Running back Fred Jackson had a combined 196 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, and the Bills’ defense had four interceptions to secure a 31-24 victory over a slow-starting, underachieving, far-from-elite opponent that had been billed the Dream Team only weeks ago.
“Containing Vick is a hard job for anybody,” linebacker Nick Barnett said. “We were trying to make him uneasy, make him think too fast.”
Barnett returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, then sealed the victory by picking off Vick with 1 minute 49 seconds left.
“The ball just popped right into my hands,” Barnett said. “I tried to get me another touchdown, but I don’t have that Deion Sanders speed.”
Barnett and the Bills can laugh because they are showing no signs of playing their familiar role as an N.F.L. pushover.
Bouncing back from a 23-20 loss at Cincinnati, Buffalo (4-1) has already matched last year’s win total, is off to its best start since 2008, and looking nothing like the team that opened last season losing eight straight en route to a 4-12 finish.
“I think what we went through last year, nobody wanted to go through again,” Coach Chan Gailey said. “I think we learned we could play in the big ballgames.”
The Eagles (1-4) are foundering, and not even Vick’s suggestion of dropping their Dream Team label last week has put a stop to their slide. Philadelphia has lost four in a row — its longest skid since 2005 — and is off to its worst start since 1999, Coach Andy Reid’s first season.
¶ Kept out of the end zone for almost three quarters, Aaron Rodgers finally broke out with a 70-yard touchdown pass to James Jones and led the Packers to a 25-14 victory over the Falcons in Atlanta. Rodgers finished with 396 yards passing for the Packers (5-0), who trailed, 14-0, early in the second quarter and were held without a touchdown in the first half by Atlanta (2-3), which was trying to make up for an embarrassing 48-21 loss to Green Bay in the playoffs last season.
Broncos Turn to Tebow
Philip Rivers overcame an interception and a fourth-quarter fumble to lead the Chargers to a 29-24 win over the Broncos despite Tim Tebow’s best efforts to rally host Denver from a 16-point deficit. Tebow ran for a score and threw for another after replacing Kyle Orton to start the third quarter — the cheers for Tebow’s entrance were so loud that he could not hear his first play call from the coaches in his helmet — but his last pass fell incomplete in the end zone on the final play. Despite the disappointment, some fans chanted “Tebow! Tebow!” as the crowd filed out.
Steelers and 49ers Roll
Limping slightly on his sprained left foot, Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdown passes as the Steelers thumped the visiting Titans, 38-17. Roethlisberger worked efficiently, getting rid of the ball quickly to keep Tennessee’s defense at bay. It was a major style change, since he has built a career by holding on to the ball until the last moment while looking to make big plays, sometimes taking a beating in the process. The Titans (3-2) rarely got close to him; he was sacked once while completing 24 of 34 passes.
¶ Alex Smith threw two of his three touchdown passes to Vernon Davis, Frank Gore ran for a score in his second straight 100-yard rushing game and the 49ers beat the visiting Buccaneers, 48-3, for their best start in nine years. It was the third win in a row for N.F.C. West-leading San Francisco (4-1) since it blew a late lead in an overtime loss to the Cowboys on Sept. 18.
The Raiders held off the Texans, 25-20, to win the day after the death of their maverick owner, Al Davis. Jason Campbell threw two touchdown passes for visiting Oakland(3-2), but Houston (3-2) had a chance to win with less than a minute left. Facing a third-and-29 from the Oakland 39, Matt Schaub scrambled and found tight end Joel Dreessen at the 5. Schaub spiked the ball with seven seconds left, then lobbed a pass to Jacoby Jones in the end zone on the final play, but Michael Huff intercepted it.
¶ Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston each caught two touchdown passes, and the Chiefs beat the Colts, 28-24, after rallying from a 17-point deficit. With Bowe breaking tackles and Breaston eluding the Colts’ coverage, host Kansas City (2-3) tied the largest comeback in team history. Bowe had seven catches for 128 yards and Breaston finished with four catches for 50. The Colts are 0-5 for the first time since 1997, the year before they drafted Peyton Manning.
In Other Games
Drew Brees found Pierre Thomas wide open on the right side for a 6-yard touchdown with 50 seconds left, helping the visiting Saints rally past the Panthers, 30-27. Brees passed for 359 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a nearly flawless final drive in which he completed 8 of 9 passes for 80 yards to take back momentum after Cam Newton and the Panthers (1-4) had taken their first lead early in the fourth quarter. It was Carolina’s fourth loss by a touchdown or less. “There’s a reason we keep losing,” Newton said. “And I want to know the reason.”
¶ The Vikings routed the visiting Cardinals, 34-10, and ended their troubling habit of stumbling down the stretch by building a lead so big even they couldn’t blow it. Adrian Peterson rushed for three first-quarter touchdowns and Minnesota (1-4) went ahead, 28-0, less than 13 minutes into the game. Kevin Kolb had three turnovers for the Cardinals (1-4), who had six possessions in the first quarter but crossed their 30-yard line only once.
¶ Andy Dalton threw two touchdown passes, Bernard Scott scored with 1:56 remaining and the Bengals beat the Jaguars, 30-20. A series of errors, including Matt Turk’s 22-yard punt that set up the go-ahead score, sent the Jaguars (1-4) to their fourth straight loss and raised more questions about Coach Jack Del Rio’s future with the franchise.