EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - The Kansas City Chiefs suffered their second straight loss of the season on Sunday on a wild day of upsets, which included a rare tie, in the National Football League.
Just a week after their nine-game unbeaten start came to a shuddering halt, the Chiefs gave up a last-minute touchdown in a 41-38 defeat to the San Diego Chargers to slip to 9-2.
Kansas City snatched the lead with 1 minute 22 seconds left on the clock when wide receiver Dwayne Bowe scored, only for San Diego to steal the win when Seyi Ajirotutu scored on a 26-yard pass from Philip Rivers with 24 seconds to play.
Despite the loss, the Chiefs, easily the most improved team this season, remain on course to make the playoffs. With five games left in the regular season, they lead the AFC wildcard race by four games, with six teams, including San Diego, tied at 5-6 for the second wildcard berth.
“There’s a whole lot of things we can learn from and that’s what we’re going to do,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said.
The Green Bay Packers missed a golden opportunity to join the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears at the top of the NFC North when they were held to a 26-26 tie by the Minnesota Vikings.
The Packers (5-5-1) looked set to end their three-game losing streak since star quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sidelined with a broken collarbone when they overturned a 23-7 deficit to force overtime and Mason Crosby kicked a 20-yard field goal to go ahead.
But the Vikings (2-8-1) leveled the score with Blair Walsh’s 35-yard field goal as the game finished in a tie, only the fourth in the NFL since the turn of the century.
“(There’s a) little bit of an empty feeling,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said.
“You expect to win. We got halfway there. The performance is not the standard but we’re a team playing through some peaks and valleys.”
The result left the Packers half a game behind the Lions and Bears, who both suffered upset defeats.
The Lions were beaten 24-21 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who registered their third straight win after starting the season 0-8.
The Buccaneers’ rookie quarterback Mike Glennon threw two touchdown passes to Tiquan Underwood, including the go-ahead 85-yard score, while the Lions contributed to their own downfall with five turnovers.
The Bears were hammered 42-21 by the St. Louis Rams, who improved to 5-6 with their second consecutive win. The Rams scored off the third play of the game, when rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin ran 65 yards, and were never headed after piling on 21 points in the opening quarter.
The Carolina Panthers, one of the few teams able to win consistently, chalked up their seventh straight win with a 20-16 comeback victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Trailling by 13 points late in the second quarter, the Panthers (8-3) scored 17 unanswered points, capped by quarterback Cam Newton’s one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen with 43 seconds remaining.
“I felt a couple times we were going through the motions,” Carolina head coach Ron Rivera said.
“(The Dolphins) are a much better football team than we gave them credit for.”
The defending Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens, beat the New York Jets 19-3 to join the logjam of teams battling for the second AFC wildcard spot.
The Ravens, Jets, Chargers, Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans are all tied at 5-6 after the Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns 27-11 and the Titans defeated the Oakland Raiders 23-19 on Sunday.
The NFC wildcard race is also neck and neck. The Panthers currently hold the first card at 8-3 while the Arizona Cardinals moved into sole possession of the second card at 7-4 following their 40-11 rout of the Indianapolis Colts.
The San Francisco 49ers, last season’s beaten Super Bowl finalists, can join the Cardinals at 7-4 if they defeat the Washington Redskins on Monday.
The New York Giants, Super Bowl champions two seasons ago, are in real danger of missing the postseason after falling 24-21 to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Giants are 4-7 while the Cowboys joined the Philadelphia Eagles at 6-5 as NFC East leaders after Dan Bailey’s 35-yard field goal on the final play sealed victory.
Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Gene Cherry