Mon, Dec 22, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Patriots win with a defensive effort

AMERICAN FOOTBALL The New York Jets kept New England against the ropes as the Patriots' were unable to mount a strong offensive attack Saturday

AP , EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY

Vikings' Randy Moss, left, scores as Chiefs' Greg Wesley dives in to attempt a tackle in the first quarter at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Saturday.

PHOTO: EPA

The New England Patriots can thank their defense for their 11th straight victory.

Willie McGinest returned an interception for a score and the Patriots picked off Chad Pennington four other times Saturday, keying their 21-16 victory over the New York Jets.

Tom Brady also threw two touchdown passes to David Givens, but the offense struggled most of the game, keeping the Jets in it until the end.

With Kansas City's loss earlier in the day, the Patriots (13-2) now have the best record in the NFL. Even though they hold a head-to-head tiebreaker edge over both Kansas City and Indianapolis, they still could be denied home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs if all three teams finish 13-3.

That would negate the Patriots' tiebreaker over Indianapolis, which they beat on Nov. 30.

The Jets (6-9) will finish the season with a losing record for the first time since 1996, when they went 1-15.

Pennington helped the Patriots win, throwing a career-high five interceptions -- including one in the end zone to Ty Law. Pennington had seven interceptions going into the game.

Fittingly, the Patriots ended the Jets' final rally with an interception. Eugene Wilson picked off Pennington to preserve the

Vikings 45, Chiefs 20

In Minneapolis, Onterrio Smith ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns, and Randy Moss caught two of Daunte Culpepper's three touchdown passes in Minnesota's victory over Kansas.

Minnesota boosted its playoff hopes and delivered a blow to the Chiefs' chances for home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs.

Culpepper completed 20 of 29 passes for 260 yards and one interception to help Minnesota (9-6) move a half-game ahead of Green Bay in the NFC North. Moss had seven catches for 111 yards.

Priest Holmes, held to 55 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving, scored three times for Kansas City and matched Emmitt Smith's 1995 NFL record with 25 rushing touchdowns in a season.

The Chiefs (12-3), who have wrapped up the AFC West and their first playoff berth since 1997, can still clinch a first-round bye if Indianapolis loses to Denver on Sunday.

Falcons 30, Buccaneers 28

In Tampa, Florida, Michael Vick threw two touchdowns and Atlanta intercepted four of Brad Johnson's passes in victory that eliminated Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay from playoff contention.

A furious Tampa Bay rally fell short when Travis Hall batted down Johnson's two-point conversion pass with 27 seconds remaining.

With the Bucs (7-8) down 30-7 going into the fourth quarter, Johnson threw three TD passes in the last 11 minutes, including an 11-yarder to Jameel Cook that gave Tampa Bay a chance to send it into overtime.

Vick completed 8 of 15 passes and ran 12 times for 38 yards in his third start since missing the first 11 games of the season with a broken right leg. The third-year pro threw TD passes of 6 yards to Alge Crumpler and 13 yards to Brian Finneran in the first half, then led a long third-quarter drive that produced Jay Feely's 37-yard field goal for a 30-7 lead.

Juran Bolden returned one of Atlanta's interceptions 41 yards for a TD, and the Falcons (4-11) used picks by Keith Newman, Keion Carpenter and Bryan Scott to set up 17 more points and a 27-7 halftime lead.

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