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4CV THE PALM BEACH POST MONDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1997 Pro football Summaries, 8C B ucs close in on playoff spot NFL STANDINGS nnfl i iifiiiir ir i nn tfi u 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 team fell to 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?" 1 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. .1 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. ;? B Extra point: The game-time tempera- ! ture was 44 degrees. The Bucs are 0-17 when ! the temperature is 42 or less. Jets fall ; - into tie EAST W L T Pet. Pts. Opp. Div. AFC 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 Buffalo 6 7 0 .462 217 296 5-3 5-6 Indianapolis 1 12 0 .077 222 348 0-6 0-10 CENTRAL W L T Pet. Pts. Opp. Div. AFC Pittsburgh 9 4 0 .692 307 246 6-1 7-2 Jacksonville 9 4 0 .692 334 269 6-2 7-2 Tennessee 7 6 0 .538 284 242 1-4 3-6 Baltimore 4 8 1 .346 260 286 2-4 2-7 Cincinnati 4 9 0 .308 267 353 1-5 3-7 WEST W L T Pet. Pts. Opp. Div. AFC y-Denver 11 2 0 .846 393 215 5-2 8-2 Kansas City 10 3 0 .769 291 212 5-1 7-3 Seattle 6 7 0 .462 281 301 3-4 5-5 Oakland 4 9 0 .308 294 347 2-4 2-7 I San Diego 4 9 0 .308 253 344 1-5 3-7 NATIONAL CONFERENCE EAST W L T Pet. Pts. Opp. Div. 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. Opp. Div. 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. Opp. Div. NFC 10-1 193 240 312 .846 304 .462 214 .385 260 4-5 x-San Francisco Carolina Atlanta New Orleans St. Louis 11 2 6 7 5 8 5 8 3 10 0 0 0 0 0 8-0 4-3 4-4 1-6 1-5 4-6 3-7 3-6 .385 .231 170 258 225 301 Results ' ' va p i f?y' zX : "... - .. . -: New York's loss to Bills creates a three-way tie in the AFC East. The Associated Press ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Despite their vast improvement this season, the New York Jets still couldn't beat the Buffalo Bills. The Bills scored a first-quarter touchdown 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 J straight time. A New York victory would have 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, .i ran over safety Victor Green and beat lineback- ; er Dwayne Gordon to the end zone with 12:47 ;j remaining. "If it's me versus the safety, I put my. i money on myself," said Johnson, a former d Florida State standout. "Every dog has his day. I might be called a dog, but I had my day." -j Thurman Thomas gained 104 yards on 18. 1 carries and moved into ninth place on the career rushing list with 11,325 yards. It was o Thomas' first 100-yard game since Oct. 27, ? 1996, when he had 119 against New England. "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 of pride," Thomas said. "There's no quit in the -Buffalo Bills." 1 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 1 the game. Steve Christie kicked field goals of 49 and 34 yards for the Bills. B Extra point: Buffalo swept the Jets for , the third straight year, giving it six straight wins against its AFC East rival. . i THURSDAY 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 Schedule 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. Top Rushers 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. Hoying, Eagles trim Bengals 44-42 NAME TEAM CAR YDS TP Jerome Bettis Steelers 36 142 3 Warrick Dunn Buccaneers 24 120 0 ;Corey Dillon Bengals 19 114 0 Fred Lane Panthers 13 112 1 Thurman Thomas Bills 18 104 0 Top Passers NAME TEAM COM ATT YDS TP , 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 'Tony Banks Rams 19 38 298 1 Top Receivers NAME TEAM REC YPS TP 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 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. Philadelphia evened its record at 6-6-1: 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 ques-t tions. Y 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 weekJ Two people were arrested on disorderly con-', duct charges and one was convicted, an Eagles spokesman said. Saints upset Panthers 16-13; Falcons triumph 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 Jate-season matchup between the teams since the Packers won 23-7 at old Met Stadium on their way to the 1972 NFC Central title. The Associated Press CHARLOTTE, N.C. One week after a frustrated New Orleans 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 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. 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 44-9 at 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. Green Bay (9-3) can all but eliminate the Vikings from the NFC Central race if they break their dome hex one week after ending their 0-for-Holmgren slump against Dallas. "You've got to have some confidence after that, knowing that you can play with anyone," safety Eugene Robinson said of the 45-1 7 win against "the Cowboys. "And the whole Dallas mystique, now you can throw it out the window. Psychologically, you can throw it out the window. "But the same thing is coming up with Minnesota. We haven't won up in Minnesota and JM Robinson so now I get that same type of feeling, we want to throw it out the window. OK, let's throw it off our back. more times before leaving late in the second quarter with a concussion. Steve Beuerlein replaced Collins and rallied the Panthers 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 tljat Dallas had against Green Bay." from a 10-point deficit to -a 13-13 tie, but it wasn't enough.