The Denver Broncos have been stacking up victories all season. Sunday, they served Kansas City a special order:
A quadruple Decker.
Eric Decker caught four touchdown passes from Peyton Manning to lift the Broncos to a 35-28 victory over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, completing a season sweep of Kansas City and taking a huge step toward an AFC West Division title.
It was the second loss to Denver in three weeks for the Chiefs, who have gone 0-3 since they were the NFL's last remaining undefeated team at 9-0.
"Sometimes, when you play a team close to back-to-back, there are some ideas that are fresh in your mind," Manning said. "We thought there were some chances to get down the field in that first game that we never got to. We wanted to get to some of those plays."
With New England just a game back, the Broncos don't have the luxury of easing their foot off the accelerator in the final four weeks and coasting into the postseason as the AFC's top-seeded team. But they might be in position to do so before the regular season is completed.
If they do lock up the No. 1 seed, the big question will be: Did they learn from last season?
The memory of the Broncos blowing their 2012 playoff debut to eventual champion Baltimore still stings in Denver, and the Broncos are determined not to allow their chances slip through their grasp this time.
Manning was typically scorching Sunday. He threw for 403 yards and five touchdowns, and now leads the NFL with 4,125 yards, the most through the first 12 games of a season. He broke the 4,000-yard mark for the 13th time of his career, extending his NFL record. New Orleans' Drew Brees is second on that list with seven 4,000-yard seasons.
Chicago had another snap to burn, but instead the Bears tried to end the game against Minnesota in overtime with a 47-yard field-goal attempt on second down.
Robbie Gould's kick sailed wide right.
The Vikings drove downfield on their next possession and kicked a 34-yarder to win it.
Let the second-guessing begin: What was Bears Coach Marc Trestman thinking?
Understandably, he has a ton of confidence in Gould, who earlier in the game became the most accurate kicker in NFL history. But Trestman was also spooked by a mistake the Vikings made earlier in overtime, when their apparent 39-yard winning field goal was wiped out by a 15-yard facemask penalty.
"We were definitely in range and I didn't want to risk a possible penalty that would set us back, similar to what happened on the other side, or a fumble of some kind . . . something 'unique,'" Trestman said. "I felt we were clearly within range and could get the game over with at that time.
"We've got one of the best field-goal kickers in the league and unfortunately we didn't get it done. Robbie didn't lose the game for us; there's a lot of different ways to lose the game."
The big winners were the Detroit Lions, who moved a game ahead of Chicago in the NFC North.
It won't be an easy December for the Lions, who play at Philadelphia on Sunday, but they have to be enjoying the unfamiliar feel of the division driver's seat.
Footsteps toward Canton
This won't go down as a satisfying season for Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, but it will be a milestone one.
Peterson, the league's reigning most valuable player, ran for the 10,000th yard of his career Sunday in the fourth quarter against Chicago. He finished with 211 yards in 35 carries in the 23-20 overtime victory at the Metrodome, and has 10,057 in his career.
It took Peterson 101 games to reach 10,000 yards, three more games than it took Jim Brown, and 10 more than Eric Dickerson needed. Peterson crossed the threshold two games sooner than Barry Sanders.
At 28 years 255 days, Peterson is the sixth-youngest player to accomplish the feat. The only younger ones were Sanders (27 years 147 days), Emmitt Smith (27 years 197 days), Edgerrin James (28 years 124 days), Walter Payton (28 years 154 days) and LaDainian Tomlinson (28 years 155 days).
Cleveland lost, but the kid from Cleveland didn't.
Jacksonville receiver Cecil Shorts, who grew up rooting for his hometown Browns, beat them with a 20-yard touchdown catch with 40 seconds left in a 32-28 victory by the Jaguars.
"For that play to happen in this game, in that situation, and the hometown," Shorts said. "It's a dream come true."
The Jaguars have played themselves out of the first-pick derby, reversing their course after an 0-8 start by winning three of four — with all those victories coming on the road.
Two receivers had monster games. Cleveland's Josh Gordon caught 10 passes for 261 yards, and Chicago's Alshon Jeffery had 12 catches for 249. Each scored two touchdowns.
Sunday was the first time in league history two players had at least 10 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns on the same day.
Eight players in NFL history have multiple 200-yard receiving games in the same season . . . and both Gordon and Jeffery are on that list, with two each in 2013.
Receiver Michael Crabtree made his season debut for San Francisco, having missed the 49ers' first 11 games recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon suffered in May.
Crabtree, the favorite target of Colin Kaepernick last season, caught two passes for 68 yards, including a 60-yard catch and carry, in a 23-13 win over St. Louis.
That type of rapid recuperation is remarkable for a player at a speed position, and incredibly timely for a team playing host to Seattle on Sunday. Crabtree is more a possession receiver than a stretch-the-field threat, so that 60-yard gain was especially impressive.
Same, but different
For the second consecutive week, the Patriots posted a 34-31 victory.
But Sunday's too-close-for-comfort win at Houston was nothing like the emotional jolt New England got from its back-from-the-dead victory over Denver.
The Texans have lost a franchise-record 10 in a row, yet the Patriots had to rally with two field goals in the final 7:16 to win. It was another reminder of how good Tom Brady is, even though his stock of offensive weapons is continuously dwindling.
"I wish we could start fast and put the foot on the gas pedal the whole way," Brady said.
Meanwhile, at least one Texans player implied the Patriots have their ear to the wall.
Houston defensive end Antonio Smith raised the dusty specter of Spygate, questioning how the Patriots knew what the Texans were going to do on defense before the ball was snapped.
Smith told reporters the Texans inserted some new defensive wrinkles in preparation for the game, and it was "miraculous" how the Patriots made all the right offensive adjustments.
"Either teams are spying on us or scouting us," Smith said. "I don't know what it is."
Of course, there's always the possibility that the Texans just aren't that good.
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