Week 12 of the 2021 NFL season saw some contenders make their mark and some pretenders fall further down the standings.
Here's everything you need to know from Sunday's action.
Falcons take advantage of Jaguars' mistakes in victory
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Cordarrelle Patterson scored twice in his return from an ankle injury, and the Atlanta Falcons found the end zone and the win column for the first time in three weeks in a 21-14 victory over woeful Jacksonville on Sunday.
The Falcons (5-6) managed just a field goal in their previous two games, lopsided losses to Dallas and New England in which they turned over the ball a combined seven times and failed to score a touchdown in consecutive games for the first time since 1987.
They put an emphasis on playing "smarter football" against Jacksonville, and it paid off. It surely helped that the Jaguars (2-9) made all the early mistakes.
Trevor Lawrence threw an interception on Jacksonville's second series. James Robinson fumbled on the team's next drive.
Atlanta initially turned Robinson's turnover into a field goal, but Jaguars defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris was flagged for leveraging. That gave the Falcons a new set of downs, and Patterson found a gaping hope up the middle for a 12-yard TD run.
Patterson also had a 7-yard score on the game's opening possession. He finished with 108 yards rushing and 27 more receiving.
The Falcons led 14-0 and then 21-3 on Matt Ryan's TD pass to Russell Gage, but the Jags clawed their way back into the game late. Lawrence found Tavon Austin for a score and connected with James O'Shaughnessy for a 2-point conversion. Matt Wright added a 34-yard field goal in the fourth period to make it a one-score game.
Jacksonville forced a punt and got the ball back with 2:14 remaining, but Lawrence threw incomplete on four straight downs.
Newton puts up career-worst rating, Dolphins roll past Panthers
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Jaylen Waddle had nine catches for a season-best 137 yards and a touchdown, and the Miami Dolphins forced Cam Newton into one of the worst statistical days of his career on the way to beating the Carolina Panthers 33-10 on Sunday.
Myles Gaskin had two short rushing scores for Miami (5-7), which became the sixth team in NFL history to immediately follow a 1-7 start with four consecutive wins. Duke Riley blocked a punt that led to a score for Miami.
The quarterback matchup was totally one-sided. Miami's Tua Tagovailoa completed 27 of 31 passes for 230 yards and a score. Newton was pulled in the fourth quarter after completing just five of 21 passes for the Panthers (5-7), who lost for the seventh time in their past nine games.
Newton finished with 92 yards passing, no touchdowns and two interceptions. It all added up to a quarterback rating of 5.8, by far the worst of his career. He did have Carolina's lone touchdown, a 1-yard spin in the first quarter.
Jones throws two TD passes, Patriots roll past Titans
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Mac Jones threw two touchdown passes, New England's defence forced four turnovers and the Patriots earned their sixth straight win, rolling past the Tennessee Titans 36-13 on Sunday.
The victory snapped New England's two-game losing skid against the Titans. The Patriots hadn't beaten Tennessee since former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel took over as coach in 2018. New England (8-4) improved to 6-1 against AFC opponents this season.
Jones completed 23 of 32 passes for 310 yards. Kendrick Bourne had both of the Patriots' TD receptions, finishing with five catches for 61 yards.
The Titans (8-4) stayed close early, but couldn't survive a bevy of errors that included three fumbles by their running backs and an interception by Ryan Tannehill. He finished 11 of 21 for 93 yards and a touchdown.
Zach Wilson returns, Jets end skid with win over Texans
HOUSTON -- Zach Wilson threw for 145 yards and ran for a touchdown in his return from a sprained right knee, helping the New York Jets rally for a 21-14 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday that snapped a three-game skid.
Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in April who missed the last four games, was rusty early and threw an interception but put the Jets (3-8) on top with a 4-yard scamper in the third quarter.
The Jets converted two fourth-down attempts on a drive that ended with a 37-yard field goal by Matt Ammendola that made it 21-14 with about 3 1/2 minutes to go.
The Texans (2-9) hoped to build on an upset of Tennessee last week that ended an eight-game skid and looked good early. Tyrod Taylor threw two touchdown passes in the second quarter to give Houston 14-3 lead, but the Texans couldn't do anything offensively after that.
Giants' defence smothers Eagles in low scoring victory
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' defence rose up to intercept Jalen Hurts three times and held Philadelphia to a season-low in points in beating the error-prone Eagles 13-7 Sunday.
Daniel Jones hit Philadelphia native Chris Myarick with a 1-yard score and Graham Gano kicked field goals of 35 and 39 yards as the Giants (4-7) somewhat responded to the firing of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett by ending the Eagles' two-game winning streak.
The Eagles (5-7) were their own worst enemy. They had four turnovers, with running back Boston Scott losing a fumble that Julian Love recovered at the New York 40 with 1:34 to play.
The Eagles had one more chance in the final 1:11. They got a first down at the Giants 27 and had to spike the ball. Hurts threw three passes and nearly had Jalen Reagor for a TD on second down with a sideline pass the receiver got his hands on before dropping. A pass to Reagor at the goal line on fourth-and-10 also was incomplete.
Mixon runs for career high 165 yards, Bengals crush Steelers
CINCINNATI -- Joe Mixon rushed for a career-high 165 yards and two touchdowns, Joe Burrow scrambled ran for a score and passed for another one and the Cincinnati Bengals crushed the Pittsburgh Steelers 41-10, sweeping the season series for the first time since 2009.
Mixon, coming off a rugged 123-yard, two-TD performance in a win over Las Vegas last week, pounded away for 117 yards in the first half and helped the Bengals cruise to a third straight win over their AFC North rival after losing 11 straight in the series.
The Steelers (5-5-1) are winless in their past three games. The Bengals (7-4), dominated by Pittsburgh for so many years, have stamped themselves as a legitimate playoff contender.
Cincinnati scored on its first four drives, and former Steeler Mike Hilton returned a Ben Roethlisberger pass for a 24-yard touchdown late in the first half to push the Cincinnati lead to 31-3 at the intermission.
Fournette has 4 TDs to fuel Buccaneers victory over Colts
INDIANAPOLIS -- Leonard Fournette capped a four-touchdown game with a 28-yard scoring run with 20 seconds left Sunday, giving Tampa Bay a 38-31 come-from-behind victory at Indianapolis.
Tom Brady led the Buccaneers (8-3) on the eight-play, 75-yard tiebreaking drive after getting the ball back with 3:29 to go. Fournette rushed 17 times for 100 yards and three scores. He also caught Brady's only touchdown pass.
The defending Super Bowl champs have won two straight overall while Brady improved to 16-4 all time against the Colts in his first appearance with Tampa Bay.
Indy (6-6) had a chance to force overtime when Isaiah Rodgers returned the kickoff 71 yards to the Bucs 32-yard line with 10 seconds left. But Carson Wentz's first pass to Jack Doyle fell incomplete and former Colts cornerback Pierre Desir picked off Wentz near the goal line as time expired.
Surtain's pair of picks leads Broncos past Chargers
DENVER -- Rookie Patrick Surtain II picked off Justin Herbert twice, returning the second one 70 yards for a touchdown and sparking the Denver Broncos' 28-7 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
The Broncos' big win sets up a showdown for the AFC West lead next weekend in Kansas City, where the game between Denver (6-5) and the Chiefs (7-4) already was flexed to Sunday night.
Surtain's first interception came in the end zone on a pass intended for tight end Jared Cook early in the fourth quarter. The Broncos converted that takeaway into a touchdown when Teddy Bridgewater hit tight end Eric Saubert from 9 yards to make it 21-7.
His second one came off the hands of Austin Ekeler, who watched helplessly as Surtain cradled his second interception and sprinted down the Broncos' jubilant sideline to push Denver's lead to 28-7.
Denver's defence came up big on a day the injury-riddled offence lost Bridgewater temporarily to a lower right leg injury, left tackle Calvin Anderson (knee), and left guard Dalton Risner (back).
49ers beat Vikings for third straight win
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Deebo Samuel ran for two touchdowns before leaving with an injury and Elijah Mitchell ran for 133 yards and a score, leading the San Francisco 49ers to a 34-26 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The matchup between two .500 teams fighting for wild-card spots was a highly entertaining one with six scores in the third quarter alone, including a 99-yard kickoff return score by Minnesota's Kene Nwangwu.
But the 49ers (6-5) made just enough plays, including a fourth-down stop near the goal line midway through the fourth quarter to win their third straight following a stretch of five losses in six games.
Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 230 yards and a TD, but the Niners once again did more of their work on the ground with Samuel's two scores making him the first receiver since the merger to run for five TDs in a season. Samuel had six carries for 66 yards and also caught one pass for 15 yards before leaving with a groin injury.
Toe injury can't stop Aaron Rodgers as Packers defeat Rams
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers withstood pain from a toe injury, threw two touchdown passes and also ran for a score in the Green Bay Packers' 36-28 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
The Rams outscored Green Bay 11-0 in the fourth quarter, but their comeback attempt ended when Adrian Amos recovered an onside kick with 17 seconds left.
Rodgers went 28 of 45 for 307 yards as the Packers bounced back from a 34-31 loss at Minnesota. The reigning MVP threw touchdown passes of 7 yards to Randall Cobb and 5 yards to A.J. Dillon.
Green Bay (9-3) has never lost consecutive games within the same season during Matt LaFleur's three-year coaching tenure.
Ravens overcome Jackson's four interceptions, beat Browns
BALTIMORE -- Lamar Jackson provided one brilliant highlight during an otherwise subpar performance and his 13-yard touchdown pass to Mark Andrews in the third quarter was enough to lift the Baltimore Ravens to a 16-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night.
Jackson threw a career-high four interceptions in this mistake-filled game, but the only touchdown for Baltimore was memorable. Dogged by Cleveland's pass rush all night, Jackson scrambled all the way back to about the 35-yard line before lofting a pass over the middle to a remarkably open Andrews in the end zone.
That made it 13-3, and the Ravens (8-3) held on to take over the top spot in the AFC standings.
"Got to move on to the Steelers," Jackson said. "Six games left in the season."