Mark Sanchez threw a career-high four touchdown passes as the New York Jets beat the Buffalo Bills 28-24 to end a two-game losing streak and avoid losing ground in the National Football League’s playoff race.
Sanchez and Santonio Holmes connected on a 16-yard touchdown pass with one minute, nine seconds to play as the Jets improved their record to 6-5. The Jets are one game behind the Cincinnati Bengals for the final wild card playoff berth in the American Football Conference and face teams with losing records in four of their final five regular-season games.
“Any time you win in this league, it’s huge, especially when you need to win six in a row,” Sanchez told reporters.
The Jets remain two games behind New England in the American Football Conference’s East Division after the Patriots’ 38-20 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday.
The Bills lost their fourth straight game to fall to 5-6 and into third place behind the Jets in the AFC East.
The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 13-9 last night to improve to 8-3 and keep pace with the Baltimore Ravens atop the AFC North. The Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 16-6 four days ago on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.
At 8-3, the Patriots, Steelers and Ravens are tied with the Houston Texans for the best record in the AFC. The Texans pushed their winning streak to five games with a 20-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday, although they may have lost backup quarterback Matt Leinart to a broken collarbone.
“There’s a pretty strong possibility I probably won’t be coming back this season,” Leinart said.
Houston, seeking a playoff spot for the first time in franchise history, previously lost starting quarterback Matt Schaub for the season with a right foot injury and are now left with T.J. Yates and newly signed Kellen Clemens.
The Bengals recovered from a 17-7 halftime deficit to beat the Cleveland Browns 23-20 on a last-minute 28-yard field goal.
Cincinnati won for the first time in three games to improve to 7-4 and stay ahead of the Jets in the AFC playoff race. The Browns slumped to 4-7 with a fourth consecutive loss.
The AFC West-leading Oakland Raiders (7-4) got six field goals from Sebastian Janikowski in a 25-20 win over Chicago that halts the Bears’ five-game winning run. Caleb Hanie threw three interceptions in his first career NFL start in place of the injured Jay Cutler for Chicago, which fell to 7-4.
The Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans pulled out wins yesterday to keep pace with the Jets in the AFC at 6-5.
Matt Prater kicked a 37-yard field goal with 29 seconds left in overtime as the Broncos beat the San Diego Chargers 16-13. The Broncos have won four straight games and five of six with Tim Tebow at quarterback, while the Chargers (4-7) have lost six games in a row.
Chris Johnson ran for season-high 190 yards and Matt Hasselbeck threw a 2-yard touchdown pass with 3:01 remaining as the Titans scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-17. It was the fifth straight defeat for the Buccaneers (4-7).
The Indianapolis Colts are winless through 11 games for the first time since 1986 following a 27-19 loss against the Carolina Panthers, who ended a 12-game losing run on the road to advance to 3-8 for the season. DeAngelo Williams had two rushing touchdowns as the Panthers won their first road game since Dec. 27, 2009.
The Atlanta Falcons beat Minnesota 24-14 for their fifth victory in six games as Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes. The Falcons held off the Vikings (2-9) after opening a 17-0 halftime lead to improve to 7-4, a half-game behind New Orleans in the National Football Conference’s South division.
Saints Host Giants
The Saints (7-3) host the New York Giants tonight to cap the NFL’s Week 12 schedule. The Giants (6-4) are a half-game behind first-place Dallas in the NFC East following the Cowboys’ 20-19 Thanksgiving Day win over the Miami Dolphins.
The Arizona Cardinals (4-7) won for the third time in four games, beating the St. Louis Rams 23-20 as Beanie Wells rushed for a franchise-record 228 yards.
Rookie Patrick Peterson had his fourth punt return touchdown of the season, tying an NFL record set by Jack Christiansen in 1951 and matched by Rick Upchurch in 1976 and Devin Hester four years ago. The Rams fell to 2-9.
The Washington Redskins ended a six-game losing streak by beating the Seattle Seahawks 23-17. The visiting Redskins scored 17 straight fourth-quarter points to improve to 4-7 and hand Seattle (4-7) its first loss in three games.
The Green Bay Packers improved to 11-0 with a 27-15 win against the Detroit Lions (7-4) four days ago.
Sanchez Leads Jets
The Jets, coming off losses to New England and Denver, trailed the Bills 24-21 yesterday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, after Dave Rayner kicked a 53-yard field goal with 9:51 to play. Sanchez then drove the Jets 82 yards for the go-ahead touchdown and New York’s defense held as Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone on the final play.
“I know we can play better than that,” Sanchez said. “We don’t need to fight it at the end and grind it out and bite our nails at the end of the game. That’s not the way we need to play. We won’t win every game like that.”
In Philadelphia, Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Wes Welker each scored two touchdowns for the visiting Patriots.
Tom Brady finished with 361 passing yards and three touchdowns for New England, which topped 30 points for the eighth time this year and matched its season-high tally set in an opening-week win over Miami.
The Eagles fell to 4-7, including a 1-5 record at Lincoln Financial Field, where fans chanted for coach Andy Reid to be fired during the second half. Philadelphia entered the season among oddsmakers’ Super Bowl favorites.
“None of us can predict the future and how things will go,” Reid said at a news conference. “There are a lot of different variables there, so you keep fighting.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Dex McLuskey in Dallas at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at email@example.com