T.J. Ward

Winston throws late TD pass, Buccaneers beat Saints 31-24

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Jameis Winston threw for 363 yards, including a 39-yard scoring pass to Chris Godwin with nine seconds remaining, to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers snap a five-game losing streak with a 31-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

The playoff-bound Saints (11-5) entered the day hoping to clinch their first NFC South championship in six years. They wound up winning the title anyway, with Carolina (11-5) losing its regular season finale at Atlanta.

Trailing 24-23 with 1:58 remaining, Winston moved the Bucs (5-11) 95 yards in 11 plays for the winning TD.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

He converted a fourth-and-10 from his own 5 yard line with a 12-yard completion to Cameron Brate and threw 9 yards to Mike Evans on third-and-1 to keep the drive going at the Tampa Bay 35.

The fourth-year pro, who was intercepted three times, found Godwin racing up the right sideline just ahead of Saints cornerback Ken Crawley to put the Bucs ahead for good.

Alvin Kamara scored on a 106-yard kickoff return and had a second touchdown rushing for the Saints, who took a 24-20 lead midway through the fourth quarter when Zach Line caught a 3-yard TD pass from Drew Brees.

Patrick Murray, whose missed an extra point in the second quarter was the difference on the scoreboard when Winston launched the winning drive, made a 42-yard field goal to help the Bucs pull within 24-23 with four minutes left.

Kamara, who’s teamed with Mark Ingram to give New Orleans the only tandem in NFL history 1,500-plus scrimmage yards and more than 10 TDs in the same season, wiped out an early 7-0 deficit with his kickoff return.

The rookie’s 7-yard TD run on the Saints’ first offensive possession made it 14-7.

The touchdowns were the 13th and 14th of the season for Kamara, who has eight rushing and five receiving in addition to the second 100 yard-plus kickoff return for a TD allowed by Tampa Bay in two weeks.

Winston led a pair of 75-yard scoring drives in the opening half, but was also intercepted twice before halftime.

Brees turned one of the mistakes into the Saints’ first touchdown, throwing 43 yards to Michael Thomas to set up Kamara’s TD run that finished a 65-yard drive. The New Orleans finished 22 of 30 for 245 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

Godwin has seven receptions for 111 yards. Adam Humphries had seven catches for 102 yards.

INJURIES

Saints: None reported during the game.

Buccaneers: S T.J. Ward left with a knee injury and did not play in the second half. … T Caleb Benenoch injured an ankle during the first half but returned. He limped off for good a sore knee in the second half.

UP NEXT

Saints: First playoff appearance since 2013.

Buccaneers: Coach Dirk Koetter, who’s 13-18, was told before the finale that he will return for a third season.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Freeman runs for 126 yards, Falcons hold off Bucs 24-21

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Devonta Freeman rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown to help the Atlanta Falcons stay close in the tight NFC South race with a 24-21 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.

Freeman scored on a 32-yard run midway through the fourth quarter, restoring a 10-point lead for the Falcons (9-5), who then barely hung on to win for the fifth time in six games and remain one game behind New Orleans and Carolina in the division standings.

Freeman also caught five passes for a team-high 68 yards and had a first-half fumble recovered in the end zone by teammate Levine Toilolo for a touchdown. Matt Ryan threw an early TD pass to Justin Hardy and finished 17 of 31 passing for 212 yards and no interceptions.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

Jameis Winston threw for 299 yards and three TDs for the Bucs (4-10), including a 16-yarder to Adam Humphries that trimmed Atlanta’s lead to 24-21 with 3:51 remaining.

Winston, who also threw TD passes of 30 yards to O.J. Howard and 42 yards to Mike Evans, got the ball back with a minute left and nearly sent the game into overtime.

The third-year pro completed three straight passes to move the ball from his 29 to the Atlanta 36. Patrick Murray came on to try a 54-yard field goal to tie it, but the kick sailed wide right as time expired.

The Falcons play at New Orleans next Sunday, then close the regular season at home against Carolina – the two teams they’re chasing in the division race.

The Bucs have lost nine of 11 following a 2-1 start, taking a step back after finishing 9-7 a year ago in their first season under coach Dirk Koetter.

RING OF HONOR

Former Bucs coach Jon Gruden, who’s spent the past nine seasons as ESPN’s game analyst on Monday Night Football, was inducted into the Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium during a halftime ceremony.

Gruden was acquired from the Oakland Raiders in exchange for two first-round draft picks, two second-round draft pick and $8 million before leading the 2002 Bucs to the club’s only Super Bowl championship in his first season in Tampa Bay.

Gruden was fired after the 2008 season and moved into the broadcast booth the following season. The Bucs haven’t made the playoffs since 2007 and don’t have a postseason win since their Super Bowl run 15 years ago.

The coach’s sons – Deuce, Mike and Jayson – led the Bucs out of the tunnel before the game as the team’s honorary flag runners.

Gruden is the 11th member of the Ring of Honor, joining Hall of Famers Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, as well as Doug Williams, John Lynch, John McKay, Mike Alstott, Jimmie Giles, Paul Gruber and Malcom Glazer.

INJURIES

Falcons: RB Tevin Coleman (concussion) and G Andy Levire (triceps) did not play.

Buccaneers: Played without their top two players, DT Gerald McCoy (biceps) and LB Lavonte David (hamstring), who were inactive. … Howard (ankle) limped off the field after being hit near the goal line on his TD and did not return. … G J.R. Sweezy suffered what was described as a lower body injury in the second quarter and did not return. The second half took a heavy toll, too, with LB Adarius Glanton being carted off with a leg injury, S T.J. Ward evaluated for a concussion, and S Justin Evans and WR DeSean Jackson lost to ankle injuries.

UP NEXT

Falcons: Travel to New Orleans to face division-leading Saints on Sunday.

Buccaneers: Play final road game of season at Carolina.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.

Broncos underdogs at Chiefs for key Sunday Night Football meeting

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Young quarterback Trevor Siemian will need a lot of help if the Denver Broncos are to continue their history of success in Kansas City.

The Kansas City Chiefs are listed as 3.5-point favorites against the Broncos with a 37.5-point total in the Sunday Night Football matchup, according to sportsbooks monitored by the OddsShark.com.

The Broncos are in a virtual must-win situation as far as their playoffs hopes are concerned, but are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven road games against the Chiefs, according to the OddsShark NFL Database. They are also 9-3 straight-up and ATS in their last 12 games as an underdog of 4.5 points or less. Conversely, the Chiefs are 10-2 SU and 4-8 ATS over their last 12 home games at Arrowhead Stadium.

Denver, which is 8-6 SU and ATS, has struggled to break 20 points on a consistent basis this season, since the offensive line simply hasn’t been strong enough at run blocking or keeping blitzers off Siemian. The young QB has made progress, but will have to be careful against a pass defense with an impressive 15 interceptions.

Broncos wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are also facing a respectable pass defense, led by CB Marcus Peters, that has kept teams to 7.1 yards per pass even though they have faced a string of tough offenses.

The Broncos will need to keep Chiefs OLB Dee Ford, OLB Justin Houston, and DE Dee Ford from getting to Siemian. Young running back Devontae Booker hasn’t always delivered on his potential, but he did scoot for 79 yards in the teams’ first meeting in Week 11.

Kansas City, which is 10-4 SU and 7-7 ATS, will be out to clinch a playoff berth with a win. Quarterback Alex Smith and his regular targets such as TE Travis Kelce, WR Tyreek Hill and WR Jeremy Maclin will have to solve a pass defense that allows an NFL-low 183 yards per game. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz will also have to do a better job against OLB Von Miller, who had three sacks in the teams’ first meeting.

Injury issues with SS T.J. Ward (concussion protocol), DE Derek Wolfe (neck) and ILB Brandon Marshall could affect Denver’s already soft run defense, which is 29th in the NFL and has also struggled to generate turnovers. The Chiefs’ running game, with Spencer Ware as the busiest ball carrier, isn’t very efficient but it’s a sure bet coach Andy Reid won’t abandon it and let his offense become one-dimensional.

The total has gone over in 11 of the Broncos’ last 14 games with a closing total of 38 points or less.  The total has gone under in eight of the Chiefs’ last 10 games.