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4C . THE PALM BEACH POST MONDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1997 s c Pro football Summaries, 8C Bucs close in on playoff spot NFL STANDINGS 4 mm AMERICAN CONFERENCE The Associated Press EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ. Fifteen years of waiting for a winning season are over for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Their first playoff berth in as many years might not be far behind. Fullback Mike Alstott scored two touchdowns and halfback Warrick Dunn ran for 120 yards and set up two scores as the Bucs (9-4) came north and beat the New York Giants 20-8 Sunday. The Bucs, who held New York to 202 yards, can clinch a playoff berth by winning one of their final three games. They last had a winning season in 1982, 5-4 in a strike year. Their last full winning year was 1981 (9-7). "We're not thinking, 'We're set' or 'We're there,' " said Bucs safety John Lynch, whose fourth-down tackle of Tyrone Wheatley at the Tampa 47 stopped New York's last threat after the Giants moved to 14-8 early in the fourth quarter. "That's the great thing about our team, our aspirations are a lot higher," Lynch added. "It seems every time we win lately, we wipe out some streak and as a team you take a little pride in that. But we want to do more than win-nine games." The Giants (7-5-1) maintained a one-game lead in the NFC East over Washington and now Philadelphia (both 6-6-1) with three games left. "What's frustrating is that we really could have been in the driver's seat if we had won," Giants linebacker Corey Miller said after the W L T Pet. Pt9. Qpp. Dlv. AFC EAST New England 8 5 0 .615 308 233 6-1 7-2 Miami 8 5 0 .615 294 242 4-2 8-2 N.Y.Jets 8 5 0 .615 293 252 2-5 6-5 team fell o 1-2-1 in its last four games. "The question is what are you going to do? Are you going to be a pretender or a contender?" Alstott scored on a 1-yard pass in the second quarter that was set up by a 53-yard pass from Trent Dilfer (12-of-22 for 152 yards) to Dunn. Alstott also had a 9-yard TD run. :, New York quarterback Danny Kanell (14 of 31 for 117 yards and two interceptions) was booed frequently by a crowd that left well before the game ended. The Giants offense has scored three touchdowns in the last four: games. D Extra point: The game-time temperature was 44 degrees. The Bucs are 0-17 when ' the temperature is 42 or less. Jets fall' Buffalo 6 7 0 .462 217 296 5-3 5-6 Indianapolis 1 12 0 .077 222 348 0-6 0-10 W L T Pet. Pts. Qpp. Dlv. AFC CENTRAL 307 246 334 269 284 242 0 0 0 .692 .692 .538 6-1 6-2 1- 4 2- 4 1-5 7-2 7-2 3-6 2- 7 3- 7 9 9 7 4 4 4 4 6 8 9 Pittsburgh Jacksonville Tennessee Baltimore Cincinnati 1 .346 260 286 0 .308 267 353 W L T Pet. Pts. Qpp. Piv. AFC WEST y-Denver Karisas City 5-2 5-1 3-4 2-4 1-5 .846 393 .769 291 .462 281 .308 294 .308 253 215 212 301 347 344 8-2 7-3 5-5 2- 7 3- 7 11 10 6 4 4 2 3 7 9 9 0 0 0 0 0 Seattle Oakland San Diego into tie NATIONAL CONFERENCE EAST W L T Pet. Pts. Qpp. Dlv. NFC N.Y.. Giants 7 5 1 .577 226 227 4-0-1 6-2-1 Philadelphia 6 6 1 .500 247 286 3-3 4-5 Washington 6 6 1 .500 244 199 2-2-1 5-3-1 Dallas 6 7 0 .462 260 240 3-4 4-6 Arizona 3 10 0 .231 216 288 2-5 2-7 CENTRAL W L T Pet. Pts. Qpp. Dlv. NFC Green Bay 9 3 0 .750 316 234 5-1 7-2 Tampa Bay 9 4 0 .692 262 200 2-4 6-4 Minnesota 8 4 0 .667 274 262 3-3 6-3 Detroit 7 6 0 .538 322 250 5-2 6-5 Chicago 2 11 0 .154 215 377 1-6 1-9 WEST W L T Pet. Pts. Qpp. Div. NFC x-San Francisco 11 2 0 .846 304 193 8-0 10-1 Carolina 6 7 0 .462 214 240 4-3 4-5 Atlanta 5 8 0 .385 260 312 4-4 4-6 New Orleans 5 8 0 .385 170 258 1-6 3-7 St. Louis 3 10 0 .231 225 301 1-5 3-6 x-Clinched division title. y-clinched playoff berth. Results THURSDAY ..'0 New York's loss to Bills creates a three-way tie in the AFC East, w The Associated Press . , f ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. Despite their" vast improvement this season, the New Yorkj Jets still couldn't beat the Buffalo Bills. The Bills scored a first-quarter touchdown i for the first time in 17 games, and Todd Collins;: hit Lonnie Johnson with a 62-yard scoring pass.; in the fourth quarter in a 20-10 victory against the Jets on Sunday. The Bills (6-7) broke a three-game losing streak and beat the Jets (8-5) for the sixth ; straight time. A New York victory would have.f guaranteed the Jets their first winning season.; since 1988. The Jets, who started the day in sole; possession of first place in the AFC East, are ; tied for first with Miami, a 34-16 winner against'.' . Oakland, and New England. The Patriots beat. ' Indianapolis 20-17. Johnson, who had dropped three passes ; earlier in the game, caught the ball at the 40, ran over safety Victor Green and beat lineback-i er Dwayne Gordon to the end zone with 12:47 remaining. '! "If it's me versus the safety, I put my money on myself," said Johnson, a former, i Florida State standout. "Every dog has his day. I might be called a dog, but I had my day." . . Thurman Thomas gained 104 yards on 18 i .' carries and moved into ninth place on the ' career rushing list with 11,325 yards. It was Thomas' first 100-yard game since Oct. 27, - 1996, when he had 119 against New England. ,1 "I've been around here long enough to ' know that even though our season might be over, a lot of players still play with a lot oP' pride," Thomas said. "There's no quit in the I ' Buffalo Bills." j Buffalo scored a first-quarter touchdown '-' for the first time since Nov. 24, 1996, on;' Collins' 28-yard pass to Andre Reed 3:49 into ;;; the game. Steve Christie kicked field goals of 1 49 and 34 yards for the Bills. "' B Extra point: Buffalo swept the Jets for ' the third straight year, giving it six straight f wins against its AFC East rival. Detroit 55, Chicago 20 SUNDAY Miami 34, Oakland 16 Philadelphia 44, Cincinnati 42 New Orleans 16, Carolina 13 St. Louis 23, Washington 20 Atlanta 24, Seattle 17 Tampa Bay 20, N.Y. Giants 8 TONIGHT Green Bay at Minnesota, 9 p.m. Tennessee 27, Dallas 14 Jacksonville 29, Baltimore 27 New England 20, Indianapolis 17 Buffalo 20, N.Y.Jets 10 Kansas City 44, San Francisco 9 Pittsburgh 26, Arizona 20 (OT) Denver 38, San Diego 28 LATEST LINE Green Bay by 3 i'jfef - J Schedale THURSDAY Tennessee at Cincinnati, 8 p.m. SUNDAY Detroit at Miami, 8 p.m. Denver at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. New England at Jacksonville, 1 p.m. Oakland at Kansas City, 1 p.m. Seattle at Baltimore, 1 p.m. Indianapolis at N.Y. Jets, 4 p.m. Washington at Arizona, 4 p.m. DEC. 8: Carolina at Dallas, 9 p.m. Buffalo at Chicago, 1 p.m. Green Bay at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia, 1 p.m. St. Louis at New Orleans, 1 p.m. Atlanta at San Diego, 4 p.m. Minnesota at San Francisco, 4 p.m. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Bills DE Phil Hansen (90) forces a fumble as he sacks Jets QB Neil O'Donnell in the second quarter. The play set up a 49-yard field goal with 36 seconds left in the half. Top Rushers Hoying, Eagles trim Bengals 44-42 The Associated Press PHILADELPHIA Bobby Hoying watched Boomer Esiason a lot as a boy growing up in Ohio. He showed his teacher on Sunday just how much he had learned. Hoying threw four touchdown passes and led the Philadelphia Eagles on a 61-yard drive in the final minute to set up the winning field goal in a 44-42 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. Chris Boniol kicked the 31-yarder as time expired. Esiason had nearly pulled it out for the Bengals, who went ahead 42-41 with a minute to play on Brian Milne's 1-yard touchdown run. Esiason threw two of his four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter but the Bengals' defense, ranked 28th, wilted in the final minute. "If the quarterback's on the money, and you have a good running game and good pass blocking, you can make some big plays," Esiason said. "Bobby had a propensity to do it (at Ohio State) and he's done it the last three games for the Eagles." Hoying, who finished 26-of-42 for 313 yards, is undefeated in his first three pro starts (2-0-1) after taking over for ineffective veterans Ty Detmer and Rodney Peete in a 24-12 loss to San Francisco on Nov. 11. " 1 Philadelphia evened its record at 6-6-1, 1 while Cincinnati dropped to 4-9. . "We let them score 44, we lose," said Bengals coach Bruce Coslet, who cut short his post-game interview after only a few questions. B Extra point: Just five fans were arrest-' ed and tried at the Eagles' in-stadium court; Sunday, down from 20 arrests in the first week:-Two people were arrested on disorderly con- duct charges and one was convicted, an Eagles J spokesman said. NAME TEAM CAR YDS TD Jerome Bettis Steelers 36 142 3 Warrick Dunn Buccaneers 24 120 0 Corey Dillon Bengals 19 114 0 Fred Lane Panthers 13 112 1 Top Passers NAME TEAM COM ATT YDS TD Boomer Esiason Bengals 27 47 378 4 Mark Brunell Jaguars 25 40 317 1 Bobby Hoying Eagles 26 42 313 4 Jim Harbaugh Colts 22 41 310 2 Top Receivers NAME TEAM REC YDS TD Rob Moore Cardinals 8 188 0 Amp Lee Rams ' 6 128 1 Tim Brown Raiders 8 125 1 Irving Fryar Eagles 7 122 0 ;Sean Dawkins Colts 7 120 1 Saints upset Panthers 16-13; Falcons triumph The Associated Press CHARLOTTE, N.C. One week after a frustrated New Or Elway, Broncos drop Chargers, sew up AFC's first playoff spot Tonight's Matchup Dome has spelled doom for Packers The Associated Press ; MINNEAPOLIS The Green Bay Packers are the Super Bowl champions and are 33-8 since their 1995 loss at the Metrodome, but they have been unable to crack their road jinx against the Vikings .Green Bay is 0-5 in the Metrodome under Mike Holmgren. They'll get another chance Monday night in the most meaningful late-season matchup between the teams since the Packers won 23-7 at old Met Stadium on their way to the 1972 NFC Central title. Billy Joe Hobert, the Saints' fourth starting quarterback this season, was adequate in his debut, throwing for 190 yards on 14-of-30 passing. The winning points were set up by Ken Walter's punt that traveled just 15 yards on a gray, rainy afternoon. It went out of bounds on the New Orleans 37-yard line with 1:10 remaining. B Falcons 24, Seahawks 17: Atlanta rookie Byron Han-spard ran back a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown as Atlanta beat host Seattle for its third straight win. The Falcons (5-8) handed the Seahawks (6-7) their third consecutive defeat and virtually eliminated them from the playoffs despite being held to no first downs in the second half. Chris Chandler passed for 204 yards (15-for-23) and a touchdown, but only for 15 yards in the second half. Warren Moon of the Seahawks passed for 240 yards (24-for-38) and two touchdowns with one interception. The Seahawks' chances of catching up ended when Lenny McGill picked off a pass intended for James McKnight at the Atlanta 29 with 1:27 left. ; I Green Bay (9-3) can all but eliminate the f Vikings from the NFC Central race if they break f their dome hex one week after ending their 0-for-I Holmgren slump against Dallas. leans Saints coach Mike Ditka publicly questioned whether he should continue to rebuild the team, the Saints scored 13 points off Carolina turnovers in a 16-13 victory on Sunday. Doug Brien kicked three field goals, including a 45-yarder with five seconds left, as New Orleans (5-8) won for the third time in four games and ended its skid of 15 consecutive losses to NFC West opponents. Ray Zellars rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown to help the Saints dent the playoff hopes of Carolina (6-7), which went to the NFC title game last year. New Orleans, which came in with a NFL-worst 43 turnovers, lost the ball twice, but it only cost the Saints three points. Instead, New Orleans exploited Kerry Collins, who came in with a league-worst 16 interceptions. Collins was picked off two more times before leaving late in the second quarter with a concussion. Steve Beuerlein replaced Collins and rallied the Pfmthers from a 10-point deficit to a 13-13 tie, but it wasn't enough. '"' ' i i i'i .a The Associated Press SAN DIEGO - The Denver Broncos are going back to the playoffs, and, they hope, will be back here on Jan. 25 for the Super Bowl. John Elway threw three touchdown passes and San Diego native Terrell Davis ran for 178 yards and one touchdown as the Broncos became the first AFC team to clinch a playoff spot. They did it with a methodical 38-28 win over the Chargers on Sunday night, tying a season high for points. Davis regained the NFL rushing lead from Detroit's Barry Sanders, with 1,647 yards, and needs to average 118 yards in his final three games to become the third NFL player to reach 2,000. At 11-2, the Broncos share the NFL's best record with San Francisco, which lost 449 at t "You've got to have some confidence after I 3 J that, knowine that vou can nlav with anunnfl " Kansas City. The Broncos are one game ahead of the Chiefs in the AFC West. The Chargers (4-9) have lost five straight for the first' time since going 0-5 to open the 1991 season, Dan Henning's last as head coach. Rookie coach Kevin Gilbride is assured of a losing record, something predecessor Bobby Ross didn't have in five seasons. Elway completed 20 of 33 passes for 240 yards. His TD passes of 4 yards to Ed McCaffrey and 5 yards to Rod Smith on consecutive drives gave the Broncos a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. B Extra point: San Diego's Eric Metcalf set an NFL record with his ninth career punt return for a touchdown, an 83-yarder, and Tony Martin scored the Chargers' first offensive TD in 10 quarters. 4 y I safety Eugene Robinson said of the 45-1 7 win I 4 against the Cowboys. "And the whole Dallas I if mystique, now you can throw it out the window. ' Tl Psycnolgicaly. you can throw it out the window. ill "But the same thing is coming up with . If I 1 1 i H . , "W . ..VI! w. Ill IllllllltJVlU UI1U KODinson so now ( get tnat same type of feejng we want t0 throw it out the window. OK, let's throw it off our back." While the Vikings won't boast about their dome dominance, they do believe it gives them an edge. "It gives you confidence," said Vikings running back Leroy Hoard. ."It's the same thing that Dallas had against Green Bay." '