Tag Archives: rookies

Tiger Woods said SORRY to US rookies for Ryder Cup slump

Tiger haunted by Ryder Cup slump: Woods reveals he said SORRY to US rookies

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UPDATED:

18:52 GMT, 8 October 2012

Tiger Woods has confirmed that he apologised to the four rookies on the United States' Ryder Cup team for not contributing a single point in their devastating loss to Europe.

Woods, who was benched for the first time ever in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup at Medinah, lost all three of his matches with Steve Stricker before halving his singles with Francesco Molinari after Martin Kaymer's win over Stricker in the match ahead had ensured Europe retained the trophy.

Reports in the US said that Woods sat down with Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker and said sorry for not getting the points which would have given Davis Love's side an even bigger lead than the 10-6 advantage they took into the final day.

Glum: Tiger Woods speaks at a press conference ahead of the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final in Antalya

Glum: Tiger Woods speaks at a press conference ahead of the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final in Antalya

'I had an opportunity to earn three points in team sessions but I did not do that. It was tough,' said Woods, who has won 15 and lost 17 of his 35 cup matches.

'Stricks and I went out there and tried to earn points for the team and didn't do that and it was frustrating.

'We had a four-point lead and we went 0-3. If we could have earned a couple of points it would have been a pretty good lead going into Sunday's singles.'

Asked about the disappointment of suffering his sixth defeat in seven Ryder Cup appearances, Woods, added: 'It probably did not set in for a few days because I had two sick kids to take care of. I was focused on them.

Agony: Woods reflects on the US defeat after a remarkable European comeback at the Ryder Cup last month

Agony: Woods reflects on the US defeat after a remarkable European comeback at the Ryder Cup last month

'Then I started to talk to my friends, guys on the team, and once it started sinking in, the position we were in and what had transpired, it got a little tough for a couple of days.

'I texted Freddie (Couples, a vice-captain) quite a bit and Stricks as well. Then like anything it's a tournament loss and you have to move on to the next event. We lose a lot more than we win in this sport and you learn to move on.'

Woods was also asked if he would like to captain the US team in the future, the 36-year-old – speaking ahead of this week's Turkish Airlines World Golf Final – added: 'One day that would be fantastic.

'It would be a huge honour, hopefully it doesn't happen in the near future. I would like to be able to play for a lot more teams but certainly one day when my career is slowing down or it's over, it would be huge to be part of a Ryder Cup from the captaincy side.'

Steven Jackson frustrated at NFL"s St Louis Rams

Diplomatic Jackson tries to hide frustration at St Louis Rams and ponders his legacy

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UPDATED:

21:58 GMT, 15 July 2012

Running away: Jackson could be a target for a trade

Running away: Jackson could be a target for a trade

Time shreds a man's reputation once the talent erodes and he becomes just another ballplayer.

Steven Jackson is not there just yet. But he knows he is at an intersection in his career.

As the lone star in a sea of mediocrity that goes by the name of the St Louis Rams enters his ninth season in the NFL, the veteran running back is mindful of what his legacy will be.

While uncertainty clouds his mind, he's still sure of one thing: change is an inevitable consequence of playing for such a team.

The 2011 season was a debacle, underlined by a 2-14 record.

Since he was drafted from Oregon State University in 2004, the Rams have not managed a winning season.

For almost a decade, the Rams have been generally hopeless and
apathetic, and Jackson does not want – or deserve – to eventually be
dragged down to their level.

He is about to play for his sixth head coach since being drafted by the Rams.

Jeff
Fisher arrives after 16-plus years at the helm in Tennessee, where he
preached the value of running the ball, turning Eddie George and Chris
Johnson into stars.

Other new faces include offensive
coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, another run-first advocate, while his
position coach is Ben Sirmens, a neophyte in his first season in the NFL
after coaching at Rutgers.

Throw in 10 rookies from the Draft and you have a team seemingly stuck in a perennial rebuilding mode.

Jackson had his diplomatic helmet on in London this week, representing
the Rams in a promotional drive ahead of their Week 8 (October 28) clash
New England Patriots at Wembley Stadium.

He was trying to say the right things, at least.

'So far so good,' said Jackson. 'They [Fisher and Schottenheimer] are both huge advocates of running the football.

They have had successful runners in the past. So I'm looking forward the opportunity to play for those two.

New ball game: Jackson (left) will play for his sixth head coach, Jeff Fisher (right), since being drafted

New ball game: Jackson (left) will play for his sixth head coach, Jeff Fisher (right), since being drafted

New ball game: Jackson (left) will play for his sixth head coach, Jeff Fisher (right), since being drafted

'We just got to build our nucleus we have. We have a very young team. We've had to hit the reset button once again. The grey hairs are growing in!'

But even the British press, whose eyes have long since glazed over by the drawn-out build-up to the London Olympic Games, could see Jackson is far from content.

He's not prepared to be an old handyman pro picking up a pay-cheque and filling in wherever it is most convenient.

The Rams, too, have a decision to make. The NFL system is such that, at some point, players become cost-prohibitive, and the potential production won't match the pay.

If you don't look at age, and instead concentrate upon the level of play, Jackson's seven successive 1,000-plus yards seasons – on a team that has gone a combined 29-73 in that span – warrants every cent of the $7 million he's due to earn over the next two seasons.

But the years on players do matter. The wear and tear always wins.

Three to four years is an average career for most NFL running backs. So for Jackson, the ticking clock is almost deafening.

'The only thing I'm really concerned with now is winning,' he adds.

History repeating itself: Jackson (right) reminds may of Ollie Matson (left), who was a lone star on a bad team

History repeating itself: Jackson (right) reminds may of Ollie Matson (left), who was a lone star on a bad team

History repeating itself: Jackson (right) reminds may of Ollie Matson (left), who was a lone star on a bad team

'That's the goal – to be part of a winning organisation. Hopefully it can be with the Rams. It would be a shame for me to uproot my family after nine or ten years and go and look somewhere else for something at I'm hoping to achieve in St Louis.'

Spoken in hope, his words are laced with frustration.

For while he insists 'my contract is not really an issue', the years of mismanagement, turnover and draft lunacy in St Louis has led to a sad reality: Jackson is in danger of being cast as the modern-day Ollie Matson.

In the fifties, Matson was the lone star on a woeful Chicago Cardinals team for six years before he was traded, in an unheard of blockbuster deal at the time, to the Los Angeles Rams for nine players.

The Rams gambled that a 29-year-old running back would compensate for the decimation of their roster.

They lost.

Matson suffered over the next two seasons with a lack of talent surrounding him.

The 2012 Rams are also gambling on a back who turns 29 on July 22, when they could have taken Alabama's sure-thing running back Trent Richardson with the third pick in this season's Draft.

Health key: Keeping quarterback Sam Bradford upright and on the field is vital for Rams' progress

Health key: Keeping quarterback Sam Bradford upright and on the field is vital for Rams' progress

Jackson half winces at the mention of comparisons with Matson, who epitomised the old football clich that a man's only as good as the guys he's playing with.

'I've achieved a lot individually,' said Jackson. 'At this point I'm thinking about what my legacy will really be. How will it read out No-one really remembers a loser.

'It's hard. You see some players who don't have such individual talent, but they are on good teams. They get noticed and you get overlooked, so you have to deal with that.'

The Rams begin their pre-season schedule on August 12 at Indianapolis, and open the regular season with a road trip to the Detroit Lions on September 9.

With a slate that sees the Rams facing the NFC North and AFC East this season, the youngest team in the NFL with an average age of 25.38 years will have to grow up quickly.

'Losing definitely becomes a habit,' says Jackson. 'But it's not an issue in our locker room because we have so much turnover.

'The things in the past have been washed away. We have a whole new team, pretty much – apart from one or two old faces. So that's refreshing.

'We have a very young offensive line; young, athletic guys up front, and we're hoping and banking on those guys to perform and gel together to be very productive for years to come.

'We have a very young team, one with players who have the potential to grow together and be very potent.

'The biggest thing our success lies upon is how we keep guys healthy.

'We've had a rash of injuries the last few seasons and that is preventing guys from actually getting the game-time experience they need to mature.

'So if we can keep guys healthy, especially our quarterback Sam Bradford, I think we have a good chance in our division to be competitive.

'But the big question is: Am I going to be part of it I don't have a crystal ball. I hope so, I really do – I've carried a lot of days. But I just don't have an answer to that.'

While that may not sound like a direct plea for a trade, the underlying sentiment suggests such a deal would suit both parties. Watch this space.

Pro Bowl plea: Jackson wants the NFL to keep the all-star game at Aloha Stadium, in Honolulu

Pro Bowl plea: Jackson wants the NFL to keep the all-star game at Aloha Stadium, in Honolulu

Keep the Pro Bowl in Hawaii

The Pro Bowl is the NFL's end-of-season all-star game, matching the top players in the American Football Conference (AFC) against those in the National Football Conference (NFC).

Currently, players are voted into the Pro Bowl by the coaches, the players themselves, and the fans.

Each group's ballots count for one third of the votes.

Being a Pro Bowler is considered to be a badge of honour, and players who are accepted into the Pro Bowl are considered to be elite.

Steven Jackson has been voted to the Pro Bowl on three occasions but there was a strong possibility that it would be scrapped because of the uninspired play of this year's 59-41 AFC victory.

Bowl blunder: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (left) has moved the date of the Pro Bowl, which has infuriated fans and players like Jackson (right)

Bowl blunder: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (left) has moved the date of the Pro Bowl, which has infuriated fans and players like Jackson (right)

Bowl blunder: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (left) has moved the date of the Pro Bowl, which has infuriated fans and players like Jackson (right)

The Pro Bowl was held in Hawaii from 1980 to 2009. In 2010, the NFL moved the game to the week before the Super Bowl – rather than the traditional week after the Super Bowl – for the first time, and it was held in Miami, site of the Super Bowl that year.

It meant that the players involved in the Super Bowl could not play. This angered the fans and players.

The Pro Bowl returned to Hawaii for the 2011 and 2012 games but remained one week before the Super Bowl, which still needs revising.

Jackson is pleased that the NFL have decided to keep the Pro Bowl in Hawaii – for the time being at least – and said: 'The Pro Bowl is a huge honour.

'It's football tradition and that's what makes the NFL special, because we have so many traditions we hold on to. And we, as players, want to be acknowledged as being the best.

'While it works if you are playing the Pro Bowl in a Super Bowl city, it's not as meaningful, not as special as going to Honolulu and taking your family and friends away for a vacation, and celebrating what you have accomplished. You can go to Miami any time!

'So without question, I'd like to see the Pro Bowl remain in the Islands. And I think I speak for the majority of players when I say keep it in Hawaii.'

Tom Youngs joins brother Ben for England"s tour of South Africa

Tom hooks up for tour: Youngs will join brother Ben for England's trip to South Africa

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UPDATED:

19:50 GMT, 9 May 2012

Ben Youngs will be joined on England’s
tour of South Africa next month by his older brother Tom, who has
rapidly transformed himself from a former Under 20 international centre
into a Test prospect at hooker.

When national coach Stuart Lancaster
names a 42-man squad today, both Leicester siblings will be included.
While Ben will be pitched into a three-way tussle with Lee Dickson and
the recalled Danny Care to claim the starting scrum-half place against
the Springboks, Tom will find himself in new territory.

On the front line: Hooker Tom Youngs has proved he is worth an England place

On the front line: Hooker Tom Youngs has proved he is worth an England place

The uncapped 25-year-old made his
Tigers debut in midfield during the 2006-07 season, but three years
later was persuaded to convert himself into a front-row forward.

After spending two seasons on loan at
Nottingham honing his new skills, he has made 14 appearances for
Leicester during the current campaign, but only one start as he has been
an understudy for George Chuter and Rob Hawkins.

However, Chuter has recognised Tom
Youngs’ potential to become a top-class hooker and now Lancaster has
opted to pick him for the tour, with an injury to Rob Webber creating an
additional vacancy.

With Dylan Hartley almost certain to
be first choice for the three Tests, Youngs will be hoping to gain
experience in the two midweek games.

England will take a squad featuring a
raft of promising rookies as Lancaster maintains his policy of trusting
the country’s young talent. Among them will be Wasps wing Christian
Wade, the super-fast, prolific 20-year-old who has been a sensation in
his first season at senior level.

Sensation: Christian Wade has had a magnificent season at Wasps

Sensation: Christian Wade has had a magnificent season at Wasps

Joe Launchbury is another of the new
generation at Wasps who will earn England recognition on the back of his
sterling work in trying circumstances this season. The 21-year-old, who
can play at blindside flanker or lock, will be included following a
spate of injuries in those areas, with Courtney Lawes, Tom Croft and Tom
Wood all unavailable.

Scarlets No 8 Ben Morgan injured a
hamstring last weekend, but despite that it is understood Lancaster will
not turn to Nick Easter, who was left out of the Six Nations squad but
has been in supreme form of late.

Instead, James Haskell returns as a
versatile back-rower who can fit in at the base of the scrum, and
Leicester’s Kiwi No 8 Thomas Waldrom is also recalled.

Recall: James Haskell

Recall: James Haskell

Quins will have a huge contingent in the England ranks. As first revealed in Sportsmail,
Care has been forgiven for the alcohol-related offences which saw him
banished by Lancaster in January. He will be joined by several club
colleagues — captain Chris Robshaw, Joe Marler, George Robson, Jordan
Turner-Hall, George Lowe, Mike Brown and Ugo Monye, if the Lions wing
can prove he has recovered from a hamstring injury.

The only player to score more
Premiership tries than Wade this season is Sale full back Rob Miller,
but he has not been selected, as Alex Goode of Saracens is preferred.

Stuart Lancaster to get England job

Lancaster wins RFU chief's vote to beat Mallett to permanent England job

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 28 March 2012

Stuart Lancaster is on the verge of being appointed England head coach after RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie was understood to have put forward his name to the union board for final approval.

The 42-year-old Cumbrian has had an anxious wait to learn his fate since having a formal interview for the post on Thursday last week, on the same day as his main rival, South African Nick Mallett.

On Monday, Ritchie and his four advisers — Sir Ian McGeechan, Rob Andrew, Conor O’Shea and Richard Hill — met for one final discussion before settling on their recommendation.

Altogether now: Stuart Lancaster (second right) looks set for the job

Altogether now: Stuart Lancaster (second right) looks set for the job

Sportsmail has learned that there was
due to be a gathering of the RFU board on Wednesday night and it is
thought that Ritchie had decided to propose that Lancaster is appointed
as the long-term successor to Martin Johnson. Subject to formal
acceptance at the meeting, an announcement is likely to be made either
on Thursday or Friday.

Confirmation of his appointment would represent a startling coup for Lancaster, who was named as the interim head coach for the Six Nations in December, in the aftermath of Johnson’s resignation following the World Cup debacle.

The ex-schoolteacher has presided over a fundamental overhaul of the England set-up which culminated in a heartening second-place finish in the championship, behind Grand Slam winners Wales.

Fresh blood: Owen Farrell (right) has been one of Lancaster's success stories

Fresh blood: Owen Farrell (right) has been one of Lancaster's success stories

Far from being content to conduct a holding operation, Lancaster set about a clean-up operation to repair the damage done to the game’s image by the controversies out in New Zealand last year.

Having freshened up the squad by removing veterans such as Nick Easter and Mark Cueto, and bringing in a raft of rookies headed by the goal-kicking Saracens tyro, Owen Farrell, the former Leeds coach made a strong disciplinary stand by banishing Danny Care and Delon Armitage following off-field incidents.

With the stated aim of re-connecting
the England team with the rugby public and restoring ‘pride in the
shirt’, Lancaster brought in various guest speakers during a pre-Six
Nations training camp, which was held in Leeds to take the players away
from the comfort zone of their luxury base in Surrey. He maintained the
cultural shift by asking his squad to coach youngsters and engage more
openly and readily with sponsors and media.

Not this time: Nick Mallett was overlooked for the England

Not this time: Nick Mallett was overlooked for the England

Yet, he would not be on the brink of
taking charge of the national team on a long-term basis if he had not
engineered on-field success too. On Lancaster’s watch, England started
the championship with tense wins away from home against Scotland and
Italy.

They did not show much by way of attacking craft in difficult
conditions at Murrayfield and in Rome, but they showed ample character.
Gradually, in the narrow defeat against Wales followed by stunning
victories in Paris and against Ireland at Twickenham, Lancaster’s
England displayed a variety of methods for winning Tests.

Of course, a fair share of credit for
the strides made by the team rightly went to the assistant coaches,
Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell.

Team: Lancaster hopes to work with Graham Rowntree (left) and Andy Farrell

Team: Lancaster hopes to work with Graham Rowntree (left) and Andy Farrell

Rowntree, who had expanded his remit
by taking overall charge of the forwards, is thought to be on an
open-ended contract with the RFU and is keen to maintain his involvement
with England. In Farrell’s case, he has gone back to his day-job as
head coach of Saracens.

The Aviva Premiership champions have him on a
contract for at least two more years and are determined to keep hold of
him, but Lancaster is equally determined to keep Farrell in the national
set-up, now he has seen him thriving in that environment. It would seem
certain that the RFU will have to pay the club significant compensation
if they are to secure his release.

Six Nations 2011: Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole have score to settle in France

Driving force! England pair have score to settle in France

Redemption. That's the profound target for two members of the England pack in Paris a week on Sunday.

When Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole square up to France's renowned front row, they will be hell-bent on settling a score.

Rewind two years and the national team travelled across the Channel and won acclaim even though they lost 12-10.

In retreat: Cole faces the French in 2010

In retreat: Cole faces the French in 2010

That RBS Six Nations finale was seen as a watershed moment for Martin Johnson's side in playing with more attacking purpose, fired by the introduction of dangerous strike runners like Ben Foden and Chris Ashton.

But if the overview was positive, it was a negative night for Hartley and Cole. England were routed in a first-half scrum onslaught against a French pack anchored by mighty Perpignan tighthead prop Nicolas Mas.

At the interval, Hartley and Cole were cast as the scapegoats and suffered the indignity of being replaced with 40 minutes remaining, despite subsequent suggestions that Tim Payne, the experienced loosehead, had been particularly culpable.

Back then, the pair were raw rookies. Now Hartley, the 25-year-old Northampton hooker and captain, and his right-hand man, the 24-year-old Leicester prop, are more settled and street-wise.

They feel prepared for what awaits them and are suitably driven to make amends. Hartley won't be going through the video again – the episode is etched in his mind.

'I can still picture it – I can still see those scrums,' he said. 'A little bit of redemption would be nice this time. There are some demons to exorcise. It is inexcusable for an English pack to be pushed back on our own ball.

Bouncing back: England are hoping to put the defeat to Wales behind them

Bouncing back: England are hoping to put the defeat to Wales behind them

Bouncing back: England are hoping to put the defeat to Wales behind them

NEXT FIXTURES

Sunday: France v Ireland (3pm).

Saturday March 10: Wales v Italy
(2.30pm); Ireland v Scotland (5pm).

Sunday March 11: France v England (3pm).

'I remember being sat in the changing room in Paris after that game thinking, “Wow, you just don't get taken off at half-time”. It was my second Six Nations and myself and Dan have played a lot since then. I've played against Mas when we've played Perpignan in the Heineken Cup, too.

'I like to think we feel more equipped to cope now. Alex (Corbisiero) and Dan played against France last year – when they had Mas and Servat in there – and did a really good job.

'Before our games against Scotland and Italy there were question marks about us, with talk about caps and experience, about Euan Murray and (Martin) Castrogiovanni, but in both those games scrum penalties won us the final points of the game. I'd like to think we can look after ourselves.'

Cole was still finding his feet at Test level at the time of the setpiece setback in March 2010. Like Hartley, he feels ready for the impending re-match.

'Two years ago, they were on fire,' he said. 'It was only my fifth game for England and they dominated us. The French scrum attack teams, no matter who you are, but they probably looked at who was playing, targeted that area and got some success.

Allez! England were narrowly defeated by France at the Stade de France

Allez! England were narrowly defeated by France at the Stade de France

Allez! England were narrowly defeated by France at the Stade de France

'Now, they might have a bit more respect than before. I'm more pumped up for this game because of what happened there last time.

'That must be the toughest rugby experience I've had. We went backwards so I probably did deserve to come off. As the tighthead, if the scrum's going forward I'll take the credit for it, but if it's going backwards …that's how it works. You learn from it.

'Motivation-wise it's a good thing for next week. It's going to be hostile in Paris, without doubt. There's 22 of us against the whole stadium. It feels like us against the world. In a funny sort of way, you enjoy that.'

He and Hartley will enjoy it if they are both still on the pitch deep into the second half, and on the front foot. That would represent redemption.

Six Nations 2012: Shaun Edwards say pressure is on England rookies

The heat is on England's rookies, says Wales coach Edwards

Wales defensive coach Shaun Edwards has told his players to put England’s rookie combinations under pressure at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon.

Owen Farrell plays his first game at fly-half in a new-look midfield axis alongside Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi, while coach Stuart Lancaster has also selected Scarlets No 8 Ben Morgan to form a new back-row trio.

Rookie: Farrell (foreground) plays his first game at fly-half for England

Rookie: Farrell (foreground) plays his first game at fly-half for England

Stoking the fire: Wales' English defence coach Shaun Edwards

Stoking the fire: Wales' English defence coach Shaun Edwards

‘Farrell’s in a position where you have a lot of say in the running of the team,’ said Edwards. ‘But it’s his first game as England fly-half and we will obviously try to pressure him with our defence.

‘It’s also the first time England’s axis of eight, nine, 10 (Ben Morgan, Lee Dickson and Farrell) have played together and, like any axis, you’re going to try to put pressure on it.

‘Let’s hope we can upset them. That’s our job as a defensive unit, to make life as difficult as possible for our opponents.’

The return of mighty Samoan Tuilagi offers its own challenges for a man who takes as much pride in not conceding tries as he does in scoring them.

‘He’s probably the best ball-carrying centre in England and he adds a lot of size and power to the backline, which is going to counteract something we have a lot of.

‘It certainly makes the backline bigger and I’m sure whoever’s doing the defence for them will be pleased about that.’

Six Nations 2012: Dylan Hartley – I would love to captain England

I would love to captain England, says Hartley

Dylan Hartley has staked his claim for the England captaincy ahead of their Six Nations opener against Scotland next Saturday.

While Chris Robshaw, the Harlequins
skipper, is thought to be the prime contender in the absence of the
injured Tom Wood, Northampton captain Hartley admitted he would relish
the leading role if it is offered to him by interim coach Stuart
Lancaster. 'If asked I feel I could do it,' he said.

Taking the lead: Dylan Hartley

Taking the lead: Dylan Hartley

'I would feel very confident doing it. There is so much experience in a youthful squad, so it's no big deal about who gets it. It's not an ego thing and whoever gets it will be ready and supported by everyone. If it was me, it would be very special.'

Hartley is only 25, but he is now a veteran among rookies in the national squad. Of the 32 men selected by Lancaster for the looming campaign, only three have won more than hooker Hartley's 34 caps – Toby Flood (46), Matt Stevens (39) and Lee Mears (38). Of that trio, only Stevens has a chance of starting against Scotland at Murrayfield, so Hartley could be the leading man in England's XV in terms of experience.

He added: 'I believe in simple captaincy – simple messages and I go out and try to do my job on the field.

'If I feel there's something that needs to be said, I will say it.'

NFL: Jerome Simpson somersault touchdown for Cincinnati

My, what a flipping touchdown! Simpson has Bengals head over heels

It will go down as one of the most remarkable touchdowns of NFL history after Cincinnati wide-receiver Jerome Simpson landed on both feet in the end zone after a stunning somersault.

The mighty move on Christmas Eve helped the Bengals edge to one win away from the playoffs Saturday, holding on for a 23-16 victory over Arizona that secured only their third winning record in the past 21 years.

But now Simpson could be fined up to $25,000 for breakingNFL regulations as he scored.

Scroll down for the match report and VIDEO…

BENGALS 23 CARDINALS 16

Andy Dalton threw a pair of touchdown passes, and Cincinnati withstood yet another fourth-quarter comeback by Arizona to win and remain in playoff contention.

Jump start: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson (89) leaps over Arizona Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington (58)

Jump start: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson (89) leaps over Arizona Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington (58)

Another small crowd at Paul Brown Stadium saw the Bengals (9-6) secure only their third winning record in the last 21 years and stay in the running for the final AFC wild card.

Going over: Simpson continues his sensational somersault

Going over: Simpson continues his sensational somersault

Dalton threw touchdown passes to Jermaine Gresham and Jerome Simpson, who did a sensational somersault over a defender and landed on both feet in the end zone.

Going over: Simpson prepares to land in the end zone

Going over: Simpson prepares to land in the end zone

Dalton joined Peyton Manning (26), Charlie Conerly (22) and Dan Marino (20) as the only NFL rookies to throw 20 touchdowns.

It

It”s good: Simpson celebrates with his team-mates after scoring his incredible touchdown

Arizona (7-8) rallied from a 23-0 deficit and had a chance to tie it. Receiver Early Doucet was uncovered at the goal line but tripped as he ran, letting a fourth-down pass fall incomplete with 1:11 left.

VIDEO: Flipping brilliant

RAVENS 20 BROWNS 14

In Baltimore, Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes as Baltimore downed Cleveland and moved one step closer to winning the AFC North.

Ray Rice ran for 87 yards and caught a TD pass for the Ravens (11-4), who led 17-0 at halftime and held on against the bumbling Browns. Baltimore completed its first unbeaten season at home (8-0).

The Ravens can win the AFC North by defeating Cincinnati next week. That would also give them a first-round bye and a home playoff game.

Josh Cribbs had a career-high 84-yard punt return for Cleveland (4-11) but the Browns generated little offense and were victimized by questionable play calling, bad clock management and untimely penalties in their fifth straight loss.

EAGLES 20 COWBOYS 7

In Arlington, Michael Vick threw two touchdown passes as Philadelphia defeated Dallas in a game that had all the intensity of a preseason dress rehearsal.

This game became somewhat meaningless midway through the first quarter. A victory by the Giants eliminated the Eagles (7-8) from the playoffs and turned the Dallas-New York game next weekend into a showdown to decide the NFC East title.

The Cowboys (8-7) rested quarterback Tony Romo after just one series and running back Felix Jones after two.

Vick threw a touchdown pass on the opening series and again just before halftime. Alex Henery kicked field goals of 43 and 51 yards for the Eagles.

RAIDERS 16 CHIEFS 13 – OT

In Kansas City, Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 36-yard field goal in overtime to eliminate Kansas City from the playoff race and keeping Oakland”s AFC West title hopes alive.

Carson Palmer threw for 237 yards and a touchdown for the Raiders (8-7). His perfectly thrown 53-yard pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey early in overtime set up Janikowski”s winning kick.

All smiles: Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski (11) celebrates his game-winning field goal in overtime with team-mates Jared Veldheer (68) and Cooper Carlisle (66)

All smiles: Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski (11) celebrates his game-winning field goal in overtime with team-mates Jared Veldheer (68) and Cooper Carlisle (66)

Kyle Orton threw for 300 yards for Kansas City, his only TD pass going to Dwayne Bowe with 1:02 left to tie the game. The Chiefs had a chance to win it on the final play of regulation, but Ryan Succop”s 49-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Trevor Scott to send the game to overtime.

BILLS 40 BRONCOS 14

In Orchard Park, New York, Jairus /12/25/article-2078552-0F44DC2900000578-759_468x307.jpg” width=”468″ height=”307″ alt=”Stuck in the middle with you: Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Chastin West (C) loses the ball as he is sandwiched by Tennessee Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan (L) and defensive back Alterraun Verner (R) ” class=”blkBorder” />

Stuck in the middle with you: Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Chastin West (C) loses the ball as he is sandwiched by Tennessee Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan (L) and defensive back Alterraun Verner (R)

Rob Bironas kicked three field goals, including a pair of 51-yarders, and Jamie Harper ran for a touchdown. Jared Cook had a 55-yard TD catch and finished with 169 yards receiving, a franchise high for a tight end.

Maurice Jones-Drew, the NFL”s rushing leader, ran for 103 yards and a TD for the Jaguars (4-11). He now has a career-high 1,437 yards this season.

PANTHERS 48 BUCCANEERS 16

In Charlotte, North Carolina, Cam Newton broke Peyton Manning”s rookie record for yards passing in a season as Carolina cruised past Tampa Bay.

Newton threw a 91-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell and had 171 yards and three touchdowns in all as well as scoring on a remarkable 49-yard run up the middle in which he outraced smaller defensive backs to the end zone.

The Panthers (6-9) scored on eight of their first nine possessions and piled up 397 yards in three quarters. Newton and other key starters were rested from early in the fourth quarter.

DeAngelo Williams scored on runs of 8 and 22 yards, his sixth and seventh of the season, and Jonathan Stewart ran for 88 yards and caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Newton.

Tampa Bay (4-11) lost its ninth in a row.

VIKINGS 33 REDSKINS 26

In Landover, Maryland, Minnesota overcame injuries to Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder on back-to-back plays to edge Washington and end a six-game losing skid,

Toby Gerhart filled in for Peterson after a knee injury and set up a touchdown with a 67-yard run, and Joe Webb threw for two TDs and ran for another while subbing for the concussed Ponder.

Webb”s 8-yard pass to Percy Harvin broke a 23-23 tie early in the fourth quarter, and rookie Mistral Raymond”s first career interception set up Ryan Longwell”s 23-yard field goal that gave the Vikings a 10-point lead with 4:05 to play.

The Vikings are 3-12. The Redskins lost their sixth straight home game to fall to 5-10.

LIONS 38 CHARGERS 10

In Detroit, the hosts secured their first playoff spot in this millenium as Matthew Stafford threw three touchdown passes in the first half to beat San Diego.

Detroit (10-5) has won three straight after a seven-game slump to earn a wild-card spot.

Winning feelings: The Lions players celebrate their Christmas win with their fans

Winning feelings: The Lions players celebrate their Christmas win with their fans

The Chargers (7-8) will not be in the postseason for a second straight year after making it five times in a six-season stretch. And that might cost coach Norv Turner his job.

The Lions held San Diego scoreless until midway through the third quarter, when Philip Rivers threw an 11-yard pass to Malcom Floyd to make it 24-7.

PATRIOTS 27 DOLPHINS 24

In Foxborough, Massachussets, Tom Brady ran for two touchdowns and threw for another as New England came back from a big halftime deficit to beat Miami and clinch a first-round bye in the NFL playoffs.

The Patriots trailed 17-0 at halftime then scored on their first five possessions in the second half. The Dolphins contributed to their own demise, as Matt Moore lost a fumble at his 38-yard line then threw an interception that Devin McCourty picked off at the Patriots 2.

New England (12-3) won its seventh straight game. After the Texans lost to the Colts on Thursday, the Patriots needed a win or a tie to lock up one of the AFC”s top two spots.

Miami (5-10) is now 1-1 under Todd Bowles, who took over as coach when Tony Sparano was fired.

GIANTS 29 JETS 14

In East Rutherford, New Jersey, Victor Cruz set two franchise receiving records as the Giants kept their playoff hopes alive and earned New York bragging rights with victory over the Jets.

Cruz, who had three catches for 164 yards, broke Amani Toomer”s single-season mark for yards receiving – and the team”s record for longest touchdown reception, a 99-yarder that gave the Giants the lead for good in the second quarter.

Ahmad Bradshaw ran for two touchdowns for the Giants (8-7), who did a little more than the Jets (8-7) and can win the NFC East with a victory next week against Dallas.

The Jets” playoff hopes took a serious hit, and they will need to win at Miami next week and get help from several other teams.