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The wounds from the Giants’ ugly showing Sunday only gaped deeper after the Washington Football Team bumped them from first place in the NFC East with a defensively-fueled 23-15 win over San Francisco.
No. 2 overall pick Chase Young scooped up a strip-sack fumble for a 47-yard touchdown in the second quarter and Kamren Curl added a 76-yard interception return in the third in Washington’s fourth straight win to improve to 6-7, one game ahead of the Giants with three games remaining.
The victory may have been costly for Washington, however, as veteran quarterback Alex Smith injured his right leg late in the second quarter — the same leg that kept him out of the NFL for nearly two years before he returned to the lineup in October.
Dwayne Haskins, Washington’s 2019 first-round pick, played the final two quarters for Ron Rivera’s surging team, which faces Seattle at home next week.
Hurts, So Good
Rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts helped the Eagles (4-8-1) earn their first win since Nov. 1 in his first NFL start in place of benched Carson Wentz, adding his first career touchdown pass and 109 rushing yards in Philadelphia’s 24-21 win over New Orleans.
The second-round pick out of Oklahoma flipped a fourth-down touchdown to Alshon Jeffery in the second quarter.
Miles Sanders also became the first player to rush for over 100 yards against the Saints (115) since November of 2017, a stretch of 56 games.
Taysom Hill (291 passing yards, two touchdowns) lost for the first time in four starts in place of Drew Brees as the Saints (10-3) squandered their first chance to clinch the NFC South.
Living on the air in Cincy
The Cowboys also somehow remain barely alive in the NFC East, improving to 4-9 with a 30-7 win in quarterback Andy Dalton’s return to Cincinnati (2-10-1).
Dalton connected with Amari Cooper and Tony Pollard for aerial touchdowns as Dallas moved back within a game of the Giants and Washington in the division race with three games remaining.
“This one was special,” said Dalton, who played for the Bengals from 2011-19. “A lot of range of emotions, from being back in the city, being in the stadium, being on the other side, all that stuff. And good to have the emotion at the end of being very happy we got this win.”
The Bengals lost fumbles on three straight possessions in the first half, leading to 17 points for the Cowboys, who entered with only 11 takeaways in their first 12 games.
How the West was won
Patrick Mahomes was picked off three times for the first time since November of 2018, but the Chiefs (12-1) still clinched their fifth consecutive AFC West title with a 33-27 win over Miami (8-5) at Hard Rock Stadium.
“Obviously, we won the Super Bowl here [in February] and we just clinched the AFC West,” Mahomes said. “So it seems like every time we leave this system we have a hat for some type of thing we’ve accomplished. But the hate part, is I feel like I have half my interceptions, it seems like, at this stadium. … It’s just ironic that it happened at this stadium.”
Tyreek Hill scored on a 32-yard end around and a 44-yard TD grab, and Mecole Hardman returned a punt 67 yards for another score for the Chiefs.
Mahomes, who entered with only two interceptions in Kansas City’s first 12 games, finished with 393 passing yards, to go over 4,000 passing yards for the season (4,208) for the third straight year.
Kings of the North
With Minnesota’s 26-14 loss to Tampa Bay, the Packers (10-3) clinched their second straight NFC North title — and moved ahead of New Orleans into the coveted No. 1 spot in the conference — with a 31-24 win over Detroit (5-8).
Aaron Rodgers completed 26 of 33 passes for 290 yards, with touchdowns to Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Robert Tonyan. The 37-year-old Rodgers has a league-high 39 TDs against just four interceptions through 13 games.
Backers of the Dolphins (+7) earned a backdoor cover with a 44-yard field goal from Jason Sanders with 16 seconds remaining against the Chiefs. Miami trailed 30-10 through three quarters, but Tua Tagovailoa (career-high 316 passing yard) and the Dolphins outscored the defending Super Bowl champions 17-3 in the fourth.
The Hurt Locker
In addition to Smith’s injury, quarterback Brandon Allen left Cincinnati’s loss to Dallas in the fourth quarter with a leg issue and did not return. Ryan Finley finished the game for the Bengals, who already are without 2020 No. 1 overall draft pick Joe Burrow.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford also suffered a rib injury and was replaced by Chase Daniel late in the fourth quarter.
Other injuries: 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel (hamstring), Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker (leg) and tight end Mike Gesicki (shoulder), Cowboys cornerback Saivion Smith (hand), Broncos cornerback Duke Dawson (knee), Panthers tackle Russell Okung (calf), Titans linebacker Tuzar Skipper (elbow), Jaguars safety Josh James (shoulder), Chiefs tackle Mike Remmers (back), Vikings tackle Brian O’Neal (eye) and cornerback Kris Boyd (shoulder), Seahawks tackle Brandon Shell (ankle), Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson (shoulder), Texans safety Justin Reid (hand) and defensive tackle Brandon Dunn (hip).
Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady tossed touchdown passes to Scotty Miller and Rob Gronkowski as Tampa Bay (8-5) bounced back from a 1-3 stretch with a 26-14 win over Minnesota. … Dan Bailey missed three field-goal attempts and an extra point as the Vikings (6-7) fell out of a playoff position in the NFC. … Titans running back Derrick Henry upped his NFL rushing lead to 1,532 with a season-best 215 and scored twice as AFC South-leading Tennessee (9-4) cruised to a 31-10 win over Jacksonville (1-12). … Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew replaced Mike Glennon in the second half, his first appearance since Oct. 25. … Colts rookie running back Jonathan Taylor ran for a career-high 150 yards and two scores, including a 62-yarder in the third quarter as Indianapolis (9-4) kept pace with Tennessee with a 44-27 win over Las Vegas (7-6). … Bears running back David Montgomery busted an 80-yard scoring run on the first play from scrimmage for Chicago (6-7) and Mitchell Trubisky tossed three TD passes in the first half of a 36-7 blowout of Houston (4-9). … Broncos receiver Diontae Spencer scored on an 83-yard punt return, and two of Drew Lock’s four TD throws went to K.J. Hamler as Denver (5-8) won, 32-27, at Carolina (4-9). … Chargers kicker Michael Badgley nailed a 43-yard field goal as time expired as the Chargers (4-9) pulled out a 20-17 win over Atlanta (4-9). Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was intercepted by Michael Davis at the Chargers’ 33-yard-line with 36 seconds left.
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