By Simon Evans
(Reuters) - The Houston Texans took control of the American Football Conference (AFC) after handing the Baltimore Ravens a convincing 43-13 defeat on Sunday while the Green Bay Packers offense fired again to win 30-20 at the St. Louis Rams.
The New England Patriots (4-3) took sole control of the AFC East after a 29-26 overtime win over divisional rivals, the New York Jets.
Eli Manning and Victor Cruz combined on a 77-yard touchdown to give the New York Giants a thrilling 27-23 win over the Washington Redskins while the New Orleans Saints won an exciting shootout in Tampa Bay 35-28.
The Texans (6-1) triumphed in the battle of the AFC's top two teams, bouncing back from their first loss of the season against the Packers last week.
Quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns while Arian Foster ran in two scores against a Ravens defense without their injured inspirational linebacker Ray Lewis.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw two interceptions, one of which was run in from 52 yards by Johnathan Joseph.
Most things looked back in place for the Texans with their defense solid as they restricted the Ravens to 176 yards total offense.
"We found out today that we can still play a great defense and we'll continue to do that for the rest of the year," said Texans head coach Gary Kubiak.
After a slow start to the season, the Packers are now 4-3 and Aaron Rodgers is once again proving to be a game-winning quarterback, throwing for 342 yards and three touchdowns in St. Louis.
Randall Cobb collected two of Rodger's touchdown passes while Jordy Nelson scored one and put up 122 yards receiving as Green Bay put the game well beyond the Rams.
Rodgers was full of praise for Cobb's display.
"He's a star in the making. He sees the game through the eyes of the quarterback. He asks the right questions. I am happy with the way our offense is progressing," Rodgers said.
New England were 23-13 ahead after the third quarter but found themselves needing a Stephen Gostkowski field goal from 43 yards to take the game into overtime.
The Jets revival came via a Dustin Keller touchdown on a seven-yard pass from quarterback Mark Sanchez and then two field goals from Nick Folk.
Into overtime, the Patriots had to settle for another Gostkowski field goal on the opening possession but that proved enough as Sanchez was sacked and fumbled with Rob Ninkovich making the game-winning recovery.
Giants quarterback Manning again illustrated his ability to deliver in the fourth quarter for the defending Super Bowl champions - his game-winning pass to Cruz coming after Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III had put his team 23-20 up.
The talented Griffin picked out Santana Moss with a 30-yard pass - the same combination having put Washington in front in the second quarter.
The victory improved the Giants record to 5-2 and tightened their hold on first place in the NFC East, while the Redskins dropped to 3-4 after narrowly missing out on their opportunity to move into a tie for the division lead.
There was no shortage of offensive entertainment in Tampa Bay where Drew Brees threw for 377 yards and four touchdowns and Josh Freeman put up 420 yards and three touchdown passes while the Saints defense came up big in the fourth quarter.
All four of Brees's touchdowns and 313 yards of his passing came in the first half while Jonathan Vilma, who is appealing a one-year ban for his alleged role in the "Bounty" affair, made his season debut.
After making a 4-0 start to the season, the Arizona Cardinals have lost their last three games, the latest setback a 21-14 loss to the much-improved Minnesota (5-2).
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson opened the scoring with a 13-yard touchdown run and put up 153 yards on the ground but the game turned decisively for Minnesota when Harrison Smith brilliantly returned an interception for a 31-yard score in the third quarter.
The Dallas Cowboys (3-3) won 19-14 at the Carolina Panthers (1-5), thanks to two fourth quarter field goals from Dan Bailey, although the highlight was a superbly weighted 16-yard pass from Tony Room to Miles Austin in the third quarter.
Matt Hasselbeck fired a 15-yard touchdown strike to Nate Washington with 63 seconds to play, lifting the Tennessee Titans to a wild 35-34 comeback win over the Buffalo Bills.
Running backs Chris Johnson and Jamie Harper both rushed for a pair of scores as the surging Titans recorded back-to-back wins for the first time this season to jump back into the playoff chase in the AFC South with a record of 3-4.
The powerful Johnson rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns.
(Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)