Chief Hill sends Green Bay packing

American football

The edges were further blurred on a campaign already notably lacking in certainties on Sunday when five divisional leaders were beaten, and the likely participants in this season's Super Bowl became just that little bit more difficult to predict.

Perhaps the biggest surprise came in Arrowhead Stadium where the visiting Green Bay Packers pitted their league-leading defense against a Kansas City offense that has been much doubted in recent weeks. The Chiefs took a grip on the game early, notching 17 second-quarter points, and won more comfortably than the 27-20 scoreline suggests. Greg Hill had touchdown runs of eight and 24 yards and hauled in a 34-yard pass for another score as the home side amassed 383 yards.

It was only the Pack's second defeat of the season, but any encouragement it may have offered the other pretenders in the NFC was offset by the fact that most of them lost as well. Philadelphia, fresh from a thrilling win in Dallas, were beaten by Buffalo, who sacked Ty Detmer five times. If defeat to the Bills was understandable - Marv Levy's team are the most resilient in the league - the one suffered by Washington will take a lot more explaining.

They gave up 552 yards to the ageing arm of Arizona's Boomer Esiason, a quarterback whose prime was not so much in another year as another decade. The Cardinals prevailed 37-34, with Kevin Butler's winning 32-yard field goal coming 33 seconds from the end of overtime.

The demise of the Skins and Eagles allowed the Dallas Cowboys to move within a game of them at the top of the NFC East following their victory in San Francisco. A game that lived up to expectations ended with Steve Young concussed once again, but perhaps feeling a little better about his long-term future in the Bay Area.

Young had guided his team to a 10-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, but two vicious hits by Broderick Thomas saw him replaced by Elvis Grbac and almost immediately the 49ers lost their offensive momentum. The Cowboys clawed their way back, but when Troy Aikman was intercepted with a few minutes left it seemed the home side had done enough.

On the next play, though, Grbac compounded an already unconvincing display by giving the ball straight back to the Cowboys with a disastrous pass over the middle to Fred Strickland. Aikman made the most of the opportunity, throwing for an equalising touchdown and then masterminding the game- winning drive in overtime which culminated with Chris Boniol's 29-yard field goal.

With Grbac's contract expiring at the end of this season there has been speculation that he may succeed Young sooner rather than later - speculation that the 49ers have done little to douse. Grbac's performance against Dallas may remind the powers that be that Grbac may be nine years younger than Young, but he is a long way from being his equal.

In the AFC, the principal surprise was the defeat of the Pittsburgh Steelers by a Cincinnati team that has won all three of its games since Bruce Coslet succeeded Dave Shula as head coach. The Steelers remain strong contenders for the AFC Championship, but will surely have to beat Denver to win the title. The Broncos bucked the trend on a weekend of surprises, their win in Chicago giving them the best record in the league.

NFL RESULTS AND STANDINGS

Cincinnati 34 Pittsburgh 24; Kansas City 27 Green Bay 20; Miami 37 Indianapolis 13; New Orleans 14 Houston 31; NY Jets 27 New England 31; Philadelphia 17 Buffalo 24; St Louis 59 Atlanta 16; Tampa 20 Oakland 17 (OT); Washington 34 Arizona 37 (OT); Denver 17 Chicago 12; Jacksonville 30 Baltimore 27; Seattle 42 Minnesota 23, San Francisco 17 Dallas 20 (OT); Carolina 27 NY Giants 17

AFC East

W L T PF PA

New England 7 3 0 275 215

Buffalo 7 3 0 191 175

Miami 5 5 0 238 205

Indianapolis 5 5 0 172 208

New York Jets 1 9 0 172 264

Central

W L T PF PA

Pittsburgh 7 3 0 230 160

Houston 6 4 0 230 190

Cincinnati 4 6 0 214 226

Jacksonville 4 6 0 202 208

Baltimore 3 7 0 244 286

Western

W L T PF PA

Denver 9 1 0 262 167

Kansas City 7 3 0 206 168

San Diego 5 4 0 198 218

Seattle 5 5 0 206 239

Oakland 4 6 0 217 190

NFC East

W L T PF PA

Philadelphia 7 3 0 228 203

Washington 7 3 0 239 190

Dallas 6 4 0 206 165

Arizona 4 6 0 164 238

New York Giants 4 6 0 157 189

Central

W L T PF PA

Green Bay 8 2 0 288 144

Minnesota 5 5 0 169 194

Detroit 4 5 0 187 187

Chicago 4 6 0 144 192

Tampa Bay 2 8 0 115 195

Western

W L T PF PA

San Francisco 7 3 0 234 152

Carolina 6 4 0 217 148

St Louis 3 7 0 201 280

New Orleans 2 8 0 152 235

Atlanta 1 9 0 176 303

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<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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