By Arnie Leshin
Just in time, just as the final seconds ticked down, it was Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback Kyler Murray finding DeAndre Hopkins with a 43-yard desperation pass with but two seconds remaining, and an improbable 32-30 miracle victory over the stunned Buffalo Bills in Sunday’s National Football League action.
Next stop, Seattle Thursday night for Arizona. The throw by Murray and the Hopkins jump to snatch the ball over three defenders in the end zone turned the NFC West into a three-way tie, with the Cardinals, Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams deadlocked at 7-3 each. Alone in the basement are the 3-6 San Francisco 49ers.
The catch was as sensational as the throw that was quickly labeled as a “Hail Murray.” The game appeared lost as Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy winner Murray rolled out to his left and then flung the ball toward the end zone where three-time All-Pro Hopkins was waiting with three Buffalo defenders draped all over him. He reached high to grab the ball, brought it down, and Cardinals celebrated in the end zone and on the sidelines, with the limited coronavirus attendance in Glendale adding more cheers.
It became a 3-way tie when the Rams later handed the visiting Seahawks a 23-16 setback, and Los Angeles next plays next Monday night at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Here it picked up 302 yards through the air from quarterback Jared Goff, Malcom Brown ran for a pair of touchdowns, Darrell Henderson added another, and Darius Williams picked off two Russell Wilson passes
as Seattle dropped its third of its last four outings after a 5-0 start and lost for the fifth time in the last six contests against LA.
In the AFC East, the perennial champion New England Patriots rests in third place behind Buffalo and Miami, with the winless New York Jets (0-9) in a bye weekend. But the Pats remained in the running by taking to the road and getting past the Baltimore Ravens, 23-17, while Buffalo’s last-second loss in Arizona cut its lead in the division to a half-game over the Miami Dolphins, who disposed of the Los Angeles Chargers, 29-21, in Miami. The Bills are 7-3, the Fins 6-3.
And New England, now 4-5, fought through rain and wind as running back Damian Harris ran for a career-high 121 yards, and quarterback Cam Newton threw a touchdown pass and ran for another in dropping Baltimore to 6-3 and tied with the Cleveland Browns behind the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers (9-0) at 6-3 each. In the cellar are the 2-6 Cincinnati Bengals.
Cincinnati met up with the visiting Steelers, but were no match as Pitt quarterback Ben Roethisberger threw for a season-high 333 touchdowns and four touchdowns, and the Bengals were routed 36-10 in their 11th straight setback to the Steelers.
Tampa Bay, after being embarrassed in the previous week’s huge loss to the visiting New Orleans Saints, bounced back to within a half-game of New Orleans in the NFC South, by taking to the road and battering the Carolina Panthers, 46-23, as Tom Brady passed for a quartet of touchdowns and was involved in two others as he came off the most lop-sided loss of his illustrious career. The Bucs are 7-3 and the Saints 7-2 after rolling over visiting San Francisco, 27-13.\\
In Cleveland, the Browns edged the visiting Houston Texans, 10-7, behind a stout defense and a big rushing game from Nick Chubb after he returned from the injury list. He came away with 126 yards along the ground and scored the late touchdown that upped the home team’s lead to 10-0 after a first quarter field goal. On the next series after the Texans (2-7) finally scored, Chubb took the ball 59 yards with 1:07 left, and with a 10-7 lead, ran out of bounds with Houston out of time outs. The other Browns running back, Kareem Hunt, added 104 yards as Cleveland advanced to 6-3 and tied with Baltimore behind Pittsburgh.
In Green Bay, it was a tight 24-20 win for the Packers over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The home side overcame numerous mistakes to taking the lead with 9:11 to go on a 6-yard toss from Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams. Rodgers also ran for a 5-yard TD and hooked up with Marquez Valdez-Scantling for a 78-yard scoring strike, and he wound up with four catches for a career-high 149 yards as the Pack maintained its slim lead in the division and the Jags fell to 1-8 in the AFC South.
Thursday night, the Indianapolis Colts moved into a first-place tie with the Tennessee Titans in the NFL South by making up a one-point halftime deficit to win handily on the road, 34-17, to put both teams at 6-3.
Tonight, in Chicago, the Minnesota Vikings face the Bears in a NFC North clash. Chicago is 5-4, two games behind New Orleans and Minnesota is last at 3-5, a half-game behind the Detroit Lions.