NFL Week 13: Philip Rivers helps Left Coast get it right in Baltimore

NFL Week 13: Philip Rivers helps Left Coast get it right in Baltimore
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) looks for a receiver in the first half of a 34-33 victory over the Ravens on Sunday in Baltimore. (Gail Burton / Associated Press)

On a Sunday when Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady squared off for the first time in their illustrious NFL careers, and Johnny Manziel scored for the first time in his less-than-illustrious rookie season, it was another first that kept the San Diego Chargers in the playoff hunt.

With their 34-33 victory, the Chargers became the first West Coast team to win a regular-season game against the Ravens in Baltimore.

San Diego never led until the final 38 seconds, when Philip Rivers threw a one-yard scoring pass to Eddie Royal, a touchdown set up by an interference-in-the-end-zone call on the Ravens.

"These are the kind of games you got to win to get in [the playoffs], and these are the kind of games you got to win if you do get in," said Rivers, whose 8-4 team is currently on track for the AFC's fifth seed, but has a brutal finish with home games against New England and Denver and road games at San Francisco and Kansas City.

The Ravens came into the game 11-0 in the regular season against visitors from the opposite coast and had a 30-20 lead midway through the fourth quarter. But the Chargers roared back with two late touchdowns.

"In the NFL, nothing is game, set, match as long as there is time on the clock," Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We're up 10 at home in the fourth quarter and our offense gave us 33 points, and usually that's enough. It wasn't. That's why this is extremely disappointing."

The home team made a better showing in Green Bay, where the Rodgers-led Packers held off Brady's Patriots, snapping New England's seven-game winning streak. The game was billed as a possible Super Bowl preview, and the setting was a lot colder than Glendale, Ariz., will be in February.

Brady was typically efficient, completing 22 of 35 for 245 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.


And Rodgers? Uncrackable.

He too had two touchdowns and no interceptions, extending his NFL-record streaks of accuracy at home to 360 consecutive passes and 31 touchdowns without being picked off. The last time a Rodgers pass was intercepted at Lambeau Field was Dec. 2, 2012.

Brady and Rodgers have a wealth of experience. Manziel is just getting started. He had only five NFL snaps under his belt Sunday when he replaced struggling Cleveland starter Brian Hoyer with 12:01 remaining at Buffalo.

The Bills wound up winning, 26-10, but Manziel stirred the quarterback pot by leading the Browns on an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by his 10-yard scoring run.

Afterward, Browns Coach Mike Pettine indicated the quarterback job could be up for grabs for Sunday's game against Indianapolis. Hoyer has been intercepted six times in his last three starts.

"I'm not going to put it all on Brian," Pettine said. "Sometimes you just need change for the sake of change. We'll scope it out to a staff decision, and we'll make the evaluation."

Asked about the possibility he could start, Manziel said: "That's up to Coach Pettine. But if that's the case, and my name is called, I definitely will be ready."

With the season in the homestretch, and the Browns knotted in the tightest division in football, he'd better be.

Storm clouds

A season that started with such promise for Arizona is starting to fall apart. The Cardinals lost at Atlanta, 26-10, and have gone 11 consecutive quarters without an offensive touchdown.

With quarterback Carson Palmer out for the season, Drew Stanton is badly in need of a security-blanket receiver, but the injured Larry Fitzgerald missed a second consecutive game and the offense couldn't get traction.

At 9-3, Arizona is tied with Green Bay for the NFC's best record, but those two franchises are heading in different directions. It won't get any easier for the Cardinals, who finish with Kansas City, at St. Louis, Seattle and at San Francisco.

Northern exposure

Rough day for the AFC North, with Pittsburgh losing at home to New Orleans, along with losses by Cleveland and Baltimore. The division's only team to pick up a victory was Cincinnati, and just barely, a 14-13 squeaker over two-win Tampa Bay.

The Bengals game ended in bizarre fashion, with a 12-men-on-the-field call wiping out a 21-yard completion that would have put Tampa Bay in field-goal range with 12 seconds remaining.

Officials would have missed the call, though, had Cincinnati Coach Marvin Lewis not scrambled to throw his challenge flag — breaking the rules in the process.

Officials initially announced the Bengals couldn't challenge because coaches aren't allowed to do so in the final two minutes of a game. However, the replay booth had already decided to look at the play, and determined the Buccaneers indeed had an extra man on the field.

"Blame the head coach. Bad move on my part, didn't see it," Buccaneers Coach Lovie Smith said.

Instead of getting the ball on the 20, Tampa Bay was moved back to the 41 and wound up turning over the ball on downs. Game over.

Going for two

The Minnesota Vikings had gone 28 years without returning a blocked punt for a touchdown, the league's longest such drought.

Amazingly, the Vikings scored not one but two touchdowns that way Sunday, with Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen scoring on blocked punts in the first half of a 31-13 victory over Carolina. It was just the fifth time in NFL history that a team had two of those touchdowns in a game.

The game was No. 7 on the list of coldest Vikings games, with a temperature of 12 degrees at kickoff. The only thing colder? Carolina's No. 8, punter Brad Nortman.

Winging it

In directing his team to a 49-27 victory over Washington, Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck threw for 370 yards and five touchdowns and leads the league with 4,011 yards passing.

Luck joins Peyton Manning and Hall of Famer Dan Marino as the only players in NFL history to pass for at least 4,000 yards in two of their first three seasons.

Say Watt

Not since Lawrence Taylor in 1986 has someone on the defensive side of the ball been named the NFL's most valuable player. But Houston's J.J. Watt is sure making a strong case for it.

In a 45-21 thumping of Tennessee, Watt had two sacks and six quarterback hits, including the one that knocked Zach Mettenberger out of the game and a strip sack of the rookie quarterback's replacement, Jake Locker.

But it's what Watt does on offense that makes him especially unusual. He lined up at fullback, shifted to tight end, and caught his third touchdown pass of the season.

Watt is the only player in NFL history with three touchdown catches, an interception-return touchdown and a fumble-recovery touchdown in the same season.

Just wince, baby

So much for Oakland building on its only victory of the season. The Raiders, who upset Kansas City in Week 12, didn't have much luck with the team from the other side of Missouri. They were crushed by St. Louis, 52-0.

Of course, the real story was the Rams, who pulled off their biggest blowout since a 59-0 blanking of Atlanta in 1976. They put this game out of reach in the first half, scoring touchdowns on their opening five possessions and building a 38-0 lead.

"I never relax," Rams Coach Jeff Fisher said. "Only once we got to 45 I felt a little bit better. But at halftime some of the guys were saying, 'Hey, it's 0-0,' and I said, `No, let's play like we're down 14.' It's that type of approach that you have to take."

Rookie running back Tre Mason scored two of his three touchdowns before halftime. He finished with 164 yards in 17 touches, and looked like the rookie that last season's Rams were hoping Tavon Austin would be.

Since losing four of their first five, the Rams have gone win, loss, win, loss, win, loss, win. They have beaten Seattle, San Francisco and Denver. That almost certainly won't get them to the playoffs, but they have to be looking at those pathetic records in the NFC South and gritting their teeth.

Who knew?

Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw six touchdown passes Sunday, and it's safe to say he took the fantasy-football world by surprise. He was started by 0.5% of fantasy owners on the ESPN site.