Colts remain unbeaten, Dolphins upset Bears in Week Nine

Nov 6, 2006 - 5:38 AM By John Pezzullo SportsTicker Pro Football Editor

BRISTOL, Connecticut (Ticker) - Only the Indianapolis Colts remain perfect.

The Chicago Bears were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten by the last-place Miami Dolphins on Sunday, leaving the Colts as the only undefeated team.

And at the midway point of the season, only the Arizona Cardinals (1-7) have a worse record than the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6).

The Colts, who were beaten by the Steelers in the playoffs last January, are just the second team in NFL history to start a season 8-0 in consecutive seasons. They were 13-0 in 2005 before losing to San Diego.

The Green Bay Packers were at least 8-0 three years in a row from 1929-31 under coach Curly Lambeau.

To get to the midway point unbeaten, the Colts earned a 27-20 victory over the New England Patriots (6-2) on Sunday night.

Peyton Manning threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns - both to Marvin Harrison - and the Colts intercepted Tom Brady four times.

New England still had a chance to win the game in the final minutes after Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri - a hero on the Patriots' three championship teams and one of the clutchest kickers in NFL history - missed a 46-yarder with two minutes left.

Brady found tight end Ben Watson for a 25-yard gain to the Colts 39, but his next pass went off the hands of running back Kevin Faulk and was intercepted by linebacker Cato June, sealing the win for Indianapolis.

It was 21 years ago when the Dolphins ended the Bears' bid for an unbeaten season. Then Miami had Don Shula, the NFL's all-time winningest coach, and Dan Marino, the league's most prolific quarterback.

This Dolphins team entered with a 1-6 record while the Bears (7-1) had won their four games at Soldier Field by a combined 152-30

Yet Miami forced six turnovers, including three interceptions of Rex Grossman, and turned them into 28 points in a 31-13 victory over Chicago.

"We don't have a damn chance, huh?" said Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor, who returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown and also recorded a sack and a forced fumble. "A lot of people in the country and in this room did not give us a chance. It is nice to hear people admit that they were wrong."

In their Super Bowl-winning season in 1985, the Bears won their first 12 games before being ambushed in a 38-24 loss at Miami on a Monday night.

The 1972 Dolphins are the only team to finish with a perfect season (17-0).

The Steelers appear to have little hope of becoming the first team to win back-to-back titles since the 2003-04 Patriots.

Javon Walker caught a pair of 10-yard touchdown passes and raced 72 yards for a score on a reverse and the Broncos forced six turnovers in a 31-20 victory at Pittsburgh.

It was a rematch of last season's AFC championship game, which was won by the Steelers, 34-17, at Denver.

Acquired last April for a second-round pick, Walker has provided coach Mike Shanahan with the extra playmaker he was missing the last time the Broncos played Pittsburgh.

"I had a lot of fun out there," said Walker, who finished with six catches for 134 yards.

Walker's presence made a huge difference for Jake Plummer, who committed four turnovers in last January's loss to the Steelers. This time, Plummer threw for 227 yards and three touchdowns with zero turnovers.

After beating the Broncos in the AFC championship game, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger went on to become the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl last February at the age of 23.

On Sunday, Roethlisberger threw for a career-high 433 yards. But just one of his 38 completions went for a touchdown and he was intercepted three times. Roethlisberger is just 1-6 this season after compiling a 27-4 mark in his first two campaigns.

The Steelers surpassed their loss total from all of last season (15-5) and slipped four games behind the first-place Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North.

Pittsburgh would need to win its remaining eight games to finish 10-6. That record was not good enough to make the playoffs last season.

The Broncos (6-2) remain tied with the San Diego Chargers (6-2) for first place in the AFC West.

LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 172 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Chargers to a 32-25 win over the Cleveland Browns (2-6).

It was the third 100-yard game of the season and 31st career for Tomlinson, who leads the NFL with 14 total touchdowns, 12 of which have come on the ground.

"He's the best that I've ever seen," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "I've said it before. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the most accurate."

Larry Johnson is the reigning AFC rushing champion and he had quite a day as well, rushing for 172 yards and a touchdown as the Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) handed the St. Louis Rams (4-4) their third straight loss, 31-17.

The Ravens (6-2) took control of the AFC North with a 26-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals (4-4).

Safety Ed Reed returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown after he took a lateral from cornerback Samari Rolle and Matt Stover kicked four field goals for Baltimore.

"Two games, 10 games, we're halfway through and we're 6-2," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We have to get to 7-2. But this win puts us in a position to go forward and do some good things."

The New York Giants (6-2) have a two-game lead over the Dallas Cowboys (4-4) and idle Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) in the NFC East.

The Giants edged the Houston Texans, 14-10, in an interconference game while the Cowboys suffered a heartbreaking 22-19 loss to the Washington Redskins (3-5).

Nick Novak kicked a 47-yard field goal on the final play of the game after Dallas' Mike Vanderjagt had a 35-yard attempt blocked.

It appeared the Redskins would snap a 19-19 tie when Novak lined up for a 49-yard field goal with 31 seconds left. But he missed the attempt wide to the right.

Tony Romo, who was making just his second NFL start, then showed the aplomb of a veteran, completing three passes for 44 yards to put the Cowboys in field goal range. Tight end Jason Witten caught a 28-yard pass over the middle, setting the stage for Vanderjagt to attempt a 35-yard field goal with six seconds left.

But Vanderjagt's kick was blocked by Troy Vincent. The ball bounced around before it was picked up by Sean Taylor, who ran 30 yards to the Dallas 44 as time expired.

The game appeared to be headed to overtime, but Kyle Kosier was called for a facemask penalty on the return, tacking on another 15 yards. Along with the extra yards, the penalty also awarded the Redskins with an untimed down.

That enabled Novak to try a 47-yard field goal attempt and he came through this time, sneaking the ball inside the right upright.

The surprising New Orleans Saints (6-2) took sole possession of first place in the NFC South, moving one game ahead of the Atlanta Falcons (5-3).

Drew Brees threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Saints to a 31-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6).

The Detroit Lions (2-6) upset the Falcons, 30-14, as Jon Kitna threw for 321 yards and a touchdown and Kevin Jones rushed for 110 yards and two scores.

Atlanta's Michael Vick committed three turnovers - two interceptions and a fumble.

In other games, the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3) rolled to a 37-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans; the Buffalo Bills (3-5) beat the Green Bay Packers, 24-10; and the San Francisco 49ers (3-5) defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 9-3.

The first-place Seattle Seahawks (4-3) will host the Oakland Raiders (2-5) on Monday night in an interconference game.

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