The best Green Bay can do is 15 wins.
The worst Indianapolis can do is 15 losses.
And New England saw the best and worst of the Broncos’ No. 15 on Sunday, as the Patriots pushed the pause button on Tebowmania with a 41-23 victory at Denver.
On a day of firsts — a loss by the Packers and a victory by the Colts — Tom Brady & Co. ended the first-place Broncos’ six-game winning streak with an offensive display that slammed the door on any possibility of a Tim Tebow-led comeback.
Denver had some impressive runs and gained 252 yards on the ground, but it was undone by three lost fumbles and by Brady, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third.
While the Patriots clinched the AFC East, the Broncos didn’t lose ground to Oakland in the AFC West, thanks to a last-minute, 98-yard touchdown drive by Detroit for a 28-27 road victory over the Raiders. Denver is atop the division at 8-6 with remaining games at Buffalo and at home against Kansas City.
It was the Chiefs who knocked off the 13-0 Packers, 19-14, ending Green Bay’s 19-game winning streak.
This K.C. masterpiece came six days after the Chiefs fired their coach. So it was goodbye, Todd Haley . . . and hello, Halley’s comet.
“Everybody had marked it off as a win for the Packers, but those guys in the locker room, they’re football players,” interim Coach Romeo Crennel said. “They decided they were not going to lay down, they were not going to give up, so they went out and played a tremendous game.”
While the Chiefs had reason to puff their chests, the Colts could finally relax their shoulders and exhale. Indianapolis dodged a dark corner of NFL history, picking up its first victory with a 27-13 home victory over Tennessee. It was the Colts’ first win in 14 years without Peyton Manning at quarterback.
Playing quarterback in his place was Dan Orlovsky, who knows the pain and shame of going 0-16. He started seven games for the 2008 Lions, the only team to finish with that record.
Orlovsky, a seven-year veteran, had never been on the winning end in nine career starts, so he drew polite laughter when he told reporters: “I think in my career, I’ve learned not to take [wins] for granted.”
Good thing for San Francisco that it won the NFC West as quickly as it did. If not, the 49ers might be looking over their shoulders at hard-charging division rivals Seattle and Arizona.
The Seahawks won for the fifth time in six games with a 38-14 clobbering of Chicago, forcing the Bears into four interceptions. Not only that, but the Seahawks overcame a 14-7 deficit, meaning they scored 31 unanswered points in the second half.
The Cardinals beat Cleveland, 20-17, in overtime Sunday for their sixth victory in seven games, overcoming a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Arizona trailed in the second half of all six of those victories.
Two bills in Buffalo
Some backs routinely run for 100 yards. Miami’s Reggie Bush hasn’t been one of them. In fact, when Bush ran for 103 in a loss to the Giants in October, it was only the second time he’d reached that milestone in his six-year career.
But in the last three weeks, Bush has run for 100, 103 and a career-high 203 yards — the latest bonanza coming in the snow at Buffalo.
“It feels good. It means a lot,” Bush said of his performance after the 30-23 victory over the Bills. “It means that hey, I’m doing everything that I expect I was going to be doing. It’s not so much me being surprised that this happened today or that I could rush for 100 yards. It’s more of the fact that this is something I expected.”
The wildest play of the weekend came in the first half of Carolina’s 28-13 win at Houston.
With less than a minute to play, the Panthers were up by two touchdowns and threatening to score again. The offense lined up in a bunch formation at the Houston seven as if Cam Newton was going to spike the ball to stop the clock.
Instead, he took the snap and executed a sly handoff to tight end Richie Brockel, immediately to his right. Newton then turned his back to the defense, and looked as if he was going to run right — even fooling the TV cameras.
Brockel rumbled wide left and untouched into the end zone for a touchdown with 55 seconds left. The bluff tricked just about everyone on Houston’s defense but linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who went right when the rest of his teammates either went left with Newton or stood in place.
“The defense is so keyed up on him and worried about him making the play,” Brockel said of Newton, “they sometimes forget about other things and their assignments.”
Shockey and awe
The Texans aren’t the Patriots, but are all the red-white-and-blue-clad Texans patriots?
Jeremy Shockey has his doubts.
It bothered the Carolina tight end that “about 10 players” on the opposite sideline didn’t have their hands over their hearts during the national anthem, or so he said.
“This is America and this is just a game and they should not only be very proud of this country, but very gifted to be living here,” Shockey said. “Maybe they just forgot to do it or something, but I don’t see how you could forget to do that.”
A scary sight
Horrifying isn’t too extreme to describe the back injury to Chicago receiver Johnny Knox, who was hurt while trying to recover his fumble about four minutes into the Seahawks-Bears game.
Knox was on his stomach when he was hit by Seattle’s Anthony Hargrove. The receiver was bent backward at the waist at the most unnatural of angles, looking as if he might snap in half. He was on the ground for almost 10 minutes before being strapped to a backboard and carted off the field. He was moving his hands and fingers as he left.
The Bears later announced that Knox will undergo surgery to stabilize a vertebra in his mid-to-lower back, and that he has a “positive prognosis for his career and quality of life.”
Coach Lovie Smith said Knox “has total movement throughout his body, has total use of all his extremities.”
Something in the air
Drew Brees threw for 412 yards and five touchdowns in New Orleans’ 42-20 rout of Minnesota.
That gives Brees 4,780 yards for the season, 304 shy of Hall of Famer Dan Marino’s single-season record set in 1984. The Saints finish with home games against Atlanta and Carolina.
Asked about the record, Brees said: “I’m aware that we’re close. I just know if we keep doing what we’re doing all of that stuff will take care of itself.”
More parity than clarity
With their 23-10 loss to Washington, the New York Giants fell a game behind Dallas in the NFC East.
New York had seized first place with its victory over the Cowboys a week before. Now, Dallas (8-6) could clinch the division if it beats Philadelphia, and the Giants fall to the New York Jets. However, if the Giants (7-7) win their last two — they finish against Dallas — they would be the East champions.
“I still have confidence,” the Giants’ Justin Tuck said. “We laid an egg today, but I’ve seen us rebound from things like this a lot of times.”
The Eagles aren’t out the race either. Their 45-19 drubbing of the Jets kept them alive.
Philadelphia can win the NFC East by running the table — beating Dallas on the road and Washington at home — then getting some help. They need the Giants to lose to the Jets, and to finish by beating the Cowboys.
“Sounds like a lot,” Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said when informed of the scenario.
But, for the moment, it doesn’t sound like goodbye.