American Football: Assaults and overtime as play-off race intensifies

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The Independent Online

Close finishes, angry exchanges, an assaulted official and a pre-game punch-up were some of the highlights of an American football weekend in which the battle for play-off places reached a new level of intensity.

Close finishes, angry exchanges, an assaulted official and a pre-game punch-up were some of the highlights of an American football weekend in which the battle for play-off places reached a new level of intensity.

Bad blood has long existed between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, not even Don King could have dreamed up the scenario in which the Cleveland running back William Green and Pittsburgh's linebacker Joey Porter were ejected for throwing punches at each other an hour before kick-off. At the final bell, the scorecards showed Pittsburgh winning on points, with Jerome Bettis scoring two touchdowns in a 24-10 victory.

Another player enjoying an early bath was Orlando Pace of the St Louis Rams, ejected after manhandling an official during his side's 23-12 defeat of the Seattle Seahawks.

No dismissals, but plenty of anger in Indianapolis, where the Colts thrashed the Houston Texans 49-14. Peyton Manning threw five touchdown passes, to remain on schedule to break Dan Marino's record of 48 touchdowns in a season. What upset the Texans is that Manning kept throwing, even with victory assured. It is an unwritten rule that teams do not gratuitously run up the score.

Three games went to overtime, with Jacksonville edging Detroit, Baltimore beating the New York Jets courtesy of Matt Stover's 42-yard field goal, and Tennessee losing at home to Chicago when their quarterback, Billy Volek, was sacked in the end zone for a safety.

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