LOS ANGELES -- The Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers shrugged off a week of controversy to thump Atlanta 30-17 on Sunday while the Detroit Lions set aside a 12 months of NFL futility with a 29-27 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
For superstar quarterback Tom Brady and the Bucs, it was business as usual in Atlanta, despite the fact that wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Mike Edwards were suspended midweek by the NFL after a probe into claims they used a fake Covid-19 vaccination card.
Brady didn't seem to miss Brown as a target, throwing for 368 yards and four touchdowns -- two to Rob Gronkowski -- as Tampa Bay moved closer to clinching the NFC South division title.
The 9-3 Bucs have a four-game lead in the division over Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans, who are all 5-7.
Atlanta's Marlon Davidson picked off a Brady pass late in the first half and scrambled three yards for a touchdown.
But that miscue was nothing compared to the rough day endured by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who was sacked five times.
"We still haven't played our best game yet," Brady said. "Hopefully we can do that this coming week."
If the Bucs' win had a business-as-usual feel, it was a celebration in Detroit, where the long-starved Lions let a double-digit lead slip only for quarterback Jared Goff to connect with rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown for a nine-yard touchdown with four seconds remaining that delivered the victory and sent the home fans into a frenzy.
The Lions hadn't won a game since December 6, 2020. They had come close this season but had failed to post a win through 11 games -- although they managed a tie against Pittsburgh last month to halt a 12-game losing streak.
"Oh, man, I don't know if I have the words right now," Goff said in an on-field post-game interview. "We kind of let that thing slip away from us there at the end. There was a lot of feeling around here of it going one way and we made it go the other today."
The Lions led 23-21 with 4:08 to play when Goff lost the ball on a sack by Vikings linebacker Blake Lynch.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins then piloted a six-yard drive that ended with a pass to Justin Jefferson in the end zone for a touchdown that put Minnesota up 27-23.
- 'It's huge' -
Goff responded, guiding a 75-yard, 14-play drive in less than two minutes capped by his TD toss to St. Brown as time expired.
"It's huge," said Goff, who was traded from the Los Angeles Rams to the Lions at the end of last season after passing for a career-low 20 touchdowns in 2020.
Goff completed 25 of 41 passes for 296 yards with three touchdowns and one interception on Sunday.
"We've been just begging for one and when you get one, you feel what it's like to win," Goff said.
In other early games, Gardner Minshew took over at quarterback in place of injured Jalen Hurts and piloted the Philadelphia Eagles to a 33-18 victory over the New York Jets.
The mustachioed Minshew completed 20 of 25 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns, a performance that will likely spark debate over whether he should get the starting nod over 23-year-old Hurts.
The Arizona Cardinals welcomed quarterback Kyler Murray back from an ankle injury and emerged with a 33-22 victory over the Chicago Bears, improving their league-leading record to 10-2.
Murray completed 11 of 15 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 59 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cards looked sloppy at times, but they benefitted from the four interceptions thrown by Bears quarterback Andy Dalton -- the most for a Chicago quarterback since 2016.
© Agence France-Presse