The playoff-bound New Orleans Saints looked like the old "Aints" for a while yesterday, piling mistake upon mistake to fall far behind the Cincinnati Bengals.
They then proved they're different from the Saints who shamed their fans into covering their heads for much of the franchise's first 20 years.
Buford Jordan ended a 38-point rally with two late touchdown runs as the Saints ran their team-record winning streak to eight games by routing the Bengals, 41-24, in Cincinnati.
The Saints controlled the second half, allowing only one long field goal try that fell short. Jordan said the transformation was a matter of the Saints reverting to playoff form and avoiding mistakes.
"We came out in the second half and eliminated that stuff and played like we knew how to play," he said.
The Saints trailed, 24-3, in the second quarter before they began rushing so fiercely that they frustrated quarterback Boomer Esiason. The pressure forced two fumbles and two interceptions that permitted the Saints to rally.
The victory improved their record to 11-3 and kept them in contention for the NFC West title. They are assured of at least a wild-card berth, the first playoff spot in their 21 seasons.
"They're a playoff team in every sense of the word," Bengals Coach Sam Wyche said.
The Saints rallied behind backup quarterback Dave Wilson, who entered the game after Bobby Hebert sprained his right knee in the second quarter with his team trailing by 24-3. Wilson, who lost the starting job to Hebert in training camp, completed nine of 15 passes for 160 yards, including a 29-yard pass to Mike Jones that cut the lead to 24-17 early in the third quarter.
"Obviously, when you're coming off the bench," Wilson said, "you have no place to go but up in a lot of those situations. We got lucky today."
The Saints' defense, among the best in the NFL, then took over. Esiason's fumble set up the second of Dalton Hilliard's two short touchdown runs, tying the game at 24-24 with 9:34 left in the third quarter.
Colts 20, Chargers 7:
In San Diego, Jack Trudeau threw a touchdown pass for Indianapolis and his defensive teammates had five sacks and three interceptions.
The Colts, bidding for their first playoff berth in a decade, are 8-6, assuring their first winning season since 1977, the year they played their last playoff game.
Their victory, coupled with the Buffalo Bills' loss to New England, moved the Colts into a first place tie in the AFC East with Miami. But the Colts can clinch the division title with a victory at home against Tampa Bay next week.
The Chargers, who have lost five straight games, fell to 8-6. They had a league-best 8-1 record five weeks ago and now have virtually no chance at the playoffs.
Two field goals by Dean Biasucci and the Colts' first touchdown in nine quarters of play gave Indianapolis a 13-7 halftime lead. Albert Bentley scored the Colts' final touchdown with 1:53 left on a 3-yard run after Eric Dickerson set up the score with a 53-yard dash down the right sideline.
Dickerson, who had 115 yards on 23 carries, pushed his season total to 1,092, the fifth straight year he has rushed more than 1,000 yards -- tying him with O.J. Simpson and Jim Taylor for the second-most consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He pushed his career total to 8,060 yards in his 74th regular-season game -- the quickest anyone has passed 8,000 yards in league history.
Eagles 38, Jets 27:
Mike Quick had touchdown receptions of 45 and 13 yards and caught a total of six passes for 148 yards to lead Philadelphia in East Rutherford, N.J.
The Jets (6-8, eliminated from playoff contention) lost their third straight and have allowed 117 points in those defeats. The Eagles also are 6-8, but 6-5 in non-strike games.
The Eagles shut down the Jets in the second half until Al Toon scored on a 51-yard pass play with 2:23 remaining. Toon had 10 receptions for 168 yards, his third straight 100-yard game. Ken O'Brien was sacked twice by Reggie White, the NFL leader with 19. The league record is 22, held by Mark Gastineau of the Jets who had one sack yesterday.
As the remnants of the crowd of 30,572 filed out, many chanted "Joe Must Go" to Jets Coach Joe Walton.
Cardinals 31, Buccaneers 14:
Neil Lomax threw touchdown passes to three teammates and Stump Mitchell rushed for 101 yards and another score as St. Louis kept its playoff hopes alive.
The victory was the fourth in the last five games for the Cardinals (7-7), who are battling the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams for the last wild-card playoff spot in the NFC.
Tampa Bay lost its seventh consecutive game to fall to 4-10. It is 0-3 with rookie Vinny Testaverde starting at quarterback.