Thad Lewis completed one pass for a first down even as a blitzing linebacker knocked his helmet off and sent it skittering upfield.
The hit drew a flag and left Lewis sprawled on the turf, but the Buffalo Bills’ young quarterback leaped to his feet screaming and punching the air to celebrate the gain.
Lewis’ resilience proved infectious Sunday. The Bills blew an early 14-point lead, then rallied to kick the winning field goal with 33 seconds left and beat the Miami Dolphins 23-21.
Mario Williams forced a fumble by sacking Ryan Tannehill with less than three minutes to go, setting up the winning 31-yard kick by Dan Carpenter, who was released in August by the Dolphins after five seasons.
The Bills won in Lewis’ second start since being promoted from the practice squad to replace injured EJ Manuel. Lewis’ fist-pumping after being leveled came when Buffalo trailed 21-17 in the third quarter.
“I was excited,” he said. “I’m not a rah-rah guy, but when you’re down and out, you’ve got to do something to get the team going.”
Lewis was sacked four times and threw an interception, but he threw for 202 yards and helped the Bills convert 9 of 19 third downs.
Defense did the rest. Rookie Nickell Robey returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game, and Buffalo turned the tide late with the help of two sacks by Williams.
The injury-plagued Bills (3-4) ended a streak of six consecutive road losses, including two this year. But it was a home game of sorts for Lewis, who grew up near the Dolphins’ stadium.
“It meant a lot to get this win,” he said. “Wins are hard to come by in this league. It’s even sweeter to get it at home.”
Miami (3-3) lost its third game in a row. A month ago, the Dolphins were basking in their best start since 2002. They haven’t won since.
“We’re in a tough spot right now,” Tannehill said. “We have to face the adversity and grow from it. There are two ways we can go. We can tank it, or we can turn it around.”
The 99th meeting between the AFC East rivals had one of the wilder endings in the series. With Miami nursing a 21-20 lead, Tannehill tried to throw from midfield but fumbled when sacked by Williams.
“We needed to get the ball back in good field position,” Williams said. “When I came through, I realized I had a shot at it. I thought, ‘There’s the ball.’ Then it came out.”
Kyle Williams recovered at the Miami 34. Carpenter, who drew boos throughout the game, lined up for the winner seven plays later.
“I just thought, ‘Kick it through those yellow things,’” he said.
Marcus Thigpen nearly broke the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but was tripped up by Carpenter after a 44-yard return to the Miami 46. Tannehill then threw four consecutive incompletions, his final desperate heave landing in the end zone among a cluster of players as time ran out.
Along with his fumble and interception returned for a touchdown, Tannehill threw another interception when Miami was threatening. Tannehill, who came into the game on pace to set an NFL record for being sacked, increased his total to 26 with two — both by Mario Williams, who has 10 this year.
Each time Williams beat tackle Tyson Clabo.
“I have to take full responsibility,” Clabo said. “He’s a really good player. He made a big play at a crucial point in the game. That’s why he’s considered one of the best defensive ends in the league.”
Tannehill almost offset his turnovers with three touchdown passes, two to Brandon Gibson.
Gibson turned one short throw into an acrobatic score, leaping over one defender at the goal line and splitting two others as he tumbled airborne into the end zone.
His spinning limbs made him look like a helicopter, and the 13-yard score with 21 seconds left in the first half cut Buffalo’s lead to 17-14.
Gibson made his second TD catch just as entertaining. After catching a 4-yard pass in the back of the end zone, he flipped the ball aside, leaped over a barricade and was mobbed by more than a dozen happy fans watching from field level.
Rare penalty gives Jets second chance, victory
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New England got Rob Gronkowski back on Sunday. It wasn’t quite enough.
Gronkowski, who missed the first six games after having offseason surgery on his back and broken left forearm, had eight catches for 114 yards, and one big miss, in the Patriots’ 30-27 loss to the New York Jets.
His attempt at a one-handed circus catch with 36 seconds to go in regulation failed, and the Patriots settled for a tying field goal.
“I’m still mad about that one,” Gronkowski said. “I had it, I brought it in and I dropped it.”
Tom Brady, who had completed just nine passes to tight ends coming into the game, finished 22 of 46 for 228 yards. He targeted Gronkowski 17 times.
Gronkowski’s drop, with a clear path to the end zone, left Brady without a touchdown pass for just the second time this season after a 52-game streak.
“He ran a great route and we gave him an opportunity and he probably makes that 99 out of a hundred, but it was just one of those days where it didn’t happen for us,” Brady said.
The Patriots sent the game to overtime on a 44-yard field goal. Then Brady opened overtime with a 16-yard pass Gronkowski. But the Jets stopped the Patriots and forced New England to punt.
The Patriots didn’t get the ball back, even after the Jets’ Nick Folk missed a 56-yard field goal attempt.
Folk was wide left, but the miss was negated when New England’s Chris Jones was called for unsportsmanlike conduct on a 15-yard penalty that had never before been called in an NFL game.
Referee Jerome Boger explained in a pool report that Jones was called for pushing his teammate “into the opponents’ formation.” Umpire Tony Michalek threw his flag “almost instantaneously as he observed the action,” Boger said. “We just enforced it as he called it.”
Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick disagreed with the application of the rule.
“You can’t push in the second level,” Belichick said. “I didn’t think we did that.”
New York (4-3), given new life, ran the ball three times to set up Folk’s winner and send the green towel-waving fans at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey into a frenzy.
“It was something that we talked about probably in camp and stuff, and it just skipped out of my mind,” Jones said. “It was my mistake and nobody else’s. I’ve just got to man up to it and fix it next time.”
New York, given new life, ran the ball three times to set up a 42-yard game winner from Folk, which sent the towel-waving fans at MetLife Stadium into a frenzy.
“I was like, ‘You know what? It’s about time we got a break,’” Jets coach Rex Ryan said, smiling. “That’s really what I was thinking. It just worked out.”
New England had defeated New York in six straight regular-season meetings, and saw its 12-game winning streak against AFC East opponents come to an end.
Smith, who threw three fourth-quarter interceptions in a Week 2 loss at New England, was 17 of 33 for 233 yards. He had a first-quarter interception returned 79 yards for a touchdown by rookie Logan Ryan.
Ryan was playing for Aqib Talib, part of a list of injured Patriot defenders that also includes Jarod Mayo, Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly.
“We don’t believe in those excuses,” Ryan said. “That’s why they drafted me, to come in and play and do my job along with other guys. Talking for myself, I need to make a couple more plays out there to help my team win.”
Brady also had an interception returned for a touchdown by Antonio Allen.
Smith gave the Jets a 24-21 lead in the third quarter on an 8-yard run. On third-and-14 from the 24, Smith took off left and was met by Marquice Cole, who slammed into the quarterback. But Smith reached out as he was going down and got the first down.
He again had all receivers tied up when he sprinted to his right, faked out Cole with a nice shake move and dived into the corner of the end zone.
Folk kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the third quarter for a 27-21 lead. Stephen Gostkowski’s 39-yarder cut New York’s advantage to 27-24.
The Jets, in a 21-10 hole, scored 17 consecutive points before Brady made a bid for a 39th come-from-behind win.
“We were close a lot, we’ve just got to start making ‘em,” Brady said. “The balls have to be better thrown. Everyone has to look at themselves and do a better job, because what we’re doing now isn’t good enough.”
Redskins 45, Bears 41
WASHINGTON — Roy Helu’s third touchdown, a 3-yard run with 45 seconds to play Sunday, lifted Washington past Chicago.
Robert Griffin III completed 18 of 29 passes for 298 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for the Redskins (2-4), who have both of their wins against backup quarterbacks. This time it was Josh McCown, who entered in the second quarter after Jay Cutler left with a groin injury.
Griffin also ran 11 times for a season-high 84 yards against a defense depleted by injuries, but the breakout performance came from rookie tight end Jordan Reed, who caught nine passes for 134 yards and one touchdown.
McCown, playing in a regular-season game for the first time since the 2011 season, completed 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards with one touchdown. Matt Forte rushed for three touchdowns, Alshon Jeffrey had 105 yards receiving, and Devin Hester tied Deion Sanders’ NFL record for return touchdowns with an 81-yard put runback for the Bears (4-3).
Bengals 27, Lions 24
DETROIT — Mike Nugent’s 54-yard field goal as time expired lifted the Bengals. The AFC North-leading Bengals (5-2) won a game for the second straight week by the same score thanks to Nugent’s right foot. He made an overtime kick to give Cincinnati a win after it blew a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead at Buffalo
The Lions (4-3) looked like they did enough to send the game to OT, but rookie Sam Martin shanked a punt just 28 yards to midfield in the final minute.
Andy Dalton, who threw three touchdown passes, took advantage with two short passes to set up the winning field goal.
Detroit’s Matthew Stafford connected with Calvin Johnson on two of his three TD passes.
Cowboys 17, Eagles 3
PHILADELPHIA — Tony Romo threw for 317 yards and one touchdown and the Cowboys overcame a sluggish start to take sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
Two teams that averaged a combined 58 points per game and allowed a combined 55 totaled 13 punts in a first half that ended with Dallas (4-3) leading 3-0. It was more two inept offenses than two dominant defenses.
The Eagles (3-4) have lost a franchise-worst nine straight games at home. Their last win at the Linc was over the New York Giants on Sept. 30, 2012.
A Cowboys defensive line missing three of its projected starters pressured and harassed Nick Foles before sending him to the sideline with a head injury on the last play of the third quarter.
Falcons 31, Bucs 23
ATLANTA — Matt Ryan threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Jacquizz Rodgers, and the Falcons snapped their three-game losing streak.
Harry Douglas had seven receptions for a career-best 149 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown catch, for the Falcons (2-4). Douglas flourished as Ryan’s No. 1 receiver with Julio Jones out for the season and Roddy White inactive for the first time in his nine-year career due to hamstring and ankle injuries.
Falcons safety William Moore sacked Mike Glennon to force a fumble on Tampa Bay’s first possession. Safety Thomas DeCoud returned the fumble recovery 30 yards for a touchdown.
The Buccaneers (0-6) controlled the ball in the fourth quarter, but managed only two field goals by Rian Lindell.