Titans, Raiders first AFC teams to get into playoffs

Posted: Monday, December 23, 2002

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Tennessee Titans clinched the AFC South by beating Jacksonville 28-10 Sunday, becoming the first AFC team to earn a playoff berth.

The Titans (10-5) were helped when the New York Giants moved ahead of New Orleans for the final NFC wild-card spot by beating Indianapolis 44-27, while the Saints lost in Cincinnati 20-13. The Colts' loss handed Tennessee the division crown.

Oakland also won its division, the AFC West, when it beat Denver 28-16.

Otherwise, the playoff picture remained muddled in the next-to-last week of the season, particularly in the AFC. Miami's 20-17 loss in Minnesota on Saturday left 14 of the 16 AFC teams technically alive for the playoffs entering Sunday's games.

Jacksonville (6-9) was eliminated by its loss to the Titans, and Buffalo (7-8) was knocked out by losing in Green Bay on Sunday, leaving 12 teams alive -- some of them barely.

In the NFC, Philadelphia (12-3), which beat Dallas 27-3 Saturday to stay ahead for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, Green Bay (12-3), Tampa Bay (11-3) and San Francisco (10-5) all have clinched berths. The 49ers beat Arizona 17-14 Saturday.


Oakland Raiders running back Zack Crockett celebrates in front of Raiders tight end Doug Jolley, left, and Denver Broncos cornerback Tyrone Poole, right, after Crockett scored a one yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2002 in Oakland, Calif. The Raiders beat the Broncos 28-16.

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Atlanta (9-5-1), the Giants (9-6) and New Orleans (9-6) are competing for the two wild-card spots, in that order.

Eddie George ran for two scores and Peter Sirmon returned an interception for a touchdown for Tennessee.

Giants 44, Colts 27

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kerry Collins threw for 366 yards and four touchdowns, three to Amani Toomer, as the Giants won their third straight. If the Giants (9-6) beat Philadelphia next Saturday they get a wild-card spot.

The Giants led 10-3 at the half, then scored twice in the first five minutes of the second half. On the first play of the third quarter, Collins hit Toomer on an 82-yard flea-flicker. Toomer had 10 catches for 204 yards, while tight end Jeremy Shockey had seven catches for 116 yards.

Peyton Manning was 30-of-46 for 365 yards for Indianapolis (9-6), which almost certainly must win next week against Jacksonville to secure a wild-card spot. Manning became the first passer in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards in four consecutive seasons.

Raiders 28, Broncos 16

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rich Gannon set the NFL single-season record for completions and passed for 201 yards as the Raiders surged into the playoffs, clinching their third straight division title.

After scoring on its first three possessions, Oakland (10-5) weathered a strong second-half comeback led by backup Steve Beuerlein, who passed for 234 yards after relieving an injured and ineffective Brian Griese for Denver (8-7).

Gannon broke Warren Moon's 11-year-old record for completions in the second quarter on a 5-yard pass to Charlie Garner. His 405th completion surpassed the mark set in 1991 by Moon, who was at the game as a radio commentator. Gannon has 411 completions this season.

Jets 30, Patriots 17

FOXBORO, Mass. -- Chad Pennington threw three touchdown passes as the Jets avoided playoff elimination and improved to 7-4 since he became the starter.

New England had cut a 17-10 halftime deficit to 20-17 before the Jets took over at their 25-yard line. Pennington led a 75-yard drive that iced the game on his 15-yard scoring pass to Wayne Chrebet with 8:45 left in the game.

If New York (8-7) beats Green Bay and New England beats Miami next weekend, the Jets will win the AFC East with a better division record than the Dolphins and a better record against common opponents than the Patriots.

Bengals 20, Saints 13

CINCINNATI -- Nick Luchey's 3-yard touchdown run with 1:46 to play gave Cincinnati its second victory.

The Bengals (2-13) hadn't won at home this year. Playing in a half-empty stadium, they fell behind 13-7. But Luchey, who changed his name from Nick Williams in September and hadn't carried the ball all season, scored on a 1-yard run with 10:42 left, but the extra point was blocked, leaving it tied at 13. Luchey was filling in for Corey Dillon, who bruised his left elbow in the third quarter.

Falcons 36, Lions 15

ATLANTA -- Quentin McCord, signed off the practice squad earlier this season, caught seven passes for 182 yards and scored the first touchdown of his career as Atlanta moved to the front of the three-team battle for two NFC wild-card spots.

Michael Vick had a career-high 338 yards passing, even though he didn't look sharp much of the game. The Falcons (9-5-1) can make the postseason for the first time since 1998 with a victory at Cleveland next Sunday.

Vick threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to McCord and a late 44-yarder to Brian Finneran. Jay Feely had five field goals as the Falcons ran up 533 yards of offense.

Mike McMahon, filling in for ailing Joey Harrington, completed 11-of-33 passes for 149 yards and was intercepted three times for Detroit (3-12).

Browns 14, Ravens 13

BALTIMORE -- Forced to cover 92 yards in just over two minutes, the Cleveland Browns came up with another amazing finish to keep alive their playoff hopes. As a bonus, the Browns practically eliminated their most-hated rivals in the process.

Tim Couch capped a frantic drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Mark Campbell with 29 seconds left, and Phil Dawson's conversion gave Cleveland victory.

After taking over on their 8 with 2:18 remaining, the Browns (8-7) needed eight plays to reach the end zone. The key play came when Couch connected with Jamel White with a 28-yard pass, and a late hit on Chris McAlister moved the ball to the 13.

Three plays later, Couch hit a wide-open Campbell to doom the Ravens (7-8), who were vying to get over .500 for the first time this season.

Chiefs 24, Chargers 22

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Michael Husted, who became Kansas City's placekicker this week when Morten Andersen went on injured reserve, kicked a 38-yard field goal with 1:08 left.

Playing without star running back Priest Holmes, the Chiefs (8-7) clinched their first non-losing season in three years. The Chargers, in their first season under former Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer, also fell to 8-7.

Two Chiefs scoring drives covered 98 and 99 yards. The game-winner, started at their 1-yard line. The first time, Trent Green connected with Mark Boerigter on a 99-yard touchdown pass, tying the NFL record for longest completion.

Packers 10, Bills 0

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Vonnie Holliday sacked Drew Bledsoe five times, forcing fumbles on three, as two foul-weather teams played a foul-weather game.

Holliday's first forced fumble led to Green Bay's only touchdown and his last ended Buffalo's hopes with 1:13 left.

The Packers (12-3) are the only NFL team to win all their home games this season, but they'll need losses by Philadelphia and Tampa Bay to get anything more than a first-round playoff game at Lambeau Field, where they've never lost in the postseason.

The Bills (7-8) were eliminated from the playoffs.

Swirling 25 mph winds gusted to 30 mph and kept both offenses in check.

Redskins 26, Texans 10

LANDOVER, Md. -- Patrick Ramsey threw two touchdown passes as the Redskins (6-9) broke a three-game losing streak.

Rookie Ladell Betts had 20 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown and first-year player Kenny Watson had 20 carries for 110 yards filling in for Stephen Davis.

David Carr of Houston (4-11) was sacked an NFL-record 73rd time this season when Bruce Smith took him down late in the fourth quarter. It was Washington's third sack of the game and the second by Smith.

Panthers 24, Bears 14

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina, 0-8 at home during last year's 1-15 season, improved to .500 at Ericsson Stadium by turning a rash of Chicago fumbles into a victory.

Chicago (4-11) lost its seventh straight road game, extending a season-long slide from last year's 13-3 record and the NFC Central title.

Dee Brown scored two touchdowns for Carolina and Rodney Peete threw for another to lead the Panthers (6-9).

Seahawks 30, Rams 10

SEATTLE -- Matt Hasselbeck threw for 303 yards and one touchdown, and Seattle's porous run defense tightened against Marshall Faulk.

Hasselbeck completed 20 of 32 passes without an interception, his third 300-yard passing game since replacing the injured Trent Dilfer eight weeks ago. Seattle (6-9) is 5-4 since then and won for the second straight week.

Marc Bulger, 6-0 as the Rams' starting quarterback entering the game, wasn't around for long. He injured his back on the team's fourth play from scrimmage and didn't return as the Rams fell to 6-9. Faulk, who played despite a high ankle sprain that has slowed him the past six weeks, ran nine times for 13 yards.

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