Cards deal Pack into playoffs

Posted: Monday, December 29, 2003

TEMPE, Ariz. Arizona knocked the Minnesota Vikings out of the playoffs Sunday with a fourth-down miracle that put Green Bay in.

Josh McCown threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Poole on fourth-and-25 as time expired, rallying the Cardinals to an 18-17 victory. That left the Vikings at 9-7 and gave the division title to the Packers, who beat Denver 31-3.

Had the Vikings won, Green Bay (10-6) would have been eliminated on a series of BCS-type tiebreakers.

Poole caught the ball near the sideline in the end zone, where officials ruled he was forced out by Minnesota's Denard Walker and called it a touchdown. A video review upheld the call.

Minnesota led 17-6 with two minutes left.

But Arizona (4-12) cut the lead to 17-12 on McCown's fourth-down 2-yard pass to Steve Bush with 1:54 to play.

Damien Anderson recovered the onside kick for Arizona, and a 30-yard pass-interference call against Walker put the Cardinals in scoring position.

Packers 31, Broncos 3

GREEN BAY, Wis. The biggest cheer at Lambeau Field came for the play in Arizona that got the Packers into the playoffs.

Ahman Green reeled off a 98-yard touchdown run and Brett Favre completed a hard week in which he buried his father to lead Green Bay.

The Packers (10-6) had little hope of playing into January only minutes earlier. They celebrated wildly on the sideline after their crowd, listening on radios, broke into frenzied elation over the fourth-down pass in Arizona.

Denver (10-6) rested starters for its playoff game next Sunday in Indianapolis.

The Packers will host the Seattle Seahawks (10-6) and former coach Mike Holmgren on Sunday. The Packers beat the Seahawks 35-13 at home on Oct. 5.

Browns 22, Bengals 14

CINCINNATI Rookie Lee Suggs ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns Sunday as Cleveland knocked Cincinnati from playoff contention by beating the Bengals 22-14.

That allowed the Baltimore Ravens to clinch the AFC North title several hours before playing Pittsburgh in the final regular-season game.

Saints 13, Cowboys 7

NEW ORLEANS Donte' Stallworth's 76-yard touchdown reception sent Dallas into the playoffs on a down note.

The Saints (8-8), who will miss the playoffs for the third straight year, responded to a tongue-lashing from owner Tom Benson and a team meeting Friday night.

Dallas (10-6) had already clinched a playoff spot, but the loss dropped the Cowboys to the sixth seed in the NFC. They will play at Carolina on Saturday night.

The real winner was Seattle, which sneaked into the No. 5 seed under the NFL's complicated playoff formula.

Lions 30, Rams 20

DETROIT Joey Harrington threw three touchdown passes as Detroit knocked St. Louis from the top spot in the NFC with 20 points in a span of 15:31 in the second half.

The top-seeded team now is Philadelphia, also 12-4, but with a better conference record after beating Washington on Saturday night.

The Eagles can thank the lowly Lions (5-11) for winning a game they were expected to lose by double digits.

Colts 20, Texans 17

HOUSTON Mike Vanderjagt kicked his NFL-record 41st consecutive field goal, a 43-yarder as time expired, giving the Colts the AFC South title. Vanderjagt went 37-for-37 this season.

The Colts (12-4) trailed 17-3 before rallying. Peyton Manning's 5-yard TD pass to Brandon Stokely tied it following an interception by Donald Strickland.

The Colts will host Denver next Sunday.

Chiefs 31, Bears 3

KANSAS CITY, Mo. Priest Holmes scored twice, erasing NFL records by Emmitt Smith and Marshall Faulk.

The Chiefs (13-3) were already locked into the No. 2 seed and guaranteed a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. The Bears finished 7-9.

Holmes' two scores gave him 27 for the season and broke both Smith's record for touchdowns rushing (25) and Faulk's record for total touchdowns (26).

Titans 33, Buccaneers 13

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Steve McNair stayed on the sideline, resting his aching legs for the playoffs as Neil O'Donnell threw two touchdown passes to Derrick Mason in his first start since Sept. 23, 2001.

Gary Anderson kicked four field goals for the Titans (12-4) as Tampa (7-9) became the first Super Bowl champion to finish with a losing record.

Tennessee will be at Baltimore in a wild-card game on Saturday.

Dolphins 23, Jets 21

MIAMI Olindo Mare kicked a 22-yard field goal with three seconds left to give Miami the win.

The Dolphins (10-6) became the first team since Philadelphia and San Francisco in 1991 to win 10 games and miss the playoffs.

Their disappointing season has left coach Dave Wannstedt's job in jeopardy.

The Jets (6-10) closed out their first losing season since 1996.

Falcons 21, Jaguars 14

ATLANTA Michael Vick threw two touchdown passes, including a 44-yarder to Peerless Price on Atlanta's first fleaflicker of the season.

Atlanta (5-11) improved to 3-1 since Vick returned to the starting lineup.

Panthers 37, Giants 24

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Jake Delhomme threw two touchdown passes as former Giants assistant John Fox and his Panthers won in coach Jim Fassel's final game after seven seasons in New York.

The Panthers (11-5) will face Dallas (10-6) in a first-round playoff game Saturday night.

The loss was the eighth straight for the Giants (4-12).

Chargers 21, Raiders 14

SAN DIEGO LaDainian Tomlinson rushed 31 times for a career-high 243 yards and two touchdowns to close an otherwise miserable season for the Chargers (4-12).

Tomlinson now has four career 200-yard games, tying him for second place all-time Jim Brown, Earl Campbell and Barry Sanders. The record is six, by O.J. Simpson.

The Raiders (4-12) ended a season of internal strife without cornerback Charles Woodson and running back Charlie Garner who were inactive because of a violation of team rules.

Ravens 13, Steelers 10, OT

BALTIMORE Finishing second-best was fine with Jamal Lewis, who was delighted to at least get the chance to run his way into the NFL record book.

Lewis ran for 114 yards on 27 carries to finish the season with 2,066 yards rushing 39 yards short of Dickerson's mark of 2,105, set in 1984.

''I'm not disappointed,'' Lewis said.

''The opportunity was there, and we went at it. My line, they blocked well. It was in reach but we didn't get it. I think second is good.''

The result became meaningless when the Cincinnati Bengals lost to Cleveland earlier Sunday, clinching the division for the Ravens (10-6). Division champs for the first time in franchise history, Baltimore will open the postseason Saturday at home against the Tennessee Titans (12-4).

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