Defence leads way as Broncos edge 49ers

Melvin Gordon atoned for two fumbles with a late one-yard touchdown run and safety Kareem Jackson recovered Jeff Wilson Jr.’s fumble with 1:05 left to preserve the Denver Broncos’ 11-10 home victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night.

Russell Wilson and the Broncos (2-1) won despite going three-and-out nine times. Their only sustained drive was a 12-play, 80-yarder that included a 12-yard scramble by Wilson. Gordon capped it with a one-yard run with 4:10 remaining, but Wilson’s two-point pass was batted down, leaving the Broncos clinging to a one-point lead.

Jimmy Garoppolo, in his first start for the injured Trey Lance, who broke an ankle in Week 2, drove the 49ers (1-2) to midfield but his pass to Deebo Samuel was tipped by Jackson and intercepted by linebacker Jonas Griffith at the Denver 42 just before the two-minute warning.

The Broncos went three-and-out for the ninth time in their 13 possessions, and the Niners got the ball back at their 15 with 1:42 left after punt returner Ray-Ray McCloud recovered his own muffed punt.

Bradley Chubb sacked Garoppolo for a 12-yard loss to the San Francisco three. Then, Wilson hauled in the pass and coughed up the football on a hit from P.J. Locke, and Jackson scooped up the loose ball with 65 seconds left at the 49ers’ 24.

The only other game in NFL history that finished 11-10 came on Nov. 16, 2008, when the Steelers edged the Chargers.

Before Gordon’s score, Garoppolo’s three-yard strike to Brandon Aiyuk in the first quarter stood as the only touchdown on the night.

For a while it looked like this might be the first 7-5 finish since Washington beat Detroit on Oct. 16, 1938.

Garoppolo and the 49ers may never have been happier for a safety, because he stepped out of the back of the end zone while tossing a pass that Chubb picked off at the three and crossed the goal line for what the Broncos thought was a pick-six that would have erased a 7-3 deficit.

But it was a safety, leaving the 49ers clinging to a 7-5 lead in the third quarter.

Garoppolo isn’t the only NFL quarterback to lose track of where he was on the field and step out of the back of the end zone. It infamously happened to Dan Orlovsky on Oct. 12, 2008, while playing for the Detroit Lions. Orlovsky was trying to get away from Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen when he stepped out of bounds numerous times before the play was stopped.

Immediately after Garoppolo’s blunder, Orlovsky posted on his Twitter account: “IVE NEVER BEEN HAPPIER … FFFFREEEEEDDDOOOMMMM.”

Dolphins halt Allen, survive ‘butt punt’ to beat Bills

Thomas Morstead stepped into the middle of Miami’s end zone, swung his powerful right leg and booted a punt.

Right into the backside of blocker Trent Sherfield.

Nearly the butt of a bad joke ending, the Dolphins held on for the last laugh against the reigning AFC East champions instead.

Miami overcame what was quickly dubbed the “butt punt” by shutting down Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills twice in the final minutes, improving to 3-0 with a 21-19 victory that ended with Allen desperately trying to spike the football on the edge of field goal range.

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa briefly left the game in the second quarter, returning after halftime despite appearing to be disoriented by a head injury — the team clarified later that actually, he had an issue with his back. He finished with 186 yards and a touchdown pass to River Cracraft.

The Dolphins’ defence did just enough to stall Allen twice in the fourth quarter, the first effort a goal-line stand that followed a go-ahead rushing touchdown by Miami’s Chase Edmonds.

Allen threw incomplete on fourth down from the two-yard line, ending a 17-play, eight-minute drive — and seemingly Buffalo’s chances for a comeback win.

But then Tagovailoa and the Dolphins went three-and-out, leaving Morstead with little room to kick the ball away.

It wasn’t enough space. The kick clanked right off Sherfield and went out the rear of the end zone for a safety — a mishap drawing immediate comparisons to Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez’s infamous “butt fumble” from 10 years earlier. Sanchez ran into the bottom of lineman Brandon Moore, jarring the ball loose.

Allen had about a minute to guide Buffalo into field goal range, and did so, but the Bills ran out of time. Isaiah McKenzie tried for extra yards on a completion from Allen, costing precious seconds. Dolphins players started celebrating when the clock hit zero with Allen just stepping under centre.

NFL, NFLPA reportedly reviewing Tagovailoa’s return

Tagovailoa’s return raised some questions. A person with knowledge of the matter said after the game that there will be a joint review by the NFL and the National Football League Players Association of what went into the decision to allow Tagovailoa to return to the game. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because that probe was not revealed publicly.

By NFL rule, those in-game evaluations when concussions are suspected involve not just team medical personnel but also an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant.

“I was kind of with everyone else. When he hit his head on the ground, I assumed it was a head injury,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “But his legs got wobbly because his lower back was completely loose. And as he described it, he said his lower back was like Gumby or something.”

Where his day nearly went awry wasn’t on a late hit by Buffalo’s Matt Milano, he says, but rather on a play earlier where he got bent awkwardly.

“I kind of got my legs caught under someone and they were trying to push back and it kind of felt like I hyperextended my back or something,” Tagovailoa said. “Then on the next play, I kind of hit my back, it kind of hurt, and I got up and that’s why I stumbled — my back kind of locked up on me.”

Packers hold off Bucs

Aaron Rodgers threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns, and the Green Bay Packers withstood a late rally led by Tom Brady to hold off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a 14-12 victory on Sunday.

Rodgers tossed TD passes of five yards to Romeo Doubs and six yards to Allen Lazard on his team’s first two possessions, while the Bucs’ offence sputtered much of the day without star receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Julio Jones.

For the second straight week, the Bucs (2-1) were held without a touchdown into the fourth quarter. Brady finally got them into the end zone on a one-yard pass to Russell Gage, capping a 90-yard drive with 14 seconds remaining.

Tampa Bay’s bid to force overtime with a two-point conversion was thwarted, first by a delay-of-game penalty and then an incomplete pass that allowed the Packers (2-1) to beat Brady for the first time in three tries since the seven-time Super Bowl champion joined the Bucs in 2020.

Rodgers completed 27 of 35 passes and was intercepted once in the first matchup in NFL history in which each starting quarterback has won at least three regular-season league MVP awards.

Rodgers has won four, including the past two, while Brady has three MVPs.

Jags dominate Chargers, snap road losing skid

Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars not only snapped an 18-game road losing streak, they made a statement with a dominant second half that showed they might be shedding their tag as one of the league’s worst franchises.

Lawrence threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns Sunday in a 38-10 blowout of ailing Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers.

The 28-point win was Jacksonville’s largest on the road since a 33-3 rout of Minnesota in 2001, when Lawrence was 2 years old.

James Robinson rushed for 100 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown in the third quarter that proved to be the knockout punch. It was the first of three straight scoring drives by the Jaguars (2-1).

Jacksonville’s road skid was tied for the eighth-longest in league history. The Jags won in the Pacific time zone for the fourth time in 19 trips and beat the Bolts on the road for the first time in six tries.

Rams shut down Cardinals

The Los Angeles Rams defence survived quite an onslaught on Sunday afternoon, defending 58 passing plays from Arizona’s Kyler Murray, who is notoriously hard to defend because of his ability to throw and run.

Sean McVay wasn’t worried about giving up a few 10-yard passes or five-yard runs, he just didn’t want to surrender the big one.

The Rams followed the gameplan perfectly and now the defending Super Bowl champs have won two straight. Matthew Stafford threw for 249 yards, Cam Akers and Cooper Kupp both scored touchdowns and Los Angeles used a stellar defensive effort to beat the Arizona Cardinals 20-12.

The Rams (2-1) continued their dominance in the series of NFC West rivals, winning 11 of the past 12 games dating to 2017, including last year’s 34-11 win in the playoffs.

LA’s offence had some good moments, but the win was largely due to its defence. Aaron Donald had a sack and two tackles for loss while Jalen Ramsey added two passes defended and a tackle for loss. The Rams gave up 365 total yards but limited the Cardinals to no touchdowns and four field goals.

Jones injured in Patriots’ loss to Ravens

Lamar Jackson has spent his career doing things nobody in the NFL has ever done.

The Ravens quarterback added another outstanding performance with his arm and his legs on Sunday.

Jackson threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score to help Baltimore (2-1) hold off the New England Patriots 37-26. He became the first player in the Super Bowl era with three or more passing touchdowns and 100-plus rushing yards in consecutive games.

The Patriots, meanwhile, lost quarterback Mac Jones late in the game to a leg injury that appears serious.

A week after Jackson’s four-touchdown performance wasn’t enough to stop a furious late charge by Miami, this time he got help from his defence, which forced turnovers on three straight fourth-quarter drives by the Patriots (1-2).

Baltimore led 14-13 at halftime, and Jackson said his mindset was to keep the pressure on.

Justin Tucker added a 56-yard field goal, the 50th of his career from 50 yards or more, as the Ravens won at New England in the regular season for the first time in seven tries.

The Patriots suddenly have questions at quarterback after Jones was hurt with less than two minutes to play. He hopped off the field and headed straight to the locker room, grimacing in pain as two members of the training staff helped him.

Jones completed 22 of 32 passes for 321 yards but threw three interceptions

Bengals top Jets for 1st win of season

Joe Burrow threw three touchdown passes and the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals got their first victory of the season, rolling past the New York Jets 27-12 on Sunday.

After opening 0-2 with a pair of three-point losses during which they trailed by at least two TDs, the Bengals won the coin toss, took the ball and got going right away against the Jets — who fell flat after a stunning comeback win last week at Cleveland.

Burrow finished 23 of 36 for 275 yards with TD throws to Samaje Perine, Tyler Boyd and Ja’Marr Chase.

Joe Flacco, who led the Jets’ 13-point rally in the final 1:55 last Sunday, struggled against the Bengals in what will likely be his final start with the injured Zach Wilson expected to return next week. Wilson, injured in the preseason opener, is recovering from a bone bruise and arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

Flacco was 28 of 52 for 285 yards and two interceptions, and was under pressure all game.

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