The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts keep finding ways to win. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally learned how Sunday.
The Saints and Colts each improved to 8-0 with come-from-behind victories. The Bucs are a meager 1-7 but they gained a glimmer of hope for the future as rookie Josh Freeman passed for 205 yards and three touchdowns in his first start.
At New Orleans, Drew Brees and the Saints' prolific offense rallied for the third straight game and are off to the best start in the franchise's 43-year history.
Brees overcame two early turnovers to pass for 330 yards and a touchdown in a 30-20 victory over the Carolina Panthers. New Orleans rallied from a 17-3 deficit.
"That's great. I mean, 1967 until now and we're the only (Saints) team to have done that," Brees said. "That's really special. I feel like we've got a special group of guys, a special team, and certainly we're not satisfied with just being 8-0. We have what it takes to just continue to win."
The Saints have a realistic chance to sit at 10-0 when they host New England — the only team to finish a regular season 16-0 — on the Monday night after Thanksgiving. New Orleans next plays at St. Louis and then at Tampa Bay — a combined 2-14 this season.
At Indianapolis, Peyton Manning delivered another milestone performance, Joseph Addai produced a second straight winning score, and the Colts escaped with a 20-17 win over the when Houston's Kris Brown missed a 42-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
"I think that's the mark of a great football team," center Jeff Saturday said of Indy's close calls. "We've won eight games so far, and we're ahead in our division, which is really our main focus and goal."
The Colts became the fourth team in league history with 17 straight regular-season wins. New England did it twice — winning a record 21 straight from 2006-08 and 18 in a row from 2003-04. Chicago won 17 straight from 1933-34.
Fittingly, the Patriots come to town next week with a chance to prevent Indy from matching their original record.
At Tampa, Fla., Freeman, the third quarterback selected in this year's NFL draft, led the Bucs to a 38-28 victory over the Green Bay Packers, ending the league's longest losing streak at 11 games.
Freeman threw a 7-yard touchdown to Sammie Stroughter on fourth-and-4 for the go-ahead score with under 5 minutes to play.
"I felt really relaxed," said Freeman, the 17th pick in the draft, taken behind Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets.
"I didn't get too high or too low," the 21-year-old said. "I can't say I did anything spectacular. I just played within myself, and when we had opportunities, I took them."
Cowboys 20, Eagles 16
At Philadelphia, Tony Romo threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin midway through the fourth quarter and the Cowboys won the 100th meeting between the division rivals.
On the final day of the 2008 regular season, the Eagles dominated Dallas 44-6 in a do-or-die game for both teams. Philadelphia earned a wild-card berth with that victory, won two playoff contests on the road and advanced to the NFC championship game, losing at Arizona.
The Cowboys (6-2) took over sole possession of first place in the NFC East with their fourth straight victory.
The Eagles fell to 5-3.
Chargers 21, Giants 20
At East Rutherford, N.J., Philip Rivers capped an 80-yard drive with an 18-yard pass to Vincent Jackson with 21 seconds to play and the Chargers handed New York its fourth straight loss.
Rivers was 24 of 36 for 209 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Jackson, in helping San Diego (5-3) win its third straight.
The Giants are 5-4 heading into a bye week and not looking very much like a playoff team.
Titans 34, 49ers 27
At San Francisco, Chris Johnson, six plays after his 81-yard touchdown run was overturned, took a pitch from Vince Young and ran 2 yards for a go-ahead score.
Young outplayed fellow first-round draft pick Alex Smith, getting the Titans (2-6) in the end zone when it mattered.
Johnson, whose TD was overruled when replay showed he stepped out of bounds, ran for 135 yards and has 959 halfway through the season.
San Francisco (3-5) has lost four straight following a 3-1 start.
Patriots 27, Dolphins 17
At Foxborough, Mass., Randy Moss set up the Patriots' first touchdown with a one-handed, 36-yard grab at the Dolphins' 1-yard line, then scored on a 71-yard play after catching the ball about 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
Moss caught six passes for 147 yards and Tom Brady went 25 for 37 for 332 yards, his third straight game with more than 300 yards and team-record 27th of his career.
The Patriots (6-2) lead the idle New York Jets (4-4) and Miami and Buffalo (both 3-5) in the AFC East.
Bengals 17, Ravens 7
At Cincinnati, Cedric Benson ran for 117 yards and a touchdown and the Bengals scored on their first three possessions to take control.
The Bengals (6-2) can take control of the division by winning next Sunday at Pittsburgh; the Steelers (5-2) play Denver on Monday night. Cincinnati has won all four games in the division, including a sweep of the Ravens (4-4).
Cardinals 41, Bears 21
At Chicago, Kurt Warner tied a career high by throwing five touchdown passes one week after throwing five interceptions, and Larry Fitzgerald added 123 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
Warner was at his best after a miserable performance in a 34-21 loss to Carolina, matching the record for TD passes by a Bears opponent without getting picked off.
Warner completed 23 of 32 passes for 261 yards and threw touchdown passes on the first four possessions. Neil Rackers added field goals on the next two, sending Arizona (5-3) to an easy win and Chicago (4-4) to a damaging loss.
Falcons 31, Redskins 17
At Atlanta, Michael Turner ran for a season-high 166 yards, breaking away from former Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall on a 58-yard touchdown that finished off Washington (2-6) early in the fourth quarter.
Turner broke off two long touchdown runs, also scoring from 30 yards as the Falcons (5-3) built a 24-3 halftime lead.
Washington (2-6) looked down and out, losing running back Clinton Portis to an apparent.
Jaguars 24, Chiefs 21
At Jacksonville, Fla., David Garrard threw for 264 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown pass to Mike Sims-Walker.
The Jaguars (4-4), up and down all season, responded in similar fashion following losses to Arizona and Seattle earlier this season.
Matt Cassel threw for 262 yards and two scores — both to newcomer Chris Chambers, claimed off waivers Tuesday from San Diego — but it wasn't enough for Kansas City (1-7).
Seahawks 32, Lions 20
At Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck rallied the Seahawks from a 17-0 deficit with a franchise-record 39 completions, helping Seattle avoid being the first home team to lose to the Lions in 25 months.
Hasselbeck threw an interception on his first play, but finished with the first 300-yard passing game in two seasons for the Seahawks (3-5). He was 39 of 51 for 329 yards.
Josh Wilson returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown with 22 seconds left, the last of five interceptions by rookie Matthew Stafford, the top overall pick playing his second game since missing two weeks with a knee injury for the Lions (1-7).