NFL roundup: Breakout star Stefon Diggs and Vikings emerge as play-off contenders

Teddy Bridgewater had one of his best games of the season and the Minnesota Vikings pulled out a late win to improve to 4-2 in the NFL on Sunday.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, right, celebrates a touchdown on Sunday in his team's NFL win over the Detroit Lions. Duan Burleson / AP / October 25, 2015
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Teddy Bridgewater dropped back, lofted a long pass and Stefon Diggs did the rest.

Diggs leaped from just inside the 5 yard line and landed in the end zone with a 36-yard, go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter, helping the Minnesota Vikings rally for a 28-19 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

“I thought it was going to be a little bit out of my reach,” Diggs recalled. “So, I didn’t try to run under it. Usually, I just try to run under it. I was just trying to lay out for it.”

The Vikings (4-2) won an NFC North road game for the first time in three years, and Bridgewater gave second-year coach Mike Zimmer the game ball.

“We are all so excited to give him first road win in the division,” Bridgewater said.

With a big-play receiver like Diggs, the Vikings may have an easier time on the road this season. The rookie had six receptions for 108 yards, giving him 19 catches for 324 yards in three games after being inactive for the first three games.

Diggs and Anquan Boldin, who made his debut with the Arizona Cardinals in 2003, are the only NFL players since at least 1960 to have that many catches and yards receiving in their first three games, according to STATS.

“You have to love that guy because he’s so energetic and so excited about playing in the NFL,” Bridgewater said. “Even (Saturday) at our walkthrough, when everyone was at walking tempo, he was running at full speed. That’s just how he is.”

Detroit (1-6) had an 11-point lead after Matthew Stafford threw for TDs on the first two drives, but blew it in large part because the offensive line couldn’t protect the quarterback. Minnesota had a season-high seven sacks, which also was a season worst for Detroit.

“Anything that doesn’t go well, I’m concerned about it,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “We had a number of things that didn’t go well.”

The Lions led 17-6 on Matt Prater’s 52-yard field goal late in the first half.

“Everyone told us that this team couldn’t win a road divisional game, so this was big for us,” Zimmer said. “We didn’t give them anything in the second half, and that was huge.”

Bridgewater had his best passer rating of the season in last month’s 26-16 win against the Lions, and was solid again in the rematch.

Bridgewater was 25-of-35, connecting with 11 teammates, for a season-high 316 yards. The first of his two TD passes was a 1-yard toss to Kyle Rudolph that got Minnesota within five late in the second quarter. Blair Walsh’s 51-yard field goal ended the first half and cut Detroit’s lead to 17-15.

Adrian Peterson ran for 98 yards on 19 carries, including a 75-yard run. He played a day after being listed as questionable and scoffed at a report that indicated his illness stemmed from swallowing chewing tobacco.

“I think it was something I ate,” he contended.

The Lions had a chance to make the final minutes potentially dramatic, but turned the ball over on downs at the Vikings 1.

Minnesota had punter Jeff Locke run out of the end zone on the ensuing possession, taking a safety to stay two scores ahead with a 28-19 lead with 59 seconds left.

Detroit drove to the Vikings 36 on their final drive before turning the ball over on downs again, and getting booed by the sparse crowd that was still in Ford Field.

Stafford didn’t have much time to throw after a strong start.

He capped the opening 75-yard drive with a 1-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson. He connected with Eric Ebron on a 7-yard scoring pass to end an 80-yard drive on his next possession. The rest of the game, he was getting sacked, hit and hurried.

Stafford finished 18-of-26 for 256 yards, and needed X-rays on his left hand.

“I think it’s fine,” he said.

Elsewhere around the NFL

New York Giants 27, Dallas Cowboys 20

Dwayne Harris sped 100 yards with a kickoff return against his former Dallas teammates seconds after the Cowboys had tied the game, and New York moved atop the NFC East with a victory.

Harris spent four seasons in Dallas without running back a kickoff for a score. But he tied a Giants record set in 1994 by romping untouched to the end zone.

New York (4-3) snapped a five-game slide against Dallas (2-4) thanks to big plays by their defence and special teams. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had two interceptions, returning one 58 yards for a touchdown.

The Cowboys, losers of four in a row without injured offensive stars Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, got a big game from Darren McFadden. Starting running back Joseph Randle left early with a strained back, and McFadden rushed for 152 yards and a TD.

Miami Dolphins 44, Houston Texans 26

Miami became the first team since at least 1940 to score four offensive touchdowns of at least 50 yards in a half.

The Dolphins led 41-0 at half-time, making the drubbing even more emphatic than a 38-10 win at Tennessee a week earlier in Dan Campbell’s debut as head coach.

Now he’s the fifth interim coach of 26 since 2000 to win his first two games. Since the firing of Joe Philbin on October 5, the Dolphins (3-3) have gone from notorious underachievers to contending for their first play-off berth since 2008.

The Dolphins had been 0-7 previously against Houston (2-5). Miami’s four long scores in the first half were the most in at least 75 years, according to STATS.

Washington Redskins 31, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30

Kirk Cousins threw three second-half touchdown passes, including the go-ahead score with 24 seconds left, to lead Washington to the largest comeback in franchise history.

Tampa Bay (2-4) were up 24-0 in the second quarter, before Cousins ran for an 8-yard TD to get Washington (3-4) on the board.

Cousins hadn’t completed more than one TD pass in any game all season. But he got a pair of 3-yard scores in the third quarter, sandwiched around an onside kick, to make things interesting.

Then, trailing 30-24, Washington got the ball at their 20 with a little less than two and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter. Cousins capped the drive with a 6-yard TD toss to Jordan Reed.

Oakland Raiders 37, San Diego Chargers 29

Derek Carr threw three touchdown passes, including a 52-yarder to Amari Cooper, and Oakland turned two interceptions of Philip Rivers into 10 points on their way to an easy victory in what could be the last game of the AFC West rivalry played in San Diego.

It was the first meeting of the Raiders (3-3) and Chargers (2-5) since their owners announced plans to build a $1.7 billion (Dh6.2b) stadium in an industrial Los Angeles suburb if they can’t get new stadiums in their home markets.

Coming off a bye, the Raiders looked quicker and more efficient. Cooper, the first-round draft pick out of Alabama, caught a short pass from Carr on an inside screen and raced through the defence to give Oakland a 30-3 lead just before half-time.

San Diego made it close with three fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Atlanta Falcons 10, Tennessee Titans 7

Matt Ryan threw for 251 yards and a touchdown pass, and Devonta Freeman ran for 116 yards.

The Falcons (6-1) bounced back from their first loss by grinding out a road win and overcoming two interceptions. Freeman notched his third consecutive game with at least 100 yards, and Atlanta outgained Tennessee 378-256.

The banged-up Titans (1-5) lost their fifth straight overall. They played without rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was replaced by Zach Mettenberger – intercepted by safety Robenson Therezie with 1:31 left to seal the win.

Jacksonville Jaguars 34, Buffalo Bills 31

Blake Bortles threw a touchdown pass to Allen Hurns with 2:16 remaining and Jacksonville rallied in the game at Wembley Stadium.

Bortles’s second TD pass of the game came a short time after Buffalo safety Corey Graham intercepted a pass and returned it 44 yards to put the Bills ahead.

The Jaguars (2-5) won their first game in London after losing in each of the past two seasons at Wembley. The Bills (3-4) were playing in the British capital for the first time.

St Louis Rams 24, Cleveland Browns 6

Rookie Todd Gurley rushed for 128 yards and his first two touchdowns, helping St Louis to the win.

The Rams (3-3) had four sacks and recovered four fumbles. They scored 10 points off miscues on Cleveland’s first two series, a 17-yard fumble recovery by Rodney McLeod and a field goal after the first of William Hayes’s two sacks and strips of Josh McCown on the day.

Johnny Manziel got mop-up duty for the Browns (2-5) after starting quarterback McCown left favouring his right arm with about four minutes left.

Kansas City Chiefs 23, Pittsburgh Steelers 13

Alex Smith threw for 251 yards and a touchdown, Cairo Santos kicked three field goals and Kansas City ended a five-game losing streak.

Charcandrick West added 110 yards rushing and his first career touchdown for the Chiefs (2-5), and Eric Berry intercepted his first pass since his cancer diagnosis last December.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs shut down Pittsburgh’s Landry Jones, who made his first NFL start in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick. Jones threw for 209 yards and a touchdown, but he was also picked off twice and lost a fumble.

LeVeon Bell ran for 121 yards for the Steelers (4-3).

New Orleans Saints 27, Indianapolis Colts 21

Drew Brees threw for 255 yards and one touchdown, Khiry Robinson ran for two scores and New Orleans held on for the victory.

The Saints (3-4) have won three of their past four. The Colts (3-4) still lead the AFC South despite losing their second straight.

Brees finished 28-of-44 and was helped by a running game led by Mark Ingram, who ran for 143 yards and one score as New Orleans took a 27-0 lead.

Andrew Luck threw TD passes of 87 and 46 yards to TY Hilton, and an 8-yard TD pass to Donte Moncrief with 3:46 left to make it 27-21.

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