American Football: Kicking Gramatica siblings read from the same script

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The Independent Online

Kicking brothers are not unheard of in the NFL, but on Sunday Martin and Bill Gramatica earned themselves a niche in the record books when both converted overtime field goals to earn important victories. Elder sibling Martin converted his, a 21-yard effort, to give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a 16-13 win in Cincinnati. Three hours later, kid brother Bill followed suit when he nailed a 36-yard kick to secure the Arizona Cardinals an unexpected 34-31 triumph in Oakland, one of the shock results of the season.

In truth, both kicks were the result of gifts from the opposition. Cincinnati's Corey Dillon fumbled the ball at his own three-yard line after his side had clawed their way into contention when Jon Kitna fired a six-yard touchdown to Dillon with only 18 seconds remaining in regulation. Having been let off the hook, Gramatica ensured victory with a simple kick.

In a wild shootout in Oakland, fortunes ebbed and flowed in a dramatic fourth quarter. Having trailed all game, the fancied Raiders took the lead with less than two minutes remaining when Sebastian Janikowski converted a 42-yard field goal. Inspired by their quarterback, Jake Plummer, the Cardinals hit back, Plummer throwing a 50-yard touchdown to David Boston. Still the Raiders were not finished, Rich Gannon launching a scoring pass to Jerry Rice with 12 seconds left to tie the scores.

Both sides struggled in overtime, but the breakthrough came when the Raiders' David Dunn fumbled a punt, Arizona recovered, and Gramatica did the rest. Having lost six of their first eight games, the improving Cardinals have now won three in a row to keep their slender play-off hopes alive. Worse was to come for Oakland, who learned after the game that the defensive tackle Darrell Russell faces a one-year ban after testing positive for Ecstasy.

Very little went according to plan in a weekend of late scares and unexpected twists. The Pittsburgh Steelers looked to be cruising as they led 21-3 against the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth quarter. Then, Minnesota replaced their quarterback, Daunte Culpepper, with Todd Bouman, and within minutes Bouman had thrown an 80-yard pass to Michael Bennett and a 12-yarder to Randy Moss to bring the visitors to within four points.

When Pittsburgh's quarterback, Kordell Stewart, fumbled at his own 10-yard line, the Vikings sensed glory. Despite jangled nerves, the Steelers held firm. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins seemed to be heading to defeat as the Denver Broncos took a 10-point lead into the final quarter. However, a Kenny Mixon interception return for a touchdown put the Dolphins on their way, Miami eventually prevailing 21-10.

No joy for winless Detroit, who saw Jason Hanson miss a 40-yard field goal which would have sent their game against Chicago to overtime. Even worse, the wounded Lions will be without their quarterback, Charlie Batch, who damaged a shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season.

Washington's streak of five victories ended with a bump, the Redskins beaten 20-14 in front of their own fans by the struggling Dallas Cowboys. The improving New England Patriots came from 13 points down to stun the New York Jets, 17-16, while Aaron Brooks' 17-yard pass to Joe Horn with less than two minutes remaining enabled the New Orleans Saints to avoid a home defeat by the Carolina Panthers.

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