St. Louis makes playoffs

Posted: Monday, January 03, 2005


  St. Louis Rams' kicker Jeff Wilkins (14) launches the game winning field goal over the arms of New York Jets' Trevor Johnson, far left, Jon McGraw (38), Jonathan Vilma (51) and Jason Ferguson (72) during the Rams 32-29 overtime victory on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2005, at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Kyle Ericson) KYLE ERICSON

St. Louis Rams' kicker Jeff Wilkins (14) launches the game winning field goal over the arms of New York Jets' Trevor Johnson, far left, Jon McGraw (38), Jonathan Vilma (51) and Jason Ferguson (72) during the Rams 32-29 overtime victory on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2005, at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Kyle Ericson)


ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Rams won a finale that, in the end, they needed much more than the New York Jets.

Marc Bulger threw for 450 yards and three touchdowns and Jeff Wilkins hit a 31-yard field goal with 3:03 left in overtime Sunday to give the Rams a 32-29 win over the Jets, clinching their fourth playoff berth in five seasons under coach Mike Martz.

The Rams (8-8) won their last two games to qualify as the NFC wild card, and will play at NFC West champion Seattle on Saturday.

Their effort took on more meaning when the Vikings lost to the Redskins, because the Rams had to win to make it into the postseason. But the Jets (10-6) qualified well before overtime began when Buffalo lost 29-24 to the Steelers.

Despite the loss, New York made the playoffs for the third time in four seasons under coach Herman Edwards. The Jets play at San Diego next Saturday night, but enter the playoffs on a downer. They have gone 5-6 in their final 11 games following a 5-0 start, and lost three of their last four.

Curtis Martin had 153 yards on 28 carries and moved into fourth place on the NFL career rushing list. He also won the NFL rushing title for the first time.

The Jets played to win in overtime, keeping Chad Pennington and Martin on the field. Doug Brien's miss on a 53-yard field goal attempt opened the door for the Rams' final drive.

Seahawks 28, Falcons 26

SEATTLE — Matt Hasselbeck threw two touchdown passes and got another TD on a sneak. The Seahawks (9-7) barely avoided another late meltdown. Warrick Dunn was stopped on a 2-point conversion attempt that would have forced overtime after reserve quarterback Matt Schaub threw a 3-yard TD pass to Brian Finneran as time expired.

Seattle's Shaun Alexander ran for 80 yards, finishing a yard behind Martin (1,697) for the rushing title.

It was a meaningless game for Atlanta (11-5), which lost its final two after securing the NFC's No. 2 seed in the playoffs two weeks ago. Atlanta gets a first-round bye.

Redskins 21, Vikings 18

LANDOVER, Md. — The Vikings wilted for the second year in a row with a chance to clinch a postseason berth in the finale. But they got in anyway when New Orleans beat Carolina.

The Vikings (8-8) lost seven of their last 10 games after a 5-1 start. Last year, they fell from 6-0 to 9-7 and were eliminated by a touchdown pass on the last play of the season at Arizona. Mike Tice jokingly referred to himself as ''Coach Collapse'' last week, but at least he is in the playoffs for the first time since taking over from Dennis Green during the 2001 season.

Minnesota is at Green Bay on Sunday.

The Redskins (6-10) gave a spirited finish to Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs' disappointing comeback season, his worst in 13 years with the Redskins. The defense rattled Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper with four sacks, and Ladell Betts ran 26 times for a career-high 118 yards subbing for injured Clinton Portis.

Broncos 33, Colts 14

DENVER — The Broncos took care of the Indianapolis 'B' team and earned the right to face Peyton Manning and the real Colts next week in the playoffs. Jake Plummer threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns to lift the Broncos to the AFC's final wild-card spot.

The result eliminated Jacksonville and Baltimore from the playoff race and meant the Broncos (10-6) start the postseason next Sunday in a familiar place — at Indianapolis (12-4), where they lost 41-10 in last year's first round.

Manning played just one series, throwing two passes and finishing the regular season with the same NFL-record 49 touchdowns he entered the week with. Edgerrin James ran one time for minus-2 yards.

By going 1-for-2, Manning finished the year with a 121.1 passer rating, easily breaking Steve Young's record. After the first drive, Manning stood on the sideline with headphones on and watched rookie Jim Sorgi lead the Colts.

Saints 21, Panthers 18

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Saints finally won a game that mattered, then missed the playoffs anyway when St. Louis won.

Needing to beat the Panthers to stay in playoff contention, the Saints (8-8) forced three turnovers and had six sacks. Aaron Brooks passed for 216 yards and threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Joe Horn. The win capped an impressive turnaround for the Saints and might have saved coach Jim Haslett's job. On shaky ground a month ago when New Orleans was 4-8, the Saints won their final four.

The defending NFC champion Panthers (7-9) started the season 1-7 and lost 14 players to injury before rallying behind a patchwork group of replacements. A desperation 60-yard field goal at the end of regulation was blocked by Tony Bryant.

Steelers 29, Bills 24

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Fourth-string running back Willie Parker had 102 yards rushing and backup linebacker James Harrison returned a fumble 18 yards for a touchdown, knocking Buffalo out of playoff contention.

The Steelers won their 14th straight to match the record set by Miami in 1972 and became just the fourth team in NFL history to finish 15-1.

The Bills (9-7) had a six-game winning streak snapped, but made it close when Willis McGahee scored his second touchdown on a 1-yard plunge with 78 seconds left. But the Bills failed on an onside kick.

Ravens 30, Dolphins 23

BALTIMORE — Baltimore (9-7), playing against downtrodden Miami (4-12), which started third-string quarterback Sage Rosenfels, built a 27-7 lead, then held on. But with Denver's victory, Baltimore fell out of playoff contention.

Jamal Lewis scored a touchdown and ran for 167 yards, giving him 1,006 for the season.

Baltimore's Jarret Johnson returned an interception for a score and teammate Ed Reed got his ninth interception and returned it 41 yards to get an NFL record for return yardage in a season (358).

Chargers 24, Chiefs 17

SAN DIEGO — Doug Flutie and Phillip Rivers each threw a touchdown pass and the Chargers warmed up for their first playoff game in nine seasons. Having clinched the AFC West two weeks earlier and the AFC's No. 4 seed a week ago, the Chargers rested Pro Bowlers Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, as well as defensive tackle Jamal Williams.

San Diego (12-4) was still too much for Kansas City (7-9), which had its four-game winning streak snapped.

Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez set the NFL's single-season record for tight ends with 102 catches. He broke the record of 96 set by Ben Coates in 1994. Gonzalez's 14 catches, for 144 yards, were a Chiefs single-game record, breaking Ed Podolak's record of 12 set in 1973.

Trent Green was intercepted four times.

Patriots 21, 49ers 7

FOXBORO, Mass. — New England, a franchise-best 14-2 for the second straight season, got Tom Brady's two TD passes after he threw an interception and lost a fumble.

Corey Dillon ran for 116 yards and one touchdown, but also lost a fumble. And the Patriots' regular-season record of scoring first in 20 straight games ended on Ken Dorsey's 4-yard pass to third-string tight end Steve Bush late in the first quarter.

The 49ers matched their franchise-worst 2-14 record and clinched the top pick in this year's draft.

Bengals 38, Eagles 10

PHILADELPHIA — With Donovan McNabb and several other starters sitting out, the Eagles' backups were thoroughly dominated. Rudi Johnson ran for three touchdowns and 99 yards, and Jon Kitna threw a scoring pass, helping the Bengals win their second straight game to finish 8-8 for the second year in a row.

The Eagles (13-3) had five turnovers in their worst performance since a 38-0 loss to Seattle in the 1998 season opener. Philadelphia secured home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs two weeks ago.

Only the 1967 Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl after losing the final two regular-season games.

Titans 24, Lions 19

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Billy Volek threw for 175 yards and a touchdown before being knocked out of the game with a separated right shoulder in the fourth quarter, and the Titans snapped a five-game skid.

The Titans (5-11) were without 14 players from their opening day roster because of injuries, but had more than enough to handle Detroit (6-10).

Packers 31, Bears 14

CHICAGO — Brett Favre and the Packers (10-6) warmed up for the playoffs. Favre played the first quarter and one series in the second, going 9-of-13 for 196 yards and two touchdowns as the Packers beat the Bears (5-11) for the 21st time in the last 26 meetings — including 11 straight on the road.

Favre also went over 4,000 yards passing in a season for the fourth time in his career and reached 30 TD passes for an eighth time. Led by Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila's three sacks, Green Bay trapped Chad Hutchinson nine times.

Browns 22, Texans 14

HOUSTON — Kelly Holcomb's return to the lineup provided a lift to the Browns' punchless offense and Cleveland (4-12) ended a nine-game losing streak, denying Houston (7-9) its first non-losing season.

Lee Suggs had his third straight 100-yard rushing day with 131 yards and Phil Dawson kicked five field goals, giving Browns interim coach Terry Robiskie his only win in five games since replacing Butch Davis on Nov. 30.

Cardinals 12, Buccaneers 7

TEMPE, Ariz. — Neil Rackers kicked four field goals and the Cardinals stifled the Tampa Bay offense.

Coach Jon Gruden's team lost its fourth in a row to finish 5-11, Tampa Bay's worst record since going 5-11 under Sam Wyche in 1993.

Jaguars 13, Raiders 6

OAKLAND, Calif. — On a muddy, rain-soaked field, the Jaguars (9-7) concluded their first winning season in five years. Greg Jones scored on a 1-yard run for the game's only touchdown that broke a third-quarter tie.

But the Broncos' victory over the Colts sent Jacksonville packing instead of to the playoffs. It was disappointing finish for a club that hoped to extend its season the year Jacksonville hosts its first Super Bowl.

The Raiders (5-11) had a chance to send the game into overtime in the final seconds, but Kerry Collins fumbled the snap on fourth-and-goal at the 2, picked it up and was tackled for a loss.

Giants 28, Cowboys 24

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Tiki Barber became the Giants' all-time leading rusher and capped his achievement with a winning flair. Barber finished a record-setting night by scoring on a 3-yard run with 11 seconds to play. Eli Manning also threw three touchdown passes as the Giants (6-10) snapped an eight-game losing streak.

The late heroics providing Manning his first career victory and spoiled a great effort by Cowboys quarterback Vinny Testaverde in what might have been the final game of his 18-year career. Testaverde threw for a touchdown and engineered a late 80-yard march that set up Julius Jones' go-ahead 1-yard run with 1:49 to play. But the Cowboys (6-10) couldn't hold on.

Barber set Giants single-season and career rushing records in the game, surpassing marks held by Rodney Hampton and Joe Morris, respectively. He also wound up leading the league in all-purpose yards this season with 2,096.

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