American Football: Titans end Panthers' run

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The Independent Online

So much for the Carolina Panthers' claims to greatness. After winning their first five games of the season, the surprise team from Charlotte were being touted as possible Super Bowl material, but following the manner of their 37-17 drubbing here at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, they might be forced to lower their sights a little.

The Titans, who are legitimate title contenders themselves, jumped into an early lead from which Carolina never recovered. Tennessee first recovered a fumble on the game's kick-off, which led to their first score, Steve McNair's seven-yard run. Then, from a fake punt formation, Billy Volek fired a 50-yard touchdown to Eddie Berlin, as the visitors raced to an early 14-point lead.

The Panthers have built their success on a punishing ground game and a formidable pass rush, but neither was much in evidence as Tennessee dominated on both sides of the ball.The demise of the Panthers means there are now only two teams preserving unbeaten records and one of them, the Minnesota Vikings, impressed again with a 28-20 verdict over the gritty Denver Broncos.

The key play in their victory came as time expired in the first half. The quarterback, Daunte Culpepper, passed to Randy Moss, but as he was about to be tackled he flipped the ball rugby-style to Moe Williams, who raced in untouched to give the Vikings a 14-4 lead.

It is not known if Moss is a keen student of the Rugby World Cup, but this season Minnesota's one-time problem child has been an outstanding contributor to the cause.

Blessed with an abundance of talent, Moss has been guilty of mental breakdowns and questionable temperament, but has developed into a genuine team leader this season.

The New England Patriots had lost six in a row on their travels to Miami and looked set to extend that wretched streak to seven as the Dolphins' kicker, Olindo Mare, set up a routine 35-yard field goal with just seconds remaining. Had he converted it, Miami would have won 16-13, but the kick was blocked, sending the match to overtime.

New England then made their rivals pay, Tom Brady firing an 82-yard touchdown to Troy Brown to give his side a 19-13 win. "We can't put everything on the kicker," Miami's Tim Ruddy said of the normally reliable Mare. "Everyone on offense could have done more. We definitely had chances and we didn't do enough with those chances. That's why we lost this game."

Losing had become a bad habit for the San Diego Chargers, but it is one they finally managed to break following Sunday's trip to Cleveland when they registered their first victory of the campaign, 26-20, over the Browns.