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Redskins grab playoff spot with win ove Cowboys in regular season's final day

Sunday, December 30, 2007

By The Associated Press

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) -- The Washington Redskins will enter the playoffs as the hottest team in the NFC. And with the hottest quarterback in the conference. And maybe the hottest running back. And with a defense coming off a game in which it allowed exactly 1 yard rushing.

The Redskins reached the postseason Sunday with a 27-6 victory over the archrival Dallas Cowboys, capping an emotional renaissance to a season that appeared lost less than a month ago. Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, seemingly on the ropes after a four-game losing streak, received warm embraces from players and assistants as the final seconds ticked away.

Dallas rested anyone who was questionable with an injury because it had clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Still, the Cowboys played their healthy starters most of the game and were trailing 20-3 when quarterback Tony Romo was pulled for Brad Johnson with about 6 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.

The Redskins (9-7) will travel to Seattle on Saturday for a 4:30 p.m. game, a rematch of a 2005 division playoff won 20-10 by the Seahawks.

Washington will be riding a four-game winning streak, the longest currently in the NFC. That is a remarkable turnaround for a team that stayed afloat with close, ugly victories before losing four straight, the last coming days after the shooting death of safety Sean Taylor.

The Redskins are 4-0 since Taylor's funeral, and all the victories were engineered by backup quarterback Todd Collins after Jason Campbell dislocated a kneecap.

Clinton Portis ran for two touchdowns and had 104 yards on 25 carries and 27 yards on four receptions. His yards from scrimmage in the four-game winning streak: 122, 126, 124 and 131. Santana Moss caught eight passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.

Broncos 22, Vikings 19, OT

DENVER (AP) -- Jason Elam kicked a 30-yard field goal less than a minute into overtime.

The Vikings (8-8) needed a win and a Washington loss to top-seeded Dallas to sneak into the playoffs, but neither the Redskins nor the Broncos (7-9) obliged.

Minnesota, which scored 16 points in the final 5:18 to erase a 19-3 deficit, won the overtime coin flip, but on the Vikings' second snap, Tavaris Jackson was sacked and fumbled.

Elvis Dumervil recovered at the Minnesota 12, and the Broncos' field goal unit rushed onto the field for their fourth game-winner of the season just as snow began falling. It was a slight consolation for a team that endured its first losing season since 1999.

With the playoffs out of his reach, Vikings rookie running back Adrian Peterson settled for the NFC rushing title. He gained 36 yards on 11 carries. Despite his fourth straight subpar performance, his 1,341 yards edged Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook by 8 yards.

Brandon Marshall had a solid season and on Sunday caught 10 passes for 114 yards in becoming the third second-year player in NFL history to top 100 catches in a season, making 102.

Chargers 30, Raiders 17

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 56 yards to win his second straight rushing title, Philip Rivers threw two touchdown passes, and the Chargers spoiled JaMarcus Russell's first career start.

By ending the season with six straight wins, the Chargers (11-5) beat out Pittsburgh for the No. 3 seed. San Diego will host either Tennessee or Cleveland next Sunday at 4:30 instead of playing Jacksonville, the last team to beat the Chargers.

Tomlinson didn't have nearly the success he usually does against the Raiders as Turner limited him to 15 carries to make sure he's fresh for the playoffs. That was enough for L.T. to finish the season with 1,474 yards rushing, 133 ahead of Minnesota rookie Adrian Peterson.

Russell, the No. 1 overall draft pick for Oakland (4-12), got off to a slow start by throwing an interception on his first play and losing a fumble in the end zone that led to a touchdown by Jyles Tucker midway through the third quarter. The $61 million quarterback was 23-for-31 for 224 yards in his first start.

Ravens 27, Steelers 21

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Steelers were not interested in gaining the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs. Their primary objective against the Ravens was merely to keep several key starters healthy.

So Musa Smith ran for 83 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL start, helping the Ravens (5-11) earn their first victory since Oct. 14 and end a nine-game losing streak.

The Steelers (10-6) had already clinched the AFC North and were locked into a wild-card game at home next weekend. They could have earned the third seed by defeating Baltimore, coupled with a loss by San Diego, but Pittsburgh downplayed that scenario.

It wasn't just idle talk. If this game meant anything to the Steelers, they probably would have played quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Hines Ward, safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback/kick returner Allen Rossum. All were on the inactive list, nursing minor injuries.

Pittsburgh will open the playoffs Saturday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Browns 20, 49ers 7

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Joshua Cribbs returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown, Jamal Lewis rushed for 128 yards and rookie quarterback Brady Quinn made his long-awaited NFL debut. Then the Browns settled in front of their TVs to cheer for the Indianapolis Colts.

The Browns (10-6), just 4-12 a year ago, would make the AFC playoffs for the first time since 2002 if the defending Super Bowl champions beat the Tennessee Titans (9-6) on Sunday night.

Derek Anderson threw a TD pass to Braylon Edwards and Phil Dawson kicked two field goals as the Browns finished 7-1 at home for the first time in club history. Cleveland's 10 wins are the most since its expansion rebirth. The Browns last posted double-digit wins in 1994 (11).

Dawson kicked field goals of 24 and 49 yards and set a club record for points by a kicker with 120 -- 6 shy of tying Hall of Famer Jim Brown's overall team mark.

Anderson hurt his right pinky and was replaced by Quinn, who received a rousing ovation when he jogged into Cleveland's huddle with 3:11 left in the first half.

Anderson returned after halftime and finished 10-of-19 for 127 yards, but threw an interception and was again shaky coming off a four-pick performance last week in a loss at Cincinnati that cost Cleveland a chance to clinch a wild-card spot.

Bears 33, Saints 25

CHICAGO (AP) -- Devin Hester sprinted 64 yards for a TD with a punt return -- his NFL-record sixth kick runback for a score this season to break his own mark set a year ago -- and also caught a 55-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Orton.

When the teams met 11 months ago for the NFC championship on the same field, the Bears earned a trip to the Super Bowl with a 39-14 victory. Now they and the Saints (7-9) are both going home before the playoffs even start.

New Orleans' slim chances hinged on beating the Bears (7-9) and hoping for losses later in the day by the Redskins and Vikings.

Drew Brees and Marques Colston hooked up for two first-half touchdown passes, and Brees set a single-season NFL record for completions (443), passing the previous mark of 418 set by Rich Gannon in 2002. Brees completed 35 of 60 passes for 320 yards with three TDs.

Packers 34, Lions 13

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Packers finished their turnaround regular season with a victory while resting several key players for the playoffs.

Brett Favre extended his quarterback-record consecutive starts streak to 253 games, but didn't keep his helmet strapped on for very long. Favre led the Packers (13-3) to touchdowns on their first three possessions before handing the ball to backup Craig Nall in the second quarter.

Many of Favre's most prominent teammates didn't dress and weren't really needed to tie a franchise record for most victories in a season. Having already clinched the NFC's No. 2 playoff seed, the Packers rested top wide receivers Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, cornerback Charles Woodson, defensive end Aaron Kampman, tight end Donald Lee and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett.

Green Bay wasn't able to completely avoid injuries Sunday, as running back Ryan Grant left the game with a stinger in the first quarter, and cornerback/punt returner Will Blackmon was carted to the locker room with a foot injury just before halftime.

The Lions delivered an uninspired performance in going from 6-2 to 7-9.

Falcons 44, Seahawks 41

ATLANTA (AP) -- Chris Redman gave the Falcons a feel-good finish to an ugly season. Redman set a career high with four touchdown passes, including two to Alge Crumpler, and the Falcons rode three fourth-quarter touchdowns to victory.

The Falcons (4-12) ended a six-game losing streak, giving interim coach Emmitt Thomas his first win in three tries. Seattle (10-6), the NFC West champion, allowed the woeful Falcons to best their previous scoring high by 17 points.

Redman, the third starting quarterback for Atlanta in the post-Michael Vick era, also threw touchdown passes to Joe Horn and Roddy White. He was 17-of-27 for 251 yards with no interceptions.

Shaun Alexander and Maurice Morris, who rushed for 91 yards, had touchdown runs for Seattle.

Texans 42, Jaguars 28

HOUSTON (AP) -- Meaningless game? Not to Andre' Davis, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns against the Jaguars (11-5), who rested many starters with their playoff spot secure. The victory gives the Texans (8-8) a .500 finish for the first time in their six-year history, and their 42 points are a team record.

Ron Dayne added two touchdowns and 88 yards rushing after missing two starts with a sore ankle. He set a career-high with 773 yards rushing this season.

Davis' returns came on consecutive kickoffs, good for 97 and 104 yards. He became the first player in the NFL this season to return two for scores in a game and the seventh player in league history to achieve the feat.

He also had a fumble recovery that led to a touchdown.

Quinn Gray was 25-of-39 for 302 yards, while Matt Jones had eight receptions for 138 yards for the Jacksonville.

Panthers 31, Bucs 23

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Tampa Bay, resting most of its starters for the playoffs, didn't stop Carolina from treating its season finale as a meaningful game and giving Vinny Testaverde a nice send-off.

DeAngelo Williams rushed for 121 yards and two second-half touchdowns, lifting the Panthers with the retiring 44-year-old Testaverde taking the last snap in the same city where he began his NFL career in 1987.

Testaverde, the first pick in the '87 draft by the Bucs, entered the game after the Panthers stopped Tampa Bay's final drive on downs with 35 seconds remaining. He received polite applause from what was left of a crowd of 65,609, then took a knee on the last play.

The veteran of 21 seasons hugged his wife as he left the field, saying: "That's it. It's all over."

Matt Moore threw for 174 yards and two TDs for Carolina (7-9) in his third pro start, preventing Tampa Bay (9-7) from joining the 1999 St. Louis Rams as the only teams since 1970 to go unbeaten in division play the year after going winless.

Instead, the Bucs will enter the playoffs on a two-game losing streak after treating the past two weeks much like the preseason.

Bengals 38, Dolphins 25

MIAMI (AP) -- Miami allowed 316 yards passing by Carson Palmer, gave up a touchdown on a fumble return and staggered to the end of the worst season in franchise history. The Dolphins became the eighth team to finish 1-15 and flopped in their audition for new boss Bill Parcells. He started work Thursday as executive vice president of football operations and watched the game from a press box suite with retired Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf.

Only an overtime win against Baltimore two weeks ago allowed Miami to avoid the NFL's first 0-16 season, and it's uncertain whether coach Cam Cameron will return for a second year.

Palmer went 23-for-32 and threw for three scores to help the Bengals finish 7-9. It's their first losing season since 2002, the year before Marvin Lewis took over as coach. Palmer finished with 4,131 yards passing to break the Cincinnati record of 4,035 he set last year.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh made nine receptions to tie New England's Wes Welker for the NFL lead with 112, a Bengals record, but dropped the final pass thrown to him. Chad Johnson had four catches for 131 yards to reach 1,440 yards, another team record.

Eagles 17, Bills 9

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- With the Eagles eliminated from a playoff spot, Brian Westbrook still gave their fans a reason to celebrate with a pair of team records.

The finale was meaningless for both teams, though the Eagles (8-8) did finish at .500 on the strength of a three-game winning streak. Had Donovan McNabb performed at the start of the season as he did at the end, perhaps his future wouldn't be the topic of endless speculation.

McNabb was 29-for-41for 345 yards, one TD and one interception.

Westbrook set Eagles records for catches in a season and total yards from scrimmage, putting the finishing touches on a Pro Bowl season.

Westbrook's third reception gave him 89 this season, one more than Irving Fryar's total in 1996. He rested in the second half and had four catches for 57 yards. He also gained 10 yards on his first carry to set the franchise record for yards from scrimmage. Wilbert Montgomery had 2,006 total yards in 1979. Westbrook finished the season with 2,104.

The Bills (7-9) failed in their bid for a .500 record and missed the playoffs for an eighth straight year, establishing the longest drought in franchise history.

Jets 13, Chiefs 10, OT

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Mike Nugent kicked a 43-yard field goal, after having a 33-yarder negated by a penalty, 5:13 into the extra period.

With both offenses struggling and a freezing rain falling throughout, not even the return of Chiefs coach Herman Edwards to Giants Stadium could spice up this one. Edwards coached the Jets from 2001-05 and led them to the playoffs three times.

Nugent made the 33-yarder that appeared to win it, but the Jets were called for holding. The officials didn't announce who the penalty was on. After Edwards called a timeout, Nugent sliced the uprights to give the Jets (4-12) the victory.

The loss was the ninth straight for the Chiefs (4-12), who had tied it at 10 with just under three minutes remaining in regulation.

One of the few bright spots for Kansas City was Tony Gonzalez breaking the NFL record for receptions by a tight end, when he caught his 816th career pass early in the third quarter.

Cardinals 48, Rams 19

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Larry Fitzgerald caught 11 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns, and Arizona finished an 8-8 season with the Cardinals' highest-scoring game in 30 years.

The .500 record under first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt is Arizona's best since going 9-7 and making the playoffs in 1998. The Cardinals' only other non-losing season in 23 years was 8-8 in 1994, Buddy Ryan's first year as Arizona coach.

Kurt Warner threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, but was intercepted twice. Oshiomogho Atogwe returned one of the picks 52 yards for a score that cut the Cardinals' lead to 31-19 with 1:48 left in the third quarter.

On the next possession, Anquan Boldin's 20-yard touchdown reception, his career-best ninth scoring catch of the season, boosted the lead to a comfortable 38-19.

The Rams (3-13), plagued by injuries most of the year, finished with a four-game losing streak after opening 0-8.

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