From Comcast SportsNetThe Houston Texans spent a lot of time in the end zone, rolling up a franchise record for points and sending a clear message to the rest of the AFC:Last week's embarrassing loss to Green Bay was a mere hiccup. These Texans will be a handful all season.Matt Schaub threw two touchdown passes, Arian Foster ran for two scores and the Texans dominated a showdown of the conference's top two teams, routing the Baltimore Ravens 43-13 on Sunday."We were really into what we were doing," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said, "and we were there all day long, so it was a good team effort."Johnathan Joseph returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown and the Texans (6-1) finally beat Baltimore (5-2), which was without Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb. The Ravens had won all six previous meetings and eliminated them from last year's playoffs.The big win took the sting out of the 42-24 defeat to Green Bay last Sunday. Schaub completed 23 of 37 passes for 256 yards and the Texans finished with 420 yards.Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers picked up where they left off by topping the St. Louis Rams 30-20. Rodgers, who threw six touchdown passes against the Texans, had three more against the Rams.Rodgers directed Green Bay to its second consecutive turnover-free game. He also has 150 career TD passes and 42 interceptions, breaking Dan Marino's NFL record for fewest interceptions at that milestone. Marino had 69 interceptions when he threw his 150th TD pass.Randall Cobb caught two touchdown passes and Jordy Nelson had eight receptions for a season-best 122 yards for the Packers (4-3). Rookie Casey Hayward made his first start in place of injured Sam Shields and intercepted his fourth pass in three games."Winning is fun," said Nelson, who had a 3-yard TD catch in the first quarter. "That's why we play games. It's great to win back-to-back games, it sounds great to say that for the first time this year, but we've got to stack success."Elsewhere, it was New Orleans 35, Tampa Bay 28; New England 29, the New York Jets 26 in overtime; Tennessee 35, Buffalo 34; the New York Giants 27, Washington 23; Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 17; Minnesota 21, Arizona 14; Dallas 19, Carolina 14; Indianapolis 17, Cleveland 13; and Oakland 26, Jacksonville 23 in OT.At Houston, Terrell Suggs, last year's defensive player of the year, saw his first action for the Ravens since undergoing surgery on his right Achilles tendon last May. Suggs sacked Schaub in the first quarter and finished with three solo tackles.Otherwise, Baltimore's defense seemed overmatched without Lewis and Webb, who were placed on injured reserve this week. Safety Ed Reed, who acknowledged this week that he's been playing with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, left in the fourth quarter with a chest injury. Reed said he felt fine after the game.Joe Flacco threw two interceptions and was sacked four times.The Ravens gave up their most points since a 44-20 loss to Indianapolis in 2007."It's not the end of the world," Suggs said, "but it's not something we're going to take lightly, either."At St. Louis, Rodgers was 30 for 37, setting a single-game franchise completion record of 81.1 percent with a minimum of 35 attempts. He has guided the Packers to touchdowns on 12 of 14 trips inside the 20 over the last four games."I think their plan was to dink and dunk and catch us off guard," Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. "They made the plays when they needed to."Steven Jackson ran for his first touchdown of the year, and just the Rams' 10th overall, to trim the deficit to a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. But Rodgers made a terrific throw to Cobb for a 39-yard pass that put the Packers up by two scores with 3:06 remaining.------SAINTS 35, BUCCANEERS 28At Tampa, Fla., Jonathan Vilma played for the first time while appealing a season-long suspension for his role in the Saints bounty program and Drew Brees threw for 377 yards and four touchdowns in the come-from-behind win.Brees extended his NFL record for consecutive games with at least one TD pass to 49, while leading long scoring drives on four straight possessions for the Saints (2-4) to turn a 14-point deficit into a 28-21 halftime lead.Josh Freeman threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns for the Bucs (2-4).------PATRIOTS 29, JETS 26 OTAt Foxborough, Mass., Rob Ninkovich recovered a fumble by Mark Sanchez after Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 48-yard field goal in overtime for New England.The Patriots (4-3) moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC East. The day started with all four teams tied at 3-3, but the Jets (3-4) and the Buffalo Bills lost, while the Miami Dolphins were idle.Gostkowski tied the game with a 43-yard field goal on the last play of regulation.------TITANS 35, BILLS 24At Orchard Park, N.Y., Matt Hasselbeck hit Nate Washington for a 15-yard touchdown with 1:03 left in leading Tennessee.It was Hasselbeck's 22nd career fourth-quarter comeback and second in consecutive weeks. It happened in a game in which running back Chris Johnson enjoyed a long awaited breakout performance with 195 yards rushing and two scores. Jamie Harper also scored twice for Tennessee (3-4).Ryan Fitzpatrick finished 27 of 35 for 225 yards and three scores for the Bills (3-4), but turned the ball over twice, including a lost fumble.------GIANTS 27, REDSKINS 23At East Rutherford, N.J., Eli Manning threw a 77-yard scoring pass to Victor Cruz with 1:13 to play and New York (5-2) overcame a late touchdown by rookie sensation Robert Griffin III.Manning's pass to Cruz came two plays and 19 seconds after Griffin capped what was a potential game-winning, 77-yard drive with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss. The rookie had kept the drive alive for the Redskins (3-4) with a 19-yard pass off a desperate scramble on a fourth-and-10 play deep in his own territory and a 24-yard run on the next play.------STEELERS 24, BENGALS 17At Cincinnati, Ben Roethlisberger threw one touchdown pass, and the Pittsburgh Steelers overcame their injury-depleted running game to beat the Bengals.Shaun Suisham kicked field goals of 42, 47 and 42 yards, and the Steelers clamped down on Cincinnati's Dalton-to-Green connection, holding it to one completion.The Steelers (3-3) won on the road for the first time this season and improved to 12-2 at Paul Brown Stadium despite missing their top two running backs and two offensive linemen. The Bengals (3-4) fell to 0-6 the last two seasons against Baltimore and Pittsburgh.------VIKINGS 21, CARDINALS 14At Minneapolis, Adrian Peterson ran for 153 yards and a first-quarter touchdown, and Minnesota (5-2) survived an ugly second half to hang on for the win over Arizona (4-3).Percy Harvin caught Christian Ponder's only touchdown pass, but Ponder threw an interception that led to a second-quarter touchdown run by LaRod Stephens-Howling.Arizona's John Skelton went 25 for 36 for 262 yards and two turnovers.------COWBOYS 19, PANTHERS 14At Charlotte, N.C., Dan Bailey made a go-ahead 28-yard field goal with 3:25 remaining to help Dallas end a two-game losing streak.With Dallas trailing 14-13, Tony Romo led the Cowboys (3-3) into field-goal range with a 10-play, 44-yard drive to send Dallas to its ninth consecutive regular-season victory over the Panthers (1-5).------COLTS 17, BROWNS 13At Indianapolis, Andrew Luck became the first Colts quarterback to run for two touchdowns in a game since 1988.Indy (3-3) has already won one more game than it did in 2011.Brandon Weeden threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns, but Trent Richardson, who tried to play through a rib cartilage injury, sat out the second half after running eight times for 8 yards in the first half. The Browns (1-6) have lost 11 straight road games.------RAIDERS 26, JAGUARS 23 OTAt Oakland, Calif., Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 40-yard field goal after Cecil Shorts III fumbled on the opening possession of overtime and the Raiders rallied from 14 points down in the second half.Carson Palmer threw one TD pass and ran for another to force overtime for the Raiders (2-4) before they won it after Lamarr Houston forced a fumble that Joselio Hanson recovered at the Jacksonville 21.The Jaguars (1-5) lost star running back Maurice Jones-Drew to a left foot injury on the opening drive and quarterback Blaine Gabbert to an injured left shoulder in the second quarter.
FOXBORO -- Alan Branch knew he had a good case, otherwise he wouldn't have appealed. It was just a question of when that appeal might be heard.
As of Wednesday, the Patriots defensive tackle hadnt heard anything as it related to the appeal of his four-game suspension. But by Saturday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch had won the appeal and been cleared of the league's ban.
Branch's agent later confirmed the news on Twitter.
Congratulations to Alan Branch on having his 4 game suspension rescinded. The @NFL doesn't always do the right thing, but they did this time— Blake Baratz (@blakebaratz) December 3, 2016
Word of Branch's punishment, which stemmed from what was reported as a positive marijuana test, became public when reported by ESPN on Nov. 21. Per the league's substance abuse policy, appeal hearings are typically scheduled for the fourth Tuesday after a player has been informed of his penalty. The policy notes that it is possible for appeals to be heard on another date should the two sides be able to work out different schedule, but Branch was not optimistic that would be the case earlier this week.
Good news came quickly, though.
Had Branch been forced to miss any time, it would have docked the Patriots arguably their top interior defensive lineman. Branch has started every game, and he leads all Patriots defensive tackles with 457 snaps played.
The Patriots recently waived running back DJ Foster and signed defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, seemingly as a way to build some depth on the roster if Branch had been suspended.
By having his four-game suspension wiped away not only are the Patriots saved from having to deal without one of their top players in the trenches, but Branch saved himself a relatively hefty financial penalty.
A four-game ban would have cost him nearly $300,000 in base salary as well as four game-day bonuses adding to $100,000. He also stood to lose as much as $750,000 in season-long playing-time incentives. In all, had the suspension stood, it could have cost him about $1.1 million. Patriots salary-cap expert Miguel Benzan goes into more detail about the potential financial impact of Branch's suspension here.
Thankfully for Branch, he doesn't have to worry about that any longer. With this situation in the rear view, he can now focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.