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Things appeared dire for Dallas. After the Steelers took a 24-17 lead, the Cowboys responded with a first down, but no more as the Cowboys were forced to punt.
Antonio Brown, always a threat in punt return, takes it back when fumbled the football, giving it right back to Dallas on Pittsburgh's 44-yard line with over ten minutes remaining in the game.
Six plays later on Pittsburgh's three-yard line with 6:58 remaining, third and goal, Tony Romo unexpectedly hands off to DeMarco Murray, scoring the touchdown and tying the game at 24.
Now it's closing in on a nothing changed scenario, like last weekend after Cincinnati's last-second loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys have third and one at midfield when they tried trickery, faking the handoff to DeMarco Murray and then Tony Romo rolling out. James Harrison didn't buy it, burying Romo for a five-yard loss.
The Steelers respond with a 78-yard, seven-play drive, quickly taking a seven-point lead on Antonio Brown's seven-yard touchdown reception with 12:37 remaining in the game.
After both offenses opened the second half going three and out, the Dallas Cowboys opened their second possession of the half at their own 20-yard line. And thanks to an impressive 80-yard possession spanning nine plays and five minutes, the Dallas Cowboys broke the tie.
Tony Romo connected with Dez Bryant on his up and out route, scoring on the 24-yard touchdown to break the tie.
Cowboys lead 17-10.
But it didn't take long.
On second and 12 on Pittsburgh's ensuing possession from their own 38-yard line, Ben Roethlisberger launched a deep pass to a wide open Mike Wallace, completing the 60-yard reception at Dallas' two-yard line. An illegal substitution penalty later, Jonathan Dwyer powers the football into the endzone to tie the game at 17.
With over two minutes remaining in the first half, the Steelers used their second time out prior to Brian Moorman's 43-yard punt, allowing the Steelers to run a Chris Rainey six-yard gain prior to the two minute warning, reaching the Steelers 33-yard line.
After as series of receptions made by Heath Miller and Antonio Brown, the Steelers have second and ten at the Dallas 30-yard line with 47 seconds remaining in the first half. After pump fakes, rolling out, scrambling, more pump fakes, Ben Roethlisberger finds a wide open Heath Miller down the right side lines.
The 30-yard touchdown ties the game at 10 with over 30 seconds remaining before half time.
After punting the football during their first three consecutive possessions, the PIttsburgh Steelers responded to Tony Romo's 17-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten with a sustained drive that spanned 12 plays.
Yet the 66-yard drive wasn't capped by a touchdown, rather a third down skip-a-rock-across-the-lack bubble screen forced Sean Suisham to convert the 32-yard field goal with 6:03 remaining in the second quarter.
Though the Steelers doubled their entire offensive output during that possession, the Cowboys are still doubling the Steelers average yards per play.
Dallas leads Pittsburgh 10-3.
After the PIttsburgh Steelers punted the football on a three-and-out near the end of the first quarter, the Cowboys open their ensuing possession with great field position, opening first down from their own 42-yard line.
In a series that spanned five plays, capped by a 17-yard touchdown pass by Tony Romo to Jason Witten over middle.
Far too easy.
The Steelers offense has gone three possessions, only generating three first downs, punting on each possession. Dallas on the other hand is gone field goal, fumble and touchdown.
The Dallas Cowboys opened put together an opening possession in the game that went 10 plays and 56 yards, largely against a soft Steelers coverage and several strong efforts by DeMarco Murray on the ground.
Eventually the Steelers pressured quarterback Tony Romo to dance around the pocket and overshoot his receiver on third and eight from the Steelers 32-yard line.
Dan Bailey converts the 50-yard field goal to give the Cowboys an early 3-0 lead.
First it was Anthony Spencer losing a potential interception from a Brandon Carr deflection. Then it was an Emmanuel Sanders fumble turned into an incomplete after an official review. The Dallas Cowboys are nearly forced multiple turnovers during Pittsburgh's opening possession that ended with a first down but nothing else.
Pittsburgh punted the football to Dallas' 13-yard line, compounded by a one-yard loss on the return, giving the Cowboys the football at their own 12-yard line.
The Cincinnati Bengals are watching the postseason picture unfold with two games that greatly help their opportunities heading into the final two weeks of the season.
One the first play following Prater's 36-yard field goal to give the Broncos a 34-17 lead with over four minutes remaining in the game, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta bounced off and around attempted tackles, sprinting down the sidelines and scoring on a 61-yard touchdown.
The Broncos are still leading 34-17.
PItta currently leads the Ravens with seven receptions for 125 yards receiving.
It's been a slow fourth quarter in Houston.
After the Colts were pressed against their own endzone, forced to punt from their own three-yard line, Houston scored a touchdown on a 27-yard sprint by Arian Foster. However an offensive hold nullified the score and stalled Houston's 11-play drive.
Shayne Graham converts the 46-yard field goal with over eight minutes remaining, extending Houston's lead to two possessions, 26-17.
And then the Denver Broncos wiped out the clock.
After Dennis Pitta scored a touchdown to reduce Denver's lead 31-10, the Broncos relied on the running game to significantly wipe out the clock in the fourth quarter.
A 15 play drive, spanning 62 yards, consumed 9:59 off the clock, capped by a Mat Prater field goal giving the Broncos a 34-10 lead.
The Denver Broncos have the cruise control button pressed, riding like pimp-daddy's on the road to postseason dominance. With a 31-3 lead, it's hard not to be encouraged with such a display against a fellow division leader.
The Ravens on the other hand are facing a third straight loss, dealing with a 28-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
With 14:47 remaining in the game, Joe Flacco drops the football into Dennis Pitta's basket 31 yards, who rolls into the endzone to give the Ravens double-digit points. The Broncos still lead 31-10.
Predictably, the Indianapolis Colts aren't going out quietly.
After the Texans secured a 23-10 lead over the Colts, Andrew Luck engineered an eight-play touchdown drive spanning 80 yards. First and goal from the Texans eight-yard line, Luck finds tight end Dwayne Allen over the middle, scoring the touchdown and reducing Houston's lead to one possession.
The Texans, with a 23-17 lead, will win the division title with a win on Sunday. Alternatively the Colts clinch a postseason berth if they win.
After the Indianapolis Colts opened the third quarter with a quick three and out, the Houston Texans strung together an 11-play drive highlighted by nine rushing attempts before reaching the Colts eight-yard line. Matt Schaub is sacked for a seven-yard loss, forcing a third and 15.
The Texans run and Arian Foster only gains six yards.
Shayne Graham's 27-yard field goal extends Houston's lead 23-10.
How do the Baltimore Ravens respond to Peyton Manning's 51-yard touchdown, to give the Broncos a 24-3 lead? They go three and out, lose a yard and punt it back to Denver.
How does Denver response to Baltimore's three and out?
Peyton Manning launches a second and five pass from the Baltimore 34-yard line to Joel Dreesseen over the middle for 28 yards to the Baltimore six-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Manning gives to Knowshon Moreno, easily scoring a six-yard touchdown and giving the Broncos a 31-3 lead.
The Baltimore Ravens finally got on the board with a 45-yard field goal and now the Denver Broncos open their ensuing possession from their own 17-yard line. After picking up a series of first downs, the Broncos have first and ten from their own 49-yard line.
Manning fakes the handoff and launches the football down the left sidelines, where Eric Decker hauls in the football, beating his man by a step, and scoring on the 51-yard touchdown.
Broncos take a 24-3 lead with 9:53 remaining in the third quarter.
It was a poor first half by the Baltimore Ravens offense. So kick returner Jacoby Jones took it upon himself to give the Ravens some motivation with a 50-yard kickoff return, opening the second half.
Picking up two first downs and reaching the Broncos 27-yard line, the Ravens eventually stalled on consecutive incomplete Joe Flacco passes.
Justin Tucker converted the 45-yard field goal to put the Ravens on the board. Broncos still leading 17-3.
The Texans blocked a Colts punt, returning it for a touchdown and Andrew Luck responded with a 61-yard touchdown pass. Yet the Texans had over a minute to get something before half time.
After a series of short passes and a handful of time outs, the Texans reach the Colts 31-yard line with two seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Shayne Graham came onto the field and pushed the football badly wide left.
Thanks to a quarterback sack by J.J. Watt, dropping Andrew Luck with a three-yard loss to the Colts 35-yard line with 2:50 remaining, Indianapolis is unable to recover, forced to punt the football with 1:54 remaining in the first quarter.
Apparently that was the switch the triggered Andrew Luck. After a 13-yard reception by Donnie Avery, Andrew Luck launched the football deep down the middle to a wide open T.J. Hilton, scoring on a 61-yard touchdown. The longest in Luck's young career.
The Texans are still leading 20-10 with over one minute remaining in the half.
Looking to generate points before half time, the Baltimore Ravens strung together their best possession of the afternoon, picking up 76 yards on seven plays, reaching the Denver Broncos four-yard line with 15 seconds remaining in the first half.
Obvious scoring situation. Baltimore can easily regain the upperhand in this game, especially with a quarter ending score and the opening possession in the second half.
Joe Flacco throws the football on a direct line to the front left pylon where defensive back Chris Harris intercepted the football intended for Anquan Bolin, returning it 98 yards down the right sidelines, scoring the touchdown and giving the Broncos a 17-0 lead.
It's the longest interception return for touchdown in Denver's history, breaking Randy Gradishar's record of 93 yards in 1980.
After the Colts made their way onto the scoreboard with a Adam Vinatieri field goal, the Houston Texans responded in kind, thanks to a series of personal fouls, including a questionable defenseless receiver hits on a completed 36-yard reception to the Colts 13-yard line.
Unfortunately the Texans were unable to pick up another first down, forced to convert a Shayne Graham 35-yard field goal to jump back out with a 10-point lead.
It was only a matter of time.
After J.J. Watt forced a fumble at the Texans one-yard line, ending an obvious Colts scoring possession, the Texans went three and out (which usually happens inside your own endzone).
The Colts reached the five-yard line when Watt dropped Ballard for a three-yard loss and pressured Andrew Luck into an incomplete, setting up a third and goal from the Texans eight-yard line. Offsetting fouls on third down negated a Reggie Wayne touchdown, leading to an incomplete.
Adam Vinatieri converted the field goal, reducing Houston's lead 10-3 with over six minutes remaining.
Despite facing a 10-0 deficit towards the end of the first quarter, the Indianapolis Colts put together a strong defensive effort to force the Texans into a three and out, compounded by a generous 29 yard punt to the Texans 38-yard line.
The Colts were nearly forced into a field goal opportunity after an incomplete third down pass on Houston's 15-yard line, but welcomed a gift from the gods benefiting from a defensive hold that gave the Colts an automatic first down.
Eventually quarterback Andrew Luck handed off to Mewelde Moore on second and goal from the Texans one-yard line, losing the football on a J.J. Watt hit, recovered by Dobbins at the one-yard line.
Despite taking an early 3-0 lead, three of the Denver Broncos first four possessions have gone three and out in a game that's setting up to become a defensive showdown against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Broncos opened with the football at their own 22-yard line and 1:03 remaining in the first quarter, using a heavy dose of Knowshon Moreno, kickoff off the possession with a 20-yard scamper, capped by a leap over Ed Reed's lazy attempted tackle.
Eventually the Broncos entered the redzone with 13:17 remaining, adding a couple of runs leaving second and seven from the Ravens 15-yard line. Manning floated the football near the right pylon, hitting Eric Decker a yard shy of the goalline that was originally ruled a touchdown, brought out to the one-inch line on first and goal.
Jacob Hester takes the handoff and gives the Broncos a 10-0 with under 12 minutes remaining in the first half.
The Baltimore Ravens with new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has started as slow as one can have against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. After a fumble attempting a first down at midfield, the Ravens have started their next two possessions at the their own six and 14 yard line respectively.
And in each case, including the first with Joe Flacco attempting passes inside his own endzone, the Ravens have gone three and out.
Over three minutes remain in the first quarter and the Ravens have yet to gain a first down. Joe Flacco has completed two of four passes for 17 yards and Ray Rice has generated three yards on two carries.
With a win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, the Houston Texans clinch the AFC South and maintain a torrid pace to claim at least one of the two Wild Card weekend Bye Weeks. On the other hand, the Colts can clinch the No. 5 seed (at the very least) with a win over the Texans.
Houston has largely had their way against the Colts defense. After a six-play, 69-yard possession to open the game, Houston is forced to kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. Forcing the Colts into a three and out, the Texans string together a 57-yard drive on 13 plays, taking a 10-0 lead on Andre Johnson's three-yard touchdown.
Texans lead 10-0.
Following Baltimore's turnover at midfield, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos offense sustained a 10-play drive but failed to score a touchdown, despite an overall sloppy drive of dropped receptions and overthrown passes to open receivers.
A five-yard reception on third and seven by Demaryius Thomas to Baltimore's nine-yard line led to a Matt Prater 27-yard field goal with over seven minutes remaining in the first quarter.
After the Denver Broncos opened the afternoon with a three and out, the Baltimore Ravens had third and one on Denver's 46-yard line with 12:17 remaining in the first quarter.
Quarterback Joe Flacco takes the handoff, sneaks up the middle for what appeared to be a first down. Yet he lost the football during the sneak, recovered by Denver on their side of the field.
Obviously the early afternoon game of interest is the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos. With a loss the Ravens keep the AFC North title unclaimed, one game in front of the Cincinnati Bengals with two games to go.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers, who play later this afternoon, lose, that will at least give the Bengals sole possession of the No. 6 seed, heading into the Week 16 game in Pittsburgh.
There is some interest in the Colts, who still needs a win against the Texans on Sunday to tie down the No. 5 seed.
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