the ball dead and I was headed toward the sidelines, pretty much had stopped, and somebody shoved me to the ground from the back," Tuck said. "Before I could get up, he was kind of engulfing our sidelines, so I didn't get to sneak any cheap shots in.

"It takes a coward and some more words that I can't say to push a guy in the back when a play is dead."

Asked about Tuck, Adams said: "I ain't talking about him. He's a nobody."

This and that

* Philadelphia's Michael Vick scored the first two touchdowns of his comeback -- at Atlanta, no less -- on a run and a pass, each of five yards.

* Two quarterbacks from Newhall Hart High started NFL games Sunday: St. Louis' Kyle Boller and Carolina's Matt Moore.

* The Texans had a horrendous hat trick in a loss to Jacksonville, as three of their players had passes intercepted: Chris Brown, Rex Grossman and Matt Schaub.

* With 113 yards rushing against Indianapolis, Titans star Chris Johnson tied Earl Campbell's Houston/Tennessee franchise record of seven consecutive 100-yard games.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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