Late field goals kept the Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals undefeated on Sunday while Houston won in a rout to also stay perfect after four weeks of the National Football League season.
Regular referees were welcomed back to stadiums a day after they ratified a new eight-year contract with the league to end a lockout that began in June and saw replacement officials handle games in the campaign’s first three weeks.
Atlanta’s Matt Ryan completed 25-of-40 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns to spark the Falcons over visiting Carolina 30-28, but the Panthers did not fall until Matt Bryant’s 40-yard field goal with five seconds to play.
Starting from the Atlanta 1-yard line, Ryan connected with Roddy White on a 59-yard pass and two more completions as well as a pass interference penalty set up the kick that gave the Falcons their first 4-0 start since 2004.
“In that situation, you have to make a play that changes the outcome of the game,” Ryan said. “I threw it high and far. We practice that. Roddy went up and got it.”
White caught eight passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns while Michael Turner ran for 103 yards and caught three passes for 68 yards and a touchdown.
At Arizona, Jay Feely kicked a 46-yards field goal only 6:31 into over-time to give the host Cardinals a 24-21 victory over Miami for the 4-0 team’s best start since 1974 when it was based in St Louis.
Kevin Kolb completed 29-of-48 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns for the Cardinals, including a 15-yard touchdown toss to Andre Roberts in the final seconds of the fourth quarter to equalize for Arizona.
Ryan Tannehill threw for a Dolphins’ rookie-record 431 yards, but Miami lost in over-time for the second week in a row, falling to 1-3.
Houston reached 4-0 for the first time in club history with a 38-14 romp over Tennessee, which fell to 1-3.
Danieal Manning and Kareem Jackson each returned an interception for a touchdown for Houston while Matt Schaub threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns and Arian Foster ran for 86 yards and a touchdown for the Texans.
The Green Bay Packers, whose last-play loss on Monday last week at Seattle on a botched call by replacement officials helped spark a settlement with the regular referees 48 hours later, bounced back by edging winless New Orleans 28-27.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers completed 31-of-41 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winning 11-yard scoring throw to Jordy Nelson with 7:00 to play.
Drew Brees completed 35-of-54 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns, matching Johnny Unitas for an NFL record by completing a touchdown toss in his 47th consecutive game, but his Saints are 0-4 for the first time since 2007.
Saints’ kicker Garrett Hartley kicked a 43-yard field goal late in the game, but it was wiped out by a holding penalty and he would eventually miss a 48-yard try and the Packers then ran out the clock.
The reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants fell to 2-2 with a 19-17 loss at Philadelphia. Alex Henerey kicked four field goals and Michael Vick threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Desean Jackson for the Eagles, whose three triumphs in four games have come by a total of four points.
New England’s Tom Brady threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns and the Patriots scored on six of their last seven possessions to rip Buffalo 52-28.
San Diego downed Kansas City 37-20 to remain atop the AFC West division while Minnesota defeated Detroit 20-13 to move a game ahead of Chicago in the NFC North. Chicago were to face Dallas yesterday.
In other games, St. Louis beat Seattle 19-13, Washington edged Tampa Bay 24-22, San Francisco blanked the New York Jets 34-0, Denver dumped Oakland 37-6 and Cincinnati defeated Jacksonville 27-10.