Saints run through Tampa Bay#039;s defense

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 2, 2002

Having the league's best defense didn't help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the New Orleans Saints this season.

Aaron Brooks threw two third-quarter touchdown passes despite a bruised arm, and the Saints held on to beat the Buccaneers 23-20 Sunday night.

Brooks finished 9-of-25 for 155 yards. But after the Saints fell behind 9-6 at halftime, he threw TD passes of 3 yards to Jake Reed and 14 yards to Joe Horn on the first two possessions of the third quarter.

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Tampa Bay (9-3), which lost the opener to the Saints 26-20 in overtime, still leads the division, but it's much more crowded now. The Falcons (8-3-1) are a half-game back after Michael Vick led them to a 30-24 overtime win at Minnesota, while the Saints (8-4) are a game back.

Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice, the NFL's sacks leader at 14 1/2, took only five minutes to bring Brooks down twice, setting a record for consecutive games with multiple sacks with five. Six minutes later, Rice got a third sack that resulted in a safety and a 2-0 lead.

But the Saints' 26th-ranked defense played just as well, forcing three turnovers and holding Tampa Bay to 34 yards rushing. The Bucs, who came in leading the league with a plus-15 turnover differential, forced just one turnover.

Chargers 30, Broncos 27, OT

At San Diego, LaDainian Tomlinson ran for a franchise-record 220 yards and three touchdowns, and Steve Christie won it with a 27-yard field goal with 3:01 left in overtime.

San Diego (8-4) took a half-game lead in the AFC West over Oakland (8-4), which faces the New York Jets at home Monday night.

Tomlinson broke the club record of 217 yards he shared with Gary Anderson. Christie's winning kick made up for his 38-yard attempt that was blocked with 10:35 left in OT, and the two he missed in regulation.

Denver (7-5) lost on an overtime field goal for the second straight week.

Packers 30, Bears 20

At Green Bay, Wis., the Packers clinched their first NFC North title in five years by forcing five turnovers and getting an outstanding performance by rookie running back Tony Fisher.

Fisher replaced Ahman Green, who hurt his left knee in the third quarter, and ran for 91 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

Brett Favre threw two second-half touchdown passes and improved to 33-0 at Lambeau Field when the temperature is 34 or below. He beat the Bears (3-9) for the 18th time in 22 tries.

Falcons 30, Vikings 24, OT

At Minneapolis, Michael Vick ran for 173 yards -- the most by a quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 -- and his 46-yard TD run in overtime helpd the Falcons improve to 7-0-1 since losing to Tampa Bay on Oct. 6.

Vick also passed for 173 yards, giving him 346 of the 379 yards gained by the Falcons (8-3-1).

The Vikings (3-9) got 266 yards passing from Daunte Culpepper, as well as a TD passing and running, but he also threw three interceptions and was sacked six times.

The previous rushing high by a QB was 127 yards, by Chicago's Bobby Douglass against Oakland on Dec. 17, 1972.

Bills 38, Dolphins 21

At Orchard Park, N.Y., Drew Bledsoe threw three touchdown passes and a ran for another TD to help the Bills overcome Ricky Williams' career-high 228 yards rushing.

Bledsoe finished 15-for-27 for 306 yards as Buffalo (6-6) ended a three-game losing streak and got within a game of the Dolphins (7-5) in the AFC East.

The Dolphins lost quarterback Ray Lucas to a neck injury, and Jay Fiedler looked rusty in relief. Fiedler is expected back for next week's game against Chicago.

Williams' 228 yards were the second-most ever in a losing effort; O.J. Simpson had 273 in Buffalo's 27-14 loss to Detroit on Nov. 25, 1976.

Steelers 25, Jaguars 23

At Jacksonville, Fla., Kordell Stewart made a bid to get his job back by throwing for 202 yards and running for 84 more, including a 28-yarder for the Steelers' only touchdown.

Rookie Jeff Reed added six field goals for Pittsburgh (7-4-1), including a 50-yarder that made it 25-17 with 4:30 to go.

The Jags (5-7) answered with a 7-yard TD pass from Mark Brunell to Jimmy Smith, but Dewayne Washington broke up Brunell's 2-point pass attempt.

49ers 31, Seahawks 24

At San Francisco, Garrison Hearst ran for 124 yards and a career-high three touchdowns as the 49ers snapped their first two-game losing streak in two years.

Jimmy Williams added an 89-yard punt return for a TD for the 49ers (8-4).

Matt Hasselbeck threw for 311 of his 427 yards in the second half, and his 3-yard pass to Darrell Jackson with 1:57 cut the deficit to seven.

The Seahawks (4-8) recovered the onside kick, but Hasselbeck's next pass was intercepted by Rashad Holman.

Titans 32, Giants 29, OT

At East Rutherford, N.J., Steve McNair threw three touchdown passes, ran for a tying 2-point conversion and set up Joe Nedney's 38-yard field goal in overtime.

After missing practice all week with various injuries, McNair went 30-of-43 for 334 yards to help the Titans (7-5) win for the sixth time in seven games.

The Giants dropped to 6-6.

Chiefs 49, Cardinals 0

At Kansas City, Mo., Priest Holmes scored two touchdowns as Kansas City handed Arizona the worst loss in the documented history of its franchise.

The previous worst came when the team was the Chicago Cardinals and lost to the Bears 53-7 on Oct. 12, 1941. It also was the biggest margin in the NFL since Cincinnati beat Houston 61-7 on Dec. 17, 1989.

Dante Hall added a team-record 90-yard punt return for a touchdown for the Chiefs (6-6). Holmes had 169 total yards -- 47 more than Arizona (4-8).

Eagles 10, Rams 3

At Philadelphia, third-string quarterback A.J. Feeley threw for 181 yards without an interception in place of the injured Donovan McNabb and Koy Detmer, and the Eagles forced five turnovers.

The NFC East-leading Eagles (9-3) sacked Kurt Warner eight times, including four by backup defensive end N.D. Kalu.

Warner was 20-of-42 for 218 yards and two interceptions. The Rams (5-7) are 0-6 with him as the starter.

Colts 19, Texans 3

At Indianapolis, the Colts converted two first-quarter fumbles into 10 points, got two field goals from Mike Vanderjagt and used a James Mungro's late TD run to seal their win.

Indianapolis (8-4) won its fourth straight. The Texans (3-9) gained just 165 yards.