The Saints and Colts both pushed their records to 9-0 Sunday, but Indianapolis provided the drama on Sunday night by winning what's become one of the top rivalries in the NFL over the last decade.
In a game that lived up to all the hype, the Indianapolis Colts pushed their regular season winning streak to 18 games, using a pair of touchdown drives from Peyton Manning in the final four minutes in a shocking 35-34 victory over New England. Reggie Wayne caught the winning one-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left, but the victory was helped by a questionable 4th-and-2 call by the Patriots. Facing the situation from their own 28 with just over two minutes left, Kevin Faulk juggled the ball on a pass from Tom Brady before being driven backward by the Colts' Melvin Bullitt for a one-yard gain. That gave Manning the ball and four plays later he moved the Colts (9-0) to the end zone. Manning connected on 28-of-44 throws for 327 yards and four touchdowns and two interceptions. Wayne had 10 receptions for 126 yards and two scores as the Colts rallied from a 17-point deficit in the final quarter. Brady finished 29-of-42 for 375 yards with three TDs and an interception for the Patriots (6-3), but it was the call on 4th-and-2 that ultimately opened the door for Manning to complete another incredible comeback. Randy Moss caught nine balls for 179 yards and two scores in defeat.
Drew Brees threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns, and the New Orleans Saints remained perfect by holding off the feisty St. Louis Rams with a 28-23 win at the Edward Jones Dome. Brees completed 18-of-26 passes and was also intercepted twice for the Saints (9-0), who have now surpassed last season's win total and extended the best start in franchise history. Reggie Bush ran for 83 yards and a score on six carries and added a receiving touchdown in the win. Devery Henderson led the receiving corps with 72 yards on four catches, and Courtney Roby returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The Saints now hold a commanding four-game lead in the NFC South after the Falcons fell to the Panthers on Sunday.
Shayne Graham kicked four field goals, including two in the final eight minutes, and the Cincinnati Bengals took sole possession of first place in the AFC North with an 18-12 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. The Bengals (7-2) swept the season series against their division rival for the first time since 1998 despite starting running back Cedric Benson leaving the game early with a hip strain. Bernard Scott scored the only touchdown of the game on a 96-yard kickoff return for the Bengals, who have won three straight.
The Baltimore Ravens sit at 4-4 heading into a matchup against the 1-7 Browns for Monday night's matchup in Cleveland. The Ravens have plenty of ground to make up in the AFC North as the Bengals moved to a hefty 7-2 Sunday with a win at Pittsburgh. Baltimore is struggling, coming off a 17-7 loss at Cincinnati last Sunday, its fourth defeat in the last five contests.
Florida stayed atop the latest Bowl Championship Series standings, as the top eight teams kept their spots from the previous week. The Gators (10-0) garnered a .9833 average, with that number being computed by averaging the percentage totals of the Harris Interactive poll, USA Today poll and computer rankings. Alabama (10-0) is second at .9521, followed by Texas (10-0), TCU (10-0) and Cincinnati (10-0). Boise State (10-0) is the only other remaining unbeaten team in the nation at the FBS level and stayed sixth, followed by Georgia Tech (10-1) and LSU (8-2). Pittsburgh (9-1), by virtue of its win over Notre Dame Saturday, climbed three spots to No. 9. Ohio State (9-2), which won the Big Ten's automatic BCS bowl bid with a victory over Iowa Saturday, jumped one spot to 10th. There are three weeks left before the final BCS standings are released to determine the participants for the national championship game.
There were also a couple of coaching moves Sunday. San Jose State announced head football coach Dick Tomey will retire after the conclusion of the season. The 71-year-old Tomey is finishing his fifth season at the helm of the Spartans and his 29th overall as a head coach of a major college program. San Jose State is 1-8 this season and has three games left. Also, Mike Sanford will not be back as the head coach of the UNLV football team next season. The 54-year-old Sanford has compiled a 15-43 overall record at the school.
Tiger Woods earned his latest win in a mostly unfamiliar setting, punctuating his first trip to Australia in 11 years with a victory at the JBWere Masters on Sunday. After starting the day in a three-way tie for the lead, Woods closed with a four-under 68 in the final round to finish at 14-under par and win by two shots. Australia's Greg Chalmers shot a 70 and finished in second place at 12-under 276, while American Jason Dufner and France's Francois Delamontagne tied for third at minus-10.
After years of near misses, Michelle Wie closed with a three-under 69 Sunday to collect her first LPGA Tour title at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Wie, who has six runner-up finishes and six third-place showings in her career, claimed her first victory by two strokes over Paula Creamer. Wie ended at 13- under-par 275. Creamer, who twice joined Wie in the lead during the final round, bogeyed the 17th at Guadalajara Country Club to end two shots back at minus-11 after shooting 70 on Sunday.
One week after suffering a season-worst 38th- place finish, Jimmie Johnson rebounded in his quest for an unprecedented fourth straight Sprint Cup Series championship with a convincing victory in Sunday's Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Johnson led 238 of 312 laps for his fourth win in the last five races at Phoenix, including the last three fall events. He also recorded his Sprint Cup Series-leading seventh win of the season. With the victory, Johnson padded his lead to 108 points over Mark Martin, who finished fourth. If Johnson finishes 25th or better next week at Homestead- Miami Speedway, he will win the title, regardless of Martin's performance. Jeff Burton finished a season-best second, while Denny Hamlin took the third spot. Martin Truex Jr., the pole sitter, completed the top- five.
Novak Djokovic captured his fifth title of 2009 with a three-set victory over French crowd favorite Gael Monfils in the title match of the Paris Masters. Djokovic earned a 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (7-3) triumph on Sunday for his second straight tournament crown and the 16th title of his career. He also won last week's Swiss Indoors tournament, beating another hometown favorite in world No. 1 Roger Federer. Sunday was Djokovic's 10th final of the year, including his fifth in a Masters Series event. He had lost the previous four Masters finals, falling in Miami, Monte Carlo, Rome and Cincinnati. Monfils was gunning for his second title of 2009 in his third final.
The Baseball Writers' Association of America will hand out their first two postseason awards on Monday, as the American and National League Rookies of the Year will be announced. In the American League Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus and Chicago infielder Gordon Beckham figure to be the favorites, while Detroit righty Rick Porcello should also get some votes. The National League is a little less congested, as the award should go to either Philadelphia lefty J.A. Happ or Atlanta right-hander Tommy Hanson.