9:05 PM CDT, October 21, 2012
The most curious NFL news Sunday was that the league is investigating the San Diego Chargers for using Stick 'em, the glue-like goop that helps players hang on to the football. The Fox report said an equipment manager was concealing the substance on hand towels.
So the Chargers couldn't throw in the towel if they wanted to — and neither could these players and teams on a gripping Sunday:
•Tennessee's Chris Johnson, the onetime rushing champion who hadn't scored a touchdown in 10 games, broke loose for 195 yards and two scores in the Titans' 35-34 thriller over Buffalo.
•Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, whose recovery from a major knee injury has been stunningly fast, ran for 153 yards and a touchdown in the Vikings' 21-14 victory over Arizona.
Of course, Peterson isn't satisfied.
"There's still a little missing," he told reporters after the game. "You guys probably think I'm crazy, but it is. I feel good. I'm not going to complain. I'm just going to keep working and just keep getting better each week."
•The 6-1 Houston Texans, fresh off a thrashing by Green Bay, bounced back with a 43-13 rout of Baltimore to claim early-season supremacy in the AFC.
•Two Pro Bowl linebackers we thought we might not see this season made their debuts: New Orleans' Jonathan Vilma, who's fighting his "Bountygate" suspension, and Baltimore's Terrell Suggs, last season's NFL defensive player of the year, who was returning from an off-season Achilles' injury.
•On a day when eight of the 10 day games were decided by a touchdown or less, the New York Giants and Washington Redskins played a breathtaking round of "Can you top this?" The teams traded touchdowns in the final 1:32 — Eli Manning answering Robert Griffin III's long scoring pass with one of his own — and the Giants emerged 27-23 winners.
"With our offense and Eli at the helm, we're never too worried," said Giants receiver Victor Cruz, who clinched the victory with a 77-yard touchdown with 1:13 to play. "No matter what situation we're in, no matter how many points we need or a field goal we need, we have the confidence we can do it. We have a lot of confidence in each other, and in Eli."
Manning-to-Cruz came 19 seconds after Griffin, playing in his first game against an NFC East opponent, threw a beautiful 30-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss. That drive was kept alive by a wild scramble and completion by Griffin on fourth and 10.
But in the end, just as it did so often last season, the game came down to Manning making the biggest plays at the crucial moments.
"He has done it so many times," Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty said of Manning. "He has really bridged his performance in the 2011 season to the 2012 season. It's just more of the same."
There were only two games Sunday afternoon, and both were decided in overtime.
Oakland beat Jacksonville, 26-23, with a 40-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski after the visiting Jaguars fumbled the opening kickoff of the extra period.
The Raiders, who dug their way out of a 14-point hole to win, failed to secure the victory in regulation when Janikowski's would-be-record 64-yard field-goal try fell short.
Moments later, on the opposite coast, the Patriots clinched a 29-26 victory over the New York Jets when Rob Ninkovich forced a Mark Sanchez fumble, squelching the Jets' chance to match the Patriots' overtime field goal.
The Patriots are 15-4 in their last 19 games against the Jets, and Sunday's game was the Patriots' first win this season by fewer than 10 points.
Running a reverse
After abysmal starts to the season, Green Bay and New Orleans have each won consecutive games.
The Packers (4-3), who followed last week's victory over the Texans with a 30-20 win over St. Louis, are above .500 for the first time this season. It was also the first time this season they have won back-to-back games.
The Saints (2-4) finished Aaron Kromer's coaching stint on a high note, with a 35-28 win at Tampa Bay. Kromer coached the first six games in place of interim Coach Joe Vitt, who was suspended for his role in the bounty scandal.
Vitt, eager to get back to work as the stand-in for the suspended Sean Payton, met the Saints at the airport in Tampa and flew home with them. He makes his coaching debut next Sunday night at Denver.
"We want to get on a streak here," said quarterback Drew Brees, who threw for four touchdowns and erased a 14-point deficit against the Buccaneers. "You've got to win more than one before you're on a streak. So now we've got two, and we want to keep that going."
Chuck Pagano, the cancer-stricken Colts coach, has been released from a hospital and watched Sunday's Cleveland-Indianapolis game from home.
Pagano learned he had a treatable form of leukemia last month, and it's unclear if he will return this season. Bruce Arians has stepped in as interim coach and the team is 2-1 under him.
Indianapolis players didn't know Pagano had been released from the hospital until Colts owner Jim Irsay told them after the game. Quarterback Andrew Luck said that news was even more thrilling than the victory.
Since going 4-0 for the first time since 1974, the Cardinals have lost three in a row, averaging only 11 points in those three defeats. Arizona's next three games won't be any easier: home against San Francisco, then at Green Bay and Atlanta.
"Nobody's ready to call it a season," Cardinals quarterback John Skelton said after Sunday's loss at Minnesota. "We're going to get back to our winning ways, starting with San Francisco this week."
Bumps, bruises, breaks
It's bad enough to lose a running back. Jacksonville lost its star running back and starting quarterback in Sunday's overtime loss at Oakland.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew suffered a left foot injury on the second play from scrimmage and was carted to the locker room. He was later on the sideline on crutches. In the second quarter, quarterback Blaine Gabbert suffered an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder and was replaced by Chad Henne.
In the Redskins-Giants game, Washington tight end Fred Davis hopped off the field because of a torn Achilles' tendon, probably a season-ending injury.
Browns running back Trent Richardson was pulled from action in the second half against the Colts because Cleveland Coach Pat Shurmur thought the back's rib injury limited his effectiveness.
From foe to friend
This is bizarre: In preparing for their game at Carolina, the Dallas Cowboys called on inspiration from former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, once a bitter Cowboys rival.
Gibbs, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., spoke to the Cowboys during a chapel service Saturday night at the behest of Dallas Coach Jason Garrett.
"He came into chapel, and talked about some of his low times," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after his team's 19-14 victory. "He spoke about some of the coaching errors. He wasn't directing it to the team at all, relative to our criticism this week of our sideline coaching decisions, but he talked a little about a couple that bit him.
"The players told me that when they hear Joe Gibbs talk about a few bad decisions, they know anybody can make them."
No word on whether the Cowboys were able to reserve Gibbs for the night of Nov. 21.
They play the Redskins the next day.
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