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.
CLEVELAND -- Down the stretch in Game 4, the Celtics were desperate for someone, anyone, who could slow down Kyrie Irving.
But short of that, Boston could have used an offensive closer, too. You know, someone like Isaiah Thomas.
GAME 4: CAVS 112, CELTICS 99
- Irving takes over in the second half, rallies Cavs past Celts
- Stars, studs and duds: Celtics didn't advantage of LeBron James' foul trouble
- Blakely: A missed opportunity for Celtics
The Celtics have relied on the two-time All-Star to carry much of the offensive burden this season, but he was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter.
A right hip injury knocked him out of this series after 1 1/2 games. Still, Boston managed to win Game 3 without him and, for large chunks of Tuesday night, seemed poised to beat the Cavs again on their home floor.
But as much as Game 4 was a reminder of just how special a talent Irving is (42 points, 21 in the third quarter when the game’s momentum swung in Cleveland's favor), it also provided a clue to the clueless who thought the Celtics were actually better without Isaiah Thomas.
It’s no secret that teams go to great lengths to try and use his 5-foot-9 stature against him. And as we have seen, the deeper we get into the postseason the more trouble he and the Celtics seem to encounter from a defensive standpoint.
But just as we praise Irving for being such a special talent, Thomas has shown that he, too, has offensive gifts that, throughout this season, have left many fans, media and defenders befuddled as to how “the little fella” keeps coming up with one big play, one big shot after another.
But as we have learned, he has been dealing with a sore right hip injury for several weeks. The pain and discomfort eventually became too much to bear and so the Celtics did the right thing and shut him down.
Without him, the C's are still a good team that on any given night can knock off anyone, even the defending champs.
But as Game 4 reminded us, they need Thomas in order to be their best.
When Irving torched Boston’s entire defense with jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers, Euro-step lay-ups and free throws, the Celtics had no one to turn to who could maybe, just maybe, go back at Irving at the other end of the floor.
That's what Thomas does that makes him such a special, unique talent in this league.
He can score in a variety of ways, with the best in the NBA.
We saw that this past season, when he led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring with a 28.9 points-per-game average.
Boston’s excellent ball movement and high assist numbers are certainly important to the team’s success. But to make a deep and meaningful playoff run, you need one or two guys who can just go get buckets regardless of what the opponent does defensively.
That’s not Avery Bradley.
That’s not Al Horford.
That’s not Kelly Olynyk.
You can search, poke and prod this roster all you want, and you'll come up empty when it comes to finding a player like that . . . other than Isaiah Thomas.
The fact the Celtics were able to avoid getting swept is a victory of sorts in itself. Boston’s coaching staff, as well as the front office, has repeatedly said that as talented as their team is, they aren’t on the same level of the defending champion Cavaliers.
And yet here we are four games into this series and the Celtics are basically a bad half of basketball away from being tied, 2-2.
It says a lot about their mental toughness, their ability to handle and navigate past adversity to give themselves a chance to be competitive against any team -- including the Cavs.
But their success this season has always been about the collective group, regardless of how many late-game shots Isaiah Thomas knocks down.
And while he has his shortcomings defensively, not having him available is going to hurt them in those late-game moments when they need a closer. It’s not a coincidence the Celtics were just 2-4 when he didn’t play during the regular season.
So as cool as it was for them to win Game 3 without Thomas, he’s still the straw that stirs the Celtics emotionally, bringing them to levels few think they're capable of reaching.
They were able to get by for one night without him, but remember this: It took Marcus Smart having an Isaiah Thomas-like game of 27 points and seven made 3’s, for them to win.
No one did anything remotely close to that Tuesday night.
They looked like the Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics, which is a look they don’t need this time of year.
Because that look is so not about winning.
Tom E. Curran and our Boston Sports Tonight crew debate whether the New England Patriots could have restructured Malcolm Butler's contract like they did Rob Gronkowski's.