NFL Week 9: No favorite is safe, and some end up sorry in crazy league

No one is safe in the topsy-turvy NFL.

The Buffalo Bills are on their third starting quarterback, yet they matched the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs score for score until the fourth quarter. The Chiefs won, 23-13, in a game that was closer than the score suggests.

The Cleveland Browns are on their third quarterback too. They beat defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore, 24-18, ending the Ravens' 11-game winning streak against them.

And the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Surely, they would be rolled in Seattle.

Nope. The Buccaneers built a three-touchdown lead in the first half before the home team came to life. The stunned Seahawks, who hadn't lost at CenturyLink Field since December 2011, chipped away at the deficit before finally forging a tie with 51 seconds left in regulation.

Not until overtime could the Seahawks finally say, “The Bucs stop here.” A 27-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka secured a 27-24 victory.

The Seahawks made franchise history two ways: They're 8-1 for the first time, and they did it with their largest comeback. Six days after barely scraping past St. Louis, they nearly lost to a team that's now 0-8. In the NFL, exhaling is not an option.

The Dallas Cowboys can attest to that. They're clinging to a one-game lead in the NFC East and were nearly toppled Sunday by the one-win Minnesota Vikings.

Tony Romo threw the winning touchdown pass with 35 seconds to play in a 27-23 squeaker at home.

“I never doubted that we would find a way to win this game,” Romo said. “And we did it.”

The Chiefs found a way too, and it included two defensive returns for touchdowns — a 100-yard interception runback by cornerback Sean Smith and an 11-yard fumble return by linebacker Tamba Hali.

The offense was as flat as a Missouri cornfield, but a win is a win.

“We're not going to make any excuses for it,” said Chiefs Coach Andy Reid, whose 9-0 team matched the best record in franchise history. “We're pretty happy we got the touchdowns. We'll take them any way we can get them.”

The Chiefs are the first team in NFL history to start 9-0 after posting the league's worst record the previous season. They are also the first team since the 1977 Atlanta Falcons to give up 17 points or fewer in each of their first nine games.

Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel started at quarterback for the Bills, filling in for the injured Thad Lewis, who had replaced the injured EJ Manuel. Tuel played surprisingly well in the first half, when he connected with Marquise Goodwin on a 59-yard touchdown pass. It was in the third quarter that his pass for T.J. Graham was picked at the goal line by Smith and returned the length of the field.

“It's very frustrating,” Tuel said. “That's 100% my fault.”

You win some, you lose some. No one knows that better than the New York Jets, whose wins and losses this season have gone W, L, W, L, W, L, W, L, W.

The Jets were six-point underdogs at home to the 6-1 New Orleans Saints, yet came away with a 26-20 victory. The win gave Jets Coach Rex Ryan family-reunion bragging rights over his twin brother, Rob, defensive coordinator of the Saints.

“All right, I beat my brother again — just kidding,” Rex said with a laugh. “Yeah, there's a little extra, but at the end of the day, now you just realize your bro just took a loss, so that's a tough thing. I root for them every week except one.”

If the Ryan twins are feeling a bit of confusion after a wild Week 9, the rest of the head-scratching football world has a message for them: Get in line.

Foles' foils

Nobody saw this coming: Philadelphia's Nick Foles torched the Raiders with seven touchdown passes in a 49-20 rout at Oakland, matching the NFL record most recently tied by Denver's Peyton Manning in the season opener.

Foles has 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions this season, joining Manning (20) as the only quarterbacks to reach double digits in touchdowns before throwing an interception.

Foles will need all the scoring he can muster Sunday when Philadelphia plays at Green Bay.

John Fox update

Denver Coach John Fox remained hospitalized Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., awaiting heart surgery Monday or Tuesday.

Fox will undergo an aortic valve replacement and will be away from coaching “for at least the next several weeks,” the team announced.

Signs point to defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio being named interim coach of the 7-1 team, although details were still being finalized Sunday.

Fox, 58, former coach of the Carolina Panthers, has a home in Charlotte and was there for the Broncos' week off. He was taken to a hospital Saturday after experiencing dizziness and lightheadedness on a golf course.

In a written statement, the Broncos said Fox, 58, was advised by doctors months ago that his defective aortic valve would need to be replaced after this season. As part of his trip to North Carolina over the bye week, he had a preoperative appointment Thursday and his doctor told him to seek medical attention immediately if he felt any discomfort.

In the team statement, Fox said: “I sincerely appreciate all of the support from friends, Denver Broncos fans and so many around the league today.

“Although I am disappointed I must take some time away from the team to attend to this preexisting health condition, I understand that it's the right thing to do. I have great confidence in our coaches and players, who are fully committed to our goals.

“I look forward to returning to coaching as soon as possible.”

Running on empty

Fewer and fewer teams can effectively run the ball when they need to. San Diego is the latest example. In the waning seconds of regulation Sunday at Washington, the Chargers had a first down and were less than a yard away from the end zone. They trailed the Redskins by three.

Instead of trying to pound the ball across the goal line, San Diego ran once, then tried two passes out of the shotgun before settling for a field goal to send it to overtime. The Chargers ultimately lost, 30-24.

It's easy to second-guess failed decisions after knowing the outcome. But if you're not confident in your ability to gain a yard with your running game, you need to rethink strategy. The Chargers showed in their victory over Indianapolis that they can run, but clearly they aren't as confident as they need to be.

Family feud

Miami announced late Sunday it has suspended guard Richie Incognito for conduct detrimental to the team, presumably in connection with tackle Jonathan Martin's decision to leave the team.

Martin reportedly snapped last week after being teased by fellow offensive lineman. Incognito has been identified in multiple reports as the instigator.

“We believe in maintaining a culture of respect for one another and as a result we believe this decision is in the best interest of the organization at this time,” the Dolphins said in a written statement. “As we noted earlier, we reached out to the NFL to conduct an objective and thorough review. We will continue to work with the league on this matter.”

There have been accusations of older players on the team bullying younger ones, including making them foot the bill for lavish dinners and trips.

The franchise said it has received notification from representatives of Martin alleging player misconduct. Martin reportedly is headed for the non-football injury list, and it's unclear when he will return to the team.

Less is more

The day's most interesting stat line goes to Washington fullback Darrel Young: Five carries, 12 yards ... and three touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime against San Diego. Young, in his fourth season, scored his only other NFL touchdown in 2011.

Another peculiar stat from that game was that the Chargers blocked two field-goal attempts — exactly 11 years since they last blocked one.

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer

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