Johnson & Johnson & Johnson & Johnson
Little known Bethel of the Patriots (right) ignited 42-15 win over Browns with 93-yard kickoff return. Pass-snagging Andre (seven receptions, 125 yards) was lone bright spot in Texans' loss to Jets. And those two guys in Cincy? Rudi kept Ravens honest on the ground while Chad pulled in 10 balls for 161 yards.
While NFL's Steelers (11-1) rolled on with last-minute win over Ben Roethlisberger's college rival Byron Leftwich, NCAA's Panthers got splashy New Year's Day date in Fiesta Bowl versus unbeaten Utah. Out in Pittsburg, Kans., home crowd saw State stomp North Dakota 31-19 to advance to Division II finals.
NFL's Lions and Tigers and Bears
Oh, my! There was no keeping up with Kevin Jones's performance (196 yards rushing, one TD) in Detroit's win. Carson Palmer (page 107) led the Bengals (6-6) back into playoff race, and Lovie's lads, with Brian Urlacher back, just will not quit in Chicago.
Man, is this team full of Mularkey. Believing in coach Mike's maxim, Play smart and tough, Buffalo's gone from 1-5 to 6-6 and has such a soft schedule (next three foes: 10-26, combined), it could make playoffs. Sunday's win in Miami was especially sweet for 43-year-old coach: His mom was in the crowd.
Taylor (right) knocked around AFL, NFL Europe and XFL before call to replace Bucs' Martin Gramatica last week. His debut? Two FGs (one from 50) and three PATs in win. Bucs' Kenyatta Walker to Orlando Sentinel: "I love the guy already."
After starting season's first nine games, young QB Josh, 25, is now a sideline fixture in Arizona: John Navarre will start again this week. Younger QB Luke, 23, made first NFL start for Browns, only to be greeted by snarling Patriots, who sent him scrambling, sacked him three times and whupped him by 27 points.
The Saints, losers of seven of nine, failed to sell out the Superdome for the first time since 2000, and many who did see the 32-21 loss to the Panthers chanted, "Fire Haslett!" Meanwhile, Hornets coach Byron Scott, 1-14 overall and winless at home, would kill to be at Haslett's mediocre level.
NCAA's Lions and Tigers and Bears
Oh, my! After 1-9 season Columbia had no big ideas, but unbeaten Auburn did--before getting ousted from Orange Bowl by BCS. And Cal thinks the BCS would be more aptly named without the C: Despite beating Southern Miss, the 10-1 Golden Bears were relegated to the Holiday Bowl.
With Steve McNair back on bench (sternum) and mulling retirement, coach Jeff Fisher tried much misdirection--three onside kicks, a faked punt--against Colts. Only magic was in Peyton's arm as Indy rolled, 51-24; AFC postseason schedule-makers can forget these Titans (4-8).
The Snake sounds confident ("We believe we can get the job done," he said on Sunday evening), but after he tossed four interceptions in loss to Chargers, one week after loss to lowly Raiders, his Broncos (7-5) look broken.
CHRIS BERNACCHI/SPORTPICS (JOHNSON)
REUTERS/RON SCHWANE (LUKE MCCOWN ACTION)
GALEN ROWELL/CORBIS (BEAR)
BOB LEVEY/WIREIMAGE.COM (FISHER)
PAUL A. SOUDERS/CORBIS (LION)
PRESTON MACK/US PRESSWIRE (TAYLOR)
CHASE SWIFT/CORBIS (TIGER)