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Dire straits and narrow victories are the norm in NFL Week 11

Heavy favorites Houston, Atlanta and Dallas win in the end, but close scores hint at how much trouble they were in. 'Flirting with disaster' says it best.

November 18, 2012|Sam Farmer
  • Matt Ryan threw five interceptions and zero touchdowns, and the Falcons still beat the Cardinals.
Matt Ryan threw five interceptions and zero touchdowns, and the Falcons… (Curtis Compton / MCT )

Just another ho-hum NFL Sunday.

Houston beat Jacksonville. Atlanta beat Arizona. Dallas beat Cleveland.

What else would you expect from three home teams favored by a combined 33 points?

Now, please excuse those winning teams as they strap on oxygen masks and practice some deep-breathing exercises. They all came a little closer to losing than anyone anticipated.

The Texans and Cowboys squeaked by in overtime. The Falcons overcame five Matt Ryan interceptions, and played from behind for 31/2 quarters before edging the woeful Cardinals, 23-19.

"Part of playing this position is knowing there are going to be times when you make mistakes, when you fall flat on your face," said Ryan, who had never had more than three passes intercepted in a game. "You've got to get up and keep playing, keep throwing it. In those kind of situations, I'm just worried about the next play."

Ryan claimed a dubious slice of history with the performance. According to STATS LLC, he's the first quarterback since Green Bay's Bart Starr in 1967 to win a game despite having five passes intercepted with no touchdowns. Pretty much the definition of winning ugly.

"That's good company to be in," Ryan said.

Meanwhile, both Texas teams came away with oh-so-narrow victories.

The Texans, favored by 16 over Jacksonville, won in overtime, 43-37, thanks to a career-high 527 yards and five touchdown passes by Matt Schaub. The winning one was a screen to Andre Johnson in the extra period, which the All-Pro receiver turned into a 48-yard score.

"When I caught the ball, and I saw how open I was, I was looking around like, 'Where are the defenders at?'" said Johnson, who notched career highs with 14 catches for 273 yards. "I took off running, I kept looking. I thought the cornerback would come from the outside, but he wasn't there. It was just the safety, so I was just saying to myself, 'I can't let him tackle me.'"

The Jaguars, who came into the game with the league's least productive offense, came to life with Chad Henne at quarterback in place of the injured Blaine Gabbert.

Henne threw for four touchdowns, and rookie receiver Justin Blackmon caught seven passes for 236 yards.

Never before had opposing receivers racked up at least 200 yards each, as Johnson and Blackmon did.

Three hours north on I-45, history was being made in Arlington, Texas, where the Cowboys played their first overtime game in their 4-year-old stadium.

Dallas' Dan Bailey made a field goal with two seconds left in regulation to force overtime, and secured the 23-20 victory with a 38-yarder in the extra period.

Tony Romo was sacked a career-high seven times, and the Cowboys nearly fell to a Browns team that came into the game riding an 11-game road losing streak.

But at the end of the day, all that counts is . . . the end of the day.

Walking into the locker room, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones turned to a group of reporters, smiled and said, "Had it all the way."

Out of Luck

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has had an excellent rookie season so far, but Sunday's performance at New England was one he'd rather forget.

In a rematch of the best rivalry of the last decade — now a Manning-less affair — the Patriots dominated with a 59-24 thrashing. New England tied its single-game scoring record.

Luck was picked off three times, with two of those returned for touchdowns.

Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns, and the Patriots extended their lead in the AFC East to three games. Seems like yesterday the four teams in that division were tied at 3-3.

Good choice

Last spring, Peyton Manning had narrowed his team choices to San Francisco, Tennessee and Denver.

From the look of things, he made the right decision. Not only are the first-place Broncos rolling, but also their division is pillow-soft. Just look at the AFC West scores Sunday. Denver beat San Diego, 30-23. Oakland was blown out at home by New Orleans, 38-17. Kansas City was torched at home by Cincinnati, 28-6.

The Broncos lead the second-place Chargers by three games. Manning's path to the playoffs in the NFC West or AFC South wouldn't have been anywhere close to that smooth.

What about Bob?

Washington rookie Robert Griffin III said last week that the playoffs were still a realistic goal for the Redskins, although that's a long way from their record, now 4-6. Still, they looked like a playoff contender Sunday in rolling over Philadelphia, 31-6.

Griffin was spectacular, completing 14 of 15 passes with four touchdowns and running for 84 yards.

Even if the Redskins don't wind up making the playoffs, it would be a huge morale boost if Griffin can play that way Thursday when Washington plays at Dallas. For the Redskins, beating the Cowboys is the next-best thing to making the playoffs.

Teammates are running out of ways to describe Griffin.

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