False start, Miami Dolphins. You built an 11-point lead against the New York Giants on Sunday, made it look as if you would win your first game, then collapsed to lose, 20-17.

False start, Arizona Cardinals. You frittered away a three-touchdown lead at Baltimore, giving everyone the impression you would finally win a road game. The Ravens rallied to win, 30-27, the biggest comeback in their history, and the Cardinals picked up their 11th consecutive loss away from home.

False start, Denver Broncos. When Tim Tebow led you to a stirring come-from-behind win at Miami a week ago, some people thought you had found your answer at quarterback. Denver’s 45-10 home loss to Detroit on Sunday had Tebow doubters saying “told ya so.”

Excessive celebration, St. Louis Rams . . .

On second thought, you deserve to celebrate all you want after not only winning for the first time this season, but knocking off the mighty New Orleans Saints, 31-21, the most stunning upset of the season -- a triumph of the NFL’s lowest-scoring team over its highest-scoring team.

“Excuse me if I’m a little bit out of breath,” said Rams Coach Steve Spagnuolo, whose team was without injured quarterback Sam Bradford and started A.J. Feeley. “The locker room was a little bit emotional.”


Running back Steven Jackson played a huge role for the Rams and delivered a powerful pregame speech.

“I told the team that if you’ve ever been in a fight, if you have ever been punched, you can either run or find the will to keep fighting,” said Jackson, who rushed for 159 yards in 25 carries with two touchdowns. “I challenged them as football players. I challenged them as men to find something inside them they didn’t know they had.”

The Rams were the last winless team in the NFC. But there are two of those in the AFC, Miami and Indianapolis, and either of those teams would be hard-pressed to pass on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick.

The Colts dropped to 0-8 with a 27-10 loss at Tennessee, no surprise with Peyton Manning in street clothes.

Then again, Manning scored precisely as many points Sunday as the Washington Redskins, who were blanked by Buffalo, 23-0, at Rogers Centre in Toronto. It was the first time in 267 games a Mike Shanahan-coached team had been shut out.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had that as a college or pro coach,” Shanahan said. “It’s pretty humbling to take that.”

Shanahan is best known for his days in Denver, of course, winning two Super Bowls as coach of the Broncos. Their offense was only slightly less effective than Washington’s on Sunday, with Denver converting two of 14 third downs, and Tebow, for the second consecutive week, being sacked seven times.

The performance certainly wasn’t all Tebow’s fault, as there were frequent breakdowns by the offensive line, the Broncos’ receivers are subpar, and the defense did little to slow the Lions. But the quarterback didn’t pull his weight.

While vaguely referring to Tebow as a player with “high football character,” Coach John Fox said: “He’s got to get better, just like everybody in that locker room.”

Missing person

The most notable disappearance this season is that of Tennessee running back Chris Johnson, who signed a four-year, $53.5-million contract extension in September.

The league’s leading rusher the previous three seasons, Johnson came into Sunday’s game against the Colts with 268 yards and averaging 2.9 yards per carry. By comparison, he averaged 4.3 last year, 5.6 in 2009 (when he rushed for 2,006 yards), and 4.9 in 2008.

Sunday was supposed to be the cure for Johnson, considering the Colts had the AFC’s worst run defense.

Instead, Johnson was held to 34 yards in 14 carries, and was benched for much of the second half in favor of Javon Ringer, who finished with 60 yards in 14 carries.

“The competitor I am and the playmaker I know I am, it’s hard to be on the sideline when the offense is out there making plays,” Johnson said. “If it was up to me, I’d want to be out there every single drive. But that’s a situation where the coaches call the plays and they want who they want on the field.

“The running game hasn’t been where we want it all year, so I guess we’re just trying new things.”

Steely resolve

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat New England, 25-17, in large part by playing keepaway from Tom Brady.

The Steelers dominated time of possession (39:22 to 20:38), relying on shorter passes instead of big, stretch-the-field throws to nickel-and-dime the Patriots down the field. Pittsburgh had scoring drives of 11, 16, 10, 14 and 11 plays. The Steelers had 29 first downs to New England’s 19, and their defense limited the league’s No. 1 offense to 213 yards, less than half New England’s 474 average.

Stars and stripes

At a pivotal point in Carolina’s 24-21 loss to Minnesota, a run by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was wiped out by a holding call on receiver Steve Smith.

Safe to say Smith didn’t agree with the call.

“I got a few texts already saying in HD it didn’t look too bad,” Smith said of the play. “But for a 70-year-old man gimping down the field, I guess that’s what he saw.”

Like old times

San Francisco keeps rolling. The 49ers beat Cleveland to pick up their fifth consecutive victory, their longest winning streak since 2001 and the first time since 1997 they’ve gone undefeated in October. The game wasn’t as close as the 20-10 score suggests.


Despite losing to the Giants, Dolphins running back Reggie Bush had 103 yards in 15 carries.

It was only the second 100-yard game of his career.

Paying homage

After making a touchdown catch against Denver, Lions tight end Tony Scheffler celebrated by “Tebowing” -- or at least starting to -- briefly dipping to one knee as if to pray, a position the Denver quarterback often assumes after big plays.

Scheffler, a former Bronco, morphed his version of Tebowing into a “Mile High Salute,” another Denver celebration.

So can we call that dance a pray-action fake?